TBR News April 25, 2010

Apr 25 2010

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 25, 2010: “I often feel that, like John the Baptist, I am the voice of one, crying in the wilderness. I am making special reference here to my discussions of the looming, and horrific, American mortgage crisis. To make this situation simple, let me review some it its earlier history.

A national mortgage firm called Countrywide, deliberately signed up people for expensive mortgages, knowing that while they could pay the low, interest-only initial mortgage payments, they could not pay any higher fees when these were, quite legally, raised at a later date. These new home-owners were illegal immigrants and the very lower middle class and were massively recruited by the Countrywide staff. Deliberately false credit reports, made by the staff, were used as the justification for the granting of loans and the business went on apace. These untenable mortgages were then sold to banks which ground them up, mixing them in with other mortgages taken out by those fully capable of making their payments and the sausage then deliberately sold to the unsuspecting clients of such top investment and banking firms such as Goldman Sachs. The real problem here lies in the fact that because of the slicing and dicing, no one knows who the owner of any mortgage is and unless the owner is known, when a legitimate mortgage is paid off, or the property sold, there can never be a clear title issued because no one knows who holds it.

The Federally-backed MERS was set up to both cover up this horrific fact but also to facilitate the illegal seizure of various properties and their resale to members of the cabal at greatly reduced prices. That all of this fraud will eventually be exposed is certain but the chaos that will fall in the wake of this fraud terrifies not only the banking houses but the politicials as well. Anyone who holds a mortgage, regardless of which firm might originally have held it, is recommended to contact: www.chinkinthearmor.net.  In their site, anyone can find out if MERS holds their mortgage (guaranteeing that the owner of it can never be found nor a clear title ever issued) and the site also gives a great deal of very accurate legal information. If all of this criminal fraud becomes known to the public, the fireworks ensuing will put even the biggest Fourth of July display to shame.”

Descending Into Darkness: The Making of a ‘Wartime President’

by Harold R. Krieg, Lt.Col AUS (retd)

Part 1


By the 2000 national election, the Republicans had been out of power for some time and were eager to not only get back into power (with one of the usual electorate mood swings and guaranteed assistance by the Florida Republicans and some of the Supreme Court) but, as Karl Rove, the pathologically cunning aide to former President George H.S. Bush,  insisted, keep it for a long time.

Rove had worked for George H.W. Bush before the elder sent him to run his useless, drunken sot of a son. Rove, very much a history buff, reasoned that as George was colorless and stubborn, if he could be pushed into the Oval Office by the back door,  he would have to have help or it would be a one term reign, just like his fathers.

The answer to this problem of probable shurt-term success? Looking at the career of Franklin Roosevelt, the answer was plain: A wartime president. Taking the example of both Roosevelt and Wilson, a president with a roused public, such as the Americans after Pearl Harbor or the sinking of the Lusitania, could easily establish firm domestic control,both over public opinion but the Congress as well.

All of this was tried and true methodology but the problem of Republican control over the nation devolved on two points:

  • To put a malleable person into the Presidency and;
  • Create a wartime situation that permitted de facto control

In dealing with the latter point, consider that George H.W. was on excellent terms with the Saudi-based and very powerful bin Ladin family. They socialized together and many family members were honored guests of the Bush family (and others) in this country. One son, Osama, had worked with the CIA as their Taliban connection in Afghanistan during thSoviet occupation and although seriously ill (with serious kidney problems) he was an excellent connection.

The Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia was anti-US government in his views,  so the older Bush spoke with one of the bin Ladins who, in turn, spoke with the Interior Minister and, hey presto, a road crew of Saudi fanatics was put together in that country, supplied with fake papers and off the went on their mission to strike at the hated Americans.

As part of this plan, former President George H.W. Bush made four personal trips to Saudi Arabia between 1998 and 2000 and his actions there were duly reported by the CIA station in Riyadh, the Saudik capital,  to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Who the senior Bush saw was known but what they discussed is still secret. Following the Bush visits, the terrorist teams were activated.

First the Saudis went to Germany where the German BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst-German secret service) watched them and reported to their superiors who, in turn, passed on information to our people.  Next the Saudi terrorists came to this country to lay and hatch their plans..

In order to keep an eye on the volatile Arabs, we enlisted the eager support of the Israeli Mossad, who were allowed to function in this country with the, often-disregarded, idea they would pass any information of importance to the FBI.

When the Saudi terrorists settled in Hollywood, Florida, to foment their deadly plans,plotting, they were promptly infiltrated by the Mossad, who then knew to the minute what was on the fire and passed it all along.

One projected hijacked plane was destined for the Pentagon (where we got the Mossad people to convince them to target a side of the huge building that was closed for repairs…the real targets were on the opposite side of the complex), two were destined to slam into the iconic WTC buildings (that had been attacked earlier by other Muslim terroorists) and the fourth was intended for the most important mission: crash into the Capitol while Congress was in session.

This latter was the key to the Rove/George H.W. plan. Congress was in session at that time and if the plane crashed into either wing, it would cripple the government until replacements could be elected to fill the empty seats left by the attack.

That hijacked commercial aircraft , we can be thankful, was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania by the unexpected revolt of the doomed passengers and Congress was not touched.

With the mainstay and most vital element of the plot neutralized, the Bush people pushed ahead with their weekly constant threats of pending, but fictive, terror, followed by more and more oppressive legislation and the erection of more organs of domestic repression.

Eventually, because of a number of relatively minor problems, the worst being gross ineptness on the part of the Rovians, the plot slowly collapsed like a ground-based barrage balloon with a tear in the fabric.

There is also the fact that bin Laden died (I have a copy of his Pakistani death certificate) but he lives on in the rather amateurish productions of the CIA  and as a unifying factor, designed to make various noises just before pending legislation..

Unlike the government-instigated myths and legends concerning the September 11 attack that now clog the Internet, none of this thesis is without a sound, and factual, foundation. In law, there are two types of evidence; direct and circumstantial. Anyone with a knowledge and understanding of judicial procedures will tell you that circumstantial is the most effective but in this analysis, both circumstantial and direct are utilized. Secret Service reports, CIA intercepts, mainline media reports are all part of the matrix of exposure

It is the author’s intention to present a case that in light of a continued attempt on the part of the far right Republicans to get back into power, should be instructive reading.

(The first part of Colonel Kreigs’ study will appear in future issues. Ed)

Kyrgyz air base linked to U.S. tolerance of corrupt government

April 23, 2010

by Walter Pincus

Washington Post

A panel of experts told Congress on Thursday that the United States tolerated a corrupt government in Kyrgyzstan to maintain access to a base that is key to the fighting in Afghanistan.

Manas air base is a major transit point for coalition troops flying into and out of the war zone and home to air-refueling tankers that keep U.S. and coalition fighter-bombers in the air over Afghanistan. It has been the source of alleged corruption payments to two Kyrgyz presidents, and resentment over those payments helped fuel the ouster of both.

The most recently deposed president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and family members were said to have transferred up to $200 million from the country before he left office, Alexander Cooley, an associate professor at Barnard College at Columbia University, told the House Government Reform subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs.

An observer of the U.S. military presence at Manas since its establishment in late 2001, Cooley said the air base had become “a source for rental payments and service contracts that have tended to serve the private interests of powerful Kyrgyz elites.”

“It is not surprising that the U.S. military presence has become intertwined with allegations that the U.S. supported the repressive and corrupt rule of former president Bakiyev,” Cooley said. And while Moscow and the Russian-language press in Kyrgyzstan sharply criticized the corrupt and repressive Bakiyev government, “members of the Kyrgyz opposition [said] that U.S. authorities muted their criticism when faced with threats . . . over the status of the base, and U.S. officials avoided meeting with members of the opposition.”

Baktybek Abdrisaev, a former Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States, told the panel that the Obama administration must demonstrate that Kyrgyzstan means more to it than simply being “the Manas Transit Center.”

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva has said the base agreement will be extended “automatically” when the current agreement expires in July. But Abdrisaev, who was in Washington from 1997 to 2005 and is a visiting professor at Utah Valley University, said not everyone in the interim government agrees with Otunbayeva.

If a new agreement is not quickly reached with the interim government, Abdrisaev said, the status of the base will become a major issue in the Kyrgyz presidential election, which is scheduled for October. He added that a number of candidates “will campaign on an anti-base platform.”

Cooley suggested that the United States should “explore ways in which they can turn Manas-related payments and service contracts into a public benefit for Kyrgyzstan as a whole, rather than a private revenue stream for connected insiders.”

Since 2007, the Defense Department has supplied jet fuel to Manas through Mia Corp., a Gibraltar- and London-registered contracting firm whose owners’ identity, while known to the Pentagon, has been protected from public view. More than $1 billion has been paid out, and the contract renewal in July 2009 could add an additional $400 million, according to a spokesman for the Defense Logistics Agency.

At Thursday’s hearing, Sam Patten, the senior program manager for Eurasia at the advocacy group Freedom House, detailed how human rights suffered under Bakiyev. He noted that after U.S. criticism of abuses under Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Washington was ordered to leave its base in Uzbekistan in 2005.

“When Karimov’s iron-fisted rule over Uzbekistan comes to an end, as it invariably will,” Patten said, “what credibility will the United States have with the successor government if we were never seen as being able to effectively challenge the tyrant when he was repressing his people?”

Patten added that the United States is fortunate that the interim Kyrgyz government is willing to talk about the base, “given what they justifiably perceive as a betrayal.”

Russia Reclaims Influence, U.S. Doesn’t Object

April. 23, 2010

by Simon Shuster


Moscow- Five years ago in the former Soviet Union, governments loyal to Moscow were falling roughly every six months. Those were the glory days of the “color revolutions” that brought new leaders to Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in quick succession between 2003 and 2005, all with the backing of the U.S. The region’s political center of gravity was tilting sharply toward the West. But now that trend has reversed. In the past three months, two of those governments have been ousted. Leaders far friendlier to Russia have taken power in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, displacing the Orange and Tulip revolutions, respectively. (Indeed, Kiev just agreed to extend Moscow’s naval lease on the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in exchange for cheaper gas; the previous Ukrainian regime had opposed the move.) The region’s last standing leader of a color revolution (the Rose), Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, is feeling lonelier than ever, and he has a warning for the Obama Administration: Don’t give Russia a free hand in the former Soviet bloc.

In an interview with TIME at his glass-domed presidential palace, Saakashvili laid out how he sees the situation: U.S. President Barack Obama has been put in an awkward spot by his drive to invigorate ties with the Kremlin, having to deal with the legacy of George W. Bush, who had infuriated Moscow by supporting the color revolutions and building close ties with the governments they brought to power. Now Obama is being urged by the Russians to back away from those relationships. “It’s not just about abandoning your ally Georgia. No, Russia is asking the U.S. to give back the Soviet sphere of influence,” Saakashvili says.

In practical terms, this seems to require three things of the U.S. and its European allies: do not push for any more ex-Soviet countries to join NATO, do not openly support any opposition movements that seek to oust pro-Russian governments, and, more generally, make sure to consult Moscow before going ahead with any big initiatives in Russia’s backyard, especially military ones. Under the Bush Administration, all three of those were ignored, and relations with Russia became nastier than they had been since the Cold War. Obama, on the other hand, has been far more obliging, and his Administration believes Moscow is reciprocating — much to Saakashvili’s chagrin.

Nowhere has this been clearer than in NATO’s changing attitudes. In a statement on April 14, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged NATO countries to integrate Russia into their security strategy instead of seeing Russia as a potential threat. “The United States and Russia now clearly see eye to eye on a range of security issues. And we should use this new momentum to take further steps to enhance our common security,” Rasmussen said. Plans to put Ukraine and Georgia on a fast track to NATO membership have been put aside, and as a result, Russia is helping NATO get its supplies into Afghanistan. The American approach to missile defense in Eastern Europe has also changed. Whereas Bush plowed ahead with his plan despite Moscow’s fierce objections, Obama has invited the Kremlin to take part in a dialogue over the issue.

The Russians are taking notice. “It’s been very encouraging that the U.S. has refused to interfere in Ukraine’s domestic policy in the way it was doing during the Orange Revolution [in 2004]. Americans have also sharply cut their support to Georgia. At least they are not giving one dollar of military assistance, as far as I know, to Saakashvili,” says Sergei Markov, a longtime Kremlin spin doctor and a parliamentary deputy for the United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Officially, of course, the Obama team insists it has not turned away from U.S. allies for the sake of better ties with Moscow, and Saakashvili says he has “no reason to complain about day-to-day relations.” The U.S. has continued to criticize Russia for occupying about a fifth of Georgia’s territory after the two countries fought a war in 2008. That war marked a turning point for America’s broader strategy: it showed that Russia was willing to use force to defend its interests in the region, while the U.S. could be dragged into a war if it continued to oppose those interests to the end. Even the Bush Administration was not prepared to take that risk. “[Bush’s Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice told me that you must avoid an open military conflict with Russia,” says Nino Burjanadze, former speaker of the Georgian Parliament and now a leading opposition figure. “She told me, ‘We respect Georgia, but we will not go to war with Russia over Georgia.’ ”

That approach probably saved the U.S. from a military catastrophe, and now, under Obama, the U.S. has become even less willing to cheer Russia’s adversaries on. It has instead embraced Russia as a partner for global security, and the tactic is paying off. Concrete agreements have already been signed, most notably this month’s treaty to reduce the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals by a third. But it remains to be seen how countries like Georgia will fit into this budding relationship. Right now, it doesn’t appear congenial to the government in Tbilisi. As Russia continues to clamor to have Saakashvili removed from office, the U.S. seems to be keeping him at arm’s length. At this month’s nuclear nonproliferation conference in Washington, Obama snubbed Saakashvili’s request for their first one-on-one meeting, instead sitting down with the new Kremlin-friendly President of Ukraine, who had agreed at the summit to get rid of his country’s highly enriched uranium.

Sitting in his luxurious office a few days before the Washington summit, Saakashvili was in a dour mood and seemed a bit nostalgic for the Bush years. He is still the only leader to name a street after George W. Bush, and he says there is a lesson to be learned from the way the previous White House tried to “pre-empt” the risk of Russian aggression “rather than turn a blind eye and hope it goes away.” The threat Russia poses to his government, he says, is as strong as ever, and the West’s softer tone toward Russia is not going to help. “From my experience of the Russian perspective, every softening of language is perceived as weakness, as an acknowledgment of any strength Russia has locally.” That strength is clearly growing with the arrival of Kremlin-friendly governments in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and Washington seems fine with that as long as relations with Russia thrive. As for the color revolutions, they look to be fading away.
Obama slams ‘misguided’ Ariz. immigration bill

April 23, 2010

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama criticized Arizona’s tough immigration bill as irresponsible Friday and said his administration is examining whether it would violate civil rights.

Obama said the federal government must act responsibly to reform national immigration law — or “open the door to irresponsibility by others.”

“That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe,” Obama said.

If signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the legislation would require police to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally. Civil rights activists say such a law would lead to racial profiling and deter Hispanics from reporting crimes.

Obama instructed the Justice Department to examine the bill to see if it would violate civil rights.

Obama spoke at a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden for 24 active duty service members from more than a dozen countries. He commended the new U.S. citizens for serving a country they could not yet call their own, while following a legal path to citizenship.

Obama said he will continue to work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to enact a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law. He said there are 11 current Republican senators who have voted for immigration reform in the past.

Brewer, a Republican, has until Saturday to act on the immigration bill sent to her desk. She can sign, veto or allow it to become law without her signature.

“If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country,” Obama said. “As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future.”

Bloomberg’s Offshore Millions

April 20, 2010

by Aram Roston

The Observer

It was a dark time for the city. In 2008, and early into the next year, morale was low, Wall Street was sputtering and Mayor Michael Bloomberg was steeling New Yorkers for pain. Brace for service cuts and tax hikes, he warned—while also pledging to find a way to keep tax money, particularly from the city’s richest citizens, from fleeing.

“I’ve said this before, but the first rule of taxation is, you can’t tax too much those that can move,” Mr. Bloomberg intoned on a radio show late in the crisis. “You know, we’re yelling and screaming about the rich. We want the rich from around this county to move here. We love the rich people.”

And yet the richest New Yorker of them all—Mr. Bloomberg himself—had been ignoring his own advice.

According to an extensive review of the mayor’s financial records by The Observer, even as Mr. Bloomberg was trying to counter the loss of taxes and other income from the richest New Yorkers, the foundation he controls was in the process of shuttling hundreds of millions of dollars out of the city and into controversial offshore tax havens that would produce nothing at all for the city in terms of tax revenue.

By the end of 2008, the Bloomberg Family Foundation had transferred almost $300 million into various offshore destinations—some of them notorious tax-dodge hideouts. The Caymans and Cyprus. Bermuda and Brazil. Even Mauritius, a speck of an island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Madagascar. Other investments were spread around disparate locations, from Japan to Luxembourg to Romania.

Why was the mayor’s flagship foundation sending hundreds of millions of dollars offshore? Neither the charity nor the mayor will explain. What is clear is that the issue could get prickly for Mr. Bloomberg, in part because his investment strategies have been so closely associated with Steve Rattner, the onetime boy wonder financier who remains under investigation by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for his involvement in a state pension controversy. Last week, Mr. Rattner’s former firm, Quadrangle Group, took the extraordinary step of excommunicating him, saying in a statement that it “wholly disavow[ed]” Mr. Rattner over his role in securing state pension contracts—conduct the company called “inappropriate, wrong, and unethical.”

On December 26, 2007—the same day that the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board opened the door for Mr. Rattner’s firm to manage the foundation’s money— the foundation immediately sent $210 million to a new fund—“QAM Select Investors (Offshore) Ltd.”—based in the Cayman Islands.

A month later, the foundation was given clearance to allow two city workers to use municipal time and resources on foundation work—on the assumption that the charity would “ultimately serve the city” and “further the interests and purposes of the city.”

And what of the benefit that was supposed to come New York’s way as a result of all of these millions? Mr. Bloomberg donated more than $1.8 billion to the foundation in its first three years of life, according to the foundation’s tax filings. About $67 million—$36 million in 2007 and $31 million in 2008—was given away. Much of it went to anti-smoking initiatives, including the World Lung Federation and an Indian anti-smoking group; other grants went to the government of Vietnam and the World Health Organization, for injury-prevention efforts. No grants went to organizations directly benefiting New York City.

Today, at a five-story Beaux Arts mansion on the corner of 78th Street and Madison, workers are putting the finishing touches on the foundation’s new headquarters, which Mr. Bloomberg purchased for $45 million. Flatbed trucks unload marble tiles for the building’s floors; electricians have installed subdued lighting and a heavy, automatic glass sliding door.

Several weeks ago, the foundation named a new 19-person board that reads like a who’s who of national politics and finance: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, former Georgia senator Sam Nunn and former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson are among the members. It is all part of a  push by Mr. Bloomberg to put the foundation on a par with other big charities and put his name on the list of America’s great philanthropists: Gates, Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford have their foundations, and now so does Bloomberg.
Beyond the U.S. border, , in places like the Caymans, the climate for charities is much more inviting. Nonprofits like the Bloomberg Family Foundation are tax-exempt, but some investments that aren’t related to an organization’s core mission can be subject to a levy called the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT, for short). So to avoid more than 40 percent in federal and local taxes on unrelated businesses, nonprofits use a legal loophole, routing investments through offshore tax havens.

“It cleanses the unrelated business taint from the total return,” Harvey Dale, of the N.Y.U. School of Law, told The Observer. “You invest in the same thing through an offshore entity. You are making the same investment; you are just putting an intermediary entity in the middle. Instead of investing directly in the hedge fund, you invest in the foreign entity, which, in turn, invests in the hedge fund.”

“Is (using the loophole) allowable under the law? Yes,” said tax expert Dean Zerbe, a former staffer at the Senate Finance Committee. “Is it something that is a best practice, particularly by an elected official? I think they should look very hard when they are engaging in this kind of activity. What does it say to the average New Yorker?”

The foundation’s tax returns indicate that Mr. Rattner’s team migrated much of its money to large hedge funds with ostensible island charters, including several in the Caymans, two of which list an address at P.O. Box 309 of the Ugland House, a building that “houses” an estimated 12,000 to 18,000 foreign businesses.

“Now, that’s either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world,” said Senator Barack Obama during his campaign for president. “And I think we know which one it is.”

But tax havens—despite the protestations of the president, a slew of senators and at least one district attorney—remain legal. “I made a lot of effort to shut down that loophole,” former district attorney Robert Morgenthau told The Observer.

Mr. Morgenthau said he’d spoken generally about offshore loopholes to four U.S. secretaries of the Treasury, twice to the commissioner of the general revenue and, as it happens, to Mr. Bloomberg himself. The mayor seemed uninterested in the offshore issue, he said. “I’ve talked to the mayor about it, and the budget director,” Mr.

Morgenthau said. “We did get help from the State Division of Taxation and Finance. But nothing from the city.”

In spite of the flurry of investments, it appears that for years, Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation had no office, phones, staff, Web site or public brochures. In late 2007, the mayor wrote a second letter to the Conflicts of Interest Board, looking for another blessing: Some of his staffers at City Hall, he argued, were asking him, “unsolicited,” if they could help with his foundation. Saying that the foundation would “ultimately serve city goals,” the board approved. At least three of his staffers were even allowed to use government resources, like office space, phones and Internet service, for foundation work.

One of the staffers was Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris. Aside from Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Harris was the sole officer listed on his foundation’s tax return. A longtime Bloomberg loyalist, Ms. Harris worked at Bloomberg LP before joining the mayor at City Hall. On foundation tax returns, Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Harris each claimed to have spent .25 hours, or 15 minutes, per week on the charity—as it gave away tens of millions.

Last month, the mayor announced that Ms. Harris would take on even more duties at the foundation, although it is unclear if she will increase her time commitment.

The mayor’s press office referred all questions about the foundation to the organization’s press office, run by former mayoral aide James Anderson. “In order to avoid conflicts, the Mayor is neither involved in nor apprised of the specific investment decisions made on behalf of the foundation—and we are therefore not in a position to discuss them,” Mr. Anderson wrote in an email.

Yet Mr. Bloomberg does often discuss his charitable endeavors. “Other than Gates, nobody’s given away this amount of money,” he boasted to the New York Post’s editorial board earlier this month.

But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides a contrast in its investment style. While the Bloomberg Family Foundation is hardly alone in embracing the savings provided by the offshore loophole—according to a 2007 New York Times piece, large universities like Yale and Duke, along with charities like the Rockefeller Foundation, engaged in the practice—The Times also reported that the Gates Foundation did not invest in offshore hedge funds.

“When instructing the investment managers, Bill and Melinda also consider other issues beyond corporate profits, including the values that drive the foundation’s work,” explains the Gates Foundation’s Web site. “They have defined areas in which the endowment will not invest, such as companies whose profit model is centrally tied to corporate activity that they find egregious.”

Mr. Rattner’s Quadrangle Group wasn’t beholden to any such strictures relating to the Bloomberg Family Foundation’s portfolio, and throughout 2008, the foundation made liberal use of the offshore loophole.

The bulk of the investments ended up in the Caymans. The Rattner team transferred more than $71 million dollars to Highfields Capital Ltd., the Caymans arm of a Boston-based hedge fund. (Last month, Highfields’ co-founder, Richard Grubman, was arrested after he allegedly beaned a Ritz Carlton valet with the keys of his BMW.) Another $67.8 million went to Brookside Cayman Ltd, the island home of Brookside Capital.

Other money decamped for even more exotic locales: $710,000 zipped to the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Another $700,000 went to two funds on the island nation of Mauritius, about 500 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. A Brazilian hedge fund got $304,000.

Mystique surrounds even some of the smaller foreign investments. In one, the mayor’s foundation transferred $104,000 in cash to a Cyprus-based oil services firm called Geotech Oil Services Holdings Ltd., controlled by a Russian oligarch named Nikolai Levitsky; Mr. Levitsky was once the first deputy governor of the resource-rich Komi Republic in Russia’s Northwest.

Reached by phone, Geotech spokesman Denis Cherednichenko said he had no idea if the Bloomberg Family Foundation had invested in the company, but seemed surprised. He speculated it could have been through another hedge fund. He said three American funds invested in Geotech in 2007.

In another transaction, Mr. Rattner’s team invested $560,000 of the mayor’s charitable fund in BJJ Universul, a Cyprus-based company that develops real estate in central Eastern Europe. According to its Web site, BJJ was established in Romania in 2004 and has more than 40 employees, split between Bucharest and Sofia, Bulgaria, and focused on “greenfield and redevelopment opportunities in Eastern Europe with a current focus on Romania and Bulgaria.”

Compared with those of the great foundations of America, the Bloomberg investment strategies stand out. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s about as opaque set of investments as you can find,” said Rick Cohen, who covers foundations and charities for Nonprofit Quarterly, and who agreed to review the foundation’s tax return. “This involves extensive investments in hedge funds offshore, where the motivation and purpose is not discernible, so you can’t tell what kind of activity it is or who is going to benefit from the investments.”

One former state official, however, defended the activity. “I don’t think there is anything unusual here,” said Bill Josephson, who headed the state’s Charities Bureau when Eliot Spitzer was attorney general, and examined the tax returns for The Observer.

“It is impossible to look at this and determine the intent of the hedge funds investments. You can’t figure it out from the 990 [tax form],” Mr. Josephson said. “The Bloomberg foundation is not that significantly different from the foundations of other individuals who come out of the investment world.”

The mayor announced some time ago that he would strip his funds from the Quadrangle Group, while allowing many of the Quadrangle managers who tended to his money to continue to do so at another firm. Quadrangle continues to manage about $100 million in New York City pension funds, according to the comptroller’s office.

As for the increasingly isolated Mr. Rattner, who remains under investigation, the mayor stands by him. “He’s a friend whose advice the mayor has, and continues to, rely on,” said a Bloomberg spokesman. Mr. Rattner declined to comment.

While almost nothing is known about the foundation’s investments since 2008, Mr. Bloomberg is now preparing to burnish his place in the annals of philanthropy. What exactly that means is not yet public.

apaybarah@observer.com, rpillifant@observer.com

Research support for this article was provided by the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute

Additional reporting by Azi Paybarah and Reid Pillifant

You Say Muhammed, I Say Mohammed, South Park Says “Bleep”

You’ve probably heard about the weirdness involving part 2 of South Park‘s anniversary episode, but here’s the quick recap:

Their 200th episode, last week, was a fan-friendly tip of the hat to many celebrity parodies and storylines from earlier in the season, including season 10′s controversy over showing Mohammed. (They showed him in the episode “Super Best Friends,” which Comedy Central still shows, but the network refused to allow his depiction in new episodes.) As Kyle said, “Dude, I can’t believe we’re dealing with this Mohammed thing again,” but they did, and the episode ended with Mohammed dressed in a bear suit that covered him from head to toe, so he would never be seen. After the episode aired, the U.S.-based Islamic fundamentalist website Revolutionmuslim.com warned that Trey Parker and Matt Stone might wind up like Theo Van Gogh, something that the writer argued was a “prediction” rather than a “threat” (i.e. something you can get arrested for). Last night’s episode continued the story from part 1, and like part 1, Mohammed had a huge “censored” bar in front of him every time he appeared without the bear costume. But this time every mention of Mohammed’s name was bleeped, rendering the episode completely incomprehensible if you hadn’t seen part 1.

Because the bleeping was so unexpected and unprecedented, and especially because the entire “I learned something today” speech was also bleeped (something that seemed clearly deliberate on Parker and Stone’s part), a lot of people, including me, assumed that the bleeping was an intentional meta-joke about censorship. But then Parker and Stone announced that Comedy Central wouldn’t allow the episode to be streamed online yet, and Comedy Central said that they had in fact added extra bleeps to the episode. So exactly what the “uncensored” version of the episode was supposed to look like is still unknown.

The possibility that this is all a stunt on the part of Parker and Stone, or Comedy Central, has been brought up a few times. It certainly is getting them much more attention than the original intent — to do a follow-up episode where Mohammed’s name is mentioned but his image is censored — would have done. And I thought last week that Parker and Stone might be going back to the Mohammed thing because nothing else they’ve done this season has gotten many headlines for them. (The two-parter, while funny, is another indication that they no longer have any frame of reference outside of their own show.) But it’s also possible that Comedy Central got some serious threats and decided to try and obscure what the episode was about. We’ll have to wait to find out exactly what happened.

As to how this applies to Canada, that also remains to be seen. The Comedy Network shows new South Park episodes “uncensored” on Sundays, but since no uncensored version has been streamed online, I don’t know what version the Comedy Network has been given, if any.

Update: The linked story has been updated with a statement from Parker and Stone, clarifying that the bleeps — including the bleeping of Kyle’s speech — were all Comedy Central’s:

In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.

That’s very, very weird. I assume a statement from Comedy Central will eventually be issued, but even then, it will never explain what the hell happened if the network decided to censor an already heavily self-censored episode.

Six Men Say Chicago Cops Ran Wild

April 22, 2010

Courthouse News

CHICAGO (CN) – Six men say that 20 Chicago cops assaulted, Tasered and Maced them in a private home, with a helicopter hovering overhead, because the men had shouted that “the kids were OK” as cops patted down a group of 10- and 11-year-old kids on the street.

The men demand $12 million in damages from Officers Donald Hummons and Fred Barroso and Sgt. Joseph Keeter, who they say led the police gang to the home.

The men say they were “peacefully enjoying the evening” on April 17, 2009 on the porch of the home of the mother of three of the plaintiffs. In their federal complaint, the men say they saw Hummons and Barroso detain a group of 10-to-11-year-olds at a nearby intersection and subject them to a pat-down.

Two men yelled to the police, from approximately six doors down, “that the kids were ‘OK’ and that they were from the neighborhood and not cause for trouble,” according to the complaint.

Other residents in the area told the officers that the kids were “not troublemakers or gang members,” the plaintiffs say.

The police released the kids, then drove slowly past the six plaintiffs, “staring at the plaintiffs as they passed.”

About 15 minutes later, 20 to 25 officers, led by Keeter, “stormed the private property,” armed with “assault rifles, Taser guns, Mace and a helicopter overhead,” but without a warrant, the men say.

The men say the officers arrested them on “various offenses,” and Keeter shot them with a Taser. They were “Maced as well,” though none of them resisted, the men say.

The men say they had had no close contact with the officers before the assault, and had no weapons on them.

They say they suffered “shame, humiliation and loss of reputation among family members and neighbors of being so publicly arrested and accused of crimes which they did not commit.”

They say four plaintiffs were found not guilty, and charges against the other two were dismissed.

Each man demands $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from Hummons, Barroso and Keeter, alleging constitutional violations, false arrest and malicious prosecution.

They are represented by Phillip Bartolementi.

Terrorism Studies

Social scientists do counterinsurgency.

New Yorker

April 23, 2010

by Nicholas Lemann

A few days after the September 11th attacks—which killed seven times as many people as any previous act of terrorism—President George W. Bush declared that the United States was engaged in a global war on terror. September 11th seemed to confirm that we were in a clash of civilizations between modernity and radical Islam. We had a worldwide enemy with a cause that was general, not specific (“They hate our freedoms”), and we now had to take on the vast, long-running mission—equal in scope to the Cold War—of defeating all ambitious terrorist groups everywhere, along with the states that harbored them. The war on terror wasn’t a hollow rhetorical trope. It led to the American conquest and occupation first of Afghanistan, which had sheltered the leaders of Al Qaeda, and then of Iraq, which had no direct connection to September 11th.

Today, few consider the global war on terror to have been a success, either as a conceptual framing device or as an operation. President Obama has pointedly avoided stringing those fateful words together in public. His foreign-policy speech in Cairo, last June, makes an apt bookend with Bush’s war-on-terror speech in Washington, on September 20, 2001. Obama not only didn’t talk about a war; he carefully avoided using the word “terrorism,” preferring “violent extremism.”

But if “global war” isn’t the right approach to terror what is? Experts on terrorism have produced shelves’ worth of new works on this question. For outsiders, reading this material can be a jarring experience. In the world of terrorism studies, the rhetoric of righteousness gives way to equilibrium equations. Nobody is good and nobody is evil. Terrorists, even suicide bombers, are not psychotics or fanatics; they’re rational actors—that is, what they do is explicable in terms of their beliefs and desires—who respond to the set of incentives that they find before them. The tools of analysis are realism, rational choice, game theory, decision theory: clinical and bloodless modes of thinking.

That approach, along with these scholars’ long immersion in the subject, can produce some surprising observations. In “A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq” (Yale; $30), Mark Moyar, who holds the Kim T. Adamson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at the Marine Corps University, tells us that, in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s pay scale (financed by the protection payments demanded from opium farmers) is calibrated to be a generous multiple of the pay received by military and police personnel (financed by U.S. aid); no wonder official Afghan forces are no match for the insurgents. Audrey Kurth Cronin, a professor of strategy at the National War College, reminds us, in “How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns” (Princeton; $29.95), that one can find out about Al Qaeda’s policy for coördinating attacks by reading a book called “The Management of Barbarism,” by Abu Bakr Naji, which has been available via Al Qaeda’s online library. (Naji advises that, if jihadis are arrested in one country after an attack, a cell elsewhere should launch an attack as a display of resilience.) In “Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism” (M.I.T.; $24.95), Eli Berman traces the origins of the Taliban to a phenomenon that long preceded the birth of modern radical Islam: they are a direct descendant of the Deobandi movement, which began in nineteenth-century India in opposition to British colonial rule and, among other things, established a system of religious schools.

What is terrorism, anyway? The expert consensus converges on a few key traits. Terrorists have political or ideological objectives (the purpose can’t be mere profiteering). They are “non-state actors,” not part of conventional governments. Their intention is to intimidate an audience larger than their immediate victims, in the hope of generating widespread panic and, often, a response from the enemy so brutal that it ends up backfiring by creating sympathy for the terrorists’ cause. Their targets are often ordinary civilians, and, even when terrorists are trying to kill soldiers, their attacks often don’t take place on the field of battle. The modern age of suicide terrorism can be said to have begun with Hezbollah’s attack, in October of 1983, on U.S. marines who were sleeping in their barracks in Beirut.

Once you take terrorists to be rational actors, you need a theory about their rationale. Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, built adatabase of three hundred and fifteen suicide attacks between 1980 and 2003, and drew a resoundingly clear conclusion: “What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” As he wrote in “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (2005), what terrorists want is “to change policy,” often the policy of a faraway major power. Pape asserts that “offensive military action rarely works” against terrorism, so, in his view, the solution to the problem of terrorism couldn’t be simpler: withdraw. Pape’s “nationalist theory of suicide terrorism” applies not just to Hamas and Hezbollah but also to Al Qaeda; its real goal, he says, is the removal of the U.S. military from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries. Pape says that “American military policy in the Persian Gulf was most likely the pivotal factor leading to September 11”; the only effective way to prevent future Al Qaeda attacks would be for the United States to take all its forces out of the Middle East. By contrast, Mark Moyar dismisses the idea that “people’s social, political, and economic grievances” are the main cause of popular insurgencies. He regards anti-insurgent campaigns as “a contest between elites.” Of the many historical examples he offers, the best known is L. Paul Bremer’s de-Baathification of Iraq, in the spring of 2003, in which the entire authority structure of Iraq was disbanded at a stroke, creating a leadership cadre for a terrorist campaign against the American occupiers. One of Moyar’s chapters is about the uncontrollably violent American South during Reconstruction—a subject that a number of authors have turned to during the war on terror—and it demonstrates better than his chapter on Iraq the power of his theory to offend contemporary civilian sensibilities. Rather than disempowering the former Confederates and empowering the freed slaves, Moyar says, the victorious Union should have maintained order by leaving the more coöperative elements of the slaveholding, seceding class in control. Effective counterinsurgency, he says, entails selecting the élites you can work with and co-opting them.

In “Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies” (Basic; $26.95), Mark Perry describes a little-known attempt to apply Moyar’s model in Iraq. The book jacket identifies Perry as “a military, intelligence, and foreign affairs analyst and writer,” but his writing conveys a strong impression that he has not spent his career merely watching the action from a safe seat in the bleachers. Much of the book is devoted to a detailed description, complete with many on-the-record quotes, of a series of meetings in Amman, Jordan, in 2004, between a group of Marine officers based in Anbar province, in western Iraq, and an Iraqi businessman named Talal al-Gaood. Gaood, a Sunni and a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, suggested he could broker a deal that would make the horrific, almost daily terrorist attacks in western Iraq go away.

Perry’s tone calls to mind a Tom Clancy novel. Tough, brave, tight-lipped officers do endless battle not just with the enemy in the field but also with cowardly, dissembling political bureaucrats in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House. The crux of his story is that a promising negotiation was tragically cut short, just as it was about to bear fruit, when the key negotiator, a Marine colonel, was “PNG’d”—declared persona non grata—by Washington and denied entry to Jordan. Not long after that, Gaood died suddenly, of a heart ailment, at the age of forty-four (according to Perry, he was so beloved that his wake had to be held in a soccer stadium), putting an end to any possibility of further talks. It’s startling to read about American military commanders in the field taking on a freelance diplomatic mission of this magnitude, and to imagine that there was a businessman in Amman who, on the right terms, could have snapped his fingers and ended what we back home thought of as pervasive, wild-eyed jihad.

What dominates the writing of experts about terrorism, however, is a more fine-grained idea of terrorists’ motives—at the level of ethnic group, tribe, village, and even individual calculation. Pape thinks of terrorists as being motivated by policy and strategic concerns; Cronin, of the National War College, shares Pape’s view that most terrorists are, essentially, terroirists—people who want control of land—but she is also attuned to their narrower, more local considerations. The odds are against them, because of the natural forces of entropy and their lack of access to ordinary military power and other resources, but, if they do succeed, they can be counted upon to try to ascend the ladder of legitimacy, first to insurgency, then to some kind of governing status. (Examples of that ultimate kind of success would be the Irgun and the Stern Gang, in Israel, Sinn Fein and the Provisional I.R.A., in Northern Ireland, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the West Bank and Gaza.)

Cronin goes through an elaborate menu of techniques for hastening the end of a terrorist campaign. None of them rise to the level of major policy, let alone a war on terror; in general, the smaller their scope the more effective Cronin finds them to be. She believes, for instance, that jailing the celebrated head of a terrorist organization is a more effective countermeasure than killing him. (Abimael Guzmán, the head of the Shining Path, in Peru, was, after his capture in 1992, “displayed in a cage, in a striped uniform, recanting and asking his followers to lay down their arms.” That took the wind out of the Shining Path’s sails. A surprise ambush that martyred him might not have.) Negotiating with terrorists—a practice usually forsworn, often done—can work in the long term, Cronin says, not because it is likely to produce a peace treaty but because it enables a state to gain intelligence about its opponents, exploit differences and hive off factions, and stall while time works its erosive wonders.

Cronin offers a confident prescription, based on her small-bore approach to terrorism, for defeating the apparently intractable Al Qaeda. The idea is to take advantage of the group’s highly decentralized structure by working to alienate its far-flung component parts, getting them to see their local interests as being at odds with Al Qaeda’s global ones. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri have focused on exploiting and displacing the local concerns of the Chechens, the Uighurs, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in Algeria, and many others, and sought to replace them with an international agenda,” Cronin writes. The United States should now try to “sever the connection between Islamism and individualized local contexts for political violence, and then address them separately.” It should work with these local groups, not in an effort to convert them to democracy and love of America but in order to pry them away, one by one, from Al Qaeda. (“Calling the al-Qaeda movement ‘jihadi international,’ as the Israeli intelligence services do,” she writes, “encourages a grouping together of disparate threats that undermines our best counterterrorism. It is exactly the mistake we made when we lumped the Chinese and the Soviets together in the 1950s and early 1960s, calling them ‘international Communists

Eli Berman, an economist who has done field work among ultra-orthodox religious groups in Israel, is even more granular in his view of what terrorists want: he stresses the social services that terror and insurgent groups provide to their members. Berman’s book is an extended application to terrorism of an influential 1994 article by the economist Laurence Iannaccone, called “Why Strict Churches Are Strong.” Trying to answer the question of why religious denominations that impose onerous rules and demand large sacrifices of their members seem to thrive better than those which do not, Iannaccone surmised that strict religions function as economic clubs. They appeal to recruits in part because they are able to offer very high levels of benefits—not just spiritual ones but real services—and this involves high “defection constraints.” In denominations where it’s easy for individual members to opt out of an obligation, it is impossible to maintain such benefits. Among the religious groups Iannaccone has  written about, impediments to defection can be emotionally painful, such as expulsion or the promise of eternal damnation; in many terrorist groups, the defection c onstraints reflect less abstract considerations: this-worldly torture, maiming, and murder.

Berman’s main examples are Hamas, Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, in Iraq, and the Taliban, whom Berman calls “some of the most accomplished rebels of modern times.” All these organizations, he points out, are effective providers of services in places where there is dire need of them. Their members are also subject to high defection constraints, because their education and their location don’t put them in the way of a lot of opportunity and because they know they will be treated brutally if they do defect.

Like most other terrorism experts, Berman sees no crevasse between insurgents and terrorists. Instead, he considers them to be members of a single category he calls “rebels,” who use a variety of techniques, depending on the circumstances. Suicide bombing represents merely one end of the spectrum; its use is an indication not of the fanaticism or desperation of the individual bomber (most suicide bombers—recall Muhammad Atta’s professional-class background—are not miserably poor and alienated adolescent males) but of the supremely high cohesion of the group. Suicide bombing, Berman notes, increases when the terrorist group begins to encounter hard targets, like American military bases, that are impervious to everything else. The Taliban used traditional guerrilla-warfare techniques when they fought the Northern Alliance in the mountains. When their enemies became Americans and other Westerners operating from protected positions and with advanced equipment, the Taliban were more likely to resort to suicide bombing. How else could a small group make a big impact?

The idea of approaching terrorists as rational actors and defeating them by a cool recalibration of their incentives extends beyond the academic realm. Its most influential published expression is General David Petraeus’s 2006 manual “Counterinsurgency.” Written in dry management-ese, punctuated by charts and tables, the manual stands as a rebuke of the excesses of Bush’s global war on terror.

“Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation builders as well as warriors,” the introduction to the manual declares. “They must be prepared to help reestablish institutions and local security forces and assist in rebuilding infrastructure and basic services. They must be able to facilitate establishing local governance and the rule of law.” The manual’s most famous formulation is “clear-hold-build,” and its heaviest emphasis is on the third of those projects; the counterinsurgent comes across a bit like a tough but kindhearted nineteen-fifties cop, walking a beat, except that he does more multitasking. He collects garbage, digs wells, starts schools and youth clubs, does  media relations, improves the business climate. What he doesn’t do is torture, kill in revenge, or overreact. He’s Gandhi in I.E.D.-proof armor.

Petraeus has clearly absorbed the theory that terrorist and insurgent groups are sustained by their provision of social services. Great swaths of the manual are devoted to elaborating ways in which counterinsurgents must compete for people’s loyalty by providing better services in the villages and tribal encampments of the deep-rural Middle East. It’s hard to think of a service that the manual doesn’t suggest, except maybe yoga classes. And, like Berman, the manual is skeptical about the utility, in fighting terrorism, of big ideas about morality, policy, or even military operations. Here’s a representative passage:


Another tendency is to attempt large-scale, mass programs. In particular, Soldiers and Marines tend to apply ideas that succeed in one area to another area. They also try to take successful small programs and replicate them on a larger scale. This usually does not work. Often small-scale programs succeed because of local conditions or because their size kept them below the enemy’s notice and helped them flourish unharmed. . . . Small-scale projects rarely proceed smoothly into large programs. Keep programs small.

One problem with such programs is that they can be too small, and too nice, to win the hearts and minds of the populace away from their traditional leaders. The former civil-affairs officer A. Heather Coyne tells the story, recounted in Berman’s book, of a program that offered people in Sadr City ten dollars a day to clean the streets—something right out of the counterinsurgency manual. The American colonel who was running the program went out to talk to people and find out how effective the program was at meeting its larger goal. This is what he heard: “We are so grateful for the program. And we’re so grateful to Muqtada al-Sadr for doing this program.” Evidently, Sadr had simply let it be known that he was behind this instance of social provision, and people believed him. For Berman, the lesson is “a general principle: economic development and governance can be at odds when the territory is not fully controlled by the government.” That’s a pretty discouraging   admission—it implies that helping people peacefully in an area where insurgents are well entrenched may only help the insurgents.

One could criticize the manual from a military perspective, as Mark Moyar does, for being too nonviolent and social-worky. Moyar admires General Petraeus personally (Petraeus being the kind of guy who, while recuperating from major surgery at a hospital after taking a bullet during a live-ammunition exercise, had his doctors pull all the tubes out of his arm and did fifty pushups to prove that he should be released early). But Moyar is appalled by the manual’s tendency to downplay the use of force: “The manual repeatedly warned of the danger of alienating the populace through the use of lethal force and insisted that counterinsurgents minimize the use of force, even if in some instances it meant letting enemy combatants escape. . . .

As operations in Iraq and elsewhere have shown, aggressive and well-led offensive operations to chase down insurgents have frequently aided the counterinsurgent cause by robbing the insurgents of the initiative, disrupting their activities, and putting them in prison or in the grave.”

Because terrorism is such an enormous problem—it takes place constantly, all over the world, in conflict zones and in big cities, in more and less developed countries—one can find an example of just about every anti-terrorist tactic working (or failing to). One of the most prolific contemporary terrorist groups, the Tamil Tigers, of Sri Lanka, appears to have been defeated by the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated government, through a conventional, if unusually violent, military campaign, which ended last spring. In that instance, brutal repression seems to have been the key. But the Russians have tried that intermittently in Chechnya, without the same effect; the recent suicide bombing in the Moscow subway by Chechen terrorists prompted an Op-Ed piece in the Times by Robert Pape and two associates, arguing that the answer is for Russia to dial back its “indirect military occupation” of Chechnya.

The point of social science is to be careful, dispassionate, and analytical, to get beyond the lure of anecdote and see what the patterns really are. But in the case of counterterrorism the laboratory approach can’t be made to scan neatly, because there isn’t a logic that can be counted upon to apply in all cases. One could say that the way to reduce a group’s terrorist activity is by reaching a political compromise with it; Northern Ireland seems to be an example. But doing that can make terrorism more attractive to other groups—a particular risk for the United States, which operates in so many places around the world. After the Hezbollah attack on the Marine barracks, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan pulled out of Lebanon, a decision that may have set off more terrorism in the Middle East over the long term. Immediate, savage responses—George W. Bush, rather than Reagan—can work in one contained area and fail more broadly. If the September 11th attacks were meant in part to provoke a response that would make the United States unpopular in the Muslim world, they certainly succeeded.

Even if one could prove that a set of measured responses to specific terrorist acts was effective, or that it’s always a good idea to alter terrorists’ cost-benefit calculations, there’s the problem implied by the tactic’s name: people on the receiving end of terrorism, and not just the immediate victims, do, in fact, enter a state of terror. The emotion—and its companion, thirst for revenge—inevitably figure large in the political life of the targeted country. As Cronin dryly notes, “In the wake of major attacks, officials tend to respond (very humanly) to popular passions and anxiety, resulting in policy made primarily on tactical grounds and undermining their long-term interests. Yet this is not an effective way to gain the upper hand against nonstate actors.” The implication is that somewhere in the world there might be a politician with the skill to get people to calm down about terrorists in their midst, so that a rational policy could be pursued. That’s hard to imagine.

Another fundamental problem in counterterrorism emerges from a point many of the experts agree on: that terrorism, uniquely horrifying as it is, doesn’t belong to an entirely separate and containable realm of human experience, like the one occupied by serial killers. Instead, it’s a tactic whose aims bleed into the larger, endless struggle of people to control land, set up governments, and exercise power. History is about managing that struggle, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, rather than eliminating the impulses that underlie it.

For Americans, the gravest terrorist threat right now is halfway across the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. On paper, in all three countries, the experts’ conceptual model works. Lesser terrorist groups remain violent but seem gradually to lose force, and greater ones rise to the level of political participation. At least some elements of the Taliban have been talking with the Afghan government, with the United States looking on approvingly. In Iraq, during the recent elections, some Sunni groups set off bombs near polling places, but others won parliamentary seats. Yet this proof of concept does not solve the United States’ terrorism problem. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all have pro-American governments that are weak. They don’t have firm control over the area within their borders, and they lack the sort of legitimacy that would make terrorism untempting. Now that General Petraeus is the head of the Central Command and has authority over American troops in the region, our forces could practice all that he has preached, achieve positive results, and still be unable to leave, because there is no national authority that can be effective against terrorism.

Long ago, great powers that had vital interests far away simply set up colonies. That wound up being one of the leading causes of terrorism. Then, as an alternative to colonialism, great powers supported dictatorial client states. That, too, often led to terrorism. During the Bush Administration, creating democracies (by force if necessary) in the Middle East was supposed to serve American interests, but, once again, the result was to increase terrorism. Even if all terrorism turns out to be local, effective, long-running counterterrorism has to be national. States still matter most. And finding trustworthy partner states in the region of the world where suicide bombers are killing Americans is so hard that it makes fighting terrorism look easy. ♦

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