Beware the “Crusaders” My Friend; The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Scratch

Interesting use of the epithet “Crusaders,” this time by Gaddafi’s government.  I had not been previously aware of Arab governments using the term.  Rather, I thought that this was generally a bit of jihadist terminology.

Did I miss something?  Or are Gaddafi’s people trying to claim the mantle of Islam in the Libyan civil war?

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Published in: on August 16, 2011 at 9:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

Check It Out!

The Saddam Tapes:  The Inner Workings of a Tyrant’s Regime, 1978-2001 is coming out…on Halloween.  Somehow that seems fitting.

I had a lot of fun working on it, but Kevin Woods and David Palkki did far more work on it and their names are rightfully ahead of mine.  In many ways, working with them was the best part of this project.  This has been in the works for a loooong time and it will be nice to hold the book in my hand.

Published in: on August 13, 2011 at 6:10 PM  Comments (1)  

Casualties in Afghanistan: How To Think About Them?

I was listening to a podcast of the Pritzker Military Library with Sebastian Junger yesterday.   Junger was talking about his book War and the film Restrepo which he made with the late Tim Hetherington.  He made a claim about casualties in Afghanistan which boggled my mind.  If it is true, it puts for me a whole new light on the Afghan war and ought to influence our debate and understanding about the war.

He claimed that the 1980s saw 1.5 million Afghan civilians killed in the Soviet war.  The 1990s saw 400,000 civilians killed in the Afghan civil war and killed by the Taliban.  The decade since 2001, the time in which the US, NATO, et al, have been there, “occupying” the country, as many people in the world see it, has seen 30,000 dead civilians of whom two thirds were killed by the Taliban.

Junger has made the claim before but is it true?  Well, estimates for the war against the Soviets in the 1980s from other sources seem to range from ~900,000+ to 1.5 million.  The 400,000 dead in the 1990s number also seems to be out there.  Estimates for the 1990s The Guardian, which is reliably anti-American gives casualties figures for Afghanistan 2007-2010 that are broadly consistent with this Junger’s claim for the last ten years: roughly 10,000.

Given that Junger’s numbers seem to be plausible, why aren’t these numbers one of the central organizing facts of the way we think about the story?  Melissa Roddy frames the issue this way: by being in Afghanistan we have prevented something on the order of the Rwandan genocide.  Remember that President Clinton famously apologized for America’s failure to stop that catastrophe.  The explanation, I think is, at least in part, that human beings have a hard time thinking about the significance of things that didn’t happen.  That’s why we think that Sherlock Holmes was being remarkably smart in this famous exchange from the story “Silver Blaze:”

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” “

To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.” “

That was the curious incident.”

Published in: on August 12, 2011 at 3:58 AM  Comments (3)  

US Special Operators Killed in Afghanistan: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

News reports and the Pentagon have nearly two dozen US special operators and an unspecified number of Afghans killed in Afghanistan today when the Taliban shot down their helicopter.  Reportedly the helicopter was carrying a “quick reaction force” (QRF), raising the question of whether there were friendly casualties in the engagement that the WRF was going to intervene in.  Apparently most of the casualties from the shootdown were from the SEAL unit that killed Bin Laden a few months ago, though none of the people on that mission were killed here.

Given that the jihadists see tactical success as a pretty direct reflection of Allah’s will, I’d be interested to know what is going on in the forums just now.  An Ansar al-Mujahideen English language forum participant has posted a news article on it, but I’d love to know more…  [Hint, hint, you real experts.]

Published in: on August 6, 2011 at 8:12 PM  Leave a Comment