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Terrorism:  "Good" vs. "Evil"

On 9/14/01 I wrote the following letter to the LA Times:

One good thing about Bush's self-proclaimed war: If he's preoccupied with terrorism, he can't do anything else stupid. No more tax cuts for the rich, oil drilling in the Arctic, plunging the economy into recession, weakening regulations for arsenic, declaring Superfund sites historic landmarks, etc., etc.


John Peloquin's reply

Don't kid yourself about Bush the dumber. For someone with NO intellectual curiosity, I'm sure when it comes to making mischief, he's almost as capable as the monsters that perpetrated this monstrous attack on the US.

Let me "inflict" upon you my analysis of the situation:

I think the people to blame are the Iranian hardliners. The Iranian hardliners, not the entire Iranian government. The hardliners know they are on the way out soon (maybe even ending up against the wall the way the Ceaucescues did) unless something soon happens to radicalize the Iranian populace again. A massive American attack on some place (especially the wrong place) in the Middle East would be just the ticket for this. The way I see to figuring out "who done it" is you figure who is gains the most. Osama Bin Laden of course comes to mind first, but there are a few problems with this.

The first is that he denied his involvement and the "clues" linking him to this are way too obvious. If he wanted to be found out as the cause and planner for this, he would have taken credit- I would not be surprised if there was some sort of connection to Bin Laden, such that some of the members of his organization may have participated but I don't think he is the guy who planned and organized this or he would claim he was the man. Since he then either didn't do it or didn't want to be seen as doing it, he would cover his tracks a lot better than he has. Some point to the fact that he moved from his hiding place shortly AFTER the attack.

This doesn't indicate he knew ahead of time that the attack was going to happen, it only suggests that he also watches CNN. IF he didn't hide after the attack (knowing the US has tried to drop cruise missiles on his head in the past) that would be just plain stupid. Some cells of his might have been used in the attack without his knowledge or direct support/permission, but I doubt very much he is the guy to get for this.

One thing that really made me think was the "discovery" of several "clues" that just seemed much too incriminating for such organized terrorists to "forget", like the gym bag with the 767 manual in arabic etc if they didn't want to be identified. COME ON, real terrorists with the ability to pull off such an organized and synchronized action would not make such a mistake unless they wanted people to find this. The pilots of the planes spoke English and were trained in English- they have NO need of an Arabic language Boeing 767 manual. Also, about the "suicide notes" left in one of the other apartments -- for the POLICE or FBI to find????? This last is what made me decide the way I decided. People leave "suicide" notes so that the people they want to find them will find them and if you want the police to find them, then I doubt they are anything but a red herring or disinformation. If not a single one of these guys is an Iranian or demonstrably Iranian connected, even though there are plenty of Iranian or Hezbollah that would gladly sacrifice themselves I say that suggests an Iranian plan, like Sherlock Holmes referring to the dog that didn't bark- you don't want the US to put together a scenario that could incriminate you so you go to great pains to avoid any connection.

There are plenty of nutty middle easterners with nothing to lose from all these countries out there that could be recruited to do this sort of suicide thing, so the nationality of the suicide guys is probably irrelevant to the origins of the real planners and organizers. If you were an Iranian hard-liner you'd want to make sure someone else gets the blame for it, especially if that someone were Saddam, or Egypt or the UAE or Saudis.

Saddam is a popular bad guy, but why on earth would he do something to upset a situation that is really exactly what he wants, He is still boss in a place that is pretty stable and cushy for him so I don't see him as the guy. People say that he might have done it to get back at Bush the dumber, but tell me the last time Saddam has done anything in his life save for it enhancing his ability to stay in power.

The Palestinian authority has nothing to gain and much to lose from this, probably more to lose than anyone else save the US. None the less, I would not be at all surprised if a fair number of the terrorists were Palestinians, because if you as the terrorist mastermind need hopeless and suicidal people as cannon fodder with nothing to lose, then Palestine is a great place to look for them. The Palestinian government is therefore IMHO pretty much innocent of this. Palestinians themselves are useful to the people who did this though because they are desperate enough to be the suicide pawns of the real criminals.

Finally the immediate benefits of all this accrue to Israel who is predictably going after all sorts of Palestinians now that they have a free pass to do so with the US out of the picture. This will not last and, though I would put nothing past the Israelis, they wouldn't take any chance they could be pinned with this- however the Iranian hardliners know that Israel will act in the heavy handed way they can be depended on to act, so they will radicalize Hezbollah etc., AND their Iranian sympathizers, giving more power to the Iranian hardliners. If the US bombs the bejezus out of Iran, then the hardliners that survive still win and consolidate their power because they will then have an Iranian populace again radicalized by US action.

SO: my analysis is the planners are the Iranian hardliners.....

What's your analysis? What is your suggestion?

I might add that that "beacon" (black hole would be better) of liberal thought, human rights, and tolerance, Texas, has had a whole bunch of anti arab and anti moslem incidents. Go figure


Rob's reply
>> I'm sure when it comes to making mischief, he's almost as capable as the monsters that perpetrated this monstrous attack on the US. <<

Right, but I think he'll make mischief in new areas while ignoring the old ones.

>> I think the people to blame are the Iranian hardliners. <<

You mean you don't think it was Osama bin Laden? That's an interesting theory.

>> One thing that really made me think was the "discovery" of several "clues" that just seemed much too incriminating for such organized terrorists to "forget" <<

So they tried to frame Bin Laden? An even more interesting theory.

>> SO: my analysis is the planners are the Iranian hardliners..... <<

I haven't read or thought much about who did it, other than the obvious assertions about Bin Laden and the Taliban. I don't see any glaring faults with your theory, although it's about as tenuous as the Bin Laden theory. But it's interesting because we're rushing to judgment, threatening to annihilate whole countries (starting with Afghanistan). It would be so typically American if we scoured Afghanistan and then learned Iran did it.


>> What's your analysis? What is your suggestion? <<



More on Iran
With some experts saying 95% of the evidence points to Bin Laden, I can't accept your Iranian hardliner theory. But it's interesting for the questions it raises. Here's another article that suggests we need to stop looking at countries as "good" or "evil" and start looking at them as individuals, with biases and flaws but still recognizably human.

From the LA Times, 9/17/01:

U.S. Reaches Out to Iran for Help Against Terror

Policy: Despite nations' longtime antagonism, Powell says recent statements from Tehran are 'worth exploring.'


WASHINGTON — The United States publicly reached out Sunday to Iran, its long-standing nemesis, to play a role in the global coalition to fight terrorism. And despite two decades of hostility, Iran has sent unprecedented symbols of support on the issue of terrorism.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said recent Iranian statements are "worth exploring" to determine the scope of Tehran's potential role. Iran's position on the U.S. initiative will be critical because it shares a 560-mile border with Afghanistan, the second-longest after Pakistan's. Iran also shares a long frontier with Pakistan.

Iran announced Saturday it was closing off the Afghan border, in part to avoid a flood of refugees who fear U.S. retaliation but also to close a possible escape route for those close to Osama bin Laden. Iranian cooperation, overt or covert, would amount to a quantum change in Iranian policy and could lay the groundwork for eventual rapprochement, according to U.S. analysts. Iran has been on the State Department's list of countries supporting terrorism since the 1980s. "We have serious differences with the government of Iran because of their support of terrorism, but they have made a statement and it seems to me a statement that is worth exploring to see whether or not they now recognize that this is a curse [on] the face of the Earth. And of course Iran has always had difficulty with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," Powell said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Some Seek Proof of Iran's Intentions

The gap on terrorism is still wide and Iran should prove itself before the U.S. embraces Tehran—or offers a quid pro quo, such as lifting sanctions, say current and former U.S. lawmakers. On "Fox News Sunday," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) warned that allowing the current sponsors of terrorism into the coalition without insisting they root out the cells in their own countries or end sponsorship of extremists elsewhere, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, would "make a mockery" of American efforts.

In Iran, both reformers and conservatives in the deeply divided government condemned the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. President Mohammad Khatami said last week that he spoke for the entire Islamic world in expressing outrage. "No Muslim can be pleased about such a human catastrophe," he said. "Terrorism is condemned and the international community should take effective measures to eradicate it."

Tehran's mayor and the chairman of its city council jointly sent a message of condolence to New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, which was widely publicized in Iran's media Sunday.

"The news about the recent terrorist acts which took many innocent lives in New York cause deep grief and sorrow. Undoubtedly, this act is not just against New Yorkers, but all humanity," wrote Mayor Morteza Alviri and council president Mohammad Atrianfar.

But Iran sat out the last major U.S. coalition in the region, put together by President Bush's father, then-President George Bush, during the Persian Gulf War. Iraq, like the Taliban, is a longtime foe of Iran.

Still, the reaction across Iran also has been striking. In a country where "Death to America" was often the national mantra, Iranians have held candlelight vigils for the thousands of victims, while attendants at a World Cup qualifying soccer match observed a moment of silence.

And when some worshipers at last week's Friday prayers, the gathering place for hard-liners, began chanting "Death to America," guards signaled them immediately to stop.

Iran has several reasons to welcome this U.S. initiative. Along with Russia, India, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Tehran has been a major supporter of the opposition Northern Alliance, a coalition of Afghan groups that lost control of the country to the Taliban in the mid-1990s. Iran has particularly aided the Hezb-i-Wahdat, the major Shiite Muslim group in the alliance fighting the Taliban.

Iran Disapproves of Some Taliban Policies

With the assassination last week of Northern Alliance guerrilla chief Ahmed Shah Masoud, who was buried Sunday, the opposition will need a major boost to hold together—and to hold on to—the 5% of the land it controls. Religious differences also are a factor between predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran and the predominantly Sunni Taliban.

Although both governments are theocracies, Iran also strongly disapproves of many Taliban practices and policies, from allowing cultivation of the world's largest poppy crop for opium and heroin to its treatment of women and its ban on most forms of cultural expression, including television, cinema and music.

The list of victims from some three dozen nations also may include Iranians working in New York, according to the Iranian diplomatic mission to the United Nations.

Dialogue between Iran and the United States on Afghanistan would not be unprecedented. Both are members of the so-called "four-plus-two" U.N. working group of nations that includes Afghanistan's four major neighbors, and the United States and Russia, which meets sporadically. The Clinton administration long hoped that Afghanistan and counter-narcotics efforts would be subjects that would gradually spawn a rapprochement.

The Bush administration, which is currently in the midst of a policy review on Iran, had already been exploring the possibilities of jump-starting the process, according to U.S. officials.

But prospects for cooperation also should not be exaggerated, added Geoffrey Kemp, a Reagan administration National Security Council staffer.

"The administration is right to look at this as an opportunity for a dramatic reappraisal of priorities in the region, and rapprochement would be a fundamental shift in policy that could lead to further isolation of Iraq and extremist groups in Afghanistan," he said.

But short-term, the best the United States may be able to hope for is that the Iranians behave as they did during the 1991 Gulf War when they were neutral and did not aid neighboring Iraq.


Final note from John
I think it is very important to my theory that Iran not be blamed, but the hardliners there get the blame. Anyway, who ever did it will not be punished by bouncing the rubble wherever they based their attack. We cannot retaliate by massive bombing etc. That will only kill a lot of people who are probably oppressed by the same people who did the attack. However, making our enemies THINK that we will bomb like that is a good thing—as long as we don't actually do so. It keeps the bad guy's heads down, prevents them from effectively communicating and allows us time to prepare a realistic response, which should include aid for the poor and support for true Moslem clerics to help deprogram the misfortunate in the countries where trouble brews.

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