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Sunday, July 31

The Name of the Four Horsemen's Squire is Polygamy

"Dear Pundita:
I just read your Friday post about Oriana Fallaci's criticism of Islam. I understand that she is angry but will you please give Muslims a break? The Muslim community in America is as outraged as she is about the terrorists and their threats against Europe. I and every other Muslim I know condemns the terrorists. We're working very hard to counter the wrong impression that Islam is a religion of violence and to raise awareness in the community that Muslims need to take strong action to counter the hate-filled actions and speech of the terrorists.
Ameena in Brooklyn"

Dear Ameena:
While Pundita applauds all efforts by civilians to denounce terrorism, I think putting al Qaeda and similar crews out of business is principally a job for militaries. What I see as a civilian job, one that should be joined by leaders from all religions and governments, is unsticking our collective head from the sand and grappling with four huge problems now confronting humanity:

1. The developed democracies cannot keep footing the bill for people who practice polygamy unless the people submit to forced sterilization.

2. The developed democracies cannot continue to support people who follow practices that institutionalize misogyny and barbaric customs directed against women and female children.

3. The same democracies cannot continue to tolerate in their midst people who want all the benefits that come from living in a society of modern democratic laws but also want to follow tribal laws from ye olde country.

4. The peoples of the democratic nations cannot continue to deploy Orwellian language and a double standard just because they want cheap goods and labor or a coveted natural resource from a despotic regime. For example, democratic peoples need to stop referring to China as a "quasi-communist pro-free market authoritarian state." China is a military dictatorship and should be treated as such

From my reading of Oriana's essay, at least the portion I quoted, I'd say that to the extent she's angry, the anger comes from a sense of betrayal as a Catholic who is trying to follow the guidance laid down by the Vatican leadership. She perceives the leadership as applying a double standard, one that now helps place Italy in clear and present danger.

Religions practicing a double standard for pragmatic reasons is an old story. However, what greatly concerns me is that African men are playing Christians against Muslims so they can have as many wives as they want. If the Christians say you have accept monogamy to be a Christian, the Africans reply, "I'll just go be a Muslim where I can have four wives."

If the Muslims say you can't have unlimited wives the Africans reply, "I'll just go be a Christian where they're willing to look the other way." And if the Muslims protest, the Africans retort that many Muslims exceed the four-wives rule.

I do not know how widespread this playoff game has been during the past half century. One thing I know is that no person of decent heart should continue to support the game. Polygamy has created situations on the African continent that have led to horrific human suffering -- while leaving it to the developed countries to foot much of the bill in the attempt to save people who continue to breed like flies.

You have expressed great concern about the image of Islam. I too have great concerns:

One is that the United States has finite resources going into an era that is seeing climate shifts and vast populations unprepared to survive without help from the USA.

Two is that economically depressed regions in the USA are not getting enough help from federal government.

I am seeing these two situations rush at each other as the early part of this century unfolds.

(See Pundita post Paw, a Revenuer's at the door... for a brief discussion of how polygamy supports the clan business model in tribalized societies. Attempts to phase out polygamy in a society must be made in concert with modernizing business practices.)

Saturday, July 30

Wimpy Europeans? Hardly!

Below is a translation of an excerpt from Oriana Fallaci's The Enemy We Treat as a Friend, which I have cribbed from Belmont Club's July 25 essay titled Cassandra.

The Cassandra essay also publishes a link to the column in Italian, excerpts from the Economist and (UK) Guardian's predictably hysterical reactions to Fallaci's rant, and includes Bemont Club's thoughtful and elegant if somewhat ambiguous comments about the flap. Pundita's comments are less elegant and ambigious:

If you can't speak your mind when you're 76 years old and sick with cancer, when can you? Give 'em hell, Oriana!

It's time for Muslims worldwide to do some heavy-duty soul searching about a religion that has applauded wiring children with explosives and committing atrocities against females.

And while Pundita is bowled over with gratitude that some Muslim hardliners are now talking about cooperating with the war against terrorism (see second Pundita post for Friday), this about-face does not address Fallaci's central point. There are by all accounts a large number of Muslims who would still like to see their religion rule the world through force and by the destruction of all other religions. And many have given indication they're prepared to act on that wish.

Before turning over the floor to Oriana, I note one thing that bin Laden and his crew don't seem to understand about the Europeans: they have been trying hard to make nice during recent decades not because they are wimps but because they were so war-like for so many centuries. The terrorists should keep it up, if they want to learn what Europeans can be like on a really bad hair day.

Here are the quotes from The Enemy We Treat as a Friend:

"Yes, it's true: In newspapers that in the best of cases pharasaically opposed me with a conspiracy of silence now appear titles using my concepts and words. - "War Against the West."; "Cult of Death"; "The Suicide of Europe"; Wake up, Italy! Wake up!"

Yes, it's true: [Those] In speaking of Londonistan ... are now saying what I did when I wrote that in each one of our cities exists another city. A subterranean city; equal to Beirut when it was invaded by Arafat in the 70s. A foreign city that speaks its own language and observes its own customs; a Muslim city where terrorists go about their business undisturbed and, thus undisturbed, plan our deaths. ...

"Yes it's true: Now, even the fifth columnists and the imams express their hypocritical condemnations, their mendacious loathing, their false solidarity with the relatives of the victims. Yes, it's true: Now, thorough searches are being made in the cases of the accused Muslims; suspects are arrested; perhaps it will even be decided to expel them.

"But in substance, nothing has changed. ... I am also troubled because it goes along with, and thereby reinforces that which I consider the error committed by Papa Wojtyla: not to fight as much as he should have, in my opinion, against the illiberal and anti-democratic -- no, cruel -- essence of Islam.

During these last four years, I have done nothing but ask myself why a warrior like Wojtyla, a leader so singular who contributed more than anyone else to the downfall of the Soviet empire and, therefore, of Communism, showed himself to be so weak toward a disease worse than the Soviet empire or Communism.

"A disease that, above all, targets Christianity (and Judaism) for destruction. I have done nothing but ask myself why he did not inveigh openly against what was happening (and is happening), for example, in Sudan where the fundamentalist regime was practicing (and is practicing) slavery.

Where Christians were eliminated (are eliminated) by the millions. Why he was silent about Saudi Arabia where anyone with a Bible in hand or a cross around his neck was (and is) treated like a scum to be put to death.

"Still today, there is that silence I don't understand ...

"Will the massacre touch us too? -- will it really touch us the next time? Oh, yes. I haven't the slightest doubt. I've never had the slightest doubt. I've been saying this, too, for the last four years.

"And I add: They have not yet attacked us [only] because of their need for a landing zone, a bridgehead, a handy outpost named "Italy." ... But soon, they will go on a rampage. Bin Laden himself has promised it -- explicitly, clearly, precisely. ..."

No one can argue with that last observation. Darn tootin' he's promised it.

For more on Fallaci's column, one of Belmont Club's readers added a comment to the Cassandra essay that includes links to a complete English translation in two parts. The entire column is worth the read:

http://mysteryachievement.blogspot.com/2005/07/
enemy-we-treat-like-friend-part-i.html

http://mysteryachievement.blogspot.com/2005/07/
enemy-we-treat-like-friend-part-ii.html

Friday, July 29

Turning tide in the war on terror

Max Boot has not exactly redeemed himself in Pundita's eyes with the following opinion piece but I thank him for bringing to a 'national' readership some very good news via the Los Angeles Times.

He cites various data, including a Pew poll, which suggests anti-Americanism is on the wane since the Iraq invasion and anti-al Qaeda sentiment, even among Muslim countries, is on the rise. The latter includes rising sentiment against suicide bombings.

One of the jaw-droppers in Boot's piece is the news that
Jihad Al Khazen, a rabidly anti-American and anti-Israeli columnist for the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, wrote that "the Arabs and Muslims must help the U.S." in the war on terror.
If the trend lasts, it's a vindication for President Bush and the other Coalition government leaders' unwavering stand against terrorism and the US administration's commitment to real democracy.

I consider Boot's observations to be so important that I am breaking protocol and republishing the entire piece here (with major thanks to John Batchelor's website for printing the piece via TMS Reprints):

July 27, 2005
Our Extreme Makeover
Opinion by Max Boot
for latimes.com (Los Angeles Times)
Hat tip: John Batchelor Show website.

"Favorable impressions of the U.S. are being detected around the world, including inside Muslim countries.

"We interrupt the latest reports about terrorist atrocities with a news bulletin: Support for suicide bombings and Islamic extremism, along with hatred of the Great Satan, is actually waning in the Muslim world.

"If that comes as a surprise, it's because of the old adage that good news is no news. While the increase of anti-Americanism around the world and especially in Muslim countries has been exhaustively covered since 2001, not enough attention has been paid to an important survey released in the last month that found global opinion shifting in a more positive direction.

"The public opinion poll was conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, hardly a bastion of neocon zealotry. (It's co-chaired by Madeleine Albright.) Over the last three years, Pew surveys have charted surging anti-Americanism in response to the invasion of Iraq and other actions of the Bush administration. But its most recent poll -- conducted in May, with 17,000 respondents in 17 countries -- also found evidence that widespread antipathy is abating.

"The percentage of people holding a favorable impression of the United States increased in Indonesia (+23 points), Lebanon (+15), Pakistan (+2) and Jordan (+16). It also went up in such non-Muslim nations as France, Germany, Russia and India.

"What accounts for this shift? The answer varies by country, but analysts point to waning public anger over the invasion of Iraq, gratitude for the massive U.S. tsunami relief effort and growing conviction that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy.

"There is also increasing aversion to America's enemies, even in the Islamic world. The Pew poll found that "nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries."

"Support for suicide bombing has declined dramatically in all the Muslim countries surveyed except Jordan, with its large anti-Israeli Palestinian population. The number of those saying that "violence against civilian targets is sometimes or often justified" has dropped by big margins in Lebanon (-34 points) and Indonesia (-12) since 2002, and in the last year in Pakistan (-16) and Morocco (-27).

"This has been accompanied by a cratering of support for Osama bin Laden everywhere except (unfortunately) Pakistan and Jordan. Since 2003, approval ratings for the world's No. 1 terrorist have slid in Indonesia (-23 points), Morocco (-23), Turkey (-8) and Lebanon (-12).

"What accounts for this decline? Primarily the actions of the terrorists themselves. Since 9/11, most of the atrocities carried out by Islamist groups have occurred in Muslim nations — the latest examples are the bombings in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, and bombings too numerous to mention in Iraq — and most of the victims have been Muslims. Not surprisingly, this hasn't endeared the jihadists to a lot of their coreligionists.

"Yet even attacks on the West no longer win knee-jerk approval in the Muslim world. After the 7/7 London bombings, Islamic groups and intellectuals who have seldom had a cross word for suicide bombings were pretty unequivocal in their condemnation.

"To cite only one example of many, Jihad Al Khazen, a rabidly anti-American and anti-Israeli columnist for the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, wrote that "the Arabs and Muslims must help the U.S." in the war on terror. There are still plenty of Muslims who blame the victims for bringing terrorism upon themselves, but there is also a growing countervailing attitude.

"Muslim opinion also challenges jihadist orthodoxy that proclaims that giving power to the people, rather than to mullahs, is "un-Islamic." The latest Pew poll found "large and growing majorities in Morocco (83%), Lebanon (83%), Jordan (80%) and Indonesia (77%) — as well as pluralities in Turkey (48%) and Pakistan (43%) — [that] say democracy can work well and is not just for the West."

"That's exactly what President Bush has been saying. Though his actions and rhetoric have been denounced as "unrealistic" and "extremist" by his American and European critics, it turns out that Muslims welcome it. "Roughly half of respondents in Jordan and nearly two-thirds of Indonesians think the U.S. favors democracy in their countries," the new Pew study said. "About half of the public in Lebanon also takes that view." Imagine that: Bush's actions might actually be making Middle Easterners more pro-American!

"Of course, public opinion is fickle, and there is still a lot of hostility toward the U.S. out there.

"Even a small minority of extremists can cause mayhem similar to the London bombings. But at least there are some signs that the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world is far from hopeless."

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

Liberal Democracy: Achieving balance between the civic person and the private person

"Hi Pundita,
I think you might enjoy my proposal for a "post-modern paternalism" as move towards a more holistic mindset of what it takes to create healthy government; I would certainly appreciate your critique. Basically, I am trying (in my own small way) to shift the development debate from institutions and confrontation to values and relationship. Does that align with what you see as being needed?
Dr. Ernie in California"

Dear Dr. Ernie:
With regard to your desire to shift the development debate from institutions and confrontation to values and relationship -- well, the entire concept of development in this context is G2G -- government to government. So it's really not possible to shift the debate away from institutions.

With regard to confrontation -- it's just because the US government spent more than a decade avoiding confrontations at the United Nations that we now find American values under literal fire.

The US government's desire to fit in with the group, to go along with NATO allies and support globalized business at any cost to American democracy, has put us in the position we are now: in a very hot global war.

So, for future reference, we should remember to confront situations before they require a military solution.

But Pundita gets your drift and appreciates it: as private citizens we should strive to create relationships that are based on our personal value system. Yet if 9/11 has taught us anything, we should also pay more attention to our civic duties.

If we can't serve in the military or National Guard, we should do what we can to support the troops, even if it's only sending an occasional letter of thanks. If we can't serve in the police or fire department, we can join neighborhood watch groups and donate what we can to organizations that support the fire and police organizations.

The United States of America has a society that allows citizens to do pretty much their own thing: pursue their private goals and follow the beat of their own drum. Yet not even the world's most powerful society can remain strong, unless there is a strong sense of civic duty that transcends politics and personal values. That's what it means to be a citizen.

We could all do with paying more attention to the meaning.

I suspect from reading your proposal that you are working at the micro-level or want to work at that level -- as you observed in "a small way." Pundita is a big fan of micro-level development projects. However, when I write about development I address the macro-level: the multilateral development concept and in particular the development bank 'model' and how it relates to US foreign policy and defense.

I've given considerable discussion to the topics simply because the American public is very poorly informed about them. Americans have not been on the receiving end of multilateral development projects and policies, so it's quite understandable that the topics have flown under the radar of the public's awareness.

Pundita has done everything but stand on her head to warn that actually America has been on the receiving end, only in ways that are not readily apparent until one is very familiar with the topics.

I've done the same in my writing about TOC (transnational organized crime) and corruption in government, which have also received little attention in the US media, and I've pointed out the link between these topics, multilateral aid and development, foreign policy and defense.

In short, there is a matrix of situations that critically impact US military defense and foreign policy but are not treated as such, either by the media or the US government.

I'm happy to report that since I started this blog in November 2004 there has been some progress at the government level in officially recognizing the matrix. And when Paul Wolfowitz came to the World Bank, he named government corruption as the greatest threat to democracy since the Soviet communist threat, which certainly helped back up my argument.

However, the World Bank is still refusing to allow an independent audit -- they claim they'd have to change their charter for this to happen. To my knowledge the same issue is not even on the table for USAID, the "America" desk at the State Department, and the US Congress.

So we are still a very long way from addressing in any meaningful way the issue of corruption, and its intersection with US-backed development lending and aid.

I appreciate your interest in the Pundita blog, which came about because of one essay I wrote about development issues. Many readers are initially drawn to the Pundita blog because they learn of a particular essay that deals with an area of their special interest, such as development, the democracy doctrine, terrorism, US-EU relations, and so on.

However, from letters I've received, it seems that most who visit this blog regularly learn by reading through the Pundita archives, or by browsing the Pundita 'theme' links posted on the sidebar, that I am dealing with a range of issues connected with US foreign policy in the 21st Century -- or what I think should be considered a vital part of foreign policy for this era.

In this I am following the direction laid down by America's president and commander-in-chief. President Bush has said this is to be Liberty's Century and that he wants the US government to take the lead in actualizing this ideal. In other words, he wants to see genuine democracy take root around the world. So I ask, "How to make this happen?" then I try to examine the obstacles and where we are now in relation to the goal.

This approach tends to neglect news about US relations with individual countries; I have given considerable attention to China, Russia and Mexico only because I see them as textbook illustrations of US foreign policy failures in dealing with less developed countries and/or emerging democracies.

And I've given almost no attention to news about trade issues because that aspect of US foreign policy is well known to the general public.

Also, I've given a huge amount of attention to a matrix of situations that are so outside the general public's awareness and media discussion as to be completely off the radar, but which profoundly affect US foreign relations.

I don't know how to term this matrix, except maybe to call it, "What Americans and especially Americans in big business, the news media, State Department, Pentagon, Congress and the White House need to know about peoples in really old cultures who are stuck in their ways and very proud, and who know they have to change their ways but who don't appreciate peoples from very young cultures who act like know-it-alls just because they're rich."

I sense from the wording of your proposal that this matrix is also of interest to you. If so, let it be known that we here in Pundita-land -- this would include even the squirrel member of Pundita's foreign policy team -- applaud all intelligent efforts to bridge the old-young gap in US foreign policy relations. It is this gap, rather than the communism/ capitalism, democracy/ despotism, WTO membership/ nonmembership gaps that is the most important one for American foreign relations to bridge.

I am also hugely interested in the connection between US news reporting and foreign policy; indeed, if I were two people I would have a blog that is dedicated to the topic. There is a tremendous amount of expertise in this country that can't connect with foreign policy situations because Americans with the expertise are simply unaware of the situations.

The truth is that a very small number of people have been running US foreign policy and a small number of academics have had a huge impact on foreign policy -- including the defense component.

These people and their actions are almost totally off the radar of American public awareness. They operate behind a screen of public unawareness, although since the rise of the blogosphere a little light has pierced the screen.

Much more light is needed; many more Americans need to get involved in monitoring the actions of these people and the organizations that employ them. I have been known to use the literary equivalent of a one-ton boom to get across this point.

As to how the few have gotten away with so much for so long, because the US news media has had a long-standing policy:

If it doesn't have to do with battles between Democrats and Republicans, then Americans should be focused on sports, entertainment, weather and the sleaziest crime stories.

That, I submit, is the true reason the vast majority of US news media outlets have trashed the US invasion of Iraq and hate the idea of a global war on terror: good coverage of international issues costs buckets of money unless you're real smart like John Batchelor, who clearly has no trouble doing good coverage on a virtual shoestring budget.

So while the majority of Americans can recount in minute detail the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials they still can't find Damascus on a map, much less Basra.

How the American electorate is supposed to oversee foreign policy conducted by the government of the world's lone superpower nation under such circumstances -- I dunno, Dr. Ernie. I just don't know.

So that's the Pundita blog: we spend our time pushing peanuts across a sawdust floor with our nose. By sheer dint of effort, we direct our readers' attention to stuff that goes on behind the major media's white noise screen.

If I were three people, perhaps I would have a blog that deals solely with the multilateral development angle in US foreign policy. And if I were four, I'd surely have a blog that only tracks instances of government corruption and the moves of international crime syndicates.

But for now I am focused on sketching the big picture of foreign policy in what is a new century for the West.

Thursday, July 28

Mysteries of Democracy: Now you've got my goat

The following email arrived in my inbox with the title The Mysteries of Democracy.

"Greetings Pundita,
My question relates to how we can better understand democracy from the point of view of people who do not have a whole lot of experience with it.

Niels Bohr, one of the giants of 20th century physics, once said that anyone who is not shocked by the implications of quantum mechanics does not understand it. He said this because at its most basic level, reality, according to quantum mechanics, does not behave in a deterministic fashion like Newtonian mechanics. You can only determine the probability of events at the atomic level, such as the position of an electron. Einstein himself had deep reservations about this saying "God does not play dice with the universe."

So my question is can we say the same of democracy, that anyone who is not shocked by its implications does not truly understand it? When I think about it just as a practical matter it does not appear obvious why anyone would use a system for which there is a significant degree of randomness in the choosing of its leaders and crafting of its legislation.

Indeed most of Europe's ruling elite in the days of our Founding Founders assumed it would end in chaos as they hoped our Civil War would prove. How can we better understand this process ourselves and explain to others why and under what conditions democracies succeed?
Greg in Orlando"

Dear Greg:
Ah, but there is not randomness for humans. This was explained to me many moons ago by Guru David after I came across the very same comments by Bohr and Einstein that you mention. I was quite perturbed by the discussion and spent days pondering myself in circles until I recalled why there are gurus.

Guru David handed me a pile of computer printout pages that weighed several pounds and which contained nothing but row upon row of digits. He explained that the printout was the result of a random numbers generator software program. Then he asked me to study the pages to see if I could find any patterns among the randomly generated numbers. At first I saw none but within moments I reported in excitement that was finding all sorts of patterns.

Guru David replied, "The patterns you perceive are supplied by your mind, not the program. If you were a mathematician you could find many more patterns. So even if God is playing dice with the universe, humans can hunker down and study the rolls of the dice and from that find patterns, and from that find order in the universe."

Upon hearing of the Bush Democracy Doctrine, "Brother" Moammar Qaddafi, as he prefers to be called since getting more in touch with his African side, snapped, "Africans don't need democracy. They need food and medicine. Besides, Arabs invented democracy." He went on to say that the word 'democracy' has it roots in an Arab word meaning the people sitting together.

He's probably right because Arabs invented everything else. They had no choice, if you stop and think about it. In the old days, if your caravan got stuck in a sandstorm in the Kalahari you didn't tell an African chief, "Sorry, your shipment of dates has been rendered sandy goo due to circumstances beyond my control."

No. You invented the world's first miracle-ingredient exfoliating scrub, guaranteed to restore the glow of youth to even the most tired complexion.

I interject it's a pity that summary execution no longer accompanies failure to please the customer; this has diverted much human creativity into making excuses instead of inventions.

You are mystified because you're confusing a method of selection with the chore of assigning responsibility. The latter was never much of a problem in the old days because we could blame everything that went wrong on the gods, who were full of foibles and whose IQ was often in the idiot range.

Then came The Trouble, which generally we speak of only in whispers here in Pundita-land, but I will tell you a little about it. The Trouble started over a stolen goat; to be more precise, testimony about a stolen goat.

Incidentally this is where the expression, "Now you've got my goat" came from. And, more darkly, it explains how the mild mannered and frankly addle-brained goat came to be associated with the Devil.

In the old days the primary function of the chief was to be a judge -- to settle disputes that arose in the tribe. The Arabs hadn't gotten around yet to inventing fingerprinting so when it came to making a ruling on criminal matters the chief had to rely on oral testimony and brain sweat to determine guilt or innocence.

This duty wasn't so hard during the really old days because the life of a nomad was short and hard, which kept down the tribe's population. But once humans settled down and farmed our numbers greatly increased. What this meant for the chief is that instead of sitting through the testimony of say, five witnesses, he could hear from hundreds.

Thus, The Trouble started. It came to pass that the only respite chiefs got from ruling on cases from the bench was weddings, funerals, religious holidays and war.

However, there wasn't much war, and war in those days was rarely armed conflict. Instead, disputing tribes would paint themselves to look fierce then hop up and down and make screeching noises at each other. (I note this atavistic custom survives in the quaint ritual that anti-globalists perform outside the IMF and World Bank headquarters each Spring.) Whichever tribe managed to hop the highest and screech the loudest won the war.

Then one day, after weeks spent listening to 871 witnesses give testimony about a stolen goat, a chief turned to his court clerk and said, "Death in battle is preferable to this."

"Why not try adding another religious holiday?" whispered the clerk helpfully.

But as anyone who has visited old parts of the world can intuit, by that era chiefs desperate to get off the bench had already added so many religious holidays to the docket that tribal business moved at a snail's pace.

"No. I will gather the hotheads and travel far distant to fight a war."

This was unheard of. Wars, to the extent they occurred, were with neighbors. What else were neighbors for?

"On what grounds will you declare war on strangers?" asked the perplexed clerk.

"I don't know..." muttered the chief. "Maybe I'll find a strange tribe and call their gods stupid."

"But that is Taboo," gasped the clerk. "It is only allowed to call our own gods stupid!"

"Exactly," replied the chief grimly.

And so it began. All these millennia of bloody war and conquest -- all started by a goat who wandered off on his own accord to munch on some brambles.

This according to the possum member of my foreign policy team, whose accounts of her clan's recollections stretch back even long before the time of humans.

So here we are today. Having reasoned ourselves into a corner via the Bigger Fish Tale method, few are lucky enough to have the IQ of gods to blame for our troubles. The rest have an All Knowing, All Seeing God whose intelligence is so vast as to be immeasurable.

The downside is that we can't blame a know-it-all for any situation we consider to be a mess. No, we must find in the mess a divine plan. This still leaves us with the problem of assigning blame and responsibility for dealing with parts of the divine plan that are not pleasant for humans.

Here we come to another snag: there are now too many of us to allow for blaming a single person or small group for failure to adequately deal with a messy aspect of the divine plan. This means that today more of us must share in the responsibility for managing our societies.

This observation is so self-evident that one wonders why it's ignored in favor of hideously complex arguments for democracy. To understand this part, we would need to jump back a few chapters in history. But in one sentence, trust French philosophers to make something highly complex and abstract out of something childishly simple and concrete.

Thus, there is much mystery about the philosophy of democracy. But democracy is as old as tribes, as simple as people sitting around a fire and deciding between them how to handle problems that arise in their midst. Brother Qaddafi's remarks allude to this.

However, Brother Qaddafi does not take his argument far enough. It is true the Africans need food and medicine. Yet unless more of them take responsibility for governing themselves, the needs will be a bottomless pit while they go on looking for an elite or World Bank project to blame for the lack.

That is how to explain democracy to peoples who swear with their fingers crossed behind their back that they don't understand it. That is explanation, American-style.

Why is it so hard for Americans to come up with American-style explanations? Because American academia and think tanks are so steeped in European views that we don't even have an American lexicon for discussing foreign policy, much less democracy.

The Coen Brothers have made film after film in which they try to plumb the Mystery of America. This is in the attempt to explain how a bunch of farmers, tinkerers and salesmen created history's greatest nation.

Not by democracy alone did we do it. Our founding fathers worked their tails off. They were traders, farmers, accountants, inventors, soldiers; whatever they took from European philosophy, it was filtered through the American work ethic. So Americans arrived at the acceptance of democracy not through abstractions but through a "what works best" approach that was grounded in the experiential.

But Americans ignore their history, their own experiences, when they explain democracy to the rest of the world. Until we develop our own way of articulating things, we will keep finding ourselves sucked into philosophical debates that distract from our experience with democracy.

With regard to your observation about the randomness of choosing politicians in a democracy, I recall a true story about President George W. Bush's meeting with a constituent: When Bush inquired as to what he did for a living, the man replied that he sold compressed air. Bush shot back, "We're in the same business."

The system of American democratic government is not automatic -- it needs tending to -- but the system of checks and balances works well enough over time that individuals who represent the system are not as important as the gestalt.

We look for campaigning politicians to convey that they will give us what we want and be really good at explaining why they can't when they don't. That is an expectation of leaders that is as old as tribes. Thus, the order underlying the seeming randomness of democratic politics.

As for crafting legislation, those who closely follow doings on the Hill can tell you there is nothing random about reciprocity and the art of compromise. If you greatly familiarize yourself with the goals of a presidential administration and with the major congressional players and their pet projects, it is easy to perceive order behind the way legislation turns out.

Wednesday, July 27

Understanding state sponsors of terror: Northern Exposure is the best guide

"Pundita, I found your post, ...President Bush plays Sherlock Holmes about the possibility that most of the recent terrorist activity that we are seeing is state sponsored. It makes some sense as fairly large amounts of money and specialized expertise would be required to pull off these bombings and national governments are a good source.

My question, which you may have already answered, is what are these state sponsors hoping to accomplish? It seems that it needs to be more than "Leave us alone to do whatever we want."

It is obvious that Iran, North Korea, and Iraq before OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom], are intent on developing nuclear weapons as well as biological and chemical. But I have never understood why. There is some blackmail value to having such weapons but that is very expensive saber rattling.

They can't believe that we would allow them to use such weapons to actually attack someone. I guess my question is what do they gain by sponsoring terrorism and further by developing WMD?
Dale in Minneapolis"

Dear Dale:
Your question, or rather the way you've set it up, actually represents a few questions and some wrong assumptions so we'll have to unpack your comments before we can arrive at the answer you're seeking.

First, it helps to make sense out of the broad situation if you get very precise in your definition when studying the governments that use terrorism. They are not so much "sponsoring terrorism" as waging war against other states using battle tactics that involve attacks on civilians.

That might sound like hairsplitting but when you're trying to understand something unfamiliar, it's important to be very precise with terminology.

I have written about the "Democracy Stage Show Kit" -- tactics that copycat genuine protest movements but which are used by governments to stage a bloodless coup to put their favored person/faction in power. What we've seen during the past 15 years or so is the refinement of the military equivalent of the DSSK: The Terrorism Stage Show Kit.

State militaries studied a classic warfare model used by oppressed groups under a powerful military state; i.e., "terrorism" and saw its usefulness for waging war against other states without mounting a military incursion. Voilà! The TSSK.

Red China's military did a lot of theoretical work in this area. If you want to learn something about it, News Max has published a translation of Unrestricted Warfare by Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. You can buy the book from the News Max site, which publishes an overview of the book's contents. The basic concept behind unrestricted warfare is that a weak military can 'bleed' an enemy nation through a variety of tactics that fall outside classic battle strategy.

As to where it all began -- I doubt there is anything new under the sun when it comes to military tactics, and if I recall the Soviets deployed the strategy in some cases. But the modern approach I'm discussing probably took shape when the Iranian military got involved in driving the Israelis out of Lebanon. They saw the advantage in copying the classic insurgency model and applying it to waging indirect war against a more powerful military, which they couldn't beat in a head-on confrontation. The Iranians simply turned cars into bombs. We've seen the refinement of that tactic in Iraq. It's an Iranian military signature.

Second, you wrote that I'd posted on the "possibility" that most of the recent terrorist activity that we are seeing is state sponsored. If you go back over the essay, you'll see that I was not speaking in terms of "possibility." By the time President Bush gave the Axis of Evil Speech, he was referencing a tremendous amount of intelligence that had been gathered by US and other intelligence agencies the world over. Much of that intelligence was not new; it's just that it hadn't been integrated and studied as a distinct phenomenon.

However, proving in a court of law that most terrorism today is state sponsored would be not easy, even if all the related intelligence were declassified. This is due to the "Denial & Deception" tactics that governments have the power to deploy. In other words, going after governments that sponsor terrorism is not like Eliot Spitzer telling an American corporation to open its books. Yet at some point in intelligence gathering the pattern overwhelmingly favors government sponsorship behind a terrorist campaign.

On that basis Bush could confidently name Iraq, Iran and North Korea as state sponsors of terrorism -- meaning they were waging war against other governments using the model of terror insurgency as smokescreen. To name other governments would be difficult for various reasons; e.g., sometimes it's only a faction in a government that is sponsoring the terrorism.

To repeat a point I made in the earlier essay, this does not mean all terrorism is state sponsored. It means that this form of warfare defines a military threat that the US and other democracies face during this era. Until this concept was crystallized and articulated, it flew under the radar of US military defense policy simply because terrorism was defined as asymmetrical warfare against states.

Third, with regard to your comment, "They can't believe that we would allow them to use [WMD] weapons to actually attack someone." -- How, pray tell, would we stop them from using such weapons? I mislaid my notes so I can't tell you the exact depth of the tunnels, but Tehran is tunneling as close to the center of the earth as they can afford to pay contractors in order to relocate their nuke weapons facilities deep underground.

After the Israelis bombed Iraq's nuke facility, Saddam Hussein and every other nuke chasing despot got the message: If you want to have a nuke weapon facility, tunnel it so deep it's impregnable to conventional and bunker-busting bombs.

Hussein hooked up with Muammar Qaddafi and the Saudi faction that wanted The Bomb, and with help from several governments and private contractors blasted into a mountain in Libya then tunneled to build a nuke-bomb building factory that would be impregnable to conventional bombs.

That's why al Tuwaitha was abandoned; Hussein transferred the nuclear weapons material from Tuwaitha to the facility to Libya. That's why the US military was lobbying Congress a few years back for funds to build mini-nuke bunker busters. They were trying to find a way to put that mountain factory out of business.

That's also why the Bush administration demanded before the Iraq invasion that the IAEA interview Iraqi nuclear weapons scientists "outside Iraq." If you recall, this led to Iraqi nuke scientists huffily telling the international TV cameras that they didn't see why they had to be dragged outside their country to be interviewed.

So there's a nice example of the old AI "fruit flies" conundrum. The Bush administration was not demanding to interview the scientists working inside Iraq. They wanted the IAEA to interview the 40 or so Iraqi nuke scientists who were working outside Iraq -- specifically, working inside that mountain in Libya.

If you ask why the administration didn't clarify the semantics, because their demand was crystal clear to all the players, including Hussein and Qaddafi. When they heard that, they knew the US military was coming after them. Qaddafi rolled after the Iraq invasion but for a reason known only to himself, Hussein believed that the US invasion of Iraq could be blocked at the United Nations.

We got to Iraq just in time. How close we cut it, we won't know until considerably more military intelligence here and abroad is declassified. Qaddafi gave the US all the data he had on the nuke facility, which included the names of contractors and governments/factions that were involved with it, and which threw tremendous light on A.Q. Khan's 'nuke supermarket' network. But for obvious reasons much of that data remains classified.

Make no mistake, the only feasible quick way to shut down that factory in Libya was by putting Saddam Hussein out of business for good.

The current situation is one that emerged from many incremental steps over a period of a half century. So, part of the answer to your question is simply that despotic regimes believe they can get away with building WMD and sponsoring terrorism because they got away with it for a long time.

During the Cold War if you were a despot, you could get away with a lot if you told the Soviets, "I hate capitalists" or told the NATO bunch, "I hate commies." That's also how the despots got money and weapons expertise. During one period, the US military was ordered to give away to the PLA various weapons technologies. The Chinese didn't even have to steal them.

Today one asks, "Was the US government plumb loco?"

The answer can be found if you recall the old TV series, Northern Exposure. If you started watching the show during the second half of the first season, it was like seeing a documentary on a lunatic asylum. But if you were there from the first episode, the main characters did perfectly understandable things.

The Northern Exposure factor explains US policies that seem certifiably insane when you look at them from outside the context of the history. For example, if you know the constitution of the Islamic regime in Iran, you have to ask what lunatic in the US government decided it would be a great idea to use Iran as a 'Green Belt' against communism in the Middle East. Yet once you get into the swing of Cold War thinking, the concept of a Green Belt makes perfect sense. From that view, it was a great idea to use a government that had sworn to destroy America to offset another enemy government.

In like manner, to you it might sound insane that the Saudis are trying to build nukes so they can wire up their oil wells with them as a defense tactic against the House of Saud being overthrown. But once you get in the swing of the situation and its history, there's a certain logic to it. A logic that does not really reference what the United States would do if they caught the Saudis red-handed.

Ditto for Pyongyang's logic. You would have to know about North Korea's relationship with China to understand why Kim Jong-il, whose main interests are gourmet food and avoiding assassination, would start a nuke program. Because the Chinese military told him to, that's why. Beyond that, and as long as it brings in enough revenue, Kim really couldn't care less.

Kim's number is that he does not believe the United States or South Korea would step in and help him, if he told Beijing to go sit on a tack. The last time he tried standing up to Beijing, on his return from China there was a huge explosion near a train station where his train had passed not hours before. It was probably only a meth factory but Kim got the message: Don't double deal.

I tell you all this so you can understand that the people you're asking about, the governments in question, are not looking at their situation from an American point of view. Nor is America necessarily #1 on their list of reasons for building WMD and sponsoring a terror army or their only reason. This does not mean they have no interest in doing harm to the USA or find no profit in threatening the USA. But their reasons arise from the relationships that mean the most to them, the ones that trouble them the most. Often the USA belongs in neither category.

Again I return to Northern Exposure. The outsiders who somehow stumbled into that town in Alaska found themselves the star and victim of a plot involving the regular cast of characters. The outsiders were just foils, a means to highlight and further complicate the complicated relationships of the regular cast. But no matter how interesting the outsider and his situation, the denizens of Northern Exposure were greatly focused on each other. In like manner, the USA is often just an excuse or a foil, which allows the regimes to avoid outright threats against neighbors.

With all the above taken into consideration, we can return to your question: "...what do they gain by sponsoring terrorism and further by developing WMD?"

The answer is that "they" are not monolithic when we look at motives for sponsoring terror and developing WMD. They have varying reasons:

> Appeasement of a more powerful neighboring government,
>making unrestricted warfare against another government,
and
> staging what are essentially 'mob' wars with other governments that are also run by a crime syndicate or coalition of syndicates.

Yet there are unifying underlying factors:

> The governments in question are despotic and suppress democracy,
> docile/terrorized populations that accept despotic rule,
> a globalized black market in traditional weapons and WMD materials and technology,
> the willingness of many governments to allow the sale of dual-use technologies and materials to despotic regimes,
> sources of revenue from crime and state-controlled enterprises that allow the regimes to spend many billions USD on building WMD and sponsoring terror armies,
and
> the long-standing policy of the world's so-called leadership nations to studiously look the other way and in some cases tacitly encourage state-sponsored terrorism.

(An example of the former would be the US looking the other way about China's involvement in helping Pakistan wage terror war against Indian-controlled Kashmir. An example of the latter would be Britain giving a home to front organizations for the Iranian government that wage terror war against Israel.)

To put all this another way: On the morning of September 11, 2001, most of the world's governments could be divided into three categories:

1. Rascals.
2. Those who tolerated and encouraged rascals.
3. Those too poor to wage terror war and build WMD programs.

This is what happens when we allow business concerns to run the world. It was business concerns -- cost cutting, to be specific -- that made the World Trade Towers a tomb on 9/11 and led to their complete collapse. A more fitting metaphor can't be found to warn that security concerns and commitment to the principles of fair government must come prior to business, if democratic societies are not to collapse.

Tuesday, July 26

Watchmen always hear the bell first

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.*
I have noted before that Pundita readers are very smart but every once in a while a Pundita reader exclaims, "Say, I wonder what I'd be like if I had cheese tostitos for brains!"

I interject that Pundita understands the source of this burning curiosity because I have studied the phenomenon. This was years ago when I noticed that two coworkers had an odd habit of briefly transforming into aliens from outer space.

At first I tried to ascertain whether the behavior correlated with phases of the moon but soon I rejected that hypothesis. Then came a day I was with them in an elevator as they headed for lunch.

One turned to the other and said, "I feel like moo shu pork today. What about you?"

The other replied, "We did Chinese last week. I feel like chicken quesadilla."

By the time the elevator door opened I was standing next to aliens.

From this I've concluded that some brains pay too much attention to what their human says. Happily the phenomenon is short-lived -- I suppose the brain quickly tires of trying to imagine what it feels like to be Chinese, Italian, Mexican or Thai food or a burger with fries.

Here the alert reader might ask how I know some readers wish to have cheese tostitos for brains. Actually I don't know, except when they make such a wish then exclaim, "Say, I think I'll write Pundita a letter today!"

Because I know the phenomenon is transient I have decided not to publish two letters which arrived in response to my Quackenspiegel post. This on the assumption that by now the authors of the emails have been restored to their normal brain function. So I will simply reply to the authors' comments and leave the content of the letters to the reader's imagination:

The number of articles published in Germany about al Qaeda-Iran links is not the burning question. What we're trying to nail down is whether the Germans understand that the regime in Iran is threatening to blow them to Kingdom Come if they crack down on terror mongers and get tough at the nuke discussions. Now how can we find an answer this question? Let's take a quiz:

To learn whether Germans understand the AQ-Iran link and what it means, I:

A) Ask Pundita to chip her nails while typing at various search engines to discover the answer.

B) (If I live in Washington, DC) Hope that Pundita will hie herself to the Washington National Mall then holler, "Are there any German tourists around who wouldn't mind answering questions about al Qaeda and Iran?" so I don't have to spend my lunch hour on the Mall.

C) (If I live in Germany) Write Pundita to tell her I live in Germany and give her the name of a blog she might spend an evening reading if she wants to know whether any Germans are aware of an al-Qaeda-Iran link. This is so she can have the fun of spending an evening discovering for herself whether the blogger has any fresh data directly related to the question.

E) Find some Germans, put the question to them, then report the answers to Pundita.
* * * * * * *
Good news is that the brain of one author momentarily cleared while writing his letter. While in a lucid state of mind he provided valuable data:
I believe I was the first American to write about [Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi] Zarkawi -- although Newsweek's Mark Hosenball wrote something similar at about the same time -- who had set up a European terror network.

Various agents, terrorists and couriers were arrested and sentenced to jail; all this was covered in the German and Italian press. They cited court documents that included intercepts between Zarkawi (in Tehran, talking on a satellite phone) and his agents in Italy and Germany.

Notice, by the way, that the stories out in the last couple of days -- alleging that Zarkawi has now "taken control" of al Qaeda in Europe, never refer to the key fact about Zarkawi: namely, that he created this network in the first place. How's that for selective memory?
Michael Ledeen"
Dear Michael:
Your account about reporting in Europe on Zarqawi that far back is deeply troubling. It implies almost a Twilight Zone situation in Europe.

Surely, if it was widely known in Europe that Z set up the Euro network -- it would imply the Europeans knew that large sums of money and a sophisticated C3 apparatus were involved. So they had to know he was not the pastoral Ghazi warrior leading a ragtag band that the media portrayed by the time he surfaced as the leader of the insurgency in Iraq.

Something is screwy somewhere. Either the Europeans are zoned out -- or (as John Terrett's 'Person in the Pub' report suggests) what many Europeans really think about the al Qaeda threat has not shown up in Euro polls and their media during the past three years.
Pundita

"Dear Pundita
I don't think it's hard to understand the Europeans; they have been in denial for many years now. Basically the Europeans have traded freedom for comfort, and as part of that deal, they rarely challenge their government unless they think their comforts are threatened. They want "out" of the real world; they want vacation and doctors and money and and and...

And when the real world kills them, as in Madrid, say, then they get angry at their government and vote in a new one that promises to shield them from reality. They are exposed to the facts -- as in this case, the Germans had all the information they needed, actually they had more than we had -- but they block out those facts they don't want to know about. Denial.

It's not unusual, historically speaking. We [Americans] only passed the Draft bill in the summer of 1941 by a single vote. If the Japanese hadn't attacked us, and then the Germans declared war on us, I doubt we would have entered a two-front war in time to save England and the Soviet Union.
Michael"
* * * * * *
That's a harsh indictment and I wonder whether it represents the situation on the ground in Europe at this time. Most of all, I wonder whether the German media have conveyed an accurate view to Germans about what a majority of their countrymen are thinking.

This said, I learned from a few moments at Google and Front Page Magazine that Michael Ledeen is qualified to hold forth on the Europeans and the situation with Zarqawi, al Qaeda and Iran.

Dr Ledeen informed me that over the years he has written hundreds of articles for the National Review Online about the threat from the Iranian regime. Interested readers might want to visit the site and use the search engine.

I found it unsettling to glance through Ledeen's old writings. Reminds me of Rick Rescorla and John P. O'Neill: watchmen; people who clearly saw the al Qaeda threat while many others refused to see anything at all.

Well, Pundita is loath to end on such a grim note so I will return to needling the helpful reader in Germany. Kindly try to be a little more helpful. Is there a wine bar within walking distance? Can you perhaps spend an hour chatting up the patrons to learn what they know about the Iranian-al Qaeda connection?

But so as not to discourage a well meaning effort:

"For more background on Germany, I recommend Aspen Institute Berlin, Jeff Gedmin's Corner (linked on Davids Medienkritik). He writes regularly for Die Welt, and many of his columns are archived in English as well as German. If you go back over a few years, you will get a good overview of Jeff's experiences in Germany. It is worth an evening's reading.
Vickie"

* From For Whom the Bell Tolls by John Donne

Monday, July 25

On the importance of being earnest and doubtful

Two posts today, "Epoch Times vs Xinhua News Agency" and "Medienkritik vs Der Quackenspiegel," expand on my observations in Saturday's post about the difficulty the public faces in trying to obtain a reasonably accurate account of the day's news. Yet both posts relate heartening evidence that the earnestness that nourishes good journalism is very much alive and well.

Also, I received advice from a very wise media guru that I pass on to you:

Doubt all information, then eliminate what must be impossible; keep all information that you cannot eliminate as outside the laws of physics.

Epoch Times vs Xinhua News Agency

On Thursday last week in the early hours I was tired and rushing to get a post up; I had one eye on the clock, knowing I would only have a few hours sleep that day. Within minutes of the post's publication, which I'd titled Strange Days in China: return to the Mao Zedong era..., I received a comment from a reader whose opinion I'd solicited:

"...beware of using Epoch Times [as a source]. It's owned by the Falun Gong and virulently anti-Communist, to the point they can bend the truth to their cause."

I already knew the paper was strongly anti-communist and I had a vague recollection of hearing before of an association between the newspaper and Falun Gong, so I hastily added a footnote to post:

"The Epoch Times is owned by the Falun Gong, which with some understatement is not very fond of the CCP."

Then I republished the post, switched off the computer and fell into bed. Just before sleep overtook me I remembered I'd broken my cardinal rule: Always check Wikipedia first. I told myself I'd do that later in the day. But "later" was a round of meetings and the news of the second attack in London....

Wikipedia itself is controversial; some consider it anarchist and decry the lack of footnotes in many articles. But the encyclopedia, which has overtaken Encylopedia Brittanica as a reference source, carries information about many more subjects than traditional encyclopedias -- information that can be constantly updated. And because it's interactive, it relies on interested scholars and citizen journalists to correct or flag articles that are cause for dispute. Thus, Wikipedia is the force of democracy meeting with a field that was always the province of academia.

If you know nothing about a topic and don't know where to start looking for a summary Wikipedia is the first place to try. At least you'll be oriented for research at traditional search engines with a basic Wiki article as your guide.

According to Wikipedia, the Chinese Communist Party has accused The Epoch Times of being owned by the Falun Gong. That is not saying the paper is owned by the Falun Gong.

As to whether The Epoch Times reporting can "bend the truth to their cause" -- that's a very interesting question, which the Wiki article deals with at some length.

So, in penance for my hasty footnote (which I am deleting today), I have decided to publish the entire Wikipedia article about The Epoch Times. And for good measure I have tossed in the Wikipedia introduction about The Epoch Times' archenemy -- the huge, CCP-controlled Xinhua News Agency, which is the Chinese government's official press agency.

(You'll have to visit the Wikipedia pages in question to follow the many links provided in the articles, which I have not highlighted here.)

I note that one of the most fascinating points in a fascinating article is that The Epoch Times editorial board, which represents a conservative Chinese view, interprets communism as an evil force from the West and specifically from Europe.

Another point of note: The Epoch Times claims there have been 3 million Internet-published defections from the CCP in direct response to Chinese reading the "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" published by their paper. And the paper has reported "severe unrest" in China from Chinese learning what the commentaries have to say about the CCP.

The latter comment is particularly interesting in light of the severe recent unrest in China that the government has not been able to tamp down. The unrest has been portrayed to the Western media as anger against businesses (often, Western businesses) that are polluting, forcing Chinese off their land, and so on. That is surely the case with regard to specific news items that have surfaced in recent weeks. However, The Epoch Times claim may point to a contributing factor in at least some of the riots.

In any case, it's no wonder the CCP is gunning for The Epoch Times and cracking down on the Internet! That's one scrappy newspaper.

WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epoch_Times

"The Epoch Times is a conservative Chinese newspaper, which is freely distributed in eight languages and in roughly 30 countries worldwide. Its frequency of publishing depends on the city and the language in which it is published.

Contents
1 History
2 Focus
3 Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party
4 Criticism
5 External links

History
The Epoch Times was founded by a small circle of journalists in China in 2000. The journalists relayed stories overseas of human rights abuses, infringements on civil liberties, and alleged corruption in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), among other things.

In the summer of 2000, it was discovered that all twenty journalists had been arrested and detained, their offices raided. Some have allegedly died in prison (the Epoch Times says that 90 of their Chinese journalists remain in prison today).

However, the Chinese authorities claim that The Epoch Times was founded and controlled by Falun Gong, which China banned and labelled an "evil cult" in 1999, and accuses it of political propaganda to overseas Chinese in order to gain their support of Falun Gong and create distrust of the Chinese Government.

Despite crackdowns by authorities inside China, the Epoch Times continued to grow overseas and has since become one of the largest Chinese newspapers serving the Chinese diaspora. It also claims to be the only major Chinese newspaper that is not directly or indirectly controlled by China's communist party, and was the first newspaper to carry in-depth coverage of SARS well before the Chinese government publicly admitted that there was an epidemic that went on to cause some three hundred and fifty deaths.

It now has a weekly print distribution of over 1 million copies in 30 countries worldwide.

In August 2004, an English-language edition of the Epoch Times was launched in Manhattan. It has since grown to be distributed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Regina and Ottawa, as well as in the UK and Australia. German and French editions were launched in late 2004, and more recently Russian, Spanish and Japanese editions have started up in print.[edit]

Focus
The Epoch Times was originally created for Chinese readers living abroad in order to report the alleged persecutions, abuses, and inner workings of the CCP. It has since grown to report on civil rights issues worldwide in a conservative view, and now appeals to a somewhat wider audience.

The English edition represents itself as a general-interest newspaper that, although it maintains a large amount of China-related content, offers 12 other sections, including travel, science, sports, and regional and international news.

Its reports on China are highly critical, focusing on human rights abuses and sometimes using language such as 'Evil Spirit from the West' or 'Anti-universal Force' in reference to Communism. Reports on other nations such as Taiwan or other democratic countries are generally more positive.

Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party
In November 2004, the Chinese version of the Epoch Times published a series of editorials entitled "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" ("Jiuping" in Chinese).

The editorials give an alternate, if conservative, view of the CCP through its history, from its ascent to power under Mao Zedong to its present-day form, as well as a condemnation of the moral and social philosophy of Communism in all of its forms.

Portions of the history given by the Commentaries are difficult to support using traditionally respected texts of 20th century Chinese history, a difficulty supporters often attribute to the CCP's need for control and tendency to try to cover up its more embarrassing actions.

This, they say, results in a wealth of information that is often hard to come by and difficult to report on. The prevailing tone of the editorials is solidly anti-communist with no consideration given to other viewpoints. This attitude is intended for the audience of Chinese readers who already know the other side of the story and do not need to be reminded.

Readers of the English version often find the Commentaries to be rather one-sided, and its language, over-blown and unbelievable, making the Commentaries difficult to take seriously and leading to much of the current criticism against it.

Much of this is the result of a more literal translation from the original Chinese text [emphasis mine].

The editorial uses many strong words to condemn the CCP, calling it 'an anti-universal force' and 'an evil spirit from Europe', and that the CCP is 'an evil cult' itself, comparable to the very image in which the CCP try to portray Falun Gong.

The tone is said to be geared towards the communication style to which mainland Chinese readers would be accustomed, and it was said that such readers have usually been exposed to years of government propaganda, rarely gaining access to alternative information about their government, although that is not corrobated by actual readers from mainland China, as the Epoch Times is not widely circulated in China itself.

While praised by some Chinese dissidents as 'the book that is breaking up the CCP', its contents are somewhat controversial and disputed, and has been accused of historical revisionism by other Chinese.

The Epoch Times has made the "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" a primary focus of the newspaper; almost every issue contains an article relating to the "Commentaries" or its reception in China.

The Epoch Times claims that the publication of the "Commentaries," in presenting what they believe to be a truthful exposé of the Chinese Communist Party, has caused over 3 million Chinese citizens to quit from the CCP via anonymous, unchecked online signatures and public declarations (for people inside Mainland China unable to access the online website due to censorship. See: Internet censorship in mainland China), and reports of severe unrest in China as a direct result of the publication of the "Commentaries".

An article in the French version of the Epoch Times of a talk given by Michel Wu notes that an original Nine Commentaries was printed in 1963-64 during a theoretical review of government policies, although the effects were apparently not as profound as those many supporters say today's commentaries are having.

While many of the articles in the Epoch Times are corroborated by the mainstream media, few major news outlets have verified Epoch Times articles concerning the "Commentaries."

Criticism
In the Chinese community, where The Epoch Times is widely distributed, reactions were mixed. While some Chinese commend it for providing alternative views of the China and the Communist government, others condemn it for its conservative pro-Falun Gong bias, and casting Chinese people, even overseas ones, in a negative light.

One of the biggest criticisms of The Epoch Times is that the paper always try to cast news stories from mainland China in a negative light, even the most positive ones, by using selective evidence and opinionated commentaries.

It should be noted that although a concentration of these articles may be published in the Epoch Times, many of these negative reports can also be found in neutral overseas Chinese newspapers.

In defence to this criticism, The Epoch Times claimed that pro-China articles need not to be reported, as they are not subject to censorship by China's state-owned media.

Other criticisms include that the paper's news reports are always mixed with conservative opinions, of which the paper deemed necessary to provide alternative views. [Pundita wonders what exactly is meant by 'conservative' in this context]

The Epoch Times is very vocal in supporting dissidents, Falun Gong practioners and pro-independence Taiwanese, and their opinions can often be seen in the opinion page.

The paper rarely publishes letters and opinions that do not suit its cause, such as pro-communist and anti-Falun Gong comments, which the paper deems unnecessary. The Times argues that most, if not all government-censored Chinese news sources already contain opinions in agreement with Chinese governmental policies.

External links
The Epoch Times Website (English)
The Epoch Times Website (Chinese)
The Epoch Times Website (French)
Text of "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party"
"
WIKIPEDIA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinhua_News_Agency

"The Xinhua News Agency [...] or NCNA (New China News Agency), is the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China and the biggest center for collecting information and press conferences in the PRC.

It is one of the two news agencies in mainland China, the other being the China News Service, and is among the premier world news agencies.Xinhua is an institution of the State Council of China.

Critics of Xinhua therefore consider it to be an instrument of state-sponsored Communist propaganda.

In many ways, Xinhua is the fuel propelling China's print media. Perhaps unique in the world because of its role, size, and reach, Xinhua reports directly to the Chinese Communist Party's Propaganda Department; employs more than 10,000 people — as compared to about 1,300 for Reuters; has 107 bureaus worldwide both collecting information on other countries and dispensing information about China; and maintains 31 bureaus in China — one for each province plus a military bureau.

Inasmuch as most of the newspapers in China cannot afford to station correspondents abroad, or even in every Chinese province, they rely on Xinhua feeds to fill their pages. People's Daily, for example, uses Xinhua material for approximately 25 percent of its stories.

Xinhua is a publisher as well as a news agency — it owns more than 20 newspapers and a dozen magazines, and it prints in Chinese, English, and four other languages.

Like other government entities, Xinhua is feeling the pinch of reduced state financial subsidies. Beijing has been cutting funding to the news agency by an average of seven percent per year over the past three years, and state funds currently cover only about 40 percent of Xinhua's costs. As a result, the agency is raising revenues through involvement in public relations, construction, and information service businesses.

In the past, Xinhua was able to attract the top young journalists emerging from the universities or otherwise newly entering the field, but it can no longer do so as easily because of the appeal and resources of other newspapers and periodicals and the greater glamour of television and radio jobs.

For example, midlevel reporters for the Xinmin Evening News in Shanghai often are given an apartment, whereas at Xinhua and People's Daily this benefit is reserved for the most senior journalists.

Contents
1 History
2 Xinhua and the internal media
3 Xinhua in Hong Kong
3.1 Previous directors of Hong Kong Xinhua
4 Xinhua in Macau
5 Xinhua online
6 See also
7 External links
[...]

Medienkritik vs Der Quackenspiegel

"Pundita, Re your Schroeder essay: Actually I believe the German public is quite well informed about al Qaeda/Iran linkages. The German popular press, surprisingly including Der Spiegel (which has an English language web site, very helpful), has done extensive reporting on this.

And remember that Zarqawi's name first surfaced in the German and Italian press, as his couriers/associates/fellow terrorists were convicted in German and Italian courts.
Michael in USA"

Dear Michael:
If the German and Italian press beat John Batchelor to the punch about Zarqawi I'd doubt whether it was by many hours. But we're always happy to hear of an instance that suggests the European media are not preserved in formaldehyde.

The question is whether we can apply this bit of happy news to Der Spiegel or their online English version, and whether we can infer that the German public is well informed about al Qaeda's link to Tehran.

I have been aware of Spiegel Online since its launch. I don't closely follow the site but I could not recall seeing an article that addressed links between al Qaeda and Iran. This is not saying much; the site hasn't been around long and their search engine is in German, a language Pundita does not know. The few archived English language articles the search presented, after I typed in different spellings of al Qaeda and expanded to include Osama bin Laden, did not turn up a reference to Tehran's support of al Qaeda. Perhaps if I'd stuck at it another hour I might have had success but a 15 minute search at Google for Der Spiegel articles on the topic came up dry.

As for other German media, the acid test for good coverage of Tehran's doings is the Ten Days of Dawn terror confab in Tehran in 2004; if the announcement of the intended conference was carried in the European media, either my search at Google was too brief or the language barrier prevented my finding it.

This said, I wouldn't doubt that various media outlets in Germany have mentioned reports about links between al Qaeda and the Iranian government. However, I venture that to the extent the German public is aware of links, this mirrors the American public's awareness of the same.

The mainstream media in this country has tended to fall in line with the 9/11 Commission's decision about links between al Qaeda and Tehran, which Rachel Ehrenfeld summarized in a July 2004 article for Front Page Magazine titled Iran's growing threat:
According to the just-released 9/11 Commission Report, Iran’s support of al-Qaeda dates back to 1991, when operatives from both sides met in Sudan and agreed “to cooperate in providing support -- even if only training -- for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States.”

By 1993, “al-Qaeda received advice and training from Hezbollah” in intelligence, security and explosives, especially in “how to use truck bombs.” The training took place in the Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah’s stronghold in Lebanon.

The commission further reports that “at least 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi ‘muscle’ operatives traveled into and out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001,” and that Iran facilitated “the travel of al-Qaeda members through Iran on their way to and from Afghanistan.” Yet in an ostrich-like move, the commission refrained from accusing Iran of supporting al-Qaeda.

This is how the commission phrased it: “There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9-11 hijackers…however, we cannot rule out the possibility of a remarkable coincidence...[and] we found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack.”
I'd say the general publics on both sides of the Pond are aware that there are reports claiming links between Tehran and al Qaeda. But I think that only the most dedicated news followers are reasonably convinced that at least since 2003 there is more than a link between al Qaeda's top command and the Iranian military. There is a partnership or -- if you want to run the entire nine yards with intelligence mosaics -- a contractor/subcontractor relationship.

I haven't made a foray into Germany but from my Tourist Season walkabouts in Washington, DC, during which I randomly ask tourists to hold forth on their opinions, I have not encountered a German who is well informed about GWOT to include the Tehran connection.

I know this observation does not apply to all Germans. I have German readers and I periodically send my readers to good sources on GWOT, and I know there are German blogs that do a good job of reporting on the war.

I'm also aware that the popular David's Medienkritik blog follows the German media and pays close attention to German media reports on the war. The blog's opinion of Spiegel mirrors in part of my opinion about the online English version:
For over two years -- virtually without end -- the German media have been almost exclusively negative on Iraq, repeatedly calling the war a disaster, a debacle and a quagmire. Iraq has been compared to Vietnam so many times that one could easily lose count.

Just in SPIEGEL publications alone, the words "debacle", "disaster", "quagmire" and "Vietnam" have already been used scores of times to describe the conflict. But by what standards is Iraq a debacle? To date the United States has lost nearly 1800 soldiers in the Iraq conflict. The Battle of the Bulge alone cost the lives of ten times as many Americans. Does that make the Battle of the Bulge a debacle times ten? During the course of World War II, tens of millions of civilians died or were killed. Does that make the liberation of Germany and Japan in 1945 a debacle times a thousand and beyond?

And positive developments in Iraq, such as the reconstruction of schools, hospitals and power plants, dramatic improvements in women's rights and the strengthening economy have been almost totally ignored in Germany

Even when reporting on good news that is impossible to ignore, like the January elections, major sectors of the German media were so negative that a respected media research institute concluded that Arab networks like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia provided more upbeat coverage.

Furthermore, the German media have crassly underreported the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein. The mass graves, the use of chemical weapons to murder thousands of innocents in Halabja, the torture, the rape-rooms, the mass exodus of millions out of Iraq, the theft of billions by the Hussein regime from the starving Iraqi people to build palaces.

These topics all seem to be of little interest to the German press. So is it any wonder, with this type of reporting, that most Germans think the Iraq war was, is and will continue to be a total disaster?

Is it any wonder that Joschka Fischer can confidently sit back and talk about how he feels "confirmed" about his worries over Iraq. Of course he feels confirmed! His ideological lapdogs in the German media have provided him all the cover he could ever need with their profoundly biased news coverage over the past several years!

Not surprisingly, SPIEGEL ONLINE has already published a handful of articles, including a recent piece entitled "Uncle Sam wants Merkel", about how absolutely delighted Bush and other American conservatives would supposedly be if Schroeder and Fischer lost the next election.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the editors at SPON are attempting to cheaply exploit readers' dislike of the Bush administration and disdain for the Iraq war to dampen support for the CDU.

Few other German media publications have seized so vehemently and critically on the issue of the CDU's support of closer transatlantic relations than SPIEGEL ONLINE. [...] (1)
I add that David's Medienkritik is such a popular blog, both here and in Europe, that it might have managed to perform a watchdog function with regard to what might be Spiegel's somewhat elastic concept of polling.(2)

None of the above necessarily contradicts your observation that Spiegel is a helpful source. If one thinks in terms of data rather than news, one can mine valuable information from just about any source -- although it's not always worth the time.

However, it's fair to observe that Germans who rely on their mainstream media outlets for news would be hard-pressed to comprehend why Medienkritik invoked the Battle of the Bulge. The German public, as with most publics around the world, was carefully entrained by their mainstream media to view the concept of GWOT as a Bush (and/or Israeli) invention and the Iraq campaign as a war that is quite distinct from the US war on terror.

(Indeed, without the scrappy alternate media outlets in the USA, the American public as a whole would be in virtual lockstep with the German view of the Iraq campaign.)

I think that situation should be kept in mind when attempting to intuit how the German public and most publics view reports about links between Iran and al Qaeda. Many major news outlets, the world over, have been so adroit at suppressing key data about the Iraq campaign and distorting the WMD rationale for invading Iraq that I think publics are weighted to dismiss intelligence suggesting Tehran sponsors "terrorism" as distinct from aiding "Palestinian insurgency" against Israel.

So successful have major media been at shaping the global public's view of the Iraq invasion that I think it could be argued it's the most successful propaganda effort in history.

The question is whether it qualifies as technical propaganda; i.e., state sponsored. From all I've noted about the news media since 2002, I think that outside closed societies it represents in part factions within governments that have used their expertise and access to major media outlets to shape the public's perception.

I don't see this as a conspiracy although I wouldn't be surprised to find coordination between factions during certain news cycles. I got some support for my view last year when John Loftus gave Batchelor's audience a 'Cheat Sheet' on which major news outlets were favored as a channel by which agencies. He went down a list: the DIA favors The Washington Times, the CIA favors The New York Times, State favors the Washington Post, and so on.

Of course one doesn't need to take Loftus' word for it; although it is time consuming, one can figure out which agencies favor which media outlets by noting the number and type of Unnamed Official Sources, Sources Who Did Not Wish to Be Named, and so on.

I also note that Loftus mentioned that reportedly MI6 favors the Guardian as a leak outlet. I passed that gossip to my readers in November 2004 to warn that it's getting tangled up to categorize influential media here and abroad simply as "left" or "right." The (UK) Guardian is left of center in their domestic editorial policy. However their international outlook is best characterized as Natoist. That would be the same for The New York Times.

The factions in the CIA and MI6 that were most bitterly opposed to the Bush preemption doctrine and the Iraq invasion were to their mind defending the Nato alliance. And their view was shared by factions on the Republican right in the US.

This doesn't mean I think all opposition to Bush from serial CIA leakers in the 2002-2004 period excluded Democrats who just wanted to see a Democrat in the White House. Yet I think the serial leaks from factions in the State Department and CIA and from ex-CIA employees signal a new era in propaganda, or mini-propaganda shall we term it.

There are now so many media outlets, and so many government employees (here and abroad) who are trained in using media access that now many factions within governments can use the media to shape public opinion. This has led to balkanization of propaganda. We no longer have only Government leaking to the media. We also have duchies and principalities leaking all over the place.

1)
http://medienkritik.typepad.com/blog/
2005/07/joschka_fischer.html#more

2)
http://medienkritik.typepad.com/
blog/2004/10/spiegel_online__4.html

Saturday, July 23

Schroeder, al Qaeda, and accurate reporting on GWOT: let us eat cake

I received a letter in response to my post Schroeder making it easy for al Qaeda and Tehran. The reader asked about Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's motive for sticking to bashing the US invasion of Iraq after the 7/7 massacre: was he doing it out of pure political expediency or did he have some sympathy for al Qaeda's position? Here is my fix on the situation:

He might have sympathy for al Qaeda's stand on Israel and their desire to evict American forces from the Middle East. But there is much to suggest that any such sympathy is not a determining or even contributing factor in this case. There's also much to suggest that political expediency is not the sole factor in Schröder's continued harping on the Iraq war.

As I see it, the key situation is that the 7/7 London massacre landed Schröder's political party between the devil and the deep blue sea.

I believe AQ planners and their advisors in Tehran misread the situation in Germany. They were thinking along the lines of Spain -- the Madrid massacre helping to tip the voters. There is indeed a tipping going on in Germany in the wake of 7/7 -- but it's tipping in Oskar Lafontaine's direction.

That's the guy whose platform includes telling foreigners to think of immigrating anywhere else but Germany and calling for immigrants now in Germany to be fully assimilated; e.g., speak German.

Lafontaine has the same chance that Ralph Nader had to win the 2000 US presidential election but in the wake of 7/7, he's surely having to restrain himself from taking out full-page ads that say, "I told you so." (Although I wouldn't be surprised if he did this.)

The Germans don't need such remarks to know that Lafontaine's 'fringe' appeal struck a deep chord after 7/7. He now stands to peel even more votes from Schröder's party if the snap election occurs in September.

There are still some legal hurdles to be cleared for the election to take place, but right now it seems almost guaranteed of occurring -- unless Schröder's party realizes that his bold move to call for an early election has backfired in the wake of 7/7.

At this point Angela Merkel seems a shoo-in, if the election takes place. But I do not underestimate Schröder, his party or his business backers. The bottom line is Germany's balance of trade figures. Germany has outpaced Near and Middle Eastern countries among Iran's trading partners.

Bilateral trade between Germany and Iran is booming and growing at a fast pace. In 2004 German exports to Iran totaled 3.6 billion euros ($4.31 billion), 33.4 percent more than in 2003.

Top sales from Germany are machines, cars and electronics. Germany's expertise at installing oilwells is also heavily exported. From the Iranian side, sales (mostly oil, pistachios and rugs) to Germany rose 35% in 2004 to 391 million euros ($468 million).

And less than a month before 2005 the 'election' in Iran, a 25-member group of German business owners was preparing to visit Iran to study opportunities for investing in Iran's tourism trade. The Iranian military's coup against the clerics might have put a small brake on German investor interest but the investors are scrambling to compete with Spanish counterparts for lucrative deals at Iran tourist spots.

Meanwhile, China is Germany's top export partner. German industrialists know that Beijing is unwilling to do anything to offend the Tehran regime because of China's trade with Iran.

The Joker card has always been information flow, so it's played a huge factor in the war on terror and Europe's response. Schröder reads many of the same intelligence reports Bush does, so he's got to know of the connection between AQ and Tehran.

However, he also knows the German public is unaware of the connection. They are very poorly informed about GWOT and related issues, such as the UN Oil for Food investigation. Their local media has very little coverage of such issues.

And globalized media that the German public can easily access; e.g, CNN International and the BBC, mirror the US Democrat-leaning media in their depiction of war issues. That's to say much information about war related issues, and the AQ-Iraq/Iran connections, has been treated by the mainstream media only in the attempt to downplay or dismiss it.

It helped him in his last election, so Schröder's view was that if he had to call for a snap election in a last-ditch attempt to keep his job -- why not remind German voters that he'd saved them from putting troops in Iraq?

Yet this time around, bashing the Iraq war was met with yawns from the German public and Germany's chattering class. They saw it as a desperate attempt to revive old glory for a public that was now focused on domestic concerns.

However, Schröder's 'manifesto,' which included bashing the US operation in Iraq, was announced on July 1st. Then came the July 7 massacre in London. So then he was in a pickle. If he suddenly shut up about Iraq, that would raise eyebrows.

The last thing Schröder needs right now is the German public asking for a review of his government's position on the AQ-Iraq connection. Such questions would lead straight to questions about Tehran.

People aren't stupid. If you give them enough reliable data, they can put two-and-two together. So from the beginning, which we'll count as Schröder's break with Bush over Iraq, the name of the game has been Control of Information Flow. That's been the same for Germany as it's been in the USA.

However, the Germans were weighted to believe Schröder's line on Iraq. There are sound reasons for this:

Bush's 'go out and meet the enemy' approach to al Qaeda combined with the preemption doctrine understandably traumatized the majority of Germans, as it did the majority of Japanese. Then came the Axis of Evil speech, with its obvious reference to the Nazis. Then came the rising tide in America of comparisons between Osama bin Laden and Hitler and the Muslim terrorists and Nazi fascism.

So put yourself in the place of a German. From that view, the Americans were irresponsibly raking up Germany's past mistakes in order to justify an invasion of Iraq.

And even many Americans were (and remain) a tough sell when it came to drawing connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime. This would include the most powerful factions in the CIA and State Department at that time.

As for connections between Tehran and al Qaeda, the question was not even on the table for the US mainstream media in 2003.

The truth about both connections will eventually out in Germany, as it will everywhere else. But for Schröder to fall on his sword would be useless at this stage. The German public might appreciate such an act of courage but the majority would still want to vote him out "yesterday" if they get the chance.

If you ask whether the German focus on domestic concerns isn't dangerously shortsighted -- my guess it that Lafontaine's famously known position about immigrants would tend to brake attempts in Germany to portray 7/7 as the fault of George W. Bush for invading Iraq.

However, I suspect the German people are trying reason blind -- or half-blind -- about what everyone else in Germany is thinking. I say this because of a situation that John Terrett (a British journalist) reported to John Batchelor a few nights ago about the reaction in the UK to 7/7:

Terrett recounted that the 'Brit in The Pub' (the Person in the Street) is asking, "Maybe we've been too soft with our Muslim immigrants, maybe we've gone overboard with liberalism" -- but that this view was not being reported in the British media.

Money says the 'German in the Wine Bar' is now asking the same questions with regard to their country and that the major German media are not leaping to report this.

So we could see an echo of the reaction to the Non vote. People on this side of the Pond were surprised as the poll numbers in France turned against the EU Constitution. Then they were stunned at the thumping French rejection of the Constitution and all that it said about their view of the European Union.

Why the shock? Because the French media and the entire Brussels-leaning media in Europe were not providing an accurate picture of how the majority in France were really thinking during the year running up to the vote.

If that sounds familiar -- the public in the USA was stunned by the appearance of the Red Map after Bush won reelection and Europe was stunned. Even the Republicans were stunned. That's because the US mainstream media and global media such as CNN International and BBC were not doing their job.

They were not even trying to accurately report how the majority of Americans were thinking during the runup to the election. They too busy trying to block Bush's election to remember what the term "news reporting" means. So of course Europe nearly fainted from shock at Bush's reelection and the sight of that Red Map.

Once again, the Joker Card is on the table. Yet whenever they are called out on their utter lack of responsibility, the guardians of America's news media take the Marie Antoinette approach to dealing with complaints from the rabble. Ditto for the guardians of Europe's news media.

So, yeah, it's dangerous for the German public not to realize that right now the most important issue is going after the state sponsors of terrorism. That's if they want to have domestic issues to worry about down the line. But to berate them for not seeing the critical issue would be akin to berating Americans for not thinking like intelligence analysts when they consume American news reports.

I deleted some paragraphs from yesterday's essay because while I considered them relevant, they took away from the central point. I will include them here in closing because the observations are central to what's happening now in Germany.

The news consuming publics in democratic countries are aware of the issue of bias in news reporting. Yet bias is just one facet of the problems that news consumers face today, if they want to be reasonably well informed. I have written about this issue many times since starting Pundita blog.

I wish there was a Magic Source -- one newspaper, one website, journal, broadcast or cable program, search engine or subscription service that would relieve the public of the chore of thinking like an intelligence analyst. But here is the choice we face today:

The journalism profession is in such disrepair that either we learn to think like an intelligence analyst when approaching news stories, or risk being so misled that our understanding of critical international situations is badly skewed or just plain wrong.

That is the way things are at this time. This shouldn't be cause for despair -- or paranoia. What we're seeing today in the news reporting profession is a train wreck situation: many factors that converged with the modern era of communications and the post-Soviet era, and which the news media didn't properly address.

To see the problems is to work toward a solution. So a new day in news reporting is slowly forming but until it crystallizes, a pioneering spirit is required of news consumers, and a willingness to invest time and brain sweat in analyzing news stories as data.

That shouldn't have to be our job, but to leave the job in the hands of today's journalism profession is asking not to understand the modern era, including the threat from state sponsors of terrorism.

The tragedy is that there are many ethical reporters and investigative journalists the world over who are very good at their job. But often their reports are edited out of recognition -- or filed but never published or aired. The hope, and the goal, is that by the end of this decade we'll see major news media outlets emerge that appreciate the value of such professionals.

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