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.

"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.
* * * * * *
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.

* From For Whom the Bell Tolls by John Donne

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