Najaf-Waco Comparison

An interesting comparison of Najaf to Waco by Dr. Jean Rosenfeld via David Neiwert. I have printed the entire letter here because my old eyes sometimes have difficulty reading against dark backgrounds and I suspect I am not the only one with this disability.

David Neiwert: My friend Jean Rosenfeld, whose work I’ve mentioned previously is a religious-studies researcher at UCLA who specializes in analyzing extremist religious movements and the way religion can inspire violence. She was among the scholars consulted by the FBI during the Branch Davidian standoff at Waco (her recommendations, and those of other religious scholars, were made to the negotiating team, whose work in turn was ignored by the tactical units that were in charge of the scene there). I also consulted with Jean while I was covering the Freemen standoff in Montana — which, because the negotiating team was placed in charge, had a dramatically different outcome than that in Waco. (For details, see In God’s Country.)

She sees an important parallel in what is now happening in Iraq regarding the Sadrists, and is hoping that the government does not make the same mistakes there that they made at Waco. She recently penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that appears to have been ignored by that paper’s editors. So I’m going to publish it in full here.

    “One of the most difficult problems before and during a critical incident is one of access. The media understands this problem, but perhaps does not know that it is a major problem for people with expertise outside the agencies tasked to handle the incident.

    “There were experts outside the cordon at Waco who were effectively negotiating David Koresh out of Waco. This is now well documented. One of these experts was very effective during the Freemen crisis when he was brought on site by the FBI.

    “I have studied both critical incidents and written about them. I was involved in data gathering and sending memos during the Freemen critical incident.

    “Watch what is happening with al-Sadr in an-Najaf. This is a critical incident writ large of the type my colleagues and I have advised about, studied, and written about over a period of eight years. I am hypothesizing that we risk making the same mistake at an-Najaf with al-Sadr that we made at Waco, unless the knowledge gained from three critical incidents in the U.S. — the CSA (The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord), Branch Davidian, and Waco — has been transmitted to the U.S. military and CPA and has been incorporated into their strategies and tactics. I seriously doubt that this is the case.

    “I have written and spoken many times about how a religiously motivated critical incident, or standoff, differs qualitatively and markedly from a criminally-motivated hostage standoff. The latter is the model for defusing critical incidents among law enforcement and CT specialists. They remain uninformed and skeptical about these important differences to this day. The Freemen crisis actually began to unravel after scholars advised the FBI to “get a letter from God” to Gloria Ward that allowed her and her two children to leave the Clark ranch. They did so and she left. I have published an article about the Freemen crisis in a peer-reviewed journal and it was reprinted in the book, Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence, ed. by Catherine Wessinger.

    “[Coalition spokesman] Dan Senor is reported in the Times [last week] as saying, “The way we look at it is, there is no alternative to getting it (capturing or killing al-Sadr and eradicating the Sadr brigades) done … If we allow the violence to cause setbacks to the political process, the terrorists and the extremists will have scored an enormous victory.”

    “Aside from Senor’s mistakenly mixing the Sadrist crisis up with the al-Zarqawi letter that advocated sparking a Sunni/Shiite civil war — an agenda peculiar only to al-Zarqawi’s foreign jihadists in Iraq and not to any other faction even a faction within al-Qaida that we know of, Senor is taking the very same approach that the Waco tactical commanders took to the Branch Davidians. Negotiators at Waco dissented with the tactical team, but were overruled.

    “What is not known about Waco is that the final assault plan was amended on the ground by the tactical field commanders on the very day of the assault. That alteration had been discussed and rejected by the FBI brass over several weeks. Nonetheless, the FBI HRT commander, Richard Rogers implemented the rejected plan via a loophole signed by Janet Reno the morning of the final assault on April 19. That alteration was identical to the gassing and demolition plan that two Delta Force advisors seconded to the Justice Dept. in a principals meeting of April 14. Those two advisors supported the rejected plan that was later implemented “hypothetically” in order to conform to the letter of Posse Comitatus law. I also have published a peer-reviewed article with this finding. It is based on government documents–all open source. The rejected plan supported by Jeff Jamar, Richard Rogers, and the two Delta Force officers resulted in a disaster that did not have to happen. It was an ill-advised tactical approach to a religious community that feared that Satan was attacking them.

    “Those two Delta Force officers were Peter J. Schoomaker and “Jerry” Boykin, now both top officials in the US Army in charge of military planning for the war on terrorism.

    “So, watch an-Najaf. The religiously-motivated standoff may end with a whimper. Or it may end with a bang. It need not end violently or set off more violence against the US. If al-Sadr is killed, he will become a martyr to Shiites outside of Iraq. We have already seen demonstrations in support of al-Sadr elsewhere in Iraq among Sunnis and elsewhere in the Arab world. Al-Sadr is creating solidarity between Sunni and Shiite activist and militant groups. This is not in the longterm US interest.

    “I believe that the hard tactical approach being contemplated in an-Najaf, if negotiations now under way do not result in al-Sadr’s surrender — is the same approach contemplated and executed at Waco. Capturing or killing al-Sadr will not neutralize what he is regarded as symbolizing to Shiites angry at “occupiers” in Iraq or in Israel. It will only amplify it. There are better ways to defuse the problem of al-Sadr. We should not take a tactical approach because it suits the politics or flawed strategy of the current administration. We may have to change our strategy in Iraq to accommodate new realities instead. This may be tough political medicine, but it will save us from terrible consequences down the road.

    “I believe Senor’s approach is similar to the tactical one taken at Waco against another “messiah.” It resulted in many deaths and a legacy that led us to the “commemoration” atrocity in Oklahoma City. As one of many scholars who study these cases of religion and violence and who have not seen our findings incorporated into law enforcement (we did have some input into the FBI’s millennium approach) or the military, I am very concerned that the standoff in an-Najaf has the potential to become “another Waco.”

    “The wild card at an-Najaf is religion — a factor very few experts in fields other than ours fully understand and weigh in their calculations and strategies in these alarming and perplexing incidents.

    “So, please watch an-Najaf. Consult with knowledgeable experts outside the military cordon there, people who know what al-Sadr represents. He is not in league with Iran. SCIRI is closer to Iran. He is an Iraqi nationalist. He is a puritanical, orthodox Shiite. He does want political representation. We have mistakenly isolated him and his oppressed, impoverished, young supporters. That was dumb, but we should not now be dumber by making him a martyr in the Shiite fundamentalist pantheon.”

David Neiwert: It is worth observing, of course, that (as Atrios notes) the coalition appears determined to make this mistake, since its official stance is that “The mission of U.S. forces is to kill or capture Moqtada al-Sadr.

Double Standards

I was reading today in the news about a fugitive Chinese bank official accused of embezzling $485 million from his bank having been turned over by the US to Chinese officials. This brought to mind a somewhat similar criminal case, that of Ahmad Chalabi who, not only was accused but actually tried and convicted in absentia in Jordan of embezzling $200 million from his former bank (interestingly, Arthur Anderson managed to catch this crook). Instead of being turned over to our friend and ally Jordan for punishment, we instead are making him into the de facto if not de jure dicatator-to-be of Iraq. Although I am not really convinced at this point in time that being granted leadership of Iraq is a “reward,” it doesn’t somehow seem equal to the prison cell that the Chinese banker is looking forward to.

Apparently, this Administration can overlook any form of criminal behavior and even sell out their allies if it is to their advantage.

Blinking Red

White House saw chain of reports on bin Laden – ‘The system was blinking red,’ CIA chief told panel” [by Dana Priest, Washington Post]:

In January 2001, two surveillance photographs from the Kuala Lumpur meeting were shown to an informant who was helping both the CIA and FBI. He helped them understand that Al-Midhar was at the meeting along with a man identified as “Khallad” — who by then was known to have planned the Cole bombing. But “we found no effort by the CIA to renew the long-abandoned search for Midhar or his traveling companions,” the report noted.

Also, contrary to the previous testimony of CIA Director Tenet, the agency did not tell the FBI about this discovery until late August 2001, according to the report.

Al-Midhar had left the United States in June 2000 but had plans to return.

“It is possible that if, in January 2001, agencies had resumed their search for him” or placed him on a terrorist watch list, “they might have found him” before he applied for a new visa in June 2001, the report said.

In mid-May 2001, during the height of threat reporting, a CIA official went back through the Al-Midhar files, discovered he had a U.S. visa and that Alhazmi had come to Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2000.

The agency did not tell the FBI about this discovery until late August 2001.

FBI Agent Urged Search for Hijacker – Request Was Turned Down Before Attacks, Panel Is Told” [by Dan Eggen and Dana Priest, Washington Post]:

On Sept. 11, after the World Trade Center was struck, the FBI agent and his colleagues received the passenger manifests from the four fatal flights. Yesterday he told the panel that he yelled angrily: “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!

Mid-May 2001: during the height of threat reporting.

Al-Midhar applied for a new visa in June 2001.

The easy path to the United States for three of the 9/11 hijackers” [by Edward T. Pound, US News & World Report]:

Three of the hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks obtained visas in Saudi Arabia through a brand-new program designed to make it easier for qualified visa applicants to visit the United States, an American government official said tonight.

The Visa Express program, put in place just four months before the attacks, allowed the three hijackers to arrange their visas through a State Department-designated travel agency, the official says. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers obtained their U.S. travel visas in Saudi Arabia.

None of the three men, the American government official says, was ever questioned by U.S. consular officers in Saudi Arabia. Each took his travel papers and passport to a commercial travel agency, which submitted the applications to the State Department.

Visa Express “is a bad idea,” says Jessica Vaughan, a former consular officer. “The issuing officer has no idea whether the person applying for the visa is actually the person (listed) in the documents and application.” …

Of the 15 hijackers who obtained their non-immigrant visas in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. official says, 11 received them before the Visa Express program was put into place, in June. The three Saudi nationals who obtained visas through the express program were:

… Khalid al-Midhar, 25, who, the Justice Department says, arrived in the U.S. in July 2001, traveling on a business visa. The FBI believes that al-Midhar was one of five men who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon.

The official says that the names of the four men–and the names of all the hijackers who obtained their U.S. visas in Saudi Arabia–were run through the State Department’s CLASS database (for Consular Lookout and Support System). The database contains regularly updated records and intelligence information on foreign nationals. “There was no derogatory information in the files,” the official said. …

As the terrorist attacks demonstrated, the information contained in CLASS was far from adequate. …

The names of the hijackers were run through the State Department’s database. There was no derogatory information in the files.

Panel Clears Handling of Bin Laden Kin on 9/11,” [by MATTHEW L. WALD, The New York Times]:

The six chartered flights that rushed scores of Saudi citizens out of the United States after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were handled properly by the Bush administration, the independent commission investigating the attacks said in a statement on Tuesday.

A flight on Sept. 20, 2001, carried 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Osama bin Laden, according to the statement. But all 142 passengers on the flights, mostly Saudi citizens, were screened by law enforcement officials, the statement said, to ensure that they were not security threats and not wanted for questioning. The flights were “dealt with in a professional manner” by the government, the commission said. …

Among other critics, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York said last September that some of the Saudis who were allowed to leave may have had ties to terrorism. “This is just another example of our country coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges that others would never get,” he said.

But according to the statement, the F.B.I. checked “a variety of databases” and searched the aircraft. The statement said that it was not clear whether anyone checked a watch list maintained by the State Department, but that a check after the departure showed no matches.

FBI let ‘top targets’ leave U.S. after 9-11” [by Paul Sperry, WorldNetDaily]:

“As far as we know, they contacted no known terrorist sympathizers in the United States,” [FBI Director] Mueller testified in June 2002 before the joint congressional inquiry into 9-11.

The congressional panel, however, found that some of the hijackers had contacts with more than a dozen FBI persons of interest who helped them find housing, open bank accounts, obtain drivers licenses and locate flight schools, among other things. Some of their facilitators were Saudi nationals. Details of Saudi activities were censored from the final 9-11 report by the White House.

In one of her more explosive queries, Edmonds, the former FBI translator, suggests she has information the FBI allowed “several top targets of FBI investigations related to support networks of terrorist activities” leave the country after the 9-11 attacks “without ever being questioned.”

Newsnight transcript, BBC News

Michael Springman [former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia]:

In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants. These were, essentially, people who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or to their own country. I complained bitterly at the time there. I returned to the US, I complained to the State Dept here, to the General Accounting Office, to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the Inspector General’s office. I was met with silence. …

What I was protesting was, in reality, an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama Bin Laden, to the US for terrorist training by the CIA. They would then be returned to Afghanistan to fight against the then-Soviets.

The attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 did not shake the State Department’s faith in the Saudis, nor did the attack on American barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia three years later, in which 19 Americans died. FBI agents began to feel their investigation was being obstructed. Would you be surprised to find out that FBI agents are a bit frustrated that they can’t be looking into some Saudi connections?

Life Imitating Art

I just heard the old Kenny Rogers cornball “Coward of the County” on the radio, and the message sounded so familiar: peaceful fella mindin’ his own bidness, painfully meek, suffering outrage after outrage until finally an unspeakable assault spurs him onto vengeance–and my, what vengeance! In the final chorus, the protagonist speaks to his dearly departed pappy, who died in prison after years of raising hell and warned the boy to always “turn the other cheek”:

    I promised you dad not to do the things you’ve done
    I’ll walk away from trouble when I can
    Now please don’t think I’m weak
    I couldn’t turn the other cheek
    Papa, I sure hope you understand
    Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.

Whence this sense of deja vu? Oh yes, Ariel Sharon is a man of peace, George Bush is a man of peace, but doggone it, sometimes you can just push a man too far! What did they ever do to them Ay-rabs? Etc., etc., etc. To think that neoconservatism, such a highborn philosophy, has transmogrified the public discourse into a Kenny Rogers song. Unintended consequences and all that…

Back to Iraq

How to boost troop morale, Rumsfeld style:

“Because we’re in the midst of a major troop rotation, we have a planned increase in the number of U.S. troops,” Rumsfeld said at a hastily arranged Pentagon press conference.

The first casualties of what Rumsfeld called “taking advantage of the overlap” were a few hundred soldiers from the Army’s First Armored Division. Pentagon officials told the Daily News those troops were at Baghdad International Airport preparing to return to their home base in Germany this week when the plug was pulled.

“They were on the tarmac waiting for their plane when they were told to pick up their gear, head back to camp and get ready to go back into the field,” the official said. “Can you imagine the effect on morale that had?”

I wonder if Rumsfeld ran this move by the Army mental health advisory team investigating the abnormally high suicide rate among American soldiers in Iraq? I’m sure he must have because we all know how the Bushies Support the TroopsTM!

Iraqi Radioactive Scrap Sale!

Lest we be accused of ignoring the good news coming out of Iraq, lets all celebrate this latest triumph of the incompetents running Operation Poorly Planned Occupation.

Radioactive Scrap From Iraq Shows Up in Europe

Iraq’s nuclear facilities remain unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.
According to ElBaradei’s letter, satellite imagery shows “extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings,” in Iraq.

In addition, “large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transfered out of Iraq from sites” previously monitored by the IAEA.

In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.
The IAEA has been unable to investigate, monitor or protect Iraqi nuclear materials since the U.S. invaded the country in March 2003. The United States has refused to allow the IAEA or other U.N. weapons inspectors into the country, claiming that the coalition has taken over responsibility for illict weapons searches.

Now, anyone who says the Bush administration doesn’t have the safety and security of the world as their highest goal in life just wants the terrorists to win and hates freedom. Clearly, ElBaradei and those IAEA whiners hate freedom and want to ruin troop morale and give aid and comfort to the enemy or they’d shut up already with the negativity.