Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Clock is Ticking on Zarqawi

Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail notes this about the ABC report on the near capture of Abu al-Zarqawi in February:

The fact that there is someone inside the Zarqawi network is what is startling. Al Qaeda in Iraq appears to have been penetrated, no small feat as al Qaeda is traditionally a very closed and secretive organization, admitting only the most ideologically pure of the Islamists within their ranks.

The mole is likely of Arab descent, perhaps an Iraqi, as genuine cover would be needed to break into al Qaeda's inner circle. This mole may be responsible for several of the arrests of high-ranking Zarqawi lieutenants over the past several months. While Zarqawi escaped, the mission was not a complete failure, as money, a computer and two close assistants were captured in the raid:

Finding the computer, said the official, "was a seminal event." It had "a very big hard drive," the official said, and recent pictures of Zarqawi. The official said Zarqawi's driver and a bodyguard were taken into custody.

The computer will likely have a huge amount of data on al Qaedas network, based on past findings of siezed hardware. Zarqawi's driver and a bodyguard are the real catches, as their job descriptions constantly put them at Zarqawi's side. These are men that would know the most intimate details of his professional life: his habits, routines, and methods of operation as well as knowledge about the group's leaders, safe houses, finances and areas of operation.

See here for more details on the contents of the computer.

Zarqawi will be captured or killed sooner or later. One wonders what effect this will have on the morale of terrorists throughout the Middle East and beyond. They will still slog on, to be sure. They will continue their demonic fascination with death, but will they find it increasingly more difficult to recruit new foot soldiers? Will they find it more difficult to raise money or to mount complex operations abroad? Will they find the hardships they have to endure less appealing than they did a year ago? There is a good chance that the capture of a "hero" like Zarqawi will be a significant blow to global terrorism. We pray that is the case.

Islamic Honor

Another honor killing among the followers of Mohammed. This one because the victim's photo was on someone's cellphone. Sounds reasonable, I suppose, if you're a Muslim:

A Jordanian man shot dead his divorced sister after seeing her photo on his friend's camera-equipped cellphone in the latest "honour" killing in the kingdom, hospital officials said Monday.

The unidentified man shot the 31-year-old mother twice in the head Sunday night and then turned himself in to police saying he committed the murder to "cleanse his family's honour".

The incident is the fifth example of a so-called honour killing in Jordan this year. Those found guilty usually face sentences of a maximum of one year in jail under Jordanian law.

Last month, a man stabbed his sister to death after finding out she had agreed an unofficial marriage with a man who subsequently disappeared.

At least 19 women lost their lives in honour killings in Jordan last year, according to the local press.

One year in jail for first-degree murder? Islamic notions of justice are as peculiar as their notions of honor.

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the tip.

The Coming Theocracy

Michael Barone responds to the alarm raised by liberal Chicken Littles that the U.S. is headed for a theocracy. He dismisses this bit of paranoia as silliness. Several of his key points follow:

[W]hether the United States is on its way to becoming a theocracy is actually a silly question. No religion is going to impose laws on an unwilling Congress or the people of this country. And we have long lived comfortably with a few trappings of religion in the public space, such as "In God We Trust" or "God save this honorable court."

The real question is whether strong religious belief is on the rise in America and the world. Fifty years ago secular liberals were confident that education, urbanization, and science would lead people to renounce religion. That seems to have happened, if you confine your gaze to Europe, Canada, and American university faculty clubs. But this movement has not been as benign as expected: The secular faiths of fascism and communism destroyed millions of lives before they were extinguished.

America has not moved in the expected direction. In fact, just the opposite.

[T]he religions and sects that have grown are those that make serious demands on members; those that accommodate to secular critics and make few demands decline in numbers. The Roman Catholic Church continues to grow in America; the Assemblies of God and the Mormon Church grow even faster. But mainline Protestant denominations, which spend much effort ordaining gay bishops or urging disinvestment in Israel, lose members.

Who inherits the future? In free societies each generation makes its own religious choices, but people tend to follow the faith of their parents. Secular Europe, with below-replacement birthrates among non-Muslims, could be headed for a Muslim future, as historian Niall Ferguson suggests. In the United States, as pointed out by Phillip Longman in The Empty Cradle and Ben Wattenberg in Fewer, birthrates are above replacement level largely because of immigrants. But, as Longman notes, religious people have more children than seculars. Those who believe in "family values" are more likely to have families.

This doesn't mean we're headed toward a theocracy: America is too diverse and freedom loving for that. But it does mean that we're probably not headed to the predominantly secular society that liberals predicted half a century ago and that Europe has now embraced.

When listening to liberal caterwauling about the insurgency of the evangelical Ayatollahs it must be born in mind that, in their pinched view of the world, anyone who takes religious faith seriously is a threat to freedom, and anything other than a completely secular society is a theocracy. Liberals fear religious belief because people whose allegiance is to their God and their Church often feel quite independent of government and tend to see government as a usurper of their freedoms. This is why the left, whether in its extreme forms like communism or in its more moderate forms like democratic socialism, always seeks to banish religion from public life.

Any sign that religion may be experiencing a reinvigoration among the masses motivates the left to do and say whatever it can to discredit it. If there were only one person remaining who still believed in God the left would nevertheless consider him a portent of an impending theocracy that threatens us all.


The greatest threat Iran and North Korea pose to the United States is not that one of them will detonate a weapon over or in one of our cities, although that remains a terrible possibility, but that they will detonate a nuclear warhead high in the earth's atmosphere. This would cause little immediate damage but it would generate a pulse of electromagnetic energy, called an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that would completely destroy almost all electrical and electronic equipment in the U.S. The consequences of this would be devastating. Iran appears to be preparing for just such an attack. Here are excerpts from a World Net Daily report on the threat:

WASHINGTON -- Iran is not only covertly developing nuclear weapons, it is already testing ballistic missiles specifically designed to destroy America's technical infrastructure, effectively neutralizing the world's lone superpower, say U.S. intelligence sources, top scientists and western missile industry experts. The radical Shiite regime has conducted successful tests to determine if its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, can be detonated by a remote-control device while still in high-altitude flight.

"An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the American homeland, said one of the distinguished scientists who testified at the hearing, is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies - terrorist or otherwise," wrote Senator John Kyl in an article in the Washington Post a week ago, "And it is probably the easiest. A single Scud missile, carrying a single nuclear weapon, detonated at the appropriate altitude, would interact with the Earth's atmosphere, producing an electromagnetic pulse radiating down to the surface at the speed of light. Depending on the location and size of the blast, the effect would be to knock out already stressed power grids and other electrical systems across much or even all of the continental United States, for months if not years."

If electrical power is knocked out and circuit boards fried, telecommunications are disrupted, energy deliveries are impeded, the financial system breaks down, food, water and gasoline become scarce.

As Kyl put it: "Few if any people would die right away. But the loss of power would have a cascading effect on all aspects of U.S. society. Communication would be largely impossible. Lack of refrigeration would leave food rotting in warehouses, exacerbated by a lack of transportation as those vehicles still working simply ran out of gas (which is pumped with electricity). The inability to sanitize and distribute water would quickly threaten public health, not to mention the safety of anyone in the path of the inevitable fires, which would rage unchecked. And as we have seen in areas of natural and other disasters, such circumstances often result in a fairly rapid breakdown of social order."

"American society has grown so dependent on computer and other electrical systems that we have created our own Achilles' heel of vulnerability, ironically much greater than those of other, less developed nations," the senator wrote. "When deprived of power, we are in many ways helpless, as the New York City blackout made clear. In that case, power was restored quickly because adjacent areas could provide help. But a large-scale burnout caused by a broad EMP attack would create a much more difficult situation. Not only would there be nobody nearby to help, it could take years to replace destroyed equipment."

A warhead could be lobbed high enough into the atmosphere over the U.S. by any of a number of existing missiles available to the remaining members of the Axis of Evil. They can be launched from a freighter at sea and don't have to be particularly accurate to achieve their purpose.

Those who argued against the Bush administration's attempt to complete the construction of a missile defense on the grounds that missiles aren't a realistic threat turn out to be very wrong. Again. Let's hope that their error remains theoretical and not catastrophic.

Over the next few years we must resolve to do the following: We must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons; we must continue to work surreptitiously to weaken the regime of North Korea; we must continue to build an anti-missile shield to protect us against the kinds of attack these nations are likely to mount; we must stockpile spare parts like transformers and other essential components of our electrical grid; and we must look for ways to insulate our electronic infrastructure.

If we fail to do any of these we'll leave ourselves in a position where a single warhead on a single missile could cause a degree of social upheaval and devastation that would far exceed any calamity ever to befall mankind. Once Iran and North Korea have the capacity to launch such an attack with a fair assurance of success they may choose not to, but we would be foolish in the extreme to count on that.