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I do so hate it when people speak foreign

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the Pakistani politician Imran Khan and Alec Station’s Mike Scheuer think (somewhat) alike ]
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I do so hate it when people speak foreign, and am happy when bilinguals tweet the relevant quotes in regular language:

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Imran Khan, who is being quoted from this interview as saying “George Washington was a terrorist for the English & freedom fighter for Americans” is a Pakistani cricketer (captain of the team that won the 1992 World Cup, and credited with 3807 runs batting and 362 wickets bowling in Test matches) turned politician (founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party which governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the North West Frontier Province) — and philanthropist (founder of a cancer hospital, and more).

Comparisons, they say, are odious — and you may well think it odious to compare Osama bin Laden with George Washington.

What, though, if the comparison is between Imran Khan and Michael Scheuer, who in the runup to 9/11 was the chief of Alec Station (ie the CIA’s Bin Laden Issue Station). In his first book, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, published anonymously in 2002, Scheuer wrote:

I think we in the United States can best come to grips with this phenomena by realizing that bin Laden’s philosophy and actions have embodied many of the same sentiments that permeate the underpinnings of concepts on which the United States itself is established. This can be illustrated, I think, with reference to the writings or actions of such seminal figures in our history as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine.

and:

Bin Laden’s character, religious certainty, moral absolutism, military ferocity, integrity, and all-or-nothing goals are not much different from those of individuals whom we in the United States have long identified and honored as religious, political, or military heroes, men such as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine. I do not argue that these are exact analogies, but only that they are analogies that seemed pertinent as I researched bin Laden.

and again, specifically:

A final analogy I found useful in thinking about Osama bin Laden in a context pertinent … Professor John L. Esposito drew me to this analogy in his fine book The Islamic Threat. Myth or Reality?, as did the editors of the respected Pakistani newspaper Nawa-i-Wakt. In his book, Esposito warned that when Americans automatically identify Islamist individuals and groups as terrorists, they forget the “heroes of the American Revolution were rebels and terrorists for the British Crown,” while the editors of Nawa-i-Waqt lamented that “it is unfortunate that the United States, which obtained its independence through a [revolutionary] movement is calling Muslim freedom fighters [a] terrorist organization.”

Like him or not as he currently presents himself and his opinions, Scheuer was plausibly the person best situated to explain bin Laden to an American audience back in 2002 — and today’s Imran Khan and yesterday’s Michael Scheuer seem to have a major analogy for assessing & explaining bin Laden in common…

Owls and roosters, wolves and warnings

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — too quiet, too loud, two versions ]
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rooster and owlm fine cuisine
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This isn’t the rooster and owl conjunction I refer to in this post, but it’s popping up in the DC area

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I’m sure I first heard of the problem of the little boy who cried “Wolf” back in the mists of childhood, but it wasn’t until today, when reading up on retires CIA counterterrorist analyst and current novelist Susan Hasler that I first saw it applied to the issue of analysts alerting decision-makers of terrorism risks..

DQ hasler landes

Reading Hasler’s words, I was immediately reminded of Richard Landes‘ distinction between “end times” roosters and owls, which has been a salient analytic heuristic for me since the mid-nineties, when I was invited to join Landes in Boston University’s Center for Millennial Studies.

Both quotes revolve around warning noises, and each features both “loud” and “soft” variants — but the differences between Hasler’s wolves and warnings and Landes’ owls and roosters are subtler than the similarities between them.

Setting them up as poles for paired contemplation energizes my thought processes — and even if I don’t arrive at any specific and immediate conclusions, let alone any actionable intelligence — it preps me with yet another pattern to watch for in my daily trawling of the highways and byways of the arts, sciences and OSINT on the [wild & wonderful] web.

Susan Hasler on Trump & Cruz, Yeats on 1916

Monday, March 28th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the self-examining word ]
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DQ Hasler Yeats

Hasler‘s Getting the response to terrorism completely wrong — which goes after Trump and Cruz by name — was published tomorrow — it’s 11.58pm Sunday here in California.

Yeats‘ poem remembers the Easter of 1916, a hundred years ago today.

Perils of Biblical literalism

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — okay, i’m sure this was unintentional ]
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DQ CIA vs DOD Syria

Hey, fellas — this is really taking the literal interpretation of scripture a bit too literally..

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Sources:

  • King James Version, Matthew 6.3
  • Chicago Tribune, CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria
  • Two serpent-eats-tail views of the Brennan email hack

    Sunday, October 25th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — spy vs spy as delicate moral balance ]
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    spy vs spy

    There are two sentences in When The Hackers Become The Hacked: Why Reading John Brennan’s Emails Feels Wrong, Ali Watkins‘ HuffPo piece a couple of days ago, that feature a neat sense of paradox, and what’s most interesting about them is that they show us two different sides of the coin.

    The first [upper panel, below] has a bit of an “ooh, look” feel to it, finding its turning point in the fact that the keeper of secrets has had his own secrets exposed:

    SPEC Brennan

    while the second [lower panel, above] centers on how it feels “from the inside“.

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    All of which reminds me of the Talmudic distinction between the Israelites’ view, watching as their enemies the Egyptians perish in the Red Sea, and God’s view, seeing the Egyptian plight from the inside as it were, encapsulated in R Johanan‘s phrase:

    My creatures are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing songs!

    Kudos to Ali Watkins.


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