FBI thwarts terrorist bomb attempt: world is officially crazy

Carla Axtman

Bryan Denson, The Oregonian:

The FBI thwarted an attempted terrorist bombing in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square before the city's annual tree-lighting Friday night, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon.

A Corvallis man, thinking he was going to ignite a bomb, drove a van to the corner of the square at Southwest Yamhill Street and Sixth Avenue and attempted to detonate it.

However, the supposed explosive was a dummy that FBI operatives supplied to him, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint signed Friday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta.

Legally this person is a "man", but the photo in The Oregonian looks more like a boy to me. 19 year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born US citizen, is the alleged culprit. My daughter told me this morning that she recognizes him from the photo. Apparently he went to her high school just last year.

Columnist Steve Duin wonders aloud this morning if Mohamud would have managed to make it to Portland's core without being led to it by the FBI:

It's early. Very early. I'm as spooked as anyone by what might have happened last night at Pioneer Courthouse Square. And I am incredibly thankful the FBI and our national security forces are on guard.

But it's still unclear how close Mohamed Osman Mohamud would have gotten to Portland's "living room" if no one had ever shown any interest in his plans.

For a city that's become quite suspect of it's law enforcement, I suppose this is a predictable reaction. But this boy/man has been dreaming of "jihad" since he was 15, according to the Oregonian story. It seems like he's had plenty of time to plan.

On Facebook this morning, former Portland Mercury News Editor Matt Davis pops off:

Matthew Charles Davis ‎...is stupefied by the nonsense that a "terrorist" might have bombed Portland, Oregon. First, choose real-life cities that matter when they want to make such statements. Get over yourself, Rose City. Second, this poor young man was entrapped by over-zealous, seemingly equally mentally-ill FBI agents. They assembled the "bomb," for Chrissakes.

I guess its cool to hate on Portland....or something. But let's get the pompous ass in check, shall we? Unless Davis has some super-secret source that's dialing in to his shoe phone in New Orleans, I find it hard to believe that this type of skepticism is warranted. It's possible that this kid is deranged. Or maybe he, like so many others (and this is not just Islam--Christianity and Judaism, among others have as well) have abandoned basic humanity to murder in the name of a god.

Or perhaps the line between "deranged" and "murder in the name of a god" is so thin as to be irrelevant.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for posting this Carla. You beat me to the punch which means that I can spew a little more quickly.

    I was nowhere near Pioneer Square last night but this hits home for me anyway. We were in Seattle and my wife and a friend were at the tree lighting ceremony up here. If we’d done Thanksgiving at my house, they probably would have been there.

    I think we deserve to know many more details of this plot and I’ll hold my judgment on the FBI and more.

    But you know what, more than anything I’m most scared for our fellow Americans this morning. Not the light-skinned ones like me, but I can’t help but fear a backlash because a stupid 19 year old kid who happened to be a misguided extremist Muslim was responsible for the foiled attack.

    When two white Christians blow something up in Oregon, the public outrage is limited. I fear something very different with this plot because the would-be bomber was named Mohamed.

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      Haven't heard much about this case out of San Diego either

      The San Diego Sheriff's Department has suspended its investigation of the alleged home "bomb factory" of George Djura Jakubec because the huge weapons cache was just too dangerous.
      Jakubec, a 54-year-old Escondido, CA resident, was arrested and charged after a gardener was injured after stepping on a supply of hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), an explosive powder, that was allegedly in Jakubec's backyard.

      A gardener (an undocumented worker??) leads to this nutjob. Where was the FBI and ATF on this?

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        Where was the FBI and ATF? Obviously, busy monitoring international email traffic.

        The reason they didn't catch that guy sooner is the same reason why they've never been able to catch Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It's nearly impossible to scan the goings-on in the basements of half a million houses to find one which is doing a bad thing. So as long as you never being it out of the basement, no one will ever know.

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          Steve, they'd been working on duping this guy for 6 months. they appear to have been on top of this for a long time. and it's obvious why they let it go to the very end: in the hope they'd rope more people in. it's possible they have & just haven't announced it, but given that he never had any real device, it was obviously worth making the effort.

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            Actually, TA, I was responding to the question about the FBI not immediately finding the private "bomb factory" of George Jakubec. Not this whole issue with Mohamed Mohamud at all.

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      Trying to draw parallels with Christianity into this story is pathetic and desperate and of course I expected as much from Carla. This man (not a boy or even the super model iman in drag) was caught frantically dialing the detonation device on the bomb ...shouting "Allah Akbar (the muslim equivalent of "I am with the band") at the same moment he was expecting to raise the body temperatures of 10,000 innocent men women and children to 1000 degrees! hardly the act of a misguided child...the only way Christianity plays into this story Carla was that he chose to do this during an event that symbolizes the start of the Christmas season which culminates on the day we celebrate as the day of Christs birth. That's it

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        Right..cuz extremist Christians would never do anything violent..like the point I was actually making.

        Oh wait:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_Resistance_Army

        http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/29/michigan-militia-group-preparing-anti-christ-web-site-says/

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Liberation_Front_of_Tripura

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_National_Unity

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_of_God_%28USA%29

  • (Show?)

    If this guy is an example of the best and brightest the terrorists can come up with, I'd say we have nothing to worry about.

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    Steve Duin must not watch enough spy movies. of course the FBI let this guy play the game through. why not? he was under control, he never got anything close to a real weapon, they were ready to pounce at any moment -- and they had a chance to locate other possible terrorists. so why not? i'm not sure what Duin is freaked out about? that this guy would be more clever than the Feds? if he'd simply read the article in his own paper, he'd understand that the danger level from this guy was zero. or less.

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    The theory that the FBI uses (and DHS, CIA, et al) to justify these sting operations is "If there's a will, there's a way." To them, if they don't hijack the disturbed kid's connections and lead him into custody, they figure he'll eventually make contact with someone who actually could help him. Of course, the hole in that justification is how does the foreign militant effectively smuggle the materials, cash, and necessary support to the angry militant kid so that they actually have a snowball's chance of pulling off the deal? They lock down and monitor international transactions, they're one step short of body cavity searches at the airport, and if they have an inkling that some kid is trying to make contact, they can practically own his means of communication. And that's even if he's savvy enough to pull it all off with directions and support. Obviously he wasn't, because he should have been smart enough to realize that there was a reason that most bombers go up with the bomb...setting off a bomb with a cell phone isn't as easy or reliable as it sounds. If it were, you could bet there'd be a whole lot more bombs going off that way.

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    The fact that jumped out at me is the person is a U.S. citizen (naturalized) which negates one of the arguments for the harm "illegals" bring about. (It's my understanding the group that perpetrated 9/11 attacks were in the country legally...) The other thing that jumps out at me is Mr. Davis' comments about where or why Portland may or may not be hit. (i.e."...choose real life cities that matter...") It seems to me that the element of surprise is one tactic. And it is likely letting your guard down and thinking you won't be hit is another factor in their favor. Yes, we can't live our lives in fear. But on the other, we do need to try to think ahead of them and head off potential incidents.

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    Couple of things: this suspect had been in contact with an individual in NW Pakistan in 2009. Hmmm...I wonder why anyone in NW Pakistan would want to attack the United States' civilian population? Could it be because well over 900 hundred Pakistani-Pashtun civilians were killed by US drone strikes in 2009? And, I assume, the "collateral damage" continues apace, if not to a greater degree, as the drone strikes have become more frequent (let's face it- the military does not really know who they're killing with the drone strikes).

    And, it's kind of strange how so many of these thwarted attempts entail so much infiltration and assistance in planning/logistics from the FBI. There have been quite a few cases (including this one) where the suspects never would've gotten together any kind of credible attempt if it were not for FBI infiltration.

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      yes Stephen it's all our fault we deserve it ... what an idiotic thing to say. They want to attack us for the same reasons they flew airplanes into the WTC ... which predates your drone attack nonsense imbecile

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        "They want to attack us for the same reasons they flew airplanes into the WTC"

        And what reason is that? Oh, that's right -- "They hate our freedom."

        Please. We're not children here.

        Stephen didn't say "we deserve it." He simply explained why some people might feel they have a motive for attacking the United States. Stop twisting people's words.

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        I am curious though, Chester, why do you believe they wanted to attack us on 9-11?

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      Michael Pingree- how about if the FBI and other agencies kept very close scrutiny on such a subject, without going to such lengths as providing the components, know-how and even participating in practice explosions?

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        Wouldn't that be significantly more labor and capital intensive. Wouldn't they then have to profile every single person he comes into contact with to see if the are "the one" who can lead him to his end goal.

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          OTOH, it might just reveal those sleepers who are actively looking to do such a thing.

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      The only caveat I'd make to that is when you are dealing with someone young (not sure how young, but younger then 19) a third option might be some kind of intervention to set the kid straight. That doesn't preclude intensive surveillance as backup, it just allows for a better outcome where such is possible.

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        I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what is going through the mind of religious fanatics, but when someone declares jihad at 15, I assume there is little chance of changing them.

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          And we train our youth, with John Wayne movies, lies, uber patriotism and slick commercials.

          They got me and I ended up complicit in the murder of a whole lots of Vietnamese.

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          He's a high school boy who went to go blow something up. Lots of high school boy go to the woods and blow stuff up all the time.

          The FBI walked into a Portland area high school shopping for terrorist suspects.

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          Meh, at fifteen, you just need to provide the proper incentive (preferably one with hormonal appeal) to inspire a change. I've spent enough time with kids as a teacher not to get rattled (or, fercrissakes, encourage less-than-desirable behavior). I mean, good grief, if we took every kid seriously who ranted like this...oh. Yeah. Zero tolerance.

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          I've seen you right wingers "declare" lots of real wild things on e-mail and on the internet. Shall we go over to freerepublic.com and see what's there?

          How many of tea baggers you think have made violent threats in e-mail or on the internet on the President, Pelosi, or Reid this year? millions?

          If every tea bagger that ever threated someone by e-mail was taken into custody, they'd have to build a huge razor wire fence at the Mason-Dixon Line.

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            The tea party voted you all out of office ...perhaps they just meant political death ....looks like they backed it up ...but wait! it's not a crime. buying bomb parts and constructing a 'bomb' planting that bomb then trying to detonate it ...that's a crime!

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          two words "supermax prison" where we can change them from young people to old people

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            Supermax prisons are THE MOST EXPENSIVE way for a government to deal with a situation.

            Just this one kid will cost a several million dollars over the course of the sentence.

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    I have two thoughts on this: 1) Notice it was police action, not military that took him in?

    2) The fact that the FBI was 'faking correspondence' with him hints that they may have encouraged him. Isn't that entrapment?

    [quote]Or perhaps the line between "deranged" and "murder in the name of a god" is so thin as to be irrelevant.[/quote]

    Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Exactly right, Carla.

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        Michael Pingree- This individual in question had been unable to make contact with the person in Pakistan to whom he'd been referred by his first contact in that country. So, the FBI stepped in and posed as his contact. And all bomb-making materiel and know-how were supplied by the FBI.

        How, then, is it not "unlikely", as the quote you provided states, that this individual would've been in position to commit an act on the day and place in question?

        Entrapment refers to a specific act, one cannot dismiss the idea of entrapment merely because the subject has a personality type that says he may do something at some time in his life.

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          Per CNN:

          According to an arrest warrant affidavit written by an FBI special agent, Mohamud was in e-mail communication in August 2009 with a person believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In December, that person was "located in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan," the affidavit states.

          The two communicated regularly, the affidavit states, and "using coded language, they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to prepare for violent jihad."

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            Michael Pingree- the history of the contact between the person in PDX and the person in Pak turned out to have nothing to do with the specific act that was to occur 11/26 at Pioneer Courthouse Sq.

            Entrapment would refer as to whether or not this individual would've been likely to commit the specific act without the FFBI's help, I believe.

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            How many other high school boys would go join the FBI guys to go blow something up? Lots of high school boys think blowing stuff up is cool. Most high school boys, in fact.

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        ... in EMAIL. A 15 year kid got pissed and ranted in EMAIL!

        If every tea-bagger that ranted a violent threat at Obama, Pelosi, or Reid this year in e-mail or on the net was arrested, the whole Deep South would have to be made into a prison.

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    Wonder how eager Mohamed would be to blow people up if he didn't believe he would go to paradise?

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      You're not seriously asking why a high school boy would want to blow something up, are you?

      Because blowing stuff up is cool for high school boys. Half the high school boys in the America would have fallen for someone walking up to them and asking them if they wanted to go blow up.

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          If there's real physical evidence.. audio tape, video tape evidence of this kid saying those things, then the prosecutor has an easy job.

          However, there's one quote that sounds fishy already... From AP Nedra Pickler story on the KGW site... "his goal in the bomb plot was "I want everyone to leave dead or injured." "

          The AP story says that quote is the words of the suspect.

          That's "cop filling out a report" language" not teenage madman bomber talk.

          Show me or play me a tape with suspect saying all that. I'm not taking just the agents word on this. The FBI already walked into a Portland area high school to hunt for a terrorism suspect. That's bizarre enough. They lost the benefit of the doubt right there.

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        I concur w/ Carla, your assertion is ridiculous.

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          "the FBI claims it blocked Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized United States citizen, from traveling within the country to accept employment.

          Mr. Mohamud was then placed on a watch list and stopped at the Portland airport in June 2010 when he tried to fly to Alaska for a summer job."

          http://my.firedoglake.com/teddysanfran/2010/11/27/fbi-blocked-mohamuds-employment-prospects/

          The kid tried to leave Portland to go get a summer job, and the FBI prevented a US citizen from leaving Portland to fly within the US to get a job in Alaska.

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            And the kids parents also reported him to the authorities a couple of years ago, and even turned over their sons passport so he could not leave the country.

            So are you claiming the kids parents were guilty of setting up their son to the Feds?

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              I don't know.

              I did ask the question elsewhere what happens if a parent had decided to keep the kid away from the FBI "bad influences."

              It's also now clear the FBI blocked him from leaving Portland to go get a job in Alaska. They crippled his ability to leave town, get a job, and build a life for himself on a different path than the FBI was leading him down.

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                No idea if it's true but one of the local TV stations was reporting the FBI affidavit as saying Mohamud said his aim in seeking a fishing job in Alaska was to raise money to travel to Pakistan.

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        not 10,000 innocent men women and children ... get a grip

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      Drop it, Josh. Just drop it.

      For that matter, how eager would Mohamed be to blow people up if we weren't doing the same to civilians in related war zones?

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        The problem here Joyce is that I agree that U.S. foreign policy helps fuel terrorism, but your faith-based belief system blinds you to the fact that faith also fuels terrorism.

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          Once again, you prove your intolerance by one simple little statement.

          You demand conversion from me, so how does that differ from your fundamentalist religionist cohorts? I see no difference between you and a Protestant Dominionist, or a jihadi.

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            Please explain why it is fair to discuss one factor which fuels terrorism, i.e., U.S. foreign policy, but not fair/appropriate to discuss another factor, i.e., the faith-based ideology of terrorists?

            I am not "demanding" anything. What I am doing is pointing out your intellectual dishonesty when it comes to discussing issues like this which are of course directly connected to religion.

            People who want to recognize and discuss the connection between religion and the religious are not intolerant, we just like to solve problems opposed to ignoring important factors. Once again, if you want a lesson on intolerance, look no further than your church. And please try and answer my first question. I know it's difficult, but give it a shot.

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              Are you an atheist like Chris Hitchens?

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              Dude, when your intolerance sounds exactly like the same BS you so arrogantly deride, you bet I'm going to call you on it.

              You want to set yourself up as the voice of rationality, then it would behoove you to pull the log out of your own eye before you demand that I purge the speck out of mine. Right now, I see no difference in tone between you and someone using the same argumentative style to promote their own religious faith. And asserting that your personal faith is an exercise in "rationality" doesn't fly when you use the same sort of strawman, broad-brush argument that you've lifted from religious fundamentalists.

              I don't need to look at my own church for an illustration in intolerance when you do such an excellent job of illustrating it yourself.

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                Let's try this one more time Joyce.

                Please explain why it is fair to discuss one factor which fuels terrorism, i.e., U.S. foreign policy, but not fair/appropriate to discuss another factor, i.e., the faith-based ideology of terrorists?

                It's a very simple question. Rather than make more empty clams about tone and style, try to actually provide an answer w/ some substance. If your going to insist that certain ideologies should be protected from scrutiny, you should at least be willing to provide some sort of explanation.

                Please don't confuse an appreciation of scientific evidence for intolerance. Again, the Catholic Church, your church, is the one of the leading models for intolerance. Take a closer look.

                Joyce...I know even considering that you may be wrong about something so sacred to you is very difficult. Contemplating that you have put so much time into a fantasy doesn't feel goo, but try to muster the courage to objectively consider whether religion is good for the world.

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                  Actually, it completely is fair to discuss that.

                  Fundamentally, however, it is extremely difficult for anyone to control "faith based ideology" as a factor, except indirectly through more peaceful adherents of the same faith. No Jew is going to be convincing a jihadist to seriously rethink an evil act. It takes a fellow Muslim to do that.

                  But of those Muslims are crying over the deaths of innocents slaughtered by people acting as agents of the U.S., they're not going to be very much inclined to do so, now are they?

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          then you are too stupid to vote

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        look at the time line ...they were blowing people up long before we took the fight to them

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          To be fair, we've been inserting ourselves into the governments and tribes of the Muslim world for generations, including killing innocent civilians.

          That doesn't justify blowing up innocents here, but let's not pretend that this is some one-sided affair where we're the innocents. That's simply not the case.

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          "they"...?

          Curious, do you think many conservatives would be blowing up people in other countries like say, Iran, if in 1953 Iran overthrew the Eisenhower administration, installed a puppet dictator, solid that puppet dictator advanced weaponry, trained it secret police to brutalize the population, the Iranian intelligence service installed the entire phone system in the country, then spent the next 30 years looting the country, and then Iran solid chemical weapons to Mexico and sided with it under the table to fight an 8 year war against the United States, using chemical weapons on our troops and our citizens, and blew some passenger airliners out of the sky "by mistake"...?

          Curious as to what your view towards said country would be?

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          You are either disingenuous or you are incredibly ignorant of history.

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          Unless by "take the fight to them" you mean install the Shah in Iran and his brutal repression, support and strengthen Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two countries with horrific human rights records, assist and help pay for the inhuman and immoral subjugation of the Palestinians, fabricate a link between Iraq and Al Quada, support Saddam Hussien in the first place as he came to power.

          Look, if you are going to play the innocent in this conflict, and you don't mention the word "OIL" in your argument, you aren't credible.

  • (Show?)
    "Or perhaps the line between "deranged" and "murder in the name of a god" is so thin as to be irrelevant."

    I would call these "Crusaders" just as deranged. Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We're On a Crusade

    "The Valor ROTC cadet and midshipman ministry reaches our future military leaders at their initial entry points on college campuses, helps them grow in their faith, then sends them to their first duty assignments throughout the world as 'government-paid missionaries for Christ.'"

    Many of our military are as propagandized as this poor soul.

    Is there much of a difference between a teenager raised to believe in "violent jihad" and one raised to believe in the righteousness of the "Global War on Terror" which was and is based on lies?

    I am not a fan of "Dugout" Douglas MacArthur but he hit the nail on the head when he stated:

    The powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear: Keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real...."

    That same argument is used by leaders on both sides. I for one am sick of it. I was a tool in a war based on lies many years ago, this young man and our military are the tools of today's liars.

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    I think the definitive postscript on this incident must be attributed to a man who always cuts to the chase and through the BS, Glen Greenwald.

    Glenn's title for his current piece at salon.com, about this incident:

    "FBI Successfully Thwarts Its Own Terrorist Plot"

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      "We're just as bad as they are because some military people are encouraged to be missionaries."

      Since that is specifically prohibited, I stand by my observation that we are indeed as bad if not worse. Wholesale slaughter by Jesus freaks in the name of American policy is acceptable?

      No "Christians" "...targeting civilians en masse in terroristic plots." Try this:

      President George W Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.

      Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ." And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

      BBC who I trust a lot more than our bought and paid for media.

      I find it fascinating that our elected leaders can order the murder tens of thousands of innocent civilians and we blindly except it and then wonder why we are subject to this type of blowback.

      War is terrorism with a bigger budget.

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      Note the disparity in descriptive words that Mr. O'Donnell uses:

      In Portland, it's "an attempt to blow up a couple of hundred people".

      In NW Pak, it is, according to O'Donnell, merely "the effects of U.S. foreign policy".

      A double standard in your language, Mr. O'Donnell.

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          Pat Ryan- I can read. What I am saying is that Anthony Robert O'Donnell uses one type of description ("wants to blow up hundreds of people") for an action in PDX and in the same post he describes the bombing and killing of civilians in NW Pak as merely being the "U.S. foreign policy effects."

          I realize he was referring to the POVs of we apologists. Of course I do.

          What I'm saying is: where is the outrage about the illegal bombings against civilians in So Asia while there's no shortage of outrage about a put-up job that had no chance of success in PDX?

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            Stephen, Reasonable people can disagree with U.S. military action in NW Pakistan, but whether you like it or not, it is military action engaged in by a sovereign country against hostiles. It is not aimed at civilian non-combatants, and I think you know that.

            If one believes that deliberately killing crowds of civilians is a justified response to military action against belligerents, then you are saying that atrocities are just fine, if that's what gets the job done. Either you stand against deliberate attacks on non-combatants or you don't.

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              So when we fire-bombed Tokyo? Or launched shock-and-awe against a country that had not attacked us, knowing full well that civilian would be killed?

              Where do those come down into the "atrocity" scale?

              Curious as to whether you would view the characters of the American teens (aka the "Wolverines") in the schlock 80s film "Red Dawn" scenario as being terrorists carrying out "atrocities"...?

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                Excellent point, Mitchell. Definitely atrocities. I would think we'd like to limit such behavior.

                The "Wolverines" weren't terrorists in as much as they engaged strictly military targets. However, they were unlawful combatants according to the Geneva Conventions, and thus not entitled to the protections afforded to legitimate prisoners of war.

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                  The phrase "unlawful combatant" does not appear in the Third Geneva Convention. However, Article 4 of GCIII does describe categories under which a person may be entitled to POW status; and there are other international treaties that deny lawful combatant status for mercenaries and children.

                  So I suppose those "wolverines" could be considered lawful combatant status due to them being minors.

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    Now if the Mossad were handling this, they would give this Muslim punk a cell phone containing C-4 and when he dialed the number to blow up the van, he blows his head off instead. Scratch one terrorist wannabe and saves the cost of a trial.

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    Ah yes, Stephen, military action is automatically equivalent to the deliberate killing of civilians en masse.

    Grant, you'll have a point when military men are encouraged to become missionaries who gain God's favor by planting bombs in order to maximize civilian casualties.

    Your slippery slope appears to be a little bumpy. GWB allegedly says things suggesting divine inspiration and we are encouraged to take it as if he were some nut who believed God was whispering in his ear, rather than someone who sought guidance and felt confident about his chosen course of action. Even if that were the case, it doesn't make American military action "Christian."

    It never ceases to amaze me how eager some people are to explain away a belief that it's just fine to kill masses of civilians. If U.S. military action pisses anyone off, then apparently there is no atrocity they commit that you won't be quite happy to justify. "We had it coming!"

    I'd like to know what caused all the blowback in Darfur, among other places for which Islam-inspired atrocities don't have a U.S. foreign policy justification.

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      They don't have to plant bombs, they drop them.

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      "military action is automatically equivalent to the deliberate killing of civilians en masse."

      Two words: Agent Orange

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        "military action is automatically equivalent to the deliberate killing of civilians en masse."

        Two words: Agent Orange ...

        Two problems with this, first of all, Agent Orange was a defoliant used with the purpose of depriving guerrillas with natural cover. It was never intended as a weapon to inflict mass death on civilians.

        Second, you cherry pick one example (which, as I point out, you grossly misinterpret)and then you take it as characteristic.

        One couldn't hope for better examples of unreasoning bias.

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          Anthony, I like the style with which you argue. No name calling, no capitals and pretty well reasoned arguments.

          I want to take a shot. I see your point and yes, as a general absolute the targeting of civilians is certainly worse than targeting uniformed belligerents. But I think there is room for argument about the term "equivalent". I think it might be more useful to consider a concept of "threshold". Some actions, even if there are others that are objectively worse, do pass a threshold wherein one can reasonably expect "blow back". So as we consider policy and strategy on the macro and micro level it is more useful to admit these things into the conversation even if "They" are doing worse things, "everyone" is doing it, and so on.

          The second argument I would offer is: If a foreign power, determined to control some resource within another's borders, initiates hostilities, fully aware of the civilian casualties that can be expected than I would argue that the distinction between civilian and uniformed targets is blurred. I don't condone the targeting of civilians by anyone, but I get it. When "your" civilian population is being devastated by an invading force it's a pretty short moral hop to get to "We have to find a way to make this war cost as much to them as it does to us, so they will stop."

          Again, I want to be clear that I don't except that targeting civilians is ever moral, but I think the conversation only becomes constructive in terms of finding solutions when we move past "they are worse than us" and get to "what is so bad on our part or theirs that a threshold has been breached that will lead to further conflict."

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            Brian,

            You may need to elaborate more on your threshold concept in order for me to understand precisely what you mean. I'll say that threshold may be in the eye of the beholder. First, different parties may have different tolerance and, second, their own beliefs about what is permissible will influence how they react.

            Any hostile action can be expected to have some kind of "blowback." The question is whether it's going to be worse than not acting. Generally these decisions are efforts to identify the lesser evil, not to pick a good option versus a bad option.

            On your second argument: the rules of war that we're discussing are more, not less relevant in the situation you describe, and it's why they were codified. I think the rationale you offer is a short road to atrocity. If anything is permitted to secure victory, then it's permitted to the stronger power as well as the weaker. If the weaker power is justified in targeting the stronger power's civilians, what ethical barrier remains for the stronger power to simply say, "Well, then we'll make it cost even more for you as well." In the actual events you're thinking about there are many other considerations, but I think this is the fundamental ethical mechanism.

            It's reasonable to ask questions about the consequences of one's tactics, strategy or policy, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily false to conclude that "they are worse than us" in some respect. Yes, it's a seductive conclusion but that doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong. For example, I would say that during WWII, the Germans were in some respects worse then the Allies, in some respects better. On the one hand, the SS and the Gestapo were utterly ruthless and without civilized scruple; on the other hand, the typical German soldier or officer was likely to be more disciplined and professional, and thus less likely to commit a war crime. For example, if an adversary had been killing fellow Germans, the Germans would be more likely than Allied troops to accept surrender when the adversary ran out of ammunition — rather than repaying the death of one's comrades with the death of the adversary once the chance presented. It's a matter of both culture and discipline, which are tightly intertwined.

            Of course the SS had no reticence about killing more or less randomly selected civilians in response to guerrilla activity. In the case of both the Gestapo and militant Muslims, there's a belief that such activities are justified by the end. In both cases it really isn't a matter of threshold.

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              Anthony,

              yet again your response highlights a wisdom beyond your years (judging by your picture) ; )

              You make really good points, but the underlaying argument I was trying to make is that the entire conversation about "better or worse moral conduct" in the context of trying to craft a strategic or policy answer to a conflict, especially one that has come to arms, is a bit of a luxury at best, and harmful at worse. You describe it as "seductive" which is apt, but also dangerous for the same propaganda reason (meant generally, not to characterize your argument).

              The "Threshold Argument" is not meant to assume some objective standard, but more to recognize a line, defined more tactically and strategically than morally, where beyond a force can expect some, probably marshal, response.

              Moreover, it's really not meant to describe a "rationale" is much as to point out what the obvious counter rationale will be. But here's the real crux of it, the argument of "then it's permitted to the stronger power as well as the weaker" almost immediately leads us to Grant's "Total War" concept. The aim mustn't be to hash out some "less evil" position that can be used as a propaganda platform, but to craft a response that creatively licks, but does not violate the (conflict specific)Threshold whereupon hostilities can be assumed.

              Alas, a task so difficult that it might be the real definition of "Super Power".

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                Brian,

                I'm not sure you understood what I meant by "lesser evil." The point is you rarely have a choice between good and good or good and evil. Generally, these matters are choices between one bad option and another. Generally, there will be negative consequences to one's actions.

                If we're talking about military action, the assumption is that it has become necessary to act militarily. If it wasn't necessary, then it's a different argument. In the case where military action is arguable, one expects resistance or "blowback."

                It's still unclear to me what you mean by "threshold." Certainly the potential consequences of all actions should be considered. Also, any time you stand against any adversary, he's going to "blow back" as much as he can muster. I don't see what that has to do with judging the ethical acceptability of certain actions.

                I agree (if I understand you) that one needs to be practical in order not to cause an undesirable outcome out of an obsessive insistence on a principle of secondary importance. However, there are a couple of important things to be considered in this case.

                One is that it's the nature of this particular enemy to engage in atrocities against civilians (and military personnel), the other is that he commits these atrocities precisely to intimidate you into not acting or into turning tail.

                In this spirit, there are very practical reasons for fighting terrorists very vigorously. If we say that terrorism is a legitimate tactic, we'll get more of it. If we say that we had it coming because we crossed some threshold, we legitimize atrocities, shift culpability from the actors, and, again, encourage more of it. If we change our tactics with the threat of terrorism, the terrorist threat has succeeded.

                None of this means that there aren't engagements that we shouldn't get into in the first place, or that some military adventures might not be worth it.

                I think that any party who facilitates the mass murder of civilians should be regarded as a pariah with no privileges, allowances or free passage, no legitimate status as a negotiating partner, and should be on notice that they will be hunted down and destroyed. In a given local situation, it may be necessary to negotiate with such a party, but with the understanding that doing so has a cost. The general understanding should be that if you want to belong to the civilized world and don't want to be hounded to your destruction, then don't be targeting civilians. It is important to add that great restraint and discretion is needed in pursuing such an approach, because terrorism can be a tool to precipitate overreaction. But no party should be able to come out and threaten terrorism and expect to be regarded as fit partners in negotiation. If that approach had been strictly followed since the 1970s, we'd have seen a lot less terrorism.

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          You have a simplistic definition of intention. There is a difference between an attack on civilians whose main intent is to kill those civilians, and a military attack whose main intent is in some way military, but predictably will kill civilians, as you say.

          That predictability constitutes a form of intent -- a different one, but still intent. The difference shrinks under international law of war if the military force and likelihood of civilian casualties is disproportionate to the military objective to be gained; sufficient disproportion and it becomes a war crime.

          If you know your action is going to have consequence and you do it anyway, that is a form of intention even if it's not your main motive.

          In my own view the difference also shrinks if the predictable consequences also are predictably ineffective because they repeatedly have been so in the past, or if the bad secondary consequences repeatedly have been larger than intended or expected.

          That still doesn't justify pure attacks on civilians. But it makes revenge motives "understandable." Think back to invocations of atomic weapons and calls to completely flatten Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in NYC and DC. I could "understand" them though I found them alien, and wrong.

          Understandable ≠ rational, contra Pat Ryan -- often we need to understand others' irrationalities, which also doesn't mean approve of them. It may help us avoid provoking them needlessly.

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            ...often we need to understand others' irrationalities, which also doesn't mean approve of them. It may help us avoid provoking them needlessly.

            Precisely. Very well said.

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    We watched the first two "Millenium" movies this weekend,(in Swedish with subtitles), and there's a great line in there where Michael, the publisher of the lefty mag, has just been rescued from a horrible death by a serial killer. He tells Lisbeth, his rescuer about how the 60 year old killer was forced into it by his father when he was just 16 years old. Lisbeth, who knows something about abuse herself, tells Michael, "This bastard just tried to kill you. Don't you dare make him out to be a victim. We all choose."

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    ""Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs, to appeal to our fear and to our guilt – is it good for the world? To terrify children with the image of hell ... to consider women an inferior creation. Is that good for the world?" -Chris Hitchens

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      Trolling again, Josh?

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        The truth hurts, I know. Think you can you actually provide something w/ substance or just name-calling? What's your answer to Hitchen's question?

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          Hey… instead of the FBI recruiting/shopping for terrorist suspects at Portland area high schools, they should go to the Special Olympics instead.

          Lots of potential trusting dupes for the FBI to recruit to be terrorists at Special Olympics events.

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          Are you an atheist like Chris Hitchens?

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          Why should I bother? You've set yourself up with your own strawman and provided your own answers.

          And neither you nor Hitchens show the ability to understand the complexities of faith, especially when you try to reduce it to such simplistic terms.

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            Now this is one of the most stupid responses I get. Atheists are not smart enough to understand religion...it's just to complex for us. If you want to criticize atheists, I wouldn't recommend going after intelligence...the evidence is against you, not that you care that much about scientific evidence. The fact is atheists are more likely to be smarter better educated. The Atheist rate for National Academy of Sciences, arguably the highest concentration of intelligence on the planet, is approximately 95%. I know it's a lot easier to simply claim something is to complex opposed to actually attempting to explain the unexplainable, however, I suggest not making such pathetic unsupported claims about the intelligence of evidence-loving people.

            I know your answer to Hitchen's question, your a Catholic. It's just interesting to see people try to explain their position. As you know, it's quite hard to defend this position.

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            Actually, according to the Pew Religious Knowledge survey, Atheists/Agnostics know more about religion than any other group of the faithful. Kinda shoots your lame ass argument out of the water.

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          And, additionally, proof-texting is a lousy means of argument, whether you use the Bible or whether you use Hitchens or Dawkins. It's still proof-texting.

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          Ill try Josh. Perhaps "religion" is too big a concept to blanket condemn. It might be like saying "axes" are horrible, because they have been used to chop up so many people. It's true, but they have also chopped a lot of wood.

          Certainly "religion", as many sins that have been committed in it's name, has also taught/allowed people to see some higher value in the "other" before. If folks think they can see some image of god in their enemy, they are less able to strike, even if that god isn't real, by your terms.

          Perhaps if you consider "religion" as a tool instead of an absolute, a verb instead of a noun, a more full picture of it will open up to you (not even as a "believer" but just as a policy/strategy participant). Certainly it has comforted a lot of hurting and even dying folks before. Indeed, maybe it's all about the intent one approaches it with, to justify some underlaying anger, frustration or hate or to engage "the mystery" is honest terms.

          Hate the player, not the game...

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        Josh is the consummate troll ...he bastardizes every single event in order to further his misguided hate filled rhetoric

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      Are you an athiest like Hitchens?

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      Josh, I appreciate the Hitchens quote, but it seems to me that the problem doesn't go away when someone's ultimate beliefs don't involve God. People are still likely to think that their ideology puts them in the right and that if not God, then nature is on their side.

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        Very true. It's not the nature of the belief, it's the nature of what the person holding the power believes they're entitled to.

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        You're missing the point. Try to talk an atheist into flying a plane into a skyscraper, blowing up a crowd of women and children, or assassinating doctors...I'm guessing you won't get very far. You'll probably want to discuss a proposition like this w/ people who think they may be rewarded w/ "paradise" or "heaven" by their "creator."

        The problem, is a result of numerous factors, faith being one of them. Faith creates a unique brand of lunacy impossible w/ out it.

        If you like Hitchens, I would recommend reading some Sam Harris.

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          It doesn't appear to have been very difficult to coax atheists to round up various enemies of the socialist state, be they Kulaks in Russia or simply people with glasses who might be troublesome intellectuals in Cambodia. Who was it that coined that saying about the need to break eggs to make an omelet? There are cold murderers and fanatical murders. Maybe the religious atrocities are more likely to be "hot" than "cold," compared to the atheist atrocities, but there are passionate fanatics among atheists as well.

          I can't remember if it was Joyce or somebody else who made the point that it's more about what people think they're entitled to do than whether they're believers or atheists, but I think that's right.

          The average Western atheist is not to be feared, but neither is the average church-goer.

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      Me thinks people are just taking time to hate on Christians as they can't be PC and hate on other people any more. It is very poor form, but not surprising...

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        Hitchens' quote says nothing about Christians. It refers to a "deity." That deity could just as well be Allah.

        Atheists can do evil, but only a believer can convince himself he's doing evil for the sake of God.

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          Believers in any deity can do evil, but only atheists can convince themselves that their evil appetite for destruction is actually for the the betterment of mankind. Certainly Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and their ilk needed no deity in order to decimate millions "for the public good."

          Whether it's in the name of some god or for the unwashed masses makes no difference in terms of evil. Trying to create a some measurable scale of evil in terms of belief systems is errant nonsense.

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            but only atheists can convince themselves that their evil appetite for destruction is actually for the the betterment of mankind.

            What blather. Almost every religious war in all of human history was carried out be people who thought they were carrying out the will of god for the betterment of mankind.

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              The point isn't that "believers in deities" don't aim to "better mankind," it is simply that whether there is a deity involved or not, the evil perpetrated is still, quite simply, evil.

              And you're right, that quote IS blather - intentionally. I simply quoted his own rhetoric back at him in a common demonstration that the reasoning is... well, geeze, can't think of a better word, blather.

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          Ok we can play that game. Me think people are taking the time to hate on everyone who believes in a higher power. It makes no difference to me. Hate is hate and instead of agreeing hate is wrong, you try justify the statement by saying it is more encompassing than I suggested. Again, not surprised one bit.

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          "Allah" is the same deity that Jews and Christians worship as well. All three religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) worship the same Abrahamic god.

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          Hitchens had a great deal to do with the promotion of the term Islamo-fascists, if he didn't coin it himself.

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        Me thinks you no read good.

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    The official U.S. government definition of terrorism says that terrorism can only be committed by non-governmental groups.

    A complete load of garbage and also would make Orwell proud!

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      I suspect that's to differentiate it from hostile acts by sovereign governments, which would be old fashioned war-making. Not very sensational but life's like that.

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        Mr. O'Donnell: please elucidate on the waste of pixellation that you just inflicted upon us.

        So, there's supposed to be some reason why there needs to be a differentiation as to who is committing attacks against civilians and, if it's just "the old-fashioned war-making", that's not very exciting?

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          Stephen, it's a matter of category. There's no necessary moral difference, but there are technical and practical differences that have an impact on the available options to those attacked. I would have thought this was obvious.

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          Stephen every time you speak you subtract from sum of all human knowledge ...you must have learned it from Carla

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        So when we funded the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, or funded terrorist groups that attack Iran from within on an ongoing basis, is that terrorism or "war-making"...?

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    Wounded Knee, 1890. Not terrorism, according to official definition.

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    On the other hand, release of captive animals is increasingly defined as terrorism. Or, sabotage of forestry equipment is increasingly defined as terrorism.

    But, IDF bombing of fish-in-barrel Gazans a couple of winters back: according to offical definition: NOT TERRORISM.

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      This is just silly. Defining terrorism as non-state action doesn't mean you can't characterize a state's action as an atrocity or war crime.

      However, it would seem that any military action that you don't support is "terrorism" to you.

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        Terrorism are violent acts (either threatened or carried out) intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes.

        Whether they are carried out by non-governmental groups or persons, or by a state and/or its military, is not a bright line. It has been, and continues to be often a line of demarcation (state vs. non-state) bordering on a distinction without a difference.

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          That's fine, Mitch. The argument here was about some official definition. I have no problem with describing state actions as terrorism. I trust you take my point that there are different practical (not ethical) implications of acts by state or non-state actors.

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            There is no official definition. The term is contentious, often controversial and is simply to ill-defined to mean much "officially".

            Arson to stop the usability of logging equipment has been "officially" termed "terrorism" yet bombing in population centers as "collective punishment" or "shock and awe" has not.

            I posit the line is blurred at best, so seeking a bright-line definition is rather a quixotic exercise.

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              The distinction between state and non-state actors is an important one for reasons I've already stated.

              The term "terrorism" is indeed erroneous when applied to sabotage.

              It's not had to draw a clear line between setting logging equipment on fire or setting people on fire.

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    I guess were gonna have to ban the FBI from Special Olympics ceremonies and events. Can't have the FBI shopping for trusting dupes at for their next big terrorist bust at Special Olympics events.

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    I wish the FBI had been able to prevent the right wing terrorist bombing of a bank and the murder of two police officers in Woodburn as well. There are a lot of Timothy McVeigh rabid righties out there. The Turnidges considered McVeigh a hero and role model.

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    "I guess its cool to hate on Portland....or something."

    I'm a New Yorker who lives here about half the time. Would someone explain to me why people get so insulted when you suggest that their region might not be of great interest to terrorists? It seems like "unlikely to be a terrorist target" would be the sort of thing local citizens would be bragging on.

    That said, the fact that this kid was interested in bombing a large public gathering in Portland (Seattle and San Francisco are both about a day's drive from Corvallis, and L.A.'s within two days; who decides it's worth killing themselves for a great cause, but not worth driving all day?) was (to me, at least) the initial tip-off that there was something not quite right about the FBI's story.

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      Exactly. Makes you wonder about what role the PDX past lack of desire to participate in Homeland Security issues is playing a part in all this?

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    10,000 Christians is a pretty good target ...he lived in beaverton! not Corvallis

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      There were many Muslims in that crowd, including the children of a local Muslim imam. This was just killing for killing's sake, by some disturbed psychopath who wanted to hurt someone and get his face in the media. He succeeded in that latter, but for being a disgusting coward and not a hero.

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        This was killing for Allah's sake. It's not as if this was an isolated event. Why pretend that it was? The presence of other Muslims doesn't seem to matter much to the jihadis, though this guy might not have expected them to be at this particular gathering.

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          Same can be said for abortion clinic bombings, killing in the name of "Allah" and doesn't matter that there could be people there that are not seeking abortion services (planned parenthood does more than just abortions BTW).

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            I agree, though there's vastly more Muslim killing of infidels than Christian killing of abortionists.

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              This may be true--but I'm not sure why it's relevant.

              I could note that the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda (a Christian organization that uses God as an excuse to murder people and force children to fight for them) is responsible for just as many deaths as extremist Muslims killing "infidels". But it doesn't make what extremist Muslims do any better or the Christian group any worse.

              They're all bad. I think parsing it out into degrees doesn't help.

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                I think it does help to distinguish between what is a big problem and what is a small one.

                I read somewhere that there have been more cases of abortion bombings on Law & Order than in real life. That doesn't mean that abortion bombings (and personal threats, which are more numerous) aren't serious, but it's a problem that differs in both magnitude and type.

                There is vastly more Islamist violence in the world today than there is militant Christian violence. Furthermore, if we are to look at the domestic instance we're talking about, anti-abortion violence is based on one particular thing within our culture and focused on a very small number of potential victims. Anti-infidel violence is based on a repudiation of our culture generally and makes victims of everyone.

                I don't know much about religious conflict in Uganda, but I find it interesting that the group cited is called the Lord's RESISTANCE Army. Is it not interesting that they define themselves by what they must react to? It could be a euphemism, but then we can look in so many places in the world and see Christians and others under pressure from Muslim aggression. In so many conflicts what we see in common in so many conflicts is not Christian militancy but Islamic militancy, and it's not surprising that there should be resistance to it. As Samuel Huntington once said, "Islam has bloody borders." Christians, Hindus, animists, secularists and even Buddhists may sometimes commit equally heinous atrocities, but clearly there is a problem with Muslim aggression in the world, and terrorism strictly defined is only one manifestation of it.

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                  The Lord's Resistance Army is not a "small problem". It's huge--large enough that the Obama Administration is considering going in and disarming them. They commit acts of terror under most any definition of "terrorism". And they do so in the name of the Christian God.

                  Your perception that acts of violence committed by Muslim-affiliated individuals or organizations is much greater than others is likely more based in US media reporting than reality.

                  I agree that there are Christians in some places that are under pressure from Muslim aggression. But there are Muslims under aggression from Jews and Christians in other places. The "they're worse than us" mentality seems to be to be an excuse, rather than an actual attempt to solve the issues.

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                    Your perception that Muslim violence is on a par is likely more based in your preconceptions — and on your dependence on US media reporting, which under reports such incidents just as it does under reports global news in general.

                    There are Christians under pressure from Muslim aggression, there are Jews under pressure Muslim aggression, there are Buddhists under pressure from Muslim aggression, there are animists under pressure from Muslim aggression and there are secularists under pressure from Muslim aggression. If you take a survey of conflicts around the world, you'll find Muslims involved in most of them.

                    People who believe that it's OK to murder civilians — men, women and children — for the greater glory of God and the global success of their religion are worse than those who believe that we must find an overarching pluralistic rationale in support of peaceful coexistence.

                    What I find odd is that these criticisms of a supposed"they're worse than us" attitude — along with criticisms of taking a minor threat too seriously — come up when discussing Muslim militancy but not when discussing right-wing or Christian militancy, here or abroad.

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      Actually he was living in Corvallis and taking classes at OSU. He was previously in the Beaverton School District but its unlikely that he lived in the city limits of Beaverton, given the high school that he attended. Westview HS serves mostly unincorporated Washington County.

      There's no evidence this guy was targeting Christians..and all these random, silly comments you've left here don't change that.

      It's reasonable that a high percentage of those in attendance weren't Christian--and there's no evidence yet showing that this boy was specifically going after those of the Christian faith.

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    It's deeply irresponsible to suggest that the FBI brought this guy to do it. They gave him every chance to back out, reminded him of the death of innumerable innocents, and basically did everything to get him to re-think it. Despite this, this "kid" fully expected to kill hundreds, if not thousands. If they hadn't contacted him, eventually he would have been successful in partnering with foreign terrorists. Psychopaths may indeed be "disturbed" but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't treat them like criminals when they try to kill people.

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      I concur.

      As others have noted, what is laudable in this is that this was a successful LAW ENFORCEMENT operation which didn't involve invading countries with dubious and/or outright false justifications which do little to actually address the issue of terrorism or the root causes of anti-American/western animus.

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      It's true, though.

      The kid wanted to leave Portland, go to Alaska and get a job.

      The FBI blocked the kid from getting on a plane and getting a job elsewhere.

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    Please see Bill Ryan's post two above. After over 100 posts he has captured the essence of the story as we know it right now. A young man in a cowardly act of jihad (his own words) dought to muder and maim untold numbers of people. There was no relationship to those peoples' race, religion or nationality. the only denominator was they were all crowded into portland to share a secular celebration.

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    Not to diminish the stealthy and heroic FBI efforts to nab another terrorist mastermind cunningly disguised as a Somali-born, gangly legged, angst filled, pimply faced teen rapper, if keeping America safe is the aim, don't make more enemies. Winning hearts and minds and all that. Maybe he needed friends and intervention, not a setup.

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      Classic. The attempted murder of a large crowd is a cry for help. I'm sure we could have had a great laugh at unflattering descriptions of the London transit bombers. No doubt they were awkward, pudgy nerds or something.

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        Too often, these terror plots have turned out to be pretty farcical... the seven 'dudes' in a warehouse come to mind. Rather than leading disturbed people and teenagers on and detracting from finding more significant threats (where is bin laden?) we might all be safer if our infrastructure was cared after.

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          We can only rejoice when bomb plots turn out to be only farcical and not also deadly. Arguably the first WTC bombing was more farcical than the attempt in Portland, what with the Blind Sheik and his bumbling accomplices who couldn't get it quite right. People still died. No doubt there were laughable aspects of those "disturbed" members of the Turnige family. But we should just laugh that off and care after our infrastructure.

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            So an actual bombing that actually killed people (six people to be precise) is more "farcical" than a n FBI sting operation using an inert dummy explosive device?

            Um, ok.

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              My point is actually quite close to the one you're making here. The "farce factor" is all to easy to adduce when these operations don't succeed. In fact, there was more of a Keystone Cops flavor to the first WTC bombing than there was to the incident in question, and it made people take the threat less seriously.

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                Who took "the threat" less seriously? Those who perpetrated the 1993 WTC are in Federal prison without a possibility of parole.

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                  I personally took the threat less seriously and I think policy-makers and the general public did, based on my recollection of the time. It was a nasty event, but there was comfort in the apparent incompetence of the actors.

                  The fact that the normal law enforcement process went on in a pretty clear cut domestic case doesn't change that.

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                    I personally took the threat less seriously and I think policy-makers and the general public did

                    Maybe you did, but policy makers didn't. Witness the Clinton administration trying to go after Al Qeada (then in Sudan). And for that, the Clinton administration was harangued by the GOP and the media as "wagging the dog" and that he launched missile strikes against Usama bin Ladin as a way top distract form the erupting Monica Lewinsky "scandal".

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                I guess that should have been "Keystone Kops."

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          So you prefer that we wait until they are trained operational jihaditsts who we might miss.

          His intent was to work in Alaska to get money to go to Yemen for training. You engage these people when the opportunity presents itself. Hell, the FBI tried talking him out of this numerous times, but he was committed to the cause. Don't forget, he sent the detonation signal TWICE.

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      I'm sure he'll have lots of friends and intervention ... in prison.

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      I have heard on the news several times that it was his family that alerted DHS about him.

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      it seems even Glenn Greenwald agrees with me

      http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/11/28/fbi/index.html

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    I find it very fascinating how many comments are on this thread, given all the other topics discussed here at BO.

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    "Terrorism" these days is a very loaded word. I think there's a propaganda reason as to why the word is selectively used- just today, for example, a GOP Congressperson (Peter King, I think) said he intends to see Wikileaks classified as a "terrorist" organization.

    Which is why I was making a big deal in arguing with Anthony Robert O'Donnell about official usage of the word "terrorism".

    When "atrocities" or "war crimes" or other such terms become the common currency and carry the loaded aspect that "terrorism " does, then maybe using those words would have equal weight.

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    For example, protesters at the '08 GOP convention in St. Paul were charged, under the Patriot Act, with "terrorism enhancement" activity.

    So, my line of posting was to point out that official military can do just about anything and get away with it in the minds of many who follow the official propaganda, but at the same time the official propaganda labels mere protest wity the most incendiary term.

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      I agree wholeheartedly that language can be debased and that the meaning of words can suffer an inflation that makes them increasingly less meaningful.

      It would be interesting to know the particulars of the case you cite. Can you provide them?

      Now, we should be vigilant about the abuse of language facilitating the abuse of power, but surely there is no difficulty in using the word terrorism when referring to a plot to blow up a truck of explosives next to a crowd of civilians minding their own business.

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        They arrested Amy Goodman too, which IMO is just stupid, propaganda-wise.

        http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/09/rnc-protesters.html

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      Glenn Greenwald, at least, agrees with you and me

      http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/11/28/fbi/index.htm

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      It's barely possible that we can simultaneously understand the motivation of the security state's efforts to control more of our lives, while condemning the actions of the crazy person intent on killing thousands of innocent civilians, gathered to celebrate our own state religion of consumerism.

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    GOP wants wikileaks on the terrorism watch list.

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    This is my answer to Mr. Donnell (for some reason the "reply" field is not functional):

    Yes, Mr. O'Donnell, a plot to kill civilians could lead to there being an actual act of terrorism. But, in this case, there was absolutely no chance of that happening. The only "terrorism" that results from such an FBI-hatched plot is the fear that is stoked in the minds of Americans.

    Compare this zero chance of death with the ongoing, actual murder of civilians in Afghanistan and NW Pakistan.

    And I say the military has no idea who they're shooting at with the remote-controlled drones: As evidence of this, I would point up the fact that Gen. Petraus himself was recently bilked out of a large sum of cash by an imposter who was posing as #2 in command in the Taliban. If Petraus himself can't identify the #2 in the Taliban, do you think the drone-remote-jockeys in Nevada have any idea who they're shooting at?

    And, so, such blatant disregard for civilian life could be called by many different labels, but it's clear that the reality of it is much more heinous than an FBI-manufactured plot in PDX.

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      It's not the policy of the U.S. military to target civilians, and in fact the U.S. forces take great precautions to avoid civilian casualties. The people they're fighting against deliberately kill civilians.

      Your comments about the FBI and the Portland bomber are incoherent. One failed attempt to commit an act of mass murder and terrorism hardly cancels out those that succeeded and may succeed yet. You display a stunning bias (and probably willing self-deception) by characterizing one side by its military operations — conducted under strict rules of engagement — and making a comparison with the enemy focusing on a failed plot and leaving out the many successful ones, which have killed thousands.

      Regarding your captious arguments relating to Petraeus, et al, if military rules of engagement required certainty in every case, there would never be any military actions.

      But of course you play a "heads I win, tails you lose game." Rather than give credit for the many bad guys killed by the American forces you'll find some other rationale for criticizing it.

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    And I think Chester Vanderbilt needs to enlist and put his body where his mouth is.

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    Mr. O'Donnell believing that U.S. operations are conducted under strict rules of engagement is exactly why we needed Wikileaks and the exposes of the daily communiques from Afghanistan.

    And, yeah, we've been told all our lives that the U.S. military does not intentionally target civilians, to which I say that not being careful at whom you shoot missiles or bomb is tantamount to intentional attack on civilians, as the important fact, that being dead noncombatants, is the same.

    I remember the U.S. military dropping on SE Asia 3x the tonnage of all ordnance that was used by all sides in World War 2! I remember the U.S. military dropping one thousand pounds of ordnance for every human in Laos (the U.S. bombed Laos from 1964-73).

    Sure, Mr. O'Donnell, one thousand lbs. for evry person, but, OF COURSE, in your mind, the U.S. hasn't intentionally target civilians.

    You are living in a dreamworld.

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      I've been talking about recent activity, not history. This is not to say that I endorse your tactic of going searching for what can be said about the U.S. and emphasizing that over any counter evidence and interpretation. I can see the pleasure that it gives you.

      If you want to argue that war creates an opportunity for atrocities. Fine, it does. If you want to say that the rules of engagement are sometimes violated. Fine, they sometimes are. If you claim that there aren't rules of engagement and historically very strict ones at that, you're clearly not looking at the issue with an unjaundiced eye.

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        No, Mr. O'Donnell, I derive no pleasure from the fact of the USA routinely doing things to other countries that, if done to the USA itself, would be viewed in the most serious terms.

        And if you think that hasn't gone on and isn't still going on, then you have no clue.

        How'd you like some depleted uranium scattered around our area, to affect the conditions of future births, as just one example of the hundreds of examples that are ongoing and that the USA would not tolerate having done to itself?

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    "...the many bad guys klled by American forces."

    Yeah, sure- tell you what, Mr. O'Donnell: why don't you do some reading about the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since the mid-'70s and find out how that country has suffered due to the whims of Washington.

    Check with Professor Zahar Wahab, at Lewis & Clark U.- ask him if his country deserves what the U.S. has inflicted upon it.

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    Here's a place to start:

    http://www.globalrea\search.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html

    Read how Zbignew Brzezsinski (who has been an advisor to Obama, too) oversaw the luring of the USSR into Afghanistan. Afghanistan had had a leftist government that was not really closely allied with the USSR, but the USA would not stand even for that!

    And so, after having lured in the USSR (which did not really want to undertake the operation), the USA then organized the Mujahudeen, which was the parent organization of al-Qaeda.

    Which is all tragic for Afghanistan, as the Takari regime was decidly secular: even had women dressing in western wear in Kabul and going to university.

    But, no, that wasn't good enough for the USA, and the result has been thirty years of war in Afghanistan.

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