It would be nice if our politicians paid attention to the strategies of other nations.

More than nice, actually. Call it due diligence.

Ali K. Chishti: ISI is widely misunderstood. It’s not rogue.

In fact, it’s a fit unit who has learned the art of maneuvering. It’s obviously run by its separate directorates but acts on the policy guidelines of the Pakistan Military Chief. If you need to understand the working of ISI, I will give you one example — a section of the ISI is deputed to protect Mullah Omar and another is working with the US to catch him.

That is ISI for you.

Pakistan, since its inception, has been a security state governed by fear of India. The 1971 partition of its Eastern bloc — Bangladesh — forever tarnished the ideology of Pakistan. Because of this, the Pakistani security establishment (military) started creating various proxies from Kashmir to Afghanistan to Nepal and, of course, they made the atomic bomb to forever protect national integrity at the cost of food, education and basic facilities.

The whole security establishment of Pakistan is India-specific. And with the increasing influence of China on Pakistan and on its military, the Pakistanis have started relying on China more than the U.S.

U.S. and Pakistan’s strategic, economic and military interests cannot be one in this region. It’s not the “coalition of the willing.” It’s a forced marriage bound to break anytime. Pakistan would never want stability in Afghanistan.

A former ISI chief told me, “Son, we need to keep Yank interests alive to get dollars rolling in.” And that has, unfortunately, been the psyche of Pakistanis.

– from an interview at Carl Prine’s Line of Departure blog. I got carried away in the comments section over there. Oops.

I’ve covered this particular example of “rent-seeking” as national strategy (or part of a national strategy) before at ChicagoBoyz:

“America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,” was Jinnah’s reply. “Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed” — he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles — “the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.”

He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. “Russia,” confided Mr. Jinnah, “is not so very far away.”

Want another one? This one is a doozy:

The clearest evidence of the Iran link came in January 1990, when Pakistan’s army chief of staff conveyed his threat to arm Iran to a top Pentagon official. Henry S. Rowen, at the time an assistant defense secretary, said Pakistani Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg issued the warning in a face-to-face meeting in Pakistan. “Beg said something like, ‘If we don’t get adequate support from the U.S., then we may be forced to share nuclear technology with Iran,'” said Rowen, now a professor at Stanford University. Rowen said former President Bush’s administration did little to follow up on Beg’s warning. “In hindsight, maybe before or after that they did make some transfers,” Rowen said. Rowen said he told Beg that Pakistan would be “in deep trouble” if it gave nuclear weapons to Iran. Rowen said he was surprised by the threat because at the time Americans thought Pakistan’s secular government dominated by Sunni Muslims wouldn’t aid Iran’s Shiite Muslim theocracy. “There was no particular reason to think it was a bluff, but on the other hand, we didn’t know,” Rowen said.

Emphasis mine. But you know what? I’m sick of this topic. The foreign policy establishment in Washington – right and left, both – is a little bit in love with its supposed awesomeness. As a group, they are incapable of sense. And all that aid money we gave Pakistan after 2001? The generals went and made more nukes with it. Brilliant, Republican and Democratic foreign policy mandarins of the DC establishment. You guys are stone cold geniuses.


In 2008, Tim Pawlenty participated in a radio ad (with Janet Napolitano!) calling for Congress to implement legislation to cap “greenhouse gas” emissions. He talked about how this would create New Jobs in Clean Energy Industries.

These jobs, along with the companies “creating” them, would of course, be highly subsidized–either directly, or through higher energy prices, or, most likely, both, and the subsidies would not come from the Magical Money Machine, but rather would be extracted from elsewhere in the economy–thereby reducing jobs creation in the “elsewhere” sectors. Ask the people of Spain how that has been working out for them.

One sector that is particularly sensitive to energy costs is manufacturing. The number of manufacturing jobs destroyed through policies raising energy costs is likely to be much higher than the number of manufacturing jobs added to make wind turbines and such.

The reality is that “creating jobs” is not very difficult if that’s all you want to do. You can pay people to dig holes and fill them up again, or implement something like the elevator safety and economic opportunity act, thereby creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for elevator operators. The trick rather lies in creating jobs which expand the economy rather than shrink it. One would hope a Republican candidate for President would understand these points. I have to wonder if Pawlenty is familiar with the Parable of the Broken Window, as explained by the French economist Frederic Bastiat way back in 1850.

Some people think that reduction in CO2 is so critical that it justifies a permanent reduction in the American standard of living. If they really believe that, they should make the argument honestly and produce the evidence. But to argue that we can force a shift to much-more-costly forms of energy production and, by doing so, make the economy thrive, is either ignorant or disingenous.

Pawlenty’s participation in this ad does make me wonder about his understanding of energy and economics; it also raises concerns about his susceptibility to trendy but questionable ideas.

Plus, should a nice Republican boy really be hanging around with someone like Janet Napolitano?

Inspire #5: between front and back covers

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]


Okay. When what goes into the opening paragraphs of an editor’s note at the front of a magazine corresponds pretty exactly to what’s on the back cover, you have a sort of conceptual bracket that’s “holding” the rest of the content, and it pays to pay attention.

Here are the first paras of the “Letter from the Editor” that is featured on page 5 of the latest issue of AQAP’s English language magazine, Inspire, immediately after the front cover and index pages:

The cover of this issue is about the Tsunami of change that is sweeping the Arab world. With the removal of the despots, the ummah will speak its voice, and when it does, it will chant: Here we start and in al-Aqsa we’ll meet.The biggest barrier between the mujahidin and freeing al-Aqsa were the tyrant rulers. Now that the friends of America and Israel are being mopped out one after the other, our aspirations are great that the path between us and al-Aqsa is clearing up.
There could be no freeing of Palestine with the presence of the likes of King Abdullah to the East, Hosni Mubarak to the West and al-Saud to the South. Now that Hosni is gone, we heard the Imam of the Friday prayers praying: “O Allah we ask you to allow us to meet in al-Aqsa,” and the millions in Tahrir square roared with one voice: Amin.

Note that this explicitly ties the front cover (“about the Tsunami of change that is sweeping the Arab world”) with the back (“Here we start and in al-Aqsa we’ll meet”), shown here:


[ graphic courtesy of Ibn Siqilli ]

As I’ve noted before, al-Aqsa isn’t just the focal point of the Palestinian / Israeli question, nor it is only the place at which the Prophet alighted from his steed, Buraq, and ascended to receive the divine instructions for prayer in the Miraj — it is also the destination of the Mahdi‘s victorious army in the Khorasan strand of ahadith.

Indeed, it has been suggested that the Pierced Rock of the Dome of the Rock in al-Aqsa is closely related to the Black Stone of the Kaaba. Kanan Makiya, in his part-fictional part-documentary book, The Rock, quotes Charles Matthews‘ translation of Burhan al-Din ibn Firka al-Fazari‘s Kitab Ba’ith al-Nufus ila Ziyarat al-Quds al-Mahrus (The Book of Arousing Souls to Visit Jerusalem’s Holy Walls) from Matthews’ Palestine: Mohammedan Holy Land:

Verily, the Kaaba is in an equivalent position to the Frequented House in the Seventh Heaven, to which the angels of Allah make pilgrimage. And if rocks fell from it, they would have fallen on the place of the Rock of the Temple of Mecca [i.e. the Black Stone]. And indeed, Paradise is in the Seventh Heaven in an equivalent position to the Holy Temple (in Jerusalem) and the Rock; and if a rock had fallen from it, it would have fallen upon the place of the Rock there. And for this case the city is called Urushalim, and Paradise is called Dar al-Salam, the House of Peace.

Indeed, David Roxburgh mentions all these matters, writing in Salma Khadra Jayyusi et al., The city in the Islamic world, vol. 1. p 756:

This movement corresponded to other efforts — before, during, and after the Crusades — to establish “geo-theological” connections between Jerusalem and Mecca, whose preeminent sanctity was inviolable up until the end of days. Examples linking Mecca to Jerusalem include the Prophet Muhammad’s nocturnal journey from Mecca to Jerusalem (isra) and his ascension from Jerusalem to the throne of God (miraj); the underground joining of the waters of Zamzam to Silwan (var. Siloam) during the “feast of the sacrifice” (id al-adha); and the transfer of the Kaba and its black stone from Mecca to Jerusalem during the last days. these various traditions linked Jerusalem to Mecca, sometimes by sets of doubled features, in a near symmetry and in a calendar that will culminate during the end of days.

So there’s an eschatological dimension to all these parallelisms, too…


And if for no other reason, then because I happen to love doubled features, symmetries and analogies of all sorts (and we were already speaking of graphics and Inspire #5), let me add this:

A tweet from @webradius via @azelin that I saw today noted that “the cover of Inspire 5 is remarkably similar to a wikileaks logo”.

I liked it. And I’ve translated it here into my own DoubleQuotes format:


For those who are unfamiliar with the phrase, graphic match is another term for match cut — the gambit whereby one shot in a movie is directly juxtaposed to another with which it bears a close resemblance – essentially, a film director’s equivalent of rhyme.

Wikipedia gives two classic examples which are of particular interest to me because there is a “rhyme” between them, too, albeit a far more indirect one – the second being an hommage to the first.

Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey contains a famous example of a match cut. After an ape discovers the use of bones as a tool and a weapon, there is a match cut to a spacecraft or satellite in orbit. The match cut helps draw a connection between the two objects as exemplars of primitive and advanced tools respectively.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger‘s A Canterbury Tale contains the influence for the 2001: A Space Odyssey match cut in which a fourteenth century falcon cuts to a World War II aeroplane. The sense of time passing but nothing changing is emphasised by having the same actor, in different costumes, looking at both the falcon and the aeroplane.



Parallelisms really are worth watching — always bearing in mind that one thing is never quite the same as another…

Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]


Issue #5 of the AQAP magazine Inspire is now available for viewing.

I am reasonably confident that with attention focused on such things as al-Awlaki‘s response to the various uprisings across the middle east, the delightful computer graphic (a throw back to the era of green print on black screens) which shows Ben Ali and Mubarak “booted” and Gadhafi and Saleh “in progress” – and the translation of a chunk of Abu Musab as-Suri on “Individual Terrorism Jihad and the Global Islamic Resistance Units” – a lot of eyes will glaze over during the course of reading “My Life In Fallujah” (pp. 56 ff).

The piece sounds promising – something to read about Fallujah from the enemy viewpoint for after action / lessons learned purposes… but then it gets into miracles:

The brothers received extraordinary miracles from Allah as a sign to strengthen them and these miracles were in all different forms. It got to the point where some of the things that occurred might not have been believable to the brothers had they not seen them with their own eyes but that is the grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He wills.

… and my bet is that snoring ensues…

Though not among the readers to whom it is pitched.


What if we don’t regard the piece as a mirror for our own knowledge of events in Fallujah, but as an opening into the enemy’s grand narrative and – gasp – spirituality?

The piece continues:

Now let me relate some of the stories of fighting with the enemy and the miracles some of the brothers received. I will start mentioning some of these great miracles
There was a brother named Abu az-Zubair as-Sana’ani. He was killed at the beginning days of the battle. We used to go out in the daytime to engage with the enemy. Hardship and severe exhaustion were afflicting us due to the hot weather that was in the beginning of Ramadan.
So that brother came at the time of afternoon and sought permission from the Amir to break his fast. Some brothers advised him to have patience and suggested to him that he could have a shower and then rest for a while. The brother went inside to sleep out of fatigue and we were sitting in front of that house. The brother didn’t sleep long and we saw him coming out towards us with a cheerful face saying to us that he had seen a dream while he was asleep. The brothers asked him what was it; he told them that he saw a very beautiful woman coming to him, carrying a plate full of all kinds of fruits. She was waking him up, standing by his head and telling him: O Abu az-Zubair, don’t break your fast. You are invited to break your fast with us today. The brother then said that he felt comfort and relief. There was a brother called Abu Tariq who interpreted dreams so he told him that by Allah’s will, it will be something good. After that the brother decided to continue fasting.
We had a timetable for twelve people to cook food and that day was his turn. He went to the kitchen and we stayed outside, sitting next to the wall of that house so that we weren’t seen by the spy planes. We stayed there until it was about time to break fast. Suddenly an F-16 jet showed up in the horizon and targeted that kitchen with a missile where that brother was! A while after when the dust had settled, we went in the kitchen and saw that brother had been martyred. It was amazing how the smell of musk was all over the room, how the smile was on his face!
Thereupon the brothers’ moral was raised and they were making takbir. These were from the unforgettable moments.

It seems wise to compare this with the Miracle of Uthmaan recounted by Abdullah Azzam on p. 27 of his book, The signs of Ar-Rahmaan in the Jihad of Afghanistan — indeed, I’m surprised Inspire didn’t make the connection:

One morning Uthmaan (ra) said: Last night I saw Rasulullah sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam in my dream, and he said: Oh Uthmaan, break your fast with us. He was martyred that same day, whilst in the state of fasting.

If one considers such stories not as “superstitious” or examples of “magical thinking” – one easy way to discount them – nor as “diabolic” and emblematic of a “false religion” – another – if, in fact, one reads them with some empathy for their content as faith-narratives, they are profoundly moving, and will no doubt be so to many of their intended readers.

This particular narrative – an earthly fast broken in heaven – could well be a motif in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folkloric motifs.

Note also the reliance on dreams and dream interpretation – a reliance which also figures prominently in the transcript of bin Laden‘s discussion of 9/11.


Another miracle was the incident of Abu Abd ar-Rahman at-Turki who was a student of knowledge that memorized the Qur’an and the six books of hadith. He was amongst a group that went out to confront a breakthrough of the enemy. While the brothers were gathered to organize a defensive plan, this brother made takbir and rushed towards the enemy. Some brothers called him back but he didn’t pay attention to their words. He shouted back to them saying “I am seeing the hoor! I am seeing the hoor!” When this brother reached the enemy’s area, he was shot by a tank shell leaving his lower body completely severed. Some brothers managed to drag him out of there to a safe house which I was in. Even though the brother was between consciousness and unconsciousness, he was still advising brothers to fear Allah and to keep firm upon the truth. His lower half was ripped out, yet he was still reassuring the brothers and would always raise his vision upwards telling them that he is seeing the hoor coming, and that they should keep firm because this is the path of jannah. At hearing that, the brothers’ spirits were high and they felt relieved. Abu Abd ar-Rahman declared the shahada and then kept fainting until his soul departed his body. At that point we smelled the musk coming out of him and saw peace on his face. This smell of musk from the mujahidin would be something that was smelt regularly.

This “smell of musk” too (also found in the story of Abu az-Zubair above) is a regular feature of martyrdom tales, and features in the same work by Azzam, for instance in this report:

Moulana Arsalaan narrated to me:A student named Abdul Baseer attained shahaadat while with us. It was very dark. Fathullah, another mujaahid, and I went in search of his body. He said to me: “Is the Shaheed close. I perceive a fragrant scent”. I picked up the scent, and we reached the body by following the scent. In the darkness, I could see a noor (light) in the blood, which was gushing forth from his wound.

Indeed, as I have pointed out before, this motif has a parallel in the Catholic tradition of the “odor of sanctity” – “the perfume-like scent given forth by the bodies of saints during their lifetime or after death … symbols of the fragrance of extraordinary virtue” [as defined in Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary].

It appears in the Arthurian legends, too, as Malory describes the death of Sir Lancelot – notice here, too, the motif of the joyous dream:

And so after midnight, against day, the Bishop [that] then was hermit, as he lay in his bed asleep, he fell upon a great laughter. And therewith all the fellowship awoke, and came to the Bishop, and asked him what he ailed. Ah Jesu mercy, said the Bishop, why did ye awake me? I was never in all my life so merry and so well at ease. Wherefore? said Sir Bors. Truly said the Bishop, here was Sir Launcelot with me with mo angels than ever I saw men in one day. And I saw the angels heave up Sir Launcelot unto heaven, and the gates of heaven opened against him. It is but dretching of swevens, said Sir Bors, for I doubt not Sir Launcelot aileth nothing but good. It may well be, said the Bishop; go ye to his bed, and then shall ye prove the sooth. So when Sir Bors and his fellows came to his bed they found him stark dead, and he lay as he had smiled, and the sweetest savour about him that ever they felt.


There was a brother named Abu Dujanah at-Taifi. As soon as he entered Fallujah at the beginning of the battle, he asked the brothers to let him go to the front lines but the brothers told him that he had to learn shooting first. He replied, “By Allah! I won’t be anywhere except the front lines.” His brother was present there so they agreed to his request and allowed him to go there.Thereupon he said: ”By Allah! If the Americans come forward, then Allah will see from us that which He loves.” He then went to stay inside a trench to keep an eye on the front lines.On the second day when he saw the enemy breaking through, he jumped out and got ready to strike them with an RPG but before he could fire it, he was struck by a tank, and as a result, his body was torn apart. His body stayed there for six days before we were able to retrieve it.
To our surprise, blood was still coming out of his body even though the weather was so hot that if you were to place a piece of meat outside for half a day, it would eventually get rotten.

His blood was seeping as if he was just killed and his index finger was in the position of tashahud [that section of Muslim prayer where the index finger is raised while reciting the shahada or confession of faith]. His brother was a little bit sad at hearing the news but once he saw his body, he felt so much comfort.

E Cobham Brewer’s Dictionary of Miracles: Imitative, Realistic, and Dogmatic looks to be a terrific source for the kind of research I’m doing here – that’s the “Brewer” of Brewer’s Dictionary of phrase and fable – and p 372 of the 1894 edition has a section on “Bodies of Saints Incorruptible” prefaced by a quotation from Psalm 16.10: “Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption”.

His body preserved, his finger raised in the gesture of salat … powerful.


Another incident that has to be mentioned is when the Americans were breaking-through from the direction of the Shuhada district. The brothers in that area were few in numbers so they were attacked fiercely and their lines were nearly broken but all praise be to Allah, it started drizzling all of a sudden, and then the brothers were strengthened and encouraged. The enemy was fleeing so we did not know whether they fled because of the brothers fighting or because they saw something else. The enemy acted as though they had been frightened by something. The brothers only numbered six. The enemy was massive as they were accompanied by tank corps and armoured vehicles but their withdrawal was bizarre. At that time we remembered the verse of the Qur’an where Allah says:
…And sent down upon you from the sky, rain by which to purify you and remove from you the evil [suggestions] of Shaytan and to make steadfast your hearts and plant firmly thereby your feet [8: 11].

Once again, the motif of merciful rain should not be unfamiliar to us – if not from the New Testament‘s “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” then at least from Shakespeare‘s “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath…”


How many references to literary analysis, or archetypal analysis for that matter, can you find in Heuer‘s classic Psychology of Intelligence Analysis?

BIG Day Today

Today, March 30, is Buy Israeli Goods day. BIG Day was established as a counter to the “Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions” movement, which aims to do Israel economic harm. Information about BIG Day, along with ideas about what to buy and where to buy it, at Robert Avrech’s blog.

Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions advocates have an annual event called “Israeli Apartheid Week” (actually 2 weeks long) which is “celebrated” on university campuses throughout the U.S. and Europe. See 14 days of vileness.

Buy Israeli products today if you can; if you can’t get to it, keep in mind the ideas at Robert’s blog and his links for future reference.