Saturday, August 25, 2007


This is just a brief update to let readers (if any) know that I have not forgotten about my blog. I've been fairly busy lately, but will hopefully do a real post in the near future.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

South Korean hostage talks 'fail'

Taliban officials have said they are deciding what to do with 19 captured aid workers after talks with a South Korean delegation in southern Afghanistan ended unsuccessfully.

"The talks ended without any result and have failed as our main demand was not accepted," Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, said on Saturday. The announcement came as the Afghan interior ministry said a German woman had been abducted by unidentified armed men in Kabul.

The woman was taken from an area in the southwest of the capital where several aid groups have offices, Zemarai Bashary, a spokesman for the ministry, said. Twenty-three Christian volunteers from South Korea were taken from a bus as they travelled on the main road south from Kabul last month.



The Taliban still hasn't decided what to do with them. Let us pray for their safe release.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Real Story of John Walker Lindh

I believe the case of John Lindh is an important story and worthy of this audience's attention. In simple terms, this is the story of a decent and honorable young man, embarked on a spiritual quest, who became the focus of the grief and anger of an entire nation over an event in which he had no part. I refer to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The reason I think this story is important is because our system broke down in the case of John Lindh. My goals today are first, just to tell you the story of John Lindh. Second, to ask you to reflect, based on the fact of John's case, on the importance and the fragility of the rights we enjoy under our Constitution. And my third point is to suggest that the so-called war on terrorism lacks a hearts and minds component.

I want to begin by asking you to call to mind the September 11th terrorist attacks and the shock and horror they engendered in the hearts of everyone. On that awful day, a band of terrorists, who claimed Islam as their cause, hijacked four airplanes and flew three of them full of passengers into occupied buildings without warning -- the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. They crashed the fourth airplane, also filled with passengers, into a field in Pennsylvania. Three thousand innocent Americans lost their lives that day.

But for those attacks, John's activities, which I will describe, would have been treated with indifference, or perhaps curiosity here in the United States. But, viewed through the prism of the September 11th attacks, those very same activities caused this young man to be vilified as a traitor and a terrorist.



When I was directed to this article, I was disgusted that the people who so directed me — people that I ordinarily have a very high opinion of — would defend such traitorous scum. Yes, I realize that the Bush administration has a very long and very accomplished history of lying, but that doesn't mean that the opposite of what he says is by default true. I was especially disgusted given how clear cut cut the facts of the matter were, and intended on telling them as such — in no uncertain terms — once I had read the article. It's a good thing I did decide to read the article first, because, to my great surprise, the article turned out not to be the wishful thinking of a parent in denial (e.g. "My little Johnny would never do something like that. He's a good kid!"), but rather a persuasive, well researched piece that just so happened to be written by the subject's father. To my great surprise, I learned that most of what I had been led to believe about the basic facts of the case was simply not true. I admit to not having followed his case closely — I had other things on my mind at the time, and was in any case much younger and less aware of current affairs — but I had been under the impression that Lindh had gone to Afghanistan after 9/11 in order to fight against our retribution for the attacks, that he had been captured in combat against American troops, and that he had been convicted of committing treason.

Nope. It turns out that he had gone to Afghanistan some time earlier in order to fight the Northern Alliance, who, it turns out, were supported by the Russians (i.e. the successors of the evil atheist empire that had invaded the Realm of Islam in an effort to supplant Islam with Communism, and against which a jihad — a real one, not like Osama's unholy war — had been declared). His objectives had nothing to do with America, or the Apostasy. He wasn't captured fighting American troops, either. He actually surrendered his weapons to the Northern Alliance, which then betrayed him. Finally, he was not convicted of committing treason, or of belonging to a terrorist organization, or anything like that. He was convicted of violating the trade embargo by importing his services as a soldier.

I am aware of, and have read, both Robert Young Pelton's and Johnny Spann's rebuttal's of Mr. Lindh's speech, and I have found them wanting. Both, unlike Mr. Lindh's speech, rely on emotionally loaded language, make unsupported claims, and generally ignore facts. Moreover, both make the same two basic mistakes: they effectively treat "Taliban" and "al-Qaeda" as synonyms, and they look at al-Qaeda — and thus the Taliban — from the perspective of today, after 9/11 made it the ultimate incarnation of evil in our time (rather than just another terror group, which is what it had been). In short, they both operate under the assumption that the other grunts in Lindh's unit were evil.

In war, on the ground, there is no good and evil, only death.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bin Laden and the Binladens

Prince Abdullah, the effective regent of Saudi Arabia, placed a soft, plump hand on his young compatriot's shoulder, smiled and spoke of friendship and loyalty. His words were smooth and conciliatory, but there was no doubting the harsh threat that lay beneath them.

"The family of Mohammed bin Laden have always been faithful subjects of our kingdom and have helped us greatly in our times of need," he told the gathering. "We are sure that nothing will be allowed to mar our good relations in the future."

It was the autumn of 1990 and Abdullah was addressing Afghan veterans in a beautifully furnished lounge in his palace in Riyadh. Although the men nodded respectfully at the prince's words, the man to whom they were directed could barely conceal his anger. "He was seething," one of the Afghan commanders said. "You could see it in his eyes."

A few months earlier, on Aug. 2, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. Osama bin Laden, then living in his home town of Jedda, had immediately sent a message to the Saudi royal family offering to form an army of 30,000 Afghan veterans to defeat the Iraqi dictator. The men who had defeated the Russians could easily take on Saddam, he said, and he was clearly the man to lead them.

Bin Laden was in for a rude -- and profoundly upsetting -- shock. The last thing the House of al-Saud wanted was an army of zealous Islamists fighting its war. Bin Laden was received by senior royals, but his offer was firmly rejected.

Worse was to come. Instead of the Islamic army he envisaged protecting the cradle of Islam, the defense of Saudi Arabia -- and thus of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina -- was entrusted to the Americans. Bin Laden, seething with humiliation and rage, could do nothing but watch as 300,000 U.S. troops arrived in his country and set about building bases, drinking Coke and alcohol and sunbathing. Bin Laden saw their presence as an infidel invasion. It even appeared to defy directly the dying words of the Prophet Muhammad: "Let there be no two religions in Arabia." The 33-year-old started lobbying religious scholars and Muslim activists throughout the Gulf. Playing on his celebrity status, he lectured and preached throughout Saudi Arabia, circulating thousands of audio tapes through mosques.

He started recruiting his army and sent an estimated 4,000 men to Afghanistan for training. The regime grew uneasy, raided his home and put him under house arrest. Bin Laden's family, worried that his activities might jeopardize their close relations with the ruling clan, tried to bring him back into the fold but were forced eventually to effectively disown him. The pressure mounted....


The above is excerpted from the excellent article "The making of Osama bin Laden." It details the time, and motivation, of Osama's split with his family and the House of Saud. Other parts of the article clearly demonstrate how Osama's fall into Apostasy was not influenced by, or shared with, the rest of his family. Far from growing up in some harsh Salafi dungeon, he was just a normal kid. It was later events that corrupted him.

It's a long article, but a very good read.