As America marks the 19th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Centre towers by terrorists, it is a good time to ask when General Michael Hayden, head of the NSA at the time of 9/11, will come forward and explain why the agency was unable to detect the chatter among those who had banded together to wreak havoc in the US.
Before I continue, let me point out that nothing of what appears below is new; it was all reported some four years ago, but mainstream media have conspicuously avoided pursuing the topic because it would probably trouble some people in power.
The tale of how Hayden came to throw out a system known as ThinThread, devised by probably the most brilliant metadata analyst, William Binney, at that time the technical director of the NSA, has been told in a searing documentary titled A Good American.
In 1987, I got a job in Dubai, to work for a newspaper named Khaleej (Gulf) Times. I was chosen because the interviewer was a jolly Briton who came down to Bombay to do the interview on 12 June.
Malcolm Payne, the first editor of the newspaper that had been started in 1978 by Iranian brothers named Galadari, told me that he had always wanted to come and pick some people to work at the paper. By then he had been pushed out of the editorship by the politics of both Pakistani and Indian journalists who worked there.
For some strange reason, he took a liking to me. At the end of about 45 minutes of what was a much more robust conversation than I had ever experienced in earlier job interviews, which were normally tense affairs, Payne told me, “You’re a good bugger, Samuel. I’ll see you in Dubai.” Continue reading “History lessons at a late stage of life”
On 3 August 1990, the morning after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Saudi Arabian government was more than a bit jittery, fearing that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would make Riyadh his next target. The Saudis had been some of the bigger buyers of American and British arms, but they found that they had a big problem.
And that was the fact that all the princes who were pilots of F-16 jets, considered one of the glamour jobs, had gone missing. Empty jets were of no use. How would the Saudis defend their country if Baghdad decided to march into the country’s Eastern Region? If Hussein decided to do so, he would be in control of a sizeable portion of the world’s oil resources and many countries would be royally screwed. Continue reading “Saudis want US to fight another war for them”
Nineteen days before it marks a decade since the end of the civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils, Sri Lanka is again in turmoil following a co-ordinated series of bombings by Islamic terrorists on Easter Sunday, nine days ago.
The Sri Lankan authorities appear to have become quite lackadaisical in their attitude towards security on the island, given that so many people could be killed in what appears to be a well-organised bombing campaign with simultaneous blasts in different parts of the country, all aimed at Christians celebrating Easter. Continue reading “Sri Lanka faces more bloodshed ahead unless govt acts”
Thursday, September 13, marked 25 years since Israel took the (then) radical step of recognising the Palestine Liberation Organisation in a Norway-brokered deal that many thought would ultimately lead to a two-state solution in the Middle East and bring an end to one of the most bitter feuds between nations.
Alas, it was not to be. Twenty-five years on, what remains of land that could have been a Palestinian homeland is bantustans, and things seem to be going from bad to worse. With the US recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it is now inconceivable that Tel Aviv will ever countenance giving up part of the city to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
It brings back memories for me, as it was the biggest news event that I have managed in nearly 40 years as a journalist in three countries. In 1993, I was deputy chief sub-editor at the Khaleej Times in Dubai, and that September I was producing the daily editions as the chief sub-editor, my good mate T.K. Achuthan, was on leave. Continue reading “Twenty-five years after Oslo, there is nothing to show for it”
WHEN the United States talks about coalitions, one should realise that it is all about finance. Not about bringing together countries to fight a war together.
Back in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, George Bush Senior put his foot in it by threatening never to take it lying down. He was forced to go to war, reluctantly. But his secretary of state James Baker made things worthwhile by bringing together a bunch of nations who were prepared to pick up the bills. Continue reading “America forms coalitions to make money”
They call them anti-terror raids, though one has to ask seriously whether they are stopping anything at all. An idle conversation where a man who is worked up blurts out, “I would like to shove a bomb up his arse” can always be interpreted by an over-zealous, dumb police officer as a terror threat.
AT THE end of World War I, many ethnic groups were able to get a patch of land for themselves, with the area and population therein largely dependent on the extent to which they had pleased the imperial powers that came out as victors of that war – France and Britain.
The Kurds were one group that missed the bus and ended up scattered over four countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They are a restless lot and the countries in which they lived often had to keep them quiet by one means or another.
The late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave them a limited measure of autonomy. But there was always the implicit understanding that if the Kurds got too ambitious, then they would be met with blanket slaughter. Dictators like Saddam — and his neighbour, the late Hafez al-Assad of Syria — do not do things by half-measures and for years the Kurds were content to remain within their allocated freedoms. Continue reading “America’s Kurdish adventure will end in tears”
I KID you not. This was a serious question put to David Kilcullen, a so-called counter-insurgency expert, by Emma Alberici, one of the most glorious examples of incompetence at the Australian national broadcaster.
Now Alberici, one would assume, has some idea about the size of the Middle East. One would also assume that she is aware that in no conflict has air power, no matter how awesome, been able to drive an enemy out of a battle zone.
How did she ask such a dumb question?
Despite her stupidity, this is the woman chosen to front one of the ABC’s national programmes twice or thrice a week. She draws a salary of around $190,000 per annum and sits there, tilting her head from side to side, and asking stupid questions. And this is not the first time I have had occasion to point this out.
The discussion revolved around the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – which now calls itself Islamic State – a militant group which has made rapid gains in taking over towns and cities in Iraq, and some parts of Syria. It is also fighting in the south of Lebanon. The US has launched air strikes on the group to protect minority sects which are being terrorised and fleeing their residences.
The choice of Kilcullen to discuss matters relating to militancy is questionable. According to a genuine expert, Kilcullen was one of those, who along with John Nagl and other counter-insurgency “experts”, devised a strategy in Afghanistan that aimed to unite Afghans by trying to Westernise them via popular elections, installing women’s rights, dismantling tribalism, introducing secularism and establishing NGO-backed bars and whorehouses in Kabul. When the West finally leaves that war-torn country later this year, the Taliban will be back within another six months.
But let’s leave that alone; maybe the choice of Kilcullen was made by someone else. However, no matter who chooses the guest to be interviewed, it is the presenter’s choice to do some preparation and not end up looking stupid. Alberici is a master of the art of putting her foot in her mouth.
A week ago, a young man named Steve Cannane presented Lateline. He had as his guest Martin Chulov, the Middle East correspondent for the Guardian. Chulov is an old hand in the Mideast and very sound on the subject. Cannane did not put a foot wrong; he had prepared well and asked intelligent questions. The whole interview was gripping and highly informative stuff.
And then we have Alberici. Why, oh why, can the ABC not find a better presenter? In the past, the likes of Maxine McKew and Virginia Trioli were excellent presenters on the same programme; Tony Jones does an adequate job on other nights of the week now.
What is the hold that Alberici has on the ABC top brass? She was a miserable failure at hosting a programme called Business Breakfast which gave many people indigestion. For that, she has been made the presenter of what is arguably the ABC’s second-most important news and current affairs programme after 7.30. At the ABC, it would appear, nothing succeeds like failure.