Canal Water Review

"To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing." Hypatia "Yeah. That pretty much sucks canal water." cwr

Friday, July 30, 2004

In Memoriam

Ahmed Ghailani is nicknamed "Fupi," not "Foopie," as some news reports want to phonetically report it. The word is Swahili for "short." Maybe he's short. But he can't possibly be anything cute and cuddly and rhyme with "Snoopie."

His arrest, coincidence or not, is long overdue. May the Pakistan government and ours glean much information from him and the computers they captured with him. (Please, may they also do so honorably--although I have my doubts about that part.) And then may he be brought to public trial and punished for his crimes.

Why do I give a rat's patootie? My memories of the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are fogged by time, but I never laid eyes on the World Trade Center. I have passed through New York City a couple times, probably met a couple of people from New York state in my lifetime. I lived in Kenya for 14 months, in Tanzania for 21 months--and I knew a lot of people in both capitals. When the Towers fell, I was horrified, sickened, angered. When the embassies were bombed, I grieved.

I only visited the Nairobi embassy a couple of times. I was young and thought all our embassies were like what I saw in the movies. This one was just an office in an office building. Nothing special at all. I registered my presence in the country and set off on my more or less merry way. It was great fun to receive a letter some months later, inviting me to the Ambassador's Fourth of July party in Nairobi. You bet, I went. Didn't know a soul, but found other young Americans there and enjoyed the hot dogs. After months of wali na mchuzi, mustard can be a fine thing.

If I didn't see much of the inside of the embassy, I was certainly aware of the busy streets of Nairobi. My work was on the coast, in a Muslim area. I went to Nairobi about every 3 months for a couple of days of R & R. There I could be with other young people, go dancing, enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a wonderful city. Then I would go back to the coast and immerse myself in the local communities that I lived with.

The streets were filled with vendors. Food. Goods. Beggars. Foot and bike traffic. Wildly driven cars and taxis and buses. There would have been a lot of people in the office building where our embassy was located. There would have been a lot of people on the street outside. Fine people. Building their lives. Building their country.

And Ghailani (allegedly) blew them up.

Ten years later I found myself in Dar es Salaam. My contacts with the embassy were not much more direct there either--except that I lived in town and I drove past the embassy every day on my way to work. There were two things to look out for on that drive. One was the really big pothole (sinkhole) that could break an axle on a good day. The other was the flag. Tanzania was not, at that time, quite the happy experience for me that Kenya was, so I was much more homesick, much more aware of what I had left behind when I left the United States. It was incredibly comforting to see our flag flying--day and night--on top of that concrete bunker of a building.

The local scuttlebutt was that the embassy building originally belonged to the Isrealis, but the Tanzanians kicked them out for some reason, so we took over the building. This building was set away from the downtown area. It was fenced in. I remember one of my rare visits to the embassy, seeing a delivery truck parked inside the fence. There were cases of Hawaiian Punch under the tarp. I was so jealous. A marine greeted me from behind bullet proof glass and asked for identification and my business before admitting me.

This time around, I had a husband in tow for the Ambassador's Fourth of July picnic. Yet, again, we loved the hotdogs--mustard was just as hard to find in Dar--and all the hokey state songs played for the folks in attendance. And, embassy or no, there were only two real choices in town for the movies. One was to go to the drive in, which we did. The other was to go to the Marine House, which we also regularly did. There we sat on folding chairs and watched almost current movies projected on a white sheet, drinking Australian beer, and munching popcorn in the midst of a raucous group of clean cut young'uns and very tired expats.

This embassy was a harder target, but Ghailani still (allegedly) did his best to blow it up.

I don't know anyone who died in those attacks. But I feel like I do. I know the kind of people that they were--Kenyan, Tanzanian, American. Even Ghailani.

He would have been a child when I was there. And those were hard years. Whatever was being preached in the madarasas, the same bile was being spewed from the national government. The economy was a shambles. Bodies were stacked in the morgue like piles of cordwood--and the acronym for "AIDS" had not yet been coined while the virus ate away at the heart of the country. Infrastructure was crumbling. The border with Kenya was closed. Trade was limited. Food staples were in short supply. Corruption was everywhere. We were pretty much on the front lines of the cold war.

Still, if we had to have a "coincidence" "just in time" for the Democratic National Convention, I am very pleased with this one. I still see that flag in my mind's eye. We have our own flag--the one we didn't have to go out to buy on September 12, 2001--and, while it has to hang on the side of our house, when I look at it, I see it flying high, from a pole, on top of our embassy in Dar, lighted against the night sky. And my eyes tear up.

May they rest in peace.

High Value Coincidence

Coincidences come in all kinds of ways. My favorite tough guy who makes Texas Music (and my audience of one) :) does an "I-haven't-read-it-yet-but-I-know-what-I-think review of the 9/11 Commission Report, and I agree with a lot of what he has to say, but his blog eats my response. By coincidence, a lot of what I have to say has to do with just a little of what he has to say (which is not unusual), but refers to my own personal experience twenty-years-removed with two of the sites attacked by Al Qaeda on its way to 9/11. So I do some fast right-clicking and save what I have to say so I can post it here and, just to be the curious person that I am, do some extra googling before I get around to actually making the post. Here's what I found.

Yahoo! News - Pakistan Says Captures 'Most Wanted' Qaeda Man

By Zeeshan Haider

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, said to be a top al Qaeda operative and one of the world's most wanted men, was in custody in Pakistan on Friday for his suspected role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Ghailani and 13 others were seized after a 14-hour gun battle with security forces at the weekend in the city of Gujarat, about 110 miles southeast of the capital Islamabad, Pakistan Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said.

The United States had offered a reward of $25 million for the Tanzanian national's capture, the same as for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) and 19 others on the FBI (news - web sites)'s Most Wanted Terrorist List.

Ghailani is probably the most senior al Qaeda operative caught in Pakistan since the arrest in March 2003 of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

In Washington, a U.S. official confirmed Ghailani's arrest. "He is wanted for the death of Americans," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Ghailani, who is in his early 30s and goes by the nicknames "Foopie" and "Ahmed the Tanzanian," was indicted in New York in 1998 for the synchronized blasts that blew up the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania, killing 224 people.

Washington blamed al Qaeda for the devastating bombings and carried out a missile attack on Afghan military training camps run by bin Laden shortly afterwards. Bin Laden escaped unhurt.

Four al Qaeda supporters were sentenced to life in prison in October 2001 by a Manhattan federal judge for the bombings. The FBI and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office had no immediate comment on Ghailani's arrest.

Hayat said Pakistani security forces had been acting on a tip-off when they raided a suspected militant hideout in Gujarat. One policeman was slightly injured in the gunbattle, he added.

Hayat said Ghailani, his Uzbek wife and up to eight other foreigners, including two South Africans, were among those arrested.


The minister said Pakistan had not yet received a request from the United States for his extradition.

"He has been in Pakistan for some time. We have to establish the exact nature of his activities and scope of his network in Pakistan. Only after we have exhausted our inquiries shall we be able to hand him over ... to the U.S.," he said.

"It is a big achievement for our security forces," he added.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage praised Pakistan's pursuit of al Qaeda-linked fighters during a visit to Islamabad earlier this month.

U.S. officials suspect bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri and other al Qaeda supporters are hiding somewhere in rugged tribal areas along the Afghan border and have put pressure on Pakistan to pursue foreign militants in the lawless region.

Up to 600 fighters, including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks, are believed to be in the tribal belt, many of them sheltered by tribesmen who have also been involved in fierce clashes with Pakistani troops this year.

Pakistani forces launched two major operations this year in the region after President Pervez Musharraf vowed to clear the country of foreign militants accused of attacks in Pakistan, including two attempts on his life in December, and strikes on U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan (news - web sites).

Pakistan says it has arrested hundreds of al Qaeda fighters and handed them over to the United States since it joined the U.S.-led war on terror in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington)

Why is this a coincidence? Here's what I wanted to post for a reply to Jack's "review":

Just a little liberal sweet talk, Jack. I decided not to read more than a few of the other comments, since I'm short on time, but did want to shock you with my almost total agreement with your post. You expressed yourself quite clearly and very well yet again.

But, here's a couple of thoughts to give you some added perplexity. I have walked through the doors of both of the embassies that we lost in East Africa. Those embassies were guarded by some fine young (really, startlingly young) Marines. I drank their beer in Dar es Salaam. Although my residence in those cities was some years before those attacks and although I cannot say that I know anyone personally who was killed there, I can certainly tell you--and my fellow Americans--that everyone who died there was a human being, worthy of our grief and concern for their lose in such tragic circumstances. I say this not to place you on the defensive. I understand your ironic tone in referring to these deaths. But I want to reemphasize that American lives were indeed the targets of the bombs--and that real human lives
were lost.

I could babble on about that, but your stronger point is that the government is not our baby sitter. It's our servant. I agree. We might disagree on just exactly what we want our servant to be doing , but-no space . . .

Well, I did run out of space, and I don't want to talk about that now. I want to talk about Ghailani, Dar es Salaam, and coincidences.

Last things first: There is was a report some weeks ago in The New Republic that the Bush administration was putting pressure on the Pakistani government to produce a "high value" al Qaeda target, preferably Osama bin Laden, during the Democratic Convention. Here's the link. Several blogs, including The Agonist, Talking Points Memo, and quite a few others noted the article then, which is when I picked up on it. Today, they and others speculate about the "coincidence" of a capture that occurred on Sunday but was only announced on the day that John Kerry was due to give his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, i.e., during the targeted time frame.

I noticed the "coincidence" myself. I was also curious to see whether there would be any major tide of news coverage that would overshadow Kerry's speech and the convention because of this arrest. There were some stories, but this afternoon's newsmap showed what seems to be happening. Nada. Zip.

Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence. And sometimes it flops. Whatever.

I honestly cannot say whether it would have changed things for me if the "high value" target that had been captured had been Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar or any of the others. I'll be glad when they are out circulation whenever they are out of circulation. I wish we had been harder on their trails before now.

But, after making sure that I took the time to watch Kerry' speech and then reading analysis and commentary for several hours afterwards (I love the stuff), Ghailani was still on my mind. Even if there is not much press coverage, even if he is not "high value" enough for everyone else to realize his worth, he is very "high value" to me.

I guess this is getting too long. I'll post it and then struggle to make my point in a second post.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Relief is Spelled E-D-W-A-R-D-S

It's official now, and many a Democrat is much relieved to see yet another shot of energy come into the campaign to restore sanity to Washington. I hadn't seen the news last night but got the official word when My Prince called me at the office to let me know that the formal announcement had been made. We were both quite pleased--but not surprised (we had reason not to be sweating out this decision).

Still, it's a relief that the decision has been made and Edwards can officially join the campaign. He's already been doing a yeoman's job of taking on assignments at state conventions and other events when Kerry wasn't available. Now he can do so formally and help raise money before the national convention deadline. There should also be a boost in the poll numbers. The gender gap in this election is nothing to sneeze at, and Edwards gets it.

It doesn't hurt that it just lifts a girl's heart to see him. I'm told the charisma starts 50 feet away.