Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wouldn't it be better to stop enabling dictators rather than bombing them when they turn evil?

Is it true that when all you have are bombs, everything starts to look like a target? The U.S. has a long history of supporting (giving money, weapons and training) to brutal dictatorships, and then having to turn our own military upon them later on. Maybe George Orwell was prescient in the book 1984 when he wrote about shifting alliances between world powers causing them to rewrite history books to justify warring against former allies. But it's ludicrous, wasteful and immoral to be propping up a government in one moment, and the next moment launching war against it in the next. But, it's happened time and again.

The current examples are Libya, Yemen, perhaps Bahrain, and this strained relationship with Pakistan. The most curious of those is Libya which was the subject of an article on Alternet.Org a couple months ago, which I posted on facebook, prompting a rather interesting exchange among some of my friends, which I've been meaning to write up ever since, and somehow even two months later the ideas are just as poignant as they were two months ago.

The article: Instead of Bombing Dictators in Libya and Around the World, Stop Selling Them Bombs It was written shortly after the wave of Facebook-fueled-Arab-protests-leading-to-toppled-Arab-governments landed in Libya, and rather than allow a popular uprising to topple his government Muammar Gaddafi responded with guns and tanks and airplanes turned upon Libya's own citizens. The "world community" responded with denunciations which over the course of a couple weeks turned into Western forces militarily supporting the "rebels" in Libya with cruise missles, and other air support, but no western boots touching Libya soil.

If your only memory of Libya is hearing them blamed for the Lockerbie bombing (an airplane that had an on-board bomb which blew up while the plane was above Lockerbie Scotland), or maybe being part of GW Bush's Axis of Evil, maybe you're confused to hear me describe them as a western ally. Fact is that a few years ago they foreswore their nuclear program and in exchange became allied with the Western conglomerate of countries. That put Libya on the gravy train of receiving Western assistance, including military assistance.

When President Barack Obama announced "we" would not "stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and ... where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government," the weapons being used by Gaddafi's troops had been sold to him by Western powers. Yes Obama's statement was eloquent and moving, but the hypocracy is poignant.

From the Alternet.Org article:

In 2009 alone, European governments -- including Britain and France -- sold Libya more than $470 million worth of weapons, including fighter jets, guns and bombs. And before it started calling for regime change, the Obama administration was working to provide the Libyan dictator another $77 million in weapons, on top of the $17 million it provided in 2009 and the $46 million the Bush administration provided in 2008.


Meanwhile, for dictatorial regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, U.S. support continues to this day. On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even gave the U.S. stamp of approval to the brutal crackdown on protesters in Bahrain, saying the country’s authoritarian rulers “obviously” had the “sovereign right” to invite troops from Saudi Arabia to occupy their country and carry out human rights abuses, including attacks on injured protesters as they lay in their hospital beds.

The article went on to say Yemen "has received more than $300 million in military aid from the U.S. over the last five years" and it's not just the Yemeni government carrying out atrocities in Yemen, "one American bombing raid last year taking out 41 Yemeni civilians, including 14 women and 21 children". Further "The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute documented that Washington accounted for 54 percent of arms sales to Persian Gulf states between 2005 and 2009."

In other words, the U.S. is spending a lot of money supporting these dictatorial Arab governments, supplying them arms, and currently we see (in some cases) those arms being used against the civilian populations.

The article concludes "The U.S. government need not drop a single bomb in the Middle East to help liberate oppressed people. All it need do is stop selling bombs to their oppressors." Amen, for the record I agree completely.

Now, let's turn to the debate my friends had because they really captured three different points of view:

  • me) we support the system as it is, warts and all, therefore because we don't join together to act to change the system that makes us responsible;
  • Tony) yeah the system is flawed but our creeps are better than their creeps so that makes us okay;
  • Bart) they aren't our creeps at all, and it's out of our hands because the real decisions are made by people who aren't responsible to our approval ...

Let's take Tony's position first. Nothing personal Tony, but I disagree of course. His argument is that for example Muburak (one of "our creeps") willingly stepped down while Gadaffi (never one of "our creeps") is mowing down civilians. Uh.. One of the factoids surrounding Egypt is their use of torture against their civilians and the 30+ years of military rule under emergency laws. Egypt is one of the countries to which the Bush Administration outsourced torture during the "extraordinary rendition" program. Torture is not something to be dismissed as "enhanced interrogation", torture is illegal. I found this article and am sure more could be found: WikiLeaks: Egyptian 'torturers' trained by FBI; The US provided officers from the Egyptian secret police with training at the FBI, despite allegations that they routinely tortured detainees and suppressed political opposition.

It's not just Egypt but there are plenty of other examples. One was that guy in Iraq we demonized and toppled his government a few years ago. A few years before that the U.S. was selling him arms, Donald Rumsfeld was shaking his hand, in the name of supporting Iraq in their war against Iran. But the same stuff the U.S. sold to Iraq was in turn used against their own population and then later was used as one of the lame excuses for the illegal invasion of Iraq whose purpose was to topple that government.

Pakistan is a weird example. We have treated them as an ally, but at the same time their head of nuclear weapons development was actively selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea, Libya and other countries. At the same time Osama bin Laden was living in a luxury home in a military town in Pakistan, a curious location to find a man who was supposed to be hunkered down in a tent in the mountains shaking in his boots every time a drone aircraft flew overhead.

In other words - the history of this is not good, and to my mind creeps are creeps period. Hurm.. that may be a bit extreme because there are degrees of creephood and creeps can reform themselves. But, paying someone to be your creep doesn't mean they'll always be your creep. They may have changing alliances of their own which throws them out of favor with you. Or your changing alliances may convert them into an enemy.

Bart's position is rather pragmatic and I find it rather compelling. Basically the system is rigged against us little people. The system is run by the elites who have whatever agenda and they're acting to protect their business interests or whatnot, and our concerns don't enter their minds. They're playing global power games moving chess pieces around without realizing what the effects are.

Bart talked about "special interests" lobbying for particular government actions or policies. That it's the special interests skewing the results with these power games. Tony's response was "Is there any power structure that isn't surrounded by special interests?" He asked us to compare the Soviet era brutal governments, or North Korea's "communist fun house" against "our creeps". Those are great points.

As interesting as those examples are, I don't buy it. Where I stand is something akin to moral responsibility. Unlike Bart, I'm not willing to wash my hands of responsibility just because some elite is doing this without my approval.

Just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq a series of anti-war protest rallies were held under the them of "Not in My Name". The idea is that it was recognized after the Sept 11 2001 attacks, that the Elites were going to use that as an excuse to launch an endless war against the military tactic known as Terrorism. How can you fight a war against a military tactic? Ludicrous. Anyway, 10 years later and it's obvious that indeed we're facing an endless state of war so that the military industrial complex can keep selling armaments. But the point of raising the "Not in My Name" meme is that the Elites doing this are doing it in our name. That is, the wars are being conducted under an assumption of approval and pretension that they're doing it for us for our benefit, when in reality they're doing it for their power games. The problem is there's no effective way of voicing disapproval and in any case half the country is in a state of delusion believing the lies spouted by the likes of Fox News.

To me it's clear - I'm participating in the system, even if the system is a charade. That puts responsibility for the system partially on me because. Because I disagree with the system as it stands what happens if I sit back into a cozy lifestyle offered to me? That's worse than being responsible, it's being irresponsible, especially when the system is causing such egregious political and environmental harm around the world. It's one thing to be dumb and ignorant about the harm our lifestyle is causing, it's another thing to know about it and do nothing.

Those "Not in my Name" protests asked us to say "You are not going to wage endless war in our name". That sort of stand is the beginning of taking responsibility for a different outcome than passively allowing the elites to run roughshod over the world.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Massey Energy is guilty responsible for the Big Branch mine explosion, and destroying West Virginia (Democracy Now)

Today's episode of Democracy Now went over a report which concluded that Massey Energy was culpable and responsible for the Big Branch mine explosion that killed almost 30 of its workers. Anybody who's paid half a bit of attention to this story will know that Massey and other coal mining companies have been screwing the political system with money to buy cooperation as they violate environmental protection laws, worker safety laws, and even common morality.

They have destroyed over 500 mountains in West Virginia (according to todays report) for the purpose of getting the coal underneath the mountains.

The other half of the show was an interview with the film-maker who produced a documentary, Last Mountain, talking about the extent of mountain destruction. That's where the "500 destroyed mountain" number comes from.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

J. DAVITT McATEER: The findings were threefold, mainly that the company operated in a way that disregarded the basic safety precautions needed to keep the mine safe, that the ventilation system was not maintained properly. The rock dust, that is used to keep an explosion from spreading, was not maintained and was not updated daily. And third is that the methane gas was not removed from the mine in an effective way, leading to, in fact, a perfect storm. When an ignition began on the long wall of the mine, it spread throughout the mine, kicked up the coal dust, and the coal dust then became a very violent explosion that killed the 29 miners.

J. DAVITT McATEER: We looked very carefully at what Massey has suggested, that it was this inundation. There had been three previous inundations, in '97, in 2003 and 2004. But we also looked at what would have happened had an inundation occurred. Their suggestion is a million cubic feet of natural gas flooded into the mine unexpectedly. If that had happened, the footprint of the explosion, what the explosion looked like afterwards, would have been much different than what the explosion looks like now. For example, the explosion's force would have been extremely powerful at the source of the infusion, where [inaudible]

J. DAVITT McATEER: Coal dust is created as you mine coal. It’s simply the dust that’s—as you grind the coal and put it onto a conveyor belt, it’s the coal—it’s the coal that’s broken into fine particles, and it falls onto the ground. How it can be prevented from exploding is the addition of rock dust, which is essentially ground-up limestone that’s laid with the coal dust, and that limestone lowers the explosion rate that the coal dust can have, so that you can make it not explosive. The failure to have a rock-dusting system that was in operation at the time, the failure to keep rock dusting in place, was a basic, fundamental safety failure that every industry—every representative of the industry knows. Have to do that to keep an explosion from spreading throughout the mine.

BILL HANEY: Well, The Last Mountain is a film about the fight for the last great mountain in Central Appalachia between the mining company Massey, that wants to blow it up and strip the coal inside, and the locals, who want to stop them and build a wind farm on top instead. And it’s a story about citizen democracy. It’s about the extraordinary group of, you know, waitresses and former Marines and former coal miners, who have come together and enlisted the help of folks like Bobby Kennedy, Jr., to try to fight for their rights. And it’s a story about the future of energy, because the ugly paw of the coal industry lies heavy upon our political system and on our environment. So that’s why we called it The Last Mountain, because they’ve already knocked down, with explosives the size of a Hiroshima bomb being dropped on Appalachia every week—they’ve already taken 500 of these mountains down to rubble and dumped the residuals into the rivers, contaminating 2,000 miles of federal river, and there’s not much left.

BILL HANEY: Well, I think that Massey controls all the mountains in the Coal River Valley, including Coal River Mountain that’s at the center of our story. It’s the largest practitioner of this most egregious form of mining, mountaintop removal. And it’s been operated in a way that seems to be wildly beyond the bounds of federal constraint and state constraint for quite some time. So their history of safety violations and environmental violations is so long as to be dizzying. And they, you know, for many, many years appear to have decided that it was less expensive to pay the fines and sort out something with the political system than it was to actually comply with the environmental rules or the Clean Water Act or safety standards....

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR.: I’ve been involved in the industry, in the coal industry in West Virginia, on and off for 27 years. I was invited down about three or four years ago by the local group at Coal Mountain to help them in their battle to save this last mountain, as Bill says.

Massey Coal is the third largest coal company in the country, but it is by far the biggest practitioner of mountaintop removal mining. Over the past decade, they have leveled an area of the Appalachians the size of Delaware, 1.4 million acres. They’ve cut down 500 of the biggest mountains in the state. And they’ve buried, as Bill said, thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

They have to break the law to do this. They cannot survive in the marketplace without violating the law. They violate labor laws. They violate health and safety laws. And by their own records, they’ve had some 67,000 violations of just one of the environmental statutes....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: I.O.U.S.A. - America's big debt crisis told through a skewed lens

How much is the Federal Debt as a percentage of GDP? Do you understand why that's a critical problem? What does it mean that China is the worlds biggest exporter, and the U.S. is the worlds biggest importer? What do you think is the real cause for the current economic mess? Just how fiscally irresponsible was George W Bush and the other Republicans since 1980?

I.O.U.S.A. is a movie that goes over these questions and go. It's an excellent movie in many respects that I largely agree with. It is also a partisan movie which means I expect it's presenting a slanted point of view, especially considering the main person, David Walker, was President Bush's Comptroller General. The movie focuses on a nationwide Fiscal Wakeup Tour with David Walker and the Concord Coalition going around the country teaching what they said to be a message of fiscal discipline both for the national government and for individuals.

The movie begins with a voice saying "I would argue the biggest threat facing the United States is not someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan, but our own fiscal irresponsibility". Of course at the moment I'm writing this is after the death of Osama bin Laden. We know he wasn't hiding in a cave in Afghanistan, but in a well off lifestyle in a fancy home in Pakistan.

Immediately after that quote, with "fiscal irresponsibility" still hanging in your ears, it launches into a series of statements by U.S. Presidents about the need to conquer the national debt. The first being Pres. Reagan, who was one of the most egregious of the national debt builders we've had.

In that series of quotes was Pres. Clinton who, upon signing the first balanced Federal Budget, declared the U.S. was on track for budget surpluses for the next 25 years. Later in the movie they talked with Robert Rubin, Clintons Treasury Secretary, who explained this further. He claimed that they had found a political consensus around fiscal discipline, and when he left office in 1999 he thought it (fiscal discipline) had become a permanent part of Washington. But the next President, GW Bush, threw that all out the window.

The theme of the movie is to discuss four deficits: Budget, Savings, Balance of Payments, Leadership

Budget Deficit: There's a history with federal budget deficits going back to the Revolutionary war, and every war has been funded by running a debt. In the past the government had enough fiscal discipline to pay down the debt after the war was finished. Starting in the 1960's the government stopped that policy. And more egregiously, President Reagan was the first U.S. President to run big deficits for a reason other than war. His theory was the idiotic trickle down give tax cuts to the rich and eventually it'll make us all rich idiocy.

The important measure is the Deficit as a percentage of GDP, or Gross Domestic Product. Essentially that ratio is what determines how sound the economic situation is, and the ability of the country to handle the debt load.

Again the history of Deficit/GDP is that the percentage rose during war-time, and after the war it would drop again. Beginning with Reagan the percentage began climbing, and climbing, with the only pause being the Clinton years. The GW Bush years were a precipitous rise in this percentage.

Low Savings Rate: Much of the movie centers around a low savings rate in the U.S. In the past we were encouraged to have a high savings rate but since WWII the mantra has been to spend, spend, and spend some more. Consumption is what drives the economy today. As a result many people are living paycheck-paycheck with very little savings. Silly people.

David Walker is quoted saying the high rate of foreign ownership of the national debt is because of the low savings rate. Uh... I thought this was because of the high imbalance of trade but I suppose a high savings rate would mean more of the national debt is owned by Americans.

This is a national security issue - the high rate of foreign ownership of the national debt.

Balance of Trade / Payments: This is the ratio of exports and imports. A factoid tossed out during the movie is to list the countries by their trade balance. China exports the most, hence imports the most money, and the U.S. imports the most, hence exports the most money.

A factoid said right after that is: Buying more than you're selling results in your trading partners owning you.

This was demonstrated by an article written by Warren Buffet - Squandersville versus Thriftville. In Squandersville the mantra is spend spend spend, whereas in Thriftville the mantra is Live beneath your means and a high savings rate.

Basically the U.S. is Squandersville and China is Thriftville. The pattern is that Squandersville is exporting money and will eventually run out of money and will have to start selling parts of its hard assets like land and buildings. Eventually Thriftville will end up owning every square inch of Squandersville.

For a practical example they went to a scrap yard showing machines grinding up cars to make scrap metal of the sort used in mills to make new metal. The owner of the scrap yard explained they used to send the metal to domestic (U.S.) mills but nowadays they're sending it to foreign mills in China and elsewhere. In other words, the U.S. has killed off its industrial base and the only export we have is scrap metal.

Another assertion made is the immorality of one generation to spend the next generation's money. That's what happens when the government runs up such a big debt. This generation, us, we who are enjoying the fruits of that debt, we cannot pay off that debt. Who will pay it off? Our children?

Leadership Deficit: The movie talks a lot about the lack of political will to do anything about this. The responsibility lies with everyone involved in government. Earlier I mentioned how it's Republican Presidents who've been the worst about this, and they have, but really it's the whole set of people in Washington. They've become addicted to wasting our money.

The movie was filmed before the crash of 2008.

Given that the main person in the movie, David Walker, was GW Bush's Comptroller General, and hence in charge of the General Accounting Office, it strikes me that this guy has quite a bit of responsibility for the crash of 2008. He spoke a great line of reasoning in the movie about fiscal responsibility, but the GW Bush Administration was anything but fiscally responsible. In fact the movie itself does point a finger at the Bush Administration and while it doesn't outright say they were fiscally irresponsible, it strongly implies this.

Somehow the movie does not lay any blame on David Walker, however. But that could be because the whole thing is an infomercial for the Pete Peterson Foundation and a project which David Walker was hired by the Peterson Foundation to lead. In other words, one slant in the movie is to present the Concord Coalition and the Peterson Foundation and David Walker as saviors of mankind with a mission to educate us on fiscal responsibility.

I personally support having more people educated on fiscal responsibility. I just have a hunch that this movie is slanted towards a partisan message of some sort. In particular I hear in the movie some echo's of some of the Tea Party nonsense.

A recommended movie - just take it with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The UK's Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system is big brother?

This is a fairly old but highly important piece of information about ubiquitous spying being conducted by the United Kingdom upon their residents. It is a system of cameras on the roads connected to computers to automatically recognize license numbers on number plates (what in the U.S.A. we'd call license plates). Of course every car has a visible number where one use is for police to identify vehicles for various reasons. What's new is nifty computer technology advancements have included in improved image recognition capability, in this case automated image recognition is being used to automatically read out the license plate (number plate) numbers of cars passing by. With enough cameras on enough streets the system can track every bit of movement by every vehicle, enabling the government to track movements of everyone.

A pair of reports on The Register web site detail two phases of the system rollout in the UK. Described is a "24x7 national vehicle movement database" to log every trip on the UK's road system. They were building a control center in Hendon capable of processing 50 million number plates PER DAY. In 2005 they already had cameras in strategic locations on every motorway in the UK and intended to have a camera every 400 yards. The initial purpose was traffic speed enforcement, but would be expanded to other crimes later such as the use of untaxed vehicles, stolen vehicles, and generally denying criminals the use of the roads.

Eek! Every 400 yards? Just think of the budget required to build maintain this system.

Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey -- The Independent

Car license plate cameras may be illegal

DARPA's Information Awareness Office, The Total Information Awareness System; Or, Big Brother in-carnate

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reactions to bin Laden's death indicates this won't make much change or difference?

Late last night it was announced Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, and a first thoughts was this wouldn't make any difference. (Osama bin Laden has been killed but will it make any long term difference?) Basically the argument is the radicalization of a generation of people all over the world due to the warring over Terrorism. In yesterdays blog post I wrote about the generation of Middle East people who've seen invasion and/or occupation of several countries by Western forces, widespread death and destruction, and this has acted to radicalize those people. But it occurs to me, the radicalization also extends to Americans due to the 10 years (or more) of demonization of the Terrorists.

Listening to voices on NPR reports this morning I hear grudge-holding and an inability to move on with ones life. For example they interviewed a fellow whose fiancee had been killed in the World Trade Center collapse, and he's turned his car into a rolling billboard with pictures of his fiancee with messages to "Never Forget". As sad as his story is, as understandable it is he's done this, it's a pattern that simply re-opens the wounds over and over and doesn't proceed to healing. The kind of healing which allows you to move on with your life rather than hanging on to the wound keeping it festering inside. I don't want to go too far down this line of thinking, and some events like the Sept 11 2001 attack are just so big that it's hard to imagine having real forgiveness towards the perpetrators. Spiritual traditions over millennia such as Christianity have taught forgiveness as a key central method for achieving peace.

This was a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she made it clear the efforts to stomp out the "Syndicate of Terror" would not stop. In one breath she expressed a hope that al Qaida's victims would find comfort that Justice had been Done, and then in the next breath she's saying the hunt will never stop. On the one hand Authority's role is to mete out mete out Justice in the form of prison sentences or executions. Right? On the other hand the "hunt will not stop" is a way to keep re-awakening the wounds these traumatic events have placed in our mutual psyche.

Islamists vow bin Laden death will not mute Jihad call: Contains quotes from several Islamic Jihadi message boards like "Osama may be killed but his message of Jihad will never die. Brothers and sisters, wait and see, his death will be a blessing in disguise." This is the voice of a radicalized person.

Taliban commander vows to avenge Bin Laden's death: Quotes several "commanders" in several Terrorist organizations saying this "will bring no change to jihad." It's a martyrdom situation and his value as a marketing image will not be diminished by death. Right? The article describes Osama bin Laden as "the Shiekh" as someone who inspired people all over the Middle East into fighting a "holy war (a.k.a. Jihad) against the infidels and their agents." The movement is described as having separated "ideology from leadership" in that local al Qaida "affiliate" organizations have sprung up without direct oversight by the al Qaida leadership.

That same article has an interesting paragraph indicating a hatred towards al Qaida by regular folk in the Middle East.

For many years, the Sheikh had been isolated, his organisation disrupted not only by US kill teams and lethal drone attacks but also by general Muslim apathy and outright hostility to the organisation. For most of the victims are Muslim: not only Shia Muslims and Sunni moderates and seculars, but also bystanders who have committed the deadly sin of buying vegetables while one of those holy warriors decides to fight his battle and start his ascendance to the hereafter.

Osama bin Laden's death resonates in Rochester area: Has a range of reactions in the Rochester NY area. From "The only thing I can say is: it’s about time. I would’ve liked if we could’ve taken him alive and put him on trial. Then, a lot more people would understand the role that he played on 9/11." To "It’s probably not going to last very long, but that’s what they’re fearing right now: repercussions." To "It's about time and I'm glad we got him. Getting these guys is good. We are doing something and we are getting them." To "I don't think killing anyone is a good thing. People like bin Laden certainly need to be taken out of circulation, but I don't think killing is the best way to do it. I'm glad he will not bother anyone anymore, but there are probably plenty more like him." To "I felt a sense of relief. It’s been a long time since that day. It’s not going to bring Rich back." To "It’s a mixed feeling because you don’t want to celebrate someone being murdered, but it does give us a sense of security." To "I’m thrilled he’s captured and killed. It’s sad to me that we’re solving this awful crime with a killing." To "It’s great news. It’s been a long time. I feel like that means the war is finally over." To "It's outstanding, but I don't think it changes much for us in Afghanistan. "We still have the Taliban to contend with and we obviously have to finish what we started."

Beyond bin Laden: Is a post on the "Shadow Government" blog at which describes itself as being "written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition" so we should take this with a grain of salt in that it might be skewed towards ObamaSlander. In any case it's an interesting article. They start with saying the person who "emerges as the leader of al Qaeda will be enormously consequential for the movement's direction and appeal throughout the Muslim world." A supposedly likely successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, "has repeatedly emphasized Egypt as the centerpiece of al Qaeda's quest to re-establish a caliphate in the heart of the Islamic world." And: "Protracted wars are not decided on the outcome of any individual episode. Rather, they turn on the progressive attrition of the adversary's sources of power. Similarly, this conflict will not end in a single battle or campaign. Rather, al Qaeda and its extremist vision will be defeated through the patient accumulation of quiet successes. Victory will include discrediting extremist ideology, creating fissures between and among extremist groups, and reducing them to the level of a nuisance, groups that can be tracked and handled by local law enforcement groups."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden has been killed but will it make any long term difference?

A long nightmare is over? The leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, has been killed in northwest Pakistan. I suppose it's not a surprise he was there, except that he wasn't in the mountains but in Abbottabad, in the far north next to the border with Kashmir. According to statements on BBC World Service right now, he was living in a Mansion in a medium sized city, just a few hundred yards from the police station, and one assumes it wasn't exactly a secret he was there and there must have been some cooperation with the Pakistani government that he could be living there. But my question is whether this will make any real difference. UPDATE: For a followup see Reactions to bin Laden's death indicates this won't make much change or difference?

It's been nearly 10 years since the Sept 11 attacks which made bin Laden so famous and supposedly the number one target of the war on Terror, but in recent years it seemed that US leadership forgot the reason for that war (What happened to al-Qaeda?, Smoking gun on Bush's failure to catch Osama bin Laden?).

In the 10 years the US turned from hunting down al Qaeda in Afghanistan to invading Iraq - a country wholly unaffiliated with al Qaeda (at the time) - rather than concentrate on the actual perpetrators. (see Background material for the second Gulf "War", How many revealed lies is this going to take?, How to tell when George W. Bush is lying, More leaked memo's in Britain, US Invasion of Iraq officially FRAUD, War justifications relied on informants that the CIA had already dismissed as liars., Perle admits invasion was illegal: Say what?, The "case" for War)

Nowadays what's going on is a whole generation of people growing up with the U.S. and Western forces having invaded the Middle East. Many have been radicalized by these invaders (that is, "us") and I think most of the fighting is an effort to evict occupiers rather than people in ideological cahoots with al Qaeda.

In the prosecution of the U.S. led War on Terror many innocents were killed. Sometimes it was weapons going astray, killing innocent bystanders. Sometimes it was mistaken targets. Sometimes it was bogus intelligence. And there was this issue with the invasion of Iraq, resulting in the death of a hundred thousand or more Iraqi's, based on bogus illegal U.S. policies. Radicalization is quite understandable to a people who suffered the pain inflicted upon them by the U.S. led war.

As I write there are thousands of people gathered outside the White House celebrating, even though it's after midnight. And indeed it is wonderful to hear this news, that the supposed leader of al Qaeda, that supposedly is responsible for the murder of thousands of people, that Osama bin Laden has been killed.

But I question whether this will make any difference. Will the radicalized generation give up the hatred of the U.S. engendered in them by U.S. actions?

Threat remains after bin Laden killed by U.S. forces: Suggests that most of the recent attacks on the West were the responsibility of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), not of bin Laden himself.

Al Qaeda No.2 Zawahri most likely to succeed bin Laden: Suggests that the death of bin Laden just means a rearranging of the al Qaeda leadership.

In President Obama's remarks (below) he said "Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad." In other words, the War on Terror is not over. We can expect reprisal attacks and a continuing of the war.

Obama clearly wouldn't be willing to say the things I just said about a radicalized Middle East, but essentially we're saying the same thing, just through different lenses.

Remarks by the President on Osama Bin Laden

East Room

11:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

END 11:44 P.M. EDT