Sunday, November 26, 2006
The New York Times' John Burns reported today about a study that estimates that the financial resources of the various insurgent groups in Iraq are far greater than previously understood, and are adequate to sustain the war for years to come. It is by any measure a sobering article, but no information in it is more dispiriting than this:
As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year.
France, a "traditional" ally, and Italy, an actual ally, have apparently joined Germany, a putative ally, in financing the enemies of the United States. Apart from the practical stupidity of paying ransoms -- it is in effect a subsidy for kidnapping -- the European blood money is underwriting the purchase of weapons and explosives that will be used to kill and injure American soldiers, not to mention innocent Iraqi civilians. American soldiers and innocent Iraqis have almost certainly already died because the French, Germans and -- I'm sorry to say -- the Italians bought the freedom of their own nationals.
Indeed, the paying of cash ransoms to the Iraqi insurgency is even more damaging to the United States and Iraqi civil society than transferring weapons directly. Cash is more useful than any one type of weapon because it is more flexible. It can be concealed more easily, and can be readily converted into anything that the insurgency needs. Got enough AK-47s from Saddam's armory but not enough plastic explosive? Cash is more easy to convert into bombs than automatic rifles. Need radios, cell phones, medical supplies, food, shelter, money to pay bribes? If we would be outraged to catch the French shipping crates of weapons to Iraqi insurgents, we should be transported into blind freakin' rage that they are shipping crates of money. We are not, because for reasons that are unclear to me the internationalists in the mainstream media don't regard this as the scandal it is.
It is outrageous that this story, which has been kicking around in various forms for years, has not gotten any meaningful attention from the mainstream media. One is forced to wonder whether the internationalists in the media are worried that the story would push the American public further into unilateralism, or even isolationism, something that the Europeans presumably want to avoid, even as they arm our enemies.
At the Belmont Club
Meanwhile back at the ranch, "Saudis threaten to cancel contract for UK new fighter aircraft." Could this help explain the impotence of the West?
___"50,000 British jobs at risk if vital defence deal is lost"
___"Ministers have been told to brace themselves for a potential economic
"disaster" in the wake of an explosive behind-the-scenes dispute with one of
Britain's most influential allies."
___"The Saudis have threatened to pull out of a massive GBP 76 billion contract
with BAE Systems to provide new fighter aircraft unless a long-running
bribes inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office is wound up."
___"The SFO has been looking into the BAE corruption claims for three years.
Money paid in "kickbacks" has allegedly gone towards buying luxury holidays,
rented apartments in European capitals and even a gold Rolls Royce."
The Care and Use of a Big Stick
Also H/T to
Dear annonymous, can you name the nation that most helped us with that thing we had called "the revolutionary war"?
It amuses me that conservatives can be so supportive of exporting democracy and so thankless to the one nation that helped us form ours.
I don't know about the Fox payments, but there is a difference between private citizens (or corporations) making payments to recover their own people and governments doing it. That having been said, I think it would be wise for news organizations that send correspondants into dangerous areas to make it clear that they will not pay ransoms to recover them if kidnapped. That would probably reduce the kidnappings over the long haul, and avoid the money being used to buy weapons to kill innocent people.
Lanky, I am a Francophile, but I'm fairly sure that the debt of Lafayette and Yorktown has been repaid. It has been a long time since the French were genuinely and systematically supportive of American interests.
Claims of lefties notwithstanding, Fox is not a geopolitical ally of the United States. But I hear you -- if I were running one of the competing networks, I would be hammering away at Fox for having paid the ransom.
OK, so the Hawks went into a free fall in football, and the B-ball team isn't starting out all that well either, hard to be a Hawk fan in NJ.
Does the US Govt. pay ransome to terrorists? Probably. I know the govt. facilitates payments and transactions for companies.
Personally, we should look at how the USSR handled it back in the 80's when some of their people were taken in Iran. Their KGB went to the families of some of the kidnappers, roughed them up and told them they would be offed if their people were not released. Of course, they were released.
There is so much to criticize in this bungled war, and I'm glad to see you turning your keen eye to an important slice. Paying ransoms in a nation bereft of decent employment, saturated in daily violence, and lost in the long anguish of not knowing when life might become peaceful is tantamount to stapling "Kidnap me" signs on the foreheads of every well-to-do person left in Iraq.
You're good at this kind of thing, TH. I'd like to see you turn your attention to something more problematic like war profiteering.
Davod, ok, so they off'ed a few relatives and held the rest until their people were released. It was effective.
Not sure if we want the US taking up old Mafia tactics, but they do work. Does that make us as bad as them? Is it better to kill a few innocents now in order to save the lives of many?
Let 99 criminals go to keep one innocent man free? What happens when those 99 criminals let free go out and murder 99 people? Sounds like something could be wrong there. Sure, sucks to be that one guy, but it also sucks for the relatives of the 99 murdered people.
Extending the logic from the original post, does it really matter if terrorists get 2 million from a private citizen or 2 million from a government (say France?). That 2 million, regardless of the source, still gives them the same liquidity in terms of purchasing power. Would it be better if France and Italy simply funneled their ransom payments through a private third party?
Just because they used to be does not mean that they are now by default. France has actively worked against us for years, and threatened Soviet defection in the Cold War to twist our arms politically. They're not allies, and they're not friends. They're an ancient foreign power that wishes to be great again, not dis-similar from Russia or Iran.
"Dear annonymous, can you name the nation that most helped us with that thing we had called "the revolutionary war"?"
Tired hat. Do you know what the French often say when an American mentions that they might ought to be grateful for being liberated in World War II? This is what I've heard, in person and on the Internet; "It was an act of geopolitical self interest, you'd have done it anyway. You didn't help us, you fought the Germans. We're not going to be grateful for something you did for yourself because we just happened to benefit from it."
Well, that applies to them too. They didn't help us during the Revolution... they opposed the British.
"Does it really matter if terrorists get 2 million from a private citizen or 2 million from a government (say France?)"
Yeah, it does. If a government caves and pays ransom for one of its citizens, it is now expected to pay ransom for ANY of its citizens; expected by both kidnappers and kidnapped. If someone kidnapped some Americans and the US government paid $2 million for their release, that's a giant broadcast saying "We will pay you $2 million to kidnap our citizens, step right up." And there's a whole bunch of citizens.
"Not sure if we want the US taking up old Mafia tactics, but they do work. Does that make us as bad as them? Is it better to kill a few innocents now in order to save the lives of many?"
Well, it all comes down to 'what is your clean conscience worth to you?' Is it worth the lives of fellow Americans you're charged to protect? Which ones? How many? And are you prepared to tell those dead countrymen's survivors, "We had the ability to save them, but I just didn't think it was right"?