Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hasta la vista....

According to published reports, the 3rd ranking member of Al-Qaeda was killed in western Pakistan early Saturday.

The problem with this information (on top of the fact that one report I read said they ran DNA tests to ascertain his identity... and got the results the same day) is that nobody really knows where Abu Hamzia Rabia ranks in Al-Qaeda. Some people think he's the number 3 guy, others say that he's a low level activist.

Regardless, he met his end apparently via a missile from a Predator drone. One report says that it's a CIA drone, but a lot of the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) are run by PMFs (private military firms), a point which would be lost on many journalists. Usually Predators are equipped with a variant of the Hellfire missile, the Hellfire-C, which is laser guided. I wonder, has anyone investigated the cultural sensitivity of killing Al-Qaeda members with "fire from hell?" That question just came to me, remember Operation Infinite Justice? How about changing the name to "Operation Smite Infidels with the fire of Hell!" Too dramatic?

This is a tactic which has yielded results in the past, but it's also an interesting point of discussion. What if this person really was just a low-level activist? What if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if our intel on his was inaccurate, and he's really just a farmer? Now the person flying the Predator becomes: judge, jury, and executioner, and there's no way for this guy to defend himself (as in a legal way, so as to dispute any allegations against him). On top of that, what happens if the guy has good intel that we could get out of him?

For the record, I support these kinds of actions, but I think that the topic itself is an interesting topic for discussion. One could make a very good argument against these tactics, on both legal and moral grounds. A previous time where a Predator was used to kill a high-profile Al-Qaeda target, was back in 2002, when a car carrying six Al-Qaeda members in Yemen was blown up by a Hellfire missile from a Predator. That strike posed other interesting questions: is it ok to launch strikes against people when they're in friendly countries? Do you have to get permission from their government on each target? If so, who gives the yes or no? With this attack, they later figured out one of the people in the car was a US citizen. Of course, this person was affiliating with Al-Qaeda, so there wasn't much sympathy for him.

Some food for thought as you sit in front of your computer, contemplating whether or not to go shopping and brave the holiday season crowds.

In other fun Mid-East news, Iran has just approved a law to block UN inspectors from their nuclear facilities. Has anyone told these guys that transparency can be effective in combating the problems of the security dilemma, by showing others that your actions are not intended to harm them? What are people supposed to think when you explicitly block them from investigating whether or not you're hostile?

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