Friday, March 16, 2007

Rap sheet or laundry list?

In a hearing at Guantanamo Bay, alleged terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has ‘confessed’ to the commission of, or involvement in, more than thirty terrorist plots, from the September 11 2001 atrocities in the US, to a plot to kill the late Pope John Paul II.

It’s been remarked that this is not so much a rap sheet as a laundry list. Scepticism about the reliability of Khalid’s confession is understandable in consideration of the opaque quasi-judicial proceedings of the Guantanamo military commissions.

Doctoral candidate Dylan Kissane appears to accept the reliability of the confession implicitly, while his nemesis, Flinders University doctoral student Damian Lataan, characteristically rejects it in entirety as “garbage”.

Likely the truth lies somewhere between the entrenched positions of Loony Lataan and Credulous Kissane. Meanwhile, we may wonder at the state of ‘higher learning’ generally.


Anonymous Dylan said...

Hmmmm....I am not sure if I would go with 'crtedulous'.

I wouldn't hold myself to be gullible, particularly in the case of the people responsible for 9/11. I still hold it to be al-Qaeda, they have admitted it a couiple of times now (once soon afterwards, a few times in video messages since and now again through KSM) and I would have thought that it would be a matter of believing the rather overwhelming evidence rather than simply being gullible on my part.

As well, perhaps you can go more into why my post makes you wonder about the state of higher learning. Granted I have only been researching and publishing for a couple of years now (one as an honours student, almost one as a doctoral candidate) but in that time my work has been reasonably well received in the field, at least as far as early research could expect to be. As well as my blog I keep most everything research-related on my site and you are free to poke through it. I hope it will be enough to convince you that when it comes to my 'higher learning' I am not wasting anyone's time.

16/3/07 6:04 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

No worries, Dylan, shall check out your research stuff when I get a chance.

I guess my impression of your academic outlook (or whatever) is based on the odd post of yours I've looked at - which is maybe a tad unfair, seeing that any given blog entry on any given blog may be rant or whimsy, rather than a formal statement of an intellectual position.

Similarly, criticisms of Lataan's academic standards, whatever they may be, seem almost exclusively based on his output on his and other blogs.

By the way, I'm not saying you're 'gullible' for holding al-Qaeda responsible for the attacks on the US, which seems a quite reasonable conclusion on the balance of probabilities. A fair reading of my post should make my meaning clearer.

Basically the point is that the Guantanamo regime is seriously flawed, if not totally discredited. It can only produce outcomes that will, by their nature, be held to serious question, on the basis of the discovery 'methods' that have been applied.

Just on one point--- Khalid is held, on the basis of this 'confession', to have masterminded, or otherwise been primarily responsible for, the Bali bombing. This will come as news to the Australian Government, which wants Indonesia's Abu Bakar Bashir to do hard time for masterminding the same atrocity.

Do you see the kinds of problems that will emerge from this?

Anyway, I was rather amused by a recent post of yours trumpeting that Australians Heart Cheney. You 'instantiate' your claim with a picture depicting a couple of lonely individuals holding a huge, gaudy banner.

Claim proven, I guess: A couple of isolated Aussies have taken Mr Cheney to their hearts.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, Dylan, but you'd be a booster for Bush/Cheney, wouldn't you?

Sorry, but I can't help seeing that as indicative of perhaps at least one intellectual blind-spot on your part. Still I suppose it's your business that you're a booster for the team that has led their country and ours into a disaster of possibly epochal proportions. (To say nothing of the Iraqis...)

16/3/07 8:43 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Dylan - al-Qaeda yes, but this guy isn't "al-Qaeda", he's just a guy.

Is there anyone in the world who seriously believes that it wasn't al-Qaeda?

A toddler could tell you that.

Oh, okay, other than the nutter conspiracy theorists.

In between planning the world's most notorious terrorist attacks, he planned but didn't deliver on a range of assassination, and in his spare time he beheaded journalist.

Possible? Sure, anything is possible.

Plausible? Not especially.

Probable? All that responsibility vested in one guy? Networks all over the world plugging into one guy, that is, Bin Laden had this all set up around a single source of breakdown? I don't fucking think so.

16/3/07 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

"He's just a guy."

Yeah Caz . A fall guy!

16/3/07 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Dylan said...

Hi Jacob, and thanks for the response.

Yes, I think I would certainly be considered a 'Bush booster' or something like that. I would probably broaden it to 'America booster' or 'Anti-Anti-American', though the latter is not very eloquent. Certainly I don't make any apologies on my blog for seeing the world through this prism and the obvious bias this brings to the interpretation of the events I write on. Still, I am aware of it and the odd post like the 'Australians Heart Cheney' one are ones I like to think of as self-parody of a sort. In that case, the overwhelming reaction to Cheney's visit was negative and I thought that it took some cojones to make that sign and, in Aussie terms, shit-stir the others whose protests would have been (I imagine) just out of shot.

Does that make me a booster for the guys who have taken Australia into a mess in Iraq and brought a lot of problems (as you point out) for the Iraqis? It does.

However, I do think that the US brings a lot more good to the table than they do bad. If these in combination present a blind-spot then - at the very least - it is one that I recognise, if fail to mention on the blog.

Thanks for the explanation on gullibility. Perhaps I interpreted 'credulous' in the wrong sense - I would usually use that word as a synonym for gullible.

The KSM confession does make for difficulties for the governments and you ask some interesting questions which will have to be answered. The confession (I linked to it on my site) on the Bali matter may not be as problematic as you suggest. Reading the preamble to that section (bottom of p.17 and top of p.18) suggests that his role could have been anything from participant to financier of that operation. Bashir could have thought it all up, trained the bombers, transported them to Bali and as long as he did so on KSM's dime the confession would not hurt the Aussie stand against him. I don't know the specifics of the ABB case but my impression was that he was a cleric - wouldn't it be expected he raise the funds from someone like KSM as he would not be expected to have a large bankroll of his own?

It's all speculation but the confession doesn't necessarily cause huge problems for the Bali was against ABB, in my humble opinion.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond again, Jacob.

PS - If you do have a poke through the research you might be surprised to find that barely any of it is in the realm of 'practical politics' or much modern day politics as opposed to the blog. I don't think I have published or presented much at all in the last couple of years that touches on the issues I regularly consider on the blog.

As I put in my first post: "After a couple of years hiatus from blogging, I am getting back on track. The reason? I am now moving into a writing phase of my thesis and I think that a few minutes free writing every day will probably help to get my head/fingers/whatever in gear for the hours spent on the keyboard."

The blog is about as far from the research I do as is possible. It gets my fingers working and the mind turning over each day. The blog is fun for me, the research is what I am most serious about.

Thanks again.

16/3/07 11:25 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Sure, Dylan, the US does quite a bit of good, but that seems more and more in spite of the damage being done by Team Bush. Oh well, that discussion coud go on and on, but of course you're essentially right - rather a world dominated by a government amenable to democratic influences, than some of the alternatives.

As to the KSM confession, this article kind of joins some of the dots in so far as what's known particularly from the 9/11 Commission. Interesting, in light of Caz's comments above, that KSM seems almost reckless in his behaviour prior to his capture - and perhaps hardly a 'devout' muslim by his chief's ascetic standards.

Anyway, commentators seem divided as to the reliability of the confession. E.g., see here: “Mohammed was so expansive in his acceptance of responsibility that other defendants might be able to use his statements in their own defence.” And “It is not clear whether Mohammed was as involved as he claims, or whether he was simply indulging in a penchant for drama and self-aggrandisement.” Furthermore “US intelligence and counterterrorism officials cautioned that Mohammed is often viewed as a megalomaniac and might have been exaggerating his role in al-Qaeda's operations, in part because he knew the proceedings would be made public.”

Mind games, eh???

Once again, the questions over the methods and processes of the military commissions have a bearing on all this. Personally I find it all unacceptable from the point of view of justice being seen to be done for the victims of terrorist attacks. Then again, victims and/or their families may have another view, which I'd be interested to hear about.

17/3/07 2:29 PM  

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