Assume the Position

Saturday, August 03, 2002
 
Bigwig over on Silflay Hraka proposes an option to address the enduring Israeli-Palestinian problems and bring peace. It is, essentially, for the US (and possibly Europe) to allow significant Palestinian immigration to mitigate the effects the "right of return" would have on Israel. He's taken a bit of heat on the idea, and responded here and here. This would supposedly work on the basis of a promise made by each Palestinian immigrant: "Let them come to America. And in exchange, they give up the Right of Return for themselves and all their progeny, forever." I doubt such a promise would hold any more weight than Palestinians currently give to pre-partitioning deeds of sale.
(link via Glenn Reynolds)

His immigration idea isn't new, though he expects quite a different outcome than this person, just 9 days before the Sep 11th attacks (emphasis added):

Author: Laila
E-mail: Laila42735@aol.com
Date: 09/02/2001 5:49:46 PM
Subject: 1 million Palestinians in America
Message: If Palestinians want to end American blind support of Israel, they have to stop complaining and do something about it. Don't wait for anyone to come to your rescue because no one will come to you rescue. Every attempt must be made to increase the Palestinian and Muslim population of America. This in turn will increase the political power the Palestinians will have to control the congress, the senate, and the White house. I have helped a few of my cousins back home to immigrate to America. Every Muslim in this country should help a few cousins from back home immigrate to America. We should make a goal to help 1 million Muslims especially Palestinians from abroad immigrate to America. If anyone has been watching the news lately, until the huge increase in the Hispanic population none of the politicians would even talk to potential Hispanic voters. Now that there are over 30 million Hispanics in America, every politician is groveling at there feet. Wouldn't it be nice if these politicians started groveled [sic] at the feet of us Muslims.
While her political calculation skills need brushing up, there's little doubt about her sentiments.

The opposite approach might work better. Completely cutting off all Palestinian and Arab ingress to North America and Europe until a peaceful two-state solution is reached. That means zero immigrant visas, tourist visas, student visas, work visas, medical visas, etc.; and for those who already have visas, no extensions and no extenuating circumstances—you leave when your visa expires.

That results in no Constitutional problems and only minimal ones with the European Charter of Human Rights, but hits the people who could change things in the Mid East (the ruling families and the mid-to-upper classes) where it hurts—their ability to run to the West for everything their retrograde societies can't provide. Sorry, Sheik, wife number 4 ain't getting a tummy-tuck in New York. Nope, Prince, you won't be going to Harvard or the London School of Economics. Well, Sultan, you won't be dropping a bundle in Vegas or Monaco this year. Ya'll gotta stay home and fix the mess ya done made, and you can start by withdrawing all your support from Palestinian terrorists and lesser extremists. When the "right of return" is ditched, you may get the "privilege of visiting" back.

Of course, that's another pipe dream, since the Europeans would never go along with it as long as the Eiffel Tower is standing (a rather iffy length of borrowed time).



 
YACCS commenting system is now accepting new users, so I'll give it a try. I'll be fooling with the templates and setup, so some comments might get deleted while I figure out what I'm doing. I've already found that when the "Open off-site links in new windows" is checked, commenting will open a blank window as well as the comments window, so I'm going to try to find a way to suppress that.

UPDATE: Got that blank window suppressed.

UPDATE: Done. Looks like it's good to go.



Friday, August 02, 2002
 
Steven Den Beste lays out why we were attacked and why we must fight this war against Muslim extremists and anyone who would help them in an excellent essay.
It isn't American politics, or American military power, or American economic influence which motivated al Qaeda. What they really fear is much deeper, much more subtle, much much more insidious.
Go, read, and find out what it is.


Thursday, August 01, 2002
 
An unpleasant truth behind the Israel-Palestine conflict (if "truth" bothers you, just substitute "historic occurrence" or "continuing mistake"). Israel was never allowed (1), and possibly never wanted (2), to act as an occupying power over the territories after the 1967 war. Much of the current discussion about Afghanistan and Iraq revolves around the West's responsibility to "establish democracy" after forcing a regime change and often uses the US occupation of Japan following WWII as an example. Japan and Germany were utterly defeated and forced to unconditionally surrender. That set the stage for years of occupation, during which the US essentially wrote a constitution for Japan and forced them to sign it and abide by it.

Israel won the Six Day War. Israeli forces could have overrun Cario, Amman, and Damascus. Instead, they stopped, but Israel failed to force Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to admit defeat and officially surrender the captured territories. The "international community," as represented by the UN Security Council, called for Israel to withdraw from the captured territories. It was a status quo mentality playing across the board, a mentality that refused to accept that the status quo hadn't been working and wasn't going to start working. But, the US and others, under UN auspices, had successfully fought for the status quo in Korea, preventing the North from taking the South, and not proceeding to allow the South to take the North. And the US was currently involved in another status quo mess in Vietnam. There was no way the "international community" was going to allow Israel to keep the captured territories, even if Israel had wanted them.

But Jordan didn't want the West Bank back, they were glad to be rid of their Palestinian problem; Egypt wanted the Sinai and it was returned, but they didn't want Gaza and the Palestinians back; and there was no way Israel was going to return the Golan Heights to Syria without a negotiated and guaranteed peace, which Syria refused. So the Six Day War didn't end with peace treaties or surrenders, it stopped on the basis of cease fires; and left Israel occupying the captured territories.

What could (and probably should) have happened after it became clear that Gaza and the West Bank were never going back to Egypt and Jordan, would have been the UN officially recognizing Israel as the "Occupying Power" with all the commensurate responsibility and authority per the Fourth Geneva Convention (3). The Cold War dichotomy, with the US backing Israel and the USSR backing the Arabs, prevented that from happening. Instead, since 1967, Israel has essentially been held responsible for whatever happens in the territories without any real recognition or grant of authority over the territories. I don't mean to imply that the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration did not have control over Gaza, the West Bank and Golan Heights. It did, but at the same time the PLO was recognized as the "real" representatives of the Palestinian people by the Arab countries and too much of the rest of the "international community." The PLO was treated as a "government in exile," even though it had never been a government in any of the Israeli occupied territories; it was thus able to completely undermine any progress Israel made (or might have made) in establishing a civil government among the Palestinians who actually lived in the occupied territories.

The continuing recognition given to the PLO throughout the years, leading to the eventual signing of the Declaration of Principles On Interim Self-Government Arrangements by Arafat and Rabin in 1993, followed by Arafat's entry into Gaza in 1994, seems ridiculous. It's as if there had been an Imperial Japanese Liberation Organization in Peru from 1945 - 1951, recognized by some of the international community as the real representatives of the Japanese people, undermining the creation of a constitutional government in Japan, and then being handed control of Japan in 1952 to reconfirm the divinity of the Emperor and Japan's inherent right to possess as much of Asia as desired. (However, a IJLO taking over Japan would probably have turned out more effective and efficient than this PLO/PA/PNA mess.)

Had the international community given Israel the same leeway the Allies exercised during their post-WWII occupations to force the creation of moderate, democratic governments, there's a possiblity things in the Mid East would be quite different today and a moderate, West-leaning Palestinian State might have achieved independence decades ago. While that is exactly what most reasonable people want the US to do in Afghanistan, the "Arafat is the man" Palestinian-apologists still refuse to even recognize Israel's explicit Geneva Convention right to "remove public officials from their posts" in occupied terrorities.

[There is no guarantee that bringing self-determination to a host of predominately Muslim states will produce many secular, West-leaning states out of the bunch. Turkey may just be a fluke of geography and shari'a (Islamic law) may be inherently inimical to Western-style democracy.]



Note 1:

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Adopted unanimously at the 1382nd meeting.



Note 2:
On June 19, 1967, barely one week after Israel had swept to victory in the Six Day War, its cabinet met to determine national policy over the 42,000 square miles of Arab land the Jewish state had just conquered. Resisting the temptations of arrogance and the fears of renewed insecurity, the leadership decided by a one-vote margin to offer the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights to Egypt and Syria, respectively, in exchange for peace treaties. In the succeeding months, the Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, sought Palestinian leaders willing to create an autonomous, nonbelligerent state on the West Bank. And in early 1968, Eshkol wrote to President Lyndon B. Johnson:

"I have no sense of boastful triumph nor have I entered the struggle for peace in the role of victor. My feeling is one of relief that we were saved from disaster in June and for this I thank God. All my thoughts now are turned toward getting peace with our neighbors - a peace of honor between equals."

Already, however, it was clear there would be no such peace soon. Meeting in Khartoum in September 1967, the Arab world's heads of state endorsed the "three no's" - "no recognition with Israel, no peace and no negotiations with her." The Soviet Union began rebuilding Egypt's shattered military, while Yasser Arafat pledged that "our primary goal now is the liberation of Palestine through armed force."



Note 3: Liberated and vanquished countries were all placed under Allied Military Governments at the end of the war. The liberated countries were returned to civilian control fairly quickly, Germany and Japan remained under Allied military occupation for much longer: the Federal German Republic was established in 1949 (four years after surrender) as was NATO; the final peace treaty returning independence to Japan was signed in 1951 (six years after surrender) and retained a significant US military presence, and the ANZUS Pact was formed at the same time. Excluding the USSR and zones that became the Eastern bloc, the Allies didn't relinquish control of their former enemies until workable, West-friendly, democratic governments had been established (or imposed, if you prefer).

Like it or not, imperialistic or not -- it mostly worked in the West. However, the experience in the Eastern bloc was, from the West's perspective, a disaster. Out of both the war and occupation experiences came 1949's Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, aka The 4th Geneva Convention, which includes rules governing "Occupying Powers." In reading Section III covering occupied territories, there seems little doubt most of it was written to counter the worst of the atrocities committed by the Axis powers during the war and in the Soviet occupied territories after the war. There seems to have been scant consideration that the Allies used their occupation to completely reform governments. In other words, while the convention prohibits numerous actions by an occupying power, it seems to automatically assume that any occupying power is the aggressor and does not take into account that the occupying power might have been victorious in responding to unlawful aggression:

Art. 54. The Occupying Power may not alter the status of public officials or judges in the occupied territories, or in any way apply sanctions to or take any measures of coercion or discrimination against them, should they abstain from fulfilling their functions for reasons of conscience.

This prohibition does not prejudice the application of the second paragraph of Article 51 [allowable compelled labor]. It does not affect the right of the Occupying Power to remove public officials from their posts.

Art. 64. The penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force, with the exception that they may be repealed or suspended by the Occupying Power in cases where they constitute a threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the present Convention.

Subject to the latter consideration and to the necessity for ensuring the effective administration of justice, the tribunals of the occupied territory shall continue to function in respect of all offences covered by the said laws.

The Occupying Power may, however, subject the population of the occupied territory to provisions which are essential to enable the Occupying Power to fulfil its obligations under the present Convention, to maintain the orderly government of the territory, and to ensure the security of the Occupying Power, of the members and property of the occupying forces or administration, and likewise of the establishments and lines of communication used by them.

Art. 65. The penal provisions enacted by the Occupying Power shall not come into force before they have been published and brought to the knowledge of the inhabitants in their own language. The effect of these penal provisions shall not be retroactive.

The above doesn't seem to leave much room for an occupying power to change or establish a civil government in occupied territory. They may enact penal provisions during the occupation, but they can't "alter the status of public officials." They may "remove public officials from their posts," but they can't abolish the post itself (though they can probably leave it unfilled). They are required to govern as the occupying power while the occupation continues, but what happens after the the occupation ends? Is there a lawful way for an occupying power to replace a autocracy with a democracy that might be more friendly? Possibly.

One way would be to replace public officials with people friendlier to the occupying power, a so-called "puppet-regime," and then have them enact the desired changes in government structure. That might work if there was an existing government structure that could simply be restaffed and would then go about the restructuring. But that method doesn't seem applicable to an occupied territory that essentially has no pre-existing government.

There is, however, something quite easy to miss in article 6 that might provide the necessary leeway in such cases:

Art. 6. The present Convention shall apply from the outset of any conflict or occupation mentioned in Article 2.

In the territory of Parties to the conflict, the application of the present Convention shall cease on the general close of military operations.

In the case of occupied territory, the application of the present Convention shall cease one year after the general close of military operations; however, the Occupying Power shall be bound, for the duration of the occupation, to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory, by the provisions of the following Articles of the present Convention: 1 to 12, 27, 29 to 34, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 59, 61 to 77, 143.

Notice which article is missing in that list? Article 54. Apparently, if an occupation lasts one year after the "general close of military operations," the occupying power is no longer bound by article 54 and can then establish whatever kind of civil government it wants to see in the occupied territory. A prolonged cease fire meets the requirements of a "general close of military operations" and Israel should have been able to establish any government in the territories it wanted as the occupation continued.


 
Glenn Reynolds keeps the myth alive when he faults the "Homeland Security apparatus" for not finding a non-existent al Qaeda training camp in Alabama before the British.
A reader points out that it was the British, not any part of the Homeland Security apparatus, that found this al Qaeda training camp in Alabama.
Although I mentioned it here as an example of ABCNews.com trying to make hay out of an old story, I might as well provide a follow-up summary:

There is no al Qaeda training camp in Alabama, at least not at the Ground Zero facility. After ABC dug the story up again, there is this AP report the following day:

An investigation has uncovered no evidence that a camp near Marion was used as a terrorist training facility.

Marion Police Chief Tony Buford said he was misquoted. Buford said the camp is used by police officers from Alabama and Louisiana for training that includes target practice.

A spokesman for Gov. Don Siegelman and Department of Public Safety officials said they are aware of the reports. But after conducting background investigations of the site they found no reason to be concerned.

The British "found" this non-existent al Qaeda training camp before "any part of Homeland Security apparatus" did because Sulayman Bilal Zain-ul-abidin (in custody in Britain since October 1, 2001 on terrorism charges) was advertising a live-fire field trip to the US as part of his one-man Sakina Security Services training for British Muslims wanting to go join a jihad somewhere around the world.
Sakina’s Web site also offered courses in self-defense and hand-to-hand combat for Muslims, including the "Ultimate Jihad Challenge." After mastering the "art of bone breaking" and learning to "improvise explosive devices," it said, British Muslims would be given the opportunity to squeeze off up to 3,000 rounds at a shooting range in the United States before heading off to fight for Islamic causes around the world. "All serious firearms training must be done overseas" because of British gun laws, the Web site said.
But, according to all accounts, that training never took place at Ground Zero USA. (Unlike the training that supposedly did take place "several years ago at a secret camp near the village of Yetgoch in southern Wales." That is where Yates, operations and training director of Ground Zero, first met Zain-ul-abidin who was using the alias Frank Etim. Yates was an instructor and Etim was one of the students.) Zain-ul-abidin was apparently trying to schedule use of the Ground Zero facilities for April 2002, but Yates insists a deal was never completed.

I suppose if Zain-ul-abidin had also offered an "escape and evasion driving course on a 1.6 mile road course on a 60 acre facility in the USA" as a follow-up to the live fire training, then the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving would now be considered an al Qaeda training camp in Arizona.

It's rather disingenuous to fault the US government because the British found a British Muslim al Qaeda recruiter in Britain who attempted, but failed, to arrange live fire training at a facility in the US.

UPDATE: Glenn disagrees with my use of "disingenuous" since he "was writing what [he] thought to be true." My impression was that the MSNBC article he linked to presented clear reasons the British should have suspected first, even if Ground Zero USA was actually being used by Muslim extremists: e.g. the open recruiting and advertising for jihadii in Britain; while they would, presumably, present themselves as British tourists if they got to the US. Since I considered that obvious from the article, I thought it disingenuous to use the British first raising suspicions and contacting US authorities as an example of a US failure. I wasn't trying to say Glenn was lying, but that he was presenting the very misleading and completely unsupported conclusion that there was some reason the US should have discovered it before the British.



Wednesday, July 31, 2002
 
Does "jihad" primarily mean "holy war" or any "moral struggle," or has its meaning shifted over time? I still don't know, but Adil Farooq, Aziz Poonawalla and H. D. Miller all have something interesting to say.


 
Various US reports on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on war with Iraq:
Reuters - "U.S. Senate Panel Debates Military Action on Iraq"

Washington Post - "Butler Says Iraq Is Unlikely To Help Arm Terrorists"

Scripps Howard News Service - "Experts warn Senate panel on threat posed by Iraq"

Associated Press - "Ex-U.N. Inspector Testifies on Iraq"

United Press International - "Senate told Iraq action must be long term"

In all, nothing from today's hearing changes my basic view from the comments I've made to NZ Bear's Do It Now post and Bill Quick's And We All May Pay the Price post, which can be summed up as:

The current bluster seems designed to push Saddam into either backing down (like Qadhafi) or making a irrevocable mistake that can justify a US attack. If he does the former, there will be no US/Iraq war, if he does the latter he will be toast.

From Washington's perspective, I imagine it to be an argument over the difference between should and must. While there may be plenty of reasons we probably should directly attack Iraq and force a regime change at the earliest opportunity, at the present time there seems to be a shortage of reasons that demand we must do so right now. I think the "go slow" crowd is going to win out.

When I look at the situation from a purely cynical political perspective, I can't see the US starting an invasion of Iraq prior to early 2004 unless it is in direct response to something Saddam does. I think it is too late, now, to successfully pull off an "October suprise" in a manner that would practically guarantee Republican successes this November. An early 2003 invasion would put Bush 43 in the same position Bush 41 was in after the Gulf War: a Jan-Feb 2003 invasion of Iraq, victory before or around summer 2003, leaving 18 months of recriminations, set backs in "establishing democracy" and whatever else, leading up to Nov 2004 and a potential Bush 43 loss. That leaves a Jan-Feb 2004 invasion that would place the Nov elections at a time when the administration still carried some of the "flush of victory."



Tuesday, July 30, 2002
 
Some remarks are just too outrageous to let pass, and Clinton's remark in Toronto yesterday is one of them:
"If the Iraqi army crossed the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle and fight, and die."
Far be it from me to point out to our Rhodes Scholar former-President that the Iraqi army couldn't get within 100 miles of the Jordan river. Any movement of Iraqi forces across the border into Jordan or Syria wouldn't get more than 50 miles before all hell broke loose and the Great Satan and Lesser Satan turned his armor to slag in a reprisal of the Highway of Death. (link via PejmanPundit)

UPDATE: From the better late than never department, GOPers, vets rip Bill's vow to fight. (link via Bill Quick)

"The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian Army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch and fight and die," he said.
So now it's the Iranian's, too, and they'd only have to go through Iraq just to get to Jordan, let alone anywhere near the Jordan River.


 
The power of the web shows up in a new way. The Cario Times is a weekly English-language periodical with a website. Nothing new there, but their website includes the "Forbidden File":
As a foreign-licensed publication, the Cairo Times must go through a censor before it enters Egypt. There's a rough guideline of things we're not allowed to write about, but sometimes it seems the goalposts change every week. You never know what they'll accept and what they won't. Usually we have to take out a paragraph or two (we've marked these parts in red), but sometimes they'll want a whole story removed, and if we don't comply they can ban the whole issue. Here's a sample of what the censor didn't want you to read.
And all Tim Blair was interested in was their search icon.


 
The WWII Internment of Germans and Italians was picked up on by Bill Quick, who provides a link to one of the FOITimes articles. That article doesn't have a link to the full and detailed material concerning German American internment available on Arthur D. Jacobs FOITimes site. Lawrence Distasi provides a good site covering Italian American internment. Distasi's site is not nearly as exhaustive as Jacobs, who provides copies of the actual Proclamations and Executive Orders as well as detailed population counts and evidence that clears up much of the confusion that causes "internment" and "relocation" camps to lumped together, often wrongly.


 
$13,000 an hour? Overlawyered.com follows the case of the "outrageous" fees awarded to the lawyers in the tobacco settlement and the judge who's giving them fits.


Monday, July 29, 2002
 
When the left "fisks" the far-left-communist-postmodernists (or should that be far-left-postmodern-communists?) Mitchell Cohen, co-editor of Dissent and professor of political theory at Baruch College, skewers Hardt and Negri's Empire with, dare I say it, "facts," from what Islamic fundamentalism really is (hint: not postmodernism) to the kill zone: "No wonder that the postmodern left hasn't won a real political battle anywhere." (link via Heinrich Faust )


 
Ritt "the Git" Goldstein is back in the Sydney Morning Herald with another panicky, paranoia pushing piece in which he wallows in the standard FEMA is a government plot to impose a perpetual dictatorship on the US pandemonium.

Before you fly off into never-never land with the Git, it might help to realize that "assembly centres" and "relocation camps" start at the low end with a high school gym filled with cots or a fairground filled with tents to house people driven from their homes by floodwaters; and extend all the way to "internment camps" like those used during WWII to inter Japanese, Germans and Italians. [Yes, that's right, I said Germans and Italians. The old "WWII internment was racist because Germans and Italians weren't interred" has always been a myth (if you're feeling generous) or a well promoted lie (if you're feeling snarky).]

Additionally, the possibility for the executive (president or governor) to declare "martial law" (depending on how it is defined—suspension of civil courts or use of federal troops in domestic policing or both) has always been present. There is nothing new here. What the Git and others want you to ignore is that between WWII and Sep 11, 2002, the use of federal troops in domestic situations has been mostly to enforce civil rights laws [internal anchors removed]:

Since World War II, however, the President, by virtue of his own powers and the authority vested in him by Congress, has utilized federal troops on nine occasions, five of them involving resistance to desegregation decrees in the South. In 1957, Governor Faubus employed the Arkansas National Guard to resist court-ordered desegregation in Little Rock, and President Eisenhower dispatched federal soldiers and brought the Guard under federal authority. In 1962, President Kennedy dispatched federal troops to Oxford, Mississippi, when upon the admission of an African American student to the University of Mississippi rioting broke out, with which federal marshals originally assigned could not cope. In June and September of 1964, President Johnson sent troops into Alabama to enforce court decrees opening schools to blacks. And in 1965, the President used federal troops and federalized local Guardsmen to protect participants in a civil rights march. The President justified his action on the ground that there was a substantial likelihood of domestic violence because state authorities were refusing the marchers protection.
You probably won't find the Git or ACLU bemoaning those historical instances of "martial law," in most of those cases they probably would have complained that the federal government didn't send in troops soon enough. The post Sep 11 deployment of National Guard troops to the nation's airports was, in fact, temporary and did not presage some totalitarian disaster. [Part of the reason there have been suggestions that the Posse Comitatus Act needs to be revisited has to do with the airport Title 32 (state) deployment versus the Title 10 (federal) deployment of the Guard for border security.)]

A basic planning problem from the national to the local level is always the same, it is well expressed by Paul W. O'Brien near the conclusion of this post-Sep 11th study:

The Board of Education has an elaborate emergency response plan in place. The plan is located on a CD-ROM disk in each and every school. The CD-ROM allows administrators to use a cascading scenario approach to select the best course of action, be it a bombing, shooting, or hostage situation. One of the major problems that occurred with the school system was the wide area impacted. The emergency plan, for example, foresaw many schools evacuating to Stuyvesant High School. Stuyvesant, however, was also being evacuated. Planning needed to be modified given the scale of events.

One of the issues arising out of this investigation is dealing with low probability events. How is a society to deal with events that might never happen again? As in the case of the New York City school system, how many personnel and resources should be devoted to updating an excellent emergency plan to include another event on the scale of the World Trade Center attack? If no additional planning is completed with the modification of current plans, and another low probability event does occur, who receives the blame? On the other hand, if personnel and resources are diverted to create an enhanced plan that is never used, who bears the political costs of such a decision?

There's another indirect political cost that O'Brein doesn't mention. If the NYC school system emergency response plan was updated to include evacuating students completely out of any potential danger zone following a widespread disaster (say a small nuke at one of the commercial ports), it would likely include provisions to transport some students into New Jersey without authorization of their parents in the form of signed field-trip permission slips. Such provisions, when found by a git, can then be pounced on with headlines like, "New York Board of Education plans to kidnap thousands of children;" the story flushed out with a scenario of overloaded busloads of frightened children, crying that they want their parents, high-tailing it across state lines.

If you make plans to respond to low probability, widespread disasters and emergencies, they are going to contain scary provisions; the bigger the emergency, the more drastic the response measures. It is a given that the standing personnel resources of civil authority are scaled for routine activity. No jurisdiction maintains sufficient personnel to respond to large disasters, they rely on mutual aid pacts with surrounding jurisdictions. But, because we tend to count disasters in lives and dollars, we tend to overestimate the scale of major emergencies in recent times. Consider the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake—San Francisco: "Severe effects such as injuries, fatalities[,] and property loss were highly localized[,] concentrated in five primary clusters totaling roughly .5 square miles or 1 percent of the city's land area." Oakland: "Oakland was fortunate in that the requirement for intense response activities was limited to one location, the Cypress 1-880 collapse. Other minor search and rescue efforts were required elsewhere in the City, none of which overwhelmed the City's first responders."

But there are widespread disasters, like 1992's Hurricane Andrew, that overwhelm local capabilities and require a swift, coordinated federal response, a response that was completely lacking in South Florida [emphasis added]:

The hurricane struck hardest at Dade County, where it made landfall in the predawn hours of Monday, August 24, but its effects were felt in many parts of southern Florida. The number of Floridians requiring federal assistance eventually reached 310,000 (130,000 households). It took four days-an eternity in the eyes of those affected-after Andrew struck before federal forces mobilized to relieve the area. (In fact, the federal government could not act until formally requested to do so by Governor Lawton Chiles (Democrat), and the governor initially reckoned that the problem could be handled by Florida's National Guard.) As images of devastation filled the media and recrimination mounted, FEMA became the poster-child for distant Washington's incompetence. In what was widely seen as vote of no confidence, President George Bush put the Secretary of Transportation, not the head of FEMA, in charge of the Florida recovery effort.

South Florida recovered from Andrew faster than did FEMA's reputation. The center for Strategic and International Studies called for dissolving the agency. A Wall Street Journal front-page article in early 1993 quoted disaster assistance experts who called the agency beyond repair. FEMA was put under internal and external review. Both the FEMA inspector general, in a performance audit of Hurricane Andrew, and the General Accounting Office (GAO), in five separate reports to Congress, concluded that FEMA could have made much greater use of predictive modeling technology in preparing for Andrew. A National Association of Public Administration report drew similar conclusions. The inspector general's recommendation was typical of the three assessments. FEMA, it said, should "adopt models employing appropriate technology to project disaster damage." It should also "establish a system and procedures for converting damage projections into a scaled Federal Disaster response."

[FEMA was able to turn itself around in part due to CATS (consequences assessment tool set), a model able to pull together enough realtime data to make accurate predictions about the level of damage and required responses to emergencies. 1993, Hurricane Emily, "CATS predicts damage to 674 homes, actual damaged 683." 1994, "the Northridge earthquake struck the Los Angeles area. Within hours of the U.S. Geological Survey's identification of the earthquake's epicenter, CATS estimated that 560,000 households would require assistance. In fact, 600,000 applied for help. The model showed which areas had suffered severe and which areas had suffered moderate damage. FEMA was able to project, among other things, what kind of foreign-language interpreters would be needed in which sectors. It also isolated areas where the probability of damage was so high that government—flooded with damage reports and critically shorthanded—could begin to process claims even before sending in trained assessors." 1995, Hurricane Marilyn in the Virgin Islands, "CATS predicted that 5,100 households would require assistance. Authorities eventually received 5,300 applications for help."]

The creation of FEMA in 1979 took the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency from the Department of Defense; Federal Disaster Assistance Administration from Housing and Urban Development; the Federal Preparedness Agency, U.S. Fire Administration and National Academy for Fire Preparedness Agency from the General Services Administration; and Earthquake Hazards Reduction programs from the Office of Science and Technology Policy. It was a standard consolidation program based on the simple conclusion that regardless of the cause of the emergency (natural or man-made, including intentional attacks), disaster response and recovery has core needs: evacuation of hazard areas; search and rescue, medical care for the injured, shelter for the displaced, replacement / replenishment of essential supplies (food, water; etc.); finding, identifying and disposing of the dead; maintaining law and order; etc. Likewise, disaster mitigation and preparedness share core factors that deal directly with minimizing the adverse effects from disasters and enabling successful response and recovery efforts.

Consider ten percent of Phoenix, Arizona, on fire pre-FEMA. If it was caused by a wildfire, then federal disaster response would have to be requested from, say, the US Forest Service. If it was caused by a gas explosion, request help from the EPA;. if caused by domestic terrorists, request help from the US Fire Administration and the FBI; if caused by a foreign attack (a couple of SCUDs from Mexico?), then request help from DOD. If you're not sure how the fire started, do not request any help until you have made a proper determination of the cause so that you can submit your request to the proper agency. As far as disaster response is concerned, it doesn't much matter what caused Phoenix to be in flames, the immediately necessary responses are mostly the same in any case and having a single agency to coordinate and direct the response is a better way to go.

When the Guard and/or active troops are called out to respond to a disaster, the vast majority of them are search and rescue, civil engineering, transportation, communications, and just another pair of hands setting up tents, passing out food, and filling sandbags or digging firebreaks. A thousand troops sent to a disaster area is not normally a thousand M-16 toting soldiers patrolling the streets and shooting looters.

Civil disturbance is a different story. We can look at the 1992 LA riots in the wake of the first Rodney King verdict. Before the four days of rioting were over, some 4000 National Guard had been "federalized" and an additional 4000+ regular Army and Marines had been deployed—over 8000 trigger-happy, M-16 toting, government trained killers (to paraphrase the gits). Oh, dear, the bloodbath that was sure to follow. Yeah, right. Of the 51 people whose deaths the coroner determined were riot related, 36 had been shot; but only one was shot by a Guardsman and 9 were shot by police / sheriff. Must have been a real disappointment to all the race-war yahoos and federal tyranny gits—51 deaths, over 2,300 injuries, 3,600 structural fires, 12,000 arrests, and then riots spreading to half a dozen other cities; and the feds pack up and go home after getting things settled down enough that they are no longer needed.

Sorry, but that's how it works, and it doesn't change things that in 1979 Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12148 stating, "[a]ll functions vested in the President that have been delegated or assigned to the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Department of Defense, are transferred or reassigned to the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. . . . [a]ll functions vested in the President that have been delegated or assigned to the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, are transferred or reassigned to the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including any of those functions redelegated or reassigned to the Department of Commerce with respect to assistance to communities in the development of readiness plans for severe weather-related emergencies. . . . [a]ll functions vested in the President that have been delegated or assigned to the Federal Preparedness Agency, General Services Administration, are transferred or reassigned to the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. . . . [and a]ll functions vested in the President by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 (42 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.), including those functions performed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, are delegated, transferred, or reassigned to the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency." The "functions" are "vested" in the office of the President and they will be carried out by one executive agency or another when necessary.

Besides, if the fine men and women of the US Supreme Court had paraded in their black gowns through downtown LA on May 1, 1992, backed by Ritt "the Git" Goldstein leading the entire UC Berkeley student body in a chorus of "We are the World," I don't think they would have accomplished much more than getting themselves hospitalized or killed. Nor would an emergency injunction by the US Supreme Court, directing all the rioters to "cease and desist," have done much good. Whine all you want, but significant breakdowns in civil authority are rare in the US, the use of martial law is even rarer, and has generally been terminated in reasonably swift order—don't bet on it changing.




Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.