Assume the Position

Wednesday, December 04, 2002
The push to arm Predator drones came out of the Air Force. Back in August, I remarked that I thought "the CIA gets credit for pushing that novelty into action" instead of any of the military services. According to Vernon Loeb's column in the Washington Post, the CIA opposed use of armed Predators:
This inside account of how the Predator emerged as America's number one counterterrorist weapon comes from "The Age of Sacred Terror," a new book by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, two former counterterrorism officials who worked under Clarke [Richard A. Clarke, counterterrorism chief] on Clinton's National Security Council.

After the Bush administration took office in January 2001, Clarke continued pushing the Predator, which the Air Force was now proposing to arm with laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles, making the video-equipped reconnaissance platform a potent air-to-ground striker.

The Air Force's original timetable was three years for arming the Predator. Clarke convinced them to do it in three months. That summer, the Air Force built a replica of bin Laden's house near Khandahar on a Nevada test range. On its first try, a Predator scored a direct hit.

But still the bickering continued.

The CIA--according to the chronology laid out by Benjamin and Simon, which they acknowledge is probably incomplete-suddenly had reservations. One of them now seems most ironic in retrospect, given all the accolades the CIA has since received for its Predator heroics: "The Agency said it was not appropriate for the CIA to operate the Predator."

When principals from the Bush administration met on Sept. 4 to discuss the al Qaeda threat-seven days before the terrorist attacks-CIA Director George J. Tenet spoke up in forceful opposition to the Predator, according to Benjamin and Simon. "It would be a terrible mistake, he declared, for the Director of Central Intelligence to fire a weapon like this," they write. "That would happen, he said, over his dead body."

Benjamin and Simon thus lament the delays that kept Predator from flying reconnaissance and strike missions over Afghanistan for eight months prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The development of Predator gave the United States its best new tool for finding and stopping bin Laden, and eight essential months were lost because the new foreign policy team was not persuaded of the nature of the threat."

Within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Hellfire-armed Predator was flying in Afghanistan. "In November," Benjamin and Simon write, "the drone identified a house where a large meeting of al-Qaeda personnel was underway. Navy F/A-18 fighters were alerted and bombed the house. When those inside emerged, the Predator fired its two Hellfire missiles. Among those killed was Muhammad Atef, al Qaeda's military chief for nearly a decade. To date, he is the highest-ranking member of the organization known to have died in Afghanistan."

Monday, December 02, 2002
Professor Bunyip has returned from one of his "overseas fact-finding missions" and wasn't too pleased with the flight on Qantas.
The seats these days are cramped to the point where, at least once in the course of his mid-flight deliriums, long-forgotten memories of the Professor's birth welled up from the subconscious. What a pleasant comparison! At full prenatal dilation, the typical cervix is a good deal more capacious than an economy class Qantas seat -- so much so that, when the Professor awoke fevered and confused from his mid-ocean slumbers, he briefly mistook the headphones clamped upon his sweaty temples for the forceps that drew him so many years ago into this wide world of woe. Fortunately, reality trumped instinct before he could cry, "Mama!" and suckle on the hostess -- thus avoiding a sure case of food poisoning and denying the weekend papers a lively tale of aerial assault.
He also has a suggestion for how Qantas should protect against rocket attacks.

Sunday, December 01, 2002
The internecine squabble continues. (link via Curmudgeonly & Skeptical)
Now, Katha, you and I both attended many rallies in favor of the victory of the Vietcong. Were we duped? Were we led astray by sheep-faced "pacifist" clerics or shifty-eyed Stalinists? No. (Or perhaps I should speak for myself here.) We knew what we were doing, and we wished mainly that Vietnam, which constituted no threat to anybody, had been reunified and independent by 1945. The objection to Washington's imperialist war was not that it would go badly, or turn into a "quagmire." For shame! The point was to take the side of the revolution.

As you well know, the sectarian left has had a hand in a great many noble causes, including the ones you still espouse. You told me a few years ago that you "signed everything that came across your desk" to keep Mumia Abu-Jamal from the death chamber.

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