I was expecting Stephen Colbert to have a field day with this story, but no, apparently his fellow conservative pundit (and Just For Men's #1 customer) Cal Thomas is more quickly provoked by comic book news and more ridiculous.
Chomsky starts with democracy movements in the Mideast but manages to comment on EVERYTHING. Quite a feat, and still spot on!
"The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons -- in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.
"Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship."
Gary's analysis will sound like blasphemy to many people, and even he admits he was afraid to say it loud and clear before, but now it looks like there's no denying it: al Qaeda was way overrated.
My question is, why didn't we (meaning, our intel and military services) know this sooner... Or did they know it all along, and "The War on Terra" was just a grand excuse to ratchet military spending back up to pre-Clinton levels? I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and that's good because this version of events doesn't require a conspiracy, just a lot of self-aggrandizing defense and intel bureaucrats, opportunistic contractors, and think-tank chicken-hawks nerds individually depositing our collective fear in their respective bank accounts for the past decade.
There are times when you look back and wish you'd had the courage to say what you were thinking. With me it's a spotty record: Sometimes I do, but more often I wimp out. I wish now I'd said the first thing that came into my head when I started hearing about Al Qaeda, which was, "No, it can't be. Violates every rule of guerrilla organization."
People are starting to see that now, starting to doubt whether there is such a thing—but that's only because Al Qaeda has been no-showing like the Second Coming. Libya was the latest place it was supposed to show up. Egypt before that. Remember Glenn Beck talking about the Caliphate? For that matter, remember Glenn Beck? God, there's another freak who you'd think couldn't exist. But he did, running on fumes, just like Al Qaeda. Beck is in the Second-Coming business himself, but his Jesus is Osama and he made his money predicting Squidward-with-a-beard
would show up in Encino any day. The Egyptian revolution was just Al Qaeda in disguise as a few million yuppies. Libya was the same Osama-of-a-thousand-faces, this time as a mixed crowd of bored kids and their dads. Wherever it was, Cairo or Benghazi, it was Osama by another name.
It never made sense. That's what I wish I'd said sooner and louder and more often. The whole concept of Al Qaeda is wrong. The name means "The Base" in Arabic, and the idea is that it's a central clearinghouse for dozens of different guerrilla groups, sharing an Islamic ideology but representing different countries and tribes and languages. They get together and share intelligence and personnel and materiel, because they're all good Muslims working for a common cause. It's the old kiddie dream of a vast umbrella group of baddies, S.P.E.C.T.R.E from Man from Uncle, KAOS in Get Smart, the ridiculous villain and his volcano HQ in every lame Bond film.
It's just a terrible idea. The last thing any sane guerrilla group wants to do is to go to an international guerrilla jamboree like the Boy Scouts. Sure, you'll share ideas and prop up each others' morale—and in the meantime, the informers—because every decent-sized guerrilla group must assume it's been penetrated—will be taking careful notes, taking quiet candid pictures, and putting together organizational charts. By the time you go to your home country from the big Jihad Jamboree in Waziristan or Tora Bora, you can be sure that the informers have shared their info with their handlers. And although some intel agencies can be stingy, most of them share info very readily, so every informer has in effect given the breakdown of every local group to every intel agency in the world.
And that's death to a guerrilla, literally death, and not a quick or easy death either. Sharing info is good for intelligence agencies (most of the time; there are exceptions, like sharing the identity of some agents), but it's the worst thing in the world for guerrillas.
That's why guerrilla groups either start out with or switch to cell style organizations. Many times you'll see a guerrilla group starting out imitating military organization, with big units and uniforms and parades. That's asking to be wiped out. Sometimes they are wiped out; but if they survive, their second coming always involves switching to four-person cells, where three out of four members don't know anything except the identity of the other cell members. And even the fourth, the cell leader, only knows the identity of one contact in the larger organization.
By bringing Jihadis from around the world to get Osama's blessing, Al Qaeda was giving them a short-term boost in morale and finances but pretty much guaranteeing they'd be penetrated and destroyed within a few years. And that's what happened: a big splash on 9/11, a few aftershocks in East Africa, Bali, Madrid and London, and then nothing but cops breaking down doors all over the world to the soundtrack of Hellfire missiles from Predator drones vaporizing mud houses in Northern Pakistan.
What made Al Qaeda so scary was that they went all out, in an age where the military norm is to use a tiny little fraction of your actual power. To see that style in action, just look at Libya now: NATO has the largest common air force in the world and could make every Qaddafi-held town in Libya a column of black smoke in a few minutes, but what they actually do is hold a classic EU discussion before taking out a single tank.
Al Qaeda made its mark by using everything they had. Every contact in every country. Every dime of finance. Every pound of plastique. Every willing suicide bomber. They literally doubled up on their attacks, trying for at least two big targets every time: the WTC, Pentagon and White House on 9/11, multiple tube stations on 7/7, two Israeli vacation spots and a US Embassy in Kenya. That sort of splurging really shocked bureaucrats who've spent their lives hedging their bets. And it worked, short-term; it made Al Qaeda look much bigger and more important than it really was. For that matter, the only reason they lasted as long as they did is that Western intel didn't have any decent Arabic-speaking specialists. They weren't enthusiastic about real terrorists; too sweaty, too foreign. Up until 9/11 forced their hand, they wanted to focus on the real threat: "Eco-terrorists," a couple dozen hippies in the nice cool Oregon forests, where there are some pretty comfy hotels a fed can relax in, and the suspects speak English.
If we'd stepped back and looked coldly at the damage after 9/11, it wouldn't have made such an impression. Three thousand dead, from a population of 300 million. Two large buildings destroyed—about like two trees in the concrete forest of Manhattan. If you ask me, what really hurt us on that day was that the plane aimed at the White House didn't make it. That's the way to hurt America: Leave Bush in charge, with a big boost of patriotic gullibility, for six long years. That's how they really got us. If the preachers had focused on that angle I'd have bought it: "God is punishing America by turning away the plane that was heading for Pennsylvania Avenue! He could have removed the curse and chose not to! Woe unto us!"
There's a story on the BBC now asking "Where's Al Qaeda in Libya?" The answer comes down the page where these British agents say how amazed they are that so many young men who were screaming Jihadis last year are now pushing for cellphone revolutions, Cairo style.
"…jihadists…in Libya [are changing] the way they behave and talk in the past two months.
"The way they start to make statements or to understand the conflicts is unbelievable, beyond my imagination. The only explanation I can offer is because they have been affected – whether they like it or not – by the wave of democracy."
Now there are a couple of ways you can read that news. The one the BBC wants you to buy is that democracy is winning, yay yay yay. And in a way that's true, if by "democracy" you mean "riots in the streets of Cairo and open warfare in Libya." Those ways sure worked better than the Brotherhood's slow sneaky method, or Zawahiri's offshoot of the Brotherhood, Al Qaeda.
But look back with a good cold eye at what Al Qaeda was and you see they only recruited well in one demographic: Middle/Upper-Class, Not-That-Bright, Middle Eastern Surplus Young Men. There are a lot of those around, thanks to oil money and high birth rates, and they bounce. That's what they do: they bounce from prostitutes and cognac in Paris to cults in Denmark to one after another school, pretending to be "studying" to become whatever lame childish job takes their fancy and spends their stipends without asking too much. They're "going to become" lawyers or doctors or work for the UN or they've developed a perpetual motion machine or they're going to bring Islam to the spiritually starved masses of Warsaw—every dumb-ass project a bunch of pampered hicks can come up with. Just imagine an Islamic Jethro from Beverly Hillbillies going down the list with dad's money: "Ah'm gonna be a doctor, Grannie! …A preacher! …A Inventor!" And every time, it's slapstick failure. And the older and more annoyed he gets at the way the world won't let him play the hero, Jethro moves down the list to: "Ah'm gonna be a martyr, Granny!"
Why not? People go back to their roots. Here just as much as there. How many hippies mutated back to real-estate agents in California? How many cokeheads are fulltime Christians now? You warp back to your Granny's dreams when you've shot your own bolt.
And there you are: Mohammed Atta and his overpriced friends with one last chance to show how important they are.
That's a short-term demographic, those dudes. They got no discipline. FARC wouldn't have them on a bet. They're good for a big splash, which is all they ever wanted anyway, but when you look back, what you see is a cadre of Afghan vets, funded by western intel all the way, who carried a lot of momentum away from the war against the Soviets, made a lot of connections, and tried playing way above their weight for a little while. It scared the ordinary morons, and that suited the suits like it always does. But along the way they were spending everything they had like New Russians. They spent their best recruits, blew their connections on short-term show-off blasts, and in a few years they had nothing left, and the demographic they drew from—flighty young guys at loose ends in the big cities of the Middle East—had moved on to cellphones and "democracy."
It's a fast, lively story but with no military significance that I can see, except if you consider Al Qaeda the propaganda wing of the Republican Party. In that way, yeah, you could say they did a lot. For a patient, intelligent future guerrilla, the lesson is plain: draw from a more serious demographic, don't go to international jamborees, and spend your assets carefully.
But we already knew this, didn't we? Certainly the Fed knew it.
Unfortunately, many of you still don't get it, especially you Tea Partiers. You're either too ignorant or too ideological to grasp the simple truth of the REAL bailouts, and then do the logical thing and demand that the Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks pay higher taxes on their taxpayer-financed profits and personal bonuses. This was the REAL wealth transfer, not the stimulus or the GM/Chrysler bailouts.
The CRS's "revelation" should also give the lie to those of you who think TARP "worked." Yeah, here's how it worked: the TBTF banks took loans from Uncle Sam with one hand at near zero-percent interest, then loaned it back to Uncle Sam in the form of T-bills at 2-3 percent interest. And -- voila! -- they were able to show a profit again and pay back their TARP loans. Amazing. (If you don't understand, don't worry, you need a finance degree and lots of friends in Washington, DC to devise a financial scheme so brazen.) Meanwhile, credit did not start flowing again, which was the entire point of TARP and these Fed loan facilities to begin with, or at least that's we were told. Now we know it was all just to save the TBTF banks and prop up Wall Street -- and Main Street be damned.
A newly-released study from the Congressional Research Service bolsters claims that the nation's largest banks profited off the Federal Reserve's financial crisis-era programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates.
The report reinforces long-held beliefs that the banking system in essence engaged in taxpayer-financed arbitrage: They got money for free, then lent it back to Uncle Sam while collecting juicy returns. Left out of the equation are the millions of everyday borrowers, like households and small businesses, who were unable to secure loans needed to tide them over until the crisis ended.
The Fed released records under pressure in December and March that showed the extent of its largesse. The CRS study shows for the first time how some of the most sophisticated financial firms could have taken the Fed's money and flipped easy profits simply by lending it back to another arm of the government.
The report was requested by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who likened the crisis-era emergency loans to "direct corporate welfare to big banks," in a statement. The cash likely was lent back to Uncle Sam in the form of Treasuries and other debt "instead of using the Fed loans to reinvest in the economy," Sanders added.
In all, more than $3 trillion was lent to financial institutions from the Fed, and terms were generous. Junk-rated securities were pledged as collateral for taxpayer-backed loans. The Fed did not provide conditions for how the money was to be used.
As part of one Fed program, on 33 separate occasions, nine firms were able to borrow between $5.2 billion and $6.2 billion in U.S. government securities for four-week intervals, paying one-time fees that amounted to the minuscule rate of 0.0078 percent.
In another, financial firms pledged more than $1.3 trillion in junk-rated securities to the Fed for cheap overnight loans. The rates were as low as 0.5 percent.
During one three-month period in 2009, Bank of America borrowed more than $48 billion at rates ranging from 0.25 to 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, the largest U.S. lender tripled its holdings of Treasuries and other taxpayer-backed debt to about $15 billion -- securities that yielded 3.5 percent.
During the third quarter of 2009, the bank borrowed $2.9 billion from the Fed through a program that charged 0.25 percent interest. In that same period, Bank of America increased its holdings of taxpayer-backed federal debt by $12 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. Those securities yielded an average of 3.2 percent.
"Bank of America provided vital support to the economy throughout the financial crisis and we continue to support businesses and individuals today through our lending and capital raising activities," spokesman Jerry Dubrowski said in an email.
In another period, JPMorgan Chase, the second-largest bank, swelled its holdings of taxpayer-backed federal debt by $20 billion, which yielded 2.1 percent, while at the same time borrowing $29 billion from the Fed at a rate of 0.3 percent.
JPMorgan did not respond to a request for comment.
In contrast, during the first year of the Obama administration, small businesses shuttered due to lackluster sales and a lack of credit, foreclosures surged, and credit contracted at one of the quickest rates on record.
"Why wasn't the Fed providing these same sweetheart deals to the American people?" asked Warren Gunnels, senior policy adviser to Sanders. "The Fed was practicing socialism for the rich, powerful and the connected, while the federal government was promoting rugged individualism to everyone else."
At the time, Fed officials said its bailout programs were necessary to restart the flow of credit. If money couldn't flow to lenders, households and businesses would be next. Even more layoffs and foreclosures could have ensued, officials argued.
Lending, however, decreased, according to Fed and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data. Mortgage rates dropped, but mortgages were harder to come by. Credit card lines were slashed. Loans were called in. New financing plunged. In 2009, outstanding credit to U.S. households declined by $234.5 billion. For non-corporate businesses, credit plunged $296.1 billion, Fed data show.
Sanders said the spread between firms' borrowing rates and their lending rates to Uncle Sam amounted to "free money." For Bank of America during the third quarter of 2009, the spread was nearly 3 percent.
Dubrowski countered by pointing out that Bank of America "extended $184 billion in credit to individuals and businesses" during that time.
The author of the CRS report, Marc Labonte, cautioned that "correlation does not prove causation."
"There is no information available on how banks used specific funds borrowed from the Federal Reserve," he wrote.
"Now, following an act of Congress that has forced the Fed to open its books from the bailout era, this unofficial [Fed Reserve] budget is for the first time becoming at least partially a matter of public record. Staffers in the Senate and the House, whose queries about Fed spending have been rebuffed for nearly a century, are now poring over 21,000 transactions and discovering a host of outrages and lunacies in the 'other' budget. It is as though someone sat down and made a list of every individual on earth who actually did not need emergency financial assistance from the United States government, and then handed them the keys to the public treasure. The Fed sent billions in bailout aid to banks in places like Mexico, Bahrain and Bavaria, billions more to a spate of Japanese car companies, more than $2 trillion in loans each to Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, and billions more to a string of lesser millionaires and billionaires with Cayman Islands addresses. 'Our jaws are literally dropping as we're reading this,' says Warren Gunnels, an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. 'Every one of these transactions is outrageous.'"