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FBI Target Puts His Life Online 324

Posted by kdawson
from the go-ahead-investigate dept.
After the FBI mistakenly targeted him as a terror suspect five years ago, art professor Hasan Elahi began recording his entire life online for the perusal of government agents or anyone else who wants to look in. "I've discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away," he says, grinning. "It's economics. I flood the market."
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FBI Target Puts His Life Online

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  • by bedonnant (958404) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:10AM (#19233479)
    it actually is the saddest story of all. it is the defeat of the individual, defeat of freedom. this guy spends his every hour in a state of rational paranoia. thank God I dont live in the US anymore.
  • by WoodenRobot (726910) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:11AM (#19233487) Homepage
    Indeed - and that's why 'if you've done nothing wrong you've nothing to fear and no need to hide' is a load of bull.
  • by Nymz (905908) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:11AM (#19233489) Journal
    "But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother." Part 3, Chapter 6
  • Sorry, no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:23AM (#19233555)
    That whole "give away so much that they cannot use all the Data" might have worked back when all was done by humans.

    Nowdays, you just buy some more computers to do the datamining and cross-referencing. Dont worry, there are thousands of PHDs working at google to make 1984 a reality.

    (Dont believe me? Take a look what googles CEO says here : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/c3e49548-088e-11dc-b11e-00 0b5df10621.html [ft.com] . In short, a quote: "The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'")
  • Re:New religion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elemenope (905108) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:29AM (#19233585)

    I agree. But that doesn't mean we are less worthy for the trying. Sometimes, the attempt is the worthier part. And, just like attempts to attain the attention and favor of deities may make us observe closer whehther and how we could be made to deserve such an attention, perhaps the jealous guarding of one's own life's contents might provoke at least the possibility of introspection, and lead us to discover just what it is about our lives that makes their sanctity worth guarding.

    And, meanwhile, I don't want you to know my taste in porn. That's just none of your damn business!

  • Re:Not paranoid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bedonnant (958404) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:31AM (#19233595)

    Well, it's not paranoia if they're actually after you.

    yes, because the FBI would have arrested him for vital information such as what he had for lunch. What he does is surrendering his rights and freedoms as an individual, the victory of an orwellian society.
  • Re:Killing time? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:43AM (#19233651)

    Sounds to me like he's just made it into some wierd pseudo-hobby. I don't think I could ever be that comfortable posting my every move.
    Also, what about the people he happens to be with? Are they comfortable about such openness? And does he document the night hours too? What does his wife think about that?
  • by CurbyKirby (306431) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:44AM (#19233657) Homepage
    Total openness is an interesting idea, but only if you are guaranteed that everyone is totally open too. Yes, this means organizations as well as individuals. Otherwise, requiring you to publish your life in order to escape either incompetence or profiling (when the results of either is questionably humane incarceration) is absurd. If the government isn't totally open, then why should you have to be? This project is interesting as a thought/art exercise, but its original intent/purpose makes it another blow against the fourth amendment.
  • by Potor (658520) <farker1@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:48AM (#19233683) Journal
    ...in his song The Age of Information [phespirit.info].

    "Your reputation used to depend on
    What you concealed
    Now it depends on what you reveal"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:52AM (#19233715)
    He may be ready to give up his private life, I'm not. And if this is what it takes to keep out of the hands of some overzealous, hyperparanoid government, than the best solution is to depose that government.
    How can you live in a world like that? That's not 1984, that's 1984 under Stalin with Hitler and Mao as his henchmen. That's Bush, Cheney and Rice for you.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:00AM (#19233759) Journal
    Let me tell you a story. An "in Soviet Russia" kind of story. A true one at that. The story of how the state kept all those people in line and not fighting oppression.

    Short story: lack of privacy. And literally FUD. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt over what they'll do about your words and deeds.

    The side of the story everyone knows is the KGB and GULAG part. Those are true, and were especially true in Stalin's times. But then it evolved into something that worked cheaper and better: thinking that Big Brother knows everything you do. So people started to avoid doing or saying anything that could bite them in the ass.

    The illusion was that the secret police has dossiers (the dead tree kind) on anyone and everyone, and that it _will_ come back to bite you in the ass sooner or later.

    Even if you realized that in such a low tech setting they can't know _everything_, you didn't know exactly _what_ they know, and exactly _what_ and _when_ they'll use it against you. Maybe they'll do nothing. Maybe they'll send you to Siberia. Maybe you just won't be allowed to travel abroad any more. Maybe your kid won't ever get a high paying job because his dumbass father got drunk once and complained about the party.

    Worse yet, this naturally killed support for any dissidents. If comrade Piotr speaks against the party, egads, you don't want it on your dossier that you sat, listened and nodded. Do you really know if Piotr isn't an agent provocateur? Or if he's just a dumbass, who else in your circle of friends will run to tell the authorities about that talk? Better avoid Piotr entirely from now on. Better safe than sorry.

    _That_ is what privacy is supposed to help against.

    And that is what "privacy is just a religion" and "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear" lemmings just don't get. Sometime, at some point, it may become _necessary_ to do something "wrong" to just freakin' keep your _other_ liberties. If you gave up privacy, then you might as well give up everything else, because you won't have any means left to defend them. If it ever becomes necessary to resist the government, lack of privacy means you'll never get more than 1-2 disidents which are quickly removed or isolated. As soon as someone does speak out, everyone else just makes themselves scarce, if they think the government will know where they are.

    If everyone's life was public, the USA still would be a British colony, because everyone would be affraid to even be seen anywhere around those Jefferson and Hancock guys. India would still be a British colony too, because people would be affraid to be seen anywhere near that Gandhi guy. Etc.
  • by sifi (170630) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:08AM (#19233801)
    With the nice big red arrow saying "Hello, I'm no where near where live, please come by and rob my house."
  • by Torvaun (1040898) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:11AM (#19233811)
    You think the government are the only people who can make your life miserable if you want to keep your privacy? Think blackmail. These days, you don't even have to do something embarrassing, as long as the blackmailers can get someone you care about to think you did something. Due process doesn't apply to relationships.

    So, if someone said to you, give me a couple hundred dollars, or your wife will leave you, what happens? Maybe the hassle isn't worth the money. But now you're actually concealing something, and a missing $200 can have all sorts of connotations, from hookers, to gambling, to drunken revelry. It could also be something like a present for your wife, or you loaned it to a buddy of yours, but spin is a very big thing, and it's definitely powerful enough to turn that $200 into more.

    Compare that to this guy. He's got the perfect alibi, because millions of people can confirm it. He's completely immune to any game that relies on suspicion. And how much privacy has he really lost? Most people won't care, most of the ones who do care will never meet him, and most of the ones that do care and do meet him won't put two and two together, especially if he doesn't put a picture on the site. He's really only lost vulnerability.
  • by dscho (819239) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:21AM (#19233847)
    It's not anything like a religion. Many people seem to be unable, much like you, to see that you _need_ privacy to live a happy life. Much like you need clean air to live a happy life.

    Yes, you can survive without both, clean air and privacy. Yet, is this a life you want to have?

    Go watch "Life of others". It is really depressing to live in a surveillance society.

    Maybe those countries who did _not_ experience Gestapo-like distrust, arbitrariness, and the mental consequences this brings to your personal life, _have_ to go through a phase like that, to be able to value what the founding fathers tried to establish by the right of anonymous speech and the pursuit of happiness.

    However, this would be only the second-best solution: I personally know people who lived in East Germany, and even if some of them experienced this kind of soul-destroying constant pressure only in their childhood, they are spoiled for life. When they talk to me on the phone and hear a click, their _first_ thought (if they want or not) is that somebody is listening in.

    This is absolute terror.
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:29AM (#19233885)
    Funny that you mention Ghandi. His life was quite public, and his supporters well known. Privacy is only important under truly oppressive regimes, which is why they go to such length to eliminate it. It's only important when people have a legitimate fear of their government.
  • But it is still as intangible and unattainable as deities from other religions.

    Unattainable? Tell you what, why don't you try and get, say, Rupert Murdoch or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to realise what a false and unobtainable idol they are coveting. I mean, anyone can just waltz right up to them on the street and snap a picture.

    It's not like they have hired goons squads and political connections and secretive schedules which outright confound your ability to snoop into their lives is it? I mean, privacy is a fantasy right? There's no way the rich and powerful could have something the rest of us don't if that something simply just doesn't exist right?

    Privacy is very, very real. In todays market centric humanisms, one could almost describe privacy as an obtainable asset which people are willing to pay money for, and one which, because of it's decreasing availability, is becoming ever more expensive to obtain by simple laws of supply and demand. I await an astute poster's follow up comment discussing the rise of a "privacy industry" in response to decreasing supply of this so called "intangible" notion.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:36AM (#19233929) Homepage
    People always forget the most obvious privacy invasion. A stranger walks up to you and tells you the names of children, their date of birth, what schools they go to, what classes they are in, their grades, what time they go to school and what time they come home and how they travel between home and school, the names of their friends and to top that off hands you a series of recent photographs of them. Honestly, how would you feel. You don't just protect your privacy, you protect the privacy of all those people around you, especially your family.

    The laws should really be changed, any time that anyone access your records or the records of your family, that are held by state or federal government, or even any major private institution, for any reason, should you not be notified of who did it and why. Also if any changes are made to your records should you not be notified of that change, who made it and why they made it.

    With the power of computers and the Internet this could be easily done and would be a major step forward in not only protecting your privacy, but also maintaining the accuracy of your private data, as well as providing you the opportunity to challenge that data and force corrections when it is inaccurate.

    The weirdest thing at the moment is that the current republican administration deems it important to restrict you from accessing records about yourself and specifically legislates to keep secrets about you hidden from you, a sick way of ensuring they can protect the lies they about create you in order to control you.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:51AM (#19233981)
    How do you tell whether it's legitimate? Do you know whether you just happen to have been picked for the IRS checkup at random or 'cause you said something inappropriate? I mean, after all, Al Capone was also just caught for tax evasion.

    Any government today has the means to get quite uncomfortable if they want to, even with "legal" means. Not even breaking any of your liberties. You just "happen" to be the lucky winner of some governmental hassles.
  • by FromTheHorizon (1008223) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @07:07AM (#19234053) Homepage

    It's interesting that you mention Gandhi, because he had some interesting views on privacy (sorry I can't reference them online, I read them in a book on Gandhi)

    Gandhi primary philosophy was discovering truth, which he believed to be like God. Quote: "Truth is God". In accordance to this he lead a very open life, and was not afraid to voice his views. As a result he spent quite a bit of time in prison. Neither did he hide his life from the world. He believed in full openness (It is common knowledge that he gave in to his carnal urges and was having sex while his father died - who shares those sorts of details?!?!?)

    I think his idea worked the opposite way to Communist Russia, and more similarly to free speech. If everyone says what they think, how can the government prosecute all of them? The more we keep private, the more isolated it is for those who want to speak out to speak out. If everyone kept every private, how would the first revolutionary start talking to the second one?

    I think Gandhi's views are interesting in the modern perspective, when technology is eroding our privacy. I do worry about what information there is about me out on the internet, and double check my blog posts for information that might bite me in the arse later down the track. However I think that I don't really have anything to worry about. Sure, there will be some photos of me drunk online somewhere, acting like an idiot. But it's not like that's unusual behavior. I've voiced some pretty opinionated views that would have got me thrown into the Gulag. But the internet is built by people voicing opinionated views, we're not all going to be thrown into the Gulag!!!

    At the end of the day, I don't want to do the things which I might be embarrassed by or arrested for if they got out into the public domain. For the other things, who cares? I'd prefer to worry about making sure that I lead a good life, than worry about who knows what I'm doing.

  • by starwed (735423) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @07:09AM (#19234061)

    If everyone's life were public, you'd know if Piotr was an agent. You'd know who in your circle of friends ran to authorities. You'd know the personal lives of those running the country. This isn't just some pedantic point, it gets at the heart of how the systme worked; the government didn't eliminate privacy, they controlled it.

    A society without any privacy at all would be unimaginably different from our own; I don't think you can claim a priori that it would be worse.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @07:32AM (#19234153)
    "And that is what "privacy is just a religion" and "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear" lemmings just don't get. "

    Unfortunately technology and business make privacy impossible, most of your daily actions can be recorded/deduced via technology not in your presence (sattelites, microscopic cameras, etc). With the great UK experiment (CCTV cams, etc), I'm certain the invasiveness will only get better and better from here on out.

    In a way it's a good thing because... the only way you need privacy is if you live in a world of idiots and irrational people, that is really the only reason "to protect yourself" from some person, group or power (corporate or government). But the internet and electronic money, and other technology (black boxes in cars, debit cards, cell phones, RFID, etc) benefits are going to outweigh any concern of privacy, we're moving towards a completely scientific society and as such at some point privacy will have to go the way of the dodo.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @08:17AM (#19234401)

    A good thing? It's not a good thing because it is completely contrary to the message of the book and the story. The entire point is that the system is so powerful that it can break a man's will and change his mind at a profound level.

    Having the hero go out in some John Wayne-esque "blaze of glory" completely neuters that. And no, it's not a more powerful message to have the lone hero die in his battle with the government - it's much more powerful to be scared by the idea that the government could break a man in that way. With the former we are left believing that we will always be able to stand up to the government regardless of what they do, which is simply not the case. It is - perhaps perversely - more encouraging to be shown that if things go too far then we are beyond hope, because that persuades us to act sooner before things get out of hand.

  • Re:Come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shads (4567) <shadus@shaduCOMMAs.org minus punct> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @08:26AM (#19234461) Homepage Journal
    It's disgusting anyone should need to tell "big brother" jack shit about what they're doing.

    Whatever happened to "Innocent until proven guilty."

    Oh yeah, that was 9/11 when the American people got raped by overzealous politicians and a dictator wanna-be.
  • by Atzanteol (99067) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @08:32AM (#19234513) Homepage

    the only way you need privacy is if you live in a world of idiots and irrational people

    Er... Have you read the news lately?

  • Re:Come on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @08:52AM (#19234655)
    Bush isn't a dictator as such, more an empire builder, in fact exactly an empire builder.

    Most effective empire builders have based their empires on economic control and diplomacy (it's worth your while to submit to us, trade in safety and be protected). England, the romans for example, there are more, but I can't think of them right now. Admitedly this is usually after land acquisition through wars, but ecomomic methods are usually far more effective.

    India was an instance of economic control, they actually asked england to take over, and there was a fair bit of reluctance on the part of England. The US was also an empire member, but through benign control, England didn't actually want to help it succeed, or help out that would have cost too much, it was largely colonised initially by businessmen, and all England wanted was any money that might be available.

    Mind you, it didn't especially want to drop the US or India from the empire when succesion was demanded. Not wanting to lose, in both cases, all that lovely money. We were right bastards back then...

    England, although no longer an empire builder, still has the commonwealth, whereby lots of tiny independant nations, formally empire subjects need not have large armies because we are still obligated by treaty to help them. So does the US in the case of Japan, they still depend on the US for defense, having just a small military force.

    The problem with Iraq is that the US government were thinking they could repeat the succes of Japan. That was a closed Island culture though, many people there didn't even think the americans were even human (peasants I mean, there were rather a lot of them). That was a different time though, and that event is unlikely to be repeated.

    The paranioa after 9/11 was a neo conservatives dream. These measures do exactly what they want, they can try to 'fix' the US into a form they deem suitable. I don't think they caused 9/11, unless you count funding the guy who authorised it for years, but they certainly made use of it.
  • by Malakusen (961638) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:01AM (#19234733) Journal
    A free country is one in which the citizens have privacy and the government is open. An oppressive country is one in which the citizens are open and the government is private and secretive. Guess which one we have.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zero_offset (200586) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:19AM (#19234969) Homepage
    There isn't anything complex about the war in Iraq and it certainly isn't empire-building. Quite simply the strategy is to ensure we fight militant Islamics somewhere other than in our own country. Or rather, that has become the strategy. I'm one of those people you very likely hate in that I do believe the original impetus was to deny WMDs to militant Islamic terrorists.

    If Bush was as hell-bent on empire building as you imagine, there are far more effective ways to go about it. Israel is pretty much the 51st state, and they have no qualms about going ape-shit on everybody around them using all our latest weaponry. It wouldn't have taken much at all to arrange things so that they'd do our empire-building for us in the region, had that been the goal. That is one simple, obvious example among many options.

  • by zero_offset (200586) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:30AM (#19235159) Homepage
    It's only important when people have a legitimate fear of their government.

    Spoken like someone who has never been stalked by a girlfriend's psycho ex-husband. Do they have junk mail, spam, or telemarketing in your country? Would you feel comfortable if the were able to cast a critical eye on your every activity? Is it fine if the prude at your local bank notices a lot of credit card charges to hotdonkeyporn.com and decides your wife needs to know?

    Sure none of these are exciting government-changing revolutionary scenarios, but they're all very real privacy issues. The only thing worse than denying that privacy is real is accepting that it's real but denying that it has any importance.
  • Re:New religion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:41AM (#19235335)

    You illustrate the real problem with how the constitution is interpreted today. It was never intended to give people rights, it was intended to give the government rights. There is nothing in the constitution which gives the government the right to take away our privacy except under the most extreme of circumstances which we are not under by any stretch. The issue is muddied by congress and the war powers bill that was passed but regardless the government was never explicitly granted the right to spy on its own people. That means it's unconstitutional and it's plain and simple.

    As long as my freedom doesn't restrict the freedom of someone else then I should be allowed to do what I want. That is the principle the country was found upon and in my opinion at least is a principle worth sticking to.

  • by NecroBones (513779) * on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:42AM (#19235337) Homepage

    Legitimate fear of their government? It's always legitimate. Don't think for one second that any government is immune to corruption. It's human nature... people who enjoy exerting some sort of control or authority over others are drawn to government and law enforcement jobs, so government has an inordinate number of people with that sort of mentality. Governments, as anything else, will tend to act in their own best interest.

    Even the best system, with the best of intentions, can gradually erode.

    Whether you liked him or not, Ronald Reagan had a great quote that comes to mind: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

    While spoken about the US in particular, this applies to any free state.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:48AM (#19235447) Journal
    It's only important when people have a legitimate fear of their government.

    As a pot smoker, I believe I have a legitimate fear of my government. My chances of being assaulted (arrested), kidnapped (imprisoned), and robbed (fines, asset forfeiture) at the hands of the government are much more likely than being the victim of any other crime. This is why privacy is so important, they're always persecuting someone.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mbrod (19122) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @09:52AM (#19235535) Homepage Journal
    Quite simply the strategy is to ensure we fight militant Islamics somewhere other than in our own country.

    We were already in Afghanistan, where the actual problem was. There were a number of reasons for going in to Iraq, and they were complex. However, "fighting them over there" is not one of those reasons.

    That reason for this war is even more invalid than when it was applied in the Vietnam war. The war where it was a valid reason was WWII.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onsblu (1047608) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @10:07AM (#19235829)
    I don't mean to rant, but a response really is necessary.

    I don't hate you for your opinions regarding WMDs. Luckily, we all know the information that was available to the administration in the spring of 2003 (and earlier). In my view, there are practical security measures, and then there is security theater, as in the case of liquid restrictions on planes. There's no way anyone can change your belief as to why Bush invaded Iraq, even knowing what they knew at the time, but that doesn't mean it wasn't damaging to our safety. But it was certainly not a slam-dunk.

    As far as Empire building, you have to decide whether forcing Iraq to accept American companies pumping its oil (under contract for 50 years) is empire building. I don't think the nomenclature matters as much the end result.

    Ultimately, I think you have a very simplistic view of the middle east. While Israel is known as a major military ally of the US and has been labeled one of the biggest human rights abusing country in the developed world, that doesn't mean either:
    1) "They have no qualms about going ape-shit on everybody around them using all our latest weaponry"
    2) "It wouldn't have taken much at all to arrange things so that they'd do our empire-building for us in the region, had that been the goal."
    Israel has enough problems with its neighbors without picking fights for the US. And while they have certainly shown a will to use aggressive force, such as in Lebanon last summer, they have not used any WMDs (nuclear, chemical or biological) that I am aware of. Just because the US supports gives support to Israel doesn't mean that Israel is going to do anything which puts Israeli lives in jeopardy. Although Israel expanded her borders in '67, there's no chance whatsoever that it could "do our empire-building" in an Arab state given the tensions in the region. And I don't get where the 51st state thing comes from - I would think Puerto Rico or DC would be better candidates for that honor.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zero_offset (200586) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @10:12AM (#19235953) Homepage
    There were a number of reasons for going in to Iraq, and they were complex. However, "fighting them over there" is not one of those reasons.

    Were you just spamming for some +1 mods from people who either agree with you or disagree with me, or are we supposed to just take your word for it that you have a Secret Line to the Truth, or what?
  • Re:Come on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hurting now (967633) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @10:28AM (#19236329) Homepage Journal
    Quite simply the strategy is to ensure we fight militant Islamics somewhere other than in our own country.


    I'm going to have to disagree. This tactic is not what got us into Iraq - it is part of what is keeping us there. That and the oil.

  • Re:Come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbrod (19122) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @10:40AM (#19236601) Homepage Journal
    If it was a matter of simply "fighting them over there" we were already doing that in Afghanistan so there was no reason to do that in Iraq.

    The reason you heard phrases such as "fighting them over there" in the media is because it worked well in WWII to motivate the nation to be for the war and it was justified. The media and politicians are still pulling this line because it worked then but is completely and totally false now.

    Think about it, how likely is it Iraqi's are going to come to the United States and fight us here? One, they had no motivation to do so and two they had no means to do so.

    I was fine with the United States getting Saddam but the war stopped there. After that it was no longer a war it was an occupation. They should have handed the governance and rebuilding efforts at that point over to a conglomeration of willing Islamic coutries. Indonesia, Jordan and Egypt would have been good choices and then the United States along with other coalition partners should have helped fund the efforts of those countries.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @11:42AM (#19238057) Homepage
    I was with you until you got here: "I was fine with the United States getting Saddam but the war stopped there...They should have handed the governance and rebuilding efforts at that point over to a conglomeration of willing Islamic coutries."

    In the '80s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; I don't recall why. That was during the hey-days of the Cold War, so naturally the U.S. starting supporting the Mujahideen who were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Finally, the Soviets decided they had sunk enough money and manpower into a lost cause and pulled out of Afghanistan. When the Soviets withdrew, so did we, abandoning our former allies. In the vacuum that was left, the Mujahideen were now at war with the other political factions for control of a country that no longer had any kind of stable government. Needless to say, a lot of people died in the ensuing chaos, and the former Mujahideen blamed us for a lot of that...and they were right, to some extent. Our battle was over -- the Soviets had withdrawn -- but theirs wasn't, and from the bitterness and hatred that resulted from our abrupt withdrawal, the seeds of the Taliban and Al Qaeda were born.

    Twenty years later, Bush gets the bright idea to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, not remembering the lessons of Afghanistan. Unlike you, I have reservations about deposing Saddam. Yes, he was a (tm)Bad Dude, and yes, the world is a better place without him, but the reasons for the invasion were trumped up, and that bothers a great deal.

    Furthermore, I'm not so sure that a conglomeration of willing Islamic countries with the U.S. providing funding and material support would have made much difference in the occupation of Iraq. In either case, it's still a foreign army occupying the country, and that rarely sits well with the natie population. Furthermore, the problems shaking Iraq right now are largely due to the fact that Muslim != Muslim for all instances. The Sunni and the Shiite Muslims don't like each other. Think Ireland during the '80s and '90s -- the Protestants and Catholics did not play well together. Which flavor of Islam is practiced in Indonesia, Jordan or Egypt? How do you unite the different sects in Iraq? These are real problems, and I don't think they are going to be solved by our current Presidency. The mid-east has been a volatile part of the world for many, many thousand years; the odds of it being calmed any time soon aren't good.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by theodicey (662941) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @12:16PM (#19238815)
    They should have handed the governance and rebuilding efforts at that point over to a conglomeration of willing Islamic coutries.

    You're right about "fighting them over there" being bunk, but the rest of your post is full of wishful and revisionist thinking.

    Remember how Bush had to cobble together a "coalition of the willing" formed of our longstanding allies Britain and Australia, plus whoever small island nations we could bribe with aid? And how there weren't any Muslim countries in said coalition?

    Yeah, that was because the US didn't have how UN or even NATO approval to invade. Without that, plus a lot more bribery, no Muslim nation was going to let their soldiers get blown up in Iraq. Hell, most of our ostensible allies in the Middle East even denied us the right to fly over their country to attack Iraq.

    In the words of Colin Powell, "You break it, you bought it."

  • Re:Come on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GigG (887839) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @12:56PM (#19239877)
    "Do you understand why some people believe that ruining somebody else's country for our own convenience is a bit, well, unconscionable?"

    Do you understand that some people don't? In a perfect world we wouldn't have people willing to intentionally attack civilians to further their cause. So if you have to have a bunch that do feel it is required to do so it is much better to have them do it somewhere else and if they have to attack your fellow citizens that they attack those that are armed, trained and paid to deal with it.
  • Re:Come on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by baboo_jackal (1021741) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:41PM (#19240953)

    In the '80s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; I don't recall why.

    Other than the "furthering the spread of global communism" theory, one proposal is geography and oil: The Caspian Sea was estimated to hold huge oil fields, and a direct pipeline through Afghanistan is the quickest route to get it to the open ocean via the Persian Gulf. With meddlesome and destructive Islamic rebels in Afghanistan, it wouldn't be possible to secure such a transnational pipeline.

    Our involvement in Afghanistan had little to do with the rebels. It was a very cost-effective way to fight the USSR by proxy. As a side note, does anyone remember the video game based on Tom Clancy's "The Cardinal in the Kremlin"? Part of the game was a mini-arcade shooter where you played the part of an Islamic rebel killing Russians in Afghanistan by finding and using U.S.-supplied weapons. It's kind of funny that a few decades ago we (well, maybe just me and a few others...) were playing a video game in which you got to be Osama Bin Laden...

    Anyways, point is that Afghanistan was just a cheap way to harm the USSR during the Cold War...

    Twenty years later, Bush gets the bright idea to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, not remembering the lessons of Afghanistan.

    I disagree with you here. There were 2 lessons that this conflict taught us: 1) The Russian Army was a paper tiger, and 2) How to lose a guerilla war. We never did have to go to war with the USSR, so lesson 1 is moot. And based on what we did in Afghanistan *this* time around, I'd say that we definitely learned lesson 2.

    Furthermore, the problems shaking Iraq right now are largely due to the fact that Muslim != Muslim for all instances. The Sunni and the Shiite Muslims don't like each other. Think Ireland during the '80s and '90s -- the Protestants and Catholics did not play well together. Which flavor of Islam is practiced in Indonesia, Jordan or Egypt? How do you unite the different sects in Iraq?

    You make a really good point - The real struggle for peace in the ME is something that Muslims are going to have to work out themselves. It's a choice between a religious identity that transcends nationality, or a national identity, to which your religious beliefs are subordinate. Same thing in Ireland, like you said. The Irish in conflict, by the way, recently chose national identity over religion, by the way, and it's being touted as the end to that particular conflict.

    Thing is, most of us live in a world where we take it for granted that religion governs our personal lives, but national governments run our public ones. We've seen what happens when the opposite is true in our own societies, in our own lifetimes - for example, your example about Ireland - yet we're perplexed about why there's fighting in the ME. There's an answer for when the seemingly endless ME conflict will end: When the balance of Muslims subordinate their Islamic identity to their national identity.

  • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @10:11PM (#19247643)

    I understand what you're saying, but who gets to decide what the bad laws are?

    Well, if you have to tell people that a substance will make the blacks go crazy and rape white women to get people to vote for it, then it's probably a bad law.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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