Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something is happening

There is an intriguing report from Dubai via Britain that OBL has been 'located'. This coincides with an American report that a message from Al Q is expected to call for the use of WMD against the West.

Whether this is another scare tactic (and by whom) is unclear. However, the signals that a major WMD attack is coming have been multiplying since the Madrid attacks. A consistent theme of the Al Q messages since then has been that preparations for an operation, variously known as Winds of Black Death, the Gift of Al-Aqsa, or the Gift of the Sheik, are nearly completed. At the same time, OBL himself has published a number of calls for Westerners to convert, and has asked for an opinion by religious scholars on the use of WMD against civilians in the West. In his last known video, he appeared with a dyed beard, which is apparently permissible in strict Islam only when on active military operations.

A final piece of the puzzle may be a recent message from al Zawahiri, in which he ends by repeating three times the last lines spoken by Mohamed before his ascent to heaven. This message is very different from the others published by al Zawahiri, and may have contained some sort of activation message.

Whether this is psychological warfare, disinformation, or a presage, it will be interesting to watch events in the next few weeks and months.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Of commies and crystal skulls

The latest installment of the Indiana Jones quadrilogy is very creepy. Its central message seems to be that only communists and other assorted enemies of freedom insist on asking meaningful questions and seeking knowledge to answer them. Decent folks, meanwhile, are quite content with merely following instructions beamed directly into their brains by unknown external agencies.

Here are some of the other lessons I learned while watching this disjointed series of improbable action sequences. First, it is ok for academics to work for the military and for intelligence agencies. More than that, it seems to be part of their civic duties. What a coincidence that Anthropology is currently in the grips of a debate about whether the discipline should facilitate relations between the US military and local power structures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Disturbingly, the 2008 debate on this topic is much less controversial than its 1973 counterpart on the role of Anthropologists in Viet-Nam. If all Anthropologists followed Dr. Jones' example, there would be no controversy at all.

Second, and this follows the overall theme of the film, asking questions is dangerous. Asking too many questions and seeking too much knowledge will get you nothing but an exploding head and a hellish case of spontaneous combustion.

Third, thank goodness the FBI and other agencies breached civil rights and restricted free speech and free thought in the 50's, because the Red Menace was absolutely real and very immediate. Dangerous communist infiltrators were capable of entering the most secret facilities in the US at will, and carting off its most powerful secrets. But never fear, the G-Men were on the job, and even at the price of suspending tenured professors or forcing them to resign, they kept us safe.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned that next time I drive through the Amazonian plain at a high rate of speed, I must absolutely watch out for that thousand foot cliff beyond the next bend in the road.