Thursday, April 28, 2005

Iran and Israel

Hot off the AP wire comes the news that the Pentagon has just given the green light for the sale of up to 100 GBU-28s to Israel. For those of you that aren't aware, GBU-28s are the "deep throat" penetrator bombs that were constructed from spare artillery tubes in record time during the Gulf War. They are still the deepest, hardest hitting penetrating bomb in the U.S. inventory. Go here for more detail. (Yes, I know its Global Security, but this article is free from grievous error.) For proof of its penetrating ability, it penetrated over 20 feet of concrete during a sled test...and then proceeded to continue to sail over a quarter mile down range. During an air drop, an inert round penetrated over 100 feet into hard clay. The bomb was unrecoverable.

Anyway, suffice to say that it can pretty much take out anything you could think to build to protect something valuable, like nuclear weapons and facilities. This message was obviously meant to send a message to the Ayatollahs that if Iran does fully develop its nuclear weapons, they won't be around for long. But is this an empty threat? The IAF has the capability to strike with the GBU-28s with its F-15Is (its version of the USAF F-15E). However, capability to carry a munition does not mean you can strike anywhere, since the IAF does not have any air to air refueling capability. Making the assumption that Israeli F-15Is will have a combat radius of a little over 1000 nm, carrying just CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks, sleek fuel tanks mounted along the side of the F-15), one GBU-28 on the centerline, and two external fuel tanks, and flying at low level through Jordanian airspace, I used this map to calculate that it is approximately 900 nm from Israel to the Iranian nuclear facilities at Bushehr. However, this assumes that Israel is willing to bust Saudi airspace; if so, the F-15Is would have to fly at low-level, severely curtailing their range, making the approximately 1800 nm round-trip a dicey proposition. Breaking Saudi airspace should be avoided if at all possible. Alternatively, the IAF could opt to fly through Iraqi airspace, since it is unlikely the Iraqis would notice, while any American radar units would turn a blind eye. However, this makes it a one-way distance of 1200 nm or so, meaning this is even more dicier than the Saudi option, range-wise. The F-15Is would be able to egress Iranian airspace, but would probably be unable to return all the way to Israel. So, where do they land? Saudi Arabia is obviously out. Bahrain does not have a U.S. Airbase, while Kuwait is unlikely to grant the Israeli aircraft permission to land at a U.S. Airbase. Despite being extremely friendly to the United States, both Iraq and Qatar are also unlikely to grant the F-15Is permission to use their soil. The wild card in this whole scenario is if the U.S. decides to allow the F-15Is to refuel from a U.S. tanker. However, IAF aircrews, as far as I know, are not current in their air to air refueling training. So, for this to work, IAF aircrews would have to be trained on refueling procedures. In addition, this option removes the deniability that a straight IAF operation would have afforded the U.S., meaning that the U.S. might as well do the strike itself.

Then there's the issue of escort. While air to air escort should not be an issue, in order for greater precision, SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) escorts, also known as Wild Weasels, will be necessary. This increases the number of aircraft needed for the mission. The Weasels are necessary so the target can remain lazed while the bombs are on the way; aircraft are vulnerable during the time it takes from bomb release to impact. The only other alternative is for commandos to be inserted to laze the target; this is really only a realistic option for targets relatively close to the sea.

So, at the end of the day, there really are no good options. Either the U.S. provides air to air refueling of the F-15Is, or the IAF will have to risk losing some or all of the aircraft after they run out of fuel. Israel only has 25 F-15Is to begin with, so I can't imagine large losses would be acceptible for the carrying out of the mission. I won't go so far as to say that the GBU-28s represent an empty threat, but the Israelis will have to accept some pretty steep losses for the carrying out of the mission.

UPDATE: (newly minted) 2Lt. Jarred Fishman (aka The Air Force Pundit) sends an email detailing that, in short, the IAF does in fact have a 707 converted to be a tanker. I did not know this. In my defense, I checked, which tends to have a very accurate order of battle for air forces. However, in my haste, I completely missed the '707 variants' listed as being based at Tel Aviv. This certainly changes things. All the IAF needs is a base for their 707 to stage from, somewhere on the Gulf. I definitely think that Qatari or Kuwaiti officials would be much more likely to allow a "harmless" tanker to stage from their soil, rather than a fighter-bomber. So, basically, disregard all of the above.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Desert Sky

From 2Slick comes the news that Desert Sky is finally available for purchase. For those of you that don't know, Desert Sky is a documentary filmed by Captain Eric Simon, a member of the 159th Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne while they were deployed in northern Iraq. Click here for Desert Sky's homepage, and here for purchasing information.

If you are at all interested in what it was "really like" in Iraq, this is a movie to see. (Also be sure to check out Gunner Palace).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


In the process of searching for AFROTC Det. 250's website, I ran across the website/blog of Jordan, an Air Force 2Lt. who is currently in UPT at Laughlin AFB. After playing a short game of follow the links, I also came across the blogs of several other pilots currently in UPT or RTU. Two of the best ones are ReservePilot, and Clemsonpilot. All three provide very good information on what it is actually like to go through pilot training. Something I found rather interesting is that Jordan and Derek of Clemsonpilot both went through ROTC (Jordan doing so after two years of tech school), while Rob of ReservePilot graduated OTS.

So, if you are interested in the making of a USAF pilot, check 'em out!


Air Force Voices has blogged previously on this subject. This AP article deals with a common theme running through this next round of BRAC: politics. The two main areas are concerns by (mainly) Democratic Congresscritters in regards to the use of the BRAC process by the Bush Administration for political gain, and political lobbying by local politicians from areas where bases are being threatened with closure. The first issue seems to me to be the more disgusting of the two. After all, regardless of how I feel about the whole BRAC process, I can understand why people want to lobby to maintain a military base in an area, even if that base is outdated, outmoded, or just plain useless. But the second charge appears to me to be as bad as Trent Lott's political posturing. To accuse people of playing politics with BRAC is the same thing as actually playing politics with BRAC, especially when the charges are likely unfounded.

Anyway, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why we even need the BRAC Commission in the first place. It seems asinine for Congress to stick its nose this blatantly in the affairs of the DoD.

Regardless, this political posturing is something to keep an eye on.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Blogroll Additions

There's been several additions to the blogroll. I've been reading all of these blogs for a while, but I just hadn't gotten around to adding them to the blogroll. First is Thunder6 of 365 and a Wakeup. Thunder6 is in the same area of Baghdad as Red2Alpha and Major K. Speaking of Major K., a medic from his unit suffered a very severe head injury while on patrol a few days ago. He is stable and on his way to Walter Reed, but has a long recovery ahead of him. Keep him in your prayers.

Anyway, moving on with the additions; next is Delobius of Blog Machine City, who is a Signal Corps soldier stationed over in Iraq. Great photography in addition to great stories about what it is really like over there. Boots in Baghdad also has good stories from the Sandbox. Yoshi of Reverse Retina from the Sandlot offers up a deployed soldier's perspective on many different events. I've mentioned Xavier of Life in X Minor before; he has an excellent blog in what life is like in Afghanistan. Another good Milblog operating from Afghanistan is The National Guard Experience, referenced below. These two, along with Bob of Going Down Range, are carrying on the fine legacy of Sgt. Hook. As always, if you want to hear the bad news from the GWOT, turn on CNN. If you want to get a feel for what it's REALLY like on the ground, raw and unfiltered, tune in to a Milblog or two.

Two other additions: Flight Pundit, a retired Marine Sgt. who loves to fly, and Shades of Grey, a varied blog written by a Marine. The blog takes on a variety of topics, ranging from current events to education issues. However, the highlight, for me at least, are the various "Sea Stories" that are relayed, especially the ones involving the infamous Col. La Fleur...the most recent involves his order to get a conference call set up on a comms network that wouldn't support it. His secretary's solution is classic. There's plenty more where that one came from. Go check 'em all out!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Desert One

Today is the 25th anniversary of the launch of Operation Eagle Claw, which means that tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Desert One. For those of you who don't know or remember what that means, go here for a quick overview, and here for something a little more in depth. Also, check out this article on the 25th anniversary remembrances being held at Hurlburt Field. As referenced in the the above links, the tragedy at Desert One was a watershed moment in the history of U.S. special operations. This was the turning point that led to the creation of 160th SOAR, USSOCOM, and numerous other reforms that paved the way for eventual success in Desert Storm and even bigger success in the current GWOT.

So, Army Rangers and Delta, Navy and Marine helicopter crews, and Air Force Combat Controllers and Herk crews, thank you for having the guts to try. Despite having inadequate equpiment, poor planning, and a pick-up team, you still undertook the mission and proved to the world, that even in a time of national malaise, the spirit of the American fighting man would never be broken, no matter how high the odds and how risky the endeavor.

Thank you.

(An addendum: something worth noting is that even after the failure of Eagle Claw, many of the same Air Force personnel were involved with an even more audacious plan to outfit a C-130 with retro, boosting, and lifting rockets, crash land it into a stadium, load the hostages, already freed by pre-infiltrated Delta operators, onto the Herky-bird and then get everyone the heck out of Dodge by attempting a near vertical take-off using the boosting and lifting rockets. Before you think this was just a pie in the sky concept, a Hercules was actually tested with this arrangment; it crashed and burned while in testing. See above about the spirit of the American fighting man.)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Another Milblogger you should check out

A couple of weeks ago, Bob at Going Down Range compiled a list of Afghan related Milblogs. (CaliValleyGirl also has a list.) Anyway, I've been meaning to add the blogs to my blogroll, along with some new ones from the Sandbox that I've run across, but in the meantime here's another soldier from Afghanistan with a very wry sense of humor. He's been featured on such websites as the Mudville Gazette for his photography (which is very, VERY good). However, Jean-Paul gained my attention for his recent writing regarding the Golden Rules of Care Packages, his antics (here here and here) regarding a Boobah doll (if you don't know what it is, check his introduction out...but beware, this is a children's toy that's apparently intended to scare the crap out of the children!), and his story on the local National Guard version of the Incredible Hulk.

Anyway, what are you waiting for? Go check the National Guard Experience out!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Fourth Amendment

A couple of days ago I wrote about the First Amendment in relation to the right to express extremist, unpopular views. An incident last week involving a friend and a local police force has inspired me to write about the Fourth Amendment today. First, the incident. The said friend, who is of the female persuasion, was leaving school. Our high school is located in a relatively affluent neighborhood; "middle-middle class." Mainly mid-level white collar and upper-level blue collar workers. As you leave school, there is a pretty steep grade of hill that you have to go down. My friend was traveling in excess of the posted speed limit (by about 10 mph) and was nailed by a Bellevue PD officer who was running a speed trap. My friend knew she was caught, so she pulled onto a side street to wait for the officer. Here's where things get interesting. The officer does the standard "meet and greet" of license and registration, did you know how fast you were going/the posted speed limit, etc. Then the officer asks her why she is so nervous and states that it is making him nervous. My friend replied that she really couldn't afford a ticket. The officer then asks her if she has anything illegal in the car and tells her to remain in the car until he tells her she can leave. She sits there for a good 15 minutes, until another BPD cruiser pulls behind her. The officer comes back and asks her to step out of the car. He then tells her that they've had a rise of teenagers manufacturing and transporting meth and asks her if she's ever done any illegal substances. She responded, truthfully, in the negative. He then tells her (note that he tells her; it was a command, not a question) that they are going to need to search her person and her car because "she has been acting really suspicious." The officers then proceeded to make her lift up her shirt to prove that she didn't have any pockets (otherwise I imagine they would have given her a pat-down). After this they proceeded to tear her car apart searching through it, trunk included. After they didn't find anything, the cop tells her that they needed to do it "because you were acting very suspicious so we needed to check it out." Then the cops drive off, leaving my friend over 30 minutes late for her job.

So, were her rights violated? Well, the Fourth Amendment states that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...but upon probable cause." The Fourth Amendment is like the Eighth, in that the language used is very ambiguous. After all, what is "unreasonable" or "cruel and unusual"? The courts have determined that "unreasonable," as applied to a car search following a routine traffic stop, is limited to searched of things "in plain view" and only if the officers have "reasonable probable cause." "In plan view" has since been modified to include the entire car, including the trunk, but no opaque containers contained in the car. Of course, none of this applies if the owner of the car has given consent to the search, which is appears that, at least from a legal standpoint, that my friend did. She said "okay" after the officer told her that he needed to search her car. The officer also appears to have his probable cause locked in, albeit a relatively flimsy one; I'm not sure how kindly the courts would take to an officer searching someone because she was acting "suspicious," but then be unable to back that up with any hard evidence.

Of course, this is all really beside the point. After all, even if my friend files a complaint or even takes the BPD to court, what's the best that could happen? The officer is reprimanded, and maybe the BPD has to pay her some money; even this result is unlikely because after all, as far as anyone is concerned she is just a trouble-making teenager. Which raises the question of profiling. We hear a lot about stopped for driving while black; we don't hear as much for being stopped for driving while teenager. I'm willing to submit that this is because most teenagers are pulled over for a legitimate reason: speeding, or some other sort of traffic violation. However, after this initial offense, the officers take things too far and conduct a borderline illegal search of the teenager's car. What teenager is going to stand up for their constitutional rights and cause a problem for the police? I would, but I'm pretty sure that I am the exception to the rule. Besides, we're just teenagers, and we all know all teenagers are just waiting for the opportunity to become a druggie; we have to stop them before it happens. The BPD evidently believes this; every traffic stop in Bellevue that I've seen in the past 2-3 weeks involving a teenager seems to have resulted in a full blown car search.

Then there is the even larger issue: should the police have a right to search our cars after a routine traffic stop? I submit that they should, with severe limitations. After all, as citizens we have entered into a contract with the government: we agree to give the government certain powers to improve life for everyone (a military, foreign relations, municipal services, infrastructure, etc.); in exchange, the government agrees (in theory) to butt out of our lives. I believe that the only time our cars should be searched during a routine traffic stop is if there is hard physical evidence of a crime: the car and/or occupants match the description from a prior crime, the car smells of fresh marijuana smoke, the occupants appear to be intoxicated and/or smell of alcohol, etc. Outside of this, there should be no searches. "She was acting really suspicious" should be not a legitimate cause for searches. I find it disgraceful that officers who have sworn to uphold and protect the law are engaging in such activity.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bob meets Rumsfeld!

Bob, of Going Down Range, just deployed to Kandahar AB in Afghanistan. It's a good thing he deployed when he did, because he got to meet SecDef Donald Rumsfeld! The highlight of the visit would have to be this exchange during the Q & A session:

"The last question was a humdinger. The Corporal asked why his Father and Grandfather never seen any good news about Afghanistan in the media and what could SecDef Rumsfeld could do about it? Rumsfeld stood there, asked for the Corporal to repeat his question, and then quipped “do you think I control the media?” I busted out laughing with the rest of the audience."

Go check it out!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Skokie, Illinois

In 1977, the American Nazi Party wished to stage a rally and march in Skokie, Illinois. Skokie is a suburb of Chicago with a predominantly Jewish population; many Holocaust survivors live in the town. The Skokie city government got a court injunction prohibiting the rally; the ACLU took up the Nazis' case and eventually got the injunction lifted. For a good brief summary, go here. As many of you are aware, this case was a precedent setting case in regards to the extent of the First Amendment. I had to write a piece for my AP Government class with regard to which side should have won the court case. Basically, should the Nazis be allowed to march or not? Since I have been and will continue to be busy with some numbers related classes (AP Physics and AP Stats), here's something to tide you over in the meantime...without further ado, here is the afore-mentioned piece.

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” This is, in a nutshell, what every student’s answer should be. The First Amendment applies to all citizens equally; certain groups do not get preferential treatment. The problem with the First Amendment is that so often, there are instances of it applying “to me, but not to thee.” That is, the First Amendment is great when the majority of the population agrees with what is being said, but that as soon as a dissenting or unpopular opinion is voiced, the populace immediately wishes to forgo the First Amendment and shut the unpopular opinion up. The Nazi Party should, nay, MUST be allowed to march and stage their rally in Skokie. To do anything else, regardless of concerns over violence, intimidation, or prejudice, is an attack on the First Amendment rights of every American.

The complaint that violence will result from a given action, such as a rally, is a common reason given in attempts to restrict the First Amendment right of freedom of assembly. This justification is a non sequitur, for one simple reason: the laws of this country do not permit the government to arrest anyone on the possibility they will break the law. The arrest can only take place after the law has been broken. In such an incendiary situation as this, the police should monitor the crowd closely, and should not hesitate to take action if there is law-breaking activity taking place. But blocking a group’s right to assemble on the basis that the assembly will cause violence or other law-breaking leads the country down a slippery slope. Anti-war marches often result in violence. Should the government prevent all anti-war marches from taking place? There have been instances of sports rallies or crowds getting out of hand. Should the government ban all sports rallies on the pretense that they incite violence? If the right to assemble peaceably does not apply to all groups, it applies to none.

Another concern over having a broad right to assemble is the intimidation that can result in a community from a radical or controversial group staging a rally in the town. On the face of it, this argument seems to have more merit than the argument that violence will result. After all, it seems reasonable to assume that the citizens of this country have a right, as a self-governing nation, to expect their government to do as the majority of citizens of that government see fit, including ensuring the comfort of those citizens to be free from offensive and intimidating messages. However, this viewpoint illustrates a common fallacy about American government: this country is often described as a “country founded on democracy,” when in fact this is a nation founded on the rule of law. The difference is that in a true, absolute democracy, the “voice of the people” has the final say on what laws to keep, while in a country under the rule of law, the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, has the final say on which laws to keep and which must be struck down. An extension of this broad principle is the idea that the First Amendment is not intended to “protect” the rights of the majority; instead, it is intended to truly protect the rights of the minority, such as those who express views that are considered unpopular, even offensive.

The last major concern over maintaining a broad right to assemble is that prejudicial messages and hate speech may be heard and protected under the right. The simplest rebuttal to this statement is that there is nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees a right to not be offended. As long as the hate speech does not directly incite violence, it must be protected as free speech. In addition, it has been said that the best counter to hate speech is more speech. The people of Skokie are free to express, through a peaceful counter-demonstration, how they feel about this intrusion into their town. This would be the ultimate way of showing the failure of the Nazis’ ideology, for it was in Nazi Germany that speech was stifled; it is here in the United States where all speech is allowed.

The First Amendment cannot be set aside over fears of violence, intimidation, or hate speech. As long as any given example of speech or gathering does not directly involve violence or slander, it must be protected, regardless of how controversial it is. The truest definition of freedom of speech comes from Voltaire, who said, “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” This must be the ideal that is striven for. Anything less is a betrayal of the principles the United States is founded upon.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed that...if I find the time, expect some posts in regards to some National Guardsmen who are trying to get the family of a dead Iraqi ally asylum, and the poor state of U.S. intelligence.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

New Milblog to check out

There are several new Milblogs I've run across that I need to add to my blogroll, but here's one that I thought I would point out now. Xavier is a Signal Corps soldier currently stationed at Bagram AB in Afghanistan. He has a couple of rather humorous posts I thought I'd point out. The first one is something he came across regarding an impending British take-over of the United States. Here are a few highlights:

"7. You should declare war on Quebec! and France, using nuclear weapons
if they give you any merde. The 97.85% of you who were not aware that
there is a world outside your borders should count yourselves lucky.
The Russians have never been the bad guys. "Merde" is French for
"5hit". You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will
no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public
than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible
enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a
permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public."
"11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to
all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity
to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself."

The second item is an interesting incident he had with a masseuse in which he was forced to save the entire camp from an imminent bio-chem attack.

Go check 'em out!


I've written some on Darfur before, (see here and here) but the continued inaction of the world in regards to this situation is unacceptible. Nick Kristof has an excellent column up tying the situation to JPII's death (hat tip: The Corner). Go and read the whole thing, but here's the most powerful and relevant part:

"We're proud of what we do," said Kenny Gluck, the operations director based in the Netherlands for Doctors Without Borders. "But people's villages have been burned, their crops have been destroyed, their wells spiked, their family members raped, tortured and killed - and they come to us, and we give them 2,100 kilocalories a day." In effect, Mr. Gluck said, the aid effort is sustaining victims so they can be killed with a full belly.

I'm not proposing that we send American ground troops. But an expanded United Nations and African force, with logistical support from the U.S., is urgently needed. And Condoleezza Rice should immediately visit Darfur to show that it is a U.S. priority.

Mr. Bush should promptly back the Darfur Accountability Act, a bipartisan bill that would pressure Sudan to stop the killing (so far, the White House hasn't even taken a position on the act). Ordinary citizens can also urge their members of Congress to pass the act.

If there is a lesson from the papacy of John Paul II, it is the power of moral force. The pope didn't command troops, but he deployed principles. And it's hypocritical of us to pretend to honor him by lowering our flags while simultaneously displaying an amoral indifference to genocide."

The world's continued toleration of genocide, despite repeated promises of "Never again," is becoming disgusting. Nevermind the fact that this is an "African" country where "Africans" are the ones being killed. For too long has the world simply stood by and watched many an African nation destroy itself on CNN, then thrown up its hands after the fact and said "its just Africa; what can you do? The continent is too corrupt, too dictator ridden, just too screwed up to help." Not many years ago, many were using thes ame line of thought about the Middle East. Democracy in the Middle East? Unthinkable. The culture is too entrenched; local strongmen and totalitarianism are simply the way things are done over there. We would be foolish to try and change it. We did try and change it, and look what has happened.

We would be wise to apply recent history to our worldview of Africa. Failed societies are one of the root causes of terrorism; today it is the Middle East, tomorrow might it be Africa?

Anyway, I urge all of my readers to contact their Congressman and Senators in regards to S. 495, the Darfur Accountability Act. A good site with contact information is here. Also, a website with information on Darfur and how to help is here.

How many times must we say "never again" before we mean it?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lex and Dogfighting

For those of you who didn't know, Lex is the best writer of the milbloggers, bar none. He has a very well written post up today about dogfighting, going mano a mano in the air, or as he calls it, basic fighter maneuvers. You'll swear you are up there in the cockpit, hands on the throttle and stick, making the aircraft respond to your every command, grunting against the g's, feeling your vision fade to black...its writing like this that makes me curse my eyes.

Go check it out!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Islamic Extremism, Osama bin Laden, and the United States

There's been an interesting debate going on over at Libertopia (which is the coolest name ever for a Libertarian blog) in a post about which party is better for libertarians: GOP or Dems? The debate has taken a turn towards whether or not the United States is truly "at war" with anyone, and if so, who?

Dadahead, a commenter, has maintained that the "war on terror" is an invention of the U.S. government, intended to hoodwink us into submission. In Dada's opinion, the phrase "war on terror" is too nebulous. I agree. A more accurate phrase would have been a "war on Islamic Extremism," because that is what we are fighting against. This brings me to Dada's next point of contention, which is that the government cannot declare war on such an entity; we can only be at war with a "group of terrorists" or "Osama" himself. Then Dada raises the time-old leftist question: when did Iraq declare war on the U.S.?

Well, Dada, here is your (rather long) answer...

It all started in the years following World War I. The Middle East was haphazardly divided up between France and Britain into various colonies, protectorates, and spheres of influence. Who owned what isn't really important; what is important is the end result: various ethnic groups smashed together into one country (Iraq is the best example, but it happened in other places, notably, Lebanon), local strongmen left as puppet rulers once the official colonial time ended, a strong undercurrent of a very authoritarian religious tradition, and continued foreign meddling due to the vast oil reserves.

Then Israel was created.

The creation of Israel is a defining moment in Middle East history. Now there was a unifying force for the Arab world, something to band them together. Before they were simply weak puppet governments, dominated by foreign powers. Now they were on the front lines of the Cold War, members of the Soviet bloc, and unified under Nasser's "pan-arabism." This unifying force lead to the PLO and its terrorism. But that's not what is important in regards to Islamic terrorism.

What is important is what sprung up in Egypt in response to the avowed secularism of Nasser's pan-Arabism. The Muslim Brotherhood was the first modern-day group that could be branded as "Islamic extremists." In truth, their demands weren't far off from what Osama has said in his numerous fatwas and communiques: the end to secular government and the creation of a pan-Middle Eastern, if not worldwide, Islamic caliphate. The reason many don't know about the Muslim Brotherhood is that their terrorism was localized to Egypt. The reason they were never able to expand is twofold: one, they were brutally repressed by the secular Egyptian government, and two, they were unable to obtain the support of a national government to carry out international operations, as the PLO was able to obtain and carry out.

This all changed in 1979. Now there was a government in the Middle East that was based on the principles of sharia law and that demanded the creation of a "new caliphate." This paradigm shift resulted in the world's first experience with Islamic terrorism. The U.S. Embassy is bombed in Beirut, killing 50+ staffers. A U.S. Marine barracks is bombed a few months later, killing 234 Marines. Islam's holiest city, Mecca, suffers a takeover by Islamic extremists; after the Saudi security forces respond, the world is also introduced to the Saudi way of dealing with Islamic terrorism: send those responsible overseas, and pay off their compatriots by providing government funding for the preaching of hate via Wahabbi madrassas (schools). In return, the Kingdom is spared further attacks.

Moving back to Beirut, the world is also introduced to the U.S.'s "Beirut Solution" to terrorism: turn tail and run without responding, hoping that if we lay low for a while, we'll be left alone. This solution works surprisingly well throughout the rest of the 1980s: there are no large scale Islamic terrorist attacks, or even PLO attacks for that matter. In reality, however, the situation is simply festering. Most Islamic extremists are fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, where the CIA is running a very effective shadow war, bleeding the Red Army dry. The only downside to this tactic is that a large amount of CIA money has to be funnelled through Pakistani ISI (their CIA). The ISI was very sympathetic to Islamic extremists, which meant that most of the ISI money, some Saudi money, and some U.S. money was funneled to the same people who preached hate against everything Western and everything American. Osama himself showed up rather late to the war; he never received any U.S. aid or money, but was able to fund his own private army due to his large fortune. He took part in a few battles, but his main role was as a supplier, financier, and leader. The end of the war in Afghanistan left a cadre of battle-hardened Islamic extremists ready for the next jihad. They would find it in 1991, as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Backing up a bit, Iraq has been at war with Iran for most of the decade. While it is true that Hussein was originally seen as a possible counter-balance to Iran, this plan was quickly dropped once Washington got a full picture of just how brutal the Iraqi regime was. After the war ended, Saddam took a few years off, and then invaded Kuwait. The invasion saw Osama issue a call for a jihad against Saddam, with Osama as its head. The troops used would be the jihadis who had fought with Osama in Afghanistan. The Saudi government turned this foolhardy plan down in favor of inviting U.S. troops to Saudi soil. Osama's reaction to this was so virulent and explosive, and in support of terrorism, that he was forced off of Saudi soil into exile in Sudan.

In the meantime, Islamic terrorists struck again. A cell of Muslim Brotherhood members, led by the Egyptian Blind Sheik, made plans for an attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. While they did not achieve their stated goal of toppling one tower onto the other, the resulting car bomb still kills 6 and wounds hundreds. That same year, a young disgruntled Pakistani extremist opens fire outside CIA Headquarters, killing 2 CIA field officers. Throughout the rest of the 1990s, there are a series of Islamic extremist attacks, the major ones being the bombing of the Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the narrowly foiled Millenium bombing plot, and of course, 9/11.

Now, its fairly obvious where Osama, Afghanistan, and Islamic extremists fit into the picture. Whether we like it or not, they have declared war on us. But what about Iraq? Well, overlooking the fact that they have committed repeated acts of war by shooting at U.S. warplanes, Iraq is endemic of the systemic problem in the Middle East. If you look back over the previous paragraphs, the one unifying factor to all of the problems with Islamic terrorism is that the governments in the Middle East have failed their people. The governments are totalitarian regimes, where the people have no voice. As a result, they channel their anger in a different direction: into religion. When you combine the fanatical version of Islamc preached in many Middle Eastern mosques and the anti-American propaganda spread by the repressive governments in order to distract their people from the governments' own failings, you have an explosive situation in which Islamic extremism was born and has grown. The only way to break the cycle is to introduce an alternative to the totalitarian government, one that provides a positive outlet for the people's emotions and passions. Saddam Hussein's Iraq provided a perfect opportunity to change the status quo.

So, the short answer to your question is: we are at war with Iraq because it was ruled by a brutal, oppressive regime that provided a unique chance for a paradigm shift in the Middle East. This paradigm shift is the only hope for victory in the war against Islamic extremism; if the paradigm shift isn't fully successful, the best we can hope for is periods of relative calm, broken by periods of strife and terror.