The Origin of the Fight Them Over There Strategy

On 3 August 2005, author Gerald Posner (Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Secret Saudi-U.S. Connection) was a guest on Air America Radio’s “Morning Sedition” program, where he talked to hosts Mark Riley and Marc Maron about Islamic extremists and terrorism.

One particularly interesting observation came after a question from Mark Riley about what benefit the Saudis get from not clamping down harder on the money hose. Essentially, said Posner, they prefer to fight them “over there” rather than at home.

Sounds like a strategy to me (my own transcript follows, you can listen to the whole interview by downloading the MP3 for that day’s show from Air America Place’s archive, this section begins at 1:38:19).

MARK RILEY: Now, Gerald Posner, we see on the one hand all that you’ve just talked about, uh, and about how the United States government will give the Saudi government, uh, a pass on some of these things, but on the other hand, we also see the Saudis funding, uh, uh, uh Wahabbist Islam, madrassas throughout the Middle East, in Africa, in southern Asia. How does the royal family benefit by allowing this kind of — because it’s a very tightly-controlled society, my assumption is the royal family could cut this money off tomorrow if they wanted to — how do they benefit by, by walking this line between being friendly to the United States but also being eh, essentially friendly to jihadists?

GERALD POSNER: Yeah. You know, Mark, you ask such an interesting question because they have this real schizophrenic relationship when it comes to this extreme form of Islam. I, I write about this in, in Secrets because the problem for them is that they founded this country seventy years ago together, uh, with the founder of Wahabbi Islam. I mean, it was a joint partnership, so it’s always been a country based on this extreme form of Islam to, uh, that really brings everything back to the fourteenth century, doesn’t like technology, doesn’t embrace the outside world. It’s the basis for fundamentalism and terrorism, no question about it. But over time, the royal family’s become more Westernized in many respects. It’s been [in] this partnership with the West and that’s why the real fundamentalists have turned against them.

But they believe — at the royal family level — that if they cut this money off, if they don’t fund the madrassas, if they don’t fund the hard-core Wahabbi Muslim clerics around the world in mosques, that they will have all of that form of Islam turn against them en masse and they will lose their power base in Saudi Arabia. Probably true.

So what they try to do is fund it outside of Saudi Arabia largely. They’re funding the madrassas; the schools that teach the next generation of suicide bombers in Pakistan; they’re sending money to America, to Britain, to southeast Asia, as you just said. And their view is, let it sort of grow around the world. Let’s be good Wahabbists in sending the money out, but let’s keep it outside of our borders.

The Credibility Gap

For all you numerologists and code fanatics out there, a reverse progression of the interior two letters of potential ’08 Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Evan Bayh’s (DLC-IN) surname:


It works the other way around, too, it’s just more steps.

Apparently, despite the fact that the Bush administration has totally screwed up the fight against terrorism, hasn’t gotten bin Laden, has let Afghanistan slide into a warlord-run heroin hothouse, and can’t maintain order in Iraq after over two years of occupation by the most advanced fighting forces in the world, Bayh thinks that Democrats can’t criticize him because they don’t have any credibility. You have to wonder what would give us credibility in Bayh’s eyes, if that doesn’t. Even the left being right isn’t enough for Evan.

Intelligent Design Proponents: Enemies of America

As you’re probably well aware, President Bush has come out in support (again) of teaching intelligent design/creationism in schools. At least it sort of looks like he has; as he frequently is when off-script, he’s so tongue-tied and spacy that he makes Spongebob Squarepants look almost serious by comparison. Here’s the relevant portion of the roundtable transcript from 1 August 2005; I’ve italicized questions and bold-faced relevant portions of Bush’s responses:

Q I wanted to ask you about the — what seems to be a growing debate over evolution versus intelligent design. What are your personal views on that, and do you think both should be taught in public schools?

THE PRESIDENT: I think — as I said, harking back to my days as my governor — both you and Herman are doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past. (Laughter.) Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Q Both sides should be properly taught?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, people — so people can understand what the debate is about.

Q So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I’m not suggesting — you’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

Q So we’ve got to give these groups —

THE PRESIDENT: Very interesting question, Hutch. (Laughter.)

It may just be me, but he seemed to be evading the "validity" question.

Personally, I’d like to see this question posed to more politicians, at every level of government from school boards on up. But I’d like to see another line of questioning followed, as well, about what advantage the interviewee sees instruction in ID/C giving American children competing in a global marketplace over children in countries like Japan, China, India, Russia, Germany, France, the UK, and Italy where they learn science in their science classes, not "debate".

I know many politicians are likely to soft-peddle any qualms they might have about ID/C in their urge to triangulate religious voters. But sometimes you have to tell people unpleasant truths. Intelligent design isn’t science. Creationism isn’t science. It belongs in church, not in biology class. And the people who are intent on introducing it into public school curricula are undermining three-quarters of a century of American scientific leadership in the world, something we used to be proud of. That last point can’t be said often — or forcefully — enough.

Don’t Believe Their Own Lying Eyes

Back in June, I wrote a letter to Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) about Karl Rove’s comments to the New York Conservative Party dinner in which he said liberals wanted to endanger troops and give therapy to terrorists.

Today’s post contained Sen. Smith’s mostly pro forma remarks, but this caught my eye (emphasis mine):

I noted your specific concerns regarding comments allegedly made by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

The letter from Sen. Smith’s office is dated 14 July. News reports from as far back as 23 June carried video of Rove saying exactly what news accounts reported. It sort of makes you wonder what it takes to crack the cocoon of lies the Republicans seem to have woven around themselves. And what’s wriggling inside, waiting to hatch out.


A journalist (who shall remain nameless) once complained about a piece I wrote in which I included (without consent) their brief response to a letter I wrote, accusing me—me—of unethical behavior and saying I didn’t understand just how unethical such behavior was, and telling me they had not realized they were on the record.

This was part of my response (heavily redacted to avoid identifying the journalist):

* * *

I do have an idea of how unethical posting your [type of correspondence] would be—if I was a journalist. However, I make no pretense of being one…. I don’t do any reporting or break stories. I don’t have sources—on or off the record.

But if a fact in a news story strikes me as wrong, I pluck it out for examination, sometimes doing research to determine whether numbers add up, references are correct, etc. … If I write a letter and get something back, I might put those up. Rather than a journalist, think of me more as Lazlo Toth without the funny.

In any case, I try not to write anything in email or elsewhere that I’d be ashamed of.

* * *

The truth is, there are many precedents for publishing correspondence without consent. Apart from Don Novello (who’s been doing the Lazlo Toth gag since the Nixon administration), there are simple pranksters like Sterling Huck, Ted Nancy, and Paul Rosa. Apart from Novello’s politically-oriented work, that type of thing isn’t my particular interest, but it’s certainly something that’s been a thriving subgenre of publishing for over three decades.