Kidnapping in Israel

    Three students hitchhiking home from their yeshivas in the West Bank have disappeared, believed kidnapped.  Links:

    Hitchhiking, though officially frowned upon, is widely practiced in the West Bank because of the inadequacy of public transport.

    Prime Minister Binyamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu has been quick to blame the Palestinian Authority (PA), claiming that the event is the result of the recent merger of the PA with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  Link:

    I don't buy it.  If anyone other than the kidnappers themselves (assuming it is a kidnapping) is responsible, it is Bibi himself.

    The PA has rightly pointed out that under the terms of the Oslo Agreement, signed by Israel, the PA, and the United States, Israel has sole responsibility for security in Area C, where the event took place.  As head of the Israeli government, security is in Bibi's hands.

    (Getting Bibi to admit his responsibility is as unlikely as getting a Dagblogger to admit that the current chaos in Iraq is related to Obama's withdrawal of US troops.)

    Ignoring the biblical commandment "Justice, justice you shall pursue", Bibi has released thousands of terrorist prisoners over the years for political reasons.  Sometimes it has been to trade for kidnapped abductees, as in the case of Gilad Shalit, most recently it has been to appease the PA and keep them temporarily at the negotiating table with Kerry.  It is a law of nature, known intuitively long before B.F.Skinner proved it, that if you reward a particular behaviour you will get more of the same.  Bibi rewarded kidnappers.  There have been hundreds of foiled kidnap attempts by the Palestinians over recent years, long before the PA-Hamas merger;  this time the foilers failed.

    The US, of course, can now expect a dramatic increase in kidnapped Americans, thanks to Obama's new policy.



    The US, of course, can now expect a dramatic increase in kidnapped Americans, thanks to Obama's new policy.
    One of the kidnapped teens is from the US. Is that the kidnapping surge you envision?

    No.  There is no reason to think the kidnappers knew the victims' identities in advance.

    So what is your rationale to predict an explosion of kidnapped Americans?

    Because up to now, the US (so far as we know) refused to participate in this sort of exchange, and few American troops were targeted for kidnapping.  Now that the policy has changed, and terrorists can see that it is worth their while, I think they will adjust their tactics accordingly.

    This Taliban commander basically agrees with you, except note that he's definitely not thinking mass quantities of "ordinary" Americans, he's obviously taken away a lesson about selectivity.

    At the end of the Korean war, we traded 6,200 communists for 684 UN forces. At the end of the Vietnam war, we traded 36,000 communists for 6,000 anti-communist South Vietnamese and 591 Americans. (Here's my source.) At the (hopefully) end of the Afghanistan war (from our perspective), we traded (sort of*) 5 terrorists for 1 American.

    *Actually, the terrorists were transferred to the custody of Yemen, who have agreed to hold them for at least a year. It's a minor correction, since this is what the Taliban negotiated for, but I think it might be an important distinction.

    You're comparing the Bergdahl swap to the prisoner-of-war exchanges that take place after the end of hostilities.  Two problems:  1- captured terrorists are not considered prisoners-of-war under international law (that's why they're not entitled to packages from home or visits from the Red Cross, for example); and 2- despite Obama's beating retreat, the war is not yet over.

    One would also have to include that they learned that after the "exchange" there are also other consequences, namely drone attacks. From WSJ

    At least two U.S. drone strikes hit Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold for militants, Pakistani officials said, marking a resumption of the drone program Washington had effectively suspended late last year.

    Local security officials said at least three suspected militants were killed in the first drone strike at around 8:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday, the initial attack this year. The target was a vehicle and house near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, they said. Some local officials suggested the vehicle was being prepared for a suicide attack. The identity of those killed wasn't immediately clear.

    The second strike hit at about 2:30 a.m. local time on Thursday. Local officials said several missiles were fired and multiple targets appeared to have been hit, again near Miranshah.

    Regarding the second one, from CNN

    A suspected U.S. drone strike killed 10 militants early Thursday in Pakistani tribal areas, local intelligence officials said.

    A high-level commander with the Haqqani network, Haji Gul, was among those killed in the latest drone strike in North Waziristan Agency.

    Other key Afghan Taliban commanders killed in the strike included Mufti Sofian and Abu Bakar.

    So now there are five released and but still not in the battlefield, and a lot more that were in the battlefield that are no longer.  Good trade?

    Are you suggesting that the US held back on the drone strikes until the exchange was completed?

    Haven't a clue, but there was a lull in the strikes, then suddenly two in rapid succession.  It does seem to be a strange coincidence that these strike occurred just after the release. Of course, the decision-making dynamics on such things are far more complex.  But I would suggest that those terror groups (or whatever term one wants to apply to them) who think about kidnapping Americans probably will consider that drone attacks as part of the equation.

    Maybe, if the terrorists killed in the strikes were those responsible for the kidnappings.  But I doubt it.  In the past, Israel responded to kidnappings with waves of bombing (and even began the Second Lebanon War after a kidnapping), but it didn't stop further hostage-taking.  The bad guys seem to think that it's a price they're willing to pay in order to bring back their heroes.

    That is certainly as likely as the scenario you suggest, that now all of a sudden soldiers will be a target for capture. Before this exchange they never thought of it...pretty bogus idea. If you are swayed by the Taliban's propaganda, which stated just that, then I really don't think you have your critical thinking skills polished up. 

    The US, of course, can now expect a dramatic increase in kidnapped Americans, thanks to Obama's new policy.

    Telephone intercepts have confirmed Lurker's perceptive analysis:

    We have a rush transcript..


    "Oh, Habib, how is the kidnapping proceeding?"


    "Are you mad, Habib?  Do you not remember what happens to those who hold Americans hostage?  Recall how Jimmy Carter obliterated Teheran with airstrikes that killed the 54 embassy personnel along with 150,000 Persians.  Remember how Reagan took out two thirds of Beirut, along with the 11 US hostages.  They sit shiva and then send in the B-52s"


    "Oh, Habib, you are so two thousand and late...don't you read Jihadi Life?  The current president, Obama, no longer writes off his captured countrymen and pays the 2,000,000 death benefit to their survivors--oh, no, he deals with the kidnappers like they were rug ,merchants--get busy, and round up some inventory."


    Isn't it nice that Barry and Bibi are dancing to the same sweet music?  I didn't know they had so much in common.

    as unlikely as getting a Dagblogger to admit that the current chaos in Iraq is related to Obama's withdrawal of US troops.

    To get to that point you'd have to make several convincing arguments. Leaving aside whether there was any rational purpose to start this war or reasonable expectation of success.

    What was the effect of the de-Bathification programs instituted during the Bush years? The destruction of the Bathe party political class which was mostly just bureaucrats and the Bathe military, mostly just low level troops left hundreds of thousands of Sunnis with no where to go , no way to support themselves with their skills, and little choice but insurrection. Add to that the continued oppression of millions of Sunnis by the Shiites. Was the seeming "peace" merely a cook pot on low simmer waiting for the Americans to leave?

    Is there any reasonable way to assume that leaving a residual force behind would have changed Al Maliki's increasingly authoritarian rule and oppression of the Sunnis? As insurrection began to break out would a residual force been sufficient to quell it or would more troops have been needed?

    It seems pretty clear that those in power in Iraq wanted American troops out. No president would have left the troops there without a Status of Forces Agreement and Obama was unable to reach that agreement. You'd need to make a convincing argument that this was Obama's fault and that another president would have been able to negotiate that agreement.

    If you can make a convincing argument to those points I think some dagbloggers would accept that Obama is to blame for the current chaos in Iraq.  I don't think anyone has made that case so while Obama is not without fault I think the greatest blame goes to Bush for the failed execution of the war. Frankly I think this was the inevitable end game when Bush put in place his deBathification program that left a majority of Sunnis with no legitimate place in Iraq and little choice but insurrection. It just came about earlier than expected due to the situation in Syria.

    De-Ba'athification (Arabic: اجتثاث حزب البعث‎) refers to a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) policy outlined in CPA Order 1 which entered into force on 16 May 2003.[1] The policy’s goal was to remove the Ba'ath Party's influence in the new Iraqi political system.[1] To accomplish its goal, the policy declared that all public sector employees affiliated with the Ba'ath Party were to be removed from their positions and to be banned from any future employment in the public sector.[1] Critics argue that the policy was not only undemocratic, but also a significant factor in the deteriorating security situation throughout Iraq.

    I don't know enough to argue with many of your points, but there are a few I would raise.

    "(...) left (...) Sunnis with no where to go , no way to support themselves with their skills, and little choice but insurrection".  I don't see this.  How does getting kicked out of a sinecure leave you with "little choice but insurrection"?  What is this determinism?  Are the masses of US unemployed now rising in insurrection?

    70 years after the Second World War, the US still has troops in Germany and Japan.  It seems to have worked ok at preventing insurrection, despite the millions of Japanese and Germans who were left without jobs in the bureaucracy and the military.

    Thanks to democracy, the Iraqis had the possibility of turfing out Maliki, if he got on their nerves enough.  They had other choices than insurrection.

    I like you picking out this point only because it takes me back to what I was thinking about on bslev's Iraq thread. Carrying the American Civil War analogy further, the results of an ill-thought-out Reconstruction were not all hunky dory and we still have a lot of hangovers from that, but somehow still manage to keep it all together somehow without more civil war. (I know, some think we still have one ongoing.) That "insurrection" was definitely all about protecting a way of life, too. One could argue, though, that, more like with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the current situation in Iraq with ISIS veers more towards forcing a way of life on others. There's little tolerance inherent in the situation. Whereas with Yankees vs. Southerners, before push came to shove, there was a willingness to tolerate one way of life in one state, and another in another state. (Tolerance: why it might be really important: another topic that's interested me of late, spurred on by another post by Trope.)

    Apples and oranges. Unemployment in the US crosses ethnic and religious boundaries. Things might be different here if it was overwhelmingly Catholics that were unemployed and there was no unemployment payments or food stamps. If the army was mostly Catholic and those battle hardened catholic soldiers were purged from the military and sent home to Boston. Then the Lutheran government steered all aid to Lutheran cities leaving the Catholics in Boston to fend for themselves. Except for the Lutheran police force in Catholic Boston that most felt targeted and oppressed them. In a situation like that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see those Irish Catholics setting off IED's and plotting revolution. Read up on the Irish Republican Army in Ireland if you think that's just not possible.

    I don't support any group over there and really don't understand all these religious wars. How any one can pick up some religious text and believe some fisherman made a bargain with a talking fish to get a magic ring that can control the weather and allow the user to walk on water... whoops, sorry, wrong fairy tale.

    How anyone can pick up some religious text and believe that God had a kid from a magically impregnated virgin and he could walk on water and control the weather is beyond me. But people actually fight wars over that totally unbelievable bullshit. Add in a religious based selectively oppressive government. This insurrection leading to civil war  was predicted by many middle east scholars.

    I understand your skepticism about organised religions.  Have you considered the Revealed Truth:

    It was an ok joke when it started but its since gotten stale. I see that at the top of the page the first thing they do is ask for $20 for a meaningless piece of paper so its beginning to look like every other religion to me now.

    Well, to be fair, he only said that the chaos is "related to" Obama's withdrawal, not caused by it. I, for one, am willing to concede that much. I think one can say that withdrawal had to happen eventually (who in their right mind would argue against that, yet, still, it seems many are not in their right minds), and still admit that the withdrawal will likely have some costs associated with it. I think that the costs of not withdrawing would have been higher, but I won't deny that there were costs associated with withdrawing our troops.

    You may be right that the costs of not withdrawing would have been higher;  it's impossible to know for sure.  But I don't think you have to be insane to argue against withdrawal.  As I mentioned above, the US still has troops in Germany and Japan.  Also in Korea.  Have all presidents in the past 70 years been out of their minds?  Wouldn't surprise me....

    The middle east is falling into chaos and Obama is not free of blame. But history didn't start in 2008 when he took office. These complex situations have long roots.

    But I think you're making inept comparisons. I disagree with your idea that American troops were stationed in Germany to deter insurrection or that the lack of insurrection can be attributed to their presence. Imo the main reason troops were kept in Germany was to act as a trip wire to Soviet aggression which was a considerable worry given that for most of that time Germany was divided

    In Japan America imposed severe limitations on Japan's army which would have left it unable to defend itself in case of aggression. In exchange America agreed to be the protector of Japan.

    We can disagree whether both of these policies were wise. But imo the idea that the troops were there to prevent insurrection or that the lack of insurrection was related to their presence is negligible.

    We also have troops in Israel, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Greenland, the Netherlands, and Australia. We're there because we have an agreement to be there. We're not occupying them. By that I mean, that if they (or at least their government) didn't want us there, we wouldn't be there, or at least not for long. We might try to convince them to change their minds, possibly with bribes aid, but in the end, I believe we would honor their requests, whether under a Democratic or Republican administration.

    Iraq and Afghanistan have made it pretty clear they don't want us there. Do you really believe it is tenable to occupy them indefinitely?

    Maybe not indefinitely, and not against the will of the people.  But long enough to ensure that the bad guys are broken to the point that they can't regroup.   I wonder if Iraq is currently so happy about the US leaving.

    Here's an article in The Atlantic regarding whether Iraq wanted us to leave. Now, of course, what you actually said is you wonder if Iraq is currently happy about us leaving, presumably given what's going on there. I could find no evidence that they've recently changed their minds, although given that they've changed their minds on this in the past, it's not out of the question. In this case, I would say absence of evidence is (weak) evidence of absence.

    Regarding your comment about "long enough to ensure that the bad guys are broken to the point that they can't regroup", we were told many, many times that we were "turning the corner" and that we just needed to "stay the course", but I am unconvinced that our presence in Iraq was doing anything more to effect the goal of ensuring that the bad guys were broken to the point that they couldn't regroup. In fact, I could argue that for many years our presence was doing more to help the bad guys regroup by acting as an enlistment motivation for new bad guys. Most Iraqis have been tired of our presence for some time.

    Thank you for that link to The Atlantic

    "...the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which believes its own security forces are more than up to the task of protecting the country from terror attacks originating within its borders or foreign incursions from neighboring countries."  Well, he's baked the cake;  now he can eat it.

    I agree and I did post, "while Obama is not without fault I think the greatest blame goes to Bush for the failed execution of the war." Mostly I think this question is moot since I don't think even those "masterminds" of middle east politics, Cheney and Wolfowitz, could have negotiated a status of forces agreement in 2011 that would have allowed American troops to stay.

    You don't find it at all incongruous that the man whose administration promulgated the idea that the Iraqis would greet us with flowers as liberators, who  when asked how long the war would take said, six days, six weeks, surely not more than six months, and stated that Iraq would finance its own reconstruction is now criticizing Obama for wishful thinking?

    All I see here is a hyped up critique of Obama without a single suggestion of actions that would have produced a different result. Even if I respected Cheney's opinions, which I don't due to a long litany of failures, I would expect some relatively comprehensive list of different actions that could reasonably be argued to produce a better result.

    I appreciate your skepticism about our former vice-president, but you must admit that except for the missing WMDs, the imaginary Al Qaeda connection, the interminable warfare, the failed reconstruction, and the democratic revolutions that didn't quite manage to bloom across the Middle East, Dick Cheney is a foreign policy genius who helped engineer America's greatest military triumph since the Vietnam War. Mission accomplished, goddammit!

    And that's why it's so important that we pay attention to what he writes.

    And except for Libya, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, the Ukraine, and Iraq, the current administration is doing so much better.

    Sorry, I thought we were talking about former Vice President Dick Cheney's credibility.

    We were.  You chose to judge it not by the validity of his arguments (such as they are:  I largely agree with ocean-kat's criticism), but by the way events unfolded on the ground during his watch.  Using this yardstick, how does the current administration measure up?

    I read as far as "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is 'ending' the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishing made it so."

    I'm happy to address the age-old intervention debate and will blog about it next week if I have time, but Dick Cheney is a dogmatic hack and a hypocritical clown. The fact that he reached such heights of power is a sad joke on America and several other nations. The only silver lining to his tenure as vice president was George W. Bush's success at not not dying in office.

    So no, I did not address the alleged validity of Dick Cheney's arguments for the simple reason that I did not read his arguments. We've all heard far too much of Cheney's bullshit already.

    That's a very simplistic way of looking at things. Its not just how events unfold on one's watch. Its also what one is given to deal with. To expand on Powell's "pottery barn" metaphor.

    One is given pottery and they don't break it on their watch.

    One is given pottery and they do break it on their watch.

    One is given pottery broken into shards  and they don't fix it on their watch.

    As I've said the middle east is falling into chaos so I can't endorse Obama's policies. They are obviously not working. But as I look at the situation in Iraq I can't come up with a set of policies that Obama could have enacted that would have made it better. The pottery Obama was handed was so broken that I have difficulty seeing any way to fix it.

    Cheney's op-ed is worthless since it doesn't have a path to success. Its just a generalized critique of Obama.

    The best writers during Cheney's prosecution of the war didn't just criticize the Bush Cheney failure.  The best writers offered different paths.

    As I look back at the years of war in Iraq I can see some choices that might have made a difference but they're all in the Bush years. DeBaathification was so obviously wrong. The Sunnis had to be given a place in the new Iraq with sufficient power to force the Shites to compromise to avoid civil war. If a unified Iraq was deemed unlikely to survive Biden's idea of three simi-autonomous regions might have worked.

    But by the time Obama got there it was too late to create three simi-autonomous regions. It was too late to empower the Sunni minority. There were already elections and a government in power that was oppressing a mostly powerless sunni minority. What exactly could Obama have done when handed a country firmly placed on a trajectory to civil war by the Bush policies?


    Even Megyn Kelly of Fox News found Cheney's op-ed ridiculous. Cheney's comments are worthless.

    If we compare Ukraine to Georgia, Bush and Cheney look like wimps

    Cheney has no credibility on Iraq.

    Really? I thought he was quite prescient on Iraq:

    "Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? If you take down the central government of Iraq you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq." -- Dick Cheney, April 15, 1994

    Wow, he did have sanity on some issues at one timesmiley

    (Getting Bibi to admit his responsibility is as unlikely as getting a Dagblogger to admit that the current chaos in Iraq is related to Obama's withdrawal of US troops.)
    I guess you are unaware that it was George Bush who signed the Status of Forces Agreement, in which it was stipulated that ALL US FORCES would be out of Iraq by 2011?  Getting Republican war-makers to admit responsibility for this is as unlikely as getting them to admit that the Cheney/Bush Administration fabricated "evidence" of WMD's in Iraq so they would have an excuse to start a war there.
    I am very glad that President Obama brought the troops out, and I would like to think he would have done it without Dubya's forcing him to, but you are ridiculous to say that Iraqi chaos is Obama's fault.  We should never have gone there in the first place, and without the lies about WMD's we would not have. 

    Here is the current nonsense from Bill Kristol , who was a cheerleader for war in Iraq. Here is Fareed Zakaria  demonstrating why the pundit class is worthless. Neither man can own up to how wrong they were in supporting a war bound to end in failure.

    Had Obama wanted to, he could have changed the agreement.  Treaties get renegotiated all the time to bring them into line with new circumstances.  To borrow a phrase from ocean-kat:  "while Bush is not without fault..."

    About the "fabricated" evidence of WMD:  where are the fabricators?   Have any fabricators confessed?  Obama's been in office for a term and a half now, in charge of the FBI, CIA, etc., so why haven't they caught and indicted the fabricators?

    As I recall, all the western allies at the time who had their own intelligence agencies agreed with the US about WMD.  They may have misread the evidence, they may have misinterpreted it, they may have spun it.  But they were all convinced by it.  Just because 'fabricators' fit in with your view of events, it doesn't mean they existed.

    The fabricators have no reason to confess. We have a bunch of prisoners in Gitmo who can't be tried because they were tortured. A Vice President who openly supported water-boarding as a method of interrogation is not going to be investigated for criminal activity. There is no surprise that there is no pursuit of fabricators.

    Ford pardoned Nixon rather than put the country through the trial of  a President. Just because there is no trial does not mean very much.

    The fact that Bremer, Kristol, and others who were wrong about the war, need to remain silent rather than offering advice for more war. They have no credibility.

    "We have a bunch of prisoners in Gitmo who can't be tried because they were tortured."

    Are you suggesting that it was they who fabricated the evidence?

    "A Vice President who openly supported water-boarding as a method of interrogation is not going to be investigated for criminal activity."

    Why not?

    "Ford pardoned Nixon rather than put the country through the trial of  a President."

    You can only pardon someone who has been convicted.

    Your comment on the Gitmo prisoners is incoherent.

    Nixon was never convicted. Nixon resigned the Presidency rather than face an impeachment trial. Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes Nixon may have committed while President.

    Had Obama wanted to, he could have changed the agreement.

    Why would Obama want to change the agreement that George Bush signed when it accomplished one of the stated goals that he ran on?  Besides the Iraqis would not sign an agreement that indemnified our soldiers from their courts. Obama would never have signed what the Iraqis proposed, and good for him.  He wanted the troops out and he did get them out.

    You and the neocon hawks who were so wrong about Iraq from the get-go may disagree with pulling the troops out, but the blame you are so happy to dish out for it belongs with the guy who signed the agreement that locked in our departure:  GWBUSH

    As to the WMD fabrications:

    Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent (via Cheney) as retribution for her husband's exposing the yellow-cake lie after he went to Niger and found out about phony letters written in Italy on stolen official stationery.  I am not going to do your research for you; it is there for anyone who seeks the truth. 

    Why President Obama decided to let the war criminals from the previous administration get off is something I am not privy to, but as someone already said, he probably thought it would damage the country to pursue legal recourse. He might have also mistakenly thought that it would show that he was acting in good faith with Republicans. Boy, he was sure wrong about THAT!

    Did you say "confessions?"  Ha, ha.

    I guess the joke is on all of us. 


    Had Obama wanted to, he could have changed the agreement.

    That's simply not true. Treaties do get renegotiated but that requires both sides to agree to the change. Obama and most every American politician, democrat or republican, did want to reach agreement to allow a residual force in Iraq. Obama certainly tried but he couldn't change it without Iraq's agreement.

    I don't think McCain could have gotten that agreement either. I shudder to imagine a Vice President Sarah Palin attempting to negotiate with Iraq over this or any issue. Do you have some convincing argument or link that explains how Obama or McCain could have gotten that agreement against the wishes of the Iraqi government and a majority of Iraq's citizens?

    No.  I've been convinced by the Atlantic article mentioned by Verified Atheist (above).

    On the other hand, Obama is quite capable of ignoring treaty commitments when he wants to, e.g. the treaty to protect the Ukraine, which the US signed when the Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons.

    Doesn't the Atlantic article indicate that the Iraqis, including many Kurds, wanted the US out of Iraq?

    Yes.  I think you misunderstand me here:  I'm agreeing with you.  The "No" in my posting was in answer to the last question in ocean-kat's post.

    Got it


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