Dispatches from a Real War on Terror
Back in the 1940s the sci-fi writers Lyon Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt discovered how to travel into alternate universes by reciting the logical axioms that underlie the structure of those universes. They called this mode of transportation the "syllogismobile". After some months' intensive study of the work of these pioneers, I have been able to recreate the syllogismobile for myself, and recently used it to visit an alternate universe in which the U.S.A. has been conducting a real War on Terror. Here are some cuttings I brought back from newspapers in that world.
• Cairo, Egypt; Sept. 12. The U.S. government has refused to issue an apology for the explosion in Alexandria, Egypt last week. The Department of Defense acknowledges that the explosion, which destroyed a large office building, killing several hundred workers, was caused by a U.S. submarine-launched cruise missile. The D.o.D. claims that the building was being used by the Al-Jazeera TV station. Since their expulsion from Qatar in March 2002, Al-Jazeera have been attempting to broadcast from various locations around the Arab world. However, the broadcasts have always ended after a day or so, usually following a U.S. strike of the type seen last week in Alexandria. Said the D.o.D. statement issued this morning: "We are at war. Al-Jazeera broadcast enemy propaganda. Any place they broadcast from is an enemy emplacement, and therefore a legitimate target. While we regret collateral loss of life, this war must be fought and won. We strongly recommend that owners of real estate in the Arab world exercise extreme caution in renting out their properties."
• Los Angeles, CA; Sept. 12. A pool-maintenance contractor found to have employed illegal aliens on his work crews has been sentenced to four years in jail and a fine of $250,000 in Los Angeles federal court. The crime originally came to light when a Spanish-speaking homeowner who had engaged the contractor overheard two workers discussing their wages, which were far below the usual rate for this kind of work. Six of the workers were subsequently discovered, after background checks, to be Mexican nationals who had entered the U.S. illegally. They were at once deported in accordance with the strict new rules established by Congress after 9/11, with lifetime bans on re-entry for themselves and their family members. Attorneys for the contractor have said they will appeal.
• Newark, NJ; Sept 12. The 200-odd members of the Saudi royal family in detention here are to be granted U.S. residence after all. These Saudis — 43 royal princes, together with their families and servants — have been held in custody since their flight from Saudi Arabia last year, following the Islamist uprising in that country. The INS has declared them "thoroughly vetted," and the administration has approved a waiver to the post-9/11 rules that exclude all Saudi nationals from the U.S. "They have nowhere else to go," explained INS Commissioner Michelle Malkin. "And after all, it's our fault their monarchy lasted as long as it did."
• Detroit, MI; Sept 12. The last sports utility vehicle came off the production line over a year ago, but the huge backlog of unsold SUVs is still causing headaches for auto manufacturers. GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner yesterday announced that the company's remaining inventories of SUVs will be sold to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be used for landfill. A spokesman for the Department of Energy welcomed the announcement, adding: "With gas prices stabilizing at the pump now around eight dollars a gallon, we have finally broken the long-ingrained American conviction that this nation has a God-given right to cheap gasoline. We have also broken the dependence on foreign oil entailed by that conviction."
• Atlanta, GA; Alaska; Sept. 13. The Al-Hamr Mosque in central Atlanta as been stripped of its tax-exempt status and ordered to pay business and property back taxes from September 11, 2001. This follows the discovery that the Imam of the Mosque, Ahmad Hasan Al-Bakr, had been preaching jihad (holy war) against "Zionists and infidels" for some years prior to the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Imam Al-Bakr, a U.S. citizen (formerly Deshawn Jackson), protested in an Atlanta Journal op-ed yesterday that he has preached no jihad since the attacks. U.S. Attorney General Bill Pryor, however, in a rebuttal op-ed, has argued that this is insufficient defense under the terms of the Incitement to Terrorism Act of 2001. The Act states that any church, temple, mosque, or other place or worship known to have given aid or comfort to the nation's enemies must submit to a lengthy and expensive federal re-certification process before it can again claim tax exemption on religious grounds.
• Washington, DC; Sept 13. The administration continues to suffer fallout from the president's remarks yesterday about the just-completed southern border zone. Responding to Mexican President Vicente Fox's criticism Wednesday that the watch-towers along the zone resemble the Iron Curtain, President Bush had replied: "We'll do what's best for our country, and to hell with what anyone else thinks." President Fox, in an appearance on Mexican television last night, angrily characterized Bush's words as "insensitive" and "un-neighborly." There has so far been no response from the White House. Meanwhile a new controversy has erupted following a Fox News interview with Homeland Security chief Rudolph Giuliani. Asked how the U.S. should respond if anyone were to be killed while attempting to enter the country across the border minefields, Giuliani replied: "Oh, we'll bag up the bits and pieces and toss 'em back over the fence." The Mexican Ambassador this morning lodged a "very strong protest" with the State Department, calling Giuliani's remarks "cruel" and "inhuman."
• Gaza, Sept. 13. A funeral procession for slain Hamas leader Abdul Al-Jaffara seemed about to turn into an angry demonstration when it was suddenly attacked by Israeli planes firing rockets and dropping napalm. The area of the demonstration is still, several hours after the event, "a sea of flames," and there has been no estimate of fatalities, though estimates run as high as a thousand. This was the first attempt at a large public demonstration in Palestinian territories since the riots that followed the funeral of slain terrorist leader Yasser Arafat in 2001, which drew a similar Israeli response, with more than 2,000 reported dead. A spokesman for the Israeli government declared after that event that: "Demonstrations in support of terrorism are acts of war. That is clearly implicit in the phrase 'War on Terror'." President Bush later said he was in "full agreement" with this policy.
• London, England; Sept. 15. Britain's highest court has ruled that the suit against the British government by relatives of the late Gerry Adams has "no merit" and will not be permitted to proceed. Mr. Adams was shot to death by British soldiers in Belfast last year, along with several of his colleagues in the now-banned Sinn Féin party. The High Court ruled that the shooting fell within the terms of engagement as defined by the War On Terror Act of 2001, since Mr. Adams' involvement with terrorist activity was well documented. The relatives have said they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
• Albuquerque, NM; Sept. 15. A passenger on a United flight from Houston to Los Angeles was shot dead by flight attendants over New Mexico this morning. The passenger, a Moroccan businessman, had complained loudly of having been delayed at the boarding gate because of "profiling" by security personnel. Half an hour into the flight he began cursing at the cabin staff in mixed English and Arabic, referring to the United States as a "racist" and "terrorist" nation. Then he jumped from his seat and began walking briskly forward toward the flight cabin. When an attendant ordered him to stop, he paid no attention. The attendant, together with a colleague, opened fire with the sidearms issued to all flight attendants since 9/11. The passenger was declared dead at Albuquerque airport, where the plane made an emergency landing. A United spokesman praised the actions of the flight attendants, who, he said, had done "exactly the right thing." Asked whether the passenger, who was of Middle Eastern appearance, had indeed been profiled by United staff at the Houston departure gate, the spokesman replied: "Of course. That's what our security people are trained to do."
• Paris, France; Sept. 16. At an emergency meeting in their new Paris headquarters, the Security Council of the United Nations has passed a resolution "unequivocally condemning" the U.S. mining of Iranian harbors, the interdiction of Iranian land and air traffic, and the cross-border raids into Iranian territory by U.S. forces. The resolution described these actions as "gross violations of Iranian sovereignty." Asked for comment, an administration spokesman replied that since U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. last year, that body has no authority over U.S. actions. He reiterated the U.S. position that we shall cease all offensive actions against Iran and provide full mine-sweeping services to Iran at reasonable fees, just as soon as the Iranian government has thrown open to unrestricted U.S. access all remaining sites — most are believed to be buried deep under Iranian cities — suspected in the development of nuclear weapons technology.
• Seoul, Korea; Sept 16. The Korean government has announced that it will accept the U.S. offer of aid for reconstruction of the country's north and rehabilitation of refugees. In Washington, a State Department spokesman welcomed the announcement, and predicted that further steps towards reconciliation between the U.S. and Korea will be forthcoming. One Seoul newspaper has run an unsourced report that the Korean government may, contrary to earlier declarations, permit official U.S. representation at the coming celebrations to mark the first anniversary of Korean reunification. Korea and the U.S. have been estranged since surprise U.S. nuclear strikes against troop and artillery concentrations of the now-defunct Kim Jong Il regime along the 38th parallel, and subsequent accusations by the Seoul government that the resulting fallout had caused health problems in cities near the target zones. The Defense Department continues to insist that only low-yield neutron bombs were used in the strikes, that the Kim dictatorship could not have been brought down by any other means, that fallout has been negligible, and that the U.S. is none the less willing to discuss the issue of compensation for proven health problems, in addition to the promised reconstruction aid.
• Damascus, Syria; Sept. 17. The Syrian government has lodged "the strongest possible protest" at the U.N. following last week's decision by the State Department to relocate our Israel embassy to the Golan Heights. Addressing the General Assembly, the Syrian Foreign Minister declared: "The Golan Heights is Syrian territory under occupation by the Zionist entity. This is the sacred soil of our motherland. We shall never, never accept this. After the recent aerial bombing of our peaceful nuclear facilities, this is outrage upon outrage." National Security Adviser Daniel Pipes, asked to respond at yesterday's press conference, said: "When the Syrians have withdrawn their remaining troops from Lebanon, ceased all support for terrorism, got themselves a constitutional form of government, and established full trading and diplomatic relations with Israel, we'll be glad to discuss the matter in a sympathetic way."
• Normandy, France; Sept. 17. The exhumation and repatriation of American dead from the two world wars are proceeding well ahead of schedule, declared Defense Department War Graves Commissioner Bob Dole. He predicts that all known remains of U.S. servicemen will have been repatriated by year's end. "Our boys will all be home by Christmas," promised Commissioner Dole. "After that, the Europeans can fight their own damn wars."
• Chicago, IL; Sept. 17. Two citizens of the Dominican Republic, arrested in Chicago for drug offenses, were found to have no valid documents for entry into the U.S. Handed over to the federal authorities under the Illegal Immigrants Criminal Activity Act of 2002, they now face the mandatory 25-year sentence under that Act for engaging in criminal activities while illegally resident in the U.S.
• Riyadh, Islamic Arabian Republic; Sept. 17. In the three-sided civil war that has been devastating this country (formerly Saudi Arabia) for the past eighteen months, the forces of Ghazi bin Aziz's Pure Wahhabist faction have now surrounded the capital city, which is held by Mohammed Al-Qasr's True Wahhabist faction. Meanwhile, the southern oil fields seem to be firmly in the hands of the Holy Wahhabist armies of Khaled Al-Nihaya — although, since the technical and support personnel have all fled or been killed, the country is currently in its sixteenth straight month of zero oil production. At an off-the-record State Department briefing Tuesday, a senior U.S. official denied persistent rumors that American arms are being shipped to all sides to prolong the war. "Why on earth would we do that?" asked the official. "Having no longer any reliance on Saudi oil, our only interest is, on behalf of U.S. Muslims, to see that the holy places of Islam are not damaged in the fighting."
• Berlin, Germany; Sept. 20. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has formally protested the Defense Department's "scorched earth" policy in evacuating U.S. bases from German soil. The evacuations were, the Chancellor asserted, carried out "in too much haste," adversely affecting the economies of local communities. He also claimed that the dismantling of the bases had been "too thorough," and "destructive." The Chancellor especially objected to the policy of plowing over the sites of the bases and sowing the ground with salt. Asked for a response to Chancellor Schroeder's remarks, Defense Secretary Colonel David Hunt said: "Bite me, Adolf."
• Baghdad, Iraq; Sept. 22. Turnout was high in yesterday's elections in the Federal Republic of Iraq, the first nationwide elections since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in summer of 2002. A group of volunteer observers from Europe, South Asia and South America has issued a provisional declaration describing the elections as "free and fair," with only a small number of disturbances, mostly near the Iranian border. President Bush has declared himself "encouraged" by the speedy recovery of the country. Answering questions from reporters at a meeting this morning with visiting Afghan parliamentarians, the President confirmed that troop withdrawals from both Afghanistan and Iraq are on schedule. "These countries can manage their own affairs," said the President. "They understand now that U.S. friendship is far, far preferable to U.S. enmity. Some other nations have yet to learn this; but all will learn in time."
• Tripoli, Libya; Sept. 22. The Libyan government has published a new batch of papers recovered from the ruins of the presidential palace of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. These documents provide further evidence of the involvement of the Gaddafi regime — destroyed by U.S. forces in an "out of the blue" decapitation strike in December 2001 — in international terrorist operations around the world from the 1970s on. The speaker of the Libyan parliament has confirmed that an invitation has been extended to President Bush to witness the opening of the new parliamentary session after next month's elections.
• Washington, DC; Sept. 23. In a widely anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has voted 9-0 in Gonzalez vs. State of California that children born to illegal immigrants are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States in the sense required by Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and are therefore not automatically entitled to U.S. citizenship. The decision is expected to cause a furore, as the citizenship status of children born to illegal immigrants before the ruling is now uncertain.
• Paris, France; Sept. 24. The French daily newspaper Le Figaro has published the first official U.S. response to Monday's charge by foreign minister Dominique de Villepin that France "is not treated with respect, as a serious nation" by U.S. policy-makers. In the response, printed as an op-ed in today's edition of Le Figaro, U.S. Ambassador to France Jonah Goldberg claimed that …