Archive for May 2010


how Gen Y and Technology are changing History

May 22nd, 2010 — 9:10am

Jared Cohen is the rather remarkable State Department employee responsible for Twitter delaying its regularly scheduled maintenance shutdown during the Iranian uprising in the summer of 2009 so that communications and updates could continue unabated, he’s the author of the insightful book Children of Jihad that charts how young people everywhere in the Middle East from Iran to Israel have much more in common than they realize, plus he’s a Stanford grad and Rhodes Scholar.

In the above talk he outlines how technology is shaping and changing the way everything from militant attacks in Afghanistan to anti-authoritarian uprisings in Iran to grassroots resistance against FARC are organized and executed.

It’s a tremendously interesting talk that’ll change how you look at the evolving sometimes hidden role social media is carving out for itself among young people and societies across the globe.

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5 most ridiculous moments in terrorist history

May 6th, 2010 — 6:36pm

It’s generally a bad idea to leave the keys to your getaway car inside of the carbomb you’ve just rigged with fireworks, three propane tanks, a couple 5-gallon jugs of gasoline, and 100 pounds of explosive fertilizer.

Makes it kind of hard to get home.

Wait wait, make that non-explosive fertilizer actually – because you’re too stupid to bother googling what kinds of fertilizer actually blow up.   Plus, what makes it even harder to get home is also locking your house keys inside of the same carbomb.  And it’s probably an ever worse idea to release a YouTube video claiming responsibility for the attack before it even happens… especially when your attack hinges on a bunch of fireworks left in a bucket igniting a bunch of explosive material that’s not even exposed to the air.

But that was the modus operandi for Faisal Shahzad, just one in a long line of really, really stupid terrorists.

For reasons that’ll soon grow obvious, after the successful execution of an FBI sting against a group of ex-cons who’d converted to radical Islam in prison last summer, one of the media’s favorite quotes has been that at least one of the men is “intellectually challenged.”

This is said like it somehow makes him incapable of carrying out a terrorist plot. Like all past terrorists have been clever. Sinister, devious fellows who used their sharp wits and bright minds to think their way past our defenses. Like much of terrorism, this is an illusion. Many past terrorists, even some of the most notorious ones, have been complete morons. It was only two years ago that two terrorists were thwarted from bombing an airline terminal when their Jeep Cherokee got stuck beneath the awning of the Glasgow International Airport.

One of the duo fled from the Jeep in flames, and was forever immortalized when a Scottish cabby kicked him so hard in the crotch that the heroic cabby broke his own foot, leaving us with the absolutely epic headline: I Kicked a Burning Terrorist So Hard in Balls That I Tore a Tendon In My Foot. And in fact so many terrorists have been so ridiculously stupid that the failure of this most recent plot doesn’t even break into the top five.

The media’s also keyed in on the fact that the ringleader in last year’s NYC plot smoked up during the day of their foiled attack, and was still so high he told the judge he only “sort of” understood what was going on around him. Which brings us to our first moment:


5. The formation of the Assassin sect

If it wasn’t for weed, we might still have Ghandi, Abe Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, and JFK with us today.

You might even say that their deaths never would have happened if some old dead Muslims hadn’t been baked out of their minds. Nowadays when you get high you’re pretty much only a threat to someone’s life if they happen to be a Dorito, but back in the day getting higher than a giraffe’s ass was an inescapable prerequisite for joining what’s become the world’s most notorious fraternity of killers.

And the term “fraternity” isn’t used loosely here, as about any SAE pledge-master would be put to shame by the initiation ceremony of the original Assassins – but more about that shortly.

The term Assassin actually loosely translates to “pot-head.” Labeled Hashshasheen in their native Arabic, literally “those who smoke that dank-ass Mediterranian hash,” the Crusaders who first encountered them decided this was a bit too much of a mouthful so over the years the term was anglicized to the more familiar “assassin.” As it turns out, smoking the sticky-icky was an integral part of becoming an Assassin.

Led by the Old Man of the Mountain, who you can think of as some kind of terrible killer Arabic pot-smoking Santa Claus, the original Assassins were a Shiite sect headquartered in the Persian crags where they’d plot their attacks, swooping down into cities and royal courts to stab the hell out of whoever was opposing their will. After, of course, smoking copious amounts of dope. In this way the Assassins managed to consolidate an empire that was both vast and, presumably, very hazy.

To become an Assassin you first had to go through a trial that is fairly unique in history. A prospective initiate had to smoke hash until he blacked out. Seriously. The first step to becoming an assassin was to literally smoke yourself retarded.

Afterwards you’d awaken in a lush garden, filled with fountains and the most beautiful damsels in all the land, who would feed him every type of delicious morsel and subject you to sexual pleasures he might not even had known were possible. Odds are, to become an assassin you’d have to be cool with having a finger stuck somewhere uncomfortable. Possibly the back of a Volkswagen.

As the day went on you were given more and more pleasures, and more and more hash, until you passed out from the dope once again. A finger may still have been somewhere uncomfortable. When you woke up, the whole process began again, until finally an Assassin explains that what you’ve just experienced was but a tiny glimpse into the Paradise that awaited you if you would die for Allah as an Assassin.

Once you accepted their offer you would learn all the ways of the dagger (while high), how to mix poisons (while high), become a master of disguises (also while high), and how to pass for a member of any religion or culture in the region (while, of course, high). On your mission you must be focused on the kill alone, not your own escape, or where to find some munchies.

Assassins carried out hundreds of bleary-eyed killings as they spread their empire from Persia across the rest of the Middle East, and faded from notoriety only after their supply of marijuana finally ran dry.

But the best part…

Actually, they never ran out of dope, they were all brutally slaughtered by Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde in 1255.

One of them, probably while giggling and making Big Lebowski references, felt it necessary to assassinate one of Genghis’s sons because he wouldn’t let his Muslim sect – big shocker coming – pray as much as they wanted to.

So Genghis Khan sent word out that there was going to be a census, and every member of the Assassin sect made their way to the nearest city so that they’d be counted and get their piece of the pie, or pot-brownie or whatever.

But instead of being counted, the assembled Assassins were brutally slaughtered where they stood by the Golden Horde’s cavalry. The few who escaped were eventually tracked down and sent to the widow of Khan’s brother, so that she could torture them to death one-by-one in whatever manner she wished. So tap a little out for your most infamous forbearers the next time you pack a fatty in front of season two of The Chappelle Show.

Shockingly, the history of terrorism only gets more absurd in modern times.


4. Terrorists weaponize cars, kind of

Using automobiles as weapons has become the modern terrorist’s specialty. The very first carbombing was Hezbollah’s attack on the Marine barracks in Beiruit which killed 241 Marines in a blast that had the force of 12,000 pounds of TNT, but which actually came from just a few hundred pounds of plastic explosives packed into a cleverly disguised food-delivery truck.

Nothing about that attack seems funny at all, and the truck’s driver, Mr. Chubtarasha, is hailed by terrorists around the world for his heroics – for his steely courage as he drove into the maw of the imperialist American beast towards his certain fiery death.

But the reality is that Mr. Chubtarasha likely thought he was riding up a rainbow inside a giant Technicolor unicorn into a giant gumdrop full of tap-dancing Smurfs. Because before he got into his van he was fed a massive dose of hallucinogens hidden in, of all things – a cookie.

Chubtarasha wasn’t brave, he was tripping on a laced Oreo.

A decade later terrorist again successfully attacked America using cars, this time right at home in New York City. Ramzi Yousef came to New York in 1993, dressed in a silk suit he’d paid for with his wages as a Domino’s Pizza deliveryman (seriously), intent on killing as many Jews as he could.

And ultimately he decided on attacking the World Trade Center towers not because of their symbolic or tactical value, but because he’d heard from one of his buddies back home in Pakistan that lots and lots of Jews worked in them. Really, that was the driving factor behind his decision.

Where he could kill the most Jews. And since rumor had it that a lot of Jews worked there, the World Trade Center seemed as good a place as any.

As questionable as his decision making was, Yousef was proficient a assembling homemade bombs, and spent several weeks mixing batches fertilizer and nitric acid in his apartment before shuttling them in his rusted-out 1978 Chevy Nova into a self-storage shed in Jersey City. Yousef was lucky not to have one of these unstable batches blow his face off, but that’s not the ridiculous part of this attack.

After spending two months and thousands of dollars planning his attack and building his bomb, Yousef was ready to find a driver and van for his attack.

It’s unclear why Yousef didn’t just drive the van himself, but that probably has something to do with being hospitalized after crashing his ’78 Nova shortly after arriving in NYC and not exactly trusting himself behind the wheel.

You might think Yousef would take some time to carefully hand-select his driver and meticulously search to find the rental agency that would allow for the most anonymity, but that’s not how it went down. Yousef spent the night before the attack flipping through the local Yellow Pages making dozens and dozens of frantic phone calls. He was trying to find both a rental agency with a Ryder van that was big enough to hold the bomb, and someone willing to drive a van filled with thousands of pounds of fertilizer under the Twin Towers.

He figured it made sense to wait until the night before the attack to do this, and yet was still called a terrorist “mastermind.”

Despite this impetuousness, Yousef managed to avoid the even absurd blunders made by the terrorist group that carried out the Bali nightclub bombings, the Jemaah Islamiyah.

One member of the group had died on the way to an earlier attack when one of his buddies, meaning to call his cell phone to wish him luck, dialed the wrong number and instead called the phone attached to the trigger of the bomb.  And on the night of the Bali bombing, when the terrorist selected to drive the explosives-laden Mitsubishi van got into the driver’s seat on the night of the attack, he told his buddies there was a problem.

The van had a manual transmission, and he had no idea how to drive stick.


But the best part…

Is how Yousef got caught. Before the dust had even settled Yousef was already on board a plane to Karachi, but he left the men who helped him build the bomb behind. One of them, Mohammed Salamehm was pretty broke, and after the attack he decided to try and get the $400 rental deposit for the van back.

He showed up at the Ryder agency the next day demanding his money back, and was of course turned away – for some reason, the rental agency hadn’t gotten their van back and was used to dealing with angry people with funny accents who weren’t too good with cars. Salamehm returned the next day, bluffed again, and was again turned away.

But he didn’t let this stop him.

Still broke, he returned again for a third time, still angry, and this time found the FBI waiting for him. The VIN number from the van’s bumper had survived the blast, and he was taken into custody and thoroughly interrogated. Mohammed knew enough to give the authorities the leads they’d use to track Yousef down in the Philippines.

Yousef failed to topple the World Trade Center towers or kill any Jews. His bomb was equivalent to 1,500 pounds of dynamite, but it only killed a dozen construction workers. But years later different terrorists would return to New York and successfully topple the Twin Towers, and yet even that terrible day isn’t without its ridiculousness.


3. The final hours before 9/11

In the years since it occurred, 9/11 has been portrayed as the most devious and well-executed terrorist plot the world has ever seen. And the men who carried it out have been placed in the highest pantheon of heroes by Islamic extremists and the lowest pits of hell by just about everyone else.

But placing them in either of these places misses the reality of who they were. The nineteen hijackers were many things, but most importantly of all – they were a bunch of dingleberries.

Far from being highly-skilled operatives they were a bunch of jack-offs who, despite living in America with no cover and intending to carry out the most spectacular terrorist attack in world history, still managed to ring up a whole rack of speeding tickets and other moving violations.

You might think they’d be disciplined enough to stay under the law-enforcement’s radar, but you’d be wrong.

And yet maybe the most ridiculous part about 9/11, is what the hijackers were doing the night before the attack. Calling them jack-offs earlier was in no way meant metaphorically.

The night before the attack they selected a few select films from their hotels’ on-demand library. Despite imagining themselves as agents of purity and justice, on a holy mission of retribution from God himself, they still felt it was a good idea to rent a porn flick. Maybe this particular film involved goats or two dudes sword-fighting – or both. And maybe not, all we do know is that they did in fact rent a porno.

And, we can infer from the fact that the average hotel-rented porn flick is on for about five minutes, they sat around rubbing one out a sacreligiuos last time.

Maybe they had blankets pulled up over themselves, and were surreptitiously stroking their little jihadist soldiers and hoping the kid in the next bunk wouldn’t catch on like a bunch of nervous fourth-graders at summer camp. Or maybe they were all pretty cool with what the six of them were all doing in their cramped hotel room.

But the best part…

Maybe because they were all a little bit too relaxed after the previous night’s festivities, the hijackers who flew out of Boston didn’t exactly stick to a strict operational schedule. You might think operatives who were, supposedly, well-trained and highly-motivated would be very sure to have a time-table that would account for every possibility and ensure that they’d make their flight.

But the reality is that part of 9/11 very nearly didn’t happen at all. The team who flew out of Boston’s Logan Airport nearly missed their flight, they made it to their gate with just six minutes to spare.

Six minutes. A fender-bender, a belligerent customer in the ticket line, dropping a really big deuce – any number of things could easily have caused them to miss their flight entirely.

If you want to keep believing that 9/11 was the work of devious and highly skilled killers, go right ahead.

You now just have to acknowledge the fact that they were devious and highly skilled killers who managed to get a whole slew of traffic tickets and almost missed their flight because they sat around jerking-off to a porno the night before their big operation.

2. Al-Qaeda is born, cross-eyed and club-footed

It’s probably pretty hard to fish the keys to your Toyota out of a public toilet of an African hospital right smack in the middle of the afternoon lunch rush. Even if you’re elbow deep in the thing, groping around in the water like you were tying to noodle catfish.

But that’s what Mohammed Rashid Daoud al-Owhali (whose name translates literally as: douchebag who blows up hundreds of Africans) found himself doing as the hospital he was in filled with the hundreds wounded by the truck bomb he’d just blown up on the street in front of the American Embassy in Nairobi. He panicked, threw his keys in the toilet – but then changed his mind and decided to try and fish them out.

It was supposed to be al-Qaeda’s opening salvo in their pre-declared war against America, but the terrorists hit a few hitches. They meant to get their truck-bomb inside the Embassy compound, except that as al-Owhali got out of the Toyota’s shotgun side and menacingly approached the Marines guarding its gates and reached into his jacket pocket for the pistol he was going to shoot the American imperialists with he stopped in his tracks and – yes, this becomes a steady theme the more terrorist attacks you learn about – realized there was a problem.

He wasn’t wearing his jacket. It was back in the truck, next to his buddy. And so al-Owhali did the next-best thing: he started ululating and threw the flash-bang grenades he had on him at the Marine guards behind the Embassy gate. Who ran away, probably laughing and wondering what in the shit was going on, since the magnesium and ammonium-perchlorate detonation of a flash-bang grenade is at most capable of stunning people in tightly-enclosed spaces.

Throwing them at Marines who are outdoors makes about as much sense as getting in a fight with GSP and only trying to slap him once it starts. The man fiercely pinches his own nipples to get himself jacked before winning the UFC middle-weight title fight.

Despite months of the “best” training terrorists could get at al-Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan and spending several years dedicating their lives to jihad, al-Owhali and his buddy were complete screw-ups when it came time to actually carry out an attack. Al-Owhali turned and ran like hell after leaving his gun in the truck, and his buddy blew up the bomb where it would do almost no damage to the Embassy and would kill only a dozen Americans.

The only reason the attack attracted so much attention was because the bomb in the truck was the only part of the attack that wasn’t completely botched, and did manage to kill a number of Africans.

It’s fairly surprising the bomb was as potent as it was, as terrorists have frequently proven themselves utterly incapable of constructing crude bombs, a process which frighteningly enough can be successfully done by a Mongoloid fourth-grader who has a chemistry set and enough Ritalin.

In fact, our buddy Yousef was finally caught when the bomb he was working on began to prematurely combust, setting his apartment ablaze and the Filipino Special Terrorism Task Force hot on his heals.

A task force not headed by Delta Force or SEAL Team Six, but by Aida Fariscal: a grandmother known for wearing bright-pink lipstick, rubber slippers, hoop earrings, and a flowered muumuu who chased him down in the early-morning Manila streets and tied his hands with clothesline (she left her cuffs in the office, hey – grandmothers have a lot on their minds) and hailed a rusted-out WWII-era jeep that’d been converted into makeshift taxi to get him back to the station. That she was even kind enough to pay for.

Yup, that’s how a man then considered the world’s foremost terrorist mastermind was brought to justice. By a grandmother wearing a flowered muumuu.

But the best part…

The point of the Embassy attacks wasn’t to kill African bystanders, it was to destroy the Embassies and kill hundreds of Americans. Well, the US Embassy in Nairobi was largely undamaged by the blast and only a dozen Americans were killed, and the simultaneous attack on the Embassy at Dar es Salaam (which, in a cruel twist of history, really does translate to “House of Peace”) neither damaged the main Embassy building or killed any Americans.

The African Embassy bombings were, from anything close to approaching a rational perspective, complete gong shows. They were supposed to destroy both Embassies and kill hundreds of Americans. But what happened is they demolished a few walls, walls which were built in front of the Embassies to – get this – absorb a bomb blast, and killed only twelve Americans.

However they did mark the emergence of al-Qaeda from its womb, it was the organization’s first attack that provoked a substantial response against what it saw as the evil American imperialists on the world stage. But al-Qaeda came out like it’d been gestating in some terrible four-toothed hillbilly who liked to down bottles of Jack before engaging in her favorite hobby of throwing herself down the nearest rocky hillside and then repeatedly smacking herself in her pregnant belly with the empty bottle.

And yet this malformed retard seemed threatening enough to warrant a barrage over a dozen million-dollar Tomahawk cruise missiles, which succeeded in utterly flattening their target.

Sadly, this target turned out to be a factory that made pharmaceuticals, and possibly baby food. Which brings us to our final moment.

1. Every time someone flips out about it

One of our greatest Presidents once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In the years that followed this saying proved to have a lot of merit to it.

Unless of course you were one of the tens of thousands of Japanese who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hundred of thousands of American soldiers who gave their lives in European trenches, or one of the six-million Jews who died in one of the dozens of Nazi concentration camps.

So, in hindsight, maybe FDR would’ve been better off saying “we have nothing to fear but fear itself, unless of course we’re at war – in which case you need to worry about getting shot, nuked, burned alive, gassed, crippled, enslaved, and otherwise dismembered, maimed, or killed. Yeah, worry about that stuff.

And, at its core, that’s what terrorism is always attempting to do.

Create a war, or failing that the fears that piggyback on war, when there really isn’t anything there. Acts of terrorism are meant to create the perception of war and the retaliation and hatred that ensues, when the reality is the guys carrying them out would be hard-pressed to construct a forty-eight piece Lego set without starting two fires and putting an eye out.

Terrorism relies on its targets overreacting, on us not really seeing their explosions for what they are. Terrorists don’t create terrorism, terrorists are a bunch pot-smoking jerk-offs who have to get lucky to not die in car accidents or blow themselves and each other up.

Being afraid of terrorists makes about as much sense as being afraid of a drunk blindfolded one-legged midget who’s hopping around throwing cabbages at your head.

Terrorists don’t create terrorism – we do.

Terrorism is the monster under our bed, the boogeyman in our closet, the one-night stand who swore she was on the pill who you used a condom with anyways but who you still left a fake number with because hey no reason not to play it safe right? As horrible and terrifying as acts of terrorism can seem, all it takes to neutralize them entirely is to take them in perspective, and just see them for what they almost always are.

The actions of attention-whores writ large. Really, really dumb attention-whores.

For terrorism’s entire crazy story, visit Tremble the Devil’s mainpage

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