Archive for August, 2004
My neighbor, Annette, has joined forces with the neighborhood birds to make my life miserable.
Annette recently concocted a devious plan. She would lure area birds to her yard using bird seed. Then she would turn them against me and train them to cause mischief. I have seen evidence of the first part of the plan; I’ve spotted her putting out dishes of seed all over her yard. I have not directly witnessed her training this avian army, but I suppose she’s sly enough to do this covertly so as not to alert me to her designs. But I know what she’s up to.
The birds’ first mission, called “Operation Bothered Beagles,” was as simple as it was sinister. These feathered soldiers would perch on the fence in the large numbers, mocking my dogs with their presence. This would, of course, entice my dogs to howl and bark in their futile efforts to catch the winged warriors. The racket created by the hounds is enough to make a person crazy. Operation Bothered Beagles is played out with machine-like precision roughly every thirty minutes.
I’ve dubbed Annette’s latest dastardly mission “Operation Enduring Feces.” After filling their intestines with vast quantities of seed, the forces are dispatched in sorties for bombing runs on strategic targets. These targets include my car and the deck in the back yard. Three days ago, when I got in my car to go to work, I spotted four “direct hits” on my windshield. The next day, four more were there. Emboldened by their successes, the birds more than doubled their output, boasting 10-12 direct hits on the windshield this morning. I was shocked and awed.
I’m not sure what Annette and her little air force have in store for me next. My feeble army consists of myself, my wife, and our two beagles. But hope remains, for I see untapped potential in the squirrels and rabbits that inhabit my yard. If I can enlist their support — and convince the dogs to put aside their petty quarrels with the varmints — I may yet find a way to counter this crafty old broad and her hired mercenaries.
In an effort to appear strong on terrorism, our government has adopted a strategy of trumpeting every single bit of news they come across. Every arrest. Every suspected plot, no matter how vague. I guess the idea is to brag about everything to show how successful our “War on Terror” is.
I have a few problems with this approach. First and foremost, it looks as if we’re actually in the habit of shooting off our mouths, even when we probably ought to keep it to ourselves. Consider the recent announcement by the CIA that we had infiltrated Al Qaeda’s network. That seems like something that we might not want to broadcast. Don’t you think that makes Al Qaeda more likely to aggressively root out any potential moles?
Or how about the fiasco with Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, the computer geek they caught in Pakistan. By identifying him, we exposed the identity of a key source whose contacts with Al Qaeda honchos had yet to be fully exploited. This was seen as a huge intelligence blunder by many observers. According to Juan Cole, a Professor of History at the University of Michigan (who also happens to be a specialist on the Middle East):
The outing of Khan, probably the most important asset the U.S. has ever had inside al-Qaeda, is a huge disaster and a setback to attempts to finish off the top leadership of al-Qaeda
Hmm. Not so good.
This pattern of talking too damn much actually goes all the way back to 9/11. On the day of the attacks, Senator Orrin Hatch leaked important information from intercepted Al Qaeda satellite phone conversations. Shortly after, Al Qaeda abandoned that form of communication completely, much to the dismay of intelligence professionals.
Aside from tipping our hands about sensitive intelligence, there’s also another major problem. It’s the constant stream of non-specific, yet terribly frightening rumors of planned attacks. Frankly, I don’t see the value of these “warnings.” Oddly enough, it reminds me of a line from the movie Men in Black. In that film, Will Smith’s character, after learning of an alien plot to destroy Earth, decides that discretion is no longer important. Tommy Lee Jones plays his older, wiser partner who brings him back to his senses. He says:
There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Korilian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out life on this miserable planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do not know about it.
Seems like Agent K could teach our folks a thing or two about keeping things under their hats.