Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

9/11 Terrorist Attack’s 8th Anniversary

Posted in CIA,Government,History,Holiday,Homeland Security,Military,NSA,NYC,Politics by Elliott Back on September 11th, 2009.

Today is the 8th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York against the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001 suicidal jihadists flew fully fueled airplanes into the World Trade Center, the pentagon, and other targets. America’s most gut-wrenching 21st century moment cost 3,000 lives, and permanently scarred the memories of New Yorkers:

9 11  towers

In light of the anniversary, it’s worth spending some time to ask yourself “what has America done to make them hate us so much?” Consider the recent imperialist unjust wars fought in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and the illicit actions of the CIA around the world, or the hundreds of military bases we maintain in other countries. The aid dollars we dole out to dictators to preserve the status quo, our arbitrary tariffs and immigration policies that alienate foreigners, and the eroding of Americans’ own civil liberties in the name of “freedom” and the “war against terror.”

America was once respected as a nation of justice, wisdom, and opportunity. Perhaps over time the Obama administration can repair America’s reputation.

“So, let’s imagine how [the September 11th attacks] could have been worse for example. Suppose that on September 11, Al-Qaeda had bombed the White House and killed the President, instituted a murderous, brutal regime which killed maybe 50,000 to 100,000 people and tortured about 700,000, set up a major international terrorist center in Washington, which was overthrowing governments all over the world, and installing brutal vicious neo-Nazi dictatorships, assassinating people. Suppose he called in a bunch of economists, let’s call them the ‘Kandahar Boys’ to run the American economy, who within a couple of years had driven the economy into one of the worst collapses of its history. Suppose this had happened. That would have been worse than 9/11, right? But it did happen. And it happened on 9/11. That happened on September 11, 1973 in Chile. The only thing you have to change is this per capita equivalence, which is the right way to look at it. Well, did that change the world? Yeah, it did but not from our point of view, in fact, who even knows about it? Incidentally, just to finish, because we [the U.S.] were responsible for that one.” — Noam Chomsky.

Obama Murders Osama: The Illegal Assassination of America’s #1 Enemy

Posted in Homeland Security,Law,Politics,President by Elliott Back on May 6th, 2011.

What gave President Obama the right to order Navy Seals to invade the foreign sovereign nation of Pakistan, fly inland 50 kilometers from the Capital, and murder an unarmed foreign citizen? According to Reuters, “‘this was a kill operation,’ U.S. national security official [said], clarifying no desire to capture Osama bin Laden alive.” In the NY Times article New U.S. Account Says Bin Laden Was Unarmed During Raid, they clarify:

Bin Laden’s wife, who was with him in the room, “rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” said the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, reading from the brief account, which was provided by the Defense Department. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

Despite expecting Bin Laden to put up a fight, Mr. Brennan said the assault team had made contingency plans for capturing, rather than killing him. “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” he said.

After the atrocities of World War II, there were held a series of military tribunals called the Nuremberg Trials, where German leadership was tried under doctrine drawn up by the occupying powers. By attempting to create and follow a criminal war-crimes procedure rooted in justice, the trials dispelled notions of “victor’s justice” and “murder by court.”

So why couldn’t we do the same with Osama? Here are two reasons why we should:

Executive Order 12333

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed into law this order which stated that “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” This restated Gerald Ford’s ban on political assassinations, and Jimmy Carter’s ban on indirect assassination. Of course, this does not apply to enemy combatants…

“Grave Breaches” of the Geneva Convention

We haven’t seen any evidence that Osama was actively engaged against the United States; when he was confronted by Navy Seals, he was unarmed. He should therefore have been accorded protection as a prisoner of war, fairly treated, and granted a fair trial. Instead he was assassinated.

I’d like to leave you with this quote from Reason’s Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law?:

“We’re violating our basic values and our basic principles, which is that we accord everybody due process and we don’t engage in summary executions,” argued libertarian Fox Business Channel host Judge Andrew Napolitano. “Justice is not a summary execution by a Navy SEAL in your bedroom.”

The Economist’s obituary of Osama bin Ladin is also worth reading.

Update: In the LA Times article “Osama bin Laden’s son says U.S. broke international law ‘if’ his father is dead”, Omar bin Ladin says “We are not convinced on the available evidence in the absence of dead body, photographs, and video evidence that our natural father is dead.” Omar also accuses the US of “breaking international law by killing the unarmed terrorist leader without a trial.”

Little Big Planet’s Quran Music Faux Pas

Posted in Religion,Scandal by Elliott Back on October 18th, 2008.

The upcoming videogame LittleBigPlanet (LBP) for the Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) console has received an unexpected blow to its release schedule. During the final review process, Sony Entertainment discovered that two verses from the Qu’ran were included in Little Big Planet’s background track. The verses are found in the early portions of this song, and to Western ears are utterly innocuous:

1- In the 18th second: “كل نفس ذائقة الموت” (“kollo nafsin tha’iqatol mawt”, literally: ‘Every soul shall have the taste of death’).

2- Almost immediately after, in the 27th second: “كل من عليها فان” (“kollo man alaiha fan”, literally: ‘All that is on earth will perish’).

I was curious as to why “we Muslims consider the mixing of music and words from our Holy Quran deeply offending” and I came across this Yahoo Answers thread which tries to explain that “music is haram for believers of Islam.” I don’t find any of the answers convincing. Putting aside–for a moment–the question of whether music itself is acceptable to a Muslim, there merely remains the issue of why Sony Entertainment, a global company, would harm its own videogame release by giving into the demands of religious socio-terrorists.

It’s clear to me that merely offending a subset of people is not a good reason to give up creative direction, freedom of speech, or any of the other Western ideals. It’s also not a particularly good business decision. A product which satiates the myriad desires of every interest group, which pleases everyone, that offends no one is a product which has thus had every innovation stripped from it.

Little Big Planet is a family-oriented game where players control a Sackboy to play and explore the game environments, create their own content, and share creations with others around the world. It hardly merits a religious challenge over the inclusion of text into its soundtrack.

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