Tuesday, August 27, 2013

While I was away

I stepped away from the keyboard for a while to just read and absorb world events.  During that time, the war in Syria has raged on now involving the second or third major use of chemical weapons.  The Obama administration has verbally postured over "is it or is it really chemical weapons?" despite photographs and eye witnesses of mass casualties, more or less indicating the use of chemical weapons.  No other weapon produces mass casualties with bodies in contorted positions of pain.  The Obama administration now has decided to take a page out of the Clinton Administration and use cruise missiles to show their displeasure (which could, ironically, lead to more mass casualties).

The Obama administration was celebrating the Arab Spring a few years ago, the very event that has lead to the war in Syria and the mass rioting in Egypt.  The ouster of Mubarak and Qaddaffi have not lead to the rampant introduction of American style democracy.  Instead, old rivalries and desires for revenge control matters in Northern Africa.  The United States, badly over-extended from the war on terror, is in no position (physically or emotionally) to head into yet another conflict.

Even so, Al Qaeda recently sent the US State Department into DEFCON 1.  Embassies were closed throughout the Middle East due to the threat of imminent attack by Al Qaeda.  Somehow closing the embassies thwarted this imminent attack causing one to wonder, how serious was this attack?  Diplomats and US citizens working in those countries were not called back or evacuated so in theory, Al Qaeda could have still struck at US targets.

The announcement of the attack came on the heels of the revelation by Edward Snowden that the NSA had overcame the introduction of fiber optic networks by compromising telecommunications companies.  The NSA was created to intercept radio and telemetry signals by the Soviets and Chinese.  The same technology of course could be used to target anyone, even US citizens.  Then an interesting thing happened when copper cable began to get replaced with fiber; the NSA found fewer points to intercept signals.  Being a spy agency though, they quickly overcame this new technology by using third party vendors to sell modified prisms to telecommunications companies (hence the name "PRISM").  Unlike with copper, you can't tap a fiber optic capable (once the fiber is broken or crushed, light can't travel through it).  Prisms are used to splice signals into network operations centers.  The NSA used modified prisms that would basically send an exact copy of the incoming feed to NSA servers located near the companies network operations center.  There would be no loss of speed so until Snowden spilled the beans, no one was the wiser.

Snowden was hailed as a hero by a public that grown increasingly suspicious of big brother.  The Obama administration had to move quickly to vilify Snowden's actions and the threat of an Al Qaeda attack served as a timely way to discredit his actions.  Lost in translation was the fact the NSA and CIA exist to target FOREIGN enemies.  In days long ago, this meant the Russians or Chinese.  Today, terrorist has blurred this distinction were a threat to the homeland could be a US resident.

Taking advantage of the situation was Venezuela (no ally of the US since declaring the CIA poisoned their leader Hugo Chaves) offering Snowden asylum.  Unfortunately for Snowden, the offer came while he was stuck in Russia without a visa.  Putin initially played hardball indicating Russia would not grant Snowden asylum.  In the end though, Snowden did get to leave the airport and now is in Russia for the time being.

Times are very worrisome.  Syria and Egypt have been tearing themselves apart for almost a year yet the US has not directly intervened.  India has experience an epidemic of women being gang-raped (both foreigners as well as Indians), yet Hilary Clinton has remained remarkably silent.  Even when news reporters are raped or sexually assaulted in Egypt, the feminists in the US publicly remain quiet.  All of these events show that Syria, Egypt, India and of course Sudan are struggling with a level of internal strife that we can scarcely comprehend.  If we are unable to understand the beginnings, then I remain skeptical that we can accurately predict the end.

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