...busting up my brains for the words

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back

A few weeks ago Richard Miniter guested on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. I'd heard Miniter's name before but had not been familiar with his work. I think I'd seen his name on the byline of the Opinion Journal but I didn't recall any article he'd written. So, Miniter's appearance on NARN was an eye opener for me. I was very interested in his written work as well as the insights he'd provided.
One of my favorite of these was his comment that "The war in Iraq really is a distraction from the war on terrorism, but only for the press." That's a crisp assessment. It's a particularly keen observation because it cuts both ways. It addresses an issue we are previously familiar with, as an issue the press embraces. And it likewise infers that the hard left has been duped by the press, banking on its authority. We often hear the hard left assert this charge.

So I picked up Miniter's book, Shadow War. It's every bit as interesting a read as its author's radio appearance was.

One of the most fascinating chapters in this book is Terror At Sea. Here, Miniter writes of the Predator UAV and its arming with a Hellfire missile. Miniter writes an amazing account of the targeting and killing of Qaed Salem Sinan al-Harethi (aka Abu Ali), a Yemeni "operations chief" for al-Qaeda.

As al-Harethi and five other known terrorists barreled down a two-lane highway in the dry expanse of northern Yemen, a slow-moving bat-like plane found them. Its high-resolution black-and-white video images were beamed back to a control room in Djibouti, some 160 miles away. The CIA team there had no difficulty recognizing al-Harethi; they had been hunting him for months.
The Predator launched its sole Hellfire missile. Direct hit. Al-Harethi, his companions, and their vehicle disappeared in a ball of fire. In the charred chassis, Yemeni intelligence found weapons and explosives.

That's an amazing account of a new kind of war being fought on this planet. It's science fiction become science fact. The greatest superpower on the globe has this incredible robot that blasts a rocket at a landspeed vehicle, blowing it and the religio-conservative rebels inside to bits. Later, Yemeni officials investigated the scene to scrape up bits of goo, test its DNA content and verify that it was indeed Abu Ali.
The only blemish in the analogy to George Lucas' Star Wars movie is that in the real world, the "Empire" is the good guys and the "rebels" are the bad guys.

But getting back to terra firma here, I began to wonder of the details of Miniter's account. How did the CIA recognize al-Harethi through the video cam? Did they know his car? Does the camera have such super-close zoom capability that it had picked up his facial features? Or did the CIA get a corroborating signal from al-Harethi's cell phone and locate it in that car?
While Miniter is vague on my questions, that's what the Internet is for. I Googled Predator hellfire al-Qaeda and came up with this.

I didn't get my details yet, but I'm not finished searching. In any case, not only is this an effective weapons system, it does so at no risk to our men & women in remote control of the robot drone.

NOTE: I'm writing this post while listening to the Internet feed out of KRLA Los Angeles. I'm catching up on the NARN show as they substitute for Hugh Hewitt. As I write I hear Mitch Berg of say the very name of my post; The Empire Strikes Back. It turns out that another blog has coincidentally chosen the same title as mine. That's weird, as I've been thinking of this post for a couple of days now.
If a third blogger suddenly gets the urge to post with the title; The Empire Strikes Out, it will be a true Yogi Berra moment and the fat lady will sing.

Abu Ali and his accomplices were blasted from the sky in a new kind of war. They were killed as they were engaged in a plan to target innocent victims. So the hunters became the hunted, their lives brought to an end by a soulless machine guided by a remote hand.


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