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Terror and Liberalism

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria


Polyarchy by Robert Dahl

The Nazi Seizure of Power

The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen

Terror and Liberalism

Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

In Association with

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck



Istanbul Hit Again

Minutes ago two locations in Istanbul were bombed. One was HSBC bank in the Levent district which is at the end of the metro line that runs north from Taksim. The second blast was at the British Consulate which is located near Galatasaray Square in the heart of Beyoglu. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said three to four people are still unaccounted for at the consulate.

I'd write more but I have to get to class for a midterm. It doesn't seem quite as important now though...

**UPDATE**: The midterm was canceled. In fact all classes were canceled because of the bombings in Istanbul. My friend at Bilkent University says they have canceled classes there as well.

Turkish television is reporting 15 dead and move than 320 injured.

That's all the pictures I'm going to post for now. Most of the latest coming in right now are too graphic.

The same group, IBDA-C, has taken responsibility for these blasts as well and included al-Qaeda as well.

How was this allowed to happen again? And just days later?

**UPDATE 2**: Early reports indicated that a brown van crashed into the walls around the British Consulate's garden, and then detonated causing part of the consulate to collapse.

A witness near the Consulate described the situation:

"There was a huge noise, the windows were blown out. It was very chaotic. People were panicking. The scene is complete chaos, the street is full of smoke. People are running and screaming. Civilians are carrying people away from the scene. There is debris and bodies around."

In a statement that is becoming a bit too routine, Turkish Foreign Minister Gul declared that Turkey will not give in to terror. Of course such a statement is expected of government officials, but where is the action? Why was another attack allowed to happen by the same group as the synagogue bombings, and just days later? Have the Turks done anything in the past four days to alter the security situation that is clearly quite inadequate? Has the all-powerful Turkish military responded at all? These are serious questions that need serious answers.

After the 1999 earthquake south of Istanbul it became clear that the government had no effective means of response. They were unable to respond in a way that citizens would expect from their government and to top off the embarassment, Greek (!) first-responders were able to get to earthquake victims before Turkish officials. I hope these bombings don't repeat that glaring mistake.

**UPDATE 3**: The death toll keeps climbing. This "second wave" of bombings has taken 25 lives at the British Consulate and the HSBC Bank. 390 people are reported to be wounded in the attacks.

The two locations were bombed just minutes apart at approximately 11am. Again, witnesses have reported that pickup trucks were the weapon of choice.

The anonymous caller who made the claim of responsibility said this:

"The attacks are a joint action by the the Islamic Front of Raiders of the Great Orient (IBDA-C) and al-Qaeda. Our attacks against masonic targets will continue. Muslims are not alone."

Word to the terrorists: your victims are Muslim! The only thing they're not alone from is being your victims. Such hypocrisy.

**UPDATE 4**: I went over to Bilkent University tonight and had dinner with some friends. As I entered campus there were about 10 armed military guards checking ID's of everyone who entered. Usually a Bilkent security officer just waves people through if they push any piece of paper up to the glass as they whiz by in a taxi. Turkey is scared, and they don't know what to do.

My reaction all day since hearing the news was straight up anger. Anger at the ruthless attackers who would do such a thing, angry at the Turkish authorities for seemingly not doing a single thing in the past five days to prevent a repeat. My anger with the attackers is nothing new and isn't new for any American or Briton who has faced this threat. Today though, I am completely outraged at the lack of action on the part of the Turkish government.

Sure, all the top officials have talked tough and have said all the right things, and no doubt they believe in it, but where is the action on the ground? Prime Minister Erdogan has repeated his resolve to stand up against terror and has done it in strong, forceful words:

"Those who bloodied this holy day and massacred innocent people will account for it in both worlds. They will be damned until eternity."

For God's sake, that kind of talk would get Bin Laden shaking in his boots, but this is from a good guy! This is a guy on our side. This is our partner in fighting terror.


In the last five days though, what has changed? Knowing that al-Qaeda warned of attacks of the same nature against "American, British, Italian and Japanese" interests worldwide, why weren't gigantic barricades set up around those consulates and embassies? Anyone who has been to Washington, D.C. knows what I'm talking about. Why weren't the huge planters rolled out immediately after Saturday's attacks?

Granted maybe the HSBC bank bombing couldn't have been prevented, but the British Consulate could have been prevented had proper security measures taken. Make it harder to attack the place. Make the bombers walk it in if they want to do their damage. A car bomb is the lazy man's terrorism, and while we may not be able to prevent all disasters, we can at least make it difficult for such horror to succeed.

Why didn't Turkey take these steps? Honestly I don't know. A cynic might say that they thought since al-Qaeda was attacking synagogues, broader attacks on the general Turkish population were unlikely and therefore precautionary measures needn't be taken. I don't think that's what happened, but yet I still worry.

Did they think that lightening wouldn't stike twice? Admittedly, that's what I thought. I even told my girlfriend, who I'll be meeting in Istanbul on Saturday, that now is the safest time to travel to Istanbul, for surely security would be on its highest state of alert. Was I naive to say such a thing? I don't think so. I think I just expect my government to prevent a "second wave." Apparently that's too much to expect of the Turkish Republic.

So now where does this leave me? I'm still incredibly angry that this was allowed to happen again, twice in one week no less. How, how pray tell, could this have happened again? I'm admittedly at a loss. My thoughts today have been to think that, you know, surely lightening wouldn't strike thrice, would it? My answer to that though isn't a pleasant one.

Tomorrow night at midnight I'll be taking the overnight bus from Ankara to Istanbul to meet my girlfriend. I'm not sure what to expect. I've been conditioned to expect that repeats don't happen to horrific events, so this Turkish experience is throwing my notions for a loop.

We'll strike a low profile, we'll stay away from anything with stars and stripes and union jacks. Instead of staying in the glorious and beautiful city of Istanbul for a few days before heading to Antalya on the Mediterranean coast mid-week, we'll probably head there almost immediately. Instead of staying in the lively and pulse of the Turkish nation around Taksim, we'll probably stay in the less targetable area of the historic old city.

It's a shame that such measures need to be taken in a city as wonderful as Istanbul. But I'm not sure who to blame for ruining the fun. Al-Qaeda obviously, but I can't help but feel the Turkish government neglected their duty somehow. Something could have been done. It simply wasn't, and as a result, 27 people were killed and nearly 500 injured.

**UPDATE 5**: The British Consul, Roger Short, was among the dead.

Some pictures of the damage, the injured and the lost:

What's left of the British Consulate:

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:59:00 AM

Thursday, November 20, 2003  


A Win For The Brooches

Why are we still trying to define equality? It's not that hard of a concept. Nevertheless this is a win for civil rights. Way to go Massachusetts.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:32:00 PM

Tuesday, November 18, 2003  


Reality Outpaces Fantasy

I can't believe this is a real headline:

Schwarzenegger Becomes Calif. Governor

Even though I knew it was coming, I just wasn't ready. And then there's stuff like this:

"He promised to put the state's finances in order, and added: "I will not rest until California is a competitive, job-creating machine."

Sigh. Let me guess, he's going to "terminate" unemployment?

"There's a massive weight we must lift off our state. Alone, I cannot lift it. But together, we can," he said.

But Arnold, you're the strongest man alive! Surely that's why they elected you!

How long until the man runs out of analogies? Can he make it the whole term just using quotes from his movies? I'll reserve judgement just in case he pulls off a miracle, but nevertheless I'm getting the popcorn cooking, it should be a good show.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 9:53:00 AM


Al-Qaeda's Latest

It's time for a fresh post on the Istanbul Synagogue bombings. To summarize, here's the latest:

23 people were killed in the two bombings. The first blast went off at approximately 10:27am at the Beth Israel synagogue in the affluent northern Istanbul suburb of Sisli. At about 10:30am a similar car bomb exploded outside the Neve Shalom synagogue in the heart of Beyoglu, just a few hundred meters from the historic Galata tower.

Most of the dead were Muslim Turks in the vicinity of the synagogues. Six of the dead were Jewish Turks, all of whom died at the Beth Israel synagogue where the blast caused the roof to collapse.

Over 300 people were injured, including the son of Turkey's chief rabbi.

Both synagogues had security guards, two of whom died at the Beth Israel synagogue. One police officer was killed as well.

Initially a Turkish Islamists group claimed responsibility but that claim was treated with suspicion due to the coordinated nature of the attacks. It turns out now that that suspicion was warranted: the London-based Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi is reporting that they have received a claim of responsibility from a group known to be an affiliate of al-Qaeda called the Brigades of the Martyr Abu Hafz al-Masri. Some experts wonder if the name of this group is based on the name of Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda's military leader who was killed in Afghanistan in December 2001.

In the statement to the newspaper, the group said these synagogues were attacked because they were thought to have agents of Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, in attendance. The group also said they would attack targets in Britain, Australia, Italy and Japan with car bombs similar to the attacks in Istanbul.

It has been determined that both vehicles were driven by suicide attackers. Two corpses have been found with wires attached, leading investigators to believe they were the attackers. The attached explosives seem to have been a backup measure had the 400kg of explosives in the vehicle failed.

The same Brigades of Abu Hafs al-Masri took responsibility for the August bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Both Turkish and Israeli leaders have repeated their commitment to each other's nations. Turkey stands as a fine example of a successful secular Muslim state and will only be more determined to continue as such after these horrible attacks. For Israel, it is becoming clear that its opponents won't limit their attacks to Israel proper. This terrorism seeks to destroy not just Jews, but success and freedom around the world. For Turkey, having Jews and Muslims living side by side, peacefully, for hundreds of years has caused it to be a target for those who preach intolerance.

Neither of these nations will be deterred however, and I'd be willing to wager that al-Qaeda will regret the day it messed with Turkey.

**UPDATE**: Two more people died as a result of injuries sustained in the attacks, pushing the death toll to 25.

Turkish officials have released the names and pictures of four men wanted in connection with the bombings. They are "foreign-trained Turkish Islamic militants," one of whom is known to have fought in Chechnya. Three of the four were trained in either Iran or Pakistan, and all have clear links to al-Qaeda, though the details of those links have not been released. They are all believed to be members of the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders-Front, the group that initially made a claim of responsibility. Turkish newspapers reported that all four were from the same town in eastern Turkey.

Almost instantaniously, a monument (ahem, DF, check it out) dedicated to "Tolerance and Peace" was erected up the street from the Neve Shalom synagogue.

  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:57:00 PM

Sunday, November 16, 2003