Thursday, July 27, 2006

Snakeoil George

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vote for Democrats if


If you want to support Bush's war in Iraq -- one based on lies and deceptions, and which is unwinnable in any case -- vote for the Republicans.

If you want to throw a half-trillion (trillion!) dollars down the Iraq rat hole for a continuation of this war, meaning that valuable projects in the U.S. such as education and health-insurance and infrastructure upkeep have no funding, vote for the Republicans.

If you want a continuation of humongous deficits far into the future, which your kids and grandkids will have to pay for, and a stagnant economy burdened by that debt, vote for Republicans.

If you want to endanger Social Security by Bush's plan to privatize much of it, vote for Republicans.

If you want Americans to be associated with torture around the world, vote for Republicans.

If you don't care that Bush, Cheney, Rove and Libby revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent as punishment for her husband telling the truth about the lies underpinning Bush's war plans for Iraq, vote for Republicans.

If you don't mind that Bush ordered the NSA to spy on American citizens' phone calls and private emails, and then halted a Justice Department probe into the legality of such action (a cover-up that should be grounds for impeachment for "obstruction of justice"), vote for Republicans.

If you don't mind the constantly climbing high price of gasoline that accompanies Bush's reckless, and incompetently handled, foreign policy, vote for Republicans.

If you don't care that Bush is doing next to nothing about global warming, vote for Republicans.

If you don't mind the thorough ineptitude of the Bush Administration in the Katrina aftermath, when more than a thousand American citizens died, vote for Republicans.

If you want to remain uncertain whether your vote was accurately counted -- since Republican-owned companies control the machines and vote-tallying software, and can manipulate the numbers without anybody being able to detect the fraud -- vote for Republicans.

If Bush assuming near-total control of the three branches of government doesn't bother you -- meaning he is, in effect, a dictator, who can tell the Congress and courts to forget trying to rein him in -- vote for Republicans. One could go on and on forever.


If, however, you want to bring America back more to the center and away from its extreme rightist recklessness in foreign and domestic policy, don't vote for Republicans.

If you want to concentrate more on issues that really matter to most folks (health-care, education, clean air and water, stable pensions, the economy, privacy, civil rights, etc.), then do not vote for Republicans.

If you believe that two more years with no effective checks on the Bush Administration will lead to even more scandals and corruption and foreign and domestic disasters, then do not vote for Republicans.

If the Republicans in November lose their hold on the House and/or Senate, there will be a political brake on extreme policy-making, and a chance, at least a chance, for America to begin to undo the terrible damage done to our society, and the world, over the past five years.

In short, it's time for a change in America. And it's up to all of us -- Democrats, Libertarians, independents, moderate and traditional conservative Republicans -- to make that happen in November. Which means, first of all, ensuring an honest, transparent voting system. Take them to court, if you have to, to get what all Americans should have by right: their vote honestly counted and recorded.

-- BW

Monday, July 17, 2006

If Bush was honest

NanceGreggs's Journal: Nance Rants
Posted by NanceGreggs in General Discussion: Politics
Sun Jul 16th 2006, 11:07 PM
Where’s Your Messiah Now?
A Message from Our Fearless Leader
(As Conveyed By Nancy Greggs)

Well, I guess the events of the past few days means that the few of you who still believe in my abilities as a leader have finally cottoned on to the idea that you have been royally had. And I’ve gotta ask, what took you so long?

Ever since that day I was first sworn into office, my hand on the Bible and my fingers crossed behind my back, I’ve been anticipating this moment. Heck, even I didn’t think it would take this many years, but I guess I mindunderestimated the stupidity of the average American citizen.

Oh, I know, I know. Contrary to what you’ve been told (about pretty much everything), I do look at those poll numbers. So I am aware that a lot of you have bailed over the past year or two. As for the rest of you, I can’t imagine what it’s gonna take to wake you up from this dream you’ve been having where I’m some kind of second coming.

Honestly, dudes. If YOU were God, would you have picked someone like ME to carry on your goodness in the world? For once in your life, try THINKING.

It all started with that whole Florida election fraud thing. I gotta level with you, even a mastermind like Jim Baker had his doubts that we’d actually pull that one off. But thanks to you simple folk believing I was honestly elected, there I was, President of the United States.

When we started handing out those tax cuts to the wealthy, I thought to myself, “Well, here’s where it all falls apart. Who’d be stupid enough to believe that giving folks like Dick Cheney a tax break was going to ‘stimulate the economy’?” But I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong (well, sometimes), and I was wrong on that one. You guys lapped it up like one of Bill Frist’s kittens lapping up their last bowl of cream before headin’ for the lab.

But then 9/11 happened and I thought, “Oh, shit, they’re on to me now.” There I was sitting reading ‘The Pet Goat’, looking like the idiot I am. But then someone on the staff got me to NYC, handed me a bullhorn, and the rest is – what do they call it? – yeah, history. And you just loved it!

So we did the Afghanistan thing, just to make it look good, but we was already planning on Iraq by then and that presented some problems.

Now, just between you, me and that Curveball fella, I figured y’all had me dead to rights when I trotted out that WMD nonsense. If I had a nickel for every time I said, “Hey, Rummy, they’re NEVER going to swallow THIS story,” I’d be even richer than I already am. Hook, line and sinker – that’s how Rummy told me you’d react, and you gotta give the man right when he’s right.

So there we were, off to Iraq right on schedule, and there you were flying your flags and getting on board with this whole ‘Democracy in the Middle East’ thing like you’d invented it yourselves. And you pretty much did, because it was the LAST thing on our minds.

But it’s not like it was smooth sailing from the get-go, let me tell you. We’d sucked up to those Fundie nutcases pretty good in terms of them making a show of it at the polls in both so-called ‘elections’, so I got pretty nervous about the whole Gitmo and Abu Ghraib torture thing we’d set up. I thought, well, there goes that born-again Christian schtick I’d worked on for years.

But again, the stupidity of some people amazes even me sometimes. There we were, waterboardin’, using dogs, even shipping people off to secret prisons right through international airports – and you STILL BELIEVED that whole ‘good Christian man’ crap that we’d been spoon-feeding you. Hot damn! Gonzo and I still laugh our asses off over that every time we get together for a couple of brewskies.

Truth be told (which don’t happen often with me), that whole Katrina thing caught us nappin’. I mean, who knew? Sure, sure, we’d had some yapping from people about how bad it might get, but we really didn’t picture THAT many people drowning and all. We figured a couple of hundred, tops! So I gotta level with you folks; I was sure you had me on that one.

But no, you just hung in there, looking up to me like your great f*#king leader, even when I sat there and played the Goddamned guitar while an entire American city was washed away. By that time, I knew that most of you die-hard supporters were triple-O stooopid, but Jesus H. Christ on a bike, the fact that you looked the other way on that fiasco just blew me away.

But as they say, that was then, and this is now. Iraq is pretty much a write-off, and Afghanistan was in the toilet from day one. And now there’s this crisis between Israel and – yeah, some other heathen country I can’t remember the name of, because quite frankly I don’t give a damn.

Anyway, I’m photographed having a sit-down with Putin, shit-faced, with a bottle of beer on the table in front of me, I’m driving around in a little golf-cart thingy smilin’ and wavin’ like the fool I am while the Middle East is threatening to blow up, and when I’m asked about it, I’ve got the balls to stand there and whine about how long do I gotta wait before I can chow down.

And still you believed. You believed I was the second coming while I lied to you, cheated you, handed your tax dollars to my buddies, bankrupted the country, tortured innocent people, and killed off those Iraqis you were dumb enough to think I was actually there to ‘liberate’.

You’re spending most of your miserable salary on gas to get to the jobs that are left only because they were too crappy to outsource, your kids are going to wind up working like peasants just to pay off the interest on the debts I’ve run up, and still you bow your heads when you say my name.

No wonder so many of you are praying for the Rapture – it’s your only way out of the hellhole I’ve created for generations to come.

Man, oh man. I’ve met some suckers in my time, but you jerks who are still looking up to me like your great messiah are giving me the big time hooboo-jeebies.

As for that roast pig I was on and on about while my little Roadmap to Peace thingy got turned on its ass, I’m bringing the leftovers back to the ranch. It won’t look like much after it’s been setting in the Texas heat for a while.

But for those few of you left who still think I’m something to write home about, come on down. I’ll just slap some lipstick on the damned thing, and I’m sure y’all will eat it up – just like you been doing all these years.

Your Great Leader (heh heh),

Saturday, July 15, 2006

some easy questions

1. What are the Top Seven best things that the Bush Administration has

2. Is the Iraq War is going well?

3. After three years thus far, when do you think Iraq might be able to
"stand up" so that America can "stand down"?

4. For his part in the event, how would you rate the job the President
did protecting New Orleans from devastation?

5. How do you think the rebuilding of New Orleans is going?

6. When Dick Cheney and the oil company and energy executives met in
private to plan America's energy policy, how much of their goal was to
benefit consumers?

7. Do you believe in the President's call for an Era of Personal

8. Since Republicans control the White House, Senate and House of
Representatives, how personally responsible are they for conditions in
America today?

9. Why do you think they haven't been able to find anyone who can verify
that George Bush ever showed up for National Guard duty in Alabama?

10. Would you want Donald Rumsfeld to plan your daughter's wedding?

11. Are you aware that no government in the history of civilization,
other than the Bush Administration, has lowered taxes during a war?

12. Are you married?

13. Do you personally feel threatened by gay marriage?

14. Since getting elected, do you think the President has been more a
uniter or a divider?

15. How do you explain the President's approval rating going from a high
of 90% to the current mid-30%?

16. Do you like the government collecting personal data on you without a

17. How much money do you have in your bank account, stocks and investments?

18. What's your partner's favorite sex position?

19. If you have nothing to hide, why aren't you answering?

20. Should we build a wall along the Mexican border?

21. Why isn't anyone building a wall along the Canadian border?

22. Does that terrorist gang arrested in Canada count as a threat?

23. If you shot someone in the face while drinking, how fast would the
police show up to arrest you?

24. If Donald Rumsfeld had planned your daughter's wedding three years
ago, would the guests still be there?

25. Even if no laws are broken, do you think it's okay to reveal the
name of a covert agent?

26. During your lifetime, approximately how often have you changed your

27. Why shouldn't people dismiss you as a flip-flopper?

28. Where do you think the Weapons of Mass Destruction might be?

29. Where do you think Osama bin Laden might be?

30. Is it fiscally responsible to cut taxes, increase spending and
create a $9 trillion federal debt?

31. Are you glad liberals passed such programs as Social Security,
Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, women's suffrage, federal deposit
insurance, unemployment compensation, rural electrification, child labor
laws, minimum wages and the 40-hour work week?

32. What are the Top Ten best things that conservatives have given to

33. If you were on life support, would you want a doctor you'd never met
making a diagnosis about you via remote television?

34. Do you think man-made greenhouse gases have anything at all to do
with depleting the ozone layer?

35. If Donald Rumsfeld had planned your daughter's wedding three years
ago, and guests were still there, how many factions would they now be
split into?

36. How good is it that the terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was killed?

37. Are you aware that in 2002 the Pentagon knew where al-Zarqawi was
and presented three separate plans to kill him, but the Administration
refused to act each time?

38. Is George W. Bush the kind of guy you'd want to sit down and have a
beer with?

39. When he started talking about being a Born Again Christian, would
you want to stay or leave?

40. Is Ray Romano the kind of guy you'd want to sit down and have a beer

41. Would you want him to be President?

42. Does the Administration have an environmental policy that benefits
the environment?

43. Since George Bush campaigned for President strongly against nation
building, in what ways are our actions in Iraq not nation building?

44. What's the maximum amount of time you'd want to spend alone with
Dick Cheney?

45. After dismissing Saddam Hussein's old Iraqi army, was it a good idea
to let them keep their rifles?

46. Would a policy that allows torture be something that makes you proud
as an American?

47. Has the Mission been Accomplished?

48. Do you feel comforted that Dick Cheney is a heartbeat away from
being President?

49. If Donald Rumsfeld had planned your daughter's wedding, and guests
started fighting and were killed, would you expect to be allowed to view
the caskets when they were returned home?

50. How glad do you think George Bush is that he's no longer active in
the National Guard?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Assessing the Bush years

NanceGreggs's Journal: Nance Rants
Posted by NanceGreggs in General Discussion: Politics
Thu Jul 13th 2006, 11:15 PM
Everybody Just Calm Down!
By Nancy Greggs

I realize that things are looking pretty rough here at home, as well as all over the world. But let’s keep focused on our Fearless Leader et al, and take heart.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the War in Iraq has been over for years now. Didn’t you see the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner? It was in all the newspapers and all over the TV. Besides, Rumsfeld assured us all in the very early stages that combat would last a matter of months, if not weeks. HE would never lie.

The cost of the war to American taxpayers has been zilch. Paul Wolfowitz was very straightforward in his statement that, “This war will pay for itself.” You’re not going to question HIS honesty, are you?

Thanks to the invasion of Iraq, US citizens can now rest easy in the knowledge that there are no longer any WMDS in that country, nor mobile chemical labs, drones that can deliver chemical weapons in forty-five minutes, etc. The fact that they were never there in the first place is nit-picking.

Joblessness is not a problem here in the United States. People who have used up their unemployment insurance benefits are not counted as ‘unemployed’, which means they all must have found really good jobs by now.

The victims of Katrina have apparently all returned to their newly-renovated homes, thanks to the president’s assurance following the catastrophe that the government would step up to the plate and rebuild.

The current problems in the Middle East are nothing to be concerned about. Perhaps you have forgotten Bush’s “Roadmap to Peace”, which he promised would set all parties on the path to cooperation and reconciliation. I know it looks like they’re planning to blow each other off the face of the earth; it’s just that they’ve hit a couple of potholes along the way.

Global warming is not a big deal. Now that the economy is on such a roll, all Americans can afford to crank their air-conditioning up another notch.

The exorbitant price of gas is a Godsend for the poor and middle-class. People in the lower income brackets who traditionally take road trips for their summer vacations can now brag that they’re taking much more EXPENSIVE vacations than they did in the past.

As we have been assured just recently, we can all be ‘strategically optimistic’ about how things are going in Iraq. If it wasn’t for the damned librul media refusing to air the thousands of hours of video footage of schools being built, hospitals being refurbished, and happy Iraqis going off to their well-paying jobs, everyone would see that firsthand.

There is no shortage of electricity in Baghdad. The lights and air-conditioners in the Green Zone run twenty-four/seven, so there’s your proof.

Don’t be fooled by all the rumors about how Diebold is stealing elections. Everyone knows that machines cannot steal elections – only people who program machines can steal elections – DUH!

Ken Lay was an honest man and a true friend. The only reason he took the 5th, on the grounds that his answers may tend to incriminate him, was so the REAL guilty parties wouldn’t feel so alone.

And speaking of true friends, Dick Cheney only shot HIS friend in the face because Whittington was a down-on-his-luck lawyer who really needed the publicity.

The rising national debt is ONLY a number – just like the number of casualties in Iraq, the number of uninsured Americans, the number of citizens who have fallen below the poverty level during Bush’s presidency, and the number of jobs that have been outsourced. If more Americans would STOP subscribing to Al Gore’s system of fuzzy math, they would understand how meaningless numbers can be in the great scheme of things.

Too many nay-sayers suggest that Bush is out of touch with reality. Well, he’s not, because he hears the voices of God and Jesus on a regular basis, and they have assured him their voices are real.

The president is a man of his word, who once said that if anyone in his office was guilty of outing Valerie Plame, they would be fired immediately. Now that Bob Novak has named Rove as a source, he is clearing out his office even as we speak.

Bush, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Cheney are all good Christians. That’s why they NEVER allow any waterboarding of prisoners to be done on Sunday.

Halliburton has submitted over a billion dollars in questionable billings since their no-bid contract to deliver services to troops in Iraq began. As soon as their bookkeeper has time to go through all of the shoeboxes full of receipts he keeps under his bed, I’m sure everything will be easily explained.

The president took a lot of flack for not heeding the August 6th memo about Bin Laden being determined to strike in the United States. It just so happens that he never received that memo until September 12th, because it was sent via the internetz and got clogged up in the tubes.

So there, America. Oh ye of little faith.

Everything is going just peachy-keen!!!

Edited to Add: This is my 4000th post - just hoped to share a little levity to mark the occasion.
Discuss (17 comments)

This just in


Bush Administration, Paris Hilton Top Coma Man's Concerns

In what members of the medical community are calling an unprecedented development, a man who recently awoke from a nineteen-year coma has asked doctors to put him back to sleep.

At a press conference in Jacksonville, Florida today, the man, Jason Deloit, 43, told reporters that at first he was excited to be conscious again, "But then I turned on the TV."

Mr. Deloit said that the first images he saw on television were those of President George W. Bush giving a press conference.

"I was happy at first, because I thought, well good, 'Saturday Night Live' is still on and that's my favorite show," he said. "Then I realized that it was actually the real president at the White House and I became very depressed."

After hearing the President field questions about Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, Mr. Deloit "couldn't take it anymore."

Seeking escapism, Mr. Deloit changed the channel and saw hotel heiress Paris Hilton starring in the latest installment of her hit television show "The Simple Life."

"That was really the straw that broke the camel's back," he said. "I don't want to live in a country that exploits a mentally impaired person like that."

Mr. Deloit's doctor said that putting his patient back into a coma state would create an ethical quandary for the medical community: "Millions of other people would want the same thing."

Elsewhere, a spokesman for the U.S. government said that it would soon issue terror alerts on Americans' wireless phones, explaining, "It'll be easy, since we're already on the line listening in."


Andy’s next New York show will be Monday, July 24. Lucky audience members win a free autographed copy of Andy’s newest book, THE BIG BOOK OF SHOCKERS. At Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, Avenue A between 2nd and 3rd. Doors open at 8; show at 8:30. Tickets only $6; available at or at the door.


See Andy on Comedy Central's "Live At Gotham" on Friday, August 4. 11 PM EST; check local listings.


Add Andy to your MySpace friends: go to

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Attention Veterans

NanceGreggs's Journal: Nance Rants
Posted by NanceGreggs in General Discussion: Politics
Wed Jul 12th 2006, 10:10 PM
"Supporting The Troops - A Study in Contradiction"
By Nancy Greggs

As the GOP is so fond of saying in the face of any topic being raised these days, “You can’t have it both ways.”

“Either you side with the president, or you side with the terrorists. Either you are with America, or you are with Al Qeada. If you do not support this war, you don’t support the troops.”

Well, it’s time someone pointed out something that has become abundantly clear in the way this war is being waged, and the way our troops are being treated. You either SUPPORT the troops, OR you support those who are overseeing the conduct of this war. And no, you CANNOT have it both ways.

During the course of the War in Iraq, under the Republican-run government, we have seen the gutting of benefits and pensions of US soldiers, and a flagrant disregard for their on-the-ground safety. While literally billions of dollars are being spent on this endeavor (much of it slipped into the pockets of Halliburton with a wink and a nod in place of any real accounting), our troops have been sent into combat without body armor, without vehicle armor, without helmet-inserts that could mean the difference between life and death, the difference between a debilitating brain injury and a headache.

Where is the outrage? Well, you might well ask. While the Republicans continue to wrap themselves in thousands of “Support the Troops” bumperstickers, while they vote for ever-expanding funding (to the tune of billions of dollars per week) for the ongoing combat, I have yet to hear one of them express their anger at the fact the troops they allegedly support are showering in fetid water, are dealing with the constant concern that their wives and children are facing financial crises back home, or are coming to terms with the idea that in the vast expenditures being made in this war, their safety and comfort is at the bottom of the list of priorities.

While I, as all of us, have had to sit through the vociferous arguments touted by the Republicans who control the war purse-strings, I have not heard word one about the casualties that could be avoided at a cost of a few thousand dollars per soldier (body armor plus a helmet insert), which obviously are considered too trivial an expenditure in the great scheme of things.

I will admit that while I try to stay current with the news, I may have missed a few things here and there. Maybe I was sleeping when the same GOPers who rail about supporting the troops held their press conference about ensuring that our military was fully equipped with every possible piece of life-saving equipment. Perhaps I was out of town when the Republicans who voted to slash pensions and benefits to those in combat explained how this was actually ‘support’. Yeah, maybe.

While the same people who talk about supporting the troops drone on and on, they simultaneously support an administration that not only condones but embraces the policies of torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, policies that put our own captured troops in jeopardy of receiving the same treatment at the hands of the enemy. Call me crazy (and many will), but THAT doesn’t sound like supporting the troops to me. But I, as they say, stand to be corrected in that regard.

And there is a bigger concept to be considered here. At the beginning of this war, many pundits and political observers (most of them Conservative right-wingers) quickly pointed to the fact that as casualties mounted, public support for this war would wane. That just begs the question as to why the president, his advisors, and those who support them have not insisted on every life-saving precaution being taken in order to keep the number of US troop casualties to a minimum – if not out of a sense of concern for our military, at least in deference to the more-important, it would seem, PR consequences.

Less than a thousand dollars worth of body armor and the $71 cost of a helmet insert per soldier could easily have kept the number of casualties down. From a purely dollars-and-cents perspective, being that a severely injured soldier represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in life-long care weighed against a relatively paltry investment in the proper equipment, logic would dictate where the fiscal, if not moral, wise investment lies. And yet we hear no such argument from the Support-The-Troops crowd, and one wonders why.

Was it determined in the bowels of the White House, early on in the game, that thousands of casualties could be turned into an ‘investment’ that the American people would not readily walk away from, as opposed to a small number of deaths that were easily translatable into “Let’s cut our losses and go home”? Was it decided, from a psy-ops point of view, that an investor who has only lost a few bucks on a bad stock will ‘cut and run’ faster than one who has lost a substantial amount, and thus can be convinced that his only hope of a return on his investment is to ‘stay the course’ and hope for the best?

If someone has a more plausible explanation as to why EVERY precaution has not been taken to ensure the safety of our troops, I would be more than happy to hear it.

It seems obvious to me, and I would suggest that recent poll numbers reflect that I am not alone in my view, that supporting the troops and supporting this president and his administration are an overwhelming contradiction in terms.

Either you support the troops, OR you support those who have been detrimental to their well-being, both in combat and upon their return to civilian life.

The battle lines have been clearly drawn.

Whose side are you on, America? As we have been told time and time again, you can’t have it both ways.

Discuss (8 comments)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

election fraud

for fun and profit. Somebody finally reported that our elections are
rigged and there's no way to tell. This is well worth watching, or you
can read the transcript.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Being civil = losing

This gets better the farther you read.
From Mr. Conyers's blog:

We had a rousing and informative evening last night in New York at the impeachment forum hosted by Harpers Magazine. ...

There was a lot of discussion about how impeachment should be presented, how we develop more support -- among Members and in the Media, and most importantly, where we go from here...

I have no doubt that not only would we take back the House and the Senate, but that we would be able to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their mistatements, misteps, and yes, their lies...

I think last night was a milestone. It was so gratifying to see all of our hard work in action outside the beltway...


Since I was lucky enough to be in attendance, I want to report that the most "rousing" part of the evening -- bringing the audience to their feet -- was the introduction of Mr. Conyers himself.

And while I'll agree that the event was a milestone, I must also agree with the lukewarm reaction of the Salon reporter. Mainly because there was very little from the panel on what Mr. Conyers identifies in his entry here as most important: "where we go from here."

And this is where I must take issue and be frank; because the "where" is not in question. Mr. Conyers held the "where" in his hand; a special committee to investigate charges. It is the "how" that is in question and "develop more support" is not specific enough to be actionable. While I don't claim to have any magic bullet, I would like to suggest where the discussion was lacking on this issue because I think these failures are pervasive (on the left) and, at least to some degree, correctable.

So is most important "how do we proceed?" No, MOST important is "what do we do about it right now!" And there is a big difference between those 2 phrases.

To illustrate I'll report the fuller context of Mr. Conyers's phrase (above) - "and yes, their lies." There was a well-received question from the audience lamenting that none of the panelists used the word "lied." The point needs to be well taken that we've all been trained to speak (and therefore think) in euphemisms; particularly those who speak publicly. Screaming "imminent conflagration" will not compel a movie house crowd to move to safety.

Former Congresswoman Holtzman illustrated a different failure. She remains convinced that "more information" can solve the problem. When enough people "know," they will rise up. Like many on the left, she refuses to accept the fact that only the "reality-based community" prizes knowledge above belief. We cannot "teach" our way to impeachment.

Mr. Lapham, after reading the Conyers report, has correctly concluded intellectually that there is a "slam dunk" case and that our nation is in peril. Therefore he politely lays the burden to act on the Congress, in their collegial, non-partisan capacity as oath-takers. (Insert your own joke/expletive here.)

Mr. Rattner is pursuing and recommends a "legal" solution. While it may be helpful to have the regime "found guilty" of some crime in some court, he urged to panel to focus on the most easily provable (already proven?) impeachable offense(s). He has published a cogent, precise brief of only the clearest violations. Thereby giving them less to fight back against?!?

And of course the entire evening was peppered to some degree with our usual rationalizations for inaction: "but we'll just get Cheney" -- "we must wait 'till we take the house" -- "what about electoral backlash." Not to mention the lobby talk about futility, being doomed, and confident pronouncements of "never gonna happen."

So, how do we overcome this -- what do we do right now?

Get violent. (Come again?!?) No, not physically violent. Rather intellectually, politically, and rhetorically violent. We are dealing with fascist thugs/cowards and must deal with them and their tactics accordingly. The public and euphemedia must be slapped to attention and our "leaders" and/or the perpetrators must be forced and/or frightened into action and/or surrender.

This violence is in self-defense. These people don't listen to reason. In fact, they pride themselves on their preference for "belief." Labels like theocracy, monarchy, totalitarian, and authoritarian are irrelevant -- it's all some form of fascism; the conviction that some minority has a right to rule the majority. Whether it's based on divine right, a master race, a family dynasty, or a power theory makes absolutely no difference.

It is Anti-American. And it needs to fought, not managed.

We need to make "violent use" of whatever means we have.

  • For nearly all of us that only means contact with "leaders" (in person, faxing, etc) and the euphemedia (emails, calls, LTTEs).
  • For bloggers, that means public assault (not polite differing). Particularly with those whose silence makes them complicit with this ongoing treason. (See -- just replicate.)
  • For those with benefit of a larger megaphone, media-related and political "leaders," that means risking the loss of that megaphone -- shouting the unvarnished truth then turning viciously on those who will (euphemistically) try to dismiss and dillute your message.
By ALL these means we must ALL do the same things:
  • We need to banish euphemisms. Period. In fact, we need to employ hyperbole when possible. But since "war crimes," "torture," and "terrorized the nation into war" are merely descriptive, it could be difficult to find hyperbole. We must try our best.

    • The simple fact is that a large segment of the public has been well-trained to ONLY hear such language; and worse to equate such anger/alarm with importance/urgency. Sad? Yes, but we must deal with it as it exists.
    • If you find yourself trying to be polite or subtle, or even just witty, stop it and just be blunt.
    • The regime DID NOT "sidestep," "ignore," "go around," or "flaunt." They DID NOT "overreach," "cross the line," or "display hubris." They BROKE THE LAW. They VIOLATED SWORN TREATIES. They SHREDDED THE CONSTITUTION. They COMMITTED WAR CRIMES.

  • We need to up the ante. Make them an offer they dare not refuse. Threaten. Blackmail. Whatever ugly word you want to put on it.

    • We must hand over for international prosecution those whose actions have warranted it. The torture and war crimes charges are "above our pay grade." We can expect zero moral standing in the world if we do not abide by the treaties these criminals have violated in our names. Redemption of our National Soul demands nothing less.
    • We will take the money back. Yes, the "tax kickbacks." Yes, the crony contracts. Yes, the not-so-blind trusts. Every penny we can find.
    • We will reverse ALL acts of this never-legitimate regime. All appointments. All legislation. All Executive Orders. We need to cleanse the social fabric of their contamination.

  • We must resolve to never stop. We will never "get over it." We must loudly declare that we will have our children take up this challenge if necessary. This will be our legacy.

    • Perhaps the largest applause (save Mr. Conyers intro) was in reaction to the statement that you don't have to still be in office to be impeached. We need to make it clear that this goes beyond election cycles. There is no short term attention span to hide in. We will impeach and convict them posthumously if necessary.
    • This is already true with Bully Bill Rhenquist. We must make clear that ALL crimes against the nation will be accounted for. This includes both stolen elections. The Felonious Five and all other perpetrators of anti-democratic, thereby Anti-American, acts will be accused, tried, and punished. No matter how long it take or how many resources it requires.

  • We cannot get lost in "legalisms," "strategies," or our usual "neuroses."

    • We waste far too much time and effort falling victim to "paralysis by analysis." It is irrelevant at this point what any ultimate impeachment charges may be lodged. ALL crimes and misdemeanors of the regime will need to be brought to bear. From the first Stolen Election to the latest Indian nuclear "free pass" debacle/PR stunt.
    • We must stop worrying about what "they do." Will they change the rules? Will there be backlash? Will they start jailing people? This obsession with the perpetrators is akin to a "battered syndrome." We must really let the chips fall where they may.
    • We must make EVERYTHING about impeachment. Don't be "anti-war," demand impeachment over the "criminal war." Don't be "pro-environment," demand impeachemnt over "defecating on our environment." Don't be "fiscally responsible," demand impeachment for "looting the nation." You get the idea -- don't you "issue wonks?"

    That's it. Thanks for reading this far.

    Now, let's get on with it and FINISH THIS THING.

    There really is no other moral or patriotic option.


Discuss (52 comments)

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Patriot Project

Patriot Project News

July 10, 2006

Taylor Marsh: The Swiftboating of John Murtha

A Patriot Project Exclusive by Taylor Marsh

Everything was okay until November 17, 2005.

But then all hell broke loose. Scott McClellan kicked it off.

"Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. .." - Press Secretary Scott McClellan (November 17, 2005)

Never mind that on November 15, 2005, the Senate voted 79-19 that 2006 “should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty.”

Free Republic ran with GOP Lawmakers Float Ethics Probe of Murtha on November 18, 2005, not wasting a moment's time, which was taken from Roll Call, both of which ran the day after Murtha announced his Iraq withdrawal plan. The ethics probe dealt with matters going back to 2004 and 2005. Why now?

If Rep. Murtha didn't have real military clout, being the first Vietnam veteran elected to the House, the Republican Party wouldn't have bothered with him. But he does, so they did. It has now escalated into a conservative campaign to swiftboat a decorated Marine veteran.

Continue reading "Taylor Marsh: The Swiftboating of John Murtha"

Posted by James Boyce on July 10, 2006 10:19 AM | Permalink | Email This Post

July 07, 2006

Paul Krugman: The Treason Card

Democratic Underground discusses a must-read from Paul Krugman:

"The nature of the right-wing attack on The New York Times — an attack not on the newspaper's judgment, but on its motives — seems to have startled many people in the news media. After an editorial in The Wall Street Journal declared that The Times has what amount to treasonous intentions — that it "has as a major goal not winning the war on terror but obstructing it" — The Journal's own political editor pronounced himself "shocked," saying that "I don't know anybody on the news staff of The Wall Street Journal that believes that."

But anyone who was genuinely shocked by The Journal's willingness to play the treason card must not have been paying attention these past five years."

Posted by James Boyce on July 7, 2006 04:28 PM | Permalink | Email This Post

George Allen Gets Ready To Play The "Hitler" Card Versus Jim Webb

The Fourth of July speeches and salutes to the troops are still ringing in our ears when the news comes in that George Allen has hired Scott Howell as a media consultant to his campaign to defeat Jim Webb. In the Washington Times piece detailing the hire, Howell was called "one of the most impressive political consultants on this decade."

Impressive? I call it disgusting. This is the same low-life who got paid to take out Max Cleland, another American hero. Howell didn't stop there. He then went on to become one of the masterminds behind the Swift Boat lies. Howell also did the horrific ad claiming that Tom Kaine wouldn't have supported the death penalty for Adolf Hitler. Now, Howell is putting his boat back in the water with George Allen.

All we can hope is that the good people in Virginia can tell the difference between a real American hero, Jim Webb, and a true American disgrace, George Allen.

Read more at Huffington Post

Posted by James Boyce on July 7, 2006 02:46 PM | Permalink | Email This Post

George Allen Preparing to Swiftboat James Webb?

Apropos of our previous post on Sen. George Allen's new ad man, strong words and a warning from Taylor Marsh:

"Here we go yet again. Not only did George Allen just hire the swiftboat ad man, but he's the guy also responsible for the Hitler ad. You can view all the ads here.

It's really simple. George Allen is going to swiftboat James Webb, yet another Democratic veteran running in 2006. There are quite a few Fighting Dems, dozens more than Republicans can claim. There's a reason for that, too. All you have to do is look at Iraq. But hiring the guy who swiftboated John Kerry and ruined Max Cleland's Senate prospects?

George Allen has, yet again, shown his true colors. Racist, anti veteran, ready to smear anyone to win, with absolutely no spine or character whatsoever. We need to remember this when Mr. Allen runs for president, which he will if he wins back his Senate seat. "

Posted by James Boyce on July 7, 2006 01:46 PM | Permalink | Email This Post

Mistaking Dissent for Appeasement

Victor Davis Hanson pushes the Dissent=Appeasement meme:

"[T]here are a number of influential Americans - let us be frank - who want us to forfeit this effort in Iraq. For some prominent Democrats, like a Sen. Kennedy or Sen. Durbin, who compares our wartime military on occasion to Saddam's Baathists or Nazis, it is an issue of simple partisanship. If Iraq blows up in the face of the United States, and we can still avoid another September 11, then they wager that Bush and his cohorts, in the manner of a wrecked Johnson or Nixon administration, might alone suffer the political consequences. For them, collateral damage to America is worth the risk incurred by their own sleazy rhetoric."

Kos weighs in on the issue of dissent here:

Continue reading "Mistaking Dissent for Appeasement"

Posted by James Boyce on July 7, 2006 12:32 PM | Permalink | Email This Post

Saturday, July 08, 2006

send this

to all your friend who still like Bush

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Deteriorata, Deteriorata)

Go placidly amidst the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof. Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep. Rotate your tires. Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself; and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys. Know what to kiss - and when. Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do. Wherever possible, put people on hold. Be comforted, that in the face of all irridity and disillusionment, and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance.

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Remember the Pueblo. Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate. Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI. Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you... That lemon on your left, for instance. Be assured that a walk through the seas of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. Fall not in love, therefore, it will stick to your face. Gracefully surrender the things of youth: the birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan - and let not the sands of time get in your lunch. Hire people with hooks. For a good time, call 606-4311, ask for Ken. Take heart in the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese. And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee.

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Therefore, make peace with your god, whatever you perceive him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin. With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate. GIVE UP!

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Ah those republicans

Republican take on "I cried, for I had no shoes..."

The Republican version:

"I cried, for I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I kicked him when he was down, and stole his shirt. Then I felt better. I even told him that I could make better use of his shirt than he could . . ."

YO! Alberto! Is your sphincter all aquiver?

Yes! I'm talking to you torture-boy. Remember those little old memos you wrote to help Rumsfield justify torture? Well, you know what? I do."

The acronym of the liberty-hating, justice-denying Supremes: RATS


Friday, July 07, 2006


How fitting on the eve of the 4th of July...

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington , DC 20520



I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine , in 1976 for
driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty,
paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for
30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and
is not available.


I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I
refused to take a drug test or answer any questions
about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National
Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam


I graduated from Yale University with a low C average.
I was a cheerleader.


I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in
the oil business in Midland , Texas , in 1975. I
bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in
Texas . The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold
all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a
sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.
With the help of my father and our friends in the oil
industry, including Enron CEO Ken Lay, I was elected
governor of Texas .


I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil
companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the
Union .

During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the
most smog-ridden city in America

I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the
tune of billions in borrowed money.

I set the record for the most executions by any
governor in American history.

With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida ,
and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I
became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.


I am the first President in U.S. history to enter
office with a criminal record.

I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing
cost of over one billion dollars per week.

I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted
the U.S. Treasury.

I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit
in U.S. history.

I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies
filed in any 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a
12-month period.

I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the
history of the U.S. stock market.

In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans
lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.

I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the
richest of any administration in U.S. history. My
"poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, had a Chevron
oil tanker named after her.

I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips
by a U.S. President. I am the all-time U.S. and world
record-holder for receiving the most corporate
campaign donations.

My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of
my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the
largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. History,

My political party used Enron private jets and
corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S.
Supreme Court during my election decision.

I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton
against investigation or prosecution.

More time and money was spent investigating the Monica
Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one
of the biggest corporate rip- offs in history.

I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S.
history and refused to intervene when corruption
involving the oil industry was revealed.

I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S.

I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals
to be awarded government contracts.

I appointed more convicted criminals to administration
than any President in U.S. history.

I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the
largest bureaucracy in the history of the United
States government.

I've broken more international treaties than any
President in U.S. history.

I am the first President in U.S. history to have the
United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights

I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law. I
refused to allow inspectors access to U.S . "prisoners
of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by
the Geneva Convention.

I am the first President in history to refuse United
Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S.

I set the record for fewest numbers of press
conferences of any President since the advent of

I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in
any one-year period. After taking off the entire month
of August, I presided over the worst security failure
in U.S. history.

I garnered the most sympathy for the U.S. after the
World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later
made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the
largest failure of diplomacy in world history.

I have set the all-time record for most people
worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public
venues (15 million people), shattering the record for
protests against any person in the history of mankind.

I am the first President in U.S. history to order an
unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military
occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the
will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S.
citizens, and the world community.

I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and
support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops
and their families-in-wartime.

In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our
reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on
our British friends.

I am the first President in history to have a majority
of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest
threat to world peace and security.

I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical
Bunker Buster," a WMD. I have so far failed to fulfill
my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden [sic] to justice.


All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now
in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for
public view.

All records of SEC investigations into my insider
trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in
secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my
Vice-President, attended regarding public energy
policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for
c review. I am a member of the Republican Party.


Osama endorsed Bush in 04

CIA believes bin Laden wanted Bush elected in 04, thus explaining his
video release prior to election.

N. Korea- US reach accord


Has Been Rehearsing for Years to Play Evil Madman, Evil Madman Says

The question “What does Kim Jong-Il really want?” was definitively answered today when the mercurial North Korean dictator offered to abandon his nuclear weapons program in exchange for the role of the villain in the new James Bond film.

In a press conference in Pyongyang, Mr. Kim said he was prepared to dismantle his entire nuclear program for the chance to play a Bond villain, calling the part “the role of a lifetime.”

“I have been preparing for this role every day of my life,” Mr. Kim said.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reacted to the news that Mr. Kim’s bizarre tenure as president of North Korea has been nothing but a Method actor’s preparation for a coveted role.

“The strange pronouncements, the weird haircut, the crazy glasses – it all starts to make sense,” she said.

According to Buddy Schlantz, a veteran talent agent and observer of the Hollywood scene, shifting from being an evil madman bent on world destruction to playing one in a James Bond film could be a brilliant career move for the North Korean dictator.

“Given the longevity of the Bond series, an evil madman could actually stay in power longer in those films than in real life,” Mr. Schlantz said. “Besides, on a film set, Kim Jong-Il can get something that’s almost impossible to find in North Korea – food.”

Elsewhere, doctors debated whether it was their duty to label a child obese, arguing that it was a job better left to the child’s siblings.


Andy’s next New York show will be this Monday, July 24. Lucky audience members win a free autographed copy of Andy’s newest book, THE BIG BOOK OF SHOCKERS. At Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, Avenue A between 2nd and 3rd.  Doors open at 8; show at 8:30. Tickets only $6; available at or at the door.

The Borowitz Report: Waste Someone's Time: Forward to a Friend

Thursday, July 06, 2006


iRAQ iNSURGENCY. Colonel McAllister should be saluted
for his grasp.

(article begins)

Al Qaeda and its affiliates are operating much like a
global tribe waging segmental warfare. This paper
describes the dynamics of classic tribes: what drives
them, how they organize, how they fight. Al Qaeda fits
the tribal paradigm quite well. Thus, continuing to
view Al Qaeda mainly as a cutting–edge, post–modern
phenomenon of the information age misses a crucial
point: Al Qaeda and affiliates are using the
information age to reiterate ancient patterns of
tribalism on a global scale. The war they are waging
is more about virulent tribalism than religion. The
tribal paradigm should be added to the network and
other prevailing paradigms to help figure out the best
policies and strategies for countering these violent

Basic dynamics of classic tribes
War and religion in tribal settings
Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and global jihad
Overlap with the network paradigm
Preliminary implications for policy and strategy


According to the latest thinking, Al Qaeda is now more
important as an ideology than an organization, a
network than a hierarchy, and a movement than a group.
It is increasingly amorphous, though initially it
seemed tightly formed. Osama bin Laden’s core group
may even be too weakened to matter very much.

This spells a considerable evolution for Al Qaeda, as
well as for expert thinking about it. Initially
?before and after the September 11 attacks ?analysts
wondered whether this mysterious organization was
structured like a corporation, venture–capital firm,
franchise operation, foundation, social or
organizational network ?or all of the above. Today,
now that Al Qaeda has more affiliates, the network and
franchise concepts remain in play, but the emphasis is
on Al Qaeda’s evolution into a decentralized,
amorphous ideological movement for global jihad.

Since so little about Al Qaeda’s organization is
fixed, counterterrorism analysts and strategists have
to be ready to adapt their views to shifting realities
and prospects. For example, a major new strike on
American soil directed by Bin Laden might jar analysts
back to a belief that Al Qaeda’s core remains (or has
recovered as) a strong, central unit with an effective
capacity for command–and–control. Also, while Al Qaeda
may look amorphous (i.e., shapeless), the deeper
reality may be that it is polymorphous, deliberately
shifting its shape and style to suit changing
circumstances, including the addition of new,
semi–autonomous affiliates to the broader network. And
that raises a further reason for analysts to remain
flexible: Clear as it may be that Al Qaeda and its
affiliates are organized as a network, evidence is
still lacking about many design details.

It is not enough to say something is a network.
According to one model, a network may start out as a
set of scattered, barely connected clusters, then grow
interconnections to form a single hub–and–spoke
design, then become more complex and disperse into a
multi–hub "small world" network, finally to grow so
extensive, inclusive and sprawling as to become a
complex core/periphery network. For a while, the
pressures put on the Al Qaeda network evidently
decreased it from a hub–and–spoke back to a
scattered–cluster design. But now it is growing again,
apparently into a multi–hub design. Which design is
it? Do the pieces consist of chain, hub (i.e., star),
or all–channel subnets? And where are the bridges and
holes that may connect to outside actors? The answers
matter, for each design has different strengths,
weaknesses, and implications. Some designs may be
vulnerable to leadership targeting, others not. As
research proceeds on how best to disrupt, destabilize,
and dismantle networks, analysts are finding that in
some cases it may be best to focus on key nodes and in
other cases on key links, in some cases on middling
rather than central nodes or links, and in other cases
on peripheral nodes or links. But this is tentative.
And much less is known about how to analyze the
capacity of networks to recover and reassemble after a
disruption, possibly by morphing into a different

Continuing to view Al Qaeda mainly as a cutting–edge,
post–modern phenomenon of the information age misses a
crucial point: Al Qaeda is using the information age
to revitalize and project ancient patterns of
tribalism on a global scale.In short, analysts and
strategists have adopted a basic set of organizational
views to work with. But they still face a lack of
knowledge about Al Qaeda and its affiliates,
particularly as to how they may combine and shift
among network, franchise, hierarchical, and possibly
other design elements. Thus, it is advisable not to
get fixed on any one view, but instead to work with
"multiple models" whose content and probability may
continue to vary. It is also advisable to keep looking
for additional views that are not yet fully

Here is a viewpoint worth adding to the mix: Al Qaeda
and its far–flung affiliates are organized and
behaving much like a classic tribe, one that wages
segmental warfare. This view overlaps with the network
view, but has its own implications. It shows that Al
Qaeda’s vaunted, violent fundamentalism is more a
tribal than a religious phenomenon. It also shows that
continuing to view Al Qaeda mainly as a cutting–edge,
post–modern phenomenon of the information age misses a
crucial point: Al Qaeda is using the information age
to revitalize and project ancient patterns of
tribalism on a global scale.

The main purpose of this essay is to urge thinking
more deeply about the tribal paradigm and its
applicability to Al Qaeda. The tribal paradigm may
have useful implications for U.S. policy and strategy
?especially for conducting the ideological "war of
ideas" ?but these are given only a little preliminary
attention at the end.

Basic dynamics of classic tribes
As people banded together to constitute primitive
societies thousands of years ago, the first major form
of organization to emerge was the tribe. Its key
organizing principle was kinship, as expressed through
nuclear and extended family ties, lineage segments
(notably, clans) that spanned various families and
villages, and claims of descent from a common, often
mythologized, even god–like ancestor. The tribe’s key
purpose (or function) was to infuse a distinct sense
of social identity and belonging, thereby
strengthening a people’s ability to bond and survive
as individuals and as a collective.

A classic tribe may be tied to a specific territory
and the exploitation of resources found there. It may
spell an evolution from the hunter–gatherer life of
nomadic bands to a more settled, agrarian, village
lifestyle. It may span various villages and hamlets,
and its size may grow to several thousand people. It
may harden its identity as a tribe, as a result of
conflicts with outsiders. And it may lack the formal
institutional hierarchies that characterize chiefdoms
and states ?the two types of societies that come next
in evolutionary theory. Yet even if these or other
observations made by scholars are added to the
definition of the tribe, kinship remains its essence.

As tribes grow, clans usually coalesce inside them
?clans being clusters of families and individuals who
claim a particular lineage and, because of this, act
conjointly in a corporate manner. Typically, a clan
has its own legends, rituals and ceremonies, its own
lands, households and other properties, a "Big Man" or
an elder to represent (but not rule) it, and perhaps a
particular function, such as progeny who often serve
as priests or warriors. Mutual defense and aid are
keenly important in clan systems; indeed, an insult or
threat to any one member is received as an insult or
threat to all ?as is also the case for a tribe as a
whole vis–à–vis other tribes and outsiders.

While lineage and marriage ties can keep small tribes
together, they alone do not suffice to keep large
tribes and clans integrated. This eventually requires
the rise of a variant on the kinship principle:
fraternal associations and corporate orders based more
on a sense of brotherhood than blood ?what
anthropologists call "fictive kinship." Such
associations may combine individuals from various
families and villages for a specific, corporate
purpose. Examples include secret brotherhoods as well
as age–grade, warrior, healing, ceremonial, and
religious associations. While some may derive directly
from lineage (e.g., a clan), others do not ?yet all
emulate kin–like relations. The larger and more
complex a tribe becomes, the more important such
brotherhoods become. (In modern times, these are often
called clubs, gangs, and secret societies.)

Kinship considerations permeate everything ?all
thought and action ?in a tribe and its constituent
segments. One’s identity is less about one’s self than
one’s lineage ?lineage determines most of one’s
identity as an individual and submerges it in the
tribal whole. This applies also to one of the most
important activities in a tribe: arranged marriage ?it
too is about the linking of families, not individuals.
From our distant remove, varied economic, political,
and cultural activities may appear to occur in a
tribe; but seen in their own light, tribes lack such
differentiation ?everything one does in a tribe is
done as a kinsman of one kind or another. In tribal
milieus, strategy and tactics revolve around what
might be called kinpolitik, far more than realpolitik.

Without going into details about just how complicated
kinship charts and calculations can get, individual
identities and possibilities in tribal/clan societies
are both fixed and fluid at the same time. Lineage
positions mean they are fixed, because of to whom an
individual is born, and when. Moreover, as a rule,
tribe trumps clan, trumps family, trumps individuals
?binding all into a nested social (but not political)
hierarchy. Yet, kin and their associates operate off
lateral as much as vertical ties; for example, a
person can choose which relative (say, which distant
cousin) to ally with on which issues and under what
circumstances. This can make for very flexible social
possibilities that resemble not only circles within
circles, but also circles across circles. This offers
extensive room for maneuver, which can be used for
promoting rivalries as well as alliances.

As individuals, families, clans, and tribes as a whole
assert their place and maneuver for position,
maximizing honor ?not power or profit ?is normally
their paramount motivation. This emphasis is often
thought to flow from the fact that tribes arose in
subsistence times, way too early for power or profit
to matter. But there must be more to the explanation,
for the pattern persists in modern sorts of tribes and
clans. Wherever people, even powerful rich people,
turn tribal and clannish, honor ?as well as its
concomitants: respect, pride, and dignity ?come into
serious play in social interactions. Thus, warlords
and warriors fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other
tribal zones are renowned for the value they place on
upholding codes of honor and avoiding shameful
humiliation. Everybody wants to gain honor for
themselves and their lineage, clan, and tribe; no one
can afford to lose face, for that would reflect badly
not only on them as individuals but also on all their
kin. (If the word were in a dictionary, it might be
said that tribes and clans are deeply "honoritarian.")

Tribes behave more like balance–of–honor than
balance–of–power systems.Let us turn next to
organizational principles. Reflecting the primacy of
kinship bonds, tribes are resolutely egalitarian,
segmental, and acephalous ?to use terms favored by
anthropologists. These three principles are

First, in being egalitarian, a tribe’s members are
deemed roughly equal to each other. The aim is not so
much absolute equality as respect for individual
autonomy ?and especially the autonomy of individual
households. In this spirit, members emphasize communal
sharing, as in sharing food, giving gifts, and doing
favors. This obliges recipients to reciprocate ?for
honorable reciprocity, not exchange, is the underlying
ethic. Elitism is avoided, and domination efforts are
not tolerated for long. Upstarts, such as alpha–type
bullies and despotic self–aggrandizers, are eventually
restrained, as are overly selfish free–riders and
odd–ball deviants. Indeed, classic tribes are so
egalitarian that no fixed rank or status system exists
in them. There are tendencies for elders to receive
more respect than the young, men more than the women,
and a "Big Man" more than others. Also, family heads
may lord it over others inside their own households;
and some lineages and clans may compete for status.
But overall, the egalitarian ethos limits hierarchical
and competitive tendencies. Whoever shows leadership
has to be modest, generous, self–effacing, and treat
others as peers. There is constant group–wide
vigilance to keep anyone from gaining sway for long.
If necessary, coalitions form to assure leveling. In
tribal systems rent by feuds and rivalries,
egalitarianism becomes more an ideal than a reality
?but it is still the desired ethos. In short, tribes
behave more like balance–of–honor than
balance–of–power systems.

Second, the classic tribe is segmental, in that every
part resembles every other ?there is no
specialization. Tribes have no distinct central
nervous system, and all households and villages are
essentially alike: resolutely self–sufficient and
autonomous. Because tribes are so segmental and
undifferentiated, their constituent parts ?e.g.,
families, lineages, clans ?tend to oscillate between
fusion and fission. Fusion occurs, for example, when
clan intermarriages foster unity across villages and
other segments; when segments, even ones that were
feuding, ally against an enemy; and when a tribe
absorbs an outside band or tribe. Fission occurs when
shortages or feuds so beset a tribe that a segment
(e.g., a few related households, an entire clan) hives
off and goes its own way, forming a new tribe that
immediately replicates the design of the old. Whether
in a state of fusion or fission, each segment guards
its autonomy.

Thirdly, the classic tribe is acephalous (or
headless). The earliest form of social organization
was not hierarchy; egalitarian tribes were the norm
before hierarchical societies ?first chiefdoms, then
states ?emerged. Classic tribes had no formal leaders,
not even chiefs. Informal status differences that
arose (e.g., deference to elders) were kept muted.
Political hierarchies, dominant groups, class
structures, and other status systems are absent at
this stage. The title of chief, if there was one,
meant little; he was a man of influence, an adviser, a
facilitator, a broker ?but he could not give orders
that had to be obeyed. Thus, leadership, as in hunting
for big game or conducting a ceremony, was transient
and low–profile; it kept shifting and depended more on
the situation than the person. One day’s "Big Man" was
not necessarily tomorrow’s. Major decisions, such as
whether to go to war or where to migrate, were made in
tribal councils open to all, where anyone (at least
all households heads) could speak. Indeed,
consultative consensus–seeking in tribal councils was
the first form democracy took.

What matters for maintaining order and peace in such
tribal milieus are not leadership, hierarchy, force,
and law ?it is too early a form for that ?but the
customs and codes of etiquette that flow from revering
kinship bonds. Kinship systems place high value on
principled, praise–worthy displays of respect, honor,
trust, obligation, sharing, reciprocity, and an
acceptance of one’s place. Rituals and ceremonies ?and
later, religion ?reinforce this. In the event of
wrong–doing, sanctions run the gamut from public
blame, shame, shunning, ostracism, and a withdrawal of
reciprocity, to expulsion or execution if a group
consensus exists.

Principles of respect, dignity, pride, and honor are
so important in a tribal society that humiliating
insults may upset peace and order more than anything
else. An insult to one individual is normally taken as
an insult to all who belong to that lineage. Then,
there are only two ways to relieve the sense of
injury: one is compensation, the other revenge. And a
call for compensation or revenge may apply not just to
the offending individual but to his or her entire
lineage. Responsibility is collective. And justice is
less about punishment for a crime than about gaining
adequate compensation or revenge to restore honor. It
is not unusual to find clans and tribes engaged in
prolonged cycles of revenge and reconciliation ?i.e.,
fission and fusion ?deriving from insults that
happened long ago.

These, in summary fashion and skipping many
intricacies, are the basic dynamics of classic tribes.
They took shape more than 5,000 years ago during
Neolithic times. They characterize many bands, tribes,
and some chiefdoms that social and cultural
anthropologists have studied in recent eras, such as
the Nuer (Africa), the Trobrianders (Melanesia), the
!Kung (Africa), the Iroquois (North America), and the
Yanomama (Brazil), not to mention examples from
European history. Some examples may look ancient,
primitive, or backward. But the tribal form is not
ancient history; it endures today ?indeed, one
manifestation or another makes media headlines almost
ever day. This is true for events in Africa, the
Middle East, and South Asia. But it also applies to
fully modern societies in North America and Europe,
where the tribal paradigm is constantly reiterated in
small but significant ways: as in the often clannish
organization and behavior of civic clubs, fellowships,
fraternities, sports clubs (e.g., soccer hooligans),
car clubs, and ethnic urban gangs, to note a few
examples. All such organizations reflect the tribal
paradigm, for they are normally more about ancient
desires for identity, honor and pride, than about
modern proclivities for power and profit.

War and religion in tribal settings
At its best, the tribal way of life imparts a vibrant
sense of solidarity. It fills a people’s life with
pride, dignity, honor, and respect. It motivates
families to protect, welcome, encourage, shelter, and
care for each other (and for guest outsiders), and to
give gifts and hold ceremonies that affirm their
connections to each other and to the ancestors, lands,
and god(s) that define the tribe’s identity. This
kinship creates a stable realm of trust and loyalty in
which one knows (and must uphold) one’s rights,
duties, and obligations. Many people around the world
still prefer this ancient way of life over the ways of
modern, impersonal hierarchical and market systems.
Even advanced societies that lack explicit tribes and
clans still have tribe–like sensibilities at their
core; it shows up in nationalism, cultural
festivities, civic interest groups, and sports and fan

But tribalism can make for a mean–spirited exclusivity
and partiality too. Tribes and clans can be terribly
sensitive about boundaries and barriers ?about who is
in the tribe and who outside, about differences
between "us" and "them." One’s tribe (assuming it is
not riven with feuds and rivalries) may seem a realm
of virtue, where reciprocal altruism rules kin
relations. But virtuous behavior toward kin does not
have to extend, in tribal logic, to outsiders ?they
can be treated differently, especially if they are

Sometimes this spells war. When a tribe does go to
war, it tries to do so as a whole, but it fights as
segments. Internal feuds, rivalries, and other
differences are set aside in order to unite against
the outside enemy. Strategic agreement on the broad
outlines of war may be reached in consultative
councils. But each segment guards its own autonomy;
not even in battle do they organize under a central
command. If a war is based on alliances among groups
within a tribe or between tribes, then that may be
another reason to guard autonomy. For in tribal
milieus, one day’s ally may turn into another day’s
betrayer, and a group that takes shape one day may not
be able to form anew later.

Classic tribal warfare emphasizes raids, ambushes and
skirmishes ?attacks followed by withdrawals, without
holding ground. Pitched battles are not the norm, for
tribes lack the organizational and logistical
capacities for campaigns and sieges. Sometimes the
aims are limited, but tribal warfare often turns into
total warfare, aimed at massacring an entire people,
mercilessly. Killing women and children, taking women
captive, torturing and mutilating downed males,
scalping and beheading are common practices. So is
treachery, as in mounting surprise attacks at dawn, or
inviting people to a feast then slaughtering them on
the spot. Tribal fighters do not hold prisoners.
Enemies who are not massacred are put to flight, and
their lands and homes seized. Bargaining in good faith
to end a conflict becomes nigh impossible, for the
attackers have denied legitimacy to those whom they
are attacking. In ancient times, this brutal way of
war did not ease until the rise of chiefdoms and
states, when leaders began preferring to subjugate
rather than annihilate people. In today’s world,
examples are still easy to find ?the Hutu massacres of
Tutsis in Rwanda come readily to mind, as do episodes
in the Balkans.

Tribes that go to war normally do so in the name of
their god(s). Indeed, many (though not all) religions,
from ancient totemism onwards, have their deepest
roots in tribal societies. The major monotheistic
religions ?Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ?each
arose from a tense tribal time in the Middle East. And
each, in its oldest texts, contains passages that,
true to traditional tribal ethics, advocate reciprocal
altruism toward kin, yet allow for terrible
retribution against outside tribes deemed guilty of
insult or injury. Today, centuries later, tribal and
religious concepts remain fused in much of the world,
notably Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

The more a religion commends the kinship of all
peoples, the more it may lead to ecumenical caring
across boundaries (as Islam often does). But the more
a religion’s adherents delineate sharply between "us"
and "them," demonize the latter, view their every kin
(man, woman, child, combatant or non–combatant) as
innately guilty, revel in codes of revenge for touted
wrongs, and seek territorial or spiritual conquests,
all the while claiming to act on behalf of a deity,
then the more their religious orientation is utterly
tribal, prone to violence of the darkest kind. This is
as evident in the medieval Christian Crusades as in
today’s Islamic jihads, to mention only two examples.

All religious hatred ?whether Christian, Jewish,
Islamic, Buddhist, or Hindu ?is sure to speak the
language of tribe and clan. And that language is sure
to be loaded with sensitivities about respect, honor,
pride, and dignity, along with allocutions to the
sacred, purifying nature of violence. This is a normal
ethic of tribes and clans, no matter the religion.
Indeed, as Amin Maalouf [1] says about today’s world:

"[I]f the men of all countries, of all conditions and
faiths can so easily be transformed into butchers, if
fanatics of all kinds manage so easily to pass
themselves off as defenders of identity, it’s because
the ‘tribal?concept of identity still prevalent all
over the world facilitates such a distortion."
Savagery may worsen when tribal elements are led by a
sectarian chieftain who is also a grandiose, ruthless
warlord, like Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al–Zarqawi,
the Taliban’s Mullah Mohammed Omar, or Chechnya’s
Shamil Basayev. If the outsiders they target
(including Americans) react with a tribalism (or
extreme nationalism) of their own, then fights over
whose religion should win become inseparable from
whose tribe should win. While the modern idea of
separating state and church is difficult enough, any
notion of separating tribe and religion is
inconceivable for many a people, especially in

Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and global jihad
Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda match the tribal paradigm
quite well. There is ample evidence that Bin Laden
thinks and operates in tribal/clan terms, as seen in
his selection of wives, his aptitude for forming
secretive brotherhoods, and his rhetoric about Islam,
the Arab world, and jihad. The regions where Al Qaeda
has been based are notoriously tribal: Afghanistan
under the Taliban, and now allegedly along the
Afghan–Pakistan border. Also, Al Qaeda’s main targets
include Saudi Arabia, a tribal kingdom, and Iraq,
where much of the population has reverted to tribal
and clan ways since the collapse of Iraq’s state.

Al Qaeda’s design looks backward more than it looks
forward; it reiterates as much as it innovates ?and
that’s because of its enduring tribalness.This is not
the dominant way to view Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Analysts have preferred to keep looking for central
decisionmaking nodes and specialized structures ?even
committees ?for matters like targeting, recruitment,
financing, logistics, and communications, as though
they might reveal a corporate pyramid. Or they have
treated the creation of affiliates as though they were
franchises that took the initiative to become
affiliates or were concocted at Al Qaeda’s behest. Or
analysts have emphasized the sprawling network designs
that Al Qaeda and its affiliates increasingly exhibit.
Or they have applied social movement theory. All these
analytical approaches make sense and should continue.
But they end up making Al Qaeda look like a work of
dauntless, modern, forward–looking genius, when it
isn’t. Its design looks backward more than it looks
forward; it reiterates as much as it innovates ?and
that’s because of its enduring tribalness.

The tribal paradigm ?and a case that Al Qaeda is like
a global tribe waging segmental warfare ?shows up
across five analytic dimensions: narrative content,
social appeal, leadership style, organizational
design, doctrine and strategy, and the use of
information technology. Below is a look at each.

Narrative content

Many themes in Bin Laden’s and other jihadist
statements fit the tribal paradigm. The world is
divided between good–hearted believers ?the worldwide
umma (kindred community) of Muslim brothers and
sisters ?and evil non–believers (infidels, apostates,
heretics). Arab lands and peoples have suffered far
too much injury, insult, and humiliation ?their honor
has been trampled, their families disrespected ?by
arrogant, self–aggrandizing intruders (America,
Israel). Muslims have a sacred duty to defend
themselves: to fight back, wreak vengeance, seek
retribution, and oust the foreign invaders. They must
be made to pay; no mercy should be shown ?no matter if
civilians die, even women and children. They deserve
every punishment, every catastrophe, every tit–for–tat
that can be heaped upon them. Defensive warfare is a
necessary duty to restore honor and pride. This
story–line is made to sound Islamic, and it has
Islamic aspects that are not necessarily tribal ?for
example, requiring that an enemy be warned. But
overall, it is tribal to the core. Indeed, similar
story–lines have cropped up among virulently tribal
Jewish, Christian, and other religious extremists as
well, all across history.

Social appeal

Among Muslims, the jihad narrative is not alien,
academic, or bizarre. It requires little
indoctrination, for it arouses both the heart and
mind. Recruits willingly come from militants who
fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, or the Balkans;
immigrants in Europe and refugees in Jordan and
Palestine who are leading alienated, unsettled lives;
youths leading comfortable but constricted lives in
Saudi Arabia; and Sunnis whose lives have been
shattered by the warring in Iraq. What drives them,
according to many analyses, are shared sensibilities
about loss, alienation, humiliation, powerlessness,
and disaster. Such analyses may also note, more in
passing than in depth, that joining Al Qaeda or an
affiliate provides a family–like fellowship. However,
this should not be given short shrift; participation
may appeal largely because it binds members in such a
fellowship ?in mosques, training camps, militant
cells, etc. And it may do so not simply because many
members share the social–psychological sensibilities
noted above, but because they come from cultures that
are deeply, longingly tribal and clannish. For the
lost and the adrift, joining Al Qaeda recreates the
tribal milieu. This may even apply to the attraction
of nomadic loners from faraway cultures who convert to
Islam while seeking a more meaningful identity and
sense of belonging for themselves (e.g., a John Walker

Leadership style

Bin Laden’s stylized demeanor is in the tradition of a
modest, self–effacing, pious tribal sheik. He
espouses, interprets, advises, facilitates, brokers,
and blesses. His ideas are embedded in Islamic
tradition ?he does not concoct them to express his
ego. He radiates a commanding presence, but he does
not give orders or demand submission to his leadership
(though he may well be chief of his own cell, i.e.,
household). He is generous with funds. His co–leader
of Al Qaeda, Ayman al–Zawahiri, conveys a similar
though edgier image. In contrast, their fellow warrior
in Iraq, al–Zarqawi, acts like a ferocious alpha–male
bully who would just as soon create fissions between
Sunni and Shia tribes in Iraq. Yet he is so respectful
of Bin Laden, who takes a more ecumenical approach to
pan–tribal fusion, that the latter has declared him to
be his emissary in Iraq. Information is lacking on how
these and other chieftains make decisions affecting Al
Qaeda, but the process appears to involve mutual
communication, consultation, and accommodation to
reach a consensus that does not smack of hierarchy or
imposition ?much as might occur in a classic tribal

Organizational design

Al Qaeda and its affiliates are organized as a
(multi–hub? core/periphery?) network of dispersed
nodes, cells, and units, all campaigning in a similar
direction without a precise central command. This
looks like an information–age network, but it is
equally a tribal–age network. It is bound together by
kinship ties of blood and especially brotherhood. What
look like nodes and cells from a modern perspective
correspond to segments from a tribal perspective. Some
segments come from true tribes and families; others
are patched together in terms of "fictive kinship" by
jihadist clerics, recruiters, and trainers. Yet all
who join get to feel like they belong to segments of
an extended family/tribe that reaches around the
world. Al Qaeda had a segmentary quality even before
September 11; for example, some training camps in
Taliban Afghanistan were divided along ethnic lines
(e.g., here for Algerians, there for Chechens), and
the cells that struck on September 11 consisted of a
Saudi segment. Furthermore, this jihadist network is
vaguely acephalous (or polycephalous), as a tribe
should be. It is held together not by
command–and–control structures ?tribes are not
command–and–control systems ?but by a gripping sense
of shared belonging, principles of fusion against an
outside enemy, and a jihadist narrative so compelling
that it amounts to both an ideology and a doctrine.

Doctrine and strategy

Al Qaeda and its affiliates fight in the field much
like tribes and clans: as decentralized, dispersed,
semi–autonomous segments that engage in hit–and–run
(and hit–and–die) tactics. These segments vary in size
and make–up. Some are small, and fit the notion of
terrorist cells. Others (as in Afghanistan and Iraq)
are larger, more like platoons with commanders (so it
might be more accurate to refer to Baathist segments
than Baathist cells). Some may resemble close–knit,
exclusive brotherhoods; others may keep shifting in
membership. Meanwhile, they fight like modern
terrorists and insurgents, but do so in the tradition
of tribal warriors, relying on stealth, surprise,
treachery, and savagery, while avoiding pitched
battles. And they are comfortable with temporary
marriages of convenience, as in Iraq where Baathist
and Islamist units cooperate on tactical missions, but
keep separate organizations and strategies. The
absence of a central hierarchy is not a sign of
disorganization or weakness ?it is the tribal way.
Thus, while Al Qaeda’s underlying doctrine and
strategy have been acquiring the sophistication of
modern notions of asymmetrical warfare (e.g., for
netwar and swarming), its tribalness endures within
that modern frame.

Technology usage

Al Qaeda and its affiliates have an extensive, growing
presence on the Internet. Their statements, speeches,
and videos are posted on myriad Web sites around the
world that advocate, sympathize with, and report on
jihad. As many analysts have noted, the new
information media are enabling terrorists and
insurgents to augment their own communication and
coordination, as well as reach outside audiences. The
online media also suit the oral traditions that tribal
peoples prefer. What merits pointing out here is that
the jihadis are using the Internet and the Web to
inspire the creation of a virtual global tribe of
Islamic radicals ?an online umma with kinship segments
around the world. This can help a member keep in touch
with a segment, or re–attach to a new segment in
another part of the world as he or she moves around.
Thus the information revolution, not to mention
broader aspects of globalization, can facilitate a
resurgence of intractable tribalism around the world.
Al Qaeda and its ilk are a leading example of this.

Jihadis are using the Internet and the Web to inspire
the creation of a virtual global tribe of Islamic
radicals ?an online umma with kinship segments around
the world.In other words, Al Qaeda is like a global
tribe, waging a modernized kind of segmental (or
segmented) warfare. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we are
fighting against virulent tribalism as much as Islamic
fundamentalism. Salafi and Wahhabi teachings urging
jihad against infidels, fatwas issued by Islamic
sheiks to justify murdering even non–combatants, and
stony ultimatums from Sunni insurgents who behead
captives are all manifestations of extreme tribalism,
more than of Islam. In Islam, jihad is a religious
duty. But the interpretation of jihad that Al Qaeda
practices is rooted less in religion than in the
(narcissistic?) appeal of virulent tribalism in some
highly disturbed contexts.

Overlap with the network paradigm
American analysts and strategists should be treating
Al Qaeda more as a tribal than a religious phenomenon.
They should be viewing Al Qaeda from the classic
tribal as well as the modern network perspective. It
is often pointed out (including by me) that Al Qaeda
represents a post–modern, information–age phenomenon.
But it is time to balance this with a recognition that
Al Qaeda also represents a resurgence of tribalism
that is both reacting to and taking advantage of the
information revolution and other aspects of

The tribal view overlaps with the invaluable network
view of Al Qaeda, particularly the one that John
Arquilla and I have called "netwar" [2] in which the
protagonists use network forms of organization and
related doctrines, strategies, and technologies
attuned to the information age. Netwar protagonists
?like Al Qaeda and its affiliates ?tend to consist of
dispersed groups and individuals who communicate,
coordinate, and act conjointly in an internetted
manner, often without a central command. Their optimal
mode of attack is stealthy swarming. In many respects,
the netwar design ?like Al Qaeda’s ?resembles the
"segmented, polycentric, ideologically integrated
network" (or SPIN) that Luther Gerlach spotted in his
1960s studies of social movements.

But tribes and networks are not the same. For one
matter, tribes are ruled by kin relations,
information–age networks by mainly modern criteria.
Take an issue like information sharing. In tribal
systems, this may proceed after checking a recipient’s
lineage. In networks, the decision criteria are not
about lineage but the professional nature of the role
or person who may receive the information. Also, in
tribal and clan systems where members are maneuvering
for influence, fluid alliances often arise that look
odd and contradictory to outsiders from an ideological
or other modern perspective, but are sensible from a
tribal or clan perspective. For example, it may
behoove a tribal or clannish elite circle (as in the
old Iranian dowreh or Mexican camarilla systems) to
stealthily include elites from right and left,
military and religious, business and criminal sectors,
so that the circle is plugged into all circuits vying
for position in a society. In contrast, modern
networks, for example in the area of civil–society
activism, generally aim for ideological and
professional coherence. Finally, if tribes and
networks were similar concepts (as some social network
analysts might argue), then modern corporations might
as well be advised to adapt to the information
revolution by becoming more tribal instead of
networked ?but that is patently not sensible, except
for particular issues like employee morale or product

In short, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have formed a
hybrid of the tribal and network designs: a tribalized
network or networked tribe, so to speak, with bits of
hierarchy and market–like dynamics too. The tribal
paradigm has a striking advantage over the network,
hierarchy, and other organizational paradigms. The
latter point to organizational design first, and then
to leadership, doctrine, and strategy matters. But
they have nothing clearly embedded in them about
religion. As voiced in terrorism discussions, they are
secular paradigms; religion is grafted on, as a
separate matter. In contrast, the tribal paradigm is
inherently fraught with dynamics that turn into
religious matters, such as altruism toward kin,
delineations between "us" and "them," and codes of
revenge. And that is another valuable reason to
include it.

Preliminary implications for policy and strategy
Americans comfort themselves by thinking that no other
nation will be able to match our power for decades to
come. But from ancient times to the present, great
powers that expand globally often run into subnational
tribes or clans who resist fiercely, even
unfathomably. Sometimes this has dire, wasting
consequences (e.g., the Roman Empire), although a
great power can extemporize by playing segments
against each other (e.g., Britain, during the Pax
Britannica). Also from ancient times onward, the more
tribal or clannish a society, the more resistant it is
to change ?and the more often pressures for
modernizing reforms must come largely from outside or
above (e.g., Meiji Japan). Americans still have much
to learn about dealing with tribalized and clannish
societies and devising programs that work in them
(remember Somalia).

The United States is not at war with Islam. Our fight
is with terrorists and insurgents who are operating in
the manner of networked tribes and clans. U.S.
military forces are learning this the hard way ?on the
ground. But policymakers and strategists in Washington
still lag in catching on. For example, the Report of
the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic
Communication recognizes quite sensibly that "the
United States is engaged in a generational and global
struggle about ideas, not a war between the West and
Islam" [3]. It notes the role of tribalism, but only
barely. A RAND report entitled The Muslim World After
9/11 goes further in saying that "extremist tendencies
seem to find fertile ground in areas with segmentary
lineal tribal societies," but it mainly laments that
"the literature on the relationship between tribalism
and radicalism is not yet well developed" [4].

U.S. counterinsurgency and counterterrorism methods
?for interrogations, intelligence assessments,
information operations, strategic communications, and
public diplomacy, indeed for the whole "war of ideas"
?would benefit from our upgrading our understanding of
tribal and clan dynamics. Identifying exactly what
reconsiderations should take hold is beyond the scope
of this paper. But, generally speaking, we must learn
to separate better our strategies toward Islam from
our strategies toward tribalized extremists who
ultimately cannot endure such a separation. Whose
story wins may well depend largely on just that.

The tribal paradigm may be useful for rethinking not
only how to counter Al Qaeda, but also what may lie
ahead if Al Qaeda or an affiliate ever succeeds in
seizing power and installing an Islamic caliphate
somewhere. Then, neither the tribal nor network
paradigms would continue to be so central. Hierarchy
would move to the fore, as a caliphate is imposed.
Over the ages, people have come up with four major
forms of organization for constructing their
societies: tribes, hierarchical institutions, markets,
and networks. How people use and combine these forms,
both their bright and dark sides, pretty much
determines what kind of society they have. Were an Al
Qaeda–inspired caliphate to take root, we can be
pretty sure that it would combine hyper–hierarchy and
hyper–tribalism, while leaving marginal, subordinate
spaces for economic markets and little if any space
for autonomous civil–society networks. When this has
occurred in the past, the result is normally fascism.

About the author
David F. Ronfeldt is a senior political scientist at
the RAND Corporation, a non–profit research
organization. He has worked on ideas about
information–age modes of conflict (cyberwar, netwar)
and cooperation (noöpolitik). He is now working on a
theoretical framework about the four forms of
organization ?tribes, hierarchies, markets, and
networks ?that lie behind the evolution of all
societies. He is on leave, and wrote this essay
independently of any RAND project. The essay expresses
his own thinking; it does not reflect the views of
RAND or any of its sponsors. He has published twice
before in First Monday. Comments on this essay may be
e–mailed to ronfeldt [at] rand [dot] org.

The author thanks the following colleagues and
contacts for their helpful, pointed comments on
various drafts: John Arquilla, Bruce Berkowitz, Edward
Gonzalez, Bruce Hoffman, Ted Karasik, William
McCallister, Kevin McCarthy, Richard O’Neill, Anna
Simons, and Lionel Tiger. I am particularly grateful
to William McCallister and Anna Simons for showing me
their own draft papers on tribal and clan dynamics in
conflict zones. They helped greatly in my thinking
about final revisions; and if their writings were
published, they would make fine additions to the
sources cited. It should be said, finally, that none
of the people acknowledged above agrees entirely with
this essay.

1. Maalouf, Amin, 2001. In the name of identity:
Violence and the need to belong. Translation of
Identités meurtrières by Barbara Bray. New York:
Arcade, pp. 28?9.

2. Ronfeldt, David, and John Arquilla, 2001.
"Networks, netwars, and the fight for the future,"
First Monday, volume 6, number 10 (October), at

3. U.S. Department of Defense. Office of the under
Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and
Logistics, 2004. Report of the Defense Science Board
Task Force on Strategic Communication. (September), at
2004-09-Strategic_Communication.pdf, p. 2.

4. Rabasa,Angel M., Cheryl Benard, Peter Chalk, C.
Christine Fair, Theodore Karasik, Rollie Lal, Ian
Lesser, and David Thaler, 2004. The Muslim world after
9/11. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corp., at

Sources on classic tribes

Boehm, Christopher, 1999. Hierarchy in the forest: The
evolution of egalitarian behavior. Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press.

Burguière, Andr? Christiane Klapisch–Zuber, Martine
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About the sources

To enhance readability among non-academic audiences,
the author chose not to place footnotes and citations
in the text. However, the sections on classic tribal
dynamics and tribal warfare draw heavily on the
sources cited above. Many points are condensed and
paraphrased from them; and there is hardly an idea or
observation in those sections that does not come from
those sources. Sentence?and paragraph–level footnotes
and citations will appear in a chapter on tribes that
the author is preparing for a book–length manuscript
on social evolution. This essay is a spin–off from
that endeavor. In addition to the sources listed
above, some points come from articles in the New York
Times and Los Angeles Times, and from a C–SPAN 2
broadcast of the conference on "Al Qaeda 2.0:
Transnational terrorism after 9/11," convened by the
New America Foundation and the New York University
Center on Law and Security, Washington, D.C., on 2
December 2004, which provided presentations by many
top experts in the field of terrorism (see


Editorial history
Paper received 20 February 2005; accepted 25 February


Copyright ?005, First Monday

Copyright ?005, David Ronfeldt

Al Qaeda and its affiliates: A global tribe waging
segmental warfare? by David Ronfeldt
First Monday, volume 10, number 3 (March 2005),