Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why He Wrote for al Jazeera - My Conversation With Sandy Shanks

This is an email conversation I had with Sandy Shanks, who recently wrote this opinion piece for al Jazeera.

Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2005 12:37 PM
Subject: al Jazeera

Dear Mr. Shanks:

On my blog, I have paid particular attention of late to Americans who supply copy to al Jazeera. Today an opinion piece appeared there authored by "Sandy Shanks", who was described as an author living in Southern California.

I also found reference to a piece in the Daily Tribune, authored by "Sandy Shanks" which seems to be critical of NBC's Kevin Sites for sending footage to al Jazeera.

Did the same Sandy Shanks write these pieces?

The Dread Pundit Bluto

Subject: Re: al Jazeera
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 14:54:03 -0800

Hi Bluto,

We be one in the same. The Hibbing article was not critical of Sites, was supportive of our troops, but, of course, was critical of the Pentagon. You, perhaps, need to review the article. I will oblige. [Shanks sent the article in a separate email]

As far as al Jazeera is concerned, in my lonely fight against terrorism, I have been afforded the opportunity to "speak" directly to our Muslim brethren on this planet. Before you become too critical, you should review the summation of the article. It tells the Muslim world -- although the al Jazeera site is viewed by many outside the Muslim world, yourself, for instance -- that we will not quit. Not this time.

I am a Marine, a conservative, a fervent patriot, and a very, very concerned American.

You, on the other hand, have a website with an ominous title.

Sandy Shanks

Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 10:42 AM
Subject: Re: al Jazeera

Dear Sandy,

I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my query, and I appreciate your candor.

First, regarding Sites, I had read a negative interpretation of the Hibbing article in a post on a liberal website, http://www.ravensblog.net/, which post now seems to have been pulled, though it still comes up in a google search of your name.

I am as interested in what motivates Westerners to write for al Jazeera as in the actual content of the articles. I agree that your article states in its conclusion that the US will not give up - this time.

Many people believe that contributing to outlets like al Jazeera is tantamount to offering aid and comfort to the enemy, due to the propaganda value of such contributions. Frankly, I hold that view myself.

I plan to post a link to your al Jazeera article along with commentary about my viewpoint. With your permission, I will excerpt the email you sent, or write a summary if you don't want me to share it. I will also offer you the chance to rebut any points I make. I will post any rebuttal from you directly to the blog, unedited.

The full name of my site is, "The Dread Pundit Bluto", a play on a character's name from "The Princess Bride" (The Dread Pirate Roberts). I hope that sounds less ominous.

Again, thank you for your time and your response.

The Dread Pundit Bluto

Sent : Tuesday, January 18, 2005 6:41 PM
Subject : Re: al Jazeera

Hi Bluto,

Go ahead. Have your way with me. Everyone else is. I did my job as a columnist. I sparked debate. Boy, did I spark debate. I am being besieged. I failed to realize that my e-mail address is easily accessible on the Net. Allow me to explain myself.

This reply is in no way a defense. It is more of a clarification. I have done nothing that requires defensive statements, assuming that being a loyal American does not require justification.

I concluded my article with these statements. "Faced with several paradoxes, the fourth group does not favor withdrawal, viewed as surrender. Aware of the vast potential of al Qa'ida and not wishing to underestimate them again, members of this group recognize the scope of an American "surrender" in Iraq in terms of Islamic terrorist propaganda. They sometimes dream that Iraqis may somehow enjoy economic and political freedoms that Americans take for granted." That was the conclusion of the article. Put a different way, these sentences form the whole purpose of the article. I stand by them. They focus on the real enemy -- the perpetrator of 9/11 -- and the ultimate goal in Iraq.

With all due respect, it is suggested that lecturing me is a useless endeavor, and one should beseech our leaders for some answers to Iraq. Many are not happy with events in Iraq -- 60 to 80, sometimes a 100 or more, attacks a day by insurgents, kidnappings, beheadings, mass resignations of election officials who fear for their lives, the Green Zone (home to the Iraqi government and key coalition officials) a besieged fortress, and the destruction of the oil infrastructure that promises to make Iraq whole again. And yet our military leaders are not offering any solutions to our multitude of problems in Iraq. The Pentagon has not even been forthcoming as to who the insurgents are and their numbers. I have a pretty good guess, but that does America little good. We are staring at possible defeat, and our leaders are perfectly satisfied to maintain the status quo. Defeat is not an option. The same could be said for our current tactics which promise an endless war. I am critical of our military leadership for the sole reason that I wish them to be more effective and win this thing. Perhaps, that is someone's definition of succor to the enemy.

It is the body of the text that aggrieves some. It interesting to note that a divided America is not Top Secret material, and that we just came through one of the most polarizing elections in our history. I used a writing technique. Early on in the article I spoke about the uninformed American and compared him to the informed Arab. That will grab Muslim attention, will it not? Hopefully, I will hold it right up to the point where I say we won't quit.

Al Jazeera has a bad rap. Why? Because al Jazeera has been chosen by various terrorist organizations, as well as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahri, to broadcast their tapes. That simply is good reporting. Do you honestly think CNN would pass up such an opportunity? Besides, in my day we called that good intell, if verified. Put a different way, al Jazeera is providing intelligence to the Western world. What, pray, is wrong with that?

Scott Ritter -- many are aware of the man -- appeared on al Jazeera and proclaimed that American defeat is inevitable. There is not enough gold in all the world to compel me to say that.

In this war, speaking about the War on Terrorism, not exclusively Iraq, would anyone pass up the opportunity to speak to the Muslim world? If so, why condemn me? If not, why not. Communication is good, is it not? Those who demur may feel we are at war with Islam? There is a name for such a war. It is in the Bible, Revelations. The name is Apocalypse.

Once again, noting that I concluded with the thought that America will persevere, what you have is an American patriot speaking on al Jazeera. If some have a problem with that, I'm really sorry about that.

I am fighting this war the only way I can. Perhaps, that deserves some measure of respect, not censure.

Best regards,
Sandy Shanks

Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 09:42 PM
Subject: Re: al Jazeera

Dear Sandy,

Thanks once again for a thoughtul reply. I've decided that the fairest thing for me to do is publish our email exchange in toto with a brief introduction. I will only edit out your email address. Sorry that you have been besieged.

As for al Jazeera getting a "bad rap", I disagree completely. Their choice of stories and the tone of their content goes far beyond advocacy journalism into the realm of propaganda. In fact, I wrote to al Jazeera asking them why they did not show the tape of Margaret Hassan's murder. Certainly it wasn't too graphic, as they took great pains to show the video of the unfortunate Marine in Fallujah, over, and over, and over again.

I have written about Scott Ritter and his ineptitude at prophecy. I have also noted the allegations against him concerning underage girls and internet chat rooms.

I remain unconvinced that trafficking with the likes of al Jazeera is an effective way to further the fight against terrorism. Feel free to offer further rebuttal, if you like. I'll see that it gets onto the blog.


The Dread Pundit Bluto