February 20, 2007

'08 Hopefuls Turn Up Heat On War

The tone of the Iraq war debate got more strident today with Democratic presidential candidates competing to be more anti-war than the next and Republicans delivering bi-partisan blasts.

While stumping for Democrats in California yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama reiterated his opposition to the war and gave a thinly-veiled rebuke to President Bush's calls to continue fighting with a new strategy. "There are no good options in Iraq at this point," Obama said. "There are only bad options or worse options. But the worst option is to continue to put our young men and women in the midst of what is essentially a sectarian civil war in which they cannot succeed."

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Biden didn't just criticize the commander-in-chief strategies as ineffective, but said they are "emboldening the enemy." This came after Biden accused Bush himself of saying war critics embolden the enemy. (Taking the cake was Rep. Dennis Kucinich who claimed the U.S. is "on its way toward being a fascist kind of government.")

On the GOP side, Rep. Duncan Hunter characterized Congress' war debate as equivalent to pulling "the rug out from under the soldiers ... by condemning this mission," Hunter said. "I thought it was a disservice to our soldiers."

Sen. John McCain continued to campaign as a critical hawk by blasting Donald Rumsfeld's conduct of the war, claiming he predicted the bloodshed in Iraq and the need for more soldiers and a new strategy more than three years ago. McCain said, "We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that's the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war. ... I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history." McCain's comments were met by applause.

The best of the rest of today's news can be found here.

January 31, 2007

Is the Terror Threat Overhyped?

On Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran a piece by John Hopkins professor and New Republic contributing editor David Bell. It has generated a fair amount of controversy these past few days:

Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Islamo-fascist" enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler's implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy.

Last night's roundtable on Brit Hume's Special Report discussed the article. Here are a few excerpts:

HUME: This is from two days ago, on Sunday, when one, David Bell, a history professor from Johns Hopkins University wrote a piece, basically asking the question: was 9/11 really was that bad? Meaning, yes it was a terribly hideous terrorist attack, an atrocity, to be sure, but did it really and does any likely future attack from the same type of people really threaten the existence of the United States? Is it indeed an existential threat? He argues that judged in historical terms against past wars and past threats it doesn't measure up. It's a serious argument.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: David Bell acknowledges that these people are hate filled fanatic to would like nothing better than to destroy our country, but he says that they lack the capacity. Well one, if they got a hold of Iraq or Saudi Arabia they would have oil wealth and they could buy any weapon that they chose. Secondly, if they -- Pakistan is about one bullet away from supplying as Islamic fundamentalists with a fully blown nuclear arsenal, Pakistan has, and Iran is working on that.

HUME: You say "one bullet away," you mean the murder of...

KONDRACKE: Murder of Musharraf, yeah.

Who delivered Pakistan into the hands of extremists, who would...

KONDRACKE: Could -- he could, and then we have an existential threat and our allies...

HUME: But the argument is made -- that argument suggests that they could become an existential threat, but they're not now.

KONDRACKE: Well, but you want to fight threats in advance, you know, you don't want to wait until they develop.

LIASSON: I think what he's suggesting is that there might have been different ways to fight this threat than -- it's implied in his article that there might have been different ways...

HUME: But the core of the argument is we may be overreacting to the threat because it's not as serious as we've made it out to be...

LIASSON: I think that's the rhetoric -- some of the rhetoric -- to say it's an existential conflict, maybe the American people aren't buying that form the distraction, maybe that's one of the...

HUME: I know, but I'm talking about what he's saying. I mean, we can speculate all we want about what the American people may think about this. That argument has gone largely unchallenged, by the way, I mean, you don't here anybody saying...

LIASSON: No, but when he lays out the proportion of people killed versus the proportion of people killed in conflicts that were existential, he makes a valid point.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: That's irrelevant, though. I mean, one nuclear weapon and you kill a lot more people than were killed in all those wars.

Look, this is an example of the polio fallacy. And that is that people don't get the vaccine anymore because, or a lot of people don't, because they say "well gee, nobody gets polio anymore. What do I need it for?" Well here we haven't had another serious terrorist attack, so people start saying, "well gee, maybe the threat's not that great. We don't have to do all these things like the Patriot Act and have eavesdropping and so on through wiretapping and things like that." I think this is an example of that.

But, both Mort and Mara are correct. There -- I mean, weapons of mass destruction, they exist, they're easily accessible. Saddam Hussein -- one reason we attacked Iraq and opposed him was because he had -- had them and might give them to terrorists.

LIASSON: Or so we thought.

BARNES: And he did...

HUME: Well we had had them.

BARNES: We know he had them, he used them in the past. So, I don't think it's been an overreaction. It's been a successful reaction and that's why people start to think, well maybe the threat's not that great.

The full transcript can be found here.

Terror Raids in Britain

From the Daily Telegraph:

Eight people were arrested in dawn raids across Birmingham this morning by police investigating an alleged kidnap plot.

The Home Office said the raids were part of a "major" nationwide operation, and security sources said an imminent terror attack had been thwarted.

The alleged plotters were planning to kidnap a member of the public in an "Iraq-style" abduction, according to security sources. The attack, said to be in the later stages of planning, would have mirrored the kidnappings of British hostages Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan by Iraqi insurgents, the sources said.

January 04, 2007

Trusting the Millennium Bomber

Interesting story in today's Seattle Times. Ahmed Ressam, aka "The Millennium Bomber", has written the judge in his case recanting part of his confession that implicated his friend Hassan Zemiri in the plot.

Ressam told authorities that Zemiri gave him $3,500 cash and a video recorder to help him "look like a tourist." Ressam testified that while he didn't provide exact details of the terrorist plot to his friend, Zemiri was aware that Ressam intended to pull off some sort of terrorist "job" in America.

Zemiri and his wife fled to Afghanistan in May 2001 after word came out that Ressam was cooperating with authorities. He was picked up a few months later near the caves of Tora Bora by U.S. forces and has spent the last five years at Guantanamo Bay.

Ressam now claims that his initial account about Zemiri was distorted by the trauma of his conviction. "When I dealt with the Prosecutor at the beginning," Ressam wrote the judge, "I was in shock and had a severe psychological disorder as I (sic) result of the court results, I was not sure about m (sic) statements."

Ressam goes on to clarify his statement on Zemiri:

Mr. Hassan Zamiry is innocent and has no relation or connection to the operation I was about to carry out. He also did not know anything about it and he did not assist me in anything. It is true that I have borrowed some money and a camera from him, but this was only a personal loan between me and him. It has nothing to do with my case "or support as the Prosecutor has alleged."

Sympathy for jihadists isn't a crime, but providing material support to them is, and this case illustrates what a murky mess it is to sort out the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorists and those abet them. Certainly, we have an obligation to try and find that line through a legal process that is just and fair, but the stakes are high and the consequences of allowing someone like Zemiri to go free based on the word of a convicted terrorist like Ressam could be potentially disastrous.

January 02, 2007

Quote of the Day

"These are really hard problems, and it's nobody's fault that we're not getting them all resolved. One of the biggest problems of all, and there is fault here - I blame the president, I blame leaders like myself, I blame opposition to the president, which likes to muddy the waters - I think there has been a failure to honestly convey to the American people the true, big picture.

If you view Iraq as a stand-alone problem, we should not be there today. I think it's wrong to view it that way. You have to view it as part of an overall war . . .

I don't think we will ever make wise decisions about any of these things, including the Iran piece of it, or Afghanistan, unless there is a better understanding of a real challenge the West generally faces from radical Islam, from the terrorists who are spawned by radical Islam, and the other circumstances that arise in other countries around the world." - Senator Jon Kyl in an interview with the Arizona Republic editorial board.

December 16, 2006

Krauthammer vs. Dowd on Rumsfeld

Charles Krauthammer on Rumsfeld's legacy from last night roundtable on Special Report with Brit Hume:

The person who had the stature and experience to go after the entrenched bureaucracy of the military and to want to change it to be more light and adaptable, and that is a process that will be remembered as a very big positive.

Secondly, he's the man who gave us these amazingly swift victories to defeat and destroy enemy regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq with an economy and a swiftness nobody would ever have expected.

Remember also, we've gone five years without a terrorist attack. And all of this is his legacy. Of course, obviously, is the stalemate in Iraq, the decisions that were made early on, that were hard decisions, some of them in retrospect were not right. But Iraq is still in play and those who say his legacy is written on Iraq, I think are wrong. I think we're going to see how it turns out.

Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times.

James Baker ran after W. with a butterfly net for a while, but it is now clear that the inmates are still running the asylum.

The Defiant Ones came striding from the Pentagon yesterday, the troika of wayward warriors marching abreast in their dark suits and power ties. W., Rummy and Dick Cheney were so full of quick-draw confidence that they might have been sauntering down the main drag of Deadwood.

Far from being run out of town, the defense czar who rivals Robert McNamara for deadly incompetence..... the septuagenarian who arrogantly dismissed initial advice to send more troops to secure Iraq.

Just imagine the send-off a defense secretary would have gotten who hadn't sabotaged the Army, Iraq, global security, our chance to get Osama, our moral credibility, the deficit and American military confidence.

Let's just say I suspect the history books 50 years from now will find Krauthammer closer to the truth.

November 21, 2006

More on the Military and Who is Fighting and Dying

A couple of emails in response to my post on Only the Poor and Depressed Join the Military?

Good article. Campos gives me a pain. I went through the weekly Camp Lejeune paper which listed all the Marines who have so far died in Iraq. 47% were from the 13 states, including Indian territory, of the 1861-1865 Confederacy. I guess the Left has a problem processing facts....... (I.E. "......the kids from the projects in Rangel's Brooklyn congressional district and from depressed farming towns in North Dakota, and from East Los Angeles barrios -....... do the fighting and the dying.")


The sad thing is that so many on the right actually got their knickers into such a twist over a total non-event as Kerry's so called oh so awful remarks daring to insult the intelligence of those in the military in the first place....but the reality of the reality is how accurate his remarks were. I'm sure you wouldn't report it, but ABC recently went undercover to capture the, shall we say, less than straight forward techniques used to lure recruits into the armed forces. The results were shocking in two different ways.

The techniques themselves were infuriating...deceptions, false claims, and out and out lies were told to many of these prospective enlistees....kind of sounds like the same things used on the American public to get us into Iraq in the first place, but I digress. However, in addition to the deceit, what was truly shocking is that their lies actually worked. What do I mean? Well, some of these recruiters told these young men and women that in fact the "war in Iraq was over," or that "we are bringing our troops home from Iraq even as we speak," and so on. Now, I don't know about you, but I find it stunning that not only would they go out on a limb and tell such bold faced lies, but that their audience is that stupid to actually believe that the war was in fact's as if a big chunk of those most likely to enlist don't ever pick up a newspaper, turn on the news, or basically have a freaking clue as to what is what...and the recruiters knew this, and didn't hesitate to lie to them about the war being over. If they were all indeed "educated" these kids would have told the recruiters to go to hell....instead, they listened, and signed up! It might have come out of his mouth in a less than pretty way, but of course Kerry was accurate in what he was saying, and this ABC undercover report is a shocking testament to how uneducated many who sign up really's just not politically correct to say so.

November 20, 2006

Letterman, Iraq and Losing the Public

Following up on the post from VDH's essay, this exchange between David Letterman and Bill O'Reilly a couple of weeks ago sums up the growing feelings of many Americans attitude toward Iraq.

O'Reilly: But they (the public) don't want to hear about the bad world that we live in. It's an evil world that we live in. Let me ask you something. And this is a serious question. Do you want the United Sates to win in Iraq?

Letterman: Well, you know in the beginning, here is my position in the beginning and I, I think I - I sort of felt the way everybody did, we felt like we wanted to do something, because something terrible had been done to us. We did not understand exactly why, all we knew was something terrible, something heinous; something obscene had been done to us. So while it didn't necessarily make sense to go into Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like most everybody else felt like yes, we needed to do something. And as the weeks turned into months, years and one death became a dozen deaths and hundred deaths and a thousand deaths - then we began to realize you know what? Maybe we're causing more trouble over there than the whole effort has been worth....What I would like would be uh, for uh, uh Americans to stop dying. And for there to be stability in that part of the world. Now if that means an American victory, ok. But I'm not sure that you can have stability in that part of the world with or without an American presence now, uh, so I would do whatever it would take to stop Americans dying.

The good-hearted, but utterly naïve sentiment of "I would do whatever it would take to stop Americans dying" in Iraq, will continue to chip away at the public's resolve in the coming weeks and months. And absent a credible plan for victory in Iraq - which right now we do not have - the window for the U.S. to prevent a major loss in this battle of the much longer war is rapidly closing.

VDH on the West's Resolve

Victor Davis Hanson has written a tremendous essay for RealClearPolitics today. Here are a few excerpts:

Intelligence sources announce that Iran is seeking to replace al Qaeda as the foremost anti-Western global terrorist organization. Not to be outdone, Al Qaeda is said to be desperately seeking a nuclear device. This is precisely at the time President Ahmadinejad announces the next step of uranium enrichment and more promises to end Israel.

International inspectors report that traces of plutonium are found in Iranian nuclear waste sites. The results of a terrorist with a plutonium-laced suicide belt in the New York Stock Exchange, the Mall of America, the Louvre, the Vatican, or the Harvard Library are like a water spill into a computer hard drive--the tiny drop unseen to the naked eye as it shuts down a way of life.

There is wealth aplenty pouring into Iran and Iraq through oil that is sold at a high price in a world market whose sanctity is ultimate protected by the United States. So the poverty there of radical Islam is not material, but one of the soul......They obviously want Western technology--whether the Internet or the plastic munition--but never the decadence of freedom, democracy, and tolerance that creates the very appurtenances they crave....Such parasitism proves no lasting palliative, but only the goad for more envy and frustration. The stark truth is that the radical Middle East is religiously observant, but spiritually poor.

Next, examine the Western political response to all this Middle Eastern madness. The recent November election made it clear that the American public is tired of Iraq, tired of the televised bombings, tired of the Middle East and just wants to be left alone, to go home or to "redeploy."

A once stalwart Tony Blair now praises Iran and welcomes back terrorist-sponsoring Teheran and Damascus for negotiations..... It is understandable to want to talk with the Iranians and avoid unnecessary confrontation, but only on the understanding that the theocracy there is trying to destroy Israel and kill Americans working to protect democracy in Iraq. Thinking Syria or Iran could tolerate a constitutional republic in Iraq on its borders is like imagining that Hitler could have lived with a democratic Poland or Czechoslovakia next door or the old Soviet Union would have tolerated a free Ukraine.

Americans in their televised wrangling seem traumatized over Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the Patriot Act, and wiretaps. For many George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are far greater threats than Osama bin Laden. Indeed, without a care for the thousands tortured by Saddam or dismembered by the terrorists, American leftists now seek to indict (in Germany of all places!) the former Secretary of Defense on charges such as subjecting detainees to "religious humiliation." Religious humiliation? Is war now to be played out on Court TV or ape the hurt feelings of Sunday morning television?

In short, while the Islamists get bolder and crazier, we become more timid and all too rational, quibbling over this terrorist's affinities and that militia's particular grievances--in hopes of cutting some magical deal with an imaginary moderate imam or nonexistent reasonable militia chief or Middle East dictator.

Well beyond us now is any overarching Churchillian vision of our enemies. We lack the practical understanding of an FDR that all of these Islamists loathe us far more than they despise each other. Their infighting, after all, is like the transitory bickering of thieves over the division of loot that always pales before their shared hatred of the targeted bank owner.

So we are at a crossroads of all places in Iraq. The war there has metamorphosized from a successful effort to remove a mass-murdering dictator into the frontlines of the entire struggle between Islamic radicalism and Western liberality. If we withdraw before the elected government stabilizes, the consequences won't just be the loss of the perceptions of power, but perhaps the loss of real power. What follows won't be the impression that we are weak, but the fact that we are--as we convince ourselves we cannot win against such horrific enemies, and so should never again try.

Hanson is first and foremost a historian and he understands the long scope of this fight. The 24/7, cell-phone, Internet, cable/satellite, instant-gratification world we live in today however, has little patience for the hard slog in Iraq. Make no mistake about it we are approaching an important crossroads in not just the front in Iraq but the entire War on Islamic Fascism.

I fear only another attack will jolt the American public and the free world to the real stakes in this War against the Islamicists.

October 24, 2006

Lunch with Rumsfeld and Pace

Yesterday, along with four other journalists, I lunched with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We had a wide-ranging discussion on North Korea, Iraq, and the reports that there was a coming change in administration policy toward Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld said that the President had asked him to stay out of politics in this election, and he was determined to do just that. Several of us tried to nudge or kid him into it, and the most we could get was a "nice try" or two.

Rumsfeld explained that the conference the president held last weekend with him and our top generals didn't signal a major shift on Iraq. This conference wasn't something out of the ordinary and in the two or three others held before the president had used this session to talk through ideas with his top advisors. As to the idea that the Congressionally-created Baker-Hamilton "Iraq Study Group" might recommend major policy shifts, Rumsfeld demurred. He said that outside groups such as that one can often be helpful by bringing new viewpoints to the analysis. The Baker group - which interfaces mostly with National Security Advisor Steven Hadley -- has met with Rumsfeld at the White House and will be coming to the Pentagon for more discussions in mid-November.

I asked if the Baker group was trying to answer the right questions. Are we talking about Iraq without talking about a regional solution? Rumsfeld said he wasn't familiar with the mandate Congress had given the Baker group. When I pressed him that too many people want to talk about Iraq without placing it in context he said, "I think it's awfully hard - I know some people would like to do it - but it's awfully hard to look at Iraq and not look at it in the context of the world we live in, and the area that it is in, and the activities of Iran and Syria and the broader question of the Shia-Sunni interaction that's taking place." The problems of the Middle East are, inferentially, regional and cannot be solved within the borders of any single nation.

Asked if he was planning to resign after the elections, Rumsfeld said that if he were, he'd have spoken to the president about it and that no such discussion had taken place.

We talked about North Korea and the ability of the world to achieve its nuclear disarmament. Mr. Rumsfeld said that the problem had been the lack of cohesion among the international community and that the president's approach intended to create that cohesion and thus the leverage to accomplish the necessary solution. Rumsfeld was quick to explain that the problem of nuclear North Korea was much different than the problem posed by Iran. He gave us copies of what is now his favorite picture. It's a night time satellite photo of the Korean peninsula taken (apparently repeatedly or in some time-lapse format) from February 1 - March 31, 2006. It shows nearly half of South Korea bathed in artificial light, and all of North Korea - except the capital, Pyongyang - utterly dark. "If you think of North Korea, it is very different from Iran. There's people who are starving. They have people who are going in the military who are under five feet and less than one hundred pounds. There's a lack of nutrition in the country." The sort of deterrence that worked before may work against North Korea, though Rumsfeld said the principal danger from North Korea is proliferation: "He'll sell anything."

Much of the discussion centered around the ability of America to fight a long war. Both Rumsfeld and Pace used the example of the Cold War to illustrate their conviction that America does and will continue to have the ability to stay in the war against terrorists until it's done. Rumsfeld elaborated.

He said that Americans were raised - "socialized" was the word he used - to believe that our military can win any war by going out and defeating a nation or an army. But times have changed. He said of Iraq, "There's no way the military can lose. There's also no way the military can win all alone. That isn't the nature of it...There's no major army, navy, air force to go and attack and destroy." In wars like this, there will be no "clean wins."

How long will it take? How will the American people support a war such as this? Rumsfeld said, "We have to be smart enough and wise enough as we were in the Cold War to recognize the danger, and to recognize that it takes perseverance."

Gen. Pace added, "We're back to the common understanding of the threat. The American people are willing to withstand a long-term challenge as exemplified by the Cold War and the Soviet Union...The good news is that since 9-11 we haven't been attacked here at home. What that means is that some Americans don't yet grasp fully the very real nature of this threat to the survival of the nation."

October 06, 2006

Protesting Bush

Just to be clear, this is not a staffer from Congressman John Conyers' office heading in to work:

(Photo credit: Betty Udesen, Seattle Times)

It is, in fact, one of the protesters who marched in my former home town of Seattle yesterday in what was termed a "National Day of Mass Resistance." Watch this multimedia slide show from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a more full experience of what the rally was like, including audio of the protesters chanting "Number One Terrorist? U.S., U.S."

The protest was organized by a group called The World Can't Wait, which lists the convicted terrorist sympathizer Lynne Stewart and America-hating icon Gore Vidal among those on its advisory board. The group's official "call to drive out the Bush regime" offers a list of grievances against the current administration before concluding:

People look at all this and think of Hitler - and they are right to do so. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.

These folks should think twice about uttering any phrase that contains the word "balance" in it. Just a thought.

October 02, 2006

The Clintons, Bin Laden and 2008

I understand Bill Clinton's desire to attempt to influence history's judgment of his administration's efforts to reign in Al Qaeda and get Bin Laden, both for the sake of his personal legacy and his wife's campaign to be president. However, I question the wisdom of the Clinton's very aggressive moves over the ABC docudrama "The Path to 9/11" and the recent blowup with Chris Wallace on FOX News. Yesterday's FOX News Sunday is a perfect example of why I don't think Bill Clinton really wants the facts to be exposed over who did more, or what administration did what, to get Bin Laden prior to 9/11.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Scheuer, I can see you beginning to shake your head. I mean, whether or not they had certifiable proof about the Cole, they certainly knew that Al Qaida had been involved in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Africa. In your opinion, as somebody who was up close and personal, why didn't the Clinton administration go after Al Qaida after the USS Cole?

SCHEUER: Mr. Wallace, my opinion is not all that important. I went to a little Jesuit school in Buffalo called Canicius, and the priests taught us never to lie, but if you had to lie, never lie about facts. Mr. Richard Clarke, Mr. Sandy Berger, President Clinton are lying about the opportunities they had to kill Osama bin Laden. That's the plain truth, the exact truth.

Men and women at the CIA risked their lives to provide occasions to kill a man we knew had declared war and had attacked America four or five times before 1998. We had plans that had been approved by the Joint Operations Command at Fort Bragg. We had opportunities, many opportunities to kill him.

But that's the president's decision. That's absolutely the case. It's not a simple, dumb bureaucrat like me; that's not my decision. It's his. But for him to get on the television and say to the American people he did all he could is a flat lie, sir.

WALLACE: Mr. Benjamin?

BENJAMIN: Well, I simply disagree. The plans that Mike is referring to about being approved were actually disapproved by his own chain of command. The CIA did not have confidence in the operation that was drawn up, and we couldn't go forward with it.

After the attack on the East Africa embassies, the covert operations were restarted, and again the same assets that were being involved earlier proved to be feckless and didn't deliver the goods.

SCHEUER: ... saying this, that what Mr. Benjamin, who I have a great deal of respect for, but what I say doesn't matter. What matters is the documents that back up what I have to say or what Mr. Benjamin has to say.

The 9/11 Commission ignored those documents, didn't publish them to the American people, let no one involved with the effort to get bin Laden testify to the American people.

This is not a question of interpretation or judgment. This is a question of fact. And the documents will show the president had the opportunity.

It seems to me Bill Clinton would have been better off just accepting the politically correct conclusions of the 9/11 Commission, ignoring ABC's "The Path to 9/11," and letting the public continue take the politically benign view that his administration, the administration of President Bush, and indeed the entire government didn't do enough to accurately assess and deal with the threat posed from Al Qaeda and bin Laden prior to 9/11.

Correcting real inaccuracies in the "The Path to 9/11" is one thing, but in the Wallace interview Clinton was brazenly trying to rewrite history by suggesting "I got closer to killing him than anybody" and implying he was on the cusp of invading Afghanistan "I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan." Clinton's ability to massage the truth may have clouded his brilliant political judgment as there is just too much public evidence on the record disputing the story Clinton is trying to tell. Looking toward the '08 campaign from the Clintons' perspective, it doesn't make any sense to dredge up which administration might have been more at fault pre-9/11. The Clintons would be better off focusing on what they perceive as the Bush administration's mistakes post-9/11 and how to best fight the war moving forward.

September 26, 2006

Whopper of the Day

"But there has never been any doubt that [Bill] Clinton was more serious about combating terrorism than his successor, George W. Bush." - John Nichols, writing in The Nation.

September 22, 2006

The Compromise on Terrorist Interrogation and Military Commissions

The compromise on terrorist interrogation and military commissions reached yesterday is a good one, but it sets up a House-Senate conference battle in which too much is at risk. Sen. Frist may put it up for Senate floor debate today.

In short, the compromise:

· Precludes a private right of action (i.e., the ability of a person to enforce in court) in either habeas corpus litigation or a civil case, the "rights" granted under the Geneva Conventions; · Specifies the war crimes that will comprise violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and says no foreign or international law can be used by US courts to further define those crimes; · Gives the president further authority to promulgate higher standards of conduct for terrorist interrogators; · Defines, reasonably well, the "cruel or inhuman treatment" vague terms used in the McCain amendment of 2005 and Common Article 3; · Restores the definitions for "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" in the pre-McCain Amendment Title 18 Section 2340, US Code; BUT · Retains the McCain amendment definitions as well.

The interpretation of law requires that the general language in the McCain amendment will yield to the specific language in Section 2340. Unless.

Unless the House-Senate conference mucks it up again. So far, this is a near-total win for the White House. But the fight is a long way from ending. McCain obviously will try again in conference. If he wins there, all gained so far will be lost.

September 17, 2006

Islam Means Peace, Christianity Means Appeasement

The NYT lapses into self-parody in this morning's Pope appeasement editorial.

I look forward to the Times editorial directing Muslim clerics to apologize to Christians for their insensitivity in, say, burning down churches in the West Bank.

September 15, 2006

A Plea For Clarity - Jed Babbin

Since the president sent the detainee interrogation - military commissions legislation to the Hill last week, there's been much debate over its scope and propriety. The McCain-Graham-Warner bill, passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) yesterday, declines to clarify the crimes for which US soldiers and CIA interrogators can be held liable for war crimes under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden told the SASC, before it passed the bill, that if the bill were enacted in that form, the CIA would have to cease operating its secret interrogation/prison facilities.

Here's a memo Gen. Hayden sent to all CIA employees yesterday before the SASC acted:

Last week the President publicly confirmed a CIA detention and interrogation program that has been instrumental in defending the homeland, attacking Al Qa'ida and saving thousands of American and Allied lives. Unclassified background on the program and some of the individuals now being brought to justice because of it are available on the DNI's web site.

Since the President's speech, there has been a lot of commentary on Capitol Hill and in the press on the way ahead for these and any future detainees. A lot of the discussion has to do with how military commissions will be conducted--rules of evidence, how classified information could be presented to the court, how to view the whole question of coercion. These are obviously important issues but, at their heart, they are issues for the Department of Defense (which will conduct the commissions) and the Department of Justice (which crafted the language in the Administration's bill). Far more central to us at CIA is the discussion of what is commonly known as "Common Article 3" of the Geneva Conventions.

In his speech the President talked about "an alternative set of procedures" used by the CIA in interrogating key Al Qa'ida detainees. The Justice department has ruled that these procedures have been consistent with our obligations under the Constitution, US law and our international treaty obligations (e.g., the Convention Against Torture).In June, however, the Supreme Court in the Hamdan decision for the first time in US law extended the protection of Geneva's Common Article 3 to what everyone agrees are the "unlawful enemy combatants" of Al Qa'ida.

Clearly, for us to continue the program that the President described, we now need to ensure that it is consistent with the provisions of Common Article 3. Our problem is that Common Article 3 was crafted to be intentionally general and vague; it forbids "outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment." These terms have never been further defined in US law. Indeed, when the Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it determined that the words "inhuman" and "degrading" were so vague that using them in a criminal statute would violate U.S. Constitutional due process standards. The Senate therefore provided a definition for those terms as a condition of ratifying the Convention, and later used that same definition for the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.

I have made several trips to Capitol Hill in the last few days. In each instance I have asked the Congress for clarity. We need their help in defining the Nation's (and CIA's) responsibility under Common Article 3. I did not ask them to redefine Common Article 3. I did not ask them to create a CIA "carve out." I did not ask them to back away from our Nation's commitment to Geneva. I am simply asking Congress to help define our responsibilities so that we and the Department of Justice can judge the appropriateness of any procedures we would propose to use. The Bill submitted by the Administration does this by declaring that US responsibilities under Common Article 3 are met by compliance with the Detainee Treatment Act (including Senator McCain's Amendment) passed last December. Other language is certainly possible but we must have a definition that is not subject to multiple interpretations.

I have met with the full Senate and House Intelligence Committees and outlined in detail the past and present of the CIA detention and interrogation program. I have also promised them that, once we have achieved sufficient clarity in law with regard to Common Article 3, I would come back to discuss with them in detail the way ahead.

I know that these are not simple issues and honest people can and will disagree. And these are also--given the complexity of the issues, the current "energy" in the political process, and the sometimes sporadic nature of the press coverage--very confusing issues, as well. I just wanted to give you some clarity on how we view what has been going on and what we have been saying. At the end of the day, the Director--any Director--of CIA must be confident that what he has asked an Agency officer to do under this program is lawful. That's the story here.

Why would McCain, a former POW, Graham, a JAG lawyer, and Warner, himself a veteran of combat, be willing to leave our people at risk of prosecution under unclear laws?

Armed Services Committee Makes Fundamental Error - Ross Kaminsky

I have been a critic of President Bush's attitude surrounding executive power in the context of the war on terror. His position seems essentially to be that since it is a war without borders and with few other limits either he can do almost anything he wants which he claims to be part of fighting that war. I strongly disagree with that type of argument and have some sympathy with arguments that his attempt to expand the power of the President eats away at the separation of powers which is fundamental to our Republic.

However, this does not mean Bush is always wrong on legal issues surrounding the war. Thursday provided a case in point as Senate Armed Services Committee, led by Republicans John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham, passed a bill out of the Committee which directly contradicts Bush's position on treatment and trial of terrorist captives.

The Bill would effectively give terrorist captives protection under the Geneva Conventions; allow them to see classified evidence against them, and "bar statements obtained through torture or inhumane treatment."
The only part of that I agree with is barring statements obtained through torture. As part of the discussion surrounding this issue, the President wanted to clarify "the terms ``cruel, inhumane and degrading'' in describing treatment barred by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Bush seeks to define the treaty as barring ``severe physical or mental pain'' and ``severe physical abuse.''"

Bush's position here is exactly right. The terrorists are not entitled to Geneva Convention protections. To the degree that we must do something because of the incorrect Supreme Court ruling on the issue, we should do the minimum possible to comply. And, as Condi Rice said, where such treaty requirements are vague, we have a right to interpret them in any reasonable way we see fit. Indeed, we should interpret them in the way least generous to those whose motive is to destroy us.

The disappointing (and apparently disappointed) Colin Powell weighed in with a letter to John McCain saying that "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism". Powell, along with McCain and friends miss the point: The ultimate "moral basis" of our fight against terrorism, in fact the moral basis for the very existence of government, is the protection of our citizens' lives.

The people (and I use that term loosely) whom we are discussing here would never offer such niceties as Geneva Convention protections to Americans they capture; we have seen enough beheadings to understand that...unless you are McCain, Warner, Graham, Susan Collins, or a Democrat.

The idea that our "reinterpreting" the Conventions in this area would leave our soldiers vulnerable to poor treatment later is a red herring.

But even if it were true, it's hard to care. What good is language that protects soldiers of a country which no longer exists? Yes, that is a bit of hyperbole, but you get my point: Government does many things, most of which it has no authority to do. What it does have authority and true responsibility for is to defend us. Giving terrorists the rights of Americans is the last thing in the world we need to do.

These Senators and Colin Powell have turned the thing on its head. Here are the right answers:

1) Bush's position on these issues does not weaken our "moral authority".

2) If someone thinks it does, I say "who cares?" Protect my life first and deal with your genteel qualms after we're safe. (I am a strong civil libertarian, but Bush's position on these issues does not threaten the liberties of Americans; I am not shy to oppose him where it does.)

3) And most importantly, the Committee's actions demonstrate clear weakness to an enemy who understands nothing but brute force.

On a domestic note, this action gives Republican voters one more reason to stay at home in November. Strength against terrorists is one of the only areas in which the public still has more confidence in Republicans than in Democrats. The actions of these four Armed Services Committee Republicans are an attack on their own Party and American citizens everywhere.

September 14, 2006

War on Islam? On Brown People?

It's always interesting to try to parse the difference between whom the Right and the Left think America is actually at war with.

In that vein today at TAPPED, Ezra Klein -- one of the more reasonable folks over there -- offers what I think is a very unreasonable attack on how the Right sees the War on Terror. Or, as Ezra puts it: "THE WAR ON TERROR/ISLAM/RADICAL ISLAM/BROWN PEOPLE."

Ezra concludes that, "the Islamic world is right. In the minds of those behind this campaign, this is indeed a war against Islam. The enemy is religious, his skin is brown, his God is Allah." Why? Because conservative commentators by-and-large think the term "War on Terror" is a cop-out from naming our real enemy, radical Islam.

Who does Ezra think we're at war with? "Most liberals I know think we're literally at war with al-Qaeda, its operational affiliates, and its imitators," he says. Under this rationale, I suppose, the Afghanistan campaign makes sense; but Iraq only makes sense if we're at war with "Islam" and "brown people."

Where this goes wrong is that we could wipe Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and its imitators off the face of the earth tomorrow, and we'd still be contending with radical Islam as well as state sponsors of terror such as Iran and Syria. The liberals, after all, are the ones (not entirely incorrectly, I might add) saying that we need to deal with "root causes," such as poverty and oppression and hatred of America abroad.

So, no, it's not as if Al Qaeda & Co. are just a "state" we could defeat. There's an ideology and a religious movement ultimately behind those targeting America.

So, the rationale for Iraq? No, it wasn't because we felt like bombing some brown people who worship Allah. It was because of the WMD question. It was to intimidate Iran and Syria (oops...). And it was because a group of conservatives and Democrats -- mostly neocons -- believed (rightly or wrongly) that introducing democracy into the Arab world was the best way to begin a transformation of the region that would leave it more stable and more peaceful.

(Again, oops ... at least in the short term. In the long term, the question is still open.)

So, trying to treat the War on Terror as somehow racist, or as a "crusade" by another name, as Ezra does, is extremely unhelpful. Americans have no lust for a conquest of the Middle East. They'd be perfectly happy with a policy of benign neglect, if not for the planes flying into buildings.

The people who flew those planes were part of Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda is just one symptom of the disease: radical Islam. You don't treat the sympton. You treat the disease.

September 13, 2006

The September 10th-ers

I'm not thrilled with the title the editors put on Janet Albrechtsen's piece in today's Australian, but the column itself is on the mark:

THERE is no polite way of saying this. Useful idiots have their place. They stir us out of our complacency lest we fall back into a lazy September 10 way of thinking.

With impeccable timing, just days before the fifth anniversary of September 11, The Sydney Morning Herald columnist Alan Ramsey bemoaned the Howard Government's terrorism laws and its recent commentary for unfairly targeting Muslims.

As evidence, he filled his papier-mache style Saturday column by quoting, among others, the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network. The network complained that "all people arrested under the legislation have been Muslim, and all of the 17 proscribed terrorist organisations are linked to Muslim organisations".

Like a joke without a punchline, that argument falls rather flat. Just how flat was neatly showcased later on Saturday evening as I settled into a seat at my local cinema. The previews included the Australian Government's new advertising campaign to stamp out domestic violence. In the short, powerful ad, five men admit to shoving, slapping or abusing women.

Their behaviour towards women is comprehensively denounced as unacceptable and illegal.

Did the ad target men? Undoubtedly. Did that make it unfair? No. Domestic violence is overwhelmingly a crime committed by men against women. But just because every person in the ad is a man, do we conclude that all men are women-bashers? Of course not.

That same logic applies to terrorism laws. Terrorism against Westerners is overwhelmingly a crime committed by Muslims but no one imagines that laws aimed at catching Muslim jihadists mean all Muslims are terrorists. [snip]

However, September 10 people stubbornly adhere to a genre of multiculturalism that prohibits judgments about, or criticisms of, minorities or their culture. Hence, commentary by the Prime Minister and others that is critical of some within those minority cultures is deemed racist. In a nutshell, no pointing the finger at the unequal treatment of women by some Muslims even if that means putting up with the odd honour killing. Similarly, terrorism laws that in terms apply to all of us equally but in practice fall disproportionately on Muslims, are deemed discriminatory.

This mushy thinking is driven by the notion that being a member of a minority culture in a Western country is prima facie evidence of victimhood. And victims need to be protected from bullies banging on about protecting Western lives and values. That mentality has only encouraged Muslims to keep waving the victim card. It lets them off the hook. Instead, they should be confronting what London's former police chief John Stevens has called the "undeniable, total truth: that Islamic terrorism is their problem".

Even though I've quoted liberally from the piece, there's more worth reading.

Political Video of the Day

Matt Lauer vs. George W. Bush on torture, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11:

As always, send nominations to:

September 12, 2006

Cult of Death Update

This story struck me as a sobering reminder of just how deeply perverse and pathological Islamic fascists are. A jihadi terrorist killed the governor of an Afghan province with a suicide bomb on Sunday, and then another one suicide bombed the funeral service on Monday killing 7 - including two children - and wounding forty.

September 11, 2006

Patriotic Video of the Day

The Buckingham Palace band, playing the American national anthem after 9/11:

(via Sullivan)

9/11 Replay

I don't know what anyone else is watching this morning, as far as 9/11 retrospectives. I'm watching the Pipeline real-time replay of their coverage from that morning (Fox News is doing the same thing online). It's very difficult to watch. Complete chaos. Witnesses on the phone panicking. Anchors speculating that maybe a navigation system was malfunctioning. A complete inability to comprehend that a second plane had hit, even though it happened live, on camera.

I actually never saw this initial coverage, because I was in D.C., not in front of a TV, and then we were all evacuated. I watched the towers fall on a portable TV some guy had on my bus.

9:25: The word terrorism is breached for the first time I've heard this morning, in a quote from an unnamed government official.

9:31: President Bush makes his first remarks, sounding extremely shaken.

Well, you get the idea. Again, it's very difficult to watch. Much more so than I thought it would be. But for those remembering this day, five years on, maybe you want to tune in.

September 06, 2006

Understanding Bush's Speech

A source within the military forwards the following observations on Bush's speech:

The "old media" and Drudge have it all wrong. Bush is not reversing course and they are not getting "Geneva Rights."

Today, the President has wagered all of his "political chips" and sided with the uniformed Combat Arms Branches instead of the JAG Chiefs.

First, whenever the President brings up that the illegal combatants are not uniform, that is a clear sign to those of us in the military that these individuals are not covered by Geneva.

Second, he is very clear that the CIA Detention program remains alive and well. ONLY after all information is obtained will they be turned over to DOD for military trial. Then they will face a death sentence.

Third, the President directly attacks the opinion by SCOTUS.

Lastly, Congress is now up against the wall. There is now a "face" that the public will see in regards to this legislation. IF Congress does not pass legislation, these 14 detainees tied to 9/11 will not receive ultimate Justice. What member of Congress wants to argue for them?

This was indeed a brilliant maneuver by Bush and I am thankful that he is running with it.

This sounds right to me. I'm not so sure Bush "put one over on the media" so much as they may have just flat out missed the story.

UPDATE: Sure enough, the White House has already issued the following email titled "Setting the Record Straight:"

*The President's Legislation Specifically Authorizes The Creation Of Military Commissions To Try These Suspected Terrorists For War Crimes. The Bill ensures that these commissions are established in a way that protects our national security and ensures a full and fair trial for the accused.

* Detainees Have Been Transferred To The Custody Of The Department Of Defense, At The U.S. Naval Base At Guantanamo Bay.

* Neither The President's Proposed Legislation Nor The Detainees' Transfer To Guantanamo Gives The Detainees POW Status. [emphasis added]

Democrats and Terror

Kevin Drum lays out the Democratic "consensus" on the War on Terror:

If you take out, say, the Chomsky wing on the left and the Lieberman wing on the right, there's a surprising amount that the rest of us agree on.

Domestically, we nearly all agree that we should spend more on things like port security and chemical plant security. We mostly agree on strengthening cooperation between the FBI and the CIA, but we oppose large-scale infringements of civil liberties like the NSA program as both wrong and unnecessary. We oppose torture and we oppose rendition. We support a far more serious energy policy for both environmental and national security reasons.

On the overseas front, we largely agree that, in the long term, we can only eliminate militant jihadism if we eliminate support for jihadists among the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East. This requires genuine support for democracy, serious economic and trade programs aimed at the Middle East, and a public diplomacy program vastly superior to the laughable efforts currently underway. We support a far more active role for the United States in negotiating a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. We support a hardnosed dedication to diplomacy and negotiation, Richard Holbrooke style. We recognize that the moral high ground isn't just a nice thing to have, it's crucial to winning support for our policies -- and that means a renewed dedication to taking seriously international institutions such as arms control regimes and the United Nations. Military action, when absolutely necessary, should be as sharp and pointed as possible, oriented toward counterinsurgency, not invasion and regime change.

What else? Nearly everyone in Democratic circles agrees that the war in Iraq was a mistake, though there's still a fair amount of disagreement about what to do about this now. On Iran, I think most Democrats believe, along with Fareed Zakaria, that we need to take a deep breath and put aside the current Republican hysteria on the subject. Bombers and cruise missiles aren't going to solve our problems here.

Thus, Drum says, the problem isn't the Democrats' foreign policy, it's that they haven't marketed it correctly:

At this point, it strikes me that our problem is less about agreeing on policy than it is about agreeing on marketing. We have enough consensus on policy that we can move forward if we only have the courage of our convictions about this stuff. We need to talk about our approach out loud, we need to believe that people aren't too scared or stupid to make sense of it, and we need to be clear that we think Republicans are taking a hysterical approach to national security that's both partisan and foolish. For some reason, though, most Democrats seem unwilling to risk saying this with any serious conviction, relying instead mostly on generic attacks on George Bush. Or so it appears to me.

Let me suggest a reason Democrats are unwilling to push this line in public: The American people would squirt milk out their collective nose if anyone actually proposed that the United Nations or "arms control regimes" were the solution to our problems in the Middle East.

I'm not saying I disagree with everything on Drum's list. Our public diplomacy has been pitiful; we have done significant damage to our reputation in the world with the mess in Iraq (whether you believe we were right to go in or not); and Republicans have made terrorism an unnecessarily partisan issue (though, the Democrats, by not seriously engaging the issue, have basically made that inevitable).

You can also find more Democratic reaction to Bush's recent speeches on terrorism at our Buzz Tracker page.

August 31, 2006

Taking Rumsfeld's Bait

Rich Lowry says the Dems are "being monumentally stupid in taking the bait of Rumsfeld's speech." He's right. Besides, the Dems don't need to respond to Rumsfeld, because their kindred spirits in the media - particularly on the editorial boards of major metro newspapers - are doing it for them.

For an admittedly less than comprehensive list, see today's editorials in the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Newsday, for starters. There's also William Arkin in the Washington Post, Fred Kaplan in Slate, and Dan Wasserman's cartoon in the Boston Globe.

UPDATE: Sorry, I forgot to include this whopper of a rant by Keith Olbermann:

August 29, 2006

Posner Speaks

Don't miss the latest episode of the Glenn and Helen Show. This week's guest is Judge Richard Posner, and he discusses terrorism, surveillance, and civil liberties in the context of the Constitution and the U.S. court system. It's all the subject matter of his new book, "Not a Suicide Pact."

August 28, 2006

Political Video of the Day

Behold the religion of peace, as the now-released Fox News journalists convert to Islam at gunpoint ...

As always, send nominations to:

August 21, 2006

The London Plot: Real After All!

So, now that British authorities have charged 11 people and "uncovered large caches of bomb-making components as well as 'martyrdom' tapes of the type often prepared by Islamic suicide bombers before they attack," does Andrew Sullivan want to walk back his speculation last week that there was no London bomb plot or that it wasn't "imminent"?

I'm a Sullivan fan, which I know isn't fashionable in conservative circles these days. But Bush hatred can become pathological. (I should know: I take three separate medications every day to ward it off myself.)

While we don't know exactly what role torture-induced Pakistani intelligence played, I think even torture opponents have to have the intellectual honesty to admit that sometimes it works. There may be moral reasons not to torture, the intelligence may be less reliable than through other methods, but to pretend that everything's simple -- because, hey, who needs to argue about torture if it doesn't even work! -- is just intellectually dishonest.

It looks to me as if this plot was imminent by any reasonable definition -- i.e., it could have gone off within days or a week of the arrests -- and torture may have played a role in stopping it. I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise. But I don't think either scenario disproves or proves the usefulness of torture.

August 18, 2006

Bush Responds to Wiretap Ruling

President Bush answering questions on U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor decision finding the NSA eavesdropping unconstitutional.

Q Mr. President, the federal ruling yesterday that declared your terrorist surveillance program unconstitutional -- the judge wrote that it was never the intent of the framers to give the President such unfettered control. How do you respond, sir, to opponents who say that this ruling is really the first nail in the coffin of your administration's legal strategy in the war on terror?

THE PRESIDENT: I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live. You might remember last week working with the -- with people in Great Britain, we disrupted a plot. People were trying to come and kill people.

This country of ours is at war, and we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war. The judge's decision was a -- I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree. That's why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld.

I made my position clear about this war on terror. And by the way, the enemy made their position clear yet again when we were able to stop them. And I -- the American people expect us to protect them, and therefore I put this program in place. We believe -- strongly believe it's constitutional.

And if al Qaeda is calling in to the United States, we want to know why they're calling. And so I made my position clear. It would be interesting to see what other policymakers -- how other policymakers react.

August 17, 2006

Thwarted Attack Has Little Impact on Public Confidence - S. Rasmussen

The War on Terror entered the news again last week with reports from London of a thwarted terrorist attack. A few days later, news of a cease-fire agreement in the Middle East took over the front page. All of this had surprisingly little impact on American public opinion. The latest Rasmussen Reports update on public confidence in the War on Terror shows that just 38% of Americans believe the U.S. and its allies are winning. That's down just a single point from 39% earlier in the month but it matches the lowest level of confidence ever recorded in our nearly three years of tracking this question.

A month ago, before hostilities erupted again in the Middle East, 44% thought the good guys were winning.

Gonzales on the UK Terror Bust and the Patriot Act

Salena Zito of the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh interviews Attorney General Gonzales on the Patriot Act and the airline terror plot broken up in London last week.

August 16, 2006

Some in Hollywood Get It -- Kidman Condemns Hamas, Hezbollah

Australia's Herald Sun reports:

Nicole Kidman has made a public stand against terrorism.

The actress, joined by 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times newspaper.

It specifically targets "terrorist organizations" such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas," the ad reads.

"If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die.

"We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

A who's who of Hollywood heavyweights joined Kidman on the ad.

The actors listed included: Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton and William Hurt.

Directors Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner and Sam Raimi also signed their names.

Other Hollywood powerplayers supporting the ad included Sumner Redstone, the chairman and majority owner of Paramount Pictures, and billionaire mogul, Haim Saban.

August 15, 2006

Agonizing Over Torture

The left wing editorial page of The Guardian agonizes today over the revelation that much of the intelligence used to bust up the bomb plot last week was allegedly obtained using torture:

Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."

Set aside for the moment legal questions about whether such evidence would be admissible in court and let's focus on the morality. Last December Charles Krauthammer argued the following in a Weekly Standard cover story:

However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). And once you've established the principle, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, all that's left to haggle about is the price. In the case of torture, that means that the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible, but when--i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances: how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.

Michael Kinsley responded the following week, calling Krauthammer's argument a case of "salami-slicing:"

You start with a seemingly solid principle, then start slicing: If you would torture to save a million lives, would you do it for half a million? A thousand? Two dozen? What if there's only a two-out-of-three chance that person you're torturing has the crucial information? A 50-50 chance? One chance in 10? At what point does your moral calculus change, and why? Slice the salami too far, and the formerly solid principle disappears.

If the reports out of Pakistan are true, this theoretical debate just became much more interesting, because we now have a very real slice of salami. If more than four thousand lives were saved as a direct result of intel obtained using torture, does that make it justified? I think it's clear what Krauthammer would say. But what about Kinsley? Are four thousand innocent lives a big enough slice of salami for him?

August 11, 2006

Fallows Responds

Yesterday, I mentioned James Fallows's piece on "Declaring Victory" in the last issue of The Atlantic. Particularly, I asked how it held up in light of yesterday's news.

Well, now Fallows himself has weighed in with a free piece on The Atlantic's Web site.

A choice passage:

Immediately after news of the arrests broke, President Bush took the opportunity to remind the country that it was "at war with Islamic fascists." No such reminder came from the British authorities, who had actually broken the plot. This is consistent with Britain's response after the subway bombings one year ago, when the government, press, and public prided themselves on the speed with which life returned to normal - while the police and intelligence agencies hunted down the responsible parties. It is also consistent with the argument that an open-ended state of war has become a major handicap in the long-term effort to penetrate potential terrorist cells, dry up their supply of recruits, and deny them shelter and support from other Muslims.

It's a difference in approaches well worth noting.

The Pakistan Connection

The Times: Arrest of duo in Pakistan 'triggered bomb plot swoop'.

Two British Muslims arrested eight to ten days ago in Lahore and Karachi gave vital information about the alleged plot to detonate chemical suicide bombs on US-bound passenger jets, officials in Pakistan claimed today.

See also Tom Joscelyn in the Weekly Standard.

Why Aren't We Profiling?

The Bank of England releases the names of 19 suspects (pdf):

The Bank of England, as agent for Her Majesty's Treasury, has today directed that any funds held for or on behalf of the individuals named in the Annex to this News Release must be frozen...

1. ALI, Abdula, Ahmed
DOB: 10/10/1980
Address: Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom
2. ALI, Cossor
DOB: 04/12/1982
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
3. ALI, Shazad, Khuram
DOB: 11/06/1979
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
4. HUSSAIN, Nabeel
DOB: 10/03/1984
Address: London, United Kingdom, E4
5. HUSSAIN, Tanvir
DOB: 21/02/1981
Address: Leyton, London, United Kingdom, E10
6. HUSSAIN, Umair
DOB: 09/10/1981
Address: London, United Kingdom, E14
7. ISLAM, Umar
DOB: 23/04/1978
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
8. KAYANI, Waseem
DOB: 28/04/1977
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
9. KHAN, Assan, Abdullah
DOB: 24/10/1984
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
10. KHAN, Waheed, Arafat
DOB: 18/05/1981
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
11. KHATIB, Osman, Adam
DOB: 07/12/1986
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
12. PATEL, Abdul, Muneem
DOB: 17/04/1989
Address: London, United Kingdom, E5
13. RAUF, Tayib
DOB: 26/04/1984
Address: Birmingham, United Kingdom
14. SADDIQUE, Muhammed, Usman
DOB: 23/04/1982
Address: Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom, E17
15. SARWAR, Assad
DOB: 24/05/1980
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
16. SAVANT, Ibrahim
DOB: 19/12/1980
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
17. TARIQ, Amin, Asmin
DOB: 07/06/1983
Address: Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom, E17
18. UDDIN, Shamin, Mohammed
DOB: 22/11/1970
Address: Stoke Newington, London, United Kingdom
19. ZAMAN, Waheed
DOB: 27/05/1984
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17

When are we going to start using common sense and profile?

The Washington Examiner editorializes:

We recognize that the vast majority of Muslims do not share the Jihadist obsessions with killing Americans, Brits and other Westerners. But there is one undeniable fact about the 1993 World Trace Center bombers, the Sept. 11 murderers, the Madrid bombers, the London subway bombers and the present liquid bomb plotters......There is no room left for the blind politically correct procedures that ignore this reality -- our enemy is nearly always a young to middle-aged man from a Muslim nation or culture, and it is madness not to focus mainly on those who most readily match the known profile.

God Bless the Brits - Larry Kudlow

"We are confident that we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction and to commit, quite frankly, mass murder. Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale."-London Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Stephenson

Just in case anybody forgot, we are in the middle of a war.

Thank God for the British authorities. They did excellent work in unearthing this latest evil plot.

By the way, they used "sneak and peak" tactics to go into the homes of the terrorist suspects. These are tactics not permitted in the U.S. without a warrant.

There's a lesson here: Give the authorities whatever powers they need during wartime. Let's not forget the importance of total electronic surveillance, in addition to "sneak and peek."

By the time you tell the right number of Senators, House members, various judges, assorted bureaucrats and God knows who else, it could be too late. Please think of that.

There are reasons for taking these wartime measures which may infringe upon civil liberties, but does anyone truly believe we should be worried about the civil liberties of terrorists?

It is a miracle that the British security folks uncovered this plot. Their work saved untold innocent lives. God bless them.

August 10, 2006


Dan Drezner posts this analysis from Stratfor, which seems on point to me:

There are four takeaway lessons from this incident:

First, while there obviously remains a threat from those not only sympathetic to al Qaeda, but actually participating in planning with those in the al Qaeda apex leadership, their ability to launch successful attacks outside of the Middle East is severely degraded.

Second, if the cell truly does have 50 people and 21 have already been detained, then al Qaeda might have lost its ability to operate below the radar of Western -- or at least U.K. -- intelligence agencies. Al Qaeda's defining characteristic has always been its ability to maintain operational security. If that has been compromised, then al Qaeda's importance as a force has diminished greatly.

Third, though further attacks could occur, it appears al Qaeda has lost the ability to alter the political decision-making of its targets. The Sept. 11 attack changed the world. The Madrid train attacks changed a government. This failed airliner attack only succeeded in closing an airport temporarily.

Fourth, the vanguard of militant Islamism appears to have passed from Sunni/Wahhabi al Qaeda to Shiite Iran and Hezbollah. It is Iran that is shaping Western policies on the Middle East, and Hezbollah who is directly engaged with Israel. Al Qaeda, in contrast, appears unable to do significantly more than issue snazzy videos.

Iraq may be going poorly (OK, it is going poorly ... very poorly), but there are a lot of things we're doing right in the broader struggle.

Political Video of the Day

Not to make light of the thwarted terrorist attack, but ...

I don't think this ad is going to fly anymore:

As always, send nominations to:

Large Scale and Small Scale

Update to my item below:

Ross Douthat makes some similar points here. In particular, he notes that al Qaeda's propensity to go for big, dazzling attacks makes it less of a threat on a day-to-day basis. Such attacks are harder to pull off, and more likely to be uncovered before completion.

As a New Yorker, I wonder every day why there haven't been more small-scale attacks on soft targets. It would be almost impossible to stop and be much more disruptive of daily life. But al Qaeda's logic is aimed toward a world war and a global conflagration. All the more reason I think de-escalation has its merits.

Declaring Victory?

The news today that British authorities have thwarted a major terror attack aimed at airplanes traveling from Britain to the United States immediately put me in the mind of the article in this month's (September) Atlantic by James Fallows, titled "Declaring Victory" (pay link). The subhead sums up much of the argument: "The United States is succeeding in its struggle against terrorism. The time has come to declare the war on terror over, so that an even more effective military and diplomatic campaign can begin."

So, does news of another major attack -- even one that's been thwarted -- throw cold water on Fallows's argument? To quote weasely commentators everywhere: yes and no.

Essentially, Fallows argues, al Qaeda as it once existed has been degraded to a point where it's virtually meaningless. What we're really fighting now is a dispersed network of successor terrorist groups around the globe. But calling the fight against these groups a "war" isn't terribly useful.

Fallows writes:

As a general principle, a standing state of war can be justified for several reasons. It might be the only way to concentrate the nation's resources where they are needed. It might explain why people are being inconvenienced or asked to sacrifice. It might symbolize that the entire nation's effort is directed toward one goal.

But none of those applies to modern America in its effort to defend itself against terrorist attack. The federal budget reveals no discipline at all about resources: the spending for antiterrorism activities has gone up, but so has the spending for nearly everything else. There is no expectation that Americans in general will share the inconveniences and sacrifice of the 1 percent of the population in uniform (going through airport screening lines does not count). Occasional speeches about the transcendent importance of the "long war" can't conceal the many other goals that day by day take political precedence.

Far from serving any purpose, Fallows writes, the designation of this as a "war" is a great way to guarantee that we'll lose:

Perhaps worst of all, an open-ended war is an open-ended invitation to defeat. Sometime there will be more bombings, shootings, poisonings, and other disruptions in the United States. They will happen in the future because they have happened in the past (Oklahoma City; the Unabomber; the Tylenol poisonings; the Washington, D.C.-area snipers; the still-unsolved anthrax mailings; the countless shootings at schools; and so on). These previous episodes were not caused by Islamic extremists; future ones may well be. In all cases they represent a failure of the government to protect its people. But if they occur while the war is still on, they are enemy "victories," not misfortunes of the sort that great nations suffer. They are also powerful provocations to another round of hasty reactions.

The point, he argues, should be to de-escalate our rhetoric and deny our enemies the global war they want:

War implies emergency, and the upshot of most of what I heard was that the United States needs to shift its operations to a long-term, nonemergency basis. "De-escalation of the rhetoric is the first step," John Robb told me. "It is hard for insurgents to handle de-escalation." War encourages a simple classification of the world into ally or enemy. This polarization gives dispersed terrorist groups a unity they might not have on their own. Last year, in a widely circulated paper for the Journal of Strategic Studies, David Kilcullen argued that Islamic extremists from around the world yearn to constitute themselves as a global jihad. Therefore, he said, Western countries should do everything possible to treat terrorist groups individually, rather than "lumping together all terrorism, all rogue or failed states, and all strategic competitors who might potentially oppose U.S. objectives." The friend-or-foe categorization of war makes lumping together more likely.

The United States can declare victory by saying that what is controllable has been controlled: Al-Qaeda Central has been broken up. Then the country can move to its real work. It will happen on three levels: domestic protection, worldwide harassment and pursuit of al-Qaeda, and an all-fronts diplomatic campaign.

This is certainly not the first time someone has questioned the usefulness of the term "War on Terror" when it comes to our current conflict. It's always been troubling, this idea of waging war on a tactic. And it's always had disturbing parallels to the unwinnable War on Drugs.

But I think as we reach the fifth anniversary of 9/11/01, and as we near the end of the Bush administration, the question of how to conceive of the struggle in which we're involved, the question of who exactly we're fighting, the question of what exactly will constitute victory -- and what parts of this "war" will we all be fighting for the rest of our lives -- will have to be dealt with in some more systematic way. And with a change of administration, we will get some much-needed new blood and willingness to take a step back.

In 2004, there was much derision -- deservedly -- of John Kerry's characterization of the "War on Terror" as chiefly a law-enforcement matter. But "War" isn't quite right either.

In many ways, it's days like today that represent our biggest victories against the Islamic extremists. When we thwart an attack, unearth a network, disrupt their operations and jail their "soldiers," we've lived another day without their having scored a blow. Is this "law enforcement"? No, it's something much more aggressive than that -- a combination of domestic security, international law enforcement, intelligence gathering, diplomacy, arm-twisting of both friendly and hostile "allies" (it will be very interesting to get a sense of how much help Pakistan was to the U.S. and Britain in all of this), etc.

It's not law enforcement really, but it's also not war. It's something new. And five years in, we still don't have a good vocabulary to describe it.

Fallows and others may be underestimating the remaining operational capacity of al Qaeda -- details on the scope of its role in planning the airplane bombings will emerge, presumably.

But the underlying point that we must "normalize" the War on Terror seems sound.

Friends in Pakistan

Very interesting:

Pakistani intelligence agencies helped the British authorities foil the terror plot to blow up aircraft travelling between Britain and America, highly placed sources in Pakistan said today.

The agencies have been working closely with British anti-terror police in monitoring the activities of the suspected terrorists for some time, many of whom have links with Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups, The Times has learnt.

A Dangerous World

I'm a little late getting to news about the foiled terror plot (New York Times | Washington Post) which serves as today's reminder that the world is now an exceedingly dangerous place.

The insidious specifics of the plot also call to mind part of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's reply to Senator Clinton during last week's Armed Services Committee hearing: Does the enemy have a brain and continue to make adjustments? You bet.

bbcgraphic.gifUPDATE: My friend in England emails: "Focus of police investigation seems to be in the Thames Valley (Oxford - London corridor) where nine houses are about to be evacuated in the town of High Wycombe. An American expert on Sky News has mentioned large quantities of ammonium nitrate being found."

Apparently, Chertoff is receiving high marks overseas so far. You can see a video of his statement here. My friend also rates highly the peformance of new British Home Secretary John Reid, who is running point in Britain while Tony Blair is vacationing in the Caribbean, adding, "the journos are wary of him as he can be very prickily with what he perceives to be snobbery." You can see a video of Reid's statement here.

August 07, 2006

Paging Andrew Sullivan

I'm guessing he's already noted this case somewhere, yet: Arabic Speaker Discharged for Being Gay.

It still manages to shock.

Not much of a way to fight a war.

Meet Anna Diggs Taylor

She's the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in eastern Michigan who could "alter the war on terror" any day now with a ruling on the ACLU's suit to strike down the Bush administration's NSA surveillance program. The Detroit Free Press runs a lengthy and interesting profile on Taylor playing up the importance of her decision before coming to this rather anticlimactic conclusion:

But even if Taylor harpoons the spying program, experts said, the decision likely would be overturned by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Given the composition of the 6th Circuit and its previous rulings in related areas, it seems more likely to favor national security over civil liberties if that issue is squarely presented," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. "And that's what this case is all about."

July 28, 2006

The War Over Detainee Rights

On Wednesday David Cloud and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times reported the details of a draft of legislation proposed by the Bush administration to address the issue of detainee rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision last month.

The 32-page memo (available in full as a pdf file here) was drafted by Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury and tagged with a "close hold" designation - meaning the memo's circulation was to remain limited. Still, Cloud and Stolberg report the memo was leaked to the Times on Tuesday by "an official at an agency that is reviewing it."

A source within the military community suggested to me the memo was leaked to the Times so that it could be attacked in an effort to weaken support for it. There is a significant debate raging both in Congress - particularly the Senate - and between uniformed and civilian lawyers in the JAG Corps and the Pentagon whether to pursue a military commission/modified tribunal plan such as the one drafted by Bradbury, or the approach supported by Senators McCain and Graham which would model legal proceedings for suspected terrorists after those provided for a military courts-martial.

The Bradbury draft contains some important points worth highlighting. First, it takes on the heart of the SCOTUS Hamdan ruling by explicitly stating the Geneva Conventions "are not a source of judicially enforceable individual rights." In other words, terrorist suspects like Hamdan cannot get access to our court system based on a claim that their Geneva Convention rights have been violated.

Second, the Bradbury draft places a great deal of discretion in the hands of the tribunal judge. The draft stipulates that "statements obtained by the use of torture" are not permitted, but in most other instances evidence will be allowable if the judge deems it has "probative value." Sections 102-6 and 102-7 lay out the case for why this approach is preferable:

(6) The use of military commissions is particularly important because the conflict between the United States and international terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces generally makes other alternatives, such as the use of Federal courts or courts-martial, are impracticable. The terrorists with whom the United States is engaged in armed conflict have demonstrated a commitment to the destruction of the United States and its people, to violation of the laws of war, and to the abuse of American legal processes. In a time of ongoing armed conflict, it is neither practicable nor appropriate for alien enemy combatants like al Qaeda terrorists to be tried like American citizens in Federal courts or courts-martial.

(7) Many procedures for courts martial would not be practicable in trying alien enemy combatants for whom this Act provides for trial by military commission. For instance, court-martial proceedings would in certain circumstances-

(A) require the Government to share classified information with the accused, even though members of al Qaeda cannot be trusted with our Nation's secrets and it would not be consistent with the national security of the United States to provide them with access to classified information;

(B) exclude the use of hearsay evidence determined to be probative and reliable, even though the hearsay statements from, for example, fellow terrorists are often the only evidence available in this conflict, given that terrorists rarely fight and declare their intentions openly but instead pursue terrorist objectives in secret conspiracies the objectives of which can often be discerned only or primarily through hearsay statements from collaborators; and

(C) specify speedy trials and technical rules for sworn and authenticated statements when, due to the exigencies of wartime, the United States cannot safely require members of the armed forces to gather evidence on the battlefield as though they were police officers nor can the United States divert members from the front lines and their duty stations to attend military commission proceedings.

This last point strikes me as absolutely essential. Obviously, we want to facilitate some sort of process for adjudicating cases of suspected terrorists, but it would be absolute insanity to establish such a high threshold so as to further burden our soldiers in the field.

President Bush will be making a choice between the two approaches in the very near future - perhaps as early as next week. As I mentioned earlier, my military source suggested that leaking of the Bradbury memo may be a deliberate attempt to try and influence Bush's decision by ginning up a negative reaction to the military commission approach. We'll have to see what happens, and what The Decider decides.

July 14, 2006

Never Quit the Fight

peters.jpg Ralph Peters's new book came in the mail the other day. As longtime RCP readers know, Peters's New York Post columns are often featured on the frontpage, and we're also proud to say that Ralph has become a direct regular contributor to RealClearPolitics in recent months.

"Never Quit the Fight" is a collection of essays written by Peters over the last three years. Peters has long been one of the most powerful voices around arguing for a robust approach to the War on Terror, and he's also been, without question, one of the most forceful and eloquent defender of U.S. troops anywhere in the world. And from the very start of the book's introduction, it's abundantly clear that Peters is less than pleased about the way things have gone since the late summer of 2003:

Despite glances backward and projections into the distant future, the themes addressed here were dictated by this brief, turbulent, inspiring, and disheartening period. A nation at war pretended that it was not. A presidential administration insisted that we were at war but acted as though the greed-spurred 1990's had never ended. A national election offered the American people one of the poorest choices in our history, between an incumbent administration that stood for arrogance, corruption, and security, and a challenger who emanated fecklessness, weakness, and a spirit of surrender. We gritted our teeth and chose the man who would fight over a man who didn't seem to stand for anything at all....

Abroad, our men and women in uniform fought remarkably well despite poor national leadership on one hand and a hard-left minority on the other that seemed to feel more empathy for Islamist terrorists than for our own troops. "Support our troops, bring them home!" became the most cynical political mantra since the McCarthy era. Yet our troops never wavered. They deserve far more respect and recognition than an insincere political class and our toxic media will grant them.

Nobody is more straightfoward or hard-hitting than Peters. If you're as much of a fan of his work as I am, "Never Quit the Fight" is absolute must-reading.

July 13, 2006

McCaffrey on Gitmo

Retired General Barry McCaffrey visited Gitmo recently and filed a report which you can read in full here (via RedState). The following are a few of McCaffrey's key observations:

-- "The JTF Guantanamo Detention Center is the most professional, firm, humane and carefully supervised confinement operation that I have ever personally observed."

-- "There is now zero physical or mental abuse of prisoners in this facility by either guard personnel or military intelligence interrogators."

-- "The actual identities of all detainees are now known. One third of Detainees are privately cooperative. Six to eight percent have mental health problems. (15% of US prison population.) Ten percent are routinely, overtly hostile. Approximately one third of current detainees are extremely dangerous, trained, and clever --and might be classified as capable of leadership of terrorist operations."

-- "During the first 18 months of the war on terror there were widespread, systematic abuses of detainees under US control in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Some were murdered and hundreds tortured or abused. This caused enormous damage to U.S. military operations and created significant and enduring damage to US international standing. We have been routinely condemned by the international community."

-- "In my view, U.S. Military detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo are now operating professionally and in accordance with our historical U.S. Military standards and values. However, the international community no longer believes us. The publicly expressed beliefs of even our closest allies now border on hysteria. We are in most parts of the world believed to be a greater threat than North Korea and Iran. This is the context in which Guantanamo is being judged."

-- "We need to be completely transparent with the international legal and media communities about the operations of our detention procedures wherever they are located. Arrogance, secrecy, and bad judgment have mired us in a mess in Guantanamo from which we are having great difficulty in extricating ourselves. The current JTF detention operations commanded by General John Craddock and Rear Admiral Harry Harris should be a source of great pride to the U.S. military. Unfortunately, we are dragging some unwholesome historical baggage which has contaminated our current extremely professional handling of these dangerous and blood-thirsty terrorists."

July 11, 2006

DoD Memo on Terror Detainees - Jed Babbin

The new memorandum about the status of terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and elsewhere - signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England on Friday -- is being widely misreported. The memo, which is reproduced in full below, doesn't say that the terrorists are now POWs under the Geneva Conventions or that they will be afforded the full rights and protections of the Geneva Conventions.

What it does say is that with the exception of the military tribunals tossed out by the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan, the treatment of the terrorist enemy combatants - under the cited Defense Department and Army manuals - is believed to be consistent with Geneva standards. The media hype of this is entirely wrong.

There is no torture or humiliating or degrading treatment (ask Sen. McCain) of prisoners, and the International Committee of the Red Cross already has access to the prisoners at Gitmo. The only change that this memo may - and I stress may, not shall -- force is the revealing of secret locations at which terrorists are held, or closing these locations and moving all not there already to Gitmo. That, in itself, would be a huge change and a very destructive one. But the new memo doesn't decide that question. The press should quiet down a bit until we know more.


July 10, 2006

Truman's Ideological Heirs

Noemie Emery has a great article in this week's Weekly Standard on Harry Truman and his foreign policy ideological heirs. She confronts many of the myths modern day liberal hawks push concerning Truman's legacy and George W. Bush's foreign policy. She asks:

One wonders, would today's liberal hawks have made of him (Truman) and Korea, given their penchant for neat, well-planned wars that end quickly, and their standard of zero mistakes? Would they have screamed for the scalp of Acheson? Ripped Truman to shreds for having gone in too rashly? Flayed him alive for undoubted misjudgments? Said (as did John Kerry and some "pro-war" Democrats) that while they supported the invasion in theory, they had never expected Harry Truman "to f-- it up as badly as he did"? If they quail at the expense of Iraq, what would they have said to the expense of Korea? If they quail at casualties of under 3,000, what would they have said to the more than 37,000 dead? Would they have been among the 23 percent who stayed loyal to Harry? Or would there have been second thoughts, mea culpas, and abject, not to say groveling, apologies to the antiwar left?

What is fascinating is while the Beinarts and Holbrookes debate the history of Truman's legacy, ground zero of the fight for the Democratic Party is on display in the Connecticut primary battle between one of the few remaining Harry Truman Democrats in Joe Lieberman versus the McGovern/Howard Dean/Netroots Ned Lamont.

And if Lieberman is defeated August 8th (I don't anticipate Lieberman losing) it may be the final nail in the coffin for the dwindling band of FDR/Truman/JFK/Scoop Jackson Democrats.

July 08, 2006

Krauthammer on NYC Plot, the Press and No Attacks Since 9/11

From yesterday's Special Report roundtable, Charles Krauthammer on the FBI's uncovering of the plot to attack transit tunnels under the Hudson River running into New York City, the press, and no attacks since 9/11.

The big mystery here is in two months we're going to be at the fifth anniversary of 9/11. There's not a person I know who would have expected we go one year let alone half a decade without a second attack. And because of our patriotic press, we now have some idea of how it was done. Tracing the money, tracing -- listening on in their phone calls and also having the bad guys, the big, the leaders of the bad guys in secret prisons getting interrogated, under difficult conditions, shall we say. With all of that has been exposed in our press, it explains to a large extent why we have not had a second attack.

It's not an armistice, and it's not an accident, it's good work on our part, however our sources and our methods are now in jeopardy as a result of that.

July 05, 2006

Zero Progress

Over at, you can watch a time-lapse video of the "progress" at Ground Zero over the past 101 days (March 26 - July 4).

Yes, I suppose this is of primary interest to New Yorkers. But the utter bureaucratic failure at the World Trade Center site -- presided over by one George Elmer Pataki -- is a national disgrace.

July 03, 2006

The New York Times' Damage to Our Nation's Security - Jed Babbin

The New York Times and its media camp followers are mischaracterizing the impact of its latest publication of secret information. They have totally shifted the debate to a straw man argument - that in order to keep secrets, they must be convinced that publication will lead to the loss of life - and that the administration's spokesmen, from the president on down, have taken to tearing up the straw man.

The New York Times - and its latest partner in perfidy, the LA Times - say they decide publication of secrets on the basis of whether their publication will directly result in the deaths of Americans. They point to the World War II standard, in which ships' sailing times, if published, could have resulted in German submarines sinking the ships. But al-Queda and Hizballah and the rest have no U-boat wolfpacks. Terrorists cannot kill unless we are unable to detect and interdict the means by which they do. And they rely, equally importantly, on the refusal of the nations of Old Europe and the Pacific to cooperate with us publicly.

We have had, in the past year, three instances of stories published by the Times and the Washington Post that have severely reduced our ability to interdict, capture and disrupt terrorists. These actions, by the most irresponsible press in the history of the nation, have greatly reduced our ability to fight the war against terrorists and to protect our homes from terrorist attacks. In two of the three - the WaPo story of the secret CIA prisons and the NYT articles on the SWIFT program tracing terrorist fund transfers through the Belgian conglomerate - the newspapers revealed both directly and indirectly the nations that were cooperating with us in secret. And "were" is the operative word.

As WaPo reporter Dana Priest admitted on Meet the Press Sunday, the CIA has had to relocate some of its secret prisons because it was revealed that nations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere were cooperating with us in secret. What we don't know is what else those nations were doing - including sharing intelligence with us on terrorist operations - that may also have been interrupted. Now, with the NYT report on the SWIFT program, we know that the exposure may result in the program's termination. According to a UPI report, "The Belgian government says it will look into U.S. data mining of private financial records held by SWIFT -- a Brussels-based global banking entity." We need to ask what are the legal frontiers in this case and whether it is right that a U.S. civil servant could look at private transactions without the approval of a Belgian judge," government spokesman Didier Seus said..." Belgium, which has been publicly opposed to the Iraq invasion, won't allow itself to be discovered cooperating with us in tracing terror financing. Its politics of appeasement require that the SWIFT program be terminated.

Since 9-11, none but a few of our former allies have given us more than lip service to help fight terrorism. And among them, fewer still have been willing to do so openly. When those who cooperate in secret are exposed, the damage is enormous, whether someone dies the next day or not. The NYT and WaPo bloody well knew, before the stories ran, that their publication of the CIA prisons and the SWIFT program would make it impossible for some nations to continue cooperating with us. By using their power to interrupt nations' cooperation with us, the New York Times and the Washington Post have done more damage to our nation's security than Usama bin Laden has been able to since 9-11. They have become a weapon in the terrorist arsenal. Their claims to still be guardians of our freedom are laughable, and tragically so.

June 30, 2006

Hamdan Coverage

Plenty of Hamdan coverage today, led by Ron Cass here at RealClearPolitics. If you're looking for more commentary, there's an absolute deluge on Buzztracker.

June 23, 2006

The Queen of Saboteurs - Larry Kudlow

NY TIMES.jpgThe New York Times is doing one heckuva job underming U.S. national security.

The Gray Lady's latest attempt to thwart the men and women charged with the vital task of unearthing terrorists, and capturing them before they steal any more innocent American lives, came last night when, against the repeated requests of the White House, the paper went ahead and revealed yet another classified program designed to gather information used to foil terrorist attacks like 9/11.

The saboteurs at the Times provided secret details into the Bush administration's use of subpoenas to gather large troves of data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Belgium-based consortium that handles international bank transfers. Financial data is used to identify terrorists before they get a chance to kill. It is an eminently sensible program, and one that has reaped rewards.

In one instance, the SWIFT program was used to capture a top Al Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, in Thailand in 2003.

The folks running the printing presses at the Times don't seem to care about any of this. They went ahead and made the determination that the SWIFT program was "a matter of public interest."

Gabriel Schoenfeld, the editor of Commentary magazine, had this to say about the New York Times in an interview with The New York Sun:

"They're courting prosecution...They're increasingly behaving like if we were in the middle of World War II and they learned of plans to invade Normandy. Because they decided it's a matter of public interest, they'd publish it. I think this is reckless and likely to encourage Attorney General Gonzales to prosecute them, if not for this story, for some of the other things they've done."

The New York Times is blinded by its hatred of George W. Bush. And, because of this, these boneheads compromise the lives of all Americans.

The Gray Lady has become the Queen of Saboteurs.

May 25, 2006

Hamid Mir: al-Qaeda Has Nukes

The Canada Free Press (CFP) just sent out an email promoting a number of stories on their site, including this interview with Hamid Mir. I'm not familiar with Mir or the CFP, so I don't want to vouch for the credibility of either, but the material contained in the interview sure does make for interesting reading:

RM: It has been reported that you believe Al-Qaeda has nuclear weapons. How did you come up with this conclusion?

HM: I came up with this conclusion after eight years of investigation and research in the remote mountain areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I traveled to Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Russia and met dozens of people. I interviewed not only Al-Qaeda operatives but met scientists and top U.S. officials also. I will have the details in my coming book.

At least two Al-Qaeda operatives claimed that the organization smuggled suitcase nukes inside America. But I have no details on who did it. But I do have details about who smuggled uranium inside America and how.

I am very careful when speaking about Al-Qaeda's nuclear capabilities. I've met many people in Al-Qaeda who have claimed that uranium and nuclear bombs were smuggled to America, and I'll quote them in my book. However, when I speak for myself, I don't rely on claims by Al-Qaeda. I rely upon my own investigations.

RM: How many nuclear weapons does Al-Qaeda possess?

HM: As far as I know, they smuggled three suitcase nukes from Russia to Europe. They smuggled many kilos of enriched uranium inside America for their dirty bomb projects. They said in 1999 that they must have material for more than six dirty bombs in America. They tested at least one dirty bomb in the Kunar province of Afghanistan in 2000.

They have planned an attack bigger than 9/11, even before 9/11 happened. Osama Bin Laden trained 42 fighters to destroy the American economy and military might. 19 were used on 9/11, 23 are still "sleeping" inside America waiting for a wake-up call from Bin Laden.

Read the whole thing.

May 11, 2006

Connecting-the-Dots, Data Mining and the Loss of Real Civil Liberties

In the run up to the 2004 election I debated a very left-wing professor who went on and on about how the Patriot Act was essentially a reincarnation of Gestapo or KGB tactics. I responded that I was of course concerned about individual liberties and the unfettered power of the state, but that in the post-9/11 world there is a balancing act between liberty and security, and that I would be more sympathetic to critics of the Patriot Act if they could point to specific cases of abuse. Show me the real alive Jane and Joe Americans who have had their liberties violated in some grotesque manner by the Patriot Act. Needless to say, the professor moved on.

I ask the same question today to the bloggers and pundits out there who are hyperventilating over the latest revelation that our security agencies are actually trying to do their job. Many of the people decrying these violations of civil liberties are the same ones who ripped the government for its inability to "connect-the-dots" prior to 9/11.

But the paranoia on the left, and in particular, the hatred for the Bush administration has become so intense there is an automatic assumption that the NSA has to be engaging in nefarious activity, spying on you and your neighbor. The idea that the agency is thinking creatively and proactively about how they can legally monitor the bad guys instead of just going about business as usual is, apparently, out of the question for some. The sad truth is it is probably going to take another devastating attack to convince many in this country that we are actually at war against Islamic jihadists.

That is something true civil libertarians should think long and hard about. The more vigilant we are today in preventing attacks, the more it will pay off in spades in terms of protecting our civil liberties in the future. Because if this country gets hit with a small nuke and 30,000 or 100, 000 Americans die, all of the debating will be over. The ensuing crackdown will be massive, and the loss of REAL civil liberties will become very, very possible.

Howard Power

Australian Prime Minister John Howard tells British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith to bugger-off over the case of Australian Gitmo detainee David Hicks.

May 09, 2006

Winners Don't Ask For Do-Overs

If there were any doubts about who "won" and who "lost" in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the convicted terrorist's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, filed the day after his sentencing and reported yesterday, should put those doubts to rest. Winners do not ask for do-overs, and they don't make excuses to justify their behavior, as Moussaoui tried to do in the court filing: "Solitary confinement made me hostile toward everyone, and I began taking extreme positions to fight the system." Sorry, dude, tell it to Allah.

This little episode proves, in a deliciously ironic way, that the jury made a courageous and correct decision to let Moussaoui rot. Like others, I have serious reservations about trying terrorists through our civilian court system because it's simply not built to handle enemy combatants during wartime. Whether or not the civilian court system was the best place to try Zacarias Moussaoui is still open for debate, but given Moussaoui's groveling, the correctness of the sentence he received is not. Put in a context our enemies can understand, in this instance Moussaoui turned out to be the weak horse, and the U.S. justice system the strong one.

May 08, 2006

This is The Enemy

UPDATE: The Jawa Report is now reporting that the individual having their head cut off is not Atwar Bahjat, but rather a Nepalese man who was murdered in August 2004.

From the RCP Readers Articles page Adam has submitted this piece from yesterday's London Sunday Times.

Part of Me Died When I Saw This Cruel Killing

Nobody but her killers knew just how much she had suffered until a film showing her death on February 22 at the hands of two musclebound men in military uniforms emerged last week. Her family's worst fears of what might have happened have been far exceeded by the reality.....

First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.

Then her arms were bound behind her back. A golden locket in the shape of Iraq that became her glittering trademark in front of the television cameras must have been removed at some point -- it is nowhere to be seen in the grainy film, which was made by someone who pointed a mobile phone at her as she lay on a patch of earth in mortal terror.

A large man dressed in military fatigues, boots and cap approaches from behind and covers her mouth with his left hand. In his right hand, he clutches a large knife with a black handle and an 8in blade. He proceeds to cut her throat from the middle, slicing from side to side.

Her cries -- "Ah, ah, ah" -- can be heard above the "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) intoned by the holder of the mobile phone.

Even then, there is no quick release for Bahjat. Her executioner suddenly stands up, his job only half done. A second man in a dark T-shirt and camouflage trousers places his right khaki boot on her abdomen and pushes down hard eight times, forcing a rush of blood from her wounds as she moves her head from right to left.
Only now does the executioner return to finish the task. He hacks off her head and drops it to the ground, then picks it up again and perches it on her bare chest so that it faces the film-maker in a grotesque parody of one of her pieces to camera.

The voice of one of the Arab world's most highly regarded and outspoken journalists has been silenced. She was 30.

This is the enemy we fight.

The "Allahu akbar" is the same words you hear from the four terrorists in 'United 93' and it will be the same words uttered by future jihadis when they hit us again.

May 04, 2006

'United 93' and the Moussaoui Verdict

I found myself waiting for the verdict yesterday, not really sure what I wanted the jury to decide. I of course have zero sympathy for Moussaoui, but as someone who usually has no problem having an opinion on things, I found it a little weird my ambivalence as to what I thought should happen to Moussaoui.

Froma Harrop and Peggy Noonan have two very different takes on the verdict and I find myself agreeing more with Harrop when she writes:

So let's thank the jury for depriving Moussaoui of the glorious execution he yearned for. Instead, he'll be left to rot behind bars and die too old to enjoy the imagined virgins. That is the most appropriate punishment and also the best revenge.

And I reject Noonan's characterization that the verdict "speaks not of gentleness but fear." Having not served on the jury and heard all of the evidence, I do not know how I would have ultimately voted, but given what I do know, it is certainly possible I might have preferred life in prison for Moussaoui. And believe me it wouldn't have been out of fear. Who is Peggy Noonan to declare that these jurors were afraid?

I saw 'United 93' last week with the intention of writing a piece on the movie, but afterwards I found it difficult to write anything. Almost from the beginning I found myself on the edge of my seat the entire movie. When I see pictures of Moussaoui, I see him in that movie flying that plane. I think every American should go to see 'United 93'. I think our media that takes such perverse pleasure in showing pictures of Abu Ghraib ad nausuem and griping about the conditions in Guantanamo should have the guts to show the American people what happened on September 11, 2001.

I'm afraid that large portions of our society are so quick to find any fault in America that they lose track of who the good guys and the bad guys are. I am not afraid of letting Moussaoui rot in prison for the rest of his pathetic life.

Whether you agree or disagree with this verdict, we as Americans should be proud and unapologetic for how our system works. It isn't perfect, but it is the best.

April 25, 2006

The Desert One Debacle

The new Atlantic has a great article by Mark Bowden on the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages from Tehran in 1980. The online editors have set up a special page that has photos, videos, and maps along with Bowdon's cover story "The Desert One Debacle."

It is fascinating to read in light of the very real potential for some kind of special forces action against Iran in the next three years. The "debacle" of that failed Delta Force mission 26 years ago stands in stark contrast to the attitude and competence of the U.S. military today. Reading the article you can viscerally feel the difference in morale from circa spring 1980 versus morale today (notwithstanding a few disgruntled generals.)

This is something our nation's leaders should keep in mind as the country continues to debate the wisdom of what U.S. troops are doing in Iraq. The United States turned its back on the military in the 1970's and you can feel the consequence of that reading Bowden's article. Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of our current action in Iraq right now, we should never again turn our back on the men and women who defend the freedom we so often take for granted.

Mary McCarthy's Betrayal

Our friend Peter Brookes sent us these comments on the CIA leak case. Peter is a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation on national security affairs and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Asian and Pacific Affairs earlier in the Bush Administration.

The allegations against CIA officer Mary McCarthy over leaking sensitive operational intelligence information to the press are deadly serious. Some Democrats, left-wing pundits, the MSM and other assorted Bush-bashers are looking to make this case a cause celebre using political spin, inaccurate analogies and a heavy dose of relativism to justify the accused's actions. Here's what you need to know:
1. The release of intelligence after being declassified by an authorized authority (e.g., the Iraq National Intelligence Estimate by the White House) directly to the public--or via the press--is not a "leak," and is, therefore, legal. The unauthorized release of classified information to the public (e.g., the allegations against Mary McCarthy) is a "leak," and against the law.

2. If an intelligence official is concerned about conduct they consider to be inappropriate/illegal, measures exist to make competent authority aware of the situation. An agency's Inspector General is a good option. Failing that avenue, an intelligence official can always turn to appropriately cleared congressional oversight committees such as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence or the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Resigning in protest is also an option; running to the press isn't.

3. The fact that McCarthy is accused of leaking operational (as opposed to analytical intelligence such as that which was contained in the Iraq NIE) is especially egregious. Most serious: the disclosure of operational information (e.g., intelligence sources and methods) can put American operatives as well as our foreign agents in danger. The bad guys read the press, especially the American press, which--unfortunately-- is rife with sensitive information. Moreover, since operational information is so sensitive, its disclosure makes friendly foreign intelligence partners reluctant to share information with the U.S. That can really hurt with the war on terror and the Iranian nuclear program still on the boil.

4. The accused undoubtedly signed a federal government secrecy oath, saying that she understands that she will be entrusted with highly-sensitive information which can cause harm to U.S. national security, and that if she discloses intelligence to individuals not authorized to receive it, she may be prosecuted. The accused is NOT a hero as some would suggest. She not only broke the law, but she violated the special trust she was given to her by being granted a security clearance and access to sensitive intelligence.

5. While U.S. government employees are allowed to have political views, they shouldn't be mixing them with their work. Let's just say her political career is interesting: Clinton NSC staff, moved off by the incoming Bush administration, sizeable cash donations to the DNC, and $2,000 contribution to the Kerry campaign in 2004. It's not clear her actions were politically motivated at this point, but you do the math...

CIA Director Porter Goss is right to hunt down leakers. In some instances, leaks do irreparable damage to U.S. national security in the same way espionage by an American citizen does. It provides sensitive national security information to an unauthorized audience. Leaking to the press, regrettably, ensures the widest dissemination of our nation's secrets. We can only hope that this case will deter others from taking such a reckless course with America's well-being.

April 19, 2006

Re-Fighting the Decision to go to War

Three emails on my post that much of the Rumsfeld furor is re-fighting the election and the decision to go to war.

I totally agree with your article. It is so tedious to listen to the same shop worn arguments year after year. But I've noticed that political partisans really believe that if you repeat the same lies often enough people will begin to believe that they are the truth. The MSM is certainly determined to repeat Tet and Watergate, and from the current poll numbers I can see that they are making progress. Maybe they will break the will of the American people and hand the victory to the terrorists. Bush needs to succeed before he leaves office since his successor is unlikely to campaign on a promise of more-of-the-same.


As a 'critic' of nearly everything Bush has done, I find it necessary to point out a few important errors in your article. You state "the public through their elected representatives in Congress overwhelmingly supported President Bush's decision to go to war." Did we really? That is total BS. Bush lied (and continues to lie) through his teeth to get the war his neocons have had wet dreams about for the last 20 years. So it's is neither fair, nor accurate to say America "overwhelmingly" supported Bush. Let me say it again: HE LIED. Do you get it now? That means the 'approval' you refer to was nothing of the sort.

Second, whatever you might think or say, Bush is not now, nor has he ever been "President". He stole the election in 2000 and 2004 and he and his blood thirsty cabal are as illegitimate as it is possible to be. I hope to live to see the day when this information works its way to the surface, as such fecal material almost always eventually does.

Wake up. This isn't about Republicans and Democrats. Open your eyes before it's too late, unless it already is.


Your contention that the 2004 Presidential election is an everlasting referendum on the Iraq War decision is faulty. As any political consultant will attest, elected leaders cannot rule autocratically once voted into office. To garner influence, they must part of a "permanent campaign" to win public approval for their ideas and their leadership qualities. Although electoral outcomes decide which people win public office, they do not ascertain power.

Consider President Bush's legislative fortunes as of late. Whether the issue be Harriet Miers, Dubai Ports or immigration reform, the chief executive has shown little clout as his pleas fall on Congress' def ears. Certainly with a higher approval rating, the President would be powerful enough to shape the agenda of Washington as he had during his first term with tax matters and education reform. In his current weakened state, however, the President's latest pitch for private accounts in government health care made hardly a whisper.

The same principle applies with Iraq. Assuming the small margin of victory in the 2004 election was decided by voter preference for regime change in Iraq (and not by personal "leadership" characteristics or public attitudes toward terrorism in general as many experts contend); the electoral outcome still does insulate the commander-in-chief today from criticism toward his policy. Public opinion is not static. In 2004, half of America supported the decision to go to war with Iraq.

Today, the number still in support is a minority. In 2004, exit polls showed the voting public entrusted the GOP to handle matters of terrorism and security by a wide margin, yet this is the case no longer. As the President's job approval has declined, so to has his political immunity toward criticism of his Iraq policy.

April 18, 2006

Re-Fighting the Election

Critics of President Bush's policy in Iraq conveniently forget that the public through their elected representatives in Congress overwhelmingly supported President Bush's decision to go to war. Then two years later, despite all of the news about no WMD and the start of the insurgency in Iraq, the public voted to retain President Bush as Commander in Chief. And it wasn't as if Iraq was a non-issue in the 2004 campaign. We had a free, open and spirited election and the opponents of the President's policy in Iraq made their arguments......and lost.

Retired Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold who set off the recent firestorm against Rumsfeld, and in turn President Bush, wrote in Time Magazine:

I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda.

That's a perfectly fine opinion and I'm sure it is shared by millions of Americans. But generals (whether retired or active) don't set policy in the United States. This is not Venezuela or Pakistan. It is one thing for retired officers to question the execution of the President's policy and whether that was (and is) being carried out competently or effectively by his Secretary of Defense. But Newbold is quite clearly attacking the policy itself. His use of the word "zealot" to describe the President's rationale for war is a clear attempt to characterize the President as out of the mainstream.

Newbold and his supporters in the press should be reminded that President Bush's "rationale" for war was mainstream enough for 51% of American voters in 2004.

If critics of the President's policy wanted to be more constructive, they would suggest how we can better execute in Iraq, rather than continue to fight a policy they never liked or supported. There have been mistakes (as there always are in war) and there are plenty of opportunities to second-guess decisions by Rumsfeld, but proponents of adjusting our Iraq policy would find more support if they stopped trying to re-fight the decision to go to war and the last election. We had the policy debate in 2004 and the opponents of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lost.

April 14, 2006

The Knives Are Out For Rummy

David Ignatius joins the chorus of folks calling for the head of Secretary Don Rumsfeld in today's Washington Post. Ignatius calls Rumsfeld a "spent force" and says that he's lost nearly all support from the officers' corps:

When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.

David Cloud and Eric Schmitt co-author a front page story in today's New York Times profiling the growing ranks of retired generals - currently numbering six - that have come forward to call for Rumsfeld's ouster. Well into the second page of the article, however, we get a dissenting opinion:

Some officers who have worked closely with Mr. Rumsfeld reject the idea that he is primarily to blame for the inability of American forces to defeat the insurgency in Iraq. One active-duty, four-star Army officer said he had not heard among his peers widespread criticism of Mr. Rumsfeld, and said he thought the criticism from his retired colleagues was off base. "They are entitled to their views, but I believe them to be wrong. And it is unfortunate they have allowed themselves to become in some respects, politicized."

Yesterday in a press briefing Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace offered a vigorous defense of Secretary Rumsfeld saying, "this country is exceptionally well-served by the man standing on my left." Pace also defended the process and the decision making of the prewar planning, saying he was very comfortable with the way it was done and pointing out that the invasion plan was approved by all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Loren Thompson, a military analyst of the Lexington Institute, told the Christian Science Monitor that while some of the rancor towards Rumsfeld can be attributed to his well publicized efforts to transform the military, "much of the officer corps thinks he simply doesn't understand technology or operations in sufficient depth to grasp the consequences of his policies, and yet he routinely uses his position to quash dissent."

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Charles Stevenson of The School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University agrees that Rumsfeld has "lost some important allies on [Capitol] Hill and in the senior military" but that he doesn't expect to see Rumsfeld leaving any time soon:

"I don't see how the President would find it in his political interest to get rid of Rumsfeld unless he also wants to change policy and use Rumsfeld as kind of a scapegoat or whipping boy or whatever. But there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the President wants to blame anybody or change his mind."

This echoes the theme from my column two weeks ago, where I argued that Bush wouldn't replace Rumsfeld because doing so would "would be seen as a tacit admission of failure in Iraq - something that would give the Democrats a neatly-wrapped gift for the elections this November and, more importantly, would be interpreted as a sign of weakness by our enemies overseas and cast further doubt on our commitment and resolve to hang tough in Iraq."

Getting harangued by a few retired generals is one thing, losing support from 75%+ of senior level active duty military officers (as Ignatius suggests today) is another. Whether Ignatius is accurate, or whether he's passing along badly skewed anecdotal information, remains to be seen.

March 24, 2006

The Moussaoui Case

Yesterday the prosecutors seeking the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui rested their case. TSA lawyer Carla Martin, the woman who put the case in jeopardy by sharing evidence with witnesses in violation of Judge Brinkema's order, has been ordered to testify at a court hearing on Monday.

MORE: Debra Burlingame says prosecutors in the Moussaoui trial have done nothing wrong.

March 23, 2006

Does Abdul Rahman Foreshadow a Bigger Problem?

Yesterday Michelle Malkin brought to our attention the plight of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani currently facing execution for converting to Christianity 16 years ago. Both the Washington Times and New York Times have editorials out today decrying this affront to civilized society. The Washington Times asks: "What have American soldiers achieved if they have not eliminated this barbaric medieval legacy?"

Afghanistan looks to be moving towards declaring Rahman "mentally unfit," allowing for a face-saving way to diffuse this diplomatically explosive situation. I don't think it is an overstatement to say that had Rahman been executed, U.S.-Afghanistan relations would have been destroyed. So, while Rahman looks likely to be spared the barbarism of Shari'a law, the case exposes a gaping problem with the President's democracy initiative.

Is democracy compatible with Islamic law?

Administration officials have said over and over that we shouldn't expect democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan to look like democracy in England or the U.S. That's fine - up to a point. But reasonable people have to wonder how the new Afghanistan, with a government we essentially installed, can legally allow executions based solely on one's religion.

Andy McCarthy points out our complicity in the drafting of these laws we are now decrying.

You reap what you sow. What is happening in Afghanistan (and in Iraq) is precisely what we bought on to when we actively participated in the drafting of constitutions which -- in a manner antithetical to the development of true democracy -- ignored the imperative to insulate the civil authority from the religious authority, installed Islam as the state religion, made sharia a dominant force in law, and expressly required that judges be trained in Islamic jurisprudence. To have done all those things makes outrage at today's natural consequences ring hollow.

We can pull our heads up from the sand now and say, "No, no, no! We're nice people. We didn't mean it that way. That's too uncivilized to contemplate." But the inescapable truth is: the United States made a calculated decision that it wasn't worth our while to fight over Islamic law (indeed, we encouraged it as part of the political solution). People who objected (like moi) were told that we just didn't grasp the cultural dynamic at work. I beg to differ -- we understood it only too well.

Islamic law does not consider conviction, imprisonment, or death for apostasy to be an affront to civilization. That's the way it is.

And that is a big problem for President Bush, the United States and the entire free world.

At some point this is an issue that cannot continue to be papered over with diplomatic niceties. There are certain minimum standards of acceptable conduct for nations that expect be allies of the United States in 2006. The sooner we start telling our "friends" that these types of laws are simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated any more than we would tolerate laws that allowed slavery, the better.

MORE: Special Report with Brit Hume - Roundtable Discusses the Rahman Case

March 16, 2006

George Shultz on Iraq

Yesterday in a speech on the War on Terror at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, former Secretary of State George Shultz said, "The world has never been in a situation of better promise than now. The terrorists must not be allowed to abort this opportunity."

Here's more on his speech from The Daily Princetonian:

Shultz, who traced the war on terror back to the 1970s, divided the struggle into three stages.

The first period, which lasted until Sept. 11, 2001, was marked by U.S. passivity and inaction toward terrorist attacks. Even in the 1990s, the U.S. government was aware of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda but failed to check their growth, much like American inaction during Hitler's rise to power, Shultz said.

"The terrorists had completely free reign," he said.

September 11 set off the second, active military phase of the war against radical Islam, Shultz said. Americans were now aware that terrorist groups could target not just sovereign states, but also world finance, tourism and even air travel.

At present, with the war in its third stage, Shultz said that economic and military sustainability are vital for America to prevail. And in Iraq, he said, Americans must remain dedicated to the cause.

"We took far too long to put an Iraqi face on what we are doing in that country, but Iraqis now have responsibility," he said.

Think about that for a moment: roughly four years of force after thirty years of passivity. During that time, the two thousand six-hundred U.S. military personnel who have paid the ultimate price in defense of their country also liberated more than 30 million people from the yolk of tyranny, oppression and terror.

It's disheartening that more Americans don't take the long view about what sort of perseverance the war against Islamic radicalism is going to take on our part and also that they aren't quicker to recognize the significant historical achievements produced by our efforts so far.

March 06, 2006

Gitmo Better Than Belgian Prisons

Well, well:

Inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison are treated better than in Belgian jails, an expert for Europe's biggest security organization said on Monday after a visit to the controversial U.S. detention center. [snip]

Grignard told a news conference that prisoners' right to practice their religion, food, clothes and medical care were better than in Belgian prisons.

"I know no Belgian prison where each inmate receives its Muslim kit," Grignard said.

This is certainly not the impression we get from any media accounts of Gitmo. On Friday Time Magazine made national headlines with the story that Mohammad al-Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker," was recanting all of his previous testimony, claiming he made everything up because he was being tortured.

Lost amid the sensational headlines is that Qahtani's reversal came after two recent visits with a newly appointed lawyer, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, from the ultra-liberal Center For Constitutional Rights. Gutierrez is part of CCR's “Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative" designed to "expand CCR’s defense of human rights and the rule of law to combat abuses of Executive power by the U.S. throughout the world."

I sifted through the log of Qahtani's interrogation that accompanied Time's report and from what I read it seems as if he was treated perfectly within bounds. The full interrogation log (pdf) is here, so go read it and decide for yourself whether Qahtani was tortured or not.

Also last Friday the BBC ran a story headlined, "Guantanamo man tells of 'torture'." Here is an excerpt from the BBC's interview with Fawzi al-Odah, a Kuwaiti citizen currently being held at Gitmo:

Through his lawyer, Mr Odah described his treatment during his hunger strike.

"First they took my comfort items away from me. You know, my blanket, my towel, my long pants, then my shoes. I was put in isolation for 10 days.

"They came in and read out an order. It said if you refuse to eat, we will put you on the chair [for force feeding]."

Remember, these people are trying to starve themselves to death. Imagine the reaction of human rights organizations if the United States military stood by and allowed two dozen or more prisoners to die of starvation.

The idea that force feeding prisoners to keep them alive constitutes "torture" borders on the insane. These men are are being offered food and adequate care, but they are refusing. As a result the United States military is put in an impossible situation; force them to eat or let them die. The goal of critics, of course, is to make either of these choices such a public relations nightmare for the United States that the Pentagon is forced to go with the only other option: close Gitmo down altogether.

February 24, 2006

New Rasmussen Poll: Dems Favored Over Bush On National Security

Everyone has been saying the politics of the Dubai Ports World deal is bad news for President Bush. Well, now we have an idea of just how bad.  Rasmussen Reports has just released a poll showing that Americans now trust Democrats in Congress more than President Bush on the issue of national security by a margin of 43% to 41%.  Only 17% of those polled favor the DPW deal, 64% oppose.

Let's stipulate something up front: this is a single poll taken at the height of both the Congressional and public outburst over the realization of the DPW deal.  That said, it does give an idea of how deeply negative the public's initial reaction to the deal was.

The debate in the press seems to have moved back in favor of the President's position, at least to some degree, but whether the public follows along with that shift in the coming weeks is another matter. I suspect there is a substantial block of people (on both the left and the right) whose opposition to the deal won't be shaken no matter how effective the White House is at putting on a full court press - if that's what they decide to do.

If the numbers Rasmussen produced on DPW and national security are confirmed by other polls, the political implications are pretty darn big. There's no way Republicans in Congress - especially those up for reelection this November - are going to stand by and let this single deal (irrespective of the merits) erase a 10-20 point advantage over Democrats on national security. Ain't gonna happen. Unless the numbers change significantly, there is no way Congress is going to let this deal go through as is.

February 21, 2006

Bush Q & A on the Ports Deal

Below is the transcript from President Bush's Q & A with the White House press pool
aboard Air Force One.

Q Mr. President, leaders in Congress, including Senator Frist, have said that they'll take action to stop the port control shift if you don't reverse course on it. You've expressed your thoughts here, but what do you say to those in Congress who plan to take legislative action?

THE PRESIDENT: They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. They ought to look at the facts, and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it, with a veto.

Q Mr. President, on energy and foreign policy, some Saudi officials have said they're unhappy with being targeted about Middle Eastern oil, saying that you wanted to reduce dependence on Middle East oil. You've got a close relationship with King Abdullah --


Q -- he's been to see you. Have you heard something directly, yourself, from the Saudis?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I haven't talked to His Majesty, but if I did, I would say, I hope you can understand that the relationship between supply and demand is so tight that any disruption on the supply side of energy causes our prices to go up, and spiking prices hurts our economy. And secondly, there are parts of the world where people would -- that don't agree with our policy, namely Iran, for example. And that it's not in our interest to be dependent, when it comes to our economic security, and for that matter, national security, in a market that is volatile. And so hopefully he'll understand.

Q So you don't think they should take offense at the comments about Middle Eastern oil?

THE PRESIDENT: I would think that he would be understanding that new technologies will enable us to diversify away from our reliance upon crude oil. As a matter of fact, it's not only a message for the United States, that's also a message for India and China. In order for these growing economies to be able to be competitive, they're going to have to learn how to use technologies that will enable them to meet the needs of their people, but also the international demands of the world for good environment, for example. The Nuclear Energy Initiative I'll be talking to the Indians about is an important initiative.

Q The understatement today, and one of the concerns of lawmakers seems to be that they want more of a briefing, and they want more details about the things that you know, that have given you confidence that there aren't any national security implications with the port deal. Are you willing to either have your staff or to give any kind of briefing to leaders of Congress --

THE PRESIDENT: Look at the company's record, Jim, and it's clear for everybody to see. We've looked at the ports in which they've operated. There is a standard process mandated by Congress that we go through, called the CFIUS process. I'm not exactly sure if there's any national security concerns in briefing Congress. I just don't know. I can't answer your question.

Q It seems like -- you've already heard from different administration officials, saying, not in as strong terms as you have today, that there aren't problems with this deal, that the deal should go forward. But they seem to want more of a briefing. Would you be willing to give any additional briefings, either --

THE PRESIDENT: We'll be glad to send --

Q -- either in a classified basis, or --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't see why not. Again, you're asking -- I need to make sure I understand exactly what they're asking for.

Yes. Oh, you're not the press.

MR. BARTLETT: I could ask a question. You showed some strong leadership today -- (laughter.)

Q Why is it so important to you, sir, that you take on this issue as a political fight? Clearly, there's bipartisan --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't view it as a political fight. So do you want to start your question over? I view it as a good policy.

Q Why is it -- clearly --

THE PRESIDENT: Are you talking about the energy issue?

Q No, I'm sorry, the ports issue.

THE PRESIDENT: It's not a political issue.

Q But there clearly are members of your own party who will go to the mat against you on this.

THE PRESIDENT: It's not a political issue.

Q Why are you -- to make this, to have this fight?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't view it as a fight. I view it as me saying to people what I think is right, the right policy.

Q What's the larger message that you're conveying by sticking to this UAE contract, by saying that you're not going to budge on this, or you don't want to change policy?

THE PRESIDENT: There is a process in place where we analyze -- where the government analyzes many, many business transactions, to make sure they meet national security concerns. And I'm sure if you -- careful review, this process yielded a result that said, yes, a deal should go forward.

One of my concerns, however, is mixed messages. And the message is, it's okay for a British company, but a Middle Eastern company -- maybe we ought not to deal the same way. It's a mixed message. You put interesting words in your question, but I just view -- my job is to do what I think is right for the country. I don't intend to have a fight. If there's a fight, there is one, but nor do I view this as a political issue.

Q I say it because you said you'd be willing to use the veto on it.

THE PRESIDENT: I would. That's one of the tools the President has to indicate to the legislative branch his intentions. A veto doesn't mean fight, or politics, it's just one of the tools I've got. I say veto, by the way, quite frequently in messages to Congress.

February 20, 2006

Truth and Consequences

Australian PM John Howard finds himself in a bit of hot water for stating what would seem to be the obvious:

He [Howard] said a commitment to jihad and extreme attitudes towards women were two problems unique to Muslims that previous intakes of migrants from Europe did not have, and that Australia wanted people to assimilate and adopt Australian ways.

Mr Howard said today it was his "right and duty" to express his thoughts.

"I stand by those comments that there is a small section of the Islamic population in Australia that, because of its remarks about jihad, remarks which indicate an extremist view, that is a problem," Mr Howard told reporters in Sydney.

Australian Muslims, of course, are upset over being singled out for criticism. Ali Roude, spokesman for the Islamic Council of NSW, responded:

"To suggest that Muslims alone are extremists in our society or that anyone except the smallest minority of Muslims in Australia act in this manner, or that Muslims as a group cannot adapt and embrace Australia's ways, is as invalid an argument as it is offensive and ignorant."

With all due respect, moderate Muslims do themselves no favors by minimizing the threat of Islamic extremism, by pretending it is in any way equal to other extremist elements in society, or by ignoring the question of assimilation.

Australia, and the West in general, is dealing with a very difficult moral and cultural dilemma (some would say crisis) trying to find a balance between maintaining its values of openness and tolerance while protecting itself from exceedingly aggressive Islamic culture populated with a small but lethal element and, perhaps most importantly, a growing number of those who sympathize with radical extremists.

The ICM poll released in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph illustrates the dilemma perfectly: only 1% of British Muslims felt the bombing attacks on London were justified, yet a fully 20% sympathized with the "feelings and motives" of the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks. 

As to the question of assimilation, 40% of Muslims favored introducing sharia law in parts of Britain. That seems like an awfully large number for a country with a such a tradition of tolerance and multiculturalism. One could easily draw the lesson that Britain has been too deferential to Muslim culture and has failed to put enough emphasis on assimilation. And Britain's Muslims are more well assimilated than most in Western Europe.

The point is that working through these issues will require some very frank dialogue. Tough questions must be asked and answered. As the leader of a prominent Western nation currently grappling with the issue, John Howard should be praised, not castigated, for raising some of those questions in a very reasonable and measured way.

February 08, 2006

Abu Hamza Gets 7

It certainly is ironic that the British press, not particularly well known for its reluctance to publish inflammatory or provocative material, has so far refrained from showing readers exactly why Muslims were wandering through the streets of London the other day with signs saying they would behead anyone who mocked Mohammed. 

There is, I'm told, a certain amount of economic interest involved (as is almost always the case) but the sudden outbreak of reticence among the British press corps is clearly due in large part to fear. Undoubtedly, that fear has been cultivated over the years by allowing people like radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to spew the most violent, hateful rhetoric without consequence. Yesterday a British court convicted Hamza on 11 out of 15 counts of inciting murder, resulting in a seven year jail sentence.

One of the boundaries of free speech in a civilized society is that you may not preach or encourage the killing of other innocent members of society. As offensive as it may be to most Brits, Hamza can call Jews the decendants of pigs and apes as often as he'd like.  What he can't do, however, is instruct his fellow Muslims that it's okay to take to the streets and murder innocent Jews, Christians and Buddhists simply because they don't believe in Allah.

The Times editorializes on the subject:

First, it is worth saying what the trial was not about. As Mr Justice Hughes emphasised in his summing-up, it is not an offence to describe living in Britain as a “toilet”, as Abu Hamza had. Nor is it an offence to suggest that Western societies are corrupt and without moral value. But the prosecution succeeded in demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that Abu Hamza’s outpourings of bile overstepped not just the boundaries of taste, decency and liberal tolerance but also those of the law. At a time when the limits on free speech are at the forefront of our national debate, the jury delivered an unambiguous verdict: preaching that the killing of non-Muslims was justified in any circumstances, “even if there was no reason for it”, as Abu Hamza put it, was not just beyond the pale but also beyond legality. [snip]

Abu Hamza’s conviction offers an opportunity for British Muslims. In his defence, he claimed he was encouraging Muslims to stand up for themselves. This they should do, but by denouncing the fanaticism he breathed in the name of their religion. Rather than perpetuate the image of victimhood that he thrust on them, Britain’s moderate and rightfully proud Muslims owe it to their faith to denounce Abu Hamza for the thug he is and set about repairing the image of Islam from the damage he has inflicted on it.

February 02, 2006

Has the New York Times Violated the Espionage Act?

In the March issue of Commentary Gabriel Schoenfeld examines whether the New York Times violated the Espionage Act with their disclosure of the NSA wiretapping program. At the beginning of Schoenfeld’s lengthy essay, he writes:

The President, for his part, has not only stood firm, insisting on both the legality and the absolute necessity of his actions, but has condemned the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program as a “shameful act.” In doing so, he has implicitly raised a question that the Times and the President’s foes have conspicuously sought to ignore—namely, what is, and what should be, the relationship of news-gathering media to government secrets in the life-and-death area of national security. Under the protections provided by the First Amendment of the Constitution, do journalists have the right to publish whatever they can ferret out? Such is certainly today’s working assumption, and it underlies today’s practice. But is it based on an informed reading of the Constitution and the relevant statutes? If the President is right, does the December 16 story in the Times constitute not just a shameful act, but a crime?

This adds another twist to the NSA wiretapping story, and it is not exactly along the lines that opponents of President Bush were hoping for in mid-December when the Times story broke.

January 29, 2006

Broder Gets it Wrong on NSA Wiretapping

On the Meet the Press roundtable today, it is surprising how well David Broder captures the Washington beltway conventional wisdom on the NSA wiretapping “scandal.”

Roger Simon makes the obvious point that seems to have escaped many on the left when they rushed to immediately turn the NSA program into some kind of Nixonian illegality.

MR. SIMON:  Unlike past administrations, notably the Nixon administration, there’s no evidence that the Bush administration has used this warrantless surveillance for political purposes. When the president says, ‘I’m doing this to protect the United States of America, there’s no evidence that he is in any way prevaricating. And that is why, I think, so many people are saying, as Kelly pointed out, ‘Well, I don’t talk to al-Qaeda every night, so let them tap my phones all they want to.’ And as long as this remains a genuine attempt to prevent another terrorist attack on the United States, I think the president is going to skate on this.

This is so obviously the common-sense political analysis you wonder why so many get it wrong. But Broder appears stuck in the 70’s:

MR. BRODER: But I want to go back for just one second to this issue that Kelly raised about the support for the president on the wire-tapping. I think that’s true up until the time that you get one court decision that says he’s broken the law. Because what we have seen in the past is that the American people will support a president as long as they think he is operating lawfully. If they can make this one claim stand up, that this is a lawful use of their authority as pr—his authority as president, I will be very surprised.

So Broder thinks as soon as a court rules it illegal, which he seems to indicate is only a matter of time, then he “will be very surprised” if the American people don’t turn on the President.

Well, David Broder should prepare himself for a surprise. For, as Senator Frist pointed out earlier in the program, and Byron York succinctly spelled out right front of him on the roundtable, there are multiple legal arguments for the President's actions.

MR. RUSSERT: What statute authorizes the president to do this?

SEN. FRIST:  The answer is the Constitution of the United States of America in a time of a war our commander in chief, he is given through resolution, through statute passed by the United States Congress to use force, to use force that he, in the same way he can use force to kill, to wipe out terrorists, he can listen in on al-Qaeda conversations, wherever they are, anywhere in the world. Under the Constitution as commander in chief, at a time of war, and the statute is the Resolution of Force that we passed in the bipartisan way on the floor of the United States Senate.

And from Byron York:

MR. YORK:  There was a case in 2002 by the FISA court of review, and rates the old case. It referred to an earlier case called Trong, and it said, “That court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. We take for granted that the president does have that authority.” So they have a legal basis for what they’re doing.

And if it is determined to be illegal, Roger Simon is exactly right on the politics, for as long as this program is being carefully scrutinized and is surveilling al-Qaeda suspects, the President has minimal political vulnerability. That doesn't mean the American people are "condoning breaking the law," because if the program is determined to be illegal the public will understand that this was not a clear violation of law, but rather a gray/disputed area and when it comes to gray/disputed areas and al-Qaeda -- the public's position is clear.

Broder’s analysis today was typical, widespread and wrong a month ago when this story first broke, but now many of his colleagues are grudgingly starting to realize this issue is not going to hurt the President politically.

It looks like David Broder still needs a little more time.

January 25, 2006


A reader responds to my column today on why a bit of fear is a good thing when it comes to matters of national security:

Dear Mr Bevan,

The problem with being afraid is that it can make people behave irrationally. It can also cause people to become obsessed with their particular fear and forget about other important potential threats to their lives which may be more insidious but equally important. American policy since 2001 is proof of both of these principles.

Once your enemy has made you afraid, he dominates and controls you, and it seems that Mr bin Laden, having made a relatively modest initial investment of his resources, dominates American foreign policy. By making America afraid, he wins, because he controls.

The Iraq invasion, an irrational reaction to fear rather than to a cold calculation of the national interest, is Mr bin Laden's crowning achievement.

Let's clarify: too much fear (i.e. panic) is indeed a bad thing and can lead to irrational behavior. But fear, when properly managed, can be a very good thing that motivates and sharpens focus. Fear of failure is what drives individuals to great success. Fear of competition is what produces constant innovation in the economic marketplace. 

As to the reader's suggestion that "American policy since 2001 is proof" fear has caused us to behave irrationally, I find that a less than credible characterization of the invasion Afghanistan.  To the contrary, from a military and diplomatic perspective our actions in Afghanistan were measured, precise, and completely rational - not to mention effective.

There might be a slightly better argument for appyling such a characterization to Iraq, given that we did fear Saddam had WMD at the time. But bad intelligence hardly invalidates those fears or makes them any less rational, and WMD was only one part of the justification for invading Iraq.

The Bush administration's policy is based on a "cold calculation" of national interest - that establishing a free, democratic Iraq reduced the short term threat to America and to the region by getting rid of a terrorist-supporting tyrant and laid the foundation for long-term security by establishing a bulwark of freedom in the Middle East. History may judge the policy in Iraq to be wrong for any number of reasons, but not because it was an irrational act of fear.

January 24, 2006

Zarqawi Steps Aside, Terrorists Restructure

Interesting report from Liz Sly in the Chicago Tribune about a possible restructuring of the terrorist insurgency in Iraq driven by the rift between Zarqawi and Iraqi nationals:

BAGHDAD -- In a further sign of the rifts emerging within Iraq's insurgency, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has stepped aside as the head of a new council of radical groups in favor of an Iraqi, according to a posting on a Web site used by Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

The statement, whose authenticity could not be independently verified, said Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, "who is Iraqi," had taken over from al-Zarqawi as "emir" of the new Mujahedeen Shura, or Council, which groups six extremist organizations including Al Qaeda and whose creation was announced last week. [snip]

"He [al-Zarqawi] must be really under pressure," said Mustafa al-Ani, director of the Center for Counterterrorism at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. "There's been a lot of talk since the election about divisions between Iraqi mujahedeen and Al Qaeda, and this is to prove that even the Arab mujahedeen are led by an Iraqi and not a foreigner."

Al Qaeda in Iraq also is looking ahead to the day when U.S. forces leave and is starting to realize it needs to form alliances and structures to further its dream of establishing a Taliban-style Islamic state in Iraq, said Jaafar al-Taie, a Jordan-based analyst who closely monitors the insurgency.

"For the first time, the U.S. is on the defensive and is about to withdraw, so they're restructuring," he said. "It's an attempt to expand the breadth of Al Qaeda politically and militarily. You give Al Qaeda an Iraqi face, you give it a different dimension."

I wouldn't characterize the U.S. as "on the defensive and about to withdraw," but it's edifying to know that's how some in that part of the world view our position.

January 17, 2006

The Threat Has Changed

In the Daily Telegraph today Con Coughlin has an interview with Henry Crumpton, head of counter-terrorism at the US State Department. Here's a taste:

"This threat has changed the way we will fight wars in the future," he [Crumpton] said.

"We are talking about micro targets such as al-Qa'eda which, when combined with WMD, have a macro impact. I rate the probability of terror groups using WMD [to attack Western targets] as very high. It is simply a question of time.

"And it is not just the nuclear threat that bothers me. I think, if anything, the biological threat is going to grow.

"As catastrophic as a nuclear attack would be, it would be self-contained. But if you look at a worst-case scenario for a biological attack, it would be difficult to determine whether or not it was a terrorist attack, and it would be far more difficult to contain."

After the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, Mr Crumpton, who was then a senior CIA officer, played a leading role in the campaign to overthrow the Taliban and destroy al-Qa'eda's operational infrastructure in Afghanistan, which relied heavily on covert operations.

After the war, allied forces found that al-Qa'eda had been working on anthrax programmes that it intended to use on western targets.

"They had hired a very experienced biologist to work on this. They were very serious about it and there is no reason to believe they have given up on their interest."

 Crumpton also says bin Laden is probably still alive, military options for Iran are on the table, and Syria continues to support terrorist organizations including the former Baathist leadership from Iraq. Read the whole thing.

January 11, 2006

Russell Tice: Whistleblower or Criminal?

Brian Ross of ABC News reports that Russell Tice was one of the people who leaked the NSA spying program to the New York Times. My question is why is a guy who divulges highly classified information to people who aren’t cleared to have that information necessarily a whistleblower? How does ABC News know that Mr. Tice is a whistleblower and not a criminal?

The lead to Ross’s column on ABC goes:

Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet.

Did it ever occur to ABC News that maybe the NSA wants to keep Tice quiet because they take seriously the sensitive nature of what they do every day to protect the nation against terrorist attacks?

The whole tone of the ABC report is this guy Tice is the good guy, the “whistleblower” courageously stepping forward to take on the unlawful NSA and Bush White House who are egregiously violating Americans' civil liberties.

What if ABC and Brian Ross are wrong and it is not Bush and the NSA who are breaking the law, but rather Mr. Tice?

January 06, 2006

Nukes For Everyone!

No need to go to al-Jazeera for muddle-headed moral equivalence when you can get it once a week from Mansour El-Kikhia in the San Antonio Express News:

Why should the Middle East be hostage to an Israeli nuclear blackmail and not an Iranian one?

Indeed, if humanity can't get rid of these awful weapons, then the more the better.

The only "blackmail" Israel is doing with nuclear weapons in the Middle East is making sure radical Muslims don't turn Jerusalem and Tel Aviv into piles of burning rubble. Where I come from that's called deterrence or self defense, but I can see how those who might not be so concerned about the survival of the Jewish state (or those who don't recognize its right to exist at all) may see things a bit differently.

As to El-Kikhia's other point, before we go handing out nukes to Syria, Libya, and the Palestinians under the grotesquely naive proposition that what the world really needs is more nuclear parity between East and West or between the first world and the third world, it's probably best to consider that there is only one group of people currently on the planet who've proven not to be rational actors.  Only one group of people have strapped bombs to themselves and flown planes into skyscrapers. Only one group of people who've shown they value taking innocent life more than taking their own.

As far as I'm concerned, any state or regime that condones, supports, or sympathizes with such individuals and who may possibly provide them with them means to kill millions of innocent people should never be allowed anywhere near a nuclear weapon. That is surely a pipedream, since Pakistan has a bomb and Iran is on the way, but so is the idea that responsible nuclear nations unilaterally disarm. In the meantime, the civilized world has to fight with everything it has to keep nukes out of the hands of those most likely to use them.

January 04, 2006

Andrew Sullivan, National Unity and the War

I am a great admirer of Andrew Sullivan’s writing. Immediately following 9/11 there was probably not a better voice articulating the war civilized society would face in the new post-9/11 world against Islamic Radicalism. And though it is not exactly news that Sullivan has undergone a transformation these last 18 months, his recent attacks on the Bush administration and their prosecution of the war increasingly sound like the tired demagoguery of the left.

Sullivan’s column in the Sunday Times, for example, could just as easily have been written by Jonathan Alter or Maureen Dowd. It is one thing for baby-boomer liberals pining for the good old days of anti-Vietnam protests and Watergate to spin stories about how Bush is the reincarnation of Nixon. But I expect this type of hyperventilating from Alterman, Down, Herbert and Rich -- not Sullivan.

NRO’s Mark Levin, who has battled with Sullivan over the torture issue, comments:

I think Andrew Sullivan can now be dismissed as just another shrill voice. Fresh from regurgitating the leftist spin about American forces torturing detainees (and misusing report after report which he clearly had not read), he's now doing the same with NSA intercepts of al-Qaeda communications. Has he read the Constitution? Has he read any of the relevant cases? Has he examined U.S. war-time history and the conduct of past presidents? Does it matter? I guess not.


In his Sunday Times article Sullivan starts by flatly stating that:

We now know the president was not telling the truth. It turns out the president has authorized thousands of wiretaps of American citizens’ phones without any court order for the past four years, clearly violating a 1978 law that set up a special court to monitor and approve such taps.

The problem is that it is NOT clear that the President broke the law. Sullivan should have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that reasonable, decent, intelligent people disagree on whether the President overstepped his legal authority. Instead he descends into the demagoguery of the left where the President is simply a liar and a systemic violator of civil liberties, ala Richard Nixon.

The bigger issue here is not Andrew Sullivan, but the relentless and unprecedented assault on the Bush administration while it is trying to lead the country in a war. Our enemies know their path to victory is not on the battlefield against our troops, but rather in the minds of the American public. Their goal is to demoralize the American people via a naïve and misguided press which in turn will erode public support and force a retreat before we can achieve victory. It is on this battlefield where the war will be won or lost.

Tony Blankley spells it out:

As we enter another year of extreme international danger, the one threat that solely is within America's power to reduce or eliminate is our lack of national unity.

There may be no more agonizing weakness for a nation than major internal division during a time of war, because, unlike the conduct of foreign nations or forces, a lack of internal unity is exclusively our own collective fault…..

If we had national unity, government employees and the major media would not think it their patriotic duty to leak or publish classified war secrets. (Only traitors or the careless would be releasing such information, as opposed to today's perhaps subjectively well-intentioned, if objectively misguided releasers of such information.)

Most damaging of all, America's loud, nasty and publicly displayed disunity heartens our enemies around the world -- as well it should. Whether the enemy is a terrorist operative in Fallujah, Frankfurt or Falls Church, Va., he knows that defeating our will is the supreme strategic goal. Once we are more concerned with defeating our domestic opponents than our foreign enemies, the downside potential for America is almost unlimited. The enemy now lives in justifiable hope -- as we slip into increasingly justifiable despair.

Blankley’s point and, mine as well, is not meant to be an argument against dissent. Dissent is the fundamental right of every American and can often be a constructive part of getting to the correct strategies and/or tactics that will lead to victory.  The key, however, is that everyone has to be on the same team. The problem we have is there is a huge block on the left who hate Bush and hate this war. Their attitude is that Bush got us into this mess, it’s his problem, and - let’s be honest - many of these people are pulling for a Vietnam type quagmire. (Just to be clear, I'm not lumping Sullivan in this group.)

Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Lieberman have all been critical of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war. Despite their dissent, however, no one can question their commitment to win. Unfortunately, that is not true of large factions in the Democratic Party, including its Chairman.

President Bush is going to be Commander in Chief for the next three years. Relentless demagoguery, comparisons to Nixon and talk of impeachment do a disservice to our fight against Islamic Radicalism. The country needs to find a way to honestly debate legitimate security vs. civil liberty issues, as well as other tactics in this war while making it clear to our enemies that though we may have disagreements in approach, there is total unity when it comes to their ultimate defeat.

January 03, 2006

Murtha's Tiny Minority

How ironic. This morning's Reuters story on Jack Murtha:

"Would you join (the military) today?," he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.

"No," replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.

"And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve'," the interviewer continued.

"Exactly right," said Murtha

Also published this morning, from the internals of the Military Times poll of 1,215 active-duty servicemen:

Would you recommend a military career to others?
Yes 82%, No 13%

If you had to decide today would you re-enlist or - if an officer - extend your commitment?
Yes 70%, No 19% 

Conclusion: Murtha may feel for our men and women in uniform but he certainly doesn't think like most of them.

December 23, 2005

Backsliding Towards September 10

Michelle Malkin has an excellent post questioning the wisdom of George Will’s latest column attacking the President's decision authorizing the NSA program of eavesdropping on international-domestic communications involving terrorist suspects. Malkin writes:

Earlier this week George Will argued that President Bush should have asked Congress for permission to carry out warrantless eavesdropping of Americans. He is confident that Congress would have changed FISA to approve the program:

Congress, if asked, almost certainly would have made such modifications of law as the president's plans required.

Just one teensy weensy problem: the NSA program was (and still is) classified. Is Will suggesting that Bush could have requested the authority he needed without revealing the existence of the NSA program? Or does he think Bush should have trusted 535 members of Congress to keep the program secret?

On those key questions, Will is silent.

Will goes on to say that the key legal brief about the NSA program written by former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo "should be declassified and debated."

Even if that means disclosing technical details about the program that would help al Qaeda evade surveillance?

Will not only does not answer the question, he doesn't even bother to address it, as if disclosing highly classified information about our intellgience-gathering techniques is a niggling detail that doesn't deserve even the slightest acknowledgement.

It's the sort of unreality-based thinking one expects from Molly Ivins or a Daily Kos diarist, not the nation's premiere conservative columnist.

I had a similar reaction when I read Will’s column Tuesday. Michelle goes on to cite National Review’s editorial on the subject which begins: "We are once again living in September 10 America." Daniel Pipes strikes the same theme with a recent column in the New York Sun titled “My Gloom: Back to September 10.” Pipes documents a whole host of troubling items that point to a backsliding in the nation’s commitment to fighting and winning this war.

In my column at the beginning of the week I alluded to the fact that most in Washington seem to have forgotten about 9/11. It's hard to dispute that with all the angst and hand-wringing in the last 18 months over Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, whether we’re treating suspected terrorists too “harshly,” and now with this last controversy over whether the President has the authority to authorize the NSA to monitor int’l-domestic communications originating with a terrorist suspect. The unfortunate reality is this backsliding will likely continue and the only thing that is going to arrest it will be another attack.

December 14, 2005

Do You Trust Your Government?

In many ways the debate over reauthorizing the Patriot Act comes down to the question: do you trust your government? If you read Alberto Gonzalez in The Washington Post this morning you might be inclined to answer "yes." Then again, if you read Senator John Sununu in yesteday's New Hampshire Union-Leader you might answer, "not so much."

In debates like this where there doesn't seem to be a clear cut answer, often times the best thing to do is to find Congressional leaders you like and trust and see where they come down on the issue. That's not so easy to do here.  John Sununu is neither a RINO or a reactionary, and he's co-author of the bill in the Senate seeking to postpone permanent reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Larry Craig and Lisa Murkowski are also against. Arlen Specter, who most consider a rather liberal-leaning Republican, is in favor of reauthorization and says that concerns about protecting civil liberties have been adequately addressed.

I've written about how overblown some criticisms of the Patriot Act have been. We needed to change the way law enforcement worked in this country in the wake of 9/11 and Congress acted quickly and appropriately. That said, the revelation that no one, including Congress, was aware that the FBI had issued some 30,000 national security letters over the last few years should give everyone pause.  On balance, however, my sense is that the Patriot Act has been a net positive, which is to say that it has contributed in a meaningful way to our security without impinging too much on the civil liberties of law abiding citizens. So long as that balance is maintained, and so long as sunset provisions are kept at four years to ensure accountability, Congress shouldn't delay  reauthorizing the Patriot Act.

December 06, 2005

Racism or Common Sense?

Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk recently set off a firestorm with these remarks:

"I'm OK with discrimination against young Arab males from terrorist-producing states. I'm OK with that. I think that when we look at the threat that's out there, young men, between, say, the ages of 18 and 25 from a couple of countries, I believe a certain amount of intense scrutiny should be placed on them."

I can't for the life of me understand what people find racist or illogical about this.  We are not talking about internment camps, we are talking about paying more attention to a segment of the population that currently has the highest statistical probability of being involved in terrorist activity. Forcing young, male Arab-American travelers to submit to the small indignity of a bag search at a slightly higher rate than the rest of us is hardly shredding the Bill of Rights.

But such a concept is too much for people like Chicago Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice whose recent argument that profiling won't make us any safer goes beyond sloppy to downright silly:

While we wait for the Al Qaeda hammer to fall, homegrown radical right-wing extremism continues to be dismissed. The fact is, extremists are already on our soil, hunkered down amid their mini-arsenals.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the mantra has been that we need to stop "them" over there so we don't have to fight "them" over here. Well, guess what? "They" are already here, and they are us.

All racial profiling does is gives us a false sense of security. It makes as much sense as taking a closer look at men who happen to be white and have some connection to Oklahoma City.

I'm with Dennis Byrne, who takes up the subject of Congressman Kirk's remarks today in a great column punctuated with this:

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said she was "deeply offended" by Kirk's remarks, and I'm deeply offended that she's deeply offended, so she should apologize to me. She was deeply offended in front of a cheering immigrants' rights group, saying that Kirk's kind of thinking led to the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans. No, this kind of thinking might have spared nearly 3,000 people from gruesome deaths from hijacked airplanes.

RELATED: "To Profile or Not To Profile?

December 05, 2005

Condi's Statement

Here's the text of Secretary of State Rice's remarks this morning responding to questions about reports of secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe and the use of European airports to transport terror suspects. It strikes me as remarkably strong and unequivocal:

In conducting such renditions, it is the policy of the United States, and I presume of any other democracies who use this procedure, to comply with its laws and comply with its treaty obligations, including those under the Convention Against Torture. Torture is a term that is defined by law. We rely on our law to govern our operations. The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances. Moreover, in accordance with the policy of this administration:

-- The United States has respected -- and will continue to respect -- the sovereignty of other countries.

-- The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture.

-- The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured.

-- The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.

 RELATED: Video of Rice's remarks here. Background on "The Man Behind Rice's Rock Star Image" in the New York Times.

December 02, 2005

Krauthammer vs. VDH on Torture

Krauthammer argues (quite convincingly, as always) that if we accept there are certain scenarios in which it would be morally permissible to employ cruel and inhumane treatment against terrorists to save innocent lives then the intellectually honest thing to do is to set up a strictly defined regimen to accommodate such potentialities subject to control and review:

However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). And once you've established the principle, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, all that's left to haggle about is the price. In the case of torture, that means that the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible, but when--i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances: how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.

Krauthammer points out that McCain, author of the amendment banning torture under any circumstance, told Newsweek that he'd "do what he had to do" if ever presented with a "ticking time-bomb" scenario. In other words, McCain would break a law written by his own hand and authorize torture to save innocent lives.

Today the estimable Victor Davis Hanson weighs in on the subject. Despite ceding substantial chunks of intellectual ground on why the McCain amendment is a bad idea, VDH argues we should embrace it anyway:

So we might as well admit that by foreswearing the use of torture, we will probably be at a disadvantage in obtaining key information and perhaps endanger American lives here at home. (And, ironically, those who now allege that we are too rough will no doubt decry "faulty intelligence" and "incompetence" should there be another terrorist attack on an American city.) Our restraint will not ensure any better treatment for our own captured soldiers. Nor will our allies or the United Nations appreciate American forbearance. The terrorists themselves will probably treat our magnanimity with disdain, as if we were weak rather than good.

But all that is precisely the risk we must take in supporting the McCain amendment — because it is a public reaffirmation of our country's ideals.

The United States can win this global war without employing torture. That we will not resort to what comes so naturally to Islamic terrorists also defines the nobility of our cause, reminding us that we need not and will not become anything like our enemies.

The statement that we can win the war without resorting to torture is great in the abstract but, I fear, could prove lousy in practice. Like McCain, VDH would probably acknowledge the moral duty to "do what we had to do" to try and save thousands of innocent lives if ever faced with a ticking time-bomb scenario. 

Let's be clear: despite the intellectually ankle-deep platitudes offered by some on the left, no one is arguing that torture should be used widely or even considered except under rare circumstances where we have reasonable certainty to believe the information extracted could help save innocent lives.

The question is whether it would be better to pass a ban now that might improve our public image in the short term but could prove problematic to military and civilian leaders in the future if hundreds or thousands of innocent lives are at stake, or whether we should suffer the consequences of being honest and acknowledging that there are certain scenarios under which we are willing to "do what we have to do" to protect innocent American citizens. It is by no means an easy question.

November 16, 2005

Myrick's al-Qaeda Myth

Last Wednesday Hugh Hewitt noted a press conference by Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) in which she said the following:

"I mean, they just arrested, down on the border -- what? a couple of weeks ago? -- three al-Qaida members who came across from Mexico into the United States. That's a given fact. They were holding them in the jail down there."

Hugh commented this was either "a blockbuster story, or a complete urban myth." Turns out it's the latter. Tim Funk of the Charlotte Observer did some investigating and found out Myrick's claim wasn't even close to being true. According to Funk, Myrick says she based her claim on an an unproven account of a border crossing appearing in the November 22, 2004 issue of Time magazine which she confused as being current. That is not a misprint: the article in question ran almost a year ago and did not mention any actual border crossings or arrests.

Myrick's spokesman called it "an honest mistake." Perhaps.  But given that she made the claim in the context of promoting tougher requirements for drivers licenses in North Carolina saying the measures were important for national security, it looks like Myrick got caught demagoguing. At best she looks sloppy and ill informed, which is the last thing we need from our elected representatives when it comes to matters of terrorism and national security.

November 11, 2005

For The Toughest Stains

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (reg req), one of the 18 terrorist suspects nabbed in  Australia on Tuesday was found with hydrochloric acid in his home and authorities found another  suspect in possession of a manual for making bombs with the substance. Prosecutors say the suspect in possession of the acid, Mirsad Mulahalilovic, was at home when a group accused of plotting terrorist acts showed up with some plastic caps and 3 feet of PVC. Defense lawyers say it's all just a big misunderstanding:

But Mulahalilovic's barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, said there were other uses for hydrochloric acid such as cleaning, and that police were told it was not being used illegally.

"During the search of this young man's premises the police were told by others that lived there that these particular items of hydrochloric acid were not there for any illegal purposes," said Mr Boulten.

Mulahalilovic, who moved to Australia from Bosnia in 1996, is a painter with his own business.

However, prosecutor Wendy Abraham, QC, said instructions on how to make explosives using hydrochloric acid were found at the home of one of the other accused terrorists.

November 02, 2005

Don't Fear The Caliphate

Let's all hope Mark Steyn got a glimpse of this.  In yesterday's Guardian, Osama Saeed, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, put a happy face on the idea of restoring a Muslim caliphate. Saeed suggested a reunification of the Muslim world would be a tool for political and economic development that would be roughly similar to the European Union. Saeed continued:

There is no point in comparing the political form a caliphate might take to those in centuries past. Institutions such as the British monarchy or the papacy have existed for centuries, but bear little resemblance today to what's gone before. A restored caliphate is entirely compatible with democratically accountable institutions.

But what about the issue of sharia? Opposing it is apparently also one of the western world's raisons d'etre, according to Clarke. Terms such as "sharia" and "caliphate" have important meanings to Muslims quite different from the distorted connotations they often carry in the west. The aim of Islamic law, contrary to popular belief, is not punishment by death or amputation of body parts. It is to create a peaceful and just society, with Islamic scholars over centuries citing its core aims: the freedom to practise religion; protection of life; safeguarding intellect; maintaining lineage and individual rights. This could be the basis for an Islamic bill of rights.

The reason popular belief about sharia is what it is, unfortunately, is because the world is constantly reminded of the draconian sentences handed down by sharia courts (amputations for thievery, stoning to death for adultery, and the public hanging of minors for "acts incompatible with chastity") as well as other displays of violence that at least some parts of the Muslim community claim are acceptable under sharia (like wife beating and honor killings).

The idea of an Islamic bill of rights is a good one, but it's impossible to square such a concept with the vision the caliphate as its being offered (or should I say imposed) by bin Laden and the rest of the bloodthirsty Islamic jihadis around the globe.

A real and legitmate Islamic bill of rights would need to be fashioned by the broad center of Islam and based on a categorical rejection of terrorism, oppression and violence against innocents. I've seen no indication that such a movement is underway.

One final acute point of irony in response to Saeed's argument: it might well be true that the closest thing to an Islamic bill of rights in the entire Muslim world right now is the charter approved by the Iraqi people last month.

Politics & Elections Update

We're now under a week until the 2005 elections.  From today's RCP Politics & Elections edition:

CA Special Election Polls: Survey USA | Los Angeles Times | Field | Poll Summary
NJ Governor Polls: Quinnipiac | Strategic Vision | RCP Average
NYC Mayor Poll: Bloomberg 62% Ferrer 31% - WNBC/Marist
NYC: Mayor, Ferrer Go At It in Final Debate - Newsday

In other news, folks in Colorado yesterday voted in favor of suspending TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) 53-47 which will allow the government to keep $3.7 billion in tax dollars it was scheduled to refund. Governor Bill Owens has taken a huge amount of heat from conservatives for supporting the measure, and now that it has passed it will be a thorn in his side should he decide to make a run for the White House.

October 31, 2005

The Evil We Fight

These pictures are beyond disturbing, but I think they are important to be seen so that people understand the true nature of the evil we fight. The people who hacked off these poor girls heads, for no other reason except they were Christians, are no different than the fanatics who sawed off Danny Pearl and Nicholas Berg's heads, killed schoolchildren in Iraq and Russia, and the 19 who flew those planes on September 11. And make no mistake about it, this enemy is striving to bring this evil to our shores again and they are hoping and praying that the next time it will make 9/11 small in comparison. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

October 27, 2005

The Democrats' National Security Awards

The Boston Globe wins the award for the most painfully ironic title of the day:  "Democratic leaders offer a national security plan." You don't say? I guess coming up with something four years after being attacked by Islamic fundamentalists is better than nothing.

Award for the most painfully ironic quote goes to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who presented the Dems' new national security initiative by announcing, ''The Democrats are basically supportive of the troops." (emphasis mine).

Finally, the award for the most painfully clueless former Presidential nominee goes to John Kerry, who demonstrated again yesterday why he lost the 2004 election and why he doesn't have a prayer in 2008:

''History will judge the invasion of Iraq as one of the greatest foreign policy misadventures of all time," he [Kerry] said.

But later, during a question and answer session, Kerry resisted comparisons to the Vietnam War, and said he told US troops in Iraq that ''their cause is noble" in risking their lives as Iraq stumbles toward democracy.

 Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.....

"The World Without Zionism"

Repeat after me: Axis. Of. Evil. That phrase has been roundly ridiculed by internationalists since Bush first used it in his 2002 State of the Union address, but the shoe just keeps on fitting:

Iranian Leader Causes Storm Over Call To Wipe Out Israel

Reverting to the vitriol of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian revolution, Mr Ahmadinejad urged the destruction of Israel by Palestinian militants: "There is no doubt that the new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world," he said. "As the Imam (Khomeini) said, Israel must be wiped off the map."

"Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury. Anybody who recognizes the Zionist regime is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world," Mr Ahmadinejad is reported to have said.

Within hours of the speech a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in an Israeli market, killing five people in the deadliest attack in the country in three months.

According to Shimon Peres, Ahmadinejad's remarks are unprecendented: since the United Nations was established in 1945, no head of a sitting member state has ever publicly called for the elimination of another member state.  Peres is calling for Iran to be expelled from the U.N.

Ahmadinejad's call to "wipe Israel off the map" is generating the typical condemnations from the international community ("disturbing", "deeply troubling", etc), but words simply aren't good enough any more.  At some point, no matter how impolitic it might be to say out loud, responsible nations have to accept the fact that the current Iranian regime is evil at its core and represents a dire threat to peace and stability. For the world to allow the Iranians to acquire nuclear weapons is utter insanity.

October 18, 2005

The West's Last Chance

Tony Blankley settled into the black leather chair across from me in his office and for a split second I felt as if we were on the set of The McLaughlin Group, the long-running political talk show on which he is a featured weekly guest. I suppressed the urge to blurt out "ISSUE ONE!" and instead asked Blankley how he'd come to the subject matter of his thought-provoking new book, The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?

Blankley explained that he's been keenly focused on the issue of terrorism since the morning of September 11, 2001 when he stood in a field outside his house watching smoke rise from the nearby Pentagon. In conversations with experts both inside and outside of government over the last four years, however, Blankley said he'd come to the conclusion the West remains in a state of "deep denial" over the nature of the threat we face. "The danger," he tells me, "is more than just bombs, it's also the cultural assertiveness of Islam."

Continue reading "The West's Last Chance" »

October 14, 2005

The Myth of Incompetence

Last weekend I was on a radio show debating a Democratic strategist and when the subject turned to Iraq he immediately charged the Bush administration with utter incompetence in managing the war. I've never quite understood why some on the left (and the right) are so eager to make this argument, because it strikes me as neither true nor terribly convincing.

Here's the problem: It's easy to sit back and see in hindsight where things could have been done differently which may - and I stress the word "may" - have led to a different result. But even those things which war critics cite most often as examples of mismanagement do not, in and of themselves, represent evidence of "incompetence". For example, it is by no means certain we would be in any better position in Iraq today if we had devoted an additional three weeks to pre-war planning, or if we had decided to try and de-Bathify the Iraqi military instead of disbanding it.

Even the charge of not having enough troops in Iraq (to my mind the most legitimate criticism of the war, coming mostly from the right) is debatable. Such a policy might possibly have fueled a greater sense of occupation, strengthened the insurgency and also resulted in more U.S. casualties. There is no way of knowing what could have been based on decisions that weren't made.

Continue reading "The Myth of Incompetence" »