Tuesday, January 23, 2007

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you have made. We went into this largely united - in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq - and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field - and those on their way.
-- President Bush during his 2007 State of the Union Address.

I didn't plan on watching the address, for a variety of reasons, a lesser one being that his and the Republican party's lack of backbone and utter capitulation on many issues has been discouraging to say the least. But at the last minute I went ahead and watched the whole thing. It was nice to see him sound like he had some of his fight back. He at least said out loud 'no new taxes' and wisely used the word "reinforcements" instead of "troop surge" or some other nonsense. That's smart politics. Ask the Democrats if they support "reinforcing" the troops instead of "surging" troops. Put them on the spot for a change.

And kudos to Sen. Lindsey Graham for stating after the speech that if Democrats were true to their convictions they'd cut funding for the war, as a Congress has power to do, rather than issue some useless nonbinding resolution that would essentially declare defeat, empower and embolden the instigators of chaos in Iraq, and issue a vote of no-confidence for our troops and for recently elevated Lt. General David Petraeus -- all before the guy has even had a chance to prove if he can make a differance. Amen Lindsey - what's the point of that? Come to think of it, it's just the kind of defeatist, self-loathing "leadership" we've come to expect from Democrats. Just like when they voted for the war before they voted against it; and just like one could count as many statements of certainty that Iraq had tangible WMD before the war but deny it and throw stones after; they're now just fine and dandy with demanding we quit without actually taking responsibility for quitting.

In other observances: Dikembe Mutombo - now that's a rags to riches success story few other countries can boast, and certainly not in the amounts we produce them. And bravo Wesley Autrey. And especially Sergeant Tommy Rieman.

Wal-Mart Nation

In her Jan. 18 Letter to the Editor, Michelle Harrington lectures that "decent people" need to decide if Wal-Mart's cheaper prices and faster checkout "are worth the infringement of autonomy foisted on our fellow citizens" whom Wal-Mart supposedly exploits.

But according to this month's Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine, 25,000 Chicagoans applied for just 325 job openings at a newly opened Wal-Mart, while nationally 110 million shoppers browse Wal-Mart's aisles every week.

Thus, decent people have already decided.

That's my letter to the editor today published in the Wall Street Journal. Look, I don't even shop at Wal-Mart, preferring Target myself, but you're either in favor of free markets or you're not. People choose to work at Wal-Mart, or not. People choose to shop at Wal-Mart, or not. It doesn't make them decent or indecent. It's the beauty of our economic system and our freedom in market and economy is exactly why we're so wealthy and successful today.


In light of all the hooplah surrounding "energy independence" and so on you might be surprised to read these facts and figures of our oil consumption, and the percentage from the Middle East, from Daniel Yergin.

How dependent is the U.S.? If we look at total energy -- including coal, nuclear and a small but growing share from renewables -- the country is over 70% self-sufficient. Oil -- refined into liquid fuels for transportation -- is where most of the current dependence comes from. The risks do not owe to direct imports from the Middle East, contrary to the widespread belief. Some 81% of oil imports do not come from that region. Thus, only 19% of imports -- and 12% of total petroleum consumption -- originates in the Middle East

Our largest source of oil imports is Canada. It's also the source of most of our current natural gas imports, via pipelines. One can hardly say that either Canada or energy imports from Canada constitute a major threat to national security. The energy trade is part of a normal trading relationship with the country with which we're conjoined economically and which just happens to be our biggest trading partner. Our second largest source is Mexico, with which we are also in a dense relationship. Mexico depends upon oil for about a third of total government revenues.

The picture becomes more complex when one turns to our third largest source of oil imports, Venezuela. The once much-discussed "hemispheric energy solidarity" loses much of its resonance when balanced against the "21stcentury socialism" of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. After all, President Chávez is currently nationalizing the private sector, has on occasion threatened to embargo oil shipments to the U.S., and is putting much effort into fashioning an anti-U.S. alliance, the latest manifestation being the visit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Caracas. These are not the actions one normally associates with a good friend or a reliable trading partner.

Yet the source of imports is significant only up to a point. Energy security is a global issue. Although oil around the world varies greatly in terms of physical qualities and transportation costs, there is only one world oil market. So disruptions and loss of supply in one place radiate throughout the global market -- and global politics -- affecting consumers everywhere. Even if the U.S. did not import a drop of oil, it would still be vulnerable to turmoil involving oil outside its borders.

As Yergin reminds us, every president since Nixon - that is, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, or a lot of presidents - have promised to make the country energy dependent yet every year they fail. Why is that? Could it be that presidents aren't as powerful as the free market? Imagine that!



Retreat Isn't an Option
By Liz Cheney
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; A17

Sen. Hillary Clinton declared this weekend, " I'm in to win." Anyone who has watched her remarkable trajectory can have no doubt that she'll do whatever it takes to win the presidency. I wish she felt the same way about the war.

In fairness, Clinton, with her proposal for arbitrary caps on troop levels and hemming and hawing about her vote for the war resolution, has company on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is the only national Democrat showing any courage on this issue. We Republicans -- with help from senators such as Chuck Hagel -- seem ready to race the Democrats to the bottom.

I'd like to ask the politicians in both parties who are heading for the hills to stop and reflect on these basic facts:

· We are at war. America faces an existential threat. This is not, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed, a "situation to be solved." It would be nice if we could wake up tomorrow and say, as Sen. Barack Obama suggested at a Jan. 11 hearing, "Enough is enough." Wishing doesn't make it so. We will have to fight these terrorists to the death somewhere, sometime. We can't negotiate with them or "solve" their jihad. If we quit in Iraq now, we must get ready for a harder, longer, more deadly struggle later.

· Quitting helps the terrorists. Few politicians want to be known as spokesmen for retreat. Instead we hear such words as "redeployment," "drawdown" or "troop cap." Let's be clear: If we restrict the ability of our troops to fight and win this war, we help the terrorists. Don't take my word for it. Read the plans of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman Zawahiri to drive America from Iraq, establish a base for al-Qaeda and spread jihad across the Middle East. The terrorists are counting on us to lose our will and retreat under pressure. We're in danger of proving them right.

· Beware the polls. In November the American people expressed serious concerns about Iraq (and about Republican corruption and scandals). They did not say that they want us to lose this war. They did not say that they want us to allow Iraq to become a base for al-Qaeda to conduct global terrorist operations. They did not say that they would rather we fight the terrorists here at home. Until you see a poll that asks those questions, don't use election results as an excuse to retreat.

· Retreat from Iraq hurts us in the broader war. We are fighting the war on terrorism with allies across the globe, leaders such as Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Brave activists are also standing with us, fighting for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the empowerment of women. They risk their lives every day to defeat the forces of terrorism. They can't win without us, and many of them won't continue to fight if they believe we're abandoning them. Politicians urging America to quit in Iraq should explain how we win the war on terrorism once we've scared all of our allies away.

What about Iran? There is no doubt that an American retreat from Iraq will embolden Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making it even less likely that the Iranian president will bend to the will of the international community and halt his nuclear weapons program.

A member of Lebanon's parliament recently told me that Lebanese Sunnis, Shiites and Christians are lining up with Iran and Syria to fight against Sunnis, Shiites and Christians who want to stand with America. When I asked him why people were lining up with Iran and Syria, he said, "Because they know Iran and Syria aren't going anyplace. We're not so sure about America."

· Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them. They know that free people must fight to defend their freedom. No force on Earth -- especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents -- can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers' mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn't compute.

I suppose Hillary Clinton's announcement was a sign of progress. In 2007, a woman can run for president and show the same level of courage and conviction about this war many of her male colleagues have. Steel in the spine? Not so much.

America deserves better. It's time for everyone -- Republicans and Democrats -- to stop trying to find ways for America to quit. Victory is the only option. We must have the fortitude and the courage to do what it takes. In the words of Winston Churchill, we must deserve victory.

We must be in it to win.

The writer is former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.



Let me just put this out there: Make no mistake you are a fool if you think that just because we become more energy dependent we'll be less vulnerable to the damage that can be caused by Islamic extremists. We could turn water into gas and air into oil and it wouldn't change a damn thing.

In fact, related, just a few days ago the WSJ published it's last interview with Milton Friedman, economic superman who past away last year.

"Q: What is the biggest risk to the world economy: America's deficits? Energy insecurity? Environment? Terrorism? None of the above?

Friedman: Islamofascism, with terrorism as its weapon."

Friedman and his eco-political thought was basically the central reason for our economic strength in the modern era, especially for our economic leaps through the 80s, 90s to today. He doesn't beat around the bush or give any watered-down answer as to the future's biggest threat. He doesn't even use the general term "terrorism," as the interviewer did. His answer isn't global warming or the trade deficit with China or any of that red-herring crap you hear repeated daily in the media about what's wrong with America. Instead Friedman's clarity is just as convincing here as were he answering some simple economic question. I fear we don't have many decision makers like him left. It underscores what a loss his death is.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Two can play that game: Nancy Pelosi last October promised to "drain the swamp" of the previous GOP Congress by jamming favored liberal legislation through the House in just the first 100 hours of their rule while averting the usual committee process, refusing any Republican amendments or debate, or allowing GOP alternatives for a vote. So much for that era of bipartisanship Democrats promised -- apparently when the shoe is on the other foot hypocrisy loses all meaning.

Thus one has to just smile at today's interconnected news that to welcome them into power Bush announced that no only won't he yank the troops from Iraq, as the Frechified capitulation wing of the Democratic Party demands, but rather he instead fired Gen. George Casey - for reportedly being "more fixated on withdrawal than victory" - and then announced that he plans on increasing troop strength in Iraq by at least 20,000... all the while simultaneously war protesters gathered to heckle the new Democratic Congressional leaders as they held a press conference to discuss ethics reforms.*

Just when I thought Karl Rove was washed up he comes through with a nice kick to the Democratic collective groin. Perhaps a sign that the Bush team is willing to fight and won't just capitulate before the Democrats? Or am I being too optimistic?

* Ethics reforms? Really? Rep. William Jefferson, currently under FBI investigation for accepting about $90K in bribe money, still sits in office; Pelosi's choice for House Intelligence Chair was none other than Alcee Hastings of Florida, indicted in 1981 for soliciting $150,000 in bribes, was undone by an 11th hour realization by Democrats that even they can't be that ballsy; Clinton's former national security advisor, Sandy Berger, has admitted to stealing classified 9-11 related documents from the National Archives, smuggling them from the building, hiding them under a construction trailer but not finding them after returning for them (perhaps the most underreported story of 2006); Vocal anti-war Democrat Rep. Jim McDermott was found guilty of ethics violations and failing to meet committee obligations by illegally taping opposition party phone calls (there is also a pending civil ruling on the matter in the D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. John Conyers of Michigan admitted a few days ago to breaking House ethics rules because he, as described in the NY Post, "used several staffers as his personal servants - requiring them to babysit and tutor his children, chauffeur him to personal events, help his wife with her law-school classes, work on his campaigns and pay restaurant and motel bills... One staffer was even ordered to move into Conyers' home for six weeks and serve as a live-in nanny to his kids."

Physician impeach thyself, eh? Republicans were certainly guilty of their own ethics issues, but Democrats have no ethics mantle to hold over them. The difference, of course, is that most of you didn't know of these items (and more) until after the election -- courtesy of your left-leaning and biased mainstream media.



[Cal Thomas] These days, not much that makes religious sense comes out of Iraq, or anywhere else in the maniacal Middle East, but one reasonable statement did pass the lips of Sheikh Sadralddin al-Qubanjib in the Shia "holy city" of Najaf. During a Friday sermon, the sheikh described Saddam's execution as "God's gift to Iraqis" and prayed "Oh God, you know what Saddam has done. He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighboring countries and he is responsible for mass graves. Oh God we ask you to take revenge on Saddam."

That was a shorter summation than most prosecutors deliver in court, but in the end Saddam's execution wasn't about revenge. It was about justice. Many countries - from Britain, which has abolished capital punishment, to Russia, where a moratorium on capital punishment now exists, have halted executions because they believe, incorrectly, that doing so makes them more humane. It does precisely the opposite and sends the message that innocent human life has less value than the life of a killer. It is more than curious that Britain and Russia, especially, have halted the death penalty for the guilty, but do nothing to restrict incredibly high abortion rates that kill the innocent. This reflects an inverted value system.

One of Saddam's lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, appeared on the BBC shortly after Saddam's hanging was confirmed, complaining the trial was a "travesty." No, the travesty would have been in not trying and executing Saddam. Saddam mocked the innocent lives he took, showing disrespect to the relatives of the dead who had a valid claim to see justice done.



Marty Peretz comments in the WSJ about various reaction to the execution of Saddam Hussein, including one reaction that was in a word: ridiculous.

The burden of most of these objections to the [Saddam Hussein's] death penalty is that the trial was not really fair. Now, these were certainly the most judicious legal proceedings ever held in modern Iraq. Is this not superior to victors' justice? The defendant had legal counsel of his own choosing, among them Ramsey Clark, not so mentally stable is my guess, but a former attorney-general of the U.S. and not an easily intimidated advocate. What's more, as Fouad Ajami has pointed out, the accused performed histrionics that were tolerated even though they made havoc of courtroom order. If Saddam were the accused in a U.S. tribunal, he would have been bound and gagged. In Saddam's own Iraq, he would have been lashed, at a minimum...

Another, more recent sign of [UK] Conservative estrangement (not the only one) from the historically axiomatic bond with the U.S. is a querulous on-line column by the querulous Peregrine Worsthorne asserting that "Saddam was a butcher, so was Truman." Now, this is not a logical argument for anything. But his point was that Saddam's "cruel tyranny had at least provided the people with a degree of security quite unimaginable under conditions of freedom and democracy . . . a reign of fear may be the only effective system of government." This is cynicism of an especially low order. And if it gains currency in the house of Winston Churchill, where can it not become common wisdom?

Seriously? So in the minds of some Euro-moralists Harry Truman now equals Saddam Hussein? Really? Intentions and results matter not? Because 4 million Japanese died by allied hands it's no different than if Harry had gassed and incinerated them just for being Asian, and not to end what was a horribly bloody war and prevent an invasion that would have killed an estimated one million more Japanese? By this stupid, stupid logic I suppose Mr. Worsthorne would label Abraham Lincoln a worse mass murderer than Slobodan Milosevic. Well, thank God Truman and Lincoln were willing to kill as many as they did to preserve liberty and freedom. It's never desired but the alternative is far worse. We could only be so lucky that we'll have men like that again one day lead us when we next are at the brink.


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