[Washington Post] Law and Order star Fred Thompson will make his flirtation with a White House bid official this week, forming a presidential committee and launching a fundraising effort that could culminate in a formal announcement over the July 4th weekend, the former senator's advisers said.
All the papers are breathlessly reacting to statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials that proposed American missile defense shield in Europe would lead to a new arms race.
It became clear some time between Russian nuclear technology sales to Iran; and heightened role in propping Saddam Hussein's regime via lucrative Oil-for-Food kickbacks; to their general crackdown on further liberal constitutional development; and forceful silencing of media critics (third deadliest country for reporters, behind Iraq and Algeria); and regression towards autocracy; and you get the picture; that Vladimir Putin is no friend of the West, no friend of democracy or liberty, and certainly no friend of the United States, no matter who is our president.
But to threaten an arms race is laughable.
Last we recall they lost their first attempt. The Soviet Union went bankrupt in trying to keep up with Reagan's arms buildup, which was precisely why Reagan authorized it.
Russia's gross domestic product cannot hold a candle to America's -- the United States could for a long period of time absorb the increase of defense spending from its current 3 percent of GDP to 7, 8, 9 percent or even more. But Russia could not. They would implode.
So, they want an arms race? No problem. They won't last long. And Putin knows this.
Thus this is bravado geared towards an hysterical and reactionary anti-Bush global media. And nothing else.
Ivan Maisel at ESPN makes a ridiculous and partisan comparison in a column about troubled Arkansas football head coach Houston Nutt:
Nutt's detractors have put him in the impossible position of proving a negative -- he must have cheated on his wife because there is no proof that he did not.
It is a maneuver borrowed from national politics, Rovian in style and execution. Karl Rove, the chief political advisor to President George W. Bush, made his career on attacking an opponent's strength. In the 2004 presidential election, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth eviscerated Sen. John Kerry's stature as a war hero. Kerry's candidacy never recovered.
Rove had no visible affiliation with the Swift Boat Veterans, except that a tactic he made famous benefited his candidate.
Three years later, the tactic has been imported to Arkansas and used against Nutt.
Maisel's argument goes beyond simpleton and obsessive liberal logic that anything bad must be "Rovian" in nature.
His argument shows a clear disconnect from reality, but this is unsurprising. The Swift Boat Vets' beef with John Kerry -- which had nothing to do with Rove or Bush and everything to do with John Kerry's past behavior -- has been falsely repeated to a point of populist revision.
So, I decided Mr. Maisel needed an education and dropped him an Email back:
Talk about "the impossible position of proving a negative"!
John Kerry earned the wrath of the Swift Boat Vets not because of Karl Rove or George Bush, but because before Congress decades earlier he whitewashed every Vietnam veteran as a monster, repeating unproven hearsay that US soldiers "had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam..."
Kerry never witnessed these acts. Nor did he a single time ever offer evidence of those acts. Nor did his compatriots. Rather he repeated hearsay from those with clear political agendas knowing full well it wasn't proven.
Thus, comparisons between Houston Nutt to John Kerry just don't jibe.
Karl Rove didn't "swift boat" John Kerry. Indeed, the Swift Boat vets didn't either. John Kerry's presidential ambitions were doomed when, as a stepping stone to enter politics, he shamelessly spread lies and attacked the character of his fellow soldiers before Congress on April 22, 1971.
Kerry made that bed. Now he gets to lie in it.
Poor poor John Kerry! Were only he not swift boated! Rubbish. Kerry can hide his past from a capitulating Northeast liberal base, but when one runs for president they are accountable for it.
It also shows you what a rotten politician is John Kerry. With a simple apology, and words to the effect that he was misled by antiwar activist agendas, that he came home angry and impressionable, etc., he could have better diffused the Swift Boat Vets before they gained momentum without alienating his antiwar supporters. He could have triangulated the criticism, and taken a relatively short hit.
Instead he first ignored the vets, and then attacked them, which only empowered them.
[Iranian Daily Etemad-e Meli, via MEMRI.org] Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Na'im Qasim has said that Hizbullah would not disarm even if Israel withdrew from the Sheb'a Farms.
He said that this was because there would still be a need to liberate the prisoners being held in Israel, and to confront the danger that presents to Lebanon.
If you don't recall your Shebba Farms history, the term was never a political hotpoint until Hezbullah made it one.
After decades of pressure from the United Nations and the West, Israel conceded and withdrew from Southern Lebanon. The international community and UN certified in 2000 that Israel's withdraw from Lebanon was complete based on borders previously accepted by all parties. It was only after that certification that Israel's enemies decided that Sheeba Farms was still "occupied" and thus any peace null and void.
Neither Syria, Lebanon nor Hezbollah had ever cited Israel's existence at Shebba as a factor prior to 2000. Thus, Hezbollah uses Shebba Farms as an excuse to continue launching rocket attacks at Israel.
Israel could withdraw to Tel Aviv and Hezbollah would no doubt claim that land as theirs. Indeed, they have -- their leader stating previously that "Palestine" was all the land from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.
Here's another warning from National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, this time in a Washington Post op-ed.
Many Americans would be surprised at just what the current law requires. To state the facts plainly: In a significant number of cases, our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activity who are physically located in foreign countries. We are in this situation because the law simply has not kept pace with technology.
A few weeks ago McConnell told Congress that US intelligence agencies were already hampered by recent knee-jerk restrictions placed on surveillance, which are needed to prevent another 9-11.
These restrictions, naturally, were created by the very Congressional leaders (some Republican but mostly Democrat) to whom McConnell was lecturing.
It's just as author Tom Clancy once said: "First we gutted the CIA, then we blamed it [for 9-11]." We haven't learned from our past failures. And in a few years these same Congressmen and women will be deriding the CIA and FBI for failed to stop a terror attack which they empowered.
Curiously, the Democrats look to Europe -- which itself hypocritically levies criticism upon "big brother" America -- even though French and UK intelligence agencies, for example, are far more empowered to conduct domestic surveillance than their US counterparts!
As Bret Stephens explained in February, "Warrantless wiretaps? Not a problem under French law, as long as the Interior Ministry approves. Court-issued search warrants based on probable cause? Not needed to conduct a search. Hearsay evidence? Admissible in court. Habeas corpus? Suspects can be held and questioned by authorities for up to 96 hours without judicial supervision or the notification of third parties. Profiling? French officials commonly boast of having a "spy in every mosque." A wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies? France's domestic and foreign intelligence bureaus work hand-in-glove. Bail? Authorities can detain suspects in "investigative" detentions for up to a year. Mr. Bruguiere once held 138 suspects on terrorism-related charges. The courts eventually cleared 51 of the suspects--some of whom had spent four years in preventive detention--at their 1998 trial."
Yet I don't hear the world's Rosie O'Donnells arguing that France is a human-rights violating autocracy...
Perhaps after the next skyscraper crumbles we will learn.
Former senator and 9-11 commissioner Bob Kerrey (D, Neb) retorts a commonly stated principle by his fellow collogues on the left: "Democracy cannot be imposed with military force."
What troubled me about this statement--a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq--is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.
... The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.
Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power.
It's a good and truthful essay, but one that sadly most persons on the left will either ignore or ridicule, even if it comes from one of their own.
The silence and overall lack of concern and coverage regarding frequent reports that Iranian officals in Iraq are activly cooperating with al Qaeda and other Islamic militants, bombing both US forces and Iraqi civilians, is flabberghasting and disconcerting.
Were this September 12, 2001, wouldn't one expect to find public outrage and nonstop media coverage that the Iranian government was in cahoots with al Qaeda?
People used to say that on 9-11 "everything changed." But in truth, after a short period of time, nothing has changed. We are sqarely back to the mindset that invited attack on 9-11. What else to think from this report?
[UK Guardian] Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.
"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."
The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. "We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus's report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush's controversial, six-month security "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements]," the official said.
... Tehran is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They're betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don't trust," a senior administration official in Washington said. "They don't know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they're hedging their bets."
The administration official also claimed that notwithstanding recent US and British overtures, Syria was still collaborating closely with Iran's strategy in Iraq.
"80% to 90%" of the foreign jihadis entering Iraq were doing so from Syrian territory, he said.
The Iranian government certainly understands the stakes in Iraq, even if their useful-idiot allies in our country and in the Western free world do not. Bottom line: A functional, constitutional, (even somewhat) liberal democracy in Iraq would be disasterous to Iran, Syria and every despotic regime around it. It is why the Iranians are fighting so hard to prevent it. Why then are not the free forces in the world trying to do the same?
Just as we don't need to solve every crime and catch every criminal in order to have deterrents to crime, neither do we have to ferret out and deport every one of the 12 million illegal aliens in this country in order to deter a flood of new illegal aliens.
-- Thomas Sewell
National Review's Jonah Goldberg questions the Democrat's logic that labeling Iraq as "civil war" changes anything.
... Why is it obvious that intervening in a civil war is not only wrong, but so self-evidently wrong that merely calling the Iraqi conflict a civil war closes off discussion?
Surely it can't be a moral argument. Every liberal foreign policy do-gooder in Christendom wants America to interject itself in the Sudanese civil war unfolding so horrifically in Darfur. The high-water mark in post-Vietnam liberal foreign policy was Bill Clinton's intervention in the Yugoslavian civil war. If we can violate the prime directive of no civil wars for Darfur and Kosovo, why not for Kirkuk and Basra?
If your answer is that those calls for intervention were "humanitarian," that just confuses me more. Advocates of a pullout mostly concede that Iraq will become a genocidal, humanitarian disaster if we leave. Is the prospect of Iraqi genocide more tolerable for some reason?
Then there are those who take the fatalist's cop-out: Civil wars have no good guys and bad guys. They're just dogfights, and we should stay out of them and see who comes out on top. But that's also confusing, because not only is it not true, liberals have been saying the opposite for generations. They cheered for the Reds against the Whites in the Russian civil war, for the Communists against the Fascists in the Spanish civil war, and for the victims of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia and Sudan. Surely liberals believe there was a good side and a bad side in the American Civil War?
Ah, but I'm missing the point, they might say. It's not that there aren't good guys and bad guys, it's that we can't do anything about it, and therefore it's not in our interests to try. Then they point to, say, the civil wars in Lebanon or, closer to their hearts, Vietnam.
Let's stipulate Vietnam was a civil war. So what? There were certainly good guys and bad guys, and let the record show the bad guys won, which was not in our interests. This in turn led to many humanitarian calamities. And, recall, another superpower intervened in that civil war, and it worked out pretty well for the Soviets.
More to the point, it's ludicrous to believe America has no interest in who wins or loses various civil wars, including Iraq's. The 20th century would have been a lot more pleasant if the Bolsheviks had lost the Russian civil war, and the 21st will be a lot more ugly if Sunni Salafists or Iranian pawns win in Iraq.
Democrats in the Senate yesterday demonstrated, once again, that they neither have the votes for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq nor a real policy on the war.
Wednesday's vote to cut off funding by March 31, 2008, was voted down 67-29, with 19 Democrats joining every Republican in opposing the measure, which was submitted as an amendment to an unrelated bill.
... There are certainly Democrats who have already decided that we are on Mission: Impossible. But, as yesterday's vote showed, that wing of the party lacks the votes to make policy or to cut off war funding. They owe it to the country, then, to sit down and fund the troops and let the generals do their job.
-- Wall Street Journal
Incredible article in the Washington Post about the life and death of one of our many great soldiers, Major Douglas A. Zembiec.
Maj. Zembiec fell in fighting last week near Baghdad. By happenstance I am reading Bing West's No True Glory, which has no less than 13 separate references to Zembiec and his command during the 2004 battle for Fallujah. I'll post more about that battle -- a microchasm of our follies and reasons we are stagnant in Iraq -- later. In summary, timidified by public opinion polls, forcing our brave soldiers to pull their punches, it leaves little doubt that our government leaders and media are our own worst enemy.
But from what I've read thus far it's the men like Zembiec who offer our greatest chance of victory -- sadly, their voice and experience rarely reach the decision-making levels. I pray that can change before it's too late.
No True Glory, by the way, is in film production, and to star Harrison Ford.
The men knew firsthand how Zembiec, who lived outside Annapolis, had come to be known as the Lion of Fallujah.
The story is one of their favorites. It was 2004, in the Jolan district of Fallujah, and Zembiec was a captain. They were on a rooftop, taking fire from AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. They tried to radio an Abrams tank below to open fire in the direction of the enemy. No good.
Zembiec raced down the stairs and out to the street and climbed onto the tank. Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Marrufo, 29, who watched from the rooftop, remembers Zembiec getting a Marine inside the tank to open the hatch. Insurgents shot at Zembiec as he instructed the men in the tank where to fire.
Cpl. Chad Borgmann, 28, who went to Zembiec's funeral from Camp Pendleton, Calif., said yesterday that boarding tanks during firefights and similar actions is typically the work of enlisted men. If a lance corporal falls, there are 40 to take his place. But there are fewer captains, Borgmann said, and fewer still who always seemed to be out in front.
"He let us know it was his privilege to lead us," Borgmann said, walking back to a car through the graves of Arlington before heading out to meet up with his Marine buddies at the Clarendon Grill.
Read the rest. Honor him, and the rest as well.
It seems that the Democrats obsessive fishing expedition to turn up something, anything, incriminating against Karl Rove isn't going so well...
[Washington Post] The Justice Department told Congress yesterday that a search of e-mails sent over 2 1/2 years turned up a single message in which the department's senior officials communicated with White House adviser Karl Rove about the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys last year.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), a senior Justice official said the department scoured its computers in response to a subpoena and found just the single e-mail chain written earlier this year. It already had been released publicly.
The possibility that Rove had a role in the removal of the U.S. attorneys has become a central issue in Congress's investigation.
Well, I'm sure they can just fabricate a scandal out of thin air. You know, take a page from the European's World Bank playbook. It seems to have worked for them with Wolfowitz...
It's not surprising the White House spine has turned to jelly on the Paul Wolfowitz-World Bank controversy. They lost their edge quite some time ago, and Bush has shown his father's "wobbily" colors.
There's a lot of misinformation on the matter though, and the Bush team, had they adequate public relations skills, could of won the day. It's just another example of their poor communication abilities.
I mean, not to toot my own horn, but it took me just 148 words to clarify and wrist slap Tampa Tribune editors for their egregious attacks on Wolfowitz (last letter from May 16). So how is it that the White House can't do the same?
Wolfowitz never attempted to hide his relationship with Shaha Riza, and only followed the ruling of the bank's ethics board. If Wolfowitz must resign for poor judgment on the matter, shouldn't the board members and all those who advocated the solution likewise resign? (Note: WSJ's Bret Stephens is all over this, publishing letters from World Bank employees spotlighting other executive level shenanigans).
But this isn't about cleaning house. Or ethics even. It's about power. Once the Europeans eliminate Wolfowitz they'll be able to appoint one of their own, and go back to running the World Bank as they did before his reign. It's no coincedence that Wolfowitz's opponents have been the Europeans whereas his supporters were the very people the World Bank was created to assist - third world and developing countries.
“[In 1999] We started allocating precious intelligence resources to environmental issues just as al Qaeda was on the upswing. We were becoming politically correct. My fear is that we’re going back to the same place.”
-- Rep. Pete Hoekstra, from George Tenet's book At the Center of the Storm
Asking everyone to remember it the next time terrorists attacked our soil, last week I posted a comment from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, who told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Democrat's Congressional pressure to limit so-called warrantless wiretaps was becoming detrimental to intelligence gathering. "We are actually missing a significant portion [surveillance data] of what we should be getting," said McConnell.
Today it's reported that the Democrats now want to burden our intelligence agencies even more by forcing the CIA director to periodically report on the status of global warming. The last time we did this, underscored by the quote above, the CIA was caught with its pants down by 9-11.
Mike Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard has a whole writeup about it, and notes that Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence were likewise flabbergasted on redirecting CIA resources away from their work on al Qaeda, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc., to concentrate on something as silly as global warming.
[House Republicans] The task of the intelligence community is to steal foreign secrets. Global climate change simply does not require clandestinely acquired, classified information or analysis. The United States is spending more than $6.5 billion in FY07 on global climate change. Thousands of reports have been paid for on global climate change across the U.S. government. Hundreds of universities and private organizations have written many more reports on climate change. This is not the time to force our intelligence professionals to waste scarce intelligence resources on trendy topics such as global warming for the purposes of `political correctness'.
That's as to the point as one can get.
Goldfarb links to a post by Byron York reminding readers that in 1999 the Clinton Administration, "established what was known as the DCI Environmental Center within the CIA. The Center used satellite spying resources to track environmental matters. “They took pictures of volcanoes and sea turtle nests and took air samples of air pollution, as opposed to checking for traces of biological or chemical weapons, and it was all done at the behest of Al Gore."
Should the day come when we are attacked and people are asking "How did this happen again?" remember this post.
Tenet is not the only one to assume a generalized amnesia about the recent past. One of the major myths (or, more accurately, conspiracy theories) about the Iraq War — that it was foisted upon an unsuspecting country by a small band of neoconservatives — also lives blissfully detached from history.
The decision to go to war was made by a war Cabinet consisting of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld. No one in that room could even remotely be considered a neoconservative. Nor could the most important non-American supporter of the war to this day — Tony Blair, father of new Labor.
The most powerful case for the war was made at the 2004 Republican convention by John McCain in a speech that was resolutely "realist." On the Democratic side, every presidential candidate running today who was in the Senate when the motion to authorize the use of force came up — Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd — voted yes.
Outside of government, the case for war was made not just by the neoconservative Weekly Standard, but — to select almost randomly — the traditionally conservative National Review, the liberal New Republic, and the center-right Economist. Of course, most neoconservatives supported the war, the case for which was also being made by journalists and scholars from every point on the political spectrum — from the leftist Christopher Hitchens to the liberal Tom Friedman to the centrist Fareed Zakaria to the center-right Michael Kelly to the Tory Andrew Sullivan. And the most influential tome on behalf of war was written not by any conservative, let alone neoconservative, but by Kenneth Pollack, Clinton's top Near East official on the National Security Council. The title: The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.
-- Charles Krauthammer
Gagging Shaha Riza
May 4, 2007
Since the misnamed "Wolfowitz scandal" broke last month, enemies of the World Bank president have engaged in selective press leaks and calculated smears intended to oust him. Most of these leaks have come from within the bank itself, not that we've seen any effort by the institution to stop them.
Meanwhile, the bank bureaucracy has systematically sought to prevent Mr. Wolfowitz and his girlfriend Shaha Riza from telling their side of the story. Exhibit A is the bank's refusal to allow Ms. Riza -- whose raise and promotion are the central issue -- to defend herself even in a newspaper op-ed.
That was the order she received this week from one W. Paatii Ofosu-Amaah, a longtime bank bureaucrat from Ghana who serves as its vice president and corporate secretary. Both Ms. Riza and her lawyer declined to comment and were not our sources, but others who've seen the letter tell us that Mr. Ofosu-Amaah cited the bank's disclosure policies regarding board proceedings to forbid Ms. Riza from taking her case to the public.
That's more than odd, given that Ms. Riza currently works at a State Department affiliate; her salary continues to be paid by the bank as part of an agreement to avoid a "conflict of interest" claimed by the bank's own ethics committee. Bank sources also tell us that Mr. Ofosu-Amaah was among those who opposed letting Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Riza testify on Monday to the "ad hoc committee" investigating the case. One source adds that, "like several other vice presidents, Paatii took the position that a verdict could be reached through the documentary evidence alone."
Maybe that explains why this kangaroo court was prepared last week to reach a guilty verdict against Mr. Wolfowitz before either he or Ms. Riza had been given a chance to appear, according to "three senior bank officials" cited on Saturday by the Washington Post. Mr. Ofosu-Amaah's office didn't return our calls, naturally.
-- Wall Street Journal
All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it's absurd. Of course it's going up. It has gone up since the early 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we're coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we're putting more carbon dioxide into the air."
-- Reid A. Bryson, the 30th PhD in Meteorology granted in the history of American education.
That's from an interview in the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative magazine, which never would have been seen by the mass American public had it not been for Internet news aggregators like Matt Drudge.
So often the proponents of human-caused global warming assert polls showing 'X' numbers of scientists conclude that warming is a problem and is caused by man, but they don't tell you what these scientists are scientists of -- climatologists or nutrition?
Well, here's a bonafide doctor of meteorology saying it's not in human hands to control, nor even to measure!
A [Dr. Bryson]: Well let me give you one fact first. In the first 30 feet of the atmosphere, on the average, outward radiation from the Earth, which is what CO2 is supposed to affect, how much [of the reflected energy] is absorbed by water vapor? In the first 30 feet, 80 percent, okay?
Q: Eighty percent of the heat radiated back from the surface is absorbed in the first 30 feet by water vapor…
A: And how much is absorbed by carbon dioxide? Eight hundredths of one percent. One one-thousandth as important as water vapor. You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.
This begs questions about the widely publicized mathematical models researchers run through supercomputers to generate climate scenarios 50 or 100 years in the future. Bryson says the data fed into the computers overemphasizes carbon dioxide and accounts poorly for the effects of clouds—water vapor. Asked to evaluate the models' long-range predictive ability, he answers with another question: "Do you believe a five-day forecast?"
This is a must-read article. It's enlightening in so many ways:
It's a reminder that the parents of our fighting men and women are not all Cindy Sheehan (whose oddball love of socialist dicatators goes beyond the normal vitriol of one who is simply hurt from losing a son or daughter in Iraq. One cannot prove this but I suspect the vast majority of military parents are not like Sheehan at all.)
It reminds us that leadership is difficult. Conviction of rightousness in the face of unpopualrity, and convincing others of that course, defines leadership. One can argue that Bush has failed in so many ways, and his team's ineptitude in public relations is the core of their Iraq problem. But one cannot say that Bush honestly doesn't believe in his convictions. He does not simply follow popular opinion polls, as seems the norm with todays politicians, particularly in Congress.
It's also a statement on the media, who, in this case the Washington Post, buried the story on page 23. Perception in politics - even with wartime politics - is far more important than reality of politics. Imagine, as if during the Second World War, the media put stories like the one below on page 1 or 2 for five straight years. What might public opinion polls look like today?
In Veto Signature, a Tribute
Bush Stopped Iraq Bill With Pen From Fallen Marine's Dad
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 3, 2007; A23
When President Bush vetoed the war spending bill, he used Bob Derga's pen.
"It was just a plain old black rollerball," Derga said. "Just a $2 pen."
But it was priceless to Derga, an Ohio engineer who used it to write letters to his son in Iraq .
Cpl. Dustin A. Derga, a reservist with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, was killed in a May 2005 assault just east of the Syrian border. For a grieving father, the pen remained a link to what he considers a young life lost for a good cause, and he wanted Bush to use it for a purpose.
It happened this way: On April 15, Derga and his wife, Marla, drove away from their home in Unionville, where a chiseled stone in Dustin's honor reads, "If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever." Derga was headed for a gathering the next day at the White House, where he hoped to have a minute with the president.
He had two principal objectives: the president's signature on Dustin's Purple Heart certificate and a chance to urge him to use the pen if Congress sent him a bill setting an October date to begin a U.S. military withdrawal.
After Bush spoke to the cameras and a supportive audience, an aide led the way for the Dergas and about half a dozen other families connected with Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission. When they reached the Oval Office, Bush was standing in the doorway.
"He greeted each family as we came in, gave us a hug and shook hands," Derga said. "Very emotional meeting. . . . He was choked up."
Derga said Bush spoke to the group, then with each family in turn. "He talked a little bit about how he didn't come to Washington to win popularity polls," said Derga, an engineer with Diebold Inc. "He's very firmly behind his beliefs and convictions, and he believes the test of time will prove him correct. He even said whether he lives to see that or not is immaterial. He can leave the White House knowing he did what was right."
During their private meeting, Derga made his plea.
"I handed him the pen and looked him in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, if this comes down to a veto, I want you to sign it with my pen.' He said, 'Yeah, I'll do it.' When we left, he was shaking everybody's hand. I said, 'I'm serious. I want you to do it.' He said, 'I will. I will.' "
A call from the White House late Tuesday gratified Derga.
"We very much support the direction the president's taken. It's not a popular one, but he's doing what I feel is morally correct. He's staying the course," said Derga, who aimed "to let him know we fully support him and we can be a little part of it. It's not on his shoulders alone. I'm supplying the ink. He's doing the pen motion. We're in it together."
Democrats coined the phrase "Culture of Corruption" prior to the 2006 elections to refer to a slew of Republicans embroiled in legal and ethical woes. Even though Democrats such as William Jefferson of Louisiana, whom the FBI caught on tape accepting an apparent bribe of $100,000 in $100 bills, were themselves as worthy of the label, it nonetheless stuck -- with thanks to a partisan media -- and brought Democrats into power. From her elitist pedestal Nancy Pelosi, now Speaker of the House, promised the American people that the era would end under Democratic leadership.
That was six months ago. This is now. Focus is tilted towards Democrats. As the light shines on their improprieties will fellow Democrats hold them accountable? Will the media?
First, Harry Reid (NV, D), the Senate majority leader:
[INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY] Double Standard: It took 18 months of wasted taxpayers' dollars to clear former Senate GOP leader Bill Frist of insider-trading charges. Now let's probe Sen. Harry Reid, who made a million selling someone else's land.
... The shady improprieties of the current Senate majority leader are another story altogether. In 2004, Reid got $1.1 million — three times what he paid for it — for residential property on the outskirts of Las Vegas even though he had not owned the land for three years.
The mastermind behind Reid's sweet deal was one Jay Brown, who brags he's been Reid's friend "for over 35 years." The one-time casino lawyer's name has been connected to federal probes of organized crime and political bribery going back to the 1980s.
Brown's scheme worked this way: Reid bought the land in 1998 from a developer and beneficiary of a federal land deal Reid supported. In 2001, Reid "transferred" the land at cost to a corporate entity established by Brown, not bothering to include it on his required yearly ethics report, and misleading Congress that he still owned the property. Brown then got local authorities to rezone the land for commercial use and sold it, slipping Reid a cool million and change.
The deal allowed Reid to avoid taxes as well as public scrutiny, and was a clear violation of Senate ethics rules. No wonder Reid hung up on the Associated Press when it tried to interview him before breaking the story last year.
Reid also violated federal election law by using campaign funds to pay for more than $3,000 in Christmas bonuses to staff, and slipped an earmark into the 2005 highway bill for a bridge between Nevada and Arizona that would hike the value of 160 acres he owns nearby.
But Reid's take is small potatoes compared with the wheeling and dealing of another leading Senate Democrat, Rules Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California. In her six years as ranking Democrat on the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittee, she "may have directed more than $1 billion to companies controlled by her husband," according to American Conservative Union head David Keene, writing in the Hill, a Washington newspaper, on Monday.
URS and Perini Corp., under the control of Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, apparently got more than $1.5 billion in government business largely from Feinstein's subcommittee.
"Interestingly, she left the subcommittee in late 2005 at about the same time her husband sold his stake in both companies," quips Keene. The sale appears to have increased the combined net worth of the power couple by 25%, to a total in excess of $40 million.
And here's that referenced The Hill article on Sen. Feinstein's alleged improprieties. You'll note not a peep, by the way, from Democrat-friendly media lapdogs such as the New York Times or ABC News.
[The Hill] In other words, it appears Sen. Feinstein was up to her ears in the same sort of shenanigans that landed California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) in the slammer. Indeed, it may be that the primary difference between the two is basically that Cunningham was a minor leaguer and a lot dumber than his state's senior senator.
... It may be irrefutable, but she almost got away without anyone even knowing what she was up to. Her colleagues on the subcommittee, for example, had no reason even to suspect that she knew what companies might benefit from her decisions because that information is routinely withheld to avoid favoritism. What they didn't know was that her chief legal adviser, who also happened to be a business partner of her husband's and the vice chairman of one of the companies involved, was secretly forwarding her lists of projects and appropriation requests that were coming before the committee and in which she and her husband had an interest — information that has only come to light recently as a result of the efforts of several California investigative reporters.
This adviser insists — apparently with a straight face — that he provided the information to Feinstein's chief of staff so that she could recuse herself in cases where there might be a conflict. He says that he assumes she did so. The public record, however, indicates that she went right ahead and fought for these same projects.
During this period the two companies, URS of San Francisco and the Perini Corporation of Framingham, Mass., were controlled by Feinstein's husband, Richard C. Blum, and were awarded a combined total of over $1.5 billion in government business thanks in large measure to her subcommittee. That's a lot of money even here in Washington.
Interestingly, she left the subcommittee in late 2005 at about the same time her husband sold his stake in both companies. Their combined net worth increased that year with the sale of the two companies by some 25 percent, to more than $40 million.
In spite of the blatant appearance of corruption, no major publication has picked up on the story, the Senate Ethics Committee has reportedly let her slip by, and she is now chairing the Senate Rules Committee, which puts her in charge of making sure her colleagues act ethically and avoid the sorts of conflicts of interest with which she is personally and so obviously familiar.
This is a great commentary by New York Times columnist Judith Miller, writing in the Wall Street Journal, defending the behavior of NYPD cops who conducted reasonable surveillance on activists during the 2004 Republican National Convention.
She makes compelling arguments and notes how many activist groups were threatening violence and civil disobedience in the weeks prior. She also points out that the only incident of violence came when a protester(s) attacked a police officer, beating him unconscious.
The real shame, of course, is that Judith Miller could publish such a piece in her employer's paper, but had to go across the street to the competition.
Did the New York Police Department spy on peaceful groups and citizens trying to exercise their constitutional right to protest the renomination of President Bush at the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2004? This is what civil liberties groups allege, and what the NYPD denies. Who is right?
The issue is at the heart of several interrelated suits being adjudicated in federal district courts in New York, many of them filed on behalf of the 1,800 protesters who were arrested during the largest protest at a political convention in American history. In its complaints, the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents seven of those arrested, accuses the department of having violated the law by its mass arrests, holding people in protracted custody for minor violations, and fingerprinting those detained.
While the complaints themselves do not accuse the police of monitoring citizens for their political views, Christopher Dunn, the civil liberties group's associate legal director, said that there were "many indications" that the police had investigated people who posed no threat either to the city or the convention. The allegation was echoed in a front-page, 2,500-word article that led the New York Times in late March. Based partly on his review of more than 600 pages of the NYPD's still-secret "raw intelligence documents" and "summary digests of observations from both the field and the department's cyberintelligence unit," reporter Jim Dwyer concluded that the NYPD's " R.N.C. Intelligence Squad" had chronicled the views and plans of people who had "no apparent intention of breaking the law."
Stung by the criticism, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, David Cohen, the deputy police commissioner for intelligence, and Paul J. Browne, the NYPD press spokesman, outlined in interviews last week the nature of the police's concerns, its conduct, and the goals of its intelligence surveillance effort that they told the Times and still argue enabled some 800,000 people to protest peacefully and helped keep New York safe. "The department was indifferent to the political views of the attendees," said Mr. Cohen, a former senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency. "The pre-convention surveillance was aimed solely at maintaining civil order."
The outcome of these disputes has important ramifications, and not just for New York's efforts to identify and prevent terrorist and other threats to the city. It also risks tarnishing what the NYPD thinks should be regarded as a tremendous achievement.
What Mr. Cohen called the "co-mingled threat" of "terrorism, anarchist violence and unlawful civil disobedience" drove both the surveillance program and the policies of mass arrests and blanket fingerprinting. He said that there was no special "squad" to provide political intelligence for the convention, as the Times reported.
The 600-plus pages of still-secret intelligence documents that this reporter has also reviewed do list numerous peaceful organizations and individuals planning to attend the protests, including as the Times accurately noted, three New York City elected officials, street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, environmentalists, and people opposed to the death penalty and other Republican policies. The documents also chronicle some seemingly innocuous planning for the protests -- such as the concerts being held in several cities by the satirical performance troop, Billionaires for Bush -- as well as legal training and other services that similar groups and individuals were providing, or planning to provide, protesters.
But the material this reporter read does not show that the police monitored such peaceful groups and individuals because they opposed their political views, and the police say groups like "Billionaires for Bush" were never infiltrated. Rather, the intelligence documents appear focused mainly on estimating the number and motivations of people who were planning to attend the convention, as well as potential threats to the gathering, its delegates and the police.
The raw intelligence files also focus on often innovative nonviolent and violent disruption techniques that were discussed at public meetings and on the Internet by more than 18 groups and coalitions planning protests at the convention, several of which have histories of violent activity at earlier demonstrations.
The courts will eventually decide whether such surveillance and policies derived from it were legal and appropriate. But my reading of the 600 pages of intelligence reports, coupled with interviews of senior police officials, a review of speeches, and documents involving the law suits, suggests that the department's surveillance effort was largely threat-driven. It was prompted by legitimate concerns about how to assure the safety of both New Yorkers and protestors, 65% of whom came from outside the state.
While the line between appropriate and illegal surveillance of political groups is not always obvious or as a matter of law clearly drawn, the police complain that the department's actions have not been framed in the context of the threat New York was facing.
In an interview, Mr. Cohen argued, for instance, that a balanced appraisal of the city's surveillance effort should have emphasized the "ongoing and continuous threat" confronting the police. Since 9/11, he said, the city has experienced or prevented 11 separate terrorist plots, roughly two a year -- beginning with the still-unsolved anthrax letter attacks of October, 2001, in which five people died (one in Manhattan), to the thwarting of a plot in July 2006 to destroy the PATH subway linking New Jersey to Lower Manhattan and blow up the retaining wall at Ground Zero to flood lower Manhattan.
The 18-month period between the selection of New York and the convention itself was "the most intense threat period of the post September 11 era to date," Mr. Cohen said. Six terrorist attacks by al Qaeda-related or inspired groups in far-flung Casablanca, Jakarta, Istanbul, Moscow and Madrid killed nearly 300 people and wounded more than 3,000 during that period.
The police also had to expect and prepare for the worst because of the violence surrounding earlier large protests since 1999. "Inadequate advance understanding, or knowledge of the plans and intentions of those prepared to commit violence, undermined earlier efforts to contain disruptions, Mr. Cohen said. At Seattle's WTO protest in 1999, for instance, a relatively small group of activists among crowds of at least 50,000 people triggered grotesque mayhem -- violent confrontations with the police, $3 million in property damage, and numerous injuries and arrests.
Mr. Cohen said, and his intelligence files suggest, that the police were concerned about four categories of protestors: anarchists and others openly committed to violently shutting down the city; a second, far-larger group intent on acts of civil disobedience to disrupt proceedings through peaceful if illegal means; individuals with criminal histories embedded in both these groups; and people who had previously tried to hide or alter their identities when arrested. It was the need to ascertain true identities, he said, that led to the decision to fingerprint those arrested. This, in turn, required the police to arrest demonstrators who were violating the law, rather than give them summonses, since people are fingerprinted only after an arrest.
Eight weeks before the convention, activists designated Aug. 31, 2004, in online postings as a day for civil disorder, the "Day of Chaos," or "A-31." Groups of anarchists began identifying protest targets in public advisories, press releases and on Web sites.
For many, Madison Square Garden, the convention site, was "ground zero," which activists discussed entering with false identification. Others planned to prevent delegates from reaching the convention by blinding bus driver windows or disabling charter buses, lying under vehicles, and using rented cabs and flotillas of bicycles to clog bus routes.
A least 24 hotels throughout the city hosting state delegations were identified on Web sites as delegation hosts at which protestors could converge to harass delegates and disrupt normal hotel business. Reinforced police presence at the Warwick, the Westin and Roosevelt, Commissioner Kelly said in a 2004 speech, prevented demonstrators from "rushing" the delegates' hotels.
The intelligence files show that activists had also planned, and later attempted unsuccessfully, to close down Wall Street, disrupt traffic at Herald Square and elsewhere, crash delegate parties, stage sit-ins in hotel and office lobbies, seal off subway stations with arrest tape and switch subway signs to disorient delegates. There were plans to vandalize retail stores like Starbucks and McDonalds with what Mr. Cohen called "brick and bomb tactics"; activists were also urged to disrupt Broadway performances attended by delegates on Aug. 31, designated as "Chaos on Broadway."
Other businesses seen as hostile to the activists' agenda -- the Carlyle Group, Chevron, the Rand Corporation and Hummer of Manhattan -- were designated for "direct actions" ranging from blocking entrances to breaking windows and setting fires. The files showed that activists with previous arrests for violent conduct were monitored by NYPD plain-clothes detectives, and that information about their convention plans was shared with police departments in other states and counties.
Activists discussed the use of disruptive tactics that had worked so well in Seattle -- Molotov cocktails, ammonium-nitrate bombs with nails, live CS canisters, Tiki Torches (soup cans filled with flammable substances attached to the end of a stick) water guns filled with flammable liquids and chemical irritants, urine or paint, and mobile infrared transmitters to change traffic signals.
The files document at least eight training sessions in New York and outside that were organized by anarchists and other experienced activists. Techniques for evading or countering the police were taught. The New York City Anarchist Tribes, for example, held martial-arts training in Manhattan in January, 2004. The Syracuse Peace Council, in Ithaca, N.Y., which planned to block traffic in New York, held weekend training aimed at "building our own radical activist infrastructure."
The "Constitutional Rights Enforcement and Support Team," an Internet-based group, stated on its Web site that "many people who join this group will die, be wounded, or jailed" in its efforts to counter "police brutality." Ashira Affinity, a Colorado-based anarchist group, urged members to join protests that were "strategic, ruthless, efficient, as well as chaotic."
In addition to the usual crackpot threats posted in Internet chat rooms, such as the one by a writer who vowed to "fly a 767 into the convention and take care of the American problem on Thursday" -- which the police nevertheless could ill afford to ignore -- came vaguer if still troubling counsel from would-be protestors: "Give them the New York they are afraid of," urged one listing.
In Queens, police arrested three "Black bloc" anarchists who had three imitation handguns, a butterfly knife, pellets and a map of New York City. A man arrested on Aug. 20 for criminal trespass and possession of burglary tools in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, had been arrested more than 25 times in California for various offenses.
Critics of the police complain that never had so many protestors at a political convention been arrested. But Mr. Cohen notes that the arrest of some 1,807 out of nearly 800,000 protestors is the lowest arrest-to-crowd ratio of any major political gathering. Had the arrest-to-crowd ratio at a Miami protest in November 2003 been repeated in New York, 10,000 people would have been arrested.
The convention's only serious injury, Mr. Kelly said, was sustained by a detective who was pulled from his scooter and kicked unconscious by a demonstrator. He called the police's handling of the event one of his department's "finest hours," sentiments that were incidentally shared by the Times, which editorialized soon after the convention that the "intense planning" and "well-disciplined use of force" by the police had shown how disruptive tactics could be countered.
New York's fractious history over political surveillance has enhanced distrust between the city's police and civil libertarians. Though the Supreme Court has ruled that undercover surveillance of political groups is generally legal, the NYPD's abuses of political monitoring of anti-Vietnam war activists in the late 1960s led the courts to impose restrictions in 1985 on the department's monitoring of political protests. After the 9/11 attacks, however, the police sought and secured from the courts a loosening of those restrictions to prevent terrorism -- the so-called Handschu guidelines. But as a result, what kind of political surveillance the police can conduct is once again before the courts, and in the press.
Last February, the judge who had loosened the Handschu restrictions in 2003 harshly criticized the police in a separate but related political surveillance case involving the videotaping of protests, ruling that there must be an "indication of unlawful activity" before a political group or a person's political activity can be investigated. The police have challenged that ruling on grounds that this would effectively restore the pre-9/11 limits. They fear it might also dissuade other law enforcement agencies from adopting a similar approach. In fact, the controversy is already having that effect.
That would be a pity. For although I am devoted to the First Amendment and privacy rights, and believe that effective judicial and administrative oversight is critical to preventing police abuses, I also want the NYPD to have the tools and programs to protect the city from terrorist attacks. If that means scanning the Internet and sending plainclothes officers to public meetings to learn about planned actions that might turn violent, or be infiltrated and taken over by violent dissidents, so be it. Unfortunately, the current controversy is already making other police departments wary of following the NYPD's effective tactics.
Some law enforcement officials in the Twin Cities fear there may be many arrests during the 2008 Republican convention there. But Tim Lynaugh, a police officer assigned to convention planning, said his department hopes there will be almost none. But with fewer than than 600 police officers (New York has 37,000 in uniform), they will probably need outside assistance to assure public safety.
While the NYPD's advice was helpful when officers from both departments met in January to discuss preparations, police in the Twin Cities would probably not emulate New York's surveillance program prior to its own convention, even if it had the manpower to do so. "If what we've read about their program is true," Mr. Lynaugh said, "That is just not how we operate."
Of its roughly 10,000 employees, no fewer than 1,396 have salaries higher than the U.S. Secretary of State; clearly "fighting poverty" does not mean taking a vow of poverty at "multilateral" institutions. At the time of Ms. Riza's departure from the bank, she was a Grade "G" (senior professional) employee; the typical salary in that grade hovers around the $124,000 mark. For the next level, Grade "H"--the level to which Ms. Riza was due to be promoted--salaries average in the $170,000 range, with an upper band of $232,360. No fewer than 17% of bank employees are in this happy bracket.
Even sweeter, all of this is tax-free to non-Americans. U.S. employees have to pay U.S. tax but have their income taxes reimbursed by the bank. As with any public bureaucracy, these jobs are also impossible to lose for anything other than gross incompetence or venality. Some of Mr. Wolfowitz's accusers--notably, former general counsel Roberto Danino--are angry precisely because he upset their lifetime sinecure by demanding higher performance.
-- Wall Street Journal, demanding that if transparency be applied to one World Bank employee, it be applied to all World Bank employees.
Miraculous [fuel efficiency] technologies will not spring into being when Congress waves its wand, revealing to auto makers dramatic new ways to achieve mileage gains without sacrificing other vehicle qualities cherished by consumers. To meet the new standard, auto makers will have to offer smaller, less-powerful cars than Americans, with their dollars, have shown they prefer. There will be less room for the dog and kids. Don't try towing a boat. It will be harder for an aging, fatter population to climb in and out. Costs incurred to make the car run farther on a gallon of fuel will be costs not incurred to make the car safer, more comfortable, more useful.
-- Holman Jenkins
I don't normally blog about Hollywood types when they display stupidity. In the case of The View's departing co-host Rosie O'Donnell especially, demonstrating that she's a moron should be, by now, self-evident to all.
In fact, it's an insult to the world's morons to associate Rosie O'Donnell with them.
[MRC] Tuesday's The View marked the fourth anniversary of President Bush's famous "mission accomplished" announcement with Rosie O'Donnell's predictable rants against the war and the administration. "How many more years and how many more dead kids?" she asked about President Bush's insistence on continuing to fight in Iraq," charging: "It's just, you know, it's way over the amount of people killed on September 11th. We've killed more Americans than any terrorist ever did in this war."
With Rosie's logic Truman and FDR are war criminals because more Americans died (400,000+) during the course of the Second World War than by the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor (@2,400).
Indeed, we weren't even attacked by Germany -- rather, the United States leadership chose to make war with the Germans because we understood it wasn't about death counts but about spreading liberty in regions where there was at the time very little. With Rosie's childish mind we should have stopped at 2,400 and certainly not killed 7.5 million Germans and 2.6 million Japanese. No matter that in doing so future generations in those two states, Europe and the Far East were able to live in peace and prosperity.
O'Donnell and Lake then went on slur our military soldiers as uneducated and poor and certainly not bright enough to make decisions about enlisting themselves. That a Heritage Foundation study debunked these lies during a 2003-2005 study matters not to O'Donnell, Lake, their ignorant ilk or apparently, ABC.
Heritage, by the way, found that "wartime U.S. military enlistees are better educated, wealthier, and more rural on average than their civilian peers. Recruits have a higher percentage of high school graduates and representation from Southern and rural areas. No evidence indicates exploitation of racial minorities (either by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). Finally, the distribution of household income of recruits is noticeably higher than that of the entire youth population."
Remember this article the next time a group of terrorists come to our country and murder our citizens, and remember that it was the Democrats who curbed our intelligence gather capabilities and demonized anyone as a civil liberties boogeyman who dared try to close the loopholes that lead to 9-11:
[Washington Post] Court orders in January that brought President Bush's warrantless terrorist surveillance program under existing law have limited the intelligence that agencies can collect, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told a Senate committee yesterday.
"We are actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting," McConnell said during an unusual public session of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the administration's proposal to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).
Remember too something the Democrats never bother to define (which to its credit the Washington Post did) -- when they say "warrantless terrorist surveillance" what they're saying is spying on international communications (between a target in the US and another in a foreign country), not domestic spying where both points of communication are in the United States.
In their quest for political power the Democrats have proven time and again that they are willingly placing the country at risk by eliminating all the necessary but reasonable protections that were put in place after 9-11, and often against the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.
So, yeah, Democrats, congratulations for besting Bush. But when the next attack occurs and intelligence operatives point to the knee-jerk legislative hand cuffs that restrict our ability to weed out terrorist, will it matter any more?
The following commentary, by two-time Iraq tour Maj. Owen West, is a must read. Similar to the article about Army Col. Sean MacFarland one post below, West's commentary underscores that Americans -- thanks to our media and capitulating Democrats -- just don't get the full understanding of the war in Iraq, especially as understood by the men and women fighting over there.
WHEN the civilian hierarchy fails them, soldiers tend to seek solace in Clausewitz's observation that war is an extension of politics. But in 2005 and 2006 the reverse was true in Iraq: the battle churned in place, steadily eroding the administration's credibility and America's psyche, while most politicians stood on the sidelines, content to hurl insults at one another until the battlefield offered a clear political course.
... The two Congressional votes last week establishing timelines for withdrawing American troops completely undermined such assurances. The confusion stems from an inherent contradiction in our politics: Though the burden of war is shouldered by few, the majority of Americans want to vacate Iraq, and the percentages are increasing. Something has to give.
We're four years into a global conflict that will span generations, fighting virulent ideologues obsessed with expansion. It's time for those who are against the war in Iraq to consider the probable military consequences of withdrawal. But it is also time for supporters of the war to step back and recognize that public opinion in great part dictates our martial options.
It's hard for a soldier like me to reconcile a political jab like Senator Harry Reid's "this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything" when it's made in front of a banner that reads "Support Our Troops." But the politician's job is different from the soldier's. Mr. Reid's belief — that the best way to support the troops is by acknowledging defeat and pulling them out of Iraq — is likely shared by a large slice of the population, which gives it legitimacy.
It seems oddly detached, however, from what's happening on the battlefield. The Iraqi battalion I lived with is stationed outside of Habbaniya, a small city in violent Anbar Province. Together with a fledgling police force and a Marine battalion, these Iraqi troops made Habbaniya a relatively secure place: it has a souk where Iraqi soldiers can shop outside their armored Humvees, public generators that don't mysteriously explode, children who walk to school on their own. The area became so stable, in fact, that it attracted the attention of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. In late February, the Sunni insurgents blew up the mosque, killing 36.
If American politicians pull the marines out of Anbar, the Iraqi soldiers told me, they too will have to pull back, ceding some zones to protect others. The same is true in the Baghdad neighborhoods where the early stages of the surge have made life livable again.
Then America will be left with a dilemma: we could either vainly try to patrol Iraq's borders to keep the murderous foreign insurgents out and the swollen ranks of Al Qaeda in, or we could make assaults every six months or so into fallen cities and neighborhoods, like the bloody fight to retake Falluja in 2004. Either way, the cost of quitting will be heavier fighting by American troops.
So how can we reconcile this military reality with the desire by the majority of Americans to reduce troop levels in Iraq? The current surge may provide an excellent opportunity, if we acknowledge two things: Iraq is now a law enforcement war and Iraqi security forces are best suited to fight it.
The surge must be accompanied by a commensurate surge in Iraqi troops. To date, the Iraqis have simply been shifting soldiers from other areas into Baghdad. But these are stop-gap soldiers — as are our own — when what we seek is permanence. The Iraqi government must double the size of its army, to 300,000 combat troops from 150,000 today. The American surge will give them the breathing room to do so, and a deadline by which it must be done.
The idea is that, starting this fall, the Iraqi units would bulk up so the American units could begin to break up, moving to an advisory model in which the number of American soldiers embedded with Iraqi units triples while the overall United States force declines. Today many American patrols operate independently. In a year's time, ideally, no American patrol would leave its base without a fully integrated Iraqi presence.
Oddly, the Congressional resolutions calling for withdrawal would allow for this continued American advisory presence, somehow not including these troops as "combat forces." So even those members of Congress who voted for the resolutions could support bulking up the number of Americans assigned to Iraqi units without appearing as hypocrites.
The issue will be the numbers. A meaningful advisory force — both the embedded troops and the support personnel — would likely mean 75,000 Americans still in Iraq in the fall of 2008. This is about half of what we'll have in place for the surge this summer, but more than the supporters of the resolutions might expect.
It will take political courage for these politicians to agree to the needed advisory forces. But it is the only way the Iraqis themselves will ever be able to make their country secure. And that is the one goal on which all Americans, those who support the war and those who "support the troops," should be able to agree.
There's a fascinating article in USA Today about the unconventional efforts of Army Col. Sean MacFarland, of the 1st Brigade. It's too early to say if MacFarland's success means that the surge is working, even if the early indications have been encouraging. But what it definately does mean is that calls to withdraw troops and saying we've "lost Iraq" are both unfounded and premature. The last of the 20,000 additional troops aren't even scheuduled to reach Iraq until June.
Today, with violence down in Ramadi and the surrounding Anbar province west of Baghdad, MacFarland's tactics have led to one of Iraq's rare success stories. Al-Qaeda's presence has diminished as Iraqis have begun to reclaim their neighborhoods. And Army officials are examining how MacFarland's approach might help the military make progress in other parts of the violence-racked country.
Pentagon officials say the encouraging episode in Ramadi is a poignant reflection of shifting leadership tactics within the U.S. military, which is trying to develop a generation of officers who can think creatively and are as comfortable dealing with tribal sheiks as they are with tank formations on a conventional battlefield.
"You can't take a conventional approach to an unconventional situation," says Col. Ralph Baker, a former brigade commander in Iraq who is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
... MacFarland says he soon realized the key was to win over the tribal leaders, or sheiks.
"The prize in the counterinsurgency fight is not terrain," he says. "It's the people. When you've secured the people, you have won the war. The sheiks lead the people."
Read the rest of the article. It underscores the old bin Laden theory of people following the "strong horse." Once MacFarland's team started having success against the al Qaeda elements in Ramadi the local tribesmen stopped riding the fence because they were more confident in the US military than they were the insurgents.
Writing in Slate, under a column titled "A Loser's History: George Tenet's sniveling, self-justifying new book is a disgrace" - yowza, tell us what you really thing, right? - columnist Christopher Hitchens reminds his readers that George Tenet's "slam dunk" quote was hardly the only statement concerning Saddam Hussein's links to either WMD or support for terrorism. Indeed, Hitchens makes Tenet look rather silly and pathetic:
His ridiculous agency [the CIA], supposedly committed to "HUMINT" [human intelligence gathering] under his leadership, could not even do what John Walker Lindh had done—namely, infiltrate the Taliban and the Bin Laden circle. It's for this reason that the CIA now has to rely on torturing the few suspects it can catch, a policy, incidentally, that Tenet's book warmly defends.
So, the only really interesting question is why the president did not fire this vain and useless person on the very first day of the war. Instead, he awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom! Tenet is now so self-pitying that he expects us to believe that he was "not at all sure that [he] really wanted to accept" this honor. But it seems that he allowed or persuaded himself to do so, given that the citation didn't mention Iraq. You could imagine that Tenet had never sat directly behind Colin Powell at the United Nations, beaming like an overfed cat, as the secretary of state went through his rather ill-starred presentation. And who cares whether his "slam dunk" vulgarity was misquoted or not? We have better evidence than that. Here is what Tenet told the relevant Senate committee in February 2002:
Iraq … has also had contacts with al-Qaida. Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides' mutual antipathy toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggests that tactical cooperation between them is possible, even though Saddam is well aware that such activity would carry serious consequences.
As even the notion of it certainly should have done. At around the same time, on another nontrivial matter, Tenet informed the Senate armed services committee that: "We believe that Saddam never abandoned his nuclear weapons program." It is a little bit late for him to pose as if Iraq was a threat concocted in some crepuscular corner of the vice president's office.
On the heels of the Wolfowitz screw comes the Frist screw:
[WSJ] When insider-trading allegations against former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist surfaced back in 2005, they were splashed on the pages of major newspapers from coast to coast. Now that Dr. Frist has been vindicated, the silence is instructive. Is anybody out there?
... Yet it's impossible to undo the damage to his political career. Despite flimsy evidence, the media storm cast a shadow over his office, derailing any thought of a Presidential bid this year. The Nashville heart surgeon chose instead to "take a sabbatical from public life."
Democrats naturally cared less about the actual facts than about pinning another scandal on Congressional Republicans in the run-up to the fall elections. But what about others who thought it clever or funny or perhaps mandatory to get their share of media attention by confusing accusation with proof of wrongdoing?
American University Professor James Thurber got his name in the paper for quipping that Senator Frist "came in like Jimmy Stewart and was leaving like Martha Stewart." What a card. As for the press corps, it ran off in a braying stampede in pursuit of the theme du jour, which was Abramoff-DeLay-GOP corruption. The accusations against Dr. Frist fit that template, so there was no need for the herd of independent minds to inspect the evidence and make distinctions. A Washington Post editorial from the day now looks especially embarrassing -- and unfair.
Read the rest of the story.
This is a primer on Media 101, and to a large extent an ugly indictment on the willingness of our pack-hound "gotcha" journalists to follow the lead of the almightly Democratic Party press release.
It's so blatantly partisan I'd have far more respect for them were they getting bribe money for it.
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