Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: January 09, 2009, 11:13:54 AM
Arrogant Conceit: Obama Thinks He Can Reform The Economy
Obama's Interventionist Reforms Go in Precisely the Wrong Direction
Opinion By JOHN STOSSEL
Dec. 24, 2008—
Barack Obama wants to use the recession to remake the U.S. economy.
"Painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people," Obama said.
His designated chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is more direct: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste" (http://tinyurl.com/5n8u58
So, they will "transform our economy." Obama's nearly trillion-dollar plan will not merely repair bridges, fill potholes and fix up schools; it will also impose a utopian vision based on the belief that an economy is a thing to be planned from above. But this is an arrogant conceit. No one can possibly know enough to redesign something as complex as "an economy," which really is people engaging in exchanges to achieve their goals. Planning it means planning them.
Obama and Emanuel want us to believe that their blueprint for reform will bring recovery from the recession.
Yet, we have recovered from past recessions without undertaking a radical social and economic transformation.
In fact, reform would impede recovery.
This is not the first time a president chose reform over recovery. Franklin Roosevelt did it with his New Deal, and the result was long years of depression and deprivation. Roosevelt's priorities were criticized not just by opponents of big government but by none other than John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose theories rationalized big government. Before FDR had been in office a year, Keynes wrote him an open letter, which was printed in The New York Times:
"You are engaged on a double task, Recovery and Reform; -- recovery from the slump and the passage of those business and social reforms which are long overdue. For the first, speed and quick results are essential. The second may be urgent, too; but haste will be injurious. ... [E]ven wise and necessary Reform may, in some respects, impede and complicate Recovery. For it will upset the confidence of the business world and weaken their existing motives to action. ... Now I am not clear, looking back over the last nine months, that the order of urgency between measures of Recovery and measures of Reform has been duly observed, or that the latter has not sometimes been mistaken for the former."
Note Keynes's concern. Government interventions, such as the cartelizing of industry through the National Recovery Administration, "will upset the confidence of the business world and weaken their existing motives to action." In other words, investors will not take the risks necessary for recovery if their profits and freedom are subject to unpredictable government action. Economic historian Roberts Higgs calls this phenomenon "regime uncertainty."
Keynes's letter apparently had little influence on Roosevelt, who stuck to his plan. In his second inaugural address a few years later, FDR feared that signs of recovery had jeopardized his reform plans by removing the sense of emergency: "To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose."
What a shame. Free people enjoying their lives make it harder for the administration to forcibly impose its utopian vision on them.
Obama wants to act quickly. In the name of stimulating the economy, he plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars the government does not have to convert the economy from carbon-based fuels to "green" alternatives. Even if that were a good idea -- and it's definitely not -- it would not bring recovery. Any money the government spends must be taxed, borrowed or conjured out of thin air by the Federal Reserve, and that will reduce sound private investment.
Obama has no real wealth to inject into the economy. He can only move around existing money while inflation robs us of purchasing power. Meanwhile, private investors who might have produced a better engine, battery, computer, cancer treatment or other wealth-creating and life-enhancing innovations, hold back for fear that big government will undermine productive efforts.
The way to a lasting recovery is to greatly lighten the burdens of government. Then free Americans will save and invest.
Grand interventionist reforms go in precisely the wrong direction.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights
on: January 09, 2009, 09:23:53 AM
firearms are illegal in HK... so in theory, there are no guns in their society... i dont know how much of the movies is reality where all the bg's go around with automatics.... but revolvers are standard issue
The Triads do get ahold of many things that are illegal in HK, firearms included. More and more guns are making their way into the PRC proper. I recall reading about a big gunfight between several gangs in Shenzen.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights
on: January 09, 2009, 09:13:08 AM
It always amazes me in these hong kong action flicks the cops always are using REVOLVERS.
I love my revolvers...but 5-6shots in a .38spl doesn't compare to a glock or whatever with an extra magazine. I'm not sure if this is just for theatrics or that is their carry piece...a lot of movies the guns cyclinder opens and the rounds fall out adding to the suspense. If anyone knows i'd be curious on the Hong kong police carry? i haven't been to hong kong since 94.
here's more from Sha Po Lang(killzone) someone burned the entirety to youtube.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMBliuL1Z9wNote the point in which he inserts the blade through the bicep then uses it as a control point and a trap/armdrag.
This is an excellent technique in reverse grip...Southnarc uses it in his pikal work.
EDIT- in the movie the patrol officers had a full sized glock.
In 2004, the regular Hong Kong beat cop was still carrying k-frame Smith and Wesson 4 inch revolvers, at least the ones I saw were. I know the Hong Kong Police (formerly the Royal Hong Kong Police until 1997) version of SWAT had all the tools and toys you'd find with an American SWAT team, including semi-auto handguns. If I recall correctly, Glock had it's east asian branch based in HK, so it wouldn't be much of a leap to assume the HK cops were buying Glocks to replace the revolvers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rachel?
on: January 08, 2009, 09:09:19 PM
Three sources tell Guardian Obama plans to talk to Hamas
posted at 7:30 pm on January 8, 2009 by Allahpundit
Barack Obama, April 2008:
“We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel’s destruction. We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and abide by past agreements.”
“Hamas is not a state. Hamas is a terrorist organization,” he said.
The Guardian, tonight:
The Guardian has spoken to three people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp.
There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on in his administration, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive.
Richard Haass, a diplomat under both presidents Bush who was named by a number of news organisations this week as Obama’s choice for Middle East envoy, supports low level contacts with Hamas provided there is a ceasefire in place and a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation emerges…
Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at the Georgetown school of foreign service, said it was unlikely Obama would move to initiate contacts with Hamas unless the radical faction in Damascus was crippled by the conflict in Gaza. “This would really be dependent on Hamas’s military wing having suffered a real, almost decisive, drubbing.”
I bet they feel silly now for unendorsing him.
What’s changed in nine months? For one thing, the ceasefire’s come and gone per Hamas’s choosing, reminding the world yet again that they can’t be ignored. Terrorism works, as Alan Dershowitz likes to say, and never more so than here if the crisis they provoked succeeds in landing them a seat at The One’s table. Beyond that, with the election over, Obama no longer needs Hamas as a fig leaf for his policy of dialogue with Iran. I wrote about this endlessly during the campaign: The three reasons he gave in April for not chatting with them — terrorism, rejectionism, and dealbreaking — apply equally well to Iran, but meeting with Iran is the cornerstone of the foreign policy Change he promised. How then to prove his Zionist credentials to pro-Israel voters? Simple — draw a meaningless artificial distinction between Iran and Hamas based on the fact that one’s a sovereign state and the other isn’t. He’ll talk to terrorist states threatening Israel with nuclear weapons, but terrorist groups threatening them with Qassam rockets? Why, he’s far too much of a Likudnik for that. Except of course he’s not, which is why that meaningless artificial distinction is now reportedly — and quietly — being discarded.
Exit question one: Anyone heard recently from our new Secretary of State? She seemed quite troubled during the campaign by the thought of listening to Hamas. Exit question two: Second look at this report from November? Exit question three: He’s not going to try to spin this as okay because it wouldn’t involve “direct presidential diplomacy,” is he? I.e., “When I said I wouldn’t talk to Hamas, I meant *I* wouldn’t talk to Hamas. Hillary, on the other hand…”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: January 08, 2009, 05:04:37 AM
By Ralph Peters
New York Post | Thursday, January 08, 2009
WOULD you ask your accountant to perform brain surgery on your child? That's the closest analogy I can find to the choice of Democratic Party hack Leon Panetta to head the CIA.
Earth to President-elect Obama: Intelligence is serious. And infernally complicated. When we politicize it - as we have for 16 years - we get 9/11. Or, yes, Iraq.
The extreme left, to which Panetta's nomination panders, howled that Bush and Cheney corrupted the intelligence system. Well, I worked in the intel world in the mid 1990s and saw how the Clinton team undermined the system's integrity.
Al Qaeda a serious threat? The Clinton White House didn't want to hear it. Clinton was the pioneer in corrupting intelligence. Bush was just a follow-on homesteader.
Now we've fallen so low that left-wing cadres can applaud the nomination of a CIA chief whose sole qualification is that he's a party loyalist, untainted by experience.
The director's job at the CIA isn't a party favor. This is potentially a matter of life and death for thousands of Americans. But the choice of Panetta tells us all that Barack Obama doesn't take intelligence seriously.
Mark my words: It'll bite him in the butt.
After the military, the intel community is the most complex arm of government. You can't do on-the-job training at the top. While a CIA boss needn't be a career intelligence professional, he or she does need a deep familiarity with the purposes, capabilities, limitations and intricacies of intelligence.
Oh, and you'd better understand the intelligence bureaucracy.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was blindsided - and appalled - by the Obama mafia's choice, has the essential knowledge of how the system works. She, or a similar expert, should have gotten this nod. But the president-elect wanted a clean-slate yes-man, not a person of knowledge and integrity.
We're witnessing the initial costs of Obama's career-long lack of interest in foreign policy, the military and intelligence. He doesn't think the top job at the CIA's important and just wants political cover on that flank. (Guess we got Panetta because Caroline Kennedy has another engagement.)
Forget a "team of rivals." Obama's creating a campaign staff for 2012.
Of course, he's reeling from the shrill rage of the Moveon.org crowd over his nomination of grown-ups to be his national-security adviser, director of national intelligence, administrator of veterans' affairs and, yes, secretary of state. (By the way, how could Hillary be dumb enough to accept a job where success is impossible?)
Panetta's appointment is a sop to the hard left, a signal that intelligence will be emasculated for the next four - or eight - years.
Think morale's been bad at the CIA? Just wait.
Conservatives played into this scenario by insisting that any CIA analysis that didn't match the Bush administration's positions perfectly amounted to an attack on the White House. Well, sorry. The intelligence community's job isn't to make anybody feel good - its core mission is to provide nonpartisan analysis to our leaders.
To be a qualified D-CIA, a man or woman needs a sophisticated grasp of three things: The intel system, foreign-policy challenges and the Pentagon (which owns most of our intelligence personnel and hardware). Panetta has no background - none - in any of these areas. He was never interested.
If you handed Leon Panetta a blank map of Asia, I'd bet my life he couldn't plot Baghdad, Kabul or Beijing within 500 miles of their actual locations. (Maybe he can see China from his California think tank?)
This shameless hack appointment is the first action by the incoming administration that seriously worries me. Get intelligence wrong and you get dead Americans.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: January 08, 2009, 04:44:38 AM
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 14:34 07/01/2009
Report: Islamist site compiling list of U.K. Jews to target over Gaza op
By Haaretz Service
An Islamic extremist Web site is believed to be drawing up a list of prominent British Jews to target over Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza, The Sun reported on Wednesday.
According to the British newspaper, Amy Winehouse record producer Mark Ronson and Foreign Secretary David Miliband were among names discussed on the online forum Ummah.
The report came as a British Jewish watchdog group, the Community Security Trust, said there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Britain since the upsurge of hostilities in Gaza.
The British daily quoted the Ummah site as saying, "Saladin1970" asks for help compiling "a list of those who support Israel."
"Abuislam" asks: "Have we got a list of top Jews we can target? Can someone post names and addresses?"
Tony Blair's Middle East envoy and tennis partner Lord Levy, TV's The Apprentice boss Sir Alan Sugar and Princess Diana's divorce lawyer Anthony Julius were also reportedly among those mentioned on the site.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-Pak
on: January 08, 2009, 12:57:28 AM
Transcripts of phone conversations between Mumbai terrorists
National Post Published: Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Transcripts published by the Indian newspaper The Hindu make it apparent the six handlers involved in the Mumbai attacks were closely monitoring events in Mumbai through the live TV coverage that went on non-stop for 60 hours.
"There are three ministers and one secretary of the cabinet in your hotel. We don't know in which room," a Pakistan-based caller tells a terrorist at the Taj at 3:10 a.m. on Nov. 27.
"Oh! That is good news" It is the icing on the cake!," he replies.
"Find those three-four persons and then get whatever you want from India," he is instructed.
"Pray that we find them," he answers.
At the Oberoi at 3:53 a.m., a handler phones and says: "Brother Abdul [Bada Abdul Rehman], the media is comparing your action to 9/11. One senior police official has been killed."
Abdul Rehman: "We are on the 10th/11th floor. We have five hostages."
Caller 2 (Kafa): "Everything is being recorded by the media. Inflict the maximum damage. Keep fighting. Don't be taken alive."
Caller: "Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire."
Fahad Ullah: "We have three foreigners, including women from Singapore and China."
Caller: "Kill them."
The dossier then notes the telephone intercept records the "voices of Fahad Ullah and Bada Abdul Rehman directing hostages to stand in a line, and telling two Muslims to stand aside. Sound of gunfire. Cheering voices in background. Kafa hands telephone to another handler, Wasi Zarar, who says, "Fahad, find the way to go downstairs."
At Nariman House at 7:45 p.m., Wasi Zarar tells a terrorist: "Keep in mind that hostages are of use only as long as you do not come under fire because of their safety. If you are still threatened, then don't saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them."
He adds, "The Army claims to have done the work without any hostage being harmed. Another thing: Israel has made a request through diplomatic channels to save the hostages. If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel."
"So be it, God willing," the terrorist replies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: January 07, 2009, 07:52:13 PM
- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com
Top American Islamic Cleric Threatens U.S. on Egyptian TV
Posted By Patrick Poole On January 7, 2009 @ 12:00 am
Homeland Security, Israel, Middle East, US News, World News
Islamic cleric Salah Sultan appeared on Egypt’s Al-Nas TV last week and delivered a warning of death and destruction for America. Not only did he attack the U.S. for its military support of Israel in its fight against the Hamas terrorist organization, but he vowed retaliation such that more Americans would be killed than those Palestinians (and, presumably, Hamas terrorists) killed in the present conflict in Gaza, emphasizing that this would take place “soon”:
America, which gave [Israel] everything it needed in these battles, will suffer economic stagnation, ruin, destruction, and crime, which will surpass what is happening in Gaza. One of these days, the U.S. will suffer more deaths than all those killed in this third Gaza holocaust. This will happen soon.
He also invoked a notorious Islamic hadith on the inevitable annihilation of the Jews by Muslims:
The stone, which is thrown at the Jews, hates these Jews, these Zionists, because Allah foretold, via His Prophet Muhammad, that Judgment Day will not come before the Jew and the Muslim fight. The Jew will hide behind stones and trees, and the stone and the tree will speak, saying: “Oh Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” The only exception will be the Gharqad tree.
This harangue would be nothing new on television in the Islamic world; in fact, it is commonplace. What is unique about Sultan’s threats against America is that he holds U.S. permanent residency status and, according to one federal law enforcement official, travels regularly on a U.S. passport. And as I have reported  elsewhere, Sultan is pursuing U.S. citizenship (the status of his application is unknown due to federal privacy laws). Thus, Salah Sultan has lived quite comfortably for more than a decade under the protections of the very country he now threatens with death and destruction.
It should be noted that Salah Sultan is not some obscure figure in the American Islamic world. He serves as a member of the  Fiqh Council of North America. Touted as the top Islamic governing body in the U.S., the Fiqh Council is an arm of the Islamic Society of North America. Sultan founded and served as president of the  Islamic American University in Southfield, Michigan; he was the national director of tarbiyah (Islamic instruction) for the Muslim American Society; and he continues to operate the  American Council for Islamic Research, based in my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio.
Sultan’s Al-Nas TV appearance last week was  recorded and  translated by the indispensable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Curiously, as soon as MEMRI published the video clips of Sultan’s harangue, references to Sultan’s membership with the Fiqh Council were scrubbed from its website. His name has been removed from its  list of council members, even though he appeared there as recently as early last week. However, Sultan is still listed as a member on the Fiqh Council’s  brochure posted online (no doubt that will be remedied as soon as they are informed of this report).
This is not the first time that Sultan has been the subject of a MEMRI report for his statements made and activities conducted outside of the U.S. In July 2007,  MEMRI reported on a conference held in Doha, Qatar, in honor of Hamas spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has been banned from the U.S. since 1999 for his active support of Islamic terrorism. One of the conference’s keynote speakers was Hamas head Khaled Mash’al, a “specially designated global terrorist” by the U.S. government who praised the terror cleric for his fatwa endorsing Hamas suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Sitting beside Mash’al and Qaradawi on the  speaker’s dais was none other than Salah Sultan, who gave two separate addresses during the conference honoring his mentor, Qaradawi.
This appearance by Sultan with two terrorist leaders directly violates the much-ballyhooed 2005 anti-terrorism fatwa issued by the Fiqh Council and signed by Sultan himself prohibiting such contact. Sultan also spoke at a July 2006  pro-Hamas rally in Istanbul held by the extremist Saadet Party, which also featured an address by Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh — again, a glaring violation of the Fiqh Council’s terrorism fatwa.
But with several former Fiqh Council members in prison on terrorism-related charges (former council trustee Abdurahman Alamoudi, currently serving a 23-year prison sentence), deported for concealing their terrorism ties (Fawaz Damra), fingered in illegal terrorist fundraising (current member Muhammad Al-Hanooti), and named as unindicted co-conspirators in terrorism trials (former chairman Taha Jaber Al-Awani), it should be apparent that the group is not rigorous in the fatwa’s enforcement. The Investigative Project has published a  dossier on the extensive roster of Fiqh Council members tied to the international Islamic terrorist network.
May 2006 saw Salah Sultan’s first starring role in a MEMRI report when  he was recorded on Al-Risala TV saying the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 terror attacks, which he claimed were then used to declare war on Muslims worldwide, and also praising Osama bin Laden mentor and “specially designated global terrorist” Abd-al-Magid Al-Zindani (see the MEMRI  video clip and  transcript of Sultan’s Al-Risala interview). These comments were made just two weeks after the Columbus Dispatch published a  lengthy defense of Sultan as a moderate and the Central Ohio Islamic school that he was religious director of at the time.
Sultan’s Middle East media appearances also caught the eye of the Los Angeles Times in July 2007. The paper  cited him by name in an article by Borzou Daragahi on a group of Islamic clerics who “share the outlook of al-Qaeda” and who were “glorifying holy war” on Bahraini TV. Sultan was a regular guest on a program hosted by Muslim Brotherhood cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, who was expelled from the U.S. in December 2004 and banned from reentering for his ties to Islamic terrorism. As noted by Bahraini blogger and journalist Mahmoud Al-Yousif, their television program was  shut down by the Bahraini government after extensive criticism by members of parliament and the media.
Considering Salah Sultan’s lengthy résumé of Islamic extremism and regular association with designated terrorist leaders — much of it captured on video — you might think that the Department of Homeland Security would take some action with respect to his permanent residency status (despite owning a home in Ohio, he spends most of his time in Bahrain, disqualifying him for permanent residency), if not ban him completely from the country. You would be wrong, however. In fact, Sultan spent most of December touring mosques in Central Ohio before jetting off to Egypt last weekend for his Al-Nas interview.
But now that Salah Sultan is publicly inciting violence against the U.S. and predicting the deaths of hundreds or even thousands of our citizens through foreign media outlets, on what basis can Homeland Security officials continue to ignore this very real and extensively documented terror threat, his connections to leading U.S. Islamic groups notwithstanding? That remains to be seen.
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/top-american-islamic-cleric-threatens-us-on-egyptian-tv/
URLs in this post:
 elsewhere: http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=7FBDEF74-2DAC-401C-87BF-5D3E3E102047
 Fiqh Council of North America: http://www.fiqhcouncil.org/
 Islamic American University: http://www.islamicau.org/
 American Council for Islamic Research,: http://salahsoltan.com/main/188.8.131.52.0.0.phtml
 recorded: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1965.htm
 translated: http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/1965.htm
 list of council members: http://www.fiqhcouncil.org/AboutUs/tabid/175/Default.aspx
 brochure: http://www.fiqhcouncil.org/Portals/4/FCNABrochure.pdf
 MEMRI reported: http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP167207
 speaker’s dais: http://ohioagainstterror.blogspot.com/2007/10/former-hilliard-hamas-cleric-pictured.html
 pro-Hamas rally: http://ohioagainstterror.blogspot.com/2007/05/hilliard-hamas-muslim-brotherhood.html
 dossier: http://www.investigativeproject.org/FCNA-CAIR.html
 he was recorded on Al-Risala TV: http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP116806
 video clip: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1143.htm
 transcript: http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/1143.htm
 lengthy defense: http://dispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2006/05/05/20060505-C1-00.html
 cited him by name: http://ohioagainstterror.blogspot.com/2007/08/la-times-hilliard-holy-war-homeboy.html
 shut down: http://mahmood.tv/2007/06/13/crybabies-wont-leave
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: January 07, 2009, 10:19:31 AM
JANUARY 7, 2009
Iran's Hamas Strategy
Radical Shiites back radical Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing the Middle East.
By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that Sunni and Shiite radicals don't work together -- er, except when they do. Proof that the conventional wisdom is badly wrong is on offer in Gaza, where the manifest destiny of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now unfolding. Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East. Now Israel's response to thousands of Hamas rocket provocations appears to be doing just that.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Dec. 12, 2008. A poster at rear shows the late spiritual leader and founder of the Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.
Born in the 1980s from the ruins of the Palestine Liberation Organization's corrupt and decaying secular nationalism, Hamas is a grass-roots, Sunni Islamist movement that has made Shiite Iran a front-line player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before Hamas, the mullahs had financed the Palestine Islamic Jihad, whose holy warriors became renowned suicide bombers. But Islamic Jihad has always been a fringe group within Palestinian society. As national elections revealed in 2006, Hamas is mainstream.
Although often little appreciated in the West, revolutionary Iran's ecumenical quest has remained a constant in its approach to Sunni Muslims. The anti-Shiite rhetoric of many Sunni fundamentalist groups has rarely been reciprocated by Iran's ruling elite. Since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic, quintessentially Shiite leader of the Islamic revolution, Iran's ruling mullahs have tried assiduously to downplay the sectarian content in their militant message.
Khomeini's successor, Ali Khamenei, has consistently married his virulent anti-American rhetoric (Khomeini's "Great Satan" has become Khamenei's "Satan Incarnate") with a global appeal to faithful Muslims to join the battle against the U.S. and its allies. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most politically adept of the revolution's founding clerics, loved to sponsor militant Sunni-Shiite gatherings when he was speaker of parliament and later as president (1989-1997). He and Mr. Khamenei, who have worked hand-in-hand on national-security issues and have unquestionably authorized every major terrorist operation since the death of Khomeini in 1989, have always been the ultimate pragmatists, even reaching out to Arab Sunni radicals with a strong anti-Shiite bent.
The most radical branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization and its most famous member, Ayman al-Zawahiri, became favored Arab poster boys for the clerical regime in the 1980s and 1990s even though Islamic Jihad, like other extremist takfiri Sunni groups, damns Shiites with almost the same gusto as it damns Western infidels. The laissez-passers that Iran gave members of al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001 (see the 9/11 Commission Report), the training offered to al Qaeda in the 1990s by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah (again, see the report), and the "detention" of senior members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan after the American invasion are best seen against the backdrop of clerical Iran's three-decade long outreach to radical Sunnis who loathe Americans more than they hate Shiites.
In 2003, Iran launched two Arabic satellite TV channels both under the guidance of the former Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Larijani, a well-dressed, well-trimmed puritan with a Ph.D. in philosophy who crushed a brief period of intellectual openness in Iran's media in the early 1990s. A favorite of Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Larijani pushed TV content extolling Hamas, anti-Israeli suicide bombers, anti-Semitism and an all-Muslim insurgency in Iraq. Iran's remarkably subdued rhetoric against Arabs who gave loud support to insurgents and holy warriors slaughtering Iraqi Shiites between 2004 and 2007 is inextricably tied to Tehran's determination to keep Muslim eyes focused on the most important issue -- the battle against America and Israel. Iran's full-bore backing of Hezbollah in the July 2006 war with the Jewish State, a conflict that Tehran and its Syrian ally precipitated by their aggressive military support of Hezbollah, drew Sunni eyes further away from Iraq's internecine strife.
The 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 34 days and saw Hezbollah's Iranian-trained forces embarrass the Israeli army, made Tehran's favorite Arab son, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, one of the most admired men in the Sunni Arab world. This was a remarkable achievement given that Hezbollah had helped Iran train some of the Iraqi Shiite militants who were wreaking a horrific vengeance against Baghdad's Sunni Arabs in 2006 -- a bloodbath that was constantly on Arab satellite television.
Prominent Sunni rulers -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah -- have railed against a "Shiite arc" of power forming in the Near East, only to see few echoes develop outside of the region's officially controlled media. Although the Sunni Arab rulers have sometimes shown considerable anxiety about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, Sunni fundamentalist organizations affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship for Sunni Islamists, have been much more restrained in expressing their trepidation.
With strong ties to its fundamentalist brethren along the Nile, Hamas has given Iran (really for the first time, and so far at little cost) an important ally within the fundamentalist circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Islamic revolution's great disappointments was that it failed to produce more allies within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its many offshoots.
The revolution certainly inspired many within the movement in Egypt and in Syria. But Iran's ties to the ruling Syrian Allawite elite -- a heretical Shiite sect that Sunni fundamentalists detest -- complicated its outreach to Sunni militants. When Syria's dictator Hafez Assad slaughtered thousands of Sunni fundamentalists in the town of Hama in 1982, and revolutionary Iran remained largely silent, Tehran's standing within the Muslim Brotherhood collapsed.
With Hamas, Iran has the opportunity to make amends. The mullahs have a chance of supplanting Saudi Arabia, the font of the most vicious anti-Shiite Sunni creed, as the most reliable backer of Palestinian fundamentalists. Even more than the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains tied to and constrained by the complex matrix of Lebanese politics, Hamas seems willing to absorb enormous losses to continue its jihad against Israel. Where Saudi Arabia has been uneasy about the internecine strife among Palestinians -- it has bankrolled both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas -- Iran has put its money on the former.
Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis' killing much of Hamas's brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d'être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It's no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement's aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran's influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.
Through Hamas, Tehran can possibly reach the ultimate prize, the Egyptian faithful. For reasons both ancient and modern, Egypt has perhaps the most Shiite-sympathetic religious identity in the Sunni Arab world. As long as Hamas remains the center of the Palestinian imagination -- and unless Hamas loses its military grip on Gaza, it will continue to command the attention of both the Arab and Western media -- Egypt's politics remain fluid and potentially volatile. Tehran is certainly under no illusions about the strength of Egypt's military dictatorship, but the uncertainties in Egypt are greater now than they have been since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.
President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat's successor, is old and in questionable health. His jet-setting son or a general may succeed him. Neither choice will resuscitate the regime's legitimacy, which has plummeted even among the highly Westernized elite. The popularity and mosque-power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win a free election, continues to rise. A turbulent Gaza where devout Muslims are in a protracted, televised fight with the cursed Jews could add sufficient heat to make Egyptian politics really interesting. The odds of Egypt cracking could be very small -- the police powers of the Egyptian state are, when provoked, ferocious -- but they are now certainly enough to keep the Iranians playing.
Where once Ayatollah Khomeini believed in the revolutionary potential of soft power (Iran's example was supposed to topple the pro-American autocrats throughout the Middle East), Khomeini's children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence. With Gaza and Egypt conceivably within Tehran's grasp, the clerical regime will be patient and try to keep Gaza boiling.
It is entirely possible that Tehran could overplay its hand among the Palestinians as it overplayed its hand among Iraqi Shiites, turning sympathetic Muslims into deeply suspicious, nationalistic patriots. The Israeli army could deconstruct Hamas's leadership sufficiently that Gaza will remain a fundamentalist mess that inspires more pity than the white-hot heat that comes when jihadists beat infidels in battle. But with a nuclear-armed Iran just around the corner, the mullahs will do their best to inspire.
Ultimately, it's doubtful that Tehran will find President-elect Barack Obama's offer of more diplomacy, or the threat of more European sanctions, to be compelling. The price of oil may be low, but the mullahs have seen worse economic times. In 30 years, they have not seen a better constellation of forces. And as the Shiite prayer goes, perhaps this time round the Sunnis, too, inshallah (God willing), will see the light.
Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: January 07, 2009, 08:24:06 AM
Turning off the entitlement-meltdown warning light
posted at 8:44 am on January 7, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Democrats in Congress, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, plan on a spending spree that will push budget deficits to a trillion dollars while an entitlement-system crash awaits us in the next two decades. Until now, a House rule has forced the lower chamber each year to acknowledge the disaster awaiting the largest entitlement program by debating Medicare’s funding and direction. Now, according to CQ Today (subscription required), Pelosi and the Democrats have a solution to Medicare’s collapse — change the rule to skip the debate:House Democrats are planning to deal with one of their annual headaches early this year, using a rules package to turn off the Medicare “trigger” that each year forces an at least perfunctory debate on the entitlement program’s costs.
Buried in the package of operating rules that will govern the House in the 111th Congress is a provision saying the Medicare trigger “shall not apply.”
In a release accompanying the rules package, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., called the Medicare trigger “an ideologically-driven target based on a misleading measure of Medicare’s financial health.”
The trigger is part of the 2003 Medicare overhaul law that also created the prescription drug benefit. According to the law, if for two years in a row, 45 percent or more of Medicare’s funding comes from general tax revenues, the president has to submit — and Congress debate — legislation to slow excess spending over a seven-year period and restore fiscal stability to the program.
The trigger went into effect for the first time last year. President Bush submitted a proposal to cut spending which House Democrats promptly dismissed. They then killed the requirement for debate in 2008 with a rule similar to the one they plan to adopt Tuesday.
In an interesting twist, the rule change will still require Barack Obama to submit proposals to fix Medicare, as required by the statute. The House will simply ignore them. This anomaly will exist because Democrats won’t propose this as an amendment to the 2003 law, but only as a simple rule change, which they can use to govern only their own behavior. They cannot use a rule change to let Obama off the hook.
Steny Hoyer says that ending the trigger “will allow Congress to consider all options for improving Medicare financing to provide a balanced and equitable solution.” That’s exactly what the trigger prompts Congress to do. Killing the Medicare trigger allows Congress to ignore Medicare and the looming financial crisis coming our way. Hoyer, Pelosi, and the rest of the Democrats in the House don’t want to be reminded that while they spend money like there’s no tomorrow in the 111th Session, tomorrow will eventually come — and their upcoming spending spree will have made the situation exponentially worse.
Basically, this is the same as fixing the ENGINE TROUBLE light on your car by covering it with electrical tape and then launching a 3,000 mile road trip. What could go wrong?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 07, 2009, 07:25:45 AM
Prager to Dershowitz: How can you still be a liberal?
posted at 7:55 am on January 7, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Dennis Prager sent a challenge to Alan Dershowitz yesterday about his politics, not because Dershowitz wrote something with which Prager disagrees, but because he understands the issue of Israel so well. After excoriating Israel’s critics for “moral idiocy” for ignoring the genocidal intent of Hamas, and their insipid arguments of proportionality, Prager thinks Dershowitz should reconsider his entire political bent — or at least the company he chooses:In his Monitor column, Dershowitz describes “three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets” — “Iran, Hamas, and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers,” “the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and others who, at least when it comes to Israel, see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists,” and “the United States and a few other nations that place the blame squarely on Hamas.”
It is relevant to the question I will pose that he omits any mention of the world’s left, even when mentioning the European Union. Who exactly in the European Union is condemning Israel? Its conservatives? Who in America is condemning Israel? Conservatives? Who in Australia or Canada? Conservatives? Of course not. As regards Israel (and America and much else), the Western world’s moral idiots, to use the term in the title of the Dershowitz column, are virtually all on the left, including and especially many of his colleagues in academia.
So, I have a question for my friend Dershowitz. (I say ‘friend’ because we’ve known each other for years and debated and dialogued together.)
Given that Israel’s security is so important to you, given that you believe that the ability to morally distinguish between Israel and its enemies is tantamount to the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and given that those who condemn Israel for its “disproportionate” response to Hamas terror-rockets are almost all on the left in America and Europe, why do you continue to identify yourself as a man of the left?
Everyone who thinks sometimes differs with one’s ideological compatriots. But when one’s ideological compatriots are morally wrong on the greatest moral issue of the moment and perhaps the very clearest as well, don’t you at least suffer from cognitive dissonance?
Prager notes that Dershowitz seems to go far out of his way to avoid blaming the Left specifically. Dershowitz doesn’t even mention that most of these critics come from the Left, and tries to put at least half of the blame on “the extreme Right”, helped no doubt by people like Ron Paul. However, the Ron Paul isolationist absolutists (and Stormfront allies) only comprise a tiny percentage of the people holding rallies on campuses and in metropolitan areas. Those arguments mainly come from groups like International ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, and other radical Left groups that combine animus for Israel with animus for the US.
However, Prager seems to fall into the same trap that Republicans did with Joe Lieberman, who took a similarly courageous stand against his political allies to support victory in Iraq. I’d call Lieberman a hero for that effort, sacrificing his political standing and almost losing his seat rather than surrendering to his party’s insistence on exploiting potential defeat for political gain. But I wouldn’t call Lieberman a conservative, or even a center-right politician, even when he got the one critical issue correct. Lieberman is a solid and unapologetic liberal, unlike Zell Miller, for instance, whose basic center-right instincts got short shrift from Democrats.
Dershowitz has remained strong in his support for a war on Islamist terrorists and for Israel. He hasn’t quite remained strong enough to name names properly when excoriating critics for their moral idiocy, which Prager rightly criticizes. However, overall Dershowitz is a doctrinaire liberal, and unless his allies abandon him like Lieberman’s party did when Lieberman stuck to his principles, Dershowitz will unfortunately remain more comfortable with the Left than the Right … and vice versa.
I’d be reasonably happy if Dershowitz skipped embracing conservatives while continuing to dismantle the Left’s attacks on Israel and their support for genocidal tyranny with Hamas.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics
on: January 07, 2009, 05:44:10 AM
Superdirt Made Lost Amazon Cities Possible?
for National Geographic News
November 19, 2008
ON TV Lost Cities of the Amazon airs Thursday, November 20, at 9 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel. Details >>
Centuries-old European explorers' tales of lost cities in the Amazon have long been dismissed by scholars, in part because the region is too infertile to feed a sprawling civilization.
But new discoveries support the idea of an ancient Amazonian urban network—and ingeniously engineered soil may have made it all possible.
(See Ancient Amazon Cities Found; Were Vast Urban Network [August 28, 2008].)
Now scientists are trying to recreate the recipe for the apparently human-made supersoil, which still covers up to 10 percent of the Amazon Basin. Key ingredients included of dirt, charcoal, pottery, human excrement and other waste.
If recreated, the engineered soil could feed the hungry and may even help fight global warming, experts suggest.
(Interactive map: "The Embattled Amazon.")
Scientists have long thought the river basin's tropical soils were too acidic to grow anything but the hardiest varieties of manioc, a potatolike staple.
But over the past several decades, researchers have discovered tracts of productive terra preta—"dark earth." The human-made soil's chocolaty color contrasts sharply with the region's natural yellowish soils.
Video Clip From Lost Cities of the Amazon Documentary
Research in the late 1980s was the first to show that charcoal made from slow burns of trees and woody waste is the key ingredient of terra preta.
With the increased level of agriculture made possible by terra preta, ancient Amazonians would have been able to live in one place for long periods of time, said geographer and anthropologist William Woods of the University of Kansas.
"As a result you get social stratification, hierarchy, intertwined settlement systems, very large scale," added Woods, who studies ancient Amazonian settlements.
"And then," he said, "1492 happens." The arrival of Europeans brought disease and warfare that obliterated the ancient Amazonian civilizations and sent the few survivors deep into the rain forest to live as hunter-gatherers.
"It completely changed their way of living," Woods said.
Today scientists are racing to tease apart the terra-preta recipe. The special soil has been touted as a way to restore more sustainable farming to the Amazon, feed the world's hungry, and combat global warming.
The terra-preta charcoal, called biochar, attracts certain fungi and microorganisms.
Those tiny life-forms allow the charcoal to absorb and retain nutrients that keep the soil fertile for hundreds of years, said Woods, whose team is among a few trying to identify the crucial microorganisms.
"The materials that go into the terra preta are just part of the story. The living member of it is much more," he said.
For one thing, the microorganisms break up the charcoal into smaller pieces, creating more surface area for nutrients to cling to, Woods said.
Soil scientist Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University is also racing to recreate terra preta.
The Amazonian dark soils, he said, are hundreds to thousands of years old, yet to this day they retain their nutrients and carbons, which are held mainly by the charcoal.
This suggests that adding biochar could help other regions of the world with acidic soils to increase agricultural yields.
Plus, Lehmann said, biochar could help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere from the burning of wild lands to create new farm fields. (Learn how greenhouse gas emissions may worsen global warming.)
For example, specialized power plants could char agricultural wastes to generate electricity.
The process would "lock" much carbon that would have otherwise escaped into the atmosphere in the biochar. The biochar could then be put underground, in a new form of terra preta, thereby sequestering the carbon for centuries, Lehmann suggests.
Current Amazonian farming relies heavily on slash-and-burn agriculture—razing forests, then burning all of what's left.
By reverting to the ancient slash-and-char method—burning slowly and then mixing the charcoal into the soil—Amazonian carbon dioxide emissions could be cut nearly in half, according to Woods, of the University of Kansas.
With slash-and-burn, he noted, 95 percent of the carbon stored in a tree is emitted to the atmosphere. Slash-and-char emits about 50 percent, he said.
"The rest is put into different forms of black carbon, most of which are chemically inert for long periods of time—thousands of years."
In addition, the technique would allow many farmers to stay sedentary, Woods said.
Because the soil would apparently remain fertile for centuries, "they don't have to cut down the forest constantly and send it up into the atmosphere," he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 07, 2009, 02:43:49 AM
Gaza Is Not Lebanon
Why Israel's campaign against Hamas may succeed.
by Thomas Donnelly & Danielle Pletka
01/05/2009 5:00:00 PM
The conventional wisdom about the incursion by Israeli ground units into Gaza, mirrored in Sunday's Washington Post, is that "Israeli leaders run the risk of repeating their disastrous experience in the 2006 Lebanon war, when they suffered high casualties in ground combat with Hezbollah." Apparently, reporters and pundits are even more prone to refighting the last war than generals: Gaza is not Lebanon; Hamas is not Hezbollah and, most critically, Israel now is not Israel in 2006.
To begin with, the physical and geographical differences between southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip could hardly be greater. And while Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership were under air attack in the outskirts of Beirut in 2006, the Hamas leadership has far fewer places to hide in Gaza city and elsewhere in Gaza. The initial successes of the Israeli airstrikes were not just a product of much better intelligence about Hamas (though it's probable that Israeli intelligence had done a superior job of exploiting differences amongst Hamas and West Bank leaders to improve its targeting), but also reflect simple facts of proximity and smaller scale. The terrain makes perhaps an even greater difference in ground warfare. The hills of southern Lebanon are not only naturally defensible terrain--each village providing an excellent fortified fighting position--but helped to channel Israeli armored columns. A good percentage of Israeli combat deaths came from a handful of successful ambushes.
Gaza is also an inherently isolated battlefield. Whereas Hezbollah could be resupplied not from northern Lebanon, Syria, and even from the sea, Gaza is surrounded by Israeli walls and a closed border with Egypt. And the Israeli Navy dominates the coastline. As long as Egypt restricts movement into and out of Gaza, the Hamas leadership and forces are trapped in a very small pocket. Israel's moves on the ground have capitalized on this essential fact. Within the first hours of their thrust into Gaza, the IDF appears to have been able to cordon off Gaza city and the other larger villages to the south. Hamas is now further isolated into smaller pockets, and press reports indicate that their larger command and control structure is falling apart.
Hamas and Hezbollah are also profoundly different beasts. While neither is really the "non-state actor" as popularly understood, Hezbollah is a much more robust and state-like organization, while Hamas is only a notch above its roots as a terrorist group, and has failed to capitalize on its control of quasi-independent Gaza to organize or modernize. And further, while both are Iranian proxies, the duration, depth and strength of Tehran's investments in Hezbollah far exceeds its investments in Hamas. (It's also worth noting that Hamas is a Sunni group, and though sectarianism is an imperfect guide to alliances in the Middle East--as our experience in Iraq should make clear--it does contribute to the fact that Iranian ties with Hezbollah are more organic than with Hamas.) In addition, the Lebanese state's weaknesses make it a free zone in which the Iranian Quds Force has been able to conduct rigorous paramilitary training and rearm its proxies freely. Hamas has operated under a much more watchful Israeli eye. Iranian military assistance and training to Hamas has been effective only in limited areas, and has itself lacked the scope of effort Hezbollah has enjoyed; whereas Hezbollah armed and trained and (with North Korean aid) built infrastructure for many years to fight as it did in 2006.
The result was a Hezbollah built to be a very tough opponent for the IDF. In 2006, as Stephen Biddle and Jeffrey Friedman found in a recent study for the U.S. Army War College, some of the firefights in Lebanon lasted for more than six hours, and involved Lebanese village militia as well as Hezbollah "regulars." We shall see how much the Israelis do to collapse the several pockets of Hamas they have created in Gaza, although it is worth noting that, as Hamas forces are isolated, the opportunity to bring air and artillery fires to bear in a relatively precise way will return. To be sure, there may be some close urban combat, but if the IDF maintains a methodical approach, they can slowly eviscerate Hamas militarily. Thus far, the casualty exchange ratios thus far are nothing like Lebanon; according to the War College study, the Lebanon war resulted in 53 Israeli civilian deaths from Hezbollah rockets and 119 soldiers killed in action. Thus far, Hamas is showed no ability to affect Israeli maneuvers along the main roadways used to cut through Gaza--although these ought to have been generally predictable avenues of attack--nor do there seem to have been many defense-in-depth positions, at least any that have halted or slowed Israeli progress. It's one thing to retreat into the warrens of Gaza city or other towns as Hamas appears to be doing, but Hezbollah conducted a much more active defense; also its leadership around Beirut was at less immediate risk. The Hamas defenses, thus far, have been systematically ineffective. Biddle and Friedman rightly concluded that Hezbollah has become a more traditional and conventional force, and that this development accounted for much of its improved tactical performance in 2006.
Hezbollah also acted like "regulars" in the sense of wearing uniforms. This is not simply a legal nicety or fashion statement (though their black garb is designed to intimidate their opponents), but a measure both of internal cohesion and the relationship of the military to the state--again, it is better to think of Hezbollah as a "proto-state" rather than a "non-state." Indeed, Hezbollah's recent agreement with the Lebanese state enshrines this status. Also, since one of the primary requisites of a legitimate state is defense of territory and people, it would seem that Hamas is losing its "domestic" propaganda war in a way that Hezbollah did not. Likewise, on the mythic "Arab street," Hamas's performance can only be found wanting in comparison to Hezbollah; the echoes of past Arab failures against Israel may return to haunt the Palestinians. It is worth remembering that Hezbollah's "victory" was not simply that it survived, as popular understanding has it, but that it put up a respectable military performance in defense of its territory. Indeed, it would be fair to say that first among the Arabs, Hezbollah severely dented the historic Israeli deterrent in 2006.
Further, one of the likely reasons that Hezbollah's cohesion and its popular support in southern Lebanon was more deeply rooted is that it performs a number of its state-like functions well, at least by local standards; the strength of the Hezbollah civil "state" contributes to military effectiveness.
Finally, the Israelis seem far better prepared this time around than in Lebanon 2006. Domestic political expectations are low--for Israelis, this is another incidence of "frontier warfare," not dissimilar from American Indian-fighting, where the expectation is to "treat a condition" rather than "cure" it by producing a conclusive outcome. Strategically, they've also clearly worked things out with the Egyptians (and indeed other Arab governments) who seem happy to see Hamas crushed, though it's hard to say how long that will hold. Notably, Fatah and Hezbollah also appear to be sitting this one out. Hezbollah's inactivity is especially interesting, despite Nasrallah's fulminations: Nasrallah, and even the Iranians, likely realize that victory is not in the cards for this round. More importantly, Hezbollah's decision to steer clear underscores its own independence. Better to join a winning war. Even the Iranian regime, while engaging in its typical verbal posturing, has done little of material value for Hamas. Tehran is also likely considering the value of joining a losing fight that might also remove what they may regard opportunities to be explored with the Obama administration. Stand by for pundits to start explaining how we need Tehran to resolve the Gaza mess.
Militarily, the Israelis seem much better organized, conducting combing and coordinated air and land operations, and committing adequate forces from the start rather than feeding forces into the fight in a piecemeal fashion. They've also been more patient, a very necessary virtue. And while the "end state" is uncertain--which most Western analysts argue is a big problem--it's not at all clear that the IDF can't just retreat behind the border barriers when they perceive they've reached the culminating point of diminishing returns. Is a lawless Gaza worse than a Hamas-ruled Gaza? Sure, Hamas will probably reestablish a level of control in Gaza, but who's to say there won't be a short if nasty and brutish struggle for power in the aftermath.
A decimated Hamas will also ask a strategic question of Tehran: They may try to rearm a reconstituted Hamas, but inevitably will do so with little confidence in the value of their Hamas proxy. Israel would reap a huge deterrence windfall if the outcome demonstrates a limit to the value of Iranian sponsorship. It seems that two possibilities await: that Iran calculates that Hamas is a disposable asset, worth jettisoning in hopes of a rapprochement--a short-term deal if not a Grand Bargain--with America. That would be the smart game. But past habits are hard to break, and no doubt the Revolutionary Guard Corps and its training cadres will be salivating to try to remake Hamas more in the Hezbollah style, to fight for keeps in the next go round.
Indeed, it is worth wondering how this might have played out if Iran had demonstrated a nuclear capability by now. The Arabs would likely be less supportive of Israel. Maybe even the Europeans would have weighed in sooner against Israel. Possibly even the Israelis would have been deterred from striking at Hamas, and certainly they would have thought twice before acting. But none of this is clear; war is, sometimes, the least bad choice. Iranian nuclear weapons may deter direct attacks on Tehran, but will they protect its proxies? Let's hope not, because that is a question that will likely be asked again.
Thomas Donnelly is resident fellow in defense and national security studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Danielle Pletka is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: January 07, 2009, 02:31:38 AM
Bracing for more border disorder
By Michelle Malkin • January 5, 2009 11:45 AM
I wrote at the end of my year-end state of the borders column last week that blood-stained reality clarifies the mind.
Two new MSM articles on the increasing chaos on the southern border underscore the point.
The NYTimes weighs in with “Kidnappings in Mexico Send Shivers Across Border.”Four hooded men smashed in the door to the adobe home of an 80-year-old farmer here in November, handcuffing his frail wrists and driving him to a makeshift jail. They released him after relatives and friends paid a $9,000 ransom, which included his life savings.
The kidnapping was a dismal story of cruelty and heartbreak, familiar all across Mexico, but with a new twist: the daughter of this victim lived in the United States and was able to wire money to help assemble his ransom, the farmer, who insisted that he not be identified by name, said in an interview.
A string of similar kidnappings, singling out people with children or spouses in the United States, so panicked this village in the state of Zacatecas that many people boarded up their homes and headed north, some legally and some not, seeking havens with relatives in California and other American states.
“The relatives of Mexicans in the United States have become a new profit center for Mexico’s crime industry,” said Rodolfo García Zamora, a professor at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas who studies migration trends. “Hundreds of families are emigrating out of fear of kidnap or extortion, and Mexicans in the U.S. are doing everything they can to avoid returning. Instead, they’re getting their relatives out.”
The reported rush into the United States by people from the state of Zacatecas is another sign that Mexico’s growing lawlessness is a volatile new factor affecting the flow of migrant workers across America’s border. The violence is adding a new layer of uncertainty to the always fraught issue of Mexican emigration, already in flux because of the economic downturn in the United States.
Academics and policy makers on both sides of the border, who are watching closely for shifts in migration patterns, say it is too early to know the long-term impact of either the drug-related violence or the loss of jobs by thousands of migrant workers in the United States. But so far, earlier predictions of an exodus of out-of-work Mexicans back to their hometowns seem to have been premature.
Instead, it appears that the pattern in the state of Zacatecas — where many people have family in the United States — may be a good indicator of what is happening throughout Mexico. The country’s spiraling criminality appears not only to be keeping some Mexicans in the United States, but it may also be leading more Mexicans to flee their country. “It’s a toxic combination right now,” said Denise Dresser, a political scientist based in Mexico City. “Mexicans north of the border are facing joblessness and persecution, but in their own country the government can’t provide basic security for many of its citizens.”
And the Dallas Morning News reports: “Mexico’s drug violence expected to intensify in ‘09.”Drug-related violence in Mexico, already at unprecedented levels, is expected to escalate further this year, with targets likely to include top Mexican politicians and law enforcement agents and possibly even U.S. officials, according to diplomats and intelligence experts on both sides of the border.
The warning underscores the difficult choices confronting President Felipe Calderón as he takes on drug cartels while weighing the implications of growing casualties in a year of midterm elections and a slowing economy.
It also reflects rising concern among U.S. officials and analysts about the deteriorating security situation, corruption among Mexico’s top crime fighters, and the vulnerability of the military to possible corruption in battling cartel gangs.
As the war against cartels escalates in 2009, so will the threats, particularly against U.S. officials and other Americans, officials, analysts and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza, said in recent interviews.
“Calderón must, and will, keep the pressure on the cartels, but look, let’s not be naïve – there will be more violence, more blood, and, yes, things will get worse before they get better. That’s the nature of the battle,” Garza said. “The more pressure the cartels feel, the more they’ll lash out like cornered animals.
“Our folks know exactly how high the stakes are,” Garza said. He advised Americans traveling to Mexico to check State Department travel alerts at www.state.gov.
A U.S. intelligence official based along the Texas border warned that U.S. officials, American businessmen and journalists will “become targets, if they’re not already.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: January 07, 2009, 02:09:41 AM
There was one protest in India, by Indian muslims, regarding Mumbai. After 9/11, Iranian students protested in Iran, aside from those protests, the muslim world can only be bothered to protest Mohammed cartoons or Israel refusing to be rocketed any longer.
Thank you for recognizing this point, JDN.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: January 06, 2009, 10:10:52 AM
What the Panetta appointment means
posted at 10:57 am on January 6, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Barack Obama sent a message with the selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, but apparently didn’t think enough people understood it. He sent a stronger message yesterday with his choice of Leon Panetta for Director of CIA, and this time, it’s unmistakable. Political considerations will trump competence and experience, even in the most critical roles Obama has to fill:President-elect Barack Obama stunned the national intelligence community by selecting Clinton White House chief of staff Leon E. Panetta, a longtime Washington insider with little intelligence experience, to serve as the next head of the CIA.
The decision — which was also met with wariness on Capitol Hill — reflects a desire to change the intelligence power structure, officials close to the selection said yesterday. Obama has chosen retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair as the director of national intelligence, a job he intends to reinforce as the “lead horse” on intelligence issues, an official close to the selection process said.
Panetta, 70, is widely regarded as a good manager who knows the government bureaucracy well. Panetta, a former eight-term member of Congress who has run a think tank in California for the past decade, has no significant ties to the agency that Obama has criticized for using harsh interrogation methods. Panetta has openly objected to the use of such methods, writing in an essay last year that the United States “must not use torture under any circumstances.” Obama had trouble filling the CIA slot in part because other candidates were perceived as tainted for having supported aspects of the Bush administration’s interrogation and intelligence programs.
Yet Panetta, who also served as director of President Bill Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget, has no institutional memory of the intelligence agency and no hands-on experience with its thorniest challenges, including the collection of human intelligence overseas. His lack of experience drew immediate questions, most notably from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who said she was not briefed on his selection and learned about it from news accounts.
The US is currently fighting an asymmetrical war on two hot fronts, but more to the point, in every corner of the world. We need our best people at the helm at Defense and in the intelligence arenas, people with insight into the problems and challenges facing America at war. Barack Obama either doesn’t understand that or cares less about security than he does about politics.
Leon Panetta only has indirect experience with intelligence. As budget director in the Clinton administration, Panetta has familiarity with their funding, and Panetta also served on the Iraq Study Group for several months, which looked at the role that intelligence failures played in our invasion and during the occupation. There must be thousands of people more qualified to run the CIA from an experience and competence standpoint, including several members of Congress, notably Jane Harman, who should have chaired the House Intelligence Committee in the last session of Congress but ran afoul of Nancy Pelosi.
Even the notion of “change” doesn’t apply here. Obama has no executive experience in government, and neither does Panetta, but Panetta hardly represents a breath of fresh air in Washington. He’s another Clinton-era retread, only in this case, put in charge of an organization about which he knows nothing. He’s there to exercise Obama’s political will and nothing more.
Obama deserves the benefit of the doubt on his political appointments, but this is one selection that should get a lot of scrutiny from Congress. If Obama wants a political hatchet man in a high-level appointment, have Panetta run OMB — or Commerce, where there’s a late opening. America deserves the benefit of experience and wisdom in the position of CIA director.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: January 06, 2009, 08:09:08 AM
U.S. could be facing debt 'time bomb' this year
Investors' thirst for American securities could finally be quenched
By Lori Montgomery
updated 12:29 a.m. ET, Sat., Jan. 3, 2009
WASHINGTON - With President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats considering a massive spending package aimed at pulling the nation out of recession, the national debt is projected to jump by as much as $2 trillion this year, an unprecedented increase that could test the world's appetite for financing U.S. government spending.
For now, investors are frantically stuffing money into the relative safety of the U.S. Treasury, which has come to serve as the world's mattress in troubled times. Interest rates on Treasury bills have plummeted to historic lows, with some short-term investors literally giving the government money for free.
But about 40 percent of the debt held by private investors will mature in a year or less, according to Treasury officials. When those loans come due, the Treasury will have to borrow more money to repay them, even as it launches perhaps the most aggressive expansion of U.S. debt in modern history.
With the government planning to roll over its short-term loans into more stable, long-term securities, experts say investors are likely to demand a greater return on their money, saddling taxpayers with huge new interest payments for years to come. Some analysts also worry that foreign investors, the largest U.S. creditors, may prove unable to absorb the skyrocketing debt, undermining confidence in the United States as the bedrock of the global financial system.
While the current market for Treasurys is booming, it's unclear whether demand for debt can be sustained, said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP, which analyzes Treasury financing trends.
"There's a time bomb in there somewhere," Crandall said, "but we don't know exactly where on the calendar it's planted."
The government's hunger for cash began growing exponentially as the nation slipped into recession in the wake of a housing foreclosure crisis a year ago. Washington has since approved $168 billion in spending to stimulate economic activity, $700 billion to prevent the collapse of the U.S. financial system, and multibillion-dollar bailouts for a variety of financial institutions, including insurance giant American International Group and mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Despite those actions, the economic outlook has continued to darken. Now, Obama and congressional Democrats are debating as much as $850 billion in new federal spending and tax cuts to create or preserve jobs and slow the grim, upward march of unemployment, which stood in November at 6.7 percent.
Congress is not planning to raise taxes or cut spending to cover the cost of those programs, because economists say doing so would further slow economic activity. That means the government has to borrow the money.
Some of the borrowing was done during the fiscal year that ended in September, when the Treasury added nearly $720 billion to the national debt. But the big borrowing binge will come during the current fiscal year, when the cost of the bailouts plus another stimulus package combined with slowing tax revenues will force the government to increase the debt by as much as $2 trillion to finance its obligations, according to a Treasury survey of bond dealers and other market analysts.
As of yesterday, the debt stood at nearly $10.7 trillion, of which about $4.3 trillion is owed to other government institutions, such as the Social Security trust fund. Debt held by private investors totals nearly $6.4 trillion, or a little over 40 percent of gross domestic product.
According to the most recent figures, foreign investors held about $3 trillion in U.S. debt at the end of October. China, which in October replaced Japan as the United States' largest creditor, has increased its holdings by 42 percent over the past year; Britain and the Caribbean banking countries more than doubled their holdings.
Economists from across the political spectrum have endorsed the idea of going deeper into debt to combat what many call the most dangerous economic conditions since the Great Depression. The United States is in relatively good financial shape compared with other industrial nations, such as Japan, where the public debt equaled 182 percent of GDP in 2007, or Germany, where the debt was 65 percent of GDP, according to a forthcoming report by Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Even a $2 trillion increase would push the U.S. debt to about 53 percent of the overall economy, "only a few percentage points above where it was in the early 1990s," Lilly writes, noting that plummeting interest rates show that "much of the world seems not only willing but anxious to invest in U.S. Treasurys, which are seen as the safest security that an investor can own in a risky world economy."
Still, some analysts are concerned that the deepening global recession will force some of the largest U.S. creditors to divert cash to domestic needs, such as investing in their own banks and economies. Even if demand for U.S. debt keeps pace with supply, investors are likely to demand higher interest rates, these analysts said, driving up debt-service payments, which last year stood at $250 billion.
"When you accumulate this amount of debt that we're moving into, it's not a given that our foreign friends are going to continue on the path they've been on," said G. William Hoagland, a longtime Republican budget analyst who now serves as vice president for public policy at the health insurer Cigna. "There's going to come a time when we can't even pay the interest on the money we've borrowed. That's default."
Others say those fears are overblown. The market for U.S. Treasurys is by far the largest and most liquid bond market in the world, and big institutional investors have few other places to safely invest large sums of reserve cash.
Despite their growing domestic needs, "China and the oil countries are going to continue running large surpluses," said C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "They certainly will be using money elsewhere, but I don't think that means they won't give it to us."
As for the specter of default, Steven Hess, lead U.S. analyst for Moody's Investors Service, said even a $2 trillion increase in borrowing would not greatly diminish the U.S. financial condition. "It's not alarmingly high by our AAA standards," he said. "So we don't think there's pressure on the rating yet."
But that could change, Hess said. Nearly a year ago, Moody's raised an alarm about the skyrocketing costs of Social Security and Medicare as the baby-boom generation retires, saying the resulting budget deficits could endanger the U.S. bond rating. Even as the nation sinks deeper into debt to finance its own economic recovery, several analysts said it will be critical for Obama to begin to address the looming costs of the entitlement programs and signal that he has no intention of letting the debt spiral out of control.
Failure to do so, Bergsten said, would "create dangers . . . in market psychology and continued confidence in the dollar."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-Pak
on: January 06, 2009, 04:27:21 AM
Nariman House, not Taj, was the prime target on 26/11
Think 26/11, and images of the carnage at the Taj come to mind. But the terrorists themselves were in no doubt that Nariman House was the prime focus. For this was the place which housed a Jewish centre, and the fanatics from Pakistan were clear that they wanted to send a message to the world from there.
The Mumbai crime branch, which is investigating the terror attacks, has found that the terrorists’ handlers in Pakistan were clear this operation should not fail under any circumstances. The rest of the operations — at the Taj, Oberoi and Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus — were intended to amplify the effect.
A senior police official, told DNA on condition of anonymity, that the interrogation of Mohammed Amir Iman Ajmal (aka Kasab) revealed as much. Just before entering the city, the terrorists’ team leader, Ismail Khan, briefed them once again about their targets. “But Khan briefed Imran Babar, alias Abu Akasha, and Nasir, alias Abu Umer, intensely on what to do at Nariman House,” the officer said.
When asked during interrogation why Nariman House was specifically targetted, Ajmal reportedly told the police they wanted to sent a message to Jews across the world by attacking the ultra orthodox synagogue.
According to the statement by Ajmal, Khan told Babar and Nasir that even if the others failed in their operation, they both could not afford to. “The Nariman House operation has to be a success,” the officer said, quoting from Ajmal’s statement.
“Khan also said that as far as Nariman House was concerned, there should not be even a minimal glitch in finding it and capturing it,” the officer quoted Ajmal as saying.
After the dinghy carrying the 10 terrorists reached Mumbai at the Macchimar colony opposite Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade, it was decided that no bombs would be planted in the taxi to be used to reach Nariman House.
“The idea,” according to the police officer, “was that if Babar and Nasir got delayed in locating and entering Nariman House, the bomb in the taxi may explode even before they entered their target.”
The officer further quoted Ajmal’s confession as indicating the Nariman House killers may have either lost their way or took their time entering the building to avoid failure.
The dinghy reached Cuffe Parade around 8.30pm, but Babar and Nasir entered
Nariman House at around 10pm. This means they took around one- and-a-half hour to locate and enter Nariman House,” the officer said. Anyone who knows Colaba would have got there in 15-20 minutes.
Another aspect which indicates that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) did not want the Nariman House operation to fail was Fahim Ansari’s revelation to the crime branch. Ansari, who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the bomb blasts at a CRPF camp in Lucknow in January last year, told the police that Nariman House was also surveyed by him last year. Interestingly, Ansari did not reveal this detail when he was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police in February last year.
“Ansari told us that he did not divulge this information earlier because it would have jeopardised the most important operation of the LeT. He had also been warned by the LeT that Nariman House was their most secret operation and must not be compromised at any cost,” the officer said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: January 06, 2009, 01:57:07 AM
Monday, January 05, 2009
The Wrong Choice
More than a few spooks, current and former, are shaking their heads over the appointment of Leon Panetta as the next CIA Director.
Mr. Panetta is the consummate Washington insider who is best know as Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff during the Monica Lewinsky episode. Before that, he was Clinton's first Director of the Office of Management and Budget and a Democratic Congressman from California for 16 years, serving primarily on the Budget and Agriculture Committees.
In the early days of his political life, Panetta was actually a Republican, working as an aide to California Senator Thomas Kuchel before joining the Nixon Administration. During his first stint in Washington, Panetta served as assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and later ran the Office for Civil Rights. He left the administration--and the GOP--in 1971, accusing the White House of being "soft" on enforcement of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.
Readers will note a common theme in Panetta's professional life: the wholesale lack of intelligence experience. While Mr. Panetta is certainly acquainted with the intel community and his capabilities, he has never served (let alone, led) an intelligence organization, or served on a Congressional panel charged with its oversight.
To be fair, many CIA Directors have come from outside the intelligence community. And, some of them, such as John McCone, who served during the Kennedy Administration, have performed admirably. At the other extreme, some of the career intelligence officers (or those with prior intel experience) have been miserable failures. So, Panetta's limited exposure to the intelligence community doesn't disqualify him for the CIA post, or predict failure during his tenure.
But these are critical days for our intelligence apparatus, including the agency that Mr. Panetta will lead. When the Bush Administration entered office eight years ago, it inherited a CIA that was dysfunctional, highly politicized and woefully inept at its critical missions of intelligence collection and analysis.
Since then, three different men--George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden--have tried to reform the agency, with varying degrees of success. During their respective tenures, the CIA has added thousands of new operatives and analysts, and there is some evidence that the new hires (and their more experienced colleagues) are making a difference. After all, there hasn't been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11, and the CIA deserves some credit for that remarkable record.
Still, the agency is far from healthy. Elements within the CIA have pursued a strident, anti-administration agenda, under-cutting President Bush's policies on Iran's nuclear program and other issues. Case in point: the intelligence community's infamous 2007 assessment of Tehran's nuclear ambitions--largely based on CIA analysts--which effectively ended any chances for U.S. military action against Iran. The long-term consequences of that analytical power play have yet to be determined.
To advance the reform agenda at Langley, the CIA clearly needs an experienced hand. But there are more compelling reasons to put a career intelligence officer in charge of the agency. The threat facing our nation remains very real; a recent study suggests that terrorists will stage a chemical or biological attack inside the United States during the next five years. Meeting that challenge requires a leader who doesn't need on the job training, and will hold his organization to the highest standards of tradecraft and professional conduct.
Mr. Panetta is a capable administrator and experienced political operative, but he's the wrong man to lead the CIA at this critical juncture. His nomination also reflects badly on President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team. Most of his national security team was announced last month. Delaying the CIA announcement until the New Year suggests that the appointment was something of an afterthought, or that the job was rejected by more qualified candidates.
Obviously, the job of CIA Director doesn't carry the power it once did. The agency chief now works for the Director of National Intelligence, who oversees the functions of 16 organizations that form our intel system. But in a community of "equals" some agencies are more important than others, and the Central Intelligence Agency clearly falls in that former category.
The next CIA chief faces three herculean challenges: keeping the agency fully engaged in the war on terror; reigning in political elements that want to dictate U.S. policy, and avoiding another intelligence debacle like the one that preceded the 9-11 attacks. It's a tall order for any director, but those tasks are made more difficult by today's economic uncertainly, which may result in budget cutbacks for the intelligence community.
As a former OMB Director, Mr. Panetta is a veteran of federal budget wars. But even if he preserves the CIA's share of the intel pie, there is no evidence that he has the background or expertise to employ those assets in the most effective manner. Just one more reason that the Panetta nomination is so disappointing--and potentially dangerous.
ADDENDUM: Mr. Obama is entitled to the CIA Director of his choice. But the selection of Leon Panetta is a reflection of the next commander-in-chief and his own, limited intelligence experience. A few weeks ago, the president-elect named retired Navy Admiral Dennis Blair as the new Director of National Intelligence. Like Mr. Panetta, Admiral Blair has a long resume as a leader and administrator. But in terms of intel, his only experience is as a consumer.
The big-picture view is even more disturbing. President-elect Obama, a man who is decidedly short on national security experience, has appointed a pair of neophytes to fill our most important intelligence positions. Those men, in turn, are supposed to advise him on the most critical (and sensitive) intel and national security issues. That planned "arrangement" doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
And, for what it's worth, California Senator Diane Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, isn't exactly pleased with the Panetta nomination.
Others have suggested that Panetta may be a sop to liberal bloggers and activists who torpedoed John Brennan, the CIA veteran said to be Mr. Obama's first choice to run the agency. Brennan was unacceptable to those elements of the Obama coalition because of his support for the "forceful" interrogation of suspected terrorists.
If Panetta is a peace offering to the moon-bat brigade, it's all the more reason to oppose his confirmation as CIA Director.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: January 05, 2009, 11:29:28 PM
Possible Hijacker Stopped At OIA
An alleged "20th hijacker" was turned away a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.
By Tamara Lytle | Washington Bureau Chief
January 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.
WASHINGTON -- Just one month before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a potential "20th hijacker" may have been prevented from entering the country by an alert border agent at Orlando International Airport, federal investigators said Monday.
Sometime in August 2001, a man known only by his last name -- al-Qahtani -- arrived at the airport on the same day that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta was known to have been there and to have used a payphone.
But al-Qahtani was turned away after questioning by border agent Jose Melendez-Perez, who is currently an inspector with the Customs and Border Protection arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Melendez-Perez is scheduled to testify about the "incident in Florida" at a Monday hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9-11 Commission, according to a witness list.
Al Felzenberg, the commission's spokesman, would not confirm details of the incident but said Melendez-Perez's quick thinking may have helped prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks from being even more devastating. It's long been suspected that a so-called "20th hijacker" was supposed to have been part of the terrorist team that was overwhelmed by passengers aboard United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
It has been speculated that that flight may have been aimed at the U.S. Capitol or the White House, and the fact that the terrorist team was one man short may have given passengers an edge.
"He helped make it a lot less of a tragedy than it might have been," said Felzenberg. "There were many people who worked for the government who helped enhance security, and he's one of them."
Authorities had earlier speculated that Zacarias Moussaoui was meant to be the 20th hijacker but have since backed off. The Morocco-born al-Qaeda operative is awaiting trial in Virginia on terrorism and conspiracy charges.
At least one other of the Flight 93 hijackers -- Saeed Alghamdi -- is known to have entered the country through Orlando on June 27, 2001, according to previous FBI testimony. A total of four hijackers entered through Orlando en route to joining terrorist cells in South Florida, the FBI has said.
A congressional source said the would-be hijacker al-Qahtani was later picked up in Afghanistan as a combatant and is now being questioned at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay.
The Orlando incident was first reported in the edition of Newsweek that went on sale Monday. That story reported that Melendez-Perez, a 58-year-old Vietnam veteran, turned al-Qahtani away and put him on a flight out of the country after "his story fell apart" about being in Orlando to meet a friend.
The 9-11 panel has also discovered that Atta made a call on a payphone from the airport to a country in the Middle East the same day. Newsweek reported that a surveillance camera captured Atta placing the call.
But commission officials would neither confirm nor deny those details Monday night.
"We're aware of the story, and we're not in a position to comment on it," said Philip D. Zelikow, executive director of the panel. "The commission will be preparing a detailed statement on this topic and much broader issues."
Melendez-Perez already has spoken with the staff at the commission, which is run by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton. Monday he will testify as part of a hearing on border and aviation security. "We think what he has to say will be extremely important to our investigation," Felzenberg said.
The commission has done 800 interviews and held six public hearings so far. It is scheduled to report to Congress and the president May 27. Recently, some commissioners had said they needed more time. But congressional leaders responded vociferously that they want the report finished on time.
A congressional joint inquiry, led by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Rep. Porter Goss, R-Sanibel, finished its work last year investigating the intelligence failures that led up to the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people when terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The Kean commission has a much broader mandate than the congressional inquiry. It will look at aviation security, Congress' role, border security, terrorist financing, the intelligence community and other factors. The commission will begin hearing from Cabinet members from both the Clinton and Bush administrations this spring.
Unlike the congressional inquiry, the 9-11 panel will have access to classified White House documents
Just Doing My Job, OIA Inspector Says
Jose Melendez-Perez said he can't say more yet on a man stopped in 2001 who was a possible hijacker.
By Pamela J. Johnson and Tim Barker | Sentinel Staff Writers
Copyright © 2004, Orlando Sentinel
January 21, 2004
It is a decision Jose Melendez-Perez had made countless times before. Only this time, it may have prevented United Airlines Flight 93 from striking the U.S. Capitol or the White House.
About a month before Sept. 11, 2001, the federal border-patrol inspector at Orlando International Airport denied a man entry. However, this man -- identified only as al-Qahtani -- may have been the "20th hijacker," some officials said.
"I've been doing this every day for years, and only God knows how many people I've turned away," Melendez-Perez said Tuesday night while waxing his black Nissan Maxima at his home in an east Orange County gated community. "I usually never hear anything about it."
Just how important this catch was is debated among security experts, especially because 19 other hijackers made it into the country. It is suspected that the man whom Melendez-Perez blocked was supposed to be part of the terrorist team that was overwhelmed by passengers aboard the United flight, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
"It's like saying we did a great job at Pearl Harbor by shooting down 29 Japanese airplanes," said Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant with the Colorado-based Boyd Group.
Still, experts say it demonstrates the importance of the customs operations in protecting the nation.
The most obvious role of customs is found at U.S. airports, where inspectors quiz international travelers.
"You're looking at their reactions," said Douglas Laird of Laird & Associates, a Nevada-based aviation-security consulting company. "Are they sweating? Are they averting their gaze?"
But the agency's role has morphed considerably since the 2001 attacks.
In early 2003, customs was moved under the umbrella of the new Department of Homeland Security. The agency was split, with its criminal investigators moved into a new federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The remainder of the old customs agency became U.S. Customs & Border Protection, which got a boost to its anti-terrorist toolbox earlier this month with the debut of the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology program. The system uses photos and fingerprints to track the comings and goings of visitors from countries where visas are required.
These changes illustrate a shift in the agency's responsibilities, with more emphasis placed on searching for potential terrorists, rather than just keeping out illegal immigrants, said Charles Slepian, aviation-security expert with the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center.
Melendez-Perez, a native of Puerto Rico, said he could not provide details about the Orlando airport incident until he testifies Monday during a hearing of the National Commission of Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
"My wife doesn't even know anything about it," he said.
Earlier, authorities had suspected that Zacarias Moussaoui was meant to be the 20th hijacker but now say it might have been this new suspect.
To Melendez-Perez, his own story is mundane.
"It's my job," he said. "It's what I get paid to do."
9-11 Panel Lauds OIA Agent
Hijackers' leader should not have slipped by, inspector says
By Tamara Lytle | Washington Bureau Chief
January 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.
In Washington. (PHOTO: DENNIS COOK/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
FROM THE TESTIMONY
"The bottom line is, he gave me the chills," Jose Melendez-Perez said.
"It is entirely plausible to suggest your actions in doing your job efficiently and competently may well have contributed to saving the Capitol or the White House and all the people who were in those buildings, those monuments to democracy," Sept. 11 commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste said.
WASHINGTON -- An Orlando border agent hailed for blocking a suspected terrorist from entering the country told a federal commission Monday that the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks never should have slipped past border agents.
Jose Melendez-Perez said there were enough red flags about Mohamed Atta -- including the wrong visa, his age and his impeccable clothing -- that an alert border agent should have refused Atta's entry.
"I would have recommended refusal," Melendez-Perez told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States in the first of two days of hearings on security breakdowns that may have contributed to the attacks.
Three of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers told obvious lies on their visa applications, the commission's staff said Monday, and as many as eight may have entered the United States with doctored passports.
While Monday's hearing focused largely on forged documents, lapses in security and other problems, Melendez-Perez was hailed for the gut instinct that led him to deny entry to a Saudi national who arrived at Orlando International Airport a little more than a month before the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.
"When the subject looked at me, I felt a bone-chilling cold effect," Melendez-Perez testified Monday. "The bottom line is, he gave me the chills."
Federal authorities now think the man Melendez-Perez turned away -- Mohamed al-Qahtani -- may have been the missing 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The border agent's decision may have left the terrorists shorthanded on one of the four airliners hijacked that day, allowing passengers to fight back and crash the jet thought to have been targeted at Washington into a rural Pennsylvania field.
"It is entirely plausible to suggest your actions in doing your job efficiently and competently may well have contributed to saving the Capitol or the White House and all the people who were in those buildings, those monuments to democracy," commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste told Melendez-Perez during Monday's hearing. "For that, we all owe you a debt of gratitude."
With that, the Hart Senate hearing room broke into uncharacteristic applause as Melendez-Perez, a 58-year-old native of Puerto Rico, sat alone in a crisp gray suit at a long table, facing the cameras and the commission and the sudden attention for his part in fighting terrorism before it was a national commitment.
The commission also heard about a series of government failures in issuing visas, not sharing intelligence and allowing hijackers into the country with doctored passports and other improper documentation. The commission staff pointedly disputed CIA and FBI claims that most of the hijackers couldn't have been stopped because they entered the country legally.
As a counterpoint to all those failures, Melendez-Perez was invited to tell his story -- one of an inspector who risked wrath in a system that was deferential to Saudi visitors.
"I was just doing my job," Melendez-Perez repeated like a mantra Monday.
Instinct -- honed by military training and 11 years of border work -- is what led Melendez-Perez to deny entry to al-Qahtani on Aug. 4, 2001, the agent told the bipartisan federal panel, better known as the Sept. 11 Commission.
Al-Qahtani was sent to Melendez-Perez's secondary inspection station at OIA because he claimed not to speak English and hadn't properly filled out his paperwork.
Melendez-Perez sat with him in a back room, an Arabic translator on the speaker phone between them.
Al-Qahtani, who had arrived from Dubai, had no return ticket or credit cards and just $2,800 in cash for a six-day "vacation." That's not enough money to buy a ticket back to Dubai after six days of hotel expenses, Melendez-Perez figured.
The Saudi man said a friend was waiting for him in the airport, then changed his story to say no one was there after the border agent pressed him for a name. Investigators now know that Atta, who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, was in the Orlando airport calling another plotter when al-Qahtani didn't appear.
As Melendez-Perez found more holes in al-Qahtani's story, he drew on experience from 26 years in the Army, including a stint training recruiters in interview techniques. Al-Qahtani was aggressively arrogant -- even pointing a finger in the border agent's face -- but that didn't intimidate him.
Melendez-Perez, who had been an Army first sergeant, looked at al-Qahtani's neatly trimmed mustache, perfect grooming and confident bearing, surmising the man had military training. When al-Qahtani claimed he didn't know where he was going after the U.S. trip, the thought "hit man" flashed through the inspector's mind.
The evasiveness and shaky story weren't firm grounds for barring the Saudi from the country. But when al-Qahtani refused to answer questions under oath, that was a different story.
Melendez-Perez got permission from his supervisor's boss, and soon he was marching al-Qahtani over to the next flight to Dubai via London. As the Saudi who claimed not to speak English got on the plane, he looked back at Melendez-Perez and said something in English to the effect of "I'll be back."
Instead of coming back, al-Qahtani was later captured in Afghanistan and now is being held as an enemy combatant at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to congressional sources.
Members of the Sept. 11 Commission did not ask Melendez-Perez about the four hijackers who are known to have entered the country through OIA before joining terror cells in Florida.
Melendez-Perez, meanwhile, keeps checking visitors and immigrants in Orlando, although his border agency is now part of the Department of Homeland Security. The father of four and grandfather of six has not received any special award for his prescient judgment.
And no one from the FBI ever asked him for information, although he called his office Sept. 11 as soon as he heard of the attacks, reminding them of his run-in with the Saudi. Melendez-Perez also turned away another Saudi national that August, according to Ben-Veniste, although that person has no proven terrorist ties.
Kristin Breitweiser, whose husband died at the World Trade Center, said Monday that she wished the commission put front-line people who hadn't done their jobs on the spot instead of just featuring Melendez-Perez. "I applaud the man, but really I'd like to have the other however-many thousand people who dropped the ball," she said.
But commissioners and their staff were at times pointed in their criticism of the State Department officials who processed visas, the Immigration and Naturalization Service that watched the borders and the intelligence agencies that didn't share information with one another.
Commissioner John Lehman, a former Navy secretary, told Mary Ryan, the former assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, that her staff should have given closer scrutiny to people applying for visas in Saudi Arabia because of the well-known presence of Islamic fundamentalists there.
"Everybody we talked to said 'Saudi Arabia is our friend. We don't look for terrorists there,' " Lehman said. "Hello, did anyone read the newspapers?"
Ryan said Saudi Arabia was considered an ally and that the State Department did not have intelligence information to help it know who to keep out of the country by denying visas.
Jim Leusner of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: January 05, 2009, 10:59:10 PM
Now she does. She's watched documentaries about Ressam's homeland. She's gone on the Internet with her daughter to read about women in Afghanistan under the Taliban. What if a woman's husband is killed, she wonders. How would she make a living, take care of her children?
"Unimaginable," Dean says. "Chaotic. That's the only word. Certainly not like it is here. It's not even like New York, for crying out loud!"
In Port Angeles, daily life goes on. "I get up every morning, get my kids to school, come home, make dinner, shop at Safeway. This being Port Angeles, that's one of the highlights." But somehow, especially since Sept. 11, it's not the same.
"You think about these things in the weirdest places," she says. The other night in the Safeway, by the meat counter, something washed over Dean. "You look around and people are shopping in their own little world," she says. "I can't believe everyone isn't down on their knees because we have so much, and so many people don't. We complain about the stupidest thing in this country. Go figure."
The meat counter in the Port Angeles Safeway is 52 steps long. It ends where a Hostess Twinkie display intersects with the pet-food aisle. Pet Food stretches the entire length of the store and includes treats such as Purina Bacon Beggin' Strips, $3.49 for six ounces.
To Diana Dean, this used to be normal.
Now it's not.
Slaminski oversees four full-time and eight part-time customs inspectors at a border crossing so quiet they usually seize only one or two marijuana joints every other month. The poster of the inspectors who caught Ressam is autographed, with thanks, from Ray Kelly, then head of U.S. Customs, who credits them with saving countless lives.
DEEP INSIDE Ressam's trunk, the wheel well was loaded. Ten green plastic garbage bags filled with white crystals, two olive jars of amber liquid, black boxes, two pill bottles.
Drugs, Johnson thought, flashing back to the southern border. Maybe meth. Not powdery like cocaine, coarser, somewhere between sugar and rock salt.
Johnson patted Ressam down for weapons, felt a hard bulge in his right pocket. Suddenly, Ressam slipped out of his trench coat and ran. "Instead of running after him," Johnson recalls, "I'm like: Hey! Hey! You can't do that!
"If anything be known, I'm the guy who let Ressam go."
Not for long. He and Chapman took off on foot. Dean and Inspector Steve Campbell jumped in their family vans. "Watch the trunk!" Dean called to her husband, who was waiting for a ride home because his car had broken down.
It was dark. Ressam led by half a block. Which way? Campbell yelled to an old man on the corner. The guy pointed with his cane: That-a-way!
At the trial, the prosecution used an aerial map of downtown Port Angeles to trace the four-block chase. Ressam ran up Laurel, past the banks and flower planters toward First Street's twinkling holiday lights. Chapman followed. Johnson cut through a parking lot by a mural of the ferry Kalakala. At the corner of First Street, Ressam bumped into a guy, kept running and dove under a pickup truck parked in front of the shoe store.
Chapman finally caught up and squatted on the curb, gun drawn: Stop! Police! Customs!
Ressam crawled out, glanced at Chapman, turned his back and ran into the traffic. He rebounded off a moving car and tried to duck into the Kalakala parking lot, but found himself facing Johnson. It'd been all uphill. Everyone was panting, but the race plodded on, past the movie theater and the furniture store and Dynasty Chinese restaurant.
"It was kinda weird because it was like a slow-motion chase," recalls a local shopowner, who watched it. "They were going around in circles. He (Ressam) kept looking back. He looked bored, really, so we just thought he's just some shoplifter. The last thing in the world you'd think was it was a terrorist."
Traffic was confused. At the intersection of First and Lincoln, Ressam grabbed the door handle of a blue Olds stopped at the light. The manager of Safeway video rentals was at the wheel. She hadn't locked her car door, of course, this being Port Angeles. She wondered whether to run the red light. Go! her husband said. She floored it.
Ressam spun, off balance. Chapman tackled him. Johnson pounced, 240 pounds kneeling on Ressam's shoulders, and slapped on Smith & Wesson cuffs.
For more than a year, Inspector Mark Johnson hid his medal in his locker because he felt ashamed of his snappish behavior in the days following Ressam's arrest. But on Sept. 11, after a hard workout to vent anger, Johnson went to change his clothes, saw the medal and felt proud.
AFTER THE awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., Johnson hung his medal in the back of his locker and never wanted to look at it again. He was ashamed how he'd snapped at people in the days following Ressam's capture. He'd stayed awake nearly 72 hours babysitting the explosive cache, and when he finally went home, he thought he saw a man dressed in black crawling toward the house. "I recognized I was going nuts," the inspector said. He took time off to sleep and work out.
Also, like the other inspectors, Johnson didn't feel deserving of special merit. It had taken several years to find his calling as a customs inspector after graduating from Fife High School and Western Washington University and working various construction and warehouse jobs.
His first year as a customs inspector along the southern border near Tijuana, other inspectors zeroed in on dope all the time, but he couldn't find a thing. "The southern border was like getting slapped with a wet towel," he says, until "I learned to read the thing and hone it down to an edge." In 1996, Johnson was awarded a belt buckle for making the most seizures in San Ysidro and Tecate ports. He'd push the traffic, moving a line quickly to weed out civilian chaff and suck in smugglers. Long hours, tough conditions, hard work. The other inspectors on the southern border, he says, deserve medals, too.
USA v. Ressam (CR99-666c) was held in Los Angeles in a stylish new courthouse, part Perry Mason, part Restoration Hardware. Johnson was nervous while testifying, but that didn't keep him from trying to connect with the slight man in the brown sweater.
The prosecution: "Now during this field-testing process, did you test the contents of the pill bottles?"
Johnson: "I did not."
Q: "What, if anything, did you do with the pill bottles?"
A: "I just looked at them and shook them around."
Q: "Did you know the pill bottles contained a high explosive?"
A: "I know that now."
A Tylenol bottle contained a powerful military-grade explosive, cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine, or RDX. Another small bottle held hexamethylentriperoxodiamin, or HMTD, an unstable explosive so dangerous it's not manufactured commercially. Two tall olive jars were filled with 50 ounces of ethylene glycol dinitrate, or EGDN, a chemical cousin to nitroglycerin. Used in dynamite, EGDN is sensitive to shock, heat and friction. Screwing the jar lids could have been enough to set it off. The garbage bags contained 118 pounds of urea fertilizer and 14 pounds of sulfate powder. Mixed with other chemicals, it's a bomb. When the FBI detonated five pounds of the mixture under a big old sedan, the explosion left only shards of car carcass and drifting ash.
Q: "What, if anything, did you do with the Safeway olive-jar containers that had the brown liquid?"
A: "I tipped them upside-down for the viscosity of it."
Q: "Did you know at the time it contained the equivalent of nitroglycerin? Do you know if you dropped the bottle what would have happened?"
A: "I know."
At that, Johnson made eye contact with Ressam, who returned his gaze and then looked down. Did he feel remorse? Johnson couldn't tell. "My Christian belief says everyone can be redeemed."
Every night before bed, Johnson and his three boys pray for Mommy and baby sister; for Manolin and Yurebe, boys they sponsor in the Dominican Republic; for neighbors; for help in saying no to sin and yes to God. They also pray Ressam will repent and become a Christian, "not in the sappy sense," Johnson says, "but in recognition of 'Hey, I'm a sinner.' " He adds, "Even though I'm praying for the guy, I want to get in that cell and throttle him."
On Sept. 11, Johnson worked out his sadness and anger by running the ramps behind the Federal Building. Changing clothes at his locker, Johnson spied his medal, still dangling from its blue ribbon. He thought about what could have been, and for the first time, he felt proud.
"Yeah," he said. "That's OK."
HANDCUFFED, RESSAM lay on cold pavement while traffic detoured around him. His left cheekbone was scraped; he curled his legs like a dead spider, not resisting, but not cooperating. "So I applied pain compliance to his wrist," Johnson said, "and that's when he decided he was going to walk back." A patrol car arrived to drive them the last few blocks.
In the trailer, the inspectors pulled out field kits to test the white granules in the garbage bags. They still thought it was dope, but all the drug tests were negative. Then, they remembered the four black boxes in the trunk and unscrewed one of the lids. A Casio watch face stared back, laced to a circuit board with red wires.
Calls had gone out. Layers of law enforcement arrived and swarmed around the little ferry terminal. In the backseat of the patrol car, still handcuffed, Ressam kept peeking over the edge of the window, then ducking down as officials poked at the bomb materials in his trunk. Dean wondered if he'd been badly hurt in the scuffle. Should they call medics? They loosened his handcuffs.
At the trial, Ressam's defense attorney cross-examined Inspector Chapman: "You didn't run up to the people at the trunk of the car and say, 'Get away from the trunk of the car. There is something wrong here because this guy is diving down on the seat?' "
A: "No. I'm not trained in testing for either narcotics or any other material. We had individuals that are trained, and I was relying upon their field of expertise."
Johnson cut through this parking lot, in front of the Kalakala ferry mural, when running after Ressam, in the dark, through downtown Port Angeles. Every night, Johnson prays with his sons that Ressam will feel remorse. Ressam is in a federal detention center in SeaTac awaiting final sentencing.
Everyone cringes when they look back. That night, they'd stored the heat- and shock-sensitive EGDN in the warm basement of the Federal Building, a classic brick and stone edifice heated by steam radiators. Johnson recalls the olive jars knocking against each other as he walked them downstairs. Three days later, an ATF agent drove 900 miles on I-5 with the chemicals before learning how volatile they were. This summer, when testifying against co-conspirator Mokhtar Haouari, Ressam said he was too scared to drive with the chemicals in his car; he'd planned to take Amtrak to Los Angeles instead.
"We didn't realize the magnitude of it that night," Dean says. What started as an ordinary drizzly day had turned into a nervous ferry passenger, then a suspicious car, then a bomb plot, then a Montreal terrorist cell, then a jihad training camp in Afghanistan linked to Osama bin Laden.
Customs inspectors are not experts in such matters. They are good at reading eyes.
"You know how you look in somebody's eyes and there's light? He looked at me and his eyes were dead," Dean says of Ressam. "It was just a chilling chilling chilling feeling. It was like looking at a person who was not there. There was no spark, no life, no soul. His eyes were just flat."
PORT ANGELES Port Director Jerry Slaminski is a beefy man with a moustache who resembles Captain Kangaroo's bigger, less jolly, younger brother.
One wall of his office serves as a glory board. In framed montages, beaming inspectors show off sacks of confiscated marijuana and bricks of cocaine.
The Ressam capture is in the center and features snapshots of the terrorist taken that night in the trailer. He stands next to a fire extinguisher and K9 recruiting poster, pockets turned inside out, undershirt peeking from his gray sweater. There's slight stubble on his hollow cheeks and he's set his face in an expressionless mask. Maybe if he were smiling you could imagine the guy, in an alternate universe, laughing with friends at a soccer match or café. Maybe not.
Next to the glory board, there's a framed photo of President George W. Bush. It's on top of a VCR on which Slaminski shows documentaries to teach his staff about other cultures. Slaminski, who's traveled extensively around the world and was a sky marshal in the Middle East, has a daughter who married a Muslim and moved there. When he imagines Ressam's roots in Algeria, he says:
"What would your identity be, as a man, if you had no job, people are getting killed and you're not sure who's right, the government is corrupt, the rich are getting richer and the poor people are taken advantage of and you'll never amount to anything, anyway, you're never going to get out of the hole, or have a family, or job. They're probably looking for a cause. Trying to find some purpose in life."
Across the room, under a navigational chart of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is another framed photo: Osama bin Laden. He sits cross-legged in a flowing white garment and camouflage jacket. Slaminski sinks into his chair, dark uniform belted and decorated with badges. The leader of the Armed Islamic Group and the head of Port Angeles Customs stare at each other.
Slaminski put bin Laden's picture up on Sept. 12, "thinking I was going to pray for him, but I haven't," he says, tapping a pen on his desk. "I pray that he's going to get caught. I think that would be even better than seeing him killed. Yeah, brought back here in handcuffs and put in a courtroom. It reminds me to pray that justice is done. Also to pray for the people in New York.
"It's intense. Every time I look at it, you feel like you're at war and this is my Public Enemy No. 1, and you don't want to grow lethargic until we control this situation. Maybe someday I can write DECEASED or CAPTURED or DEATH ROW on that picture with this black pen.
"The Bible says pray for your enemies. I find it hard. I want to pray that his soul will be saved, but I can't." The port director pauses, swallows. "Excuse me," he says. His ample jaw trembles. He takes a deep breath. "God's grace is bigger than my grace. To be honest, I believe God allowed that man to be caught as a warning to the U.S. that we were a target and they were trying to penetrate our borders and do damage. Whether it was taken seriously or not, you be the judge."
It is an odd feeling to be on a misty peninsula, in a government office, listening to the director of a tiny port talk about God, jihad and Algerian grandmothers wailing in olive groves. But these are strange times.
"You think of a small town like this as a quiet haven of peace where you can escape this kind of thing," Slaminski says. "There's no place in the world to run from this anymore. No country's too small, no city's too small."
Every month in Port Angeles, customs inspectors seize Cuban cigars and a few bottles of Tylenol with codeine. Every other month, they confiscate a joint or two. Once a year, they'll uncover a notable load, like last year's 120 pounds of marijuana in a motorhome. Mostly, the port deals with the surplus of bountiful nations: tourists and commercial truckers.
The tidy office is stocked with rubber stamps, staplers, a fax machine, Scotch tape, manila folders, pencil jars, paperclips, envelopes. The implements of civil society. Office supplies never looked so vulnerable.
In three weeks, it will be two years since Ressam took the ferry to Port Angeles.
Every day, 249,000 people cross the northern border between Canada and the United States. In December, more than 5 million passengers typically travel through the Los Angeles International Airport. In the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Ahmed Ressam is cooperating with the FBI in hopes of getting less than 130 years at his Feb. 14 sentencing. In Afghanistan, the United States is dropping 7½-ton bombs as big as Volkswagen Beetles. Osama bin Laden remains at large.
On the Port Angeles waterfront, wind whips the flags. Every evening, when the ferry docks, Diana Dean smooths on an extra layer of Chapstick and goes out to meet the boat. She winks and waves at everyone, almost.
Paula Bock is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: January 05, 2009, 10:50:18 PM
WRITTEN BY PAULA BOCK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
In quiet Port Angeles, local folks tackle a terrorist - and nothing has been quite the same since
EVER SINCE terrorist Ahmed Ressam drove off the ferry from Victoria, B.C., with 135 pounds of bomb ingredients hidden in his trunk, the folks at U.S. Customs — who caught and chased him on foot through the streets of Port Angeles — have wondered many things.
Was the Los Angeles airport really his only target?
What would've happened if they hadn't caught him?
Most of all, why did he pick Port Angeles? Does that mean (and this gives them the creeps) that he scoped them out before that drizzly night?
Let's say he did. Ressam would have spied an international border crossing that looks, frankly, homemade. Most of the operation takes place outdoors under an awning balanced on creosote pilings, a structure more casually built than your average picnic shelter.
Instead of sitting in booths, the inspectors stand in the salty air next to tables slapped together from scrap lumber, painted gray. To make a phone call or check the computer, they head for a trailer furnished with 1940s office chairs, masonite clipboards, a combo-dial safe and a brass-handled filing cabinet left over from the "Casablanca" era. There are no surveillance cameras. Sparrows and seagulls flit in the rafters. One of the inspectors, since retired, fed the birds on the sly even though they tended to spatter her spit-and-polish colleagues. Despite this ever-present danger, most of the customs officials smile a lot.
Inspector Diana Dean appears to be smiling even when she isn't because her warm brown eyes turn up at the corners, like a Kewpie doll's, and she often winks at the ferry passengers when they show their Murchie's Tea and ask for directions to Highway 101.
Inspectors wonder whether terrorist Ahmed Ressam scoped out Port Angeles before he boarded the Coho ferry in Victoria, B.C., and attempted to bring nearly 135 pounds of bomb ingredients into America through their tiny port. When they discovered the load, he fled on foot and they chased him up the street at left, tackling him a few blocks later.
Headed to Crescent Lake? She directs them west, past an abandoned shack improbably labeled, CURRENCY EXCHANGE. Seattle? Dean points east in the direction of Omelet King and Dairy Queen.
She waves. "You're good to go!"
Friendly border, no barbed wire. It'd be understandable if an international terrorist mistook this port for easy entry.
ALONG WITH her disarming smile, Diana Dean carries a Glock.
All that day — the day before Ressam, before everything — she'd been out on the firing range with her colleagues, practicing in the rain. Target shooting. Take downs. Handcuffings. Fun when you're in your 20s or 30s, Dean says, but she's well beyond that, and by late afternoon, she was eager to finish, tend to the evening ferry and go home to a hot shower.
What to make for dinner? That was the only thing on her mind. Something quick. Baked potatoes. Hamburger. One of Dean's three grown daughters is vegetarian. Whether to accommodate her that night. Typical Tuesday. December 14th, 1999.
At first, customs inspectors thought the load was dope, but field tests were negative. Then they remembered the black boxes, unscrewed the lids and found these timers rigged from Casio watches.
The Millennium was just around the corner, hardly a blip on Dean's radar screen, security or otherwise. Christmas came first. At home, the tree was already up. Downtown, shopkeepers had decorated the streets with little white lights. It wasn't cold enough to frost the breath, but damp.
At 5:30, the ferry from Victoria docked with only 20 vehicles aboard. Dean checked cars in Lane 2, the center lane, while Inspectors Mark Johnson, Mike Chapman, Steve Campbell and Dan Clem worked the other lanes and foot passengers.
"When I'm working a car, I'm always glancing at the next one behind," Dean says. "If it looks like grandma and grandpa from Sequim, it probably is. You're going to ask different questions depending on whether they have U.S. or Canadian plates. You eyeball that person and see if what they look like matches with who they say they are."
Instead of a spare tire, the wheel well of Ressam's rental car held 10 bags of urea fertilizer, two olive jars with an amber liquid similar to nitroglycerin, pill bottles filled with highly volatile military-grade explosives and four timers. Ressam brought some of the chemicals from a jihad training camp in Afghanistan, assembled the bomb in a Vancouver motel and said he planned to detonate it at the Los Angeles International Airport.
All the other passengers were "regular, normal people," Dean recalls. Ressam's rental car is the only one she remembers. Did he pick her line, she wonders now, "maybe, because I'm a woman?"
It was the last vehicle off the boat, a dark green Chrysler 300M with B.C. plates, a luxury sedan usually favored by the older set. The driver was small and wore long sideburns and a too-big camelhair coat. He looked to be in his early 30s. He rolled down the window.
"Where are you going?" Dean asked him.
"Sattal," he said. Nervous, she thought. Out-of-the-ordinary nervous.
"Why are you going to Seattle?"
"Bisit," he said. Fidgeting.
"Where do you live?"
"Montreal." Oh. French-Canadian. That explains the accent. But not his jumpiness.
"Who are you going to see in Seattle?"
"No, hotel." Why such a roundabout route from Montreal, on two ferries, to visit a hotel in Seattle? Doesn't make sense, Dean thought. The man became more agitated, began rummaging in the console.
"The minute the hands disappear," Dean says, "you get nervous."
Secondary inspection. She gave him a customs declaration to get his hands busy and asked for his driver's license. It identified him as Benni Noris of Montreal.
Not quite. Though he later claimed "I am a not a citizen of anywhere," Ahmed Ressam is Algerian, born there in 1967. He worked a while in his father's coffee shop before moving to France under a false name, then to Montreal, where he lived on welfare and petty thievery and joined a terrorist cell. In 1998, he learned to rig bombs, conduct urban warfare and do surveillance at a jihad training camp in Afghanistan. In 1999, he returned to Vancouver, B.C., with the key chemicals for making the bomb for Los Angeles and spent several days putting it together with accomplice Abdelmajid Dahoumane in Room 118 of the 2400 Inn. The men kept the window open despite the wet, rainy weather, housekeeping staff testified, and left an acid burn on a table and corroded plumbing.
Ressam then drove to Victoria, where he called ahead to reserve a room at the Best Western hotel near Seattle Center, jotting the number on a notepad from the Empress Hotel. The slip of paper was found in his car along with a Los Angeles map — airports circled — but it would take months for the rest to unfold.
Dean watched the jittery man. Turn off the car, pop open the trunk and step out, she ordered. He didn't comply. By that time, the other inspectors had processed their passengers and were waiting for her to finish. Johnson had served a brief stint in Montreal, so Dean asked him to talk to the French Canadian.
Johnson didn't speak French, but knew Spanish from years working the southern border. "Habla Español?"
"Parlez-vous Français?" the man replied. He handed over his Costco card as identification.
"So you like to shop in bulk?" Johnson joked. "Y'know the 120-roll pack of toilet paper?" He was trying to crack the mask, test whether the guy was feigning no-speak-English. The guy gave him a withering look but wouldn't respond. He was acting "hinky," Johnson says, suspicious.
Johnson escorted him, by the arm, to a gray table to search the pockets of his trench coat. A few steps away, inspectors Clem and Chapman removed a suitcase from the trunk and unscrewed the covering over the spare tire. Clem called out. They'd found something.
Johnson gripped Ressam by both shoulders and walked him to the trunk. They peered inside.
In Johnson's hands, Ressam shuddered.
To check the computer, make phone calls or process papers for truckers, Dean and other inspectors head for this vintage trailer at the Black Ball ferry terminal. The hand-hewn tables and lack of surveillance cameras lend the international border station a homey feel, which perhaps lulled Ressam into thinking it'd be an easy crossing.
"I CAN'T TELL YOU I've led a very exciting life," Diana Dean says. "Absolutely not one thing extraordinary. Nothing. Totally boring."
When pressed, Dean talks about her animals. She has two llamas, a Dalmatian, another dog, a tiny freshwater puffer fish, two cats, five unnamed chickens, a yellow-naped chartreuse Amazon parrot and two African leopard tortoises, Lily and Luke, whose parents were recently featured in Reptile Magazine. That's the closest Dean admits to fame.
Dean has loved animals since she was a girl growing up in Seattle. Her mom, a Seattle schoolteacher, let her keep baby raccoons, rabbits, cats, dogs, hamsters, even a snake or two. Her father was killed in the Battle of the Bulge shortly before she was born, so she spent a lot of time with her grandparents on their North Dakota farm.
She dreamed of being a veterinarian or marrying a farmer. Instead, she wed a city boy, Tony, whom she'd met at Roosevelt High. He became a sky marshal and then worked in customs. She took courses at Everett and Spokane community colleges, worked as a payroll manager in Seattle, moved to Hawaii when Tony was transferred, then applied to be an inspector herself.
Dean loved the job, especially the airport buzzing with people. She glommed onto inspectors she admired to learn what they looked for and how they asked questions. Over the years, she made several big busts along with run-of-the-mill seizures, even after transferring to Port Angeles, a much quieter port. Dean's boss says she has a "sixth sense," but Dean attributes it to experience and training.
"Being an inspector," she says, "you see the same types day in and day out. I can almost tell who they are, where they're going, and practically what they do for a living. And if they seem a little off, I pull them over for a second look-see."
The day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Port Director Jerry Slaminski framed this newspaper photo of Osama bin Laden and placed it across from his desk to remind himself that "the Bible says you should pray for your enemies." So far, that's been too hard. Instead, the port director prays bin Laden will be captured, tried and brought to justice. He hopes to someday scrawl DECEASED or CAPTURED or DEATH ROW across bin Laden's photo.
That's all she was doing the night of Dec. 14, 1999, when Ressam came through. "Who would have dreamed it? Never in a trillion years," she says. "You have your life pretty much planned out, and something will happen to change it. You go with what life hands you, I guess I don't know."
Since snagging Ressam, Dean and her colleagues have been honored by the director of U.S. Customs and awarded medals by the U.S. Treasury secretary. They've testified at trials in Los Angeles and New York and in front of Congress in Washington, D.C. A self-described "homebody," Dean had never visited any of these places before. "I'd never heard of Algeria or Afghanistan," she says. "That's not true, but it is. Before, you didn't think of things that go on in other parts of the world."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: January 05, 2009, 10:04:09 PM
|**Anyone here able to tell a Thai that's Buddhist from a Thai that's Muslim?**http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/023328.php
November 2, 2008
Thailand: jihadists eliminate last Buddhist family from village
A 72 year old mother and her 39 year old daughter. The mother was shot in the head and killed. The father was slain a year ago. Now no more Buddhists (i.e., "pagans," "mushrikin") in Narathiwat.
"Last Buddhist family in Narathiwat village attacked," from the Nation, November 2:
Narathiwat - The last Buddhist family in a village of this southern border province was attacked by Muslim insurgents Sunday, killing the mother and severely injuring the daughter.
The attack against the family in Moo 7 village of Tambon Laloh of Ruesoh district happened at 1:20 pm.
Police said the mother Ladda Sutthani, 72, owner of a clothes shop, was fatally shot and her daughter, Darunee Duangkaew, 39, was severely injured and sent to the provincial hospital.
Ladda, who was shot at her head and neck, died before she was sent to the hospital.
Police said the two were sitting inside the shop with two other relatives and the insurgents arrived on two motorcycles. They initially pretended to buy clothes but opened fire at the mother and daughter while the two relatives managed to flee.
The shop was attacked with a bomb two years ago, injuring Ladda. Darunee's husband was killed about a year ago.
Ladda and Darunee's family is the last Buddhist family in the village.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 02, 2009, 09:13:07 AM
Moral Clarity in Gaza
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, January 2, 2009; A15
Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.
-- Associated Press, Dec. 27
Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.
Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis -- 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years -- deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.
This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage -- or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb -- will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.
For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. And deeply perverse, such as the Hamas TV children's program in which an adorable live-action Palestinian Mickey Mouse is beaten to death by an Israeli (then replaced by his more militant cousin, Nahoul the Bee, who vows to continue on Mickey's path to martyrdom).
At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible -- also on both sides. It's a recurring theme. Israel gave similar warnings to Southern Lebanese villagers before attacking Hezbollah in the Lebanon war of 2006. The Israelis did this knowing it would lose for them the element of surprise and cost the lives of their own soldiers.
That is the asymmetry of means between Hamas and Israel. But there is equal clarity regarding the asymmetry of ends. Israel has but a single objective in Gaza -- peace: the calm, open, normal relations it offered Gaza when it withdrew in 2005. Doing something never done by the Turkish, British, Egyptian and Jordanian rulers of Palestine, the Israelis gave the Palestinians their first sovereign territory ever in Gaza.
What ensued? This is not ancient history. Did the Palestinians begin building the state that is supposedly their great national aim? No. No roads, no industry, no courts, no civil society at all. The flourishing greenhouses that Israel left behind for the Palestinians were destroyed and abandoned. Instead, Gaza's Iranian-sponsored rulers have devoted all their resources to turning it into a terror base -- importing weapons, training terrorists, building tunnels with which to kidnap Israelis on the other side. And of course firing rockets unceasingly.
The grievance? It cannot be occupation, military control or settlers. They were all removed in September 2005. There's only one grievance and Hamas is open about it. Israel's very existence.
Nor does Hamas conceal its strategy. Provoke conflict. Wait for the inevitable civilian casualties. Bring down the world's opprobrium on Israel. Force it into an untenable cease-fire -- exactly as happened in Lebanon. Then, as in Lebanon, rearm, rebuild and mobilize for the next round. Perpetual war. Since its raison d'etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.
Israel's only response is to try to do what it failed to do after the Gaza withdrawal. The unpardonable strategic error of its architect, Ariel Sharon, was not the withdrawal itself but the failure to immediately establish a deterrence regime under which no violence would be tolerated after the removal of any and all Israeli presence -- the ostensible justification for previous Palestinian attacks. Instead, Israel allowed unceasing rocket fire, implicitly acquiescing to a state of active war and indiscriminate terror.
Hamas's rejection of an extension of its often-violated six-month cease-fire (during which the rockets never stopped, just were less frequent) gave Israel a rare opportunity to establish the norm it should have insisted upon three years ago: no rockets, no mortar fire, no kidnapping, no acts of war. As the U.S. government has officially stated: a sustainable and enduring cease-fire. If this fighting ends with anything less than that, Israel will have lost yet another war. The question is whether Israel still retains the nerve -- and the moral self-assurance -- to email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 01, 2009, 07:45:02 PM
|**Israel CAN bomb it's way into removing garbage like this from the planet.**
No tears for Hamas leader in Ramallah
Jan. 1, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Nizar Rayyan, the Hamas military commander who was killed in Thursday's air raid on his home in the Jabalya refugee camp, was a sworn enemy not only of Israel, but also of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Rayyan, who had four wives and a dozen children, led the Hamas militiamen who defeated Abbas's security forces in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. He is the third most senior Hamas leader to be killed by Israel, after the targeted killings of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March 2004 and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a few weeks later.
Hamas leaders stressed that Rayyan's death, while a "painful loss" to their movement, would not affect its determination to continue the fight against Israel.
A Hamas spokesman said he did not rule out the possibility that the PA had asked Israel to kill Rayyan because of his role in the Hamas-Fatah clashes in 2007.
"Sheikh Rayyan was one of the main reasons why many of Abbas's men did not sleep well at night," he said. "They knew that as long as the sheikh was around, they would never be able to return to the Gaza Strip."
A few days before Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip, Rayyan, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle, declared that he and his supporters were planning to hold Friday prayers inside Abbas's presidential compound in Gaza City.
Rayyan personally led the Hamas militiamen who seized the compound and PA security installations throughout Gaza. He later boasted that the Strip had been "cleansed" of "traitors" and "CIA agents" - a reference to Abbas and his former security chiefs.
A few months later, Rayyan again issued a threat against Abbas. This time he declared that he would soon lead Friday prayers inside Abbas's Mukata compound in Ramallah, an indication of Hamas's intention to extend its control to the West Bank.
That was why PA officials in Ramallah Thursday did not shed tears over his departure from the scene. In fact, some of them privately expressed relief, claiming that he was responsible for the killing of scores of Abbas loyalists in the Gaza Strip during the 2007 "coup."
Many Palestinians saw the killing of Rayyan, 60, as a severe blow to Hamas and its armed wing, Izzadin Kassam. Some Hamas supporters said on Thursday that Rayyan was more significant than Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh or senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam.
"He was one of the most popular figures in Hamas," said a Palestinian journalist who knew the slain Hamas leader for nearly two decades. "He was the type of leader who would go out with the fighters to confront Israeli tanks and fire rockets at Israel. He loved wearing the military uniform."
Apart from serving as a "spiritual" leader for Hamas's armed wing, Rayyan was also a teacher at the Islamic University in Gaza City. His students referred to him as "The Professor" and described him as a prominent Muslim scholar. One student said Rayyan was Yassin's real successor.
Rayyan was a leading authority on the sayings of the prophet Muhammad (Hadith), and the basement of his four-story house had been turned into a library of more than 5,000 books and documents on Islam.
After Islamic studies at universities in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sudan, he returned to the Gaza Strip and worked as a preacher in several mosques. His fiery sermons and involvement in incitement and terrorism resulted in four years in an Israeli prison.
When the PA assumed control over the Gaza Strip in 1994, Rayyan was one of the first Hamas members to find himself in a Palestinian prison, together with Zahar and Rantisi.
At the beginning of the second intifada, Rayyan sent one of his sons to carry out a suicide attack in Gush Katif's Elei Sinai in 2001. Two Israelis were killed. Rayyan was also responsible for a series of suicide bombings and attacks inside the Green Line, including the suicide bombing in Ashdod Port in 2004 in which 10 Israelis died.
In recent years, Rayyan served as a liaison between the political leadership of Hamas and Izzadin Kassam. He is even said to have been one of the very few Hamas operatives who knew where IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit was being held in the Gaza Strip.
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