Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 06, 2009, 08:38:20 AM
America will not protect us, warns Rudd
Jonathan Pearlman Defence Correspondent
May 2, 2009
THE Rudd Government has acknowledged that the supremacy of the US has begun to fade and Australia is preparing for an uncertain future in which it can no longer rely on the protection of its main ally.
In a fundamental shift in defence plans, the Government has explicitly declared that US primacy in the Asia-Pacific - the bedrock of the nation's security since World War II - may be ending. The change, caused by the rise of new great powers such as China, is set to produce growing regional tensions and a "sudden deterioration" in Australia's security.
A 20-year defence blueprint, to be released by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, today, prepares for a multibillion-dollar build-up of naval and air forces to ensure that Australia can defend its northern and sea approaches.
It says a regional shake-up is under way but US supremacy will not be blunted before 2030 and assesses the chances of an attack on Australia in the short term as "very remote".
The white paper, Defending Australia In The Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, is the first since 2000 and outlines a range of security threats, including instability caused by the financial crisis, cyber warfare, failed states in the Pacific, Islamist terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and climate change.
It warns that Australia must ensure it can protect itself amid an emerging range of great powers in the region - particularly China, India and Russia - which could lead to a "miscalculation" with disturbing consequences for Australia.
"Australia has been a very secure country for many decades, in large measure because the wider Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace and stability underwritten by US strategic primacy," the paper says. "That order is being transformed as economic changes start to bring about changes in the distribution of strategic power. Risks resulting from escalating strategic competition could emerge quite unpredictably."
The Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the world faced "the beginning of the end" of the unquestioned dominance of Australia's principal ally since the Cold War.
The paper criticises China for failing to explain its substantial military build-up in recent years, which appears to have exceeded the force needed for a war over Taiwan. China's military modernisation will be little affected by the global financial crisis and is set to limit the ability of the US to control the region, it says.
"The pace, scope and structure of China's military modernisation have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern if not carefully explained, and if China does not reach out to others to build confidence regarding its military plans.
"As other powers rise, and the primacy of the US is increasingly tested, power relations will inevitably change. When this happens there will be the possibility of miscalculation … A potential contraction of US strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with a requirement for allies and friends to do more in their own regions, would adversely affect Australian interests, regional stability and global security."
The paper affirms support for the US alliance and for US-led efforts to bolster global security but warns Australia will not put troops at risk "in distant theatres of war where we have no direct interests".
Instead, the Government has focused on defending the borders of Australia, primarily by building air and naval power to protect the northern sea-air gap, maritime approaches and offshore oil and gas reserves.
A range of large-scale purchases includes a doubling of the submarine fleet to 12, about 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, eight frigates with submarine detection capability and - as planned - three air warfare destroyers. For the first time Australia will acquire an arsenal of sea-based long-range cruise missiles.
"The ability to deter or defeat armed attack on Australia will continue to be the primary force structure determinant … This means focusing predominantly on forces that can exert air superiority and sea control in our approaches."
The Government has kept its commitment to boost the Defence budget by 3 per cent each year until 2018, but plans to scale this back to 2.2 per cent until 2030.
It says an internal reform program will save $20 billion.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Green-0-cide
on: May 04, 2009, 10:16:46 AM
From The Sunday Times
May 3, 2009
'Green' lightbulbs poison workers
Hundreds of factory staff are being made ill by mercury used in bulbs destined for the West
Michael Sheridan, Foshan
WHEN British consumers are compelled to buy energy-efficient lightbulbs from 2012, they will save up to 5m tons of carbon dioxide a year from being pumped into the atmosphere. In China, however, a heavy environmental price is being paid for the production of “green” lightbulbs in cost-cutting factories.
Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment.
Doctors, regulators, lawyers and courts in China - which supplies two thirds of the compact fluorescent bulbs sold in Britain - are increasingly alert to the potential impacts on public health of an industry that promotes itself as a friend of the earth but depends on highly toxic mercury.
Making the bulbs requires workers to handle mercury in either solid or liquid form because a small amount of the metal is put into each bulb to start the chemical reaction that creates light.
Mercury is recognised as a health hazard by authorities worldwide because its accumulation in the body can damage the nervous system, lungs and kidneys, posing a particular threat to babies in the womb and young children.
The risks are illustrated by guidance from the British government, which says that if a compact fluorescent lightbulb is broken in the home, the room should be cleared for 15 minutes because of the danger of inhaling mercury vapour.
Documents issued by the Chinese health ministry, instructions to doctors and occu-pational health propaganda all describe mercury poisoning in lighting factories as a growing public health concern.
“Pregnant women and mothers who are breastfeeding must not be allowed to work in a unit where mercury is present,” states one official rulebook.
In southern China, compact fluorescent lightbulbs destined for western consumers are being made in factories that range from high-tech multina-tional operations to sweat-shops, with widely varying standards of health and safety.
Tests on hundreds of employees have found dangerously high levels of mercury in their bodies and many have required hospital treatment, according to interviews with workers, doctors and local health officials in the cities of Foshan and Guangzhou.
Dozens of workers who were interviewed on condition of anonymity described living with the fear of mercury poisoning. They gave detailed accounts of medical tests that found numerous workers had dangerous levels of the toxin in their urine.
“In tests, the mercury content in my blood and urine exceeded the standard but I was not sent to hospital because the managers said I was strong and the mercury would be decontaminated by my immune system,” said one young female employee, who provided her identity card.
“Two of my friends were sent to hospital for one month,” she added, giving their names also.
“If they asked me to work inside the mercury workshop I wouldn’t do it, no matter how much they paid,” said another young male worker.
Doctors at two regional health centres said they had received patients in the past from the Foshan factory of Osram, a big manufacturer serving the British market.
However, the company said in a statement that the latest tests on its staff had found nobody with elevated mercury levels. It added that local authorities had provided documents in 2007 and 2008 to certify the factory met the required environmental standards.
Osram said it used the latest technology employing solid mercury to maintain high standards of industrial hygiene equivalent to those in Germany. Labour lawyers said Osram, as a responsible multi-national company, was probably the best employer in a hazardous sector and conditions at Chinese-owned factories were often far worse.
A survey of published specialist literature and reports by state media shows hundreds of workers at Chinese-owned factories have been poisoned by mercury over the past decade.
In one case, Foshan city officials intervened to order medical tests on workers at the Nanhai Feiyang lighting factory after receiving a petition alleging dangerous conditions, according to a report in the Nanfang Daily newspaper. The tests found 68 out of 72 workers were so badly poisoned they required hospitalisation.
A specialist medical journal, published by the health ministry, describes another compact fluorescent lightbulb factory in Jinzhou, in central China, where 121 out of 123 employees had excessive mercury levels. One man’s level was 150 times the accepted standard.
The same journal identified a compact fluorescent lightbulb factory in Anyang, eastern China, where 35% of workers suffered mercury poisoning, and industrial discharge containing the toxin went straight into the water supply.
It also reported a survey of 18 lightbulb factories near Shanghai, which found that exposure levels to mercury were higher for workers making the new compact fluorescent lightbulbs than for other lights containing the metal.
In China, people have been aware of the element’s toxic properties for more than 2,000 years because legend has it that the first emperor, Qin, died in 210BC after eating a pill of mercury and jade he thought would grant him eternal life.
However, the scale of the public health problems in recent times caused by mercury mining and by the metal’s role in industrial pollution is beginning to emerge only with the growth of a civil society in China and the appearance of lawyers prepared to take on powerful local governments and companies.
A court in Beijing has just broken new ground in industrial injuries law by agreeing to hear a case unrelated to lightbulbs but filed by a plaintiff who is seeking £375,000 in compensation for acute mercury poisoning that he claims destroyed his digestive system.
The potential for litigation may be greatest in the ruined mountain landscape of Guizhou province in the southwest, where mercury has been mined for centuries. The land is scarred and many of the people have left.
Until recently, the conditions were medieval. Miners hewed chunks of rock veined with cinnabar, the main commercial source of mercury. They inhaled toxic dust and vapours as the material seethed in primitive cauldrons to extract the mercury. Nobody wore a mask or protective clothing.
“Our forefathers had been mining for mercury since the Ming Dynasty [1368-1644] and in olden days there was no pollution from such small mines,” said a 72-year-old farmer, named Shen.
“But in modern times thousands of miners came to our land, dug it out and poured chemicals to wash away the waste. Our water buffaloes grew stunted from drinking the water and our crops turned grey. Our people fell sick and didn’t live long. Anybody who could do has left.”
The government shut all the big mercury mining operations in the region in recent years in response to a fall in global mercury prices and concern over dead rivers, poisoned fields and ailing inhabitants.
But The Sunday Times found that in this remote corner of a poverty-stricken province, the European demand for mercury had brought the miners back.
A Chinese entrepreneur, Zhao Yingquan, has paid £1.5m for the rights to an old state-run mine. The Luo Xi mining company used thousands of prisoners to carve out its first shaft and tunnels in the 1950s.
“We’re in the last stages of preparing the mine to start operations again in the second half of this year,” said a manager at the site, named Su.
At Tongren, a town where mercury was processed for sale, an old worker spoke of the days when locals slaved day and night to extract the precious trickles of silvery metal.
“I worked for 40 years in a mine and now my body is full of sickness and my lungs are finished,” he said.
Additional reporting: Sara Hashash
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Look kids, real torture!
on: April 28, 2009, 03:06:22 PM
From The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009
Russian death squads ‘pulverise’ Chechens
Elite commandos have broken their silence to reveal how they torture, execute and then blow captives to atoms to obliterate the grisly evidence
Thousands of Chechens disappeared after being taken away by Russian troops. One death squad targeted 'black widow' bombers such as those who seized a Moscow theatre in 2002
Mark Franchetti in Moscow
THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.
When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms - unmarked to conceal their identity - had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base.
The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.
“At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.
“We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200-gram TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.
The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.
The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since the second world war.
The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.
Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian government publicly condemns torture and extrajudicial killings and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.
In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”
The two officers expressed pride in their contribution to the special forces’ “success” in containing the terrorist threat. But they spoke on condition they would not be named.
Andrei, who was badly wounded in the war, said he took part in the killing of at least 10 alleged female suicide bombers. In a separate incident he had a wounded female sniper tied up and ordered a tank to drive over her.
He also participated in one of the most brutal revenge sprees by Russian forces. Following the 2002 killings of two agents from the FSB security service and two soldiers from Russia’s equivalent of the SAS, the troops hunted down 200 Chechens said to be linked to the attacks.
In another operation, Andrei’s unit stumbled across dozens of wounded fighters in a cellar being used as a field hospital. Some were being tended by female relatives. “The fighters who were well enough to be interrogated were taken away. We executed the others, together with some of the women,” he recalled. “That’s the only way to deal with terrorists.”
Following an inconclusive war in Chechnya from 1994-6, Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, launched a second war in 1999 and set the tone by vowing “to wipe out militants wherever they are, even in the outhouse”. More than 100,000 Chechens are thought to have died by the time the Kremlin declared earlier this month that it was over. Grozny, the capital, was all but flattened. Putin’s toughness earned him great popularity at home.
Acts of blood-curdling brutality were committed by both sides as the rebels tried to turn Chechnya into an Islamic state, often decapitating Russian prisoners. One Russian victim was filmed being mutilated with a chainsaw.
As the war raged, Chechen terrorists launched suicide attacks against civilians in the Moscow metro and at a rock festival. In 2002 a gang including 18 female suicide bombers seized more than 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre, 129 of whom died when the Russians pumped poisonous gas into the building on day three of the siege.
In their most savage act, the rebels took hundreds of school-children and their relatives hostage in Beslan. The three-day siege in 2004 ended with the deaths of 334 hostages, more than half of them children.
It was in this highly charged climate that the death squads were operating. Andrei recalled that his men had detained a suspect who had several videos of militants torturing Russian hostages. One showed him laughing as his comrades raped a 12-year-old girl and then shot off three of her fingers.
“We all went berserk after watching this,” said Andrei, who had begun to beat the suspect. “He fell to the ground. I ordered him to get up but he couldn’t because of his handcuffs. I ordered the cuffs off but something was wrong with the lock. I became angrier and ordered one of my sergeants to get them off no matter what.
“So he took an axe and chopped his arms off. The prisoner screamed in agony. Clearly it would have been impossible to interrogate him further so I shot him in the head.”
Andrei said he thought of his opponents not as human beings but as cockroaches to be squashed. He was unapologetic about acts of cruelty but said he did not condone excessive boasting among his men.
“I had a problem with one of my guys, who liked to collect ears which had been chopped off prisoners. He’d made a necklace and was very serious about taking this home. I did not like that kind of behaviour.”
The brutality continued after Moscow began to cede more control to Chechen special forces made up of former rebels who switched sides. Militias commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin president, are also accused of abducting, torturing and executing suspects.
Vladimir said he had established a death squad that hunted down, tortured and executed more than 16 alleged militants in 2005. The squad’s commander would log a bogus mission in a faraway location in his unit’s official register to provide an alibi. “We’d break in, take the suspect and vanish. We’d duct-tape and handcuff them. If there was resistance we’d gun down the suspect. If, in the firefight, someone else got killed then we’d plant a gun on the dead person.”
Vladimir and his men referred to their prey as “zaichik” - a term of endearment used by lovers that means “little hare”.
“Only a very small circle of my men took part in this work. Some of those we abducted were tougher than others but eventually everyone talks when you give them the right treatment.
“We used several methods. We’d beat them to a pulp with our bare hands and with sticks. One very effective method is ‘the grand piano’ - when one by one we’d smash the captive’s fingers with a hammer. It’s dirty and difficult work. You would not be human if you enjoyed it but it was the only way to get this filth to talk.”
A hammer would also be used to smash a captive’s kneecaps and militants would be forced to perform sexual acts. The scenes would occasionally be filmed and circulated among enemy combatants in psychological warfare.
“You have to be a certain kind of person to do this job - very strong,” Vladimir said. “Those who carried it out always volunteered. It would not be right to order one of your men to torture someone. It can be morally and psychologically very tough.”
Andrei added: “What mattered most was to carry out this work professionally, not to leave evidence which could be traced back to us. Our bosses knew about such methods but there was a clear understanding that we should cover our tracks. We knew we'd be hung out to dry if we got caught.
“We are not murderers. We are officers engaged in a war against brutal terrorists who will stop at nothing, not even at killing children. They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”
Clashes of a brutal war
Russian troops enter Chechnya to quash independence movement
Ceasefire, Russian troops withdraw
About 300 die in apartment bombings in Russia, blamed on rebels. Putin sends troops back into Chechnya
Russians capture Grozny
Moscow theatre siege. At least 33 terrorists and 129 hostages die
Pro-Moscow President Akhmad Kadyrov killed by bomb
Beslan school siege. Nearly 400 killed
Shamil Basayev, rebel leader, killed by Russians
Kremlin declares war to be over
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 26, 2009, 04:35:09 PM
The West Coast Plot: An "Inconvenient Truth" [Marc Thiessen]
Critics of the CIA program are desperate to convince Americans that no valuable information came from the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and other senior terrorists. They know that if our citizens learn the details of how enhanced interrogations stopped terrorist plots, most would support the CIA program. A recent Pew poll showed that 71% of Americans believe that there are circumstances under which torture (not just enhanced interrogations, but actual torture) is justifiable to get information from captured terrorists.
This is why Timothy Noah of Slate (with Andrew Sullivan cheerleading him on his blog) is at such pains to debunk the story of the West Coast plot.
This was a KSM plot for a “Second Wave” attack using East Asian operatives to use shoe-bombs to hijack an airplane and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Noah states in a blog post that this plot was never realistic. Here is his rationale:
The first reason to be skeptical that this planned attack could have been carried out successfully is that, as I've noted before, attacking buildings by flying planes into them didn't remain a viable al-Qaida strategy even through Sept. 11, 2001. Thanks to cell phones, passengers on United Flight 93 were able to learn that al-Qaida was using planes as missiles and crashed the plane before it could hit its target. There was no way future passengers on any flight would let a terrorist who killed the pilot and took the controls fly wherever he pleased.
Really? Planes were off the table after 9/11? That would come as a surprise to every passenger in the past three years who had their liquids confiscated in an airport security line. Those security measures were instituted because in 2006 we foiled an al-Qaeda plot to hijack airplanes leaving London’s Heathrow airport and blow them up over the Atlantic (a plot our intelligence community says was just weeks from execution). Apparently al-Qaeda didn’t get Noah’s memo explaining that hijacking airplanes for terrorist attacks is “no longer viable al Qaeda strategy.”
In his post, Noah calls the West Coast plot “Thiessen’s claim” and Anderw Sullivan calls it “Thiessen’s LA Tower Canard.” What these two fail to appreciate is that the story of how enhanced interrogation broke up the West Coast plot is not my story — it is the official position of the intelligence community.
In my Washington Post piece, I was citing the very documents which President Obama released, which quote the CIA saying that interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ to ‘use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.” The memo released by Obama goes on the explain that “information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’ ”
Again, those are not my words. That is the position of our intelligence community.
And not just in the released memos. In his September 2006 speech revealing the existence of the CIA program, President Bush described specifically how the interrogation of KSM led to the capture of the key operatives in this attack. This was the most carefully vetted speech in presidential history — reviewed by all the key players from the individuals who ran the program all the way up to the director of national intelligence, who personally attested to the accuracy of the speech in a memo to the president. And just last week on Fox News, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said he went back and checked with the agency as to the accuracy of that speech and reported: “We stand by our story.”
In numerous subsequent speeches, President Bush said that the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program. Each of those speeches was carefully reviewed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — and each time the DNI provided the White House with a classified memo stating that the contents of the speech was accurate and did not compromise sources and methods. So the Director of National Intelligence has repeatedly affirmed the accuracy of the statement that the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program. And Noah himself acknowledges in his post a CIA spokesman affirmed the accuracy of the story.
So bottom line: The intelligence community says it is so.
In his blog, Noah cites the fact that Fran Townsend, the Bush administration’s homeland-security adviser, told reporters in a February 2006 press briefing that a key cell leader in the West Coast plot was arrested February of 2002. This, Noah points out, is before KSM came into CIA custody and underwent enhanced interrogation. He also notes Townsend said that after the cell leader’s capture other cell members “believed” that the plot was not going forward.
I hate to break it to Noah, but this does not refute the fact that KSM’s interrogation disrupted the West Coast plot.
It is true that a key cell leader in the West Coast plot was detained in February 2002. According press accounts, his name was Marsan bin Arshad. What is also demonstrably true is that the captured terrorist did not lead us to the members of the cell tasked with carrying out the West Coast plot. Indeed, when KSM was captured 13 months later — in March of 2003 — almost all of the key operatives in the plot were still at large and operating with impunity.
This is what happened next:
· * In March of 2003, the CIA captured another key operative in the West Coast plot — a terrorist named Majid Khan.
· * When KSM was captured later that same month, he knew that Khan was in CIA custody — and assumed that Khan had given us the details of the West Coast plot.
· * KSM refused to provide any information about active plots, telling his interrogators: “Soon you will find out.”
· * After undergoing enhanced-interrogation techniques, KSM revealed that Khan had been told to deliver $50,000 to individuals working for a terrorist named Hambali — the leader of al-Qaeda's Southeast Asian affiliate Jemmah Islamiyah and KSM’s partner in developing the West Coast plot.
· * CIA officers then confronted Khan with this information from KSM. Khan confirmed that the money had been delivered to an operative named Zubair. He provided both a physical description and contact number for this operative — which led to the capture of Zubair in June 2003.
· * Zubair then provided information that led to the capture of Hambali in August 2003, along with another key operative, a JI terrorist named Bashir bin Lep (aka “Lillie”).
· * Told of Hambali's capture, KSM then identified Hambali's younger brother Rusman Gunawan (aka "Gun Gun") as Hambali's conduit for communications with al-Qaeda, and the leader of the JI cell that was to carry out the West Coast plot. This information led to the capture of “Gun Gun” in September 2003 in Pakistan.
· * Hambali's brother then gave us information that led to a cell of 17 JI operatives — the Guraba Cell — that was going to carry out the West Coast plot.
All of these operatives were captured because of information gained from the interrogation of KSM using enhanced interrogation techniques.
To buy Noah’s argument that the plot was over before KSM’s capture, you would have to accept that premise that if Zubair … and Hambali … and Lillie … and Gun Gun … and the 17-member Guraba cell were all left at large and unmolested, they would not have eventually carried out the West Coast plot.
This flies in the face of logic — and the official position of the intelligence community. And it is contrary to everything we know about the way al-Qaeda operates. If we have learned anything from recent history, it is that once al-Qaeda develops a plot for a major attack, it never gives up until that attack has been carried out. Al-Qaeda’s modus operandi is to continue going after the same target time and time again until they succeed.
In 1993, al-Qaeda tried to blow up the World Trade Center, and failed. In 2001, al-Qaeda finished the job.
In 1995, KSM hatched the “Bojinka Plot” to hijack multiple passenger planes and blow them up over the Pacific. The plot failed — and so al-Qaeda tried it again over the Atlantic in 2006.
From this experience, Noah takes the lesson that because one al-Qaeda cell leader in the West Coast plot was captured, al-Qaeda just gave up. Indeed, he claims, they not only gave up on the Library Tower, after 9/11 they decided they would never try to fly a plane into a building again. But in the same briefing Noah cites, Fran Townsend says that “the intelligence tells us that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed began to initiate [the attack on the Library Tower] in October 2001” — a month after 9/11. She also states that “KSM, himself, trained the leader of the cell in late 2001 or early 2002 in the shoe bomb technique” — again after the 9/11 attacks.
The fact is Noah and Sullivan’s claims are absurd. But put aside the West Coast plot off for a moment. What about all the other plots that were stopped as a result of enhanced interrogations?
Here are some facts: On Fox News last weekend, General Hayden declared that after enhanced interrogation techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah “he gave up … information that led to the arrest of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh.” Bin al-Shibh was KSM’s right-hand-man, and a key 9/11 plotter. At the time of his arrest, Bin al-Shibh was in the midst of planning a 9/11-style attack on Britain, in which al-Qaeda operatives would hijack planes in Europe and fly them into Heathrow airport. According his CIA biography, “as of his capture, Bin al-Shibh had identified four operatives for the operation.”
Enhanced interrogations also helped us capture an al-Qaeda terrorist named Ammar al-Baluchi. Ammar had prepared Jose Padilla for his plot to blow up apartment buildings in America (which was foiled thanks to information from Abu Zubaydah), and was the one who had sent Majid Khan to deliver the $50,000 to Zubair for the West Coast plot. According to Ammar’s CIA biography, “From late 2002, Ammar began plotting to carry out simultaneous attacks in Karachi against the U.S. Consulate, Western residences, and Westerners at the local airport…. He was within days of completing preparations for the Karachi plot when he was captured.”
These are just a few of the plots that were broken up because of information gained from CIA interrogations. According to the intelligence community, terrorists held in CIA custody also provided information that helped stop a planned strike on U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti using an explosive laden water tanker. They provided information the helped us uncover al-Qaeda cell from developing anthrax for attacks against the United States. And according to the memos released by the Obama administration “intelligence derived from CIA detainees has resulted in more than 6,000 intelligence reports and, in 2004, accounted for approximately half of the [Counterterrorism Center's] reporting on al Qaeda.”
General Hayden calls these facts an “inconvenient truth.” He put it this way in his Fox News interview: “Most people who oppose these techniques want to be able to say: I don’t want my country doing this – which is a purely honorable position – and they didn’t work anyway. That back half of the sentence isn’t true. The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.”
Former CIA Director George Tenet has said, “I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than [what] the FBI, the [CIA], and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.”
Former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said, “We have people walking around in this country that are alive today because this process happened.”
And even Obama’s director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, said in a letter to the intelligence community on April 16, 2009: “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.”
So you can believe Hayden, Tenet, McConnell, and Blair … or Tim Noah and Andrew Sullivan.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why does Obama hate America?
on: April 24, 2009, 08:39:52 PM
Barack Obama and the CIA: why does President Pantywaist hate America so badly?
Posted By: Gerald Warner at Apr 24, 2009 at 18:41:00 [General]
If al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the rest of the Looney Tunes brigade want to kick America to death, they had better move in quickly and grab a piece of the action before Barack Obama finishes the job himself. Never in the history of the United States has a president worked so actively against the interests of his own people - not even Jimmy Carter.
Obama's problem is that he does not know who the enemy is. To him, the enemy does not squat in caves in Waziristan, clutching automatic weapons and reciting the more militant verses from the Koran: instead, it sits around at tea parties in Kentucky quoting from the US Constitution. Obama is not at war with terrorists, but with his Republican fellow citizens. He has never abandoned the campaign trail.
That is why he opened Pandora's Box by publishing the Justice Department's legal opinions on waterboarding and other hardline interrogation techniques. He cynically subordinated the national interest to his partisan desire to embarrass the Republicans. Then he had to rush to Langley, Virginia to try to reassure a demoralised CIA that had just discovered the President of the United States was an even more formidable foe than al-Qaeda.
"Don't be discouraged by what's happened the last few weeks," he told intelligence officers. Is he kidding? Thanks to him, al-Qaeda knows the private interrogation techniques available to the US intelligence agencies and can train its operatives to withstand them - or would do so, if they had not already been outlawed.
So, next time a senior al-Qaeda hood is captured, all the CIA can do is ask him nicely if he would care to reveal when a major population centre is due to be hit by a terror spectacular, or which American city is about to be irradiated by a dirty bomb. Your view of this situation will be dictated by one simple criterion: whether or not you watched the people jumping from the twin towers.
Obama promised his CIA audience that nobody would be prosecuted for past actions. That has already been contradicted by leftist groups with a revanchist ambition to put Republicans, headed if possible by Condoleezza Rice, in the dock. Talk about playing party politics with national security. Martin Scheinin, the United Nations special investigator for human rights, claims that senior figures, including former vice president Dick Cheney, could face prosecution overseas. Ponder that - once you have got over the difficulty of locating the United Nations and human rights within the same dimension.
President Pantywaist Obama should have thought twice before sitting down to play poker with Dick Cheney. The former vice president believes documents have been selectively published and that releasing more will prove how effective the interrogation techniques were. Under Dubya's administration, there was no further atrocity on American soil after 9/11.
President Pantywaist's recent world tour, cosying up to all the bad guys, excited the ambitions of America's enemies. Here, they realised, is a sucker they can really take to the cleaners. His only enemies are fellow Americans. Which prompts the question: why does President Pantywaist hate America so badly?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ali Soufan, debunked
on: April 24, 2009, 04:13:09 PM
April 23, 2009
Levels Of Enhancement
Ali Soufan, an FBI interrogator of Abu Zubaydah joins the torture debate on the NY Times op-ed page and explains that the Bush era enhanced interrogation techniques were unnecessary and ineffective. Torture doesn't work, and Mr. Soufan is today's darling of the reality-based community. However, based on earlier Times reporting and the DoJ Inspector General report Mr. Soufan is, well, misleading us.
So, the Times has run an op-ed that dovetails with their current agenda but is contradicted by other strong evidence and their own reporting - does anyone think we will see a clarification or follow-up? Neither do I.
Eventually patient readers will also find my rebuttal to Marcy Wheeler and Andrew Sullivan, who claim that these latest revelations bring down the whole legal structure crafted by the OLC memos. Not to jump ahead, but since the Soufan story is bogus, conclusions based on that story are also shaky. It's castles on sand and another day in reality-world.
Let's start with Mr. Soufan:
One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
I guess there are different levels of "traditional" techniques - the DoJ IG report (p. 111 of 438) makes it clear that the FBI had concerns about the CIA-led approach from the outset, with one of the agents describing it as "borderline torture".
What "borderline torture" techniques are we talking about? The DoJ IG report has redactions, but this is from theDavid Johnson, writing in the Sept 10 2006 Times:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 — Abu Zubaydah, the first Osama bin Laden henchman captured by the United States after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was bloodied and feverish when a C.I.A. security team delivered him to a secret safe house in Thailand for interrogation in the early spring of 2002. Bullet fragments had ripped through his abdomen and groin during a firefight in Pakistan several days earlier when he had been captured.
The events that unfolded at the safe house over the next few weeks proved to be fateful for the Bush administration. Within days, Mr. Zubaydah was being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques — he was stripped, held in an icy room and jarred by earsplittingly loud music — the genesis of practices later adopted by some within the military, and widely used by the Central Intelligence Agency in handling prominent terrorism suspects at secret overseas prisons.
The Times returned to Zubaydah last week and apparently believed that the unenhanced enhanced techniques were controversial:
His interrogation, according to multiple accounts, began in Pakistan and continued at the secret C.I.A. site in Thailand, with a traditional, rapport-building approach led by two F.B.I. agents, who even helped care for him as his gunshot wounds healed.
Abu Zubaydah gave up perhaps his single most valuable piece of information early, naming Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he knew as Mukhtar, as the main organizer of the 9/11 plot.
A C.I.A. interrogation team that arrived a week or two later, which included former military psychologists, did not change the approach to questioning, but began to keep him awake night and day with blasting rock music, have his clothes removed and keep his cell cold.
The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation.
Well. One hopes the actual interrogations were done in compliance with FBI guidelines, even if the treatment of the prisoner was "enhanced" a bit on an extra-curricular basis outside of the interrogation room. From the May 30 2005 memo (p. 94 of 124) I infer that the proponents of enhanced techniques scored this as a win for their techniques. And since per the DoJ IG report the FBI withdrew its agents in May and June because of the harsh CIA techniques, we are left wondering just what sort of "traditional" FBI interrogation Mr. Soufan normally conducts.
Switching gears, let me summarize the argument offered by Ms. Wheeler and enthusiastically endorsed by Andrew Sullivan. The OLC legal opinion offered by Bybee included the caveat that "The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge" and warns that
We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts. If these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply.
To continue the argument, the interrogations were taking place with both FBI and CIA agents present; therefore, the CIA had to know, as Mr. Soufan did, that the prisoner was cooperating; therefore, the legal opinion is based on a false premise and collapses. Or so sys Ms. Wheeler, with a strong second from Sully.
To which I say, well, maybe, if the Inspector General and the Times reporting is all wrong. The Johnston 2006 story included this:
After Mr. Zubaydah’s capture, a C.I.A. interrogation team was dispatched from the agency’s counterterrorism center to take the lead in his questioning, former law enforcement and intelligence officials said, and F.B.I. agents were withdrawn. The group included an agency consultant schooled in the harsher interrogation procedures to which American special forces are subjected in their training. Three former intelligence officials said the techniques had been drawn up on the basis of legal guidance from the Justice Department, but were not yet supported by a formal legal opinion.
In Thailand, the new C.I.A. team concluded that under standard questioning Mr. Zubaydah was revealing only a small fraction of what he knew, and decided that more aggressive techniques were warranted.
At times, Mr. Zubaydah, still weak from his wounds, was stripped and placed in a cell without a bunk or blankets. He stood or lay on the bare floor, sometimes with air-conditioning adjusted so that, one official said, Mr. Zubaydah seemed to turn blue. At other times, the interrogators piped in deafening blasts of music by groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sometimes, the interrogator would use simpler techniques, entering his cell to ask him to confess.
“You know what I want,” the interrogator would say to him, according to one official’s account, departing leaving Mr. Zubaydah to brood over his answer.
F.B.I. agents on the scene angrily protested the more aggressive approach, arguing that persuasion rather than coercion had succeeded. But leaders of the C.I.A. interrogation team were convinced that tougher tactics were warranted and said that the methods had been authorized by senior lawyers at the White House.
Mr. Soufan says that "I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August." As we have seen, something like harsh techniques were already in place. But what happened in July? This high value target of so much attention was left to rock out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers while shivering in his underwear? Probably not. Based on the DoJ IG report the Times story is roughly accurate.
If Mr. Soufan is credible at all then there were divisions within the original CIA team, some members were convinced a tougher approach was warranted, and Bybee was working with them. Or perhaps after the fact some CIA officials involved in the interrogation decided that someone else must have been responsible. CYA at the CIA. Go figure.
And do note that ater the fact the FBI team may have been absolutely correct in their assessment of Zubaydah's compliance but that does not mean that the CIA people requested the legal guidance in bad faith.
MORE ON THE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT:
Mr. Soufan makes an interesting claim in his op-ed:
Fortunately for me, after I objected to the enhanced techniques, the message came through from Pat D’Amuro, an F.B.I. assistant director, that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out of the interrogations by the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller (this was documented in the report released last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general).
Well, if the DoJ Inspector General's report is reliable, the Soufan story is full of holes. Starting at p. 110 of 438, we see that two FBI agents, Gibson and Thomas (pseudonyms) were involved in the Zubaydah interrogation.
The CIA showed up and took over quickly. Thomas had objections to their techniques, which he described as "borderline torture", and left somewhat thereafter. Gibson was authorized (or instructed) to leave but hung around until early June, several weeks after Thomas left. So let's tentatively infer from that that "Gibson" is Mr. Soufan (the story hardly changes if "Thomas" is Soufan.)
The first and most important point is that the FBI was troubled by the CIA techniques from the outset, not only after August 1. The current op-ed imagines that there was a long period of "traditional" interrogation, but that is contradicted by the IG report.
Secondly, per page 111, "Gibson", (probably Mr. Soufan), told the CIA was told by the CIA upon their arrival that Zubaydah was only providing "throwaway" information and that they "needed to diminish his capacity to resist". Thomas expressed concern about the CIA techniques, calling them "border-line torture"; "Gibson" "did not express as much concern" as Thomas. From which we conclude that somebody from the FBI CIA side thought that more could be gleaned from Zubaydah.
When "Gibson" got home he told FBI Counter terrorism AD D'Amuro that he had no moral qualms about the CIA approach, that they were behaving professionally, and that he had endured similar treatment in SERE school.
Well. If Mr. Soufan is Thomas, then there were obvious divisions even within the FBI; if he is Gibson, there are apparent divisions within himself.
Eventually, after a series of meetings in Washington, the FBI learned about the OLC opinion and decided to withdraw from the enhanced interrogation process.
OOPS: When I summarized the IG report above I had the CIA calling for tougher treatment (as did the Johnston story), but in the version right above it was "Gibson" of the FBI making that suggestion, which is both wrong and irrelevant.
[end of thread]
Posted by Tom Maguire on April 23, 2009 | Permalink
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 23, 2009, 04:10:30 PM
The lines are easy to draw for the most part.
1. Lawful combatants, as defined in the Gen. Conventions get covered by the conventions. We treat legitimate soldiers as soldiers.
2. Ordinary criminals get treated as ordinary criminals in the criminal justice system, with all the standard legal checks and balances.
3. Terrorists that operate outside the laws of war get no protections of any kind. We teach them fear.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 23, 2009, 08:36:01 AM
The FBI operates from a law enforcement paradigm. We are not going to mirandize and indict al qaeda into submission. It didn't work under Clinton and it won't work now.
Moral posturing is great when the threat is theoretical. What if waterboarding might make the difference in keeping your kids from dying in the next Beslan? What is an acceptable level of loss of innocent life in your own city, neighborhood?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Torture doesn't work......
on: April 22, 2009, 02:52:55 PM
Except when it does!http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/us/politics/22blair.html?pagewanted=print
April 22, 2009
Banned Techniques Yielded ‘High Value Information,’ Memo Says
By PETER BAKER
WASHINGTON – President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 21, 2009, 06:26:18 PM
CIA: We stand behind our actions — and the results
POSTED AT 2:45 PM ON APRIL 21, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
With Barack Obama releasing the OLC memos and branding them as all but criminal and leaving the door open to prosecutions connected to the interrogation of Al-Qaeda terrorists, one might expect the CIA to retreat from its earlier defense of its actions. So far, though, the agency remains tenacious in insisting that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Abu Zubaydah saved American lives. CNS News reports that the CIA stands by its 2005 memo describing how those interrogations stopped another 9/11-scale attack:
The Central Intelligence Agency told CNSNews.com today that it stands by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) — including the use of waterboarding — caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.
Before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.”
According to the previously classified May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that was released by President Barack Obama last week, the thwarted attack — which KSM called the “Second Wave”– planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”
KSM initially resisted all other interrogation procedures, right up to the waterboard. He insisted that Americans did not have the necessary resolve to get information out of him, and that we would only know about the next plot when it killed hundreds, if not thousands again. Only after the waterboard did KSM cough up the information on the “second wave” attacks, and the CIA and other national-security agencies stopped it.
Does this answer whether waterboarding is torture? Not really. Does it negate the canard that “torture never works”? Yes. Torture works in getting people to talk, and sometimes they tell the truth. The CIA got what it wanted — the information it needed to save lives — but it doesn’t prove or disprove whether a mock-execution procedure like waterboarding is torture or not.
It does, however, pose a difficult question for Americans, especially since the CIA even under Leon Panetta seems determined to get an answer to it. What price do we want to pay for a pristine conscience in combating terrorism? Do you mind if it costs thousands of American lives in plots we can’t discover because a terrorist suspect captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or somewhere else has lawyered up? Are there times when we can appropriately use a non-lethal technique without letting the target know that it’s non-lethal, in order to save American lives?
Both sides need to quit pretending on this issue. Mock executions fit the definition of torture, and they also saved a lot of American lives. If we can admit to reality, then we can have an honest debate about how far we should go to protect ourselves, and what price might be too high for our public image internationally.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 20, 2009, 01:11:52 AM
SATURDAY, APRIL 18, 2009
Call the ACLU...
....I'm a past victim of U.S. government torture.
Of course, I never made that connection until the other day, when the Obama Administration released memos on that subject from the Bush White House. Reviewing various media accounts of the documents--including this one from the Washington Times--I discovered that I was subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques." Of course, no one used that term at the time; we called it "survival school."
Back in the day, your humble correspondent was a military aircrew member. Part of my training included a 17-day course at the U.S. Air Force Survival School, located at Fairchild AFB, Washington. The school provides detailed instruction in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques, essential information for anyone who might find themselves on the lam in bad-guy territory, or even worse, in enemy hands.
We learned resistance measures in a realistic training environment; a mock POW camp, complete with guards, barbed wire and interrogators. I haven't been back to Fairchild in more than a decade, but during my time as a student (the early 1990s), we endured two stays in the camp--and exposure to those interrogation techniques, the same ones used on captured terrorists.
Being placed in a confinement box? Yep, been there, done that. In fact, virtually everyone in my group at Fairchild enjoyed that experience. According to the Times, senior Al Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah, spent a little time in the box, with an added treat: insects. Apparently, interrogators discovered that Mr. Zubaydah had a fear of bugs, so they placed a few in the box to make him talk. But, as the memos cautioned, the insects placed inside the confinement box could not be "harmful."
The other techniques approved by the Bush Administration would also be familiar to anyone who's been through a DoD SERE course: conditioning techniques (such as sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation); "corrective" measures (including facial and abdominal slaps; facial holds and attention grabs, and "coercive" steps that were considered the most effective.
Approved techniques in that latter category ranged from water-boarding; cramped confinement, dousing with cold water and stress position. I never saw anyone water-boarded during my SERE class, but the other tactics were common-place.
During one stay in the mock POW camp, I spent more than twelve hours in a pitch-black isolation box, unable to fully stand or lay down. After 10 hours or so, I began to experience hallucinations. So did my classmates. Again, we didn't consider it torture. It was training--training that one day, might have saved our lives.
Mr. Obama's decision to release the memos has been rightly criticized. Former CIA Director General Mike Hayden believes the disclosures jeopardize national security, providing new details on how far the U.S. is willing to go during terrorist interrogations.
Making matters worse, the administration has suspended use of these "harsh" techniques, which have been described as torture by various politicians and human rights groups. But the memos actually reveal that such measures were used carefully, in a controlled environment. Guidelines contained in the documents mandate the presence of medical personnel and psychologists when the interrogation tactics were employed (emphasis ours).
The Bush memos affirm what we've said all along; the kerfuffle over alleged "torture" at Gitmo (and other interrogation sites) is more about politics that legitimate human rights issues. Most of the techniques used on captured terrorists are identical to those found in military training. Even the most coercive measure--the dreaded water boarding--was used on only a handful of high-value prisoners, and for only the briefest periods of time. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the Al Qaida ops chief, broke down after only 30 seconds of water boarding.
And, did we mention that information derived through these measures saved countless American lives? Will President Obama reconsider his ban when interrogators can't obtain the right information and a terror plan succeeds? Mr. Obama--and his supporters in the media--have been rather quiet on that one.
The commander-in-chief has vowed not to prosecute intelligence officers who used the "torture" methods on suspected terrorists. But that won't stop the ACLU. A spokesman suggested that his organization may consider lawsuits against current and former interrogators. I'm still waiting to hear if they will take my case.
Oh that's right. I signed that waiver at survival school, releasing the government from any liability. Makes me wonder if Mr. Obama will prepare an executive order, absolving himself of any responsibility, just in case that "ban on torture" backfires.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 4/15 Tea Tax Protests
on: April 20, 2009, 12:49:39 AM
April 18, 2009, 7:00 a.m.
Live Tea or Die!
Are Americans subjects or citizens?
By Mark Steyn
Our lesson today comes from the old British novelty song:
I like a Nice Cup Of Tea in the morning
Just to start the day, you see
And at half-past-eleven
My idea of heaven
Is a Nice Cup Of Tea . . .
In other cultures, tea is a soothing beverage, a respite from the cares of the world. A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit-Down is a British bestseller offering advice on tea, biscuits (that’s “cookies” in American), and comfy chairs by the husband-and-wife team of “Nicey” and “Wifey,” whose soubriquets suggest that these are not the folks to turn to for societal insurrection.
George Orwell — the George Orwell of Animal Farm and 1984 — wrote a famous essay called “A Nice Cup Of Tea,” all about the best way to warm the pot, and the defects of shallow cups. Is it some sort of political allegory for impending civil war set in a household torn between those who put the milk in before the tea and those who do so after? No, Orwell liked a good cuppa (as they say in England) and was eager to pass on his advice for extracting maximum satisfaction from the experience.
But in America, tea is not a soothing beverage to be served with McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits. It’s a raging stimulant. It’s rabies in an Earl Grey bag. At America’s tea parties, there’s no McVitie’s, just McVeighs — as in Timothy of that ilk, as in angry white men twitching to go nuts. To Paul Krugman of the New York Times, the tea party is a movement of “crazy people” manipulated by sinister “rightwing billionaires.” To the briefly famous Susan Roesgen of CNN, the parties are not safe for “family viewing.” Which is presumably why the Boston Globe forbore to cover them last week. The original Boston Tea Party was so-called because it took place at Boston Harbor, which I gather is a harbor somewhere in the general vicinity of the Greater Boston area. So there would appear to be what I believe the journalism professors call a “local angle” to Wednesday’s re-enactment. Might be useful for a publication losing a million bucks a week and threatened with closure by a parent company that in one of the worst media acquisitions of all time paid over a billion dollars for a property that barely a decade later is all but worthless.
But I digress. Asked about the tea parties, President Obama responded that he was not aware of them. As Marie Antoinette said, “Let them drink Lapsang Souchong.” His Imperial Majesty at Barackingham Palace having declined to acknowledge the tea parties, his courtiers at the Globe and elsewhere fell into line. Talk-show host Michael Graham spoke to one attendee at the 2009 Boston Tea Party who remarked of the press embargo: “If Obama had been the King of England, the Globe wouldn’t have covered the American revolution.”
The American media, having run their own business into the ground, are certainly qualified to run everybody else’s into the same abyss. Which is why they’ve decided that hundreds of thousands of citizens protesting taxes and out-of-control spending and government vaporization of Americans’ wealth and their children’s future is no story. Nothing to see here. As Nancy Pelosi says, it’s AstroTurf — fake grassroots, not the real thing.
Besides, what are these whiners so uptight about? CNN’s Susan Roesgen interviewed a guy in the crowd and asked why he was here: “Because,” said the Tea Partier, “I hear a president say that he believed in what Lincoln stood for. Lincoln’s primary thing was he believed that people had the right to liberty, and had the right . . . ”
But Susan Roesgen had heard enough: “What does this have to do with your taxes . . . ? Do you realize that you’re eligible for a $400 credit?”
Had the Tea Party animal been as angry as these Angry White Men are supposed to be, he’d have said, “Oh, push off, you condescending tick. Taxes are a liberty issue. I don’t want a $400 ‘credit’ for agreeing to live my life in government-approved ways.” Had he been of a more literary bent, he might have adapted Sir Thomas More’s line from A Man for All Seasons: “Why, Susan, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . but for a $400 tax credit?”
But Susan Roesgen wasn’t done with her “You may already have won!” commercial: “Did you know,” she sneered, “that the state of Lincoln gets $50 billion dollars out of this stimulus? That’s $50 billion dollars for this state, sir.”
Really? Who knew it was that easy? $50 billion dollars! Did those Navy SEALs find it just off the Somali coast in the wreckage of a pirate skiff in a half-submerged treasure chest, all in convertible pieces of eight or Zanzibari doubloons?
Or is it perhaps the case that that $50 billion dollars has to be raised from the same limited pool of 300 million Americans and their as-yet-unborn descendants? And, if so, is giving it to “the state of Lincoln” — latterly, the state of Blagojevich — likely to be of much benefit to the citizens?
Amid his scattershot pronouncements on everything from global nuclear disarmament to high-speed rail, President Obama said something almost interesting the other day. Decrying a “monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand,” the Tax-Collector-in-Chief pledged: “I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests.”
That shouldn’t be hard. A tax code that put my interests over any special interests would read: “How much did you earn last year? [Insert number here] thousand dollars? Hey, feel free to keep it. You know your interests better than we do!”
Okay, to be less absolutist about it, my interests include finding a road at the end of my drive every morning, and modern equipment for the (volunteer) fire department, and a functioning military to deter the many predators out there, and maybe one or two other things. But 95 percent of the rest is not just “special interests” but social engineering — a $400 tax credit for falling into line with Barack Obama and Susan Roesgen. That’s why these are Tea Parties — because the heart of the matter is the same question posed two-and-a-third centuries ago: Are Americans subjects or citizens? If the latter, then a benign sovereign should not be determining “your interests” and then announcing that he’s giving you a “tax credit” as your pocket money.
Doing the job the Boston Globe won’t do, Glenn Reynolds, the Internet’s Instapundit, has been posting many photographs of tea parties. For a movement of mean, angry old white men, there seem to be a lot of hot-looking young chicks among them. Perhaps they’re just kinky gerontophiliacs. Or perhaps they understand that their generation will be the principal victim of this grotesque government profligacy. Like the original tea party, it is in the end about freedom. Live Tea or die!
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzdmMmI2MzY4MjhmZmRlZDkzMTU2ZGI4ODNkNjFjMzg=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues
on: April 17, 2009, 05:37:41 PM
DHS ignored civil-liberties lawyers’ warnings on report; Update: Senators demand data, explanation
POSTED AT 10:56 AM ON APRIL 17, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
The DHS pushed its report out on right-wingers in one hell of a hurry, according to the AP. Internal reviews of the document showed concerns over potential civil-liberties violations before its publication, but DHS ignored them in order to quickly make the document public. What was the rush?
Civil liberties officials at the Homeland Security Department flagged language in a controversial report on right-wing extremists, but the agency issued the report anyway. …
Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the report was issued before officials resolved problems raised by the agency’s civil rights division about analysts’ definition of right-wing extremism.
In a footnote in the report, right-wing extremism was defined as hate-motivated groups and movements, such as hatred of certain religions, racial or ethnic groups. It went on to say, “It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
This answers the rather absurd meme that has popped up on liberal blogs, that the Bush administration is responsible for this report. First, while the Bush administration might have wanted an assessment of right-wing extremist threats, it didn’t necessarily want one that painted returning veterans and conservative thought on abortion, illegal immigration, and federalism as extremist threats, nor did it want a threat assessment that couldn’t find a threat and had no data on actual, specific groups. Secondly, and most obviously, this report was dated April 7, 2009, almost 3 months after Bush left office.
Just when does the new administration take responsibility for reports they release? 2013? For people who thought Bush was such a dunce, they seem to give him remarkable powers to control government months after he’s retired to Crawford.
Now we see that this wasn’t just left lying around from the Bush administration. In fact, it was such a rush job that Janet Napolitano couldn’t wait to resolve the obvious civil-liberty concerns raised by her own lawyers before shoving it out the door. Napolitano would later have to backtrack on the exact same language flagged by the attorneys by claiming that she didn’t specifically approve the report issued by her office and that she would have changed the language in hindsight. She had the opportunity to fix it before its release, but the completely threadbare report was deemed such a high priority that it went out anyway.
Now, what could have triggered that? Anyone know of events occurring just after April 7, 2009, that such an assessment could have painted as radical, extremist, and threats to national security? Hmmm.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI has tracked a few veterans for extremist activity, but because they joined extremist groups, not because they’re veterans:
Michael Ward, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview Thursday that the portion of the operation focusing on the military related only to veterans who draw the attention of Defense Department officials for joining white-supremacist or other extremist groups.
“We’re not doing an investigation into the military, we’re not looking at former military members,” he said. “It would have to be something they were concerned about, or someone they’re concerned is involved” with extremist groups.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work — and that’s the way it did work in the Bush administration, whose assessment of left-wing extremists focused on groups with histories of violent actions and on actual data showing threats.
Update: Via Michelle, Senators Coburn, Brownback, DeMint, Burr, Murkowski, Inhofe, and Vitter sent the following letter to DHS Secretary Napolitano yesterday concerning the DHS report:
April 16, 2009
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
The Department of Homeland Security
310 7th street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20528-0150
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
We write today concerning the release of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch, of the Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division.
While we agree that we must fight extremists who are both foreign and domestic we are troubled by some of the statements your department included as fact in the report titled above, without listing any statistical data to back up such claims.
First, your report states that “Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists…” without listing any data to support such a vile claim against our nation’s veterans.
Second, the report states that the millions of Americans who believe in the Second Amendment are a potential threat to our national security. Why? Do you have statistics to prove that law-abiding Americans who purchase a legal product are being recruited by so-called hate groups?
Thirdly, the report states that those that believe in issues such as pro-life legislation, limited government, and legal versus illegal immigration are potential terrorist threats. We can assure you that these beliefs are held by citizens of all races, party affiliation, male and female, and should not be listed as a factor in determining potential terror threats. A better word usage would be to describe them as practicing their First Amendment rights.
Also, you list those that bemoan the decline of U.S. stature and the loss of U.S. manufacturing capability to China and India as being potential rightwing extremists. We would suggest that the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the manufacturing industry to foreign countries are not potential terror threats, but rather honest Americans worried about feeding their families and earning a paycheck.
In closing, we support the mission of DHS in protecting our country from terror attacks and are proud of the many DHS employees who make this possible in conjunction with our state and local law enforcement. We ask that DHS not use this report as a basis to unfairly target millions of Americans because of their beliefs and the rights afforded to them in the Constitution. We also ask that you provide us with the data that support the unfair claims listed in the report titled above and to present us with the matrix system used in collecting and analyzing this data?
Finally, we look forward to your prompt reply and we offer our assistance to DHS in our shared effort to fight terrorism both home and abroad by using data that is accurate and independent of political persuasion.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: April 16, 2009, 09:36:40 AM
|**Yes, here in America. At Harvard.**
Chaplain’s E-mail Sparks Controversy
Published On 4/14/2009 1:45:38 AM
By MELODY Y. HU
Crimson Staff Writer
Harvard Islamic chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser ’96 has recently come under fire for controversial statements in which he allegedly endorsed death as a punishment for Islamic apostates.
In a private e-mail to a student last week, Abdul-Basser wrote that there was “great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment [for apostates]) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.”
The e-mail was forwarded over Muslim student e-mail lists and later picked up by the blogosphere, sparking debate and, in many cases, criticism of Abdul-Basser from those who have interpreted his statement as supporting the execution of those who leave the Islamic religion.
“I believe he doesn’t belong as the official chaplain,” said one Islamic student, who asked that he not be named to avoid conflicts with Muslim religious authorities. “If the Christian ministers said that people who converted from Christianity should be killed, don’t you think the University should do something?” [SEE CLARIFICATION BELOW]
According to the student, many of Abdul-Basser’s other views are “not in line with liberal values, such as notions of human rights. He privileges the medieval discourse of the Islamic jurists, and is not willing to exercise independent thought and judgment beyond a certain limit,” the student said.
Samad Khurram ’09-’10 said Abdul-Basser’s remarks conflicted with the Harvard United Ministry’s support of freedom of religion.
“I support free speech, freedom of belief and association, so this came as a big shock to me,” Khurram said.
“[His remarks] are the first step towards inciting intolerance and inciting people towards violence,” said a Muslim Harvard student, who requested that he not be named for fear of harming his relationship with the Islamic community.
Aqil Sajjad, a Harvard graduate student, also said that Abdul-Basser’s statements were “totally wrong, definitely out of line for somebody in that position. I wouldn’t go and seek religious advice from one who is saying this.”
A Muslim student at MIT, who also asked to remain anonymous to preserve his relationship with the Islamic community, said the chaplain’s remarks wrongly suggested that only Westerners and Westernized Muslims who did not fully understand Islam would find the killing of apostates objectionable.
“If what he said was what I thought, then it is very shocking and not something that I would expect or want coming out of a chaplain at any major American university,” he said.
Abdul-Basser wrote in a later e-mailed statement that he “never expressed the position that individuals who leave Islam or convert from Islam to another religion must be killed. I do not hold this opinion personally.” He explained that he was not advocating for the positions mentioned in his e-mail, but rather “addressing them in the context of the evolution of an Islamic legal doctrine.”
“[Abdul-Basser] was speaking as a chaplain to a student in a private e-mail exchange. One of these e-mails was misinterpreted, misconstrued, and posted on the blogosphere,” said Harvard Islamic Society spokesperson Nafees A. Syed ’10, who praised Abdul-Basser for promoting diversity within HIS and the campus at large.
“His immeasurable contributions should not be overlooked in this matter,” she said.
—Staff writer Melody Y. Hu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
CLARIFICATION: The April 14 article "Chaplain's E-mail Sparks Controversy" included a quotation from a named Harvard student, who was later granted anonymity when he revealed that his words could bring him into serious conflict with Muslim religious authorities. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=527653
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: April 14, 2009, 07:01:35 PM
Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle On Obama's Double-Homicide
APRIL 14, 2009 | ISSUE 45•16
The press hasn't figured out how best to display the gruesome crime-scene photos from the president's bloody rampage.
WASHINGTON—More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.
"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."
Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."
Associated Press reporters investigate any possible gym training regimens the president might have used to get into peak physical condition for the murders.
Since the killings took place, reporters across the country have struggled to come up with an appropriate take on the ruthless crime, with some wondering whether it warrants front-page coverage, and others questioning its relevance in a fast-changing media landscape.
"What exactly is the news hook here?" asked Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News. "Is this an upbeat human-interest story about a 'day in the life' of a bloodthirsty president who likes to kill people? Or is it more of an examination of how Obama's unusual upbringing in Hawaii helped to shape the way he would one day viciously butcher two helpless citizens in their own home?"
"Or maybe the story is just that murder is cool now," Kaplan continued. "I don't know. There are a million different angles on this one."
So far, the president's double-homicide has not been covered by any major news outlets. The only two mentions of the heinous tragedy have been a 100-word blurb on the Associated Press wire and an obituary on page E7 of this week's edition of the Lake County Examiner.
While Obama has expressed no remorse for the grisly murders—point-blank shootings with an unregistered .38-caliber revolver—many journalists said it would be irresponsible for the press to sensationalize the story.
"There's been some debate around the office about whether we should report on this at all," Washington Post senior reporter Bill Tracy said while on assignment at a local dog show. "It's enough of a tragedy without the press jumping in and pointing fingers or, worse, exploiting the violence. Plus, we need to be sensitive to the victims' families at this time. Their loved ones were brutally, brutally murdered, after all."
Nevertheless, a small contingent of independent journalists has begun to express its disapproval and growing shock over the president's actions.
"I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but we are in the midst of an economic crisis here," political pundit Marcus Reid said. "Why was our president ritualistically dismembering the corpses of his prey when he should have been working on a new tax proposal for small businesses? I, for one, am outraged."
The New York Times newsroom is reportedly still undecided on whether or not to print a recent letter received from Obama, in which the president threatens to kill another helpless citizen every Tuesday and "fill [his] heavenly palace with slaves for the afterlife" unless the police "stop the darkness from screaming."
"President Obama's letter presents us with a classic journalistic quandary," executive editor Bill Keller said. "If we print it, then we're giving him control over the kinds of stories we choose to run. It would be an acknowledgment that we somehow give the nation's commander in chief special treatment."
Added Keller, "And that's just not how the press in this country works."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah's Mushroom Cloud
on: April 13, 2009, 05:30:07 PM
April 13, 2009
Hezbollah's Mushroom Cloud
Christopher Hitchens recently went to a rally in the suburbs south of Beirut and found Hezbollah ratcheting up its belligerence. “A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene,” he wrote in the May issue of Vanity Fair, “with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT!” Last week James Kirchick reported seeing the same thing at the same rally in City Journal. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time Hezbollah has threatened nuclear war.
Hezbollah isn’t broadcasting this to the world. If Hitchens and Kirchick hadn’t written about it, few would know the mushroom-cloud banner even exists. It’s not so much a threat as it is a revelation of Hezbollah’s dark psyche. But perhaps Hezbollah’s not shouting “nuclear war” for all to hear means its threats are more dangerous than public taunts from the Iranian government. Empty threats and hyperbole are rife in the Middle East. Death threats are rarely carried out anywhere. Most assassins don’t announce their intentions. They kill their victims without warning. Whatever Hezbollah’s mushroom-cloud banner means, we know this much: intimations of nuclear war with Israel are now coming from Lebanon as well as Iran. The worst case scenario — a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv — might be slightly more likely than some of us thought.
Every foreign policy-maker and analyst must be wondering whether Israel will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities this year or next. Most don’t know the answer. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself might not know the answer. It’s risky. Hezbollah didn’t open a second front against Israel during the Gaza war a few months ago, but it’s unlikely they’ll sit still in South Lebanon if their patron and armorer in Tehran is attacked. Iran’s Al Quds Force may retaliate against the United States in Iraq. A military strike against Iran could easily trigger a regional conflagration.
There’s a theory floating around the Middle East that I’ve heard from Israelis and Arabs alike, and some find it slightly reassuring: Iran doesn’t want to use nuclear weapons against Israel. Rather, Iran wants nuclear weapons so it can transform itself into a true regional superpower. Arab regimes fear this, which is why Saudi Arabia and Egypt have threatened to develop or purchase their own nuclear arsenals to counter the “Persian bomb.” No Arab state got into an arms race with Israel to counter the “Zionist bomb,” but they’re obviously worried about what might happen to them if Tehran weaponizes uranium. The Iranians don’t want to be neutralized by an arms race, so they’re threatening the Israelis and hoping the Arabs will relax or acquiesce. I don’t know if the theory is true, but Hezbollah’s recent mushroom-cloud banner doesn’t quite fit. Hezbollah didn’t put that on stage to calm nerves in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They used it to thrill a crowd of furious Shia Arabs in Lebanon.
An Iranian bomb would be a problem for Israelis, Arabs, and the rest of us even if Tehran has no intention of using it. The last thing an energy-dependent planet needs is extremist regimes with vast oil reserves threatening to obliterate each other as India and Pakistan sometimes do. And the second-to-last thing Israel needs is a nuclear umbrella protecting Hamas and Hezbollah. President Barack Obama said a nuclear Iran would be a “game changer” last year. He’s right.
The worst case scenario — the incineration of Tel Aviv and a nuclear retaliation against Tehran — isn’t likely. I don’t expect it will ever actually happen. I’m sure enough — at least 90 percent sure — that I feel safe making the prediction in public. I’m a writer, though, not a policy maker. And I don’t live in Israel. I’m safe and can afford to be wrong. I won’t be killed, nor will I be blamed for getting anyone else killed. The Israeli government won’t make the same risk calculations I make. If I’m wrong, they’re dead, and so is their country.
I can’t tell whether or not Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike. But let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that it’s 90 percent likely Iran’s threats of annihilation are just bluster. And let me ask this: How would you feel if your doctor diagnosed you with an illness and said there’s a ten percent chance it will kill you? Would you find 90 percent odds of survival acceptable? Would you sleep peacefully and do nothing and hope for the best? I travel to dangerous places. It’s part of my job. But those odds, for me, are prohibitive. Those odds are almost as bad as the odds in Russian Roulette, and you couldn’t pay me enough to play that game even once.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 13, 2009 11:29 AM
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: April 13, 2009, 09:49:28 AM
Obama vindicates Bush, again
posted at 10:16 am on April 13, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
When will Barack Obama apologize to George Bush? He spent the entire campaign impugning Bush’ handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, claiming that they required access to federal courts and that military detentions were not necessary. On Friday, Obama took another big step towards Bush by deciding to fight a federal court that essentially endorsed Obama’s views on the campaign trail:The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.
In a court filing, the Justice Department also asked District Judge John D. Bates not to proceed with the habeas-corpus cases of three detainees at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul, Afghanistan. Judge Bates ruled last week that the three — each of whom says he was seized outside of Afghanistan — could challenge their detention in court.
Jim Geraghty’s axiom applies: All of Obama’s statements come with an expiration date — all of them. That actually is good news for the Right, since we disagree with most of Obama’s statements. This case is a a good example.
Terrorists and insurgents captured by military and intelligence personnel engaged overseas do not get habeas corpus. Not even the Nuremberg defendants got habeas corpus in American courts, the example Obama liked to use (and got wrong) on the campaign trail. Their military tribunals were the final word, as they should be with detainees at Bagram or at Gitmo.
I’m glad to see Obama coming to his senses on this point. This is change I can believe in, but Obama should apologize to Bush in every brief his DoJ files along these lines.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy
on: April 13, 2009, 08:46:17 AM
Giving credit where it's due
April 12, 8:25 PM · Add a Comment
John F. Kennedy once observed famously that, "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."
The lasting truth of that axiom was evident again today in the waters off Somalia--and in the halls of Washington.
As word of the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips began to spread Sunday afternoon, members of the Obama Administration were quick to claim credit. According to the Associated Press, officials said the President "twice authorized the use of force" to free Phillips, the captain of the merchant vessel Maersk Alabama, who was taken captive by Somali pirates on Wednesday.
While it is true that Mr. Obama gave the go-ahead for employing military force, the actual rescue began when the on-scene commander determined that Phillips faced imminent danger, and authorzed Navy SEAL snipers to open fire. Three of the pirates, guarding Phillips in a 28-foot lifeboat, were killed by the sharpshooters firing from the stern of the USS Bainbridge, the guided missile destroyer that was the first U.S. Navy vessel to reach the area.
Admiral William Gortney, Commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East, told a Pentagon news conference that the order to eliminate the pirates came around 7:30 pm, east Africa time, when the SEALs saw the heads and shoulders of the three pirates clearly in the lifeboat--one of them pointing his AK-47 at Captain Phillips. Instantly, the snipers informed the on-scene commander, stationed on the Bainbridge, who gave orders to fire.
The fourth pirate, who was aboard the destroyer and participating in negotiations aimed at freeing Captain Phillips, was taken into custody. With the pirates on the lifeboat dead, other SEALS removed Phillips from the craft and took him to the Bainbridge. He was later transferred to the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship which was also involved in the operation.
At the time of the rescue, the lifeboat was under tow by the destroyer, which was moving it to calmer waters. Talks between the pirate and Navy officers on the Bainbridge became heated, and the on-scene commander determined hostile intent, based on the tone of the negotiations, and the weapons pointed at Captain Phillips.
At the time the commander gave the order to fire, the lifeboat was about 80 feet behind the destroyer, well within range for the SEAL sniper team. However, the shot was complicated by the small craft's pitching and bobbing in the wake of the Bainbridge, and the design of the lifeboat.
John Konrad, the veteran merchant captain who blogs at gcaptain.com reports that the Maersk Alabama was equipped with enclosed lifeboats. As their name suggests, the craft have only a limited number of openings that would have allowed the SEALs to observe activity inside and target the pirates. Under those conditions, the shots that eliminated the three pirates were remarkable, indeed.
But the split-second decision to rescue Captain Phillips--and the superb marksmanship of the snipers--were soon overshadowed by a predictable round of credit-grabbing in Washington. Administration sources pointed out that President Obama previously authorized the military to act on Friday and Saturday, when commanders on the scene also believed that Phillips' life was in jeopardy.
But White House officials who spoke with the AP (on the condition of anonymity) declined to discuss the mechanics of the deliberation process.
Truth be told, there really isn't much to discuss. While another senior official, who spoke with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, bragged about Mr. Obama authorizing the use of special forces assets to assist in the operation, such directives are standard for this type of contingency. And luckily for all concerned, U.S. special forces personnel have operated for years from the former French colony of Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. The presence of the Boxer, with its large complement of helicopters, facilitated movement of the SEALs to the Bainbridge.
To be fair, President Obama made the right call, giving his commanders the authority to act swiftly--and decisively--to end the hostage standoff, when the opportunity presented itself. But the successful rescue of Captain Phillips was hardly a triumph of executive decision-making from the White House situation room. Instead, the real credit should go to the field-grade officer who accurately assessed the situation and gave the order to fire--and to the SEALs who took out their targets with customary efficiency.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy
on: April 13, 2009, 08:28:02 AM
Navy commander: Trio of shots ended sea standoff
April 13, 2009 6:57 AM EDT
WASHINGTON - Adm. William Gortney said Monday that it took only three shots for Navy snipers to kill the trio of pirates holding captain Richard Phillips hostage on a lifeboat drifting in the high sea.
Interviewed from Bahrain, Gortney said the takedown happened shortly after the hostage-takers were observed by sailors aboard the USS Bainbridge "with their heads and shoulders exposed."
Asked how the snipers could have killed each pirate with a single shot in the darkness, Gortney described them as "extremely, extremely well-trained." He told NBC's "Today" show the shooting by the snipers was ordered by the captain of the Bainbridge after the pirates "exposed themselves" to attack.
Military officials were widely praising the snipers for three flawless shots, which they described as remarkable, coming at night and from the stern of a ship on rolling waters.
Defense officials also indicated, speaking anonymously, that the Navy snipers got the go-ahead to fire after one of the pirates was seen holding an AK-47 so close to Phillips that the weapon appeared to be touching him. Two other pirates popped their heads up, giving snipers all three of their targets, one official said.
The military officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
They said that a fourth pirate who survived was believed to be between 16 and 20 years old, and had in effect surrendered before the sniper rescue.
One official said he jumped into a small craft that had been taking food to the lifeboat, and asked to be taken to the Bainbridge. He also needed medical help because he had been stabbed in the hand on the Maersk Alabama in the initial standoff with crew members when the pirates attempted unsuccessfully to take over the cargo vessel, officials said.
Shane Murphy, a crew member of the Maersk Alabama, told a news conference: "We are lucky to be out of it with every one of us alive. We never had to fight to take our ship back. We never gave up."
The Navy released images of the scene from an unmanned drone, Scan Eagle. It showed that the snipers had positioned themselves on the fantail of the Bainbridge. The snipers fired simultaneously. One of the pirates was in the pilot house.
The SEALS arrived on the scene by parachuting from their aircraft into the sea, and they were picked up by the Bainbridge, a senior U.S. official said.
He said negotiations with the pirates had been "going up and down. Discussions would be going well, and then they would get discouraged and real angry." This official, asking not to be publicly identified because he, too, was not authorized to discuss this on the record, said the pirates were "becoming increasingly agitated in the rough waters; they weren't getting what they wanted."
Just as it was getting dark, pirates fired a tracer bullet "toward the Bainbridge," further heightening the sense that the incident was ratcheting up, the official said.
He said that at the time snipers took their shot, Phillips' hands were bound.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / West warned on nuclear terrorist threat from Pakistan
on: April 13, 2009, 06:26:45 AM
West warned on nuclear terrorist threat from Pakistan
April 11, 2009
The next few months will be crucial in defusing a global terrorist threat that would be even deadlier than the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a leading Washington counter-terrorism expert warns.
David Kilcullen — a former Australian army lieutenant colonel who helped devise the US troop surge that revitalised the American campaign in Iraq — fears Pakistan is at risk of falling under al-Qaeda control.
If that were to happen, the terrorist group could end up controlling what Dr Kilcullen calls "Talibanistan". "Pakistan is what keeps me awake at night," said Dr Kilcullen, who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.
"Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al-Qaeda sitting in two-thirds of the country which the Government does not control."
Compounding that threat, the Pakistani security establishment ignored direction from the elected Government in Islamabad as waves of extremist violence spread across the whole country — not just in the tribal wilds of the Afghan border region.
"We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we're calling the war on terror now," Dr Kilcullen told The Age during an interview at his Washington office. Late last month, when US President Barack Obama unveiled his new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, he warned that al-Qaeda would fill the vacuum if Afghanistan collapsed, and that the terror group was already rooted in Pakistan, plotting more attacks on the US.
As the US implements its new strategy in Central Asia, Dr Kilcullen warned that time was running out for international efforts to pull both countries back from the brink.
Special US Envoy Richard Holbrooke has been charged with trying to broker a regional agreement by reaching out to Iran, Russia and China. Dr Kilcullen spoke highly of Mr Holbrooke's talent as a diplomat: "This is exactly what he's good at and it could work.
"But will it? It requires regional architecture to give the Pakistani security establishment a sense of security, which might make them stop supporting the Taliban," he said.
"The best-case scenario is that the US can deal with Afghanistan, with President Obama giving leadership while the extra American troops succeed on the ground, at the same time as Mr Holbrooke seeks a regional security deal."
The worst case was that Washington would fail to stabilise Afghanistan, Pakistan would collapse and al-Qaeda would end up running what he called "Talibanistan".
"This is not acceptable; you can't have al-Qaeda in control of Pakistan's missiles," he said.
"It's too early to tell which way it will go. We'll start to know about July. That's the peak fighting season and the extra troops will have hit the ground, and it will be a month out from the Afghan presidential election."
Dr Kilcullen also cautioned Western governments against focusing too heavily on Afghanistan at the expense of the intensifying crisis in Pakistan, because "the Kabul tail was wagging the dog". Contrasting the challenges in the two countries, Dr Kilcullen described Afghanistan as a campaign to defend a reconstruction program.
"It's not really about al-Qaeda," he argued. "Afghanistan doesn't worry me. Pakistan does."
However, he was hesitant about the level of resources and likely impact of Washington's new drive to emulate the effectiveness of an Iraq-style "surge" by sending an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan.
"In Iraq, five brigades went into the centre of Baghdad in five months," he said.
"In Afghanistan, it will be two combat brigades (across the country) in 12 months. That will have much less of a punch effect than we had in Iraq.
"We can muddle through in Afghanistan. It is problematic and difficult, but we know what to do. What we don't know is if we have the time or if we can afford the cost of what needs to be done."
Dr Kilcullen said that a fault line had developed in the West's grasp of the situation on either side of the Durand Line, the long-disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"In Afghanistan, it's easy to understand, difficult to execute. But in Pakistan, it is very difficult to understand and it's extremely difficult for us to generate any leverage, because Pakistan does not want our help.
"In a sense there is no Pakistan; no single set of opinion. Pakistan has a military and intelligence establishment that refuses to follow the directions of its civilian leadership.
"They have a tradition of using regional extremist groups as unconventional counterweights against India's regional influence.
"The (Pakistani) military also has an almost pathological phobia by which it sees al-Qaeda as 'this little problem', as distinct from what they see as the main game opposing India.
"In terms of a substantial threat, Pakistan is the main problem we face today.
"We don't have a responsible actor to work through in Islamabad. My judgement, to use diplomatic speak, is that Pakistan has yet to demonstrate genuine commitment."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our Reprimitivized Future
on: April 11, 2009, 09:16:45 PM
April 11, 2009, 2:30 p.m.
Our Reprimitivized Future
When all the world’s a “distraction,” maybe you’re not the main event after all.
By Mark Steyn
The Reuters headline put it this way: “Pirates Pose Annoying Distraction For Obama.”
So many distractions, aren’t there? Only a week ago, the North Korean missile test was an “annoying distraction” from Barack Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons and his pledge that America would lead the way in disarming. And only a couple of days earlier the president insisted Iraq was a “distraction” — from what, I forget: The cooing press coverage of Michelle’s wardrobe? No doubt when the Iranians nuke Israel, that, too, will be an unwelcome distraction from the administration’s plans for federally subsidized daycare, just as Pearl Harbor was an annoying distraction from the New Deal, and the First World War was an annoying distraction from the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s dinner plans.
If the incompetent management driving the New York Times from junk status to oblivion wished to decelerate their terminal decline, they might usefully amend their motto to “All the News That’s Fit to Distract.” Tom Blumer of Newsbusters notes that in the last 30 days there have been some 2,500 stories featuring Obama and “distractions,” as opposed to about 800 “distractions” for Bush in his entire second term. The sub-headline of the Reuters story suggests the unprecedented pace at which the mountain of distractions is piling up: “First North Korea, Iran — now Somali pirates.”
Er, okay. So the North Korean test is a “distraction,” the Iranian nuclear program is a “distraction,” and the seizure of a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters is a “distraction.” Maybe it would be easier just to have the official State Department maps reprinted with the Rest of the World relabeled “Distractions.” Oh, to be sure, you could still have occasional oases of presidential photo-opportunities — Buckingham Palace, that square in Prague — but with the land beyond the edge of the Queen’s gardens ominously marked “Here be distractions . . . ”
As it happens, Somali piracy is not a distraction, but a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow. In my book America Alone, I quote Robert D. Kaplan referring to the lawless fringes of the map as “Indian Territory.” It’s a droll jest but a misleading one, since the very phrase presumes that the badlands will one day be brought within the bounds of the ordered world. In fact, a lot of today’s badlands were relatively ordered not so long ago, and many of them are getting badder and badder by the day. Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. According to Chatham House in London, Somali pirates made about $30 million in ransom and booty last year. Thirty mil goes a long way in Somalia, making piracy a very attractive proposition.
It’s also a low-risk one. Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it’s all more complicated. The attorney general, Eric Holder, has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be “brought to justice” by the U.S. “I’m not sure exactly what would happen next,” declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world’s superpower. But some things we can say for certain. Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eyepatched peglegged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates’ cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. constitution and that their peglegs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt Pirates of the Caribbean would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of “Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad.” From “Avast, me hearties!” to a vast welfare scam is not progress.
In a world of legalisms, resistance is futile. The Royal Navy sailors kidnapped by Iran two years ago and humiliated by the mullahs on TV were operating under rules of engagement that call for “de-escalation” in the event of a confrontation. Which is to say, their rules of engagement are rules of non-engagement. Likewise, merchant vessels equipped with cannon in the 18th century now sail unarmed. They contract with expensive private security firms, but those security teams do not carry guns: When the MV Biscaglia was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden last year, the Indian and Bangladeshi crew were taken hostage but the three unarmed guards from “Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions” in London “escaped by jumping into the water.” Some solution. When you make a lucrative activity low-risk, you get more of it.
As my colleague Andrew McCarthy wrote, “Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress.” Very true. Somalia, Iran, and North Korea are all less “civilized” than they were a couple of generations ago. And yet in one sense they have made undeniable progress: They have globalized their pathologies. Somali pirates seize vessels the size of aircraft carriers flying the ensigns of the great powers. Iranian proxies run Gaza and much of Lebanon. North Korea’s impoverished prison state provides nuclear technology to Damascus and Tehran. Unlovely as it is, Pyongyang nevertheless has friends on the Security Council. Powerful states protect one-man psycho states. One-man psycho states provide delivery systems to apocalyptic ideological states. Apocalyptic ideological states fund non-state actors around the world. And in Somalia and elsewhere non-state actors are constrained only by their ever increasing capabilities.
When all the world’s a “distraction,” maybe you’re not the main event after all. Most wealthy nations lack the means to defend themselves. Those few that do, lack the will. Meanwhile, basket-case jurisdictions send out ever-bolder freelance marauders to prey on the civilized world with impunity. Don’t be surprised if “the civilized world” shrivels and retreats in the face of state-of-the-art reprimitivization. From piracy to nukes to the limp response of the hyperpower, this is not a “distraction” but a portent of the future.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZWQwNTE2OWM2YjEwMWQzNTM4OTMzZGVhOWM0NDUxOGQ=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Community Organizers seize another boat, crew
on: April 11, 2009, 11:10:39 AM
|**Hey, Bush isn't president anymore. What's Obama going to do, talk smack on Leno? Open season on America and the west.*
Pirates seize U.S.-owned, Italy-flagged tugboat
11 Apr 2009 14:39:44 GMT
(Adds quote, NATO)
By Duncan Miriri
NAIROBI, April 11 (Reuters) - Pirates seized a U.S.-owned and Italian-flagged tugboat with 16 crew on Saturday in the latest hijacking in the busy Gulf of Aden waterway, a regional maritime group said.
Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said the crew were believed to be unharmed on the tugboat, which he added was operated from the United Arab Emirates.
He said the tugboat was towing two barges at the time of capture but there were no details on their cargo.
"This incident shows the pirates are becoming more daring and violent," Mwangura told Reuters by phone.
NATO alliance officials on board the Portuguese warship NRB Corte-Real, which is patrolling the Gulf of Aden, said a distress call came from the MV Buccaneer tugboat but communications were lost six minutes later.
They said 10 of the tugboat's crew were Italian citizens.
Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in March after a lull at the start of 2009.
International interest has focused this week on the plight of an American hostage, Richard Phillips, held by four pirates on a lifeboat flanked by U.S. naval warships in a high seas standoff since Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Nairobi and Alison Bevege on the NRB Corte-Real)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting question
on: April 11, 2009, 10:33:45 AM
Choosy choicers choose back-alley abortions in China
POSTED AT 11:15 AM ON APRIL 11, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
Legal Insurrection notes an interesting contradiction at the Center for Reproductive Rights. In response to the demographic distortion that China’s one-child policy has produced, the CPR has called for an end to forced abortions and government imposition of reproductive policy. So far, so good; we can broadly agree on those goals. However, CPR also opposes gender-selective abortion, which is astoundingly hypocritical (emphases mine):
Our shadow letter underlined many areas of concern, including: harmful effects of the one-child policy such as forced abortion, coerced sterilization, and increased trafficking and abduction of women; limited access to infertility treatment; maternal mortality; sex-selective abortions; and deficiencies in sex education. The Committee, through its Concluding Observations, expressed concern over rights violations ensuing from these practices. It advised the Chinese government to investigate and prosecute instances of forced sterilization and abortion and to strengthen and enforce existing laws outlawing sex-selective abortion and female infanticide.
First, why not just protest infanticide in general? Is it only a problem when female infants are killed through direct action or purposeful neglect? I understand that the problem in China is focused on female infants, but if infanticide’s the problem, then we shouldn’t have to get gender-specific about the objection. Their objection looks specifically outcome-based rather than principled.
It seems CPR has a problem with choice that disproportionately disfavors females. They don’t object to abortion, unless the woman chooses to abort in order to avoid giving birth to a female. But how is that choice any less legitimate than any other reason to procure an abortion? For some, the gender relates to economic status and potential, criteria which in other contexts pro-abortion groups hail as rational considerations.
And doesn’t this negate the knee-jerk argument against outlawing abortions in general? If women want to abort because they carry female babies, then won’t they get back-alley abortions if CPR succeeds in keeping gender-specific abortions illegal? Shall we round up and arrest the mothers? The doctors? And if we can justify doing that for gender-specific abortions, why not do it for all abortions and stop the wholesale slaughter of human life altogether?
If one argues for a pro-choice position, then one would support all reasons for the choice. If CPR and its allies support abortion based on outcomes rather than the supposed ideal of choice, then it’s fair to argue what outcomes they’re really supporting.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc.
on: April 11, 2009, 10:15:52 AM
April 09, 2009
The End of Fair Elections?
By Tom Hoffman
Anyone who believes Hugo Chavez's presidency is the result of a free and fair election should stop reading and go protest against global warming. For the rest of us, it may come as a surprise to some; we may have witnessed the last free and fair election in this country. How long ago that election was does not matter now; there will not be another one.
Remember when "B1 Bob" Dornan lost his House seat to a woman named Sanchez? The election was stolen by Hermandad Nacional Mexicana a group that made a concerted effort to register illegal aliens. Since then, the art of rigging the vote has been refined and perfected by the likes of ACORN and other community activist organizations.
The modus operandi is clear. First, there must be a team of lawyers to challenge any efforts to determine voter eligibility. What we end up with here in California is "motor voter" registration. This means DMV workers urge anyone getting a driver's license to go ahead and register to vote. Lawyers and Democratic state legislators have made it illegal to require documentation regarding immigration status; it's the honor system. If an illegal feels uncomfortable lying to a bureaucrat at the DMV, he or she can apply by mail and receive an absentee ballot. This way they need not even have to show up at the polling place; just mail it in.
It's just too easy to cheat. Of course, at the polling place there is no need to prove who you claim to be; honor system again. Sign in and vote with no questions asked. The lawyers and legislators paved the way for the "undocumented worker" to vote like a native born citizen by doing away with need to document anything, let alone citizenship. All that is necessary is a mailing address; and, no kidding, the same culprits are busy doing away with that so the "homeless" can now register.
Registering as many fraudulent votes as possible and making it as difficult as possible to disqualify voters is only front end of the strategy. Once an election has been made close enough to allow for disputes and recounts, whole new machinery has been put in place. Here is where the big money comes into play. The secretaries of state, whose duty it is to oversee the election process, must be beholden to the community activists. Large campaign donations to the secretary of state candidates assure the community organizers a voice in all "recounts". Their squads of well-trained lawyers will likely get sympathetic rulings in their efforts to disqualify eligible voters and qualify the ineligible.
Is it any wonder that, as the rules get watered down again and again, the number of "get out the vote" organizations has multiplied? There has always been some fraud in our electoral system: but until recently, the scale has not been sufficient to succeed in stealing a national election. We've passed that line. Once passed, the line can never be redrawn.
ACORN is but one instance of a well financed nationwide effort to institute voter fraud. It is the financing of the likes of George Soros and the organizing skills of the likes of Bill Ayers that assures us of rigged elections from now on. Take the recent U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. The community activists registered thousands of new voters. Given that ACORN has already admitted to voter fraud (by mistake of course), it is certain a fair number of these were fraudulent. It is also certain that nearly all were Democrat votes. The Republican still managed to win by a few hundred votes on the initial count. The margin was too close to rule out a recount; mission accomplished for ACORN and their ilk. In come the lawyers to disqualify Republicans. With the full sympathy of the secretary of state, the radicals manage to turn the tide in favor of the Democrat; game, set, match.
With a proven game plan and large numbers of "community activist" organizations spread out across the country, all that is necessary to rig state and national elections from now on is a large and reliable source of funding. That has already been assured in the "Stimulus" bill. George Soros will now be helped by the U.S. Taxpayer; helped big time. Community activist organizations will find themselves flush with taxpayer cash. They are the grass roots agencies in charge of "neighborhood stabilization." I suppose we could get Jimmy Carter to certify the fairness of the 2010 elections.
Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/04/the_end_of_fair_elections.html
at April 11, 2009 - 11:13:29 AM EDT
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc.
on: April 11, 2009, 09:41:27 AM
|Ok, it appears not to be law, but California's policy interpreting federal law. I'm looking for where CA DMV has issued a policy forbidding DMV clerks from asking about citizenship prior to registering voters.http://www.heritage.org/Research/Legalissues/lm28.cfm
This problem has been exacerbated by many states' interpretation of a HAVA provision that requires a citizenship question on the federal mail-in voter registration form. The provision, in 42 U.S.C. § 15483, requires the following question: "Are you a citizen of the United States of America?" If an applicant fails to answer this question, HAVA provides that the local election official must notify the applicant of the failure and "provide the appli cant with an opportunity to complete the form in a timely manner to allow for the completion of the registration form" prior to the election. Under the threat of lawsuits by organizations like the Ameri can Civil Liberties Union, states such as Ohio, Iowa, and South Dakota will register an individual even if he fails to answer the citizenship question. The Justice Department so far has failed to sue these states to force compliance with HAVA.
HAVA also imposes an identification require ment for first-time voters who register by mail. Many states, including California, have interpreted this provision to apply only to registration forms received through the U.S. mail, so the requirement is easily avoided by turning in the registration form directly to election officials. Additionally, docu ments named in the law as acceptable forms of identification for voter registration, such as utility bills and bank statements, are easily obtained by non-citizens. HAVA also requires applicants to pro vide a driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number but allows an indi vidual to register even if he has neither number.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 11, 2009, 09:19:13 AM
The Pirates Challenge Obama's Pre-9/11 Mentality
Distinctions between lawful and unlawful combatants go back to Roman times.
By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
When Somali pirates hijacked the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama this week and took 20 Americans hostage, President Barack Obama refused to comment. It seems that our new president is desperate to do everything he can to distance himself from his predecessor, which is why his team has launched a campaign to rebrand the War on Terror. The results are mystifying. "Overseas contingency operations" is the new name for the war, while "man-caused disasters" is a euphemism for terrorist attacks.
In this new rhetorical regime, the administration criticizes President George W. Bush for his "illegal" policies with respect to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and claims that the treatment of the detainees themselves constitutes "torture."
But while they've certainly made cosmetic changes, many claim the Obama administration has left the substance of Bush's approach intact.
Attorney General Eric Holder added to this perception when, after visiting Guantanamo, he acknowledged that the facility is very well run and that implementing Mr. Obama's promise to close it down will be difficult. While renouncing the term "enemy combatant," the Obama administration acknowledges the reality that no matter what we call those detained at Guantanamo, the detainees are still not entitled to prisoner-of-war status because they have violated the laws of war by killing civilians and fighting out of uniform. Instead of calling the detainees enemy combatants, the administration has opted to refer to them as "individuals captured in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations," or "members of enemy forces," or "persons who [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for the September 11 attacks."
Though these changes might seem superficial, unfortunately, they represent a substantive shift. They signal a return to the policy mindset that existed before 9/11, and the consequence will be material harm to U.S. security.
First, in holding that the president's power to indefinitely detain without legal charges is derived from Congress's authorization for the Use of Military Force Act (passed in the aftermath of 9/11), the Justice Department has undercut the president's own war power under the Constitution. This is an inherent executive power that has been recognized since at least the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
As Lincoln wrote to James Conkling in August 1863, "I think the Constitution invests its commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war." In addition to the commander-in-chief clause of Article II, Lincoln found his war power in his presidential oath "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Second, the various new substitutes for "unlawful enemy combatant" abolish an important distinction in traditional international law. As the eminent military historian Sir Michael Howard argued shortly after 9/11, the status of al Qaeda terrorists is to be found in a distinction first made by the Romans and subsequently incorporated into international law by way of medieval and early modern European jurisprudence. According to Mr. Howard, the Romans distinguished between bellum (war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy) and guerra (war against latrunculi, pirates, robbers, brigands and outlaws).
Bellum became the standard for interstate conflict, and it is here that the Geneva Conventions were meant to apply. They do not apply to guerra. Indeed, punishment for latrunculi, "the common enemies of mankind," traditionally has been summary execution.
Though they don't often employ the term, many legal experts agree that al Qaeda fighters are latrunculi -- hardly distinguishable by their actions from pirates and the like. Robert Kogod Goldman, an American University law professor has commented: "I think under any standard, the captured al Qaeda fighters simply do not meet the minimum standards set out to be considered prisoners of war." And according to Marc Cogen, a professor of international law at Ghent University in Belgium, "no 'terrorist organization' thus far has been deemed a combatant under the laws of armed conflict." Thus al Qaeda members "can be punished for all hostile acts, including the killing of soldiers, because they have no right to participate directly in hostilities." But the Obama administration is about to extend legal rights -- intended to protect civilians -- to the very latrunculi who want to blow them up by considering the possibility of trying them in U.S. courts. Indeed, Attorney General Holder did not rule out trying the Somali pirates.
Some in Congress want to go further than the Obama team. Rather than focusing their attention on the terrorists, these politicians wish to criminalize the behavior of Bush administration officials for actions they took to protect Americans, and that fell well short of those taken by Lincoln in suppressing the Rebellion of 1861. Thus Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), aided and abetted by my own Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I), have begun hearings on Mr. Leahy's proposal for a "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation policies.
The mantra of Bush critics has been that the previous administration "tortured" detainees. But this is nonsense. At issue is the CIA's waterboarding of three high-ranking latrunculi who had been instrumental in planning and executing attacks that killed thousands of Americans. These individuals had been trained to resist conventional interrogation methods and were thought to have information about impending attacks.
What makes the Leahy-Whitehouse show trials most appalling -- and hypocritical -- is that Congress was briefed on the enhanced interrogation methods in September 2002. At the time, according to the Washington Post, members of Congress from both parties -- including current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- wanted to ensure that the interrogations were tough enough to get the necessary intelligence from the captured terrorists. As the Post reported, "there was no objecting, no hand-wringing," and according to a U.S. official present during the briefings, "the attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.'" But of course, according to a source looking back on that period, "the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic."
And therein lies the problem. Too many of our leaders have forgotten that we are at war with latrunculi who wish to destroy us. Anyone who doubts this need only read the recent statement by the five detainees at Guantanamo charged with planning the 9/11 attacks in which they describe the charge that they murdered Americans very clearly -- as a "badge of honor."
Mr. Owens is a professor at the Naval War College and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: April 10, 2009, 11:01:38 PM
America The Patsy?
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, April 08, 2009 4:20 PM PT
National Security: Russia tells the U.S. not to worry about a nuclear Iran and not to punish nuclear North Korea. Fidel Castro wants to help the president, Russia's "new comrade." Are we being set up?
Some of the most obvious threats to life and liberty in the historical record were, at the time they were happening, vehemently denied by those in positions of decision-making.
Isolationists and pacifists believed that Hitler's imperialism could be appeased by territorial gains. During the early Cold War, American Soviet spy Alger Hiss' integrity was vouched for by U.S. officials reaching a level as high as future Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Those, such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, suggesting that Hiss was only one of a massive group of Communist spies within the U.S. government were targeted (in McCarthy's case literally targeted for elimination by the CIA, as noted in Pulitzer-winning journalist Tim Weiner's book "Legacy of Ashes"), marginalized, even ruined.
M. Stanton Evans' 2007 book "Blacklisted by History" convincingly and meticulously exonerated McCarthy on most counts, but in other such episodes scholarly review has been unnecessary. Three decades of the ugly reality of Islamist revolution in Iran, for instance, have indelibly discredited the belief in 1979 by Andrew Young, the Carter administration's United Nations ambassador, that the Ayatollah Khomeini was "some kind of a saint."
Today, it takes willful blindness not to recognize Iran as the greatest threat to life and freedom in the world. Tehran is apparently now on the verge of announcing that it has mastered the final, most technically challenging stage of nuclear fuel production: the industrial-scale enrichment of uranium, which allows nuclear fuel to be generated in large quantities.
The Islamofascist regime in Iran has denied inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency access to its Arak heavy water reactor, which could be geared to produce plutonium from spent uranium fuel rods.
Yet we heard soothing words this week from Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.
"I don't see any threat to the United States coming from Iran anytime soon," he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — ironically, the organization Hiss was president of when Whittaker Chambers testified in 1948 that he and Hiss committed espionage together.
In a similar vein, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "any threat of sanction" against North Korea in response to its Sunday launch of a multistage rocket over Japan, a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, "would be counterproductive."
More talk for a regime possessing as many as eight nuclear warheads after it sends up a missile reaching twice as far as anything it has launched previously?
Clearly, Russia wants to lull us into complacency regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among hostile regimes. Do Moscow and other adversaries of the free world sense an uncommon opportunity in the year 2009?
With an unprecedented financial crisis battering the West's economic system, and a man of the left in the White House, is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's description of Barack Obama as "my new comrade" more than a clever sound bite?
Ailing Cuban dictator Castro, having granted an audience to members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday, seemed to share Medvedev's sentiment, asking, "How can we help President Obama?"
When longtime foes of the world's lone superpower behave in such fashion, it isn't because they've been converted to the cause of world peace; it is because they see a chance to change the dangerous global power game in their favor — and at our expense.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, always unguarded in expressing himself, claimed this week on a visit to Beijing that "the power of the U.S. empire has collapsed."
"Every day, the new poles of world power are becoming stronger: Beijing, Tokyo, Tehran," he said. "It's moving toward the East and toward the South."
Toward danger and away from security would be a more accurate description.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Pantywaist
on: April 10, 2009, 12:06:10 PM
POSTED AT 12:55 PM ON APRIL 10, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
Charles Krauthammer and Gerald Warner take up where Jackson Diehl left off in analyzing Barack Obama’s Grand Tour this month. Both men sound warning alarms over Obama’s tendency to surrender large swaths of the American agenda in return for getting nothing at all. And while Krauthammer wonders whether Obama has a sense of his own American identity, Warner wonders whether Obama has any sense at all.
Our president came bearing a basketful of mea culpas. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.
And what did he get for this obsessive denigration of his own country? He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.
He wanted more stimulus spending from Europe. He got nothing.
From Russia, he got no help on Iran. From China, he got the blocking of any action on North Korea.
And what did he get for Guantanamo? France, pop. 64 million, will take one prisoner. One! (Sadly, he’ll have to leave his swim buddy behind.) The Austrians said they would take none. As Interior Minister Maria Fekter explained with impeccable Germanic logic, if they’re not dangerous, why not just keep them in America?
When Austria is mocking you, you’re having a bad week. Yet who can blame Frau Fekter, considering the disdain Obama showed his own country while on foreign soil, acting the philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating between his renegade homeland and an otherwise warm and welcoming world?
I thought that would win the Scorn Award for the week, but that’s just a warm-up for Warner. The British columnist for the Telegraph has a new name for Obama — well, two, actually:
So The One retired triumphant, having secured a massive contribution of 5,000 extra troops - all of them non-combatant, of course - which must really have put the wind up the Taliban, at the prospect of 5,000 more infidel cooks and bottle-washers swarming into the less hazardous regions of Afghanistan.
Then came the dramatic bit, the authentic West Wing script, with the President wakened in the middle of the night in Prague to be told that Kim Jong-il had just launched a Taepodong-2 missile. America had Aegis destroyers tracking the missile and could have shot it down. But Uncle Sam had a sterner reprisal in store for l’il ole Kim (as Dame Edna might call him): a multi-megaton strike of Obama hot air. …
President Pantywaist is hopping mad and he has a strategy to cut Kim down to size: he is going to slice $1.4bn off America’s missile defence programme, presumably on the calculation that Kim would feel it unsporting to hit a sitting duck, so that will spoil his fun.
Watch out, France and Co, there is a new surrender monkey on the block and, over the next four years, he will spectacularly sell out the interests of the West with every kind of liberal-delusionist initiative on nuclear disarmament and sitting down to negotiate with any power freak who wants to buy time to get a good ICBM fix on San Francisco, or wherever. If you thought the world was a tad unsafe with Dubya around, just wait until President Pantywaist gets into his stride.
The White House says it will take more than a few days for Obama’s impact to be felt, but I think they’re underestimating their President. Obama’s impact was plain to see. He drew great crowds for his American Humility Tour, and it played well — as bowing and scraping always does to those whom one bows and scrapes. Europe might like the whiff of surrender coming from Obama, but they made it plain that it would result in no movement on the American agenda. Actually, that’s not entirely true; as Diehl points out, Obama mostly neglected to even mention the American agenda.
John Kennedy had the insight to realize that he blew his performance with Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. Newt Gingrich allowed for the possibility that Obama might come to the same realization after this disaster of a foreign tour. Will President Pantywaist recover, a la Kennedy, or wallow in the self-delusional spin his White House provided this week, a la Jimmy Carter? Let’s hope it’s the former, because the world is far too dangerous a place for America to have a President Pantywaist.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Obama boot-licking tour
on: April 08, 2009, 03:25:53 PM
O'S AMATEUR HOUR
By RALPH PETERS
April 8, 2009 --
THE real climax of President Obama's Spring Apologies Tour wasn't his photo op with our troops in Baghdad or even his "American Guilt" concerts in Western Europe.
While fans in the press cheered wildly at every venue, the real performance came in Turkey. And it was a turkey.
Obama means well. Just as Jimmy Carter, his policy godfather, meant well. But the road to embassy takeovers and strategic humiliation is paved with good intentions -- coupled with distressing naivete.
On every stage, Obama draped Lady Liberty in sackcloth and ashes, drawing plentiful applause but no serious economic or security cooperation in return. Then, in Turkey, he surrendered our national pride, undercut our interests and interfered in matters that aren't his business.
On the latter point: Suppose the European Union president went to Cuba and insisted that the world's sunniest concentration camp should be welcomed into NAFTA? That's the equivalent of what our president did in Ankara on Monday when he declared that he supports Turkey's bid for EU membership.
The Europeans don't want Turkey in their club. Because Turkey isn't a European state, nor is its culture European. And it isn't our business to press Europe to embrace a huge, truculent Muslim country suffering a creeping Islamist coup.
The Europeans were appalled by Turkey's neo-Taliban tantrum on-stage at last week's NATO summit. The Turks fought to derail the appointment of a great Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as the new NATO secretary general. Why? Because he didn't stone to death the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Mohammed.
Which brings us to the even bigger problem: Obama has no idea what's going on in Turkey. By going to Ankara on his knees, he gave his seal of approval to a pungently anti-American Islamist government bent on overturning Mustapha Kemal's legacy of the separation of mosque and state.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, means headscarves, Korans, censorship and stacked elections. The country's alarmed middle class opposes the effort to turn the country into an Islamic state. Obama's gushing praise for the AKP's bosses left them aghast.
Obama's embrace of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (now orchestrating show trials of his opponents) was one step short of going to Tehran and smooching President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
What was Obama thinking? He wasn't. He relied on advice from State Department appeasement artists who understand neither Turkey, Islam nor the crises raging between the Bosporus and the Indus. State's answer is always "More love, more humility, more aid."
Well, I, for one, don't think our country has anything to apologize for, either to Turkey or to Europe.
Insisting that America's always guilty, Obama omitted any mention of Turkey's wartime betrayals of our troops, its continuing oppression of its Kurd minority or the AKP's determination to turn a state with a secular constitution into a Wahhabi playground.
When it came to the Armenian genocide, Obama bravely ducked: He never dared use the g-word.
And Obama's disdainful remarks about President Bush were just shabby.
After those overpriced tour T-shirts have shrunk in the wash (trust me -- they will), what will we have gained from Obama's superstar act?
He told the Europeans that the global economic crisis is all our fault. No mention of European greed, overleveraged governments, destructive Euro-loans or Chinese currency manipulation. We did it. Whip us, please.
In return, the Europeans gave him . . . nothing.
Even though Obama was right when he said that Europe faces a greater terror threat than we do, the entire continent only ponied up 2,500 short-term non-combat troops for Afghanistan. The Europeans know we'll do the heavy lifting.
He gave the Russians yet another blank check, too. (Meanwhile, in Moscow, Putin's thugs beat an aging pro-democracy dissident to a pulp.) In return, the Russians promised to . . . well, actually, they didn't promise anything.
Then Obama went to Turkey, undercut secular political parties, infuriated the Europeans -- and disclaimed our country's Judeo-Christian heritage. (Did Turkey's leaders respond by denying Islam's importance to them? Naw.)
In Turkey, Obama got . . . nothing we didn't already have.
Then he went to Iraq and told its prime minister that Iraq would get nothing.
I believe that our president wants to do the right thing. But he doesn't have a clue how. For now, he's enraptured by the applause. But he hasn't tried to charge his fans for their tickets. And they've already made up their minds they won't have to pay.
Ralph Peters is Fox News' strategic analyst and the author of "Looking for Trouble."