Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: May 12, 2009, 01:20:33 PM
|If you disrupt a business, you are depriving a business of money, which is a form of theft. If you are doing it to force it to submit to you, this is racketeering/extortion.
Mafia-free supermarket defies mob extortion
By Nick Pisa in Rome
Last Updated: 9:42PM GMT 08 Mar 2008
Fabio Messina (left) in his mob-free shop in Palermo
Shoppers in Sicily have the chance to take on the Mafia after the first racket-free supermarket opened yesterday on the island long dominated by the mob.
Its owner, Fabio Messina, is taking a brave stand against the organisation by stacking his shelves with products only from firms which - like his own - have refused to pay pizzo, the local term for protection money.
"For too long ordinary citizens of Palermo and business people have been held to ransom, and now we are fighting back," said Pasquale Masucci, a computer technician who was one of the store's first customers.
The supermarket, located in the heart of Palermo, is the latest initiative from campaign group Addiopizzo (Goodbye Pizzo) that has been fighting racketeering since 2004.
Its campaign was launched by pasting up posters around the city overnight, bearing the slogan: "A society that pays pizzo is a society without dignity.''
Investigators estimate that the Mafia extorts more than £130 million a year from shops and businesses in the Palermo region, with the island as a whole handing over 10 times that figure. The more money a business makes, the more money the Godfathers expect - and those who don't pay up are quickly paid a visit.
It starts with a friendly chat to explain the rules, followed by a nudge such as a brick through the window. If that fails to make the point, a home, business or car might be firebombed.
Small shops are expected to hand over around £100 a month: for supermarkets and jewellers, the going rate is nearer £1,000.
But shoppers and businesses are rebelling, with those refusing to pay adding their names online at the Addiopizzo website. As of yesterday, 241 firms and individuals were listed.
Now Mr Messina, 29, has decided to bring them together by stocking their items in Supermercato Punto Antipizzo - literally, anti-pizzo point supermarket.
He said: "I felt the time had come to give those businesses that had refused to pay the pizzo an extra economic opportunity.
"All the products in the store are supplied by firms who have refused to pay pizzo — we are talking about products from fruit and vegetables to wine, olive oil, pasta and bread. The sort of items you find in any normal supermarket."
Gerlando Mazone, an optician who is among the anti-Mafia traders, has refused to back down despite suffering several break-ins.
Mr Mazone said: "I refused to pay the pizzo and the windows were smashed and I lost £230,000 worth of stock.
"I then also noticed my customers were falling away and it broke my heart. I am not ashamed to say I cried every night. But with the help of Addiopizzo I am starting to get back on my feet.
"Of course I could have gone to the local boss, paid the money and got my stock back - but I don't see why I should share my profits with anyone other than my staff.''
Centre left senator Francesco Ferrante, who has campaigned against Mafia racketeering, said: "With the opening of this supermarket a new symbol of rebellion and pride has been born from a category that has too often been crushed by Cosa Nostra.
"They have decided to declare war on the racketeers by giving honest citizens the opportunity to fight back against the godfathers with a simple gesture - such as buying from a pizzo free supermarket.''
Shoppers in Palermo hope this stand will prove successful. "If everybody does just one thing like this then we are all making a stand against the Mafia," said Mr Masucci's wife Tiziana, a teacher. "I am not afraid to come shopping here and I have told all my friends about it. I wish the owner all the success in the world."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 10, 2009, 08:41:45 PM
WEDNESDAY, MAY 06, 2009
How does the Obama Administration plan to save money? If you guessed "cutting defense," give yourself a gold star and move to the head of the budgetary class.
The Wall Street Journal reports that defense programs will absorb half of the $17 billion in planned cuts, which will be announced on Thursday. Some of the reductions have already been announced, including plans to halt production of the Air Force's F-22 stealth fighter.
The rest of the cuts will come from domestic programs, although it's unclear if the reductions will actually occur. As one administration official told the Journal, virtually all programs have a constituency, meaning that someone will fight the planned reductions.
Not that it really matters. The reductions are largely symbolic, as the WSJ explains:
Compared with the total $3.6 trillion spending plan for 2010, the proposed trims amount to one-half of 1%. Half the cuts would come from defense, especially Pentagon weapons programs already spelled out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, such as trimming back the fleet of advanced F-22 fighter planes. The other half would come from programs that have strong support among progressive activists who cheered Mr. Obama's election. Programs targeted for elimination or consolidation include education and housing programs that Democratic aides said will have fierce advocates among traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Given that reality, it's not inconceivable that some of the domestic initiatives will be saved, forcing bean counters to look for more cuts in the defense budget. So the "50% share" for the Pentagon may well rise, as the administration looks for more ways to save money.
OMB Director Peter Orszag says the planned defense reductions include "all of those" outlined by Defense Secretary Bob Gates last month. Programs targeted for down-sizing (or elimination) include the C-17 transport, the airborne laser and the aforementioned F-22. Some analysts believe that the Air Force has been unfairly singled out for budget cuts, with ominous implications for the service and its airpower mission.
But those sorts of arguments don't get much traction. Just today, pollster Frank Luntz advised Republicans to avoid "principled arguments" in battling the White House on health care reform. Embrace the reform mantra, Luntz argued, and advocate efficiency and savings in the GOP plan.
If you can't get American voters to see the folly of socialized health care, then well-reasoned arguments supporting key defense programs stand absolutely no chance. Welcome to the ill-informed, indifferent U.S. electorate of the early 21st Century. The greatest of the "Great Unwashed." Just the kind of voters that Democrats love.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: May 09, 2009, 06:13:17 PM
Mayhem in the Marais
Nidra Poller from Paris
Firefighters tackle a blazing car during anti-Jewish violence in January
Saturday night in spring 2009, in a quiet corner of the Marais. Sounds of tumult and smashing. A pause. An ominous silence. Then, the first explosion. Gunshots? Gas? It's on the rue des Arquebusiers. A fire engine pulls up, the firefighters jump out, ready for action. They're stymied. They run in circles, shouting to each other like helpless civilians. Cars are burning in the narrow side street and they can't get near the roaring inferno. Seven cars in a row, popping like huge champagne corks. It takes an eternity before a bigger engine arrives. It has a huge hose but it's hours before the last flames are extinguished.
Torched cars are a familiar sight on the French landscape. Tens of thousands are burnt out every year. But this isn't video footage on the evening news. It's not the banlieue in 2005. It's very close and extremely scary.
By Sunday noon, municipal workers had towed away the ghostly skeletons and swept up the debris, baring deep scars in the asphalt. Three weeks later, the scene is a black gaping wound. The stone kerb is cracked and chipped, as if it were made of clay. Metal awnings are buckled and blistered, the wooden façades are burnt away, revealing melted wires and pipes. A period street lamp is gutted. A thick coat of black soot reaches up to the wrought-iron balconies.
Apart from one laconic article in the daily le Parisien, the incident was not considered newsworthy in France. The international readership of the atlasshrugs.com newsblog knew more from my on-the-spot coverage than people living nearby. I was tipped off about another big fire at the Résidence Madeleine Béjart, a city-owned retirement home on rue de la Perle, five minutes' walk from Arquebusiers. That fire started in a decorative alcove on the façade and charred the ceiling of the wide portico. In some places, it's completely burned away.
Who would be torching the Marais? Punk jihadis? Anarchists? Stupid kids? Is this a fluke or the beginning of a new phase? No one in the vicinity seems to care. They dismiss it with a Gallic shrug. "The insurance will pay for the damages." Torching cars could become as commonplace as the graffiti that disfigures beautiful 18th-century mansions. The Marais is Paris's old Jewish quarter, with emphasis on the old. Orthodox families go to synagogue. There's a Jewish day school, some remnants of the declining garment business and the rue des Rosiers with its mix of kosher delicatessens, Judaica shops and encroaching upscale boutiques. But there are more Jews and more anti-Jewish violence in the 19th arrondissement, where Rudy Haddad was beaten into a coma last summer. I'm told the investigation is stalled because they are still trying to prove it was inter-communitarian strife-Jewish gangs fighting Arabs/Muslims/Blacks-instead of gratuitous, violent anti-Semitism.
On the other hand, we can't be sure the Marais fire was aimed at Jews. I start my inquiry with the chief of the third arrondissement police station, who tells me to phone the press attaché at the Préfecture (police headquarters), who refers me to the Cabinet du Parquet (public prosecutor's office), where I speak to a gracious but bemused spokeswoman. "Burned cars?" she asks. "There are so many..." The investigation is under way but if it turns out to be arson, she admits, it is unlikely the police will find the culprits. And the case will be closed. She is surprised that I think the two fires in the Marais might be related.
I had a scoop on the Marais fires, but didn't even know about the "supermarket intifada", in which French supermarkets, such as Carrefour, have been invaded and any produce suspected of originating from Israel is destroyed, until I was told about it by my friend and colleague, Tom Gross (www.tomgrossmedia.com
). Except for a brief mention on the France 2 TV channel, the media have ignored that story.
Boycott Israel is a longstanding passion of Olivia Zemmour, a Tunisian Jew whose venomous hatred of Israel knows no bounds. Goons from her organisation, CAPJPO, now united with an outfit called EuroPalestine, beat up Jewish boys from the left-wing Zionist Hashomer Hazaïr youth movement during a 2003 "peace march".
Look at the EuroPalestine website (www.europalestine.com
) and you don't need to understand French to get the flavour of their unabashed anti-Zionist operations. Islamists face the camera and spew out hate-filled talking points: Israel=Occupation, Genocide, Apartheid. A "commando" with a trademark beard and North African accent holds up an Israeli product, declaring: "We won't allow this stuff chez nous. This is our country." Then he sweeps up bottles of shampoo and threatens: "This is what will happen to anyone who supports Israel."
If it were only a few thousand wackos here, a handful of delinquents there, a few pinpricks in a healthy society, but this is not the case. It is an onslaught and it's moving fast. France-Info radio just reported a little sugar-coated item on the joyous Muslim converts attending the annual UOIF (French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) convention at Le Bourget.
Islamist movements are emboldened because the authorities, the media and secular society have failed to react properly to their show of force in January. Using the Israeli operation in Gaza as a pretext, the French-Arab street swung into action with a vengeance. I watched angry Muslims pouring from all directions into Place de la République on 3 January, hastily donning their keffiehs, marching as to war. While the
media (with the notable exception of an unsigned article in Le Figaro) painted this explosion of organised rage in the soft colours of anti-war protest, Islamist websites proudly displayed their true face: blood-curdling shouts of "Death to Israel, Death to the Jews"; Hamas and Hizbollah flags, slogans; violent attacks on the police; and the destruction of public and private property. Those were not demonstrations, they were acts of conquest by jihad foot soldiers claiming our streets, in our society, for the free expression of hate speech, death threats and genocidal promises.
As anti-Jewish attacks reached a new high, President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to punish anti-Semitism and Islamophobia with equal severity, reinforcing the myth of reciprocal inter-communitarian violence. When two naïve, Jewish 15-year-olds handing out pro-Israel leaflets in front of Lycée Jeansson-Sailly, in the affluent 16th arrondissement, got into a fight with some Muslim kids and won, Le Monde turned the Jewish kids into extremists from the Jewish Defence League. They were detained by the police and the incident was repeatedly cited to balance out real attacks against Jews.
Michaël Benamou, 29, was attacked by three Arab-looking men on the busy platform of the Auber suburban railway station. He told YNet, an Israeli news website: "They called me a ‘f***ing Jew' and said they would kill me. They broke my nose and beat me all over." He has decided to emigrate to Israel. Désiré Amsellem, a 70-year-old Jewish family doctor devoted to his patients of all faiths and origins, was shot in the back as he left his office in Valenton, 10 miles south-east of Paris. Investigators have no clue as to the motive or identity of the killer. On 15 January, after a pro-Hamas demonstration in Strasbourg, 50 men travelled to Metz with the intention of breaking into a synagogue during a service. They were held off by the police. On 24 January, the 1,500 square-metre warehouse of a major distributor of kosher foods burned down in Montreuil, a rough eastern Paris suburb. Obviously arson but, with no graffiti, authorities hesitate to classify it as anti-Semitic.
The attack on 24-year-old Jonathan Guez began as an ordinary carjacking in Fontenay-sous-Bois, a Paris banlieue. "I came out with my car keys in my hand. A masked man stepped up and asked me to hand over the keys. A second man grabbed me from behind. The first man saw the Hebrew letters on my pendant. He asked me if it was Hebrew, and I said, ‘Yes.' He asked, ‘Are you Jewish?' I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘Yes.' He pulled out a butcher's knife, said Israel was drinking the blood of Palestinians. They spoke to each other in Arabic, they insulted me in Arabic and in French. The one with the knife said, ‘I am going to cut you until you bleed.' He slashed once. He said: ‘I am going to cut you until you die,' and drew the knife across my skin a second time, a third time. I fell to my hands and knees. The fourth time, the blood started to flow. Then he kicked me in the head with all his might.
"This shouldn't happen in France. I am French and Jewish and for that I was almost killed. The doctor said the last slash was two millimetres from the carotid."
He is physically and psychologically devastated. His ordeal is among the more than 350 anti-Semitic incidents, from insults to savage beatings, reported for the month of January alone as compared to 460 for the whole of 2008. This has been going on, with ups and downs, since the outbreak of the "al-Aqsa intifada" in September 2000. It has reached proportions that should be unacceptable to any self-respecting person, Jewish or not. We should be aware of the growing danger, not only for Jews but for everyone.
I am American, but I have lived in Paris for more than 35 years. Thousands of Jews have left France, many thousands think that they will have to leave, but hope they won't. Sephardi Jews who fled North Africa in the 1950s and '60s are now hounded and harassed by Muslim immigrants. The energy expended by the Jewish community since 2000 to defend itself and its honour has been weakened by endless insults,
repeated setbacks and the feeling that there is no collective heart in this society that can be truly reached. An "enough is enough" ad published by Jews in Le Figaro in April is more despondent than determined.
And yet, life can be so sweet on a balmy springtime evening in the Marais. How can such grace and charm be sacrificed to hostile forces whose strength is drawn from our weakness? Two years ago this month, Nicolas Sarkozy was triumphantly elected by citizens determined to stem the tide of reckless violence and reassert secular values. What went wrong? Could it be that the surrender to obsessive anti-Zionism is
disabling French society, turning it away from its true purpose, delivering it into the hands of its enemies?
Copyright © Social Affairs Unit Magazines Limited 2008
Source URL: http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/mayhem-in-the-marais-may-09-dispatches-paris-anti-semitism-violence
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I guess AIPAC missed this....
on: May 06, 2009, 09:15:22 PM
Obama to force Israel to give up nukes?
POSTED AT 9:29 AM ON MAY 6, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY
The Washington Times reports that Barack Obama may counter demands from Israel to confront Iran over their nuclear program by confronting Israel over theirs. Eli Lake has the exclusive on the Obama administration’s strategy to force Israel under the umbrella of the non-proliferation treaty, apparently as a condition to getting Iran to surrender their nukes. The effort will include India and Pakistan, and comes from a 2006 Saudi peace plan that would leave Israel at the mercy of the armies surrounding the state:
President Obama’s efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel’s nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say.
The issue will likely come to a head when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Mr. Obama on May 18 in Washington. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to seek assurances from Mr. Obama that he will uphold the U.S. commitment and will not trade Israeli nuclear concessions for Iranian ones.
Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, speaking Tuesday at a U.N. meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said Israel should join the treaty, which would require Israel to declare and relinquish its nuclear arsenal.
Gottemoeller has a track record of demanding Israeli disarmament:
However, Ms. Gottemoeller endorsed the concept of a nuclear-free Middle East in a 2005 paper that she co-authored, “Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security.”
“Instead of defensively trying to ignore Israels nuclear status, the United States and Israel should proactively call for regional dialogue to specify the conditions necessary to achieve a zone free of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons,” she wrote.
The paper recommends that Israel take steps to disarm in exchange for its neighbors getting rid of chemical and biological weapons programs as well as Iran forgoing uranium enrichment.
The Obama administration appointed Gottemoeller, fully cognizant of her thinking on this issue. One has to assume that her appointment to the senior position at State constitutes an endorsement of those positions. It wouldn’t be the most radical thinking about Israel from this administration; Samantha Powers, who works between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, once called for a Western occupation of Israel and forced disarmament of their entire army.
Gottemoeller’s speech had to have been cleared by the Obama administration, and so appears to represent their foreign-policy position. The Bush administration and its predecessors handled the situation more tactfully, supporting a “nuclear-free Middle East” without naming names. Why? The position of Israel in the Middle East is unique. They are not just simply another nation among many. They had been the one successful continuous democracy in that region, save Turkey, and quite obviously surrounded by nations explicitly threatening to annihilate them. Israel had to develop a deterrent that would keep a nation of 5 million people alive among 100 million enemies.
Over the years, some of those neighbors have moderated their stance somewhat towards Israel; Egypt and Jordan have diplomatic relations with Israel, but in Egypt’s case only because Washington pays them to do it. None of the rest of the nations in that region even recognize Israel’s existence, and two of them — Syria and Iran — have a long-running proxy war of terror running against Israel. Under those conditions, Israel can be forgiven for thinking that a deterrent is still a damned good idea.
Besides, the Iranian nuclear program threatens the US as well. We want to stop Iran from building nukes to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, and not just those aimed at Israel. They don’t call us the Great Satan out of respect, after all, and Iranian leadership has been just as annihilationist towards America as it has been towards Israel. Instead of disarming our allies, maybe we should just concentrate on disarming our enemies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 06, 2009, 08:51:08 PM
Pentagon budget threatens airpower, national security, expert warns
April 18, 5:50 PM
When Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently unveiled his new military spending plan, supporters hailed it as “revolutionary.” But others are suggesting that Mr. Gates’ proposal is not only shortsighted; it potentially jeopardizes American security.
With steep cuts in weapons systems—including missile defense—the Gates budget was described as a “break” with long-standing Pentagon procurement and contracting practices, which have produced revolutionary technology, but at a very steep price. Cost overruns and design changes have added billions to the cost of new weapons systems—including many targeted for deep cuts or elimination by Mr. Gates.
Programs on the chopping block include five deemed essential for the U.S. Air Force, and its ability to project airpower around the globe. Under the Gates plan, production of the service’s state-of-the-art F-22 fighter would be capped at 187 aircraft, well below what the Air Force requested.
Additionally, the new budget would eliminate funding for the service’s new rescue helicopter, and halt development of the next-generation bomber and the airborne laser, which targets ballistic missiles in their boost phase. Procurement of the C-17 transport would also end.
While the Gates budget also slashes weapons programs in the other services, one respected defense analyst believes it places an undue burden on the Air Force. Dr. Rebecca Grant, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Lexington Institute says the new defense plan “singles out” the USAF for deep cuts, by halting or eliminating key programs needed for joint war plans.
The result, she says, will be an Air Force that finds it more difficult to deal with advanced threats--and meet the needs of combatant commanders.
As an example of the budget’s adverse impact, Grant cited the decision to shut down the F-22 assembly line after producing just four additional Raptors. beyond those now on order. At one point, the Air Force hoped to buy over 700 F-22, but prior budget cuts forced dramatic reductions in that plan. Earlier this year, service leaders made a push for 60 additional Raptors, which would have raised the inventory to just over 240 aircraft. But Mr. Gates rejected that request.
Dr. Grant says halting F-22 procurement will have far-reaching consequences, in a variety of potential contingencies. She expressed doubt that the Air Force will be able to fully equip a Raptor squadron earmarked for the Hawaii Air National Guard, despite the aircraft’s prominent role in Pacific region war planning.
She also faulted the Defense Secretary for his plan to buy more Joint Strike Fighters instead of the F-22. “He accepted the analysis of his own staff over Air Force warfighters, Grant observed. “He said he wants the 75% solution that JSF provides, but JSF can’t do all the F-22 missions. It complements the F-22 but does not replace its speed and survivability.”
Dr. Grant believes that a smaller Raptor inventory will make it more difficult to deal with a variety of crises, ranging from the SA-20 air defense system in Iran, to “worst case” scenarios involving China, or a conflict along Russia’s borders.
She also suggested that the JSF faces a less-than-certain future, despite Gates’ endorsement. “He didn’t significantly accelerate the program,” Grant continued, “and there’s still the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to come. He has given us no vision of future military forces.”
The Air Force’s long-range strike capabilities took an even greater hit under the Gates proposal, which ends development of a new bomber. Dr. Grant said that cancellation of the program would mean an even greater reliance on the B-2 stealth bomber, which entered operational service in the 1990s.
“If the U.S. had to go after a difficult, long distance target like a hostile missile launcher, only 4-5 B-2s would be available on any given day,” she predicted. Without a new bomber, Grant said that U.S. strategic forces face a “tough environment,” particularly after 2020, when the oldest B-2s will enter their fourth decade of service.
She also wondered if “Gates wants to leave airmen behind on the battlefield,” referring to his termination of the next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopter, or CSAR-X. The defense secretary defended his decision in a recent appearance at the Air War College, claiming that the chopper’s mission requirements—rescuing personnel deep in enemy territory—“made no sense.”
While Gates plans to boost spending for certain systems, including UAVs, Dr. Grant warned that drones are no substitute for aircraft being cancelled, including the F-22 and the new bomber. “UAVs are great,” she said, “but they can’t survive in hostile airspace.” She also noted that one variant of the planned bomber would have been unmanned. Terminating the program “shuts down another key technology path,” Grant said.
As the defense chief makes the rounds of media appearances and war colleges to sell his proposal, there has been little criticism from the service chiefs and other senior, uniformed officers. Grant believes the lack of pushback is hardly a coincidence.
“He’s fired a service chief, two service secretaries and a combatant commander. Generals and admirals are afraid to speak in the climate created by Gates.” Dr. Grant also noted that Secretary Gates has required senior service officials to sign non-disclosure agreements, stifling dissent in the senior ranks.
The Gates plan faces stiffer opposition on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are maneuvering to preserve programs targeted for elimination. “No way will the Senate go along with all of his recommendations,” predicted one Republican staffer.
But it’s still unclear which weapons systems—if any—will survive the process. Earlier this year, a bi-partisan group of Senators sent Mr. Gates a letter, asking him to continue F-22 production. But the defense secretary ignored their advice, and a plea from the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, and the service secretary, Michael Donley, for 60 additional aircraft.
An early showdown on the secretary’s proposal is expected on April 30th, when the Airland Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a scheduled hearing on airpower. Supporters of the next-generation bomber are expected to raise that issue during the hearing, and the Senate aide says that continued development of that aircraft is a “high priority” for members of the subcommittee.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 06, 2009, 08:31:16 PM
|**So, was Hillary right?**http://www.chinapost.com.tw/print/149593.htm
Clinton says U.S. debt to China threatens security
Monday, March 31, 2008
By Jeff Mason, Reuters
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Bush administration has jeopardized national security and the ability to intervene in world crises because of the huge U.S. debt held partly by China, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said on Saturday.
The New York senator, who argues she is better prepared to deal with economic and foreign policy problems than rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, told a rally in Indiana that the United States' US$9 trillion in gross national debt puts it at the mercy of other nations.
She said President George W. Bush's policies contributed to rising U.S. debt and also have hamstrung Washington's ability to lead.
"That is what George Bush's policies mean in real world terms -- that we have put our nation's security and our leadership of the world at risk because of this indebtedness," Clinton said.
Clinton made China the focus of her criticism, which she has repeated throughout Indiana, a state that has suffered from manufacturing job losses that many blame on unfair trade practices and companies outsourcing jobs to China.
Clinton hopes to win Indiana's Democratic nominating contest on May 6 in a bid to close the gap with Obama who leads in amassing delegates who determine the party's nominee.
In her campaign remarks, she lamented China's hold over the U.S. economy.
"We are so dependent upon decisions made in other countries' capitals," Clinton said, singling out China's potential power over U.S. foreign policy decisions because of its financial leverage.
Clinton cited a discussion she had with a retired general who raised a "nightmare scenario" in which China threatened Taiwan and the U.S. president wanted to send ships toward the island to ward off Beijing.
"He said, 'You know, suppose the Chinese decide that they're going to go after Taiwan the way we see them, you know, with Tibet,'" Clinton said, describing the general's remarks and referring to the recent unrest in Tibet.
"'We start to move the fleet, and the Chinese say, 'Fine. You do that, we will dump your dollars. We will flood the market. We will not buy any more of your debt.'"
China currently holds about US$490 billion in U.S. Treasury securities and has foreign exchanges reserves totaling more than US$1.5 trillion.
Clinton accused Beijing of manipulating its currency and of not holding its exporters to the same health and environmental standards that U.S. companies must meet.
The U.S. trade deficit with China soared last year to a record US$252 billion even as the U.S. trade gap with the rest of the world decreased.
Many U.S. lawmakers complain that China deliberately undervalues its currency to boost exports and limit imports and have pressed Bush to be more aggressive in addressing the issue.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 06, 2009, 08:22:52 PM
Big Risk: Surging Debt Makes U.S. More Dependent on China, Russia, Gulf States
Posted Sep 15, 2008 12:07pm EDT by Aaron Task in Investing, Recession, Banking
The demise of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns this year has investors contemplating the long-term outlook for other once-venerable institutions, including Dow members Citigroup, AIG and Bank of America.
But there's an even bigger financial institution with greater debt and an increasing level of bad loans on its books: The U.S. government.
Given the actions already taken, from the Housing Bill to the nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. deficit could double to $800 billion in two years, says Nouriel Roubini, of NYU's Stern School and RGE Monitor. (Even worse, the official government deficit figures exclude the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare.)
The big risk is that foreign holders of Treasuries will no longer accept low interest rates to help fund U.S. debt spending, says Roubini, noting countries like China, Russia and oil-producing nations in the Middle East have becoming increasingly important holders of Treasuries. Should they demand higher rates to hold U.S. debt or, worse, dump their holdings, it could have profound ramifications on the U.S. economy and the value of the dollar.
Roubini further notes the Federal Reserve has put its balance sheet -- and independence -- at risk via its intimate involvement in thus-far failed attempts to stem the crisis.
It's tempting to dismiss the notion of a "run" on the U.S. government as unthinkable and some bears have been warning for years, even decades, about such a worst-case scenario. But after the events of this weekend, much less the past six months, it's clear that (almost) anything is possible and no scenario too "outrageous" to seriously contemplate.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: May 06, 2009, 07:52:19 PM
March 16, 2009
The Obama Budget: Spending, Taxes, and Doubling the National Debt
by Brian M. Riedl
During his presidential campaign, President Barack Obama promised the American people a "net spending cut."1 Instead, he signed a "stimulus" bill that spends $800 billion, and he has proposed a budget that would:
Increase spending by $1 trillion over the next decade;
Include an additional $250 billion placeholder for another financial bailout;
Likely lead to a 12 percent increase in discretion ary spending;
Permanently expand the federal government by nearly 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over pre-recession levels;
Raise taxes on all Americans by $1.4 trillion over the next decade;
Raise taxes for 3.2 million taxpayers by an average of $300,000 over the next decade;
Call for a pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) law despite offering a budget that would violate it by $3.4 trillion;
Assume a rosy economic scenario that few econo mists anticipate;
Leave permanent deficits averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers; and
Double the publicly held national debt to over $15 trillion ($12.5 trillion after inflation).2
Before the recession, federal spending totaled $24,000 per U.S. household. President Obama would hike it to $32,000 per household by 2019— an inflation-adjusted $8,000-per-household expan sion of government. Even the steep tax increases planned for all taxpayers would not finance all of this spending: The President's budget would add trillions of dollars in new debt.
Yet, the President's budget may even understate future spending and deficits. It assumes that the temporary stimulus spending provisions will be allowed to expire and that the $634 billion down payment on universal health care will not be expanded. It proposes destructive income tax increases and a new cap-and-trade energy tax that could devastate the manufacturing sector. Yet, somehow, the budget assumes much faster eco nomic growth than forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Blue Chip Consensus.
Overall, the President's budget represents a sharp break from the policies that created the most prosperous 25-year period in American economic history. Instead, it puts politicians in charge of an increasing portion of the economy. Congress should discard this tax-and-spend budget and start from scratch.
Doubling Down on President Bush's Economic Policies
President Obama has framed his budget as a break from the "failed policies" of the Bush Admin istration. Actually, his budget doubles down on President George W. Bush's borrow, spend, and bail out policies. For example:
President Bush expanded the federal budget by a historic $700 billion through 2008. President Obama would add another $1 trillion.
President Bush began a string of expensive finan cial bailouts. President Obama is accelerating that course.
President Bush created a Medicare drug entitle ment that will cost an estimated $800 billion in its first decade. President Obama has proposed a $634 billion down payment on a new govern ment health care fund.
President Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation. Presi dent Obama would double it.
President Bush became the first President to spend 3 percent of GDP on federal antipoverty programs. President Obama has already in creased this spending by 20 percent.
President Bush tilted the income tax burden more toward upper-income taxpayers. President Obama would continue that trend.
President Bush ran budget deficits averaging $300 billion annually. After harshly criticizing Bush's budget deficits, President Obama proposed a budget that would run deficits averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers and the troops return home from Iraq.
The President's tax policy is the only sharp break in economic policy. President Bush reduced taxes by approximately $2 trillion; President Obama has proposed raising taxes by $1.4 trillion. In doing so, President Obama has rejected the most successful Bush fiscal policy. In the 18 months following the 2003 tax rate cuts, economic growth rates doubled, the stock market surged 32 percent, and the econ omy created 1.8 million jobs, followed by 5.2 mil lion more jobs in the next 27 months. Not until the housing bubble burst several years later did the economy finally lose steam. Pro-growth lawmakers should embrace tax relief policies that have proven successful, while rejecting the runaway spending that has been business as usual in Washington.
The Mythical "$2 Trillion in Savings"
During his recent address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama previewed his budget by asserting that the Administration has "already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade." This is simply not true. His budget increases spending by $1 trillion over the next decade, which he attempts to offset by reclassifying as "savings" $1.4 trillion in tax increases and $1.5 trillion in reduced spending in Iraq. However, gov ernment savings have always referred to spending cuts that save taxpayer dollars, not tax increases that feed the government. Furthermore, the Iraq "sav ings" are measured against an implausible spending baseline that assumes a permanent $180 billion bud get for the global war on terrorism, without any troop withdrawals through 2019. This is the equiv alent of a family deciding to "save" $10,000 by first assuming an expensive vacation and then not taking it. Without these false savings, only the $1 trillion spending hike remains, and that does not account for the extra $250 billion proposed for another round of financial bailouts in the current fiscal year.
Despite the claimed savings, this budget undeni ably expands government. Before the recession, rev enues were 18 percent of GDP and spending was 20 percent. After the recession, President Obama would maintain revenues slightly above 19 percent of GDP and spending at over 22 percent. Thus, new tax revenues would finance new spending, rather than deficit reduction. President Obama's structural bud get deficit would exceed President Bush's.
The President also calls for bringing back the PAYGO statute, which existed from 1991 through 2002. Under this law, if the sum of a given year's entitlement or tax legislation expanded the budget deficit, an automatic across-the-board cut ("seques tration") in entitlement spending would be trig gered at the end of the year. The President's PAYGO proposal lacks credibility because his own budget blueprint would violate PAYGO by $3.4 trillion over 10 years.
This disconnect between PAYGO rhetoric and reality is nothing new: Congress violated the 1991– 2002 PAYGO law by more than $700 billion and then enacted legislation cancelling every single sequestration that would have enforced the law. Although Congress created its own PAYGO rule in 2007, it has waived it several times at a cost of $600 billion. Conse quently, the President's PAYGO pro posal should be considered a hollow gimmick that will be bypassed any time it proves inconvenient.
Doubling the National Debt
President Obama's pledge to halve the budget deficit by 2013 is hardly ambitious. The budget deficit will quadruple in 2009 to $1.75 trillion, and cutting that level in half would still leave deficits twice as high as under President Bush. Furthermore, three expected developments—the end of the recession, withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and phaseout of temporary stimulus spending— would halve the budget deficit by 2013. The President's budget shows deficits averaging $600 billion even after the economy recovers and the troops return home from Iraq. That is not good enough.
President Bush presided over a $2.5 trillion increase in the public debt through 2008. Setting aside 2009 (for which Presidents Bush and Obama share responsibility for an additional $2.6 trillion in public debt), President Obama's budget would add $4.9 trillion in public debt from the beginning of 2010 through 2016— nearly double the amount accumulated under Pres ident Bush over the same number of years. Overall, the public debt level would double over the next decade to $15.4 trillion ($12.5 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars). (See Chart 1.) At 67 percent of GDP, this would constitute America's largest debt burden since immediately following World War II.
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
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