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May 28, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Doesn't Understand "The Rule of Law"

Don't take it from me, here's what the New York Times reports

Sotomayor's Appellate Opinions Are Unpredictable, Lawyers and Scholars Say

In the decade she has served on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals -- the busiest appellate court for business and financial matters in the nation -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor has authored some 150 civil and business cases and voted on hundreds more. But many lawyers and scholars who have examined her record closely say that her opinions in this field are unpredictable, and do not put her clearly in a pro- or anti-business camp.

But as former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy pointed out yesterday, the point of the law is to be predictable. It's what "rule of law" is all about.

But wait, it gets worse Ed Whelan, writing at National Review, goes through a 1996 speech later turned into a law review article. It's clear that Sotomayor either has no idea what the term "rule of law" means, or she's so wrapped up in pushing her agenda that she doesn't care:

In 1996, Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered a speech to law students that she then turned into a law-review article (which she co-authored with Nicole A. Gordon), "Returning Majesty to the Law and Politics: A Modern Approach" (30 Suffolk U.L. Rev. 35 (1996)). The article is muddled and mediocre--it's certainly not something that those struggling to portray Sotomayor as brilliant would want to highlight--but I will focus less on its overall quality than on some of Sotomayor's arguments:

1. Sotomayor argues, "It is our responsibility"--the responsibility of lawyers and judges--"to explain to the public how an often unpredictable system of justice is one that serves a productive, civilized, but always evolving, society." She identifies--and treats as equally legitimate--four "reasons for the law's unpredictability": (a) "laws are written generally and then applied to different factual situations"; (b) "many laws as written give rise to more than one interpretation"; (c) "a given judge (or judges) may develop a novel approach to a specific set of facts or legal framework that pushes the law in a new direction"; and (d) the purpose of a trial is not simply to search for the truth but to do so in a way that protects constitutional rights.

Somehow Sotomayor doesn't see fit even to question whether, and under what circumstances, it's proper or desirable for a judge to "develop a novel approach" that "pushes the law in a new direction." Instead, she complains about "recurring public criticism about the judicial process," and she laments that lawyers "have also unfortunately joined the public outcry over excessive verdicts and seemingly ridiculous results reached in some cases" (as though lawyers have some special responsibility to indulge judicial excess). The fact that Sotomayor cites as her lead example of unwelcome "public criticism" an article "describing Senator Dole's criticism of liberal ideology of Clinton judicial appointments and American Bar Association" lends credence to the suspicion that Sotomayor is less interested in the majesty of the law than in the majesty of liberal activist judges.

2. Sotomayor discusses "the law" without distinguishing meaningfully between the legislature's role in making law and the judiciary's role in applying it. For example, she asserts:

The public expects the law to be static and predictable. The law, however, is uncertain and responds to changing circumstances.

What the public is entitled to expect is that judges will apply the law neutrally, according to established principles. That's a large part of what the "rule of law" means. It's the province of legislatures to change the law (prospectively, of course) to "respond[] to changing circumstances."

3. Sotomayor complains that "the public fails to appreciate the importance of indefiniteness in the law." But beyond pointing out the uncontroversial fact that some indefiniteness is inevitable (for reasons (a), (b), and (d) in point 1), she nowhere makes the case that indefiniteness is somehow a positive good. She relies heavily on Jerome Frank's legal realist views about the development of law, but nowhere explains why legislatures aren't the proper forum for (to use Frank's phrase) "adapting [law] to the realities of ever-changing social, industrial, and political conditions."

4. As if Sotomayor's unwarranted celebration of "indefiniteness" weren't enough to alarm anyone who cares about the rule of law, anyone interested in civil-justice reform ought to take note of Sotomayor's criticism that "legislators have introduced bills that place arbitrary limits on jury verdicts in personal injury cases. But to do this is inconsistent with the premise of the jury system." Oh, really? How can it be that legislation can determine when juries should rule for plaintiffs but not limit the amounts they can award?

Of course, judges aren't supposed to develop a "novel approach." They're supposed to apply the law, whether they like it or not. Sotomayor, on the other hand, wants to legislate from the bench and enact a radical left agenda.

Rule of Law, Not the Rule of Lawyers
Stop Sonia Sotomayor

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Rule of Law, Not the Rule of Lawyers

Over at National Review, former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy explains why we must adhere to the rule of law, and not the rule of lawyers

It's not the rule of law, it's the rule of lawyers: That's the central message conveyed by Pres. Barack Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, a judge of the Second Circuit federal appeals court, to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court next October.

Obama and the lawyers in his administration are fond of invoking the rule of law. Yet that golden standard stands on the conceit, honored more in the breach than in the observance, that "we are a nation of laws, not of men." It holds that there is an objective corpus of law -- of the community's reasoned consensus, shorn of passion, fear, or favor -- under which we've agreed to be governed and to which those chosen to represent us owe their fidelity. It's a nice ideal. Increasingly, though, our real governing standard is the one made infamous by the legendary litigator Roy Cohn: "Don't tell me what the law is. Tell me who the judge is."

Our ideal of judging was perhaps best explained by John Roberts during his 2005 confirmation hearings. The judge is like an umpire, Roberts mused. The umpire calls balls and strikes; he doesn't design or alter the rules of the game. That's how it's supposed to work. The judge's courtroom is the level playing field where even the visiting team can win if the law -- the objective law -- is on its side. Sure, the crowd and the local paper will root, root, root for the home team. The rules, however, don't have a rooting interest. Justice is blind. The umpire is there to see that justice is done -- not manufactured.

The president doesn't view the world that way. He wants the umpire to pick winners and losers, not simply to preside over a fair fight -- "fair," in this context, meaning a fight under rules agreed upon before the game gets started.


Meanwhile, over at TalkingPointsMemo, former Secretary of Labor (1993 - 1997) Robert Reich completely misses the point:

Although as an appellate judge she has sided with defendants, inmates, convicted felons, and environmentalists, she has also taken decidedly conservative stances. In 2002, she ruled against an abortion rights group that claimed the so-called "Mexico City Policy," prohibiting U.S. funding for foreign groups performing or supporting abortion services, violated their First Amendment rights. She reasoned that the government is "free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position." In a 2004 case she ruled in favor of anti-abortion protesters who claimed a city had improperly trained police officers who allegedly used excessive force on them. And she has ruled against a number of minority plaintiffs in discrimination cases.

And she has an impeccable upward-through-education-and-hard-work pedigree: She grew up in public housing in the Bronx, the daughter of a factory worker, and got a law degree from Yale.

The issue is not whether her rulings favored conservatives or liberals. The issue is whether she followed the law or not. Reich reveals his own view of the judiciary by his statements. He sees it in purely political terms, which is a disastrous view for the rule of law.

Further, while it may be personally inspiring that she worked upward from poverty, it makes absolutely no difference as to her qualifications for this or any other judgeship.

Posted by Tom at 7:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2009

Stop Sonia Sotomayor

I am far too busy this week to post much of anything, and will probably not have a chance to put up anything again until next week. As such, I'll let the editors of The Washington Times express my opinion as to why Sonia Sotomayor should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court:

With his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama has abandoned all pretense of being a post-partisan president. While he may like to think of himself as a thoughtful moderate soaring above the issues that divide America, his actions reveal what hides under that hopeful lining.

Presidents usually nominate judges that espouse their philosophy. So what does this nomination tell us about Mr. Obama's true colors?

Even the liberal establishment worries that Judge Sotomayor tilts too far to the left. New Republic essayist Jeffrey Rosen reports that fellow liberals who have watched or worked with her closely "expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and... [they have said] she is 'not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench.' "

A suspiciously high number of her decisions have been overruled by higher courts. Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network said that record shows "she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."

There will be much to say in days to come about Judge Sotomayor's manifest lack of appropriate judicial restraint and about other problems in her record. For now, though, three red flags beg for attention.

"Where Policy Is Made": Speaking at Duke University Law School in 2005, Judge Sotomayor said the "Court of Appeals is where policy is made." On its face, the assertion runs counter to more than 200 years of American legal tradition holding that courts are merely meant to interpret existing law, not actively make policy choices.

Immediately realizing she was on thin ice, the judge continued: ". . . and I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don't 'make' law." To much laughter, and with facial and hand gestures to indicate that her next line was to be taken with humor as a useful fiction, she added: "I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it."

But judicial activism is no joke. It undermines the Constitution and substitutes judicial whim for democratic decision-making. Unelected judges, answerable to no one but themselves and serving for life, can all too easily become dangerous oligarchs.

White judges know less:
Judge Sotomayor seems to think that inherent racial and sexual differences are not simply quirks of genetics, but make some better than others. Consider her 2002 speech at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said. "I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

She also accepted as potentially valid the idea that the "different perspectives" of "men and women of color" are due to "basic differences in logic in reasoning" due to "inherent physiological or cultural differences."

If a white male had said these openly racialist words in a prepared speech, his chances of reaching the U.S. Supreme Court would be gone in an instant. Instead, it seems that these outlandish remarks are what qualified Judge Sotomayor in Mr. Obama's eyes.

Rewarding Discrimination: Judge Sotomayor seems to favor racial discrimination. Consider the case of Ricci v. DeStefano. In that controversial case, 19 white firemen were denied promotion because no blacks scored high enough on a race-neutral test to also be promoted. Judge Sotomayor ruled against the white firefighters.

If Mr. Obama wanted a judge with the right "empathy," he struck out with Judge Sotomayor. One of the white firefighters denied promotion, Frank Ricci, is dyslexic. In order to ace the promotion exam, he quit a second job, spent $1,000 for instruction materials, and spent many hours reading those books into an audio tape to help him study. For his extraordinary efforts, he finished sixth out of 77 applicants for promotion - but then was denied, simply because he is white.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jose Cabranes, appointed by a Democratic president, complained that the ruling written by Judge Sotomayor and two other judges "contains no reference whatsoever to the constitutional claims at the core of this case."

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Ricci v. DeStefano before the Senate votes on Judge Sotomayor's nomination. It would be an extraordinary rebuke were a current nominee to be overruled on such a controversial case by the very justices she is slated to join.

Judge Sotomayor seems to be the most radical person ever nominated for the high court. To continue to command public respect, the Senate will have to ask her some hard questions. The simplest one to ask will be the hardest one for her to answer: Given her statements against whites and males, can she be fair to all Americans?

No. But then, she doesn't seem interested in being fair, or in applying the law as it is written. She seems determined to advance a radical leftist agenda no matter what the law says. Liberals call it their "living constitution" doctrine. I call it making it up as you go along.

Posted by Tom at 9:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. The occasion was his acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of his address.

Douglas MacArthur

General Westmoreland, General Grove, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, General?" And when I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code -- the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now -- as one of the world's noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory -- always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world -- a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men's minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation's war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2009

Our Classless President

That President Obama seems to think he's still campaigning for the White House is bad enough. Most of his speeches, it seems, are peppered with blame for this country in general or George W Bush in particular. Just this week, when talking about the prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, he spoke about the "mess" he had inherited, and that in the days after 9-11 officials in the Bush Administration made "hasty" decisions "based upon fear rather than foresight."

Uh huh. He of course, is far too smart, and all of his decisions would have been perfect. The man is a legend in his own mind.

In his weekly radio address today he paid tribute to American troops throughout history who have paid the ultimate price, but just had to include a cheap shot at his predecessor (h/t Powerline):

And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve. That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear - and all who have worn - the proud uniform of our country

But now that Obama is our president, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect.

John Hinderaker at Powerline summed it up:

As Chris Stirewalt notes:
It gets little notice, but even to this day Bush makes calls on wounded veterans at military hospitals, corresponds with families of fallen servicemembers and gives his own money to veterans charities. In office, Bush hugely increased funding for veterans programs and worked relentlessly to improve the lot of ordinary troops.

It would be interesting to know how much of his own money Barack Obama has given to veterans' charities over the years. I'd hazard a guess: zero.

Obama's incessant attacks on the Bush administration tell us nothing about former President Bush, but a great deal about Barack Obama: the man has no class.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 23, 2009

Iraq Briefing - May 12, 2009 - Kirkuk Still Under Dispute

This briefing is by Colonel Ryan Gonsalves, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division. Multinational Division-North. Col Gonsalves spoke via satellite from Kirkuk with Kimberly Kagan. Dr. Kagan is founder and President of the Institute for the Study of War.

MND-North is also known as Task Force Lightning. Responsible for an area including the cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul, and Samarra, MND-North is headquartered by the 25th Infantry Division based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team is also known as the Blackjack Brigade, is based at FOB Warrior, Kirkuk, and is responsible for the Tamim province.. A complete Iraq order of battle is at the ISW website.

Col. Gonsalves reports to Major General Robert L. Caslen Jr, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. Caslin, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 of last year replaced Gen. David Petraeus. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Here is part 1. Follow the link here. for the transcript and other 3 parts

The most important thing to note in this briefing is that we are still fighting for control of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is in the north of Iraq, about a third of the way from Mosul to Baghdad. Insurgents have mostly been cleared from the rest of Iraq, and only remain as a force in the north. See Iraq Briefing - 14 April 09 - Mini-Surge in Mosul for more information about operations in MND-North.

From the colonel's opening statement:

GONSALVES: ...Blackjack is currently integrated as part of the security framework in Kirkuk, a disputed area in Northern Iraq. Since arriving, Blackjack was directed to enhance Kurdish‑Arab relations and to disrupt insurgent activities in Kirkuk. Our challenge during the integration was fully understanding the nature of Kurd‑Arab tension and promptly defining the operating environment, so that we could ensure that we were able to contribute to security in the area in a meaningful way with our Iraqi partners.

We have identified thirteen drivers of instability in Kirkuk, and we have worked through the mitigators for each, which have translated into enduring framework tasks for units throughout our area.

Col Gonsalves then breaks down the "drivers of instability" as follows:

1. a disputed status of Kirkuk and the KRG boundary,
2. a perceived lack of legitimate representative governance,
3. security forces,
4. insurgents,
5. oil,
6. drought,
7. SOI transition, (Sons of Iraq, originally called Concerned Local Citizens)
8. delivery of public services,
9. land‑property disputes,
10. the return and absorption of displaced people and unemployment

Maybe I'm not quite counting as he is or I missed something but that's what I got from the text. He continues

GONSALVES: Key enduring tasks for Blackjack include protecting the people, enabling the political process to move forward, enabling communication, building trust within all communities, maintaining neutrality, reporting to our higher headquarters, liaisoning with the Peshmerga and connecting security forces throughout Kirkuk.

Protecting the people so that the political process can move forward is the entire key to counterinsurgency, as spelled out by Gen Petraeus in his 2006 U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. FM 3-24 provided the theoretical basis for the strategy change in what is popularly called the "surge."

It is important to note that security must come first, and only then is political progress possible. It won't work the other way around.

KAGAN: Thank you so much, Colonel Gonsalves, and thank you very much for describing the work that the brigade is doing.

I would like to go back to these drivers of instability that you mentioned and ask you, on the ground in Kirkuk and in neighboring areas, what kind of tension do you see between the Arab and Kurdish population, and how does it manifest itself on the ground?

GONSALVES: Well, for example, in Kirkuk City, the Kurds, the Arabs, the Turkmen, Christians, they all have been working together for a number of years, and they feel very comfortable with them solving their problems at the lowest level.

What we saw when we first got here was a very structured Provincial Council that has been together since 2003, with some minor changes. So they feel that, politically, they can solve their problems.

What they see is suggestions or implementation of programs from the Central Government that disrupt their ability to govern themselves. So, for example, we have had a security group formed from Baghdad to look at how they are going to infuse additional security forces in here, what changes do they need to make, and it has upset a lot of the people. Now what we see is Arabs supporting this working group in order to probably, possibly bring in more Iraqi Army and issue an operations command here, move some of the Peshmerga out, put in some national police. So that those are the things that we see that would drive a wedge or some instability between the Kurds and Arabs.

The locals want more autonomy than the central government is willing to allow. Without more details it's impossible to know who is in the right, but obviously it is something that needs to be cleared up.

Continuing on to the makeup of the enemy insurgents that are still in Kirkuk:

KAGAN: You spoke about enemy groups coming into the area. Can you tell me what enemy groups you are actually encountering? Let's begin with that one.

GONSALVES: Well, right now, obviously, the AQI influence is still here, and that's what we think are the results of the VBIEDs that we saw and the first two round of attacks in March and April, and then the one that happened last night and today, we believe are AQI.

But also, we have a second set here, and that is the JRTN, and we talked about this a couple of months ago, the Naqshbandi. Some of the extremists are funded through Syria, through al‑Duri and his network, some of the former Baathists. We see, you know, anywhere from two to 400 of those elements here within the province, and we are seeing attacks from those individuals.

Now, we are collecting on those cells and acting on those cells and capturing some of those elements, but it takes a while to get into those cell networks and neutralize those cell networks.

So those are the two primary elements that we see here in Kirkuk.

Many Americans correctly worry that for all that we have done to build up the new Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, they are too dependent on us. This is to some extent correct, but in briefing after briefing I have seen commanders stress that it is the Iraqis who are taking the lead in operations, with American forces there only as backup and to provide advice.

KAGAN: Can you tell me what ‑‑ we wonder if you've conducted some operations with your Iraqi Security Force partners against these enemy groups, and if so, could you describe a couple of them for us? For example, we are sort of checking on some operations that were ongoing last month.

GONSALVES: Yes. And obviously, the ISF, both the IP and IA are always in the lead. They are warranted operations, and the majority of the time, we are providing the enablers, the air weapons team or the scout weapons team, ISR assets, medivac, the outer cordon or the Quick Reaction Force (QRF). Those are the types of things that we are supplying them with.

For many of the Iraqi Police, they do the operations pretty much solely on their own, and same thing for the Iraqi Army. Now, obviously, some brigades are more capable than others, and we are working with those to build those capacities and capabilities of those forces up, but we have done ‑‑ like I told you before, we have captured fourteen HVIs (High Value Individuals). Many of those have been done by the Iraqis by themselves, and obviously, with the capabilities that we have, we can locate targets, help them locate those targets.

There is much more, and you'll want to watch the videos and read the transcript to get a full understanding of the situation in Kirkuk.

It is disturbing that we are still having trouble in Kirkuk and Mosul, but the casualty count and level of violence is nowhere near 2006 levels. I haven't seen articles indicating that the situation is getting out of control, and in press briefings the reporters don't seem overly concerned either. I'll keep an eye on the situation and report as necessary.

My overall assessment is that Iraq is a country with huge problems, but one that has progressed tremendously in the space of just a few years. The insurgency remains in the north, but seems to be under control. Whether the Iraqi security forces can keep things under control when we completely withdraw is anyone's guess, but I am optimistic that they can. There will continue to be the occasional "spectacular attack," but we have to put them in the context of the overall trend in violence. Just as important is political, economic, and social progress. The Iraqis are headed in the right direction, but have aways to go. But so far so good.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2009

Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and the New York Terror Plot

Former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered an address before the American Enterprise Institute earlier today that is a must watch. At the very least read it in it's entirety, which you can here.

President Obama also gave a a speech today about national security.

The short version is that Cheney gave a responsible address in which he reviewed the issues at hand and reviewed the threat and discussed what the Bush Administration had done to counter it.

Obama acted like a jerk.

First up is our former Vice President

(video h/t American Power)

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Read and watch the entire thing, but here's the money quote:

Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat - what the Congress called "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count up the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place.

We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We'd just been hit by a foreign enemy - leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.

Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn't know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.

These are just a few of the problems we had on our hands. And foremost on our minds was the prospect of the very worst coming to pass - a 9/11 with nuclear weapons.

Yup. It seemed common sense back then that we'd be hit again, and maybe quite soon. We had been caught with such total surprise, and the devastating nature of the attack was something out of a Tom Clancy novel. Indeed, in his 1995 Debt of Honor, a Japanese airline pilot crashes a 747 into the U.S. Capitol building during a state of the union address, killing the president, vice president, and most members of congress. It was an interesting book, but as I read it I thought "that would make a cool movie but it could never happen." 9-11 dispelled such thoughts.

More on what Cheney said, but before that or we go to President Obama, let's review one of the biggest stories of the week; four Muslims were arrested Wednesday for plotting to blow up two New York Synagogues and shoot down military aircraft with Stinger missiles. The story from Fox News:

(F)our domestic terror suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, N.Y. -- were arrested late Wednesday after they allegedly planted a 37-pound device that they believed was a bomb in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple, a synagogue in the Bronx, and two other mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, another synagogue a few blocks away. They also allegedly planned to shoot Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles at planes at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, about 70 miles north of New York City.

FBI investigators had been monitoring the men and, through an informant, provided them with an inactive (Stinger) missile and inert C-4 explosives, according to the federal complaint filed against the suspects.

Don't think that because the FBI supplied a fake missile that they couldn't have gotten it elsewhere. From the same story

"I don't know if you could buy it on Craigslist, but there's certainly a lot of people who engage in this type of contraband," Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, said of the anti-aircraft Stinger missile. "They're not that big, either, so they could've been smuggled into the United States."

Emerson said the 5-foot-long weapon, which has a range of 5 miles and weighs 35 pounds fully armed, could have been bought in a number of black arms markets in Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Pakistan, Gaza and Saudi Arabia. The missile system could be purchased for "tens of thousands of dollars," Emerson said.

To be sure, these guys weren't the brightest bulbs. From the AP

The four men were ex-convicts who envisioned themselves as holy warriors, ambitious enough to concoct a plot to blow up synagogues and military planes, authorities said. But they were amateurs every step of the way. They had trouble finding guns and bought cameras at Wal-Mart to photograph their targets. One was a convicted purse snatcher, another smoked marijuana the day the plot was to be carried out.

Muslims fueled by hatred of America and Jews, they spent months scouting targets and securing what they thought was a surface-to-air missile system and powerful explosives -- all under the watch of an FBI informant.

But before we get to cocky, let's remember that after the 1993 world trade center attack we laughed when one of the terrorists went back to the rental place to claim his deposit on the truck that had been blown up in the attack. I think we all know who got the last laugh on that one.

They're still out there, folks, and they're trying to get us. Odds are that sooner or later they'll succeed again. Whether or not they're homegrown or imported from the wilds of Waziristan doesn't matter.

Independent Jihad

Muslim terrorists need not be connected to al Qaeda or any other terrorist network to be part of the global jihad. I say this because you can expect this plot to be dismissed in days to come if no connection is found.

In May 2006 a story in the Washington Post
describes the career of one Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who in January of 2005 posted a treatise called "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance" under the pen name Abu Musab al-Suri on the Internet (I can't find an exact link for the work, but see a description here). From the Post story

Nasar, 47, outlines a strategy for a truly global conflict on as many fronts as possible and in the form of resistance by small cells or individuals, rather than traditional guerrilla warfare. To avoid penetration and defeat by security services, he says, organizational links should be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The enemy is strong and powerful, we are weak and poor, the war duration is going to be long and the best way to fight it is in a revolutionary jihad way for the sake of Allah," he said in one paper. "The preparations better be deliberate, comprehensive and properly planned, taking into account past experiences and lessons."

Let's also not forget the 2007 JFK Bomb Plot and the Fort Dix "Jersey Jihadists." If we hadn't caught them would have caused untold havoc. Again, one day they're bound to get through our nets.

On to Obama

So what has our President been up to lately? As usual, he blames the Bush Administration for our troubles. In a speech today on national security he said that he inherited a "mess"

I knew when I ordered Guantanamo closed that it would be difficult and complex. There are 240 people there who have now spent years in legal limbo. In dealing with this situation, we do not have the luxury of starting from scratch. We are cleaning up something that is - quite simply - a mess a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my Administration is forced to deal with on a constant basis, and that consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.

He also pontificates that

After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era - that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.

Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that - too often - our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us - Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens - fell silent.

What a jerk.

Throwing out the bone that the decisions "were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people" is a throwaway line that he clearly doesn't mean. Obama has no respect for anyone but himself. He is sooooooo smart that if he had been president at the time he wouldn't have fallen for the "fear" and of course would have calmly and cooly advised that we were all getting excited over nothing and that there would be no further attacks.

Because he is Obama, and the world will bend to his will. I swear the man believes his own propaganda.

Let's go back to someone who can think responsibly about national security, Dick Cheney. Here's what he said about the likes of Obama and his type in his speech at the AEI:

To make certain our nation country never again faced such a day of horror, we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks....

(Our strategy) has resulted in serious blows against enemy operations ... the take-down of the A.Q. Khan network ... and the dismantling of Libya's nuclear program. It's required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan - and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden. Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive - and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed....

Our government prevented attacks and saved lives through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States. The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of the New York Times got it and put it on the front page. After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of everyone killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11. Now here was that same newspaper publishing secrets in a way that could only help al-Qaeda. It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn't serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.

In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations....

Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.

I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about "values." Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11. We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance. Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought, and we in fact obtained, specific information on terrorist plans.

Game, Set and Match; Dick Cheney.

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May 18, 2009

An Insurgency Ends

The war in Sri Lanka between the government and the Tamil Tigers isn't one I've followed. Truth be told that before I started to write this I probably knew about as much about it as I did the one in northwestern Africa between the Polisario Front and Morocco. As such, I'll be careful. Nevertheless, it would seem that given our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq it may hold a few lessons.

Dead: Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels

Velupillai Prabhakaran

A quick summary of the situation from Fox News

Sri Lanka declared Monday it had crushed the final resistance of the Tamil Tigers, killing the rebel group's leader along with his son and other commanders, according to reports.

The death of Velupillai Prabhakaran came as the government claimed to have seized control of the island state for the first time in 26 years, ending Asia's longest-running war...

Sri Lanka's army chief, Lt. Gen. Sareth Fonseka, said on television that his troops routed the last rebels from the northern war zone Monday morning and were working to identify Prabhakaran's body from among the dead.

News reports on Sunday had the Tigers admitting defeat, so this is not just hot air from Fonseka.

A useful timeline is also on the Fox website. Depending on where you date the start of the conflict, it lasted somewhere around 26 years.

What of it, and why should we care?

The most obvious lesson is that defeating even large insurgencies with military force can be done. We therefore should not be demoralized that after 7 1/2 years in Afghanistan we don't seem close to victory. We should also be proud that we were able to mostly defeat the insurgency in Iraq in less than 6 years (though I will be the first to admit that we're not out of the woods just yet).

Richard Fernandez has the scoop at the Belmont Club

...it may be the manner in which Colombo (the largest city and former administrative capital of Sri Lanka) finished the Tigers that is the real news. UN and Western appeals to the Sri Lankan government to halt the fighting were disregarded; it also barred the Western Media from the battlefront and paid scarce attention to 'international world opinion'. The New York Times reported, almost bitterly that Colombo had the temerity to win in violation of all the rules:
Assertions about fighting and casualties in the Sri Lanka war cannot be verified because the government severely restricts access by independent journalists. Several, including two from The New York Times, have been prohibited from entering the country, and one who flew late Sunday to Colombo, the capital, was ordered to leave on a return flight. ... There is no doubt that Mr. Rajapaksa's government appears poised to achieve what none of his predecessors managed in 25 years: to rout the Tamil Tigers, who controlled nearly a fourth of the island, and destroy their ranks as a conventional army. As the war's climax approached, both sides had rebuffed repeated calls from the United Nations and several foreign countries to spare civilians caught in the war zone. The United Nations estimates that at least 7,000 have died since January.

A corollary is that we should not listen to those who insist that insurgencies can only be defeated by political means. In most cases, it takes both military force and political action. While the military can deal fatal blows alone it cannot work. The lesson of Iraq, and as elucidated in Field Manual 3-24 (see below) is that one must first use the military to secure the population, then political and economic action is required to win them over. In this regard, Sri Lanka 's victory over the Tamil Tigers seems something of an aberration. But maybe over the years they were able to divorce the Tigers from their ethnic Tamil base, I don't know.

Contrary to what some would have you believe, it was never our policy in Iraq or Afghanistan to win by military means alone.

Third, it usually takes an awful long time. 26 years is 1/3 of the average lifespan in the West, and no doubt a bit more in Sri Lanka. I know I've quoted this exchange many times (lastly in Afghanistan and the Long War), but it is useful to do so here again.

In a 2007 interview Lt. Col. (Dr) David Kilcullen stunned Charlie Rose:

DAVID KILCULLEN: There has never been a successful counterinsurgency that took less than 10 years.

CHARLIE ROSE: Less than 10 years?


It doesn't come across as well in print. Watching it, you see Rose lean forward and in utter amazement say "Less than 10 years?" with special emphasis on "10 years."

He had Kilcullen on for a reason; he's arguably the worlds foremost expert on the subject. A retired Austrailian Army officer, he was a contributor to then Lt. Gen. David Petraeus' U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24, the book that outlined the strategy behind what was popularly called the "surge." In 2007 he served as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser to Gen. Petraeus. After that he went on to become a special adviser on counterinsurgency to Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. You don't have to agree with him on everything, but he knows what's what.

Meanwhile, the European Union demonstrates its complete irrelevancy by demanding a war crimes investigation:

Foreign ministers from the 27-nation EU said allegations that international humanitarian and human rights laws were violated had to be investigated, but did not say by whom.

"Those accountable must be brought to justice," they said in a statement.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there have been "very grave allegations" of war crimes on both sides of the conflict and "they should be properly investigated."

Glad these guys weren't around in 1945. The EU moralists dither while the Sri Lankans did what they had to do. The website of the British D-Day Museum says that "Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing." Wonder what they'd have to say about that?

Don't get me wrong; I've no doubt that bad things were done by both sides in Sri Lanka. The casualties are no doubt horrific. Nor do I think we should just wink at everything. It's more that the chattering classes seem positively obsessed with the subject. Can they not also see that not taking harsh action against insurgents might also be a human rights violation? One of the least humanitarian things is to let wars drag out.

But wait, it gets worse. From the Times of London (h/t Belmont Club)

Now that their military hopes are dashed, the fear in western capitals is that the Tamil Tigers will again turn to terrorism. If the Tamil leadership goes ahead with their threats of suicide will there be anyone left to negotiate with?

Folks, you just can't make this stuff up. And to think that these are the folks we're counting on to help us in Afghanistan and the War on Terror er, "Overseas Contingency Operations."

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 14, 2009

Hoist By Her Own Petard

This take down of Nancy Pelosi by Jon Stewart is too good to go unwatched:

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What's amusing to me is that this whole thing is an unforced error on her part. Hence the title.

It was the Democrats who thought they were so smart and clever when they wanted to institute their "truth commissions," with which they wanted to investigate the Bush Administration. After their victories in 2006, they got on their moral high horse and thought they'd found truth, justice, and the American way. They've gotten nothing but worse since this past election. They thought they'd show how righteous they were and how evil the Bush Administration was, and although it was too late for a Watergate II they thought for sure they'd be able to send a few people to jail, and if they really got lucky the American people would turn on the Republicans in a fashion that would give them FDR 1932 style majorities in Congress.

As I explained earlier this week, the truth is that they were in on this just as much as the Republicans were in the days after 9-11. They too were worried about another attack of spate of attacks and wanted to do everything they could to protect the country. But then the politics of the situation changed and their nutjob leftist base rose up and like a drunk going back to the bottle they submitted to their worst instincts.

Unfortunately for them, the truth has a way of getting out. And as it's become clear that they too thought that Saddam had reams of WMD, they too knew and approved of our use of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Every time there is a national security emergency our leaders take measures that are later said to have gone too far. Indeed, it is not just our leaders who do this, but those of all nations throughout history. When the emergency is ongoing, the threat appears larger, and "what if's" loom large. Once it is over, it is easy to look back and second guess, as the threat always appears smaller. The difference this time is that the opposition party is seeking criminal sanctions against those who were in power when the crisis appeared to be at it's height.

I use "appeared" for a reason; the threat is hardly over. The left thinks that the whole threat of terrorism was overblown, that it was a one-time event that with low probability of reoccurance. They see it this way because they want to define the threat as narrowly as possible, as coming only from al Qaeda. But as I have demonstrated here a zillion times, the threat is much greater than al Qaeda, and indeed much greater than terrorism alone. We face a jihadist threat from Wahabbists, the Muslim Brotherhood, Khomeinists, and to a lesser extent the Deobandists. A "creeping sharia," coupled with dramatic demographic changes, threaten to overtake the West.

Back To The Story

The whole story is too fast moving and is getting too complicated for me to relay in full here, but here are a few tidbits

Here's some background on some of what Stewart talks about. From yesterday on Fox News:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly was told in February 2003 by her intelligence aide, Michael Sheehy, that waterboarding was used on CIA terror detainee Abu Zubaydah, directly contradicting Pelosi's account that she had never been informed of the technique's use.

According to a report, Sheehy attended a briefing with Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., in February 2003 and discussed the CIA's use of waterboarding.

When the aide told Pelosi waterboarding had actually been used on the Al Qaeda terrorist, she didn't object because she was not personally briefed on the matter, an unnamed source confirmed to CNN.

Pelosi then supported a letter drafted by Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and sent to the Bush administration, raising concerns over the technique, the network reported.

What in tarnation difference does it make whether she was the one personally briefed or not? If waterboarding is the humongous outrage that she and other Democrats say it is, then oughtn't she have raised the roof? And she couldn't have objected that much if all she did was "support" a letter sent by someone else.

Further as Michael Goldfarb asks at TWS:

Just so we can get this straight, it's only now that Pelosi has decided the CIA lied to her, years after the controversy began and weeks after this particular controversy began? Or even giving Pelosi the benefit of the doubt about that first briefing, Sheehy still told her just a few months later, in early 2003, that she was lied to, and as minority leader, she did nothing? She didn't look into it, didn't raise it with George Tenet, didn't even write a letter protesting the CIA's conduct? It's ludicrous.

She's only objecting now for political gain. She has to satisfy the Movon.org and Daily Kos crowd.

via The Weekly Standard

MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell: "Speaker Pelosi came out today and essentially when asked if the CIA is lying, she said, 'they mislead us all the time.' Do you agree with that? Does the CIA mislead Congress all the time?"

Senator Joe Lieberman: "No, on that specific point, I totally disagree. You have to have confidence in the CIA. And over the 20 years I've been here, I've been briefed constantly by the CIA and I'd say that they've told me the truth, as they see it."

Wonderful. The leftists in Congress called Petraeus a liar, and now they say that the CIA misleads them "all the time." And they wonder why some question their patriotism.

But Pelosi ought to be careful. As Pete Wehner asks at Commentary Magazine:

Accusing America's intelligence agency of knowingly misleading a Member of Congress, and particularly a Member of the House Intelligence Committee, is quite an explosive charge. She better be able to prove it. And if she is lying -- as Porter Goss, then ranking Republican on the House Committee who later served as C.I.A. Director, seems to believe -- there will be an enormously high price for her to pay.

We're going to see what other Democrats do. Will they defend her or let her hang out to dry? Majority Leader Steny Hoyer waffled himself when confronted.

I'll let Michael Goldfarb at TNS have the last word, since I suspect he's going to be proven right:

The truly scary thing is that Pelosi is only marginally more responsible in this her attempts to goad the CIA. One of the hardest lessons for Republicans over the last eight years was that the CIA would do what it wanted when it wanted. It would leak damaging information as it pleased and to whatever effect it desired. An agency that was in the business of destabilizing foreign governments could easily use those same tricks against its own masters here in DC. Liberals think that Cheney had to gin up all this intelligence for the war in Iraq -- why on earth would he have to do that unless the CIA wouldn't give him what he wanted? Or how about the 2007 NIE, does the left imagine that this document was produced by a bunch of hopped-up neocons at CIA?

If the Democrats think they're going to win a fight against the CIA, we should wish them luck, but there is great irony here. As any Republican in the national security business will tell you, the CIA is not on our side--it's on its own side. These people actually were out to get the Bush administration. Democrats, out of sheer stupidity, are picking a fight they can't win.

Perhaps, but either way I have a feeling this is going to be fun to watch.

Friday Morning Update

And from today's Washington Times

The CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees more than 30 times about enhanced interrogation techniques, according to intelligence sources who said the lawmakers tacitly approved the techniques that some Democrats in Congress now say should land Bush administration officials in jail.

Between 2002 and 2006, the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees "each got complete, benchmark briefings on the program," said one of the intelligence sources who is familiar with the briefings.

"If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the closed-door briefings.

Those who were briefed included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Rep. Jane Harman of California, all Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, all Republicans.

This is not exactly how the Democrats thought this would play out.

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May 12, 2009

Out with the Old and In with the New in Afghanistan

On Monday General David McKiernan has been fired from his post as top dog in Afghanistan, and was replaced with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Whether McCrystal will be promoted to four star rank is unclear.

Out: General David McKiernan

General David McKiernan

In: Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

My initial reaction is that I am happy to see the change. McKiernan is a good man but this is a tough business, and if you can't produce results it's time to try something new. President Bush had the habit of sticking with people for too long. He should have let Generals Richardo Sanchez, John Abazaid, George Casey, and of course SecDef Don Rumsfeld go long before he did. President Lincoln hired and fired generals right and left until he found someone who could win. But maybe those analogies aren't accurate for the current situation with McKiernan. I know it sounds trite, but time will tell.

Why Was The Change Made?

Retired Vice-Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane (one of the authors of the surge) says that "Gen. McKiernan is a good man...but he was the wrong man at the wrong time. What the war needs is a new strategy and a new plan." The article goes on

In Afghanistan, McKiernan has resisted overhauling his operations, sticking with a NATO campaign plan that critics consider outdated and ineffective. McKiernan did not want to alienate NATO allies by changing the organizational structure of the command or altering agreed-upon operational plans, military analysts said.

Current and former officials have also criticized McKiernan and his command for failing to move quickly enough to adapt some of the strategies that worked during the Iraq troop buildup.

One good piece I saw was at, of all places, TIME (via Yahoo News):

...says retired Army officer and military analyst Ralph Peters. "McChrystal will ask for more authority, not more troops." ...

"I still can't figure out why they put an armored guy with no Afghan experience in charge" one said. A second senior official said "Dave McKiernan is clearly part of the Army's old guard - he led troops in [1991's] Desert Storm, for pete's sake.

McChrystal proved adept at using intelligence to multiply the impact of the troops at his disposal when he commanded U.S. Special Forces in Iraq as they hunted down and killed al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And unlike what some call McKiernan's "shy" demeanor and his desire - in Army parlance - to "stay inside his lane," McChrystal is eager to take the spotlight. He's also expected to challenge behavior of the Afghan government that undermines the war effort: One official on the Joint Chiefs of Staff expects McChrystal to warn President Hamid Karzai to shut down drug running operations that fund the Taliban, even when their networks run uncomfortably close to his government. "[McChrystal] will tell him: 'If you don't clean this up, I will.' "

In other words, McKiernan would have been great in a traditional high-intensity war, but McCrystal is better suited for a counterinsurgency.

Michael Goldfarb in The Weekly Standard quotes a "knowledgeable source" as saying that

(McKiernan was) in fact, an uncreative and conventional thinker who was failing palpably at figuring out how to adapt the principles of counterinsurgency into the specific operational context of Afghanistan -- the kind of military art that made the surge a success. Indeed, many visitors to McKiernan's Kabul headquarters walked away with the nagging feeling that he didn't really have a plan to defeat the insurgency at all -- just a vague commitment to keep on slogging, ideally with more resources.

The source also goes on to point out what I did above; that if we are reading this right (and Obama does not have ulterior motives, see below), then this brings a welcome change from the Bush years, where generals were left in place even after it should have been apparent that their policies were not succeeding. Although both Bush presidents have many admirable qualities (I campaigned vigorously for #43 in 2004) one of their negative traits is that they stick with people too long out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.

All this wonderful stuff having been said, Tom Donnelly of The Weekly Standard raises a warning flag:

The question is about the Obama administration's basic approach to the war in Afghanistan. McChrystal matters a lot more if it means that the president is getting serious about exerting American leadership and developing a long-term, workable strategy. That's been missing since the Bush administration decided it was happy in 2005 and 2006 to begin passing the Afghanistan baton to NATO....

The McChrystal decision would be bad, however, if it presaged a dumbing-down of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to a narrower counter-terrorism approach. The Obama administration did not make that mistake in its recent policy review, but it thought about it.

So we shall see whether President Obama is serious or not about his new plan for Afghanistan. I certainly hope he is.

Wednesday Evening Update

Journalist-blogger Michael Yon has some thoughts that are worth paying attention to:

I do know that these ears have never heard someone speak a foul word about him (outgoing General McKiernan), and I talk with lots of interesting people. If he, McKiernan, was a bad general I would have heard about it.

However, General McKiernan did make some statements about additional troops to Afghanistan, and when he made those statements I remember thinking, "He's going to get fired." And so those statements were the first thing that came to my mind. McKiernan has been saying we need more troops than are already on the way. I do not have the training or experience to say how many troops we need in Afghanistan, but I know we could use a lot more than we have there now. Yet it did seem like General McKiernan was pushing the envelope. That doesn't make him a bad general in my eyes. His envelope-pushing speaks of professional courage and honesty, but also one can imagine that leadership might want to keep some opinions in-house.

But another clue is something that Secretary Gates said to me privately. Actually, LTG David Rodriguez was there, and Rodriguez is tapped to take the number two spot in Afghanistan. Secretary Gates said that his number one concern for Afghanistan is that we will lose the support of the Afghan people. The recent loss of a great number of Afghans was undoubtedly upsetting for Secretary Gates and many others. If we lose widespread support from the Afghan people, the war will be lost....

In regard to Lieutenant General McChrystal, his reputation is enviable. McChrystal's reputation is as solid as that of Generals Mattis or Petraeus, but fewer people have heard of McChrystal. I know some very interesting folks in the special operations world, and McChrystal gets a five-star rating out of five stars. That comes from officers and enlisted.

Posted by Tom at 9:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Iraq Briefing - 08 May 09 - General Ray Odierno Reports

Last Friday the commanding general of Multi-National Force-Iraq himself, General Ray Odierno spoke with reporters at the Pentagon, providing an update on ongoing security operations in Iraq. Odierno was in Washington and as one may suspect the briefing room was packed with journalists from U.S. and foreign news organizations. Odierno gave a 5 minute opening statement, and then answered questions for over 40 minutes.

Odierno assumed command of MNF-Iraq on September 16th, 2008, succeeding General David Petraus.

As a Lieutenant General Odierno had previously been commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, a job he held from May 2006 to July 2008. The job of corps commander is to run the war on a day to day basis. He implements the MNF-Iraq commander's vision. Below the Corps commander are the divisional commanders (two-star, or Major General), each of which headquarters a region of Iraq (see org chart here)

Called "The Patton of Counterinsurgency" by people who know what they're talking about, next to Petraeus Odierno is the person most responsible for the success of the surge in 2007-08.

This and other briefings can be seen at DODvClips. The Pentagon Channel also has briefings, news stories, as well as 24x7 steaming video, so visit it as well.

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

Although Iraq is somewhat out of the news these days, it should still be very much in our minds. What happens there will affect the region, the general progress of the War on Jihadism (or whatever you want to call it), and our reputation in the world.

Recently there have been a spate of high-profile, or "spectacular attacks" by insurgents that have made the news. As Bill Roggio noted last month, "AQI is down but not out." Watch the video and read the transcript to see how this and other issues are addresed, but below the fold I'll review parts of the briefing.

From General Odierno's opening remarks:

GEN. ODIERNO: ...What I'd like to start out by talking about is, first, we continue to see overall levels of violence at or near the lowest levels since the summer of 2003 inside of Iraq. And overall, from an overall perspective, security in Iraq remains improved.

Obviously, over the last few weeks, the Iraqi people have seen high-profile attacks that remind all of us that the situation still is fragile in some areas. While the number of attacks is low, it's obvious that the terrorists are intent -- are conducting high-profile suicide attacks designed to garner attention and spark sectarian discord within Iraq.

But I would emphasize that this is not 2006 or 2007. We have yet to see sectarian retribution....

The al-Askari mosque, or "golden mosque," in Samarra, was bombed in February 2006 and again in June of 2007 by al Qaeda in Iraq. One of the holiest sites in Shi'a Islam, the second bombing ignited a wave of sectarian violence that turned into near-civil war and threatened to tear the country apart. This sectarian strife was precisely what AQI had wanted. They are obviously trying to do it again.

Although this is somewhat off topic, the insurgent groups in Afghanistan made a decision a year or so ago to switch from attacking coalition forces to directly attacking civilians. Most likely they are trying to emulate the success of AQI in 2006.

The SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) signed (I think) last November, provides for the government of Iraq to take over more of the security, and among other things for U.S. forces to leave the cities. Odierno addresses it:

GEN. ODIERNO: As you know, President Obama announced that, at the end of August in 2010, we will end combat operations and change our mission to one of an advisory and training role. We will maintain a force of about 35(,000) to 50,000 to ensure that we can achieve our new missions while providing sufficient force protection and still target -- and still be able to conduct counterterrorism missions.

According to the security agreement, all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but this doesn't mean that our relationship with Iraq will end. I remind everyone that we signed two agreements back in December. The second was the Strategic Framework Agreement, which is designed to ensure cooperation in many areas between the United States and the government of Iraq -- areas such as medical, cultural, scientific, economic and other endeavors that will strengthen the country and help our two countries enjoy a long, enduring friendship built on mutual respect as sovereign nations.

On to the Q & A. As it was a long briefing we'll only examine a few of the key exchanges. Unfortunately, unlike in most briefings, the journalists are not identified in the transcript, so you'll have to watch the video to find out who they are.

Q General, what's your current opinion of whether the Iraqi security forces are going to be up to the task of assuming responsibility for the cities on deadline? And do you think there's any chance at this point that this deadline will slip?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, well, frankly, we're basically out of all the cities except for two, Baghdad and Mosul. We are on our way out of Baghdad. We've been slowly turning that over to the Iraqi security forces now for about three months, and I think they've made some pretty good progress.

We still have a major operation going inside of Mosul with all forces assisting and helping out. We expect that to end here within about 30 to 45 days, and then there'll be a decision to be made. I think if you ask the prime minister today, I think he would say that we will be out of the cities by the end of the 30th of June, and it is his decision....

Later, when pressed for how many U.S. troops would remain behind as advisers in the cities after the June 30 deadline, Odierno would not provide a precise number, but said that it might be 20% of what we have there now. However, he stressed that it is all conditions based.

Q General, a follow-up, sir. I know it's hard -- maybe it's hard to answer this question. How do you see Iraq after -- after the U.S. force leave?

GEN. ODIERNO: In 2011?

Q Yeah. How do you see the future?

GEN. ODIERNO: I think -- listen, I can't look into a crystal ball, but there's a couple things I will just say we -- I would ask you to look towards. One is, obviously, the national elections coming up. And I think we had very successful provincial elections. And I would say they were successful because the people voted on issues, they didn't vote on -- based on sectarian issues. They didn't vote based on -- based on potential religious standing. They voted on the issues that affected them every day.

It's going to be interesting to see how the national elections go, either in December or January, coming up. And I think how that goes, how the Iraqi people react to that, what the new government looks like, how does the government transition in the beginning of 2010 will have a lot to say with how the Iraqi government continues to improve and move forward, which prepares them for 2011.

So in my mind, it's much too early to be talking about. I think we're on the right path. I think we're on the right path that in -- at the end of 2011, the government of Iraq will be able to hold its own, will be able to stand up in the regional community, international community, as I look at it today.

If you ask me that a year from now, I might have a different opinion, but I think we're on track for that right now.

This next exchange goes to the issue of sectarian violence and private militia groups. As indicated above, this is the single biggest danger to stability in Iraq. As many have noted, loyalties in countries like Iraq are first clan, then tribe, then sect (Shia or Sunni), and finally country.

Q General, you mentioned before the cycle of sectarian violence. And I think that one kind of welcome development has been that Shi'ite groups thus far, despite the deaths of hundreds of civilians, have not yet responded. Are you seeing either a reemergence of traditional Shi'ite militias? Jaish al-Mahdi, Badr Brigades, are they reemerging? And if not, are you seeing any new groups that worry you that are sort of on the horizon that could be the source of reprisals?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I think -- I think, again, in terms of reprisals, we have several indicators with that. And one of them is, in fact, the formation of militias. We have seen no formation of militias or any -- any movement to form militias, any talk of forming militias in order to go after sectarian violence. So that is a very positive sign.

I think part of that has to do with the basic improvement of governance at the provincial levels that -- based on the fact that we now have provincial governments that are very active, that help us with that problem, and as well as the national government, who's able to address some of these issues. I think that helps.

Now, that said, we watch it very closely because we know what we don't want is some event to cause all of a sudden a -- what I would call a snowball rolling down the hill that accumulates momentum and causes a significant amount of sectarian violence. But again, we don't see any signs of that right now, of all the indicators we look at.

This final exchange that we look at will be of special interest to bloggers and all of you who have Facebook pages (which I'm guessing is probably everyone who reads this).

It turns out that General Odierno has his own Facebook page, where you too can become a fan. I am. Turns out General David Petraeus has his own Facebook page too, and at this point I'm sure most of the other commanders do too (it always being smart to take a cue on this sort of thing from one's boss). Follow the links and become a fan!

Q Hopefully this won't come across like a totally frivolous question --


Q -- but I understand you have your own Facebook page now -- (laughter) -- and that you're somewhat of a fan of social networking in the military.

Q And just talk about that for a minute.

GEN. ODIERNO: ...First, I realized about, you know, six months ago, I didn't -- I didn't know what Facebook was. I mean, I know it's been in place for a while. My son was on -- my -- both of my sons were on Facebook. My daughter was on Facebook. They used to talk about it. They used to talk about -- so my thought was, this is where young people communicate. This is a place where young people get together, they pass information. So I thought -- and really thought maybe it would be a good idea if I tried to do this. And I do it for a number of reasons.

One is to try to put out some information that's not normally seen on the news or, you know -- and something to let them know, maybe, some personal things about me, what it's like to be in Iraq, what it's like to be the commander in Iraq. So that's kind of the intent....

I think it's important for us -- the one thing I've learned over the last six years is you have to understand this global media explosion that we're having in a variety of forms, and that we have to try to figure it out and how we play in that, because people are interested in what the military is doing, because we -- we do play an important role in our nation's security. We do play an important role in the world. And so that's part of the reason why I did it....

Q Well, can I just briefly follow up and ask you -- I mean, because you have so many -- tens of thousands of young people serving in Iraq, what's your view about operational security, about whether it's Facebook or blogging or Twittering, them amongst themselves, them with their friends back home, how do you control this sort of thing?

GEN. ODIERNO: Again -- yeah, well, we put out guidelines and guidance. I mean, and we have to trust, then, that they will abide by the guidelines and guidance. And, obviously, we can check on it.

But, listen, it's going to happen. And that's how they communicate today. So we've got to allow them to do that, but we have to put guidelines on what you can and what you can't talk about.

It always comes down to we just don't want them to put the force at risk. We don't want to put the mission at risk. And so we've tried to put guidelines out that talks about that.

So, you know, you don't talk about future operations, you don't kind of talk about things that might be sensitive, obviously classified things. But, you know, so -- and the soldiers get it for the most part. I mean, we have a few hits and misses once in a while, but they understand that. But you got to let them do it. I mean, that's the bottom line....

Posted by Tom at 9:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2009

Obama Set To Betray Israel

On Sunday were heard this nonsense from President Obama's National Security Adviser, retired General James Jones, as reported in the Jerusalem Post:

In an interview with ABC television, Jones said that the US government agrees with Jerusalem that Teheran's nuclear ambitions pose an "existential threat" to Israel.

"We understand Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that," the senior official was quoted as saying by AFP....

"By the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution," he reportedly said.

As if this was not bad enough, the story goes on to tell us that

In a closed meeting with AIPAC's major donors last week, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, reportedly said that America's ability to face Iran depended on Israel's ability to make progress with the Palestinians.

He also reportedly told them that solving the conflict would enable progress in dealing with the main threat of Iran.

The cluelessness of these people knows no bounds.

Unfortunately, Pope Benedict XVI hasn't been much better. Fox News reports that

Pope Benedict XVI called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian homeland immediately after he arrived in Israel Monday, a stance that could put him at odds with his hosts on a trip aimed at improving ties between the Vatican and Jews...

"The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace," he told a welcoming ceremony at Israel's international airport. "In union with people of goodwill everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own within secure and internationally recognized borders."

I suppose it's his job to say these things, and religious leaders like him do serve as a check on our thinking.

The idea that giving the Palestinians a state will have any affect at all on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons or their desire to destroy Israel is lunacy. I have covered Iran and the motivations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and some of the leading Mullahs in some detail in my postings on Iran, but I am hardly the only one.

Further, I do not think that any more of a Palestinian homeland is a good idea. As I've said here a zillion times, I used to believe in the "two-state solution," but no more. President Clinton gave it a good try with the 1993 Oslo accords, but after the failed Camp David meeting of him, Israeli PM Ehud Barack, and Palestinian terrorist leader Yassir Arafat, it should have been clear to all that the Palestinians are simply not interested in recognizing Israel's right to exist.

Worse, the Palestinians have had what amounts to their own country now for about 3 years in Gaza, and they've made a total hash of it. They had a golden opportunity to show the world that they could govern themselves in a reasonable manner and instead they turned it into a jihadist nightmare. It's a well known fact that Iran has been supplying and helping Hamas; google it yourself.

But let's get back to our own president. via Melanie Phillips, Ha'aretz reports that the aforementioned General James Jones, National Security Adviser:

... quoted in the telegram as saying that the United States, European Union and moderate Arab states must redefine 'a satisfactory endgame solution.' The U.S. national security adviser did not mention Israel as party to these consultations.

As Phillips says, of course Jones is not going to consult with Israel. "If you are going to throw a country under the bus, you don't invite it to discuss the manner of its destruction with the assassins who are co-ordinating the crime."

She then goes on to the heart of the matter

Of course Obama doesn't care that Hamas would run any Palestinian state. Of course he doesn't care that Israel would be unable to defend itself against such a terrorist state. Because he regards Israel as at best totally expendable, and at worst as a running sore on the world's body politic that has to be purged altogether (see this bleak assessment by Sultan Knish). His administration is proceeding on the entirely false analysis that a state of Palestine is the solution to the Middle East impasse and the route to peace in the region. What that state will look like or do is something to which at best the administration's collective mind is shut and at worst makes it a potential cynical accomplice to the unconscionable. So Israel is to be forced out of the West Bank. Far from building a coalition against Iran, Obama is thus doing Iran's work for it.

Next let's turn to Carolyn Glick, possibly the most insightful correspondent in Israel. Surveying the information on Obama and his planes cited above, she points out that it's even worse than most people think. From her Jerusalem Post column on Thursday;

Moreover, this week we learned that the administration is trying to get the Arabs themselves to write the Quartet's new plan. The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi pan-Arab newspaper reported Tuesday that acting on behalf of Obama, Jordanian King Abdullah urged the Arab League to update the so-called Arab peace plan from 2002. That plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights and accept millions of foreign Arabs as citizens as part of the so-called "right of return" in exchange for "natural" relations with the Arab world, has been rejected by successive Israeli governments as a diplomatic subterfuge whose goal is Israel's destruction.

By accepting millions of so-called "Palestinian refugees," Israel would effectively cease to be a Jewish state. By shrinking into the 1949 armistice lines, Israel would be unable to defend itself against foreign invasion. And since "natural relations" is a meaningless term both in international legal discourse and in diplomatic discourse, Israel would have committed national suicide for nothing.

If you're not familiar with this so-called "right of return," this google search will tell you all of the details. Essentially, though, the Palestinians want to flood Israel proper (i.e. pre-1967 borders) with millions of people, and then vote the country out of existence. This, and not the settlements, have always been the true obstacle to a negotiated settlement. Ok, that an incessant Palestinian terrorism.

Follow the link to Glick's column and read the whole thing, as it just gets worse and worse. It's clear that the Obama Administration has a fairy-tale vision of the Middle East and wants to force it on Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to come to the United States to meet President Obama and his staff on May 18. Netanyahu is no shrinking violet, and maybe he can talk some sense into our president. But I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2009

Pelosi Knew About the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Last week we saw a rash of stories that pretty much proved that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi knew all about the waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques that we were using against terrorists. Both the Washington Post and Washington Times had stories to this effect on Friday. From the Post:

Intelligence officials released documents yesterday saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda suspects, seeming to contradict her repeated statements that she was never told the techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress briefed on the tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House intelligence committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The memo, issued to Capitol Hill by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency, notes that the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered "EITs including the use of EITs" on Abu Zubaida. EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique, and Abu Zubaida, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured. He also was the first to have the controversial tactic of simulated drowning, or waterboarding, used against him.

She knew. I think most of these Democrats who now act so indignant over our use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques knew about them all along.

The story in the Times adds that "a classified CIA briefing of Mrs. Pelosi included specific details of the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," or EITs, on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah.

She knew.

Via Jeb Babbin at Human Events, here is the relevant page from the briefing schedule that shows she was briefed on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques:

Pelosi Knew

From the Post article linked to above, Pelosi's defense was issued by her spokesman

"As this document shows, the speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used," said Brendan Daly, Pelosi's spokesman.

From a Friday story on Fox News, Pelosi offers a lame defense that is immediately swatted down:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Friday that she was briefed only once about the "enhanced" interrogation techniques being used on terrorism suspects and that she was assured by lawyers with the CIA and the Department of Justice that the methods were legal.

Pelosi issued a statement after CIA records released this week showed that Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 on the interrogation methods. The briefings memo appeared to contradict the speaker's claims that she was never told that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation methods were being used.

"We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used," Pelosi said on April 23.

The emphasis seems to be on "were used," even though she conceded in a statement released Friday that she was told they would be used.

"As I said in my statement of December 9, 2007: 'I was briefed on interrogation techniques the (Bush) administration was considering using in the future. The administration advised that legal counsel for both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal,'" she said.

But even that statement is at odds with the official record of the briefings recorded in the CIA memo dated to Sept. 4, 2002. That memo says Pelosi received a "briefing on EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques), including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities and a description of particular EITs that had been employed."

Another Washington Post story from Saturday goes farther:

A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaeda operative, according to documents the CIA released to Congress on Thursday.

Pelosi has insisted that she was not directly briefed by Bush administration officials that the practice was being actively employed. But Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.

A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding and had objected in a letter to the CIA's top counsel....

Republicans have accused Pelosi and other Democrats who attended the earliest classified briefings of knowing what CIA operatives were doing and offering their support for the methods, including waterboarding. They argue that Pelosi, who served as the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee until January 2003, objected only after the use of the techniques became public several years later.

Also on Saturday, David Freddoso reported on NRO's The Corner that he

...spoke to a senior Republican aide who feels that the speaker is getting an awfully easy ride on this -- that the briefing of the Speaker's aide clearly demonstrates that she knew what was going on in 2003, even if Pelosi is disputing exactly what was mentioned in the 2002 briefing.

"Look, the claim that a Pelosi staffer was briefed on these techniques but not Pelosi herself is absurd," he said. "That's just not the way the system works. Staff are not briefed on anything a Member wouldn't be briefed on."

She knew. Why does her defense make no sense? Dr Krauthammer nails it:

If you are told about torture that has already occurred, you might justify silence on the grounds that what's done is done and you are simply being used in a post-facto exercise to cover the CIA's rear end. The time to protest torture, if you really are as outraged as you now pretend to be, is when the CIA tells you what it is planning to do "in the future."

What I Think Happened

In the days after 9-11 most Americans thought we would get hit again, and soon. The attack had so taken us by surprise that we realized just how much we didn't know. We can track aircraft and missiles coming at use. With them, you have some idea as to what to expect. Terrorist attacks are not just bolts from the blue, but you don't even know what form it will take. Will the next one be a car bomb? An attempt to breach a dam? A bio-chemical attack? Or another hijacking? There was just no way to tell.

Our political leaders knew that the public would forgive them for one attack, but that would be it. The public never held anyone accountable for 9-11 because they - we - realized that no one could have really predicted it (I'm leaving the 9-11 Truthers whackjobs out of this).

But by the same token political leaders realized that the public would not be forgiving the next time. The would demand to know why stern measures had not been taken to prevent it. And, frankly, in the days after 9-11, any poll would have shown strong support for "enhanced interrogation techniques."

So at the time the Democrats wanted to protect our country and they did what they thought was the right thing to do. They were briefed on and approved the use of stern interrogation techniques. Now, however, they're pretending like they didn't have anything to do with it.

Nancy Pelosi and some of her fellow Democrats are playing the same game with EITs that they did with Iraq; support it when the polls show support for it, oppose it when the polls show support lagging. We're on to the game, though, and aren't going to let them get away with it.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 6, 2009

Democracy v Authority in Nation Building

In the wake of Vietnam we forswore nationbuilding. Today we are heavily engaged in at least two such enterprises, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amazing how circumstances force such changes in policy.

But in a sense the West has been engaged in nationbuilding for decades, if not a century, whether we wanted to admit it or not. The Weimar Republic in Germany was a form of nationbuilding in that we pretty much forced democracy on that country in the wake of what was then called The Great War. In the 1950s and 60s, when ex-colonies were becoming nations, we insisted that they choose their government in democratic fashion. While some turned out to be one-man, one-vote, one-time, others, such as India, have turned into successful democratic states.

It is unclear whether our ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successes or failures. What is clear is that it's not easy to create anything like what we would call a democracy in either. One of my pet theories is that we in the West are good at setting up votes, but not so good at instilling true liberty, or creating a pluralistic societies. Germany after World War II was a Western society, so at least had the benefit of having gone through the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Reformation. We pounded Japan so hard that although their society had not gone through these things it didn't really matter. But neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have the Western experience, and we pounded neither into the ground as we did Japan. Thus, perhaps, our difficulty.

It was Rich Lowry's post at NRO's The Corner which set me thinking on this today. He brings up how many conservatives, seeing the difficulty of the project in Iraq, have said "sure these societies are having trouble setting up governments, but so did the United States." This is a fascicle comparison, he says, because it ignores the cultural differences, and that "it's the absence of order and functioning institutions not democracy that is the fundamental problem in these societies."

He then quotes Samuel Huntington from his book Political Order in Changing Societies:

[A] reason for American indifference to political development was the absence in the American historical experience of the need to found a political order. Americans, de Tocqueville said, were born equal and hence never had to worry about creating equality; they enjoyed the fruits of a democratic revolution without having suffered one. So also, America was born with a government, with political institutions and practices imported from seventeenth-century England. Hence Americans never had to worry about creating a government. This gap in historical experience made them peculiarly blind to the problems of creating effective authority in modernizing countries.

When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties--all excellent devices for limiting government. The Lockean American is so fundamentally anti-government that he identifies government with restrictions on government. Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, "the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited.

Indeed we take public order for granted in the West. We've had our riots, but nothing that came anywhere near doing anything more than keeping some people from going to work for a few days. The American Civil War happened so long ago it's ancient history for us (in the U.S. we slap a historical marker on a house that's 100 years old, something that must make Europeans smile). We entertain ourselves with an apocalyptic movie here and there, but the idea of it really happening... no, not to us.

And this of course is a good thing. When listing the virtues of the West, most of us put things like democracy, liberty, pluralism, freedom, capitalism, tolerance, that sort of thing. Few people would put "public order." Natan Sharansky failed to discuss the importance of keeping public order as a prerequisite to democracy in his much-discussed 2004 book The Case for Democracy

Fewer people, I think, miss the "(already) functioning institutions not democracy," that Lowry brings up. We know that we inherited our institutions from Britain, as our revolution was fundamentally different than the French or Russian Revolutions, which completely overthrew the old order and started anew. In this sense our revolution was Burkean in that it was "to preserve the rights of Englishmen." But I'm not here to argue history.

My point, and question, is how do we take these lessons and apply them to the future? As I've said ad nauseum here on this blog, we are where we are with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan, so I've little patience in refighting the battle of whether it was right to invade either. I'm all for learning lessons, don't get me wrong. For example, one of the biggest lessons of Iraq is that democracy is impossible unless public safety is first ensured.

More to it, what about other third world countries around the world? What will happen with North Korea implodes? Is there any hope in the near term for African or Arab countries? Pakistan may be on the verge of sliding into Taliban-style fundamentalism, so is there any hope for them as well? What about Iran if or when they can rid themselves of their crazy mullah rulers? We tend to think of how we can create democracy and liberty in these countries, but as we've learned just keeping order is a huge challenge. And as we learned with Afghanistan, ignoring a problem won't make it go away. We forgot about that country when the Soviets left and the resulting chaos led to the Taliban, their hosting of al Qaeda, and 9-11.

I don't know the answers, but it's certainly worth pondering, because whether we like it or not I believe the world is going to present us with more challenges sooner rather than later, regardless of who holds the presidency in the U.S.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 4, 2009

The GOP and Ronald Reagan

I suspect this post will be popular among my liberal commenters, and controversial among my conservative ones. With that in mind I forge bravely ahead.

On Sunday this article appeared in The Washington Times

Jeb Bush, GOP: Time to leave Reagan behind

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Saturday that it's time for the Republican Party to give up its "nostalgia" for the heyday of the Reagan era and look forward, even if it means stealing the winning strategy deployed by Democrats in the 2008 election.

"You can't beat something with nothing, and the other side has something. I don't like it, but they have it, and we have to be respectful and mindful of that," Mr. Bush said.

The former president's brother, often mentioned as a potential candidate in 2012, said President Obama's message of hope and change during the 2008 campaign clearly resonated with Americans.

"So our ideas need to be forward looking and relevant. I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia and the good old days in the [Republican] messaging. I mean, it's great, but it doesn't draw people toward your cause," Mr. Bush said.

The Florida governor joined former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor on Saturday at a small pizza parlor in Arlington for the inaugural event of the National Council for a New America (NCNA).


Today I caught snippets of Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh attacking Jeb Bush and their line of thinking. Ingraham had Senator Jim DeMint on her show and went after him pretty hard.

I think that Jeb Bush and his fellow Republicans are dead right.

Among others attending the meeting were The NCNA - with a "national panel of experts" made up of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Except for McCain, they'll all good conservatives.

Cantor stressed that they are not trying "to recast the party" or branding, but "this is about trying to foster some discussion." Romney said that "there will be no wholesale changes to the core tenets of the party."

This is all very good, I think.

Let's Back Off the Reagan

The problem is that Ronald Reagan has become the third rail for the GOP. Touch him and you immediately come under attack from the guardians of conservatism.

And to my liberal readers let's be clear; I love Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh. I wasn't listening to them today by accident. Yes, we on the right do have the ability to disagree with them and the other conservative talk-show hosts on occasion.

Ronald Reagan was one of the two greatest presidents of the 20th century, the other being Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He is rightly an inspiration to conservatives. I was 20 when he took office, and the transition from Carter to him was my formative political experience. It was an age of true heroes; Reagan in American, Thatcher in Britain, Kohl in Germany, and John Paul II in the Vatican. Among them they changed the world in a way that no one had since Churchill.

But Reagan means next to nothing to anyone under 40. They see him as an old dead white guy. I was 20 when he took office, and I have friends who are 40 today and they were still in high school or younger, at the time and is the wont for most young people, paid little attention to politics.

Unfortunately, it's Reagan this and Reagan that from too many conservatives. It was positively embarrassing to watch the Republican candidates for president trying to out-Reagan each other in the GOP debates during 2008 primary races.

If the Democrats treated any of their past presidents like we do Reagan, we'd mock them until the cows came home.

So my message to my conservative brethren is that we need to back off the constant references to Reagan. We need new blood in our party and need to look forward. We've got some very good up-and-comers but that's a subject for another post.

Not a Question of "Too Conservative"

The charge is made that the GOP is "too far to the right." We saw this most recently with Senator Specter's defection.

This is wrong, but it mostly misses the point. The Democrats, for example, are farther to the left than they've ever been and it certainly hasn't hurt them any.

Further, the charge that the GOP is too far to the right is just wrong. President Bush moved far to the left during his presidency, and many Republicans in the Senate went with him. He jacked up spending on all manner of social programs, most notably eduction with "No Child Left Behind," a bill mostly (or at least partially) written by Ted Kennedy.

So if anything the Republican Party of the Bush years was a lot farther to the center than it was in the 1980s. I know because I was around then.

Rather, the problem with the GOP is lack of authenticity, and nostalgia for the past. In this sense Cantor was wrong when the article quotes him a saying that it was not about branding. I think that branding is definitely part of our problem. We are seen as too nostalgic for the Reagain years.

By authenticity I mean "living up to your professed beliefs." The GOP talked the fiscal conservative game, but governed like big spenders during Bush's term. Some of this was straight pork, and some of it was an increase in the welfare state, but it doesn't really matter. The people saw that the Republicans didn't live up to their own standards, and the damage was done.

Jeb Bush is right; one of the reasons the Democrats won in 2008 is because theirs was a forward looking message, not a backward looking one. On

It's not that I think that John McCain's political philosophy is the future of the GOP, because it isn't.

Shortly after the last election I attended a conference Leadership Institute at Patrick Henry in which they shared some survey data with us. One of the more interesting results was that 20% of self-identified conservatives voted for Barack Obama. On the other hand, only 10% of self-identified liberals voted for John McCain. Between this and some other results it was clear that conservatism was not the problem; authenticity was. The public wants politicians who practice what they preach.

So it's not that the GOP needs to become more moderate, or boot the social conservatives. What they - we - need to do is live up to our ideals, and not insist on ideological purity among all of our candidates.

From History to the Future

We've got some rethinking and reorganizing to do, but I'm not too worried. It may take awhile, but we'll be back. The idea that the GOP or conservatism is dead is silly.

I've been around awhile, and so have seen a lot of twists and turns in the political landscape. In the mid-70s, in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate the Democrats nearly destroyed the Republicans. Reagan changed all that in 1980. After 12 years of mostly GOP rule, the public was ready for a change and voted the Democrats back into power. But a mere two years after that, the GOP captured Congress. The GOP staged a sort-of resurgance in 2000, but steadly lost ground after 2004 to our present debacle.

From the 19th century to the mid-20th, one party or another held power for long periods of time. After the Civil War the GOP railed against the Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion!" and waved the bloody shirt, and except for a few periods mostly ruled the nation. The Great Depression ushered in Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his New Deal coalition brought Democrat assendancy that lasted until 1980.

So in our modern age no one party has been able to hold absolute power for very long. This is probably a good thing, and being a conservative certainly gives me hope. I don't blame my liberal friends for celebrating since they're up, as i'd do the same. I'd also advise them not to become too despondent when we take back the presidency and congress, because I've been there too.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 2, 2009

Andy McCarthy Smacks Down Eric Holder

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has turned down an offer by Attorney General Eric Holder to participate in a roundtable discussion on detention policy. The AG has invited several current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases to seek their input, McCarthy being one of them.

McCarthy is known primarily as the man who led the team that sent the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, and eleven others to prison. Rahman was the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plot to bomb several other New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, an FBI office, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. As such, Rahman was the most dangerous terrorist ever brought to justice in the United States. McCarthy wrote about the trial and his thoughs on our detention policy in his 2008 book Willfull Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. As such, he is a legitimate expert on terrorism and the legal issues surrounding the issue.

McCarthy's full letter to AG Holder is below the fold, but here is the part where he states his reasons for turning down Holder's offer:

In light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Congratulations, Mr. President. This is the result of the atmosphere of intimidation that you created when you let loose the hounds of the left.

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. Attorney General of the United States United States Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

This letter is respectfully submitted to inform you that I must decline the invitation to participate in the May 4 roundtable meeting the President's Task Force on Detention Policy is convening with current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases. An invitation was extended to me by trial lawyers from the Counterterrorism Section, who are members of the Task Force, which you are leading.

The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants--or what the Department now calls "individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations." I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear--most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany--that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States). Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president's first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

Moreover, in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Beyond that, as elucidated in my writing (including my proposal for a new national security court, which I understand the Task Force has perused), I believe alien enemy combatants should be detained at Guantanamo Bay (or a facility like it) until the conclusion of hostilities. This national defense measure is deeply rooted in the venerable laws of war and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2004 Hamdi case. Yet, as recently as Wednesday, you asserted that, in your considered judgment, such notions violate America's "commitment to the rule of law." Indeed, you elaborated, "Nothing symbolizes our [adminstration's] new course more than our decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.... President Obama believes, and I strongly agree, that Guantanamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us: a disregard for our centuries-long respect for the rule of law[.]" (Emphasis added.)

Given your policy of conducting ruinous criminal and ethics investigations of lawyers over the advice they offer the government, and your specific position that the wartime detention I would endorse is tantamount to a violation of law, it makes little sense for me to attend the Task Force meeting. After all, my choice would be to remain silent or risk jeopardizing myself.

For what it may be worth, I will say this much. For eight years, we have had a robust debate in the United States about how to handle alien terrorists captured during a defensive war authorized by Congress after nearly 3000 of our fellow Americans were annihilated. Essentially, there have been two camps. One calls for prosecution in the civilian criminal justice system, the strategy used throughout the 1990s. The other calls for a military justice approach of combatant detention and war-crimes prosecutions by military commission. Because each theory has its downsides, many commentators, myself included, have proposed a third way: a hybrid system, designed for the realities of modern international terrorism--a new system that would address the needs to protect our classified defense secrets and to assure Americans, as well as our allies, that we are detaining the right people.

There are differences in these various proposals. But their proponents, and adherents to both the military and civilian justice approaches, have all agreed on at least one thing: Foreign terrorists trained to execute mass-murder attacks cannot simply be released while the war ensues and Americans are still being targeted. We have already released too many jihadists who, as night follows day, have resumed plotting to kill Americans. Indeed, according to recent reports, a released Guantanamo detainee is now leading Taliban combat operations in Afghanistan, where President Obama has just sent additional American forces.

The Obama campaign smeared Guantanamo Bay as a human rights blight. Consistent with that hyperbolic rhetoric, the President began his administration by promising to close the detention camp within a year. The President did this even though he and you (a) agree Gitmo is a top-flight prison facility, (b) acknowledge that our nation is still at war, and (c) concede that many Gitmo detainees are extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried under civilian court rules. Patently, the commitment to close Guantanamo Bay within a year was made without a plan for what to do with these detainees who cannot be tried. Consequently, the Detention Policy Task Force is not an effort to arrive at the best policy. It is an effort to justify a bad policy that has already been adopted: to wit, the Obama administration policy to release trained terrorists outright if that's what it takes to close Gitmo by January.

Obviously, I am powerless to stop the administration from releasing top al Qaeda operatives who planned mass-murder attacks against American cities--like Binyam Mohammed (the accomplice of "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla) whom the administration recently transferred to Britain, where he is now at liberty and living on public assistance. I am similarly powerless to stop the administration from admitting into the United States such alien jihadists as the 17 remaining Uighur detainees. According to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, the Uighurs will apparently live freely, on American taxpayer assistance, despite the facts that they are affiliated with a terrorist organization and have received terrorist paramilitary training. Under federal immigration law (the 2005 REAL ID Act), those facts render them excludable from the United States. The Uighurs' impending release is thus a remarkable development given the Obama administration's propensity to deride its predecessor's purported insensitivity to the rule of law.

I am, in addition, powerless to stop the President, as he takes these reckless steps, from touting his Detention Policy Task Force as a demonstration of his national security seriousness. But I can decline to participate in the charade.

Finally, let me repeat that I respect and admire the dedication of Justice Department lawyers, whom I have tirelessly defended since I retired in 2003 as a chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. It was a unique honor to serve for nearly twenty years as a federal prosecutor, under administrations of both parties. It was as proud a day as I have ever had when the trial team I led was awarded the Attorney General's Exceptional Service Award in 1996, after we secured the convictions of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his underlings for waging a terrorist war against the United States. I particularly appreciated receiving the award from Attorney General Reno--as I recounted in Willful Blindness, my book about the case, without her steadfastness against opposition from short-sighted government officials who wanted to release him, the "blind sheikh" would never have been indicted, much less convicted and so deservedly sentenced to life-imprisonment. In any event, I've always believed defending our nation is a duty of citizenship, not ideology. Thus, my conservative political views aside, I've made myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, who've thought tapping my experience would be beneficial. It pains me to decline your invitation, but the attendant circumstances leave no other option.

Very truly yours,


Andrew C. McCarthy

cc: Sylvia T. Kaser and John DePue
National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section

Summarized, McCarthy's reasons for turning down the invitation are that one, the Obama Administration has already settled on a position, so this meeting is just for show, and two, given recent statements by Holder and President Obama, any lawyer who makes good faith recommendations may be prosecuted just for making those recommendations. As such there not only is no point in attending the roundtable, but it might be hazardous to one's legal future.

Say what you will about George W. Bush, but he never went after Clinton Administration officials for anything. Nor did he spend time blaming them for their national security lapses that helped lead to 9-11.


McCarthy has a piece in National Review explaining his reasons behind the letter, as well as a few comments on the Administration's new policies. Money quote:

The second reason for declining the Justice Department's request is that the exercise known as the "President's Detention Policy Task Force" is a farce. The administration has already settled on a detainee policy: It is simply going to release trained jihadists. Holder said as much in his Germany speech. In the irrational world he inhabits, the existence of Guantanamo Bay, where dangerous terrorists cannot harm anyone, is more of a security threat than jihadists roaming free, plotting to menace and murder us. That's why the administration just released Binyam Mohammed, who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla to execute post-9/11 bombings in American cities. That's why Holder will soon announce (perhaps as early as today) that the Chinese Uighur detainees -- who've been affiliated with a designated terrorist organization and who've received paramilitary training at al-Qaeda camps -- will not only be set free in the United States but will, according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, subsist on the support of the American taxpayer.

For all their talk about "the rule of law," President Obama and Attorney General Holder have to know this policy is illegal. In 2005, Congress provided in the REAL ID Act that aliens who've been affiliated with a terrorist organization or who've received paramilitary training (which has been a staple of virtually every jihadist plot against the United States) are excludable from the United States. Moreover, even if the administration were not riding roughshod over federal immigration law, it is endangering the American people. The sophistry required to believe that having people who want to kill us locked up is more perilous than loosing them on civilian populations is so absurd it nearly defies description.

What was that about Bush and Cheney running roughshod over the Constitution again?

Posted by Tom at 1:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 1, 2009

Lila Rose Nails Planned Parenthood of Tennessee

Yesterday I posted about how 20 year old UCLA student Lila Rose went undercover to expose Planned Parenthood of Tennessee. Rose went into the clinic posing as a 14 year old girl made pregnant by a 31 year old man, and the PP staffer engaged in a blatant cover up of statutory rape.

Correction To My Last Post: In my last post I wrote that "I don't know enough about the law to say whether or not was Rose was doing was legal or not." In an email communication with Live Action, I have been assured that the taping was in fact legal, and neither did they violate any trespassing laws.

I also played devils advocate, saying that "The aberration defense is plausible" (that the Planned Parenthood employee who covered up the statutory rape was the aberration, not the rule). I the same email Live Action pointed out that

We have released 8 clinics now in 4 states that have been irresponsible in their behavior towards minors. In Indiana for example, our two videos from that state were shot on the same day, 90 miles apart. We can say with confidence that the majority of the clinics that we visit are irresponsible and at a minimum violate Planned Parenthood policy and common sensibility, if not the law.

I stand corrected. At this point there is enough evidence to discern a trend at Planned Parenthood; a callous disregard for the laws regarding statutory rape.

Today's Post

Since Live Action, Rose's organization, posted the video of her undercover work, Tennessee lawmakers have introduced legislation to reduce or cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood receives some $700,000 in taxpayer money from the state of Tennessee. From a press release posted at Live Action:

Lila Rose, 20-year-old president of Live Action, says the unedited video further exposes Planned Parenthood's reckless counseling practices. When Lila, posing as a 14-year-old girl impregnated by a 31-year-old man, mentions, "My boyfriend said he could pay for everything--But he shouldn't come here to pay 'cause you'll see him, right?" the counselor replies, "It doesn't matter. As long as your parents are not here and can't identify him, he can just pay and that's it. He could be like your older brother or whatever." Tennessee law states that a minor must have parental consent before undergoing an abortion....

On Monday, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region CEO Barry Chase sent an email to state legislators asking them to stop the bill and claimed that Live Action's president, Lila Rose, refused to release the unedited footage, even though neither Rose nor Live Action received any correspondence from Mr. Chase.

Following is the letter Chase sent, followed by Live Action's response

If the text is too small to read it is posted at Jill Stanek's website where it can be more easily enlarged.

PP Response to Live Action Tenn 1


Live Action Responds to Memphis Planned Parenthood Letter

First, in a video

Second, in a letter

Dear Tennessee Legislator:

My name is Lila Rose and I am the young woman who went undercover in to the Memphis Planned Parenthood and created the YouTube video of the sexual abuse cover up I found at the clinic.

You can read about more about this here.

I am very pleased to hear that the Tennessee legislature has moved to reduce taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood. However, I would like to respond to a number of points raised in an email by Barry Chase, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Greater Memphis Region, disputing the relevance of the results of my organization's undercover investigation. It is my hope that both the footage of Planned Parenthood covering up the sexual abuse of young girls and the organization's subsequent denial and indifference will assist you and inform you as you work on behalf of the residents of your state.

To begin with, let me clarify two issues:

First, while Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis claims they have "asked, unsuccessfully" for "unedited" copies of our footage, we have never received a request for the raw footage by Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis. They have been making this false assertion since the start of our media release.

Second, last Monday, we sent the full undercover footage to the Shelby County District Attorney's office. They will determine whether laws were broken and confirm the veracity of our recording. You can view the unedited footage, the original video, and press documentation on our website, LiveAction.org.

In his email, Mr. Chase tries to pass blame by claiming that the employee in the video, who identifies herself as "Marie," was not properly trained. The question at hand, however, concerns not whether some or any employees at Planned Parenthood are properly trained, but whether they are practicing, in private counseling sessions, the same policies that they profess to the public.

In our undercover video, "Marie" demonstrates a clear knowledge of the legal boundaries to abortion. The video shows that she is familiar with the process for obtaining a waiver from a judge to the parental consent requirement for abortion (which Mr. Chase incorrectly calls a parental notification law). Marie then deliberately uses her familiarity with the system to forestall the judge from finding out about the statutory rapist. The Planned Parenthood counselor has created a perfect storm for ensuring that the statutory rapist is never found out: the parents will never find out about the pregnancy, the judge will never find out about the statutory rapist, and Planned Parenthood will never again mention either.

It is all the more troubling to think that even a supposed novice counselor at Planned Parenthood would know to recommend this law-evasion strategy. How prevalent must law-evasion be at Planned Parenthood clinics when even the "interpreters" are implicated? We have taped employees, mostly counselors, from six clinics covering up the sexual abuse of children in exactly the same manner. Previous studies have found over 90% of Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide willing to do so as well. This is an ingrained pattern in the operations of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.

With this in mind, consider the response of citizens without special training or prerogative upon learning about statutory rape situations. Responsible citizens automatically know to tell proper authorities about even their slightest suspicions of sexual abuse of young girls, because the crime is too deplorable to overlook. However, when Planned Parenthood employees have a professed victim reveal abuse explicitly, they not only fail to report it, but proactively take measures to hide it. The problem, it follows, is not from an absence of training, but the presence of a more fundamental perversion, a blind tolerance of statutory rape in the service of a careless abortion-first mentality.


Lila Rose
President, Live Action

Once again, Lila Rose and her compatriots at Live Action have nailed Planned Parenthood.

All funding should be cut off for Planned Parenthood.

At the very minimum there needs to be full-scale congressional inquiry into the practices of Planned Parenthood.

Go Lila Go!


Lila Rose Takes On Planned Parenthood of Tennessee
Lila Rose Rocks Planned Parenthood's World Again
Lila Rose - Exposing Planned Parenthood and the Culture of Abortion

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Afghanistan Insurgent Attacks Compared to Iraq

Via Kimberly Kagan's excellent Institute for the Study of War comes this from their latest newsletter:

Recently, news stories out of Afghanistan have focused heavily on the increase in violence there. As the U.S. sends more troops into the country to improve the security situation, the upward trend of violence is certainly concerning. However, it is helpful to put the violence into perspective. A new ISW Graph shows how violence levels in Afghanistan compare to violence levels in Iraq. The ISW Graph provides a startling sense of what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

And here is the graph:

Afghanistan v. Iraq Violence April 2009 II

I realize it's not completely clear, so follow the link to where you can download it from the Understanding War site directly.

Not to minimize the situation in Afghanistan, but it is useful to put it into perspective. Taking it a step further, via the CIA Factbook here are the population figures for the two countries:


Total area: 437,072 sq km

Area comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Idaho

Population 28,945,657 (July 2009 est.)


Total area: total: 647,500 sq km

Area comparative: slightly smaller than Texas

Population: 33,609,937 (July 2009 est.)


I think most people intuitively know that Afghanistan is the less violent of the two wars, and yet it is still useful to see the actual numbers. However, I've read that American casualties are the same in the two wars on a percentage basis, so when we say Afghanistan is less violent we mean as per the population, not the risk to our troops.

The graph also shows just how violent Iraq really was when things went south in 2006, and really even before then. Had we not instituted the surge things would certainly have spiraled out of control. By the same token, the dramatic improvements in Iraq are made clear as well.

As for Afghanistan, it's not that the violence has really gotten worse, it's just that I think we've noticed it more. There have been some ups and downs but you can't really say there's any trend upward. Senior commanders have said in briefings (covered here) that in the last year or so the insurgents have switched tactics from attacking coalition troops to attacking civilians. This is what their jihadist brothers did in Iraq, and it nearly worked.

All this said, American casualties have been going up in Afghanistan, perhaps because of the increased emphasis there. See icasualties.org for complete details. I am unable to copy their charts and do not have time to recreate them here.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack