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July 30, 2009

Obama's "Teachable Moment"

This evening we had our first "beer summit"

Beer Summit
Reuters photo
Left to right - VP Biden, Professor Gates, Sgt. Crowley, President Obama

Earlier today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that "...it's our hope that, as the president said, this can be part of a teachable moment..."

There may indeed be something to learn from here, but I hope he didn't mean from our president, because he is just about the last person I'm interested in hearing from about race. Someone who went to a racist church for 20 years, listened to a kook hatemonger preacher, and left only because it was politically expedient to do so, has nothing to tell me.

Yes I know, Obama's attendance at Trinity United is "old news" and we're supposed to just forget about it. Well, I'm going to forget about it. If the left wants to talk about race, fine, let's talk. But let's talk about both sides of the equation, not just one.

Otherwise, I second what Tom Sowell has to say about Obama and this incident.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 29, 2009

Obama Accelerates the Federal Deficit

It is popular on the left to accuse conservatives Republicans of hypocrisy when we criticize President Obama for his large budget deficits. George W Bush and the Republicans in Congress during his term increased the federal deficit, so we have no right to criticize Obama.

Like all misinformation, there's a grain of truth in it; we did support Bush in 2000 and 2004. We also supported the Republicans in Congress. Where it fails is the assumption that we were happy with their fiscal policy. Anyone even remotely familiar with the right knows that conservatives were wary of Bush from the outset, and downright disgusted with him and so many Republicans in Congress by his second term. We supported them in their elections because the Democrat alternative was worse. Even many Republicans who were not really conservative because disenchanted with their own party's lack of fiscal restraint.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate just how much Obama will accelerate the budget deficit is with this video. It was developed by Matthias Shapiro at Political Math, which I found it posted at Hot Air

As the video makes clear, Republicans aren't saints on the matter. Reagan, George HW Bush, and George W Bush all played a role in increasing the deficit. Clinton was actually somewhat fiscally responsible, but it must be remembered most of his spending cuts came from the military, which was reduced dramatically with the ending of the Cold War.

A few months ago I attended a talk by Wayne Abernathy of the American Bankers Association in which he made the point "I know what a hundred dollars is. I know what a thousand dollars is, and I can grasp the concept of a hundred thousand or a million. But what is a billion or trillion dollars?"

The point is that the numbers are so large that they are unreal to us. We'll get upset if our town spends $10,000 on new office furniture that we think is unneeded, but barely sigh when the federal government spends $10,000,000,000 on a new program. This video makes the point:

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 27, 2009

Cambridge Police Speak From the Heart as they Support Officer Crowley

This video has been going around the Internet lately. I saw it first over at Neo-Neocon, so my hat tip is to her. Watch it fast before it disappears from the CNN website. This is so damaging to Obama that someone there is likely to think the better of it and send it down the memory hole.

Maybe Allahpundit says it best

God only knows how much heat she and Sgt. Lashley will take from the "authenticity" police for this; Crowley's a spectacularly lucky guy to have friends like them. In fact, I'm thinking that beer date at the White House to discuss "tolerance" might not be such a bad idea if Crowley gets to bring Kelly King along. Skip Gates and The One might just learn something.

If you're looking for postracial America, you've found it.

Ditto that. Not much "post-racial" about our president or country that I can see.

Most interesting is the response of Officer King. She's she's bright and articulate and speaks from the heart. Obama has let her down tremendously and she's quite pained about it. There's not anyone more bitter than a spurned lover, and given his cult-like levels of support, if he lets them down they could turn on him and fast. If Obama doesn't get his act together his slide downward could accelerate.

I wasn't there when Officer Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates, so I don't know what happened. My guess is that the officer didn't need to arrest Gates, but that Gates acted like a jerk and is claiming racism where there is none. What I do know is that it was entirely inappropriate for President Obama to weigh in, especially after admitting that he didn't know all of the facts.

Via TWS, here's the transcript of King's remarks:

Q: What did you think when you heard about these charges against Sgt. Crowley?

King: "I was appalled. I know Jimmy...I know him to be a good police officer, a good man with character, and I knew these charges were bogus. There has been a tremendous rush to judgment, and I think the thing to be learned first and foremost from this is to look at all of the evidence, to consider all, to weigh all.

I think Prof. Gates has done a very good job of throwing up a very effective smokescreen, calling race into this. It had nothing to do with it.

Q: And, the President?

King: "It's unfortunate, I supported him. I voted for him. I will not again...I think it's admirable that he would speak on behalf of his friend, but he should have recused himself. He should have stepped back, and he should ahev said, "I support my friend, but I don't ahve all the facts. I won't weigh in yet.'"

Q: What do you have to say to people who may have already made up their minds about Sgt. Crowley?

King: "Keep their minds open and realize that we would not support someone who we felt wronged someone else. We took this job to do the right thing. We all took this job to do the right thing.We would not support anyone in blue doing the wrong thing.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Iraq Briefing - 21 July 2009 - General Bolger's Email

This briefing is by Major General Daniel Bolger, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, which headquarters Multi-National Division Baghdad. Last Tuesday he spoke from Iraq via satellite to reporters at the Pentagon.

MND-Baghdad is also known as Task Force Baghdad. Its major area of responsibility is the city of Baghdad. 1st Cav deployed to Iraq in February 2009 for what I believe is their third tour.

Bolger reports to Lieutenant General Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 replaced Gen. David Petraeus. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

This and other videos can be seen at DODvClips. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

Following are excerpts from Maj. Gen. Bolger's opening remarks:

GEN. BOLGER: ...And here in Iraq I serve as the commander of the Multi-National Division Baghdad, as Bryan mentioned. In this role, I lead about 31,000 U.S. soldiers, as well as some sailors, airmen and Marines. And our mission is to protect the 7 million people of Baghdad, and that's Baghdad province. There's about 6 million in the city proper, and the rest of them live out in the countryside that surrounds the city.

Now, in our operations we work closely with General Abboud Qanbar and the Iraqi Baghdad Operations Command. He commands a much larger force than I do. He has about 150,000 people in all, six complete Iraqi divisions. And for the Iraqis, about a third of them are in the army and another third in the various kinds of police, and the rest are the Sons of Iraq, which are the local version of Neighborhood Watch, and they're very important in this war. They're the former insurgents who reconciled to our side....

As Gen. Bolger's opening statement was relatively short, we'll get on with the Q & A. First, a brief on the situation now vs during the surge

Q Hi, General. It's Laura Jakes with Associated Press.

Wondering if you can talk a little bit more about the numbers of forces you still have, in the city of Baghdad, if any of them are staying in the COPs or the JCCs or JSSs, or whatever situation you have there, forces who are actually living in the city as opposed to Victory or in the Green Zone, and how long you expect that to go on.

GEN. BOLGER: to put it in perspective, at the height of the surge, in 2007, we had about 76 bases in the city and then a large number of even smaller patrol bases numbering up in the hundreds.

Right now, the number of U.S. facilities you'd find in the city would be in the tens, and I mean low tens. And I don't want to give a specific number, because obviously we don't want to disclose exactly where we're operating out of day-to-day, for a lot of reasons.

Now we'll get on with the main show, which was an email by Gen. Bolger that was highlighted in a July 17 story in The Washington Post. Read the whole thing, but the relevant part of the story is this:

The Americans have been taken aback by the new restrictions on their activities. The Iraqi order runs "contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations," Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Baghdad division, wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.

"Maybe something was 'lost in translation,' " Bolger wrote. "We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I'm sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be." He said U.S. troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis.

"This is a broad right and it demands that we patrol, raid and secure routes as necessary to keep our forces safe," he wrote. "We'll do that, preferably partnered.

Now, then, the briefiing. Leo Shane asks Gen. Bolger about the email:

Q General, Leo Shane from Stars and Stripes. We're hearing a lot of reports of frustration among troops with some of the role changes. I wonder if you could speak to what you're hearing from your guys.

And also, what's the -- you spoke a little bit about the cooperation level. I think we saw an e-mail from you over the weekend that touched on the issues of what U.S. forces can and can't do in the city. What is the cooperation level? Are you getting pushback from the Iraqis?

GEN. BOLGER: Well, I think it's a great question that you ask. And it's really been a challenge for us. You know, you put 180,000 people inside a city of 6 million -- you know, obviously, we reduced our numbers significantly, but we're in and around there -- you're going to obviously get a lot of different interpretations of a 15-page document in English and Arabic, which, aside from some local arrangements we made in terms of orders and mission statements we've given our guys, that's what a lot of Iraqi people heard.

And that document has 30 articles and there's all kinds of things in it. I'm sure some attorneys somewhere could make sense of all of it. But what we've got is just folks out on the ground trying to make sense of it as they're carrying out their task.

In addition, and this was totally to be expected, a lot of the Iraqi public media trumpeted what was in Article 24 about leaving out of the cities. There's -- as I said, there's 30 articles in the agreement. They could have also talked about Article 4, that said that some Americans would be asked to stay to help out. For a lot of reasons, that just got lost. And again, 15-page, single-spaced type in English and Arabic, you could expect some confusion.

Most military operations I've been in I've got a degree of friction. And this one has had some for sure. I think each day that goes by we get a little bit better at working together. The great thing that we really had helping us is we've been under this system essentially since 1 January. So although there were some hiccups right at the beginning, some Iraqi guys saying hey, why are you Americans in the city; you know, we heard an announcement you were all leaving. What are you doing here?

Other cases, where Iraqis came to us and said hey, we need you to do this combat operation, we had to tell them hey, no, you know, we're in a supporting role now. If you lead, we can help you with these things and not those things.

And it took a while. And it's been my experience whenever you're turning a big operation like MND Baghdad or the Baghdad ops command on the Iraqi side, there's always going to be some frictions and hiccups.

One thing I would like to point out, though, is that -- and this has pretty well been seen -- there's not been a lot of confrontation or pushing or shoving or any silly stuff in Baghdad. There's certainly been some scenes where an American or an Iraqi commander, you know, have to come out of their vehicles and walk up and figure out what's going on and all that. But you know, heck, we had that at earlier parts of the war as well, and a lot of that's a function of not speaking the same language and all that.

The one great thing I can state is, from General Abboud Qanbar all the way down to our Iraqi privates and our privates, they definitely know that partnership's the name of the game, especially in the city...

So I think in a lot of ways, it's actually built on what we've done up until now. It's built on years of work. And despite those initial frustrations, I think, it seems to be going pretty well.

The other thing I'd point out, which is equally important, is that the security situation in Baghdad also remains pretty stable. Some people were worried that if we pulled our major combat forces out, we might have a big upspike in violence.....

Of course Gen. Bolger does not directly answer the question. I would imagine that Secretary Gates had a talk with him after the Post story got out.

There is much more of interest in the briefing, particularly some discussion on the Sons of Iraq (SOI) They're former insurgents (mostly Sunni, but some Shia) and some criminals. who were brought into the government as a sort of super-neighborhood-watch/quasi-military-police force. We paid them initially but now the government of Iraq has to pick up the tag. Now that the insurgency is mostly over we're trying to transition them into civilian jobs. As with everything in warfare, everything is simple but the simplest thing is difficult. Some of the SOI are going back to their criminal ways.

So now the big question is whether the Iraqis can do the job without us. The 1st Cav is about to end their current deployment with another job well done. The key now is for the Iraqis do do their jobs well.


Briefing by Colonel Joseph Martin and Mr. John Bennett. Col Martin commands the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multinational Division-Baghdad.

Iraq Briefing - 23 February 2009 - Still A Third World Country

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

July 22, 2009

Keep Your Nuclear Umbrella At Home

Don't worry, be happy!

Clinton: U.S. Will Extend 'Defense Umbrella' Over Gulf if Iran Obtains Nuclear Weapons Secretary of state warns Iran that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.

By James Rosen

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran Wednesday that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.

Appearing on a Thai TV program, Clinton said the U.S. would also take steps to "upgrade the defense" of America's Gulf allies in such an event, a reference to stepped-up military aid to those countries.

Yeah right. Sorry, but I'm not buying the notion that anyone will be impressed with a U.S. "defense umbrella," even if it means a nuclear umbrella, and here's why:

One, Iran will not be deterred by conventional or nuclear weapons in the same way the Soviets could be deterred. Evil as the communists where, they were atheists, and as such in the end wanted to live. There was no benefit to them if at the end of a war their country lay in ashes. The Khomeinists who rule Iran are religious zealots, and while they have the earthly goal of establishing a regional Imamate, are willing do die if that's what it takes. Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said that

Amid chants of "Death to Israel," he declared, "The use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. . . . It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Even if Israel responded with its own nuclear arsenal, the Islamic Republic has the strategic depth to absorb and withstand the retaliation, and so the price might be worth it. "It will only harm the Islamic world," he argued.[9] When it comes to Iranian desires to possess nuclear weapons rather than simply a civilian nuclear energy program, Rafsanjani's statements have become the rule rather than the exception.

And of course current President Ahmadinejad is well known for his fixation on the return of the Mahdi, and might even believe he can prompt his return by creating "chaos and bloodshed" on earth.

At any rate, it is always a mistake to "mirror image" and assume the other side plays by your rules. That is, to assume they share your assumptions and reason as you do.

Two, no country in their right mind would accept a U.S. assurance that we'll use nuclear weapons against Iran if they get hit, and this includes Israel.

Defending western Europe was one thing, the Middle East another. If an Arab state gets hit with a nuclear weapon, there will be a huge outcry in the West to the effect of "why should we kill innocent Iranians to protect Arabs?" If Israel gets hit, many in the U.S. will demand retaliation, but many will demand object. And I'm not at all optimistic about Europe if Israel gets hit.

And this is if the U.S. homeland or our military bases (read personnel) overseas are not directly threatened. Any Iranian with his salt will threaten a retaliatory nuclear attack on either the U.S. homeland or a regional military base if we intervene.

The threat against the U.S. homeland need not be real to be effective. They don't need ICBMs, all they need to do is announce they've got a short-range missile on an mystery cargo ship off the U.S. coast, or a bomb planted in one of our cities, and how are we to know they're bluffing? Will we take the chance?

So in the end I think that in the face of a threatened Iranian strike not many U.S. presidents, and certainly no Democrat ones, will strike Iran.

As such, the countries of the region will get their own nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt all have the capability to do so. And then we'll have a series of barely stable governments armed with the worlds most dangerous weapons, all on hair trigger alert. Great.

Therefore, the only thing to do is stop Iran from getting the bomb. If President Obama wants to try one more round of talks, ok, fine. But when if they fail, we're going to have to preempt Iran by striking their facilities.

Of course, this entire situation could have been avoided had the Bush Administration pursued a policy of regime change in Iran through clandestine means. I think the evidence, though, is that they didn't, if for no other reason than that the Democrats in Congress would have leaked it and Obama would have announced it. Obama should pursue this strategy himself, but he won't.

I think you can tell I'm very pessimistic.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No More F-22 Raptors

President Obama, aided by Senator John McCain, won their battle to halt production of the F-22 Raptor at 187 aircraft in a 58 - 40 vote in the Senate. 141 have been built so far. According to Wikipedia, the Pentagon originally requested 750, scaled that down to 442 in 1994, went down again to 339 in 1997, and in 2003 dropped it again to 223. We are told that the Pentagon opposed production of 187 aircraft, which will be used by opponents. Knowing people who have worked on this program, I don't believe for a second that's really true. A president can always find careerist officers who will promote whatever policy he chooses to implement.

You can tell I think it was a bad decision.

I did an fairly lengthy post on the F-22 back in April, and since there's no need to reinvent the wheel I'm not going to repeat myself. Interested parties can go to that post for the full argument in favor of building more Raptors. Suffice it to say for now that we have put all our eggs in the F-35 Lightning II basket, which is an airplane not yet in production, and until then we'll have to rely the fleet of 1970's vintage F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s.

Whatever you want to think about the F-22, let's not have any sillyness about "garguantian" defense budgets. As I have shown, Obama's budgets will cut military spending to pre - 9/11 levels, and that at below 4% of GDP, US defense spending is at a post-World War II low (excepting the late 1990s, when under Clinton it fell to 3%).

Othewise, this email posted at TWS says it best:

Clearly the White House and Gates were able to strong-arm wondering Dems, like Kerry in particular. I would say prospects in conference not good; House provision was weaker and so are the House politicians involved.

At a little higher level, this is what happens when defense budgeting is a zero-sum game. Even any Army end-strength increase is going to have to come out of some other hide (don't expect that allegedly walled-off FCS money to be around very long).

This is also a very good day for the ChiComs: less for them to worry about, not only from us but from the Japanese (this pretty much kills export of F-22). And it is a big step in confirming the long-term decline of US defenses that the Obama budget/program represents. Even if much/most of his domestic program doesn't make it, he's begun locking in yet another decade of defense neglect.

There will soon be a crisis of American airpower: old F-15 and F-16s, aging F-18s and not enough of them to fill carrier decks, too few F-22s (that you're going to be very reluctant to use) and late arriving (and limited) F-35s (and what's the likelihood that F-35 goes forward according to plan?), plus a dinky and old bomber fleet. I haven't worked out the numbers, but if you look forward 7-10 years, the picture has got to be very ugly.

But then again, since there are going to be no tankers, it doesn't matter that there are no fighters.

They're high-fiving it in China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Venezuela....

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 19, 2009

"States Hit Hardest by Recession Get Least Stimulus Money"

If a state wants a bridge, normally they would raise the necessary funds from tax revenue. If a county wants to build another homeless shelter, they would do likewise. If either is too poor, it may be a good for another state to give them the money. We are, after all, one country and all in it together.

The mechanism by which states give each other money is the federal government. Instead of the tax money being routed through the county or state, it goes through the federal government. If the federal government does not have the money, but the need is great, it can engage in deficit spending, the theory being that we'll pay ourselves back when times get better.

Of course, it's all nonsense. The reality is that federal revenues do not go to the states or localities that need them the most, but are divided up according to how powerful your senator or representative is.

Fox News did a study and the fact is there is an inverse relationship between stimulus spending and need.

The stimulus bill "includes help for those hardest hit by our economic crisis," President Obama promised when he signed the bill into law on Feb. 17. "As a whole, this plan will help poor and working Americans."

But FOXNews.com has analyzed data tracking how the stimulus money is being given out across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and it has found a perverse pattern: the states hardest hit by the recession received the least money. States with higher bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment rates got less money. And higher income states received more....

The spending data come from two reliable sources: the Wall Street Journal and the Federal government's Recovery.gov....

Charts and Graphs Below the Fold

The first graph shows stimulus spending per capita as related to the per capita income by state. If stimulus money was going to those with low incomes, we would expect to see the line go steeply from lower left to upper right. As it is, it's clear that states with the lower per capita incomes are not receiving more money:

Stimulus spending to per capita income by State

Next we see stimulus spending as related to bankruptcy rates. Again, the trend line goes in exactly the opposite direction it should if money was allocated by need:

Stimulus to Bankruptcy by State

Next is stimulus spending as related to foreclosure rates. Ditto to what we saw above.

Stimulus spending to forecloseure by State

Finally, stimulus spending as related to unemployment. Big surprise, states with higher unemployment rates do not get more money than those who don't:

Stimulus spending to Unemployment by State

Two more paragraphs from the story

Breaking down the data by type of spending shows that money for infrastructure was much more likely than social spending to go to high-income states with low bankruptcy and foreclosure rates. Federal spending on construction and repairs to federal buildings as well as repairs to highways and public transit projects drives much of this perverse relationship between economic distress and infrastructure stimulus spending....

Lee Ohanian, an economics professor at UCLA who has extensively studied New Deal policies and depressions, told FOXNews.com that the spending patterns our study found "certainly don't fit what you would think that they would be from the standpoint of government spending as a social safety net.... The pattern does seem quite odd. It is certainly not the way the program was advertised."

Yup. The stimulus money was not allocated based on need, but on political power.

But the stimulus was never about stimulating the economy. It was about two things:

  1. Moving us in the direction of a European-style statist economy. Obama knows that once these programs are in place they're almost impossible to eliminate. The objective of the Democrats was to set up programs that would require future spending, knowing full well that again once in place these programs take on a life of their own

  2. Creating a class of permanent Democrat voters by creating dependency. Once hooked on a program it becomes hard to break the habit. People dependent on the government will tend to vote Democrat.

The Fox story therefore is unfortunately no surprise.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hizb ut-Tahrir: Terrorism is not the Issue

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a jihadist group that is currently holding a conference in a Chicago suburb, is trying to spin their way out of bad publicity by denying ties to al Qaeda. From Fox News today

Roughly 500 members of Hizb ut-Tahrir -- a global Sunni network with reported ties to confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Al Qaeda in Iraq's onetime leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- met inside a Hilton hotel in Oak Lawn, Ill., to host "The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam."

Hizb ut-Tahrir insists that it does not engage in terrorism. The organization is not recognized by the State Department as a known terror group. Its supporters, however, blasted capitalism while calling for a rise of Islam during Sunday's conference.

"Free market, organization, capitalization -- all has failed and brought disaster to America," said one of the group's speakers.

Whether they engage in terrorism or are linked to al Qaeda is irrelevant. The purpose of the jihad is to spread the faith by any means possible, and for Hizb ut-Tahrir the goal is to reestablish the caliphate and impose sharia law on all Muslim ruled dominions.

Fortunately the protesters outside their conference near Chicago get it:

Hizb ut-Tahrir Protesters July 2009  Chicago suburb

Walid Phares gets it too. From the Fox story

But some terrorism experts say Hizb ut-Tahrir may be even more dangerous than many groups that are on the State Departrment's terror list.

"Hizb ut-Tahrir is one of the oldest, largest indoctrinating organizations for the ideology known as jihadism," Walid Phares, director of the Future of Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told FOXNews.com.

Phares said that Hizb ut-Tahrir, rather than training members to carry out terrorist acts like Al Qaeda, focuses instead on indoctrinating youths between ages of 9 and 18 to absorb the ideology that calls for the formation of an empire -- or "khilafah" -- that will rule according to Islamic law and condones any means to achieve it, including militant jihad.

Hizb ut-Tahrir often says that its indoctrination "prepares the infantry" that groups like Al Qaeda take into battle, Phares said.

"It's like a middle school that prepares them to be recruited by the high school, which is Al Qaeda," he said. "One would compare them to Hitler youth. ... It's an extremely dangerous organization."

Phares said Hizb ut-Tahrir has strongholds in Western countries, including Britain, France and Spain, and clearly is looking to strengthen its base in the U.S.

"The aim of this conference is to recruit within the Muslim community in America," he said. "The Middle East governments go after them, but in the U.S. they are protected, so having a base here is going to help their cells around the world."

They're "more dangerous than many groups that are on the State Departrment's terror list" because we tend to focus on terrorism, and figure any Muslim not engaged or linked to ut must be a "good Muslim." As Phares says in his books, the problem is a lack of education in this country. During the Cold War we understandably focused on the communist threat. During the 1990s we thought we could ignore the world and concentrate on spending the "peace dividend." The Bush Administration had a golden opportunity to educate the public about jihadism, but chose to tell us the problem was just terrorism. President Obama has dumped the term "War on Terror." Unbelievably, we're moving backwards.

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) has a propaganda video on Youtube. They've disabled the link enabling others to post it elsewhere, so you'll have to go over there to watch it.


Much more over at Steve Emerson's The Investigative Project:
Hizb ut-Tahrir: Shariah Takes Precedence over U.S. Constitution
Hizb ut-Tahrir In America: Preaching Hate, Building A Caliphate
Select Quotes from Historic 1994 Hizb ut-Tahrir Rally in London's Wembley Arena

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2009

The Jihad Comes To Chicago

From Fox News yesterday:

A group committed to establishing an international Islamic empire and reportedly linked to Al Qaeda is stepping up its Western recruitment efforts by holding its first official conference in the U.S.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global Sunni network with reported ties to confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Al Qaeda in Iraq's onetime leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It has operated discreetly in the U.S. for decades.

Now, it is coming out of the shadows and openly hosting a July 19 conference entitled, "The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam," at a posh Hilton hotel in a suburb of Chicago.

Hizb ut-Tahrir insists that it does not engage in terrorism, and it is not recognized by the State Department as a known terror group.

That may be true, but it also misses the point.

While terrorism is a danger, it is not the main danger. Worse is a sort of "creeping sharia" in which the Jihadists achieve their goals without resorting to traditional acts of terror. Let their be no mistake; the goal of the Jihad is to install sharia law everywhere. This may not be terrorism as traditionally defined, but the end result is violence and terror against all who would dissent.

Who is Hizb ut-Tahrir?

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation)

Global Security, is, I think, pretty non-partisan. Here's what they have to say:

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) a radical Islamic political movement that seeks 'implementation of pure Islamic doctrine' and the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia. The group's aim is to resume the Islamic way of life and to convey the Islamic da'wah to the world. The ultimate goal of this secretive sectarian group is to unite the entire ummah, or Islamic world community, into a single caliphate. The aim is to bring the Muslims back to living an Islamic way of life in 'Dar al-Islam' [the land where the rules of Islam are being implemented, as opposed to the non-Islamic world] and in an Islamic society such that all life's affairs in society are administered according to the Shariah rules.

Its basic aim was struggle with infidels and the organization of a universal caliphate embracing all Islamic countries. This objective means bringing the Muslims back to living an Islamic way of life in Dar al-Islam and in an Islamic society such that all of life's affairs in society are administered according to the Shari'ah rules, and the viewpoint in it is the halal and the haram under the shade of the Islamic State, which is the Khilafah State...

The group - also known as the Islamic Party of Liberation - believes it can achieve its utopian Islamic state in three steps. The first involves educating Muslims about its philosophies and goals. In the second step, the Muslims would then spread these views among others in their countries, especially members of government, the military and other power centers. In the third and final step, Hizb ut-Tahrir believes its faithful will cause secular governments to crumble because loyalties will then lie solely with Islam - not nationalities, politics or ethnic identifications. At that point the group says a supreme Islamic leader, a Caliph like those of past centuries would rule all Muslims with both political and religious authority.

There's more, but you get the point. They are not bomb throwers, which keeps them off terrorist lists. Yet their end goal is a totalitarian state antithetical to all Western values.

It is just this sort of thing that Walid Phares and others have written so much about. The goal of the Sunni Jihadists is to recreate the caliphate of old and rule the entire world, or at least control it. They view all Arab governments with distain, with the Wahabists only tolerating the Saudi and other gulf state rulers as long as they fund their jihadist efforts.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (sometimes Hizb ut tahrir or Hizb-ut-Tahrir) has it's own website, and it's got both Arabic and English sections. There's also chat forums in both languages, and it all makes for very interesting reading. They make no bones about their opposition to both democracy and capitalism

The fact that the current existing states in the Islamic world are states of Kufr is evident and does not require explanation, for all of their constitutions do not consider the sins as crimes that entail punishment, and they adopt the systems and the rules of the capitalist democratic system and they effectively implement them in economy, education and all the aspects of life. These constitutions deem the sovereignty to belong to the people, not to Allah (swt), they recognise the international treaties that totally contradict Islam and they do not Islam as a intellectual leadership to the world.
Kufr/Kafr literally means "rejecter" or "ingrate," but is more defined as "a person who does not recognize God (Allah) or the prophethood of Muhammad (i.e., any non-Muslim) or who hides, denies, or covers the "truth"." In other words, an infidel or apostate.

The chat room is also quite illuminating, as well as depressing. Islam will take over the world, the United States and West is at war with Islam, Obama is just as bad as Bush and they aren't fooled, capitalism and democracy are evil, and of course armed resistance to the American occupiers of Iraq is good and just. Reform minded Muslims are roundly denounced.

A January 2006 MSNBC article profiles the group and gives us a bit of their background (h/t Always on Watch)

(The fall of the Turkish Caliphate in 1924) is what inspired the group most directly focused on the push for a new caliphate, Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation. The group, which claims to be active in 40 countries, began in 1953 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. But while the Brotherhood, which also favors a caliphate, embraced realpolitik, growing into a potent opposition force in Syria and Egypt, Hizb ut-Tahrir charted a more subversive path....

(Their desired) system includes a caliphate, revived after national governments are subverted by Hizb ut-Tahrir members working in their highest levels, according to the plan. Hizb ut-Tahrir members have been charged with planning such coups in Jordan and Egypt. Zeyno Baran, an analyst at the Washington-based Nixon Center who has written extensively on the group, said it could "usefully be thought of as a conveyor belt for terrorists."

The group has a rigid, cellular, secretive structure and a bookish set of beliefs describing its utopian vision for a future caliphate. Hizb ut-Tahrir insists it has renounced violence, a policy that differentiates it from groups such as Kaplan's motley band or the Chechen guerrillas who carried out the deadly 2004 siege at a primary school in Beslan, in southern Russia -- and who would seat a caliph in the northern Caucasus, according to Chechen guerrilla groups' Web sites.

The question to ask Muslims is not "are you in favor of terrorism," as almost all will say no. The question is "do you favor sharia law in the West" or "should Muslims in the West be allowed to govern themselves by sharia law?" If you get any equivocation at all, they're a problem. If they say "no", they're on the good side and are to be welcomed.

Is Hizb ut-Tahrir a Threat?

No doubt it's tempting to write these people off small potatoes. We on the right are often enough accused of a "War on Islam" or "Islamophobia" by those who wish to ignore the truth.

I think these folks are a problem, and not just because of this one organization. If it was just Hizb ut-Tahrir then no problem, and after all there are kookly Christian groups and all manner of militia groups throughout the U.S..

But with Islam the problem is unfortunately quite widespread. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahabists from Saudi Arabia, and for that matter Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), all want to introduce sharia law into the West. The problem is worse in Europe than in the United States, but a threat here to be sure.

As Walid Phares likes to point out, the sad fact is that most Westerners remain woefully uneducated about the Jihad, how widespread it is and who is involved, and it's objectives. Now is not the post for a full dissertation, as details can be found on this blog by scrolling through the Book Reviews, Creeping Sharia, Islam, and Jihadism and the War of Ideas sections under "Categories" at right.

Of course there are good Muslims, who are secular and reject Jihad. The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is one, and yesterday they issued a press release denouncing Hizb ut-Tahrir. In the release they also point out that the silence of groups like CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in not "condemning the ideologies of Hizb ut-Tahrir and their agenda of insurgency in America speaks volumes to their own, albeit, more camouflaged Islamist agenda." The AIFD is one group that gets it, but I've profiled others too.

As for the Hizb ut-Tahrir, look to see who denounces them and who won't. That will tell you everything you need to know about them as well.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 17, 2009

Iraq Briefing - 14 July 2009 - Turning More Bases Over to the Iraqis

This briefing is by Col. Butch Kievenaar, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, otherwise known as the Warhorse Brigade. He spoke via satellite from Forward Operating Base (War) Eagle with reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The Warhorse Brigade is part of Multinational Division-South, which is under the command of the 34th Infantry Division from Rosemount, Minnesota. They are based at Basra Airbase; and operate in Basra province. The brigade is from Fort Carson, Colorado ,and is due to redeploy home next month, having completed a 12-month deployment.

MND-South is also known as the Red Bull Division. Their mission is to "assist Iraqi Security Forces with security and stability missions in the area south of Baghdad ranging from Najaf to Wasit provinces extending to Basrah."

If I have it right, Col Kievenaar reports to Major General Richard Nash, commanding general of the 34th Infantry Division. Nash, 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. A complete order of battle can be found at the Institute for Understanding War.

This and other videos can be seen at DODClips. The Pentagon Channel has more news and video about our armed forces. The transcript is at DefenseLink.

Below the Fold - Col. Kievenaar's briefing coupled with maps showing pre-surge, surge, and post-surge deployment of U.S. combat troops in Iraq. See how we are reducing our footprint as we hand over bases to the Iraqis.

COL. KIEVENAAR: Good morning. My name is Butch Kievanaar -- (audio break) -- talk to you today about the operations over the last year in the southern provinces of Iraq.

Our brigade and battalions have moved multiple times over the last year, based off the fast and ever-changing security environment here in Iraq. (Audio break) -- provinces of Qadisiyah, otherwise known as Diwaniyah, Najaf and southern Babil, while providing a combat arms battalion to Multinational Division North in Kirkuk, eventually moving to Mosul, and a battalion in Wasit that eventually moved to Babil.

As background, the Brigade arrived in Iraq in September of 2008 where we replaced a Polish contingent in what was formerly known as Multinational Division Center South.

With our assumption -- (audio break) -- transition to the control of the Multinational Division Center, which was under the command of the 10th Mountain Division.

In April of 2009 we moved a portion of the Brigade to Basra and assumed responsibility for the province from the 20th U.K. Brigade on the 1st of May.

During this transition, Multinational Division Center became Multinational Division South, and the 10th Mountain transferred authority to the 34th Infantry Division.

Next month we're scheduled to redeploy back to Fort Carson, Colorado, having completed a 12-month deployment.

I'd like to take a moment to tell you about the Brigade. The Warhorse Brigade is about 4,000 soldiers strong. It comprises two combined arms battalions, a cavalry squadron, one field artillery battalion, a special troops battalion, and a brigade support battalion.

So as you can see the situation in Iraq is fluid. Now that we have beaten back the insurgency (hopefully permanently), we are reducing our footprint. Unlike Afghanistan, the Iraqi insurgency was mostly in urban areas. As part of the surge we moved our troops out of their large bases and onto smaller bases that were among the population they were to protect. Part of what is going on now is a process of U.S. forces moving out of these urban areas and handing the bases over to the Iraqis.

Because we are reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq we are also reorganizing their corps structure. Following is a high-level overview.

From the Multi-National Force-Iraq website, the current organization structure for logistic and combat units is:

Joint Base Balad Joint Base Balad is home to the headquarters of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and what was formerly Logistics Support Area Anaconda, the largest Army supply center in Iraq. The U.S. Army's 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command is responsible for providing logistics support throughout theater. Balad is located approximately 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Multi-National Corps - Iraq
This is the Tactical Unit responsible for command and control of Operations in Iraq. Currently MNC-I is headquartered by I Corps, forward deployed to Camp Victory, Baghdad. The following units report to MNC-Iraq:

Iraq is divided into four major areas of responsibility maintained by forces from four countries. Below are the units that cover these areas. When available a link has been provided to the unit's homepage on the Internet.

* Multi-National Division - Baghdad
MND-Baghdad is also known as Task Force Baghdad. Its major area of responsibility is the city of Baghdad. MND-Baghdad is headquartered by the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas.

* Multi-National Division - North
MND-North is also known as Task Force Lightning. Responsible for an area including the cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul, and Samarra, MND-N is headquartered by the 25th Infantry Division from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

* Multi-National Force - West
MNF-W is headquartered by the U.S. II Marine Expeditionary Force. Their area of operations include the cities of Ar Ramadi and Fallujah.

* Multi-National Division - South
MND-S, also known as the Rud Bull Division, assists Iraqi Security Forces with security and stability missions in the area south of Baghdad ranging from Najaf to Wasit provinces extending to Basrah. MND-S is headquartered by the 34th Infantry Division from Rosemount, Minnesota.

Prior to this reorganization the org chart went something like this:

* Multi-National Corps - Iraq
* Logistics Support Area Anaconda
* Multi-National Division - Baghdad
* Multi-National Division - North
* Multi-National Division Center
* Multi-National Force - West
* Multinational Division Central-South
* Multi-National Division (South-East)

MNF-Baghdad, North, and Center were each headquartered by a U.S. Army Division. MNF-West was headquartered by a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). Central South and South-East by Polish and British troops respectively.

Each U.S. Army division consists of 3-4 brigades. Each MEF consists of 3-4 Regimental Combat Teams. Divisions and MEF are commanded by major generals, and the brigades and regimental combat teams by colonels. Each brigade consists of 3-7 battalions, which are commanded by a lieutenant colonel. A brigade may consist of 3-5,000 troops, a battalion maybe 1,200. Anyone correct me if I am wrong, however.

Here's a map showing 2004 deployments, just so you get some idea of where these MND structures were:

Iraq Org 2004

Next some maps from the New York Times showing deployments around the country, pre-surge, surge, and post-surge.

Iraq Battalions Jan 2007

Before the Surge - After months of escalating sectarian violence, President Bush announces a plan to add more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines to the United States military presence in Iraq. Insurgents are using the rural belt around Baghdad to stage attacks, but there are not enough American forces to fight them outside the city.

Iraq battalions Jan 2007

Iraq Battalions Sept 2007

At the Height Of the Surge - The last of the surge forces arrive in June. In August and September, American forces clear much of the insurgent activity out of the rural belt around Baghdad. With violence coming under control, American troops establish numerous outposts throughout the city, from which they make daily patrols.

Iraq battalions Sept 2007

Iraq Battalions Oct 2008

A Year Later - The last of the surge units leave Iraq in the summer of 2008. American forces have already started pulling out of cities around the country, particularly in Anbar Province, where troop levels are drastically reduced. There is still active fighting in Mosul, Baghdad and Diyala Province.

Iraq battalions Oct 2008

Iraq Battalions June 2009

The Withdrawal and Changing Roles - Battalions that were living in outposts among the population move to bases at the outskirts of neighborhoods. In Baghdad and other cities, American troops are switching to an advisory role, supporting Iraqi units as requested, following the process started in Anbar Province.

Iraq battalions June 2009

Back to Col Kievenaar's opening remarks:

COL. KIEVENAAR: June 30th marked a significant milestone for the citizens of Basra as the Iraqi Security Forces assumed responsibility for their city.

We have turned over a total of four patrol bases since our arrival to Basra. All four of those bases were handed back over to the Iraqi Security Forces. We are scheduled to close two more bases before we redeploy.

We have also significantly reduced the number of our soldiers inside the city of Basra. Upon my arrival, the Brigade had over 500 soldiers inside the city, and we now have less that 200 soldiers operating inside the city.These soldiers remain at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces and the provincial government to continue our partnership and training from these combined command and control centers.

These locations are predominantly with the Iraqi Army, and I want to emphasize we are only in the remaining locations because we've been asked to stay there, and are there to coordinate, conduct joint command and control training, and provide enablers to the Iraqi Security Forces.All vehicle movements and training events are coordinated daily with the Basra Operations Center, and our daytime vehicle movements inside the city are supported with the Iraqi Security Force escorts.

While my Brigade's primary focus is to train and enable the Iraqi Security Forces, we're also heavily involved in assisting the government by improving essential services for the citizens of Basra.

I don't have a whole lot of commentary this time, mostly because I've said it all before so many times and interested parties can go to the Iraq sections of "Categories" at right.

The key question, of course, is whether the Iraqis can hold on to their republic. In November of 2006 Washington Post columnist said Charles Krauthammer said, "We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it". That was pre-surge. If current trends hold, this time they will be able to keep it.

On to the Q & A. We'll only cover one exchange:

Q My name's David Morgan. I'm with Reuters.

Can you give us your assessment of the threat that Shi'ite militias potentially pose in Basra, and if they are mainly extorting money, does that suggest that Iran's influence has diminished?

COL. KIEVENAAR: Okay. Well, the answer to the first question is because I haven't seen them pursue a real militia agenda, I don't see a significant threat that they pose at this point.And I do not see anything in the foreseeable future that cannot be handled by the Iraqi Security Forces in Basra province.

In terms of whether or not they are receiving support from Iran, there are certain groups that still receive support. But by and large, most of the individuals that we see or deal with on a daily basis are no longer receiving that kind of -- the same support that they were receiving before from Iran.

They're not receiving the money, so they can't pay the people that used to work as part of their groups. They're not able to, as freely as they were before, able to get the resources with which to then be able to attack either the Security Forces or us.

And so the -- what we see now is more legacy-type of ammunition than we used to see before.

But there are things like Kataeb Hezbollah who still receive funding and resources from Iran, and those are the cells that we get most concerned about when you start talking about EFPs and IRAM-type capabilities that you've seen sporadically through the south here over the last two or three months.

In case anyone is wondring, Steve Schippert has demonstrated that these Iranian manufactured Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) are responsible for ten percent of our combat fatalities, and is responsible for many more U.S. casualties beyond that one device.

If President Obama meets with Ahmadinejad, as he seems so determined to do, he will hopefully put this on his agenda, but I'm not holding my breath.

Previous Briefing by Col. Kievenaar
Iraq Briefing - 05 January 2009 - Trying to Ensure Peaceful Transitions of Power

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2009

The Anti-Anti-Jihadist Assault on Cheney and the CIA

In the 1970s and 80s a species of liberal emerged called the "Anti-anticommunist." Although they'd been around before, it wasn't until the Carter Administration that they gained actual power in Washington. Not communists themselves, if you beat them up enough they'd eventually admit that "ok, communism isn't good..." but they saved their real venom for anyone who made it their mission to end the scourge of communism from the planet.

They took as their inspiration Senator Joseph McCarthy. Not to support him, of course, but because they took it as a given that anyone who spoke seriously about the need to end communism must be like him.

During the 1980s they spent their time in the nuclear freeze movement, convinced that American nuclear arms were the real threat to peace. They opposed American support for the "Contras," the rebels fighting the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Ten such anti-anticommunists, including Speaker of the House Jim Wright, even went so far as to send the now infamous "Dear Comandante" letter to Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega. To them, the real enemy was the Contras, not the Cuban/Soviet supported Sandinistas. As such, anything bad the Contras did or were alleged to have done was trumpeted loudly, while the spread of communist influence went unremarked.

The situation got so bad that in El Salvador not only were we limited to only 55 U.S. advisers, but they could only carry handguns to defend themselves. One time one of them was seem carrying, or allegedly carrying, a rifle, and you'd have thought the Democrats had found their Watergate II. The media went bonkers for a few weeks and the Reagan Administration had to jump through the necessary hoops and assure everyone it wouldn't happen again yada yada yada. Nevermind that our guys were in real danger of being killed, and some of them were. No, to the anti-anti-communists it was much more important to limit our capabilities than limit the spread of communism in our own backyard.

Today we see a similar phenomenon with regards to some on the left. Even though they hold the White House and both houses of Congress, they seem to think that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the enemies. Most of them don't even see a jihadist threat at all, convinced as they are that it's all just something cooked up by the evil neocon right to make profits for Halliburton and Blackwater.

The latest is the phoney scandal they've cooked up in which they alleged that Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA not to report a program to Congress, and now our democracy is in mortal danger! It's an outrage! We need an investigation and prosecutions! Cheney Lied! Bush Lied!

Er, no. Andy McCarthy explains:

Another Phony Scandal
Of course the CIA was plotting to kill bin Laden.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

With Speaker Pelosi caught in the web of her own deceit over what the CIA told her about "torture," and the Obama administration in the middle of its latest 180-degree reversal over CIA interrogators (Attorney General Holder is now considering prosecutions despite Obama's promise of no prosecutions), Democrats have trumped up a charge that the CIA, on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney, failed to notify Congress that it was contemplating -- not implementing, but essentially brainstorming about -- plans to kill or capture top al-Qaeda figures.

This is their most ludicrous gambit in a long time -- and that's saying something. Given their eight years of complaints about President Bush's failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and given President Clinton's indignant insistence (against the weight of the evidence) that he absolutely wanted the CIA to kill bin Laden, one is moved to ask: What did Democrats think the CIA was doing for the last eight years?

And if Democrats did not believe the CIA was considering plans to kill or capture bin Laden, why weren't they screaming from the rafters about such a lapse?

Of course the CIA has been trying to figure out how to take out top al-Qaeda leaders. One assumes -- one hopes -- they are also brainstorming about wiping out the Taliban, overthrowing the Iranian regime, undermining Kim Jong Il's nuclear program, disrupting Syrian support of Hezbollah, and tackling all manner of threats to the United States. But there is no law that requires, or could practically require, the CIA to brief Congress every time some agency component considers the feasibility of some security initiative.

Gen. George Washington himself observed that "upon secrecy, success depends in most enterprises . . . and for want of it, they are generally defeated." Washington thought it obvious that secrecy was the heart of good intelligence. That is a big part of why intelligence activities are executive in nature, a core part of what the Supreme Court long ago recognized as the "delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations." Secrecy cannot be preserved in a system of national security by political committee, much less a system in which a sprawling, 17-agency intelligence community is forced to share all of its secrets, in real time, with 535 members of Congress.

Intelligence activities are not reliant on congressional authorization or supervision. Like all executive power under the Constitution, the president is checked in this area by Congress's enumerated powers, particularly the power of the purse. As is its wont, Congress tries to leverage this authority to usurp presidential prerogatives -- to make itself a partner in the actual running of intelligence activities, albeit a partner with no accountability (see Nancy Pelosi, supra).

Most Americans assume that the CIA has been trying to get bin Laden and his top lieutenants. Moreover, Democrats have a sorry recent history of turning national security into a war crime -- a pattern seen again in this weekend's coverage, which conjured absurd images of Cheney covering up illegal assassinations even though (a) the ban on assassinations relates to heads of state, not jihadist networks, and (b) during the 2008 campaign, the press considered it a positive demonstration of Barack Obama's toughness that he said he would not shrink from striking vigorously against terrorists who'd attacked Americans. It should thus come as no surprise that the CIA -- at the direction not only of the former vice president but also of George Tenet, the Democrat holdover who was Bush's first CIA director -- decided there was no need to brief congressional leadership on notions that evidently never became concrete plans.

So, to score some political points, Democrats have put themselves in the position of opposing CIA efforts to defeat our enemies. This misbegotten strategy can only remind the public of a few unwelcome facts:

First, when Democrats were in charge in the 1990s, at the time when bin Laden declared war on the United States and then bombed our embassies and the U.S.S. Cole, the Democrats' strategy to protect the country was to file indictments -- with no meaningful effort to capture bin Laden or his top aide, Ayman al-Zawahiri, much less kill them.

Second, when opportunities to kill bin Laden arose, the CIA's hands were tied because President Clinton so muddled the rules of engagement that our special-ops agents could not be sure whether Democrats would indict them for such operations.

Third, after 9/11, even as President Bush's warfare strategy decimated al-Qaeda's top hierarchy, Democrats complained that the Bush administration had failed to kill or capture bin Laden. Now that the political winds have shifted, they have returned to their default position of complaining that government agents were trying to kill or capture bin Laden.

Fourth, this bizarre complaint comes in the form of grousing about a failure to notify Congress, voiced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others. But consider that back in February, Senator Feinstein publicly revealed that Pakistan's government was allowing the United States to use Pakistani territory as a base for Predator drones being used for controversial targeted assassinations. Unlike Leahy's aforementioned malfeasance, Feinstein's unfortunate revelation was doubtlessly inadvertent. But it underscores the danger of informing Congress about intelligence activities.

The last point is a critical one, showing starkly the difference between Democrats and Republicans on national security. President Obama is clearly conducting a war in Pakistan, a country with which we are formally at peace. The legitimate existence of wartime conditions is crucial: If we are not at war, there is no basis in international law for killing Pakistanis (or non-Pakistanis) in Pakistan. But the Right is not accusing the president of conducting an illegal war, of failing to seek congressional authorization, or of committing war crimes. Nor did Republicans seek to exploit Feinstein's gaffe -- while there might have been political sport in it, doing so would have made it more difficult for Pakistan to cooperate with the Obama administration in an effort that advances American security interests.

Indeed, the real scandal is that we didn't implement a program to kill top al Qaeda leaders. As the Wall Street Journal reports

The goal was to assemble teams of CIA and special-operations forces "and put bullets in [the al Qaeda leaders'] heads," one former intelligence official said.

The plan was never carried out, and Mr. Panetta canceled the effort on the day he learned of it, June 23. The next day, he alerted Congress, which didn't know about the plan.

Well why in the world did he cancel it? If they want to investigate anything, lets find out why Panetta canceled what seems to me a pretty good idea, or at least one worth investigating.

It is pretty obvious to me that the Democrats are just desperately searching for something to take the heat off of Nancy Pelosi. She is the one caught in the real lie when she said that the CIA regularly misled her, and then was confronted with documents proving that, oops, she had in fact been briefed about the enhanced interrogation techniques.

There's no scandal. No laws were broken. Our agents thought about a program but never implemented it. There was no reason to brief Congress.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 13, 2009

Obama Releases Known Terrorists

Because I don't have time to do a proper post tonight I'm going to post the most important parts of Andy McCarthy's article today on National Review. This boggles the mind:

Obama Frees Iranian Terror Masters
The release of the Irbil Five is a continuation of a shameful policy.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

There are a few things you need to know about President Obama's shameful release on Thursday of the "Irbil Five" -- Quds Force commanders from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who were coordinating terrorist attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds -- yes, hundreds -- of American soldiers and Marines.

First, of the 4,322 Americans killed in combat in Iraq since 2003, 10 percent of them (i.e., more than 400) have been murdered by a single type of weapon alone, a weapon that is supplied by Iran for the singular purpose of murdering Americans. As Steve Schippert explains at NRO's military blog, the Tank, the weapon is "the EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), designed by Iran's IRGC specifically to penetrate the armor of the M1 Abrams main battle tank and, consequently, everything else deployed in the field." Understand: This does not mean Iran has killed only 400 Americans in Iraq. The number killed and wounded at the mullahs' direction is far higher than that -- likely multiples of that -- when factoring in the IRGC's other tactics, such as the mustering of Hezbollah-style Shiite terror cells.

Second, President Bush and our armed forces steadfastly refused demands by Iran and Iraq's Maliki government for the release of the Irbil Five because Iran was continuing to coordinate terrorist operations against American forces in Iraq (and to aid Taliban operations against American forces in Afghanistan). Freeing the Quds operatives obviously would return the most effective, dedicated terrorist trainers to their grisly business.

Third, Obama's decision to release the five terror-masters comes while the Iranian regime (a) is still conducting operations against Americans in Iraq, even as we are in the process of withdrawing, and (b) is clearly working to replicate its Lebanon model in Iraq: establishing a Shiite terror network, loyal to Iran, as added pressure on the pliant Maliki to understand who is boss once the Americans leave. As the New York Times reports, Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, put it this way less than two weeks ago:

Iran is still supporting, funding, training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq -- flat out. . . . They have not stopped. And I don't think they will stop. I think they will continue to do that because they are also concerned, in my opinion, [about] where Iraq is headed. They want to try to gain influence here, and they will continue to do that. I think many of the attacks in Baghdad are from individuals that have been, in fact, funded or trained by the Iranians.

Fourth, President Obama's release of the Quds terrorists is a natural continuation of his administration's stunningly irresponsible policy of bartering terrorist prisoners for hostages. As I detailed here on June 24, Obama has already released a leader of the Iran-backed Asaib al-Haq terror network in Iraq, a jihadist who is among those responsible for the 2007 murders of five American troops in Karbala. While the release was ludicrously portrayed as an effort to further "Iraqi reconciliation" (as if that would be a valid reason to spring a terrorist who had killed Americans), it was in actuality a naïve attempt to secure the reciprocal release of five British hostages -- and a predictably disastrous one: The terror network released only the corpses of two of the hostages, threatening to kill the remaining three (and who knows whether they still are alive?) unless other terror leaders were released.

Michael Ledeen has reported that the release of the Irbil Five is part of the price Iran has demanded for its release in May of the freelance journalist Roxana Saberi. Again, that's only part of the price: Iran also has demanded the release of hundreds of its other terror facilitators in our custody. Expect to see Obama accommodate this demand, too, in the weeks ahead.

Finally, when it comes to Iran, it has become increasingly apparent that President Obama wants the mullahs to win. What you need to know is that Barack Obama is a wolf in "pragmatist" clothing: Beneath the easy smile and above-it-all manner -- the "neutral" doing his best to weigh competing claims -- is a radical leftist wedded to a Manichean vision that depicts American imperialism as the primary evil in the world.

What a disgrace. Read the whole thing

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2009

Afghanistan Briefing - 08 July 2009 - Operation Strike of the Sword / Operation Khanjar

This briefing is by Marine Corps Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, who spoke via satellite from Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, with reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday, providing an update on combat operations in Iraq. Operation Strike of the Sword / Operation Khanjar.

General Nicholson is the commanding general of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, which is spearheading Camp Leatherneck is in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. Helmand is in the south central part of the country.

The main takeaway from this briefing is that we have enough troops, but we need more Afghans in uniform. Iraq is much father ahead in this regard.

The full briefing is not posted at DODvClips.mil, which is unusual. We only have this brief news segment:

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

Wikipedia has a reasonably good summary of the operation

Operation Strike of the Sword or Operation Khanjar is an ongoing US-led offensive in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. About 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade as well as 650 Afghan troops are involved, supported by NATO planes. The operation began when units moved into the Helmand river valley in the early hours of July 2, 2009. This operation is the largest Marine offensive since the battle of Fallujah, Operation Phantom Fury, in 2004.[5] The operation is also the largest airlift offensive since the Vietnam War.

Small Wars Journal
has a statement by BG Nicholson to his Marines at the start of the offensive that is a must-read.

From General Nicholson's opening remarks:

GEN. NICHOLSON: Okay. Thanks, Dave. Yeah, I've really just got two quick issues I'd like to hit. And first of all, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to the men and women of the media there today.

We certainly have had no shortage of media here over the last week or so. And frankly I think it's been a pretty good news story. And we certainly appreciate their being here.

Let me start with the start. And that is seven days ago tonight, we inserted -- at 01:00 local, we inserted about 4,000 Marines and sailors into the Helmand River Valley, over a period of about seven hours.

The intention was to go in big, strong, fast; overwhelm any opposition and frankly save lives on all sides but most specifically save civilian lives. And I think what we have found here is that in some areas, there's still some fighting going on. But in large part, the enemy has not resisted too strongly.

Now, we have essentially come into their areas. Every area we went into were areas that were considered Taliban heartland areas, where they had strongholds in there. And these are areas that have been visited before by coalition forces and Special Operations forces. But they never stayed. It was always just passing through.

The number-one question we're getting across the board right now is, how long are you staying? And one of my requirements, to every one of our company commanders, was that within 24 hours of hitting the deck, you will have a shura with the local elders. And that has occurred. I've attended several of those myself.

Let me just start with, what makes this so different? And first of all, I think, it was the size of the force going in and the speed in which it inserted. We almost looked at this like an amphibious operation, back to our Marine roots.

We really had the force sort of contained on Camp Leatherneck and Camp Dwyer. And when the word go ashore was launched, when we hit execute at 01:00, when the weather was right, when the conditions were right, we moved very quickly and decisively, almost the way we would for an amphibious op.

And again those first couple hours ashore are very vulnerable. And we understood that there was some risk but also high gain. It was a high-risk/high-gain type of operation.

When I heard Nicholson say "the number-one question we're getting across the board right now is, how long are you staying?" it immediately reminded me of the Iraq briefings in 2007. The commanders said that they heard the same thing from Iraqis. Previously, they'd had to answer that they were not going to be able to stay, and as such the Iraqis were reluctant to help, knowing that they'd be punished by the insurgents for doing so.

With the surge forces, however, they were able to answer "we're staying," and the Iraqis responded to this by helping us as never before. All of this and more is outlined by Gen. Petraeus' team in their 2006 U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24

On to the Q & A. We'll only quote one exchange, since it highlights a point made several times during the briefing:

Q General, could you tell us -- are you satisfied with the number of Afghan forces and the number of U.S. government and other civilians you have helping you in the operation? Do you have enough to hold and build?

GEN. NICHOLSON: Yeah, well, you know, what we've said is what makes this all so very different as an operation is where we go, we stay; and where we stay, we hold; and where we hold, we build; and where we build, we work with an eye towards transition.

I mean, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. The fact of the matter is, I -- we don't have enough Afghan forces, and I'd like more. You know, imagine right now I've got 4,000 Marines in Helmand with about 600...650 Afghan forces. Imagine if I had 4,000 Marines with 4,000 Afghan forces. I mean, it would not even be comparable to this -- even the success that we -- the relative success that we've had over these first seven days.

So no, I have -- but I have told, from General Petraeus to General McChrystal, everyone who's come through here, even General Jones, the national security adviser -- I mean, the fact of the matter is, there is a plan to source more. I'd have liked to have had more. They're just not available right now...

But the bottom-line answer is, I'd like more, I need more.

So we need to increase the number of Afghan forces by a factor of 10. Wow.

Following this were at least three more questions asking when additional Afghan forces would be available. Each time the general would not be specific, but spoke in generalities. The most he would say was that the Afghans "ave a ministry of defense, and they have leadership in Kabul and will decide, you know, where and when these forces will be applied."

Iraq was easy compared to Afghanistan. Lest you immediately conclude that this *must* be due to U.S. (read Bush Administration) incompetence, let's do a brief comparison of Iraq v Afghanistan with the U.S. as a "base" using the CIA Factbook:

Infant mortality rate: Iraq - total: 43.82 deaths/1,000 live births Afghanistan - total: 151.95 deaths/1,000 live births USA - total: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:
Iraq - total population: 69.94 years
Afghanistan - total population: 44.64 years
USA - total population: 78.11 years

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
Iraq - total: 10 years
Afghanistan - total: 8 years
total: 16 years

GDP - per capita (PPP):
Iraq - $4,000 (2008 est.)
Afghanistan - $800 (2008 est.)
USA - $47,000 (2008 est.)

Both Iraq and Afghanistan are in bad shape, but Afghanistan is backward compared to Iraq. Michael Yon was right - Afghanistan isn't the 10 year war, it's the 100.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2009

Book Review - Now They Call Me Infidel


It takes a brave Muslim to speak out about their religion. It's perhaps more impressive when that person is a woman.

Nonie Darwish was raised Muslim in Egypt, and came to the United States while in her 20s. She was the daughter of a Shahid, or martyr, her father killed while fighting the hated Israelis.

She is now a Christian, Republican, and American living in California. Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror is the story of her life's journey from a culture of hatred to one of love.

Some Muslims are able to speak the truth about their religion and remain Muslims. Dr M. Zuhdi Jasser, chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, is one. Other reform minded groups are the Free Muslims Coalition, the International Quranic Center, Muslims Agrainst Sharia: Islamic Reform Movement, and of course Irshad Manji.

Others, like Darwish, have left Islam. Perhaps the most prominent among these is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose book Infidel is the classic of the genre.

Following is a summary of the Darwish's book, followed by my observations.

Book Summary

The Daughter of a Shahid

Darwish was born in 1948 into a solidly middle-class Egyptian family. Her father, Colonel Mustafa Hafez, was an intelligence officer in the army. Shortly after the coup that deposed King Farouk in 1948, President Nasser assigned him to Gaza with orders to organize the Palestinians into a fighting force and "drive the Jews into the sea."

It was clear to Darwish at an early age that the Arabs wanted the Palestinians to live in poverty and squalor in their camps, the better to motivate them to fight "the Zionists." The last thing they wanted was for the Palestinians to establish their own state in Gaza or elsewhere. Indeed, Palestinians were denounced by other Arabs if their zeal to destroy the hated Zionist enemy was not seen to be ardent enough.

In 1956 the Israelis killed her father, who had been organizing raids into their country. He was immediately proclaimed a shahid and the highest honors were bestowed upon his family. As of the writing of her book in 2006 there was still a high school named after her father in Gaza.

Her mother moved the family to Cairo shortly after her father's death. Realizing the value of a good education, she sent the children to St Clare's College, a British Catholic school run by English nuns. Despite the name, it was K-12. Also despite the Catholic nature of the school, half the students were Muslim, no doubt because the education offered by the school was superior to the public schools. Darwish recalls that unlike the public schools, hatred of the Jews was never taught at St. Clare's.

The Primacy of Jihad

One of the primary themes of the book is the pervasiveness of the call to jihad and the exhortation to destroy Israel. It was part of every subject in school. It was everywhere in the media. The idea that there could be any sort of peace with Israel was unthinkable. Jews were not simply the enemy, they were subhuman, "pigs and apes," if not worse. Every day the students at her school were required to write anti-Jewish poetry and stories, and express their desire to become a shahid, or martyr.

Darwish makes clear that the term "jihad" means violent holy war, something that is crystal clear to all Muslims. Further, it is a call to fight all infidels, not just Israelis, the objective of which is to extend the realm of Islamic control over the entire world. It is only in the West that the lies start, and we are told that it means something like "peaceful internal struggle" or some such nonsense.

A Woman's Plight

Another theme in the book is how badly women are treated in Islamic countries. Like in all Islamic countries, Egyptian societies are organized around the clan, and as such there is no social structure or support services at all available apart from it.

Poligamy was practiced in Egypt, and it was extremely harmful to social cohesion, to say nothing of it's effects on men and women. Married women never trusted non-married women, and when a woman got married she usually cut off all contact with any friends were were not married.

There are several types of polygamous marriages, from overt to the secret, or urfi marriage. Another type is the mutaa, or "pleasure marrage," which is literally a legalized one-night stand. As you might imagine, all of these are destructive to society and harmful to the people involved. There is simply no trust in marriage when such things are permissable.

Of course, there were a million restrictions that are unthinkable in Western countries. No dating, no partying, no social mixing between men or women was permitted at all. Women could not go out of the house without a male escort. Of course sex outside of marriage was unthinkable. Marriages were all arranged, and the concept of romantic love unheard of.

A woman's reputation was everything, and in typical Islamic hypocritical fashion, did not apply to men. Women could not so much as smile at a man (or girls to boys, it started very early) or they would be accused of being "loose." On the other hand, it was quite acceptable for men to grope women on a crowded bus. Men could be promiscuous, for women it was forbidden.

The Effects on Men

The repression of women and double standards described above are also harmful to men. Poligamy reduces the number of women available for marriage. Complete repression of sexuality and sensuality in society franky drives young men into the hands of extremists. Reality is replaced with the promise of 72 virgins if one dies in jihad. Given their lot in life, it seems a good deal, and one they're promised every Friday at the mosque.

It it considered good and normal for superiors to abuse their employees through rude and brutal treatment. Young men are by definition low on the hierarchy, and are the recipients of much ill-treatment. It is part of human nature that many will react by coming home from their jobs and take out their frustrations by beating their wife (if they are lucky enough to have one) and children.

A Young Woman

Through the adroit use of several maneuvers within her family, Darwish managed to avoid the fate that befell many of her friends, the arranged marriage. As such she left home single and went into the job market.

Her first job was working as an editor, translator, and censor for the Middle East News Agency. As censor she was by definition able to see information that the public in Egypt never saw. As part of her duties she also traveled to several foreign countries. That, coupled with her knowledge of English led her to realize that there was a lot more to the world than what she had been told all her life, to say the least.

As part of the Camp David Accords signed in 1978, Egypt got the Sinai back, which it had lost to Israel in the 1967 war. As with many Egyptians, she was amazed at how the Israelis had developed the area economically in that short time. It completely changed their perceptions of the area, which they had assumed was only a wasteland. It was also one of several events which led Darwish to question what she had been told about Israel and Jewish people.

Coming to America

In November of 1978 Darwish moved to the United States. Egypt and the United States had gradually been establishing closer ties, and her boyfriend had moved to California to live with his brother and cousins.. Between that and the desire to get away from the totalitarian control of the Egyptian state and society, she went to California to join him.

Describing herself as a naturally outgoing and open person who questioned authority and existing social arrangements, the experience of America provided a sharp contrast with her life in Egypt. Americans would talk about almost anything with anyone, constrained by few of the inhibitions so typical of Arab and Muslim society. A women talking openly about anything in Egypt was seen by the man as an invitation to sex, in America it was just two people talking. In Egypt honesty in everyday life was seen as naive, in the West it is considered a virtue. Class and sex provide few if any barriers. As such, she found that her personality fit more with the West than the Middle East.

However, many Egyptians and Arabs she met in the United States felt quite alienated. Far from accepting American society, the rebelled by becoming more Islamist. Women who would never wear a veil or headscarf in their home countries put them on here. Men who never went to a mosque or grew a beard did so in America. While Darwish found living in America as a liberation from radical Islam, many of her fellow Muslims determined to bring a radical version of their faith here.

Islamism in the United States

The paradox of Middle Eastern Muslim societies is that although Islam is dominant, the vast majority of the people are quite ignorant of it's details. Illiteracy is high, so few have read the Koran,and fewer still understand it. As such, most people only know what the Imams have told them. Further, although everyone is a Muslim, it is often in name only, as many do not go to mosque or pray regularly. It is a situation similar to the West in the Middle Ages.

Darwish and her family were themselves not regular mosque goers. They decided to attend a service only when a friend from Egypt came to visit. To their surprise and horror the mosque turned out to be quite radical and the experience was quite bad. This opened her eyes to the pervasive influence of Islamist ideology in the United States. Upon doing some research, she found that many of these mosques were funded by Saudi Arabia.

To be sure, most Muslims in America blend in happily and want no part of radicalism. The problem is that they are intimidated into silence, and too many mosques are controlled by radicals. To avoid these influences, and avoid being denounced, many of them simply choose to worship at home, including Darwish and her family. Her experience at the mosque began a move by her away from Islam.

All of this builds a process whereby Islamists are trying to undermine the West and impose their values on us. As one prominent Muslim leader said, "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you, thanks to our religious laws we will dominate you."

There is much doubletalk from Islamist Muslims. An obvious case discussed above are the lies about the definition of jihad. More subtle is when they say they're against terrorism but go on to express sympathy for groups such as Fatah and Hamas, or refuse to denounce any Islamic terrorist group by name. Another tactic is to say one thing in English to Western audiences, and another in Arabic to Muslims.

Second Marriage And A New Life

For reasons not entirely clear, Darwish divorced her husband in 1987. Whatever the causes, she stresses that she maintains good relations with him and his family and taht her main goal was to be a good mother to her children. in 1991 she married again to a man who she describes as politically very liberal who was born and raised in Berkeley, California. He was not at all religious.

One day she saw a pastor on the TV and liked the message. The basis of his sermon was 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

She found this quite inspiring and different from what she had heard in Islam, it containing none of the "destroy the infidels' rhetoric she had heard as a child, and decided to visit a local church. She liked the message of tolerance. It is not entirely clear if she became a Christian per se, but describes it as a "cataclysmic" event and says that "I had turned from a culture of hatred to one of love."

A Visit To Egypt

Over the years Darwish had kept in contact with her family back in Egypt. In 1994 her brother fell ill and they took him to a hospital in Israel. He lived, and her mother regaled Darwish with tales of the Israeli hospital the contradicted everything she had heard about the way Israelis behaved. This incident started a process that led her to change her view of the Jewish state.

In 2001 Darwish and her family went to Egypt to see her relatives, arriving back in the United States on September 10. What she found shocked her. The nation had become far more Islamist than when she had lived their previously. Many more women now were veiled while in public. Men were more radical in their religious views. Anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment was at an all-time high.

Speaking with people, she found their attitude was that the problems in Egypt and other Muslim countries were entirely the fault of the West and Israel. Few if any were able to look inward and say that they bore some of the responsibility themselves. Paradoxically, though, many of these same people wanted to go live in the West for it's economic benefits and political freedoms.

In what may seem strange to Westerners, the veil has become the new identity symbol for Muslim women, both in the West and in traditionally Muslim lands. They are taught from a young age that they are nothing but sex symbols to men, who are not expected to control their desires when confronted by a woman. Thus, to preserve modesty, the entire onus is on her to hide herself from men.

Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood exerted more influence than ever before. While previously it had been marginalized, it was now gaining in popularity. Saudi money was also flowing into Egyptian mosques, ensuring that the most radical messages where the only ones heard.

The entire experience was a bad one for Darwish and she and her daughters were happy to leave. It solidified her decision to live in the United States, something her daughters were quite thankful for as well.

The Reaction to 9/11

To Darwish, it was obvious that yes, it was al Qaeda who had attacked us. But when she called her friends in Egypt she was shocked. To a person they were convinced that it was an Israeli plot and that there was no way Muslims would do such a thing.

The situation was little better when she called her Arab friends living in America. Although most of them acknowledged the reality of who was behind the attacks, none were willing to speak out. Some even repeated the lie that "3,000 Jews who worked in the World Trade Center did not show up for work that day."

Most Muslims are not terrorists and say that they oppose it. However, this "silent majority" will not take a stand, publicly or privately, against the agents of jihad. Everything they have been taught since childhood was jihad, jihad, jihad, with Islam victorious against the infidels. Worse, they are taught the culture of victimhood, that Muslims are constantly persecuted by the infidels.

As such, they will denounce terrorism out of one side of their mouth while providing a "but" with the other. They usually refuse to criticize any terrorist group except for al Qaeda by name. If Israel or any non-Muslim nation kills Muslims it is instantly condemned, while the worst by Muslims is ignored or excused.

Speaking Out

It was at this point that Darwish decided to speak out and write herself. Her first articles appeared in Republican Women's Club publications. One of the first was "The Daughter of a "Shahid" Speaks out for Change" She soon received invitations to speak. Because there were so few Muslims willing to issue more than a few rote statements condemning terrorism, Darwish soon found herself in demand.

In the past few years she has spent time speaking in numerous forums; colleges and universities, on television, and before private groups. She has written many articles and this book in an attempt to get her message out.

One of the things that shocked Darwish is how radical Muslims have become on American college campuses, even by Egyptian standards. Bearded men and veiled women are becoming the norm, all with a chip on their shoulder and attitude to boot. Muslim student groups refuse to label Hamas a terrorist group, and openly say that Israel should not exist. Yet at the same time they insist that Islam is a "religion of peace."

As mentioned earlier, one of the PR ploys of radical Islam, Islam in general, really, is to claim that the word "jihad" means "peaceful inner struggle" and all that business about holy war is a relic of the past. Nothing could be farther from the truth, she says. Everyone in the Middle East knows that "jihad" means "holy war against the infidels to spread the faith." It's only in the West that this new definition is heard.

Another misconception is that jihad is only supported by a few Muslims who operate at the fringes. The truth is that such philosophy is widely accepted, even if most Muslims do not actively participate. The problem, in other words, is larger than we have been led to believe.

My Take

Her take on Islamic society is confirmed in whole or in part by such scholars and writers as Walid Phares, Andy McCarthy, Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Bernard Lewis, most of whose work has been used on this blog.

This said, I did not try to verify individual details about the book. And Darwish is clear that she is not a scholar, nor is this meant to be a scholarly book. It is one person's lifelong observations.

It's understandable that Darwish and others like her are portrayed as evil hatemongers by many Muslim groups. After all, they don't want their agenda's exposed. What's more perplexing is that so often the liberal-left often takes this line. Muslims have managed to get themselves portrayed as "victims," and so Islam escapes the scrutiny reserved for Christianity. It's ironic because almost all that liberals claim to stand for is antithetical to just about everything in Islam.

Saying that "only ten percent of Muslims are radicals" isn't really true, and more than that misses the point. Islam and Muslim societies are under the domination of the jihadists, and even many or most moderates hold opinions that are shocking to most Westerners. Most reform minded Muslims are afraid to speak out not only because they'll be attacked, perhaps violently, by other Muslims, but because they know that they will get little support from Westerners. The message of this book is that Islam as practiced today is antithetical to Western values, and if it is to change we need to support people like Nonie Darwish. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

The last chapter or two tend to read like a newspaper editorial, which is perhaps expected but most of her recommendations are by this point predictable. Perhaps though I only see it this way because I've read so much on this subject.

Otherwise, this is a reasonably good book and is recommended to everyone who wants to understand the realities of Egyptian society this past half century, as well as an insight into Muslims in the United States.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

House Democrats Undermine Their Own at the CIA

For years we heard Democrats whine that those on the right were questioning their patriotism. Maybe this story from today's Washington Times can tell us why:

The politically explosive clash between the CIA and congressional Democrats flared anew Thursday as CIA chief Leon Panetta rejected fresh charges that the spy agency had systematically lied to lawmakers about key administration policies in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Seven Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee in a letter made public Wednesday evening said that Mr. Panetta recently conceded privately that CIA briefers misled lawmakers and demanded he "correct" earlier statements denying information had been concealed from Congress.

The letter built on previous allegations from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that CIA officials had lied to her in 2002 about harsh interrogation methods being used under the George W. Bush administration, allegations Mr. Panetta also forcefully denied.

"Director Panetta stands by his May 15 statement," CIA spokesman George Little said. "This agency and this director believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed. Director Panetta's actions back that up."

An intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the letter mischaracterized Mr. Panetta's testimony to the committee in a closed-door June 24 session.

"Panetta didn't say that the agency misled Congress," the official said. "He took decisive steps to inform the oversight committees of something that hadn't been appropriately briefed in the past. He didn't attribute motives to that. He wasn't director at the time.

This is insane. Who exactly do these congressional Democrats consider to be the enemy? al Qaeda or the CIA? At this point I think it's the latter. Not a wonder we're not going to make progress in the war with this bunch in charge. They're more interested in settling old scores than in fighting the jihadists.

Just to remind ourselves, Leon Panetta represented the 16th (the 17th after redistricting) California district in the House of Representatives from 1976 to 1993. He resigned from the House when President Clinton selected him as Director of OMB where he served until 1997. In January President Obama appointed him to head up the CIA.

Panetta seems to be an honest guy, whatever you may think of his politics. I cannot say the same for Nancy Pelosi. Of the seven House Democrats who signed that letter, the only one I'm famiar with is Alcee L. Hastings, a former federal judge who was impeached and removed from office for accepting a $150,000 bribe and all round leftist nutjob.

HotAir has the full letter, which I'm reprinting here

June 26, 2009

The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Director
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20505

Dear Director Panetta,

You recall, no doubt, that on May 15, 2009, you stated the following in a letter to CIA employees:

"Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values."

Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress, and misled Members for a number of years from 2001 to this week. This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods.

In light of your testimony, we ask that you publicly correct your statement of May 15, 2009.



Anna G. Eshoo
Rush D. Holt
Alcee L. Hastings
John F. Tierny
Mike Thompson
Janice D. Schakowsky
Adam Smith

It will be recalled that this whole thing started last April when out of the blue Speaker Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading her. Asked for proof, she had none to offer. Instead of backing off her foolish charge, she pushed forward, even after it was clear to most people that that she was the one making false charges.

Put another way, she committed an unforced error.

Dr Krauthammer said yesterday that "...it puts the Democrats, who are in charge of the Congress and the executive, at war with their own CIA in wartime." I have to think that most Democrats are holding their heads and wishing this whole thing would just go away. It serves them no purpose and is a distraction from their domestic agenda. Which is who I sort of hope they keep at it.

Some will say that Panetta needs to release detailed records. No. That is exactly what we do not need. Yes yes I'm all for oversight, but what is said in a closed session needs to stay in a closed session. Our enemies are waiting for us to self-destruct over just this sort of squabbling and we need to put a stop to this nonsense and now.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal nail it:

To his credit, Mr. Panetta sees the obvious danger to morale at the agency and its ability to perform its essential job, and is standing up for his troops. But the Democratic attack isn't limited to bad-mouthing America's intelligence professionals. As dangerous is the intelligence authorization bill before Congress.

House Democrats have set out to hobble the CIA and further handcuff the executive branch. Republicans, naturally, were frozen out. At Speaker Pelosi's insistence, gone would be the right of the President to limit disclosure of sensitive information to the so-called Gang of Eight -- the House Speaker and Minority Leader, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Chairmen and ranking Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. This authority would pass to Congress. The bill would also expand disclosure requirements for all sorts of intelligence activities.

This is a recipe for more leaks and more compromised CIA operations. Congress claims it needs to better monitor Presidential intelligence decisions. But the real lesson of the last few years is that Congress wants to know about, and often second-guess, intelligence decisions without being responsible for the result. Mrs. Pelosi could have objected to waterboarding but didn't at the time, becoming a critic only when it became a political uproar. Senator Jay Rockefeller could have resisted warrantless wiretaps of al Qaeda but instead wrote a letter and stuck it in a drawer.

Note to the seven Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, and all who support them: George W. Bush is not in the White House.

If these Democrats were so convinced that the CIA was misleading them, then they should have impeached Bush when they controlled Congress from 2006-08. They didn't, and the time has passed. It's time to move on to fight the war against the jihadists.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - April 24, 2009
Pelosi Knew About the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques - May 10, 2009
Hoist By Her Own Petard - May 14, 2009

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 7, 2009

The Coming "Reverse Reykjavik"

In October of 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss arms control measures. Gorbachev proposed a 50% reduction in strategic nuclear weapons, and completely eliminating intermediate range weapons, coupled with restricting missile defense testing to "laboratories." Reagan wanted to reduce, indeed eliminate nuclear weapons, but famously refused to restrict missile defense, and so the summit ended without an agreement. The consensus in the press was that it had been a failure because no deal had been struck.

In 2002 President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so that we could deploy defenses without being encumbered by it's restrictions. While there were some protests the reaction of Russia and other nations seemed quite muted.

Now President Obama is in Russia to conduct talks on nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and other matters. Knowing a sucker when they see one, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is trying to succeed where Gorbachev failed. From a Fox News story on Sunday:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday the United States must compromise on its plan to build a missile defense system in Europe in order to reach a deal on reducing nuclear warheads, Reuters reported.

The Russian leader said in an interview that a deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and the United States' plan for a missile defense system are linked. Moscow believes a missile defense system is a threat to its national security.

"We consider these issues are interconnected," Medvedev said. "It is sufficient to show restraint and show an ability to compromise. And then we can agree on the basis of a new deal on START and at the same time can agree on the question of how we move forward on anti-missile defense."

Obama has thrown his grandmother, his pastor, and Israel under the bus. Why not the one area that plays to our biggest strength, technology?

Barack Obama, I fear, is getting ready to give up our missile defense. Heaven help us.

The threat is real and growing. Iran does not today have a missile capable of reaching most of Europe, let alone the U.S. They also do not have nuclear weapons. Today. But at the rate they're going they will have them both sooner or later, and when they do it would be foolish of us to count on our being able to dissuade them from using them based on a Cold War MAD mentality.

As good atheists, the Soviet communists wanted to live. They were evil, but they weren't crazy. The kingdom they wanted to create was of this earth.

The rulers of Iran are driven by religious zeal, and as such do not behave according to our rules of reason and logic. Ahmadinejad and his associates are driven at least in part by the cult of the return of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, as I've documented about a dozen or so times.

The U.S. State Department website fact sheet dated January 20, 2009 gives the background into what President Bush trying do to in Europe:

The U.S. has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin formal missile defense basing negotiations, which if favorably concluded, would allow the fielding of ten U.S. long-range ground-based defensive interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
  • The proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East. The U.S. would benefit from greatly enhanced protection from attacks originating in the Middle East, while Europe would gain defenses where none previously existed.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East. NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats. The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.

Obama is wiling to give that up, as we see from this story in today's Jerusalem Post:

"If the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated," US President Barack Obama said Tuesday...

"In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we have already seen India, Pakistan and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of nuclear weapons?

"That is why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons," Obama said.

On the surface this might seem to make sense. No threat, no defense. The problem, of course, is that type of thinking assumes that we can predict with certainty 1) what types of weapons our enemies have and exactly what their capabilities are, 2) who our enemies will be a few years down the road, and 3) that if all else fails we an dissuade them from attacking by threatening the use of our own nuclear weapons.

I'm not certain of any of these. We are pretty good at tracking things like missiles, but not infallible. More, missile defense takes a lot longer to set up and test than do the offensive missiles themselves. Worse, Iran could acquire offensive missiles overnight from a rogue source and we might miss the shipment.

Complicating all this are two more factors: One, that the number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, and two, without testing their reliability is becoming questionable.

Second one first; I've googled around on the reliability issue, and the consensus seems to be that worst case most will explode, one scientist gives a 70% figure in a 2005 story in The New York Times. Even this doesn't sound so bad, but we need to remember that the perceptions of our enemies count for how they'll act.

A memo circulated by House Republicans has some numbers

...the United States has been shrinking (not growing) its nuclear stockpile for quite some time now. For example, under START accounting rules, the number of US warheads attributed to deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers in recent years has been:

1997: 7,957
2000: 7,519
2006: 5,966
2008: 5,951
2009: 5,576

These numbers aren't as impressive as you might think. Let's understand that warheads are not fungible, which is to say they're not all usable in any given situation. This is why we have a variety of types of warheads with different (sometimes variable) yields on many different platforms. Also, our responsibilities are worldwide, while our enemies are able to concentrate on a specific region. Finally, quick action may be required, and if we have too few it may take too long to get the right weapon to the other side of the world to have a decisive influence.

The U.S. - Russia joint statement wants to bring them down to 1500-1675. From the press conference of President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia on Monday:

It is very difficult for us to exert that leadership unless we are showing ourselves willing to deal with our own nuclear stockpiles in a more rational way. And that's why this post-START agreement is so important, and I'm hopeful that we can reduce our nuclear arsenals by as much as a third and hopefully can move even beyond that in subsequent agreements and treaties.

Here's an insight into Obama's thinking from The Washington Post

President Obama called for a new relationship between the United States and Russia on Tuesday, saying that the frequent rivals could both prosper by joining forces to combat common threats and pursue mutual interests.

The modern scourges of stateless terrorism and nuclear proliferation threaten both the United States and Russia, Obama said, demanding that the two nations shed past suspicions and confront those problems as partners.

"There is the 20th-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another," Obama said. "And there is a 19th-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong."

Didn't George W. Bush try this?

From a BBC story of June 16, 2001:

Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin have met for the first time and appear to have hit it off.

The two men still differ over enlarging Nato and US missile defence plans, but they exchanged warm words...

The summit is being judged a success by both sides even though it leaves Russia and the US little closer to resolving the issues that divide them.

The atmosphere here was one of friendly co-operation with the two leaders getting on far better than expected.

That didn't work out so well, did it? Why does Obama thinks he can do better? The answer is found in another Washington Post story:

Obama said he has been trying to alter the tone of U.S. foreign policy to make it easier for countries to focus on their common interests with the United States. But that task is much easier, he said, when the United States is viewed favorably.

"The world leaders are like politicians everywhere, and they're reading the polls," Obama said in an interview Wednesday with ABC News' Jake Tapper. "They find out that their population, 45 percent of or 30 percent approve of America and 70 percent disapprove, that is a strong disincentive to want to work with us."

I don't know if Obama is naive, arrogant, or just some combination of the two, but this business of "now that I have ascended to the throne the world will now bow at my feet in adoration" and so "previously bad nations will now come around" routine is getting old.

The Bottom Line

If Obama wants to flatter himself by negotiating a reduction on American and Russian nuclear weapons, fine. I haven't any great objection.

The problem comes if 1) he gives up missile defense, and/or 2) belives that reducing our arsenal somehow gives rogue nations incentive to do likewise. Anyone who thinks that Iran, North Korea, etc want nuclear weapons because we have them is naive or stupid. Anyone who thinks that if we reduce our arsenal the evil nations of this world will be morally shamed is an idiot. I hope our president is none of these. Who knows, he might surprise me, but I worry.

Wednesday Update

Professor Donald Douglas nails it over at American Power:

Conservatives knew Barack Obama lacked gravitas over two years ago. And now we're starting to see the rest of the country catch on. Folks are getting hip to the Democrats' epic electoral fail of 2008...

So, let's just consider President Obama's U.S.-Russia summit this week. It's one more indication of the woeful unseriousness of this man and his administration. The highlights are at Memeorandum. CNN has a story on Sasha and Malia Obama, "Obama Girls Take Russia by Storm." Plus, the New York Times follows up with, "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow." But the best of these, also from the Times, is "Family Night for Obamas Miffs Some in Moscow."...

The president himself remains inside a narcissisitic bubble and the rest of the world can only watch dumfounded as this administration sleepwalks through history.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 5, 2009

The Coming Israeli Airstrike on Iran?

It's quite possible that within the next few months Israel will strike Iran by air. First this from today's Jersualem Post

On the day that US Vice President Joe Biden seemed to give Israel a green light for military action to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat, The Jerusalem Post learned that the IAF plans to participate in aerial exercises in the US and Europe in the coming months with the aim of training its pilots for long-range flights.

And this also today from the Sunday Times of London

The head of Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran's nuclear sites.

We've seen many other tell-tale signs as well. In June of last year the New York Times reported that

Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Just last April the Sunday Times again reported that an Israeli attack on a military convoy in Sudan was practice for a long-range attack. A quick look at a map shows why:

Israel to Iran map

In short, Israel will need to overfly someone in order to hit Iran. Syria is out of the question, though Turkey remains a good possibility. It is well known that for years Israel has cultivated relations with Turkey, and the two hae engaged in military maneuvers together. But if that doesn't pan out, going through Saudi Arabia would be the next best bet.

Israel doesn't have heavy bombers like the B-52, B-1, or B-2. They rely on F-15s and F-16s. They do have a decent tanker capability, but the range of these fighters is severely restricted when carrying heavy ordinance. I haven't done the calculations, but flying down the Red Sea, through the Arabian Sea, and up to Iran would seem prohibitively far.

Can They Do It?

Israel will get one shot at Iran. The sad fact is that much of the world will go ape after just one strike, and I can't see Saudi Arabia or Turkey allowing Israeli planes through more than one time.

As alluded to above, the capabilities of the AIF are limited. I've seen reports both ways on whether we've allowed them to buy our largest bunker busters, but I think it's really beside the point. The Israelis simply don't have enough aircraft, and the Iranian facilities are at this point too advanced and dispersed for them to be able to effectively do the job.

So Israel will set Iran back a few years but that's it. Note that I'm doing this without benefit of the research I'd usually do but just don't have time. That said, I think I've got it pretty much right.

Only the U.S. can hit Iran and do it right. It would take all of our airpower, and a campaign of two to three weeks, but if we kept at it and were willing to do it periodically we could keep them from getting the bomb.

Should They Do It?

I've written about what I think we should do with regards to Iran at some length, but the short version is that these past several years we should have been working towards regime change rather than counting on the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany) to negotiate Iran out of their nuclear program.

Military strikes on Iran would be messy, with the ramifications spreading far and wide. Iran could cause a lot of trouble using asymmetric war capabilities, some of which can somewhat anticipate (instability in Iraq, terrorism), but also in ways that will catch us by surprise.

But we also need to understand that worse than strikes on Iran would be Iran with a nuclear bomb.

The best case scenario for a nuclear Iran is that neither they nor anyone else int he neighborhood, but everyone else in the region goes nuclear. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian bombs are a given. Syria and Jordan will be tempted. Either way, you have barely-stable governments staring one another down, and since missile flight times will be only a few minutes, reaction time will be nil, leading to the strong possibility of accidental war. This is to say nothing of the possibility of the sale of nuclear know-how, theft of nuclear bombs/material/plans, and the temptation for jihadist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to take control of one or more of these new nuclear powers.

Worse scenarios include nuclear exchanges. 'Nuff said there.

Either way, worse than a strike on Iran is a nuclear Iran.

I don't think we're ready for a strike on Iran yet, but time is running short and we're almost there. It's just possible that Iran might undergo internal changes, though in the past few days that hope is receding. Obama has shown no signs of having any idea what to do other than a mindless attempt at direct talks.

In the end if there has to be a strike as the only way to stop them from getting the bomb the U.S. should do it. Only we can do it right, and Iran is as much our problem as it is anyone else's

We're not there yet, but we're awfully close.

Tuesday Update

Once again it looks like Biden may have run on at the mouth, er, misspoke:

The US has "absolutely not" given Israel a green light for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

Obama was qualifying comments Vice President Joe Biden had made Sunday that left the impression the US would not stand in the way of an Israeli action.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," said Obama, currently in Russia, during a CNN interview.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 4, 2009

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. -- And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

-- John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


fyi that lowercase "u" at top is correct.

Posted by Tom at 1:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 3, 2009

"50 Things Wrong with the Waxman-Markey Cap and Trade Bill"

Stephen Spruiell and Kevin Williamson take Waxman-Markey (formally known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES)) apart in National Review:

The stimulus bill was the legislative equivalent of the famous cantina scene from Star Wars, an eye-popping collection of the freakish and exotic, gathered for dubious purposes. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, known as ACES (the American Clean Energy and Security Act), is more like the third panel in Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights -- a hellscape that disturbs the sleep of anybody who contemplates it carefully.

Two main things to understand about Waxman-Markey: First, it will not reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, at least not at any point in the near future. The inclusion of carbon offsets, which can be manufactured out of thin air and political imagination, will eliminate most of the demands that the legislation puts on industry, though in doing so it will manage to drive up the prices consumers pay for every product that requires energy for its manufacture -- which is to say, for everything. Second, it represents a worse abuse of the public trust and purse than the stimulus and the bailouts put together. Waxman-Markey creates a permanent new regime in which environmental romanticism and corporate welfare are mixed together to form political poison. From comic bureaucratic power grabs (check out the section of the bill on candelabras) to the creation of new welfare programs for Democratic constituencies to, above all, massive giveaways for every financial, industrial, and political lobby imaginable, this bill would permanently deform American politics and economic life.

The House of Representatives, famously, did not read this bill before passing it, which is testament to either Nancy Pelosi's managerial incompetency or her political wile, or possibly both. If you take the time to read the legislation, you'll discover four major themes: special-interest giveaways, regulatory mandates unrelated to climate change, fanciful technological programs worthy of The Jetsons, and assorted left-wing wish fulfillment. We cannot cover every swirl and brushstroke of this masterpiece of misgovernance, but here's a breakdown of its 50 most outrageous features.

1. The big doozy: Eighty-five percent of the carbon permits will not be sold at auction -- they will be given away to utility companies, petroleum interests, refineries, and a coterie of politically connected businesses. If you're wondering why Big Business supports cap-and-trade, that's why. Free money for business, but higher energy prices for you.

2. The sale of carbon permits will enrich the Wall Street investment bankers whose money put Obama in the White House. Top of the list: Goldman Sachs, which is invested in carbon-offset development and carbon permissions. CNN reports:

Less than two weeks after the investment bank announced it would be laying off 10 percent of its staff, ***Goldman Sachs confirmed that it has taken a minority stake in Utah-based carbon offset project developer Blue Source LLC. . . . "Interest in the pre-compliance carbon market in the U.S. is growing rapidly," said Leslie Biddle, Head of Commodity Sales at Goldman, "and we are excited to be able to offer our clients immediate access to a diverse selection of emission reductions to manage their carbon risk."
3. With its rich menu of corporate subsidies and special set-asides for politically connected industries, Waxman-Markey has inspired a new corporate interest group, USCAP, the United States Climate Action Partnership -- the group largely responsible for the fact that carbon permits are being given away like candy at Christmas rather than auctioned. And who is lined up to receive a piece of the massive wealth transfer that Waxman-Markey will mandate? Canada Free Press lists:
Alcoa, American International Group (AIG) which withdrew after accepting government bailout money, Boston Scientific Corporation, BP America Inc., Caterpillar Inc., Chrysler LLC (which continues to lobby with taxpayer dollars), ConocoPhillips, Deere & Company, The Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy, DuPont, Environmental Defense, Exelon Corporation, Ford Motor Company, FPL Group, Inc., General Electric, General Motors Corp. (now owned by the Obama administration), Johnson & Johnson, Marsh, Inc., National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, NRG Energy, Inc., Pepsico, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, PG&E Corporation, PNM Resources, Rio Tinto, Shell, Siemens Corporation, World Resources Institute, Xerox Corporation.

One major group of recipients of the free money being given to industry in the form of carbon permits are the electric utilities, represented in Washington by the Edison Electric Institute. Along with the coal and steel businesses, the utilities are positioned to receive a huge portion of the carbon permits -- some of which will be disguised as measures for consumers -- and have become one of the nation's highest-spending lobbies, working to ensure that their interests are served by cap-and-trade.

4. To the extent that the allowances actually generate government revenue, that money is going to be used for fraud-inviting projects of dubious environmental or economic value. Example: Some allowance money will be used to "build capacity to reduce deforestation in developing countries experiencing deforestation, including preparing developing countries to participate in international markets for international offset credits for reduced emissions from deforestation." What are the chances of that being abused?

5. In addition to the permits, the bill also allows for the creation of "offsets" -- the medieval-style indulgences of the carbon-footprint world. In fact, nearly all of Waxman-Markey's carbon-reduction targets can be met with offsets alone through 2050, meaning decades before any actual reduction of greenhouse gases is required. That means huge new expenses for small businesses and consumers in return for basically zero environmental improvement. And how does one earn an offset to sell? Get a farm and cash in through such methods as, and we quote, "improved manure management," "reduced tillage/no-tillage," or "afforestation of marginal farmlands." Translation: Plant some trees around the house and claim some extra credits on the land the government may already be paying you not to farm. And do a better job of handling your B.S. -- but you'll never do as good a job on that one as the authors of Waxman-Markey.

6. Because the cap-and-trade regime will disadvantage domestic refineries vis-à-vis foreign competitors, such as India's powerhouse Reliance Industries, Waxman-Markey is attempting to buy them off with free permits -- 2 percent of the national total will go to domestic refineries, at no cost.

7. Agribusiness is exempted from cap-and-trade controls, but the farm lobby will be given permits to sell and to profit from anyway. All carrot, no stick -- precisely what this powerful industry lobby is accustomed to receiving from Washington.

8. Waxman-Markey strips the EPA of its oversight role when it comes to managing the offsets associated with American farms. At the behest of Cargill and other big players in the farm lobby, oversight will be entrusted to the USDA -- basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the agriculture cartel, one of America's most rapacious special-interest groups, which already is stuffed with subsidies and sops.

9. Waxman-Markey directs the EPA to ignore the real environmental impact of ethanol and other biofuels. The gigantic subsidies lavished on the farm lobby through the ethanol program encourage farmers to clear forest land to plant corn -- a net environmental loss that the use of ethanol does nothing to offset. An earlier version of the legislation that would have accounted for land-use changes was altered at the farm lobby's demand. Now, the EPA will be forbidden to rain the same pain on the ethanol gang that it's going to rain on the rest of the economy -- a minimum of five years' (ahem) "study" is required before a ruling on whether ethanol should be treated the same as any other fuel, and the EPA, USDA, and Congress all must agree to act before Big Corn reaps what Waxman-Markey sows.

10. Rural electrical cooperatives are demanding that the offsets be awarded in proportion to historic emissions, and they probably will prevail. This means that high-polluting generators, such as the coal-fired plants typical of electric co-ops' members, will be rewarded because they pollute more, while cleaner producers, such as those using nuclear and hydroelectric power, will be penalized.

11. The farm lobby will be rewarded for practices that do little or nothing to reduce greenhouse gases. One such practice is "no till" planting, in which farmers forgo plowing and plant seeds directly into the soil. Two peer-reviewed scientific papers suggest that no-till either does nothing to decrease carbon dioxide or actually increases the level of greenhouse-gas emissions by upping emissions of nitrous oxide -- a much more powerful greenhouse gas. Now it's not clear that no-till will reduce greenhouse gases, but the practice does make weed-control more difficult, meaning that it supports the market for herbicides such as Monsanto's RoundUp. Guess who's spending millions lobbying for no-till?

12. Waxman-Markey provides an excuse for trade protectionism. The bill will give the Obama administration broad new powers to enact tariffs on imports from jurisdictions that have not had the poor sense to enact similar legislation, meaning that it invites both politically driven trade protectionism and retaliatory measures from abroad in the service of an empty green dream. As the New York Times puts it:

A House committee working on sweeping energy legislation seems determined to make sure that the United States will tax China and other carbon polluters, potentially disrupting an already-sensitive climate change debate in Congress. The Ways and Means Committee's proposed bill language would virtually require that the president impose an import tariff on any country that fails to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions. Directed primarily at China, the United States' biggest manufacturing competitor, the provisions aim to protect cement, steel and other energy-intensive industries that expect to face higher costs under a federal emissions cap.

13. Waxman-Markey channels billions of dollars into subsidies for "international clean technology deployment for emerging markets." David H. McCormick of the Treasury Department recently gave a speech on the establishment of an $8 billion fund for that purpose; those who showed up to gets the specs on this new gravy train included Sequoia Capital, the United Steelworkers Union, the Clinton Climate Initiative, Ernst & Young, Duke Energy, SunPower, Honeywell, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Credit Suisse, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, and Goldman Sachs. If you're wondering who's going to make real money off of Waxman-Markey, this list would be a pretty good place to start.

14. Naturally, Big Labor gets its piece of the pie, too. Projects receiving grants and financing under Waxman-Markey provisions will be required to implement Davis-Bacon union-wage rules, making it hard for non-union firms to compete -- and ensuring that these "investments" pay out inflated union wages. And it's not just the big research-and-development contracts, since Waxman-Markey forces union-wage rules all the way down to the plumbing-repair and light-bulb-changing level.

15. The renewable electricity standard is the big one here. This would require utilities to supply 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources (or "increased efficiency") by 2020. The Senate was unable to pass a smaller mandate in 2007, because favored sources of renewable energy (wind power, for instance) just don't work in certain regions of the country, and regional blocs can wield a great deal of power in the Senate. These blocs may be less powerful this time around, because the Democrats within them will be under a great deal of pressure to pass this bill. The renewable standard would force utilities to rely increasingly on expensive sources of energy like wind and solar -- expensive because they are capital-intensive and must be located far away from urban areas, necessitating long transmission lines. You can thank Congress for adding yet another charge to your monthly utility bill.

16. The bill would create a system of renewable electricity credits similar to the carbon offsets mentioned above -- utilities that cannot meet the standard could purchase credits from other utilities. One way or another, however, the cost is getting passed along to you.

17. The renewable standard excludes sources of power like nuclear and coal gasification, and perhaps that's to be understood. Even though these sources are cleaner than traditional coal-burning plants, they violate a number of green taboos. What's less understandable is the way "qualified hydropower" is narrowly defined to exclude hydropower from Canada. Again, the thing to remember is that Congress is less concerned with greening the environment and more concerned with greening the pockets of parochial interests.

18. The legislation calls for the establishment of a Carbon Storage Research Corporation (CSRC) to steer $1 billion annually into the development of carbon-capture technologies. The CSRC would be funded via assessments on utility companies. Hear that? It's the sound of another charge being added to your bill. Evidence suggests that subsidizing research into carbon-capture technology is either futile (in the case of traditional coal-powered plants) or unnecessary (the technology for sequestering emissions from gasification plants already exists).

19. The promotion of carbon capture will require a host of new regulations -- the bill calls on the EPA to create a permitting process for geologic sequestration (burying captured carbon emissions in the ground), regulations to keep the buried carbon from escaping into the air, and regulations to keep it from escaping into the water supply. All we need now are carbon guards to throw the carbon in solitary confinement if it gets too rowdy in the prison yard.

20. The bill imposes performance standards on new coal-fired power plants to encourage the adoption of carbon-capture technology. Ratepayers would pay more for electricity because of the efficiency losses associated with carbon capture.

21. The bill regulates every light fixture under the sun. Actually, the sun might be the only light source that isn't regulated specifically in this legislation. There are rules governing fluorescent lamps, incandescent lamps, intermediate base lamps, candelabra base lamps, outdoor luminaires, portable light fixtures -- you get the idea. The government actually started down this road by regulating light bulbs in the 2005 energy bill. This bill merely tightens the regulations, which means the unintended consequences produced by the 2005 bill -- more expensive light bulbs that burn out quicker -- will probably get worse.

22. The bill extends its reach to cover appliances as well. Clothes washers and dishwashers, portable electric spas, showerheads, faucets, televisions -- all these and more are covered specifically in the bill. You thought we were kidding when we said this bill represents the federal government's attempt to expand its regulatory reach to cover everything. We weren't.

23. Appliances will be required to come with "carbon output" labels, and retailers will get bonus payments for marketing those that are certified "best-in-class." The bill sets up a payment schedule to reward the manufacturers of these "best-in-class" products: $75 for each dishwasher, $250 for each clothes washer, and so on. So go out and splurge on that new super-energy-efficient refrigerator -- under this bill, you already made a $200 down payment.

24. The bill requires the EPA to establish environmental standards for residences, meaning a federally dictated one-size-fits-all policy for greening every home in America. When you're retrofitting your home according to EPA guidelines, it will come as little comfort to know that the government is reimbursing you for your troubles, especially if you're doing the work around April 15.

25. The bill would affect commercial properties, too. In fact, all buildings would be governed by a "national energy efficiency building code" that would require 50 percent reductions in energy use in all buildings by 2018, followed by 5 percent reductions in energy use every three years after that through 2030. No one disputes that these changes will be costly, but Waxman-Markey supporters argue that they will pay for themselves through lower energy bills. This argument holds up only if we assume that energy prices will stay flat or fall over time. But the aforementioned carbon caps instituted elsewhere in this legislation make that prospect highly unlikely. Businesses and homeowners will pay twice -- once to retrofit their roosts and again when the energy bill arrives.

26. The bill instructs the EPA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from mobile sources such as cars, trucks, buses, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, boats, planes, and trains.

27. It instructs the EPA to cap and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from non-mobile sources as well. These two items would be bigger news if the Supreme Court hadn't already cleared the way for the EPA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. President Obama will probably move forward on this front even if Congress fails to pass the cap-and-trade bill. He has already announced a strict national fuel-efficiency standard for cars, and the implications for other sources of greenhouse-gas emissions are not good.

28. The bill calls on the EPA to establish a federal greenhouse-gas registry. Businesses would be required to collect and submit data on their emissions to the EPA, creating yet another compliance cost for them to pass on to their customers.

29. The bill undermines federalism by prohibiting states from creating their own cap-and-trade programs. Nearly half of all U.S. states have already taken some sort of action to cap greenhouse-gas emissions by forming regional compacts and implementing their own emission standards. Understandably, these states support a federal cap so that they are not at an economic disadvantage to states that do not cap emissions. If these states want to hamstring their own economies in the pursuit of green goals, that should be their business. States that don't see any reason to do so should not be forced to share in their folly.

30. Utility companies are directed to start laying the groundwork for a glorious future in which everyone drives a plug-in car. The legislation directs them to start planning for the deployment of electrical charging stations along roadways, in parking garages, and at gas stations, as well as "such other elements as the State determines necessary to support plug-in electric drive vehicles." (States are directed to consider whether the costs of planning or the implementation of these plans merit reimbursement. Either way, you wind up with the bill.)

31. The secretary of energy is required to establish a large-scale vehicle electrification program and to provide "such sums as may be necessary" for the manufacture of plug-in electric-drive vehicles, including another $25 billion for "advanced technology vehicle" loans. As if Detroit hadn't gotten its hands on enough taxpayer money.

32. The bill directs the secretary of energy to promulgate regulations requiring that each automaker's fleet be comprised of a minimum percentage of vehicles that run on ethanol or biodiesel.

33. It includes loan guarantees for the construction of ethanol pipelines. Nearly every energy bill in the last five years has included loan guarantees for the construction of ethanol pipelines. Apparently, would-be builders of this vital infrastructure are still having problems getting financing.

34. Congress passed (and Obama signed) a "cash for clunkers" program as part of the war appropriations bill this month. Under the program, you get a rebate for trading in a used car for one that gets slightly higher mileage. The Waxman-Markey bill takes this concept and applies it to appliances, electric motors -- basically anything that can be traded in for a more energy-efficient version. These types of programs generally fail cost-benefit analyses spectacularly because more energy goes into the production of the new appliances than would have been used if the old ones had just run their course.

35. The bill includes $15 billion in grants and loans to encourage the manufacture of wind turbines, solar energy, biofuel production, and other sources of renewable energy that have benefited from decades of such largesse already. Another $15 billion is not going to make these energy sources cost-competitive. Only carbon rationing can achieve that. One suspects the Democrats know this; that's why they are pushing a carbon-rationing bill. The $15 billion is just another sop to the green-energy lobby to help grease the skids.

36. The bill establishes within the EPA a SmartWay Transport Program, which would provide grants and loans to freight carriers that meet environmental goals.

37. The bill requires the secretary of energy to establish a program to make monetary awards to utilities that find innovative ways of using thermal energy, as if utilities needed an extra incentive to discover a new, cheap energy source.

38. It includes another $1.5 billion for the Hollings Manufacturing Partnership Program. This program pops up repeatedly in discussions of programs that both liberals and conservatives think should be eliminated. It is corporate welfare, pure and simple.

39. It includes $65 million for research into high-efficiency gas turbines, another gift to the corporate world with little environmental benefit.

40. It includes $7.5 million to establish a National Bioenergy Partnership to promote biofuels. Economic barriers to the commercial viability of biofuel as an energy source have proven to be so insurmountable that even with all of the federal mandates and subsidies already thrown their way, the ethanol companies lined up with everyone else for a federal bailout when the financial crisis hit. The last thing consumers need is another full-time, federally subsidized lobbying arm for that industry.

41. One of Obama's most reliable constituencies, college administrators, will be given billions of dollars to play with through the creation of eight "Clean Energy Innovation Centers," university-based consortia charged with a mission to "leverage the expertise and resources of the university and private research communities, industry, venture capital, national laboratories, and other participants in energy innovation to support cross-disciplinary research and development in areas not being served by the private sector in order to develop and transfer innovative clean energy technologies into the marketplace." Meaning that the famous business acumen of the federal government will be applied to the energy industry.

42. Another Obama constituency, the community-organizing gang -- i.e., ACORN -- will be eligible to receive billions in funding as the bill "authorizes the Secretary [of Energy] to make grants to community development organizations to provide financing to businesses and projects that improve energy efficiency." Think federally subsidized consultants paid $55 an hour to tell businesses to turn down their AC in the summer.

43. Waxman-Markey also enables Obama to indulge his persistent desire to use the tax code to transfer wealth from people who pay taxes to people who don't -- i.e., from likely Republican voters to likely Obama voters. The bill "amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow certain low income taxpayers a refundable energy tax credit to compensate such taxpayers for reductions in their purchasing power, as identified and calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), resulting from regulation of GHGs (greenhouse gases)."

44. Not only will Waxman-Markey slip more redistribution into the tax code, it will establish a new monthly welfare check. It will create an "Energy Refund Program" that will "give low-income households a monthly cash energy refund equal to the estimated loss in purchasing power resulting from this Act."

45. Another new class of government dependents will be created by Waxman-Markey: Americans put out of work by Waxman-Markey. The bill establishes a program to distribute "climate change adjustment assistance to adversely affected workers."

46. Waxman-Markey will create yet another raft of government dependents, but of a different sort -- bureaucrats. The bill creates: a new United States Global Change Research Program, a National Climate Change Adaptation Program, a National Climate Service, Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy office at the White House, and an International Climate Change Adaptation Program at the State Department.

47. And since everybody else is getting a check, Bambi gets one, too, in the form of money for "domestic wildlife and natural resource adaptation."

48. States also get in on the action. The legislation allows each state to set up a State Energy and Environment Development (SEED) account into which the federal government can deposit emission allowances. States can then sell these allowances and use the proceeds to support clean-energy programs. They must set aside a certain amount of the money to fund federal mandates, but they are given broad discretion to use the rest by making loans, grants, and other forms of support available to favored constituencies. It's federalism, of a sort -- the wrong sort.

49. And, of course, everything includes a health-care component, even cap-and-trade. Waxman-Markey requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a "strategic action plan to assist health professionals in preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change."

50. Waxman-Markey dumps money into questionable "partnerships" and grants to study "emerging careers" in "renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change mitigation." The first career to emerge, of course, will be managing grants to study emerging careers.

That's our Top 50. We could go on. And on.

When Nancy Pelosi was advising congressmen to back this beast, she said they should not worry about the words of the bill they had not read, but think about four others: "jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs." The legislation offers Pelosi perverse vindication: Waxman-Markey will create a lot of jobs for Wall Street sharps, Big Business rent-seekers, ACORN hucksters, utility-company lobbyists, grant-writers at left-wing organizations, college administrators, light-bulb-policing bureaucrats, and an army of parasitic hangers-on. It's up to the Senate to stop it.

In short,this bill would put us under a "soft tyranny". They're right, it needs to be stopped.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 1, 2009

Iraq Briefing - 30 June 2009 - An Historic Day for Iraq

This briefing is by General Ray Odierno, Commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, who spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon yesterday, providing an update on ongoing security operations in Iraq.

This briefing is notable mostly because yesterday we handed off security to the government of Iraq for cities across the country. This is a milestone, and Iraqis and Americans should be proud of the accomplishments of our two nations that brought us to this point.

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)

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.

Unfortunately this interview is somewhat marred by a dopey reporter from NPR who acted quite inappropriately during the briefing. I've watched dozens of briefings over the past two and a half years, and by far most of the reporters act professionally, so this was an aberration.

Even so, this briefing is particularly informative, so be sure to watch the video and read the transcript.

From Gen. Odierno's opening remarks:

GEN. ODIERNO: ....As Bryan just said, today is a very important day for MNF-I, as we continue to move towards our objective of a sovereign, secure, stable and self-reliant Iraq. 30 June, 2009, also marks a significant milestone for Iraq, as the Iraqi security forces assume responsibility for security within the cities across the country. It is a day when Iraqis celebrate as they continue to move towards exercising their full sovereignty.

In accordance with the security agreement between the United States and Iraq, U.S. combat forces have completed the withdrawal out of Iraqi cities. A small number of U.S. forces will remain in cities to train, advise, coordinate with Iraqi security forces, as well as enable them to move forward. We will also support civil capacity efforts led by the U.S. Embassy, Baghdad; the government of Iraq; and the United Nations Assistance Mission here in Iraq.

Outside the cities, U.S. forces will continue to conduct full- spectrum and stability operations by, with and through our Iraqi security force partners.

Our combined efforts will establish a layer of defense as Iraqis secure the cities. Our combat forces, partnering with the Iraqi security forces, will secure the belts and borders in an attempt to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries and to limit freedom of movement of insurgents and prevent the facilitation of foreign fighters through the borders....

In order to obtain legitimacy among the people the indigenous government must be in control of its own security, or at least the majority of it. From General Petraeus 2006 U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24

6-6 U.S. and multinational forces may need to help the host nation improve security; however, insurgents can use the presence of foreign forces as a reason to question the HN government's legitimacy. A government reliant on foreign forces for internal security risks not being recognized as legitimate. While combat operations with significant U.S. and multinational participation may be necessary, U.S. combat operations are secondary to enabling the host nation's ability to provide for it's own security.

As corps commander Odierno was primarily responsible for implementing the principles espoused in FM 3-24, and as commander of MNF-Iraq he is still doing so today.

On to the Q & A

Q Whatever the number ism (of U.S. troops remaining in the cities), how are you going to convince them basically, the U.S. forces remaining, not to jump in and be helpful, where perhaps you would prefer that the Iraqis take the lead?

What will be different about what they're told to do, in a situation where they might think, their first instinct is, gosh, we can do that better.

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again this is -- I call it -- we are working on changing our mindsets in the city. And I equate it to when we first started the surge, where we had to change our mindset.

So pushing our soldiers back out, getting back into the communities, really partnering with the Iraqi security forces and today, it's the same kind of thing. We have to change our mindset.

Again we go to FM 3-24 to see where this comes from:

1-154 THE HOST NATION DOING SOMETHING TOLERABLY IS NORMALLY BETTER THAN US DOING IT WELL. It is just as important to consider who performs an operation as to assess how well it is done. Where the United States is supporting a host nation, long-term success requires establishing viable HN leaders and institutions that can carry on without significant US support....

Next we have a serious challenge from an NPR reporter who insinuates that the military is engaged in a game of smoke and mirrors.

Q General, it's Tom Bowman with NPR.

I mean, you're reluctant to talk about how many trainers and mentors are in the cities. And it raises a question about whether or not this is just a show or not whether, you know, this is just semantics.

There are essentially U.S. soldiers with guns in the cities. You can call them trainers or mentors. But how different is it from what we saw maybe two-three weeks ago? And if you have U.S. soldiers just outside the cities, I mean, what is this?

Is this just a show for the American people?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I would say, you probably didn't listen to what I just said. Because what I just said was, having battalions and brigades inside a city is significantly different than having trainers, advisers and MiTT teams. And I said, we'll be operating in the belts around Baghdad.

I've been very clear about this, just like we did in the surge. We had -- the reason we had to surge forces is, we had to get people in the cities. And then we had to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries in the belts around Baghdad.

It's the same thing, except the Iraqis will take responsibility for security in the cities. We will continue to do full-spectrum operations, outside of the cities, to work the safe havens and sanctuaries around the cities. And we will continue to do that. And it's legitimate, legitimate operations that we'll continue to conduct outside of the cities.

If you're here in Baghdad, you would know. There is a significant change inside of the cities.

You might think this would end it, but Bowman doesn't learn his lesson. He then goes on to insist that Gen. Odierno give him a number of American troops that will remain in the cities. "if you're going to be so transparent, why can't you tell us how many trainers and mentors are in the cities?" he demands.

Odierno had explained to Andrew Gray from Reuters just a few minutes earlier that the number varies day to day depending on the mission, so that any number he gave today would be inaccurate tomorrow. Our military leaders have learned that once they give a number, even a "ballpark," smartypants reporters will then seek to call them liars if what they find out varies even a little bit.

Watch the video, especially from 8:55 to 9:50, where Odierno just about loses his patience with the incessantly idiotic questions from Bowman. Odierno clearly does not suffer fools gladly.

What's sad is that the vast majority of the time the reporters ask intelligent questions and we do not see sparks fly on either side. I've watched and blogged on dozens of briefings since early 2007. The vast majority are professionals who have done their homework and don't badger the briefers. Bowman has done his profession a disservice with his egregious behavior.

Q General, hi.. Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg; have a couple of questions. One, what metrics should the American people -- American public use in July, August and September, as they view events in Iraq, to determine whether in fact the withdrawal was a prudent move? ...

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I would say a couple of things. First, the metrics I look at are -- it really is looking at overall stability inside of Iraq, and that's a combination of several things. That's a combination of number of incidents that occur; that's a combination of high-profile attacks that occur; that's a combination of some political progress; it's the ability of the Iraqi security forces to continue to improve and take on responsibilities. It's all of those things that we'll look at to do our assessments.

I will tell you that incidents in May -- May was the lowest month of incidents on record here in Iraq. June is going along similar lines of May. The problem with June is, is over the last 10 days we've had a couple of high-profile attacks, so that changes it a little bit. But if you compare it back to the dark days of 2006 and '7, there's no comparison. There is not widespread violence here in Iraq. There are points of high-profile attacks. The unfortunate part about that is it takes -- it has inflicted some high casualties on the civilian population here. So we have some more hard work to do to ensure that -- to make it much more difficult, and protect the people of Iraq.

Like everyone else I am worried about what will happen when we pull back our forces. I see articles warning darkly of backsliding. I'm, paying attention, but there's no reason to become alarmed at this point. As Odierno explains, although there have been a few high profile (or "spectacular attacks" as some briefers call them) overall violence is low.

Next, in response to a good question from Jim Miklaszewski of NBC, Odierno addresses this concern more specifically; whether Iraq will backslide into sectarian violence as U.S. forces withdraw:

Q General, Jim Miklaszewski, NBC. One of the missions of the U..S. military over the past six years has really been to tamp down the kind of sectarian rivalries that existed there in Iraq. How convinced are you that the military -- the security forces have advanced to a professional level, a disciplined level, where those old rivalries that have pretty much dominated the way security forces had performed for decades -- how convinced are you that those won't rise up again and create the kind of retribution we had seen that security forces had meted out in Iraq previously?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, Jim, that's a great question, frankly. And I would just tell that we have seen -- again, the competence of the Iraqi security forces has grown tremendously since, again, what I would call the dark days of 2006. And what we've seen is, we've seen the Iraqi army grow professionally. We've seen them conduct operations across the country in a nonsectarian way.

And frankly, the biggest improvement of any force here in the last two years has been in the National Police. The National Police has brought in new leadership. They have gone through a significant amount of training. They are seen as a legitimate, credible force that conducts nonsectarian operations around Iraq. So I feel fairly confident in that.

The local police is the one we probably worry about the most. And that's why we haven't turned over security yet to the local police. They are the ones who might be influenced locally, politically and other things, although they've made great progress as well, but not quite as much. So I believe what I've seen is the professionalism of the National Police. The professionalism of the Iraqi army is significantly better than it was two-and-a-half years ago.

I would be -- I would be unfaithful to you if I told you I think it's a hundred percent across the force. It might not be. But I think the large majority of the force has really moved forward. And I believe that them causing sectarian problems is much -- the chance of that is much less today than it ever has been before.

Q (Jim Miklaszewski) (Off Mike) -- consider that a -- potentially a bigger threat than outside influences like al Qaeda, for example?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, what I worry about is -- it's really -- it's the political drivers of instability, is what I call it. It is the Arab-Kurd political issues that might rise to tensions. It is intra- Shi'a political issues that could rise to tensions. It is intra-Sunni political issues that could cause some tensions. So it's those political issues that we've watched very carefully.

And, of course, again, what I've said earlier is we hope that they will resolve those through diplomatic means, discussions, et cetera, and not go to violence. And that's what they have been doing for the large -- for the most part. And so there's no reason for me to think that won't continue.

But we watch it very closely. And those -- we watch for those indicators. One of the things we watch very carefully is the return -- is a return to any type of sectarian activity. We'll watch if there -- we see an increase in sectarian activity. We'll watch if we see those indicators of insurgent groups returning at a higher level.

I have a lot of confidence that Odierno and his team know what they are doing. This is based on my watching him from late 2006 on, and seeing his accomplishments. Petraeus and Odierno got the job done under the toughest of conditions. I have somewhat less confidence in the Iraqis, but a lot more than the liberal naysayers, who seem to hold all Iraqi leaders, civilian and military, in contempt. My assessment is that things will get rough but the Iraqis will prevail.

Finally, Odierno offers his assessment of where Iraq has been and where it is going.

Q General, Andrew Gray from Reuters again. I -- just wondering if you could tell us something of your personal feelings today, your -- obviously this is your third stint; you were division commander, 4th ID, for the first phase of this, then back as a corps commander, and now as the top commander. As you watched developments today, saw the ceremonies, the celebrations -- and in recent days -- what have been your feelings? What's been your overall sense? What's been dominating your thoughts?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. I would thank you for the question, actually. I would say that, you know, I really look back to 2006 when I first got here as the corps commander when the violence - the sectarian violence and the other violence were so high that it was hard to see a way out.

But, today was just another sign that I have a lot of hope that Iraq is going to be able to move forward as a secure, stable, sovereign Iraq that could be a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East who has a democratic government.

And today gives me more hope towards that, as I see them take on a little more responsibility, but, more importantly, want to take on that responsibility. The Iraqi people want their forces to take that on. They want to see us move out of the cities; they want to see us move in the background.

They're not ready for us to go yet, but they are ready for us to allow them to attempt to exercise their security responsibilities. And to me, that's very encouraging.

And frankly, the last six months have gone a bit better than I expected. I thought the first six months of implementing the security agreement would be very, very difficult, but it hasn't. And we've worked together to continue to move forward under the terms of the security agreement, and that's what gives me hope and belief that we can do this now beyond -- now that we've moved out of the cities...

We continue to have the best soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines in the world. Their sacrifice is incredible. The sacrifices of our families are incredible. And as we move into the 4th of July, I'd just ask each and every one of you, as you celebrate the 4th of July, that you just remember all of our soldiers who are deployed, around the world, both here and in Afghanistan, and remember their sacrifices and their families' sacrifices.

Indeed I will.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Afghanistan Briefing - 23 June 2009 - Cookie Cutter Solutions Don't Work Everywhere

This briefing is by Colonel John Spiszer of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, otherwise known as Task Force Duke.

The order of battle is not as well defined on the various military websites for our operations in Afghanistan, comparing very poorly to what you'll find on the Multi-National Forces-Iraq website. Much of this is because many (but not all!) of our "allies" do not want their troops to fight, and insist on a command structure that does not run exclusively through the United States. Fortunately, Kimberly Kagan's Institute for the Study of War has an excellent Order of Battle that was published in February. Their document tells us that the 3rd BCT is part of Regional Command - East / based at Bagram Airfield. The 3rd BCT itself operates out of FOB Fenty, Jalalabad, and is responsible for Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, and Nuristan provinces.

This and other videos can be seen at DODvClips. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

From Col. Spiszer's opening remarks:

COL. SPISZER: ...Good morning, everyone. As stated, I'm Colonel John Spiszer of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, or Task Force Duke. And we're in the process of redeploying back as we complete our year of operations in Afghanistan. We're headed back to Fort Hood. In addition, over the next 90 days at Fort Hood, we're going to start standing down the brigade so we can relocate it to Fort Knox, in accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure directives....

We've continued efforts on what we call Operation Open Highway, where we've dedicated ourselves to protect the main avenue for supply, Highway 1-Alpha, also known as Highway 7, with a grand -- a grand trunk road, which runs through Nangarhar and Laghman. But it really is the main road through the Khyber Pass from Pakistan to Kabul. It is essential that supplies and citizens are able to traverse the road freely, both for the country here and for the NATO forces. We've successfully encouraged and incorporated Afghan security forces to do the vast bulk of this mission....

For our purposes that's all we'll cover of his opening statement, but be sure to watch the entire briefing and read the transcript.

On to the Q & A. We'll cover a few of the more important exchanges

Q Colonel, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. I would like to ask you about your experience, your service during the last month in Afghanistan. I know that you are leaving, you're going back to Fort Hood. What kind of lessons you are taking with you regarding the counterinsurgency? And I have a follow-up question, too.

COL. SPISZER: Boy, I'm sorry, I'm really having a hard time hearing you. My -- Major Stokes (sp) here is sitting here.

Lessons learned for counterinsurgency, I think, is what you're looking for. The biggest lesson learned, I would have to say, is that it is different and that the cookie-cutter solutions are not necessarily the same. I've been here before, I worked with the Afghan National Army in Kabul, I've been to Iraq, in Baghdad, and in just this area, the 25,000 square kilometers here, it's a little bit different everywhere you go.

And they say you need to be population-centric. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to base with the population.

It means you have to keep the enemy away from them. There's a variety of different ways of doing that.

You can interdict the border. You can position yourself in between the enemy and the populace. You can -- depending on what phase of the operation you're in, you can develop the Afghan security forces to take the bulk of it, like we have done mostly in Nangarhar here. The Afghan security forces do the vast bulk of the security operations. And we back them up and enable them.

So it is very different in each place. The biggest thing I've learned here is that the people here, after 30 years, they're not buying what I think the enemy is trying to sell them, as long as you give them a little hope. And for the vast bulk of the population here in our region, you have good water and rivers. You have good roads.

You have a reasonable amount of security and governance, where the bulk of the 3.5 million people are. And because of that, they're not willing to let the enemy operate in their areas. And that is key. You get over that step. And then the next step to work on is, how do you build their faith in their government and their security forces that it's going to stay that way? And that's hard here because for 30 years, they haven't had that faith.

So now they've got hope for the future. We've got to build on the faith that they have, in their government, to work on it. In some ways, this area might be a little unique. And that's the key thing is, you've got to recognize, every area is going to be a little bit unique.

One of the most important lessons of Gen. Petraeus' 2006 U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 is that the nature of insurgencies not only varies from country to country, they vary from village to village. Iraq was mostly a war in urban areas, cities and towns. Afghanistan is fought in the countryside. The particulars of what worked in Iraq won't work in Afghanistan, if for no other reason than that we didn't do the same thing in all parts of Iraq.

Indeed one of the authors of the surge itself, Frederick Kagan, discussed the similarities and differences between the two countries in a February article that appeared in The Weekly Standard.

We've seen in the news recently complains from Afghans that U.S. airstrikes were killing too many civilians. This last exchange that we'll cover centers on that issue:

Q Colonel, it's Luis Martinez with ABC News. There is discussion about changing the emphasis or the use of air strikes in tactical situations in Afghanistan. Can you discuss how that might have impacted your operations? Because obviously, that's a situation with a tactical commander who has to make that judgment call when he feels he may have to be overrun -- which I think is what they're leaning towards right now, that the issue of air strikes would be limited to only when troops would be overrun. Could you discuss that, sir?

COL. SPISZER: Yeah, I think that in air strikes and other operations and the current emphasis from the new COM-ISAF is -- I think it's just entirely in line with what we have to do. We have to show restraint. We have to ensure that we do everything we can to defeat the enemy, protect the innocent and/or allow our soldiers to protect themselves. And there is definitely a balance in there.

And I don't think it's going to change much the way operations are done in this region because, generally speaking, where we have used air strikes and where we are generally fighting the enemy is not in the vicinity of most of the populated areas. It ends up being further into the mountains. We have -- we've created some space I think where most of the population is safe. And when we do use air strikes -- and it's pretty much we're toe-to-toe with the enemy and it's up in the mountains.

So I don't think it's going to change a lot with how this AO is run and fought and we work the counterinsurgency strategy. It's the right emphasis. It's something that we try and do and we inculcate in all our soldiers, from the lowest private on when he shoots his rifle, all the way up to the leader deciding to drop a bomb, is the element of restraint and the impact it has on the overall campaign.

It's just receiving a well-timed and good emphasis, I think, at this point.

Colonel Spiszer gave a very politically correct response. He's not in a position here to speak freely.

The question, then, is whether these complaints from the Afghans and others are justified. The short answer is that no, they're not, but at least in the short run we're going to have to live with them. As such, reacting like Col Spiszer did in the briefing is the correct and proper thing to do.

The fact is that American and allied forces are more careful now in our use of force than ever before in history. This is right and proper, and we must reject the belacist view (which one sometimes hears from the far right) which says that we should just bomb willy nilly and how dare anyone object. One of the clear lessons of FM 3-24 is that brute force alone will not win a counterinsurgency. And indeed discrimination and proportionality are and must be part of fighting a just war.

The problem now is that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will not or cannot explain to his people that civilian casualties are inevitable. He cannot or will not adequately explain the reasons for the war, sell it if you will, and state why the benefits of victory outweigh the pain of the war.

Civilian populations will accept casualties if the believe that the results will justify the means. From the website of the D-Day Museum says that during the ensuing Battle for Normandy "Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing." Ouch. Yet the French accepted this as necessary to free themselves from the yoke of Nazi tyranny. Of course we have precision weapons nowadays, but even so, civilian casualties are unavoidable. It would be good if we had a president in Afghanistan who could explain all this. Unfortunately from what I hear Karzai will probably be reelected.

All in all an interesting interview and beneficial to understanding the situation in Afghanistan.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack