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May 31, 2011

Over the Entitlements Cliff We Go!

I've got a great idea for you! Run up $1000 a month on your credit card and don't worry about how you'll pay it off. Oh sure, you have a good job. Heck, you make $100,000 a year, the kids are going to a state college, but you need more. So run up that card and buy everything you need! Anyone who tells you this isn't such a swift idea is evil and wants you and your children to die.

This is where we are with "entitlements." We're running up the national credit card at a frightening rate. One party doesn't want to do anything, and says that anyone who advocates the slightest reform wants sick people to be thrown out of hospital windows and poor people to starve to death. The other party offers a few timid approaches. Maybe the rhetoric of the first party is affecting the behavior of the second.

If things go on as they are it's going to be Thelma and Louise time, folks!


Photobucket

Yup, Democrats are going nuts over their victory in the NY-26 congressional election, which was seen by many as a referendum on Rep Paul Ryan's plan to save Medicare.

Translation; the Democrats don't want to do anything about entitlements. We've got a $1.6 trillion deficit and they're perfectly fine with it.

So what is Ryan's plan that has caused so much fuss? Let's let him explain it himself:

and here


Ok, look, if you don't like Rep Paul Ryan's plan, fine. I am not wedded to his plan or any other. But come up with your own. Come up with one that dramatically cuts spending.

Because here's the bottom line; if we continue as we are now we as a nation are headint toward financial Armageddon. The big entitlements programs are unsustainable as currently structured, and we can neither tax our way out of the problem or just tweak them a little.

While the Democrats in Congress have absolutely no plan to deal with the coming entitlement disaster, Obama has a fake one. Kevin D. Williamson explains:

Our current unfunded entitlement liabilities run about $100 trillion.

President Obama proposes to "strengthen" Medicare through a price-fixing panel called the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB).

CBO took a look at IPAB and estimated that it might save us $28 billion over the next ten years, i.e., next to nothing.

And then it took another look and lowered its estimate from next to nothing to nothing:

For 2015 and subsequent years, the IPAB is obligated to make changes to the Medicare program that will reduce spending if the rate of growth in spending per beneficiary is projected to exceed a target rate of growth linked to the consumer price index and per capita changes in nominal gross domestic product. CBO's projections of the rates of growth in spending per beneficiary in the March 2011 baseline are below the target rates of growth for fiscal years 2015 through 2021. As a result, CBO projects that, under current law, the IPAB mechanism will not affect Medicare spending during the 2011-2021 period.

You have to admire the president: To go out and give a morally preening speech like that, with IPAB front and center, on the assumption that nobody's reading the footnotes.

In another post on NRO, Williamson knocks down the Democrat shibboleth that raising taxes on the evil, filthy, stinking rich* will solve all our problems:

Repeat as necessary: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national defense is where the spending is. Raising taxes enough to cover that spending and stabilize the debt would mean an 88 percent increase in every federal tax -- not just for "the rich," but for everybody, according to IMF estimates. Raising taxes on the middle class to support Social Security and Medicare for the middle class is a shell game. You may as well just cut the benefits: essentially the same outcome, but more cleanly executed.

You are not going to balance the budget on tax hikes only on people you do not like. You are not going to balance the budget on pulling out of Afghanistan (wise as that might be) or on eliminating foreign aid (desirable as that is) or on shuffling Uncle Sam's real-estate portfolio (prudent though that may be). You are not going to balance the budget on eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.

Unfortunately there are too many conservatives who parrot the "waste, fraud, and abuse" mantra too. You know you're dealing with a no-nothing whenever you hear that coming out of their mouths.

And guess what, although I'll for it, cutting funding to NPR or Planned Parenthood won't affect sqat. Neither, for that matter, will drydocking a few aircraft carriers or cutting funding for the F-15.

Cutting entitlements is the only answer. We either do it now or our country goes over the cliff, and it's a Chinese 21st century. Is that what we want?

How Bad is the Deficit?

Yes George W Bush and the Republicans in Congress increased spending and the deficit to irresponsible levels. Conservatives, including me, criticized them bitterly over it.

No his "tax cuts" were not the problem. For the most part all the "tax cuts" did is reduce rates to their pre-Clinton levels. Remember, folks, when Democrats like Clinton hike taxes, it's to be permanent. When Republicans bring them down again, it must be reversed.


Once Again, the Federal Budget

Just because these numbers are charts are important, here they are once again:

2010 Federal budget (the last for which I can find charts and hard numbers)

Federal Budget FY 2010


Federal Receipts v Expenditures FY 2010

And here are the major spending programs in another format:

* Mandatory spending: $2.173 trillion (+14.9%) o $695 billion (+4.9%) - Social Security o $571 billion (+58.6%) - Other mandatory programs o $453 billion (+6.6%) - Medicare o $290 billion (+12.0%) - Medicaid o $164 billion (+18.0%) - Interest on National Debt

US receipt and expenditure estimates for fiscal year 2010.

* Discretionary spending: $1.378 trillion (+13.8%)
o $663.7 billion (+12.7%) - Department of Defense (including Overseas Contingency Operations)
o $78.7 billion (−1.7%) - Department of Health and Human Services
o $72.5 billion (+2.8%) - Department of Transportation
o $52.5 billion (+10.3%) - Department of Veterans Affairs
o $51.7 billion (+40.9%) - Department of State and Other International Programs
o $47.5 billion (+18.5%) - Department of Housing and Urban Development
o $46.7 billion (+12.8%) - Department of Education
o $42.7 billion (+1.2%) - Department of Homeland Security
o $26.3 billion (−0.4%) - Department of Energy
o $26.0 billion (+8.8%) - Department of Agriculture
o $23.9 billion (−6.3%) - Department of Justice
o $18.7 billion (+5.1%) - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
o $13.8 billion (+48.4%) - Department of Commerce
o $13.3 billion (+4.7%) - Department of Labor
o $13.3 billion (+4.7%) - Department of the Treasury
o $12.0 billion (+6.2%) - Department of the Interior
o $10.5 billion (+34.6%) - Environmental Protection Agency
...
The total deficit for fiscal year 2009 was $1.42 trillion, a $960 billion increase from the 2008 deficit.

The 2009 budget deficit would represent 12.3% of gross domestic product, the largest share since World War II.

What about Defense?

As I've shown many times in the past, the reason we're running such large deficits has little or nothing to do with spending on defense. I'm not going to repost all those charts and numbers again, but see this post for details.



And the Question Is...

...will we or will we not get a handle on entitlements spending? The Europeans are probably at the point of no return; they are going over the cliff. But we are still at the point where we can turn around and save ourselves.

Make no mistake about it, right now we are headed in a direction that will take us over the cliff. This is why I put an exclamation point and not a question mark in the title.

How we got here is the fault of both parties, but mostly the progressives or liberals, and they're mostly but not exclusively Democrats. Some but not all Republicans see the danger and want to change the system, but virtually no Democrats see or want to take any serious action to avert disaster.

How we fix our problem is open to debate. But all proposals must be serious, and those that just tweak around the edges are acceptable.

The fact is that we've promised too much to too many people. We've promised things we cannot deliver. It is good to want to feed the poor and take care of the sick and elderly, but surely we can do that with 3 or 4 trillion dollars without running a huge deficit. Because either we get control of our spending or we're going over that cliff.

* If you're a liberal rich person all is forgiven.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 29, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

This Memorial Day we would all do well to reflect on the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in his speech to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on May 12, 1962. It has become somewhat traditional for me to post the general's remarks, and I see no reason why to not continue it. The occasion was McCarthur's acceptance of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and it has become known as his "Duty, Honor, Country" address. It is one of the most famous speeches delivered by an American and deserves to be read in it's entirety. You can follow the link above to hear an audio MP3 of his address.

Douglas MacArthur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bid you farewell.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 27, 2011

Obama Tries to Screw Israel, or is He just and Idiot Part Five Million and One?

Is Obama deliberately trying to hurt Israel or is he just stupid?

What Obama Did to Israel
The president has made negotiations all but impossible
National Review
Charles Krauthammer
May 27, 2011

Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The longstanding American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel's security and diplomatic needs.

It's on the basis of such solemn assurances that Israel undertook, for example, the Gaza withdrawal. In order to mitigate this risk, Pres. George W. Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel's absorption of major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines, and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.

For two and a half years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along "the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."

Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. "By definition, it means that the parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different" from 1967.

It means nothing of the sort. "Mutually" means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn't? Then, by definition, you're back to the 1967 lines.

Nor is this merely a theoretical proposition. Three times the Palestinians have been offered exactly that formula, 1967 plus swaps -- at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away.

And that remains their position today: The 1967 lines. Period. Indeed, in September the Palestinians are going to the U.N. to get the world to ratify precisely that: a Palestinian state on the '67 lines. No swaps.

Note how Obama has undermined Israel's negotiating position. He is demanding that Israel go into peace talks having already forfeited its claim to the territory won in the '67 war -- its only bargaining chip. Remember: That '67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter are Palestinian -- alien territory for which Israel must now bargain.

The very idea that Judaism's holiest shrine is alien or that Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter is rightfully, historically, or demographically Arab is an absurdity. And the idea that, in order to retain them, Israel has to give up parts of itself is a travesty.

Obama also moved the goal posts on the so-called right of return. Flooding Israel with millions of Arabs would destroy the world's only Jewish state while creating a 23rd Arab state and a second Palestinian state -- not exactly what we mean when we speak of a "two-state solution." That's why it has been the policy of the U.S. to adamantly oppose this "right."

Yet in his State Department speech, Obama refused to simply restate this position -- and refused again in a supposedly corrective speech three days later. Instead, he told Israel it must negotiate the right of return with the Palestinians after having given every inch of territory. Bargaining with what, pray tell?

No matter. "The status quo is unsustainable," declared Obama, "and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace."

Israel too? Exactly what bold steps for peace have the Palestinians taken? Israel made three radically conciliatory offers to establish a Palestinian state, withdrew from Gaza, and has been trying to renew negotiations for more than two years. Meanwhile, the Gaza Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages. And on the West Bank, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas turned down the Olmert offer, walked out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu, and now defies the United States by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood -- without peace, without recognizing Israel -- at the U.N. And to make unmistakable this spurning of any peace process, Abbas agrees to join the openly genocidal Hamas in a unity government, which even Obama acknowledges makes negotiations impossible.

Obama's response to this relentless Palestinian intransigence? To reward it -- by abandoning the Bush assurances, legitimizing the '67 borders, and refusing to reaffirm America's rejection of the right of return.

The only remaining question is whether this perverse and ultimately self-defeating policy is born of genuine antipathy toward Israel or of the arrogance of a blundering amateur who refuses to see that he is undermining not just peace but the very possibility of negotiations.

-- Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 the Washington Post Writers Group.

Krauthammer asks whether Obama is an amateur, I say he's an idiot. Ten more years of experience wouldn't matter one whit.

Melanie Phillips says he's pro-Palestinian, and I agree:

As I have written over and over again since the moment Obama burst upon the political stage, the evidence from his background, his friends and his mentors showed he shared the profound antipathy to Israel that is the boilerplate prejudice of the hard-left. Since taking office, he has trimmed this hostility for political necessity alone. As Stanley Kurtz puts it in a piece this week which reprises this evidence for those who have either forgotten it or were never aware of it in the first place:
Taken in context, and followed through the years, the evidence strongly suggests that Obama's long-held pro-Palestinian sentiments were sincere, while his post-2004 pro-Israel stance has been dictated by political necessity.

The fact is that Obama's refusal to play along with the UN gambit is merely - and for whatever reason -- a tactical decision. The important thing is that in his recent speeches, Obama has shown that he is not only still refusing to hold Abbas and co to account for their unbroken hostility to the existence of Israel and acts of aggression towards it, but is still intent on rewarding them - while proposing to cut off their prospective victim, Israel, at the knees.

Thanks to Netanyahu, the American people have now been made aware of this. Thank heavens for Congress.

And let's be clear. Given the state of "Palestine," being pro-Palestinian means being anti-Israel. And i don't mean Israeli policies, I mean anti-Israel. Abbas, Hamas, all of them, want to destroy israel plain and simple. As I've documented time and again, Fatah is a radical Jihadist-terror group that at the end of the day has the same objectives as Hamas, and would kill all the Jews if given the chance. That Obama doesn't know or care speaks ill of him.

As for a Palestinian state, Andy McCarthy had a right a few years ago when he said that

The Palestinians are a backward people, indoctrinated toward brutality. They don't rate a sovereign state or anyone's help until they civilize themselves. Sovereignty is a privilege that implies acceptance of civilized norms -- that is why we speak of states like Iran and North Korea as "rogues." Regardless of whether there really are scattered Palestinian moderates, it is a dangerous fantasy to assume the Palestinian people, as a whole, are ready to be anyone's peace partner.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 25, 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu Takes Washington by Storm

On Tuesday, May 24, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed joint session of Congress, which gave him several standing ovations. via Powerline:

We're proud in Israel that over 1 million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades.

Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.

Now, I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free and they're all citizens of Israel.

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong with about the Middle East; Israel is what is right about the Middle East

You got that right, Mr Prime Minister

Full text here.

More key excerpts:

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America's unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.

My friends, you don't have to -- you don't need to do nation- building in Israel. We're already built.

You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it.

And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.
...

This path of liberty is not paved by elections alone. It's paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.
...

Now, we've achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and these have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal -- I mean that literally -- inside the Suez Canal. I was going down to the bottom with a 40- pound pack -- ammunition pack on my back, and somebody reached out to grab me. And they're still looking for the guy who did such a stupid thing.

I was nearly killed there.

And I remember battling terrorists along both banks of the Jordan.

Too many Israelis have lost loved ones, and I know their grief.

I lost my brother. So no one in Israel wants to return to those terrible days.
...

I recognize that in a genuine peace, we'll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. And you have to understand this: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.

We're not the British in India. We're not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace.

No distortion of history -- and boy, am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and new -- no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.
...

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It's always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about.

In 1947 the U.N. voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said "Yes." The Palestinians said "No."

In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six-Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict.

And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And, worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy the Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end.
...

I say to President Abbas, "Tear up your pact with Hamas, sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state. And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as the new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so."

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century and the unfolding events of this century attest to the decisive role of the United States in defending peace and advancing freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All people who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation.

Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, thank you.

Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world.

May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

He speaks words of wisdom that we should all take to heart.

Posted by Tom at 12:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 19, 2011

There will be no Peace in the Middle East and Obama is an Idiot Part Five Million

In The World Turned Upside Down, British author Melanie Phillips says that one's view of the Middle East is a sure guide to their view of the world. If someone believes that Israel, despite her faults, is generally on the side of what is right, good, and true, and that the Palestinians and Arabs are mostly at fault, that person can be counted on to have a rational view of the world. If, on the other hand, they see Israel as the oppressor, equate it's policies with apartheid, and see the Palestinians as victims, they are almost always "moral and cultural and relativists who invert truth and lies, right and wrong over a wide range of issues, and are incapable of seeing that their beliefs do not accord with reality."

That so many take that latter view is why indeed the world is, as Phillips says, turned upside down. Take today's news:

Obama prods Mideast allies to embrace reform, make peace
The Washington Post
by Scott Wilson
May 19, 2011

President Obama prodded Israel on Thursday to pursue a peace deal with the Palestinians based on boundaries defined more than half a century ago, the first time an American president has articulated such a stance, and urged Arab governments to carry out the democratic reforms their citizens have demanded.
...

The president pressed Israel, in unusually frank terms, to reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, citing the boundaries in place on the eve of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War as the starting point for negotiation about borders.

The formulation goes beyond principles outlined by President George W. Bush, who stated during his first term that "it is unrealistic to expect" Israel to pull back to the 1967 boundaries, which were based on cease-fire lines established in 1949. Obama said the negotiations about final borders, which he indicated may include land swaps to accommodate Israel's large settlement blocs, should result in "a viable Palestine, a secure Israel."

Which is completely impossible with an Israel confined to the 1967 borders. If an independent Palestinian state was to be formed, especially one in which Hamas had a role, all we'd end up with is yet another terrorist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this perfectly well. From an Associated Press story carried in the Washington Times today:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected a key aspect of President Obama's Middle East policy speech, saying that a return to his country's 1967 borders would spell disaster for the Jewish state.

In a statement released late Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu called the 1967 lines "indefensible."

I have been to Israel. I stood on a mounaintop on the Golan Heights and looked out into Syria. I went through part of the "West Bank" and saw the so-called "settlements." You don't have to be a military genius to know that it would be pretty easy to overrun the country if you broke through a line or two of defense. And with their rocket arsenals Hizbollah and Hamas can pretty much hit the whole of Israel - weapons Egypt and Syria did not have in 1967 and 1973.

We've heard recently of a "reconciliation" agreement between Fatah/Palestinian Authority and Hamas. If true, this spells a serious shift toward radicalism/Jihadism/rejectionism whatever you want to call it, but it's bad news for Israel.

Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post, explains how the Obama Administration and our lovely European "allies" have responded:

Mahmoud Abbas's formula for war
The Washington Post
by Jackson Diehl
May 18, 2011

The Obama administration and its allies appear suitably alarmed by all this. But their principal reaction so far might be summed up as, "Now we really have to put the screws to Netanyahu."

"It's more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table," Obama declared after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah on Tuesday. Senior European diplomats who have recently phoned or met with Netanyahu have made clear what that means: Unless he can engage Abbas in negotiations before September, their governments will probably vote for the U.N. declaration of statehood.

Embedded in these demands is what might be called the soft bigotry of wishful thinking about Arab strongmen. U.S. and European leaders indulgently swallow the private assurances they receive from suit-wearing, English-speaking men like Abbas, rather than judging them by their actual behavior.

Insanity.

And someone needs to remind our president that Egypt, the military colossus of the Arab world, is under new management. The Muslim Brotherhood may not end up in total control, but it will have a lot of influence, and they will never agree to anything other than the total destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, not too far away, Iran marches on towards acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to put them on. It may we awhile yet before they have that capability, but given enough time, it'll happen.

It is true, as Charles Krauthammer points out, that the idea of returning to the 1967 borders has "been the working premise for negotiations since 2000. But no president had ever before publicly and explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines." This because they know that although it's all very nice in theory in practice it could only lead to disaster.

Elliot Abrams gets it right:

Obama's Empty Speech
In "balanced" terms, Obama treated Assad as a potential democrat, and proposed a non-plan for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
National Review
by Elliot Abrams
May 19, 2011

(Obama's) idea was to put off Jerusalem and refugees, two impossible issues, and instead negotiate borders and security. But in fact, the border issues in the farther northern and southern areas are often simple, and most of the time the Israeli security fence is actually on or very near the 1949 armistice line, often mistakenly called "the 1967 border." The far harder matter is the Jerusalem area, and if Jerusalem is not solved, borders cannot be solved. It won't work. Nor will it work to solve security issues in isolation from others, such as whether Palestinians really accept the permanent existence of the Jewish state at all. Hamas's prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said last week he had "great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine," and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said, "We will never give up the right of return," by which he means flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees." In 2004 President Bush told Prime Minister Sharon that "an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel." That Bush position, contained in a letter to Prime Minister Sharon, was then endorsed by both houses of Congress. President Obama's failure to restate it will rightly strike Israelis as a dangerous shift in position, and one can only hope that he clarifies the matter when he addresses AIPAC on Sunday.

The Israelis aren't going to give up what they call Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") because they know it would put their very existence at risk. The Palestinians don't just want a homeland, they want to eradicate Israel. Everyone in the Middle East understands these two realities. Why can't Obama?

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 3, 2011

"Enhanced Interrogations," Waterboarding, and Killing Osama bin Laden

Many Democrats and most liberals have been of two minds with regard to "enhanced interrogations," waterboarding, and the like. Immediately after 9-11 they were all for them. They wanted to show that they, too, were tough on terrorism and threats to the United States.

But the years went by, no more attacks took place, and President Bush's popularity waned, and Democrats had a change of heart. Suddenly it was outrageous that we would "torture" "detainees." Why, Bush and his administration ought to be investigated, and individuals prosecuted if necessary.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi even got into the act, going so far as to claim that she had never been told or approved of waterboarding or "enhanced interrogations." Unfortunately for her, evidence quickly surfaced that proved she was a liar. See previous posts

House Democrats Undermine Their Own at the CIA - July 10, 2009
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

But enough fun with history, let's get on with the topic of the day, which is how the use of these techniques eventually led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Breaking Down KSM
National Review
May 3, 2011 9:53 A.M.
By Shannen Coffin

Some reports now claim that KSM gave up the information that led eventually -- and with a lot more legwork -- to the identification of bin Laden's courier though more conventional means of interrogation, not as the direct result of enhanced interrogation techniques. Commenters below claim that this somehow undermines the argument that enhanced interrogation played some role in the eventual identification of bin Laden's compound and his subsequent demise. But this argument is specious. When KSM was captured, he was resistant to any form of interrogation, conventional or otherwise. As our colleague Marc Thiessen learned in writing Courting Disaster, KSM's resistance was "superhuman." It was only after being subjected to waterboarding and other enhanced measures that he became compliant, and from that point forward, cooperated with more conventional techniques. As one of the CIA interrogators told Marc, "If we had not had these techniques, we would have gotten zero from him." So enhanced interrogation methods played an integral role in all of the intelligence collected from him.

As I've said before, I still think the debate over the legality and morality of these measures is the subject of fair debate. Marc makes a compelling case in his book, but I respect those who articulate principled opposition. But the question of effectiveness has been answered, if these reports are correct. (Yes, I recognize these are anonymous sources, but this administration has every reason to deny the effectiveness of these interrogation methods, given the president's firm position against them.) Critics are simply denying the obvious when they claim that the facts as reported render ambiguous claims of effectiveness.

And

Viva Guantanamo
The much-maligned interrogators helped dispatch bin Laden.
The Wall Street Journal
May 2, 2011
by James Taranto

Osama bin Laden never made it to Guantanamo Bay, but his arrival in hell appears to have been hastened by information gathered from the terrorists who are detained there. The Associated Press has the story:

Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden's most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed's successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.

A senior administration official told a White House briefing that "for years, we were unable to identify [the courier's] true name or his location":

Four years ago, we uncovered his identity, and for operational reasons, I can't go into details about his name or how we identified him, but about two years ago, after months of persistent effort, we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. Still we were unable to pinpoint exactly where they lived, due to extensive operational security on their part. The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead! It's a Good Day for America, A Good Day for Islam, and a Good Day for the World

As readers of this blog have realized, my life has become too busy for regular posts. As such this post will be mostly quotes from other writers as I'm too tired and don't have enough time to write a lot of original stuff myself. This will not change anytime soon, but this is an occasion not to be missed!

It is right and fitting that it happened the way it did; a team of Navy Seals swooping down in helicopters, storming his compound, and shooting Osama bin Laden and his cohorts to death. Much better that it happened this way than for him to have died of kidney failure or some such.

Message to Osama bin Laden and enemies of the United States everywhere; you can run but you can't hide. And don't think that we'll have forgotten after ten or more years. We will get you no matter how remote an outpost you try to make your home.

My hat is off to the Navy Seals, to everyone in the intelligence community who worked so long and hard to find and conform bin Laden's location, to Presidents Bush and Obama for persevering, and for President Obama for giving the order to strike, knowing what a failed mission did to President Carter thirty-odd years ago.

A few details of the operation have come to light. This compiled by Daniel Foster at NRO:

U.S. Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Unit (SMU) from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU -- formerly known as Seal Team Six) did the shooting. There were other JSOC spotters on the ground, as well as two special operations helicopters and an unmanned drone overhead.

One of the special-ops helicopters reportedly suffered mechanical difficulties and crash landed onsite. It was destroyed by U.S. forces.

Bin Laden was killed along with two al Qaeda couriers and one of Bin Laden's adult sons. A woman who was used as a human shield by one of the couriers was also reportedly killed. Several other women were wounded and are reportedly receiving treatment.

The compound was located in an affluent suburb 35 kilometers north of Islamabad and is being described as huge, with a central building many times larger than other houses in the area and ringed by a 12-15-foot tall security wall. The compound reportedly had no incoming or outgoing electronic communications.

UPDATE: The compound has already been mapped on Google. It's just north of a children's hospital and in spitting distance from the police station.

And according to one commenter, it's also only one mile south-southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy. Sigh. We always knew an element within the Pakistani military/intelligence services was sympathetic to him.

How did we find out where bin Laden was living? Why, those terrible "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the left was so outraged about. The story from Fox News:

Years of intelligence gathering, including details gleaned from controversial interrogations of Al Qaeda members during the Bush administration, ultimately led the Navy SEALs who killed Usama bin Laden to his compound in Pakistan.

The initial threads of intelligence began surfacing in 2003 and came in the form of information about a trusted bin Laden courier, a senior U.S. official told Fox News on condition of anonymity. Bin Laden had cut off all traditional lines of communication with his network by this time because the Al Qaeda leader knew the U.S. intelligence community was monitoring him. It was said that he also didn't even trust his most loyal men to know his whereabouts and instead communicated only through couriers.

But it was four years later, in 2007, that terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay military prison started giving up information about the key courier.

Around this time, the use of enhanced interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, were being denounced as torture by critics of the Bush administration. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney came under intense pressure for supporting rough treatment of prisoners. Critics claimed that any information given under duress simply couldn't be trusted.

It is an argument that Bush and Cheney strongly rejected then, and now.

Yup. I'm not surprised. Obviously we need the strictest controls on these things but yes in the end I say waterboard the terrorists and subject them to enhanced interrogations if that's what it takes to get info we need out of them.

Here's the video and text of President Obama making the announcement:

...And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
...
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must -- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Yes lots of "I" "me" all that, Obama consumed with himself, no credit to Bush... but what do we expect. Otherwise I'm not going to be so picky on that.

Here are some wise words from Andy McCarthy on NRO:

A recurring question I'm getting today is whether Osama's demise equals Obama's political coup. Duh. Of course the president will get a bump in the polls, and he will deserve it. It will also be very short-lived.

In terms of a presidential election cycle, bin Laden has been killed at a time roughly similar to the point in the '92 cycle when President George H.W. Bush won the Gulf War. (I realize there are a couple of months' difference, but that's immaterial.) The victory gave Bush approval ratings that brushed 90 percent -- i.e., significantly higher than President Obama's are today. Just as now, it was unclear which member of the opposition party would run against Bush (unlike the case with Obama, Bush's sky-rocketing polls actually convinced big-name Dems not to make the race). Bush seemed like a shoo-in -- which Obama does not. But the election turned out to be about the economy . . . which was a dream economy compared to the one we're in.

President Obama deserves kudos for the vigor with which he has attacked al Qaeda leaders and cells in Pakistan. As I argued during the campaign, his position on the need to do this was far better than that of Sen. McCain -- who regarded Pakistan as a valuable ally and portrayed Obama as reckless for threatening to conduct attacks there. Obama is also to be applauded for authorizing yesterday's daring mission. President Carter's failed mission to rescue the hostages in Iran is testament to how much can go wrong and how politically devastating it can be when such a mission fails. And all you need to do is read the pertinent section of the 9/11 Commission report about President Clinton's failure to give clear authorization to kill bin Laden when we had several chances to do so in 1998-99 -- i.e., before bin Laden bombed the Cole bombing and ordered 9/11. That it would have been irresponsible to pass up this latest chance to rid the world of this menace does not mean acting responsibly was without risk for Obama. We should commend him for pulling the trigger.

Still, the operation cannot but underscore the mind-bending inconsistencies in Obama's counterterrorism -- gold-plated due process for some 9/11 terrorists but assassination for others; the haste to close Gitmo even as it continues to serve valuable security purposes; the paralysis of interrogation policies that (as Shannen, Steve, and others point out) were key to obtaining intelligence that not only thwarts attacks but enabled us to find bin Laden; the crackdown against al Qaeda while engaging the Muslim Brotherhood despite its sustenance of Hamas; the avowed commitment to fight terrorism while demonstrating indifference to the promotion of terrorism by Iran, Syria, and other rogue regimes; rhetorically lashing out at the Taliban (as Obama did in yesterday's speech) while seeking a negotiated settlement with the Taliban; and so on.

Obama rarely talks about the war -- indeed, he resists referring to war as "war." This, coupled with his paradoxical approach to it, will limit the political benefit he derives from positive developments in the war, including one as extremely positive as taking out bin Laden. Meanwhile, the urgency of debt, unemployment, and climbing consumer prices will very quickly divert the public's attention from bin Laden. The 2012 election will probably not be any more influenced by yesterday's successful operation than the 1992 election was by victory in the Gulf War.

We ought to take this very good news for what it is -- very good news. Despite the irritating self-absorption of last night's speech that Mark aptly describes, we should praise the president and, especially, our peerless military forces for a job well done. And we should forget about the politics of this. Whatever bump Obama gets will be about as enduring as tomorrow's trip to the station to fill 'er up with $5/gallon gas.

Finally, Victor Davis Hanson wonders about how valuable an "ally" Pakistan really is:

So did we operate with or without Pakistan's help? If the latter, and if it is proven that OBL was hiding in plain sight, I think it could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back of this Orwellian partnership with Pakistan -- despite the PR to come that we owe, are in debt to, etc. to Pakistan. We will need some honest talk for a change about exactly what is going on. Or is it more likely that we confronted the Pakistanis with the intelligence and they red-faced joined us at the 11th hour?

Finally, this comes at a fortunate time. No one is talking of victory any more in Afghanistan; we seem confused in Libya, so the death of bin Laden reminds us that the U.S. can still take the war to the enemy in his own backyard, and act with confidence and audacity rather than "leading from behind." Let us hope that Dr. Zawahiri is next -- though the al Qaeda generation of 2001 seems almost enfeebled now, and are nearly all scattered, killed, or captured.

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