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SATURDAY, September 30, 2006
As we enter, kicking and screaming, the final six weeks of the current election cycle, we would do well to consider the Democrats' rejection of Senator Lieberman as their standard bearer for that election. Better political observers than I have done exactly that, in an effort to focus the attention of the public on the importance of some cohesion rather than the current polarization in our government.
On August 11, 2006 in The Day, David Brooks reported that "Tuesday Primary Highlights The Emerging McCain-Lieberman Party", which shows that "country comes before party, that in politics a little passion energizes but unmarshalled passion corrupts, and that more people want to vote for civility than for venom" (Community, A7). On the same day and edition, Cal Thomas noted that "Lieberman's one 'sin,' in the eyes ot the Taliban Democrats, was that he supported the effort to defeat the insurgent-terrorists". Some days later, Thomas Friedman stated that "The defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman by the upstart antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont has sparked a firestorm of debate about the direction of the Democratic Party. My own heart is with those Democrats who worry that just calling for a pullout from Iraq, while it may be necessary, is not a sufficient response to the biggest threat to open societies today - violent, radical Islam. Unless Democrats persuade voters - in the gut - that they understand this larger challenge, it's going to be hard for them to win the presidency". (The Day Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006, Commentary, pA11).
These observers seem to be onto something: the banner headline in today's The Day declares: "Lieberman 10 points Up On Lamont". Meanwhile, hang in there, folks. The rest of the ride until November 7 is going to be hard to take. GS
What Clinton Didn't Do . . .FRIDAY, September 29, 2006
. . . .and when he didn't do it.
BY RICHARD MINITER
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Bill Clinton's outburst on Fox News was something of a public service, launching a debate about the antiterror policies of his administration. This is important because every George W. Bush policy that arouses the ire of Democrats--the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, detention without trial, pre-emptive war--is a departure from his predecessor. Where policies overlap--air attacks on infrastructure, secret presidential orders to kill terrorists, intelligence sharing with allies, freezing bank accounts, using police to arrest terror suspects--there is little friction. The question, then, is whether America should return to Mr. Clinton's policies or soldier on with Mr. Bush's.
It is vital that this debate be honest, but so far this has not been the case. Both Mr. Clinton's outrage at Chris Wallace's questioning and the ABC docudrama "The Path to 9/11" are attempts to polarize the nation's memory. While this divisiveness may be good for Mr. Clinton's reputation, it is ultimately unhealthy for the country. What we need, instead, is a cold-eyed look at what works against terrorists and what does not. The policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations ought to be put to the same iron test.
With that in mind, let us examine Mr. Clinton's war on terror. Some 38 days after he was sworn in, al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center. He did not visit the twin towers that year, even though four days after the attack he was just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, talking about job training. He made no attempt to rally the public against terrorism. His only public speech on the bombing was a few paragraphs inserted into a radio address mostly devoted an economic stimulus package. Those stray paragraphs were limited to reassuring the public and thanking the rescuers, the kinds of things governors say after hurricanes. He did not even vow to bring the bombers to justice. Instead, he turned the first terrorist attack on American soil over to the FBI.
In his Fox interview, Mr. Clinton said "no one knew that al Qaeda existed" in October 1993, during the tragic events in Somalia. But his national security adviser, Tony Lake, told me that he first learned of bin Laden "sometime in 1993," when he was thought of as a terror financier. U.S. Army Capt. James Francis Yacone, a black hawk squadron commander in Somalia, later testified that radio intercepts of enemy mortar crews firing at Americans were in Arabic, not Somali, suggesting the work of bin Laden's agents (who spoke Arabic), not warlord Farah Aideed's men (who did not). CIA and DIA reports also placed al Qaeda operatives in Somalia at the time.
By the end of Mr. Clinton's first year, al Qaeda had apparently attacked twice. The attacks would continue for every one of the Clinton years.
In 1994, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who would later plan the 9/11 attacks) launched "Operation Bojinka" to down 11 U.S. planes simultaneously over the Pacific. A sharp-eyed Filipina police officer foiled the plot. The sole American response: increased law-enforcement cooperation with the Philippines.
In 1995, al Qaeda detonated a 220-pound car bomb outside the Office of Program Manager in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing five Americans and wounding 60 more. The FBI was sent in.
In 1996, al Qaeda bombed the barracks of American pilots patrolling the "no-fly zones" over Iraq, killing 19. Again, the FBI responded.
In 1997, al Qaeda consolidated its position in Afghanistan and bin Laden repeatedly declared war on the U.S. In February, bin Laden told an Arab TV network: "If someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters." No response from the Clinton administration.
In 1998, al Qaeda simultaneously bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224, including 12 U.S. diplomats. Mr. Clinton ordered cruise-missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan in response. Here Mr. Clinton's critics are wrong: The president was right to retaliate when America was attacked, irrespective of the Monica Lewinsky case.
Still, "Operation Infinite Reach" was weakened by Clintonian compromise. The State Department feared that Pakistan might spot the American missiles in its air space and misinterpret it as an Indian attack. So Mr. Clinton told Gen. Joe Ralston, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to notify Pakistan's army minutes before the Tomahawks passed over Pakistan. Given Pakistan's links to jihadis at the time, it is not surprising that bin Laden was tipped off, fleeing some 45 minutes before the missiles arrived.
In 1999, the Clinton administration disrupted al Qaeda's Millennium plots, a series of bombings stretching from Amman to Los Angeles. This shining success was mostly the work of Richard Clarke, a NSC senior director who forced agencies to work together. But the Millennium approach was shortlived. Over Mr. Clarke's objections, policy reverted to the status quo.
In January 2000, al Qaeda tried and failed to attack the U.S.S. The Sullivans off Yemen. (Their boat sank before they could reach their target.) But in October 2000, an al Qaeda bomb ripped a hole in the hull of the U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 sailors and wounding another 39.
When Mr. Clarke presented a plan to launch a massive cruise missile strike on al Qaeda and Taliban facilities in Afghanistan, the Clinton cabinet voted against it. After the meeting, a State Department counterterrorism official, Michael Sheehan, sought out Mr. Clarke. Both told me that they were stunned. Mr. Sheehan asked Mr. Clarke: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"
There is much more to Mr. Clinton's record--how Predator drones, which spotted bin Laden three times in 1999 and 2000, were grounded by bureaucratic infighting; how a petty dispute with an Arizona senator stopped the CIA from hiring more Arabic translators. While it is easy to look back in hindsight and blame Bill Clinton, the full scale and nature of the terrorist threat was not widely appreciated until 9/11. Still: Bill Clinton did not fully grasp that he was at war. Nor did he intuit that war requires overcoming bureaucratic objections and a democracy's natural reluctance to use force. That is a hard lesson. But it is better to learn it from studying the Clinton years than reliving them.
In Wednesday's Rapid Response offering, I wrote about Security, and how to achieve it. A vital part of that strategy is knowing as much as possible about your actual or potential adversary. "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer". Regarding China, whether she be an awakening dragon or a paper tiger, as some are now beginning to suggest, the above-referenced book "Chinese Lessons" by John Pomfret is valuable. On the same topic is a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Emily Parker entitled "Who Will Tell The Story Of China?" (Sat. - Sun. Sept. 23-24, 2006, Opinion, pA6). Regarding the Muslim world and the various iterations of Islam, three recent articles should be "must read", all in the WSJ: 1)"August 22", by Bernard Lewis, Tuesday, Aug. 8, pA10; 2) "Islamofascism", by Roger Scruton, Thursday, Aug. 17, pA8; and 3) "Benedict's Opposite", by Bret Stephens, Sept. 26, pA15. Regarding that perennial favorite, Russia, we have had plenty of experience...but we keep forgetting the main point: the Russian people are much more Oriental than Occidental, despite the Western appearance of many of them. This is a critical difference in approach to the matter of rights of the community vs those of the individual. Thus, with regard to each of these potential adversaries, we should stop repeating, time and again: "Wha Hoppen?"
THURSDAY, September 28, 2006
Although we can see all too clearly, in the world of Islam, what can befall a society or nations held too closely in the sway of any religion , our U.S. Constitution protects "Freedom of Religion", not "Freedom from Religion", the latter distortion current in some quarters of this country. And so I offer the following for your consideration. GS
In March, 2005, this song was performed at a Diamond Rio concert. They received an immediate standing ovation, and continue to do so every time they perform it! Sadly, major radio stations wouldn't play it because it was considered politically incorrect. Consequently, the song was never released to the public. If this song speaks to your heart, share it with friends and loved ones. Then let us cease being the silent majority and join together -- not as a particular political party, but as Americans!WEDNESDAY, September 27, 2006
Click here -----------> Diamond Rio Song
Security, almost as important as oxygen to human beings, is the topic of David Brooks' article, referring to the Iraqi people in today's Iraq (in The Day today, Commentary, pA7). In that sorry case we must blame Sec. Rumsfeld...and also the President...in their conduct of the post-war. But the lack of security is producing bed effects all around us: in California schools among the latinos without a country; in urban ghettos among blacks whose only "family" is the local gang. And the distortions and complete breakdown in human behavior that can take place under such circumstances - a bunker mentality of self-preservation at any cost - were clearly in evidence in China during the reign of Chairman Mao and during the subsequent "Cultural Revolution". See "Chinese Lessons", a recent book by John Pomfret (Henry Holt and Company, 2006. To this we now add the machinations of a radical segment of the Muslim people who are kidnapping a great Religion to their own ends by fostering terrorism throughout the world and against their own people...including women and children. In such a world, we in America cannot expect security. We must create it, by whatever means necessary, including pre-emptive self-defense. If the "nattering nabobs" of the Democratic Party have a better and more workable plan, let's hear clearly from them. It would be about time.
MONDAY and TUESDAY, September 25 and 26, 2006
SATURDAY and SUNDAY, September 23 and 24, 2006
It may or may not have been his intent, but David Brooks published what amount to "a few words" over the moribund body of the United Nations yesterday. (See "Lessons From U.N. Week Underscore Divisions Among World Citizens", in The Day, Commentary, pA7). "One of the lessons of this past week is that the international system is broken." Following a lucid analysis of the pathology involved, his last two paragraphs should be stark reminders of just what choices face America:
"With America exhausted by Iraq, with the threat of Iranian sanctions dissolving before our eyes, Western policy is drifting toward the option that most resembles passivity. That is containment - accepting Iranian nukes and trying to deter their use with our arsenal. In other words, a policy that was desighed to confront a secular, bureaucratic foe - the Soviets - will now be used to confront a surging, jihadist one. The survival of Tel Aviv, and maybe New York and Washington, will depend on the Clausewitzian rationalism of the Iranian mullahs, or the angry younger brothers who will replace them."That is insanity. And, with so many of our "allies" in the asylum, what sane choice do we have besides "pre-emptive self-defense"?
FRIDAY, September 22, 2006
"AND THAT'S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT!" GS
Leading Bush critic at home calls Chavez a "thug" Thu Sep 21, 12:43 PM ETTHURSDAY, September 21, 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of President George W. Bush's fiercest political opponents at home took his side on Thursday, calling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a "thug" for his remark that Bush is like the devil.
"Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar but all he is an everyday thug," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference, referring to Chavez' comments in a U.N. General Assembly speech on Wednesday.
"Hugo Chavez abused the privilege that he had, speaking at the United Nations," said Pelosi, a frequent Bush critic. "He demeaned himself and he demeaned Venezuela."
Simon Bolivar led the fight for independence against Spanish rule in several South American countries in the early 19th century and is cited by Chavez as a political model.
Chavez, a vociferous critic of Bush and the United States, has allied himself with U.S. opponents Cuba and Iran and has led a resurgence of left-wing populism in Latin America.
"The devil himself is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday. Right here," Chavez said as he stood at the U.N. podium where Bush spoke the day before.
"It smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of," Chavez said.
His remarks drew applause from many of the delegates.
Bush administration officials have not responded directly to Chavez's remarks.
"I am not going to dignify a comment by the Venezuelan president to the president of the United States. I think it is not becoming for a head of state," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday.
It is sad and worrying that Muslims have given birth to an international united front to attack the Pope and ask for public apologies. From Bin Laden to the Muslim Brotherhood, from Pakistan to Turkey, from al-Jazeera to al-Arabiya, the transversal and universal alliance, which has already come into being following the Danish cartoons affair, has reappeared. Reaffirming very clearly that the root of evil is like a blind and prevailing ideology which outrages the faith and darkens the minds of many Muslims.
Why do not Muslims, especially the so-called moderates, react with such strength and intensity against the real and eternal desecrators of Islam - that is, the Islamic terrorists who kill other Muslims in the name of the same God, radical Muslims who legitimize the destruction of Israel and brainwash ordinary Muslims into martyrdom? Why do they now believe they must start a kind of Islamic "holy war" against the head of the [Catholic] Church who has the right to respectfully express his views about Islam, all the while with clarity on the evident difference between the two religions?
The Popes' quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, regarding the expansion of Islam through the sword, either during the time of Muhammad and on the Arab Peninsula and after him, elsewhere, underlines an undeniable historical truth. The Quran itself states it; furthermore, the forced conversion of the entire Byzantine Empire, to Islam in the East and South of Mediterranean, and the further expansion northwards in Europe and Eastwards in Asia, demonstrates the point made by the Byzantine Emperor. It is foolish to deny the truth, as it can only cause deranged reaction. In the mid-Nineties one of the most prominent scholars of Islamic studies, the Egyptian Mohamed said al-Ashmawi, told me that he did not approve the Arab tribes' military conquest of Christian lands in the Mediterranean and that he would have preferred Islam to expand peacefully, like it did in South-Eastern Asia. The Pope is threatened because he has said things that every single honest and rational Muslim should accept: the historical truth.
Time has come for both the West and Christianity to stop thinking that they are the source of all that happens - good or evil - within Islam as well as around the world. The ideology of hate is an ancestral reality at the core of Islam; it has been so since its inception, due to its' refusal to recognize and respect the plurality of religious communities a natural thing since in Islam the relationship between the believer and God is personal and there is no unique spiritual guide who embodies the absolute dogmas of faith. In fact, since the defeat of the Arab armies in the June 5th, 1967 war, the situation has been worsening while Islamic extremism has been on the rise starting from Iran to Indonesia, to the point where the advance of global Islamic terrorism has turned the West into a "Kamikaze factory".
This is the tragic truth of the ideology of hate which binds all Muslims who are obsessed with anti-Americanism, anti-West and the prejudicial denial of Israel's right to exist. They are able to find many pretexts to rage - from Israeli occupation, to the U.S.-led coalition into Iraq, to the cartoons about Muhammad and even the Pope's words. Nevertheless the problem is at the root of Islam itself, an Islam which extremists turned from a faith in God into an ideology aiming for a theocratic and totalitarian order to impose on everyone who is not like them. And I am really scared when I realize that even the so-called moderates have given into a "holy war" where they will be the primary victims.
ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
European Commission Defends Pope After Remarks
BRUSSELS, Belgium, SEPT. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The European Commission
unacceptable the "disproportionate" reactions that "reject freedom of speech," such
as those expressed after Benedict XVI's words on Islam at a German university.
"Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of the EU's values, as is respect
religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism or laicism," said commission spokesman
Johannes Laitenberger in a press conference today.
The spokesman pointed out that the Pope's address must be considered
totality," and not react to "quotes taken out of context and even less so" to
"quotes deliberately taken out of context."
He stressed, however, that it is not for the European Commission to
interpret "the theological contribution of the Pope to a theological debate" and he
noted that the Holy See has already given explanations.
Laitenberger added that, for many years, the commission "has promoted
dialogue and encouraged interreligious debate because it considers that it is "the
best way to foment mutual understanding."
When Bernard Lewis talks about the Middle East, we should all listen. GS
U.S. Could Lose War on Terror, Historian SaysSUNDAY, September 17, 2006
By DANIEL FREEDMAN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 13, 2006
The victor of the war on terror is far from clear, the historian Bernard Lewis told a Hudson Institute conference.
The British-born professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton said Monday that he was "more optimistic about the future of our struggle" in the early 1940s when the French had capitulated to the Germans, when Stalin was Hitler's ally, and when America was still neutral than he is today.
"Hitler would have won under these conditions," Mr. Lewis said, citing America's inability to clearly define the war on terror and exactly who its enemy is. The professor, whose vision of the future of the Middle East and knowledge of Islam has guided President Bush's foreign policy, also cited as challenges the multilateralism that hamstrings America's ability to fight the war and the strong political opposition to policies designed to defeat the enemy, such as detaining terrorists without trial.
During the darkest days of the fight against Nazism, Mr. Lewis said, he "had no doubt that in the end we would triumph." He does not "have that certitude now," he said.
Mr. Lewis told the center-right think tank's conference on the United Nations that he agrees with a former communist dissident and current Israeli parliamentarian, Natan Sharansky, that the only real solution to defeating radical Islam is to bring freedom to the Middle East. Either "we free them or they destroy us," Mr. Lewis said.
The contention, especially popular in diplomatic circles, that Arabs aren't suited to democracy and that the West's best hope lies with friendly tyrants shows an ignorance of the Arabs' past and contempt for their present and future, and is "demonstrably absurd in historical terms," Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Lewis said a great deal of material exists from Arabs, from Persians, and from Turks that can form the basis for democracies in the region. He quoted from a 1786 letter to the king's court in France from the French ambassador to Istanbul explaining why the Ottoman Empire was slow in making decisions. The ambassador reported that unlike in France, where the king made a decision and that was it, "here the sultan has to consult" and so it "takes time to get things done."
Mr. Lewis said he places no hope in the United Nations being part of the solution. He "first realized the U.N. was hopeless" after the partition of Palestine, he said. Palestine was a "triviality" compared to the partition of India that took place a year earlier, in 1947, he added. Millions of refugees were created and yet India and Pakistan formed a working relationship and sorted out the problems.
The key difference, Mr. Lewis said, was that "in the partition of India, the U.N. was not involved. "The United Nations failed to act after the Arab states invaded Palestine, and then treated Jewish and Arab refugees differently, leaving problems that remain today, he said.
SUNDAY, September 17, 2006
Still more on the Pope and Islam. GS
==================================================SATURDAY, September 16, 2006
ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Pope Struck a Cord With Muslims, Says Expert
Despite Some Harsh Reactions
ROME, SEPT. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's words regarding Islam resonated
with millions of Muslims worldwide who reject the justification of violence in the
name of religion, said an expert in Islam.
Father Justo Lacunza, until recently rector of the Pontifical Institute of Arab and
Islamic Studies of Rome, explained today on Vatican Radio, why, nonetheless, certain
Muslim circles reacted harshly to the discourse the Pope gave Tuesday at the
University of Regensburg.
"In this the Pope has done no more than take up again the sentiment and desire of
millions of Muslims who in one way or another, say: 'Violence and Islam cannot be
related,'" Father Lacunza said.
He said that many Muslims say: "We are Muslims and we want to be Muslim believers in
today's world and against those who use religion to strike at others with violence.
Religion cannot be the foundation of a conflict, a war, or any other kind of
The Muslim world reacted so violently to the words of the Pope, said the priest, for
two reasons: "The first is that the Islamic world and Muslims are very sensitive to
those who speak of Islam, in particular, when they do not belong to the Muslim
"The second reason is that the Pontiff touched on a very, very delicate point, which
is that of violence and war."
ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Vatican Statement on Pope's Words About Islam
"A Clear and Radical Rejection of the Religious Motivation for Violence"
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the press statement released
Thursday by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi concerning the interpretation of certain
passages of the Holy Father's address at the University of Regensburg.
Concerning the reaction of Muslim leaders to certain passages of the Holy Father's
address at the University of Regensburg, it should be noted that what the Holy
Father has at heart -- and which emerges from an attentive reading of the text -- is
a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence.
It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive
study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the
sensibilities of Muslim faithful.
Quite the contrary, what emerges clearly from the Holy Father's discourses is a
warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid "the contempt for God and the
cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom" (homily,
Sept. 10). A just consideration of the religious dimension is, in fact, an essential
premise for fruitful dialogue with the great cultures and religions of the world.
And indeed, in concluding his address in Regensburg, Benedict XVI affirmed how "the
world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the
universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason
which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures
is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."
What is clear then, is the Holy Father's desire to cultivate an attitude of respect
and dialogue toward other religions and cultures, including, of course, Islam.
About the Pope and Muslims. Rather than paraphrase the current latest over-reaction of Muslims to expressions of differing opinions regarding their Religion, and especially regarding "Religion" in general, I provide below the latest Reuters report...by Stephen Brown and entitled "Pope Sorry For Remarks". What has been offered by the Vatican is clarification, not apology. "The academic speech was meant as a 'clear and radical rejection of religiously motivated violence, wherever it comes from....'" while the Pope confirmed "his respect and esteem for those who profess the Islamic faith." What's wrong with that? What's wrong is the multiple interpretations of Islam that are allowed to be voiced, from a true Religion of Peace to an excuse for the most violent actions of "Muslims" with their own agendas. That is the issue that the vast majority of Muslims should be exorcized about. Meanwhile, the NYTimes takes this as another opportunity for Catholic-bashing in its related editorial. Nothing new there. GS
Pope sorry for remarks
By Stephen BrownFRIDAY, September 15, 2006
Sat Sep 16, 9:59 AM ET
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict is sorry Muslims were offended by a speech that provoked fury in the Islamic world and led to calls for the leader of the Catholic church to apologize personally, the Vatican said on Saturday.
"The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers," Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a statement.
Benedict's worst crisis since he was elected in April 2005 was sparked by a speech in his native Germany on Tuesday that appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that early Muslims spread their religion by violence.
The backlash has cast doubt on a planned visit to Turkey by the Pope in November. In an early reaction to the Vatican statement, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it was not enough and they wanted "a personal apology."
"We feel he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology," the Brotherhood's deputy leader, Mohammed Habib, told Reuters.
The Pope's next scheduled public appearance is his Sunday Angelus blessing, when he often comments on current affairs.
Bertone, walking into the crisis only a day after taking over as "deputy pope," said the 79-year-old Pope confirmed "his respect and esteem for those who profess the Islamic faith" and hoped his words would be understood "in their true sense."
The academic speech was meant as a "a clear and radical rejection of religiously motivated violence, wherever it comes from," said the statement, which came as criticism of the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics swelled.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of Muslim Turkey said on Saturday before the Vatican statement that the Pope's comments were "ugly and unfortunate" and should be withdrawn.
"The Pope spoke like a politician rather than as a man of religion," Erdogan said in televised remarks.
Yemen's president publicly denounced the pontiff and two churches -- neither of them Catholic -- were fire-bombed in the West Bank, although no one was hurt.
But Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German politicians defended his comments, saying he had been misunderstood.
"It was an invitation to dialogue between religions," she told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper in an interview.
CALLS FOR APOLOGY
The New York Times said in an editorial the Pope must issue a "deep and persuasive" apology for quotes used in his speech.
"The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly," it said.
In the speech, the Pope referred to criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said everything Mohammad brought was evil "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Using the terms "jihad" and "holy war," the Pope said violence was "incompatible with the nature of God."
But Bertone said the Pontiff "had absolutely no intention" of presenting Emperor Manuel's opinions on Islam as his own.
Vatican insiders and diplomats say the Pope may have mixed up his new role with his former posts as a theologian and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was known as a disciplinarian.
Angry Muslim leaders flung what they saw as allegations of violence back at the Christian West.
"How can (the Pope) imply that Muslims are the creators of terrorism in the world while it is the followers of Christianity who have aggressed against every country of the Islamic world?" prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh said. "Who attacked Afghanistan and who invaded Iraq?"
In Libya, the General Instance of Religious Affairs said the "insult ... pushes us back to the era of crusades against Muslims led by Western political and religious leaders."
Turkish paper Vatan quoted a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party saying Benedict "will go down in history in the same category as leaders like Hitler and Mussolini."
Catholic bishops in Turkey feared the angry local reaction, led by the Grand Mufti, could show public opinion was shifting against the Pope's planned visit. But Turkish officials said they hoped the row would blow over and the visit would go ahead.
In Iraq the government asked Muslims not to take their anger out on the small Christian minority, after the door of a church in Basra was attacked. The foreign ministry summoned the Vatican's top diplomat there to explain the Pope's remarks.
Some "times that try men's souls" also provide real leaders. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, both Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and Pope John Paul ll immediately come to mind. To this list I now add President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI. President Bush articulated and exhibited his leadership style and substance with today's speech and Press conference. If you missed it, you should read it in its entirety. The Pope stated, in a speech on Tuesday at the University of Regensburg, what needed to be said: that the Muslim concept of holy war is a violation of God's will and nature. And he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor...that Muhammad had brought ' things only evil and inhumane, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached'" (see "Pope's Comments Bring Backlash From Muslims", by Tracy Wilkinson, in The Day today, World, pA2). In response to immediate criticism, the Vatican spokesman amplified: "What is in the Holy father's heart is a clear and radical rejection of religious motives for violence" (ibid). God bless them both.
THURSDAY, September 14, 2006
WEDNESDAY, September 13, 2006
This offering may require an apology for its length in this "rapid response" section. But it is important; and it is consistent with my constant effort to offer solid facts and distinguished opinions in support of my own viewpoints. This is entitled: "Not A Suicide Pact: The Constitution In A Time of National Emergency". GS
Freedom at WarTUESDAY, September 12, 2006
Civil liberties in the age of terrorism.
by Peter Berkowitz
09/18/2006, Volume 012, Issue 01
Not a Suicide Pact
The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency
by Richard A. Posner
Oxford, 208 pp., $18.95
In late June, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times breathlessly reported on the front page, above the fold and under a big headline, that in the just-announced case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court "shredded each of the administration's arguments." The decision--which held that, as organized, the military tribunals the Bush administration had created to try unlawful combatants seized on the battlefield in Afghan istan, were contrary to federal law and a provision of the Geneva Conventions--was, Greenhouse gushed, "a sweeping and categorical defeat for the Bush administration."
Indeed, she proclaimed, the decision was a "historic event, a definitional moment in the ever-shifting balance of power among the branches of government that ranked with the court's order to President Nixon in 1974 to turn over the Watergate tapes or with the court's rejection of President Harry S. Truman's seizing [in 1952] of the nation's steel mills."
Never mind that the Court had not questioned the government's right to detain Salim Ahmed Hamdan, allegedly Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, without charge or trial, as an unlawful combatant, until such time as the conflict between the United States and al Qaeda comes to an end. Never mind that, in a paragraph-long concurring opinion, Justice Breyer emphasized that much, if not all, of the military tribunal procedures designed by the Bush administration would pass legal muster if explicitly authorized by Congress. Never mind that the Court's
opinion commanded only a narrow five-justice majority. And never mind that Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito each authored powerful dissents that elaborated serious objections to which the majority's principal legal arguments are exposed. (Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in the case because, as judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, he joined the opinion, which Hamdan reversed, upholding the administration's military tribunals.)
What was truly remarkable about Greenhouse's performance--her lengthy article was not an op-ed column or piece of "news analysis" but a news story of the sort customarily intended to provide a dispassionate and well-rounded account of the facts--was the omission of a single reference to the features of America's national security situation that motivated the Bush administration to turn to the use of military tribunals. In this failure to put national security considerations into the balance, let alone give them their due weight, Greenhouse and her editors at the Times typify the complacency and shortsightedness in thinking about constitutional rights and the war on terror that Judge Richard Posner's trenchant new book seeks to correct.
Rarely ceasing to amaze over the last three decades or so with the range of his intellectual interests and the acuteness of his analytical powers (and occasionally with the irreverence of his observations and unconventionality of his conclusions), Posner has, in the last several years, turned his attention to questions of national security. In 2004 he published Catastrophe, a book on the regulation of grave but remote risk: For example, what policy should government adopt if a physics experiment poses a truly extraordinary harm--say, the destruction of the planet--but the harm has an exceedingly remote likelihood, perhaps a one-in-fifty-million chance, of coming to pass? And in the last year, Posner published Preventing Surprise Attacks, and a sequel, Uncertain Shield, which explore the nature of intelligence-gathering and analysis, the strengths and weaknesses of our pre-9/11 intelligence system, and post-9/11 reform efforts. (Both volumes appear under the imprint of Hoover Studies, a series for which I serve as co-general editor.)
With his new book, Posner carries forward his analysis of national security questions into the sphere of constitutional law. True to the pragmatic approach to judging that he has long championed, Posner grounds his analysis of national security law and the Constitution in an appreciation of concrete circumstances. The danger posed by jihadist terror, according to Posner, is novel, grave, and growing. As he explains with characteristic vigor, this is partly because of the weapons increasingly at our enemies' disposal:
[I]n the early years of the twenty-first century, the nation faces the intertwined menaces of global terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. A city can be destroyed by an atomic bomb the size of a melon, which if coated with lead would be undetectable. Large stretches of a city can be rendered uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, merely by the explosion of a conventional bomb that has been coated with radioactive material. Smallpox virus bioengineered to make it even more toxic and vaccines ineffectual, then aerosolized and sprayed in a major airport, might kill millions of people. Our terrorist enemies have the will to do such things and abundant opportunities, because our borders are porous both to enemies and to containers. They will soon have the means as well. The march of technology has increased the variety and lethality of weapons of mass destruction, especially the biological, and also and critically their accessibility. Aided by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by unstable nations (Pakistan and
North Korea, soon to be joined, in all likelihood, by Iran), technological progress is making weapons of mass destruction ever more accessible both to terrorist groups (and even individuals) and to hostile nations that are not major powers. The problem of proliferation is more serious today than it was in what now seem the almost halcyon days of the Cold War; it will be even more serious tomorrow.
The danger is further defined by the jihadists' character, ideology, and tactics. We know that "they are numerous, fanatical, implacable, elusive, resourceful, resilient, utterly ruthless, seemingly fearless, apocalyptic in their aims, and eager to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and use them against us." But because they do not represent a nation-state, and thus have neither territory nor population for which they are responsible, we do not know very much about "their current number, leaders, locations, resources, supporters, motivations, and plans; and in part because of our ignorance, we have no strategy for defeating them, only for fighting them."
The knowledge of concrete circumstances emphasized by pragmatists, Posner stresses, is critical when it comes to understanding the Constitution and the rights to which it gives rise. Constitutional rights, he argues, are not specified by the text of the Constitution, nor are they derivable from it by a single governing principle or a unique scientific or logical method. Rather, constitutional rights are created by justices interpreting the Constitution with a view to the moral and political consequences of their rulings.
Take the First Amendment. To be sure, it provides rights to freedom of speech, religion, press, and association. But it is the Supreme Court, over the centuries, that has determined the shape and scope of these rights, concluding, for example, that generally government may restrict speech on the basis of time, place, and manner, but not on the basis of content or viewpoint, and that the free exercise of religion is not wide enough to include prayer in school.
Posner's writings can give the disconcerting impression that sufficiently clever judges are free to reach whatever results they like. That is not his argument here. He recognizes that many legal controversies are resolved by straightforward application of the law. But in hard cases, where traditional legal materials--constitutional text, history, structure, and the holdings of previous cases--fail to yield a single lawful answer, justices ought to craft legal rules that serve the nation's moral and political requirements. Or rather, Posner believes that justices should do this more deliberately and forthrightly.
In reality, he argues, in the difficult and divisive constitutional cases, the very ones to which the public pays the most attention and which appear to have the largest political implications, justices reach their decision in much the same way that ordinary citizens make nonlegal decisions, "by balancing the anticipated consequences of alternative outcomes and picking the one that creates the greatest preponderance of good over bad effects."
Because the Supreme Court's legal conclusions about constitutional rights are, and ought to be, "heavily influenced by contemporary needs and conditions," they involve, in the final analysis, substantial policy judgments that result in the making of new law.
This may sound like an endorsement of judicial activism, but, according to Posner, it isn't. Indeed, he thinks that the pragmatic approach favors judicial restraint. Precisely because of the inevitably large pragmatic element in the adjudication of constitutional rights, justices should be restrained in invalidating the acts of the political branches. This is because Congress and the president are better equipped to weigh the actual or likely consequences of laws and policies, and they are better positioned to bring failed social and political experiments to an end.
Much of Posner's writing about the practice of judging over the last decade has been calculated to rile moral philosophers who believe that reason itself can decide hard cases, and to provoke law professors who insist on the autonomy of legal reasoning. However, this time around, his exposition of the pragmatic dimension of judicial decision-making has an eminently practical purpose: to show the path that national security law should take in the war against Islamic extremism. The key is to appreciate that the Constitution itself requires courts to balance two competing interests or goods, individual liberty and public safety.
Drawing on central insights of the law and economics school, of which he is a founding father, and translating them into terms suitable for dealing with hard constitutional cases, Posner sets forth the appropriate balancing test:
Ideally, in the case of a right (for example, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures) that could be asserted against government measures for protecting national security, one would like to locate the point at which a slight expansion in the scope of the right would subtract more from public safety than it would add to personal liberty and a slight contraction would subtract more from personal liberty than it would add to public safety. That is the point of balance, and determines the optimal scope of the right. The point shifts continuously as threats to liberty and safety wax and wane. At no time can the exact point be located. Yet to imagine it the object of our quest is useful in underscoring that the balance between liberty and safety must be struck at the margin. One is not to ask whether liberty is more or less important than safety. One is to ask whether a particular security measure harms liberty more or less than it promotes safety.
Of course, different justices will attach different weights to liberty and security, and come to different conclusions about the impact of specific measures on liberty and security. Posner does not deny or fear these difficulties. The purpose of his balancing test is not to eliminate but to refine the role of judgment in constitutional adjudication.
It follows that, at the margins, constitutional rights will and should vary with the threat that the nation faces. Posner recognizes that libertarians of both the left and right will decry this approach. They will prefer clear rules with very few exceptions--that, for instance, political speech can only be prohibited if it involves an incitement to crimes. They will also tend to discount the national security threat by treating terrorism as a species of crime. And they will warn darkly of the historical tendency of the government to chip away steadily at civil liberties in wartime in the name of dangers that eventually turn out to be farfetched.
To these libertarian objections, Posner replies that the rigidity of rules is disadvantageous when the constitutional terrain is as rocky and unfamiliar as it is in the case of jihadist terror. Further, he contends, unlike criminals but like traditional armies, Muslim extremists seek to cripple the state, and increasingly will have the means to do so, and thus pose a quantitatively and qualitatively different sort of threat than that for which the criminal law was designed.
Posner notes that what American history actually reveals is that, early on, when the enemy is poorly understood, government does truncate civil liberties--Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, FDR's internment of Japanese citizens, McCarthyite purges of suspected Communists--but that, as wars wear on, and well before they end, the government acquires an understanding of the adversary that allows it to continue to fight without further circumscribing civil liberties.
Posner admonishes those libertarians who would brook no trade-offs in civil liberties, in exchange for heightened security measures, for missing the larger picture. Nothing, he points out, is more sure to bring about a severe restriction of civil liberties in America than the backlash following the failure to prevent another 9/11, or worse.
Posner puts his balancing test to work on several of the novel and difficult legal issues raised by the war on terror, including questions concerning detention, interrogation, search and surveillance, speech, and privacy. Posner's reasoning, though debatable, is invariably illuminating, and overall demonstrates that the Constitution, pragmatically interpreted, is both sturdy and flexible, capable in the war we are now waging of protecting liberty and maintaining security.
Consider his treatment of the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. To determine the minimum protections, under the Constitution, to which terrorists are entitled, it is necessary to classify terrorists correctly. Because they are making war on the United States by threatening the nation's political sovereignty and territorial integrity, they are not criminals, and therefore they are not entitled to the procedural protections that the Constitution provides those accused of criminal wrongdoing.
However, because they violate the laws of war by fighting without a regular command structure, without uniforms, without carrying their weapons openly, and by targeting civilians, terrorists are not entitled to the procedural protections that cover prisoners of war, or lawful enemy combatants, under international law. So what rights does the Constitution provide for unlawful enemy combatants?
It depends, argues Posner. If unlawful combatants are foreigners and are captured and detained abroad, the case is simple: They have no rights under the Constitution. If a U.S. citizen is detained on suspicion of being an unlawful combatant, then, as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld concluded, the Constitution protects his right to habeas corpus, which gives him the chance to challenge the grounds of his detention in front of an impartial decision-maker.
If the noncitizen, unlawful combatant is captured abroad, but transferred to U.S. territory, then (according to the Court's 1946 Yamashita decision) he, too, is entitled to the writ of habeas corpus. In 2004, the Supreme Court held in Rasul v. Bush that foreign persons detained as unlawful combatants at Guantánamo, which technically is not U.S. territory, also had the right to contest their detention.
Is this good constitutional law? For the most part, Posner thinks that protecting the right of habeas corpus for citizens held as unlawful combatants strikes the proper balance between security and liberty. He would extend that protection to foreigners captured and detained in the United States on suspicion of being terrorists. After all, he points out, there is a much greater risk of mistakenly ascribing to an individual membership in a terrorist organization than of mistakenly ascribing to him membership in a nation-state's armed forces. And giving detainees a limited opportunity to convince an impartial decision-maker that they have been wrongly detained poses only a small threat to national security. (Limits on this opportunity may include permitting the holding of a suspected terrorist for a reasonable period before any hearing and, at the hearings, placing a heavy burden of proof on the detainee.)
Once detained, what methods of interrogation does the Constitution permit the government to employ to elicit information from unlawful enemy combatants? Does the Constitution permit torture? Setting aside for the moment America's international law obligations under the Convention against Torture, Posner points out that the Constitution, which regulates the gathering of evidence, interrogations, trials, and punishments in criminal cases, has very little to say about the acquisition of information from terrorists for the purpose of preventing death and destruction.
The currently applicable constitutional rule is that methods of interrogation that "shock the conscience" are unlawful. But, as Posner points out, this test is sensitive to context: "What shocks the conscience depends on circumstances. In life-and-death circumstances the use of even highly coercive methods of interrogation is unlikely to shock the conscience of most people, even thoughtful and humane ones."
Yet not all highly coercive methods of interrogation rise to the level of torture, which, according to the Convention against Torture, is defined as the infliction of severe physical or mental suffering. Nevertheless, Posner is convinced that "torture is warranted to avert a greater evil." But warranted is not the same as constitutional or lawful.
Even though he believes that many consciences would not be shocked by the decision to shove knives under a person's fingernails to obtain knowledge about the location of a nuclear weapon set to explode in a few hours in Washington, Posner concludes that it would be unwise to hold that the Constitution permits torture. In cases of emergency, where torture is warranted but not constitutional, Posner the pragmatist prefers "to trust public officers to perceive and act on a moral duty that is higher than their legal duty." This approach regards torture as a form of morally and politically justified civil disobedience. In the event, it requires public officials to explain the necessity of their conduct in a court of law, and counts on judges to take account of the necessity under which public officials acted in ordering torture.
The alternative is codifying the circumstances in which torture is lawful. Posner believes that the costs of codification are too high. The costs include the constraint security officials will feel in confronting novel circumstances not dreamt of by the lawmakers, and the open invitation to lawmakers created by codification to constantly expand the boundaries of the legally permissible.
As with his analysis of detention and interrogation, Posner's explorations of surveillance, speech, privacy, and sundry other legal issues raised by the war on jihadist terror reflect the view that "law must adjust to necessity born of emergency." It is Posner's large achievement in this small book to show that this adjustment--difficult and contentious though it may be--is necessary, just, and constitutional.
Peter Berkowitz teaches at the George Mason University School of Law and is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
MONDAY, September 11, 2006
September 11, 2006. On this day, made holy by the sacrifices of thousands of dead and living Americans in the last five years, we should expect more than the usual lies, half-truths and distortions coming from the ultra-liberal and Bush hating Democratic Party. But what do we get? More of the same. GS
Rules of EvidenceSUNDAY, September 10, 2006
A new Senate report on Iraq and al Qaeda ignores everything which gets in the way of its conclusions.
by Thomas Joscelyn
09/08/2006 5:30:00 PM
ONCE AGAIN headlines from media outlets around the country declare "No Saddam, al-Qaeda link." This time the news cycle is being fed by the release of two reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee, both of which purport to investigate the uses of prewar intelligence. The first of these two reports, titled "Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments," has pleased Democrats.
Senator Carl Levin says that the report is "a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's unrelenting, misleading, and deceptive attempts" to connect Saddam's regime to bin Laden's al Qaeda. Senator Jay Rockefeller agrees with Senator Levin's assessment, saying the report will confirm that "the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq was fundamentally misleading."
But beyond the obvious political gamesmanship, there is little merit to this posturing because there is little serious analysis in the Senate report: Far from providing the definitive word on Saddam's ties to al Qaeda, the report is almost worthless.
CONSIDER TWO BRIEF examples, chosen from many:
The committee's staff made little effort to determine whether or not the testimony of former Iraqi regime officials was truthful. In fact, Saddam Hussein and several of his top operatives--all of whom have an obvious incentive to lie--are cited or quoted without caveats of any sort. In Saddam's debriefing it was suggested that he may cooperate with al Qaeda because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." According to the report, "Saddam answered that the United States was not Iraq's enemy. He claimed that Iraq only opposed U.S. policies. He specified that if he wanted to cooperate with the enemies of the U.S., he would have allied with North Korea or China."
Anyone with even a partial recollection of the controversy surrounding Iraq in the 1990s will recall that Saddam made it a habit of cursing and threatening the United States. His annual January "Army Day" speeches were laced with threats and promises of retaliation against American assets. That is, when Saddam claimed that the United States was "not Iraq's enemy," he was quite obviously lying. But nowhere in the staff's report is it noted that Saddam's debriefing was substantially at odds with more than a decade of his rhetoric.
The testimony of another former senior Iraqi official is more starkly disturbing. One of Saddam's senior intelligence operatives, Faruq Hijazi, was questioned about his contacts with bin Laden and al Qaeda. There is a substantial body of reporting on Hijazi's ties to al Qaeda throughout the 1990s.
Hijazi admitted to meeting bin Laden once in 1995, but claimed that "this was his sole meeting with bin Ladin or a member of al Qaeda and he is not aware of any other individual following up on the initial contact."
This is not true. Hijazi's best known contact with bin Laden came in December 1998, days after the Clinton administration's Operation Desert Fox concluded. We know the meeting happened because the worldwide media reported it. The meeting took place on December 21, 1998. And just days later, Osama bin Laden warned, "The British and the American people loudly declared their support for their leaders decision to attack Iraq. It is the duty of Muslims to confront, fight, and kill them."
Reports of the alliance became so prevalent that in February 1998 Richard Clarke worried in an email to Sandy Berger, President Clinton's National Security adviser, that if bin Laden were flushed from Afghanistan he would probably just "boogie to Baghdad." Today, Clarke has made a habit of denying that Iraq and al Qaeda were at all connected.
There is a voluminous body of evidence surrounding this December 1998 meeting between Hijazi and bin Ladenyet there is not a single mention of it in the committee's report. THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked the staffers "Why not?" They replied that there was no evidence of the meeting in the intelligence or documents they reviewed.
That's hard to believe. Newspapers such as Milan's Corriere Della Sera and London's Guardian, and the New York Post reported on it. Michael Scheuer, who was the first head of the bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, approvingly cited several of these accounts (before his own flip-flop on the issue) in his 2002 book, Through Our Enemies Eyes. Scheuer wrote that Saddam made Hijazi responsible for "nurturing Iraq's ties to [Islamic] fundamentalist warriors," including al Qaeda.
All of this obviously contradicts Hijazi's debriefing; none of it is cited in the committee's report.
THE MEDIA HAS ALSO BEEN QUICK to cite the report's conclusions concerning Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's relationship (or lack thereof) with Saddam's regime. But once again the committee's staff overlooked much contradictory evidence. The report concludes, "Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi
and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi."
The staff cites debriefings which support this conclusion, but do not give any weight at all to testimony which runs counter to it. For example, the Phase I Senate Intelligence report noted that a top al Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah "indicated that he heard that an important al-Qaida associate, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, and others had good relationships with Iraqi intelligence."
Zubaydah's testimony has since been further corroborated by a known al Qaeda ideologue, Dr. Muhammad al-Masari. Al-Masari operated the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, a Saudi oppositionist group and al Qaeda front, out of London for more than decade. He told the editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Saddam "established contact with the 'Afghan Arabs' as early as 2001, believing he would be targeted by the U.S. once the Taliban was routed." Furthermore, "Saddam funded Al-Qaeda operatives to move into Iraq with the proviso that they would not undermine his regime."
Al-Masari claimed that Saddam's regime actively aided Zarqawi and his men prior to the war and fully included them in his plans for a terrorist insurgency. He said Saddam "saw that Islam would be key to a cohesive resistance in the event of invasion." Iraqi officers bought "small plots of land from farmers in Sunni areas" and they buried "arms and money caches for later use by the resistance." Al-Masari also claimed that "Iraqi army commanders were ordered to become practicing Muslims and to adopt the language and spirit of the jihadis."
A cursory examination of Zarqawi's cell in Iraq reveals that many of his top operatives were once Saddam's military and intelligence officers. It appears, therefore, al-Masari's testimony should be taken seriously.
Yet, neither Abu Zubaydah's nor Al-Masari's statements are given any weight by the committee. Nor did they bother to examine who it was, exactly, that Zarqawi was working with in Iraq. Not that any of this matters, of course. This reports was never really about investigating the relationship between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda.
It was about giving certain senators more ammunition against the president.
FRIDAY and SATURDAY, September 8 and 9, 2006
Much of the factual bases for today's positions come from today's The Day (www.theday.com), an excellent newspaper - despite its occasional liberal whining and inane editorial cartoons.
WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY, September 6 and 7, 2006
MONDAY and TUESDAY, September 4 and 5, 2006
Sometimes the "news" provides feast or famine. Yesterday's news (The Day.com, the NYTimes) provides a feast crying out for a carminative.
SUNDAY, September 3, 2006
SATURDAY, September 2, 2006
Two vital decisions facing the Bush Administration and this country are Iran and Iraq. The following two articles clearly focus the issues. Meanwhile, no credible action can be contemplated without a major strengthening of our military forces, currently in a weakened state as regards the kinds of dangers facing us. The first step here must be a fair draft. Am I the only person who sees that...or is willing to face up to it? GS
ITEM 1: Micah Zenko: Share the Evidence On IranFRIDAY, September 1, 2006
[The writer is a research associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. KMJ]
Share the Evidence On Iran
By Micah Zenko
Tuesday, August 29, 2006; Page A15
How long until Iran becomes a nuclear weapons state?
The current best guess of American intelligence agencies is found in a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) completed last summer: "Left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons," it says, yet it is unlikely that Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb before "early to mid-next decade."
Senior Bush administration officials, lawmakers in both parties and analysts out of government are increasingly skeptical of the Iran NIE. They believe that the U.S. intelligence community is underestimating Iran's nuclear program after having overestimated Iraq's programs for weapons of mass destruction in 2002.
To counter the growing chorus of skeptics, President Bush should do in the case of Iran what he did with regard to the Iraq NIE after the invasion: declassify the key judgments in the document and the dissents from it. Of course, to ensure the ability to collect future intelligence on Iran, the declassified NIE should not reveal the sources and methods employed; it should simply declare what U.S. intelligence agencies believe and where they disagree.
Initially ordered by the National Intelligence Council in January 2005, the Iran NIE was the intelligence community's first comprehensive estimate of Iran since 2001. Unlike the flawed Iraq NIE, rushed to completion in 20 days and relying on questionable sources, the Iran NIE was crafted and debated over several months and reflects an updated reporting standard that required a "dramatic increase in the transparency of sourcing," according to Gen. Michael V. Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence.
Fully declassifying the NIE's key judgments and dissents about Iran's nuclear program would serve four functions:
First, it would educate the public about U.S. intelligence agencies' best collective estimate of Tehran's nuclear intentions and capabilities. President Bush has declared that, regarding Iran, he "will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon." If it comes down to using military force, the American people will be more supportive if they clearly understand the threats, the knowns and the unknowns of Iran's nuclear program. It will ensure more probing media reporting and a more vigorous national debate.
Second, it would slow down what Bush has labeled "wild speculation" about using force against Iran, since the intelligence estimate suggests we have years, not months, to exhaust all diplomatic avenues toward finding a solution.
Third, since the NIE's central conclusions about Iran's nuclear program have already been selectively leaked to the media, declassifying the key judgments and dissents would publicly establish the intelligence community opinion. This would inoculate the White House against further intelligence leaks from hard-liners who seek a confrontation with Iran, and from Tehran's exaggerated claims of nuclear progress.
Fourth, it would force America's allies in Europe and Israel to acknowledge the diverging estimates of their intelligence agencies about the likely birth date of an Iranian bomb. For example, British officials claim Iran will have "the technology to enable it to develop a nuclear weapon" by year's end, while the Israel Defense Forces has consistently put it at 2008. While such gaps in allied intelligence estimates remain, we should not expect a unified effort to find a diplomatic resolution.
As the president worried earlier this year: "People will say, if we're trying to make the case on Iran, 'Well, the intelligence failed in Iraq, therefore, how can we can trust the intelligence in Iran?' " The first step toward trust at home and abroad is transparency.
The U.S. government's expert opinion about the Iranian nuclear program is contained in the summer 2005 NIE. President Bush has both a precedent and the legal authority to declassify an NIE "when it is in the public interest." Declassifying the key judgments and dissents of the Iran NIE clearly meets this criterion.
ITEM 2: John Lehman: Were Not Winning This War: Despite Some Notable Achievements, New Thinking Is Needed On The Home Front And Abroad
[Lehman was secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and later served as a member of the Sept. 11 commission. KMJ]
We're Not Winning This War
Despite Some Notable Achievements, New Thinking Is Needed on the Home Front and Abroad
By John Lehman
Thursday, August 31, 2006; Page A25
Are we winning the war? The first question to ask is, what war? The Bush administration continues to muddle a national understanding of the conflict we are in by calling it the "war on terror." This political correctness presumably seeks to avoid hurting the feelings of the Saudis and other Muslims, but it comes at high cost. This not a war against terror any more than World War II was a war against kamikazes.
We are at war with jihadists motivated by a violent ideology based on an extremist interpretation of the Islamic faith. This enemy is decentralized and geographically dispersed around the world. Its organizations range from a fully functioning state such as Iran to small groups of individuals in American cities.
We are fighting this war on three distinct fronts: the home front, the operational front and the strategic-political front. Let us look first at the home front. The Bush administration deserves much credit for the fact that, despite determined efforts to carry them out, there have been no successful Islamist attacks within the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. This is a significant achievement, but there are growing dangers and continuing vulnerabilities.
One of the most deep-seated of these problems is the U.S. government's tendency to treat this war as a law enforcement issue. Following a recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission, Congress sought to remedy this problem by creating a national security service within the FBI to focus on preventive intelligence rather than forensic evidence. This has proved to be a complete failure. As late as June of this year, Mark Mershon of the FBI testified that the bureau will not monitor or surveil any Islamist unless there is a "criminal predicate." Thus the large Islamist support infrastructure that the commission identified here in the United States is free to operate until its members actually commit a crime.
Our attempt to reform the FBI has failed. What is needed now is a separate domestic intelligence service without police powers, like the British MI-5.
The Sept. 11 commission catalogued in detail how our intelligence establishment simply does not function. We made priority recommendations to rebuild the 15 bloated and failed intelligence bureaucracies by creating a strong national intelligence director to smash bureaucratic layers, to tear down the walls preventing intelligence-sharing among agencies, and to rewrite personnel policy with the goal of bringing in new blood not just from the career bureaucracy but from the private sector as well. This approach was completely rejected by the Bush administration, which decided instead to leave this sprawling mess untouched and to create yet another bureaucracy of more than 1,000 people in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was the exact opposite of what we had recommended.
The greatest terrorist threat on the home front is, of course, the use of weapons of mass destruction by Islamists. Here the president has moved to establish a national counter-proliferation center to share and act on intelligence, and he has recently initiated a cooperation agreement with Russia and our allies to work together in preventing nuclear materials from getting into the hands of the Islamists and to undertake joint crisis management if such an attack takes place. These are real accomplishments.
Turning to the operational front, our objectives are to destroy the capability of Islamist organizations to attack us and to deny them geographic sanctuaries in which they can recruit, train and operate.
The post-Sept. 11 threat demanded preemptive attack against Islamist bases, and this was done without delay in the invasion of Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban government, its ally and supporter. It was a brilliantly executed operation in which all our armed forces and CIA operatives combined in a ruthlessly efficient victory. In the succeeding years, however, the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been able to regroup, rebuild and re-attack because they enjoy a secure sanctuary largely free from attack within the border areas of Pakistan.
The next military operation of the war was, of course, the invasion of Iraq. Here again the combined military operations of the United States and Britain were brilliantly successful in defeating Iraqi forces and removing Saddam Hussein and his regime. But in the aftermath of that victory, grave blunders were made. There was a total misunderstanding of the requirements for successful occupation.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was proved right in his keeping the initial invasion force small and agile, but desperately wrong in disbanding all Iraqi security forces and civil service with no plan to fill the resulting vacuum. Certainly it is hard now to understand the logic of that decision.
The military occupation in Iraq is consuming practically the entire defense budget and stretching the Army to its operational limits. This is understood quite clearly by both our friends and our enemies, and as a result, our ability to deter enemies around the world is disintegrating.
This brings us to the third front, the strategic-political. The jihadist regime in Iran feels no reservation about flaunting its policy to go nuclear, and it unleashed Hezbollah, its client terrorist organization, to attack Israel. In Somalia a jihadist group has seized control of the government. In Pakistan, Islamists are becoming more powerful, and attacks within India are increasing. Governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan are under increasing Islamist pressure. In the Pacific, North Korea now feels free to rattle its missile sabers, firing seven on America's Independence Day. China is rapidly building its 600-ship navy to fill the military vacuum that we are creating in the Pacific as our fleet shrinks well below critical mass. Not one of these states believes that we can undertake any credible additional military operations while we are bogged down in Iraq.
The indoctrination and recruiting of jihadists from Indonesia, South Asia and the Middle East are carried out through religious establishments that are supported overwhelmingly by the Saudi and Iranian governments. Even in the United States, some 80 percent of Islamic mosques and schools are closely aligned with the Wahhabist sect and heavily dependent on Saudi funding. Five years after Sept. 11, nothing has been done to materially affect this root source of jihadism. The movement continues to grow, fueled by an ever-increasing flow of petrodollars from the Persian Gulf.
There is no evidence that the administration has ever raised this matter with the Saudi government as a high-level issue, and -- just as damaging -- it has never acknowledged it as an issue to the American people. Thus Rumsfeld's question -- are we killing, capturing or deterring jihadists faster than they are being produced? -- must be answered with an emphatic no.
In reviewing progress on the three fronts of this war, even the most sanguine optimist cannot yet conclude that we are winning or that we can win without some significant changes of policy.
In a world over-populated with fanatics and crazies, we can do without such people in the tinderbox of the world. We especially cannot tolerate yet another "religious group" that claims to have some sort of distorted "god" on their side. GS
ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Religious Leaders' Statement on Christian Zionism
"We Stand for Justice. We Can Do No Other"
JERUSALEM, AUG. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is "The Jerusalem Declaration on
Christian Zionism" released Aug. 22. The statement was written by Latin Patriarch
Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem and other local heads of Churches in Jerusalem.
* * *
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the
most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a
just peace within Palestine and Israel.
The Christian Zionist program provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified
with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it
laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than
living Christ's love and justice today.
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts
the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and
organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that
are presently imposing their unilateral preemptive borders and domination over
This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of
all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these
policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel
of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ.
Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to
liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let
them pursue the healing of the nations!
We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian
and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and
militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished
ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements.
The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation
Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermine the viability of a Palestinian state
as well as peace and security in the entire region.
We call upon all Churches that remain silent, to break their silence and speak for
reconciliation with justice in the Holy Land.
Therefore, we commit ourselves to the following principles as an alternative way:
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn they are called
to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights.
We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within
peace, justice and security.
We affirm that Palestinians are one people, both Muslim and Christian. We reject all
attempts to subvert and fragment their unity.
We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and
other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.
We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the
illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace.
With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying
colonization, apartheid and empire-building.
God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is
possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not
disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but
"What does the Lord require of you: To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with your God." (Micah 6:8)
This is where we take our stand. We stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice
alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation with a life of security
and prosperity for all the peoples of our land. By standing on the side of justice,
we open ourselves to the work of peace -- and working for peace makes us children of
"God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against
them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians
Patriarch Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad,
Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal,
Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Munib Younan,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land