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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

THURSDAY, May 31, 2007

Regarding America's own morass...IMMIGRATION.  Here are two calls for help, one articulate from my son Perrin, and the other asinine.  Meanwhile, the Neros of Washington continue to fiddle.
  GS

Welcome to my world for the last 20 years.  And don't kid yourself.  This will NOT be the nail in the coffin of an amnesty/guest worker plan.  California is being GIVEN away to illegal immigrants.  Why?  I have no idea.  "Cheap" strawberries and lettuce?  Just look at the condition of public schools and hospital Emergency rooms and tell me how cheap your produce really is.
 
This country, with the full blessing of supposed conservatives like George Bush, is literally being handed to Mexico.  Shame on everyone who doesn't advocate closing the border and enforcing laws that are ALREADY ON THE BOOKS.  If you're a liberal, shame on you for believing that you actually make a difference by giving free education and healthcare to people who neither value such gifts nor the value of your contribution to them.
 
Shame on you for enabling a sickeningly growing attitude of entitlement from a group of people who, for all their hard manual labor, have not worked a single day risking burial in a coalmine or dealt with a fraction of the racism that was experienced by millions of LEGAL immigrants who ACTUALLY WANTED TO BECOME PART OF AMERICA RATHER THAN USE IT LIKE AN ATM OR A JOB AWAY FROM HOME.  
 
If you're a conservative, shame on you for CONTINUING to vote for politicians who SAY they are conservative but who spend YOUR money everyday in a pathetic, misguided, futile, and baffling attempt to garner the present and future votes of a demographic who will NEVER, EVER vote Republican.
 
I expect political liberals to FEEL their way through their politics to the virtual exclusion of intellect.  Conservatives, what's YOUR excuse?
 
By the way, just this week census stats for California came out.  For the first time in my life, I am a member of a minority.  Yes, it's true.  Backed up by California census statistics.
 
And don't kid yourself into thinking that this is just a problem for California.  For at least a hundred years the saying has been: "As California goes, so goes the rest of the country".  The tide is rising, folks, and it won't stop without, dare I say, some sort of revolution.

Perrin Sprecace, Montrose, CA

You will not see this heart-stopping photo on the front page of the NY Times or on the lead story of the major news networks.  The protestors put up the Mexican flag over the American flag flying upside down at Montebello High School in California.

    
    

I predict this stunt will be the nail in the coffin of any guest-worker/amnesty plan on the table in Washington . The image of the American flag subsumed to another and turned upside down on American soil is already spreading on Internet forums and via e-mail.

Pass this along to every American citizen in your address books and to every representative in the state and federal government. If you choose to remain uninvolved, do not be amazed when you no longer have a nation to call your own nor anything you have worked for left since it will be "redistributed" to the activists while you are so peacefully staying out of the "fray". Check history, it is full of nations/empires that disappeared when its citizens no longer held their core beli efs and values. One person CAN make a difference.  One plus one plus one plus one plus one plus one...  The battle for our secure borders and immigration laws that actually mean something, however, hasn't even begun.

WEDNESDAY, May 30, 2007

The "Rapid Response" offered for May 25 concerned a review of the recently published book entitled "Six Days Of War", by Michael Oren. 
The following are some of my ruminations after reading this extensive work regarding a very short, bloody and critical war that has transformed the Middle East and Israel since then.
GS

TUESDAY, May 29, 2007
Report: Core high school classes insufficient to prepare students for college, by Jay Mathews, The Washington Post.
"It's no secret to most high school students that taking the required courses, getting good grades and receiving a diploma don't take much work.  The average U.S. high school senior donning a cap and gown this spring will have spent an hour a day on homework and at least three hours a day watching TV, playing video games and pursuing other diversions.  This is sometimes a surprise to adults, particularly state legislators and school board members who thought that by requiring a number of courses in English, math, science and social studies they had ensured that students would dig in and learn what they need to succeed in college.  Guess again, says a new study, "Rigor at Risk".  Reaffirming Quality in the High School Core Curriculum", by the Iowa City-based testing company ACT Inc.  'Students today do not have a reasonable chance of becoming ready for college unless they take a number of additional higher-level' courses beyond the minimum, the report said.  Even those who do, it concluded, 'are not always likely to be ready for college either'.  Using rersearch on the college success of students who took the ACT college entrance test, and comparing their test scores to their high school records, ACT researchers found that many core courses were not carefully constructed or monitored and that students often received good grades in the core courses even if they didn't learn much.  State requirements also leave something to be desired, the report said.  More than half of states do not require students to take specific core courses in math or science to graduate.  Many students pick up diplomas having taken 'business arithmetic' rather than geometry or 'concepts of physics' rather than a physics course with labs and tough exams.  Taking two years of algebra instead of algebra and geometry and taking chemistry in addition to biology significantly raised the likelihood that a student would score high on the ACT college readiness scale.  And school officials who look carefully at what is taught in each course, making sure it is what colleges are looking for, are likely to have better results than those who assume the course label is all they need to know, the report concluded."

There you have it folks...a national disgrace.  But maybe these "students" have at least been imparted some "self-image".  Yea, sure. 
<>GS

MONDAY, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day, 2007. 
Following the sadness that enveloped us while viewing last night's fine PBS tribute to the fallen, especially those recently lost and to their grieving families, this is also a time to reflect on why we ever go to war.  Some are obvious: the American Revolution; the War of 1812; the Civil War; World Wars 1 and 11; the Cold War.  Some are less clear-cut, but defensible at some level: the Mexican War; our relatively brief foray into colonialism around the turn into the twenthieth century; the Korean War; the Viet Nam War; Gulf War #1. 
 
And then there is the current Iraq War.  Why did we go in?  Because we were attacked on our home soil by an invisible enemy that threatened to attack us again and again.  Our only tangible means of self-defense was - and is - to attack any State supporter of world-wide terrorism.  It's been called "pre-emptive self-defense".  How about just plain self-defense? 
 
When considering the above, we are cautioned to apply the tenets of the Powell Doctrine, outlined in today's editorial in The Day. Of those listed, only the objective of "broad international support" can be questioned - the approach of a military man turned diplomat.  And of course, the prosecution of this war made a mockery of some of the others tenets.    So, we are there now - and we cannot afford to lose.  There will be time for hind-sight analysis...and even for criminal prosecution if the facts warrant.  But not now.  And not in any way that would suggest that the severe sacrifices of over 30,000 Americans killed and wounded to date have been worthless.

GS

SUNDAY, May 27, 2007

THE WORLD IS ALWAYS INTERESTING...IF YOUR NERVES CAN TAKE IT.
GS

SATURDAY, May 26, 2007

HOW OLD IS "TOO OLD"? Two stories in the news this week raise this question for me.  Paul Newman announced that, at the age of 82, he is giving up acting after a magnificent career.  "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to...You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention.  So that's pretty much a closed book for me"...I've been doing it for 50 years.  That's enough."  (on ABC's Good Morning America, Thursday, May 24).   Now hold on, young whippershnapper!  That's an individual and personal decision.  The rest of us can and will continue creating as long as we have something valuable to offer.  That should certainly be the new mantra of the Baby Boomer generation, just entering what can be a pleasant and very productive stage of life.  That is my personal approach, having just celebrated my 50th anniversary of graduation from Medical School, having celebrated with my wife our 48th year of marriage, and entering my 45th year of medical practice in New London, Ct. - and counting. 
 
On the other hand, there is something wrong with the spectre of a 60 year old woman, with a 60 year old uterus, waving the wand of new biological technology and giving birth to twins.  Upon questioning, she was articulate...inferring that it was all about "me", with little reference to the best interests of the child.  And what about adoption?  That could be about "us".  Not everything is timeless...nor should it be.  In the words of the German ditty: "Ve get too soon olt und too late "schmart."

GS

FRIDAY, May 25, 2007

WE CANNOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO FORGET THAT THE ARAB / ISRAEL CONFLICT IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE AT THE CENTER OF OUR MIDDLE EASTERN PROBLEMS.  MORE ON THAT BOOK SOON.  GS

Six Days in June
Historian Michael Oren looks at the reverberations of the Six Day War, 40 years later.
by Amy K. Rosenthal
Daily Standard
05/24/2007 12:00:00 AM

Jerusalem
THE 1967 SIX DAY WAR has spawned hundreds of books, perhaps most importantly Michael Oren's bestselling Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

The war's 40th anniversary commences on June 5th and Oren has continued tracking its importance. He explains now that it, "Not only created the modern Middle East as we know it today, but changed Arab society and politics profoundly. . . . It sounded the death knell for secular Arab nationalism and the man who embodied that idea, former President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser, by opening the door to the ascendance of a new idiom in Islamic radicalism."

Indeed, Islam's secular Arab nationalism, which had dominated Arab politics for the previous 50 years, has been almost completely discredited by the Six Day War. Instead, Oren notes, Arabs have increasingly "looked not to Western models of secular nationalism, but their own Islamic extremism for answers to Zionism and the Jewish State."

With one exception, that is: The Six Day War sparked Palestinian nationalism, which was almost non-existent before 1967 because, according to Oren, "the Palestinians realized that they could no longer look to any Arab leader to redeem Palestine for them and so they began to look to themselves. This is why the Palestinian Liberation Organization emerges immediately after the war as a major force in Arab politics." And "while the PLO had been created by Nasser in 1954 as a sort a straw organization; it didn't command any type of legitimacy, certainly

among Palestinians, before the Six Day War." However, in the immediate years that changed. As Oren tells us, "The PLO as an umbrella group began to take in all the Palestinian organizations, including Al-Fatah, which wasn't part of the PLO before that. And a year after, in 1969, we saw Yasser Arafat emerge as the chairman of the PLO."

In terms of the impact the Six Day War had on Israel, Oren says, "First, it transformed the country in the sense that it reunited the State of Israel with the Land of Israel. Israel, pre-1967, was centered mostly on the coastal areas, which included the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. The reuniting with Jerusalem and with the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people--with Shiloh, Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron--made this much more of a Jewish State. Secondly, it strengthened Israel Diaspora relations in a way that hadn't existed before and led to the U.S.-Israel alliance." As Oren underlines, "People forget that Israel fought the Six Day War not with American arms, but with French arms. While the U.S. had a warm relationship with Israel before this; it wasn't a strategic relationship. Very quickly, however, American leaders woke up on June 5, 1967 and realized that Israel was not only a regional superpower, but also a very valued ally in the Cold War. And finally on an international level, the Six Day War created the peace process. There was no peace process before 1967; simply Resolution 242."

Land for peace has become commonly-accepted rhetoric in negotiations for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement since 1967. When asked if this was a mistake, Oren says no, "because the idea of 'land for peace' was already on the table in 1948, when Count Folke Bernadotte, the first U.N. mediator spoke about it. However, it didn't gain any kind of substantial support until after the Six Day War when Israel had acquired a lot of Arab land and had almost quadrupled its territorial size. Therefore, it became legitimate to ask Israel to give these lands back in exchange for Arab peace. Israel also accepted that principle."

But while the Six Day War unified the Jewish people, the international community--and in particular, the European and American left--began to turn against it in the aftermath. Explaining the shift, Oren says, "Before the Six Day War Israel was perceived as the David fighting the Arab Goliath, but after the war the immensity of Israel's military victory transformed Israel from the David into the Goliath and the Palestinians became the new David."
Asked what lessons of the Six Day War can be applied looking forward, Oren says, "The first is that when you have a context of conflicts, which you had in 1967, it doesn't take much to spark off a regional conflagration. For example, if tomorrow Hezbollah fires a rocket into Israel; it could end with a regional war that quickly transforms the Middle East. And secondly, which is perhaps the most important message, is that the Jewish State will never again go quietly to extermination and that if it is alone it will do what it has to in order to ensure its survival."

Emphasizing that last point Oren says that he likes to remind people of the following: "In 1967, the French ditched Israel. The Americans said they couldn't help and Israel struck out all alone. The moral is that at the end of the day Israel can exist without American or European support, but what we can't do without is our leaders, our viable leaders." As Oren concludes, "Israel has demonstrated again and again during its 59 years

of existence that it can always deal with external threats, but that can only be accomplished if it has a profound faith in its leadership."

Amy K. Rosenthal is a writer for the Italian daily, Il Foglio. She lives in Rome and Jerusalem.

TUESDAY through THURSDAY, May 22 through 24,
2007

YOU CAN'T IMPROVE ON THIS.  GS

It will take just 37 seconds to read this and change your thinking.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.
His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.
They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon,  when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.
Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind ' s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.
She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.  He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."


Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

"Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present."

The origin of this letter is unknown

MONDAY, May 21, 2007

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR".  THIS IS NOT YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW.

Plain and simple from Maine.pdf

GS

SUNDAY, May 20, 2007
GS

THURSDAY through SATURDAY, May 17 through 19, 2007
GS

WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2007

Once again, Professor Bernard Lewis speaks.  We ignore him at our peril.  GS

Was Osama Right?
Islamists always believed the U.S. was weak. Recent political trends won't change their view.
BY BERNARD LEWIS
WSJ
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"

A few examples may suffice. During the troubles in Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s, there were many attacks on American installations and individuals--notably the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, followed by a prompt withdrawal, and a whole series of kidnappings of Americans, both official and private, as well as of Europeans. There was only one attack on Soviet citizens, when one diplomat was killed and several others kidnapped. The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers. The kidnapped Russians were promptly released, and after that there were no attacks on Soviet citizens or installations throughout the period of the Lebanese troubles.

These different responses evoked different treatment. While American policies, institutions and individuals were subject to unremitting criticism and sometimes deadly attack, the Soviets were immune. Their retention of the vast, largely Muslim colonial empire accumulated by the czars in Asia passed unnoticed, as did their propaganda and sometimes action against Muslim beliefs and institutions.

Most remarkable of all was the response of the Arab and other Muslim countries to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Washington's handling of the Tehran hostage crisis assured the Soviets that they had nothing to fear from the U.S. They already knew that they need not worry about the Arab and other Muslim governments. The Soviets already ruled--or misruled--half a dozen Muslim countries in Asia, without arousing any opposition or criticism. Initially, their decision and action to invade and conquer Afghanistan and install a puppet regime in Kabul went almost unresisted. After weeks of debate, the U.N. General Assembly finally was persuaded to pass a resolution "strongly deploring the recent armed intervention in Afghanistan." The words "condemn" and "aggression" were not used, and the source of the "intervention" was not named. Even this anodyne resolution was too much for some of the Arab states. South Yemen voted no; Algeria and Syria abstained; Libya was absent; the nonvoting PLO observer to the Assembly even made a speech defending the Soviets.

One might have expected that the recently established Organization of the Islamic Conference would take a tougher line. It did not. After a month of negotiation and manipulation, the organization finally held a meeting in Pakistan to discuss the Afghan question. Two of the Arab states, South Yemen and Syria, boycotted the meeting. The representative of the PLO, a full member of this organization, was present, but abstained from voting on a resolution critical of the Soviet action; the Libyan delegate went further, and used this occasion to denounce the U.S.

The Muslim willingness to submit to Soviet authority, though widespread, was not unanimous. The Afghan people, who had successfully defied the British Empire in its prime, found a way to resist the Soviet invaders. An organization known as the Taliban (literally, "the students") began to organize resistance and even guerilla warfare against the Soviet occupiers and their puppets. For this, they were able to attract some support from the Muslim world--some grants of money, and growing numbers of volunteers to fight in the Holy War against the infidel conqueror. Notable among these was a group led by a Saudi of Yemeni origin called Osama bin Laden.

To accomplish their purpose, they did not disdain to turn to the U.S. for help, which they got. In the Muslim perception there has been, since the time of the Prophet, an ongoing struggle between the two world religions, Christendom and Islam, for the privilege and opportunity to bring salvation to the rest of humankind, removing whatever obstacles there might be in their path. For a long time, the main enemy was seen, with some plausibility, as being the West, and some Muslims were, naturally enough, willing to accept what help they could get against that enemy. This explains the widespread support in the Arab countries and in some other places first for the Third Reich and, after its collapse, for the Soviet Union. These were the main enemies of the West, and therefore natural allies.

Now the situation had changed. The more immediate, more dangerous enemy was the Soviet Union, already ruling a number of Muslim countries, and daily increasing its influence and presence in others. It was therefore natural to seek and accept American help. As Osama bin Laden explained, in this final phase of the millennial struggle, the world of the unbelievers was divided between two superpowers. The first task was to deal with the more deadly and more dangerous of the two, the Soviet Union. After that, dealing with the pampered and degenerate Americans would be easy.

We in the Western world see the defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union as a Western, more specifically an American, victory in the Cold War. For Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a Muslim victory in a jihad, and, given the circumstances, this perception does not lack plausibility.

>From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.

Mr. Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of "From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East" (Oxford University Press, 2004).

MONDAY and TUESDAY, May 14 and 15, 2007

Sadness is the main emotion I can muster in response to the extensive reportage in The Day (www.theday.com) on Sunday, May 13, 2007 regarding the length and depth of the clergy sex scandal having infected our own Diocese of Norwich, Ct.  during the last 30 years.  I have previously addressed my rational views on this matter in comments made and published over two years ago about the problem in general.  (See this website, in "The Involved Citizen" and under "the Catholic Church", comments beginning "The sex scandal...." and "The symptoms...."
Today, I ask: Is this entire disease process only a reflection of the amorality of society in general?  Or is it once again a systemic defect in the organization of the Catholic Church, reminiscent of the cancer that had followed the union of spiritual and temporal powers then invested in the Church of the Middle Ages...and leading to the Reformation?  Perhaps what we need once again is a separation of those powers, with the Catholic clergy responsible primarily for the souls of the Faithful...and the informed laity ("the Body of the Church") made responsible for the temporal challenges.  The Second Vatican Council of the 1960's tried to begin this process, only to be thwarted by strong elements of the clergy since then.  Such an arrangement would be analogous to our military structure, divided between Service and Command structures.  It would address the shortage of priests.  It could also serve to attract an increasing number of pious men who seek to serve God above all.

GS

SUNDAY, May 13, 2007

THANK GOD FOR MOTHERS!  Can we all agree on that?  Now, on to "the troubles". 
GS

SATURDAY, May 12, 2007

At times, topics in the current news lend themselves to an overarching theme.  That is the case today: COMPROMISE.  This is generally considered a good thing, a substitute for conflict.  It is certainly valued - worshiped - in politics.  But it can be a bad thing...just like treating an abscess with only warm compresses long after the time for a necessary incision and drainage.  The following are a few examples of when "going along to get along" is decidedly the wrong way to go. 
GS

THURSDAY and FRIDAY, May 10 and 11, 2007
GS

MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, May 7 through 9, 2007

Some articles are just packed with insights into the current struggles in the Middle East.  And Lord knows, we need more insights.  GS

Cheney And the Saudis
By David Ignatius
Washington Post
Wednesday, May 9, 2007; Page A17

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may make the headlines with her high-profile diplomatic missions to the Middle East. But for a glimpse at the hidden power plays, follow Vice President Cheney's trip this week to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi King Abdullah has emerged over the past nine months as the Bush administration's most important and strong-willed Arab ally. He launched an aggressive campaign last fall to contain Iranian influence in the Arab world and, in the process, buttress American interests in the region despite U.S. setbacks in Iraq. It's Cheney, whose blunt, unsmiling demeanor matches Saudi notions of American gravitas, who manages the Abdullah account.

The Cheney visit is aimed partly at mutual reassurance. Both sides want to reaffirm the alliance, despite disagreements over Iraq policy and the Palestinian issue. The Saudis also want to establish an additional channel for communication so they can avoid misunderstandings that have sometimes arisen when the primary intermediary is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the freewheeling former Saudi ambassador to Washington who is now national security adviser.

Abdullah had seemed to be distancing himself from Washington in some recent comments. In February, he broke with U.S. efforts to isolate the radical Palestinian group Hamas by sponsoring the Mecca Agreement that created a Palestinian "unity government" fusing Hamas with the more moderate Fatah. In March, he surprised U.S. officials by calling the military occupation of Iraq "illegitimate" in a speech to an Arab League summit in Riyadh. He also nixed plans for a White House dinner in April.

Abdullah's criticism of the "illegitimate" American presence in Iraq reflects the Saudi leader's deep misgivings about U.S. strategy there. Saudi sources say the king has given up on the ability of Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to overcome sectarian divisions and unite the country. The Saudi leadership is also said to believe that the U.S. troop surge is likely to fail, deepening the danger of all-out civil war in Iraq.

The Saudis appear to favor replacing the Maliki government, which they see as dominated by Iranian-backed Shiite religious parties, and are quietly backing former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and ex-Baathist who has support among Iraqi Sunnis. Allawi's advisers say that his strategy is to exploit tensions within the Shiite religious alliance and form a new ruling coalition that would be made up of Sunnis, Kurds and secular Shiites. Allawi's camp believes he is close to having enough votes, thanks in part to Saudi political and financial support.

The Bush administration appears to have little enthusiasm for an Allawi putsch, despite its frustration with Maliki. U.S. officials fear that a change of government in Baghdad would only deepen the political disarray there and encourage new calls for the withdrawal of troops.

The ferment in the region is driven partly by the perception that U.S. troops are on the way out, no matter what the Bush administration says. To dampen such speculation, Bush is said to have told the Saudis that America will not withdraw from Iraq during his presidency. "That gives us 18 months to plan," said one Saudi source.

The heart of the U.S.-Saudi alliance is a new effort to combat Iran and its proxies in the Arab world. This began after last summer's war in Lebanon between Israel and the Iranian-backed Shiite militia, Hezbollah. Working closely with the United States, the Saudis began pumping money to Lebanese Sunni, Christian and Druze political groups that could counter Hezbollah's influence. The Saudis and Americans also cooperated in aiding Lebanon's Internal Security Force, the national police that effectively reports to the Sunni prime minister, Fouad Siniora.

Saudi-American cooperation against Iran has also extended to Yemen, where they have jointly assisted the Yemeni government in cracking down on an Iranian-funded group linked to followers of Shiite cleric Hussein al-Houthi, who was killed in 2004.

A final topic likely to be on Cheney's agenda is Syria. The Saudis support the administration's new effort, launched last week by Rice, to seek Syrian help in stabilizing Iraq. Indeed, the Saudis began moving to ease tensions with Syria at the March Arab League summit, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad privately apologized to King Abdullah for calling him and other Sunni Arab leaders "half men" because they didn't assist Hezbollah during the Lebanon war. U.S. officials believe, however, that the Saudis are continuing their contacts with Syrian opposition groups.

Saudi Arabia once conducted its political machinations behind a veil, quietly doling out cash in an effort to buy peace. Perhaps the worst mistake made by Iran's firebrand president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is that he frightened the Saudis into abandoning their traditional reticence -- and into secret strategy councils with the hard-nosed Cheney.

SUNDAY, May 6
, 2007 GS

SATURDAY, May 5, 2007

On Iraq and the Middle East.   The books by George Tenet and by Carlo Bonini ("Colllusion") referred to in an earlier offering in this section are definitely worth reading.  They document all the errors and sins that human intelligence and human affairs are subject to, including negligence and arrogance.  But the only evidence of fraud and self-dealing originates in foreign countries including Italy.  There is no clear evidence of fraud or criminal misconduct by our leaders...up to this point in time, despite all the allegations and inuendo.  More time and investigations are warranted and will take place.  Meanwhile, the person who was most at fault for the sequence of events leading to the invasion of Iraq, given his decade-long falsehoods, evasions, criminal actions and bravado on the world stage, was Saddam Hussein.  The last four years since the invasion have been a disaster and will be a permanent deserved blight on this administration.  But they deserve a chance, until the next election, to correct course on this trip which will involve America for decades to come.  Meanwhile, this is a nation of Constitution, of laws and of government...not of polls and polecats.  What we should immediately demand is a complete reconstruction of our depleted Armed Forces, with the addition of a fair Draft as soon as possible.   Will Americans ever grow out of their adolescent national impatience and into maturity.  We hope.

GS

FRIDAY, May 4, 2007

Iraq and the Middle East.  The following is offered by my good friend and former Marine officer Steve Percy in response to my request for his critique to my ideas about our military plans in Iraq at this point.
  GS

I would agree with you that, if we had the forces necessary, we should seal the borders and then clean up matters inside the country.  As you point out, we don't have the forces required to follow that course of action and, given the prevailing attitude in Congress, we never will.  However, I would prefer to characterize the current course of action as an "alternate strategy" rather than as "half a loaf".  Let me explain.
 
The current tactics that General Petraeus is using--which were actually started in some areas by both Marine and Army units several months ago--of having Coalition Forces (mostly U.S.) with Iraqui army and police units clearing and holding areas is designed to both eliminate insurgents of whatever stripe and to convince the population (principally the sheiks) that there best course of action is to cooperate with us rather than Al Quaeda.  I believe that it is essential that we help the Iraquis establish some level of stability and security in order to give the political process a chance to work itself out.  However, in concentrating on the urban areas--and Al Anbar as a province--we should not neglect the borders.
 
In that area, I feel that the Iraquis may be more effective at controlling the border than we are.  First of all, they are the natives in the area and can much more easily identify a stranger than we can.  Second,  most of the foreign terrorists coming into the country are apparently doing so individually or in very small groups which we, again, would have a hard time identifying if we could find them.  For these reasons--and perhaps several others--I believe that even a small number of half way decent Iraqui forces can be more effective on border patrol than almost any number of Coalition units.
 
My last reason for preferring General Petraeus' approach over the alternative--if it were available--is a rather nasty one.  From everything that both of us have read, I think we would agree that Irag has become a magnet for every would be jihadist, terrorist, insurgent--call them what you will--in the Mid East if not the world.  That also means that, to accomplish their objectives to either kill Americans or commit suicide and go to heaven with their 40 virgins. they have to head towards the areas where they have a chance to do that--specifically Baghdad or Anbar Province.  That, of course, is exactly where we are concentrating our major efforts so they are coming to us where we can bring our combat power to bear on them and kill them, rather than having to chase them all over the desert.  With what appears to be more cooperation from the sheiks and the general population, we appear to be doing just that.
 
I don't know how you can prevent some crazed individual from killing himself and a whole bunch of innocent women and children, but, if you take that kind of incident out of the picture, the Petraesu strategy seems to be working.  What he really needs is enough time from Congress to see if the Iraqui government will start functioning reasonably as the military action begins to give them the opportunity to do so.
 
Sorry for the long winded response, George, but there really isn't a short answer.
 
All the best'
 
Steve

THURSDAY, May 3, 2007

Iraq.  There are three issues in contention now, where there should be only two: 1) not whether we went to war in pre-emptive self-defense based upon believable but flawed intelligence...but whether that "intelligence" was manufactured, in which case some very highly placed officials should go to jail; 2) not whether our leaders screwed up the planning and prosecution of the war, for that is a given; 3) but WHAT DO WE DO NOW?  This is where the Democratic leadership has it wrong.  They should be carefully dissecting books like those of Bob Woodward, Seymour Hirsch and George Tenet, and documenting the allegations of the Italian reporters in the newly translated book Collusion (by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo).  Meanwhile, they should be giving President Bush and the Pentagon whatever they ask for to effect the "Surge" for the next several months...unless they want to own an ignominous defeat.  After six months or so, if that strategy has not borne fruit, they should have their own plan in place for a much smaller American footprint in the Middle East for years to come...in our own national self-interest; and they should then fund only that plan.  They should not continue to misconstrue worry and frustration on the part of the American people as support for a Democratic plan that most perceive as "cut and run".  The 2008 elections are the least of the issues that are at stake here.

GS

WEDNESDAY, May 2, 2007

As we find ourselves between May Day and Cinco di Maio, here are some more pertinent facts which you will find hard to come by elsewhere.  As I have said several times before in this section, realistic and humane and fair reform of our entire approach to Immigration is an issue vital to this country.  Or will this become another nearly mortal self-inflicted wound, like Abortion?  GS

Lazy, Job-Stealing Immigrants?
Nativist Nonsense Distorts a Critical Issue
By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, April 30, 2007; Page A15

President Bush is doing his pragmatic best to secure immigration reform. He is honorably laboring to revive some version of the bipartisan bill that got 62 votes in the Senate last year. But watching this torturous process is enough to make a sane person scream. The livelihoods of millions are at stake, yet most immigration pronouncements are nonsense.

People accuse immigrants of gang violence, drunken driving and a general contempt for the law. But in 2000 the incarceration rate for immigrants was just one-fifth the rate for the population as a whole, according to Kristin Butcher of the Federal Reserve and Anne Morrison Piehl of Rutgers University.

People say immigrants are feckless and lazy. But in California in 2004, 94 percent of undocumented men ages 18 to 64 were in the workforce, compared with 82 percent of native-born men. Far from being part of a shiftless underclass, the act of coming to the United States makes immigrants among the most upwardly mobile groups in the nation, only a bit behind hedge-fund managers.

People say, contrariwise, that immigrants steal jobs from native-born Americans. But economists have patiently explained for years that there is no finite "lump of labor" in an economy. The presence of migrants causes new jobs to be created: Factories that might have gone abroad spring up in Arizona or Texas. Hasn't anyone noticed that California, where fully one-third of the adult population is foreign born, has an unemployment rate of less than 5 percent?

People say that immigrants burden social services while not paying taxes. Actually, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare, food stamps and Medicaid; and although they do use hospital emergency rooms and schools, they also pay sales taxes and payroll taxes, and one in three pays income tax. The net result is that immigrants cost the average native U.S. household an extra $200 in taxes each year, according to a study of 1996 data. Once you take into account the boost to pretax incomes caused by immigrants' contribution to growth, the total effect of undocumented workers on native-born Americans is roughly zero, according to Gordon Hanson of the University of California at San Diego.

People say that immigrants cause wage losses even if they don't cause job losses. Here the story is subtle: Some studies find no evidence that immigrants pull down wages, while others find that native-born high school dropouts lost as much as 9 percent of their earnings between 1980 and 2000 as a result of immigration. But -- and here comes the sane scream -- there's no way that even a 9 percent wage loss can justify the policies that immigration hawks advocate.

Really, how much could draconian enforcement restore those wages? Between a quarter and two-fifths of undocumented workers originally enter legally, so stringent border enforcement could only affect about two-thirds of new arrivals. Moreover, arrivals are only part of the issue; the alleged downward pressure on wages comes less from the 400,000 illegal immigrants who show up each year than from the 35 million immigrants already here, two-thirds of them legally. And migrants will continue coming even if the entire southern border is walled off. Europe has a wall called the Mediterranean. It still has illegal immigrants.

Thanks to intensive enforcement over the past year, illegal immigration from Mexico is thought to have fallen by a quarter. Suppose even more spending could cut the number of illegal entrants from 400,000 to 200,000 a year, so that 2 million arrivals could be prevented over a 10-year period. Add in an aggressive deportation program that ejected 1 million illegals, and you are still only scratching the surface. Even if immigration has driven down wages for high school dropouts by 9 percent, it's hard to see how truly vicious counter-immigration policies could drive them up by more than about 2 percent.

That simply can't be worth it. Border security does not come cheap: We could save money on unmanned aerial drones and use it to help high-school dropouts with a more generous earned-income tax credit. And although the concern for high-school dropouts is welcome, it must be weighed against the aspirations of migrants. Is it right to push native workers' pay up by 2 percent if that means depriving poor Mexicans of a chance to triple their incomes?

Of course it isn't, and given that the total economic effect of immigration on U.S. households is a wash, the big ramp-up in enforcement spending beloved by immigration hawks is an egregious waste of money. But no politician is going to say that. Candidates with a good record on immigration -- Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, John McCain -- are trying to avoid the issue. And the demagogues and nativists are allowed to spout unchallenged nonsense.

TUESDAY, May 1, 2007

George Tenet appears to have done himself little good with either his current book or with his "Apologia pro vita sua" on various TV appearances.  But the following indicates a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the facts in this matter...without having to wait decades for it.   And you probably will not read of these excerpts in the liberal and Democratic media.  GS


"More Than Enough Evidence"
What George Tenet really says about Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda.
by Thomas Joscelyn
Daily Standard
05/01/2007 12:00:00 AM

GEORGE TENET'S JUST released book, At the Center of the Storm, has created quite a stir. Over the past few days, a myriad of news accounts have referenced various snippets of the former director of Central Intelligence's self-serving collection of remembrances. But here is something you probably have not heard or read about Tenet's book: it confirms that there was a relationship between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. And, according to Tenet, "there was more than enough evidence to give us real concern" about it too.

Tenet devotes an entire chapter to the question of Iraq's ties to al Qaeda (Chapter 18, "No Authority, Direction, or Control"). Much of the chapter is used to vilify Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense, and Vice President Cheney. Tenet claims, repeatedly, that Feith, Cheney, and others in the Bush administration exaggerated the intelligence on Saddam's ties to al Qaeda. The former DCI says they "pushed the data farther than it deserved" and "sought to create a connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks that would have made WMD, the United Nations, and the international community absolutely irrelevant." (In this vein, Tenet also erroneously claimed to have met Richard Perle on September 12, 2001. According to Tenet, Perle said "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday [September 11]." However, Perle was in France and, therefore, could not have met with Tenet. Perle denies the conversation took place at all.)

Tenet offers little real evidence to support his contention. But

it is worth noting what he does not claim: that the Bush administration cooked up the connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda in its entirety. In fact, Tenet concedes that there was evidence of a worrisome relationship. For example, Tenet explains that in late 2002 and early 2003:

There was more than enough evidence to give us real concern about Iraq and al-Qa'ida; there was plenty of smoke, maybe even some fire: Ansar al-Islam [note: Tenet refers to Ansar al-Islam by its initials "AI" in several places]; Zarqawi; Kurmal; the arrests in Europe; the murder of American USAID officer Lawrence Foley, in Amman, at the hands of Zarqawi's associates; and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad operatives in Baghdad.
On Ansar al-Islam, Zarqawi, and Kurmal, Tenet elaborates further:

The intelligence told us that senior al-Qa'ida leaders and the Iraqis had discussed safe haven in Iraq. Most of the public discussion thus far has focused on Zarqawi's arrival in Baghdad under an assumed name in May of 2002, allegedly to receive medical treatment. Zarqawi, whom we termed a "senior associate and collaborator" of al-Qa'ida at the time, supervised camps in northern Iraq run by Ansar al-Islam (AI).
We believed that up to two hundred al-Qa'ida fighters began to relocate there in camps after the Afghan campaign began in the fall of 2001. The camps enhanced Zarqawi's reach beyond the Middle East. One of the camps run by AI, known as Kurmal, engaged in production and training in the use of low-level poisons such as cyanide. We had intelligence telling us that Zarqawi's men had tested these poisons on animals and, in at least one case, on one of their own associates. They laughed about how well it worked. Our efforts to track activities emanating from Kurmal resulted in the arrest of nearly one hundred Zarqawi operatives in Western Europe planning to use poisons in operations.

According to Tenet, al Qaeda's presence was not limited to northern Iraq:
What was even more worrisome was that by the spring and summer of 2002, more than a dozen al-Qa'ida-affiliated extremists converged on Baghdad, with apparently no harassment on the part of the Iraqi government. They had found a comfortable and secure environment in which they moved people and supplies to support Zarqawi's operations in northeastern Iraq.
Other high-level al Qaeda terrorists set up shop in Baghdad as well. From Saddam's neo-Stalinist capital they planned attacks around the globe:

More al-Qa'ida operatives would follow, including Thirwat Shihata and Yussef Dardiri, two Egyptians assessed by a senior al-Qa'ida detainee to be among the Egyptian Islamic Jihad's best operational planners, who arrived by mid-May of 2002. At times we lost track of them, though their associates continued to operate in Baghdad as of October 2002. Their activity in sending recruits to train in Zarqawi's camps was compelling enough.
There was also concern that these two might be planning operations outside Iraq. Credible information told us that Shihata was willing to strike U.S., Israeli, and Egyptian targets sometime in the future. Shihata had been linked to terrorist operations in North Africa, and while in Afghanistan he had trained North Africans in the use of truck bombs. Smoke indeed. But how much fire, if any?
It strains credulity to imagine that all of this was going on without, at the very least, Saddam's tacit approval. Tenet says that the CIA did not think Saddam had "operational direction and control" over

the two Egyptians, Zarqawi, or AI. But he explains, "from an intelligence point of view it would have been difficult to conclude that the Iraqi intelligence service was not aware of their activities." "Certainly," Tenet adds, "we believe that at least one senior AI operative maintained some sort of liaison relationship with the Iraqis."

There was more. Tenet says that his analysts found evidence of a relationship spanning more than a decade. He explains:

In the laborious exercise undertaken by analysts to understand the history of a potential Iraq-al Qa'ida relationship, they went back and documented the basis of a variety of sources--some good, some secondhand, some hearsay, many from other intelligence services. There were, over a decade, a number of possible high-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida, through high-level and third-party intermediaries. Our data told us that at various points there were discussions of cooperation, safe haven, training, and reciprocal nonaggression.
As has been discussed in THE WEEKLY STANDARD on a number of occasions, the CIA also uncovered evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating on chemical weapons projects in the Sudan. The Clinton administration cited the CIA's intelligence to justify the August 20, 1998, strike on the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory. That strike was launched in retaliation for al Qaeda's August 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The al-Shifa plant operated under an Iraqi oil-for-food contract and Tenet's CIA suspected it of being one of several front companies at which Iraq was transferring chemical weapons technology (including VX nerve gas) to al Qaeda.

Tenet explains the long history of collaboration between Iraq, Sudan, and al Qaeda:

During the mid-1990s, Sudanese Islamic Front Leader Hasan al-Turabi reportedly served as a conduit for Bin Ladin between Iraq and Iran. Turabi in this period was trying to become the centerpiece of the Sunni extremist world. He was hosting conferences and facilitating the travel of North Africans to Hezbollah training camps in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon. There was concern that common interests may have existed in this period between Iraq, Bin Ladin, and the Sudanese, particularly with regard to the production of chemical weapons. The reports we evaluated told us of high-level Iraqi intelligence service contacts with Bin Ladin himself, though we never knew the outcome of these contacts. [Emphasis added]
Tenet also offers his thoughts on the detention of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, "a senior military trainer for al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan." When al-Libi was first detained he "offered up information that a militant known as Abu Abudullah had told him that at least three times between 1997 and 2000, the now-deceased al-Qa'ida leader Mohammed Atef had sent Abu Abdullah to Iraq to seek training in poisons and mustard gas." Later, al-Libi recanted his testimony. Controversy then ensued. Critics of the Iraq war have seized on al-Libi's reversal and claim that his admissions were made under duress, and are therefore dubious.

But Tenet says "there was sharp division on his recantation" inside the CIA. Al-Libi "clearly lied," Tenet says, but we don't know when. Either his initial confession or his later denial could be accurate. Tenet concludes: "The fact is, we don't know which story is true, and since we don't know, we can assume nothing."

But Tenet adds an additional detail that he says lent credence to al-Libi's initial confession: "Another senior al-Qa'ida detainee told us that Mohammed Atef was interested in expanding al-Qa'ida's ties to Iraq, which, in our eyes, added credibility to [al-Libi's initial] reporting."

Some will no doubt highlight Tenet's claims about the Bush administration hyping Saddam's ties to 9/11. In reality, he provides little verifiable evidence to back up this claim. As Tenet's chapter title suggests, he also believes that Saddam's Iraq lacked "authority, direction, or control" over al Qaeda. Few would argue with this assessment. But that does not make the threads of evidence connecting Saddam's regime to al Qaeda any less troublesome.

Zarqawi, AI, chemical weapons projects, high-level contacts, Egyptian al Qaeda members plotting from Baghdad: it adds up to a very alarming picture.

And after reading all of Tenet's chapter on Iraq and al Qaeda, it seems clear that neoconservatives weren't the only ones connecting the dots between these two enemies of the United States.

Thomas Joscelyn is a terrorism researcher and economist living in New York.


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