Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 21, 2008

American Embassy in Belgrade Attacked

Hundreds of Serbian protesters have attacked the embassies of western countries that have recognized Kosovo’s new independence. This includes the U.S. The American embassy in Belgrade is now on fire.

Here’s an early round up of opinions, moving from the furious to the downright motherly.

Stephen Schwartz sees the attacks as the collective Serbian character unleashed:

Let Serbs dance in the ashes of their undeserved reputation for honor and glory. They will be the black hole of Europe for a hundred years. Albanians kiss our flag and express their gratitude and love for us. Let us not forget who have been our honorable and truthful friends.

While Ed Morrisey is a little more pragmatic:

Frankly, no one should be surprised at the reaction. We just recognized the division of the Serbian state from boundaries recognized for the past six centuries. If the Serbs seem disinterested in guarding our territory within their capital, it’s not hard to imagine why.

And James Joyner of Outside the Beltway goes the full “root-causes” route and apologizes for the people currently burning our embassy:

It’s worth pointing out, perhaps, that this is a case of (mostly) Christian protesters rioting against unpopular actions taken by (mostly) Muslim politicians. Powerless people sometimes vent their frustration in violent, criminal ways, unfortunately.

I guess he thinks losing ownership of another nation renders one “powerless.”

It will be interesting to see what Vladimir Putin says. He’s been a staunch opponent of Kosovo independence. Overlord Putin doesn’t need territories in the region breaking off from larger countries. He’ll waste no time in fanning these flames.

Hundreds of Serbian protesters have attacked the embassies of western countries that have recognized Kosovo’s new independence. This includes the U.S. The American embassy in Belgrade is now on fire.

Here’s an early round up of opinions, moving from the furious to the downright motherly.

Stephen Schwartz sees the attacks as the collective Serbian character unleashed:

Let Serbs dance in the ashes of their undeserved reputation for honor and glory. They will be the black hole of Europe for a hundred years. Albanians kiss our flag and express their gratitude and love for us. Let us not forget who have been our honorable and truthful friends.

While Ed Morrisey is a little more pragmatic:

Frankly, no one should be surprised at the reaction. We just recognized the division of the Serbian state from boundaries recognized for the past six centuries. If the Serbs seem disinterested in guarding our territory within their capital, it’s not hard to imagine why.

And James Joyner of Outside the Beltway goes the full “root-causes” route and apologizes for the people currently burning our embassy:

It’s worth pointing out, perhaps, that this is a case of (mostly) Christian protesters rioting against unpopular actions taken by (mostly) Muslim politicians. Powerless people sometimes vent their frustration in violent, criminal ways, unfortunately.

I guess he thinks losing ownership of another nation renders one “powerless.”

It will be interesting to see what Vladimir Putin says. He’s been a staunch opponent of Kosovo independence. Overlord Putin doesn’t need territories in the region breaking off from larger countries. He’ll waste no time in fanning these flames.

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New Allegations against Iran

“For those who believe—as I do—that the clerics who rule Iran must never have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States’ course of action ought to be clear: The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.” So writes AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht in yesterday’s New York Times in “Attack Iran, With Words.” His point is simple: “If the mullahs don’t want to negotiate, fine: making the offer is something that must be checked off before the next president could unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” Moreover, he thoughtfully argues that we need to wage a war of ideas, put Iranian leaders on the defensive, and open the country to internal debate.

I am all for knocking Tehran’s leaders off balance, but Gerecht is wrong about the best means of doing so, at least at this moment. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency additional information proving that Iran once maintained a bomb-building program. Washington hopes that the agency’s inspectors will then confront the Iranians with the evidence. Over the last two years, the United States has provided to the IAEA material from an Iranian laptop, smuggled out of Iran in 2004, that showed the country had been working on, among other things, the best altitudes for detonating nuclear warheads.

We have not been the only ones lending a hand to the IAEA. Yesterday, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran charged that Tehran was speeding up its nuclear weapons program, it has obtained the assistance of North Korea, it is developing at a location in southeastern Tehran a nuclear warhead for its medium-range missile, and it has set up a command and research facility near a Tehran university. The NCRI said it provided substantiation to the IAEA on Tuesday. In 2002, this dissident group alerted the world to Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program and since then has provided information, some considered reliable and others still unverified. The information released yesterday, if true, would indicate that the National Intelligence Estimate released in early December is incorrect insofar as it states that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.

Are the latest NCRI allegations correct? We don’t know at this moment. Yet we can see that these charges put the mullahs on the defensive. So we should not, as Gerecht suggests, try to begin a new round of talking to them. In short, there’s nothing more to discuss with Tehran’s clerics. We shouldn’t attack them with words. We need to hit them with facts.

“For those who believe—as I do—that the clerics who rule Iran must never have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States’ course of action ought to be clear: The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.” So writes AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht in yesterday’s New York Times in “Attack Iran, With Words.” His point is simple: “If the mullahs don’t want to negotiate, fine: making the offer is something that must be checked off before the next president could unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” Moreover, he thoughtfully argues that we need to wage a war of ideas, put Iranian leaders on the defensive, and open the country to internal debate.

I am all for knocking Tehran’s leaders off balance, but Gerecht is wrong about the best means of doing so, at least at this moment. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency additional information proving that Iran once maintained a bomb-building program. Washington hopes that the agency’s inspectors will then confront the Iranians with the evidence. Over the last two years, the United States has provided to the IAEA material from an Iranian laptop, smuggled out of Iran in 2004, that showed the country had been working on, among other things, the best altitudes for detonating nuclear warheads.

We have not been the only ones lending a hand to the IAEA. Yesterday, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran charged that Tehran was speeding up its nuclear weapons program, it has obtained the assistance of North Korea, it is developing at a location in southeastern Tehran a nuclear warhead for its medium-range missile, and it has set up a command and research facility near a Tehran university. The NCRI said it provided substantiation to the IAEA on Tuesday. In 2002, this dissident group alerted the world to Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program and since then has provided information, some considered reliable and others still unverified. The information released yesterday, if true, would indicate that the National Intelligence Estimate released in early December is incorrect insofar as it states that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.

Are the latest NCRI allegations correct? We don’t know at this moment. Yet we can see that these charges put the mullahs on the defensive. So we should not, as Gerecht suggests, try to begin a new round of talking to them. In short, there’s nothing more to discuss with Tehran’s clerics. We shouldn’t attack them with words. We need to hit them with facts.

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A Boxcutter, a Plane, a Qur’an – Again

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

On Sunday, 21-year-old Benjamin Baines Jr. was caught trying to bring a boxcutter on board a plane at Tampa International Airport. An X-ray machine picked up the boxcutter inside a hollowed out book entitled Fear Itself. Also on Baines Jr.’s in-flight reading list: Muhammad in the Bible, The Prophet’s Prayer, The Noble Qur’an, plus the Bible and the Qur’an.

The SunCoast News reports that Baines Jr. claims he’s a rapper and that rappers need to “play the part.” “Blade-wielding Islamist” strikes me as a “part” somewhat outside the average rapper’s repertoire and, though authorities say he has “no record of crimes or active warrants,” I’m not much comforted. Tampa, Florida is home to Sami Al-Arian, who some believe was Islamic Jihad’s top man in America. There are also reports that Al-Arian radicalized Tampa’s Masjid Al-Qassam Mosque. Let’s hope that some six years after 9/11 this box cutter case is treated more seriously than is your average criminal file. In his COMMENTARY article “When Jihad Came to America,” Andrew C. McCarthy details the series of investigative blunders that allowed radical Islam to flourish in America in the run up to the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. One of the more painful things to read about is how in 1990 authorities dismissed Sayyid Nosair, murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, as a lone nut case instead of what he was: a plugged-in disciple of the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman—the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

The story of Benjamin Baines Jr. hasn’t generated much coverage, so we can’t know what investigative measures are underway. But this case should involve more than running a set of fingerprints through a sheriff’s computer.

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Look Who’s Talking

Michael Ledeen offers a rejoinder to one of the sillier promises Barack Obama makes about his approach to Iran and Syria:

We have been talking to Iran virtually non-stop for nearly 30 years. This most definitely includes the Bush administration, which has used open and back channels, including dispatching former Spanish President Felipe Gonzales to Tehran on our behalf. You can judge the results for yourself.

Let’s try it again: We have been talking to Iran. We are talking to Iran right now. The proposal that we talk to Iran is neither new nor does it represent any change in American policy. There is apparently a great desire to deny the facts in this matter.

It is also true that we have been talking to Syria. Well, maybe if we talked more earnestly? And at a higher level of representation? That’s exactly what has distinguished our engagement with Syria from that with Iran. And it hasn’t mattered.

The big push started immediately following the first Gulf War, with James Baker in Damascus promising Hafez Assad the return of the Golan plus an American security guarantee of the border if he would only submit himself to the peace process. Assad, after a great deal of drawn-out, exasperating back-and-forth, finally told Baker to take a hike. Clinton went even further, holding, among other parleys, an eight-day summit in Shepardstown, West Virginia, with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and a Syrian delegation headed by the Foreign Minister, and later a one-on-one meeting in Geneva at which Assad brazenly betrayed the terms of a deal to which he had previously agreed.

The Syrian modus operandi both for Hafez and Bashar has been the same: talk and bargain, but give nothing and in the end agree to nothing. This has been the pattern whether the subject of the talks has been Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syrian support for the insurgency in Iraq, or peace with Israel. The latest western leader to get suckered is Nicolas Sarkozy, who this December grew so frustrated trying to negotiate an end to the Lebanese presidential impasse that he declared to the press, “I have reached the end of the road with Assad.”

Obama appears to either not know these details, or thinks that nobody will notice the utter falsity of his claim that we haven’t been “talking to our enemies.” There is thus a Grand Canyon-sized opening for McCain to pummel Obama on the foolishness of this particular trope — an attack that would perfectly complement the wider charge that Obama seems proudly intent on sending the United States wandering naively into the Middle Eastern bazaar.

Michael Ledeen offers a rejoinder to one of the sillier promises Barack Obama makes about his approach to Iran and Syria:

We have been talking to Iran virtually non-stop for nearly 30 years. This most definitely includes the Bush administration, which has used open and back channels, including dispatching former Spanish President Felipe Gonzales to Tehran on our behalf. You can judge the results for yourself.

Let’s try it again: We have been talking to Iran. We are talking to Iran right now. The proposal that we talk to Iran is neither new nor does it represent any change in American policy. There is apparently a great desire to deny the facts in this matter.

It is also true that we have been talking to Syria. Well, maybe if we talked more earnestly? And at a higher level of representation? That’s exactly what has distinguished our engagement with Syria from that with Iran. And it hasn’t mattered.

The big push started immediately following the first Gulf War, with James Baker in Damascus promising Hafez Assad the return of the Golan plus an American security guarantee of the border if he would only submit himself to the peace process. Assad, after a great deal of drawn-out, exasperating back-and-forth, finally told Baker to take a hike. Clinton went even further, holding, among other parleys, an eight-day summit in Shepardstown, West Virginia, with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and a Syrian delegation headed by the Foreign Minister, and later a one-on-one meeting in Geneva at which Assad brazenly betrayed the terms of a deal to which he had previously agreed.

The Syrian modus operandi both for Hafez and Bashar has been the same: talk and bargain, but give nothing and in the end agree to nothing. This has been the pattern whether the subject of the talks has been Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syrian support for the insurgency in Iraq, or peace with Israel. The latest western leader to get suckered is Nicolas Sarkozy, who this December grew so frustrated trying to negotiate an end to the Lebanese presidential impasse that he declared to the press, “I have reached the end of the road with Assad.”

Obama appears to either not know these details, or thinks that nobody will notice the utter falsity of his claim that we haven’t been “talking to our enemies.” There is thus a Grand Canyon-sized opening for McCain to pummel Obama on the foolishness of this particular trope — an attack that would perfectly complement the wider charge that Obama seems proudly intent on sending the United States wandering naively into the Middle Eastern bazaar.

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Democratic Debate Preview

The Democratic debate tonight may be Hillary Clinton’s best chance to get back in the game. As one commentator succinctly put it, “She has to reduce Obama to an incompetent charlatan whispering sweet nothings in the country’s ear.” Or, as Karl Rove put it more tactfully:

Mrs. Clinton can do much more to draw attention to Mr. Obama’s lack of achievements. She can agree with Mr. Obama’s statement Tuesday night that change is difficult to achieve on health care, energy, poverty, schools and immigration–and then question his failure to provide any leadership on these or other major issues since his arrival in the Senate. His failure to act, advocate or lead on what he now claims are his priorities may be her last chance to make a winning argument.

However, all of this falls a little flat coming from a Senator who has not exactly been a whirlwind of legislative accomplishment. And that’s the rub: Is Clinton that much more competent or experienced than he is? What she is, rather, is more tenacious, sober minded and realistic about Washington and the world. But that’s not going to win the Democratic primary and, hence, her problem remains. And her lead in March 4 polls continue to erode.

The Democratic debate tonight may be Hillary Clinton’s best chance to get back in the game. As one commentator succinctly put it, “She has to reduce Obama to an incompetent charlatan whispering sweet nothings in the country’s ear.” Or, as Karl Rove put it more tactfully:

Mrs. Clinton can do much more to draw attention to Mr. Obama’s lack of achievements. She can agree with Mr. Obama’s statement Tuesday night that change is difficult to achieve on health care, energy, poverty, schools and immigration–and then question his failure to provide any leadership on these or other major issues since his arrival in the Senate. His failure to act, advocate or lead on what he now claims are his priorities may be her last chance to make a winning argument.

However, all of this falls a little flat coming from a Senator who has not exactly been a whirlwind of legislative accomplishment. And that’s the rub: Is Clinton that much more competent or experienced than he is? What she is, rather, is more tenacious, sober minded and realistic about Washington and the world. But that’s not going to win the Democratic primary and, hence, her problem remains. And her lead in March 4 polls continue to erode.

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Al-Manar Correspondent Arrested

In a series of counterterrorism raids undertaken earlier this week, Moroccan authorities arrested 32 individuals suspected of planning attacks against domestic targets. Among those arrested was Abdelhafid Sriti, a correspondent for Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite television station.

In light of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat of an “open war” on Israel in response to the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh last week, Sriti’s arrest appears significant. Nasrallah’s eulogy at Mughniyeh’s funeral has been interpreted as foreshadowing attacks on Jewish and Israeli interests abroad—Hezbollah doesn’t distinguish between the two—and the Jewish community of Morocco has been the previous target of Islamist terrorists. On May 16, 2003, a Jewish cemetery, Jewish community center, and Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, among other Casablanca targets, were hit in the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in Morocco’s history. Indeed, it is possible that Hezbollah has already begun planning its response to the Mughniyeh assassination, deploying its “media wing” in the immediate service of terror against one of the Muslim world’s most freely accessible—and therefore vulnerable—Jewish communities.

More concretely, however, the apparent involvement of an al-Manar correspondent in a Moroccan terrorist ring should serve as a stark reminder of the international dimension of Hezbollah’s operations. Far from “Lebanonizing”—i.e., increasingly participating in domestic Lebanese politics and thereby moderating, as many “experts” have claimed—Hezbollah has continually developed its relationship with Islamist organizations worldwide for the enhancement of its terrorist capabilities. In this vein, the Moroccan Islamist Badil al-Hadari party has been implicated in planning the attacks, while the Moroccan government has arrested Abdelkader Belliraj—a Moroccan national who lived in Belgium—as the network’s leader. In short, Hezbollah has found good company with militant Islamists well beyond Lebanon’s borders.

Finally, Sriti’s arrest should reinforce the extent to which al-Manar plays a critical role in Hezbollah’s terrorist activities—not only in the satellite transmission of radical Islamist ideology, but in the operational aspects of planning attacks. For this reason, policymakers should closely monitor Morocco’s investigation of Sriti, as this might provide key details regarding al-Manar’s non-media activities.

UPDATE: The AP is now confirming that the arrested Moroccan terrorist ring was targeting local Jews, though bizarrely omits the fact that an al-Manar correspondent was among those arrested.

In a series of counterterrorism raids undertaken earlier this week, Moroccan authorities arrested 32 individuals suspected of planning attacks against domestic targets. Among those arrested was Abdelhafid Sriti, a correspondent for Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite television station.

In light of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat of an “open war” on Israel in response to the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh last week, Sriti’s arrest appears significant. Nasrallah’s eulogy at Mughniyeh’s funeral has been interpreted as foreshadowing attacks on Jewish and Israeli interests abroad—Hezbollah doesn’t distinguish between the two—and the Jewish community of Morocco has been the previous target of Islamist terrorists. On May 16, 2003, a Jewish cemetery, Jewish community center, and Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, among other Casablanca targets, were hit in the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in Morocco’s history. Indeed, it is possible that Hezbollah has already begun planning its response to the Mughniyeh assassination, deploying its “media wing” in the immediate service of terror against one of the Muslim world’s most freely accessible—and therefore vulnerable—Jewish communities.

More concretely, however, the apparent involvement of an al-Manar correspondent in a Moroccan terrorist ring should serve as a stark reminder of the international dimension of Hezbollah’s operations. Far from “Lebanonizing”—i.e., increasingly participating in domestic Lebanese politics and thereby moderating, as many “experts” have claimed—Hezbollah has continually developed its relationship with Islamist organizations worldwide for the enhancement of its terrorist capabilities. In this vein, the Moroccan Islamist Badil al-Hadari party has been implicated in planning the attacks, while the Moroccan government has arrested Abdelkader Belliraj—a Moroccan national who lived in Belgium—as the network’s leader. In short, Hezbollah has found good company with militant Islamists well beyond Lebanon’s borders.

Finally, Sriti’s arrest should reinforce the extent to which al-Manar plays a critical role in Hezbollah’s terrorist activities—not only in the satellite transmission of radical Islamist ideology, but in the operational aspects of planning attacks. For this reason, policymakers should closely monitor Morocco’s investigation of Sriti, as this might provide key details regarding al-Manar’s non-media activities.

UPDATE: The AP is now confirming that the arrested Moroccan terrorist ring was targeting local Jews, though bizarrely omits the fact that an al-Manar correspondent was among those arrested.

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Double Fantasy 08′

While Barack Obama earns a standing ovation for blowing his nose, John McCain gets the full smear job for having been in the company of a female lobbyist. This is fitting, as the adulation surrounding Obama’s every twitch is as manufactured as the finger-wagging over McCain’s non-alleged scandal. Troubling that in the most serious of times, the media refuses to take this election seriously.

The New York Times piece in question is the journalistic equivalent of push-polling or the “it was all a dream” narrative explanation. They float a juicy two-pronged premise (adultery and political compromise) before the electorate with no greater justification than that some anonymous observers had mistakenly assumed it to be true. In the article, the Times practically does a cut-and-paste of the most incriminating bits, detailing the non-allegations at the beginning and end, so that all the relevant refutations are framed in slime.

John McCain came up against this kind of unscrupulous warfare in South Carolina during the 2000 primaries. George Bush’s camp invented a scenario to play on voters’ prejudice under the guise of a poll. Voters were asked if they would vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child. Back then, the attack was orchestrated by his opponent. That today such methods are employed by a supposedly impartial press goes to show how far the tenor of political coverage has sunk. But in either case it is a testament to John McCain’s character and record that the most potentially damaging blows to his candidacy need to be fashioned out of thin air. Just as it’s an indication of Barack Obama’s actual flimsiness that the abilities for which he’s adored are also fabrications. Elections have dealt in sleaze before, but this inclination towards legitimizing fiction is a new and alarming turn.

While Barack Obama earns a standing ovation for blowing his nose, John McCain gets the full smear job for having been in the company of a female lobbyist. This is fitting, as the adulation surrounding Obama’s every twitch is as manufactured as the finger-wagging over McCain’s non-alleged scandal. Troubling that in the most serious of times, the media refuses to take this election seriously.

The New York Times piece in question is the journalistic equivalent of push-polling or the “it was all a dream” narrative explanation. They float a juicy two-pronged premise (adultery and political compromise) before the electorate with no greater justification than that some anonymous observers had mistakenly assumed it to be true. In the article, the Times practically does a cut-and-paste of the most incriminating bits, detailing the non-allegations at the beginning and end, so that all the relevant refutations are framed in slime.

John McCain came up against this kind of unscrupulous warfare in South Carolina during the 2000 primaries. George Bush’s camp invented a scenario to play on voters’ prejudice under the guise of a poll. Voters were asked if they would vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child. Back then, the attack was orchestrated by his opponent. That today such methods are employed by a supposedly impartial press goes to show how far the tenor of political coverage has sunk. But in either case it is a testament to John McCain’s character and record that the most potentially damaging blows to his candidacy need to be fashioned out of thin air. Just as it’s an indication of Barack Obama’s actual flimsiness that the abilities for which he’s adored are also fabrications. Elections have dealt in sleaze before, but this inclination towards legitimizing fiction is a new and alarming turn.

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Two Important Announcements From the Pentagon

I’m not making this up:

Book Signing – 22 Feb.

Author Michael Scheuer will present his new book “Marching through Hell: America and Islam After Iraq” in the Pentagon Auditorium, Room BH650, this Friday, 22 Feb at 1200.  Following his presentation, he will take questions and sign autographs.  Mr. Scheuer was formerly in charge of the Osama Bin Laden Unit at the CIA. =20

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Pentagon Services has discount tickets to “Bellobration” at Verizon Center and the Patriot Center.  All tickets are $18 each (a $10 savings!).  We have tickets to the Verizon Center on Sat, 29 March at 11:30, 3:30 or 7:30. Buy your tickets now, while our supply lasts!

I have two questions:

Does Michael Scheuer deserve this honor? 

Are these two Pentagon activities related?

 

I’m not making this up:

Book Signing – 22 Feb.

Author Michael Scheuer will present his new book “Marching through Hell: America and Islam After Iraq” in the Pentagon Auditorium, Room BH650, this Friday, 22 Feb at 1200.  Following his presentation, he will take questions and sign autographs.  Mr. Scheuer was formerly in charge of the Osama Bin Laden Unit at the CIA. =20

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Pentagon Services has discount tickets to “Bellobration” at Verizon Center and the Patriot Center.  All tickets are $18 each (a $10 savings!).  We have tickets to the Verizon Center on Sat, 29 March at 11:30, 3:30 or 7:30. Buy your tickets now, while our supply lasts!

I have two questions:

Does Michael Scheuer deserve this honor? 

Are these two Pentagon activities related?

 

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The Other “Other” Israel

It is widely believed that Israeli Arabs despise the Jewish state, actively support its enemies, and willingly constitute a kind of fifth column in the Jewish state’s population. This is backed up by the wild rhetoric of Arab-Israeli politicians, who frequently bend over backwards to voice their hatred of the country that hosts them.

But is this belief true? A new survey of Israeli Arabs’ opinions about national service has a lot of people scratching their heads.

In Israel, young men and women spend at least two years in mandatory military service–except, of course, for Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are exempt. Failure to enlist often makes it much harder for members of these groups to find jobs later on, however, and doesn’t do much for their patriotism.

But between the military service and exemption, there is a third option: The national service program, in which thousands of Israelis, mostly Orthodox women, spend one to two years serving their country by serving their communities–helping the needy, working in hospitals, or assisting in daycare centers. In recent years, an effort has been under way to expand the program to include the Israeli Arab population, which has been seen as a way to help integrate them into mainstream Israel, help their economic situation, and remove the stigma of disloyalty.

These efforts have been met with virulent opposition from Israeli-Arab leaders, however. MK Jamal Zahalka, of the Balad party, for example, warned in October that Arab society would “vomit out” those who volunteered for national service, and consider them “lepers.” This has been the near-uniform tone coming from the leadership of the Arab community, as it has campaigned against the plan.

But their campaign, apparently, hasn’t worked. According to the study, no fewer than 75 percent of Israeli Arab youth, and over 70 percent of the overall Arab population, support the idea of national service. Nor is this just a matter of getting better jobs, or equality with Jews: According to the poll, “68 percent of those who support national service said they are in favor because it contributes to the country and Israeli society.”

This is astonishing on a number of fronts: First, it suggests that what most people think about the loyalty of Israeli Arabs may be just wrong. Second, it suggests an enormous disparity between what elected officials are saying on a central issue of political identity, and what their own voters actually believe–which makes one wonder what the point of all those elections was. Third, it suggests that Israeli Arab leaders are much more interested in appearing to be a part of the Arab world than in advancing the actual interests of their constituents–which makes one wonder where their funding must be coming from. Finally, it suggests that, contrary to proper democratic functioning, there is something preventing more reasonable candidates from being fielded among the Israeli Arab community.

Perhaps what makes the anti-Israel politicians so upset is the deepest implication of it all: That an Arab growing up in Israel, as a citizen in a democratic state with rights, real elections, and economic opportunity, looks around him, and then looks at the Palestinians next door, in Gaza, in Jordan, and in Lebanon, and he knows that no matter how much he is supposed to be suffering, his life is still infinitely better there than it would have been elsewhere.

It is not genuine equality, and there is certainly much room for improvement. But it might be enough to inspire a sense of gratitude among actual Israeli Arabs. Even patriotism.

It is widely believed that Israeli Arabs despise the Jewish state, actively support its enemies, and willingly constitute a kind of fifth column in the Jewish state’s population. This is backed up by the wild rhetoric of Arab-Israeli politicians, who frequently bend over backwards to voice their hatred of the country that hosts them.

But is this belief true? A new survey of Israeli Arabs’ opinions about national service has a lot of people scratching their heads.

In Israel, young men and women spend at least two years in mandatory military service–except, of course, for Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are exempt. Failure to enlist often makes it much harder for members of these groups to find jobs later on, however, and doesn’t do much for their patriotism.

But between the military service and exemption, there is a third option: The national service program, in which thousands of Israelis, mostly Orthodox women, spend one to two years serving their country by serving their communities–helping the needy, working in hospitals, or assisting in daycare centers. In recent years, an effort has been under way to expand the program to include the Israeli Arab population, which has been seen as a way to help integrate them into mainstream Israel, help their economic situation, and remove the stigma of disloyalty.

These efforts have been met with virulent opposition from Israeli-Arab leaders, however. MK Jamal Zahalka, of the Balad party, for example, warned in October that Arab society would “vomit out” those who volunteered for national service, and consider them “lepers.” This has been the near-uniform tone coming from the leadership of the Arab community, as it has campaigned against the plan.

But their campaign, apparently, hasn’t worked. According to the study, no fewer than 75 percent of Israeli Arab youth, and over 70 percent of the overall Arab population, support the idea of national service. Nor is this just a matter of getting better jobs, or equality with Jews: According to the poll, “68 percent of those who support national service said they are in favor because it contributes to the country and Israeli society.”

This is astonishing on a number of fronts: First, it suggests that what most people think about the loyalty of Israeli Arabs may be just wrong. Second, it suggests an enormous disparity between what elected officials are saying on a central issue of political identity, and what their own voters actually believe–which makes one wonder what the point of all those elections was. Third, it suggests that Israeli Arab leaders are much more interested in appearing to be a part of the Arab world than in advancing the actual interests of their constituents–which makes one wonder where their funding must be coming from. Finally, it suggests that, contrary to proper democratic functioning, there is something preventing more reasonable candidates from being fielded among the Israeli Arab community.

Perhaps what makes the anti-Israel politicians so upset is the deepest implication of it all: That an Arab growing up in Israel, as a citizen in a democratic state with rights, real elections, and economic opportunity, looks around him, and then looks at the Palestinians next door, in Gaza, in Jordan, and in Lebanon, and he knows that no matter how much he is supposed to be suffering, his life is still infinitely better there than it would have been elsewhere.

It is not genuine equality, and there is certainly much room for improvement. But it might be enough to inspire a sense of gratitude among actual Israeli Arabs. Even patriotism.

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More on Rapid Response 101

McCain’s team put out a detailed document on the allegations in the New York Times involving his relationship with a female lobbyist in 2000. On the morning shows the team followed it up with a fairly convincing case that McCain repeatedly took actions that were adverse to the interests of the lobbyist. Of course, the “doing favors” part of the story isn’t what makes it really problematic for him. And so, at a press conference he staged early this morning, the sure-to-be Republican presidential candidate was calm and emphatic in his denials. He might even have responded more angrily, but then the new storyline would have been “Temper Resurfaces.” With Cindy McCain at his side, the full court media counteroffensive by the McCain team and the New York Times apparently unwilling engage on the record about its reporting, this may ultimately turn out to be at worst a wash, and maybe a net plus (on multiple levels), for McCain, who needed to juice up the base a bit.

UPDATE: Perhaps the definitive (at least the funniest) analysis of the New York Times story is here (as is sometimes the case with real Cliff Notes, it is better than the original tale) and examination of the conservative backlash is here.

McCain’s team put out a detailed document on the allegations in the New York Times involving his relationship with a female lobbyist in 2000. On the morning shows the team followed it up with a fairly convincing case that McCain repeatedly took actions that were adverse to the interests of the lobbyist. Of course, the “doing favors” part of the story isn’t what makes it really problematic for him. And so, at a press conference he staged early this morning, the sure-to-be Republican presidential candidate was calm and emphatic in his denials. He might even have responded more angrily, but then the new storyline would have been “Temper Resurfaces.” With Cindy McCain at his side, the full court media counteroffensive by the McCain team and the New York Times apparently unwilling engage on the record about its reporting, this may ultimately turn out to be at worst a wash, and maybe a net plus (on multiple levels), for McCain, who needed to juice up the base a bit.

UPDATE: Perhaps the definitive (at least the funniest) analysis of the New York Times story is here (as is sometimes the case with real Cliff Notes, it is better than the original tale) and examination of the conservative backlash is here.

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Where is James Risen?

On January 24, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to James Risen of the New York Times, seeking information about who in the U.S. government provided him with classified information that he published in his book, State of War. According to the Associated Press, Risen was ordered to appear in an Alexandria court house on February 7. That date has come and gone without any sightings of Risen entering the court house.  The story of the subpoena, which was also reported by the Times itself, has disappeared.

What happened here? Did Risen skip court or were the proceedings delayed? And why are the newspapers keeping us uninformed? Are any readers of Connecting the Dots monitoring the doors, front and back, of the Alexandria court house, and if so, can they enlighten us?

On January 24, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to James Risen of the New York Times, seeking information about who in the U.S. government provided him with classified information that he published in his book, State of War. According to the Associated Press, Risen was ordered to appear in an Alexandria court house on February 7. That date has come and gone without any sightings of Risen entering the court house.  The story of the subpoena, which was also reported by the Times itself, has disappeared.

What happened here? Did Risen skip court or were the proceedings delayed? And why are the newspapers keeping us uninformed? Are any readers of Connecting the Dots monitoring the doors, front and back, of the Alexandria court house, and if so, can they enlighten us?

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Rapid Response 101

Well so far both the Right and the Left in the blogosphere are not too impressed by the New York Times story. John McCain confidante Mark Salter in an interview with The Page points out the key problem with the Times story: it boils down to two unnamed aides concerned about a lady lobbyist’s proximity to McCain. The McCain rapid response on this, complete with Bob Bennett pushback, has been rather impressive in the less than half a day this story has been out. As a result, the story hit together with the McCain’s denial and with the implication that the Times got buffaloed into running the story by TNR. The morning news shows seem to have picked up on the “Isn’t this a smear?” framing the McCain team has presented. The real test for McCain is whether he keeps his cool when the media swarm confronts him later today.

Well so far both the Right and the Left in the blogosphere are not too impressed by the New York Times story. John McCain confidante Mark Salter in an interview with The Page points out the key problem with the Times story: it boils down to two unnamed aides concerned about a lady lobbyist’s proximity to McCain. The McCain rapid response on this, complete with Bob Bennett pushback, has been rather impressive in the less than half a day this story has been out. As a result, the story hit together with the McCain’s denial and with the implication that the Times got buffaloed into running the story by TNR. The morning news shows seem to have picked up on the “Isn’t this a smear?” framing the McCain team has presented. The real test for McCain is whether he keeps his cool when the media swarm confronts him later today.

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