Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 29, 2010

Peace in Our Time: All Trust, No Verify

With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee scheduled to vote on the New START treaty on August 3, pundits left and right are using the State Department’s most recent report on arms-treaty compliance to make their respective points about the new treaty’s advisability. Sarcasm, disdain, and semantic disputes seem to be taking center stage in the argument, but there is a very clear bottom line to the whole debate, and it can be expressed in one word: verification — and specifically the lack thereof.

The State Department report acknowledges disagreements between the U.S. and Russia over some compliance measures specified in the old START treaty (which expired in December 2009), along with a persistent inability to verify Russian compliance with provisions of the international conventions on biological and chemical weapons. Technically, these concerns don’t amount to evidence that Russia violated the old START treaty, as claimed in a Washington Times headline yesterday. On the other hand, they cast doubt on the State Department assertion that Russia was in compliance with the treaty’s central provisions for strategic-arms limitation.

The most significant compliance measures in question involved verifying the number of re-entry vehicles on a Russian warhead, measuring the canisters mounted on mobile ICBM launchers, and Russia’s failure to provide all the test-launch telemetry data required by the old treaty. The Bush administration listed these as open issues in its 2005 compliance report. In 2010, the first two are implied to have been “resolved,” with no explanation. Resolution of the telemetry issue is not explicitly addressed at all. These are not minor or picayune concerns; they bear directly on the integrity of the verification process.

While Russia considered itself bound to the ongoing START process, and saw its own performance as a means of securing U.S. commitments, verification disputes like these were a tolerable form of low-level friction. But New START would be inaugurated under much different circumstances: verification measures that are considerably relaxed and a Russia with little incentive to show good faith.

In September, President Obama dealt away his biggest bargaining chip — the silo-based missile-defense array in Europe — without obtaining any concessions in return. In signing New START in April, he agreed to additional limits on America’s latitude to improve our national missile defenses. He has already made the principal concessions desired by Russia’s leaders, while accepting a verification regime much less stringent than that of the old START treaty. The question of supreme importance for New START, therefore, is precisely what right-wing critics suggest it is: can Russia be trusted?

In the best of circumstances, concluding a treaty of questionable verifiability with a partner who lacks incentive to keep it is a bad idea. And as Russia’s record on START and the other weapons conventions indicates, these are not the best of circumstances. Skeptical Republican senators are right to view the New START treaty with profound concern. However the treaty’s advocates try to shift the argument with inverted reasoning, the bottom line on it is that it abandons the Reagan principle — trust, but verify — in favor of a principle with a terrible track record: trust, period.

With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee scheduled to vote on the New START treaty on August 3, pundits left and right are using the State Department’s most recent report on arms-treaty compliance to make their respective points about the new treaty’s advisability. Sarcasm, disdain, and semantic disputes seem to be taking center stage in the argument, but there is a very clear bottom line to the whole debate, and it can be expressed in one word: verification — and specifically the lack thereof.

The State Department report acknowledges disagreements between the U.S. and Russia over some compliance measures specified in the old START treaty (which expired in December 2009), along with a persistent inability to verify Russian compliance with provisions of the international conventions on biological and chemical weapons. Technically, these concerns don’t amount to evidence that Russia violated the old START treaty, as claimed in a Washington Times headline yesterday. On the other hand, they cast doubt on the State Department assertion that Russia was in compliance with the treaty’s central provisions for strategic-arms limitation.

The most significant compliance measures in question involved verifying the number of re-entry vehicles on a Russian warhead, measuring the canisters mounted on mobile ICBM launchers, and Russia’s failure to provide all the test-launch telemetry data required by the old treaty. The Bush administration listed these as open issues in its 2005 compliance report. In 2010, the first two are implied to have been “resolved,” with no explanation. Resolution of the telemetry issue is not explicitly addressed at all. These are not minor or picayune concerns; they bear directly on the integrity of the verification process.

While Russia considered itself bound to the ongoing START process, and saw its own performance as a means of securing U.S. commitments, verification disputes like these were a tolerable form of low-level friction. But New START would be inaugurated under much different circumstances: verification measures that are considerably relaxed and a Russia with little incentive to show good faith.

In September, President Obama dealt away his biggest bargaining chip — the silo-based missile-defense array in Europe — without obtaining any concessions in return. In signing New START in April, he agreed to additional limits on America’s latitude to improve our national missile defenses. He has already made the principal concessions desired by Russia’s leaders, while accepting a verification regime much less stringent than that of the old START treaty. The question of supreme importance for New START, therefore, is precisely what right-wing critics suggest it is: can Russia be trusted?

In the best of circumstances, concluding a treaty of questionable verifiability with a partner who lacks incentive to keep it is a bad idea. And as Russia’s record on START and the other weapons conventions indicates, these are not the best of circumstances. Skeptical Republican senators are right to view the New START treaty with profound concern. However the treaty’s advocates try to shift the argument with inverted reasoning, the bottom line on it is that it abandons the Reagan principle — trust, but verify — in favor of a principle with a terrible track record: trust, period.

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RE: The Farce Ends

Jen, the farce has been exposed, but it is not likely to end.

Nearly 15 months ago, weeks after forming a coalition government with parties to both his left and right, Benjamin Netanyahu came to the White House and announced he was ready for immediate negotiations without preconditions. A week later, Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington and announced his strategy to the Washington Post:

Mahmoud Abbas says there is nothing for him to do. … On Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait … for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula.

Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures.

The following month, Netanyahu publicly endorsed the two-state formula; after that, he produced a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. Obama proved unable to persuade any Arab state to take any confidence-building measure, despite a personal visit (and bow) to the King of Saudi Arabia and what is surely the most pathetic public plea in the history of American diplomacy: Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations begging Arab states to take some steps, “however modest,” toward normalization with Israel.

In December 2009, Abbas told the Israeli press that final-status negotiations could be completed in six months if Israel would just completely halt construction for six months. In George Mitchell’s January 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, Rose noted the moratorium was for 10 months and then had this colloquy with Mitchell:

CHARLIE ROSE:  That gives you an incentive to say to the parties, what? … if settlements are important to you or the absence of settlements are important to you, you better get something done before the moratorium ends because I don’t think we can get it again.

GEORGE MITCHELL:  Charlie, will you come with me on my next visit and make that spiel, because it might sound better coming from you.  I’ve made it several times.

Since then, Abbas has increased his pre-negotiation demands: not only a complete construction halt but also acceptance of: (1) the indefensible 1967 borders as the basis of negotiation; and (2) limitation of security arrangements to foreign peacekeepers. These conditions are designed to insure that negotiations cannot start.

But the reason the now-obvious farce will not end is that the real deadline for this exercise in smart diplomacy is September, when three events coalesce: (1) the end of the four-month period for “proximity” talks; (2) the end of the 10-month settlement moratorium; and (3) the meeting of the UN General Assembly, where the Obama administration hopes to announce the “success” of its year-and-a-half efforts to produce… drum roll… direct talks! Until then, the show must go on.

Jen, the farce has been exposed, but it is not likely to end.

Nearly 15 months ago, weeks after forming a coalition government with parties to both his left and right, Benjamin Netanyahu came to the White House and announced he was ready for immediate negotiations without preconditions. A week later, Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington and announced his strategy to the Washington Post:

Mahmoud Abbas says there is nothing for him to do. … On Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait … for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula.

Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures.

The following month, Netanyahu publicly endorsed the two-state formula; after that, he produced a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. Obama proved unable to persuade any Arab state to take any confidence-building measure, despite a personal visit (and bow) to the King of Saudi Arabia and what is surely the most pathetic public plea in the history of American diplomacy: Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations begging Arab states to take some steps, “however modest,” toward normalization with Israel.

In December 2009, Abbas told the Israeli press that final-status negotiations could be completed in six months if Israel would just completely halt construction for six months. In George Mitchell’s January 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, Rose noted the moratorium was for 10 months and then had this colloquy with Mitchell:

CHARLIE ROSE:  That gives you an incentive to say to the parties, what? … if settlements are important to you or the absence of settlements are important to you, you better get something done before the moratorium ends because I don’t think we can get it again.

GEORGE MITCHELL:  Charlie, will you come with me on my next visit and make that spiel, because it might sound better coming from you.  I’ve made it several times.

Since then, Abbas has increased his pre-negotiation demands: not only a complete construction halt but also acceptance of: (1) the indefensible 1967 borders as the basis of negotiation; and (2) limitation of security arrangements to foreign peacekeepers. These conditions are designed to insure that negotiations cannot start.

But the reason the now-obvious farce will not end is that the real deadline for this exercise in smart diplomacy is September, when three events coalesce: (1) the end of the four-month period for “proximity” talks; (2) the end of the 10-month settlement moratorium; and (3) the meeting of the UN General Assembly, where the Obama administration hopes to announce the “success” of its year-and-a-half efforts to produce… drum roll… direct talks! Until then, the show must go on.

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Stone’s Apologies Don’t Erase Link Between the Left and Anti-Semitism

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Nil, Baby, Nil

“Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis?” Such were the questions asked by the Huffington Post’s Peter Daou in late May. And the declarations were no less bracing. “We are at an inflection point, one that will likely determine the fate of our species,” he informed readers. The “planetary emergency” to which he was referring was not, as one may be forgiven for thinking, the appearance of alien spacecraft above civilization’s greatest structural landmarks. Daou’s concerns were grounded in earthly developments. Or, rather, a single earthly development: a pipe broke.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

“Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis?” Such were the questions asked by the Huffington Post’s Peter Daou in late May. And the declarations were no less bracing. “We are at an inflection point, one that will likely determine the fate of our species,” he informed readers. The “planetary emergency” to which he was referring was not, as one may be forgiven for thinking, the appearance of alien spacecraft above civilization’s greatest structural landmarks. Daou’s concerns were grounded in earthly developments. Or, rather, a single earthly development: a pipe broke.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Defending Our Afghanistan Policy

From the left and the right, this morning’s newspapers bring fundamental challenges to our Afghanistan policy.

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that the U.S. war effort is simply too costly. He suggests withdrawing troops and instead building schools. “That,” he argues, “would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.”

Over in the Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, Jack Devine, a former CIA officer who was involved in efforts to help the mujahideen in the 1980s, also argues for withdrawing U.S. soldiers. His preferred alternative is relying on his former employer, the CIA, to mobilize Afghan proxies on our behalf. He admits that after a troop withdrawal, which he envisions happening in 2012, “Afghanistan will likely enter a period of heightened instability,” including the possible collapse of the government, so he advises “we should figure out now which tribal leaders — and, under specially negotiated arrangements, which Taliban factions — we could establish productive relationships with.”

I’ve written a longer article based on my recent visit to Afghanistan for an upcoming issue of Commentary that explains why the policy we’re currently following offers our best chance of success and why there is no realistic Plan B on the horizon. But let me just point out a few of the more obvious problems with Kristof’s and Devine’s prescriptions.

Take Kristof first: he places an awful lot of faith in the power of education despite the fact that some types of education — like that provided in many madrassas — actually fuels extremism. Presumably, he has in mind secular schools that educate boys and girls. He might ask himself how long such schools would last under a Taliban regime — which would be the inevitable result of an American pullout.

Kristof takes comfort from the fact that some foreign-funded schools are able to operate today in dangerous parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan with the connivance of local tribes, but the Taliban today don’t exercise absolute control over most parts of Afghanistan. Even in areas of strength, they often must make compromises with local factions and avoid antagonizing the people because they know that if they do, the government of Afghanistan and its foreign allies may take advantage of a popular backlash to push them out. If the U.S. actually left and the Taliban were able to consolidate their rule, it is safe to say they would exercise no such restraint. They certainly didn’t in the 1990s when few schools were operating, and practically none admitted girls.

More broadly, a Taliban takeover would be a nightmare for the people of Afghanistan. How would women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, freedom of speech, and other cherished liberal values fare under those conditions? Perhaps Kristof should ponder those questions a bit before suggesting the withdrawal of the most humane and liberal force in Afghanistan — the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

Devine’s argument appears, on the surface, to be more hardheaded, but actually, it is almost as unrealistic — and not incompatible with Kristof’s fantasy, as I bet Kristof imagines that his “schools for all” option could be supplemented by Special Operations and CIA actions to keep the Taliban in check. Such operations worked well in the past, as Devine notes, when the CIA was helping the mujahideen resist Soviet rule and then again in 2001, when it was helping the Northern Alliance overthrow the Taliban. But there is a fundamental disparity between those situations and the one we face today. It’s much easier for a covert force to overthrow a government, especially an unpopular government like the Soviet-backed regime or the Taliban. Altogether more difficult is imposing the rule of law, extending the authority of a new government, and stamping out a tenacious insurgency. Those are the challenges that we face today in Afghanistan, and they can’t be accomplished by a handful of special operators. They require large troop numbers, and because the Afghan National Army still lacks adequate capacity to police the country, its efforts must be supplemented for the short-term by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

Devine’s prescription – making common cause with local strongmen — would make the problem worse, not better. Much of the reason the Taliban were able to stage a resurgence beginning around 2005 was that after 2001, we had not sent large troop numbers into Afghanistan. Instead, we relied on unsavory local allies who, with our help, built up vast networks of patronage and corruption that alienated the people and made some of them turn to the Taliban for succor. (For a profile of one of these unsavory characters, turn to the Washington Post today).  As Richard Holbrooke notes, “Rampant corruption in Afghanistan provides the Taliban with their No. 1 recruiting tool.” Devine’s strategy of bolstering local strongmen would make the corruption problem even worse and would thereby make the Taliban even stronger.

POSTSCRIPT: An American working in Afghanistan points out another problem with Kristof’s argument that I should have noted: “How will Kristof’s schools get built if there’s no U.S. presence to make sure they’re done? How many billions have we already had stolen by the locals and local governments, right under our noses?” Good point. The deeper one delves, the more absurdities emerge with Kristof’s “schools rather than troops” daydream.

From the left and the right, this morning’s newspapers bring fundamental challenges to our Afghanistan policy.

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that the U.S. war effort is simply too costly. He suggests withdrawing troops and instead building schools. “That,” he argues, “would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.”

Over in the Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, Jack Devine, a former CIA officer who was involved in efforts to help the mujahideen in the 1980s, also argues for withdrawing U.S. soldiers. His preferred alternative is relying on his former employer, the CIA, to mobilize Afghan proxies on our behalf. He admits that after a troop withdrawal, which he envisions happening in 2012, “Afghanistan will likely enter a period of heightened instability,” including the possible collapse of the government, so he advises “we should figure out now which tribal leaders — and, under specially negotiated arrangements, which Taliban factions — we could establish productive relationships with.”

I’ve written a longer article based on my recent visit to Afghanistan for an upcoming issue of Commentary that explains why the policy we’re currently following offers our best chance of success and why there is no realistic Plan B on the horizon. But let me just point out a few of the more obvious problems with Kristof’s and Devine’s prescriptions.

Take Kristof first: he places an awful lot of faith in the power of education despite the fact that some types of education — like that provided in many madrassas — actually fuels extremism. Presumably, he has in mind secular schools that educate boys and girls. He might ask himself how long such schools would last under a Taliban regime — which would be the inevitable result of an American pullout.

Kristof takes comfort from the fact that some foreign-funded schools are able to operate today in dangerous parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan with the connivance of local tribes, but the Taliban today don’t exercise absolute control over most parts of Afghanistan. Even in areas of strength, they often must make compromises with local factions and avoid antagonizing the people because they know that if they do, the government of Afghanistan and its foreign allies may take advantage of a popular backlash to push them out. If the U.S. actually left and the Taliban were able to consolidate their rule, it is safe to say they would exercise no such restraint. They certainly didn’t in the 1990s when few schools were operating, and practically none admitted girls.

More broadly, a Taliban takeover would be a nightmare for the people of Afghanistan. How would women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, freedom of speech, and other cherished liberal values fare under those conditions? Perhaps Kristof should ponder those questions a bit before suggesting the withdrawal of the most humane and liberal force in Afghanistan — the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

Devine’s argument appears, on the surface, to be more hardheaded, but actually, it is almost as unrealistic — and not incompatible with Kristof’s fantasy, as I bet Kristof imagines that his “schools for all” option could be supplemented by Special Operations and CIA actions to keep the Taliban in check. Such operations worked well in the past, as Devine notes, when the CIA was helping the mujahideen resist Soviet rule and then again in 2001, when it was helping the Northern Alliance overthrow the Taliban. But there is a fundamental disparity between those situations and the one we face today. It’s much easier for a covert force to overthrow a government, especially an unpopular government like the Soviet-backed regime or the Taliban. Altogether more difficult is imposing the rule of law, extending the authority of a new government, and stamping out a tenacious insurgency. Those are the challenges that we face today in Afghanistan, and they can’t be accomplished by a handful of special operators. They require large troop numbers, and because the Afghan National Army still lacks adequate capacity to police the country, its efforts must be supplemented for the short-term by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

Devine’s prescription – making common cause with local strongmen — would make the problem worse, not better. Much of the reason the Taliban were able to stage a resurgence beginning around 2005 was that after 2001, we had not sent large troop numbers into Afghanistan. Instead, we relied on unsavory local allies who, with our help, built up vast networks of patronage and corruption that alienated the people and made some of them turn to the Taliban for succor. (For a profile of one of these unsavory characters, turn to the Washington Post today).  As Richard Holbrooke notes, “Rampant corruption in Afghanistan provides the Taliban with their No. 1 recruiting tool.” Devine’s strategy of bolstering local strongmen would make the corruption problem even worse and would thereby make the Taliban even stronger.

POSTSCRIPT: An American working in Afghanistan points out another problem with Kristof’s argument that I should have noted: “How will Kristof’s schools get built if there’s no U.S. presence to make sure they’re done? How many billions have we already had stolen by the locals and local governments, right under our noses?” Good point. The deeper one delves, the more absurdities emerge with Kristof’s “schools rather than troops” daydream.

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Plus ça Change Department

There is a move afoot in Congress to legalize Internet gambling by repealing a 2006 law that forbade banks to transmit payments to or from Internet-gambling operators.

The law hasn’t stopped Internet gambling, which, it is estimated, Americans spend $6 billion a year on. There are just too many ways these days — prepaid credit cards, online payment processors such as PayPal, etc. – to transmit money. But the effort to repeal the law does not stem merely from the fact that it doesn’t work. It also comes from the need for tax revenue, which might reach as high as $42 billion over 10 years. According to the Times, “Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. ‘We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,’ Mr. Sherman predicted. ‘We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.’”

This is all very reminiscent of an earlier effort to stamp out bad habits among the general population by a means that didn’t work. That effort also was repealed in order not to correct a mistake — being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry — but instead to raise revenue.

Prohibition was supposed to get rid of demon rum so that husbands would go home to their families and not spend their paychecks at the local saloon. What it got us was Al Capone. It proved impossible in a democratic society to prevent the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, which millions in the population saw nothing wrong with. Rum runners imported millions of gallons of illegal alcohol over the border from Canada and by sea. Moonshiners produced millions more. Bootleggers distributed all this efficiently. Lavish bribes corrupted police and local officials, who looked the other way (and often drank themselves). Organized crime received a vast new cash flow and grew exponentially. Commercial disputes were settled in parking lots and alleyways rather than in court, the tommy gun being the means of choice. At least Prohibition produced a rich literary and cinematic genre that now rivals the western in extent. And NASCAR developed out of the souped-up cars used to deliver booze and, if necessary, outrun the police cars chasing them.

But it is axiomatic that it is much easier to pass a law than to repeal it. And it was only when the Great Depression caused unemployment to soar and tax revenues to plummet that the federal government moved to loosen and then repeal the 18th Amendment. Shortly after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, which had given legislative flesh to the constitutional bones of the 18th Amendment. It changed the definition of “intoxicating beverage” from .5 percent alcohol to 3.2 percent. On signing it, FDR — no teetotaler he — said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The brewing industry, moribund since 1920, sprang back to life, hiring thousands of workers in places like St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Congress had already proposed repealing the Amendment (on February 20). Knowing that many state legislatures were firmly in the grip of the “preachers and the bootleggers,” Congress specified that the 21st Amendment be ratified by a special convention in each state instead of by the legislatures, the only time that they have been used to amend the Constitution. Ironically, Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, was the 36th state to ratify, the number needed to put the 21st Amendment into the Constitution. The most calamitous social-engineering experiment in American history was dead, and tax revenues began to flow copiously into federal and state coffers.

There is a move afoot in Congress to legalize Internet gambling by repealing a 2006 law that forbade banks to transmit payments to or from Internet-gambling operators.

The law hasn’t stopped Internet gambling, which, it is estimated, Americans spend $6 billion a year on. There are just too many ways these days — prepaid credit cards, online payment processors such as PayPal, etc. – to transmit money. But the effort to repeal the law does not stem merely from the fact that it doesn’t work. It also comes from the need for tax revenue, which might reach as high as $42 billion over 10 years. According to the Times, “Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. ‘We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,’ Mr. Sherman predicted. ‘We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.’”

This is all very reminiscent of an earlier effort to stamp out bad habits among the general population by a means that didn’t work. That effort also was repealed in order not to correct a mistake — being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry — but instead to raise revenue.

Prohibition was supposed to get rid of demon rum so that husbands would go home to their families and not spend their paychecks at the local saloon. What it got us was Al Capone. It proved impossible in a democratic society to prevent the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, which millions in the population saw nothing wrong with. Rum runners imported millions of gallons of illegal alcohol over the border from Canada and by sea. Moonshiners produced millions more. Bootleggers distributed all this efficiently. Lavish bribes corrupted police and local officials, who looked the other way (and often drank themselves). Organized crime received a vast new cash flow and grew exponentially. Commercial disputes were settled in parking lots and alleyways rather than in court, the tommy gun being the means of choice. At least Prohibition produced a rich literary and cinematic genre that now rivals the western in extent. And NASCAR developed out of the souped-up cars used to deliver booze and, if necessary, outrun the police cars chasing them.

But it is axiomatic that it is much easier to pass a law than to repeal it. And it was only when the Great Depression caused unemployment to soar and tax revenues to plummet that the federal government moved to loosen and then repeal the 18th Amendment. Shortly after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, which had given legislative flesh to the constitutional bones of the 18th Amendment. It changed the definition of “intoxicating beverage” from .5 percent alcohol to 3.2 percent. On signing it, FDR — no teetotaler he — said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The brewing industry, moribund since 1920, sprang back to life, hiring thousands of workers in places like St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Congress had already proposed repealing the Amendment (on February 20). Knowing that many state legislatures were firmly in the grip of the “preachers and the bootleggers,” Congress specified that the 21st Amendment be ratified by a special convention in each state instead of by the legislatures, the only time that they have been used to amend the Constitution. Ironically, Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, was the 36th state to ratify, the number needed to put the 21st Amendment into the Constitution. The most calamitous social-engineering experiment in American history was dead, and tax revenues began to flow copiously into federal and state coffers.

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Wikileaks and the Goldstone Precedent

Robin Shepherd of the London-based Henry Jackson Society makes an important point about the classified documents on Afghanistan that Wikileaks revealed this week: the descriptions of “accidental killings by our soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians — revellers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business who tragically found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time” — sound very much like the kinds of accidental civilian deaths for which the Goldstone Committee wants Israel charged with war crimes.

In both cases, Shepherd notes, the civilian casualties were the inevitable result of combat against a terrorist organization that “systematically hides behind the civilian population”: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Gaza. Yet several coalition countries have been “cheerleading the passage of the Goldstone Report on Gaza through the United Nations,” not realizing that the precedent they’re setting could eventually be used against their own soldiers.

Shepherd doesn’t give the numbers, but they are shocking: of the 45 countries with troops in Afghanistan, only 12 voted against endorsing the Goldstone Report in the UN General Assembly. Twelve voted in favor, and 21 abstained.

Notable abstainers included Britain and France — which, as the second- and fourth-largest troop contributors to Afghanistan, are among the most vulnerable to Goldstone-style charges — and Georgia, which faces allegations of similar “war crimes” during its 2008 war with Russia. Turkey, which routinely kills civilians in its battles with the PKK, voted “yes.”

Granted, the Goldstone Report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, which has never shown any interest in investigating any country but Israel. So coalition members probably don’t have anything to fear from that quarter. But the HRC is not the only player on this field.

An acquaintance recently reported being shocked when, at an academic conference, a guest speaker from the International Criminal Court explicitly described the court’s plan as establishing a precedent via the “easy” cases it’s tackling now (egregious human rights violators like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Sudanese officials involved in the Darfur genocide) that will grant it legitimacy to prosecute anyone for anything, worldwide, thereafter. And once it establishes this precedent, it intends to use it, the speaker added.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s what smart courts do when trying to establish a new power (as anyone who has seen Israel’s Supreme Court in action would know). They always start with “easy” cases — ones where the public will like the outcome and will therefore ignore the dangerous procedural precedent. And Israel, due to its global unpopularity, is precisely such a case.

Then, with the precedent set, courts can proceed to “hard” cases, with potentially unpopular outcomes, without fearing serious backlash. After all, you can’t accuse a court of behaving improperly if it’s merely doing what it has done many times before without anyone objecting.

Thus if the Goldstone Report isn’t stopped, the U.S. and its allies will eventually pay the price. But since many of those allies clearly haven’t grasped this, it’s Washington’s job to drive the point home.

Robin Shepherd of the London-based Henry Jackson Society makes an important point about the classified documents on Afghanistan that Wikileaks revealed this week: the descriptions of “accidental killings by our soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians — revellers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business who tragically found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time” — sound very much like the kinds of accidental civilian deaths for which the Goldstone Committee wants Israel charged with war crimes.

In both cases, Shepherd notes, the civilian casualties were the inevitable result of combat against a terrorist organization that “systematically hides behind the civilian population”: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Gaza. Yet several coalition countries have been “cheerleading the passage of the Goldstone Report on Gaza through the United Nations,” not realizing that the precedent they’re setting could eventually be used against their own soldiers.

Shepherd doesn’t give the numbers, but they are shocking: of the 45 countries with troops in Afghanistan, only 12 voted against endorsing the Goldstone Report in the UN General Assembly. Twelve voted in favor, and 21 abstained.

Notable abstainers included Britain and France — which, as the second- and fourth-largest troop contributors to Afghanistan, are among the most vulnerable to Goldstone-style charges — and Georgia, which faces allegations of similar “war crimes” during its 2008 war with Russia. Turkey, which routinely kills civilians in its battles with the PKK, voted “yes.”

Granted, the Goldstone Report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, which has never shown any interest in investigating any country but Israel. So coalition members probably don’t have anything to fear from that quarter. But the HRC is not the only player on this field.

An acquaintance recently reported being shocked when, at an academic conference, a guest speaker from the International Criminal Court explicitly described the court’s plan as establishing a precedent via the “easy” cases it’s tackling now (egregious human rights violators like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Sudanese officials involved in the Darfur genocide) that will grant it legitimacy to prosecute anyone for anything, worldwide, thereafter. And once it establishes this precedent, it intends to use it, the speaker added.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s what smart courts do when trying to establish a new power (as anyone who has seen Israel’s Supreme Court in action would know). They always start with “easy” cases — ones where the public will like the outcome and will therefore ignore the dangerous procedural precedent. And Israel, due to its global unpopularity, is precisely such a case.

Then, with the precedent set, courts can proceed to “hard” cases, with potentially unpopular outcomes, without fearing serious backlash. After all, you can’t accuse a court of behaving improperly if it’s merely doing what it has done many times before without anyone objecting.

Thus if the Goldstone Report isn’t stopped, the U.S. and its allies will eventually pay the price. But since many of those allies clearly haven’t grasped this, it’s Washington’s job to drive the point home.

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The Un-Obama Governors

Gov. Chris Christie continues to earn kudos from conservatives and liberals alike. Gov. Bob McDonnell has a 64 percent approval after less than a year as Virginia’s governor. Both Christie and McDonnell are garnering praise for doing what inside-the-Beltway Democrats refuse to do — cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions. They, and others like Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty, undermine the Democrats’ patter that Republicans are too wacky or too unrealistic to govern. They provide a vivid contrast to Obamaism and to the notion that only by a massive increase in the size of government and corresponding tax increases can we pull out of our economic tailspin.

Any one of these conservatives would be a formidable rival to Obama in 2012. Obama will no doubt try, as he did in 2008, to run against someone not on the ballot — George W. Bush. By 2012 that will, I suspect, provoke groans if not laughter. The choice, if Republican primary voters are savvy, will not be Obama vs. Bush but Obama vs. a not-Obama reformer.

As Noemie Emery points out, it didn’t have to be this way. She explains that Obama could have lived up to his billing as a transformative leader if, on ObamaCare, for example, he had “built the bill out from the center, in a way that held on to the unhappy left, appealed to the center, and became a wedge issue that split Republicans.” Obama, in contrast to the GOP governors who are drawing applause from those on both ends of the political spectrum, has undermined his own popularity, his party’s electoral prospects, and his own agenda. (“Since Obama became president, everything that he wants has become more unpopular: more intrusive and much bigger government, more taxing and spending, more state control.”)

In sum, Obama has opened the way for any number of reformist, grown-up Republicans to present voters with a choice in 2012 and an alternate vision to the liberal statism against which voters have already rebelled.

Gov. Chris Christie continues to earn kudos from conservatives and liberals alike. Gov. Bob McDonnell has a 64 percent approval after less than a year as Virginia’s governor. Both Christie and McDonnell are garnering praise for doing what inside-the-Beltway Democrats refuse to do — cut spending, resist calls to hike taxes, and stand up to public-employee unions. They, and others like Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty, undermine the Democrats’ patter that Republicans are too wacky or too unrealistic to govern. They provide a vivid contrast to Obamaism and to the notion that only by a massive increase in the size of government and corresponding tax increases can we pull out of our economic tailspin.

Any one of these conservatives would be a formidable rival to Obama in 2012. Obama will no doubt try, as he did in 2008, to run against someone not on the ballot — George W. Bush. By 2012 that will, I suspect, provoke groans if not laughter. The choice, if Republican primary voters are savvy, will not be Obama vs. Bush but Obama vs. a not-Obama reformer.

As Noemie Emery points out, it didn’t have to be this way. She explains that Obama could have lived up to his billing as a transformative leader if, on ObamaCare, for example, he had “built the bill out from the center, in a way that held on to the unhappy left, appealed to the center, and became a wedge issue that split Republicans.” Obama, in contrast to the GOP governors who are drawing applause from those on both ends of the political spectrum, has undermined his own popularity, his party’s electoral prospects, and his own agenda. (“Since Obama became president, everything that he wants has become more unpopular: more intrusive and much bigger government, more taxing and spending, more state control.”)

In sum, Obama has opened the way for any number of reformist, grown-up Republicans to present voters with a choice in 2012 and an alternate vision to the liberal statism against which voters have already rebelled.

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Shut Up, They Instructed

As I noted yesterday, the totalitarian impulse on the left is all too apparent these days. Their frenzy to silence opposition voices increases in direct proportion to their growing unpopularity and panic over the coming electoral wipeout. They seem to have lost the ability to engage in not only civil debate but in any debate. A case in point:

A private university in Chicago that refuses to host former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, arguing that welcoming a “political” speaker ahead of the midterm elections could threaten its tax-exempt status, has added an Obama administration appointee to address the student body.

Loyola University Chicago is hosting Eboo Patel, an Obama appointee to the White House interfaith council, next month, calling into question the school’s rationale for rejecting Rove’s appearance.

“The news that Eboo Patel, an appointee of the Obama administration, will be allowed to speak at Loyola University Chicago, while Karl Rove was essentially barred, is further proof that the (university) administration either has zero understanding of tax law or is unabashedly biased,” said Evan Gassman, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative outreach group that was sponsoring the Rove speech.

The university’s rationale is patently contrived, given its past conduct. (“In September 2004, the school hosted Howard Dean, who ran for president that year. A couple of weeks after his speech, political activist Ralph Nader, who also ran for president that year, spoke on campus — a speech that was advertised as a campaign event in which donations were solicited.”) Their speaker-selection “rules” are a facade. The university is quite obviously trying to shield its students from one half of the political discussion.

Now, as a legal matter, a private university can invite whomever it pleases. But the example it is setting for students and faculty alike is about as far from the ideal of a university education as you can get. Academic freedom? A free exchange of ideas? Puhleez.

This incident does, however, perfectly embody the modus operandi of the left these days — disingenuous explanations for shutting down opponents and classification of critics as “political” (in contrast to their own side, which is, they tell us, high-minded and apolitical). It is not the behavior of a self-confident movement anxious to engage and best their intellectual rivals.

As I noted yesterday, the totalitarian impulse on the left is all too apparent these days. Their frenzy to silence opposition voices increases in direct proportion to their growing unpopularity and panic over the coming electoral wipeout. They seem to have lost the ability to engage in not only civil debate but in any debate. A case in point:

A private university in Chicago that refuses to host former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, arguing that welcoming a “political” speaker ahead of the midterm elections could threaten its tax-exempt status, has added an Obama administration appointee to address the student body.

Loyola University Chicago is hosting Eboo Patel, an Obama appointee to the White House interfaith council, next month, calling into question the school’s rationale for rejecting Rove’s appearance.

“The news that Eboo Patel, an appointee of the Obama administration, will be allowed to speak at Loyola University Chicago, while Karl Rove was essentially barred, is further proof that the (university) administration either has zero understanding of tax law or is unabashedly biased,” said Evan Gassman, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative outreach group that was sponsoring the Rove speech.

The university’s rationale is patently contrived, given its past conduct. (“In September 2004, the school hosted Howard Dean, who ran for president that year. A couple of weeks after his speech, political activist Ralph Nader, who also ran for president that year, spoke on campus — a speech that was advertised as a campaign event in which donations were solicited.”) Their speaker-selection “rules” are a facade. The university is quite obviously trying to shield its students from one half of the political discussion.

Now, as a legal matter, a private university can invite whomever it pleases. But the example it is setting for students and faculty alike is about as far from the ideal of a university education as you can get. Academic freedom? A free exchange of ideas? Puhleez.

This incident does, however, perfectly embody the modus operandi of the left these days — disingenuous explanations for shutting down opponents and classification of critics as “political” (in contrast to their own side, which is, they tell us, high-minded and apolitical). It is not the behavior of a self-confident movement anxious to engage and best their intellectual rivals.

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The Farce Ends

The worst-kept secret in the Middle East “peace process” has been that Mahmoud Abbas was never serious about a peace deal. This was apparent to anyone who has observed him over the years, who has followed his duplicitous rhetoric (incitement in Arabic, peace lingo in English), and who understands that he is incapable of making an enforceable peace agreement that would recognize the Jewish state, ensure that Israel retains defensible borders, renounce the dream of a one-state solutions with Jerusalem as its Muslim capital, and commit to disarmament and the renunciation of terror. Even to list what is required reveals how misplaced were the expectations of Obama and his “smart” diplomats.

After 18 months of badgering and bullying Israel and sucking up to the Muslim World, that world is on the verge of dealing a stinging blow to their patron: “Despite pressure from the US and EU, Abbas has signaled in recent days that he does not intend to enter direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, and commits itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.” And he’s gone scurrying to the Arab League to bless this.

Hmm, maybe it isn’t Israel’s fault that we don’t have peace in our time. Maybe Obama’s mere presence and his suck-uppery to Palestinians in Cairo (and ever since) did not transform the Middle East. Maybe the Middle East is not just like Northern Ireland. Maybe putting political hacks in charge of foreign policy wasn’t a swell idea. Maybe the Obami were the least-”smart” diplomats ever to take on the Middle East conflict. And maybe — finally — we can all agree that the peace process is a counterproductive farce that provides cover only for Palestinian rejectionism.

The worst-kept secret in the Middle East “peace process” has been that Mahmoud Abbas was never serious about a peace deal. This was apparent to anyone who has observed him over the years, who has followed his duplicitous rhetoric (incitement in Arabic, peace lingo in English), and who understands that he is incapable of making an enforceable peace agreement that would recognize the Jewish state, ensure that Israel retains defensible borders, renounce the dream of a one-state solutions with Jerusalem as its Muslim capital, and commit to disarmament and the renunciation of terror. Even to list what is required reveals how misplaced were the expectations of Obama and his “smart” diplomats.

After 18 months of badgering and bullying Israel and sucking up to the Muslim World, that world is on the verge of dealing a stinging blow to their patron: “Despite pressure from the US and EU, Abbas has signaled in recent days that he does not intend to enter direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, and commits itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.” And he’s gone scurrying to the Arab League to bless this.

Hmm, maybe it isn’t Israel’s fault that we don’t have peace in our time. Maybe Obama’s mere presence and his suck-uppery to Palestinians in Cairo (and ever since) did not transform the Middle East. Maybe the Middle East is not just like Northern Ireland. Maybe putting political hacks in charge of foreign policy wasn’t a swell idea. Maybe the Obami were the least-”smart” diplomats ever to take on the Middle East conflict. And maybe — finally — we can all agree that the peace process is a counterproductive farce that provides cover only for Palestinian rejectionism.

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Please, Mr. Attorney General, Stop Obstructing Justice

From the onset of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department has refused to allow percipient witnesses, including the trial team, to testify. Eric Holder has prevented those accused of quashing the voter-intimidation case and those who complained about the quashing to testify. J. Christian Adams had to quit his job in order to tell his story.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now challenging the mainstream-media canard — this is “small potatoes” — and pushing Holder to end the stonewalling. The chairman of the commission, Gerald Reynolds, wrote to Holder yesterday. The letter reads, in part:

Mr. Adams testified that there is hostility within the Civil Rights Division to the race neutral enforcement of civil rights protections, and that such hostility may be supported by statements of current political appointees in the Division. By way of example, his testimony indicated that career employees refused to work on the Ike Brown litigation (in which the court found that the voting rights of white and black voters had been violated by a black official) and, most importantly, that specific instructions were given to Mr. Chris] Coates [head of the Black Panther trial team] from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that “cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims; that if somebody wanted to bring these cases it was up to the U.S. Attorney, but the Civil Rights Division wasn’t going to be bringing it.”

Without waiving its rights to examine Department personnel in the future as to the decision making process in the New Black Panther Party litigation, the Commission will agree to limit Mr. Coates’s (initial) questioning to non-deliberative statements or actions relating to whether there is a policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws and whether there is a policy not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

(And oh, by the way, the chief pooh-pooher on the commission, a Republican who’s now the darling of the left, “fearlessly” abstained from the vote to send the letter. What could possibly be the objection or the reason to take a pass – or have the facts simply become too overwhelming to dispute?)

To reiterate: we are talking about a serious allegation that Obama’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the civil rights laws without regard to the race of the defendant and — without any legal basis — is preventing a witness from testifying. If it were not for their partisan loyalty and desire to minimize a scandal they have ignored for far too long, the mainstream media and the punditocracy would be going nuts. Imagine if the Bush administration had refused to allow a key Justice Department attorney to testify as to why a Republican administration dropped a slam-dunk case against a white racist organization. It’s inconceivable that a Republican administration would attempt such a thing or that the media would yawn in response.

Let’s see what Holder’s excuse is now for blocking an inquiry into his department’s lawless conduct.

From the onset of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department has refused to allow percipient witnesses, including the trial team, to testify. Eric Holder has prevented those accused of quashing the voter-intimidation case and those who complained about the quashing to testify. J. Christian Adams had to quit his job in order to tell his story.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now challenging the mainstream-media canard — this is “small potatoes” — and pushing Holder to end the stonewalling. The chairman of the commission, Gerald Reynolds, wrote to Holder yesterday. The letter reads, in part:

Mr. Adams testified that there is hostility within the Civil Rights Division to the race neutral enforcement of civil rights protections, and that such hostility may be supported by statements of current political appointees in the Division. By way of example, his testimony indicated that career employees refused to work on the Ike Brown litigation (in which the court found that the voting rights of white and black voters had been violated by a black official) and, most importantly, that specific instructions were given to Mr. Chris] Coates [head of the Black Panther trial team] from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that “cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims; that if somebody wanted to bring these cases it was up to the U.S. Attorney, but the Civil Rights Division wasn’t going to be bringing it.”

Without waiving its rights to examine Department personnel in the future as to the decision making process in the New Black Panther Party litigation, the Commission will agree to limit Mr. Coates’s (initial) questioning to non-deliberative statements or actions relating to whether there is a policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws and whether there is a policy not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

(And oh, by the way, the chief pooh-pooher on the commission, a Republican who’s now the darling of the left, “fearlessly” abstained from the vote to send the letter. What could possibly be the objection or the reason to take a pass – or have the facts simply become too overwhelming to dispute?)

To reiterate: we are talking about a serious allegation that Obama’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the civil rights laws without regard to the race of the defendant and — without any legal basis — is preventing a witness from testifying. If it were not for their partisan loyalty and desire to minimize a scandal they have ignored for far too long, the mainstream media and the punditocracy would be going nuts. Imagine if the Bush administration had refused to allow a key Justice Department attorney to testify as to why a Republican administration dropped a slam-dunk case against a white racist organization. It’s inconceivable that a Republican administration would attempt such a thing or that the media would yawn in response.

Let’s see what Holder’s excuse is now for blocking an inquiry into his department’s lawless conduct.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.’”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.’”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

The local Pennsylvania media find Joe Sestak’s answers on earmarks to be all wet (“a vague, disingenuous attempt to polish his own credentials”): “The Democratic congressman and Senate candidate should work a little harder to reconcile taking campaign contributions from those benefiting from federal ‘earmarks’ (which direct money to be spent on specific projects) while claiming ‘a personal policy’ against doing so.”

As hopes for direct peace talks slip away, Hillary frantically “burns up the phone lines” to the players in the Middle East.

Obama’s approval ratings in Gallup continue to nosedive (45% approval, 49% disapproval).

A federal-court judge torpedoes the Arizona immigration law (a ruling certain to be appealed): “Judge [Susan] Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge [Susan] Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law. ‘Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,’ she said. ‘There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens.’”

Democrats are awaiting the November wave – so what’s the message for avoiding a wipeout? The other guys are wackos. This is the argument: “The Republicans want to be mayors of crazy-town. They’ve embraced a fringe and proto-racist isolationist and ignorant conservative populism that has no solutions for fixing anything and the collective intelligence of a wine flask.” How can the voters resist?

Al Gore is in hot water: “Before all the unpleasantness, the former vice president was mainly known as the planet’s premiere environmentalist and anti-global-warming crusader. He has been a bestselling author, Oscar-winning filmmaker, successful businessman and, lest we forget, the man millions still believe should have been sworn in as president in January 2001. But now the 62-year-old Gore is tabloid fodder—notorious as a ‘crazed sex poodle.’”

Obama’s plea that he really isn’t anti-business is being drowned out: “Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street. Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.”

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