Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 23, 2011

Erdoğan Would Rather See Turks Die Than to Have Them Rescued by Israelis

How determined is Turkey to repudiate its decades-long alliance with Israel? Today’s decision by the Turks to reportedly refuse assistance from Israel is a stunning indication of how far the Islamist government in Ankara is willing to go to make a point.

More than 1,000 persons are feared dead in the aftermath of a quake that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale. With workers battling to save those trapped in collapsed buildings in towns and cities near the Iranian border, it’s more than likely that Israel’s experienced rescue teams — which participated in previous earthquake relief efforts in Turkey — would be of value to the effort. But according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told the Israelis they are not wanted. Erdoğan would apparently prefer to see his compatriots die rather than to allow Jews to help them.

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How determined is Turkey to repudiate its decades-long alliance with Israel? Today’s decision by the Turks to reportedly refuse assistance from Israel is a stunning indication of how far the Islamist government in Ankara is willing to go to make a point.

More than 1,000 persons are feared dead in the aftermath of a quake that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale. With workers battling to save those trapped in collapsed buildings in towns and cities near the Iranian border, it’s more than likely that Israel’s experienced rescue teams — which participated in previous earthquake relief efforts in Turkey — would be of value to the effort. But according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told the Israelis they are not wanted. Erdoğan would apparently prefer to see his compatriots die rather than to allow Jews to help them.

A Reuters report on Turkey’s refusal recalled Israel’s record of assistance to its former ally:

In 1999, an Israeli military rescue team pulled a 10-year-old Israeli girl from the rubble of a collapsed building in Cirarcik in northwest Turkey, where her family was on holiday. She had been trapped for nearly 100 hours. The team spent a week in Turkey, rescuing 12 people and recovering 140 bodies. Israel also set up a field hospital in the region, where two large quakes that year killed more than 20,000 people, treating more than 1,000 victims.

Erdoğan’s decision to embrace Hamas terrorists and discard the Israeli alliance appears to be part of a push for Turkey to reclaim the position it claimed during the Ottoman era as the leader of the Islamist world. It’s far from clear that most Arabs have any interest in being led by the Turks, but hostility toward Israel is an integral element in this campaign. Whether Turkey’s people prefer to see their compatriots die rather than be rescued by Jews is also questionable.

Israel’s government did the right thing by offering aid despite Turkey’s atrocious behavior toward the Jewish state in recent years. By repudiating even humanitarian assistance from Israel, Ankara has demonstrated the depth of its malevolence. While the United States should also do what it can to help the Turks, Erdoğan has given the Obama administration one more reason to reassess its heretofore-supine stance toward his country. A government that would rather see its people perish than acknowledge assistance from Israel has lost any moral legitimacy.

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Clinton’s Hollow Assurances on Iraq

After President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, tried to assure the world that the U.S. was not abandoning Iraq:

“As we open this new chapter in a relationship with a sovereign Iraq, to the Iraqis we say: America is with you as you take your next steps in your journey to secure your democracy,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. “And to the countries in the region, especially Iraq’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our security and interests.”

Her words ring hollow because no amount of diplomatic activity can replace the stabilizing function that U.S. troops could perform.

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After President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, tried to assure the world that the U.S. was not abandoning Iraq:

“As we open this new chapter in a relationship with a sovereign Iraq, to the Iraqis we say: America is with you as you take your next steps in your journey to secure your democracy,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. “And to the countries in the region, especially Iraq’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our security and interests.”

Her words ring hollow because no amount of diplomatic activity can replace the stabilizing function that U.S. troops could perform.

In any case U.S. diplomatic activity in post-2011 Iraq is going to be a lot less than it’s cracked up to be, with the New York Times noting that plans to open consulates in Mosul and Kirkuk–the two biggest cities in northern Iraq — have been shelved. Training programs for the Iraqi police and army are also being scaled back. That will leave the U.S. with only two consulates, in Basra and Erbil, and the embassy in Baghdad. But the ability of our diplomats to move around or stay in touch with developments on the ground will be severely limited because there will be no military personnel to support them. Security contractors cannot fully fill the gap. The result will be that the U.S. will lose intelligence and influence in Iraq while our enemies in Iran will gain at our expense.

What message does that send? Surely not that “America will stand with our allies and friends.” Rather it suggests that President Obama is willing to sacrifice allies and friends in order to enhance his prospects of reelection–so that he can face voters by claiming to have fulfilled his campaign pledge to “end the war.” (As if one side can unilaterally declare a war to be at an end.)

Afghanistan, watch out: This important ally (which I am now visiting) could be next, with President Obama likely to order an ever steeper troop reduction next year than the one he announced a few months ago.

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Your Government at Work: Congress Grandstands on NFL Drug Testing

After a year in which virtually everybody in Washington agreed that cutting spending was vital, you might have thought the Congress would have restrained its own involvement in tangential issues that having nothing to do with the business of government. If so, you thought wrong. As this item in a New York Times NFL roundup column from earlier this week notes, the House Committee on Government Oversight’s intervention in the question of testing for the use of human growth hormone illustrates that a bipartisan dedication to pointless and shameless grandstanding is undiminished.

As The Hill reported last month, chair Rep. Darrel Issa and the ranking minority member, Rep. Elijah Cummings had demanded that leaders of the league and the players union appear to explain why they had not agreed to a procedure for drug testing. Since the two parties are still locked in a stalemate over that issue, the Republican chair and his Democrat counterpart are determined to stick their noses in the dispute. But neither has put forward an explanation as to why NFL drug testing is a federal issue and worthy of the time and expense that a Congressional hearing on the matter would entail.

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After a year in which virtually everybody in Washington agreed that cutting spending was vital, you might have thought the Congress would have restrained its own involvement in tangential issues that having nothing to do with the business of government. If so, you thought wrong. As this item in a New York Times NFL roundup column from earlier this week notes, the House Committee on Government Oversight’s intervention in the question of testing for the use of human growth hormone illustrates that a bipartisan dedication to pointless and shameless grandstanding is undiminished.

As The Hill reported last month, chair Rep. Darrel Issa and the ranking minority member, Rep. Elijah Cummings had demanded that leaders of the league and the players union appear to explain why they had not agreed to a procedure for drug testing. Since the two parties are still locked in a stalemate over that issue, the Republican chair and his Democrat counterpart are determined to stick their noses in the dispute. But neither has put forward an explanation as to why NFL drug testing is a federal issue and worthy of the time and expense that a Congressional hearing on the matter would entail.

You would think with the Solyndra affair and countless other government scandals, Issa would have his plate full without an excursion into the uncharted waters of the impact of human growth hormone on professional sports. Nor is there any conceivable legislation that might spring from such a matter. But that would require you to ignore the irresistible temptation that the extra publicity that a sports-related story would bestow on those taking part in a sports-related Congressional proceeding.

Issa and Cummings want in on the NFL dispute simply because it allows them to pose as guardians of the integrity of a great American game. A hearing on this issue, like previous ones devoted to the use of steroids in baseball, gives Congress a platform to bully both the NFL and the players into doing something that they are clearly prepared to do on their own.

It may be that this is a righteous cause and that HGH use requires testing to preserve fair play. But even if the players hold up drug testing, either because they don’t trust the procedure or because they resent the loss of privacy rights, and HGH use is theoretically allowed to continue, what business is that of Congress?

This is not a federal issue and there is no legal excuse for government intervention. All this represents is a chance for Issa, Cummings and their colleagues on the committee to burnish their images and to hobnob with sports figures while pretending to be acting in the best interests of a game that Americans love to watch and gamble on.

The next time a member of either party goes on about the need for Congress to crack down on out of control spending and a big government mentality, remind them about the House’s intervention in NFL drug testing. If Congress wants to save our money, and it should, it ought to start by cutting down on hearings whose only purpose is to allow members to grandstand on issues that are none of their business.

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Bork Smears Started Decline in Discourse

This past Friday liberal Joe Nocera yesterday wrote something that both of the two supposedly conservative columnists who write for the New York Times op-ed page have often failed to do: pin the blame for the decline in public discourse in this country squarely where it belongs: on the supposedly high-minded liberals who like to pretend that it is only conservatives who say or do nasty things. The reason for the piece is that today is the 24th anniversary of the Senate’s rejection of the nomination of Judge Robert Bork for the U.S. Supreme Court. That battle was, as Nocera rightly notes, “the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics.” It was a turning point in history and “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.”

The history of the effort to demonize Bork is not a pretty one for Democrats, especially since, as Nocera says, Democrats take it as an article of faith that “our poisoned politics” is purely a function of Republican misbehavior. The character assassination of Bork was a cynical effort by leading Democrats to defame a highly respected jurist whose views were by no means extreme. Liberals knew they couldn’t defeat his nomination via a reasoned debate so they resorted to slander.

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This past Friday liberal Joe Nocera yesterday wrote something that both of the two supposedly conservative columnists who write for the New York Times op-ed page have often failed to do: pin the blame for the decline in public discourse in this country squarely where it belongs: on the supposedly high-minded liberals who like to pretend that it is only conservatives who say or do nasty things. The reason for the piece is that today is the 24th anniversary of the Senate’s rejection of the nomination of Judge Robert Bork for the U.S. Supreme Court. That battle was, as Nocera rightly notes, “the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics.” It was a turning point in history and “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.”

The history of the effort to demonize Bork is not a pretty one for Democrats, especially since, as Nocera says, Democrats take it as an article of faith that “our poisoned politics” is purely a function of Republican misbehavior. The character assassination of Bork was a cynical effort by leading Democrats to defame a highly respected jurist whose views were by no means extreme. Liberals knew they couldn’t defeat his nomination via a reasoned debate so they resorted to slander.

The worst thing about it wasn’t just how wrong it all was but that, as Nocera writes, liberals knew they were telling lies:

Conservatives were stunned by the relentlessness — and the essential unfairness — of the attacks. But the truth is that many of the liberals fighting the nomination also knew they were unfair.

Nocera gives full credit to the late Ted Kennedy for his dishonorable role in libeling Bork. The history of the Senate is replete with the lies told there by scoundrels but the “liberal lion’s” smears of Bork marked a new low.

The only thing that I would add to Nocera’s brilliant takedown of liberal hypocrisy is to mention two of the other players who deserve their fair share of the shame that ought to be attached to anyone involved in that campaign.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was just as responsible for the smears of Bork as was Kennedy. A year before Bork’s nomination, Biden had noted that Bork was an example of a highly qualified Republican jurist that liberals could not, in all conscience, oppose if he was nominated to the high court. Yet when opportunity knocked, Biden became the chief facilitator for the destruction of his character.

Just as bad, if not worse, was then Republican Senator Arlen Specter who lent his expertise as a prosecutor to the inquisition of Bork. In a long career replete with acts of cynical and unprincipled careerism, Specter’s attack on Bork was among the worst. Unlike some Democrats who had the sense to try to sweep their participation in this affair under the rug, Specter boasted of his role in the assassination of Bork’s character for the rest of his time in the Senate. To his everlasting shame, Specter provided a fig leaf of bipartisanship to an illegitimate process.

What happened to Bork — whose name became verb that connotes an attempt at character assassination — was the first step down the road towards a politics of personal destruction that is now ubiquitous. As Nocera concludes:

The point remains this: The next time a liberal asks why Republicans are so intransigent, you might suggest that the answer lies in the mirror.

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Abbas to Pay Released Murderers’ Pensions With U.S. Aid Money

It is no secret that Hamas was strengthened by the conclusion of its ransom deal with Israel in which over one thousand Palestinian terrorists were freed in exchange for the safe return of Gilad Shalit. But its Fatah rivals are not taking this triumph lying down. In the wake of the announcement that Hamas will be paying each of the released killers, almost all of whom are either directly or indirectly responsible for the murders of Jews, a bonus of $2,000, the Palestinian Authority has also decreedthat it will be paying every one of the murderers a separate honorarium though the amount was not specified. That PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the man that is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner, will pay this cash reward for murder, is an irony that is lost on an Obama administration that continues to urge the Jewish state to make concessions to the PA.

This is of more than passing interest to American readers since hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds are transferred to the Palestinian Authority every year. That makes Uncle Sam is paying a subsidy to mass murderers. That’s a not insignificant point to remember when Congress decides whether or not to continue the flow of aid to the PA.

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It is no secret that Hamas was strengthened by the conclusion of its ransom deal with Israel in which over one thousand Palestinian terrorists were freed in exchange for the safe return of Gilad Shalit. But its Fatah rivals are not taking this triumph lying down. In the wake of the announcement that Hamas will be paying each of the released killers, almost all of whom are either directly or indirectly responsible for the murders of Jews, a bonus of $2,000, the Palestinian Authority has also decreedthat it will be paying every one of the murderers a separate honorarium though the amount was not specified. That PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the man that is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner, will pay this cash reward for murder, is an irony that is lost on an Obama administration that continues to urge the Jewish state to make concessions to the PA.

This is of more than passing interest to American readers since hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds are transferred to the Palestinian Authority every year. That makes Uncle Sam is paying a subsidy to mass murderers. That’s a not insignificant point to remember when Congress decides whether or not to continue the flow of aid to the PA.

While the Shalit deal highlights this practice of official Palestinian support for terrorism, it is, in fact, nothing new. The PA has been paying pensions to every Palestinian serving time for terrorism in Israeli jails for years. And its official media and other government organs continue to lionize these killers, treating their bloodthirsty crimes as a form of heroism and their imprisonment as an injustice. When you consider that the PA has abandoned the peace process via their United Nations gambit as well as cozying up to Hamas in a unity deal, it all adds up to unassailable case for an end to U.S. aid to this noxious entity.

There will be those, including some in Israel, who will argue that a U.S. aid cutoff will create chaos or harm the chances for peace. The answer to that there is no chance of getting the PA to come to its senses without a credible threat of a cutoff of funds. The Palestinians have come to believe that they can act with no fear of the consequences. That is as true in their Western-supported government in the West Bank as it is for their Islamist independent state in Gaza.

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have opposed the efforts of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the House Foreign Relations Committee chairwoman, to impose conditions on the continuance of U.S. aid to both the PA and the UN agencies that facilitate their misconduct. These latest events ought to mobilize concerned Democrats to reach out to both the White House and Congressional Democrats to get them behind Ros-Lehtinen’s bill.

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Clinton to Iran: Don’t Interfere in Iraq or Else

Speaking in Tajikistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran not to interfere in Iraq, now that the United States is withdrawing. “To countries in the region, especially Iraq’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our common security and interests,” she said, adding, “We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be free from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy.”

Will the Iranians take Clinton’s warning seriously? Why wouldn’t they? After all, less than two weeks after the Obama administration accused Tehran of plotting a terrorist attack in Washington, DC, leading an angry Obama to promise “accountability,” the president turns around and hands Iraq to Iran on a silver platter. Not even at his worst did Jimmy Carter commit such strategic malpractice. What must Ayatollah Khamenei be thinking? Defy Obama to get Afghanistan too?

Speaking in Tajikistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran not to interfere in Iraq, now that the United States is withdrawing. “To countries in the region, especially Iraq’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our common security and interests,” she said, adding, “We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be free from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy.”

Will the Iranians take Clinton’s warning seriously? Why wouldn’t they? After all, less than two weeks after the Obama administration accused Tehran of plotting a terrorist attack in Washington, DC, leading an angry Obama to promise “accountability,” the president turns around and hands Iraq to Iran on a silver platter. Not even at his worst did Jimmy Carter commit such strategic malpractice. What must Ayatollah Khamenei be thinking? Defy Obama to get Afghanistan too?

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