Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 3, 2012

U.S. Extradition Request Denied for Daqduq

Hezbollah terrorist mastermind and killer of American troops Ali Mussa Daqduq was in U.S. custody in Iraq and could have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay years ago. Instead, the Obama administration decided to let an Iraqi court try him. In a development that should come as a shock to no one, Daqduq has been cleared of charges, and the latest U.S. extradition request has been denied. The Associated Press reports the unrepentant terror leader might be back out on the streets before the end of Ramadan:

The U.S. believes Ali Mussa Daqduq is a top threat to Americans in the Middle East, and had asked Baghdad to extradite him even before two Iraqi courts found him not guilty of masterminding the 2007 raid on an American military base in the holy Shiite city of Karbala.

But the July 30 decision by the Iraqi central criminal court, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, ordered that Daqduq be freed immediately. It also makes it clear that Iraq believes the legal case against him is over.

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Hezbollah terrorist mastermind and killer of American troops Ali Mussa Daqduq was in U.S. custody in Iraq and could have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay years ago. Instead, the Obama administration decided to let an Iraqi court try him. In a development that should come as a shock to no one, Daqduq has been cleared of charges, and the latest U.S. extradition request has been denied. The Associated Press reports the unrepentant terror leader might be back out on the streets before the end of Ramadan:

The U.S. believes Ali Mussa Daqduq is a top threat to Americans in the Middle East, and had asked Baghdad to extradite him even before two Iraqi courts found him not guilty of masterminding the 2007 raid on an American military base in the holy Shiite city of Karbala.

But the July 30 decision by the Iraqi central criminal court, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, ordered that Daqduq be freed immediately. It also makes it clear that Iraq believes the legal case against him is over.

“It is not possible to hand him over because the charges were dropped in the same case,” the three-judge panel ruled. “Therefore, the court decided to reject the request to hand over the Lebanese defendant Ali Mussa Daqduq to the U.S. judiciary authorities, and to release him immediately.”

Daqduq was in Iraq to train militants to kill American troops. He is believed to be responsible for the death of five U.S. soldiers, four of whom were captured, tortured and shot execution-style. His release would deny justice for the families of those men, and free him up to plot further attacks on Americans and our allies.

Sen. Jeff Sessions tore into the Obama administration for losing control of the situation:

The Administration had years to transfer Daqduq to our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but because the President seemed to lack the political will to do so—I think because of campaign promises he improvidently made—one of the most dangerous, reprehensible terrorists ever in our custody will likely be allowed to go free. We should never have been in this position.

I and others saw this coming and we pleaded with the Administration not to allow it to happen. Sadly, our warnings fell on deaf ears and, sadly, we were proven correct. …

This policy cannot be defended. It has to end. So I urge the President and his team to act forcefully now. It may not be too late. With strong action we may be able to ensure that Daqduq is not released, that he is able to be tried for the murders he committed and the American soldiers he killed.

The Obama administration would argue that this isn’t their fault, that the Status of Forces Agreement required them to hand Daqduq over to the Iraqis when they pulled out. But that’s a cop out. The administration could have informed the Iraqis that, with all due respect, some prisoners are so reprehensible that they are simply not up for negotiation. They could have brought Daqduq to justice when they had the chance. Instead, they rolled the dice on the Iraqi court system, and lost — and the world may be less safe now because of it.

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Dems Leave Reid Out to Dry on Tax Accusations

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to accuse Mitt Romney of ducking taxes for 10 years without a hint of evidence. This morning, Reid released a statement about the “controversy” (that he created) insisting that his “source” (who he refuses to name) is “extremely credible”:

There is a controversy because the Republican presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, refuses to release his tax returns. As I said before, I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for ten years. People who make as much money as Mitt Romney have many tricks at their disposal to avoid paying taxes. We already know that Romney has exploited many of these loopholes, stashing his money in secret, overseas accounts in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. …

It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is. Whatever Romney’s hiding probably speaks volumes about how he would approach issues that directly impact middle-class families, like tax reform and the economy. When you are running for president, you should be an open book.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to accuse Mitt Romney of ducking taxes for 10 years without a hint of evidence. This morning, Reid released a statement about the “controversy” (that he created) insisting that his “source” (who he refuses to name) is “extremely credible”:

There is a controversy because the Republican presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney, refuses to release his tax returns. As I said before, I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for ten years. People who make as much money as Mitt Romney have many tricks at their disposal to avoid paying taxes. We already know that Romney has exploited many of these loopholes, stashing his money in secret, overseas accounts in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. …

It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is. Whatever Romney’s hiding probably speaks volumes about how he would approach issues that directly impact middle-class families, like tax reform and the economy. When you are running for president, you should be an open book.

If Reid thought his accusations would result in another media outcry for Romney’s tax returns, he made the wrong bet. Instead the media seems to be primarily interested in chronicling Reid’s bizarre outbursts. Who can focus on tax returns when the Senate Majority Leader appears to be on the brink of a self-inflicted meltdown?

At HotAir, Ed Morrissey rakes Reid over the coals and points out that he’s only undermining his own party’s efforts to attack Romney’s lack of transparency:

Reid, who also refuses to release his own tax returns, isn’t just a hypocrite and a slanderer.  He’s also a political idiot.  Until these attacks, Romney was on the defensive over his tax returns.  Now Romney can paint his decision to keep them private as a principled stand against unscrupulous opponents.  Reid has handed the high ground to Romney in this fight with his scurrilous lies.  Reid has all but ruined Obama’s strategy of making Romney look secretive and weird.

That’s a good point. Reid does seem to be freelancing on this one. Have any Democratic leaders come out to back up his charges yet? Where’s the DNC and the Obama campaign on this? The most forceful defense of Reid appears to have come from Sen. Charles Schumer, and even that was pretty tepid:

Schumer said the Reid attacks are politically effective for Democrats and urged Romney to release more of his tax returns, suggesting Democrats will not back away from the aggressive campaigning.

“Everyday Mitt Romney has to talk about tax returns is a bad day for him and a good day for Democrats. You know they’re trying to focus this on Harry Reid, there’s an 800 pound elephant in the room, It’s called ‘unreleased taxes,'” Schumer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Reid’s backed himself into a corner here. If he drops the issue, it’ll gives the GOP a perfect bludgeon against the Obama campaign’s future attempts to get Romney to release his tax returns. They can just point out that Democrats have flung absurd charges at Romney without substantiating them. If Reid continues to push the issue, he’ll only open himself up to more scrutiny over his sources.

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DCCC Apologizes to Adelson for “Untrue” Attacks

A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson of personally approving and profiting off of prostitution at his Macau casinos. It wasn’t the smartest move, since their charge was based on unsubstantiated allegations from a disgruntled employer who’s been suing Adelson for years. The casino mogul’s attorney immediately slapped the DCCC with the threat of a defamation suit, and now the group has backed off and apologized, according to The Hill:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

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A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson of personally approving and profiting off of prostitution at his Macau casinos. It wasn’t the smartest move, since their charge was based on unsubstantiated allegations from a disgruntled employer who’s been suing Adelson for years. The casino mogul’s attorney immediately slapped the DCCC with the threat of a defamation suit, and now the group has backed off and apologized, according to The Hill:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

“In press statements issued on June 29 and July 2, 2012, the DCCC made unsubstantiated allegations that attacked Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of the opposing party,” the DCCC said in an e-mail released Thursday. “This was wrong.  The statements were untrue and unfair and we retract them.  The DCCC extends its sincere apology to Mr. Adelson and his family for any injury we have caused.”

That could not have been an easy apology for the DCCC, but clearly it didn’t want to get tied up in a defamation suit and spend massive sums defending itself during an election year when it can least afford it.

This all could have been avoided if the DCCC was just a little bit more careful in its statements on Adelson. Now that the group had to retract its comments, it pretty much takes the Macau prostitution controversy off the table for Democrats for the rest of the election cycle. Anytime it’s brought up, all the GOP would need to do is point out that the DCCC was forced to apologize after repeating the allegations. Adelson just inoculated himself from one of the only damaging lines of attack Democrats had against him.

By the way, this isn’t the first apology Adelson has received from a Democratic attack group this season.  The NJDC also backed down from its claim last month that Adelson’s money was “dirty” because of the Macau casino allegations, after Jewish American leaders blasted the campaign as partisan and unfair.

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Vidal, Buckley, and Anti-Semitism

Earlier this week, the chattering classes honored the passing of author Gore Vidal with the sort of praise due to a great figure of literature, including a front-page obituary in the New York Times. Yet even the Times had to admit he was more of a celebrity than a great writer. I’ll confess that I found some of his historical novels entertaining even though they are thinly disguised polemics and generally bad history. Interestingly, his play, “The Best Man,” seems to have some staying power even though it is something of a time capsule about the way presidential nominating conventions used to work but never will again. Perhaps it is because the two protagonists of the piece fit neatly into liberal pop-culture stereotypes about politicians with the play’s principled but weak-willed liberal facing off against a despicable, conspiracy-theorist of a conservative who is, of course, a closeted homosexual.

It is also notable that all the appreciations of Vidal never fail to mention his memorable face off with William F. Buckley when ABC employed the two as guest commentators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The event, now widely celebrated as a sort of intellectual battle of the titans in a long past golden age of wit, was the conceit for a piece by Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus published yesterday. Though they were open in their contempt for each other, Tanenhaus believes Vidal and Buckley were two sides of the same elitist patrician coin. What’s more he sees the fact that both were supporters of the isolationist “America First” movement as a sign that they had more in common that they or most of their readers thought. But Tanenhaus misses the point about this commonality. Buckley’s youthful embrace of Charles Lindbergh did not prevent him from standing up against anti-Semitism during his career and being the man who almost single-handedly ran Jew-haters out of the modern conservative movement. By contrast, as Norman Podhoretz wrote in his classic COMMENTARY essay, “The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name,” Vidal became a leading purveyor of vile anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and Israel.

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Earlier this week, the chattering classes honored the passing of author Gore Vidal with the sort of praise due to a great figure of literature, including a front-page obituary in the New York Times. Yet even the Times had to admit he was more of a celebrity than a great writer. I’ll confess that I found some of his historical novels entertaining even though they are thinly disguised polemics and generally bad history. Interestingly, his play, “The Best Man,” seems to have some staying power even though it is something of a time capsule about the way presidential nominating conventions used to work but never will again. Perhaps it is because the two protagonists of the piece fit neatly into liberal pop-culture stereotypes about politicians with the play’s principled but weak-willed liberal facing off against a despicable, conspiracy-theorist of a conservative who is, of course, a closeted homosexual.

It is also notable that all the appreciations of Vidal never fail to mention his memorable face off with William F. Buckley when ABC employed the two as guest commentators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The event, now widely celebrated as a sort of intellectual battle of the titans in a long past golden age of wit, was the conceit for a piece by Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus published yesterday. Though they were open in their contempt for each other, Tanenhaus believes Vidal and Buckley were two sides of the same elitist patrician coin. What’s more he sees the fact that both were supporters of the isolationist “America First” movement as a sign that they had more in common that they or most of their readers thought. But Tanenhaus misses the point about this commonality. Buckley’s youthful embrace of Charles Lindbergh did not prevent him from standing up against anti-Semitism during his career and being the man who almost single-handedly ran Jew-haters out of the modern conservative movement. By contrast, as Norman Podhoretz wrote in his classic COMMENTARY essay, “The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name,” Vidal became a leading purveyor of vile anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and Israel.

That Tanenhaus would play up the Lindbergh connection while playing down his Jew-hatred, which he mentions only in passing and even then as an allegation that “some said,” shows a shocking lack of perspective on these two figures. He sees them as a pair of haughty aristocratic idealists who were:

Battling not so much the other as the distorted image of himself that his opponent represented. The terms they haughtily flung at each other were those other critics sometimes applied to them, only in reverse — Buckley, whose arch mannerisms were sometimes mocked as effete; Mr. Vidal, whose disdain for American vulgarity was tinged, some said, with anti-Semitism and dislike of the “lower orders.”

Vidal and Buckley had somewhat similar starting points as teenagers backing a movement whose neutrality about the Nazis fed in part on similar attitudes toward Jews. But though Buckley may have, as Tanenhaus notes, remembered his teenage isolationism with some affection in his 1976 novel Saving the Queen, surely it is far more important to understand that he transcended the politics of his youth with respect to the crucial question of anti-Semitism. Buckley not only successfully ousted the John Birchers from conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s but also brushed back colleagues Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan when they sank into the same anti-Semitic mire more than a generation later.

Yet Vidal never escaped the conspiratorial hate that gripped him in his youth. Indeed, it seethed within him and distorted much of his work. That Tanenhaus thinks this to be insignificant tells us all we need to know about the way the literary establishment is willing to forgive any sins committed in the name of liberalism.

In a week when the U.S. State Department issued an International Religious Freedom Report that noted the “rising tide of anti-Semitism” around the globe, the distinction between the conservative who fought Jew hatred and the liberal who embraced it seems more crucial than ever.

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Jobs and the Election

There’s something for everyone in this morning’s jobs report.

Democrats will point to the reported 163,000 new jobs last month, double June’s dismal 80,000 (which was revised downward today to an even more dismal 64,000).  For the first time in quite awhile this was above economists’ estimates (they were predicting 95,000 new nonfarm jobs).

Republicans will point to the fact that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2. That’s the worst since February. The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 41 straight months now. The broader measure of unemployment, which includes part timers who would rather be working full time, also increased from 14.9 percent to 15 percent, a really bad number.

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There’s something for everyone in this morning’s jobs report.

Democrats will point to the reported 163,000 new jobs last month, double June’s dismal 80,000 (which was revised downward today to an even more dismal 64,000).  For the first time in quite awhile this was above economists’ estimates (they were predicting 95,000 new nonfarm jobs).

Republicans will point to the fact that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2. That’s the worst since February. The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 41 straight months now. The broader measure of unemployment, which includes part timers who would rather be working full time, also increased from 14.9 percent to 15 percent, a really bad number.

It should be pointed out that these numbers are not raw, they are adjusted to be, hopefully, consistent over time. But that, of course, adds a human element to the numbers, for these adjustments are the product of judgments, guesses, estimates, and, perhaps, unconscious prejudice. There are some who have serious questions regarding the adjustments made to this month’s figures.

Even if the economy now continues to create jobs at the rate of 163,000 a month, that’s not nearly enough to bring down the unemployment rate.  Indeed, if things start to pick up, discouraged workers not now counted might begin to search for jobs again and send the unemployment rate up, not down.  It is already half a percentage point above the highest figure any president since Roosevelt has survived to be re-elected.

There will be three more jobs reports before the election (on September 7, October 5, and November 2). That last one will be on the Friday before the election day.  If it’s a really bad one or a really good one, it could make the difference provided the election is still close. The Friday before election day is considered the best day to drop a bombshell, as the opposition has little time to effectively respond. It was on that day in 2000 that the Al Gore campaign released information, which it had known for months, on George W. Bush’s long-ago DUI incident.

And it was on the Friday before the 1992 election that—in one of the most disgraceful acts in the history of American justice—Lawrence Walsh, special prosecutor in the Iran-Contra scandal, re-indicted  former defense secretary Casper Weinberger and directly implicated President Bush in the indictment although that was totally irrelevant to the indictment itself. The indictment was later dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds (and Bush gave Weinberger a full pardon to prevent any further shenanigans from Walsh). Even Lanny Davis, later special counsel to President Clinton called the action, “bizarre.”

The first President Bush was already toast at that point. But the DUI report in 2000 might well have turned what would have been a close but clear election into the hanging-chads constitutional nightmare that the 2000 election became.

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The Great Islamist Comeback

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with the new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo and declared, “It’s clear that Egypt, following the revolution, is committed to putting into place a democratic government.” If so, neither “democratic” nor “clear” mean what they once did.  Since taking power Morsi has ignored the violation of women’s and Christians’ rights, and his Muslim Brotherhood comrades have been drafting a constitution meant to elevate Islamists above all other Egyptians.

Critics of the Iraq War liked to say that ballots don’t equal democracy. Today a Muslim Brotherhood leader speaks the word “democracy” and its existence is taken as self-evident. The incredulity of the Bush years and the hypno-suggestibility of the moment are manifestations of the same popular wish: to extricate America from ideological battles in foreign lands.

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On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with the new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo and declared, “It’s clear that Egypt, following the revolution, is committed to putting into place a democratic government.” If so, neither “democratic” nor “clear” mean what they once did.  Since taking power Morsi has ignored the violation of women’s and Christians’ rights, and his Muslim Brotherhood comrades have been drafting a constitution meant to elevate Islamists above all other Egyptians.

Critics of the Iraq War liked to say that ballots don’t equal democracy. Today a Muslim Brotherhood leader speaks the word “democracy” and its existence is taken as self-evident. The incredulity of the Bush years and the hypno-suggestibility of the moment are manifestations of the same popular wish: to extricate America from ideological battles in foreign lands.

This is an understandable sentiment that long predates our confrontation with political Islam. John Quincy Adams said that the United States should be the “well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all . . . , the champion and vindicator only of her own.” That formulation prefigured the human-rights approach of Barack Obama, who Lawrence Haas describes aptly in his new book, Sound the Trumpet, as “a rhetorical idealist but an operational realist.”

The paradox has served him poorly.  Obama the rhetorical idealist wished Iranians well (just barely) in the summer of 2009, while Obama the operational realist pursued a diplomatic relationship with Tehran. Basij forces soon crushed protestors in the streets. Tunisia was wished well and today the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, has filed a bill to criminalize blasphemy. Obama saluted Egyptians before the Muslim Brotherhood took control of their country. And the rhetorical idealist praised Syrian rebels for a year and a half while the operational realist tried to outsource matters to the UN and Moscow. The result? A recent New York Times Headline declares, “As Syrian War Drags On, Jihadists Take Bigger Role.”

Only in Libya, where our European allies dragged us into action, is there (for now) no Islamist party in charge. The extent to which that’s a function of the prevailing chaos remains to be seen.

Most problematic is the bon voyage wished Iraq last December. In 2009, the rhetorical idealist praised Iraq’s democracy and described the American effort there as an “extraordinary achievement.” He was right. Troops in Iraq not only gave their lives fighting for the creation of the sole functioning Arab democracy; they fought al-Qaeda into irrelevance and near total defeat. But the operational realist left no American presence behind to secure our accomplishments. Today, the Henry Jackson Society’s Robin Simcox accurately calls the land of al-Qaeda’s undoing a “new front” in the War on Terror. Since the U.S. left, the al-Qaeda connected group Islamic State of Iraq has launched a bombing campaign so intense that officials are preemptively surrendering by stepping down.

In Afghanistan, a more managed reversal is underway. The rhetorical idealist bragged, “we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum.” But the operational realist sends envoys to treat with them in hopes of a peace deal before the United States leaves the country. When the U.S. exits Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban will be free to do as they please. This is fortuitous timing for their old friends the Arab jihadists. As Islamist parties take political power in the Middle East, their terrorist branches can resume residence on the staging grounds of 9/11.

Let us acknowledge the enormity now unfolding and also pay heed to historical context. This is not merely a regional rise in Islamist power. It is the dawn of a great Islamist comeback. The ten years since 9/11 were spent problematically but successfully dousing the flames of jihad.  The past four have seen an inrush of oxygen.

It’s hard to overestimate how emboldened Islamists must feel. In propitious events they see divine endorsement. What are increased drone strikes and the death of Osama bin laden compared to a new historical epoch? A recent State Department report touts a “12% decline in [terrorist] attacks from 2010 [to 2011]” and claims the killing of bin Laden and other terrorists “puts the [Al Qaeda] network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.” The State Department has faith in statistics; Islamists think in terms of history. It’s why we’re shortsighted and they’re patient. The oxygen has been granted. The fire will grow.

Our options for countering the Islamist comeback were limited, yes, but not nonexistent. The U.S. could have robustly supported the Iranian democrats who asked for American help; allied with Arab liberals instead of courting Arab dictators; funneled weapons and money to parties that we’d have come to know; and tied foreign aid and trade to regimes’ human rights policies. If you think such things would have made no difference consider that even with the Muslim Brotherhood’s monopoly on organization Morsi won less than 52% of the runoff vote.

Obama could have used our leverage in Iraq to keep the country on course with a relatively small number of American troops stationed there after the war. And he could have made good on his campaign promise to win in Afghanistan. A comeback is accomplished by one side but always facilitated by the other. In the gap between American rhetoric and American action Islamists staged a revival.

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