The Seattle Times got its hands on that much-hyped “Shirtless FBI Agent” photo, and it’s not at all what we were led to believe. Apparently the photo was a joke the agent sent out to multiple friends, including Jill Kelley and a Seattle Times reporter, back in 2010. It shows the agent outside of MacDill Air Force Base, posing in between two SWAT target dummies that look a lot like him. The caption reads: ”Which One’s Fred?”
The Seattle Times, which also interviewed the shirtless agent (real name: Frederick Humphries), reports:
Given the brazen nature of Hamas’s decision to provoke the latest round of fighting in and around Gaza, it’s difficult for Israel’s critics to claim that it was not justified in seeking to halt a barrage that sent more than 150 missiles into the south of the country. Nor could they claim with a straight face that Ahmed al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’s so-called military wing and a man responsible for numerous terrorists attacks and murders, is an innocent victim after the Israel Defense Forces took out his car in a deft targeted attack yesterday. But the naysayers are claiming that in opting to defend Israeli citizens and hopefully making it more difficult for Hamas to resume its terrorist offensive, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is effectively destroying his nation’s peace treaty with Egypt.
That’s the conceit of this New York Times article that depicts Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as being forced into a difficult position by Israel. He is, we are told, trying to maintain the peace treaty in order to appease Western aid donors like the United States, but is still obligated by Egyptian public opinion to denounce Israel. The implication of all this is that if the treaty, which is despised by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and extremely unpopular with the Egyptian public, is scrapped, it will be because Netanyahu has chosen to be provocative.
Via Newsbusters.org, disgraced former CBS anchor Dan Rather appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and said this:
The Republicans, their number one need is to get in touch with a fact-based world, that they are now in the position of being pictured like a man who wears spats to the office or something. So far out of touch that it is unrealistic. And they did run four years, straight out, Dr. No obstructionism.
For those who may have forgotten, Mr. Rather’s career imploded because of his role in a story meant to smear President George W. Bush and that was based on forged National Guard documents that were almost immediately revealed as such. Yet Rather insists to this day that the forged documents were accurate.
With today’s escalation of hostilities between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces, this report by the New York Times has been overshadowed, naturally, by events. But it is also, in a way, complemented by them. The report discusses memos and talking points sent around by the Israeli government to its diplomatic missions around the world on the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s plans to ask for upgraded status at the United Nations.
Much of it is unremarkable. It notes that the Israeli government acknowledges that PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s plans violate the Oslo accords and constitute a unilateral breach of mutual agreements between the representative governments of Israel and the Palestinians. It also acknowledges that Israel has its own unilateral actions it can take if Abbas truly wants to go down this road. (I’ve written about “coordinated unilateralism” before; this isn’t quite what that is, but it would take a very similar form.) The Times mentions a particularly harsh memo, apparently written by staffers in Israel’s Foreign Ministry:
This video of the Israeli strike on Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari was temporarily removed from the IDF’s YouTube page this morning for supposedly violating its “terms of service.” A short time later, it was put back up. My multiple emails to YouTube’s press office have been ignored, but All Things Digital managed to get this email response from a spokesperson:
“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”
This shows just how worried anti-Israel activists are about the online response to Operation Pillar of Defense, by far Israel’s most muscular and carefully-honed social media effort yet. Enough Israel detractors “flagged” the YouTube video as “inappropriate” yesterday that YouTube put up a note warning viewers that the clip might be considered offensive.
That attempt to censor the video — as well as the IDF’s Twitter account and websites — is a sign of panic. Israel has finally found a way to circumvent the pernicious media bias that has always favored anti-Israel groups, and it has these groups terrified and scrambling.
Conservatives have spent the last week dissecting their failure in the presidential election. But one element of that defeat has been largely absent from the discussion: the candidate. That’s because in the last month of the presidential campaign something remarkable happened. Though he had previously been distrusted by much of the Republican base and widely regarded as a poor campaigner, Mitt Romney seemed to erase all of the doubts of his supporters. His strong performance in the first presidential debate gave the Republicans faith in their leader as well as momentum.
In retrospect, that last surge of optimism on the right about the 2012 election seems foolish. As we have already discussed in detail, the polls that showed Romney leading or at least even with Obama during this period were almost certainly wrong. Democratic turnout would, to my surprise, resemble that of the “hope and change” moment of 2008, while fewer people voted for Romney than John McCain. A number of factors were responsible for this: a failure to respond to the changing demography of the nation including the Hispanic vote, the GOP’s comically inept get-out-the-vote effort, media bias, Hurricane Sandy, and Romney’s inability to exploit the Benghazi fiasco. But yesterday we were reminded that although those explanations were valid, there was one other reason why Obama won: Mitt Romney.
Is this the future of warfare? While rockets continue falling across Israel, with air raid sirens being sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, Israel is fighting back in more ways than one. Operation Pillar of Defense is ongoing, and now that citizens of Tel Aviv have found themselves in stairwells and basements, it is likely that the possibility of a ground invasion just increased exponentially. The second front in the offensive against Hamas’s aggression has formed on the web. This is the first time a war has been live-tweeted.
It began with an IDF tweet yesterday, soon after the targeted assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the military commander of Hamas. The IDF’s official account tweeted:
The Washington Post’s front page this morning:
In the photo, a Palestinian stringer for BBC cradles his son, who was reportedly killed during Operation Pillar of Defense. The corresponding story briefly mentions the Hamas rocket attacks, but focuses mainly on Israel’s “intense air offensive” that could “paralyze the Gaza Strip” and result in “all-out conflict.”
Innocent casualties of war are a tragedy, and this is especially true when they are children.
But what the Washington Post doesn’t emphasize in its corresponding story is that the Israeli military launched this operation specifically because its citizens in the south, including children, live under constant threat from Hamas rocket fire — hundreds can rain down in a single day. These attacks regularly result in injuries and deaths, and recently forced more than a million Israelis into bomb shelters. While these stories may get a blurb on page three or four, they are rarely given front page coverage.
In my earlier post on Israel’s efforts to halt Hamas’s terrorist missile offensive against southern Israel, I alluded to the claim put forward by peace activist Gershon Baskin that Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s military commander, was willing to accept a cease-fire before he was killed yesterday. In doing so, I referred to the tale as “farcical.” I should clarify that. I was not stating a belief that Baskin made up the story. Baskin, an Israeli who has been in continuous contact with Hamas over the last several years, is probably merely repeating what he was told by his interlocutors in Gaza. So in that sense he was telling the truth as far as he knew it. What was farcical about the story, which is probably on its way to becoming one of the top talking points for critics of Israel, is that the entire premise of Baskin’s ongoing efforts to try and broker agreements with Hamas serves the interests of the terrorist group, not that of Israel or of peace.
Baskin is claiming that killing al-Jabari spiked chances for a return to the relative calm that prevailed along the border with Gaza until last week as well as angering Egypt mediators. Even worse, he asserts that in doing so, Israel made a deliberate decision to reject a peace feeler. But even if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak really were aware of the messages that he was relaying to al-Jabari’s people, their decision to make Hamas pay a price for its terrorism was correct. Though few in Israel want to send troops back into Gaza, the status quo Baskin was helping Hamas preserve was an invitation to more terrorism, not a pathway to peace.
The Obama reelection campaign’s impressive turnout and get-out-the-vote strategy took the president’s Republican opponents by surprise. But it appears to also be teaching Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan an incomplete, if not totally wrong, lesson about their loss to President Obama. Earlier this week, Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “urban” turnout was key for the president, and dismissed the notion that the GOP ticket’s vision for the country was rejected by voters.
And then yesterday, on a conference call with donors and supporters, Romney expanded on that argument. He said the president offered “gifts” to minority voters, and named Obamacare and immigration as important parts of that. The New York Times reports:
During his press conference yesterday, President Obama was asked about the statements by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who said if Susan Rice is nominated to be secretary of state, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination, and they simply don’t trust Ambassador Rice after her misleading accounts about the lethal attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11.
In response, the president, after lavishly praising Ms. Rice, said this:
As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous… When they go after the U.N. Ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.
I’ll get to the president’s answer in a moment. For now, it’s important to recall that five days after the Benghazi massacre, Ambassador Rice went on five Sunday talk shows insisting that (a) we had “substantial security presence” at the consulate before the attack; (b) the attacks were spontaneous, not a pre-planned terrorist attack, and the result of “a small handful of heavily armed mobsters;” and (c) “a direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated.” On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rice said, “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”
Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain didn’t waste any time responding to President Obama’s claim that they are “going after” Susan Rice because “they think she’s an easy target.”
In a statement, Graham blasted both Obama and Rice, saying she’s “up to [her] eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle”:
“Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.
“We owe it to the American people and the victims of this attack to have full, fair hearings and accountability be assigned where appropriate. Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.”
On Greta Van Susteren last night, McCain pushed back on the president’s comments, calling them “juvenile”:
To its credit, yesterday the State Department rightly declared that Hamas was responsible for the latest round of violence along the Gaza border and that Israel had the right to defend itself. Even the New York Times editorial page affirmed that Israel had that right this morning. But the Times, speaking as it does for liberal conventional wisdom, claimed that Israel’s government was wrong to exercise that right. Rather than taking out the head of the terrorist group’s military wing, it “could have responded as it usually has in recent years, avoiding high-profile assassinations while attacking rocket-launching squads, empty training sites and weapons manufacturing plants.” The Times also suggested Israel could have implored the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt to intervene on its behalf with its Hamas ally. It concluded by saying that an even better idea would have been to conduct peace negotiations with Hamas’s Fatah rivals.
This risible list of suggestions provides the background to the debate that will, no doubt, soon ensue as inevitably the discussion about what has happened begins to revolve around how zealously Israel should defend itself. Farcical stories, such as those claiming Hamas was willing to make peace or at least agree to a permanent cease-fire, and that this was only prevented by a cynical decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a counter-attack, will be told and believed by those who always buy into the lies of the terrorists. It will be argued that Israel needn’t have treated the latest massive barrage of rockets on its southern region as a big deal. But all this will be merely a cover for what is really at stake: the right of the Jewish state to live in peace, irrespective of where its borders are drawn.
The problem with all of the helpful suggestions that Israel is getting this week is that these suggestions treat the basic premise of Hamas’s strategic plan as either normal or reasonable. What’s wrong with the calls for restraint or the barbed comments about better alternatives to retaliation is that they are based on the idea that Israel ought to be willing to tolerate a “normal” amount of terrorism emanating from Gaza.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal sheds light on why the FBI’s discovery of David Petraeus’s affair may have been enough to lead to his downfall:
In David Petraeus’s final days at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, his relations with chiefs of other U.S. agencies, including his boss, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, took a contentious turn. …
Mr. Petraeus wanted his aides to push back hard and release their own timeline of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a nearby CIA safe house, seeking to set the record straight and paint the CIA’s role in a more favorable light. Mr. Clapper and agencies including the Pentagon objected, but Mr. Petraeus told his aides to proceed, said the senior officials.
By all accounts, the driving force behind Mr. Petraeus’s departure last Friday was the revelation about his extramarital affair with his biographer. But new details about Mr. Petraeus’s last days at the CIA show the extent to which the Benghazi attacks created a climate of interagency finger-pointing. That undercut the retired four-star general’s backing within the Obama administration as he struggled with the decision to resign.