Commentary Magazine


Topic: Madrid

The Multi-Plane Attack Story

If, indeed, the developing story involving UPS planes and others carrying suspicious boxes, including ones from Yemen, means a major attack on the United States has been thwarted, two things suggest themselves. First, that this is an election-eve plan similar to the monstrous Madrid train bombing in 2004 — and the Bin Laden tape on the eve of the 2004 election. In the case of those elections, it was clear what al Qaeda wanted — to punish Spain for its role in the Iraq war effort and to punish George Bush. Parsing what the possible goal would be in this election is difficult, though the simplest explanation is usually the best: It’s about the U.S.’s more aggressive stance in Afghanistan. Second: This comes after an election season in which the word “terrorism” has barely been spoken. That will end this weekend, as the closing discussion before Tuesday’s election will suddenly center on foreign, military, and homeland security policy.

If, indeed, the developing story involving UPS planes and others carrying suspicious boxes, including ones from Yemen, means a major attack on the United States has been thwarted, two things suggest themselves. First, that this is an election-eve plan similar to the monstrous Madrid train bombing in 2004 — and the Bin Laden tape on the eve of the 2004 election. In the case of those elections, it was clear what al Qaeda wanted — to punish Spain for its role in the Iraq war effort and to punish George Bush. Parsing what the possible goal would be in this election is difficult, though the simplest explanation is usually the best: It’s about the U.S.’s more aggressive stance in Afghanistan. Second: This comes after an election season in which the word “terrorism” has barely been spoken. That will end this weekend, as the closing discussion before Tuesday’s election will suddenly center on foreign, military, and homeland security policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ’That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ’That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

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Bring Back Jake!

Tom Shales suffered through the debut of Christiane Amanpour as host for This Week:

It’s not that Amanpour seemed personally uncomfortable or constrained in her weekend debut — opening night was Sunday morning — but rather that she proved that she’s miscast for the role, her highly touted global orientation coming across as inappropriate and contrived on a broadcast that for three decades has dealt primarily with domestic politics, policies and culture.

So what was wrong with interim host Jake Tapper — too unbiased? Too prepared? Too knowledgeable about U.S. politics? You got me. While screaming poverty and laying off more employees, ABC News shelled out a reported $2M on a woman whom conservatives revile for her anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias and record of playing fast and loose with the facts.

But even liberals have to shudder over this:

Amanpour didn’t stick to discussing news of the week with the show’s estimable, exceptional panelists — among them George F. Will and Donna Brazile — but instead brought in a foreign journalist seen earlier in the program, Ahmed Rashid (momentarily stationed in Madrid), for his views via satellite. It was awkward in form and proved negligible in content. In fact, it became ludicrous when, near the end of the segment, the U.S. economy was discussed and Amanpour called upon Rashid, the Taliban expert, again even though he seemed of dubious relevance and authority to the topic at hand.

Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) network execs blow it. (Think the Jay Leno–Conan O’Brien debacle.) The trick is to cut your losses. Tapper, I’m certain, is a good sport and would be happy to take over the gig when and if ABC comes to its senses.

Tom Shales suffered through the debut of Christiane Amanpour as host for This Week:

It’s not that Amanpour seemed personally uncomfortable or constrained in her weekend debut — opening night was Sunday morning — but rather that she proved that she’s miscast for the role, her highly touted global orientation coming across as inappropriate and contrived on a broadcast that for three decades has dealt primarily with domestic politics, policies and culture.

So what was wrong with interim host Jake Tapper — too unbiased? Too prepared? Too knowledgeable about U.S. politics? You got me. While screaming poverty and laying off more employees, ABC News shelled out a reported $2M on a woman whom conservatives revile for her anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias and record of playing fast and loose with the facts.

But even liberals have to shudder over this:

Amanpour didn’t stick to discussing news of the week with the show’s estimable, exceptional panelists — among them George F. Will and Donna Brazile — but instead brought in a foreign journalist seen earlier in the program, Ahmed Rashid (momentarily stationed in Madrid), for his views via satellite. It was awkward in form and proved negligible in content. In fact, it became ludicrous when, near the end of the segment, the U.S. economy was discussed and Amanpour called upon Rashid, the Taliban expert, again even though he seemed of dubious relevance and authority to the topic at hand.

Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) network execs blow it. (Think the Jay Leno–Conan O’Brien debacle.) The trick is to cut your losses. Tapper, I’m certain, is a good sport and would be happy to take over the gig when and if ABC comes to its senses.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Saving Iraqi Kurdistan

Erbil, Iraq. In the lobby of a certain hotel in the Kurdish city of Erbil, you find the familiar row of wall clocks indicating current time in various metropolitan hubs. Only something breaks your heart a little about the local twist put on this fixture of jet-set urbanity. Between clocks whose faces have been factory-stamped Istanbul or New York or Madrid, you see one displaying local time, and it looks like the others except for a single, small anomaly. The Erbil hasn’t been emblazoned onto the clock face by a manufacturer’s machine. It’s been printed out, in ordinary bold font, onto computer paper; cut down to a word-sized rectangle; and glued over the name of some other magnificent city.

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

Erbil, Iraq. In the lobby of a certain hotel in the Kurdish city of Erbil, you find the familiar row of wall clocks indicating current time in various metropolitan hubs. Only something breaks your heart a little about the local twist put on this fixture of jet-set urbanity. Between clocks whose faces have been factory-stamped Istanbul or New York or Madrid, you see one displaying local time, and it looks like the others except for a single, small anomaly. The Erbil hasn’t been emblazoned onto the clock face by a manufacturer’s machine. It’s been printed out, in ordinary bold font, onto computer paper; cut down to a word-sized rectangle; and glued over the name of some other magnificent city.

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

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Blaiming America First for No Middle East Peace

Foreign Policy has posted a forum online on why we have failed to achieve Middle East peace. It’s an odd question, which reveals the foreign policy establishment’s predilection to see this as something we control. The real answer is, obviously, because the Palestinians and their enablers don’t want peace. But that’s not the answer from many of the participants who say the problem is — I know you’ll be shocked! — the U.S. just isn’t trying hard enough or we haven’t browbeaten Israel sufficiently. Zbigniew Brezinski says the U.S. is at fault because we just haven’t gotten “seriously engaged” and haven’t come out with a plan to impose on the parties. Daniel Kurtzer echoes this claptrap: “When we are active diplomatically, Arab states are more willing to cooperate with us on other problems; when we are not active, our diplomatic options shrink.” Some willfully distort history, as Robert Malley does when he insists that “Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis were all to blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David talks.” Hmm. I thought it was Yasir Arafat who walked away from the deal and started killing Jews instead of accepting a Palestinian state.

Now there are some voices of sanity. Gen. Anthony Zinni: “By now, we should realize what doesn’t work: summits, agreements in principle, special envoys, U.S.-proposed plans, and just about every other part of our approach has failed. So why do we keep repeating it?” (You can see why he didn’t get an administration job — too much realism.) And then Michael Oren rightly challenges the entire premise of the discussion:

Calling this an Arab-Israeli conflict today is largely a misnomer. We have two states that have peace treaties with Israel. The largest antagonist is Iran, which is not an Arab state. … I don’t think assigning blame is productive, but I think the main obstacle is getting the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. It’s quite extraordinary: We now have a situation that existed before Oslo in ’93 and before Madrid in ’91 — we can’t get the Palestinians to sit down face to face with us and discuss the issues.

Well, you can see the divide between those who would willfully ignore the experience of the past 60 years and those who plead for the others to pay attention to it. The administration is in the first camp, which explains why the Obami are heightening tensions, unraveling the U.S.-Israel relationship, and making the Middle East a more dangerous place. They dare not acknowledge Oren’s point — that the threat to Middle East peace is not the Palestinian conflict but Iran — for that would require that they do something about it. And that’s not happening.

Foreign Policy has posted a forum online on why we have failed to achieve Middle East peace. It’s an odd question, which reveals the foreign policy establishment’s predilection to see this as something we control. The real answer is, obviously, because the Palestinians and their enablers don’t want peace. But that’s not the answer from many of the participants who say the problem is — I know you’ll be shocked! — the U.S. just isn’t trying hard enough or we haven’t browbeaten Israel sufficiently. Zbigniew Brezinski says the U.S. is at fault because we just haven’t gotten “seriously engaged” and haven’t come out with a plan to impose on the parties. Daniel Kurtzer echoes this claptrap: “When we are active diplomatically, Arab states are more willing to cooperate with us on other problems; when we are not active, our diplomatic options shrink.” Some willfully distort history, as Robert Malley does when he insists that “Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis were all to blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David talks.” Hmm. I thought it was Yasir Arafat who walked away from the deal and started killing Jews instead of accepting a Palestinian state.

Now there are some voices of sanity. Gen. Anthony Zinni: “By now, we should realize what doesn’t work: summits, agreements in principle, special envoys, U.S.-proposed plans, and just about every other part of our approach has failed. So why do we keep repeating it?” (You can see why he didn’t get an administration job — too much realism.) And then Michael Oren rightly challenges the entire premise of the discussion:

Calling this an Arab-Israeli conflict today is largely a misnomer. We have two states that have peace treaties with Israel. The largest antagonist is Iran, which is not an Arab state. … I don’t think assigning blame is productive, but I think the main obstacle is getting the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. It’s quite extraordinary: We now have a situation that existed before Oslo in ’93 and before Madrid in ’91 — we can’t get the Palestinians to sit down face to face with us and discuss the issues.

Well, you can see the divide between those who would willfully ignore the experience of the past 60 years and those who plead for the others to pay attention to it. The administration is in the first camp, which explains why the Obami are heightening tensions, unraveling the U.S.-Israel relationship, and making the Middle East a more dangerous place. They dare not acknowledge Oren’s point — that the threat to Middle East peace is not the Palestinian conflict but Iran — for that would require that they do something about it. And that’s not happening.

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RE: The Fallout

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

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Re: Gartenstein-Ross Defends Rashad Hussain

Hussain’s comment was not an isolated one. Josh Gerstein reports on the recording of the event that Hussain has tried to conceal from view:

Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as “horrible” and called “dangerous” an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases. Most lawmakers, including many Democrats critical of the Patriot Act, have said the provision has proved valuable, because it removed a wall that made it difficult for those pursuing investigations of international terror or spying operations to share information with criminal investigators. Hussain did express support for other aspects of the law, including a provision permitting so-called roving wiretaps.

Hussain’s position seems to be in direct conflict with the current administration, but quite in tune with the grievance-mongering lobby of CAIR and other groups. But that is not all. In his speech, Hussain cited chapter and verse on the supposed persecution of Muslims:

— The court martial of Capt. James Yee, a Guantanamo chaplain initially suspected of treason and later charged with adultery. All charges were eventually dropped.

— The case of Jose Padilla, who was held without charge for more than three years as an enemy combatant on suspicions of trying to detonate a radiation-laced “dirty bomb” in the U.S. In 2006, more than a year after Hussain spoke, Padilla was charged in a terrorist plot unrelated to the dirty bomb allegations. He was convicted by a jury in 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of Yaser Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan, held as an enemy combatant and released to Saudi Arabia weeks after Hussain spoke.

— The prosecution of an imam and a pizzeria owner in Albany, N.Y., for conspiring with an informant in a fictitious plot to use a missile launcher to attack a Pakistani diplomat. The men were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, though their lawyers claimed the pair were entrapped.

— The prosecution of a Somali man, Nuradin Abdi, in 2004 for plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He pled guilty in 2007 to conspiring to support terrorism and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed for more than two weeks in 2004 as a material witness on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings that year. He was never charged with a crime, received an apology from the FBI, which said it misidentified his fingerprints, and brought a lawsuit that led to a reported $2 million settlement from the government in 2006.

— The prosecution of four men as alleged members of a Detroit-based Al Qaeda “sleeper cell” plotting an attack. Two of the men were convicted on terror charges in 2003 but the convictions were thrown out at the government’s request after evidence emerged of prosecutorial misconduct and an unreliable informant. The prosecutor was charged criminally with concealing exculpatory evidence but later acquitted.

Hussain went on to tell the audience at the event, held roughly two months before the 2004 election, that electing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as president could stem the tide of such cases.

This kind of rhetoric may get cheers from the Left and from CAIR but is not, even for this administration, remotely acceptable. The Obami have pointedly refused to stick up for Hussain since Friday’s revelation. At this point, I suspect they would rather have someone else in that role – someone who does not see behind every legitimate effort to defend America from Islamic fascist the specter of anti-Muslim discrimination.

Hussain’s comment was not an isolated one. Josh Gerstein reports on the recording of the event that Hussain has tried to conceal from view:

Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as “horrible” and called “dangerous” an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases. Most lawmakers, including many Democrats critical of the Patriot Act, have said the provision has proved valuable, because it removed a wall that made it difficult for those pursuing investigations of international terror or spying operations to share information with criminal investigators. Hussain did express support for other aspects of the law, including a provision permitting so-called roving wiretaps.

Hussain’s position seems to be in direct conflict with the current administration, but quite in tune with the grievance-mongering lobby of CAIR and other groups. But that is not all. In his speech, Hussain cited chapter and verse on the supposed persecution of Muslims:

— The court martial of Capt. James Yee, a Guantanamo chaplain initially suspected of treason and later charged with adultery. All charges were eventually dropped.

— The case of Jose Padilla, who was held without charge for more than three years as an enemy combatant on suspicions of trying to detonate a radiation-laced “dirty bomb” in the U.S. In 2006, more than a year after Hussain spoke, Padilla was charged in a terrorist plot unrelated to the dirty bomb allegations. He was convicted by a jury in 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of Yaser Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan, held as an enemy combatant and released to Saudi Arabia weeks after Hussain spoke.

— The prosecution of an imam and a pizzeria owner in Albany, N.Y., for conspiring with an informant in a fictitious plot to use a missile launcher to attack a Pakistani diplomat. The men were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, though their lawyers claimed the pair were entrapped.

— The prosecution of a Somali man, Nuradin Abdi, in 2004 for plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He pled guilty in 2007 to conspiring to support terrorism and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed for more than two weeks in 2004 as a material witness on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings that year. He was never charged with a crime, received an apology from the FBI, which said it misidentified his fingerprints, and brought a lawsuit that led to a reported $2 million settlement from the government in 2006.

— The prosecution of four men as alleged members of a Detroit-based Al Qaeda “sleeper cell” plotting an attack. Two of the men were convicted on terror charges in 2003 but the convictions were thrown out at the government’s request after evidence emerged of prosecutorial misconduct and an unreliable informant. The prosecutor was charged criminally with concealing exculpatory evidence but later acquitted.

Hussain went on to tell the audience at the event, held roughly two months before the 2004 election, that electing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as president could stem the tide of such cases.

This kind of rhetoric may get cheers from the Left and from CAIR but is not, even for this administration, remotely acceptable. The Obami have pointedly refused to stick up for Hussain since Friday’s revelation. At this point, I suspect they would rather have someone else in that role – someone who does not see behind every legitimate effort to defend America from Islamic fascist the specter of anti-Muslim discrimination.

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Kosovo, Russia, and China

This morning, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and 13 other EU members said they will recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. The territory, under UN administration since 1999, declared independence from Serbia yesterday. The United States was not far behind its European allies. Today, President Bush signaled American acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood in remarks made in Tanzania, and Secretary Rice made it official.

But don’t expect the Spaniards to do so. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his government would not accept Kosovo’s “unilateral act,” which “does not respect international law.” Apparently Madrid, which has a separatist problem of its own, did not believe the European Union’s foreign ministers, who labeled yesterday’s succession a one-off event.

Spain should indeed be worried about Kosovo’s example. There were slightly more than fifty nations at the end of the Second World War. Since then, decolonization and separatism have increased the number of states to 193, 194, or 195—depending on who is doing the counting. Today, the process of division continues. Kosovo, for example, is the sixth state to be formed from Yugoslavia. So the Russians are right to be concerned about separatist movements in Chechnya and Dagestan and the Chinese with minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Whether we like it or not, separatism will not end with Kosovo’s independence. The Russians said they would seek independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia if others recognize Kosovo. And Taiwan, an island that meets all the definitions of a state, will undoubtedly try to use the West’s recognition of Kosovo to its own advantage.

It is stirring when people declare independence, and we need to back their aspirations and the concept of self-determination. There is no advantage to us in attempting to stand in the way of history—or helping Russia and China, both large multicultural empires created by conquest and held together by oppression, in keeping themselves together. Kosovo is no one-off. Nor should it be.

This morning, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and 13 other EU members said they will recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. The territory, under UN administration since 1999, declared independence from Serbia yesterday. The United States was not far behind its European allies. Today, President Bush signaled American acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood in remarks made in Tanzania, and Secretary Rice made it official.

But don’t expect the Spaniards to do so. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his government would not accept Kosovo’s “unilateral act,” which “does not respect international law.” Apparently Madrid, which has a separatist problem of its own, did not believe the European Union’s foreign ministers, who labeled yesterday’s succession a one-off event.

Spain should indeed be worried about Kosovo’s example. There were slightly more than fifty nations at the end of the Second World War. Since then, decolonization and separatism have increased the number of states to 193, 194, or 195—depending on who is doing the counting. Today, the process of division continues. Kosovo, for example, is the sixth state to be formed from Yugoslavia. So the Russians are right to be concerned about separatist movements in Chechnya and Dagestan and the Chinese with minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Whether we like it or not, separatism will not end with Kosovo’s independence. The Russians said they would seek independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia if others recognize Kosovo. And Taiwan, an island that meets all the definitions of a state, will undoubtedly try to use the West’s recognition of Kosovo to its own advantage.

It is stirring when people declare independence, and we need to back their aspirations and the concept of self-determination. There is no advantage to us in attempting to stand in the way of history—or helping Russia and China, both large multicultural empires created by conquest and held together by oppression, in keeping themselves together. Kosovo is no one-off. Nor should it be.

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Defeat for Terror in Spain

Having been out of the country over the weekend, I have only now caught up with this fascinating and important New York Times report on a terror plot that has just been busted up in Spain. Acting on a tip from a French informant, Spanish officials arrested fourteen suspected jihadists on January 19; several others are believed to have escaped.

All of the suspects are either Pakistanis or of Pakistani descent, which shows that country’s growing importance as a terrorism hub. While many other terrorism plotters in Europe have previously been linked to Pakistan (including the 2005 London subway bombers) this is apparently the first case where Pakistanis with no links to Europe have been dispatched specifically to carry out such attacks.

They were planning to carry out a series of bombings in Spain and then in other European countries designed to drive NATO troop contingents out of Afghanistan. (Spain has 740 soldiers in Afghanistan.) The Times reports:

“If they didn’t comply, there would be one in Germany,” the informant said, according to a secret transcript of his statements, whose contents were verified by several people with access to the document. “If they didn’t comply, France. If they didn’t comply, Portugal. If they didn’t comply, Britain. There are many people ready there.”

Now where would Al Qaeda get the idea that it could drive foreign troops out of Afghanistan by setting off bombs in Europe? Hmmm. Could it be because precisely that strategy worked in 2004?

On March 11, 2004, jihadists set off a series of bombs on Madrid’s commuter trains that killed 191 people and wounded 1,841. Three days later Spanish voters went to the polls and delivered a victory for the Socialist party which had pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq (and which had been trailing the center-right Popular Party before the bombings). That Al Qaeda is trying with Afghanistan the same strategy that worked for Iraq is simply evidence, if any were needed, that it is impossible to appease terrorists. But that won’t stop some Europeans from trying.

Having been out of the country over the weekend, I have only now caught up with this fascinating and important New York Times report on a terror plot that has just been busted up in Spain. Acting on a tip from a French informant, Spanish officials arrested fourteen suspected jihadists on January 19; several others are believed to have escaped.

All of the suspects are either Pakistanis or of Pakistani descent, which shows that country’s growing importance as a terrorism hub. While many other terrorism plotters in Europe have previously been linked to Pakistan (including the 2005 London subway bombers) this is apparently the first case where Pakistanis with no links to Europe have been dispatched specifically to carry out such attacks.

They were planning to carry out a series of bombings in Spain and then in other European countries designed to drive NATO troop contingents out of Afghanistan. (Spain has 740 soldiers in Afghanistan.) The Times reports:

“If they didn’t comply, there would be one in Germany,” the informant said, according to a secret transcript of his statements, whose contents were verified by several people with access to the document. “If they didn’t comply, France. If they didn’t comply, Portugal. If they didn’t comply, Britain. There are many people ready there.”

Now where would Al Qaeda get the idea that it could drive foreign troops out of Afghanistan by setting off bombs in Europe? Hmmm. Could it be because precisely that strategy worked in 2004?

On March 11, 2004, jihadists set off a series of bombs on Madrid’s commuter trains that killed 191 people and wounded 1,841. Three days later Spanish voters went to the polls and delivered a victory for the Socialist party which had pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq (and which had been trailing the center-right Popular Party before the bombings). That Al Qaeda is trying with Afghanistan the same strategy that worked for Iraq is simply evidence, if any were needed, that it is impossible to appease terrorists. But that won’t stop some Europeans from trying.

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Spain’s Failed Pacificism

On the morning of March 11, 2004, Islamists detonated 10 bombs on commuter trains in a Madrid train station killing 191 people. The Spanish electorate thought the attack a direct result of their country’s involvement in the Iraq war, and, three days later, voted out Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Aznar was a tremendous ally of the U.S. and one of the few European leaders to call Islamism out as the fascistic threat that it is. The Spanish voted in the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez, who announced immediately that Spain would withdraw her 1,300 troops fighting in Iraq.

From an Associated Press report two hours ago:

Spanish police have asked the National Court for more time to question 14 suspected Islamic militants detained on suspicion of planning a terror attack in Barcelona, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

[…]

The suspects — 12 Pakistanis and two Indian nationals — were arrested in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, home to many Arabic-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

Three years after the Madrid bombing, and the Spanish attempt at pacification, jihad lives on in Spain. This should surprise no one, as jihadists consider Spain a crucial lost chunk of the Islamic caliphate. The Iraq war hasn’t a thing to do with this centuries-old gripe.

On the morning of March 11, 2004, Islamists detonated 10 bombs on commuter trains in a Madrid train station killing 191 people. The Spanish electorate thought the attack a direct result of their country’s involvement in the Iraq war, and, three days later, voted out Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Aznar was a tremendous ally of the U.S. and one of the few European leaders to call Islamism out as the fascistic threat that it is. The Spanish voted in the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez, who announced immediately that Spain would withdraw her 1,300 troops fighting in Iraq.

From an Associated Press report two hours ago:

Spanish police have asked the National Court for more time to question 14 suspected Islamic militants detained on suspicion of planning a terror attack in Barcelona, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

[…]

The suspects — 12 Pakistanis and two Indian nationals — were arrested in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, home to many Arabic-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

Three years after the Madrid bombing, and the Spanish attempt at pacification, jihad lives on in Spain. This should surprise no one, as jihadists consider Spain a crucial lost chunk of the Islamic caliphate. The Iraq war hasn’t a thing to do with this centuries-old gripe.

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Worst Idea for Anything. Ever.

From the New York Times today: “Anne Frank Musical to Open in Madrid.”

From the New York Times today: “Anne Frank Musical to Open in Madrid.”

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Victims of Our Own Success

It is rare that an article in one part of the newspaper refutes another article just a few pages later, but that’s the case with the New York Times today. The op-ed page features this essay by federal Judge John C. Coughenour criticizing Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey for arguing that the ordinary criminal legal system is not up to the challenge of handling terrorism prosecutions. “Courts,” Coughenour writes, “are equipped to meet this challenge.”

That’s not the impression you get from page A3 of the Times, which features this article on the trial of the suspects behind the terrible Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and wounded another 1,800 in 2004. Three defendants were convicted of murder, but seven others were acquitted and eighteen others were found guilty of lesser charges. Spaniards were shocked that those who were viewed as the masterminds of this attack got off so lightly. The following passages from reporter Victoria Burnett’s dispatch stand in stark counterpart to Judge Coughenour’s contentions:

The counterterrorism experts said the verdicts reflected the challenges faced by police forces and judges as they seek to imprison those accused of international terrorism: the preponderance of circumstantial evidence rather than concrete proof; problems with evidence translated from Arabic and with evidence collected by other countries; unreliable witnesses; and the absence of confessions — none of the 28 defendants confessed.

“It is a point of pride to be able to try people in a courtroom, with full constitutional guarantees,” Fernando Reinares, an expert in international terrorism at the Royal Elcano Institute, said. “But in Spain there is space for debate about whether we need to adapt our judicial legislation and culture to confront international Islamist terrorism.”

Roland Jacquard, head of the International Observatory on Terrorism in Paris, said prosecutors had encountered similar difficulties in countries like Germany, where people accused of complicity in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were acquitted for lack of evidence.

He said: “We need to find a legal formula that would give evidence of the masterminds’ responsibility, and not only of the responsibility of the operatives. It is always easier to arrest someone who has imprints of explosives on his hands.”

So even Europeans are waking up to the fact that they need a new “legal formula” and that they have to “adapt [their] judicial legislation and culture to confront international Islamist terrorism.” If this is becoming obvious in Europe, why is it so many Americans are missing the point?

The only answer I can think of is complacency: We have become victims of our own success in the war on terrorism. Let us hope it doesn’t take another September 11 to awaken us to the urgency of the threat we face and the inadequacy of normal law enforcement procedures for dealing with it.

It is rare that an article in one part of the newspaper refutes another article just a few pages later, but that’s the case with the New York Times today. The op-ed page features this essay by federal Judge John C. Coughenour criticizing Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey for arguing that the ordinary criminal legal system is not up to the challenge of handling terrorism prosecutions. “Courts,” Coughenour writes, “are equipped to meet this challenge.”

That’s not the impression you get from page A3 of the Times, which features this article on the trial of the suspects behind the terrible Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and wounded another 1,800 in 2004. Three defendants were convicted of murder, but seven others were acquitted and eighteen others were found guilty of lesser charges. Spaniards were shocked that those who were viewed as the masterminds of this attack got off so lightly. The following passages from reporter Victoria Burnett’s dispatch stand in stark counterpart to Judge Coughenour’s contentions:

The counterterrorism experts said the verdicts reflected the challenges faced by police forces and judges as they seek to imprison those accused of international terrorism: the preponderance of circumstantial evidence rather than concrete proof; problems with evidence translated from Arabic and with evidence collected by other countries; unreliable witnesses; and the absence of confessions — none of the 28 defendants confessed.

“It is a point of pride to be able to try people in a courtroom, with full constitutional guarantees,” Fernando Reinares, an expert in international terrorism at the Royal Elcano Institute, said. “But in Spain there is space for debate about whether we need to adapt our judicial legislation and culture to confront international Islamist terrorism.”

Roland Jacquard, head of the International Observatory on Terrorism in Paris, said prosecutors had encountered similar difficulties in countries like Germany, where people accused of complicity in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were acquitted for lack of evidence.

He said: “We need to find a legal formula that would give evidence of the masterminds’ responsibility, and not only of the responsibility of the operatives. It is always easier to arrest someone who has imprints of explosives on his hands.”

So even Europeans are waking up to the fact that they need a new “legal formula” and that they have to “adapt [their] judicial legislation and culture to confront international Islamist terrorism.” If this is becoming obvious in Europe, why is it so many Americans are missing the point?

The only answer I can think of is complacency: We have become victims of our own success in the war on terrorism. Let us hope it doesn’t take another September 11 to awaken us to the urgency of the threat we face and the inadequacy of normal law enforcement procedures for dealing with it.

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Strange Linkage

Hillary Clinton says the following in her contribution to the series of big-think essays from presidential candidates solicited by Foreign Affairs magazine:

Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.

This kind of message is not surprising, but it is nonetheless tedious to see a leading American politician—especially one who possesses what must be an intimate knowledge of the previous failure of exactly her own prescription—recite such a shopworn and cloying series of clichés about the Middle East. The new twist to her message is the strange linkage between withdrawal from Iraq and the enhanced ability of the U.S. to play “a constructive role” in a “renewed peace process.”

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Hillary Clinton says the following in her contribution to the series of big-think essays from presidential candidates solicited by Foreign Affairs magazine:

Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.

This kind of message is not surprising, but it is nonetheless tedious to see a leading American politician—especially one who possesses what must be an intimate knowledge of the previous failure of exactly her own prescription—recite such a shopworn and cloying series of clichés about the Middle East. The new twist to her message is the strange linkage between withdrawal from Iraq and the enhanced ability of the U.S. to play “a constructive role” in a “renewed peace process.”

Regardless of how one feels about the Iraq war or a U.S. withdrawal from it, such a withdrawal would be viewed in the region as a blow to American power and credibility—and it would also be viewed as a triumph for the regional powers who are working assiduously to make American involvement in the Middle East as costly as possible. Those powers are Iran and Syria and their proxies Hizballah and Hamas—the same powers, it goes without saying, that want to terrorize and destroy Israel.

Hillary asserts that a reduction in American influence in the Middle East will render more plausible a new American diplomatic initiative to create Arab-Israeli peace. This argument contradicts the premise that initiated the current era of American involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. That premise, which led the first Bush administration to push for the Madrid conference, was that the U.S., after its overwhelming victory in the Gulf War, would be able to capitalize on its newfound influence in the Middle East and broker an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Clinton’s Foreign Affairs piece turns that theory, never very sound to begin with, upside down.

And it does so for what I think is an obvious reason: the need to couch a withdrawal from Iraq in as beneficial terms as possible. This is of course to be expected, but in her Foreign Affairs piece, Hillary’s cynical optimism is too obvious.

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Our Unshakeable September 10th Mentality

Suppose a CIA officer stationed in Madrid identifies an al-Qaeda operative by the name, let’s say, of Jihad Jihadi, and observes him talking on a cellphone. Using tradecraft taught on the Farm—the agency training camp back in Virginia—the CIA officer skillfully manages to find out the cellphone’s number and then puts in a request to the National Security Agency, the U.S. government’s signals-intelligence arm, to scoop up all conversations from the phone and have them translated. Can it be lawfully done?

Even if it turns out that the number Mr. Jihadi is telephoning belongs to a man named, say, Osama Fatwa, who is a pupil in a flight school in Florida where he is studying how to fly 747′s but not to land them, and even though Mr. Jihadi is located on foreign soil, the NSA might nonetheless be compelled to decline the CIA request.

Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, explains in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post:

Many Americans would be surprised at just what the current law requires. To state the facts plainly: In a significant number of cases, our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activity who are physically located in foreign countries.

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Suppose a CIA officer stationed in Madrid identifies an al-Qaeda operative by the name, let’s say, of Jihad Jihadi, and observes him talking on a cellphone. Using tradecraft taught on the Farm—the agency training camp back in Virginia—the CIA officer skillfully manages to find out the cellphone’s number and then puts in a request to the National Security Agency, the U.S. government’s signals-intelligence arm, to scoop up all conversations from the phone and have them translated. Can it be lawfully done?

Even if it turns out that the number Mr. Jihadi is telephoning belongs to a man named, say, Osama Fatwa, who is a pupil in a flight school in Florida where he is studying how to fly 747′s but not to land them, and even though Mr. Jihadi is located on foreign soil, the NSA might nonetheless be compelled to decline the CIA request.

Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, explains in an op-ed in today’s Washington Post:

Many Americans would be surprised at just what the current law requires. To state the facts plainly: In a significant number of cases, our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activity who are physically located in foreign countries.

In the aftermath of September 11, such restrictions—a consequence of the 1978 FISA Act—were rightly viewed as dangerously anachronistic, and President Bush set in motion his top-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program, under which the NSA was authorized to tap the conversations and intercept the emails of suspected terrorists without a warrant, if one party in the conversation was located abroad.
 
The New York Times revealed the existence of this program in December 2005, arguably compromising it, and the disclosure has been roiling our politics ever since. Whatever damage to our national security was inflicted by our newspaper of record, McConnell is urgently pushing for reform of FISA. “Technology and threats have changed,” he notes, “but the law remains essentially the same,” and our failure to keep pace “comes at an increasingly steep price.”
 
What exactly is that steep price? We made a downpayment with attacks on our embassies in Africa in 1998 and a major installment with the horrors of September 11, 2001. The fact is that tracking terrorist communications would be a problematic enterprise even if we were not tying our hands behind our backs. Insight into the tremendous difficulties involved comes from a recently declassified—and heavily redacted—top-secret NSA report looking back at the agency’s counterterrorism efforts in the 1970′s.
 
The report acknowledges that as terrorism emerged as a significant security concern in that era, with the rise of the Japanese Red Army, the Italian Red Brigades, and numerous Palestinian groups taking the lead, the NSA was “slow to take up the problem” and its “overall approach was rather haphazard.”

The explanation offered for the NSA’s lackluster response is that the signals-intelligence profile of a terrorist group was markedly different from the conventional military and diplomatic communications profile that the agency was accustomed to monitoring. “For the most part, terrorist groups lacked dedicated communications systems,” and as a result, the NSA was “confronted with the prospect of picking out the needles of terrorist transmissions in the haystack of [XXXXXX].” The nature of the “haystack” remains classified and the words defining it were excised from the report. But we do not have to guess in the dark. The report explains the essential difficulty: “the volume of traffic was so high, and the nature of terrorist communications so subtle, that finding anything transmitted by terrorists was problematic.”
 
Technology may have changed a great deal since the 1970’s, but the nature of terrorist communication has not. As in the 9/11 plot, terrorists cells are tiny and they do not use dedicated communications systems. Our intelligence agencies are still looking for a needle in haystack. Are we going to strew obstacles in their way beyond the formidable technological ones that are intrinsic to the problem? Or to put the question another way, are we in the grip of an unshakeable September 10th mentality and determined to set ourselves up for catastrophic failure once again?
 

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Ramadan’s Exclusion

Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.

In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.

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Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim celebrity academic and British government adviser who teaches at Oxford, is complaining again of his exclusion from the United States, where he was unable to take up a chair at Notre Dame. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he claims that he has been denied a visa “because of my criticism of [the Bush administration’s] Middle East policy and America’s unconditional support for Israel.” He lists an impressive-sounding array of U.S. organizations that “have understood that the real issue is my freedom of speech” and support his legal challenge.

In fact, Ramadan was denied a visa because of his donations to a Palestinian “charity” that supports Hamas. His claim that he was then unaware of this link is implausible, given his record as a hardline Islamist who has repeatedly refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. In fact, Ramadan has a record of contacts with Islamist terrorists. The Algerian terrorist Djamal Beghal, who plotted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris, claimed that he “took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan” while studying with him in Geneva. Ramadan was excluded from France for his contacts with Algerian terrorists, though this ban was later lifted.


Even leaving aside this and other contacts with leading terrorists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s deputy, and the “blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, who masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center—all of which Ramadan denies—his claim to be a leading moderate who seeks to “westernize Islam” and believes in freedom of speech does not square with his public pronouncements. (For fuller documentation of these charges against Ramadan, please see this from the indispensible Daniel Pipes.) It is rank hypocrisy for Ramadan, who rarely condemns censorship in the Muslim world, to accuse the United States of “muffling critical opinion” and “requiring all its citizens to think the same way.”

Ramadan justified the protests against Danish cartoons of Mohammed, claiming that the Koran prohibits representations of Islamic prophets. (In fact, it does not.) He supported the Islamist campaign to ban Voltaire’s play about Mohammed, Fanaticism, at the French town of Saint-Genis-Pouilly. He refers to Islamist atrocities such as 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and Bali as “interventions” and denies that bin Laden was behind 9/11. He has praised the genocidal Sudanese Islamist regime. He attacked the French intellectuals Alain Finkielkraut and Bernard-Henri Levy for “betraying the French Republic” by their support for “sectarianism”, a euphemism for Zionism, and scandalized many by identifying them as Jews. According to Mike Whine, head of the British Community Security Trust, an organization which monitors anti-Semitism, Ramadan has made many anti-Jewish statements and “is at the soft end of the extreme Islamist spectrum.”

We do not know precisely why the U.S. Department for Homeland Security has repeatedly turned down his application for a visa, despite elements in the State Department who would like to revoke the ban. The evidence against him may well include classified information. What we do know is that Ramadan has never abandoned his project of Islamification, and that he wants to pursue it in the heart of the United States. As the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan sees his own destiny in exalted terms. In his Chronicle piece, he speaks of the “period of transition” on which the West has embarked since the emergence of large Muslim minorities, who will require the host societies to make “major adjustments” to accommodate them. “We must move forward from integration,” he declares, while Muslims “must no longer see themselves as a ‘minority.’”

What does all this mean? What is Western society supposed to be in transition to—an Islamic one? What are these “major adjustments” that the Western democracies must make? What is wrong with the model of integration, which has served the United States well in the past, and why is it no longer good enough for Muslims? And why must Muslims no longer see themselves as a minority, if that is what they are?

Ramadan’s manifesto, moderate as it may sound, in reality amounts to a program of Islamification by stealth. His family was exiled from Egypt, and Ramadan remains persona non grata there, because the Muslim Brotherhood was and is seen as dangerous. It was the first and is still the largest Islamist organization in the world. Ramadan has achieved respectability in Europe, where he is feted by academics at Oxford and Geneva—he was even invited by the British government to sit on an advisory committee after the 7/7 subway bombings in London.

But the United States has looked more carefully at his record and decided that he represents a threat. To allow Ramadan’s brand of Islamism a platform in the heart of the American academy would be the equivalent of allowing, say, Martin Heidegger or Carl Schmitt to lecture in the United States during the Third Reich. It was the judge who had prosecuted many Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Robert H. Jackson, who warned that the Constitution is not a “suicide pact.” It is not incumbent on a democracy to allow its enemies the freedom to subvert its very existence. Tariq Ramadan is just such an enemy.

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News from the Continent: Never Again?

In the midst of Europe’s week of official mourning for the Holocaust, the question of how the continent should preserve that terrible memory and transmit it to future generations was the focus of a great controversy. The boycotting of Holocaust Memorial Day by prominent Muslim organizations has by now become an annual ritual. With the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) first among them, these groups believe that a “more inclusive” event should replace the “selective” ceremonies devoted to remembering the Nazi war against the Jews.

What organizations like the MCB have in mind is plain: a “Genocide Memorial Day” focusing on allegedly “ongoing” genocides like that of Israel against the Palestinians. And the MCB’s argument to replace the day with a different sort of commemoration is making headway—so much so that, this year, the city council of Bolton decided not to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and to replace its usual event with an observance more to the MCB’s liking. According to the city council, the decision to move the commemoration to June and to call it Genocide Memorial Day was reached in consultation with an interfaith council, although several prominent Jewish leaders were not consulted. Bolton has a rapidly growing Muslim population. With Europe’s shifting demographics, one might wonder how long it will be before such changes sweep the continent, from Sweden’s Malmö—where one-quarter of the population is Muslim—to Sicily’s Mazara del Vallo.

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In the midst of Europe’s week of official mourning for the Holocaust, the question of how the continent should preserve that terrible memory and transmit it to future generations was the focus of a great controversy. The boycotting of Holocaust Memorial Day by prominent Muslim organizations has by now become an annual ritual. With the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) first among them, these groups believe that a “more inclusive” event should replace the “selective” ceremonies devoted to remembering the Nazi war against the Jews.

What organizations like the MCB have in mind is plain: a “Genocide Memorial Day” focusing on allegedly “ongoing” genocides like that of Israel against the Palestinians. And the MCB’s argument to replace the day with a different sort of commemoration is making headway—so much so that, this year, the city council of Bolton decided not to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and to replace its usual event with an observance more to the MCB’s liking. According to the city council, the decision to move the commemoration to June and to call it Genocide Memorial Day was reached in consultation with an interfaith council, although several prominent Jewish leaders were not consulted. Bolton has a rapidly growing Muslim population. With Europe’s shifting demographics, one might wonder how long it will be before such changes sweep the continent, from Sweden’s Malmö—where one-quarter of the population is Muslim—to Sicily’s Mazara del Vallo.

When the MCB pressed for the abolition of Holocaust Memorial Day in 2005, “Home Office officials. . .told the [group], which represents more than 350 Muslim organisations, that they [were] considering the request. But officials have no plans to broaden the remit of the occasion because they fear it would infuriate the Jewish community.” Not principle, then, but sheer political expediency safeguards the day in Britain. And with only political arguments keeping Holocaust Memorial Day in place, how long can it be before voters convince the government that it is time for Britain to be more “inclusive”?

It is, therefore, doubly important to watch how Europe responds to the initiative, recently launched under the new German presidency of the EU, to introduce continent-wide legislation banning Holocaust denial. Strictly speaking, the MCB is not denying the Holocaust. But its comparison of the murder of Europe’s Jews to the plight of the Palestinians is a clear attempt to demonize Israel, with the not-so-unintended side-effect of trivializing the Holocaust. In Palestine, fewer than 4,000 people have been killed by the Israeli military in the last six years, all in an effort to disrupt the activities of terrorists and armed militants. In Auschwitz, 30,000 defenseless Jews were slaughtered every day. The analogy, in other words, is a patent untruth.

This kind of gross distortion has already gone a step further in Spain, where the city council of a small town near Madrid tried to mandate the commemoration of the “Palestinian Holocaust.” In the end, luckily, the council backed down. But making the case that history can defend itself rings hollow in the face of such episodes.

Even with such moral stupidity abounding, the subject of banning Holocaust denial remains a highly contested one across Europe. On January 24, Joan Bakewell commented in the Independent that “Freedom of speech commits us to hearing things with which we profoundly disagree. But unless we hear them, we have no chance to refute and correct them.” Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the Guardian a few days earlier, concurred, arguing, in essence, that free speech must be protected, memory must be defended through education, shutting them up would turn them into celebrities, etc.

This argument holds sway in much of the continent. Angelo D’Orsi wrote a similar column in Italy’s La Stampa, claiming that “history can defend itself” without being helped by legislation. In Italy, however, there are opposing voices. The justice minister Clemente Mastella has tried to beat the Germans to the punch, introducing his own legislation against Holocaust denial, which the Italian cabinet approved on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Most Americans consider it both and silly and dangerous to punish people for their opinions. But Europe is not America. It is a continent where the dark shadow of the past requires striking a fine balance between freedom of speech and the protection of memory. Is Holocaust denial truly something that we should defend, à la Voltaire, despite its odiousness, its motives, and its sometimes seductive power? Is truth, in a world submerged in the cacophony of cultural relativism, so compelling that we can always confidently rely on evidence and education to rebuke the charlatans and their sinister denials?

Regulating such hate speech may well endow the David Irvings of the world with the halos of martyrs. But it could also deprive them of a platform, discourage others from providing them with one, silence thousands of hate-spewing websites, shut down publishing houses that still print the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and in general make it more difficult to spread the “opinion” that the Holocaust did not happen. For to say such a thing is not just an opinion: it is a libel against the six million Jews who died—as well as those who survived and their descendants.

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