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