Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Washington Times

Re: New Black Panther Party Case

Based on what I have learned so far, the Justice Department seems to be responding in less than candid fashion to the discovery of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A knowledgeable source who has reviewed the responses tells me:

There are statements in the response that reveal the Department isn’t replying in good faith and isn’t trying very hard to get to the bottom of the case. For example, the Commission asked for information about communications from a Philadelphia lawyer who said he represented one of the black panthers, even though he never filed a pleading. The Department says they can’t find any evidence of such communications. They might start by looking at the publicly filed pleadings in the case because an affidavit was filed in the case discussing communications with the attorney in some detail.

Then there is the lack of information about those individuals in outside liberal civil rights groups who are believed to have communicated with Obama officials about the case’s dismissal. Despite the Justice Department’s reticence to reveal any information, I am told that the communications from Kristen Clarke of the NAACP about the case are widely known in the division. My source tells me that Loretta King, former acting assistant attorney general of civil rights, spoke with Clarke “inside DOJ headquarters at the Robert F. Kennedy building on numerous occasions.” Former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky similarly reports:

One former Voting Section career lawyer who had left the Justice Department to go to work for the NAACP, Kristen Clarke, admitted to the Washington Times that she talked to the new political leadership after Obama was inaugurated, berating them for not dismissing the [New Black Panther Party] case. Sources at Justice tell me Clarke made an identical pitch to her former colleagues in the Voting Section once Obama and Eric Holder came to power.

The entreaties proved productive. According to the Washington Times, Loretta King, whom Obama named the acting assistant attorney general of the [Civil Rights Division], ordered [Chief of the Civil Rights division Chris] Coates to dismiss the case against three of the defendants despite their default. King apparently received approval from Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to do so. Who else Perrelli spoke with in the Justice Department and the White House is the subject of continued stonewalling in response to the subpoenas served on Justice by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Read More

Based on what I have learned so far, the Justice Department seems to be responding in less than candid fashion to the discovery of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A knowledgeable source who has reviewed the responses tells me:

There are statements in the response that reveal the Department isn’t replying in good faith and isn’t trying very hard to get to the bottom of the case. For example, the Commission asked for information about communications from a Philadelphia lawyer who said he represented one of the black panthers, even though he never filed a pleading. The Department says they can’t find any evidence of such communications. They might start by looking at the publicly filed pleadings in the case because an affidavit was filed in the case discussing communications with the attorney in some detail.

Then there is the lack of information about those individuals in outside liberal civil rights groups who are believed to have communicated with Obama officials about the case’s dismissal. Despite the Justice Department’s reticence to reveal any information, I am told that the communications from Kristen Clarke of the NAACP about the case are widely known in the division. My source tells me that Loretta King, former acting assistant attorney general of civil rights, spoke with Clarke “inside DOJ headquarters at the Robert F. Kennedy building on numerous occasions.” Former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky similarly reports:

One former Voting Section career lawyer who had left the Justice Department to go to work for the NAACP, Kristen Clarke, admitted to the Washington Times that she talked to the new political leadership after Obama was inaugurated, berating them for not dismissing the [New Black Panther Party] case. Sources at Justice tell me Clarke made an identical pitch to her former colleagues in the Voting Section once Obama and Eric Holder came to power.

The entreaties proved productive. According to the Washington Times, Loretta King, whom Obama named the acting assistant attorney general of the [Civil Rights Division], ordered [Chief of the Civil Rights division Chris] Coates to dismiss the case against three of the defendants despite their default. King apparently received approval from Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to do so. Who else Perrelli spoke with in the Justice Department and the White House is the subject of continued stonewalling in response to the subpoenas served on Justice by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Coates was the head of the department’s New Black Panther Party trial team and has been subpoenaed by the commission. Von Spakovsky also details how Obama officials made life miserable for Coates in recent months, resulting in his recent transfer to South Carolina.

As to the substance of the department’s responses, my source points out that although the Justice Department touts that it sought relief against one defendant, “the injunction was limited to only the city limits, and only to actual weapon possession, over the objections of the career attorneys.” One of those career attorneys who objected was, of course, Coates.

It is noteworthy that even on small matters, the Justice Department’s response comes up short. As is standard practice, the Civil Rights Commission requested a “privilege log” — that is, a detailed explanation of which documents were being withheld because of a claim of privilege, with some basic descriptive material that can then be the basis, if necessary, for review by a judge. However, as far as I can tell, even that log was not provided by the Justice Department. Perhaps even that would have given away too much.

The lengths to which the Justice Department has gone to avoid giving away information that is apparently widely known and available is remarkable. As my source noted, “Reasonable people may start to conclude what is being concealed is worth these lawless risks.”

Read Less

New Black Panther Party Case: Justice Department Stonewall

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month propounded interrogatories and document requests to the Justice Department seeking answers as to why the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation was dismissed, who was involved, what outside groups participated in the decision, and what this portends for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Justice Department has responded, I have learned.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Joseph Hunt, director of the Federal Programs Branch, contends that the department is limited in what it can provide out of concern for its “deliberative processes” and so as not to “undermine its mission.” He doesn’t invoke “executive privilege” per se, but he does assert attorney-client privilege (which some legal gurus tell me doesn’t really “work” between government entities and agencies as a valid objection).

Although the answers largely consist of boilerplate objections, the department does argue that “career attorneys” with more than 60 years of experience made the call to dump the case and that an injunction was obtained against one individual defendant who actually brandished a weapon. Despite the work of the trial team (which sources inform me had ample factual and legal grounds for bringing the case against additional defendants), the Justice Department now says that unnamed career attorneys determined that it should drop the case against those additional defendants. And, of course, the response says politics played no role in the decision. Asked whether the No. 3 man in the Justice Department, Thomas Perrelli, was involved in the decision, as the Washington Times reported, the Justice Department provided no answer, only series of objections. Likewise, the most transparent administration in history — or so we are told — declines to provide the names of those career attorneys who were the decision makers. And at least for now, the Justice Department is not coughing up the names of civil rights groups that may have encouraged them to drop the case against the additional defendants.

In short, the commission is being stiffed. The Obama administration isn’t explaining anything to anyone, but the commission, not to be deterred, is nevertheless plunging forward. A public hearing at which witnesses are to be called has now been noticed for February 12. At the commission’s next meeting, this Friday, witnesses may be selected. Meanwhile, tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up Rep. Frank Wolf’s Resolution No. 894, seeking to direct “the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives all information in the Attorney General’s possession relating to the decision to dismiss United States v. New Black Panther Party.” Well, that’s going nowhere, but it will be interesting to hear liberals — who fancy themselves defenders of civil rights — explain why they don’t want to find out what the Justice Department was up to when it declined to prosecute all the defendants who participated in an egregious case of voter intimidation.

For now the Obama team continues its favorite modus operandi — not telling anyone anything about what it does. After all, they won the election, right? And this is what “de-politicizing” the administration of justice looks like. Who knew?

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month propounded interrogatories and document requests to the Justice Department seeking answers as to why the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation was dismissed, who was involved, what outside groups participated in the decision, and what this portends for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Justice Department has responded, I have learned.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Joseph Hunt, director of the Federal Programs Branch, contends that the department is limited in what it can provide out of concern for its “deliberative processes” and so as not to “undermine its mission.” He doesn’t invoke “executive privilege” per se, but he does assert attorney-client privilege (which some legal gurus tell me doesn’t really “work” between government entities and agencies as a valid objection).

Although the answers largely consist of boilerplate objections, the department does argue that “career attorneys” with more than 60 years of experience made the call to dump the case and that an injunction was obtained against one individual defendant who actually brandished a weapon. Despite the work of the trial team (which sources inform me had ample factual and legal grounds for bringing the case against additional defendants), the Justice Department now says that unnamed career attorneys determined that it should drop the case against those additional defendants. And, of course, the response says politics played no role in the decision. Asked whether the No. 3 man in the Justice Department, Thomas Perrelli, was involved in the decision, as the Washington Times reported, the Justice Department provided no answer, only series of objections. Likewise, the most transparent administration in history — or so we are told — declines to provide the names of those career attorneys who were the decision makers. And at least for now, the Justice Department is not coughing up the names of civil rights groups that may have encouraged them to drop the case against the additional defendants.

In short, the commission is being stiffed. The Obama administration isn’t explaining anything to anyone, but the commission, not to be deterred, is nevertheless plunging forward. A public hearing at which witnesses are to be called has now been noticed for February 12. At the commission’s next meeting, this Friday, witnesses may be selected. Meanwhile, tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up Rep. Frank Wolf’s Resolution No. 894, seeking to direct “the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives all information in the Attorney General’s possession relating to the decision to dismiss United States v. New Black Panther Party.” Well, that’s going nowhere, but it will be interesting to hear liberals — who fancy themselves defenders of civil rights — explain why they don’t want to find out what the Justice Department was up to when it declined to prosecute all the defendants who participated in an egregious case of voter intimidation.

For now the Obama team continues its favorite modus operandi — not telling anyone anything about what it does. After all, they won the election, right? And this is what “de-politicizing” the administration of justice looks like. Who knew?

Read Less

Obama Lawyers Fined by Federal Court

Sanctimonious Eric Holder and his equally sanctimonious minions strode into the Justice Department filled with contempt for their predecessors, who they said had “politicized” the administration of justice. (They then proceeded to override the judgment of professional lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel on the constitutionality of D.C. voting rights, appoint a slew of left-wing lawyers who are now making policy on terrorism, and override career prosecutors who chose not to pursue charges against CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques.)

Specifically in the civil rights arena, the Obami charged that the Bush administration had failed to act with due diligence to enforce federal law. The Obama political appointees then proceeded to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case, an egregious case of voter intimidation. When last we checked, the Obama administration was refusing to allow its lawyers to respond to a subpoena by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (Responses to written discovery requests are due on January 11.) Now comes further evidence of what passes for the “administration of justice” in the Obama-Holder regime:

This week, a federal district court in Kansas imposed sanctions on the same Civil Rights Division (CRD) officials who spiked the Panthers case, Loretta King and Steve Rosenbaum, for their refusals to provide information in another case. Breaking the president’s promise to have the most transparent administration in history, Rosenbaum and King’s concealment of information will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. … What is clear from reading the order is that, as usual, the CRD made broad accusations of discriminatory conduct when it filed its complaint, but when it was asked to provide specific examples or actual evidence of such discrimination, it failed to do so. Lawyers for both sides have until January 20 to determine the amount of the award to be made to the defendants. While the CRD lawyers “shall be solely responsible for paying the monetary sanctions,” there is no doubt the department will reimburse them, so the American taxpayer will end up footing the bill for Rosenbaum’s outrageous behavior and his failure to properly supervise the lawyers who work for him.

It is noteworthy that these two lawyers — the ones who directly superimposed their own legal judgment in the New Black Panther Party case — are now the subject of  the court’s order, which as the report notes is unusual, in that it is “directed at individual lawyers that specifically says their employer is not responsible for paying the costs.” To boot, King is a multiple-sanctions recipient. During the Clinton administration, she was one of the Justice Department attorneys who was responsible for a fine of more than half a million dollars.

It’s important to keep in mind that, according to those most closely involved in the matter, it’s highly unlikely that King and Rosenbaum themselves initiated the dismissal of the New Black Panther Case. The Washington Times has fingered the No. 3 man in the Justice Department. Nevertheless, the Obama team has contended to Republican congressmen that it was these “professionals” who made the call. And these are among the Obama lawyers who now are going to “improve” enforcement of civil rights laws. We now know what the Obama “professional” lawyers look like in action.

Sanctimonious Eric Holder and his equally sanctimonious minions strode into the Justice Department filled with contempt for their predecessors, who they said had “politicized” the administration of justice. (They then proceeded to override the judgment of professional lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel on the constitutionality of D.C. voting rights, appoint a slew of left-wing lawyers who are now making policy on terrorism, and override career prosecutors who chose not to pursue charges against CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques.)

Specifically in the civil rights arena, the Obami charged that the Bush administration had failed to act with due diligence to enforce federal law. The Obama political appointees then proceeded to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case, an egregious case of voter intimidation. When last we checked, the Obama administration was refusing to allow its lawyers to respond to a subpoena by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (Responses to written discovery requests are due on January 11.) Now comes further evidence of what passes for the “administration of justice” in the Obama-Holder regime:

This week, a federal district court in Kansas imposed sanctions on the same Civil Rights Division (CRD) officials who spiked the Panthers case, Loretta King and Steve Rosenbaum, for their refusals to provide information in another case. Breaking the president’s promise to have the most transparent administration in history, Rosenbaum and King’s concealment of information will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. … What is clear from reading the order is that, as usual, the CRD made broad accusations of discriminatory conduct when it filed its complaint, but when it was asked to provide specific examples or actual evidence of such discrimination, it failed to do so. Lawyers for both sides have until January 20 to determine the amount of the award to be made to the defendants. While the CRD lawyers “shall be solely responsible for paying the monetary sanctions,” there is no doubt the department will reimburse them, so the American taxpayer will end up footing the bill for Rosenbaum’s outrageous behavior and his failure to properly supervise the lawyers who work for him.

It is noteworthy that these two lawyers — the ones who directly superimposed their own legal judgment in the New Black Panther Party case — are now the subject of  the court’s order, which as the report notes is unusual, in that it is “directed at individual lawyers that specifically says their employer is not responsible for paying the costs.” To boot, King is a multiple-sanctions recipient. During the Clinton administration, she was one of the Justice Department attorneys who was responsible for a fine of more than half a million dollars.

It’s important to keep in mind that, according to those most closely involved in the matter, it’s highly unlikely that King and Rosenbaum themselves initiated the dismissal of the New Black Panther Case. The Washington Times has fingered the No. 3 man in the Justice Department. Nevertheless, the Obama team has contended to Republican congressmen that it was these “professionals” who made the call. And these are among the Obama lawyers who now are going to “improve” enforcement of civil rights laws. We now know what the Obama “professional” lawyers look like in action.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Let’s hope it’s not true: “Sen. John Kerry has filed a formal request to visit Iran, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday — news made public in the middle of the government’s bloody crackdown on dissidents that has left more than a dozen dead.” It would be frightful if the Obami foreign policy toward Iran were this incoherent.

Meanwhile, outside the Obami cocoon: “Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Diplomats said the assessment was heightening international concern about Tehran’s nuclear activities.”

MSNBC going into rehab? It is redoing its daytime lineup. “MSNBC may need to prove its news commitment to viewers. With news of the attempted terrorist attack on a plane bound for Detroit breaking late on Christmas, the network stuck with pre-taped programming. CNN and Fox covered the story much more extensively.” The solution? “MSNBC will pair Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie for one hour at 9 a.m. in a newsy, nonpartisan look at the day’s upcoming events.” In MSNBC parlance, “nonpartisan” means no “Bush=Hilter” comments.

Hannah Rosenthal denies that slamming the Israeli Ambassador was out of bounds. Or it was taken out of context. (The “system worked”? No, that’s another gaffe-prone Obama flack.) In any event, she, as Shmuel Rosner points out, is picking up friends with the Israel-bashing crowd and is “on the way to becoming their new martyr.”

Second time is the charm? “Mr. Obama has been seeking to counter criticism that he was out of touch in the aftermath of the foiled plot, which took place Friday. For the first three days, he delegated public statements to subordinates before giving a statement Monday.” It would  be nice if he got it right the first time. (One wonders what the White House’s internal polling must show about the public reaction to its handling of the terror attack.)

And it certainly doesn’t look as though Abdulmutallab was an “isolated extremist”: “The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner had his suicide mission personally blessed in Yemen by Anwar al-Awlaki, the same Muslim imam suspected of radicalizing the Fort Hood shooting suspect, a U.S. intelligence source has told the Washington Times.”

Diane Ravitch nails it: “So the crotch-bomber will be tried for a felony in a federal court, with all the rights and privileges of American citizens. So Khalid Sheik-Mohammed and his associates will be able to enlist an army of pro bono lawyers to defend their ‘constitutional rights,’ the same ones they tried to destroy, along with some 3,000 lives. So KSM and pals will get discovery proceedings, will demand a new venue, will insist that the U.S. produce witnesses to their alleged crimes, will inflict millions of dollars of unnecessary security costs on NYC (or any other host city) that might better be spent on schools. In short, the Obama administration has woven a web of confusion, rhetoric, and illogic that will entangle it for years to come, as it attempts to defuse, de-escalate and minimize the terrorist threat. The reason this strategy is politically foolish is that the terrorist threat is real.”

Meanwhile the Washington Post reports: “Former detainees of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have led and fueled the growing assertiveness of the al-Qaeda branch that claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner, potentially complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to shut down the facility.” It almost as though releasing dangerous terrorists is only enabling a network of fanatical murderers, huh? Must the Obami insist that closing Guantanamo is still a “national security imperative”? I think we have found the “systematic failure.”

This seems right: “By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation really isn’t all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he’s back. And isn’t it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike?”

Let’s hope it’s not true: “Sen. John Kerry has filed a formal request to visit Iran, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday — news made public in the middle of the government’s bloody crackdown on dissidents that has left more than a dozen dead.” It would be frightful if the Obami foreign policy toward Iran were this incoherent.

Meanwhile, outside the Obami cocoon: “Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Diplomats said the assessment was heightening international concern about Tehran’s nuclear activities.”

MSNBC going into rehab? It is redoing its daytime lineup. “MSNBC may need to prove its news commitment to viewers. With news of the attempted terrorist attack on a plane bound for Detroit breaking late on Christmas, the network stuck with pre-taped programming. CNN and Fox covered the story much more extensively.” The solution? “MSNBC will pair Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie for one hour at 9 a.m. in a newsy, nonpartisan look at the day’s upcoming events.” In MSNBC parlance, “nonpartisan” means no “Bush=Hilter” comments.

Hannah Rosenthal denies that slamming the Israeli Ambassador was out of bounds. Or it was taken out of context. (The “system worked”? No, that’s another gaffe-prone Obama flack.) In any event, she, as Shmuel Rosner points out, is picking up friends with the Israel-bashing crowd and is “on the way to becoming their new martyr.”

Second time is the charm? “Mr. Obama has been seeking to counter criticism that he was out of touch in the aftermath of the foiled plot, which took place Friday. For the first three days, he delegated public statements to subordinates before giving a statement Monday.” It would  be nice if he got it right the first time. (One wonders what the White House’s internal polling must show about the public reaction to its handling of the terror attack.)

And it certainly doesn’t look as though Abdulmutallab was an “isolated extremist”: “The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner had his suicide mission personally blessed in Yemen by Anwar al-Awlaki, the same Muslim imam suspected of radicalizing the Fort Hood shooting suspect, a U.S. intelligence source has told the Washington Times.”

Diane Ravitch nails it: “So the crotch-bomber will be tried for a felony in a federal court, with all the rights and privileges of American citizens. So Khalid Sheik-Mohammed and his associates will be able to enlist an army of pro bono lawyers to defend their ‘constitutional rights,’ the same ones they tried to destroy, along with some 3,000 lives. So KSM and pals will get discovery proceedings, will demand a new venue, will insist that the U.S. produce witnesses to their alleged crimes, will inflict millions of dollars of unnecessary security costs on NYC (or any other host city) that might better be spent on schools. In short, the Obama administration has woven a web of confusion, rhetoric, and illogic that will entangle it for years to come, as it attempts to defuse, de-escalate and minimize the terrorist threat. The reason this strategy is politically foolish is that the terrorist threat is real.”

Meanwhile the Washington Post reports: “Former detainees of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have led and fueled the growing assertiveness of the al-Qaeda branch that claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner, potentially complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to shut down the facility.” It almost as though releasing dangerous terrorists is only enabling a network of fanatical murderers, huh? Must the Obami insist that closing Guantanamo is still a “national security imperative”? I think we have found the “systematic failure.”

This seems right: “By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation really isn’t all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he’s back. And isn’t it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike?”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Read Less

The Black Panther Cover-Up

The Justice Department has ordered its career trial lawyers who have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights not to appear to provide testimony or give documents in the investigation of DOJ’s dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. The Washington Times explains:

Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department’s Federal Programs Branch, ordered the lawyers’ silence in a letter to the attorney for J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney for the department in the New Black Panther case. The letter said “well-established” and “lawful” Justice Department guidelines prohibited Mr. Adams’ cooperation in the commission probe.

How a personnel guideline can supersede the force of a subpoena issued by the commission remains a mystery. The report notes:

Todd Gaziano, a nonpartisan member of the Civil Rights Commission, challenged the Justice Department’s ruling, saying that the regulations cited do not apply and that the commission is “duly authorized by statute to review and report on enforcement activities of the Justice Department and other similar agencies.”

“Our job places a premium on our role as a watchdog of federal and state enforcement agencies, and to that end, Congress has instructed all agencies to comply fully with our requests,” he said. … [Gaziano] said the Justice Department “had it exactly backwards” when it suggested that there could be negative consequences for those who comply with the commission’s subpoenas. He said a lawyer cannot refuse to comply with a subpoena he knows to be lawful.

A source tells me that Adams was “not quite” threatened with the loss of his job, but plainly he and his colleague, Christopher Coates, the voting rights section chief, are being strong-armed to disregard a lawful subpoena. This is abject lawlessness, the sort of executive imperiousness that, if practiced by a Republican administration, would bring howls of protest from Congress, the media, and liberal lawyers’ groups. The Obama Justice Department doesn’t want to respond to a subpoena because they have a personnel rule? Next thing you know they’ll be claiming executive privilege for a social secretary. Oh yes, that’s right …

Now as for the merits, the Justice Department spokesman continues to spew the administration line that the voter-intimidation case brought by DOJ’s career lawyers was not supported by the law and the facts. But of course the lawyers disagree, claiming that their best legal judgment was overridden by political appointees without justification. They have a story to tell, with documents, firsthand accounts of meetings and conversations and e-mails with the political appointees’ own remarks, which they say will substantiate their position. But the Justice Department won’t let any of that out, nor will it say what specifically about the case lacked factual or legal support.

It’s not clear where we go from here. The Justice Department lawyers may appear anyway, testing whether the Obama administration would go as far as to fire them for complying with a subpoena. A deal might be negotiated between DOJ (which is apparently concerned that something quite distasteful may emerge) and the commission to provide some portion of the requested information. Or Congress might wake up, fulfill its obligation to conduct some real oversight of the Obama administration (which once again is telling us that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to the White House), and actually hold a hearing on the matter.

The crew that excoriated the “politicization” of justice is now in a furious fight to cover their tracks and prevent career lawyers from blowing the whistle on Obama political appointees who reached down to pull the plug on a serious case of voter intimidation. The Obami need not be accountable or “transparent” to anyone, they would have us believe. We’ll see if that proves to be a winning position.

The Justice Department has ordered its career trial lawyers who have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights not to appear to provide testimony or give documents in the investigation of DOJ’s dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. The Washington Times explains:

Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department’s Federal Programs Branch, ordered the lawyers’ silence in a letter to the attorney for J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney for the department in the New Black Panther case. The letter said “well-established” and “lawful” Justice Department guidelines prohibited Mr. Adams’ cooperation in the commission probe.

How a personnel guideline can supersede the force of a subpoena issued by the commission remains a mystery. The report notes:

Todd Gaziano, a nonpartisan member of the Civil Rights Commission, challenged the Justice Department’s ruling, saying that the regulations cited do not apply and that the commission is “duly authorized by statute to review and report on enforcement activities of the Justice Department and other similar agencies.”

“Our job places a premium on our role as a watchdog of federal and state enforcement agencies, and to that end, Congress has instructed all agencies to comply fully with our requests,” he said. … [Gaziano] said the Justice Department “had it exactly backwards” when it suggested that there could be negative consequences for those who comply with the commission’s subpoenas. He said a lawyer cannot refuse to comply with a subpoena he knows to be lawful.

A source tells me that Adams was “not quite” threatened with the loss of his job, but plainly he and his colleague, Christopher Coates, the voting rights section chief, are being strong-armed to disregard a lawful subpoena. This is abject lawlessness, the sort of executive imperiousness that, if practiced by a Republican administration, would bring howls of protest from Congress, the media, and liberal lawyers’ groups. The Obama Justice Department doesn’t want to respond to a subpoena because they have a personnel rule? Next thing you know they’ll be claiming executive privilege for a social secretary. Oh yes, that’s right …

Now as for the merits, the Justice Department spokesman continues to spew the administration line that the voter-intimidation case brought by DOJ’s career lawyers was not supported by the law and the facts. But of course the lawyers disagree, claiming that their best legal judgment was overridden by political appointees without justification. They have a story to tell, with documents, firsthand accounts of meetings and conversations and e-mails with the political appointees’ own remarks, which they say will substantiate their position. But the Justice Department won’t let any of that out, nor will it say what specifically about the case lacked factual or legal support.

It’s not clear where we go from here. The Justice Department lawyers may appear anyway, testing whether the Obama administration would go as far as to fire them for complying with a subpoena. A deal might be negotiated between DOJ (which is apparently concerned that something quite distasteful may emerge) and the commission to provide some portion of the requested information. Or Congress might wake up, fulfill its obligation to conduct some real oversight of the Obama administration (which once again is telling us that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to the White House), and actually hold a hearing on the matter.

The crew that excoriated the “politicization” of justice is now in a furious fight to cover their tracks and prevent career lawyers from blowing the whistle on Obama political appointees who reached down to pull the plug on a serious case of voter intimidation. The Obami need not be accountable or “transparent” to anyone, they would have us believe. We’ll see if that proves to be a winning position.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

Read Less

NIAC’s PR Offensive

As the NIAC and Trita Parsi story unfolds in the wake of Eli Lake’s bombshell story, it is interesting to note just how it might be that many on the Left are simultaneously reaching the same conclusions (e.g., it’s all a neocon conspiracy, Parsi is besieged by an MEK agent).

On Parsi and NIAC’s side is Brown Lloyd James, a PR firm with much experience in this area. The firm’s website tells us: “Brown Lloyd James handled the international launch of Al Jazeera English.” And we also know from news reports that “Brown Lloyd James, a public relations firm with offices in London and New York, has opened an office in Tripoli. It is reported to have placed articles by Colonel Gadaffi in American newspapers.” So they have the best of the best when it comes to representing these sorts of clients.

It should come as no surprise then that even before the Washington Times story was released, NIAC was laying the groundwork to scream foul. Back on November 3, Parsi sent out a fundraising letter, which tipped the hand on the upcoming defense and those who would be telling a sympathetic tale:

Dear NIAC Friend,

When we launched the Truth out 2010 Campaign two weeks ago, we never expected the overwhelming response we got. Our sincere thanks to all those who responded. Clearly, our many supporters are just as tired of the smear campaign against NIAC as we are.

One thing that those behind the smears seem to have in common is a belief that Iranian Americans shouldn’t have a say in America’s approach to Iran simply because they are Iranian Americans. Not only is this ridiculous and offensive, it has a racist undertone with innuendos of dual loyalty.

See for instance what ultra-conservative Martin Kramer said at an AIPAC conference in 2009. Kramer argued that Iranian Americans tend to still have family in Iran and are therefore easily intimidated into backing Tehran, saying: “[W]e have to be extremely cautious about what we take away from Iranian Diaspora communities when it comes to understanding Iran. Many of these communities desperately want access to their own country. And it dramatically tilts their analysis toward accommodation.”

There has been a flurry of articles by fair-minded American journalists in the media that defend NIAC, push back and do not allow these smears to go unanswered.  Just today, the Huffington Post published an article uncovering the true motives behind the smears — stating that they “were dishonest at best and defamatory at worst,” and “as NIAC’s voice grew louder in foreign policy circles, so too did the vehemence of its critics.”

Other influential journalists have also rejected the allegations against NIAC:

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic:

“The implication that [Trita Parsi] is somehow a tool of the regime is unfair, untrue and malicious.”

Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent:

“Any American reporter who paid any attention to the U.S. debate over the Iranian election quoted Parsi and NIAC, constantly, denouncing Ahmadinejad.”

Matt Yglesias, Think Progress:

“What can be seen, right out in the open and on the record, is that NIAC has consistently criticized human rights abuses by the Iranian government and agitated for liberalization, fair elections, and decent treatment of the population of Iran.”

Daniel Luban, The Faster Times:

“Why, then, is [Parsi] being attacked as a stooge for the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: while Parsi has harshly criticized the regime’s actions, he has joined Iran’s leading opposition figures in opposing the use of sanctions or military force against Iran, on the grounds that they would be likely simply to kill innocent Iranian civilians while strengthening the regime’s hold on power. For the Iran hawks, this is a mortal sin.” Read More

As the NIAC and Trita Parsi story unfolds in the wake of Eli Lake’s bombshell story, it is interesting to note just how it might be that many on the Left are simultaneously reaching the same conclusions (e.g., it’s all a neocon conspiracy, Parsi is besieged by an MEK agent).

On Parsi and NIAC’s side is Brown Lloyd James, a PR firm with much experience in this area. The firm’s website tells us: “Brown Lloyd James handled the international launch of Al Jazeera English.” And we also know from news reports that “Brown Lloyd James, a public relations firm with offices in London and New York, has opened an office in Tripoli. It is reported to have placed articles by Colonel Gadaffi in American newspapers.” So they have the best of the best when it comes to representing these sorts of clients.

It should come as no surprise then that even before the Washington Times story was released, NIAC was laying the groundwork to scream foul. Back on November 3, Parsi sent out a fundraising letter, which tipped the hand on the upcoming defense and those who would be telling a sympathetic tale:

Dear NIAC Friend,

When we launched the Truth out 2010 Campaign two weeks ago, we never expected the overwhelming response we got. Our sincere thanks to all those who responded. Clearly, our many supporters are just as tired of the smear campaign against NIAC as we are.

One thing that those behind the smears seem to have in common is a belief that Iranian Americans shouldn’t have a say in America’s approach to Iran simply because they are Iranian Americans. Not only is this ridiculous and offensive, it has a racist undertone with innuendos of dual loyalty.

See for instance what ultra-conservative Martin Kramer said at an AIPAC conference in 2009. Kramer argued that Iranian Americans tend to still have family in Iran and are therefore easily intimidated into backing Tehran, saying: “[W]e have to be extremely cautious about what we take away from Iranian Diaspora communities when it comes to understanding Iran. Many of these communities desperately want access to their own country. And it dramatically tilts their analysis toward accommodation.”

There has been a flurry of articles by fair-minded American journalists in the media that defend NIAC, push back and do not allow these smears to go unanswered.  Just today, the Huffington Post published an article uncovering the true motives behind the smears — stating that they “were dishonest at best and defamatory at worst,” and “as NIAC’s voice grew louder in foreign policy circles, so too did the vehemence of its critics.”

Other influential journalists have also rejected the allegations against NIAC:

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic:

“The implication that [Trita Parsi] is somehow a tool of the regime is unfair, untrue and malicious.”

Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent:

“Any American reporter who paid any attention to the U.S. debate over the Iranian election quoted Parsi and NIAC, constantly, denouncing Ahmadinejad.”

Matt Yglesias, Think Progress:

“What can be seen, right out in the open and on the record, is that NIAC has consistently criticized human rights abuses by the Iranian government and agitated for liberalization, fair elections, and decent treatment of the population of Iran.”

Daniel Luban, The Faster Times:

“Why, then, is [Parsi] being attacked as a stooge for the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: while Parsi has harshly criticized the regime’s actions, he has joined Iran’s leading opposition figures in opposing the use of sanctions or military force against Iran, on the grounds that they would be likely simply to kill innocent Iranian civilians while strengthening the regime’s hold on power. For the Iran hawks, this is a mortal sin.”

Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com calls NIAC’s attackers “neocon character assassins.”

As part of our Truth in 2010 Campaign, we are providing a Facts vs Myths section on our website. It’s a great resource to find out the truth about NIAC’s work. Make sure you study it and tell your friends — nothing is more effective in fighting smear than the truth!

Your loyalty and support is what has gotten our community this far — so, please don’t stop now. Please continue to support NIAC by donating $20.10 or more to the 2010 Campaign — and remember, all your donations are tax-deductible.

But don’t just donate. Make sure you email the Huffington Post article and this email to all your friends. Post it on your Facebook status. Tweet about it. And talk to your friends about the work NIAC is doing!

Momentum is building in our favor, but that doesn’t mean our work is over. We have to continue our offensive in order to meet our commitment to you of dispelling myths and falsehoods by 2010.

As always, thank you for your support. We look forward to sharing more good news with you in the near future!

Sincerely,

Trita Parsi, PhD

Weeks before the story actually broke, the  groundwork for the defense was being laid. And it is interesting that just after the story did break, Andrew Sullivan rushed forward with the very same “dual loyalty” argument. Luban stepped up to smear a Parsi critic as a terrorist. And so it went as some in the Left blogosphere struggled mightily to paint Parsi as the innocent victim and somehow the friend of the Greens (neatly sidestepping the conspiracy to defund the same). That sort of smooth-running rebuttal doesn’t just happen on its own, it is fair to conclude, and you can’t say Parsi and NIAC aren’t getting their money’s worth from their PR team

Read Less

Eli Lake on NIAC

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

Read Less

Disheartening

The Washington Times has a disturbing story about Arabs who refuse to let their children go to Israel to receive life-saving cardiac surgery facilitated by Israeli charities. Diyar Raouf, mother of a 6-year-old boy with a life-threatening heart condition, said, “These feelings were born with us. They are inbred.”

So, as she nurtures Jew-hating pathology in her son, Raouf makes the argument for anti-Semitism from birth. Meanwhile, Israeli charities like Save A Child’s Heart and Shevat Achim continue to offer life-saving medical assistance to Muslim children.

What’s worse is that the medical establishment is catering to the fanaticism of parents like Raouf by helping them find alternative medical facilities without batting an eye:

Dr. Kubaisy was senior cardiac consultant and former director of the Ibn al Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad before it was burned and looted in 2003. When he was told of the Israel plan, he and other Iraqis living in Amman looked for options. Algeria responded right away.

The Washington Times does not even acknowledge the extraordinary humanitarian impulse behind these charitable offers. Which goes to show that the talk of Israel’s need to demonstrate its moral high ground to the larger world is nonsense. They can handover land or save Arab lives, but it makes, apparently, no difference at all.

The Washington Times has a disturbing story about Arabs who refuse to let their children go to Israel to receive life-saving cardiac surgery facilitated by Israeli charities. Diyar Raouf, mother of a 6-year-old boy with a life-threatening heart condition, said, “These feelings were born with us. They are inbred.”

So, as she nurtures Jew-hating pathology in her son, Raouf makes the argument for anti-Semitism from birth. Meanwhile, Israeli charities like Save A Child’s Heart and Shevat Achim continue to offer life-saving medical assistance to Muslim children.

What’s worse is that the medical establishment is catering to the fanaticism of parents like Raouf by helping them find alternative medical facilities without batting an eye:

Dr. Kubaisy was senior cardiac consultant and former director of the Ibn al Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad before it was burned and looted in 2003. When he was told of the Israel plan, he and other Iraqis living in Amman looked for options. Algeria responded right away.

The Washington Times does not even acknowledge the extraordinary humanitarian impulse behind these charitable offers. Which goes to show that the talk of Israel’s need to demonstrate its moral high ground to the larger world is nonsense. They can handover land or save Arab lives, but it makes, apparently, no difference at all.

Read Less

“______” Terrorism

Yesterday, Muneer Fareed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, called for John McCain to cease using the terms Muslim or Islamic in describing–Mohammedan?–terrorism. Here’s Fareed, as quoted in the Washington Times:

You want to call them terrorist criminals, fine. But adding the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ certainly doesn’t help our cause as Americans . . . It paints an entire community of believers, 1.2 billion in total, in a very negative way.

In fact, it does no such thing. The modifiers “Islamic” and “Muslim” are critical in helping to identify the methodology, motivation, and personnel working against us. What does paint the moderate Muslim community “in a very negative way” is Fareed’s evident refusal to face up to a blunt fact: people calling themselves Muslims have waged a war against people they’ve labeled infidels.

The argument goes, of course, that terrorists who kill innocents in the name of Islam are not observant Muslims. Islam forbids such indiscriminate carnage. This is an argument that’s owed a great deal of respect, particularly if we’re looking for moderate Muslims to practice a version of Islam compatible with modern ideas of pluralism and human rights.

However, for a Western government to toe that line without reservation is an error. Which is precisely what England started doing about three months ago. The British government has now officially re-labeled Islamic terrorism “anti-Islamic activity”–so as not to upset people like Fareed.

The funny part of all this is that Bin Laden and company object to the “terrorist” part of the description: they consider themselves good Muslims! So, if you really want to be part of the even-handed multi-culti crowd, you can’t talk about either Islam or terrorism. Which, come to think of it, makes it easier to forget about this whole, distracting war thing and focus on the gun-toting zealots in our own society.

Yesterday, Muneer Fareed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, called for John McCain to cease using the terms Muslim or Islamic in describing–Mohammedan?–terrorism. Here’s Fareed, as quoted in the Washington Times:

You want to call them terrorist criminals, fine. But adding the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ certainly doesn’t help our cause as Americans . . . It paints an entire community of believers, 1.2 billion in total, in a very negative way.

In fact, it does no such thing. The modifiers “Islamic” and “Muslim” are critical in helping to identify the methodology, motivation, and personnel working against us. What does paint the moderate Muslim community “in a very negative way” is Fareed’s evident refusal to face up to a blunt fact: people calling themselves Muslims have waged a war against people they’ve labeled infidels.

The argument goes, of course, that terrorists who kill innocents in the name of Islam are not observant Muslims. Islam forbids such indiscriminate carnage. This is an argument that’s owed a great deal of respect, particularly if we’re looking for moderate Muslims to practice a version of Islam compatible with modern ideas of pluralism and human rights.

However, for a Western government to toe that line without reservation is an error. Which is precisely what England started doing about three months ago. The British government has now officially re-labeled Islamic terrorism “anti-Islamic activity”–so as not to upset people like Fareed.

The funny part of all this is that Bin Laden and company object to the “terrorist” part of the description: they consider themselves good Muslims! So, if you really want to be part of the even-handed multi-culti crowd, you can’t talk about either Islam or terrorism. Which, come to think of it, makes it easier to forget about this whole, distracting war thing and focus on the gun-toting zealots in our own society.

Read Less

Could It Be?

Although Jennifer thinks Hillary’s going in for the kill, I believe there’s some indication that the woman who can not, will not, and shall not give up is maybe going to consider thinking about getting ready to . . . give up. Moreover, she may be doing so with a little grace. Here’s the Washington Times reporting on Hillary’s appearance today at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual conference:

Clinton opened the forum with a joke, saying she had drawn “great strength and encouragement over the last months” over the famed newspaper headline “Dewey beats Truman.”

Hillary was cajoled into being self-effacing after Snipergate. For a Clinton, though, an unprovoked opening line like the one above is practically a concession speech. Furthermore, she didn’t even mention Barack Obama. Instead she sounded the rallying cry of Democratic unity, launching an attack on the criminality of the Bush administration complete with requisite hyperbole: “Mrs. Clinton derided Mr. Bush, saying that “rather than defending the Constitution, he has defied its principles and traditions.”

After her speech, she spoke in conciliatory terms about the Democratic primary:

During a question-and-answer session later, Mrs. Clinton drew loud applause for saying that no matter the results of the 2008 election, “Never, ever again will any child growing up in America think that an African-American or a woman cannot be the president of the United States.”

Is there any way to get that in writing?

Although Jennifer thinks Hillary’s going in for the kill, I believe there’s some indication that the woman who can not, will not, and shall not give up is maybe going to consider thinking about getting ready to . . . give up. Moreover, she may be doing so with a little grace. Here’s the Washington Times reporting on Hillary’s appearance today at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual conference:

Clinton opened the forum with a joke, saying she had drawn “great strength and encouragement over the last months” over the famed newspaper headline “Dewey beats Truman.”

Hillary was cajoled into being self-effacing after Snipergate. For a Clinton, though, an unprovoked opening line like the one above is practically a concession speech. Furthermore, she didn’t even mention Barack Obama. Instead she sounded the rallying cry of Democratic unity, launching an attack on the criminality of the Bush administration complete with requisite hyperbole: “Mrs. Clinton derided Mr. Bush, saying that “rather than defending the Constitution, he has defied its principles and traditions.”

After her speech, she spoke in conciliatory terms about the Democratic primary:

During a question-and-answer session later, Mrs. Clinton drew loud applause for saying that no matter the results of the 2008 election, “Never, ever again will any child growing up in America think that an African-American or a woman cannot be the president of the United States.”

Is there any way to get that in writing?

Read Less

Emboldening Terrorists

Harvard researchers have determined that the broadcasting of American doubt about the war has an “emboldenment effect” on insurgents. Here’s the Washington Times:

Periods of intense news media coverage in the United States of criticism about the war, or of polling about public opinion on the conflict, are followed by a small but quantifiable increases in the number of attacks on civilians and U.S. forces in Iraq, according to a study by Radha Iyengar, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy research at Harvard and Jonathan Monten of the Belfer Center at the university’s Kennedy School of Government.

Not exactly shocking. But maybe the media executives who’ve been so eager to run photos of flag-draped coffins and the journalists who start each day thinking of a fresh way to cover America’s demise could keep this in mind.

Particularly now. We are in the midst of a “five years on” media riot. The number 4000 is suddenly everywhere. Yes, a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. But it shouldn’t be exploited for the sole purpose of lamenting out military efforts. The success of the troop surge was barely acknowledged for half a year, and yet the 4000th U.S. casualty in Iraq made it into the headlines at the speed of light. And here’s something worth considering: If random criticism of the war causes spikes of insurgent violence, imagine the effect of a U.S. president whose guiding principle is the wrongness of this war.

Harvard researchers have determined that the broadcasting of American doubt about the war has an “emboldenment effect” on insurgents. Here’s the Washington Times:

Periods of intense news media coverage in the United States of criticism about the war, or of polling about public opinion on the conflict, are followed by a small but quantifiable increases in the number of attacks on civilians and U.S. forces in Iraq, according to a study by Radha Iyengar, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy research at Harvard and Jonathan Monten of the Belfer Center at the university’s Kennedy School of Government.

Not exactly shocking. But maybe the media executives who’ve been so eager to run photos of flag-draped coffins and the journalists who start each day thinking of a fresh way to cover America’s demise could keep this in mind.

Particularly now. We are in the midst of a “five years on” media riot. The number 4000 is suddenly everywhere. Yes, a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. But it shouldn’t be exploited for the sole purpose of lamenting out military efforts. The success of the troop surge was barely acknowledged for half a year, and yet the 4000th U.S. casualty in Iraq made it into the headlines at the speed of light. And here’s something worth considering: If random criticism of the war causes spikes of insurgent violence, imagine the effect of a U.S. president whose guiding principle is the wrongness of this war.

Read Less

Why The Bin Laden Speculation?

Lately there’s been a lot of speculation about who will succeed Osama bin Laden, either formally within the ranks of al Qaeda or generally as the most dangerous terrorist on the planet. Some of my fellow Contentions bloggers may be able to shed more light on this, but I’m starting to find the “who’s next?” speculation curious. Is bin Laden nearly captured? Is he dying or dead? Or is his demotion in status–to cave-dwelling spoken word artist–simply so bathetic as to no longer be newsworthy?

If you were to read the following lead from this March 12 Washington Times article, you’d assume Osama bin Laden was dead:

Internal divisions between Saudi and Egyptian leaders of al Qaeda are producing “fissures” within the terrorist group and a possible battle over who will succeed Osama bin Laden, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday.

Michael Hayden goes on as if al Qaeda’s bin Laden years are as over as Camelot.

Bin Laden is now an “iconic” figure hiding in the remote border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Hayden said in a wide-ranging interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

“And frankly, then, we think there has been an awful lot of jockeying” among possible successors, Mr. Hayden said.

“Keep in mind, he’s a Saudi. An awful lot of that leadership is Egyptian. If the Saudi dies, who becomes the next guy may be quite a contentious matter,” he said.

[…]

Asked whether bin Laden is alive, Mr. Hayden said: “We have … no evidence he’s not. And frankly, we think there would be evidence. … Given the iconic stature, his death would cause a little more than a wake in the harbor.”

Of course, it’s impossible to overestimate the lengths to which the CIA will go to defend their failures. They may think describing bin Laden as irrelevant helps excuse their inability to locate him. But if bin Laden really is becoming a CIA footnote, his inaction is also pushing the MSM to find the “next big thing” in jihad. There’s a story up at ABC News about “[a]n emerging leader, sources say, who threatens to eclipse Osama bin Laden as the world’s top terrorist.” They’re talking about Pakistani warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who’s allegedly behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto:

With his identity protected, Mehsud told the Arab network al Jazeera, “We want to eradicate Britain and America …We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

“He’s saying the same thing that bin Laden said then years ago,” Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said. “And it doesn’t mean that the attack’s coming tomorrow, but yeah, it’s certainly, he’s the kind of person and his group is the kind of group that we need to mindful about.”

I’m all for being prepared, but I’m not thrilled about moving on in quite this way. In watching the video at the above link you can feel the over-eagerness of producers trying to sell “bin Laden II.” We’ve not finished with bin Laden, or if we have we should know about it. Osama bin Laden hasn’t released a video in which he demonstrably talks about current events since October 2004. While over the past four years, Ayman Al-Zawahiri has practically maintained a running v-log. There’s no question al Qaeda’s supposed number one has been (at least) marginalized into operative impotence, but to let the promise of his capture simply fade without explanation is an outrage.

Lately there’s been a lot of speculation about who will succeed Osama bin Laden, either formally within the ranks of al Qaeda or generally as the most dangerous terrorist on the planet. Some of my fellow Contentions bloggers may be able to shed more light on this, but I’m starting to find the “who’s next?” speculation curious. Is bin Laden nearly captured? Is he dying or dead? Or is his demotion in status–to cave-dwelling spoken word artist–simply so bathetic as to no longer be newsworthy?

If you were to read the following lead from this March 12 Washington Times article, you’d assume Osama bin Laden was dead:

Internal divisions between Saudi and Egyptian leaders of al Qaeda are producing “fissures” within the terrorist group and a possible battle over who will succeed Osama bin Laden, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday.

Michael Hayden goes on as if al Qaeda’s bin Laden years are as over as Camelot.

Bin Laden is now an “iconic” figure hiding in the remote border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Hayden said in a wide-ranging interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

“And frankly, then, we think there has been an awful lot of jockeying” among possible successors, Mr. Hayden said.

“Keep in mind, he’s a Saudi. An awful lot of that leadership is Egyptian. If the Saudi dies, who becomes the next guy may be quite a contentious matter,” he said.

[…]

Asked whether bin Laden is alive, Mr. Hayden said: “We have … no evidence he’s not. And frankly, we think there would be evidence. … Given the iconic stature, his death would cause a little more than a wake in the harbor.”

Of course, it’s impossible to overestimate the lengths to which the CIA will go to defend their failures. They may think describing bin Laden as irrelevant helps excuse their inability to locate him. But if bin Laden really is becoming a CIA footnote, his inaction is also pushing the MSM to find the “next big thing” in jihad. There’s a story up at ABC News about “[a]n emerging leader, sources say, who threatens to eclipse Osama bin Laden as the world’s top terrorist.” They’re talking about Pakistani warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who’s allegedly behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto:

With his identity protected, Mehsud told the Arab network al Jazeera, “We want to eradicate Britain and America …We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

“He’s saying the same thing that bin Laden said then years ago,” Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said. “And it doesn’t mean that the attack’s coming tomorrow, but yeah, it’s certainly, he’s the kind of person and his group is the kind of group that we need to mindful about.”

I’m all for being prepared, but I’m not thrilled about moving on in quite this way. In watching the video at the above link you can feel the over-eagerness of producers trying to sell “bin Laden II.” We’ve not finished with bin Laden, or if we have we should know about it. Osama bin Laden hasn’t released a video in which he demonstrably talks about current events since October 2004. While over the past four years, Ayman Al-Zawahiri has practically maintained a running v-log. There’s no question al Qaeda’s supposed number one has been (at least) marginalized into operative impotence, but to let the promise of his capture simply fade without explanation is an outrage.

Read Less

Handshakes with the Enemy

Abe already blogged about this, but I wanted to follow up on Diana West’s fretting in the Washington Times about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent trip to Iraq, where he was supposedly given a warm reception by the Baghdad government. “[O]ur Iraqi allies have welcomed our Iranian enemies right into it.” Not so fast. Iraq and Iran are two Shia-majority countries. They share a long border and a terrible history, as Abe pointed out. They should be expected to have relations of some kind, and the more civil the better considering the depth of hatred Iranian Persians and Iraqi Arabs have for each other. Another full-blown war between Iraq and Iran is in the interests of no one.

In any case, a meeting, a few agreements, and a photo op don’t make these two countries an axis. Iran supports insurgents that for years have been trying to destroy the Baghdad government using terrorism, guerilla warfare, assassination, and sabotage. Who can seriously believe after all this–not to mention the centuries of conflict that preceded it–that the two governments actually like each other? Baghdad may formally welcome Ahmadinejad, but certainly not his proxy armies.

But let’s put that aside for the sake or argument and assume Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be a quiet Iranian sympathizer. What about Iraq’s president?

“Mr. Ahmadinejad was greeted with multiple kisses from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani,” West notes before saying “Blech.” Talabani is not only Iraq’s president. He is also the political leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the staunchly secular leftist political party with its home base in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya. The PUK provides funds and materials to at least two exiled Kurdish Iranian political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan whose explicit goal is the destruction of the Islamic Republic regime in Tehran. Each of these parties has their own private army. One crossed into Iran recently and fought the regime in the streets during an uprising in the city of Mahabad. The idea that the secular, leftist, and Kurdish Jalal Talabani supports the theocratic, rightist, and Persian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while at the same time funding and supplying revolutionaries who cross the border, doesn’t make sense.

If you want to know the truth, pay close attention to what Middle Easterners do, not what they say. At least some elements in each of these governments hope to remove the other from power by force. Their making nice in front of the cameras is no more meaningful than Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat shaking Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn.

Middle Eastern leaders go through the motions of being nice to each other all the time when what they’d really like to do is pull out a dagger. Last May, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the international tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is not directed at “sister Syria.” Of course he doesn’t believe that, but that’s diplomacy for you. Almost everyone in Lebanon knows the Syrian regime was complicit in Hariri’s murder, as well as the murders that have picked off Siniora’s allies in parliament and the media one by one ever since.

I rented an apartment just around the corner from Siniora’s residence in Beirut, and I couldn’t walk anywhere near his house while using my cell phone. The signals are jammed. Cell phones can detonate car bombs. Siniora knows very well that he might be next and doesn’t think of Syria as anything like a brother or sister–at least not while the murderous Assad regime is in power.

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman tells the story of Christian militia leader Camille Chamoun receiving flowers from his arch enemy Yasser Arafat while he was laid up in the hospital. During this time they both hoped to kill each other. “These two men,” Friedman wrote, “had sent so many young men to die in defense of their own personal power and status, and now they were sending bouquets. That was Beirut.”

It is not just Beirut. It is the whole Middle East where smoke, mirrors, and false friendships are normal.

Diana West correctly notes that some Middle Eastern leaders claim to be American allies while fomenting jihad. Well, yes. Of course. They do the same thing to each other.

Abe already blogged about this, but I wanted to follow up on Diana West’s fretting in the Washington Times about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent trip to Iraq, where he was supposedly given a warm reception by the Baghdad government. “[O]ur Iraqi allies have welcomed our Iranian enemies right into it.” Not so fast. Iraq and Iran are two Shia-majority countries. They share a long border and a terrible history, as Abe pointed out. They should be expected to have relations of some kind, and the more civil the better considering the depth of hatred Iranian Persians and Iraqi Arabs have for each other. Another full-blown war between Iraq and Iran is in the interests of no one.

In any case, a meeting, a few agreements, and a photo op don’t make these two countries an axis. Iran supports insurgents that for years have been trying to destroy the Baghdad government using terrorism, guerilla warfare, assassination, and sabotage. Who can seriously believe after all this–not to mention the centuries of conflict that preceded it–that the two governments actually like each other? Baghdad may formally welcome Ahmadinejad, but certainly not his proxy armies.

But let’s put that aside for the sake or argument and assume Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be a quiet Iranian sympathizer. What about Iraq’s president?

“Mr. Ahmadinejad was greeted with multiple kisses from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani,” West notes before saying “Blech.” Talabani is not only Iraq’s president. He is also the political leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the staunchly secular leftist political party with its home base in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya. The PUK provides funds and materials to at least two exiled Kurdish Iranian political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan whose explicit goal is the destruction of the Islamic Republic regime in Tehran. Each of these parties has their own private army. One crossed into Iran recently and fought the regime in the streets during an uprising in the city of Mahabad. The idea that the secular, leftist, and Kurdish Jalal Talabani supports the theocratic, rightist, and Persian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while at the same time funding and supplying revolutionaries who cross the border, doesn’t make sense.

If you want to know the truth, pay close attention to what Middle Easterners do, not what they say. At least some elements in each of these governments hope to remove the other from power by force. Their making nice in front of the cameras is no more meaningful than Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat shaking Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn.

Middle Eastern leaders go through the motions of being nice to each other all the time when what they’d really like to do is pull out a dagger. Last May, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the international tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is not directed at “sister Syria.” Of course he doesn’t believe that, but that’s diplomacy for you. Almost everyone in Lebanon knows the Syrian regime was complicit in Hariri’s murder, as well as the murders that have picked off Siniora’s allies in parliament and the media one by one ever since.

I rented an apartment just around the corner from Siniora’s residence in Beirut, and I couldn’t walk anywhere near his house while using my cell phone. The signals are jammed. Cell phones can detonate car bombs. Siniora knows very well that he might be next and doesn’t think of Syria as anything like a brother or sister–at least not while the murderous Assad regime is in power.

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman tells the story of Christian militia leader Camille Chamoun receiving flowers from his arch enemy Yasser Arafat while he was laid up in the hospital. During this time they both hoped to kill each other. “These two men,” Friedman wrote, “had sent so many young men to die in defense of their own personal power and status, and now they were sending bouquets. That was Beirut.”

It is not just Beirut. It is the whole Middle East where smoke, mirrors, and false friendships are normal.

Diana West correctly notes that some Middle Eastern leaders claim to be American allies while fomenting jihad. Well, yes. Of course. They do the same thing to each other.

Read Less

Where’s the Outrage?

Are we serious about defending ourselves from terrorism? The various departments of the executive branch, from the CIA to the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security, have had their lapses, and we have had ample occasion to explore some of those here.

But Congress is a coequal branch, and some of the bizarre shortcomings of the executive branch –for example, the fixation on instituting racial quotas inside our intelligence agencies, first initiated by the Clinton administration — are sustained by constituencies on Capitol Hill.

Last week, Michael Chertoff, the man charged with the awesome responsibility of running the Department of Homeland Security, was testifying  before the House Judiciary Committee. The Washington Times offers a snapshot of the proceedings:

Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, led off his questions to Mr. Chertoff by demanding that the secretary’s staff stand up to be scrutinized. Minutes later, during his own questions, Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat, said the point was to prove that none of the 10 staffers who stood met his definition of diverse.

“You brought 10 staff people with you, all white males. I know this hearing is not about diversity of the staff, but I hope you’ve got more diversity in your staff than you’ve reflected here in the people you’ve brought with you,” Mr. Watt told the secretary.

According to a National Intelligence Estimate issued last July, al Qaeda has significantly reconstituted itself in the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and is working hard to find a way to attack the United States again.

“We assess,” the document warns,

that al Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.

The only thing more frightening than this assessment is the behavior of Congress in response.

But where’s the outrage? The answer is: there is none. Seven years after 9/11, we’ve seemingly become inured to the clowns now running the circus. 

Are we serious about defending ourselves from terrorism? The various departments of the executive branch, from the CIA to the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security, have had their lapses, and we have had ample occasion to explore some of those here.

But Congress is a coequal branch, and some of the bizarre shortcomings of the executive branch –for example, the fixation on instituting racial quotas inside our intelligence agencies, first initiated by the Clinton administration — are sustained by constituencies on Capitol Hill.

Last week, Michael Chertoff, the man charged with the awesome responsibility of running the Department of Homeland Security, was testifying  before the House Judiciary Committee. The Washington Times offers a snapshot of the proceedings:

Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, led off his questions to Mr. Chertoff by demanding that the secretary’s staff stand up to be scrutinized. Minutes later, during his own questions, Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat, said the point was to prove that none of the 10 staffers who stood met his definition of diverse.

“You brought 10 staff people with you, all white males. I know this hearing is not about diversity of the staff, but I hope you’ve got more diversity in your staff than you’ve reflected here in the people you’ve brought with you,” Mr. Watt told the secretary.

According to a National Intelligence Estimate issued last July, al Qaeda has significantly reconstituted itself in the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and is working hard to find a way to attack the United States again.

“We assess,” the document warns,

that al Qaeda will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al Qaeda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.

The only thing more frightening than this assessment is the behavior of Congress in response.

But where’s the outrage? The answer is: there is none. Seven years after 9/11, we’ve seemingly become inured to the clowns now running the circus. 

Read Less

Winning Hybrid Wars

What is the future of war? In this report, Frank Hoffman, a retired Marine colonel and one of our most incisive strategic analysts, argues that we are seeing the “rise of hybrid wars” that blur the boundaries between conventional and unconventional conflict. The prototype, he argues, was Hezbollah’s war against Israel in the summer of 2006, in which this terrorist group skillfully fought the Israeli Defense Forces to a standstill by combining missiles and small unit tactics with information operations.

There is good cause to worry that the American armed forces may be as unready as the IDF for this type of foe. To reorient our military for the challenges ahead will require a recognition that conventional combat skills, while hardly obsolete, will no longer suffice. Apparently the new version of the Army’s Field Manual 3.0 (“Operations”), last updated in 2001, reaches precisely that conclusion. According to this New York Times article, the new FM 3.0 states:

Army doctrine now equally weights tasks dealing with the population — stability or civil support — with those related to offensive and defensive operations. Winning battles and engagements is important but alone is not sufficient. Shaping the civil situation is just as important to success.

That’s a huge change in military thinking. If that doctrine had been in place in 2003 we might have avoided some of the mistakes that were made in Iraq during the occupation’s early days.

To make those words a reality will require putting more emphasis in, among other areas, training foreign militaries. That’s a mission that has not won much favor with military bureaucracies in the past; in Iraq, our military commanders tried initially to assign contractors to the training role. Special Operations Command, in particular, has traditionally focused on “direct action” missions—i.e., rappelling out of helicopters and kicking in doors—at the expense of “foreign internal defense”—i.e., working with indigenous allies. Some critics, including yours truly, have criticized this focus as misguided. Now, according to the Washington Times, SOCOM is starting to get the message: It is expanding its focus on advisory work.

That’s good to hear, but obviously much more needs to be done before we have truly reoriented a Cold War military for the challenges of the Long War. Retired Army Colonel Bob Killebrew provides some other valuable ideas for how to empower advisers in this article in the Armed Forces Journal.

What is the future of war? In this report, Frank Hoffman, a retired Marine colonel and one of our most incisive strategic analysts, argues that we are seeing the “rise of hybrid wars” that blur the boundaries between conventional and unconventional conflict. The prototype, he argues, was Hezbollah’s war against Israel in the summer of 2006, in which this terrorist group skillfully fought the Israeli Defense Forces to a standstill by combining missiles and small unit tactics with information operations.

There is good cause to worry that the American armed forces may be as unready as the IDF for this type of foe. To reorient our military for the challenges ahead will require a recognition that conventional combat skills, while hardly obsolete, will no longer suffice. Apparently the new version of the Army’s Field Manual 3.0 (“Operations”), last updated in 2001, reaches precisely that conclusion. According to this New York Times article, the new FM 3.0 states:

Army doctrine now equally weights tasks dealing with the population — stability or civil support — with those related to offensive and defensive operations. Winning battles and engagements is important but alone is not sufficient. Shaping the civil situation is just as important to success.

That’s a huge change in military thinking. If that doctrine had been in place in 2003 we might have avoided some of the mistakes that were made in Iraq during the occupation’s early days.

To make those words a reality will require putting more emphasis in, among other areas, training foreign militaries. That’s a mission that has not won much favor with military bureaucracies in the past; in Iraq, our military commanders tried initially to assign contractors to the training role. Special Operations Command, in particular, has traditionally focused on “direct action” missions—i.e., rappelling out of helicopters and kicking in doors—at the expense of “foreign internal defense”—i.e., working with indigenous allies. Some critics, including yours truly, have criticized this focus as misguided. Now, according to the Washington Times, SOCOM is starting to get the message: It is expanding its focus on advisory work.

That’s good to hear, but obviously much more needs to be done before we have truly reoriented a Cold War military for the challenges of the Long War. Retired Army Colonel Bob Killebrew provides some other valuable ideas for how to empower advisers in this article in the Armed Forces Journal.

Read Less

The Road Map: 2003-2008

The Road Map is officially dead. Its cause of death: the Bush administration’s impatience. In a stunningly frank statement to the Washington Times, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begrudged the Road Map’s “sequentiality,” according to which the cessation of Palestinian terrorism and Israeli settlement-building were prerequisites for final status negotiations. “You don’t want people to get hung up on settlement activity or the fact that the Palestinians haven’t fully been able to deal with the terrorist infrastructure and prevent that from moving forward on the negotiations,” Rice said.

In today’s Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby lambasted Rice’s statements, arguing that they marked the end of the Bush doctrine:

In its hunger for Arab support against Iran – and perhaps in a quest for a historic “legacy” – the administration has dropped “with us or with the terrorists.” It is hellbent instead on bestowing statehood upon a regime that stands unequivocally with the terrorists. “Frankly, it’s time for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Rice says.

Though Jacoby seems to forget that it’s Iran—and not Abbas’ current government—that “stands unequivocally with the terrorists,” he is right to confront Rice’s apparent A.D.D. After all, the Road Map was only launched once it became abundantly clear that countering Palestinian terrorism and final status negotiations could not be done “in parallel,” as Rice suggests—a historical detail that the Secretary has sadly forgotten.

Yet, as far as Israelis and Palestinians concerned, Rice’s sudden memory lapse will hardly matter. In the aftermath of President Bush’s recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, tensions have flared. Today, Palestinian militants fired 40 rockets from Gaza, while Israel has killed 24 Palestinians, including seven civilians, in the past two days. In short, the death of the Road Map has no consequence for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, which have always been modest and remain so.

But as far as American credibility is concerned, Rice’s statements do not bode well. Indeed, if the sudden push for Israeli-Palestinian peace is really all about building a broad coalition against Iran, Rice’s dismissal of the Road Map—which was supported by the U.N., E.U., and Russia after much arm-twisting—is truly counterintuitive. Moreover, what kind of message does it send when the Secretary of State kills her own administration’s peace plan because she finds the first steps too challenging?

The Road Map is officially dead. Its cause of death: the Bush administration’s impatience. In a stunningly frank statement to the Washington Times, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begrudged the Road Map’s “sequentiality,” according to which the cessation of Palestinian terrorism and Israeli settlement-building were prerequisites for final status negotiations. “You don’t want people to get hung up on settlement activity or the fact that the Palestinians haven’t fully been able to deal with the terrorist infrastructure and prevent that from moving forward on the negotiations,” Rice said.

In today’s Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby lambasted Rice’s statements, arguing that they marked the end of the Bush doctrine:

In its hunger for Arab support against Iran – and perhaps in a quest for a historic “legacy” – the administration has dropped “with us or with the terrorists.” It is hellbent instead on bestowing statehood upon a regime that stands unequivocally with the terrorists. “Frankly, it’s time for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Rice says.

Though Jacoby seems to forget that it’s Iran—and not Abbas’ current government—that “stands unequivocally with the terrorists,” he is right to confront Rice’s apparent A.D.D. After all, the Road Map was only launched once it became abundantly clear that countering Palestinian terrorism and final status negotiations could not be done “in parallel,” as Rice suggests—a historical detail that the Secretary has sadly forgotten.

Yet, as far as Israelis and Palestinians concerned, Rice’s sudden memory lapse will hardly matter. In the aftermath of President Bush’s recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, tensions have flared. Today, Palestinian militants fired 40 rockets from Gaza, while Israel has killed 24 Palestinians, including seven civilians, in the past two days. In short, the death of the Road Map has no consequence for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, which have always been modest and remain so.

But as far as American credibility is concerned, Rice’s statements do not bode well. Indeed, if the sudden push for Israeli-Palestinian peace is really all about building a broad coalition against Iran, Rice’s dismissal of the Road Map—which was supported by the U.N., E.U., and Russia after much arm-twisting—is truly counterintuitive. Moreover, what kind of message does it send when the Secretary of State kills her own administration’s peace plan because she finds the first steps too challenging?

Read Less

Widespread Warrantless Wiretapping of the American Media?

Are the internal communications of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC news routinely being intercepted and analyzed without warrants? The shocking answer is probably yes.

These news outfits all regularly collect classified information from the U.S. national- security apparatus. Some of the highly sensitive secrets they gather are put before the public, as when as in 2006 the New York Times disclosed a joint CIA-Treasury program to track al-Qaeda finances. But some secrets, the media decline to publish, making their own judgments that to do so would damage national security or imperil American lives.

But as editors deliberate about such sensitive matters, public officials may well be listening in, trying to uncover exactly what journalists know. Only they are not officials from our government.

In November 1983, Ronald Reagan issued a top-secret directive, which has now been declassified and posted on the web by the Federation of American Scientists. It explained that:

Mobile and fixed communications systems used by key U.S. Government officials in the Nation’s capital and surrounding areas are especially vulnerable to intercept and exploitation by foreign intelligence services. Information transmitted by such systems often is extremely sensitive. Even information which in isolation is unclassified can reveal highly sensitive classified information when taken in aggregate.

And Reagan imposed a solution:

To limit this aspect of the hostile intelligence threat, I direct immediate action be taken to provide secure mobile and fixed official telecommunication systems to support the U.S Government officials in the following categories.

The directive proceeded to list the various officials whose communications were to be immediately secured. We can assume, once this directive was fulfilled, that foreign intelligence agencies found it much harder to conduct electronic surveillance of the U.S. government.

But what about protecting the communications of the press?

Let’s take an editor like Bill Keller of the Times at his word when he says that his paper, in the name of safeguarding American security, only publishes a fraction of the classification information it unearths from the U.S. government.  Even if it is true, it is irrelevant.

For technologically sophisticated foreign spy outfits, like Russian and Chinese intelligence, directing antennae toward the headquarters of the Washington Post or the Washington bureau of the New York Times, or for that matter, the New Yorker — the home of that master liberator of American secrets, Seymour Hersh — would be a perfectly logical and highly fruitful move. What better way to get up-to-date assessments of high-level U.S. government deliberations? And what better way to uncover the occasional highly significant classified fact?

Is such surveillance really going on? Connecting the Dots has no direct evidence that it is. We can only conjecture. And ask knowledgeable readers to help connect the dots.

Are the internal communications of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC news routinely being intercepted and analyzed without warrants? The shocking answer is probably yes.

These news outfits all regularly collect classified information from the U.S. national- security apparatus. Some of the highly sensitive secrets they gather are put before the public, as when as in 2006 the New York Times disclosed a joint CIA-Treasury program to track al-Qaeda finances. But some secrets, the media decline to publish, making their own judgments that to do so would damage national security or imperil American lives.

But as editors deliberate about such sensitive matters, public officials may well be listening in, trying to uncover exactly what journalists know. Only they are not officials from our government.

In November 1983, Ronald Reagan issued a top-secret directive, which has now been declassified and posted on the web by the Federation of American Scientists. It explained that:

Mobile and fixed communications systems used by key U.S. Government officials in the Nation’s capital and surrounding areas are especially vulnerable to intercept and exploitation by foreign intelligence services. Information transmitted by such systems often is extremely sensitive. Even information which in isolation is unclassified can reveal highly sensitive classified information when taken in aggregate.

And Reagan imposed a solution:

To limit this aspect of the hostile intelligence threat, I direct immediate action be taken to provide secure mobile and fixed official telecommunication systems to support the U.S Government officials in the following categories.

The directive proceeded to list the various officials whose communications were to be immediately secured. We can assume, once this directive was fulfilled, that foreign intelligence agencies found it much harder to conduct electronic surveillance of the U.S. government.

But what about protecting the communications of the press?

Let’s take an editor like Bill Keller of the Times at his word when he says that his paper, in the name of safeguarding American security, only publishes a fraction of the classification information it unearths from the U.S. government.  Even if it is true, it is irrelevant.

For technologically sophisticated foreign spy outfits, like Russian and Chinese intelligence, directing antennae toward the headquarters of the Washington Post or the Washington bureau of the New York Times, or for that matter, the New Yorker — the home of that master liberator of American secrets, Seymour Hersh — would be a perfectly logical and highly fruitful move. What better way to get up-to-date assessments of high-level U.S. government deliberations? And what better way to uncover the occasional highly significant classified fact?

Is such surveillance really going on? Connecting the Dots has no direct evidence that it is. We can only conjecture. And ask knowledgeable readers to help connect the dots.

Read Less

Pilgrims’ Dangerous Progress

Defying an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Egypt has allowed over 2000 Palestinians returning from Mecca to cross through their border into Gaza. Ynet reports, the group contained dozens of Hamas officials. Common sense dictates that the pilgrims may have picked up funds and arms while in Saudi Arabia. The Palestinians were supposed to have re-entered Gaza through Israel, where they would have endured rigorous border security.

Egypt’s decision has emboldened Hamas, weakened Mahmoud Abbas, undermined Israel’s security, and humiliated the U.S. The atmosphere that allowed for this brazen violation of a multi-state agreement can be directly attributed to the Annapolis peace talks. Whenever the U.S. and Israel ignore the non-negotiable nature of the enemy, and pretend to have “partners in peace,” they broadcast weakness. This weakness is always exploited, and, somehow, the U.S. never learns. Change the names and this sad paragraph from the Washington Times coverage could be cut and pasted into any Middle East story from the past dozen years:

The Bush administration is watching the situation warily, not wanting to offend either Egypt or Israel on the eve of the president’s trip. “We understand there are concerns on all sides, and we will continue to have discussions on this issue,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

While the Bush administration is set on not offending, Hamas has been justifiably calling the incident a victory.

Defying an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Egypt has allowed over 2000 Palestinians returning from Mecca to cross through their border into Gaza. Ynet reports, the group contained dozens of Hamas officials. Common sense dictates that the pilgrims may have picked up funds and arms while in Saudi Arabia. The Palestinians were supposed to have re-entered Gaza through Israel, where they would have endured rigorous border security.

Egypt’s decision has emboldened Hamas, weakened Mahmoud Abbas, undermined Israel’s security, and humiliated the U.S. The atmosphere that allowed for this brazen violation of a multi-state agreement can be directly attributed to the Annapolis peace talks. Whenever the U.S. and Israel ignore the non-negotiable nature of the enemy, and pretend to have “partners in peace,” they broadcast weakness. This weakness is always exploited, and, somehow, the U.S. never learns. Change the names and this sad paragraph from the Washington Times coverage could be cut and pasted into any Middle East story from the past dozen years:

The Bush administration is watching the situation warily, not wanting to offend either Egypt or Israel on the eve of the president’s trip. “We understand there are concerns on all sides, and we will continue to have discussions on this issue,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

While the Bush administration is set on not offending, Hamas has been justifiably calling the incident a victory.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.