Friday, June 30, 2006
An Interview With the IAF Commander
With a tip o' the hat to Powerline, this marvelous Jerusalem Post interview with the current commander of the Israeli Air Force, Major-General Eliezer Shkedy.
Naturally, a large part of the interview covers current IAF (and IDF) operations in the Gaza Strip. It was there, in a discussion of some of the technological wizardry the IAF uses, that a particular comment caught John Hinderaker's attention:
Every three months we try to develop an additional capability. The [terrorists] are behaving in a certain way? How do we need to grapple with that? But I can't go into details. This war is so complex. They are always trying to figure out what we're doing; they adapt to it. I would love to be able to tell the people of Israel what we are doing new to protect them. They'd be proud to hear it. But the moment I make something public, the other side will adapt. So telling the public actually harms my efforts to protect the public.Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bill Keller.
But what I found much more important was General Shkedy's insistence on the highest of ethical standards for himself and the troops under his command:
You say that they "cloak" themselves in civilians. What do you mean?Please remember that he is not speaking in a theoretical sense here. Terrorists have been firing Kassam rockets into Israel, aiming at Israeli towns and schools; dozens of rockets per day, sometimes hundreds over a single weekend. Each Kassam rocket could kill dozens of people, if it hit the right target; it is sheer luck that the Israeli death toll has not been much, much higher than it is.
You see their cynicism in that they put their laboratories in a building where every other apartment is full of civilians. They choose not to place the laboratory [away from civilians]. They "cloak" themselves in the most appalling sense of the word - to protect themselves because they know we act with the highest morality. They surround themselves with women and children.
The terrorists are capable of putting their own children in the car when they set off to fire a Kassam at the State of Israel. They can take their own children to terror training bases. Cynicism is firing missiles from the yard of a house, a meter from the house, where it's obvious that if we hit back, we hit the house.
We are always grappling with these dilemmas. All the time. Understand? I am very proud that we are moral people. This just underlines how complicated all of this is.
If they are making themselves ever harder to hit, the chances of hitting only them...
Are becoming ever more complicated.
So, are we relaxing our limitations in determining when to fire? When we see his son in the car with him, that's it, we don't fire? Or do we say, "His son's always with him." And he's firing at us every day.
The question is very appropriate and no, we're not relaxing our limitations.
Instead, we're improving our accuracy?
Our answer is to create a situation where you hit within a meter, a meter and a half. If we know that [the terrorist] is holding his son's hand, we do not fire. Even if the terrorist is in the midst of firing a Kassam, and the Kassam is aimed to kill. We do not fire. You should know that. And that's a fearsome thing.
So we open the door to him to keep firing at us?
Yes. And that is the kind of dilemma we live with every day and I'm very pleased you asked me about it.
I'm very proud of what we do. I think it is unprecedented. I'm proud of our morals. I'm proud of our operational capabilities.
Maybe in the end we'll kill more people because we weren't ruthless enough at the start, because we encouraged them to become bolder? Maybe we're too moral, for our own good and theirs?
That's a very interesting philosophical question, with practical consequences. And yet I'll tell you something...
(Shkedy pauses here for a full 20 seconds.) Ultimately our strength is not solely our military power. That's part of our strength. The strength of the Jewish people in the State of Israel and the Land of Israel is first and foremost our profound moral strength. Everything stems from that.
If we were to lower our standards, not to find a solution that meets the highest ethical standards, that would be a mistake with far more, immense significance for us as a nation and a state and as people than the operational error.
That's the great strength that I believe in. That's how I educate the people [in the IAF], and that's what the air force does. And, still, I'm aware that this is war, with live fire, and things will happen that I don't want to happen. Because to protect your child and my child, that can happen.
And with Israeli towns under the daily threat of rocket attacks from the sky, one of the primary concerns of the Israeli military is -- restraint. Having an important terrorist in your gunsights, and still refraining from shooting him -- even though he may be about to launch a rocket attack that could kill dozens -- because he's holding his son's hand.
This is how much Israel values human life, where it matters the most. This is the burden Israelis have taken upon themselves, even when fighting those who send their own young children out to be suicide bombers. In a very real sense, Israel values the lives of Palestinian children more than the Palestinians themselves do.
This opinion piece appeared in Ha'aretz on Wednesday, before we knew that Eliyahu Asheri was already dead.
That it appeared in Ha'aretz -- Israel's most prominent progressive newspaper, the one that consistently advocates reconciliation with Palestinians at almost any cost -- is all the more remarkable.
(hat tip: Ilana.)
Tie a blue ribbon for Gilad and Eliyahu
By Bradley Burston
There's an inexplicable calm regarding Gilad Shalit.
Must be the way the world works.
When the missile hit his tank, Gilad Shalit was guarding our pre-1967 war border.
The border that Hamas has been talking about for months. The one to which, should we withdraw, they would make peace with us for generations.
Or until Sunday morning, whichever came first.
When the missile hit his tank, two of his crewmates, Hanan Barak and Pavel Slutzker, were killed in the blast. A third was seriously injured.
And there was Gilad, this kid, bleeding, alone, dragged off into the Gaza Strip by men who would probably rather kill him than look at him.
There's this heartbreaking photograph of a kid not 20 years old. The wide, unspoiled smile, doubtless unchanged from when he was small.
There is this lovely family, their guard let down because they believed him to be serving in the north, far from danger. A father who, in the depth of his dread, can say to the kidnappers, "We believe that those who are holding him also have families and children, and that they know what we are feeling."
The world can't give a fallen fig.
When the missile hit, there was this kid, stationed at a quiet IDF position, not in the territories, nowhere near Palestinians.
And here is this kidnapping of a soldier in an army which has withdrawn from the internationally recognized whole of the once-occupied Gaza Strip.
The world cares not at all.
Perhaps we should care more. Perhaps it's time people made a small statement in as many places as possible.
Now there is another kid being held, by the celebrants of horrible death, under threat of horrible death: Eliyahu Asheri, even younger than Gilad.
Tie a blue ribbon on a tree for Gilad, and for Eliyahu. So that people will ask what it's for, and you can tell them.
So that they won't be left alone, nor their family.
Ignore the voices - you can hear them already - saying that Gilad had it coming, as a member of a military that attacks Palestinians - the Palestinians that fire Qassams into homes, schools and medical clinics, the Palestinians that fire Qassams every single day, sometimes as many as seven times a day.
Ignore the voices - you know what they're going to spit at you, saying that Eliyahu had it coming, just because his parents decided to raise him on the wrong side of the Green Line.
The world doesn't give a fallen fig.
The world has washed its hands of the Palestinians. The world has washed its hands of Hamas. The world is tired of our troubles as well.
There's a sense that this is a kidnapping that even Hamas would rather not think about.
The answer may well lie somewhere between the Twin Towers and Faluja. Mass murder in the name of God, beheadings in the name of God, bombing after bombing after bombing after bombing in the name of God, gets to us after a while. Our ability to care, our very ability to notice, has been compromised by a reign of terror of such enormity, of such horror, of such duration, that the threshold of our emotional attention has become all but unreachable.
But just this once ...
We should tie a blue ribbon for Gilad, and for Eliyahu. For the sake of their families. For our own sake. For the sake of the world.
So that people will ask what it's for. And so they'll find out.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I hate to do this two posts in a row. But John Hinderaker, writing yesterday in Powerline, has one zinger of a post that just begs to be quoted. It's too short to excerpt, and too good to comment upon; I doubt I could improve on what he's already written.
So here you go:
Insurgents Support Our Troops![insert sound of Daniel applauding]
Eleven Sunni "insurgent" organizations have reportedly told the Iraqi government that they will lay down their arms in exchange for a series of concessions, the key one being that American forces cease all offensive operations against them and set a timetable for withdrawal within two years. The insurgents' position is actually more moderate than the liberal Democrats'; the Democrats wanted to pull out within 18 months, not 24, without getting anything in return--not even an empty promise to lay down arms. So the insurgents must really support the troops!
I'm sure there must be a flaw in that logic, but I haven't yet figured out what it is.
You know, people have been saying -- for at least the past two years -- that, when the speeches of prominent Democrats sound suspiciously like the manifestos of America's sworn enemies, this does not speak well for the Democrats.
So, no, I'm not questioning Rep. Jack Murtha's patriotism, not at all. But doesn't it make him just the least bit uncomfortable, to know that al-Qaeda agrees with him -- except that they think he's a bit too extreme?
Liberals have been screeching, for years now, that George W. Bush is doing exactly what Osama bin Laden wants him to do. That's a shaky proposition at best, of course -- assuming, among other things, that Osama sees domestic American politics the same way that American liberals do. But when the leaders of the Democratic Party -- the Howard Deans, the Nancy Pelosis, the Jack Murthas -- are demanding the same things that the insurgents are demanding... well, who's in the pocket of the enemy now?
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
My wife has pointed me, via Yahoo News, to an article in Investor's Business Daily. It's so good I must excerpt it here.
We're not among those who, assuming the moral equivalence of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, condemn a "cycle of violence" in which both sides participate. Pound for pound, over all these years each Israeli raid was unmistakably defensive or preventative.(emphasis added)
To the extent Arafat's "moderate" successor, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has in the past grim hours won the cooperation of his Hamas foes, Israel's instant shift to war footing can be credited. Remember: Just days ago Hamas, emboldened by its new parliamentary power, was storming Abbas' government offices.
These are not reliable people, as shown by Hamas' kidnapping of 19-year-old Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal, offering him (alive or dead) in exchange for imprisoned Palestinian women and children. That appeal is less innocent than it might seem: Hamas regularly send women and children on suicide missions.
So Israel's lightning response should be seen as a massive exercise in self-preservation and an act of moral clarity. The kidnapping (and possible murder) of Shalit constituted an act of war, committed by an outfit born in terror and dedicated to the death of Israel.
Israel was also right to rattle Syrian President Bashir Assad's windows. Syria makes no secret of its long support for Hamas; indeed, Assad may know something about the corporal's whereabouts. Assad recently was forced by a popular uprising to stop his long subversion of Lebanon.
While the European Union and the U.S. fret as Israel and the Palestinians march toward the brink, we're grateful that somebody, at long last, put the big-time worry into a weakened Assad. That's a step toward peace.
I couldn't agree more.
An extremely worthwhile read.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Vital Perspective is all over this story. Start at the top and just keep scrolling. (Later: so is Allah at HotAir.)
In the meantime, pray for the safety of Corporal Shalit, seen here in happier times. (Photo credit: VP)
I believe the IDF, already attacking Gaza in force, is following the credo of Teddy Roosevelt... and will continue until they get Corporal Shalit, alive... or his kidnappers, dead. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: The Palestinians have upped the ante, it seems, by claiming that an Israeli teenager has been kidnapped in the West Bank as well; YNET reports that, according to the "Popular Resistance Committees", he will be killed if Israeli forces do not withdraw from Gaza immediately. (Later -- confirmed.)
The teenager is 18-year-old Eliyahu Asheri. Vital Perspective reports that, as of 10:45AM EST this morning, the IDF has isolated a building where Asheri is believed to be held and has surrounded it. Please pray for him as well.
(Later: still-unconfirmed reports, as of late Wednesday EST, talk of a third kidnap victim, 62-year-old Noah Moskovitz of Rishon le-Zion. I'm beginning to take my wife's theory seriously: perhaps the Gaza Palestinians missed the Jewish settlers they used to have in their midst, and are kidnapping as many Jews as they can to assuage their loneliness. In all seriousness, I'll be praying that this is a false alarm.)
10PM Wednesday: Eliyahu Asheri is now believed to be dead. The IDF has recovered a body, although they have not yet said conclusively that it is he. (Later -- it was not.)
11AM Thursday: Eliyahu's body was recovered early this morning, based on information from terrorists captured over the past few days. The boy had been shot in the head shortly after his abduction. His burial was Thursday afternoon (7:30AM EST) in Jerusalem's Mount of Olives cemetary. ha-Shem yinkom damo.
In the meantime, the Palestinians are mobilizing world opinion against this "Israeli aggression" and "possible genocide". To which I can only respond: shut the hell up. The Palestinians have suffered over the past several decades, to be sure... but they have no right to talk of genocide. They most emphatically have no right to accuse Jews of genocide. (I elaborate on that here, in a somewhat different context.)
Vital Perspective also reports to supposed astonishment of a Hamas representative, as seen on Israel's Channel Two. Israelis get upset, the Hamas guy said, when we kill one of them. But Cpl. Shalit is still alive, and they're angry at us anyway?? Personally, I prefer Cox & Forkum's perspective:
UPDATE II: In a bit of distantly-related good news, the so-called "Prisoners Document", an accord loosely agreed between Fatah and Hamas, is not in any way an olive branch extended towards Israel. The good news is that the newspapers seem to understand that -- the LA Times, the NY Times, and yes, even the BBC.
UPDATE III: Events are changing, hour by hour. As of 9:40PM (EST) Wednesday, the IDF has rounded up Hamas leaders, in Gaza and elsewhere, and placed them under arrest. (This catches me by surprise -- but, on reflerction, why not? They're a terrorist organization, are they not? An organization, mind you, that has kidnapped three Israelis in the past week, and that has a clear intention of continuing -- one that has announced it will target Israeli embassies abroad, one that has long targeted Israelis wherever it can find them. More to the point, an organization purportedly in control of the Palestinian territories, having been elected to power by them -- that brazenly demanded concessions from Israel as conditions for getting Cpl. Shalit back. We shall see what concessions they demand now.)
I can't improve on the prose from Vital Perspective:
Israel is undertaking several moves designed to increase pressure on Hamas to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit and return him safely to his family, including some very unexpected moves. It appears that Israel is in the process of a major round-up of the Hamas leadership. Hamas officials say that more than 30 "lawmakers" have been arrested in the West Bank (we can only hope the numbers are that high). Three Hamas "parliamentarians" -- Mohammed Abu Tir, Wael al-Husseini and Ahmed a-Tun -- are confirmed to have been arrested in East Jerusalem. Earlier, the IDF surrounded a Ramallah hotel where the Hamas Deputy PM Nasser al-Shaer was holed up, and then arrested him. Not long ago, Palestinian Labor Minister Mohammad Barghouti was arrested at a roadblock north of Ramallah. The entire Hamas leadership in the West Bank is being taken into custory -- Israeli reports say that this is unprecedented in its scope. It's like you can't even be a terrorist anymore! The heads of Hamas, including many ministers and most Hamas parliament members have been taken into custody... As a result, the leadership has gone underground... At the same time, the IDF is attacking Hamas infrastructures in Gaza, where dozens more are expected to be arrested.Yes, folks, this is war.
And incredibly -- for anyone who doesn't know how the IDF operates, given a choice -- is this comment, in a report by Yahoo News:
No casualties have been reported since the offensive began early Wednesday.We have seen multiple air-strikes. The IDF has invaded the entire Gaza Strip, with tanks and heavy weapons. Power stations and other infrastructure have been destroyed; bridges have been bombed to oblivion from the air. And in all this -- no casualties. (Accident? Coincidence? Not at all. Israeli troops risked themselves to distribute leaflets to Palestinians, warning them to evacuate towns that were about to come under attack. This is not unusual for the IDF; this is standard operating procedure, in a style I remember well from my own time in uniform.)
It seems that the Hamas 'parliamentarians' surrendered without a fight, too. Interesting.
New York Times Crosses the Line
Ilana Freedman, a security and counterterrorism analyst and occasional columnist for the New York Post, forwarded me the following column; she says that no one, thus far, has been willing to print it. You saw it here first, folks!
(Full disclosure: in addition to her many professional qualifications, Mrs. Freedman is also my mother, and I'm very proud to be her son.)
When does freedom of the press become a threat to freedom? The lead story in Sunday’s New York Times, “US General in Iraq Outlines Troop Cuts,” (June 25, 2006) may provide an answer.
The released information, which the Times audaciously attributed to “a classified briefing at the Pentagon”, took a major leap past the boundaries of the public’s right to know. It gave aid and comfort, not to mention military intelligence, to an enemy that is killing our soldiers in Iraq every day. Their action borders on treason.
The article came hard on the heels of another revelation only two days before. In a lead story on June 23, the Times released classified information about a secret government program that traced the international flow of terrorist funds. These funds, conservatively estimated in the trillions of dollars, support everything from bombs and guns to bribes and diplomatic payoffs, from international drug trafficking to terrorist recruitment and field training.
Anyone who truly understands the implications of the terrorist threat, recognizes that one of the critical ways that we can stop the proliferation of these activities is to stem the flow of money that funds them. We must be able to track the money trail in order to halt the transfers of funds and money laundering.
By exposing the government’s classified program to trace terrorism financing, the NY Times has done more than a colossal disservice to the administration. They have made it exponentially more difficult for the government to carry out what is an absolutely essential part of our war against terrorism. In so doing, they have put America in great jeopardy.
The latest NY Times article has compounded the damage in another area, one that is no less serious. The article was no doubt intended to influence public opinion on the progress of a war from which it wishes us to withdraw. But the publication of critical and classified military intelligence on the possible conduct of that war will put our troops on the ground at even greater risk than they now face.
The clear message to the terrorist forces laying roadside IEDs and targeting our soldiers with ambushes, torture, and brutal murder, is that their tactics have already defeated us and that we are now planning our retreat. They think with a simple Middle Eastern clarity which equates power with success, and retreat with defeat.
The article described in detail the planned troop withdrawal, including the broad outlines of the timetable and even the number of brigades that will be shipped out of Iraq in the first redeployment.
The NY Times is guilty of more than putting our troops at risk. They are also responsible for sending a damning message to those to whom we have pledged our support and the allies who joined us in this effort. The story tells the Iraqi leadership that in the end, the words of our envoys are meaningless, and that our support cannot be counted upon. All of our efforts to bolster their courageous struggle to build a true democracy out of the ashes of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime are put at risk by such reckless and irresponsible journalism.
But the publication of classified intelligence is only the upper layer of a much deeper story. What the Times published was fed to them by one or more people who hold trusted and sensitive positions in our government. Those who attended the meeting which the Times reported, are senior level officials with top security clearance. The story specified that the intelligence about the briefing came directly from senior American officials “who agreed to discuss the details only on condition of anonymity”. No surprise there. But who, among the military and defense leaders would be so willing to compromise our nation’s security? And to what end?
The NY Times article points to the clear presence, within the administration’s inner circle, of people who are working to undermine the President’s program during a time of war. The leak breached every rule that protects our security at the highest levels. The one who leaked it should be identified. No one who attended that briefing should escape investigation in order to discover the source of the leak.
At a time when the President has come under scathing attack for secretiveness, it is becoming increasingly clear that he has reason for concern about the loyalty of those on whom he must rely.
The people do not ‘need to know’ about the thought processes and appropriately secret discussions of our military leaders as they plan their strategies in this difficult war. Anyone who abuses his access to these briefings and discussions, to leak to the press intelligence of what was discussed under the mantle of secrecy, should be punished to the full extent of the law. He has put the lives of our soldiers, the success of our policy, and the future of our country at risk.
It is now incumbent upon our President to identify those among his ‘trusted’ advisors who are in fact betraying his administration and the public’s trust. It is imperative that he rout them from the inner circles of government in order to stop the hemorrhaging of critical, classified intelligence that is damaging our national security.
Moreover, the strategies that have now been compromised need to be changed. Otherwise the fate of our country will be at the mercy of our enemies. No battle strategies in today’s war against terrorism will succeed unless they are as agile and fluid as that of the enemy within and without. There should be no higher priority than to create a safe and secure environment for the critical processes that define the strategies of this latest war.
When Moonbats Swarm
Thanks to a commenter at Roger Simon's site, I found myself visiting http://www.murthalied.com. (Warning: explicit and profane content.)
Let me state, for the record, that I went there because I was curious. I don't believe I had any serious preconceptions as to what I would find there.
What I did find was a nasty story. Amanda Doss, a professional Web designer, who has produced Web sites for Democrats and Republicans alike, purchased the domain murthalied.com -- for purposes we do not yet know -- and, before any content was posted on the site, or any use made of the domain name, the hate e-mail began.
Still before any content was posted, her name, street address, client list, and much more were published by lefty blogs, frothing at the mouth over what they expected she was about to publish. (For examples, start here. Democratic Underground gleefully jumps into the fray here. And here Ms. Doss gets smeared at Democrats.com!)
As of today, 27 June, murthalied.com contains only reprints of some of the hate e-mail Ms. Doss has received for her ownership of the name. So we still do not know what she originally intended to do with the site; she has used it, instead, to illustrate just how nasty and petty people can be.
Ms. Doss claims that she has not received hate e-mail for the Democrat/progressive web sites she's designed. This does not seem to be the case for the other side of the aisle.
UPDATE: As of Monday, June 3rd 2006, I cannot get to www.murthalied.com. The domain ownership seems to have reverted back to Network Solutions, a domain reseller. Google's cache of the site shows content from bootmurtha.com, a site that is up and running, not the content that I remember.
My curiosity is piqued; I'll keep trying.
I note, however, that www.murthalied.net is in use -- by someone who claims that "John Murtha doesn't lie", but does not advance any arguments to make the case.
Monday, June 26, 2006
NOTE: The "money quote" from the Sun-Sentinel article, quoted below, has been debunked. See here for more details. Many thanks to commenter Cliff Hancuff for the details.
I have chosen, though, not to remove the logo (or the link) to the website of Diana Irey, Rep. Murtha's opponent for Congress this year. I'm glad that Jack Murtha didn't say this particular bit of insanity -- but so many of us were willing to believe that he had, precisely because it's only a little more extreme than what he's already said. The misquotation is presumably the fault of Elizabeth Baier, the reporter of the original Sun-Sentinel article -- but Rep. Murtha's many other incendiary statements are a matter of public record.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (hat tip: PowerLine):
Murtha says U.S. poses top threat to world peaceWell, my hat's off to the organizers of this Town Meeting -- they arranged a panel to discuss the war in Iraq for an hour, and they invited only Democrats. But that's unimportant by comparison.
MIAMI — American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said to an audience of more than 200 in North Miami Saturday afternoon.
Murtha was the guest speaker at a town hall meeting organized by Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, D-Miami, at Florida International University's Biscayne Bay Campus. Meek's mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Miami, was also on the panel.
War veterans, local mayors, university students and faculty were in the Mary Ann Wolfe Theatre to listen to the three panelists discuss the war in Iraq for an hour.
A United States Congressman, and a retired Marine colonel, thinks that the United States is the "top threat to world peace"? Why on Earth has he not resigned his seat, if he truly feels that way?
By way of contrast -- here's something another Democrat had to say, almost two years ago:
Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.
And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.
Can Rep. Murtha possibly believe, in all honesty, that the United States is a greater threat to world peace than North Korea, a country that has starved millions of its citizens in order to pursue the dream of becoming a nuclear power? Can he believe that the United States is a greater threat than Iran, which aggressively pursues nuclear weaponry and simultaneously declares its intention to wipe Israel off the map?
Even scarier -- he's running for re-election this year. If this is what he says in June, what will he say between now and November?
The man has, I fear, left the path of sanity and sensibility. It's sad to see that happen... but it's dangerous for such a man to hold the reins of power.
I've been putting off the addition of a particular graphic to my sidebar, but I think it's time.
Israeli Soldier Taken Hostage
I have not written much about the kidnapping, by Hamas, of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit, nor do I intend to write much now. I, like a great many other people, am waiting to see what will happen next.
A few things are clear, though. The Palestinians have succeeded in finding a blind spot of the IDF: apparently, no one was expecting terrorists to tunnel under the Gaza border, surface near an Israeli town, and mount an attack. The terrorists were bold, in that they took the unusual step of kidnapping an Israeli hostage; this would seem to have the support of Hamas, which currently governs the Palestinian Authority, given that Hamas has signed on to the demands.
Israel, for her part, has made it clear that hostage exchanges are not a possibility, but that military action is. Given Israel's longstanding tradition of going to all lengths to recover her people from enemy hands, alive or dead, we can expect Israel to make good on that.
And today, June 26th, was to be the day of the Palestinian referendum, which Mahmoud Abbas wanted to use as a means of keeping some influence after losing the election to Hamas. But with Israeli troops already in Gaza, as a response to the kidnapping, passage of the referendum seems unlikely. (Not that the referendum was all that wonderful anyway.) Presumably, this was the intent of the hostage-takers in the first place.
Stay tuned. Hamas has thrown down the gauntlet at Israel; this could get ugly.
UPDATE: Roger Simon is detached enough to view the whole thing more dispassionately than I can manage:
I am afraid the Palestinians have lived so long in a state of rage and paranoia that peace would give them a nervous breakdown.I could live with that. But I think they need a responsible leadership first, one unwilling to engage in rabble-rousing for political advantage. And I don't think they're likely to get that, short of an all-out civil war -- one that would leave Palestinians heartily sick of all killing. Until then, there'll always be some misguided kid who thinks he can achieve glory by killing a few Jews... and is all too ready to denounce the peace-seekers as 'collaborators'.
Imagine what would happen in the highly unlikely possibility that their leadership said let's forget Israel and concentrate on building a successful society of our own. Very few people would know what to do. Their entire culture has been constructed around blaming the other.
Witness the pure insanity of yesterday's incursion north of Gaza. According to Haaretz, Mahmoud Abbas has washed his hands of the whole affair and told the Hamas leadership they will have to deal with their own lunatics who have decided this was the time to kidnap an Israeli soldier (for the sake of what?). The Hamas leaders' response, according to the same article, is to go into hiding, fearing for their lives (they should). What the Palestinians need more than anything is an influx of about 100,000 psychotherapists.
UPDATE II: More links (and a depressing view of future prospects) here.
UPDATE III: My wife has a theory about this. As we know, Israel evacuated all Jews from the Gaza Strip last summer. Clearly, the Palestinians of Gaza miss having Jews around... and so they're bringing them back, one by one, using the means most readily available to them.
I call on Hamas to deny this theory.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Magen David Adom Finally Permitted To Join!
The good news: Magen David Adom is finally part of the International Red Cross. (The Palestinian Red Crescent was apparently included at the same time, no doubt as a compromise measure of some sort.)
The bad news: the silly, meaningless red crystal is still in:
Of course, the symbol is intentionally meaningless... to avoid offending anybody with that incendiary symbol, the red Star of David. That, by the way, is what Magen David Adom means; I trust we're not going to see a name change for the entire organization!
(Later -- Steve at It's Almost Supernatural has more background on how the International Red Cross expects the symbol to be used.)
Call it the first stage of antisemitism, as Emil Fackenheim pointed out: okay, we'll reluctantly accept you in our midst, so long as you don't look Jewish to us. Well, I suppose that's better than not being accepted at all.
UPDATE: In response to Michael's comment to this post, I wonder -- what would it take for the Red Rhombus symbol to be seen as an offensive reminder of Judaism as well?
Would this do it, for instance?
For that matter, what about standard logos with rhombuses in them? Should we now start seeing stars of David in them?
I welcome other Photoshop attempts!
UPDATE: Sol of Solomonia.com has taken up the challenge. (As he points out, it's based on a photo that drives antisemites batty; click this picture to see the original.)
The New York Times: All The News That Hurts Republicans
...even if it hurts Democrats too. Unbelievable.
The blogosphere is up in arms this morning about a new article -- published more or less simultaneously in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, apparently -- detailing yet another top-secret terrorist surveillance program that our Fifth Estate thought needed exposing. (Pajamas Media has a roundup.)
With thanks to Instapundit, this summary from the New York Sun:
A fresh barrage of criticism is erupting over the decision of The New York Times to disclose last night another classified surveillance program aimed at gathering information about terrorist plots.Once again, in other words, it is the New York Times that is the final arbiter of classified information -- not the intelligence community, and most especially not the executive branch of our federal government. (Who do they think they are, anyway? They may have been elected, or something, but they didn't go to J-school!)
"The president is concerned that, once again, the New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is protecting the American people," a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said last night. "We know that terrorists look for any clue about the weapons we're using to fight them and now, with this exposure, they have more information and it increases the challenge for our law enforcement and intelligence officials."
The Times report, which appears in today's editions and was posted last evening on the paper's Web site, details the federal government's use of subpoenas to gather large troves of data from a Belgium-based consortium that handles international bank transfers, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as Swift.
. . .
The newspaper said the surveillance effort helped lead to the capture in Thailand in 2003 of a top Al Qaeda op erative, Riduan Isamuddin, who also went by the name Hambali.
The Times reported that it decided to report publicly on the program despite requests by administration officials that the newspaper not publish the story. The officials argued that the disclosure could reduce the effort's effectiveness, the newspaper said.
The executive editor of the Times, Bill Keller, said the newspaper was not persuaded. "We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration," Mr. Keller said. "We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."
As Bill Bennett was commenting this morning, the reason the New York Times is doing this is... because they can. There is no cost to them for doing this -- well, no obvious cost, although were I in there place I'd wonder about their ever-declining readership. But as long as they don't get smacked down for doing something they shouldn't, they're going to keep on doing it.
Forgive me for repeating the blatantly obvious... but people respond to incentives. If the New York Times has no clear incentive, in their terms, to stop what they are doing -- which is to expose any classified government programs they can get leaked -- then they're going to keep doing it.
Let me add a few more thoughts. First, as bad as I think this is, I have to say that the New York Times has done worse. Yes, they're doing their best to shut down a program that has proven effective at hunting down terrorist ringleaders, and shame on them for it; they're also betraying trust that the worldwide financial community had in the United States. But at least they're not directly endangering lives with their recklessness this time.
And yes, I understand the arguments -- just as it was easy to alarm people with the hysterical claim that "the NSA is wiretapping American phone conversations without a warrant!" (which is a gross exaggeration on several counts), so too it's easy to exaggerate this one: "the US government wants to know where your money is going!" (The details aren't out on this one yet -- I wish they had stayed secret altogether -- but I strongly suspect that very few Americans were affected at all by this, simply because very few Americans perform international money transfers via SWIFT in their personal affairs. American businesses might have a more valid claim here -- but it's not on their behalf that the New York Times is complaining about this, is it?)
Let's be honest, now. When was the last time you made a SWIFT international money transfer? Have you ever made a SWIFT transfer that you didn't want the police to find out about? And if not, why on Earth should you care if SWIFT records -- obtained through valid subpoenas -- are being combed for terrorist information?
The New York Times clearly does not understand what "classified" means, nor do they have any respect for anyone's secrets but their own. During wartime, that is criminal.
Hmm, now there's a thought. Naturally, there have been cries from conservatives for the NYT to be prosecuted under espionage laws; no doubt this will inspire more calls for legal action. But suppose the NYT had a taste of their own medicine? Suppose someone at the New York Times started leaking NYT news stories, before they are published, to other newspapers? (Later -- looks like Uncle Jimbo prefers a more direct approach.)
Somehow, I have a feeling that the esteemed Gray Lady wouldn't like that... even though we'd be talking, not about secrets that compromise national security, but merely secrets that could reduce (further reduce) NYT circulation. Hmm, what a pity that would be...
UPDATE: AP reports that the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) carried the original story too. That seems rather out of character for them, as compared to the NYT or the LAT. But if they're guilty of exposing classified information, I'd want them hit just as hard.
Later: reader Daniel T. points out that the Wall Street Journal article is not of a piece with the LAT and NYT articles; it clearly came out after government representatives themselves had spoken on the record about the program. This is legitimate; the information was already part of the public record. (It's also to their credit that they make no mention of the NYT or the LAT; they do quote Treasury Secretary Snow on the leaks and revelations of classified information, calling it "regrettable".
The NYT article, moreover, is datelined June 22nd; the LAT piece is dated June 23rd. I don't know if we can establish precedence here. But I wouldn't be surprised to see the NYT taking the lead in exposing American security secrets to the enemy, once again.
UPDATE II: Austin Bay has more to say, and is not ready to let WSJ off the hook. Jim Dunnigan of Current Affairs has no compunctions about openly calling this treason:
Because the war on terror is fought in a peacetime atmosphere, treason can be presented as dissent, and you can get away with it. Case in point is the energetic pursuit, and publication, of U.S. intelligence gathering techniques, by the American media(emphasis added)
. . .
Again, the threat to civil liberties, relative to the lack of a real terrorist threat, was used to justify what was basically treason in time of war. But the war on terror is not a normal war. There's no country to declare war on, so there's no formal declaration of war. Every war has it's dissenters and opposition politicians criticizing how the war is fought. The unique nature of the war on terror, with much of the action being on the domestic front, has us searching for terrorists among our own population. This leads to opposition groups depicting success against the terrorists (no attacks) as the absence of a real threat. This leads to implications that the government is using the war on terror to establish government intelligence gathering programs that threaten civil liberties.
. . .
These traitors will continue to get away with it. Unless their activities are shown to assist terrorists in a particularly direct and obvious way, scary stories about potential perils will continue to protect those attacking the counter-terrorism effort. By blurring the line between legitimate dissent and active assistance to the enemy, political opportunism has sunk to new lows.
I believe this is an important point, one too often neglected by liberal and conservative pundits alike. The terrorists, by definition, will wish to continue what they started on 9/11/2001 if they can, which means domestic attacks. Since terrorists are not a national government, and therefore do not have the military resources for a naval confrontation or a land invasion or a missile attack, their methods of choice will, by definition, include launching attacks on America from within America. Also by definition, the terrorists will use actual U.S. citizens to carry the ball whenever possible, so as to keep the heat away from the known foreign nationals.
These are all well-known time-tested terrorist tactics. And they point to an inescapable conclusion: if we are to prevent further attacks on America, we must search for terrorists among our own population -- and that search will occasionally lead us to U.S. citizens. (Remember John Walker Lindh? Remember Richard Reid?)
Those who seek to sabotage that search, therefore, fundamentally do not understand what the War on Terror means. Their efforts will make further attacks on U.S. soil more likely -- for which they would no doubt be the first to condemn the U.S. government, for not preventing such attacks with their hands tied.
UPDATE III: The Instapundit offers one of his rare multi-paragraph commentaries here:
BILL KELLER ISN'T VERY BRIGHT, or else he thinks you aren't. How else to explain this passage in his apologia for the Times' publication of classified information about the terrorist financial surveillance program:The arrogance here is amazing. Does Keller mean to imply that the NYT can publish top-secret information as it sees fit, and it is not up to us to complain about it publicly? Does he fail to understand, as any Journalism 101 student would, that once a secret story is widely published it doesn't much matter who talks about it? Or does he think, As Glenn Reynolds implies, that publication in the NYT is inconsequential, so long as it hasn't been picked up by the blogs?
Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.)
I realize that the Times' circulation is falling at an alarming rate, but it hasn't yet reached such a pass that its stories are only noticed when Rush Limbaugh mentions them.
Indeed. Sometimes it's easy to forget that Glenn Reynolds is also a lawyer. (So is Hugh Hewitt. As far as I know, Bill Keller is not.)
A deeper error is Keller's characterization of freedom of the press as an institutional privilege, an error that is a manifestation of the hubris that has marked the NYT of late. Keller writes: "It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. . . . The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly."
The founders gave freedom of the press to the people, they didn't give freedom to the press. Keller positions himself as some sort of Constitutional High Priest, when in fact the "freedom of the press" the Framers described was also called "freedom in the use of the press." It's the freedom to publish, a freedom that belongs to everyone in equal portions, not a special privilege for the media industry. (A bit more on this topic can be found here.)
Characterizing the freedom this way, of course, makes much of Keller's piece look like, well, just what it is -- arrogant and self-justificatory posturing. To quote Keller: "Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements."
Or institutional self-importance. As Hugh Hewitt observes, at the conclusion to a much lengthier critique: "He doesn't have any defense other than his position as editor of a once great newspaper."
And the Constitution does not permit titles of nobility.
Another great roundup, complete with legal analysis, can be found here.
UPDATE IV: Courtesy of Powerline, the text of a letter sent to the editor of the NYT by outgoing Treasury Secretary, John Snow. An excerpt:
Your charge that our efforts to convince The New York Times not to publish were "half-hearted" is incorrect and offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth.Read the whole thing.
Over the past two months, Treasury has engaged in a vigorous dialogue with the Times - from the reporters writing the story to the D.C. Bureau Chief and all the way up to you. It should also be noted that the co-chairmen of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission, Governor Tom Kean and Congressman Lee Hamilton, met in person or placed calls to the very highest levels of the Times urging the paper not to publish the story. Members of Congress, senior U.S. Government officials and well-respected legal authorities from both sides of the aisle also asked the paper not to publish or supported the legality and validity of the program.
Indeed, I invited you to my office for the explicit purpose of talking you out of publishing this story. And there was nothing "half-hearted" about that effort.
UPDATE V: Armed Liberal has a somewhat different perspective:
I don't think that the newspapers are treasonous, or doing this solely in an effort to thwart President Bush (i.e. I don't think that a Democratic president would be getting a free ride right now). That doesn't mean that the impacts of what they are doing doesn't damage the country, put lives at risk, or negatively impact President Bush's effectiveness.to which Glenn Reynolds responds:
I think, in simple terms, that they have forgotten that they are citizens...
I think that they're offended at the notion that citizenship might involve obligations to do something other than what you want to do anyway.Armed Liberal goes on, at great and interesting length; read the whole thing.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Instapundit has a great round-up, including the text of the press conference given yesterday by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-NY).
The bottom line: it seems that American troops in Iraq, in the course of finding and eliminating weapons caches and ammo dumps over the past three years, have found a quantity of artillery shells -- over 500 of them -- loaded with mustard gas or sarin nerve-agent. From what I understand, these were not "stockpiled" (meaning that, on this point, the Duelfer report was technically correct); they were found scattered in various places in Iraq. It is also my understanding that Saddam had a nasty habit of not labelling his chemical-weapon shells; these may well have been mixed in with ordinary artillery shells. (If that's the case, my hat's off to the troops who found them.)
It also appears to be the case that many, if not all, of these discovered WMD rounds dated back to before Operation Desert Storm (that is, pre-1991). These were, in other words, weapons that Saddam knew he had, while he was busy complaining (but not proving) that he had destroyed all his WMD before 2002.
Now. What does this mean for me? Is this some sort of "gotcha", a proof that the invasion of Iraq was justified all along? No, it's not that; I was content with the invasion when it happened, and I still think it was utterly necessary, given what we knew at the time. I do not regret my support for the war in the least, and I don't need this discovery to justify me.
But I suspect that some Democrats on Capitol Hill are regretting their "no WMDs in Iraq!" pronouncements.
Let me add that I dearly hope we haven't compromised intelligence sources here. I think it unlikely; Hoekstra is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and part of the deal here is that this information has been known in committee for some time. Hoekstra and Santorum have been fighting, apparently since April, to get some of this information declassified, so that they could talk about it freely; this they have now done. (Read the transcript of their press conference; there are repeated references to information they can not talk about freely yet.)
More great comments here, in response to the question "why the heck didn't the White House tell us about this?". As one of the commenters points out, President Bush has a reputation as a sharp poker player, who is quite adept at getting his opponent to bet heavily on a losing hand. The amazing thing is that he was willing to let his opponents call him a liar, every day, getting ever more shrill and hysterical in their pronouncements... while he was willing to let them have all the hangin' rope they wanted.
In any event, I expect many more developments from this -- although the interesting news will be, not the discovery of WMD in Iraq, but how people respond to it. (Soon we'll have journalists writing about each other; fun, fun, fun!)
UPDATE: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has confirmed the findings -- and has not lost sight of what's important. He doesn't seem to care whether Iraq has, or had, WMD; he's concerned about whether Iraqi insurgents will have WMD. That's what it's about in the end -- we want to find the damned things before our enemies do. (And that, boys and girls, is why we invaded Iraq. Not because of what Saddam did or did not have... but because we couldn't trust him to be honest about what he had, and because we couldn't trust him not to arm our enemies. We invaded Iraq, ultimately, as the first step toward building a post-9/11 world -- a world in which terrorists don't see the United States as a soft target, to be attacked with impunity at a whim.)
We don't want our troops to be hit with a sarin attack tomorrow... and we certainly don't want a sarin attack against the United States the next day. So American troops, bless 'em, will continue hunting down the chemical warheads, however old they are, and will continue destroying them.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
That's the headline of an article in today's New York Times. I was intrigued, and went for a closer look:
A Campus for 'Scholars, Not Fighters' on a Settlement SiteInteresting, how the NYT's cultural bias permeates the text from the very beginning. Read how the brutal Israelis used bulldozers to destroy beautiful homes and schools, leaving "a few gutted synagogues" and "a few hundred greenhouses". Never mind that the homes and towns that were levelled were Israeli, deliberately cleared -- by Israel -- to make room in the Gaza Strip, made Jew-free at the Palestinians' own insistence. (When have you last heard of a country forcibly relocating thousands of her own citizens, to their vehement opposition, at the request of the country's enemies?) Never mind that the synagogues were still standing until Palestinian mobs destroyed them and burned them; never mind that the greenhouses -- hundreds of greenhouses -- were deliberately left intact by Israel (again, by the request of the Palestinian Authority) as a major source of income for Gaza residents, until Palestinian mobs destroyed them too.Khalil Hamra/Associated Press
A poster of Yasir Arafat has a place of honor on a
cafeteria wall on the new campus of Al Aksa University.
By STEVEN ERLANGER
No, the upshot here is that where Israelis destroy, Palestinians build a college campus... one festooned with posters of the late unlamented Yasser Arafat.
Throughout most of the former settlements, Palestinians have thoroughly mined the debris for metal, wiring, fixtures and almost anything usable or sellable. But despite promises at the time, not an ounce of rubble has been removed or reprocessed, leaving a post-apocalyptic landscape baking in the unforgiving sun.Promises by whom, I wonder? (Again, the implication is that the rubble was all generated by Israel, and that removing it was Israel's responsibility. Wrong on both counts, I'm afraid.)
Except at the site of Neve Dekalim. On nearly 41 acres surrounding what used to be the largest school in what used to be called the Gush Katif bloc, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, decreed a campus. He granted it to Al Aksa University, affiliated with his Fatah party, which lost elections this year to Hamas.Here some interesting details come (inadvertently) to light. This will be a new campus of al-Aksa University... which is "affiliated" with Fatah, the terrorist organization that was once the core of the PLO. (Yes, Fatah is "moderate", when compared with Hamas... but that's not saying much. Historically, this has meant that Fatah was willing to dismember Israel piece by piece, whereas Hamas wanted everything immediately.) Presumably, construction of this new Fatah-aligned campus is not to the liking of Hamas; hence the need for a wall and security guards from the very beginning.
With seed money of $1.5 million from the sheik of Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates, the university hired its own security guards, built its own wall and started clearing and rebuilding.
(I'm going to take a moment to wonder at the incongruity of this. Can you imagine a university, out of the thousands in the United States, that aligns itself deliberately and strongly with, say, the Democratic Party? Sure, some universities lean to the left politically -- most of them, some would say -- and some lean to the right... but can you imagine a university adopting the party platform of the Democrats? The analogy is not quite right, of course... the Democrats don't have their own extranational army, as Fatah does. Nor do the Democrats go out to kill innocent people as a cynical political tool. And you thought American politics were rough?)
By the way, if you're wondering about the name -- al-Aksa is an Arabic term from the Koran, usually taken to refer to Jerusalem. (Hence the al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, and so on.) Indeed, al-Aksa University has been a hotbed of terrorism for many years, and has been temporarily closed down by the Israel Defense Forces many times for rabble-rousing and for fomenting terrorism. Will this new campus be any different?
The first students appeared in March, as construction went on around them, and now some 2,000 men drawn from cramped branches of the overcrowded university all over southern Gaza are taking their exams here. A new classroom building is going up to house 4,000 women, who are taught separately in this conservative society.(emphasis added)
Mahmoud al-Shami, the deputy dean of student affairs, said he hoped that the women could be part of the campus by September for at least two days a week as building continued.
Well, no doubt we should be pleased that the Palestinians -- long considered among the most secular and Westernized of Arab societies -- are educating their women as well. I have to wonder, though, at 4,000 women -- twice the number of men currently on campus -- being forced into a single building, where they may be permitted to study two days a week (or perhaps even more!).
Okay, let's be fair -- perhaps what the article meant to say was that the women's building would still be under construction in the fall, allowing studying for only part of the week. Still, that didn't seem to get in the way of the male students, did it?
Mr. Shami showed off his office, with its satellite Internet connections, new desk, fixtures and fittings. "Now we're focusing on creating scholars, not fighters," he said.Ah yes, the "scholars not fighters" bit. This is now to be a campus where peaceful pursuits are studied, is it not? That's what the headline says, after all. But other than the quip from al-Shami, there's nothing whatever to back that up. Indeed, the article ends on an ominous note:
A group of students wandered on the repaved walkways, chatting excitedly after finishing a linguistics exam. Almutaz Abu Sittah, 19, tall and handsome, was proud of the campus but dour about the future.Perhaps the University administrators want 'scholars, not fighters'. But it sounds as though the students themselves have other ideas.
"There's little optimism," he said. "The world is besieging us. And there's no real government, and no real state to govern."
Does he feel freer? "We've grown up," he said, "with vengeance in our hearts."
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Artist Diane Covert has found a new way to look at terrorism -- a way that shows us graphically what barbarity the terrorists perpetrate, and how it affects their victims... including the survivors.
She has collected x-ray images, from two of Jerusalem's largest hospitals, of the shrapnel embedded inside victims from suicide bombers. Remember, these bombs are often deliberately packed with nails and other sharp objects, which are soaked in rat poison to keep wounds from healing. The result -- haunting images such as this:
"a very sick child"
Copyright © 2006 Diane Covert
"nail in neck"
Copyright © 2006 Diane Covert
The one that really disturbs me, though, is the one with the following caption:
I was in college then, riding the bus to campus.
When he exploded, his watch blasted into my neck.
I cannot do better than to quote the artist herself:
Civilized people everywhere must condemn terrorism. We must speak in one voice. There is no excuse for terrorism - ever.
Thanks to Sol for pointing me to this.
Have The Democrats Completely Lost Direction?
No, I'm not talking about Rep. Jack Murtha this time, or even the disturbing number of Congressional Democrats willing to listen to him. I just seem to see a bunch of disconnected, disturbing signs this morning.
("Disturbing", I should explain, because I strongly believe that the United States needs a strong minority party. Whichever party is out of power, I want them to have good ideas and strong ideals; I don't want any party to be the only reasonable ones talking. There's also a certain sentimentality on my part; just about everyone I ever voted for, prior to 2004, was a Democrat. I remember when Democrats opposed dictatorships for being dictatorships, and accused Republicans of propping up the dictatorships. These days, Democrats seem to advocate leaving dictators alone; it's a shame.)
But first there's this:
Al Gore refuses to endorse Joe Lieberman — his former running mate — in Lieberman's re-election fight. (Nod to Ezra Klein). I guess Lieberman would have been good enough to run the government if something bad happened to Gore. But he's not obviously the best qualified to be the junior senator from Connecticut, even though he had the same job when Gore tapped him in 2000.Let me get this straight. Al Gore now refuses to endorse his own former running mate -- not in a run for the Presidency, heaven forfend, but just for re-election to his Senate seat?? (As I recall, actually, Gore didn't endorse Lieberman's Presidential bid in 2004 either.)
Jonah has it summed up: According to Gore, Lieberman was good enough to be Vice-President when Gore needed him, back in 2000, but now he's not even qualified to be the junior Senator from Connecticut. Unbelievable.
Then there's this:
I've considered the suggestion that the Democrats will re-nominate either John Kerry or Al Gore somewhat ludicrous. It seems clear to me that the Democrats have seen all they want to of Kerry, and, while most Democrats have nothing against Gore, he had his chance in 2000 and has been mostly invisible since then.I'd add that Gore isn't all that invisible right now -- but from a political standpoint, he's getting press for all the wrong reasons. (Unless he wants to run for office on the Global Warming ticket, that is.)
A CNN poll out today confirms that both Gore and Kerry would be weak candidates; 48% say they would "definitely vote against" Gore, and 47% would "definitely vote against" Kerry. What's striking is that 47% say they would "definitely vote against" Hillary Clinton. Which means that, notwithstanding Clinton's assiduous image-burnishing over the past several years, her negatives are as high as ever...
Which leaves the Democrats in need of a candidate. It's unfortunate, from their perspective, that Kerry, Gore and Clinton are soaking up all of the current media oxygen. They badly need new candidates to emerge, but in the present environment, it won't be easy.
Mind you, the Democrats still have plenty of time to pull a rabbit out of a hat, by nominating Barack Obama or some other "fresh blood" candidate. But John Hinderaker has a good point: how do you suppose Hillary et al will respond to an Obama Presidential run? (For that matter, there seem to be signs that Kerry wants another try, just to muddy the waters even further.)
Perhaps we'll see a Battle of the Behemoths, as Kerry and Hillary duke it out for the 2008 nomination (with Gore occasionally stepping in and confusing everybody)... leaving room for an exhausted Democratic National Convention to nominate somebody else entirely. (It's happened before: remember the Republicans in 1880?) But I'm not counting on it this time.
On a similar topic, Frank Rich at the New York Times -- no fan of the Bush Administration -- wrote this. (Hat tip: Just One Minute.)
On the war, Democrats are fighting among themselves or, worse, running away from it altogether. Last week the party's most prominent politician, Hillary Clinton, rejected both the president's strategy of continuing with "his open-ended commitment" in Iraq and some Democrats' strategy of setting "a date certain" for withdrawal. She was booed by some in her liberal audience who chanted, "Bring the troops home now!" But her real sin was not that she failed to endorse that option, but that she failed to endorse any option.Indeed. Still playing it safe, Sen. Clinton?
And then there's this:
During last week's congressional debate over the war in Iraq, critics of the Bush administration's policy made three arguments: that President Bush more or less lied when claiming Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S., there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that no progress is being made in the war there.And still we have no Democrat policy for moving forward with the War on Terror, other than "get out of Iraq now, before the Iraqi government can manage without us, so that it'll collapse and become the breeding ground for anti-American terrorism we claim it already is".
All three assumptions rest on shaky ground, so it is remarkable how much critics have seized on them with such fervor and certainty--the very vices of which they accuse the war's supporters. Indeed, one wonders how Democrats would react if real evidence of weapons of mass destruction, say the discovery of chemical weapon shells, surfaced. Would they step back and re-evaluate their assumptions, or would they accuse the Bush administration of planting the evidence as part of a Karl Rove-inspired pre-election dirty trick? Far from politics ending at the water's edge, today's partisan battles seem to take on added ferocity when they concern foreign policy.
Clean up your act, Democrats! America needs you.
Or perhaps Zell Miller had the right idea all along.
UPDATE: Peggy Noonan has a lot more to say -- and as usual, she says it a lot more eloquently (and thoughtfully) than I do. She also has plenty of criticisms for Republicans, which makes it all the more a worthwhile read.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Shorter than usual, actually -- it seems that this is the introduction of his new book! (I can't wait.)
'Scuse me, folks, I'm off to do some reading.
hat tip: Blackfive.
Adendum: there's another blogger that I sometimes think of in the same context as Bill Whittle; and that's Jeff Harrell. His posts can be disjointed, seemingly meaningless; but the very next post can be so firmly on-target and on-message, so well-written and full of meaning, that I keep coming back for more. (Bill combines it all in every essay; Jeff seemingly prefers to alternate. The result is the same; I'm drawn to the site to read more.)
This post of Jeff's is a good example. Much as I dislike (and disagree with) the position of U.S. legislators who demand that we withdraw all troops from Iraq right now, Jeff reminds me why they, too, serve an important role -- and why their opinions are important, even if we're sure that they're wrong. (Because, as my mother used to say, you need the extremes to determine where the center is.)
If you haven't checked Jeff out lately, do so. It's worth the trip.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Talk, Walk, Rock for Israel in Boston
I'm sorry to say that I couldn't make it to the Boston pro-Israel rally this year. Sol was there, though, with his camera and his Boston attitude. Check it out!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Thought For The Day
As seen this morning on Instapundit:
Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military operation. The press plays a symbiotic role, and isn't willing to address that.I couldn't agree more.
Terrorists do, in the end, deal in information -- information intended to spread fear. After all, their purpose is to create political change by sowing terror throughout a society -- which cannot be done without the spread of information.
(For example: if a bus blows up somewhere, but nobody hears about it, then nobody will be afraid that their own bus might be next; in other words, the terrorists have achieved nothing, apart from a bus-full of murders. Contrariwise, if terrorists can achieve their objective with threats, without actually resorting to violence, that serves their purpose equally well... and terrorist organizations do that all the time.)
The interesting thing here is that journalists, too, deal in information -- getting the word out to people who are interested in going on, as many people as possible. The press is thus a vital ingredient in modern terrorism, because the terrorists would be utterly ineffective if their message doesn't get out.
That's not to say that the press should refuse to cover terrorist attacks, à la Tom Clancy's Patriot Games. The public does want to know that something has happened, after all, and sometimes no information can cause panic just as easily. Israel, a country long accustomed to terror in various forms, does not refrain from publishing newspaper reports of terror attacks. On the other hand, Israeli journalists, on the whole, understand the need to coordinate and cooperate with security forces. They also understand the dangers of unintentionally helping the terrorists.
Am I suggesting that American newspapers, magazines, television news, radio shows, etc. censor themselves? In a way, yes. I think that they should look carefully at the stories they want to publish; they should think about them in the context of how crucial their journalism is to the success of terrorism; and, if relevant, they should decide whether or not to spike the story.
(Military censorship of the press during wartime used to be the norm, not the exception. American journalists hardly ever need to worry about that today. But with increased freedom comes increased responsibility... and that includes an American journalist's responsibility to kill a story that is, in the long run, harmful to the American people. It also includes the responsibility to think carefully about such issues.)
It saddens me that many reputable American news organizations refuse to do this. They do not see the dangers in, for example, rushing to press with unsubstantiated reports of American atrocities, which will inflame passions and possibly wind up killing people, whether the report is true or not. (Remember the 'Koran in a toilet' story? It was rushed to press with only a single anonymous source, who was not even a witness, to back it up; more than a dozen people died because of it; and it turned out to be utter nonsense.)
Journalists, please remember this: TERRORISTS NEED YOU. If that scares you a little, good; keep it in mind.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Another 'Israeli Atrocity' Hoax
NOTE: This post started as an update to the previous one, and grew large enough to deserve its own heading. -DiB
Regarding the Gaza beach incident (for want of a better name), which has been heavily reported over the past several days, here's a quick summary: a mine exploded on a Gaza beach, killing several civilians, at approximately the same time that nearby terrorist cells were targeted by Israeli artillery fire. Israel was, of course, blamed for this "atrocity" immediately; simultaneously, Palestinian authorities rapidly cleared the area of any evidence of the event, and refused entry to Israeli authorities for the purpose of conducting an investigation. (At the same time, one of the wounded was evacuated to an Israeli hospital. There are no anti-Zionist Palestinians when medical care is needed, I guess.)
Israel conducted an investigation anyway, using what information was available -- films made by the artillery and Air Force crews (showing no crater on the beach, as you'd expect from the impact of an artillery shell); precise timetables and targeting information by the crews (indicating that Israel was not shooting at anyone in the Gaza Strip at the time that the incident happened... and that even the artillery fired hours before did not come close to where the incident happened); and even information from the wounded (shrapnel was extracted from the wounded Palestinian in an Israeli hospital; the shrapnel could not have come from Israeli artillery).
Read the whole thing; the details are instructive.
The current theory is that the Palestinians had planted explosive mines on parts of the Gaza shore, intended to prevent Israeli Navy commandos from entering Gaza that way. (What sort of government authorizes the planting of mines on a public beach?? Just wondering.)
I hardly need mention that the Palestinians have been firing rockets endlessly at Israeli towns, with the specific intention of hitting civilians if they can. Why is it suddenly an atrocity when, according to the Palestinians, some of their own civilians die from Israeli artillery? Even if you accept the Palestinian side of the story -- which I don't -- it would simply be a case of Israel doing, in a rare accident, what Palestinians do on purpose all the time.
We will see whether this time the truth can catch up to the fantasy -- unlike the story of Jenin, or the story of Mohammed al-Dura.
UPDATE II: Another press release by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a vivid reminder of why the IDF was shelling the Gaza Strip in the first place:
Yesterday morning (Tuesday), 13 June 2006, the IDF carried out an aerial attack in the northern Gaza Strip against a vehicle loaded with rockets and carrying a Islamic Jihad terrorist cell en route to launch long-range Katyusha (Grad) rockets against Israel. Thirty-eight rockets have been launched at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours; over 100 rockets have been launched at Israel since Friday, 9 June 2006.I leave it to your imagination: how would the United States respond, if a sworn enemy -- say, the Soviet Union in Cuba at the time of the 1963 missile crisis -- had fired over 100 rockets (with explosive warheads) into our populated areas over a four-day period, with 38 of those rockets arriving within a single 24-hour period?
According to Palestinians reports three terrorists who operated in the cell were killed, as well as eight civilians. After the attack the terror cell was seen removing the rockets from the vehicle.
"I state clearly that we are saddened by the deaths of these innocent Palestinians but hold absolutely no responsibility for them. The responsibility lies entirely on the shoulders of the Palestinians," said the Chief of Staff [Lt. Gen.] Dan Halutz last night, who added that "the incident must be evaluated in its context, which is that Palestinians attempted to launch Grad rockets against Israel, and we acted with determination to prevent their firing."
This is the fourth time in the past two months in which terrorist cells attempt to launch Grad rockets at Israel. On Knesset election day (March 28) a rocket fell south of Ashkelon; about a month later another attempt was thwarted. On the third attempt, which occurred on May 15, the rocket hit an Israeli community north of the Gaza Strip, and damaged civilian infrastructure.
These rockets are capable of causing much more serious damage than the Qassam rockets, because they can reach a range of 15 to 20 kilometers and carry much more explosives.
If you think that the United States would respond with restraint, avoiding the source of the problem (i.e. the enemy that fires rockets with impunity), and instead merely pinpointing the launch sites of the rockets and destroying them -- well, that's exactly what Israel has been doing.
And if you think that the United States would do more than that, and would be justified in doing so -- then think about how easily Israel is vilified by the world for what little she is doing!
UPDATE III: As Charles Krauthammer writes in The Washington Post:
An expert at a local chapter of a human rights group disputes the Israeli claims. Okay. Let's concede for the sake of argument that the question of whether it was an errant Israeli shell remains unresolved. But the obvious question not being asked is this: Who is to blame if Palestinians are setting up rocket launchers to attack Israel -- and placing them 400 yards from a beach crowded with Palestinian families on the Muslim Sabbath?(emphasis added)
But there is an even larger question not asked. Whether the rocket bases are near civilian beaches or in remote areas, why are the Gazans launching any rockets at Israel in the first place -- about 1,000 in the past year?
To get Israel to remove its settlers, end the occupation and let the Palestinians achieve dignity and independence? But Israel did exactly that in Gaza last year. It completely evacuated Gaza, dismantled all its military installations, removed its soldiers, destroyed all Israeli settlements and expelled all 7,000 Israeli settlers. Israel then declared the line that separates Israel from Gaza to be an international frontier. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory ever.
And what have the Palestinians done with this independence, this judenrein territory under the Palestinians' control? They have used their freedom to launch rockets at civilians in nearby Israeli towns.
Why? Because the Palestinians prefer victimhood to statehood.
By all means, read the whole thing.
UPDATE IV: Now human-rights organizations are backing away from insisting that Israeli artillery caused this incident:
On Monday, the Human Rights Watch, while sticking to its demand for the establishment of an independent inquiry into a blast on a Gaza beach 10 days ago that killed seven Palestinian civilians, conceded for the first time since the incident that it could not contradict the IDF's exonerating findings.There's more, including a bizarre account of Ralia Niham, one of the Palestinian wounded who was taken to an Israeli hospital. Israeli doctors were puzzled at finding incisions all over her body... where Palestinian doctors had hurriedly removed every piece of shrapnel they could reach. Perhaps they were doing the best they could for her, before transferring her to better facilities in Israel. Or perhaps they were doing what Palestinian Authority representatives were doing on the beach, and removing as much evidence as they could, as quickly as they could.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Positives And Negatives In The Middle East
Over at Michael Totten's place, Israelis and Lebanese have been talking to one another at great length. The discussion is heated sometimes, as you'd expect; but, as Michael points out, the discussions are, on the whole, more civilized and respectful than, say, discussions between liberals and conservatives here in the United States.
I'm very much encouraged by this. The Internet has become something that never before existed: a means for people all over the world to communicate with one another, in perfect safety, even among declared enemies and across cease-fire lines.
Sure, there's a lot of progress to be made; no one would deny that. But they're talking... which is a vital first step. Israelis will see for themselves that Lebanese are not monsters, and vice versa.
A lot of good can come from this, and my hat's off to Michael for providing the forum (and the congenial environment) to make it happen.
In the meantime, Palestinians continue shooting at one another over -- what? Unpaid salaries? Frustrated political aspirations? No, this time it seems to be retaliation, pure and simple -- Fatah against Hamas, retaliating for what Hamas did to Fatah:
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Hundreds of Palestinian security men loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas went on a rampage against the Hamas-led government Monday, riddling the parliament building and Cabinet offices with bullets before setting them ablaze in retaliation for an attack by Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip.Maybe I'm just cynical, but it doesn't sound like this Palestinian-Palestinian violence is going to end any time soon. And will the press ever get around to attributing this to a "cycle of violence"? (Later -- in the exception that proves the rule, the Wall Street Journal has indeed called it a "cycle of violence"... by way of wondering whether anyone else will call it that. Touché.)
In Monday's unrest, hundreds of members of the Preventive Security force shot out the windows of the parliament building before storming the two-building Cabinet complex, where they smashed furniture, destroyed computers and tore up documents. No casualties were reported.
Shooting wildly in the air, the mob then set fire to one of the Cabinet buildings, gutting the fourth floor. When a fire engine approached the scene, one gunman lay on the road, preventing it from reaching the building.
"Every time they touch one of ours in Gaza, we will get 10 of theirs in the West Bank," said one member of the Preventive Security force. Dozens of gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a pro-Fatah militia, joined the mob.
The crowd also set fire to the parliament building and a Hamas office. Both blazes were quickly contained. Abbas' presidential guard later arrived to guard the burnt-out parliament and Cabinet buildings.
Late Monday, Fatah gunmen briefly abducted a Hamas lawmaker, Khalil Rabei, after attacking his office and setting it on fire. Rabei said he was kicked and threatened before he was released.
I've been expecting something like this for a while now. Yasser Arafat, whom I am pleased to have outlived, set up a Palestinian culture that rewards and glorifies violence; we now have legions of young Palestinians that, it seems, cannot think of any other way to solve their problems, or even to get attention.
And Israel has nothing to do with this. Sure, there will be attempts to drag Israel into purely Palestinian affairs... but for once, that doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps the Palestinians have crossed an important threshold: the realization that they cannot blame Israel for everything.
NOTE: some lengthy updates to this post have been separated out into a different post, which you can find here.