As usual this time of year, I’m creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.
Salon’s Alex Koppelman has a silly article contrasting the Jose Padilla case with that of Demetrius Crocker, a right-wing Timothy McVeigh-style nutjob who was criminally prosecuted for plotting to bomb a courthouse in Tennessee and to use lethal gas against the local black population. (Via Bashman). What is silly about the article is Koppelman’s thesis that the successful prosecution of Crocker through the traditional criminal justice system shows that no alternative procedures are needed to deal with Al Qaeda and other foreign-based jihadist groups.
The differences between the Crocker case and cases involving international terror organizations are so obvious that it is astounding that Koppelman never even tries to explain why they don’t matter:
According to court documents, the investigation of Demetrius Crocker began in early 2004, around the time he told a man named Lynn Adams that Timothy McVeigh “[did] things right.” Adams, who had met the Mississippi-born farmhand through a mutual acquaintance, began to hear from Crocker about his plans for mass murder. A resident of rural Carroll County, Tenn., an hour northeast of Memphis, Crocker told Adams he wanted to kill the black population of nearby Jackson, Tenn., with mustard gas and explode a bomb outside a courthouse.
By then, Adams had learned a lot about Crocker’s background: his previous membership in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, his anti-government beliefs, his fascination with Adolf Hitler and idolization of Oklahoma City bomber McVeigh. . . .
[T]he Carroll County Sheriff’s Department passed the case on to the FBI. Steve Burroughs, an FBI agent, began working undercover. Posing as an employee at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas, where some of the country’s remaining chemical weapons are stored to await destruction, Burroughs offered to help Crocker obtain explosive materials. Without Burroughs’ prompting, Crocker became more ambitious. He began talking about blowing up a radioactive bomb outside the U.S. Capitol.
Unquestionably, Crocker was a serious danger and a would-be terrorist by any definition. But note what is missing from the case: no ties to a foreign organization, no logistical support or terrorist training, no indoctrination in the methods of secrecy. Regardless of the merits of the Padilla case – a subject for another day* in itself – the fact that Crocker was prosecuted does not show that similar methods would be successful against a radically more organized threat, nor does it disprove the Bush Administration’s claim that different methods would be more effective in doing so.
In fact, recall that Koppelman’s own account makes clear that catching Crocker was a stroke of blind luck, precisely because Crocker – unlike foreign jihadists with the support of a foreign organization – trusted the wrong guy:
Crocker . . . hadn’t learned nearly as much about Adams. He didn’t know, for example, that Adams was a former sheriff’s deputy and a confidential informant for the Carroll County drug task force.
You want to take a chance that the next Mohammed Atta will be that stupid? The last one wasn’t.
On the other hand, Koppelman does concede a point that undercuts much of Salon’s ongoing theory that Padilla and other terror suspects were no danger because they were not all that bright:
There was an element of the fantastic in Crocker’s plan; he hoped, he told Burroughs, to obtain the necessary plutonium for the dirty bomb he wanted to explode outside Congress by communicating with mail-order brides from Russia, one of whom would presumably put him in touch with a former KGB agent with access to nuclear material. His lawyers claimed he had an IQ of just 85.
But tapes of the conversations between Crocker and Burroughs reveal that Crocker knew what he was doing. He had made a version of Zyklon B, the gas used in the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps, and he accurately described its manufacture. He had made nitroglycerin. He had the ingredients for a rudimentary bomb in his home, where he also kept several guns he told Burroughs he would use to kill any government agent sent to capture him.
I’m glad the government was able to take Demetrius Crocker out of circulation. But we were lucky, very lucky, just to get him – and that’s one man working largely alone. Organized and well-funded terrorism is a greater threat, and we can’t afford to wait to be lucky.
*I will note here that Koppelman takes everything Padilla’s lawyer says at face value, including the fantastical claim that he was given a hallucinogen while being interrogated. Really.
*One of the more doleful implications of a very narrowly divided polity is the places it leads partisans to go in search of that one last vote that turns an election, a court, a majority, a presidency. So it is difficult for Republicans to resist the temptation to hope for a change in the Senate upon the news that South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson is in critical condition after what may or may not have been a stroke. The right thing to do, of course, is to wish Senator Johnson and his family well (this is especially so because Tim Johnson, whatever his ideology, is not a loathesome human being like Ted Kennedy). Thinking otherwise may be only human, but it’s a reflex to resist.
All things considered, it probably would be for the better if more states had laws that require the appointment of a replacement Senator of the same party, followed by a special election, if an incumbent dies or needs to be replaced – I believe such a law is in place in Hawaii, which has a GOP Governor and two elderly Democratic Senators, and a similar law (the details of which I forget) was enacted in Massachusetts when John Kerry was running for president. That said, existing practice in the absence of such a statute is to replace the Senator however the governor wants, as happened when the Republicans lost Paul Coverdell’s Senate seat in Georgia and John Heinz’s seat in Pennsylvania (both of which the GOP recaptured at the next election), or when Jesse Ventura appointed an independent to fill out Paul Wellstone’s term.
*Count Rudy Giuliani and John McCain with the skeptics about the Iraq Study Group. As of Sunday, Mitt Romney was ducking the issue and saying he hadn’t read the report, although a commenter at RedState has a purported statement from Romney that likewise hits the right notes in rejecting consensus for its own sake and rejecting negotiations with Iran and Syria. Still, there’s a worrisome pattern to Romney’s delayed reactions. The GOP needs its next candidate to be someone who can roll with the punches and drive the public narrative.
On the other hand, Syria loves the ISG report:
The United States will face hatred and failure in the Middle East if the White House rejects the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Syria warned on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Syria’s ruling party’s Al-Baath newspaper urged President Bush to take the group’s report seriously because it would “diminish hatred for the U.S. in region,” AP reported.
*Academic Elephant over at RedState notes a movement (see also here and here and here), apparently with at least tacit U.S. approval, to break up the current governing coalition in the Iraqi Parliament so as to remove the increasingly ineffectual al-Maliki as leader, build a new coalition that does not depend on the support of Muqtada al-Sadr, and set the stage for a second and hopefully final military showdown with the Sadrists. This would be a necessary step to finishing the job in Iraq.
*This is just a really cool article about turtles. It also pretty well captures the NY Times science section, which still does about the best stuff in the paper – but the headline writer couldn’t resist going for an anti-people headline that is really only a small part of the article.
*Great New Republic profile of Sam Brownback, once you make allowances for Noam Scheiber’s view of the Catholic Church as a secretive cult. I’m not inclined to support Brownback for president because I don’t think he can win (not least of which, the man isn’t exactly Mr. Charisma), but I probably agree with him on more issues than most of the other candidates. He’d make a great Senate Majority Leader someday.
*Peter King (the football writer, not Peter King the Congressman) admits error, supports Art Monk for the NFL Hall of Fame.
*I’m all for attacking terrorism at its roots, but poverty ain’t it. It’s political and religious extremism married to anti-American and anti-Israel ideologies.
*Justices Scalia and Breyer debate the divisive issue of unanimity.
*Eliot Spitzer under pressure from Democratic legislators to allow drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. New York moved to require more secure driver’s licenses after September 11 by requiring social security number background checks before issuing a driver’s license. Little faith though I have in our new Governor, you would think he won’t be this indifferent to law enforcement and security concerns, let alone allowing the privileges of citizenship without its burdens.
*I’m sorry, this is just hilarious.
*Linda Greenhouse on the shrinking Supreme Court docket. This point is a useful fact:
One [reason] is the decreasing number of appeals filed on behalf of the federal government by the solicitor general’s office. Over the decades, the Supreme Court has granted cases filed by the solicitor general’s office at a high rate. In the mid-1980s, the office was filing more than 50 petitions per term. But as the lower federal courts have become more conservative and the government has lost fewer cases, the number has plummeted, opening a substantial hole in the court’s docket.
As recently as the court’s 2000 term, the solicitor general filed 24 petitions, of which 17 were granted. Last term, it filed 10, of which the court granted 4. This term, the solicitor general has filed 13 petitions; the court has granted 5, denied 3 and is still considering the rest.
This, I’m less convinced of:
In private conversations, the justices themselves insist that nothing so profound is going on, but rather seem mystified at what they perceive as a paucity of cases that meet the court’s standard criteria. The most important of those criteria is whether a case raises a question that has produced conflicting decisions among the lower federal courts.
I can certainly attest from my own practice that I routinely encounter issues of federal law that are deeply unsettled or as to which a circuit split exists (in areas like securities law, RICO, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, class action procedure, etc.). The Court has been wise to trim its docket from the days of the 1960s-70s; the quality and care with which opinions are crafted has noticeably increased, and it’s crucial for the Court to get things right because it often will not return to a particular question again for decades, if ever. But if the Court really wants to take on a few more cases it should have no problem finding appropriate vehicles to clarify unsettled issues.
*Consumer fraud statutes as a remedy for descendants of slaves? (See p. 14). (H/T). I know at least under New York’s consumer fraud law, you need to show some loss beyond than just having bought something you would not otherwise have bought, and Justice Breyer has worried about the free speech implications of such lawsuits, which I guess puts him to the right of Judges Posner and Easterbrook on this one.
*DC District Court finds that its jurisdiction over the Hamdan habeas petition has been validly stripped.
I have not had time yet to plow through the entire Iraq Study Group report, although I’ve been digesting a lot of the reaction. The above is from the front page of yesterday’s New York Post, under the headline “Surrender Monkeys,” which seems apt.
After thinking about it a few days, though, it occurred to me what the ISG reminds me of: the Model UN from high school. Now, for those of you who did not attend a Model UN conference, the idea was that each school’s delegation represented a country and you were supposed to be like the real UN, sitting down to hammer out compromises on an array of international issues. In fact, a lot of people were there to get away from their parents for a few days, party and pick up girls . . . which maybe isn’t so different from the real UN after all, when you think about it.
That said, the emphasis at the Model UN was all on reaching compromises and consensuses, but it quickly became obvious to me, even as a teenager, that this was an absolute sham because everybody wanted to make a deal and nobody actually had any real interests at stake or real leverage other than the hollow threat to not make a deal.
This is essentially what the ISG is: Model UN for retired public servants, a bunch of people sitting around reaching meaningless compromises. There are two ways to make decisions: do what you think is right, or reach a compromise that represents a middle ground between what two or more people think is right. But consensus-based decisionmaking only has a chance at working when the people reaching the consensus actually represent the contending interests and can compel them to accept the deal.
And on that score, the ISG is no more representative of the contending parties than I was of Botswana back in high school. Not only are the members of the ISG representative of nobody, elected by nobody and answerable to nobody, but their composition includes nobody from the military, no real left-wingers, no libertarians, only one conservative (Ed Meese, who has little foreign affairs experience), no Israelis, no Iraqi Shi’ites, no Iraqi Sunnis, no Kurds, no Saudis (unless you count Jim Baker), no Iranians, no Syrians, etc. They’re making deals with Monopoly money, but they can’t make anybody accept the whole deal, which means they ended up proposing an unprincipled compromise as the starting point for negotiations.
They probably didn’t even get any decent parties out of it.
Apparently Bananarama is staging a coup in Fiji.
*This essay on the Democrats’ coming move to strip funding from missile defense programs is one of the best I have read on the subject of SDI. This is an especially good point about the Democrats’ insistence that the program be shown to be 100% effective before money is spent improving or deploying it (a rather different tack than they take when dealing with, say, medical research or alternative energy sources – or global warming, for that matter, even though unlike the battle against combustible fuels money spent on missile defense is a single, transparent cost and imposes no burdens on individual liberty):
[L]ike software, most successful weapons systems are best debugged after being deployed. And some weapons systems were never tested at all before deployment.
Complex weapons systems have often been used successfully without proper testing. In 1940, Britain’s new air defenses – radars, ground observers, anti-aircraft guns and squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes – had never been tested against even a small scale simulated attack. Yet they won the Battle of Britain. Likewise in the 1991 Gulf War the first two E-8A ground surveillance radar aircraft had only just begun a long testing process when they were shipped to Saudi Arabia. During the war they performed magnificently and now these aircraft are in high demand all over the world.
For decades, critics of advanced technology weapons have pointed to testing failures to support their drive to cancel the programs. Yet test failures are a normal part of the development process of any weapon system. Consider the M-1 tank. Its early tests were riddled with failures, yet now it is one of the most effective tanks in the world.
Yes, missile defense is expensive and unlikely to ever be 100% foolproof, and yes, we have other means of deterrence. But especially if we are unwilling or unable to act militarily to stop nations like Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the reduction in the potential threat to the U.S. and its key allies is enormous, and well worth the money. But then, it’s never really been about the money but about guys like Carl Levin having an ideological fixation on stopping missile defense no matter the underlying facts. The Democrats’ move will also break faith with and alienate one of our key allies, Japan. As usual, when they get on one of their left-leaning foreign policy jags, the Democrats treat the actual commitments of our allies as a worthless trifle.
*This December 2005 Iraq analysis from Steven den Beste looks prescient now. I’m still deeply alarmed by the mounting indications that Maliki is taking orders from Sadr and Sadr is taking orders from Iran. We are now locked in a battle for regional supremacy to see if the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Taliban-Al Qaeda axis can strangle democracy in its crib in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon – a battle that looks more and more everyday like the battles we fought in Central America in the 80s and Southeast Asia in the 70s against Communism.
*Patterico catches the LA Times consistently telling only part of the story of a discrimination lawsuit against the LAFD. This is one of those stories I had seen and thought there was something missing from it – Patterico fills in the blanks, which make the whole episode sound more like a sophmoric prank than racism.
What galls me is this, from an LAT editorial:
Scathing audits have outlined the LAFD’s erratic disciplinary policies, poor leadership and hostile work environment, yet those reports have failed to dislodge the frat-boy culture. Maybe a public airing of its dirty laundry will.
Now, fixing a bad disciplinary system is fine, and stamping out racism is a noble cause. But a “frat-boy culture” is the concern of the law, why? These are firemen. They run into buildings that are on fire for a living, buildings that have a nasty habit of collapsing on or under them or otherwise acting in a highly dangerous and unstable fashion. Fire departments, like military organizations and police departments, are sustained in their dangerous mission by their unique institutional cultures. People who haven’t walked a mile in their boots should be very hesitant to tamper with that culture.
*Speaking of employment law, the Democrats are also poised to add homosexuals to the list of protected classes who can raise the shield of federal litigation to prevent them from being fired or passed over for promotions. Via Bashman. Now, in theory, private businesses (as opposed to, say, religious organizations) should not be able to fire people because they are gay. But anyone with even passing familiarity with the three-ring circus of employment law can tell you that these statutes do not exist in theory – they are, instead, a practical weapon reached for by the kinds of people who get fired from jobs, and usually deservedly so, or to force companies to go through all sorts of contortions in figuring out the proper demographic composition of layoffs rather than just running the best business case.
What is more, what is often an issue is whether a person is perceived as being a member of a protected class, or what the employer knew about their membership in that class. Now, it’s usually not hard to figure out who is black, or a woman, or in a wheelchair, but after that things get complicated, and with sexual orientation we enter unchated ground. Do we really want to create a whole cat-and-mouse industry over employers’ knowledge of their employees’ sex lives? A federal gaydar jurisprudence? (“The court finds that the company’s awareness that the plaintiff enjoyed men’s figure skating. Summary judgment denied.”) If there’s one thing the Democrats are experts at enacting, it’s the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Or maybe, for their backers in the plaintiffs’ bar, not so unintended.
*Good RCP Blog look at Barack H. Obama. I’m split on whether, as a matter of practical politics, this really is Obama’s moment to run at the top of the ticket. On the one hand, his liberal record will only grow the longer he is in the Senate, especially now with a Democratic majority, blunting the appeal of his rhetorical moderation. The usual rule is that you run when people want you to run – that’s the moment. On the other hand, it seems awfully presumptuous to run after one unfinished term in the Senate, when he has manifestly not accomplished anything. My guess is that moreso than John Edwards in 2004, Obama would be well served by running for VP even if on a losing ticket.
*Speaking of finding the right moment, the GOP field seems to be attracting people whose moments would appear to have passed – like Tommy Thompson and Frank Keating, two star GOP governors from the 1990s.
*Matt Welch takes a harsh look at John McCain from his perspective as a left-leaning libertarian. I loved the subtitle.
*In the same vein, a couple of links about Rudy Giuliani here and here.
*Via Instapundit, Eugene Volokh notes a decision from the Washington Supreme Court recognizing an individual right to bear arms. This only sharpens the conflict I noted three years ago with a Ninth Circuit decision holding that California could impose tort liability on legal sales of firearms within Washington State.
*Not me, but might as well be.
*TV sictom/romantic comedy comes to the factory floor. I will be more than a little surprised if Hollywood gets this one right and is entertaining in the process.
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
Sure, some people join the military because the best way of advancement available to them, and maybe that’s particularly true in Rangel’s Harlem district – it was true of Rangel himself, by his own account (though I somehow doubt that that is the only motivator even for soldiers from Harlem, either). But the incoming Chairman of one of the House’s most powerful committees has been in Congress for 36 years, and has no excuse for his ignorance about the nature of the all-volunteer military.
UPDATE: A commenter at RedState linked to this November 2005 Heritage Foundation study of the economic background of military enlistees (it also quotes Rangel making the same point four years ago):
Put simply, the current makeup of the all-voluntary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average soldier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower proportions of other minorities but a proportionate number of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.
Notably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the data shows a distinct shift away from lower-income, less-educated recruits after September 11 – which is unsurprising. People who join the Army mainly to get job training and education, after all, are the ones who are less likely to enlist during a war.
An article in the New York Times, discussing the fact that nothing has changed on the NSA wiretapping front – the program to listen to international al Qaeda phone calls (even ones entering or exiting the U.S.) continues with no Congressional action to give it clearer legal authority and no resolution to the court cases – begins oddly:
When President Bush went on national television one Saturday morning last December to acknowledge the existence of a secret wiretapping program outside the courts, the fallout was fierce and immediate.
If you didn’t know the history, you’d almost believe that the President up and spilled the beans on this secret program on his own initiative – curiously absent is the role of the Times itself in revealing the program, an essential part of the news story (as well as of the political controversy) that the Times can’t bring itself to mention.
It is a truism that war is unpredictable, and as a result it is necessary from time to time to reconsider tactics, strategy and even the overall mission. Changing facts on the ground, the changing of the guard at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and the imminent arrival of the Iraq Study Group report (the leaked potential contents of which are discussed here, h/t), all make it necessary that we revisit yet again first principles about why we are in Iraq, what we hope to accomplish there and what should be the conditions of our ultimate departure.
I have been a supporter of the Iraq War from the beginning, for reasons I explained at length in this February 2003 post, this June 2004 post examining where we then stood on our objectives, and this August 2006 post on democratization in Iraq (I also heartily endorse the global strategic vision laid out by Steven den Beste in this July 2003 “Strategic Overview of the War on Terror”). The short summary is that (1) Saddam Hussein’s regime presented a multifaceted threat to the U.S. and its allies and had a history of irrational aggressiveness that was inconsistent with any prospect of reliable deterrence, (2) there was simply no way we were ever going to win the War on Terror with Saddam Hussein’s regime still in place, and (3) Saddam Hussein’s regime openly cheered the September 11 attacks, which I regard as intolerable. Nothing that has happened in the three and a half years since has convinced me that leaving a regime of that nature in power would have been a good idea.
But regardless of the rightness of the original decision, the question remains: what now? I’m not an expert on military tactics, so all I can do is go back to first principles. Here are the principles that should remain our guides in the months and years to come:
I. Identify and Defeat the Enemy
As a general principle, as I have explained many times before (see here, for example), the essential condition for sending American troops anywhere is that you identify an enemy or enemies and gear all of your efforts to defeating the enemy, by destroying his capacity and/or willingness to fight. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between war and armed social work, the difference between rebuilding a conquered foe into an ally and nation-building for its own sake. Military organizations are designed to destroy the enemy; that gives them purpose and direction and enables them to determine whether or not they have achieved victory. Don’t talk to me about “securing” this or “stabilizing” that or “guarding” some other thing – all those may be important parts of the mission, they may even be things that need to be done on the way out the door before handing over the keys, but they are not the mission itself, and the moment they become the mission you have lost your way.
Who is the enemy? There are three main enemies that, to my mind, must be substantially defeated before we can leave, although once Iraqi forces are up to the task of finishing the job we can leave the mop-up work to them.
A. Saddam’s Regime
The original enemy we entered Iraq to defeat was the regime of Saddam Hussein. That regime was broken and dispersed by May 2003; its leader was captured in December 2003 and sentenced to death in November 2006; its heirs apparent were gunned down in July 2003.
There is a fair question as to whether some part of the Sunni forces still fighting at this stage represent a genuine hard core of Ba’athist refuseniks, and to the extent that we can so identify such a force it is appropriate to stay and crush it. But I am not inclined to automatically assume that every problem in the Sunni Triangle is necessarily a sign of an organized guerilla campaign, or that US troops should have a permanent job putting down every uprising in the area. Iraqi-vs-Iraqi violence is fundamentally a matter of the new government exercising sovereign authority, and in that regard our role should, at most, be training and handing over the reins (as we have in the two least problematic of Iraq’s 18 provinces) rather than trying to insert ourselves in between warring internal factions.
B. Foreign Jihadis
You have heard the President say it often enough: Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. From the summer of 2003 through the summer of 2006, this was indisputably true. Foreign extremists poured into Iraq, mostly congregating around Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ) organization, which was at a minimum affiliated with, modeled on and financially supported by al Qaeda itself. As I have said before, this “flypaper” strategy, in which we would attract terrorists and Islamic extremists to Iraq and kill them in battle, was always a silver lining to the insurgency, not an affirmative reason to want an insurgency to fight. But once an openly declared enemy enters territory you hold, you fight.
Leaving Iraq to the mercy of Zarqawi, as the Howard Dean faction would have done in 2004 or 2005, would have been foolish, irresponsible madness. America can not be seen to run from these guys. But all that changed starting in June 2006, when a U.S. airstrike killed Zarqawi, and our capture of the dying Zarqawi and his bodyguards, paperwork and computers yielded an intelligence bonanza that led to rolling up much of his network.
Today, there are still foreign extremists in Iraq – but are they still a significant threat? It is hard for us to declare victory over these guys, since that seems an invitation for more to come in just to prove us wrong. But if ever there is a situation where we ought to have been able to say “Mission Accomplished” about the insurgency, it is the destruction of Zarqawi and his network. The extent to which our leaders in the field feel comfortable declaring Iraq reasonably free of foreign extremist organizations, and its military capable of dealing with the remainder, is perhaps the most important goalpost in determining when our job is done.
C. Sadr and the Iranian Threat
I have always thought, and have written before, that Muqtada al-Sadr reminded me uncomfortably of the early careers of Saddam, Khomeini, Hitler, Lenin, Castro, and other obstreperous and charismatic troublemakers whose sheer ability to survive eventually helped nourish their arrogance, hate and extremism into full-blown megalomania when they finally seized power. All were frequently underestimated and counted out, exiled, imprisoned, even sentenced to death, but never actually finished off, to the great later grief of millions.
In another way, I will admit I was wrong about this one: after U.S. forces routed Sadr in Najaf in the spring of 2004, I thought it was enough that we destroyed his forces and left to the Iraqis the decision what to do with him (See here and here).
While I don’t agree with all of his diagnoses of the Iraq situation, Ralph Peters is dead on the money (also here and here) that Sadr must be killed and it is up to us to do it, because Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is clearly afraid of Sadr and accedes to his demands. If we do not kill Sadr now, we will live to regret the decision.
Sadr is an enemy for three reasons. First, of course, he has from the outset been virulently anti-American and made open war against our troops. Second, he is the chief progenitor of Shi’ite violence, especially in Baghdad, and the chief rival to the elected government for the allegiance of Shi’ites. And third, it is increasingly clear that his resources come from Iranian support, and therefore he cannot be regarded solely as a domestic Iraqi problem. And if we allow an Iranian proxy to make war on us without consequence, this does become like Vietnam, where the nation that landed at Normandy, Okinawa and Inchon was never willing, even after smashing the North Vietnamese military in the Tet offensive, to land a major force up the coast, seize Hanoi and force the enemy to its knees.
It may be that we don’t actually need to invade Iran, even in “hot pursuit” of Iranian agents and suppliers entering Iraq, but if we are to contain Iran, we need to make clear to Ahmadenijad that we will decapitate his armed proxies, starting with Sadr and eventually Nasrallah as well.
I won’t repeat here everything I said in the prior posts linked above, but I continue to believe that the attempt at democratization in Iraq was and is a worthy strategy. It is not the chief goal of the mission, never was. It is unfortunate that the way things played out on the WMD front, it has been difficult to sell the mission publicly since the invasion as anything but a democratization project, thus placing more of our prestige behind Iraqi democracy than we should have preferred.
But I also said from the very outset in February 2003 that the models for Iraq should not be New Hampshire and Wisconsin or even Germany and Japan, but rather the new democracies that arose in the aftermath of the collapse of the Communist empire in Eastern Europe, Russia, Central and Southeast Asia, Central America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Many of those democracies have had a rough go of it since then; Benjamin Franklin said that our own democracy was “a republic, if you can keep it,” and not everyone who received the opportunity for democracy in the 1986-93 period kept it. Some, like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, maintain the forms of democracy (elections, term limits) but the actual practice is on life support, with no free press, massive organized crime, spotty and politically driven law enforcement, and an economy in shambles outside of the oil business.
But nearly all of the post-Communist states, even ones that elect people like Daniel Ortega to public office, are better off now than they were before, and less dangerous to the United States. We should continue to offer what support we can, of the non-military variety, to Iraq’s democrats. And as in Eastern Europe and other post-Communist areas, we should continue to encourage democratization throughout the Muslim and Arab worlds – it won’t work everywhere, and will backfire in some places, but the places it takes root will be long-term potential allies or at least stabilizing forces in the region.
But our military forces in Iraq are there to defeat enemies, not to force democracy to work. As with the Cold War, the battle for Iraqi democracy will be waged in Iraq by Iraqi democrats and their foes long after we have won the victory we came for and gone home.
The proposals from the ISG that have been leaked thus far appear to involve the Mother of All Sellouts, a negotiated peace with Iran and Syria that not only validates their interference in Iraq but simultaneously compels Israel to hand over land to the Syrians. This is foolish and reckless.
I have made this point before, more times than I can count (see here for a sampling and more links): negotiations are war by other means, and will fail if not backed by a credible threat of new or continuing hostilities to the disadvantage of the other side. Treaties are contracts, and contracts only work if the remedies for violation are clear and credible. Iran and Syria are now meddling in Iraq, and have been for quite some time. The Bush Administration has not been willing to visit any adverse consequences on them for this, at least not publicly, and will not admit that we are at war with them. Their proxies make war on us and our allies without the consequence of the proxies’ destruction.
How can we make credible peace with them when we will not even admit we are at war? How are they now suffering from U.S. involvement in Iraq, and if not, what incentive do they have to make concessions? And what conditions will bring us back to the field – Iran has been careful to avoid an open casus belli by using proxies rather than an open invasion. If Sadr’s militia acts up again, the Iranians won’t be falling over themselves to admit complicity, and how will an American president then rally the nation to fight?
Never make peace with anyone who can’t be held directly responsible if war resumes.
IV. Other Issues
There are other issues I don’t have time and space to deal with here. I regard partition of Iraq as a thinkable but unfortunate last resort, and one that is really more up to the Iraqis and to us, though we do at a minimum owe our support to the Kurds, who remain the most advanced and pro-American faction in the country. McQ has some useful thoughts about oil revenues and moving forces into Kurdistan, both of which I file under the same general heading.
Winning the War on Terror will be a long, hard struggle. We can’t lose heart or will, but we also can’t allow a loss of clarity about the mission in Iraq to destroy public support for the long war. Keeping focused on the main goals is essential. I close with the full version Churchill quote I use as my tagline; his message about Germany then applies as aptly today, but also as a cautionary tale, since Churchill spoke these words during the First World War, the one that did not end the battle with German militarism:
Germany must be beaten; Germany must feel that she is beaten. No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong.
So it is today.
In many ways the summary announcement Wednesday that Don Rumsfeld would be stepping down in favor of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense was more distressing than the elections themselves. It’s not entirely clear exactly how much Rumsfeld was fired as opposed to quitting, but at a minimum it’s obvious that he wasn’t begging to leave and Bush wasn’t begging him to stay, so given the timing immediately following a bad election the public is reasonably interpreting this as Rumsfeld being sacked.
Was it time for Rumsfeld to go? Maybe. Certainly Rumsfeld had his characteristic flaws, specifically that as a former Navy pilot his zeal for flexibility and mobility in warfare sometimes seemed to give short shrift to the value of infantry. Equally certainly, his critics were often motivated by the most parochial of interests, as his quest for modernizing the military made many enemies among those wedded to the status quo. An outsider to the Pentagon can never truly assess the value of each of his initiatives, though it seems unfortunate that a man of his energy and institutional knowledge will not be around to see to the end his program of reform.
In the specific case of Iraq, while the Bush Administration is losing a man with tremendous faith in the mission and unmatched determination, at the end of the day the importance of Robert Gates is secondary; Gates is, whatever his other virtues and vices, the classic professional manager. If President Bush keeps faith with the mission, I have no doubt that Gates will carry it out; if he doesn’t, it would take more than Don Rumsfeld to set him straight.
What is dismaying is the timing and handling of the announcement. It came too late to help embattled Republican moderates in districts and states unhappy with the Iraq war, yet too soon after the elections to be read as anything but a show of weakness and capitulation to Bush’s political enemies. Perhaps it is true that the Democratic takeover of the House made it necessary that Rumsfeld dedicate himself full time to appearing at investigative hearings while someone else takes the reins of the war, but concessions to a party more interested in score-settling than in winning the war do not inspire confidence in President Bush’s steadiness in the final two years of his term.
Then again, like it or not, Rumsfeld himself would be the first to admit that you can’t win wars without the support of the public and the Congress and a decent effort at media relations. With all three now having turned decisively against Rumsfeld, his ability to do his job going forward was probably fatally compromised anyway.
Despite the shabby treatment he received from the president, I can’t weep too much for Rumsfeld himself, for two reasons. First, Rumsfeld is a veteran bureaucratic infighter who has himself been the moving force behind more purges and palace coups than you could count; just to name a few, he has variously been suspected of engineering the 1965 overthrow of House Minority Leader Charles Halleck by Gerald Ford, the 1970 purge of the notorious Terry Lenzer from the Office of Economic Opportunity, the 1975-76 purge of moderates and “realists” (including Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller) from the Ford Administration, leading to promotions for Rumsfeld to Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney to White House Chief of Staff, as well as numerous power plays within the Bush Administration, resulting in Rumsfeld outlasting Colin Powell, Jay Garner, Paul Bremer, Andrew Card, and a constellation of generals, among others. He’s the ultimate grownup, he knows how the game is played, and his turn was due to come eventually. Hs will retire to a position of great prominence and personal wealth and with the respect and loyalty of many in Washington, the military, and the GOP.
And second, of course, he has had a tremendous run. He started once upon a time as the youngest Defense Secretary in the nation’s history and ends as the oldest, and he will leave office having held the job for the longest continuous tenure as well as the longest total tenure, having been the only man to serve in the post twice. He has been hugely influential in many ways within Washington since his arrival as a congressional staffer in 1957, and his protege remains as the Vice President. His legion of aphorisms have entered the popular consciousness, from “known unknowns” to “you go to war with the army you have,” to of course the sneering phrase “Old Europe” and the stir it created within Europe itself. And in the end, the fate of the Iraq project will guarantee Rumsfeld’s place in history for good or ill, regardless of the circumstances of his departure, just as MacArthur is judged today mainly on his conduct of the war in the Pacific, the occupation of Japan and the landing at Inchon rather than his losing battle with Harry Truman.
There are tough decisions ahead about Iraq, as the reality on the ground has changed over time and the strategies needed to meet that reality will have to be adjusted just as they have been adjusted in the past. It is unfortunate that a man as gifted, energetic and knowing in the ways of the Pentagon as Don Rumsfeld will not have a place at the table to make those decisions. But then, the genius of the American system of war-making is that no one man is indispensable.
As we head into the voting booth it’s worth considering one of the most crucial elements of the War on Terror: gathering intelligence. Both parties agree, in theory, that the gathering and analysis of intelligence is hugely important. In a word of shadowy threats that dare not confront us openly, of secret trade in weapons and the infiltration of open societies by terror cells, we must use every means at our disposal to make sure we stay a step ahead of the bad guys – and don’t shoot the innocent along the way. Indeed, few Democratic criticisms of the war effort in general and the Iraq War in particular have been given more prominence than the charge that we failed to get the truth about weapons programs that were a closely held secret within a police state.
Yet, at every turn, howls of outrage have been raised on the Left at efforts to gather intelligence. Just think – how do you learn what extremists and hostile states are up to, here and abroad?
*Electronic surveillance? President Bush has sought to expand the use of surveillance both by legislation (the Patriot Act) and through clandestine programs (the NSA program to track Al Qaeda phone calls into the U.S. and the SWIFT program to track international banking transfers). For this he has taken years of intense carping and the media and disgruntled critics within the government have responded by leaking the details of secret surveillance programs on the front pages of the NY Times.
*Questioning captives? Again, the Bush Administration has been subjected to a continuous storm of abuse from its opponents for taking an aggressive tack in questioning detainees, even those at the very top of the Al Qaeda organization or on the tip of the spear of the insurgency in Iraq.
*Informants and turncoats? Democrats in the 1990s, led by NJ Senator Bob Torricelli, sought restrictions on our ability to work with undercover infiltrators of extremist organizations. And, of course, critics of the Iraq War have been arguing for years that we should give no credence to defectors.
*Boots on the ground? The very best intelligence comes from having a continuous military presence in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. The air strike on
capture of Zarqawi, for example, yielded a goldmine of information that allowed our troops to roll up most of his organization in short order. That would never have happened, and Zarqawi’s influence in Iraq would today be only growing, if we had heeded the “cut and run” crowd in 2003 or 2004 or 2005.
True, not every Democrat has been willing to vote against these measures, much as their base and the media have egged them on. But many of the worst of the Democrats on these issues, especially in the House, will ascend to leadership positions if they regain the majority. And the pressure to close our eyes and ears comes from their side, a side that will be ever emboldened by victory tomorrow. Which is why we do well to bear in mind the words of President Bush (h/t Geraghty):
If anybody has any doubts about the differences of opinion in Washington, D.C. between Republicans and Democrats, I want them to analyze the recent votes that took place on these important programs. When it came time to renew the Patriot Act, more than 75 percent of the House Democrats voted against it.
THE PRESIDENT: When it came time to vote on whether or not to allow the CIA to continue its program to detain and question captured terrorists, more than 80 percent of House Democrats voted against it.
THE PRESIDENT: When it came time to vote on whether the National Security Agency should continue to monitor communications that we think would be — contain information that would protect you, more than 90 percent of the House Democrats voted against it.
THE PRESIDENT: In all these vital measures for fighting a war on terror, the Democrats in Washington follow a simple philosophy: Just say no. (Laughter.) When it comes to listening in on the terrorists, what’s the Democrats’ answer?
AUDIENCE: Just say no!
THE PRESIDENT: Just say no. When it comes to detaining terrorists, what’s the Democrat’s answer?
AUDIENCE: Just say no!
THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to questioning terrorists, what’s the Democrat’s answer?
AUDIENCE: Just say no!
THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to trying terrorists, what’s the Democrat’s answer?
AUDIENCE: Just say no!
THE PRESIDENT: And so when the Democrats ask for your vote on November 7th, what’s your answer?
AUDIENCE: Just say no! (Applause.)
While any kind of talks with North Korea are unlikely to accomplish very much, the Bush Administration has long taken the postion – with which I agree – that the North Korean problem is a regional problem and really more the responsibility of North Korea’s neighbor and sometime patron and protector, China. Thus, while Democrats have loudly and frequently demanded unilateral U.S. talks with North Korea, the Bush Administration has held fast to the idea that six-party regional talks are the only way to reach any sensible and workable diplomatic solution.
Patience and persistence have paid off again, however incrementally, this morning: the North Koreans have told China that they are willing to return to the six-party table this month for the first time in a year, news that the Chinese government announced on its website.
How else would one describe businessmen cozying up to the North Korean regime by attending its golf tournament?
Actually, not just McGovernite – it’s old George McGovern himself, calling – surprise! – for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. What is would be funny if it wasn’t sad and dangerous is McGovern and his co-author’s proposed solutions:
The authors say the Iraqi government should request the presence of an international force, including Arab and Muslim troops, to help keep order after the departure of the Americans.
Yeah, international forces have just been lining up around the block looking to go in there. And which Arab and Muslim states are we talking about here – Syria? Iran? Besides, sectarian strife is not likely to be pacified by people who belong to one of the denominations involved.
McGovern and Polk call for an aggressive program of U.S. reconstruction aid to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure destroyed in the war.
Which, without U.S. troops around, will last how long without being blown up? And they make it sound like we have not been doing precisely that for three years now.
McGovern cast doubt on the assertion by President Bush that withdrawal would embolden U.S. enemies and create a haven for terrorists in the heart of the Middle East. It is the American presence in Iraq, he and Polk believe, that is fueling much of the violence.
Well, you talk to tired old liberals, you get tired old liberal tropes. This completely ignores the fact that most of the violence these days is targeted by Iraqis at fellow Iraqis, not at the U.S. McGovern all but concedes later in the article that his plan, in a forthcoming book, is already somewhat dated due to this change in the nature of the strife in Iraq.
Of course, even McGovern has to admit that “by and large, the Democrats seem to have been intimidated into silence or kind of a mushy policy on foreign questions.”
Not metaphorical here, but actual treason charges. While the term gets thrown around far too loosely, there is such a thing as giving aid, comfort and material support to our enemies in wartime, and we should not fear using the treason charge where it is appropriate.
France passes a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915, straining relations with Turkey. As an American I’m instinctively uncomfortable with speech-banning of any type, and I’m not sure if this is really the fight France needs to pick just now, but I have to sympathize with the sentiment. A little backbone is not a bad thing, coming from the French.
Ed Morrissey runs a guest post from none other than John McCain. It reads more like a speech than an op-ed, let alone a blog post, but when a potential presidential candidate puts out his position on an international crisis, a conversational tone isn’t his chief priority.
China has staked its prestige as an emerging great power on its ability to reason with North Korea, keep them engaged with the six party negotiations, and make progress toward a diplomatic resolution of this crisis. North Korea has now challenged them as directly as they challenge South Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S. It is not in China’s interest or our interest to have a nuclear arms race in Asia, but that is where we’re headed. If China intends to be a force for stability in Asia, then it must do more than rebuke North Korea. It must show Pyongyang that it cannot sustain itself as a viable state with aggressive actions and in isolation from the entire world.
On this point, of course, he’s right – there’s a fair debate about how best to do it, but making this China’s responsibility should be the goal here. Nothing happens in North Korea unless the Chinese let it happen.
North Korea also has a record of transferring weapons technology to other rogue nations, such as Iran and Syria.
I personally think North Korea can probably be contained, given its lack of expansionist tendencies and despite the paranoia, desperation and irrationality of its leaders, but the proliferation issue is another one entirely – we can’t tolerate proliferation of nuclear technology to any of the trouble spots in the Arab or Muslim world.
I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husband’s administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.
Prior to the agreement, every single time the Clinton Administration warned the Koreans not to do something — not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor — they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton Administration with further talks. We had a carrots and no sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn’t work, we offered another.
This part is as interesting for its partisan implications as on the merits: McCain is starting to realize that his interests in both the Republican primaries and in the 2008 general election (if he gets that far) will be served by going hard after Hillary.
I’m really not so interested in rehashing, yet again, what Clinton did or did not do to get bin Laden. I’ve said my piece on that, and I still think blaming Americans in either party for September 11 is deeply misguided. (Although for those who want to head down memory lane, Jake Tapper has a great roundup on Clinton’s efforts to blame 1990s Republicans for making the “Wag the Dog” argument, and Patterico looks at Chris Wallace’s record asking Don Rumsfeld about this sort of thing).
If Clinton really wants to go on the offensive on this question, all that needs be said is that he didn’t get bin Laden and he didn’t stop what was coming; history will regard the rest as details.
Could Hugo Chavez’ unhinged diatribe at the UN jeopardize Boston’s landmark Citgo sign? I sympathize with the sentiment, and frankly I’m avoiding Citgo stations whenever possible, but at this point the sign is a Boston landmark.
I want you to get this **** where he breathes! …I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES!
– Al Capone, “The Untouchables”
Well, the rumors have been swirling that Osama bin Laden may have shuffled off this mortal coil recently at the tender age of 49 (the age George W. Bush was in his first year as Texas governor), dead of typhoid fever, an illness rarely seen these days in the civilized West but harder to evade or treat when one is cowering in a cave surrounded by primitives and religious fanatics.
Is this true? We have heard such rumors before, and have as yet no confirmation, though Ace considers several reasons why a flurry of recent events would make more sense if bin Laden had died. If it is true, I would have preferred a more violent or more protracted and agonizing death – sorry folks, I take this one very personally – but this will do. Bin Laden has, after September 11, seen his movements restricted, his men decimated, his income throttled, his open allies smashed or cowed, his bases destroyed – and he has never again emerged with a victory to crow about. His one functional ally against the U.S., Zarqawi’s organization in Iraq, has been beheaded and essentially run to ground. It is altogether fitting if he has died in obscurity, uncelebrated and unmartyred, felled by an adversary that is microscopic and no threat to his enemies, yet utterly uninterested in fame or ideology, regarding the would-be caliph merely as food.
If it’s not true, well, a bin Laden in hiding in a primitive region of the Pakistani-Afghan border isn’t all that immediately dangerous, and pursuing him shouldn’t be regarded as a substitute for crushing his organization and tearing up his ideology by the roots, but we should be after him implacably nonetheless for the same reason why the Israelis executed Eichmann and pursued Mengele decades after the fall of the Third Reich. If poor hygeine did not get bin Laden, American justice will, sooner or later. We will not forget. And we will laugh last.
Will the U.S. send troops to Pakistan if we can pinpoint bin Laden’s location there? Of course, the question assumes we’re not already fighting there and don’t already at least strongly suspect what general region he’s in.
Going openly into Waziristan is diplomatically sensitive, so it’s not surprising that it’s taken a long time and a protracted dance of demonstrated futility before we go there. But sooner or later it’s going to be necessary, and the past few months’ events there seem to say sooner.
Tom Elia wants to know why Florida Democrats tried to sponsor a screening of a 9/11 conspiracy film. And I didn’t know that Rahm Emanuel’s brother was Michael Moore’s agent.
Because, you know, the one thing we haven’t had is a debate about the war.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that participates in hearings with me
Shall be my brother
Yes, Harry Reid has figured out the answer in Iraq:
Accusing Republicans of failing to adequately monitor the conduct of the war in Iraq, Senate Democrats on Wednesday announced their own series of hearings into what they called a failed policy.
“Three years into war, the American people still don’t have a clear picture of what’s gone wrong in Iraq — or how to set it right,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
“We’ve been going backward for too long,” he said.
Democrats said they had invited Republicans to attend the hearings, which will start in Washington on Monday and move across the country in October and November — before and after the November 7 congressional elections in which control of both houses are at stake.
Reid and other top Democrats told a news conference the current Congress had conducted fewer oversight hearings than previous wartime Congresses. They said lawmakers held 152 days of hearings on the Korean War and 328 days on Vietnam.
A moment of silence, please, for all those who courageously held hearings in past wars. History may little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that chairs a hearing now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
What, you have a better way to describe this declaration of solidarity from Venezuela’s fascist leader?
As always: the best guide to our enemies’ intentions is their own words. Take them seriously. Like when Saddam cheered the September 11 attacks. Chavez has the means to cause us great harm, and he has declared himself aligned with those who actively seek to do so. He bears very close watching.
Yeah, another bunch of links and quick hits, heavy on politics and war.
*First of all, for my own purposes I should note here that as of this week I have been at my law firm for 10 years. A milestone, of a sort.
*This putatively hostile profile of Mitch McConnell makes him sound like the ideal leader for a legislative majority – a guy who’s a brilliant master of parliamentary rules and techniques, a workhorse rather than a showhorse who has a keen understanding of how to hold his caucus together and has been an instrumental player in some of Bill Frist’s biggest successes. The authors criticize him for not writing “landmark legislation” or taking to the airwaves, but they have to concede that McConnell has done, in his fight against campaign finance regulation, the very thing the Framers most hoped a a Senator would do – wage an unpopular one-man battle against landmark legislation that is simultaneously self-interested (by protecting incumbents) and hostile to our constitutional guarantees of free speech. And as for his partisanship, (1) the authors don’t really even pretend that Tom Daschle wasn’t an arch-partisan and (2) “bipartisan” legislation is usually a warning to watch your wallet anyway.
*While I share David Frum’s frustration that Bush didn’t spend more of his UN speech pressing the case against Iran, I thought this passage in the speech was one of the best articulations yet of why the battle against tyranny in the region is so important to the battle against terrorism – as Bush’s predecessor would say to himself, “it’s the propaganda, stupid”:
Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You’re 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country’s shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.
This is, by the way, a signal difference from the Cold War – the Communist bloc may have fed its citizens propaganda, but at least they were literate and educated, and thus easier to reach with a contrary message. Illiteracy is a particular problem in Egypt and one of the reasons why Egyptian society presents a greater danger than, say, Iraq or Iran of the populace embracing Islamist nutcases if given the vote.
*Links on the continuing saga of the threats of violence against the Pope for implying that Islam preaches violence: was Pope Benedict trying to build pressure for Christians to receive the treatment in Muslim lands that Muslims receive in Christian lands?; the archbishop of Sydney isn’t backing down; David Warren on the BBC; and Fr. Neuhaus at First Things has some reflections. More detail on the violence and threats of violence here, here, here and here. Josh Trevino offers trenchant analysis, especially this parallel:
There’s an illuminating historical incident from the tenth century that deserves wider dissemination, and that the Pope might have used in lieu of Manuel II Paleologue’s quote. That Emperor was the last to enjoy a full reign in a free Empire; but nearly four hundred years before, the Empire was enjoying a resurgence. Manuel II Paleologue ruled barely more than Constantinople itself – but Nikephoros II Fokas ruled from Italy to the Caucasus, and from Bulgaria to Syria. He was a longtime foe of the Muslim Caliphate, and he observed that a signal advantage of the Muslims was their jihad doctrine. The Orthodox Church then – as now – regarded war as a regrettable necessity, with emphasis on the regrettable part, and soldiers returning from war would be made to perform some manner of penance before again receiving communion. By contrast, Nikephoros II Fokas observed that the Muslims who went to war were directly fulfilling the commandments of their faith, and were accordingly more motivated, violent, and relentless. The Emperor decided that the Christians needed a similar spiritual edge, and so he asked the Patriarch Polyeuktos in Constantinople to declare that any Christian who fell in battle was automatically a martyr. In effect, he requested a Christian version of jihad. The Patriarch and the entire Church hierarchy, so often in that era mere tools of Imperial policy, refused. The Emperor was forced to back down, and within a few short centuries, the Empire was overrun by the Muslims.
Trevino also points out something else. While the founder of Christianity was martyred by the State and the Church endured three centuries of persecution from its founding, Islam began as, and has for most of its existence been, the religion of power and the powerful, united with the State. There are examples of Muslims living under both the culturally light yoke of colonialism (in British India and the brief Western mandates over the former Ottoman territories from 1918 until just after WW2) and Communist opression (mainly in Kazakhstan and the other southern republics that left Russia at the collapse of the Soviet Union), but Islam for the most part does not share the heritage of other faiths in surviving separate from and in opposition to the State. None of this suggests that Islam is necessarily or by nature bad or dangerous, but it does underline why Islamic doctrines have been such potent and hard-to-defuse weapons in the hands of actual and would-be tyrants.
*I had hoped to get to the issue of the Senate Intelligence Committee reports on pre-Iraq-War intelligence sooner and in more detail, but I have only thus far had the chance to read parts of the reports. Critics of the reports have been out in full force on the Right – Stephen Hayes says the report glosses over Saddam’s history with jihadist extremists, as does Deroy Murdock, Byron York looks at the fact that Chuck Hagel, a Republican on the committee, had a former Kerry campaign staffer on the committee staff, Wizbang has a link here to a piece that appears to rehash some of Hayes’ reporting, and here to a CNN report from 1999 (quoted by Hayes in his book) claiming that Saddam offered asylum to bin Laden. Read and judge for yourself – like I said, I haven’t had time to digest all of this yet.
*From the National Law Journal on the Supreme Court’s new term:
“There are some stand-out cases and each of them will test whether this is a ‘restrained’ Court,” said constitutional law scholar Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University School of Law, referring to the abortion, affirmative action and punitive damages challenges.
Kmiec concedes that it is “very difficult at first blush” to see why a conservative, restrained court would take the [partial-birth] abortion challenges, since there is no circuit split and there is a recent precedent.
“Maybe the answer is: It’s not a fully restrained court, especially in this case where Justice Kennedy has been waiting to prevail, and justices [Clarence] Thomas and [Antonin] Scalia have not fully signed on yet to the Roberts-Alito method of decision-making,” said Kmiec.
Um, the Executive Branch has asked the Court to reverse lower court rulings that struck down an Act of Congress. I don’t care what your judicial philosophy is in deciding a case like that, the Court is almost always going to take a case in those circumstances; it would be a serious dereliction of its institutional role not to.
*A female Supreme Court justice in Yemen? Baby steps.
*Lawrence of India: funny how this statute didn’t get mentioned in Justice Kennedy’s discussion of international precedents in Lawrence v Texas. Remember, foreign law only counts if it helps one side.
*Jane Galt has more on the illnesses of Ground Zero workers.
*Correction: Hekmyatar wasn’t actually captured.
*Ricky West on Keith Olbermann’s guest list.
The second of Iraq’s 18 provinces is ready for the full transfer of responsibility for security, the last step in the process that began with the transfer of civil sovereignty in June 2004 and has continued through two elections, a new constitution and the formation of a representative government:
With all its history in tow, Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq is looking toward the future. It’s scheduled later this month to become the second of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be transferred to provincial Iraqi control.
This means Coalition security forces will pull back and let the local provincial police and Iraqi military handle security of the province, a key step for the eventual withdrawal of Coalition forces from the country.
Both Coalition officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have said they hope to have all 18 of the country’s provinces under Iraqi control by the end of next year.
Dhi Qar province is an archeologist’s dreamland. It contains the site of the ancient city of Ur, purported to be the hometown of the biblical figure Abraham. Near the ruins of the ancient city stands the Ziggurat of Ur, a towering ancient temple dating back more than 4,000 years.
Iraqis and tourists are now able to freely visit this area, something they could not do under the oppression of Saddam Hussein, said Maj. Gen. Kurt A. Cichowski, Multi-National Force – Iraq,Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Plans and Assessment.
Note, by the way, that the Coalition and the al-Maliki government do have an aspirational timetable for this process; it’s just not a cast-in-stone deadline for the removal of Coalition forces. This is the result of the “unilateral” effort in Iraq:
The responsibility for getting Dhi Qar ready to transfer has been shouldered mostly by members of the Italian contingent there, led by Brig. Gen. Carmine De Pascale, commander of the Italian Joint Task Force – Iraq.
“This result was attained by Dhi Qar provincial authorities and Coalition forces through a long and intense period of sacrifices and efforts,” De Pascale said.
About 1,500 Italian troops, along with Romanian, Australian and some British Soldiers, have been based out of Camp Mittica, just outside Ali Base, near Ur. The task force has worked closely with the local government in the province – training and equipping the local Police and Army, mentoring government officials, and organizing construction projects like schools and clinics.
Naturally, and logically, the two provinces selected to go first are the easiest nuts to crack, the rural equivalent of our “red states” – Baghdad, conspicuously, remains in need of pacification – but as has been true of Iraq all along, the further we get down the road, the more momentum works in our favor.
Patterico has the goods. Oh, does he ever.
Slate has the details. Of course, Frank Rich being wrong about everything is the classic dog-bites-man story.
Ace nails this one.
Everyone who complains about the Pope’s quotation should first be asked: is it, or is it not true, that Islam commands that the faith be spread by the sword? Anyone who doesn’t explicitly and unequivocally renounce that doctine should not be listened to.
A couple more random thoughts:
*Frankly, if it is controversial for the Pope to speak negatively about another faith, we’re in trouble. As a matter of earthly politics, we expect our religious leaders to espouse tolerance; as a political strategy, it is sometimes prudent for people of many faiths to form alliances within free societies against secularists. But as a matter of propagating the faith – the first duty of the clergy – of course, the Pope is entitled to explain why another faith is false prophecy and leads to ill.
*If these guys take a shot at the Pope, they will have enemies they have not previously dreamt of.
Now, I’m not one to put a lot of stock in anonymous quotes that are against the speaker’s interest and fit perfectly into the reporter’s storyline (much less declare myself a member of a movement built around such a quote), but Chuck Todd in the Atlantic Monthly ($), in explaining why some strategists in each party are hoping not to win a majority in the Congress in 2006, has a quote from “[o]ne Democratic Senate staffer” that so perfectly captures the Democratic attitude that it hardly matters if it’s a real quote or not:
It’s the difference between demanding a plan for Iraq and having to unveil one.
(Emphasis in original). Yes, and it’s easier to be “tough and strong” or “tough but smart” or “strong at home and respected abroad” or whatever the latest slogan is, than to take responsibility for getting the job done.
One of the more surprising allies to stick by the U.S. through thick and thin since September 11 and to take its own increasingly tough stance on terrorism is Japan under Prime Minister Koziumi. We see another sign of that toughness as Japan’s Supreme Court rejects the last appeal of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, who masterminded the nerve gas attack on Japan’s subways in 1995, and Japan prepares to hang him.
The Hamas-dominated Palestinian cabinet led by Prime Minister Ismail Haneya would resign within 48 hours, well-informed sources said on Thursday…The move was part of preparations for forming a new Palestinian government with the participation of Fatah, paving the way for the resumption of badly-needed Western aid.
Fatah – corrupt and terrorist-friendly – regaining the upper hand isn’t good news either, but if nothing else the Palestinians have been focused more on going at each other lately instead of Israelis.
Sorry I’ve been a little short on baseball content the past week. That was certainly one crushing loss for the Marlins last night. Anyway, on to some links:
*My initial reaction to the news that Pakistan was effectively conceding its lack of sovereignty over the mountainous, tribal, Taliban/Al Qaeda-infested Waziristan region on the Afghan border (more here and here) was that the last grounds for pretending that Pakistan, and not the U.S., was responsible for cleaning out this hornet’s nest was gone, and that we would need to brace for a bloody invasion that would inevitably (given the terrain and hostile locals) require heavy U.S. casualties and massive civilian deaths, given that the only really feasible approaches to the warren of hills and valleys are (1) go in single file like sitting ducks or (2) bomb the place back to the Stone Age, Curtis LeMay style. Ed Morrissey and McQ were more guardedly optimistic – after all, Musharraf was also simultaneously working out an agreement with Hamid Karzai to take a joint approach to rooting out the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the border regions, and if there’s one thing we know about Pakistan it’s that an awful lot has gone on there the past five years that has never been made public. I remain skeptical, but as Bill Roggio reports that the Taliban has already violated the agreements with Pakistan (surprise!) while the accord with Karzai was followed very rapidly by the capture of troublesome Afghan warlord and sometime Taliban ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, it is possible that progress is actually being made in the region that is still the most likely haven of bin Laden and Zawahiri. Stay tuned.
*Here in NY, the dominant story in the media lately has been the illnesses (mainly respiratory problems, although class action lawyers have been trying to squeeze the square peg of unrelated ailments into the same hole) suffered by Ground Zero rescue/cleanup workers. The Daily News on Saturday had an interesting article on how dogs at the rescue site have not suffered comparable illnesses despite working long hours at the site without any protective gear. The obvious physiological differences between people and dogs are noted, but it seems to me there are two further issues that probably exacerbate the difference. One is behavioral: some of the people who labored long and hard at Ground Zero may be smokers, and smokers are always at greater risk for other respiratory problems (a fact examined at exhaustive length in studies of asbestos). The other is psychological: if people expect to get sick, they may be more vulnerable. Dogs didn’t expect to get sick. (I’m not trying to blame people who got sick, mind you; just saying that the interaction between the mind and illnesses of the body remains poorly understood).
*Excellent point by Orin Kerr (via Instapundit): despite the great hue and cry over the NSA surveillance program, the actual footprint of War on Terror legislation and executive actions on civil liberties has been much narrower than a lot of people expected five years ago.
*John Hawkins runs down the GOP’s best chances to gain Democrat-held House seats. Many of them are not great pickup odds right now, but are still within striking distance. As in the Senate, I think Republicans will have to make a few gains to hold the chamber given the likelihood of losing Republican-held seats.
*Of course, Democrats oppose voter ID that would make fraud more difficult. I wonder, given the specific issue discussed here, whether there is some sovereignty-based grounds for exempting the Navajo.
*Make Afghanistan the new Iowa? Can you really grow good corn crops there?
*A good start.
*I won an award!
*Our friends, the Saudis.
*I’ve been stunned to see recent reports that Dunkin Donuts wants to expand nationally – I always thought they were every bit as national and synonymous with donuts as McDonalds with burgers and Kentucky Fried Chicken with fast food chicken.
*Some people have no respect for the dead.
*Good Josh Bolten smackdown of Harry Reid.
*TNR on Sistani’s withdrawal from politics as Shiites disregard his cautions about sectarian violence.
Jeff Goldstein discusses why it’s a good thing that President Bush’s Tuesday speech laying out the Administration’s past successes in interrogating Al Qaeda detainees in CIA custody and proposing a new strategy for dealing with detainees in light of the Supreme Court’s Hamdan decision represents a political strategy to put Democrats on the defensive and force them to take responsibility for either agreeing with the new policy or advocating a less aggressive approach to collecting intelligence from detainees. (Via Instapundit). (Ironically, of course, getting less information from detainees would only make us more reliant on our other best source of information, that being electronic surveillance). Goldstein focuses on the hypocrisy of critics like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald (and they’re not the only ones) who have been beating Bush over the head with the detainee issue for at least two and a half years now and have suddenly decided that it’s not fair play for Bush to make a political issue of the standards for holding, questioning and trying detainees. Of course, Bush would have been perfectly happy to stick with the prior detainee-interrogation standards and keep them from the public eye, so it’s absurd in the extreme to suggest that he chose to politicize this issue; all he’s doing is taking an issue that’s been used against him and making the best of it.
In fact, Bush is trying to replicate two of his signal accomplishments from four years ago. First, he’s replicating his strategy in dealing with the Department of Homeland Security. You will recall that Bush initially opposed the creation of a massive, labrynthian new bureaucracy as part of the response to September 11. The Democrats thought they had the perfect strategy: advocating the new bureaucracy could, in one fell swoop, (1) put them to Bush’s right, (2) without having to support more aggressive policies or give more power to their old foes the Defense Department, NSA and CIA, and potentially set up a countervailing power base to those agencies and (3) create lots of new job opportunities for their core constituency (government employees). But when Bush realized that opposing the new leviathan was politically untenable, he instead made demands (removing civil-service protections from DHS employees, a position anathema to the Democrats’ union backers) that placed him once again on the side of greater emphasis on security, and in a way the Democrats couldn’t support. The issue ended up helping sink a number of Democratic incumbents who put the interests of the unions first, most notably Max Cleland in Georgia. In short, Bush took up a battle he never wanted and found a way to turn it to his advantage.
Second, Bush is doing here what he did with the Iraq War vote in the fall of 2002: more than using national security for political purposes, Bush used partisan politics for national security purposes, counting on the fact that Democrats’ principles were sufficiently pliable that they would vote for the war out of fear of being held accountable by the electorate for opposing it. And it’s the Democrats whose partisan calculations are exposed by this maneuver, as Goldstein notes:
Sullivan characterizes this as a gambit to “legalize torture” and despairs that those who secretly wish they could vote against such legalization won’t be able to now, because politically they would see doing so as a liability.
In other words, voting their consciences might lose them an election -and when the choice comes down to a vote between conscience and appearance, the people Sullivan wishes us all to vote for will of course choose appearance and sacrifice principle.
Talk about fathomless cynicism.
As Dean Barnett points out, the Clinton record on fighting terrorism is pitiable enough that ABC shouldn’t need to “dramatize” it with fictional scenes of incompetence.
Now, I think I have been consistent in saying that I’m not that interested in pinning blame on Americans for the September 11 attacks; there’s way too much 20/20 hindsight out there. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep the historical record straight – not least as a reminder that those who want to return to the pre-September 11 policies are horrifically and dangerously mistaken, and also as a curative against recurring agitprop that seeks to blame President Bush for the problem. In that light, it’s important to keep the Clinton legacy on terrorism in perspective and understand why, with the benefit of that hindsight, it was such a disaster and should not be repeated. I’ve got a post up over at RedState (slightly updated from one I ran here two years ago) examining the timeline of Clinton’s responses to Al Qaeda and Iraq in the period from August 1998-January 2001.
McQ blows a gasket – justifiably, if I read this story correctly – over the Pentagon dragging its feet due to Army opposition on a system to track and destroy incoming RPGs. I don’t put a lot of stock in a lot of the stories complaining about this or that procurement issue amounting to ‘sending the troops into battle without adequate armor/etc.’ but this does sound like the Pentagon behaving very much like the gigantic government bureaucracy it is.
David Corn, the Nation writer who launched the Plame story with an interview with Joe Wilson back in July 2003 and now has a book out (with Michael Isikoff) in which he tells the tale as if he were a disinterested observer rather than a prime mover in the story, has an excerpt up on “What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA“. Corn’s article, probably unintentionally, confirms much of what obervers on the Right have been saying all along.
The efforts of law enforcement agencies the world over to aid in tracking and apprehending terrorists are a critical component in the War on Terror, and those of us on the Right who disparage the Clinton-era law-enforcement-only model of combatting terroristm shouldn’t suggest otherwise. But once apprehended, terrorists simply should not be processed through the traditional criminal justice system, in the U.S. or anywhere else. Because otherwise you get results like this one:
BALI, Indonesia — Judges sentenced an Islamic militant to eight years in prison Tuesday for harboring the alleged mastermind of last year’s homicide bombings on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali — the first verdict in the terrorist attack.
Abdul Aziz, 30, met with Southeast Asia’s most wanted terror suspect Noordin Top at least 10 times before the bombings, once allowing him to stay overnight at his school in Central Java province, said presiding judge Gede Wirya.
The defendant, wearing a green Islamic tunic, shouted “God is great!” after the ruling was read.
Eight years? Sorry, not enough. Not for 200 dead. Not nearly enough.
Charles Krauthammer makes one of the few persuasive optimistic cases I’ve seen for the argument that Hezbollah really did lose the war with Israel, and won’t fight again. Most of the optimistic assessments by serious people have been grim ones, based on the idea that the peace won’t hold and the war will restart on terms more favorable to Israel than where we were when the shooting stops. Krauthammer thinks otherwise:
“We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.”
— Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, Aug. 27
Nasrallah . . . knows that Lebanon, however weak its army, has a deep desire to disarm him and that the arrival of Europeans in force, however weak their mandate, will make impossible the rebuilding of the vast Maginot Line he spent six years constructing.
Which is why the expected Round Two will, in fact, not happen. Hezbollah is in no position, either militarily or politically, for another round. Nasrallah’s admission that the war was a mistake is an implicit pledge not to repeat it, lest he be completely finished as a Lebanese political figure.
The Lebanese know that Israel bombed easy-to-repair airport runways when it could have destroyed the new airport terminal and set Lebanon back 10 years. The Lebanese know that Israel attacked the Hezbollah TV towers when it could have pulverized Beirut’s power grid, a billion-dollar reconstruction. The Lebanese know that next time Israel’s leadership will hardly be as hesitant and restrained. Hezbollah dares not risk that next time.
Read the whole thing. Austin Bay also think’s Hezbollah’s moment of glory in not being entirely crushed by the IDF will prove fleeting, as does Amir Taheri. I hope they are right; if a weakened Hezbollah can be purged from power in Lebanon by the Lebanese themselves, only secondarily relying on foreign support and the in terrorem effect of Israeli vigilance, it will not only be a blessing to regional security but further proof of the effectiveness of the two-pronged Bush strategy of (1) frontal military confrontation of armed terror groups and (2) promotion of democratic institutions that can take ultimate responsibility for controlling the security of their own territory.
You need only review the latest statements from Kofi Annan (here and here) to grasp the fraudulent nature of the cease-fire in Israel’s war with Hezbollah. While I had initially regarded the cease fire as a good idea in theory that was impractical in light of the facts on the ground, it is increasingly clear that it’s not even defensible on paper. Annan is demanding verifiable compliance by Israel, by a date certain, with specific terms regarding the withdrawal of troops and the lifting of a blockade. He makes no similar demands on Hezbollah, but merely expresses his hope that Lebanon will make progress in dealing with Hezbollah:
Mr Annan said that the Lebanese authorities yesterday assured him they were taking measures to stop the flow of weapons from Syria and Iran their ally Hezbollah via sea and air, and that he believed Israel’s security concerns could be addressed.
“In the meantime, I do believe the blockade should be lifted,” Annan said.
He added: “I had serious discussions with the Lebanese leadership and I am really convinced that they are serious about implementing Resolution 1701 in its entir[e]ty.”
The same goes for the Israeli hostages:
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday morning that he’ll do everything he can to return the captured Israeli soldiers.
Cease-fire agreements are contracts. Contracts require verifiable compliance by both sides. This deal has specific requirements on Israel and nothing but hope and promises to which no one can be held, on the other.
I remain undecided as to whether the cease fire was a wise move by Israel. Supporters of the agreement have argued that sooner or later it will be clear enough that Hezbollah can not and will not comply with even its most minimal terms regarding disarmament and the release of hostages, and that this will enable Israel to reopen hostilities with greater international backing. Either way, however, one can not possibly take this agreement at face value as being worth anything at all.
Of all the world’s political prisoners, Amnesty International devotes a lengthy press release to complaining about the treatment of Saddam Hussein. Let’s look at a sampling of Amnesty’s grievances on behalf of poor, oppressed Saddam:
The first trial, which ran from 19 October 2005 to 27 July 2006, considered accusations that Saddam Hussain and seven co-defendants were responsible for the deaths of 148 people from the largely-Shi’a village of al-Dujail in 1982. . . .In the event that Saddam Hussain or any of the other accused are convicted, they are likely to be sentenced to death. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases.
Yes, Germany and Italy would have been much better off in 1947 if Hitler and Mussolini were still issuing press releases to their followers from prison.
After more than 30 years during which the right to a fair trial was routinely abused under Saddam Hussain’s government, the first trial offered a crucial opportunity for those in power in Iraq to turn a page on the past and to entrench new standards for the future, which conform to the requirements which the government of Iraq is bound by international human rights treaties and standards to uphold.
Whose government? Shouldn’t that be “allegedly routinely abused”? Or has Amnesty just done what the Iraqis and any other sane person would do, and recognize that this is not a complex whodunit but a public reckoning for crimes against humanity as to which the head of a police state’s guilt can not possibly be disputed?
The security and safety of all parties involved in the Tribunal were frequently at risk and the problem remains unresolved. Defence lawyer Sa’dun al-Janabi was killed in October 2005, during the first week of the trial, while two other defence lawyers. ‘Adil al-Zubeidi and Khamis al-Ubeidi were killed in November 2005 and June 2006 respectively.
Killed by whom? Likely, by supporters of Saddam. Anyway, justice does not grind to a halt when a nation is beset by violence. An organization purportedly dedicated to improvements in human rights ought to be the first to stand for that principle, especially since the alternative is the Mussolini/Ceaucescu treatment.
A fair trial requires independent and impartial judges. . . . Judge Sayeed al-Hamashi . . . was . . . ruled ineligible through the intervention of the De-Ba’athification Commission established to exclude former members of the Ba’ath Party from public office. The impartiality of Judge Ra’uf Rashid ‘Abdul Rahman, who presided over the subsequent stages of the trial, was questioned by the defendants on the grounds that he had opposed Saddam Hussein’s government and comes from Halabja, where thousands of Iraqi Kurds were killed in a gas attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1988.
Well, given that Saddam had control over the nation for decades, he can hardly complain that people he terrorized now sit in judgment of him. And how is it a violation of a fair trial to remove a former Ba’athist from the bench in a trial of his former boss?
Although Saddam Hussein was arrested in December 2003, he did not have access to his lawyers until 16 December 2004.
Cry me a river.
The tribunal also appears to have failed adequately to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the defendants. For example, on 13 March 2006 Taha Yassin Ramadhan, former Iraqi vice-president, alleged that he had been beaten and subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and forced positions during interrogation following his arrest in August 2003, but the tribunal is not known to have ordered an investigation. If there was one, its results have not been made public.
What, nobody cut out his tongue? First of all, bogus claims of maltreatment are classic stall/diversion tactic. Second, unless the prosecution was introducing evidence beaten out of Ramandhan, this has nothing to do with the fairness of the trial. And third, of all people these guys have no standing to complain.
The defence team repeatedly claimed that the Prosecution introduced to the court evidence that had not been provided to the defendants beforehand, thereby preventing them from preparing a proper defence.
Let me repeat: They ran the country. For decades. They knew everything that happened.
the independence and impartiality of the court, including by making provision for the participation of international judges and an enhanced role for international advisers and observers from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated experience and skills in trials of crimes under international law.
No. We saw what happened with Milosevic; the goal is not for Saddam to die of old age at the defense table, in a nice suit surrounded by mouthpieces. He deserves the gallows, and the gallows he will get. The Iraqi people suffered under Saddam, and they deserve to try him.
But wait – there’s more! Because while Amnesty is wasting its tears on poor Saddam, it’s also busy at work accusing Israel of war crimes:
Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Israel of war crimes, saying it broke international law by deliberately destroying Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure during its recent war with Hezbollah guerrillas.
The human rights group said initial evidence, including the pattern and scope of the Israeli attacks, number of civilian casualties, widespread damage and statements by Israeli officials “indicate that such destruction was deliberate and part of a military strategy, rather than ‘collateral damage.”‘
The Ap report notes dryly, “Amnesty International said it would address Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel separately.” I won’t hold my breath. Of course, it should go without saying that you could not begin to address Israel’s tactics without addressing where Hezbollah located its troops and weapons, or – specifically – the fact that incurring civilian casualties was virtually the entirety of Hezbollah’s strategy.
A new decision on the Espionage Act clarifies the government’s ability to prosecute leaks relating to national security, but also places a new limitation on such prosecutions where they are based upon oral disclosures rather than leaked documents – a distinction that does not make a ton of policy sense – and also limits prosecutions for leaks that merely benefit non-hostile governments. Bear with me as I explain why.
I have written extensively before on the Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. 793) here, here, here and here. Basically – and you can get the details in my earlier posts – the statute prohibits anyone (whether or not they have security clearance or other authorization to learn classified information) from (1) willfully disclosing (2) information relating to the national defense (3) to those not authorized to receive it (4) while having reason to believe that the disclosure of such information could be used to injure the United States or aid some foreign power. As I have argued before, the willfulness requirement means that the government, in an Espionage Act prosecution, must prove that the “leaker” knew that he or she was acting unlawfully; the statute is not a strict-liability rule for inadvertent leaks or bad judgment.
The Espionage Act has been much discussed of late for two reasons. Some on the Left have argued that it should have been used against Karl Rove and others if they were involved in disclosing Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA employee; I have argued, and the absence of a indictment on these grounds has borne out my observations, that it was unlikely that there was sufficient evidence to show that Plame’s status was information relating to the national defense that could be expected to harm national security and – most particularly – sufficient evidence to show that anyone involved in disclosing her name thought they were acting unlawfully.
On the Right, the Espionage Act has been argued as a basis for prosecuting those government officials who have leaked the details of secret programs central to the War on Terror (the NSA surveillance program and associated data-mining operations, the existence of supposed “secret CIA prisons”, the program to track international bank transfers) and, possibly, as a basis for prosecuting the New York Times and its reporters for publishing such leaked secrets, knowing they were classified information critical to the war effort and – in some cases – knowing that the Executive Branch was strenuously objecting to publication.
In such circumstances, then, the scope and applicability of the Espionage Act is of great importance. Which is why a recent opinion from the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Rosen is interesting. The defendants in Rosen are former AIPAC officials (i.e., lobbyists for pro-Israel positions) who allegedly obtained leaked intelligence of varying types, including draft U.S. policy documents, intelligence about Al Qaeda, and intelligence about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, from Defense Department official Larry Franklin and passed such information on to foreign government officials (apparently from Israel) and members of the media, among others. Franklin has pleaded guilty, but the two remaining defendants, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, challenged the indictment on several grounds, all of which were rejected.
Michael Moore film used by terrorists as propaganda. But of course; what else was it for?
A 41-year-old grandmother enlists. Which is a nice human-interest story at first glance, and admirable in its own way, but also disturbing on any number of levels.