The Saudis have used wealth to spread terror, breed hatred while contributing little to the world other than excessive opulent spending. Yet, they arrogantly believe they can lecture Israel.
We are dependent upon them for energy, have a department that has thousands of bureaucrats earning large salaries which has accomplished nothing by way of energy independence. Meanwhile, Liberals refuse to allow nuclear development or safe drilling on our own soil and off our shores,. The State Department has long maintained Arabist leanings and our current president bows in their direction.
Not a model worth admiring or maintaining but we do. (See 1 below.)
James Lewis submits Google is more effective than our various agencies because we have so PC'd the hunt for terrorists. Lewis might be a bit overboard in terms of blaming Obamaism but he makes some valid points. (See 2 below.)
Like Hydra, al Qaeda has many heads which beg for de-capitation. Very important forecast of things to come. (See 3 and 3a below.)
Frank Gaffney suggests the Administration needs to 'buck' up. Even the likes of Sally Quinn are getting perturbed. John Bolton remains dispirited.(See 4, 4a and 4b below)
The Messiah's claim of open government and honest leadership seems to have taken a back seat to possible closed door negotiations when it comes to health care. Out of sight is the word. Too delicate for Americans to see what is going on - might sicken them.(See 5 and 5a below.)
Bret Stephens believes we have become an incompetent civilization because we have not learned from history. Lamentably, we have been crippled by it.
His thoughts parallel what I have been writing - we have 'Gullivered' ourselves by inane, self-imposed concepts and flawed science. (See 6 below.)
1)Saudi Arabia: Spoilt Child of the Middle East
By Michael I. Krauss
In one of the supreme acts of chutzpah of our new decade, Saudi Arabia has just accused Israel of behaving like a "spoilt child," getting away with "war crimes" (cf. Gaza operations) and "violations of international law" (cf. new "settlements" in Jerusalem). "When they violate international law, other countries get punished, but not Israel ... Israel has become like the spoilt child of the international community," declared Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal at a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on January 2. "It [Israel] gets away with anything it does without accountability or punishment," he added.
Orwellian Newspeak can take hold only if the population stops protesting when the language is misused. The Saudi minister's declaration easily qualifies as Newspeak, and I'm calling him on it.
I am currently a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Haifa. Every day, I bear witness to the extraordinary free speech in Israel. My students are Jewish, Druze, and Muslim. Political protest of all stripes is allowed. The Israeli courts are open to all; just this week, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned as discriminatory and contrary to Israeli human rights an army rule prohibiting Arab residents of Judea and Samaria from using an Israeli highway on which dozens of Jews had been shot dead by passing Arab motorists. Meanwhile, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has suspended new construction of Jewish residences in Judea and Samaria, pending resolution of the legal status of those territories. As Peter Pham and I have shown elsewhere, Israel has easily the strongest legal claim to these areas -- though, of course, it may choose to renounce the majority of its claim if ever it finds a peaceful negotiating partner. In Israel's intensely overcrowded capital, Jerusalem, the government has just approved new housing for seven hundred Jews and five hundred Arabs -- but the Saudis cannot stand that Jews be allowed to live in the capital city. As for the "war crimes" accusation, it doubtless refers to the infamous U.N. Human Rights Council's "Goldstone Report" on the Gaza campaign, which Harvard's Alan Dershowitz has decisively shown to be an anti-Israel (and possibly anti-Semitic) screed.
Israel is condemned just for existing, not to mention for defending itself as an outpost of freedom in the Middle East. On the other hand, if there is a spoilt child in the international community, Saudi Arabia (followed closely by the Palestinian authority) easily qualifies for the epithet. How is Saudi Arabia an international spoilt child? Let me count the ways:
1. As Amnesty International has noted, the government of Saudi Arabia executes an average of two people each week. Almost half of all execution victims are foreign nationals. For example, Lebanese national 'Ali Hussain Sibat, a presenter on a TV show on the Lebanese satellite station Sheherazade, is due to be executed any day now for the crime of "sorcery": He gave advice and predictions about the future on his Beirut-produced TV show. Sibat had the misfortune to be caught while on a Muslim pilgrimage to Medina. According to his lawyer, "interrogators told him to write down what he did for a living, reassuring him that if he did so, he would be allowed to go home after a few weeks. This document was presented in court as a 'confession' and used to convict." Also on death row is Nigerian Suliamon Olyfemi, sentenced to be beheaded (and then crucified) for murder. He was one of thirteen Nigerian nationals arrested in September 2002 for the crime. He was forced to fingerprint a confession in Arabic, which he does not understand, and this "confession" was the principal evidence against him at trial. His trial was in Arabic, reportedly with no legal, consular, or translation assistance for the accused. Along with Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen (all either terrorist sponsors or arguably failed states), Saudi Arabia continues to execute juvenile offenders. With 102 reported executions in 2008 (the last year for which data is public), Saudi Arabia executes more people per capita than any country in the world, including China.
2. Saudi law requires all citizens to be Muslims. The non-private practice or preaching of other religions, even by non-citizen guests, is prohibited. Authorities typically deport those detained for non-Muslim worship after lengthy periods of arrest. In some cases, lashes are administered prior to deportation. Non-Muslim clergy may not enter the country, so Christian and other non-Muslim religious services (even in private) are virtually nonexistent. Customs officials regularly open postal material and cargo to search for non-Muslim materials. Bibles, crucifixes, and Stars of David are confiscated from tourists. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, approximately fifty "Call and Guidance" centers throughout the kingdom work to convert foreigners to Islam. But conversion from Islam to any other religion is punishable by death. Participants at an international Muslim conference in India debated this issue in April 2009, with some scholars calling for a review of the death penalty requirement. According to one American source, the Egyptian government minister Mahmoud Zaqzouq was quoted by Saudi Arab News as conceding that "religious freedom is a right that should be guaranteed to every human being."
A prominent Saudi religious law professor, Muhammad al-Nujaimi, argued in response that the only legitimate discussion about apostasy is over how quickly the apostate should be executed -- after three days, a week, or several months.
Human rights complaints were irrelevant. "These groups will never stop attacking Islam even if we were to agree to all their demands," he said. "We will never allow others to dictate our religion to us."
3. In 2004, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under Sharia. The Saudi delegation responded by defending "legal traditions" held since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago and rejected interference in its legal system.
4. Freedom of speech and the press are restricted to forbid criticism of the Saudi government. Trade unions and political organizations are banned. Public demonstrations are forbidden. The Saudi government is an active censor of internet reception within its borders.
5. Saudi Arabia practices a vicious form of gender apartheid. Women may not drive. Only 5% of women work. According to the kingdom's Shariah law, women's clothing must meet the following conditions: a) it must cover their entire body (an abaya); b) the only part of the body that may be exposed is one or both eyes (in 2008, the religious authority in Mecca called on women to wear veils that reveal only one eye so they would not be tempted to use eye makeup); c) it must be loose-fitting; and d) it must not show any bright colors or adornments that might attract a man's attention. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, etc. all must maintain strictly sex-segregated eating zones in their restaurants. All restaurants in Saudi Arabia bar entrance to women who come without husbands or close male relatives.
Saudi Arabia is a primitive embarrassment to the world. It is a throwback to the dark ages, a perpetual violation of the freedoms the international legal community claims to enshrine, the violation of which would not be tolerated elsewhere. Solely by virtue of its massive oil wealth, however, the Wahhabi kingdom gets international respect and attention. Now that sounds like the definition of a spoilt child to me.
Michael I. Krauss is Professor of Law at George Mason University.
2)Did Obama Politicize the Terror Database?
By James Lewis
In his usual heroic fashion, Obama tossed that hot Christmas Bomber potato to Janet Napolitano, and when she dropped the potato, it got cannoned over to the CIA with a quick fake to Dick Cheney, who didn't even bother to answer. Obama kept his head buried deep in the sand at Oahu for almost four days while all this was going on. But this was Obama's personal hot potato, and I believe he may personally be at fault for placing almost three hundred passengers in deadly peril on NW Flight 253 on Christmas Day.
How? By putting a politically correct twist on the existing terrorist database.
If you think about this as a Google search, pinpointing Omar the Bomber before he got on the plane wasn't hard. Google could have done it in a flash as soon as Omar tried to board a plane in Africa. All they had to do was Google "Christmas flights to U.S., departing Muslim-majority country, cash paid, one-way, no check-in luggage." Then they could have spotted him in Amsterdam before boarding there. Even after he was on NW 253, a simple search of the terrorist database would have brought up this wannabe mass killer.
Every time you use Google, you're searching a giant database running on a swarm of servers. Today, this guy has 2.35 million web citations on Google. Just type in "Abdulmutallab," and in a third of a second it comes up with those 2,350,000 sources. The reason why Google has become fabulously rich is that it does the best job of cutting down millions of hits to a few useful ones. That's exactly the job we have in stopping the next airplane bomber. If the FBI and U.S. intel can't do it, then they should just turn it over to Google...or put out a big FBI Most Wanted poster on the next bomber and let millions of people on the web search for the him. It's not that hard, and the logic is exactly the same as those Wanted: Dead or Alive posters they used in the Old West. They turned every citizen into a crime-spotter.
The big TIDE list of terror suspects has 500,000 names. That's too many to be practical, but only 4,000 of them have been put on the U.S. "No Fly" list. It should be five or ten times as many -- say, 20,000 No Fly suspects. Flying on a passenger plane is not a human right. We can just say "no" to 20,000 people and be a lot safer.
Regardless of the number, the question is always how to get from those half million suspects to a small enough number to knock out an attack. Fortunately, these terror goons are highly predictable. Bush-Cheney did a good job in stopping them once they started to collect a mass of intelligence on al-Qaeda.
First you assign tags to all the suspects, like little red danger flags. Omar the Christmas Bomber was so bad he was practically bleeding little red flags. This guy was obvious, as the world found out twenty-four hours after he almost killed 280 people. Google would have popped him out in a few seconds.
Now everybody in the intelligence world understands that. That's their job. This is not hard, folks. Don't let the Obumblers pretend it was hard. It was just like the Fort Hood shooter -- who had "Soldier of Allah" printed on his business card. The weirdest psychiatrist at Fort Hood was practically putting up a flashing billboard to advertise his murderous plans. Everybody who knew him heard about it, but they weren't allowed to say it out loud, which is suicidal Army policy. The Fort Hood killer was a massive command failure, but as far as we know, nobody got fired. The fact that the brass hasn't been fired yet is a signal that they are not supposed to change. FDR fired people wholesale after Pearl Harbor. They got the idea fast.
For Omar the Christmas bomber, here are just some red flags we know.
Red Flag 1. Omar was reported by his father directly to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria. His father is the best source you can get: He is a former government minister in Nigeria, a devout (but not terrorist) Muslim, and a prominent banker. He probably knows what his son is thinking better than anybody in the world, and he obviously doesn't want to taint his son as a dangerous extremist unless he has a very good reason to do so. His son recently broke off all contact with the family. That's a whole field of red flags waving frantically in our faces right there.
Red Flag 2. Omar was head of the Muslim Student Organization at University College London, a well-known center of Islamist radical agitation and recruitment. Note: Nobody gets to head that Muslim Student Organization without being a target for terrorist recruitment. They keep inviting Islamofascist rabble-rousers to give public speeches over there, and the university keeps letting them do it. The London Daily Mail has been yelling about that over and over for a decade. The socialist ruling Labour Party have turned a deaf ear because they are importing Pakistani crazies from the badlands who make easy-to-buy Labour votes. Everybody over there should be on the short list.
Red Flag 3. Omar the Bomber paid cash for his trip to Detroit, and he didn't check in a single piece of luggage. He might just as well have painted "Suicide Bomber" on his t-shirt. Red flags, anybody?
Red Flag 4. He's 23 years old, a kid from a wealthy family who is both spoiled and lost in the big world -- exactly the kind of comfortable, alienated, and confused character who gets targeted by the bomber imams to go and blow himself up. He's got the perfect psychological profile, similar to the Fort Hood shooter. That also happens to be the profile of the kids who become Communist radicals and the ones who became Nazis in the 1930s.
The psychology is always the same. It keeps repeating over and over, and only the media can pretend to be surprised. Bill Ayers was a rich kid. Bernardine Dohrn was a rich kid. Barack Hussein Obama's family was not rich, but middle class -- Barack himself was very spoiled, very indulged, and went to all the rich-kid schools. He never had to pay for anything; everything in life was free for BHO. Karl Marx was a rich kid who went bad. So was Pol Pot. The biggest ideological extremists are always the same. They are almost never poor and desperate kids, because poor families raise their kids differently. They have to work and learn about reality, fast. It's always the middle class -- "idealistic," overeducated, confused, culturally estranged, depressed, grandiose, narcissistic, personally troubled kids who become Adolf Hitler.
Red Flag 4. Omar is known to have traveled to Yemen twice. Yemen has been heating up with many AQ threats to bomb American targets. Even the news media have noticed it.
Red Flag 5. Who is trying to get on a plane right now? Remember, this Google search can be done in a fraction of a second. Don't think the airlines haven't hit on the idea of running their passengers through the terror database. Out of the 500,000 suspects on the big list, you can ignore all but a few thousand at any moment because they're not waiting at an airport. Plus, this is a religious terror gang, remember? They nearly always use Muslim names, even if they were born John Smith. They always try to kill people on significant days: This was Christmas Day, 2009. Al-Qaeda is still fighting the Crusades, which stopped in the 13th century for the West, way before Christopher Columbus discovered America. You might not remember the Crusades, but bin Laden thinks they are still going on. (Bin Laden is another billionaire kid who became a terrorist.)
So we could easily single out Omar the Bomber from half a million terror suspects using a Google-type database. His picture pops up, and then you look at the passengers waiting in line for the plane in Lagos or Amsterdam. Do you see somebody who looks like him? If you do, pull him out for the sniffer machine. It's happened to a lot of us. Omar the Bomber was using the same chemical the Shoe Bomber used in 2001. It's an ingredient of Semtex, the favorite terrorist bomb mixture worldwide. This is not hard, kids.
Spotting this guy was dead easy. But they missed him.
So what went wrong?
I can see only one possibility: The Obombers have screwed up the database. Remember that the Obama administration is a little nuts. They're not stupid, but they are very, very deeply stuck in a false and perverse ideology. They don't get reality. They automatically flip it upside-down. They are rich kids who have been treated as the best and the brightest all their lives, but they have never been exposed to reality. So they've gotten very clever at getting everything wrong about the real world. That's why they're so amazingly weird.
Did you see Obama bowing to the emperor of Japan? It upset the Chinese to no end. It was just his own brainstorm. Why? In Obama's lush and self-centered fantasy life, bowing to the Shinto Emperor of Japan is a smart thing to do. Nobody else in the world thinks so -- in fact, everyone else in the world thinks it's weird -- but that doesn't matter. Obama's made up his mind.
We've seen a lot of these PC-crazed characters in the Age of Political Correctness. The Ninth Circuit is full of them. So is the New York Times editorial board. They are the Democrat politicians, the judges, the media talkers, and the law school professors who tell street cops that they are not allowed to stop and question ex-cons driving in luxury cars they can't possibly pay for, wearing gangsta attire, looking stoned out of their minds, and racing away from the most recent gang shooting -- because they are the wrong race or color to be questioned. PC is reverse racism, and we now have racial, ethnic, and religious quotas for gangbangers. That is completely insane, and it's the poor and the blacks who suffer the most. It's the inner-city schools that are in chaos because middle-class parents make sure they get their kids out of there.
But you can bet that Obama and his Brain Trust believe in this PC insanity.
The only explanation for the Christmas Bomber fiasco is the most obvious one: This administration has just applied quotas to the terrorist database. Who knows? Maybe they are demanding that the database can only come up with ten percent Muslims. Or equal numbers of all colors of the rainbow. Or not too many people named Muhammed, because that would be profiling. We know that's how they run their affirmative action programs. Obama is our first affirmative-action president -- that's how he got elected. Lots of people voted for him because he's black, regardless of his nutty associations and his total lack of qualifications.
A.J. Strata discovered that the Deputy National Security Advisor (who disgraced himself on the Sunday talk shows evading important questions) "hinted in an interview during the presidential campaign that if Obama was elected, he planned to dial back the trip wire sensitivity on our national security."
We also know that political correctness protected the Fort Hood killer, and that was on a U.S. Army Base, where the killer was personally known to hundreds of trained and alert military personnel. General Casey defended his own miserable failure to get rid of the Fort Hood killer because it was PC to keep this maniac. (Fire that general right now).
This is not sane. But can you think of any other explanation that fits what we know about these characters?
3)US intelligence: Southern Gaza and Lebanon are the next Yemen
The year 2010 will see a new Israeli military operation in Gaza - not against the Palestinian Hamas, which is not eager for more punishment, but the al Qaeda bastions spreading across the southern Gaza Strip. This prognosis is shared by intelligence circles close to the Obama administration and the CIA and counter-terror sources report.
A senior White House terror expert warned recently that strengthened al Qaeda networks in the Gaza Strip would be as dangerous and menacing as the jihadists' strongholds in Yemen. This threat prompted Egypt to build its iron wall along the Gaza-Egyptian border. Their access to Sinai would not only directly imperil the peninsula, but might well spill over into Egypt proper, first terrorizing the cities along the Suez Canal and the vital waterway itself.
US intelligence watchers have picked up a working link between the Gaza-based networks and Pakistan accompanied by a swelling influx of Pakistani fighters into the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory at a rate estimated at dozens a month. They include some Saudi jihadists.
According to current US evaluations, while al Qaeda's new headquarters in Pakistani Baluchistan is working hard to push reinforcements into Yemen, its operational planners are not neglecting the Gaza Strip, assuming that this Palestinian enclave will be the next Western-jihadist warfront after Yemen.
Bruce Riedel, who produces the latest evaluations on the Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts for president Barack Obama, predicts another Gaza war may be triggered by a jihadist cell ambushing another military patrol on the border of Gaza, killing several and capturing one or two. Israel will not be able to endure another Shalit ordeal for the return of its captive soldiers and will therefore go into the Gaza Strip with maximum force. "Another Gaza war would be another gift to al Qaeda," says Riedel, especially if the ambush is timed to take place on the anniversary of 9/11 in September 2010.
Worries about al Qaeda's spreading tentacles were also voiced in Lebanon by Fatah commander Brigadier Sultan Abu al-Aynayn. Sunday, Jan. 3, he accused external parties of seeking to “export” fundamentalists to refugee camps across Lebanon. “We have taken measures to prevent Al-Qaeda from infiltrating Palestinian refugee camps after we received information that external parties were seeking to export extremists, particularly from Iraq, and stir up tension inside the camps,” Abu al-Aynayn said in an interview.
3a)Lieberman to Macedonia: Jihad coming your way
By Roni Sofer
Foreign minister meets Macedonia PM, shares impressions from South America and Africa visits: Existing data show Balkans are next target for Global Jihad
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met Tuesday in Jerusalem with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and other Macedonian ministers, and told them that the Balkan region is clearly the next target for Global Jihad.
The foreign minister said that during his recent meetings with intelligence and security figures in South America and East and West Africa, he saw widespread Iranian and Hezbollah activities in South America, and Nation of Islam and al-Qaeda Do It His Way
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman orders Israeli ambassadors serving around the world to toughen up in Jerusalem conference; says: 'We will not look for conflict or friction, but we will not turn the other cheek'
According to Lieberman, "In the last two major terror attempts, the attempt to blow up the airliner from Amsterdam to Detroit and the attempt on the life of the Danish caricaturist, citizens of Nigeria and Kenya were involved. This fact speaks for itself."
Also at the meeting were Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Vladimir Pesevski and Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska. Lieberman told them that current data testifies to the fact that the Balkan region is Global Jihad's next target for creating an infrastructure and recruiting activists.
According to the foreign minister, "This can be seen from the attempts of Muslim charitable organizations to transfer funds to Africa and South America, to areas populated by Bosnians and Albanians."
Lieberman added that this meant Macedonia must be suitably prepared in order to prevent what happened in Africa and South America from happening in the Balkans.
4)Where does ‘the buck stop’?
By Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Harry Truman kept on his desk a sign that read "The Buck Stops Here." As President Obama gathers with his national security team Tuesday to ensure that, as he put it last week, "there is accountability at every level" for the latest in a rising tide of terrorist attacks inside the United States, Mr. Truman's successor must accept responsibility for his own role in the growing danger.
I am not suggesting that Mr. Obama was directly complicit in the failure to keep Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab and his explosive-laden underwear off Northwest 253 on Christmas Day. As is often the case with these things, there were lots of red flags "in the system" about this would-be terrorist that should have kept him off that plane. Such "dots" are easily connected with hindsight, after the attack is launched. The trick is for people well south of the President to act on them beforehand.
The fact that the trick was not performed in this instance or, for that matter, in connection with the penultimate attack - the one perpetrated by Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood last November - does indeed constitute, in President Obama's words, a "systemic failure." It is entirely appropriate to try to find out who dropped which ball, less to assign blame than in the hope of preventing a repeat.
One thing is already obvious, though. What Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano famously called "the system" has been trying with increasing difficulty to prevent terrorism here at home within impossible policy and programmatic constraints. Mr. Obama must take a measure of responsibility for those constraints.
The most important of these has been the systematic and deliberate dumbing down of U.S. government efforts to understand, characterize and, therefore, act against the enemy. For example, terms like "man-caused disasters," "oversees contingency operations," "isolated extremists" have been coined to obscure, rather than illuminate, the fact that we are under assault by Muslims who adhere to the supremacist program and ideology that authoritative Islam calls Shariah.
Adherents to Shariah are explicitly obliged to engage in holy war, or "jihad." Mohammed showed that the preferred way to wage jihad is through terrifying violence. Only where violent jihad would be impracticable or counter-productive, does Shariah grant its followers the latitude to engage in jihad in non-violent and stealthy ways.
While the tactics may differ, the goal, however, is absolutely the same: the submission of the non-Muslim world to Islam and, ultimately, the triumph of a global Islamic theocracy.
The "systemic failure" of Christmas Day and before that at Ft. Hood arose because, at least until now, government personnel have been effectively proscribed from addressing the threat in these terms. They have not been allowed to call it what it is or to give prioritized attention (read "profiling") to those who adhere to this seditious program. Needless to say, with few exceptions, officials have been discouraged from resisting demands for various accommodations and preferential treatment for the Shariah faithful, let alone from trying to shut down the latters' operations in America (Shariah-adherent mosques, penetration of Wall Street, Muslim Brotherhood front organizations and even jihadist training camps).
Moreover, few in the military, intelligence or law enforcement communities have missed what has happened under this administration (and, in fairness, under the previous one) to patriots like the Joint Chiefs of Staff's erstwhile Shariah specialist, Steven Coughlin, or an FBI special agent with deep expertise in counter-terrorism and jihad, John Guandolo. For courageously challenging the official orthodoxy on the ideological wellspring of the threats we face, namely Shariah, they lost their jobs.
Not surprisingly, those who have, in Mr. Coughlin's words, "a professional duty to know" the nature of the enemy and its threat doctrine have generally been unwilling to jeopardize their careers and reputations by accurately understanding and depicting such things. As long as our protectors rightly fear being treated as "racists," "bigots" and "Islamophobes" - not just by the Muslim Brotherhood types, but by their own government - we are assuredly condemned to more systemic failures.
If Mr. Obama really means to hold "every level accountable," then he must make clear that he is prepared to fix the contributing factors for which he has been responsible. The best way to proceed may be to take a page from the playbook of two other of his predecessors. During the presidency of Gerald Ford, the then-Director of Central Intelligence (and future President) George H.W. Bush was bedeviled by concerns that "the system" was not accurately understanding the magnitude of the threat posed by the last great totalitarian ideology: Soviet communism.
Mr. Bush took the unprecedented step of commissioning an outside group of highly skilled and known skeptics to provide him with a second opinion informed by full access to all the relevant classified data and analyses. This so-called "Team B" provided a far more accurate assessment, one that ultimately informed the measures President Ronald Reagan took to destroy the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, we don't have several decades to find and fix the systemic failures afflicting American policy towards today's ideological menace, Shariah. Convening and heeding a Team B made up of the likes of Messrs. Coughlin and Guandolo would give President Obama a chance to defeat today's enemies - and avoid the buck that will otherwise ultimately and unavoidably stop at his desk: the needless loss of large numbers of American lives at the hands of jihadists bent on our destruction.
4a)Time for accountability at the White House: White House social secretary Desirée Rogers at the arrival ceremony for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November. By Sally Quinn
Now it turns out that there was a third uninvited guest at the White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, this one a member of the Indian delegation. It was enough of a shock that the would-be stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi had crashed. But a third? The Salahi story may have been delicious, but the implications of the appalling breach of security are immense. The president could have been assassinated. And had that happened, the Office of the White House Social Secretary would have been as culpable as the Secret Service.
Time for accountability at the White House
One of the first lessons any administration needs to learn is that somebody has to take the hit for whatever goes wrong. If another culprit is not identified, the president gets the blame. One incident after another in the past few months has shown that members of this administration would rather lay low and let Barack Obama be the target. This has got to stop.
Many in Washington wondered why the director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, did not resign over the state dinner security breach. At least Sullivan testified before Congress on the subject. White House social secretary Desirée Rogers came under fire after the Salahi scandal erupted. From the start, Rogers was an unlikely choice for social secretary. She was not of Washington, considered by many too high-powered for the job and more interested in being a public figure (and thus upstaging the first lady) than in doing the gritty, behind-the-scenes work inherent in that position. That Rogers stayed and that the White House refused to allow her to testify before Congress reflected badly on the president. He, not a member of his staff, ended up looking incompetent. Although it has emerged that a State Department protocol error is to blame for the presence of a third uninvited guest, both Rogers and Sullivan should step down.
The administration's problem extends beyond these failings. When White House counsel Greg Craig was fired over disagreements about the timing and publicity of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, many Obama supporters were troubled. Craig was one of the most admired and trusted men in Washington. His firing was a turning point for a lot of people, who began to question the president's judgment. Whether or not the Craig decision was the president's idea, somebody else should have taken the hit for it. Although Obama had pledged during the campaign to close Guantanamo by year's end, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Craig clearly had serious disagreements over how the issue was playing politically, and there were known to be strong personality clashes between the two. It was Emanuel who was responsible for Craig's departure. He should have taken the hit and spared the president so much bad feeling.
Emanuel, the most political animal in this town, also should understand that keeping Rogers on as social secretary reflects upon the president's judgment. It's possible that he has other considerations. Emanuel is said to have told people that the chief-of-staff role is an 18-month job and that he is considering a run for mayor of Chicago. And Rogers is a major social and political player in the Windy City.
The attempted Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit brought another example of the president taking the blame. In the first interviews after the incident, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "the system worked." But the system did not work, and her words reflected poorly on the president. The rampant finger-pointing since then has made Obama look weak and vacillating. Who was responsible? The CIA? The director of national intelligence? The counterterrorism people? The Department of Homeland Security? All of the above? There needed to be some reckoning. Someone should have taken the blame and resigned. Even if the person who did so was not solely culpable, the perception would be that it was not the president who screwed up. Emanuel knows well that if a head does not roll, it will only hurt Obama's reputation more.
Obama has had some real successes this fall. He did a masterful job of bringing together incredibly disparate positions to craft a strategy for Afghanistan. He put himself on the line and will probably come up with a reasonable health-care plan. He left Copenhagen with at least promises of cooperation from other world powers regarding climate change. But he is not getting credit that he deserves because he is being ill served by those around him who will not step up as needed and take the fall for him.
The president needs to start making that happen. The first step would be to accept the resignations of Sullivan and Rogers today.
Sally Quinn writes a weekly column for The Post and is a moderator, with Jon Meacham, of On Faith, an online conversation on religion.
By John R. Bolton
Although President Obama spent much of his first year in office trying to revolutionize the U.S. health care system, the external world often inconveniently intruded. As the attempted Christmas mass murder of passengers flying from Amsterdam to Detroit demonstrates, our adversaries have not been idle. Nor will they be idle in 2010.
A critical question, therefore, is whether the president has learned anything during his first year, or whether he will continue pursuing national security policies that leave us at greater risk. The outlook is not promising. Too often, Mr. Obama seems either uninterested in the global threats we face, unpersuaded that they constitute dangers to the country, or content simply to blame his predecessors.
When he does see international threats, his instinct is to negotiate with them rather than defeat them. Facing totalitarian menaces in 1939, British politician Harold Nicolson said of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his closest aide that they "stepped into diplomacy with the bright faithfulness of two curates entering a pub for the first time; they did not observe the differences between a social gathering and a rough-house; nor did they realize that the tough guys assembled did not speak or understand their language."
Nicolson could be writing today about Mr. Obama. Consider some of the issues lying ahead:
(1) The global war on terror: Despite the administration's verbal about-face on the effectiveness of our antiterrorism efforts within days of the unsuccessful Christmas attack, its fundamental approach remains flawed. Mr. Obama himself has led the charge in shifting from a "Global War on Terror" toward a law-enforcement paradigm, continuing, for example, to press for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Even today, the administration is treating would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than an enemy combatant, thus losing the chance to gain enormously valuable information on al Qaeda activities and plans.
Al Qaeda-style terrorism has never been susceptible to law-enforcement methods. It is not simply a crime like bank robbery, which is why military and intelligence agencies have undertaken much of our antiterrorist activity since Sept. 11, 2001. And it is why sidelining them now can have potentially catastrophic consequences for the United States and our allies.
Mr. Obama should articulate some grand strategy for countering terrorism. Withdrawing from Iraq, mixed signals in Afghanistan (surge troops in 2010, but begin withdrawing in 2011), and public defenders for airplane bombers is a prescription for failure. Indeed, the Christmas near miss demonstrates that more, not less, attention must be devoted to al Qaeda in Yemen and elsewhere, such as Somalia.
(2) Nuclear proliferation: Iran and North Korea, the two gravest nuclear proliferation threats, have so far spurned Mr. Obama's "open hand." This is truly remarkable, since both rogue states have skillfully used prior negotiations to their advantage, buying time to advance their nuclear and ballistic missile efforts, and extracting tangible economic and political benefits from America and others. Accordingly, their current unwillingness to talk shows they think they can extract an even higher price from Mr. Obama before even sitting down, a truly discouraging sign.
In fact, neither Iran nor North Korea will be negotiated out of the nuclear weapons programs (or their chemical or biological weapons, which are not even on the horizon for discussion). Moreover, we cannot be content merely trying to "contain" nuclear rogue states, since so doing simply leaves the initiative entirely with them, given their asymmetric advantage of threatening or actually using their weapons. These countries, each for its own peculiar reasons, are not subject to the Cold War deterrence principals. Still worse, the risks of further proliferation are both palpable and threatening if Pyongyang and Tehran keep their nuclear capabilities. There is simply no sign Mr. Obama understands these ever-growing risks.
Instead, Mr. Obama is negotiating drastic nuclear weapons reductions with Russia, even as he eviscerates our missile defense capabilities, apparently believing unilateral strategic arms cutbacks will entrance Moscow and persuade rogue proliferators to dismantle their programs. This is naive and dangerous.
(3) Global governance. Although the Copenhagen Conference on climate change failed to achieve anything like its sponsors' objectives, their under lying push for greater international control over the economies of the world's nations, and their tax and regulatory systems, continues unabated. In fact, as the president's speeches - especially those given at the United Nations in September - demonstrate, he entirely buys into the notion of "global governance," with the United States in time subordinating elements of its sovereignty to international authority.
This worrisome predilection has only been whetted by the failure at Copenhagen, and we can anticipate far more activity in 2010 and beyond, not only on climate change but in a host of areas traditionally considered "domestic" policy (such as abortion, firearms control and the death penalty).
Frustrated by their failures in the United States, the American left has increasingly resorted to international treaties and conferences to advance its agenda. Mr. Obama's administration is filled with people who share that worldview, including the president himself.
In short, if you were concerned in 2009 about America's increasing international vulnerability and its decreasing global influence, you will find little to celebrate in the coming year. Our adversaries sense weakness across the board in Washington, and they will not hesitate to take advantage of it.
Importantly, whatever national security decisions Mr. Obama makes in 2010 will undeniably be his, as the passage of time diminishes his ability to blame President Bush and the situation he inherited. Happy New Year, Mr. President.
John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
5)Top of the Ticket: Politics and commentary, coast to coast, from the Los Angeles Times
Democrats Reid, Pelosi ponder crafting Obama's final healthcare bill behind closed doors
Since it's basically one-party rule in Washington nowadays, Democratic leaders including Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are seriously considering pushing President Obama's beloved healthcare legislation through Congress without the normal conference committee work involving both party's members from both houses.
Such a select conference committee is normally charged with reconciling differing House and Senate bills on the same issue before final votes in each house on the compromise version.
But since American voters collectively wanted so much change so badly in 2008, they handed over the White House, House of Representatives and Senate to Democrats with such lopsided majorities that, much as in Chicago, the ruling party doesn't really need any Republican help driving the differing bills through a blender to produce a final version, possibly by early February.
Congressional Democrats will meet with Obama at the White House this evening to discuss the....
...strategy, some in person, some via videoconferencing. House Democrats will caucus Thursday to discuss a final decision on strategy for when they reconvene next week.
As our colleague James Oliphant reports, such a beeline has some advantages for Democrats. While they don't need Republican help, they also don't need the GOP's avowed obstructionism. Simply choosing conference committee members offers numerous opportunities for long procedural delays in a democracy.
And the president has stressed healthcare urgency for months; remember, he wanted all this done by the first week of August last year because he saw poll support dropping and wanted to avoid entanglement with the 2010 elections.
But here we are in 2010. And there are the elections just 305 days away.
A new Rassmussen Reports poll out Monday finds that a majority of Americans believe the new plans will hurt healthcare quality, 59% figure it will actually increase healthcare costs, 57% oppose the bills' intent to cut Medicare benefits by hundreds of billions of dollars and, for some reason, 78% of Americans suspect the Obama administration cost estimates are way under the actual expenses.
Democrats simply ramming the immense measure through, however, might look heavy-handed to some moderate Americans, while having one party's leadership secretly craft the final bill behind closed doors fits more with a policy of official opacity than oft-promised transparency.
With no Republican crossing the aisle in favor of Obama's healthcare -- indeed, one Democrat House member changed parties over the bill last month -- the partisan lines are clearly drawn for the opening of the midterm election campaigns.
With no political cover offered by defecting Republicans, Democrats Reid and Pelosi are counting on some kind of healthcare legislation, even without a government plan, bringing out party loyalists on Nov. 2.
This despite the experience last November when with Obama's name on no ballot, the loyalists stayed home sufficiently to deliver to Republicans the governors' offices in Virginia and New Jersey.
And despite some very vocal intra-party opposition gathering behind snubbed former party chairman Howard Dean, himself a doctor, and influential left websites like firedoglake.com.
The GOP, on the other hand, will seek to tie every Democrat candidate everywhere to the hopey-changey guy in the White House, much as Democrats successfully associated many Republicans with the unpopular presidency of George W. Bush in 2008. The GOP might even mention the stubbornly high unemployment rate despite all of Joe Biden's revitalization talking.
Republicans are counting on the sheer scale of the healthcare bill, its immediate costs, delayed benefits, accompanying Medicare cuts and new taxes to emerge in coming months and drive to their side not only the GOP base of worried fiscal conservatives but crucial independents who thought they were voting for a moderate Obama in 2008.
If that happens, 2010's change to believe in would be over on the right, not the left.
5a)EDITORIAL: Hiding health bills behind closed doors
It may be a new year, but congressional Democrats are planning the same old sorts of sleazy tactics in their bid to take over America's health care system. Congressional Republicans, especially in the Senate, should not let them get away with it. Transparency and ethics should be Republican rallying cries, and obstruction on those grounds should be a point of pride.
By now it's almost trite to complain that President Obama repeatedly has broken his campaign pledge to "broadcast [health care] negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are." That doesn't make the complaint invalid. For legislation that could so profoundly and personally affect the daily lives of every American, Congress and the White House should be more transparent and more accessible than ever before. Instead, the process has been secretive and sordid throughout.
The House passed its version of the bill on a Saturday night. The Senate held its key procedural vote at 1 in the morning, and then provided a lump of coal in our stockings by forcing full passage of its bill on Christmas Eve. The House leadership banned consideration of all but one amendment not offered by leadership itself - forbidding debate on more than 150 of them - then provided just 24 hours for members to study the bill's final text. The Senate leadership inserted so many tawdry last-minute items that analysts are still finding jokers in the deck 11 days later.
All these shenanigans have driven approval for the government health care bills even lower in public polls than the strong majorities that already opposed them a month ago. Yet that hasn't fazed congressional leaders. Now comes word from multiple sources that not only will Congress refuse to televise the usual Conference Committee to reconcile the two chambers' versions of the bill, but it won't allow a formal conference at all. Instead, a chosen few negotiators will concoct the final version out of sight, without formal rules governing the process and without a single Republican at the table.
Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, candidly told a Jan. 3 home-state Democratic gathering that the sleight-of-hand is intended to enable his colleagues to avoid any more tough votes until the one on final passage. David Dayen of the liberal Web site Firedoglake reported from the meeting that, "this will not be a traditional conference committee, Waxman said, because the motions to select and instruct conferees in the Senate 'would need 60 votes [in the Senate] all over again.'"
(Corrected paragraph:) Back in October, Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, offered this simple resolution: "Resolved, that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that any conference committee or other meetings held to determine the final content of sweeping national health care legislation be held in full public view and not behind closed doors."
If congressional leaders do not abide this simple request, Republicans should bring the whole Senate to a halt. Senate rules provide for so many procedural obstacles, if a determined minority wants to exercise them, that the entire body could be tied up in knots for weeks on end. In the name of open and accountable government, that's what senators should do if the public interest continues to be trampled.
6)Our Incompetent Civilization
By BRET STEPHENS
When does a civilization become incompetent? I've been mulling the question in a number of contexts over the last year, including our inability to put a stop to Somali piracy, detain a terrorist who can neither be charged nor released, think rationally about climate change, or rebuild Ground Zero in an acceptable time frame.
But the question came to me again in Brussels on Sunday as I watched my children—ages six, four, and four months—get patted down before boarding our U.S.-bound flight. The larger-than-allowed bottle of cough syrup in my carry-on, however, somehow escaped our screener's humorless attentions.
Yes, the screener in this case was Belgian, not American. Yes, terrorists come in any number of skin colors, and they aren't above strapping explosives to their own children. And yes, the Obama administration took a half-step toward sanity by ordering additional screening of passengers from 14 countries, including Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, home of Flight 253 would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
But here's a predictive certainty: Not one non-Muslim from any of these countries (or others such as Egypt or Jordan, which were oddly excluded from the list) will ever become a suicide bomber. The localized case of Sri Lanka's Tamils aside, suicide bombing is a purely Islamic phenomenon. Note that during the whole of the intifada there was not a single case of a Palestinian Christian blowing himself up, making a nonsense of the view that Israel's checkpoints and curfews and security fences were the main cause of the terror.
So as Homeland Security, TSA and the rest of the government's counterterrorism apparatus struggle to upgrade travel security in a way that doesn't involve freeze-drying passengers in their seats, it's worth noting that we have finally reached the outer bounds of a politically correct approach to airport security. To wit, the U.S. government is now going to profile Muslim passengers, albeit partially, indirectly and via the euphemism of nationality instead of religion. Insofar as actual security is concerned, it would be both more honest and effective if it dropped the remaining pretense.
The obvious rub is that profiling goes against the American grain. We shudder at the memory of previous instances of it, particularly the internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s. Rightly so.
But a civilization becomes incompetent not only when it fails to learn the lessons of its past, but also when it becomes crippled by them. Modern Germany, to pick an example, has learned from its Nazi past to eschew chauvinism and militarism. So far, so good. But today's Multikulti Germany, with its negative birth rate, bloated welfare state and pacifist and ecological obsessions is a dismal rejoinder to its own history. It is conceivable that within a century Germans may actually loathe themselves out of existence.
In the U.S., our civilizational incompetence takes various forms. For instance: No country in the world collects more extensive statistical data about its own population than the U.S. And no country is as conflicted about the uses to which that data may or may not be put than the U.S. So what exactly is the point of all this measuring, collating and parsing?
Our deeper incompetence stems from an inability to recognize the proper limits to our own virtues; to forget, as Aristotle cautioned, that even good things "bring harm to many people; for before now men have been undone by reason of their wealth, and others by reason of their courage."
Thus we reject profiling on the commendable grounds that human beings ought not to be treated as statistical probabilities. But at some point, the failure to profile puts innocent lives recklessly at risk. We also abhor waterboarding for the eminently decent reason that it borders on torture. But there are worse things than waterboarding—like allowing another 9/11 to unfold because we recoil at the means necessary to prevent it. Similarly, there are worse things than Guantanamo—like releasing terrorists to Yemen so they can murder and maim again (and so we can hope to take them out for good in a "clean" Predator missile strike).
Put simply, we do not acquit ourselves morally by trying to abstain from a choice of evils. We just allow the nearest evil to make the choice for us.
And so it goes. We can be proud of how deeply we mourn the losses of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. But a nation that mourns too deeply ultimately becomes incapable of conducting a war of any description, whether for honor, interest or survival. We rightly care about the environment. But our neurotic obsession with carbon betrays an inability to distinguish between pollution and the stuff of life itself. We are a country of standards and laws. Yet we are moving perilously in the direction of abolishing notions of discretion and judgment.
One of life's paradoxes is that we are as often undone by our virtues as by our vices. And so it is with civilizations, ours not least.