Sunday, 30 November 2008

THOMAS FRIEDMAN ASSIGNS CREDIT FOR OUR SUCCESS IN IRAQ

Ken Berwitz

This time we almost made the pieces fit, didn't we?
This time we almost made some sense of it, didn't we?
This time I have the answer right here in my hand,
Then I touched it, and it has turned to sand.
This time we almost sang the song in tune, didn't we?
This time we almost made it to the moon, didn't we?
This time, we almost made (almost made) a poem rhyme
And this time we almost made that long hard climb.
Didn't we almost make it this time... this time.

I love that Jimmy Webb song.  What great lyrics.

Too bad it also describes a three time Pulitzer Prize winner who just cannot go all the way and give President Bush credit for the good he has done.

Here is Thomas' Friedman's column from today's New York Times.  Read the title, read it through, and then see if the last paragraph makes any sense to you:

Obamas Iraq Inheritance

Heres a story you dont see very often. Iraqs highest court told the Iraqi Parliament last Monday that it had no right to strip one of its members of immunity so he could be prosecuted for an alleged crime: visiting Israel for a seminar on counterterrorism. The Iraqi justices said the Sunni lawmaker, Mithal al-Alusi, had committed no crime and told the Parliament to back off.

Thats not all. The Iraqi newspaper Al-Umma al-Iraqiyya carried an open letter signed by 400 Iraqi intellectuals, both Kurdish and Arab, defending Alusi. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of press freedom. I cant imagine any other Arab country today where independent judges would tell the government it could not prosecute a parliamentarian for visiting Israel and intellectuals would openly defend him in the press.

In the case of Iraq, though, the federal high court, in a unanimous decision, vacated the Parliaments rescinding of Alusis immunity, with the decision delivered personally by Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud. The decision explained that although a 1950s-era law made traveling to Israel a crime punishable by death, Iraqs new Constitution establishes freedom to travel. Therefore the Parliaments move was illegal and unconstitutional because the current Constitution does not prevent citizens from traveling to any country in the world, Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, spokesman for the court, told The Associated Press. The judgment even made the Parliament speaker responsible for the expenses of the court and the defense counsel!

I dont think its reasonable to expect Iraq to have relations with Israel anytime soon, but the fact that it may be developing an independent judiciary is good news. Its a reminder of the most important reason for the Iraq war: to try to collaborate with Iraqis to build progressive politics and rule of law in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, a region that stands out for its lack of consensual politics and independent judiciaries. And its a reminder that a decent outcome may still be possible in Iraq, especially now that the Parliament has endorsed the U.S.-Iraqi plan for a 2011 withdrawal of American troops.

Al Qaeda has not been fully defeated in Iraq; suicide bombings are still an almost daily reality. But it has been dealt a severe blow, which I believe is one reason the Muslim jihadists those brave warriors who specialize in killing women and children and defenseless tourists have turned their attention to softer targets like India. Just as they tried to stoke a Shiite-Sunni civil war in Iraq, and failed, they are now trying to stoke a Hindu-Muslim civil war in India.

If Iraq can keep improving still uncertain and become a place where Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites can write their own social contract and live together with a modicum of stability, it could one day become a strategic asset for the United States in the post-9/11 effort to promote different politics in the Arab-Muslim world.

How so? Iraq is a geopolitical space that for the last three decades of the 20th century was dominated by a Baathist dictatorship, which, though it provided a bulwark against Iranian expansion, did so at the cost of a regime that murdered tens of thousands of its own people and attacked three of its neighbors.

In 2003, the United States, under President Bush, invaded Iraq to change the regime. Terrible postwar execution and unrelenting attempts by Al Qaeda to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war turned the Iraqi geopolitical space into a different problem a maelstrom of violence for four years, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. A huge price was paid by Iraqis and Americans. This was the Iraq that Barack Obama ran against.

In the last year, though, the U.S. troop surge and the backlash from moderate Iraqi Sunnis against Al Qaeda and Iraqi Shiites against pro-Iranian extremists have brought a new measure of stability to Iraq. There is now, for the first time, a chance still only a chance that a reasonably stable democratizing government, though no doubt corrupt in places, can take root in the Iraqi political space.

That is the Iraq that Obama is inheriting. It is an Iraq where we have to begin drawing down our troops because the occupation has gone on too long and because we have now committed to do so by treaty but it is also an Iraq that has the potential to eventually tilt the Arab-Muslim world in a different direction.

Im sure that Obama, whatever he said during the campaign, will play this smart. He has to avoid giving Iraqi leaders the feeling that Bush did that hell wait forever for them to sort out their politics while also not suggesting that he is leaving tomorrow, so they all start stockpiling weapons.

If he can pull this off, and help that decent Iraq take root, Obama and the Democrats could not only end the Iraq war but salvage something positive from it. Nothing would do more to enhance the Democratic Partys national security credentials than that.

Obama can end the war?  Obama can salvage something from it?  It would give Democrats security credentials?

Hello, Thom....anybody home?  President Bush brought us to this point.  Not the junior senator from Illinois, but President George Bush. 

It was Bush who ordered a troop surge, in the face of an opposition so hate-filled and vicious that a name actually was invented for it (BDS:  Bush Derangement Syndrome). 

It was Bush who rode it all out and got us to the point where Iraq is a functioning (if tenuous) democracy with enough military capability so that we can safely reduce troop strength.

And Friedman wants to hand the credit off to Obama?  To Democrats?

That's like giving credit for for a 50-0 football win to the bench players who are sent in at the end to complete the game.

This time you almost made it, Thom, didn't you.  You only missed by one paragraph.


THE MUMBAI TERRORISTS & THEIR ABETTORS

Ken Berwitz

As you will see, my use of the term "abettors" is pretty harsh.  But what else would you call the Indian police in this situation?

Here are the particulars, from John Hinderaker at www.powerlineblog.com.  Please also read the link it refers to for further context.

Somebody Get Me A Gun

November 29, 2008 Posted by John at 8:04 PM

This post should be read in conjunction with the one immediately below. It describes a microcosm of India's failure to defend itself aggressively against Islamic terrorism. The hero of the story is Sebastian D'Souza, a picture editor at the Mumbai Mirror, who took one of the most famous photos of the terrorists in action:

D'Souza describes his experience at the railway terminal where many innocent Indians were murdered:

"I first saw the gunmen outside the station," Mr D'Souza said. "With their rucksacks and Western clothes they looked like backpackers, not terrorists, but they were very heavily armed and clearly knew how to use their rifles.

"Towards the station entrance, there are a number of bookshops and one of the bookstore owners was trying to close his shop," he recalled. "The gunmen opened fire and the shopkeeper fell down."

But what angered Mr D'Souza almost as much were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back." ...

As the gunmen fired at policemen taking cover across the street, Mr D'Souza realised a train was pulling into the station unaware of the horror within. "I couldn't believe it. We rushed to the platform and told everyone to head towards the back of the station. Those who were older and couldn't run, we told them to stay put."

The militants returned inside the station and headed towards a rear exit towards Chowpatty Beach. Mr D'Souza added: "I told some policemen the gunmen had moved towards the rear of the station but they refused to follow them. What is the point of having policemen with guns if they refuse to use them? I only wish I had a gun rather than a camera."

If Mr. D'Souza ever wants to emigrate to the United States, we'll take him.

I wondered earlier today how a mere ten terrorists could bring a city of 19 million to a standstill. Here in the U.S., I don't think it would happen. I think we have armed security guards who know how to use their weapons, supplemented by an unknown number of private citizens who are armed and capable of returning fire. The Indian experience shows it is vitally important that this continue to be the case. This is a matter of culture as much as, or more than, a matter of laws.

They could have stopped it.  They could have stopped it.  And they didn't.

That's how 10 terrorists can inflict this kind of mass murder.  All it takes is for no one to fight back.

Maybe the Indian police were waiting to have a a no-preconditions discussion with them.


THE UN'S SOUTH PARK MOMENT

Ken Berwitz

Did you see South Park, the movie?

If so you probably laughed and laughed at its intentionally ridiculous production number (if you can use that term for animation) "Blame Canada".  As the title suggests, the gag was that Canada is to blame for everything that ever goes wrong. 

As lowbrow comedy, blaming a country for everyone else's ills is very funny.  But suppose this were done seriously instead.  It wouldn't be funny at all, would it?

With that in mind, here is Jeff Jacoby's latest column from today's Boston Globe.  See if you can find any humor in it:

 

AT THE U.N., THE ISRAEL-BASHING GOES ON

By Jeff Jacoby

The Boston Globe

 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

 

     The president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, last week denounced the policies of a certain Middle Eastern nation. They are so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, he said, that the world must unite against them, demanding an end to this massive abuse of human rights and isolating the offending nation as it once isolated South Africa: with a punishing campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

 

 'A campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions:'

UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, Nov. 24, 2008

 

 

    Of which country was he speaking?

 

     Was it Saudi Arabia, where public facilities are segregated by sex, and where a pervasive system of gender apartheid denies women the right to drive, to dress as they choose, to freely marry or divorce, to vote, to appear in public without a male guardian, or to give testimony on an equal basis with men?

 

     Was it Jordan, where the nationality law explicitly bars Jews from citizenship and where the sale of land to a Jew was for decades not only illegal, but punishable by death?

 

     Was it Iran, where homosexuality is a capital crime -- at least 200 Iranian gays were executed last year -- and whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asserted at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran?

 

     Was it Sudan, where tens of thousands of black Africans in the country's southern region, most of them Christians or animists, have been abducted and sold into slavery by Arab militias backed by the Islamist regime in Khartoum?

 

     It was none of these. The General Assembly president, a radical Maryknoll priest who served as Nicaragua's foreign minister during the Sandinista regime in the 1980s, was not referring to any of the Middle East's Muslim autocracies and dictatorships, virtually all of which discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities. He was speaking of the Jewish state of Israel, the region's lone democracy, and the only one that guarantees the legal equality of all its citizens -- fully one-fifth of whom are Muslim and Christian Arabs.

 

     D'Escoto's call for Israel to be shunned as a pariah and strangled economically came on the UN's Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an annual occasion devoted to lamenting the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the 20th century, denouncing the national liberation movement -- Zionism -- that made that rebirth possible, and championing the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. The event occurs on or about Nov. 29, the anniversary of the UN vote in 1947 to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. There are impassioned speeches, in which Israel's sins are enumerated and condemned, and the statelessness of the Palestinians is bewailed. Unmentioned is the fact that Palestine's Arabs would have had their state 60 years ago had they and the Arab League not rejected the UN's decision and chosen instead to declare war on the new Jewish state.

 

     Like so much of what takes place at the UN, the obsession with demonizing Israel and extolling the Palestinians is grotesque and Orwellian. More than 1 million Israeli Arabs enjoy civil and political rights unmatched in the Arab world -- yet Israel is accused of repression and human-rights abuse. Successive Israeli governments have endorsed a two-state solution -- yet Israel is blasted as the obstacle to peace. The Palestinian Authority oversees the vilest culture of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich, and wants all Jews expelled from the land it claims for itself -- yet Israel is labeled an apartheid state and singled out for condemnation and ostracism.

 

     Make no mistake: In likening Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, the UN is engaged not in anti-racism but in anti-Semitism. In the 1930s, the world's foremost anti-Semites demanded a boycott of Jewish businesses. Today they demand a boycott of the Jewish state.

 

     No good German is still buying from a Jew, announced Hitler's Nazi Party in March 1933. The boycott must be a universal one . . . and must hit Jewry where it is most vulnerable. Seventy-five years later, the president of the General Assembly urges the world to throttle Israel's 6 million Jews with boycott, divestment, and sanctions. There is no significant difference between the two cases -- or the animus underlying them.

As usual, Jeff hits the nail on the head.  The UN long ago gave up any claim to legitimacy.  This is just one of many examples.  But it is a particularly egregious one.

Simply stated, the UN is dead.  Morally, ethically and spiritually dead. 

In the absence of these values, maybe I should be relieved that it seems to be trying its hand at comedy.  Consider the alternative.


GUEST COMMENTARY: CHRISTOPHER BOOKER ON OBAMA & GLOBAL WARMING

Ken Berwitz

Christopher Booker of the UK's Daily Telegraph has written about Barack Obama's "understanding" of the global warming issue.

It is exactly the kind of column people in the USA should see.  Not surprisingly, therefore, it is also the kind of column they will not see in almost any USA mainstream media.  

Here it is.  Please read it all, but pay special attention to the paragraphs in bold print:

President-elect Barack Obama proposes economic suicide for US

By Christopher Booker
29/11/2008

If the holder of the most powerful office in the world proposed a policy guaranteed to inflict untold damage on his own country and many others, on the basis of claims so demonstrably fallacious that they amount to a string of self-deluding lies, we might well be concerned. The relevance of this is not to President Bush, as some might imagine, but to a recent policy statement by President-elect Obama.

Tomorrow, delegates from 190 countries will meet in Poznan, Poland, to pave the way for next year's UN conference in Copenhagen at which the world will agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. They will see a video of Mr Obama, in only his second major policy commitment, pledging that America is now about to play the leading role in the fight to "save the planet" from global warming. 

Mr Obama begins by saying that "the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear". "Sea levels," he claims, "are rising, coastlines are shrinking, we've seen record drought, spreading famine and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season."

Far from the science being "beyond dispute", we can only deduce from this that Mr Obama has believed all he was told by Al Gore's wondrously batty film An Inconvenient Truth without bothering to check the facts. Each of these four statements is so wildly at odds with the truth that on this score alone we should be seriously worried.

It is true that average sea levels are modestly rising, but no faster than they have been doing for three centuries. Gore's film may predict a rise this century of 20 feet, but even the UN's International Panel on Climate Change only predicts a rise of between four and 17 inches. The main focus of alarm here has been the fate of low-lying coral islands such as the Maldives and Tuvalu.

Around each of these tiny countries, according to the international Commission on Sea Level Changes and other studies, sea levels in recent decades have actually fallen. The Indian Ocean was higher between 1900 and 1970 than it has been since. Satellite measurements show that since 1993 the sea level around Tuvalu has gone down by four inches.

Coastlines are not "shrinking" except where land is subsiding, as on the east coast of England, where it has been doing so for thousands of years. Gore became particularly muddled by this, pointing to how many times the Thames Barrier has had to be closed in recent years, unaware that this was more often to keep river water in during droughts than to stop the sea coming in.

Far from global warming having increased the number of droughts, the very opposite is the case. The most comprehensive study (Narisma et al, 2007) showed that, of the 20th century's 30 major drought episodes, 22 were in the first six decades, with only five between 1961 and 1980. The most recent two decades produced just three.

Mr Obama has again been taken in over hurricanes. Despite a recent press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claiming that 2008's North Atlantic hurricane season "set records", even its own release later admits that it only tied as "the fifth most active" since 1944. NOAA's own graphs show hurricane activity higher in the 1950s than recently. A recent Florida State University study of tropical cyclone activity across the world (see the Watts Up With That? website) shows a steady reduction over the past four years.

Alarming though it may be that the next US President should have fallen for all this claptrap, much more worrying is what he proposes to do on the basis of such grotesque misinformation. For a start he plans to introduce a "federal cap and trade system", a massive "carbon tax", designed to reduce America's CO2 emissions "to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 per cent by 2050". Such a target, which would put America ahead of any other country in the world, could only be achieved by closing down a large part of the US economy.

Mr Obama floats off still further from reality when he proposes spending $15 billion a year to encourage "clean energy" sources, such as thousands more wind turbines. He is clearly unaware that wind energy is so hopelessly ineffective that the 10,000 turbines America already has, representing "18 gigawatts of installed capacity", only generate 4.5GW of power, less than that supplied by a single giant coal-fired power station.

He talks blithely of allowing only "clean" coal-fired power plants, using "carbon capture" - burying the CO2 in holes in the ground - which would double the price of electricity, but the technology for which hasn't even yet been developed. He then babbles on about "generating five million new green jobs". This will presumably consist of hiring millions of Americans to generate power by running around on treadmills, to replace all those "dirty" coal-fired power stations which currently supply the US with half its electricity.

If this sounds like an elaborate economic suicide note, for what is still the earth's richest nation, it is still not enough for many environmentalists. Positively foaming at the mouth in The Guardian last week, George Monbiot claimed that the plight of the planet is now so grave that even "sensible programmes of the kind Obama proposes are now irrelevant". The only way to avert the "collapse of human civilisation", according to the Great Moonbat, would be "the complete decarbonisation of the global economy soon after 2050".

For 300 years science helped to turn Western civilisation into the richest and most comfortable the world has ever seen. Now it seems we have suddenly been plunged into a new age of superstition, where scientific evidence no longer counts for anything. The fact that America will soon be ruled by a man wholly under the spell of this post-scientific hysteria may leave us in wondering despair.

I can only hope that what Obama is doing is lying to his LAMB (Lunatic-left And Mega-moonbat) base.  Given his propensity for lying during the campaign, that possibility certainly cannot be discounted.

But what if Mr. Obama means it?  What if he is serious about these proposals (most of which would probably pass, given the Democratic majorities in both houses of congress)?  Then, no matter how bad off we are now, we may be in for a lot worse.

I was very thankful that Al Gore didn't run for President this year.  Who knew we'd elect him anyway?


GEORGE M. DOCHERTY, R.I.P.

Ken Berwitz

He was well intentioned, but (along with Representative Oakman and President Eisenhower), wrong.

I am referring to George M. Docherty, who more than any other non-politician was responsible for the addition of "under God" to the pledge of allegiance.

Here is the story, from the Associated Press:

Pastor who helped get "under God" in Pledge dies

Nov 29, 3:17 PM (ET)

ALEXANDRIA, Pa. (AP) - The Rev. George M. Docherty, credited with helping to push Congress to insert the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, has died at 97.

Docherty died on Thanksgiving at his home in central Pennsylvania, according to his wife, Sue Docherty.

She said her husband of 36 years had been in failing health for about three years.

"George said he was going to live to be a hundred and he was determined," she said in a telephone interview Saturday. "It's amazing that he was with us this long."

Docherty, then pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, just blocks from the White House, gave a sermon in 1952 saying the pledge should acknowledge God.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it recited by his 7-year-old son, Garth.

"I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,'" he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,"God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

There was little effect from that initial sermon, but he delivered it again on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning that President Dwight Eisenhower would be at the church.

The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the law on Flag Day that year.

I have no problem with people believing in God.  I have no problem with people saying "Merry Christmas" and I have no problem with Christmas trees, menorahs or other religious symbols in public places. 

But inserting "under God" in the pledge of allegiance is a first amendment-buster if ever there was one.  It is the government sanctioning religion, plain and simple.  And that's not supposed to happen.

So I respect Mr. Docherty and wish for him to rest in peace.  But I also wish he'd have given a different sermon that day and Oakman and Eisenhower had found something more appropriate to enact into law.


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