Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Ken Berwitz

I just read an interesting blog by Scott Johnson of www.powerlineblog.com, in which he details what the classified documents dumped by WikiLeaks tell us regarding our policy toward Iran.

Scott's source is an excellent blog by Lee Smith**, who writes for tabletmag.com.  I urge you to read Mr. Smith's entire piece - but here are some key excerpts:

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isnt instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu; whether his muckraking website isnt part of a Likudnik plot to provoke an attack on Iran; and if PFC Bradley Manning, who allegedly uploaded 250,000 classified documents to Wikileaks, is actually a Lee Harvey Oswald-like neocon patsy.

With all due apologies to Oliver Stone (and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey), what the Wikileaks documents reveal is not a conspiracy of any kind but a scary and growing gap between the private assessments of American diplomats and allies in the Middle East and public statements made by U.S. government officials. The publication of these leaked cables is eerily reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed a decade-long attempt by U.S. officials to distort and conceal unpalatable truths about the Vietnam War, and manipulate public opinion. The difference is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the Wikileaks cable dump vindicates the right.

Here are eight of the most obvious examples from the initial trove of documents that has appeared online:

1. While the Israelis are deeply concerned about Irans march toward a nuclear program, it is in fact the Arabs who are begging the United States to take out Iranian installations through military force, with one United Arab Emirates official even proposing a ground invasion. Calling Iran evil, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to cut off the head of the snake by attacking Iranian nuclear installations.

2. It is not just Israeli leaders who believe Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reminiscent of Hitler; U.S. officials think so too, as do Arab leaders, who use the Hitler analogy to warn against the dangers of appeasing Iran.

3. North Korea, an isolated country that enjoys substantial diplomatic and economic backing from China, is supplying Iran with advanced ballistic missile systems that would allow an Iranian nuclear warhead to hit Tel Avivor Moscowwith a substantial degree of accuracy. Taken in concert with the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria, it would appear that North Koreaacting with the knowledge and perhaps direct encouragement of Chinais playing a significant and deliberate role in the proliferation of nuclear equipment and ballistic delivery systems in the Middle East.

4. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a model Middle Eastern leader who has found the right admixture of religious enthusiasm and democracy, as U.S. government officials often like to suggest in public, but an exceptionally dangerous Islamist. U.S. diplomats have concluded that Erdogans anti-Israel rhetoric is not premised on domestic Turkish electioneering or larger geo-strategic concerns but rather on a personal, visceral hatred of Israel.

5. Tehran has used the cover of the ostensibly independent Iranian Red Crescenta member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, whose pledge of neutrality allows it access to war zonesto smuggle weapons and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods Force into Lebanon during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, and into Iraq, to fight against U.S. soldiers.

6. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are more worried about Hamas than about Israel and are staunchly opposed to the expansion of Iranian influence in the region.

7. The Amir of Qatar is a dubious ally, who plays Washington and Tehran off each other. The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.

8. Americas Arab allies do not believe that the Barack Obama Administration can separate Syria from Iran through any foreseeable combination of carrots and sticks. According to one cable, the UAEs Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed showed no confidence that Syria could be separated from the Iranian camp and quoted him directly as saying If you want my opinion I think not. He advised that Syria would continue hedging on key regional issues (Iran, support for Hezbollah, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) for the foreseeable future.

Ironic, isn't it?  assange, who most people see as a left wing activist (a characterization I doubt he would dispute), has inadvertently made a strong case for Israel's position regarding Iran - and made it clear that a good many Arab countries are allied with Israel (how strange it is to say that) when it comes to doing something about it.

Wouldn't it be something if these documents force a few of those Arab countries to be more open about the common interests they share with Israel? 

Heck, who knows:  It might even (gasp) cause them to start instituting the beginning of normal relations with the Jewish state.

Normal relations between countries?  What an awful prospect!!!!


**FYI:  Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard.  To my knowledge he is not the same Lee Smith who saved 478 games, mostly for the Chicago Cubs, and should be voted into the hall of fame any year now - maybe this one.  


Ken Berwitz

I'm sure that Buffalo Bills' wide receiver Steven Johnson is a very good and very pious young man.

That said, on Sunday Johnson dropped a touchdown pass that would have given Buffalo an overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Pittsburgh subsequently gained possession, moved downfield, scored and won the game instead.

After the game, this is what Mr. Johnson "tweeted" on his twitter page:


In other words, he wasn't responsible for dropping the ball; God was.  In effect, Johnson changed that old saying?  "God may forgive you, but I don't" into "You may forgive you , but I don't".

That, folks, is religious nuttery at its finest.

Zeke ..... ...... ..... Brothers ! ... Sisters ! .... .... Let us all bow our heads and Tweet to the Almighty ! ...... Then we will take our iPads and read the Scriptures. (12/01/10)


Ken Berwitz

Want to see some righteous outrage - that is fully justified?

Watch this video of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) erupting when acting speaker Laura Richardson (D-California) refuses to recognize him to speak, though there is no objection at all from the floor - not even anyone to object (if you can't see the video below, then click here):


Could Mr. Buyer be more justifiably outraged?  Personally, I can't see how.

I'm not 100% sure, but it seems clear that Ms. Richardson was acting as a complicitor in the cynical, political machinations that her party was engaging in, and did not want anyone to talk about them publicly. 

Good for Rep. Buyer to shame her into yielding the floor -- and good for him to use part of that time to ream her for acting as she did.

free` Acting speaker Laura Richardson (D-California) was totally clueless, she was being told what to say by whomever that other person was standing near her. (12/01/10)


Ken Berwitz

Should Hillary Clinton resign?

That is the question being asked around Washington DC, after the WikiLeaks revelations that she aggressively sought private information about various world leaders and diplomats - information that, if she were secretary of state in the Bush administration, would probably have caused her to resign already.

David Corn, writing for politicsdaily.com, has a very good rundown of the situation, which I am excerpting below:

Should Hillary Clinton resign as secretary of state due to the WikiLeaks revelations? My friend Jack Shafer at Slate makes a good case. His reason: Clinton, like predecessor Condoleezza Rice, signed orders instructing U.S. foreign service officers to spy on the diplomats of other nations. Cables went out under her name telling State Department officials overseas to collect the fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans of African leaders, to obtain passwords, credit card numbers, and frequent flyer accounts used by foreign diplomats, and to gather private information on United Nations officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Diplomats are not spies (though spies do pose as diplomats). They do collect information -- by working contacts overseas, reviewing the local media, interacting with the population of the nations where they are stationed -- often acquiring intelligence that is as valuable, if not more so, than the secrets snatched by intelligence officials. But there is a line between a diplomat and a spook. The former uses aboveboard methods to find out what his or her government needs to know about other nations; the latter resorts to espionage, wiretaps, bribery, and other underhanded means. There are many reasons for keeping the two roles distinct. Diplomats are awarded immunity and can gain certain access overseas because they are not spies. 

Of the many WikiLeaks revelations that have emerged in the past few days -- and more are to come in the next few months, as the renegade website continues to release batches of the 251,287 State Department cables it has obtained -- the news that U.S. diplomats have been turned into part-time spies certainly warrants thorough investigation. Obama administration officials, of course, have tried to make the leak itself the paramount issue. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised prosecutions if "we can find anybody involved in breaking American law."

Yet there have not been such passionate calls for investigating the transformation of U.S. diplomats into undercover snoops. The administration's strategy -- as is to be expected -- is to focus on the easy-to-demonize messenger, not the hard-to-explain message. But Diplomatgate ought to be a top priority for the oversight committees of Congress.

As for Clinton, WikiLeaks' scattershot approach is probably helping her. Shafer contends,

No matter what sort of noises Clinton makes about how the disclosures are "an attack on America" and "the international community," as she did today, she's become the issue. She'll never be an effective negotiator with diplomats who refuse to forgive her exuberances, and even foreign diplomats who do forgive her will still regard her as the symbol of an overreaching United States. Diplomacy is about face, and the only way for other nations to save face will be to give them Clinton's scalp. . . .

There is no way that the new WikiLeaks leaks don't leave Hillary Clinton holding the smoking gun. The time for her departure may come next week or next month, but sooner or later, the weakened and humiliated secretary of state will have to pay.

To be perfectly honest, I'm very conflicted about this. 

On the one hand, Ms. Clinton has, in essence, made spies out of part of our diplomatic corps.  It is self-evident that our ability to conduct international affairs is severely damaged if world leaders perceive that U.S. diplomats are gathering information about them and their countries. 

On the other hand, I would lie to tell you I thought this did not happen under other secretaries of state as well.  And I assume out of hand that other countries have major foreign policy operatives gathering precisely the same kind of information.

Readers of this blog know I do not like Hillary Clinton.  I consider her a media invention, with precious few tangible accomplishments since law school other than using her husband to cultivate an an adoring army of mainstream media "journalists".  I also think she was a lousy pick as secretary of state, whose main reason for getting the job was to take her out of the running for 2012 (which it may or may not have done).

But, my feelings about Ms. Clinton aside, I look at the realpolitik of this situation and conclude that, although I have major concerns about what she did, it is not a reason for her to resign.  It is more a reason to despise julian assange of WikiLeaks for making such information public - and to wonder if, for his own political motives, he is withholding similar information about other countries..

To paraphrase someone whose story President Obama professes to read every night:  let he or she who is without diplomatic sin cast the first resignation demand.

Zeke ..... ..... ..... No,No,No. .... Hillary Rodham should NOT resign. .... ..... She should stay and brazen it out. .... .... .... Such action would cement her in place, and she will never be nominated for the Presidency. .... ... .... Look at all her foreign policy accomplishments to date: Turkey going fundamentalist, North Korea going ape dung, Israel pursuing their own interests, Hundreds of millions given to the Palestinians to be deposited in the leaders' Swiss bank accounts, Central and South America going Communist (Venezuela, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil), UN becoming ever more useless (an astonishing achievement), our European allies settling into a sludge of inertia and doom, prognosis for Afghanistan and Iran is failure, trade with China is bleeding the country dry, as are oil imports. .... ..... ..... Go back to Arkansas, Hillary. (11/30/10)

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