Friday, January 20, 2006

Vice President Cheney on Hugh Hewitt's Radio Show

If ever there was a concise, comprehensive summary of the major political issues faced by our nation at this moment, it was Hugh's interview of Vice President Cheney this afternoon. (Transcript courtesy of Radioblogger, where the audio is also available)

In ten minutes, Hugh rifled through discussion on the economy, Avian flu, Iran, the NSA program, the housing bubble, and more. As he noted on his show, it just goes to show you how much ground you can cover by coming to an interview prepared with carefully thought out questions, asked within a logically progressing framework.

It also helps to have a guest who is as well informed as they come. Vice President Cheney was spot-on in all of his answers, and to anyone who listened critically, it became clear that he has put a great deal of time into thinking assessing the issues facing our nation.

My two favorite parts of the interview were Cheney's discussion of Iran and the NSA intercept program. First about Iran:
HH: One of the threats to the economy, of course, is oil back above $66, $67 dollars per barrel. A lot of that is related to Iran's recklessness, and the capriciousness and outright strangeness of their leader in his statements, and today reports that they are moving assets around. Have you been involved in planning response to Iran going nuclear, Mr. Vice President?

DC: Well, the Iranian issue has been a problem that's been on the table here for some time now. We've been working, obviously, most recently through the EU3, the Europeans...The Germans, the Brits and the French, in an effort to persuade the Iranians not to go down this road. That effort's still underway. Obviously to date, it has not been successful, and the problem's gotten more pronounced since Mr. Ahmadinejad became president, and began to make some of the more outrageous statements that he's made. One of the things I think about when we talk about the economic consequences of potential confrontation or crisis over the Iranian nuclear program, of course, people start to worry about oil again. The thing I keep thinking about is it would be great if we had ANWAR online. That would be another million barrel a day that would be a U.S. production, that would reduce our dependence on foreign sources. And it's unfortunate that in spite of the effort of several years, and passage through the House, we've not yet been able to get ANWAR approved through the Senate. That's exactly one of the reasons why we need an effective energy policy that does reduce our dependence, so that we are not sort of capable of being blackmailed when confronted with something like an irresponsible Iranian government.

After this exchange, Hugh asked Vice President Cheney if the military option was still on the table in efforts to stop Iranian nuclear efforts. Cheney was insistent that a president can never take the military option off the table in important situations like this.

But the vice president's discussion of the NSA was dead on:
HH: One of the biggest objections to the NSA surveillance of al Qaeda agents in the United States' program is that the administration didn't go to FISA, and the question keeps coming up, and I'll ask you. Why not go to FISA for some of these programs?

DC: Well, we've made it clear that what we have is a presidential...the president's described it, that what we're interested in is intercepting communications, one end of which are outside the United States, and one end of which we have reason to believe is al Qaeda-related. I don't want to go into any more detail than that. We have, we believe, all the authority we need in Article II of the Constitution, the president's authority as commander in chief under the Constitution, as well as previous actions of the Congress to justify and authorize exactly what we're doing. We do safeguard the civil liberties of the American people. This is not a domestic surveillance program, as it's been referred to frequently by the press or some of our critics. It is, in fact, about communications, say, that involve, at least one end of the communications involve al Qaeda and a connection outside the U.S. I can say for fact that it's been a very valuable program, that it's saved lives, and let us interrupt terrorist operations. I can also say that it's been briefed on a regular basis to the Congress. On more than a dozen occasions, Congressional members have been informed of the status of the program.

The fact that the vice president went straight to the Article II argument, and noted that the phone calls are not domestic phone calls --between two Americans-- but between someone inside the U.S. and a believed al-Qaeda agent, illustrates his awareness of the necessary facts about the NSA issue. FISA courts were created for domestic spying, and thus are still needed for such ventures, but can be bypassed by the president when the phone calls involve terrorist operatives.

In any regard, Hugh's interview of Vice President Cheney is must-read (or listen). I urge you to head over to RadioBlogger for the transcripts and audio.

Iran Prepares To Weather the Storm

President Ahmadinejad is digging his heels into the dirt:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A defiant Iran announced Friday it has begun pulling its foreign currency accounts out of European banks to protect its assets from possible U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program.

As analysts estimated the amount of those funds at up to $50 billion, Iran also called for a reduction in OPEC oil production - raising the possibility that the country would deploy its oil prowess in its standoff with the West.

Underlining his challenging stance, Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held a meeting in Damascus, Syria, on Friday with leaders from the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad...

The currency withdrawal signaled that Iran was willing to weather U.N. punishment rather than abandon its nuclear ambitions,
which the United States and some in Europe say are to develop atomic weapons. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

Friday's move also deprives Europe of an important lever to influence Iran and could weaken its resolve to push Iran to give up key parts of its nuclear program, analysts said.

Let's recap: Iran's president hates the west, is refusing calls from the UNSC to stop Iran's nuclear pursuits, and is now gathering all of Iran's resources so that sanctions are less threatening. This should raise a few red flags.

Iran poses a serious problem. And as it grows more and more evident every day, it puts added emphasis on at least considering the case for invading Iran.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Invading Iran...

that is the question.

Iran's president is getting bolder by the day. He unabashedly hates the West and all we represent. He denies the Holocaust, calling it a fabrication of the West. He wants to wipe Israel off the map, claiming the nation has no right to exist. He defies the United Nations, breaking the U.N.'s freeze on Iran's nuclear development. He harbors terrorists, allowing al-Qaeda refuge in his country. Now he's having meetings with Syria about becoming allies.

But worst of all, he's unstable. And when you put all of these facts together, you come to realize just how threatening Iran can possibly be to the United States. Once you reach this point, you are faced with a decision: Invade Iran --much in the same way we did in Iraq, with targeted air strikes and soldies on the ground-- with the intent of regime change, or wait for the UNSC to take action against the country, which either won't happen or won't stop Iran from developing nukes.

It's a very challenging decision, yet also a very important one: What should we do about Iran?

Rick Moran isn't convinced that immediate military action is the answer. From his piece on the serious risks in attacking Iran to stop its nuclear program:

I still think military action against the Iranians may be necessary – but only if we get a clearer picture of the consequences of such actions. How much support would we have from the world? From other oil producing states? From our allies? What would Russia and China do? Would Arab governments support us?

All of these questions can only be answered and work in our favor only through careful and patient diplomacy. From my point of view, military action wouldn’t make sense unless it improved the situation. If it can’t do that, then it would only highlight our impotence when Iran eventually got the bomb. And that could be just as dangerous as anything we can imagine the mad mullahs doing to us.

Moran's urge for caution in our actions is well noted. But the picture changes if it becomes clear that Iran is willing to use its nukes against Israel, or if it is evident that Iran will have developed nuclear capabilities inside a few years --even if speculation is true that the unpopular regime will be ousted from power by then.

I believe that both of these possibilities are much more probable than we'd like to think. Thus it appears as though military action against Iran is inevitable. And though it may not be a prudent course of action at this particular moment, the time will be upon us soon.

Thomas Holsinger of Winds of Change makes a very strong case for a U.S.-led invasion of Iran. From the introductory section:

All the reasons for invading Iraq apply doubly to Iran, and with far greater urgency. Iran right now poses the imminent threat to America which Iraq did not in 2003. Iran may already have some nuclear weapons, purchased from North Korea or made with materials acquired from North Korea, which would increase its threat to us from imminent to direct and immediate.

Iran’s mullahs are about to produce their first home-built nuclear weapons this year. If we permit that, many other countries, some of whose governments are dangerously unstable, will build their own nuclear weapons to deter Iran and each other from nuclear attack as our inaction will have demonstrated our unwillingness to keep the peace. This rapid and widespread proliferation will inevitably lead to use of nuclear weapons in anger, both by terrorists and by fearful and unstable third world regimes, at which point the existing world order will break down and we will suffer every Hobbesian nightmare of nuclear proliferation.

Valid points to be sure, but he has much, much more to offer throughout the full scope of his article.

The Belmont Club seems to agree with Holsinger's assessment. They point to this article from the U.S. Army War College titled, "Getting Ready For A Nuclear-Ready Iran", which essentially finds that it is probably impossible for the US to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, short of a full-scale invasion.

Austin Bay has had similar thoughts. And I have as well.

Whatever our immediate course of action, it is imperative that we begin seriously considering a possible invasion of Iran, and researching what that could look like. We must also do all we can to spur the UNSC into action in the meantime, probably in the form of sanctions. But we must not, under any circumstances, sit idly by while Iran develops a nuclear arsenal. They are far too likely to share their weapons with other Islamic nations, or radical Islamist terror groups who will not hesitate to use these weapons against the United States.

Osama Returns

Al Jazeera has been playing an audio tape purported to be released by Osama bin Laden, in which he warns of upcoming attacks in America:

Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden on Thursday, saying al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce to build Iraq and Afghanistan.

The voice in the tape said heightened security measures in the United States are not the reason there have been no attacks there since Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, the reason is "because there are operations that need preparations, and you will see them," he said.

"Based on what I have said, it is better not to fight the Muslims on their land," he said. "We do not mind offering you a truce that is fair and long-term. ... So we can build Iraq and Afghanistan ... there is no shame in this solution because it prevents wasting of billions of dollars ... to merchants of war." The speaker did not give conditions for a truce in the excerpts aired by Al-Jazeera.

Did you catch that? Osama (if it's him) started out his statement by pledging further attacks on American soil, but then ended by offering the U.S. a truce. If your B.S. detector doesn't start blaring uncontrollably, consider getting it fixed.

I'm not quite sure Osama realizes this, or if he actually thinks we're just that stupid, but you can't pledge your unutterable hatred of a nation with a promise of violence against it in one sentence and then offer up a truce with that nation in the next. It just doesn't work like that. You've got to choose one way or the other.

But hypocrises aside, the tape reeks of a man who knows the end is near. Osama is obviously aware that the United States comes closer everyday to curbing the influence of his brand of terrorism, and he's running out of resources. Through strategic air strikes and well-executed missile attacks many top al-Qaeda operatives have been captured or desposed of. Thus we've cut Osama's legs out from under him, so to speak. And now he's frantic.

For a man who hates everything that America represents, it seems awful fishy that he would want to call off the war on the infidels, even temporarily, to "rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan". The fact is, he's running out of options and he's just trying to buy himself some time to regroup.

Osama would never actually keep an honest truce, just ask Spain what they got for trying to appease the terrorists:

The train bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004, killed 191. Three days later, Spaniards voted out the pro-war government and voted in the anti-war Socialists. The incoming prime minister vowed to promptly pull out Spanish troops from Iraq. Spain's reward? On April 2, 2004, Spanish authorities found a 22-pound bomb on a railway track between Madrid and Seville. And, later that year, in October, Spanish authorities foiled a plot to blow up their National Court, Spain's center for prosecuting terrorists. So much for Osama bin Laden's "offer," made a month after the Madrid train bombings, for a "truce" to any European country that stops "attacking Muslims" before a three-month deadline.

The administration, luckily, is much smarter than Spain. President Bush knows better than to give the terrorists any ground:

White House officials said the United States does not negotiate with terrorists.

"Clearly the Al Qaeda leaders and other terrorists are on the run and under a lot of pressure," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "We do not negotiate with terrorists, we put them out of business."

The MSM, however, is another story. Rather than recognizing Osama as the brutal, mass-murderer of innocents he is, they prefer to caption his photos "exhiled Saudi dissident". Forget about all that terrorist mastermind stuff, Osama is just misunderstood.

When will the MSM come to its senses? Wait, don't answer that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Dems and The GWOT

Reality bites. Hard. Perhaps that's why the Democrats are so insistent on policies and attitudes from the 9/10 world. It's much simpler to pretend that 9/11 never happened, or at least blow it off as "something in the past" that we've moved on from. But there are serious consequences for this kind of thinking. Namely, it jeopardizes the safety and well-being of every American.

I thought it was a consensus belief that political stances in the Great War On Terror that threaten the lives of Americans were not acceptable ones, but Democrats in Congress are proving me wrong everyday. From Schumer to Murtha, from Kennedy to Moran, United States Senators and Representatives from the Democratic party are pushing 9/10 policies, not 9/11 ones. They don't care about national defense. And most importantly, they don't properly realize the problems we now face in a post-9/11 world.

I could say much, much more, but Dafydd at Big Lizards seems to have beaten me to it. Here's the closing graphs of Dafydd's excellent post on the Democrats' failed approach to the GWOT:
The DemoWOT Understanding -- it sounds like a Robert Ludlum title; and that's appropriate, because it strikes me as quite childish, a way of minimizing and trivializing the very real war we find ourselves in, of turning it into the Phil Donohue or Steven Spielberg version: the Democrats make the actual GWOT simplistic, narrow, legalistic, and most important, a fight that has a "magic bullet" that will make it all go away very soon, allowing everyone to slide back to September 10th, when the issue of greatest moment was whether Bush was going to roll back the environmental "gains" of the Clinton administration... and the only American ground troops abroad wore either NATO patches or blue UN helmets.

Every attempt to expand the GWOT to include countries other than Afghanistan, no matter how logical or how well connected they are to terrorism (not only Iraq but Iran, Indonesia, Syria, North Korea, and now Venezuela, which has begun to ally itself with the lunatics in Teheran, embracing Holocaust denial and nuclear threats against America), provokes a visceral reaction among the American Left to the effect that it's all just a further distraction from the real job -- which is to scrub those Afghan mountains and arrest bin Laden.

This, I believe, is the GWOT manifestation of the core Democratic void: without universal animating principles, they are left with an ideology that is just a hastily stitched patchwork quilt, where no thought is given to an overall pattern, or even whether adjoining patches match or clash violently. But this is likewise true of the membership of the modern Democratic Party itself: members are special interests first, and Democrats only second. In that sense, fragmentation is the "natural manure" of the Democratic Party, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.

They've buttered their bread, and now they have to sleep in it. This political pointillism, more than any other defect of the Democratic Party, will keep them out of power in this country for the forseeable future.

Al Qaeda's Bomb Maker No More

Remember last week's air strike in eastern Pakistan? Well, there's some very, very good news about one of the al Qaeda terrorists who was killed during the strike:
Jan. 18, 2006 — ABC News has learned that al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week's U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan.

Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of three known al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit conference in the village of Damadola.

The United States had posted a $5 million reward for Mursi's capture. He is described by U.S. authorities as the man who ran al Qaeda's infamous Derunta training camp in Afghanistan, where he used dogs and other animals as subjects of experiments with poison and chemicals.

"This is extraordinarily important," said former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, an ABC News consultant, who was the senior agent on the FBI's al Qaeda squad. "He's the man who trained the shoe bomber, Richard Reid and Zacharias Mousssaoui, as well as hundreds of others."


(HT: Michelle Malkin, via Link Mecca)

The First Of Many?

It was only a matter of time before somebody from the left side of the aisle came to their senses. Yesterday, Sen. Nelson announced that he will vote in favor of Judge Alito:
Ben Nelson of Nebraska on Tuesday became the first Senate Democrat to announce his support of conservative Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, who is expected to be confirmed later this month by the full Republican-led Senate.
"I have decided to vote in favor of Judge Samuel Alito," Nelson, a moderate, said in a statement issued by his office.

"I came to this decision after careful consideration of his impeccable judicial credentials, the American Bar Association's strong recommendation and his pledge that he would not bring a political agenda to the court," Nelson said.

Sen. Nelson will certainly not be the only Democrat to vote in support of Judge Alito, and so expect more of these announcements to begin surfacing in the next few days. However, don't expect any such word from the typical holdouts (Kennedy, Biden, Schumer, Leahy, Durbin, Feinstein, Kerry, etc.). They know way better than to not vote the way MoveOn.org tells them to, the money is too good.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Who's Winning In Iraq

If you're not already reading Michael Yon's blog, you should be. I have him linked in the blogroll because his on-the-ground reporting from Iraq is very comprehensive, and it offers an informed perspective on Iraq from someone who is actually there. He is one of the very best embedded journalists, and his time spent with servicemen who face the enemy everyday makes his work is extremely compelling, and very real.

Based on the faith I have in his reporting on Iraq, I had to further his recommendation of a National Geographic artcle titled "Who's Winning In Iraq", by Frank Viviano. (Note: the link I've given is to an online preview of the article, but to read the whole thing you must pick up a copy of the January 2006 National Geographic). The article looks to be very well researched, and it must be if Michael Yon can label it "one of the most intelligently written pieces on Iraq [he's] ever seen."

I highly recommend the article, and Michael's blog. He has posts related to National Geographic's article titled "Fork in the Road" and "Lost in Translation", which he wrote last year while in the areas discussed in the article.

Ray Nagin, Divine Retribution, and Racism

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin claimed yesterday that Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita were signs that "God is mad at America", and furthermore at black communities in general:

Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country... Surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves.

But channeling Pat Robertson was not enough for Mayor Nagin. The mayor also promised that New Orleans will be a "chocolate" city again:
It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans.

Oh. Really. Does Nagin honestly think that it's okay to make openly racist statements? Does he think that his position in a public office justifies him making such statements? I'm scared to consider how he might answer those questions.

Aaron Matthews at The Blue State Conservatives asks us to imagine if the mayor of Salt Lake City, which is 80 percent white, had said that God wanted his city to be white. The front page story of The New York Times would be screaming about the bigotry and racism of such a statement. But because the statement came from a black mayor, you willl hear no such outrage.

What's worse? Nagin's attempted apology today, which wasn't much of an apology at all.

Nagin dug deeper on CNN:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has sought to clarify comments he made on Martin Luther King Day to the effect that New Orleans should be a "chocolate" city.

He said he had not meant that it should be an all-black metropolis, asking: "How do you make chocolate?

"You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about," he told CNN.

Oh Teddy, You're Too Much.

Somtimes, you just have to laugh at him. Especially because he actually takes himself seriously.

U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — who ripped Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for ties to a group that discriminates against women — says he’s going to quit a club notorious for discriminating against women “as fast as I can.”

Kennedy was outed by conservatives late last week as a current member of The Owl Club, a social club for Harvard alumni that bans women from membership.

In an interview with WHDH Channel 7’s Andy Hiller that aired last night, Kennedy said, “I joined when I . . . 52 years ago, I was a member of the Owl Club, which was basically a fraternal organization.”

Asked by Hiller whether he is still a member, Kennedy said, “I’m not a member; I continue to pay about $100.”

He then said of being a member in a club that discriminates against women, “I shouldn’t be and I’m going to get out of it as fast as I can.”

The Harvard Crimson reports that, in 1984, the university severed ties with clubs like the Owl, citing a federal law championed by Kennedy.

Meanwhile, Kennedy admitted to Hiller that he himself probably couldn’t pass Judiciary Committee muster.

“Probably not . . . probably not,” Kennedy said.


I guess that old Teddy K. managed to read this.

Hat tip for the article to Mary Katharine Ham, posting over at HughHewitt.com.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The New York Times, Stuck in 1984

In a act of Orwellian proportions, The New York Times has been caught faking the news. Thomas Lifson of the American Thinker has the story: "Photo Fakery at the New York Times." You can view the photo at The Reason, where Jeff Taylor first exposed the Times.

The Times' caption for the picture read:
Pakistani men with the remains of a missile fired at a house in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border.
Except the "remains of a missile" described in the photo are actually just a piece of an old artillery shell. This means that the photo was deliberately staged by those shown in it, most likely with the help of the photographer as well. Not a problem for the NY Times, however, a paper that figures if it hurts Bush it has to be the truth, and therefore fit to print.

But just like the Los Angeles Times' front page story based on a quote taken from an exposed April Fool's Joke, the NY Times has provided yet another example of why MSM reporting is unreliable. These papers have made so many "honest mistakes" in the recent past that even the less scrupulous readers of the public are catching on. It's not that the papers are experiencing an increase in "slip-ups", but instead that they are purposely running stories without proper fact-checking out of political motivations.

Walter Cronkite Pledges Defeatism

Austin Bay takes down cut-and-run guru Walter Cronkite:

Walter Cronkite is channeling John Murtha– or worse. According to the AP, Cronkite said regarding Iraq: “It’s my belief that we should get out now,” Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters.” Cronkite is a defeatist and –frankly– he’s out of touch...

Cronkite is proud of his role in the Tet Offensive. He told the American people the Vietnam war was unwinnable. Cronkite, it seems, is trying to relive the high point of his broadcast career. Unfortunately, not only is Iraq not Vietnam, the only Tet out there is his “tet”ched perception.

Go ahead and file old Walter under the same tab as Cindy Sheehan, Howard Dean, and the MoveOn.org-ers: ignorant of reality.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Washington Post Gets One Right... No, Really

For a newspaper that routinely publishes bad reporting and worse editorials, The Washington Post has finally done something sensible. Today the Post came out in support of Judge Samuel Alito, urging his confirmation to the SCOTUS:
THE SENATE'S decision concerning the confirmation of Samuel A. Alito Jr. is harder than the case last year of now-Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Judge Alito's record raises concerns across a range of areas... Yet Judge Alito should be confirmed, both because of his positive qualities as an appellate judge and because of the dangerous precedent his rejection would set.

Despite their "reservations" about Judge Alito, the editors of the Post are forced to recognize that even they can't reasonably argue against him. Furthermore, they point out to key facts: first, blocking Alito's confirmation for ideological reasons would be a silly move by Senate Democrats, as this would set a very dangerous precedent, and second, the picture the Dems tried to paint of Alito is simply irresponsible and false:
...Some attacks on [Alito] by Democratic senators and liberal interest groups have misrepresented his jurisprudence.
and:
However one reasonably defines the "mainstream" of contemporary jurisprudence, Judge Alito's work lies within it.

These are important observations, and credit to the Post for making them. But the key to the entire article is found in the following graph:
Judge Alito is superbly qualified. His record on the bench is that of a thoughtful conservative, not a raging ideologue. He pays careful attention to the record and doesn't reach for the political outcomes he desires. His colleagues of all stripes speak highly of him. His integrity, notwithstanding efforts to smear him, remains unimpeached.

The writing is on the wall, and has been for quite some time. Judge Alito will be easily confirmed in both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate vote this week. But even while big MSM outlets like the Post are throwing in the towel, don't expect any such action from big-wig Dems like Kennedy, Biden, Schumer, Leahy, etc. They're too far over the cliff to get caught up in facing reality. Nonetheless, it will be reassuring sight indeed to see Judge Alito become Justice Alito.