Friday, February 10, 2006

Secretary Rumsfeld Warns Syria and Iran

The administration is ratcheting up its rhetoric with Syria and Iran:

TAORMINA, Sicily (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, days after calling Iran the world's top state sponsor of terrorism, ratcheted up the pressure on Tehran on Friday with fresh accusations of interference in Iraq.

Rumsfeld, in Taormina, Sicily, for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, used an appearance in Europe for the second time in a week to talk tough over Iran, which the United States and European Union fear is covertly developing nuclear weapons.

Asked during a news conference about U.S. assertions that Iran, as well as Syria, supports insurgents in Iraq, Rumsfeld said: "We have undertaken a series of initiatives to try to persuade them that their behavior is harmful to a new Iraqi government and indeed harmful to the region. Thus far we've not been successful."

"I think they're making a mistake," Rumsfeld said, "although I can certainly understand that from their standpoint having a free and sovereign and democratic Iraq on their borders probably is not terribly encouraging to their type of government. So I can understand their resistance to that."

The message to Syria and Iran appears to be: "Don't do anything stupid, because the United States will be there to catch you when you do, and we'll be sure to make you answer for you wrongdoings."

This seems quite appropriate to me. Although it is highly unlikely that this threat alone will be enough to stop either of the rogue nations.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Regime Change In Iran?

The United States and Britain are discussing democratic regime change for Iran:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American and British diplomats held talks this week on ways to promote democracy in Iran amid concern that Tehran is skillfully exploiting a row over it’s nuclear ambitions to fan anti-Western hostility, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The discussions in Washington involved Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who is coordinating U.S. policy on Iran, and British diplomats who are serving or have served in Tehran, the officials and diplomats told Reuters...

American and British officials are leaning to the view that the West must create links with Iranians who oppose the Islamic cleric-led government of President Mohammad Ahmadinejad and are receptive to democracy.

“Obviously there is increasing interest both on Capitol Hill and in the administration in seeing what actually could be done to strengthen civil society in Iran,” said a British diplomat.

Never forget about that military option. I've commented on the invasion/regime change of Iran before (here, here, and here), and most of my thoughts on the issue remain the same.

Publius offers this insight:

This is very good news for both the international community as well as the Iranian people. The benefit for us is that we won’t have to worry about a hostile Iran with nuclear weapons, and the benefit for them is that they get to live in a free society. It works both ways. The only criticism I have of this policy is that it should have been implemented much, much sooner.

This seems very valid, though I don't think an invasion of Iran pursuant of a regime change --especially in light of the GWOT, Afghanistan, and Iraq-- was very plausible in recent years. That being said, the threat of a nuclear Iran looms larger everday, and a more serious consideration of the invasion and regime change of Iran is very necessary.

West Coast al Qaeda Plot Thwarted

In a speech earlier today, President Bush revealed that the U.S. had successfully stopped a terrorist plot to crash airplanes into a Los Angeles skyscraper in 2002.

Since Septemeber 11th, the United States and our coalition partners have disrupted a number of serious al Qaeda terrorist plots, including plots to attack targets inside the United States.
Let me give you an example:

In the weeks after September 11th, while Americans were still recovering from an unprecedented strike on our homeland, al Qaeda was already busy planning its next attack. We now know that in October 2001, Khalid Sheik Muhammed, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door, and fly the plan into the tallest building on the West Coast.

We believe the intended target was Liberty Tower [Library Tower], in Los Angeles, California.

Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on September 11th, Khalid Sheik Muhammed sought out young men from Southeast Asia, whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion. To help carry out his plan, he tapped a terrorist named Hambali, one of the leaders of an al Qaeda affiliated group in Southeast Asia called J-I [Jemaah Islamiya]. J-I terrorists were responsible for a series of deadly attacks in Southeast Asia, and members of the group had trained with al Qaeda. Hambali recruited several key operatives, who had been training in Afghanistan. Once the operatives were recruited, they met with Usama bin Laden, and then began preparations for the West Coast attack.

Their plot was derailed in early 2002, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative. Subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target, and how al Qaeda hoped to execute it. This critical intelligence helped other allies capture the ringleaders, and other known operatives who had been recruited for this plot.

The West Coast plot had been thwarted.

This is the kind of information that you knew was out there, but just couldn't confirm. By providing this information to the public, the Bush administration is attempting to show Americans not only how serious the threat from al Qaeda is, but also how crucial a continued support for the GWOT must be.

Later in the speech, the president praised the effectiveness of the GWOT in stopping attacks on American soil, but warned that the threat from al Qaeda is still very much a threat:

Bush said the U.S.-led global war on terror has "weakened and fractured" al-Qaida and allied groups, outlining as proof new details about the multinational cooperation that foiled the purported terrorist plans.

"The terrorists are living under constant pressure and this adds to our security," Bush said. "When terrorists spend their days working to avoid death or capture, it's harder for them to plan and execute new attacks on our country. By striking the terrorists where they live, we're protecting the American homeland."

But the president said the anti-terror battle is far from over.

"The terrorists are weakened and fractured, yet they're still lethal," the president said in a speech at the National Guard Memorial Building. "We cannot let the fact that America hasn't been attacked in 41/2 years since September the 11th lull us into the illusion that the threats to our nation have disappeared. They have not."

The White House has also released a "Top Ten" list of foiled terrorist attacks since 2001. Here's a sampling:

2. East Coast airliner plot:

In mid-2003 the United States and a partner disrupted a plot to use hijacked commercial airplanes to attack targets on the East Coast of the United States.

3. The Jose Padilla plot:

In May 2002 the United States disrupted a plot that involved blowing up apartment buildings in the United States. One of the alleged plotters, Jose Padilla, allegedly discussed the possibility of using a "dirty bomb" inside the United States. Bush has designated him an "enemy combatant."

6. Heathrow Airport plot:

In 2003 the United States and several partners disrupted a plot to attack London's Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airliners. The planning for this alleged attack was undertaken by a major operational figure in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Maintaining solid domestic support for the GWOT is half the battle, and with the careless national security stances of Democrats who attempt daily to undermine the administrations efforts, it becomes very difficult. Alerting the public to importance of the ongoing GWOT, and providing examples of its successes, should be a serious talking point for the administration for many months to come.

The Dems are weak on national security, and the public needs to know about it. The public must also be made aware that its support for the GWOT is non-negotiable, as is its support for the NSA's terrorist surveillance program and the Patriot Act. Without these things, some or all of these terrorist attacks could have succeeded.

And that is something that no American should be prepared to allow.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Porkbusters Update

John McCain has announced he will introduce a new earmark reform bill:

From Senator McCain's office comes a transcript of his testimony before the Senate Rules Committee, in which he announces specifics on a bill to be proposed tomorrow to allow any member to challenge earmarks in any bill:

Tomorrow I will introduce a modified version of that proposal. I will be joined in this bipartisan effort by Senators Feingold, Coburn, Bayh, Sununu, Graham, Ensign, DeMint, and Kyl.

Our bill, entitled the Pork-Barrel Reduction Act, would establish a new procedure under Rule XVI, modeled in part after the Byrd Rule, which would allow a 60-vote point of order to be raised against specific provisions that contain unauthorized appropriations, including earmarks, as well as unauthorized policy changes in appropriations bills and conference reports. Of importance is that successful points of order would not kill a conference report, but the targeted provisions would be deemed removed from the conference report, and the measure would be sent back for concurrence by the House...

In summary, this proposed rules change, if adopted, would allow any member to raise a point of order in an effort to extract objectionable unauthorized provisions from the appropriations process. Our goal is to reform the current system by empowering all members with a tool to rid appropriations bills of unauthorized funds, pork barrel projects, and legislative policy riders and to provide greater public disclosure of the legislative process.

Now that's a step in the right direction. (HT: Instapundit)

More On the Cartoon Wars

A very striking point comes from this Washington Times Editorial:

The spontaneous appearance over the past few days of dozens of Danish flags ready for the burning raises further questions about where the flags came from.

A lot of this "spontaneity" was clearly staged. The cartoons gained a wider audience when radical Danish clerics toured the Middle East last month, showing the offending cartoons to the heads of several of the major Islamist groups in the region. Just in case the originals weren't offensive enough, the clerics also supplied a few of their own cartoons, ever more inflammatory, and said they sprang from the pens of the infidels. One of the clerics, Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Ladan, explained in an interview that the tour was meant to "internationalize this issue." The clerics told their hosts that Muslims do not have the right to build mosques in Denmark, and repeated other ridiculous lies to foment discord and ridicule the Danish government.

The radical clerics in Denmark have succeeded, a fact pundits and analysts on both sides have largely missed. The focus has been on the assault on freedom of expression in the name of religious tolerance, as it should be, but that was not what Abu Ladan and his travelers had in mind when they toured the Middle East. They wanted to create a groundswell of discontent among Muslims in Europe, put pressure on Denmark -- and other nations -- to abide by sharia law and to build a sympathetic base for further terrorist attacks. The placards of British Muslims, demanding more "7/7s," a reference to the London subway bombings on July 7, went straight to the point of the clerics' Middle East tour. This was an exercise in agitprop to further the goals of Islamofascism, and it worked.

This raises again the issue of the Syria-Iran factor. The involvement of these two governments in the riots and protests over the Danish cartoons becomes ever more apparent as events are unfolding. Austin Bay captures this concept well:

The Danish “Cartoon War” is an information warfare operation by conducted Islamist terror groups and at least two Middle Eastern dictatorships (Syria and Iran).

Understaning this key fact is central to understanding the significance of the issue, and without a grasp of this concept, it is not possible to adequately address the situation. President Bush appears to have caught on:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush condemned the deadly rioting sparked by cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on Wednesday, and his secretary of state accused Iran and Syria of trying "to inflame sentiments" across the Muslim world.

Bush urged foreign leaders to halt the spreading violence and to protect diplomats in besieged embassies.

Seeing the Syria-Iran connection is to see just how significant the uproar over the cartoons is to the War on Terror. The MSM may not see this, but the stakes are high indeed.

In his column today, Tony Blankley offers some insightful commentary on the cartoons. Notably, he suggests that there is no end to the causes of the West that offend the radical Islamists. The people who call for understanding and sensitivity in dealing with the extreme reactions of fanatical Muslims do not understand what is happening, and they do not understand the stakes.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Saddam and WMDs

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence wants to revisit the issue of whether or not Saddam Hussein had WMDs in late 2002. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the chair of the committee, argues that untranslated documents implicate Saddam actually had the WMDs just prior to the UN debates on invading Iraq: (HT: Captain Ed)

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is studying 12 hours of audio recordings between Saddam Hussein and his top advisers that may provide clues to the whereabouts of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The committee has already confirmed through the intelligence community that the recordings of Saddam's voice are authentic, according to its chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who would not go into detail about the nature of the conversations or their context. They were provided to his committee by a former federal prosecutor, John Loftus, who says he received them from a former American military intelligence analyst.

Mr. Loftus will make the recordings available to the public on February 17 at the annual meeting of the Intelligence Summit, of which he is president. On the organization's Web site, Mr. Loftus is quoted as promising that the recordings "will be able to provide a few definitive answers to some very important - and controversial - weapons of mass destruction questions." Contacted yesterday by The New York Sun, Mr. Loftus would only say that he delivered a CD of the recordings to a representative of the committee, and the following week the committee announced that it was reopening the investigation into weapons of mass destruction.

The audio recordings are part of new evidence the House intelligence committee is piecing together that has spurred Mr. Hoekstra to reopen the question of whether Iraq had the biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons American inspectors could not turn up. President Bush called off the hunt for those weapons last year and has conceded that America has yet to find evidence of the stockpiles.

Mr. Hoekstra has already met with a former Iraqi air force general, Georges Sada, who claims that Saddam used civilian airplanes to ferry chemical weapons to Syria in 2002. Mr. Hoekstra is now talking to Iraqis who Mr. Sada claims took part in the mission, and the congressman said the former air force general "should not just be discounted." Mr. Hoekstra also said he is in touch with other people who have come forward to the committee - Iraqis and Americans - who claim that the weapons inspectors may have overlooked other key sites and evidence. He has also asked the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, to declassify some 35,000 boxes of Iraqi documents obtained in the war that have yet to be translated.

Many politicians would rather not revisit the issue, and leave it as a "case-closed" status. However, it is very important that we discover the truth. As Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has noted, there are mountains of evidence in the form of untranslated documents that could reveal a great deal of vital information about Saddam's regime prior to the U.S. invasion. Evidence that Hayes has cited as potentially revealing the link between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda.

Regardless of whether or not these untranslated documents reveal anything, there is enough of a chance that they might reveal something to warrant a full investigation of what they have to offer. The truth deserves to be found, and we should act accordingly.

Furthermore, as Ed Morrissey points out, if we happen to discover that the WMDs did in fact exist, we will have crucial information that could be used in discovering their whereabouts. If the WMDs exist, but are unaccounted for, we must undertake a very serious search to find them, and the sooner the better.

What A Shame

A woman who represented one of the most important and influential movements in American history deserves more respect than this:

Today's memorial service for civil rights activist Coretta Scott King -- billed as a "celebration" of her life -- turned suddenly political as one former president took a swipe at the current president, who was also lashed by an outspoken black pastor.

The outspoken Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, ripped into President Bush during his short speech, ostensibly about the wife of Martin Luther King Jr...

Former President Jimmy Carter later swung at Bush as well, not once but twice. As he talked about the Kings, he said: "It was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps."

Thankfully, not everyone turned Coretta Scott King's memorial service into a political battleground. President Bush stayed on topic, and gave Mrs. King the memorial she deserved:

President Bush, leading the nation in celebrating the life of Coretta Scott King, praised the civil rights leader for enduring extraordinary pain and loss to give generations of people "a better, more welcoming country."

"We knew Mrs. King in all the seasons, and there was grace and beauty in every season," Bush said at a New Birth Missionary Baptist Church service Tuesday that was attended by four presidents and a crowd of thousands.

"As a great movement of history took shape," Bush said, "her dignity was a daily rebuke to the pettiness and cruelty of segregation"...

"Coretta had every right to count the costs and step back from the struggle," the president said. "But she decided that her children needed more than a safe home — they needed an America that upheld their equality and wrote their rights into law. And because this young mother and father were not intimidated, millions of children they would never meet are now living in a better more welcoming country."

Yesterday's NSA Hearings In Ten Minutes

Pajamas Media has a brief, ten-miute video recapping the events from yesterday's hearings in the Judiciary Committee about the NSA's terrorist surveillance program. Included is film of Alberto Gonzales' performance before the committee, interviews with various senators (including John Cornyn), and some coverage of Paul Mirengoff's questions to Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin.

The video does a good wrap-up job of the significant points of yesterday, and hits on many aspects of the hearings that weren't covered by MSM. Watch the video, and stay online with PJ for continued coverage of the hearings.

Also, here's an important post on Senator John Kyl's contributions to the hearings. During his questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Sen. Kyl did a superb job of framing the debate and reiterating the Bush Administration's position.

A Garden of Eden?

Scientists hail the discovery of hundreds of new species in a remote part of New Guinea:

An astonishing mist-shrouded "lost world" of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists.

Among the new species of birds, frogs, butterflies and palms discovered in the expedition through this pristine environment, untouched by man, was the spectacular Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise. The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a "Garden of Eden".

Monday, February 06, 2006

Childish Games

This is the sort of churlish adolescent response that lacks both respect and maturity:

IRAN'S largest selling newspaper announced today it was holding a contest on cartoons of the Holocaust in response to the publishing in European papers of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

"It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," said Farid Mortazavi, the graphics editor for Hamshahri newspaper - which is published by Teheran's conservative municipality.

He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression.

"The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he said.

Turning the offensive cartoons into a basis off which to begin a teenage game of one-upsmanship is a sophmoric and irresponsible decision.

Publishing cartoons with the specific intent of offending the Jewish people and the West is just as reprehensible as publishing cartoons designed to offend Muslims. It is certainly still the right of the paper to pursue this course of action, but it is incredibly base and all but the mark of a sophisticated society.

I am stunned that such a response is actually being explored. But then again, after the weekend's embassy burnings, I guess it shouldn't come as much of a shocker.

That being said, this response cannot be seen as characteristic of the Muslim community as a whole, which I believe is above these kinds of tactics, much in the same way that the vast majority of the Christian community is not gung-ho about bombing abortion clinics.

Nonetheless, there are responsible ways to deal with offensive material, and this is not one of them.

The NSA Hearings

Start with the most recent background from John Hinderaker at Power Line.

Then read Atorney General Alberto Gonzales' most recent defense of the NSA surveillance progam at the WSJ. Key quote from Gonzales:

The terrorist surveillance program is necessary. It is lawful and it respects the civil liberties we all cherish...To end the program now would be to afford our enemy dangerous and potentially deadly new room for operation within our own borders.

After that prep work, you'll be ready for Pajamas Media's comprehensive coverage of the NSA hearings. Note the video of the verbal exchange between Power Line's Paul Mirengoff and Democractic Senator Dick Durbin. Sen. Durbin is certainly not reading the blogs. (Here's Paul's Post on his encounter).

As Paul thrusted at Sen. Durbin, if the Dems have discrepancies with the aministration's understanding of what AUMF authorizes, why don't the push a resolution to have terms defined? Or better yet, why not push a floor vote to see whether the Senate thinks listening to calls from al Qaeda to the U.S. is an appropriate and valuable way to prevent further terrorist attacks?

The Dems won't make this move, however, because a vote of this nature would expose their lack of a basic concern for national security.