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I will be on two radio shows this morning.

At around 8:20 AM Central, I’ll be on the “Morning News Show with Pat Snyder and Tom King.” It airs on WSAU News Radio 55 (No stream available).

Then at around 10:20 Central, I’ll be on Greg Allen’s nationally syndicated show “The Right Balance.” You can access the stream here.

On both shows, I’ll be talking about PJ Media’s coverage of the presidential races as well as the controversy over the GOP participation in the YouTube debate

By: Rick Moran at 7:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

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Everyone else is writing about the article in the New York Times by O’Hanlon and Pollack so I might as well throw my two cents in as well.

O’Hanlon you might recall is the Brookings Fellow who advocates a “soft partition” of Iraq into Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish areas. In this scenario, our boys would be like traffic cops, herding the hundreds of thousands of refugees kicked out of their ancestoral homes and foced by this “soft partition” to move to their designated sectarian area.

Pollack is an equally blooded academic who has been a supporter of our efforts in Iraq since the beginning.

They make news today because they believe “sustainable stability” in Iraq is a possibility:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Now there’s a battle cry for you: “Forward to ‘Sustainable Stability!” I actually liked the Baker-Hamilton rouser “We must find some way to Mitigate Defeat!” Has more of a ring to it, don’t you think?

If we are not going to ask men to die for victory, time to change the broken record being played by Bush and others and let the Iraqis die for it. It’s their country. Let it be their victory.

Let me re-iterate what I have said a million times here; the surge is going well. We are making excellent progress. Our men are performing brilliantly in all facets of this multi-pronged strategy – military, diplomatic, reconstruction, and political. The Iraqi army is lagging somewhat but signs of progress are there as well.

But the National Police remain a cesspool of corruption and sectarianism. Shia and Sunni death squads are still chalking up a significant body count in Baghdad – at least 20 deaths are attributed to one or the other every day. The low intensity Shia on Shia civil war in the south continues. The borders with Iran and Syria still resemble swiss cheese, thus supplying al-Qaeda with fresh cannon fodder for our boys and the Sunni insurgents with arms.

Up north, the Kurdish terrorists of the PPK are driving Ankara nuts with the danger of an invasion by the Turks growing not receding. Also in the north, the disease of suicide bombings has broken out in places like Mosul where previously, there was peace. Kirkuk could very well be the next flashpoint as that vital oil center is seeing an increase in militia attacks, sectarian murders, and the inevitable revenge killings.

(Note: I ain’t making this stuff up.)

This is the tip of the iceberg of course. So much more is going on beneath the surface in Iraq. The shattered national polity will not grow back on its own. And few are making an effort to heal the breaches in Iraqi society.

Among those who count – Prime Minister Maliki’s cabinet and the legislature – there is even less movement and desire to affect a reconcilation with the rest of the country.

We can kill al-Qaeda till the cows come home. We can arm the Sunnis to fight the terrorists (hoping to God those guns aren’t turned on us in the future) as well as defend themselves from Shia depradations. We can keep a lid on most of the death squads and militias. But the hard slogging work of actually building a country out of the mess we and the Iraqis themselves have made there is not our job. It can’t be. And until the Iraqis decide to stop killing each other and begin talking, all of our wonderful and courageous efforts in the field will be for naught.

If the best we can hope for at this point is “sustainable stability” – and I doubt that this is really possible on a nationwide scale – then it’s time to change the plan to reflect that reality. There is no military victory to be had. If Bush and the rest of you believe that, I might ask victory against who? Against what? To what end?

I wish it weren’t so. But if we are to save Iraq when the political consensus collapses in September, it’s time for Bush to get busy and deal with the Democrats – at least the ones still willing to listen. Otherwise, it will become a disaster.

By: Rick Moran at 1:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

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CATEGORY: Ethics, The Law

If you haven’t heard about it, a free speech controversy is about ready to erupt that is going to make the Mohamed cartoon imbroglio look like a walk around the Ka’aba.

A 23 year old and Ukranian immigrant, Stanislav Shmulevich of Brooklyn, has been charged with two felony counts for throwing a Koran into a toilet on two separate occasions. The incidents occurred last year when Shmulevich was a senior at Pace University in New York. He left school a couple of credits short of graduating and now works for an international banking firm in New York city.

There are a couple of aspects to this matter that need clarification before a definitive judgment can be made about Shmulevich’s actions. First, what was his intent? If it was to show his disgust for the Islamic faith and knowingly hurt Muslims by tossing what they see as the word of God into a toilet, he should definitely be criticized as an ignorant lout.

But a felon? And this is where the second missing piece of information that will allow us to judge the situation rationally comes into play; just what is it the prosecutor hopes to accomplish?

Ignoramus or not, the fellow was making a statement expressing his beliefs. And Michelle Malkin (in what is sure to be the most controversial post of the day) asks the right question. Using some powerful visual examples, she wonders “Which of these is a crime in America?”

A) Submerging a crucifix in a jar of urine.
B) Burning the American flag.
C) Putting a Koran in a toilet.

And yes, she has a picture of a Koran in a toilet.

Michelle will no doubt be vilified by the usual suspects who will almost certainly miss her larger point for posting such a disturbing image. Malkin haters don’t do nuance nor do they grant Michelle the same luxury of being a controversialist as they do their own rabble rousers on the left.

The crucifix in urine is but one example of the outrageous anti-Christian “art” that has been shown over the last decade or so. What was the “intent” of the artist in creating such a display? Nothing less than to knowingly inflict emotional pain on those who believe in Christ as God. Artistic expression is rightly protected under the first amendment. But if we are going to use the standard of a Koran in the toilet provoking the exact same reaction among Muslims as the crucifix in urine did to Christians, why does one form of expression get a pass and the other doesn’t?

Isn’t this what the first amendment was created to protect? It doesn’t matter that your idea of free speech is different than mine. The first amendment guarantee is that all speech (with very limited exceptions) – yours, mine, and Mr. Shmulevich – is protected regardless of its affect on others.

Or it was anyway. Now we have “hate crime” statutes where we ask prosecutors, judges, and juries to play at being psychic in order to reach into the mind of defendants and glean their “intent” in committing an act.

If that act is to do violence against someone for their race, creed, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, the defendant is judged more harshly and receives a longer prison term for what was in his mind at the time he committed the crime. This may be an efficacious rationale for protecting the lives and health of minorities through deterrence although I have yet to see any statistics that would lead me to believe this is so. What disgusts me is the shameless pandering by politicians in passing hate crime legislation in the first place. Posturing to win votes by playing to the interests of special pleaders is not a good way to make law under any circumstances.

And Mr. Shmulevich’s case is a perfect example. Using hate crime legislation to deal with violence against another for who they are is one thing. But using the statute to prosecute people who offend someone’s beliefs? This is an entirely different kettle of fish for which we are about to have a much needed and long overdue debate.

Does one have a right not to be offended in America? Or are only certain groups granted that right? If I write “Muslim go home” on a bathroom wall at a Christan church, can I be tried for a hate crime? Or, if a Muslim spits on a bible and burns it, is he subject to the exact same standard of justice if it was a Christian doing the same thing?

Instead of over generalizing, let’s look at this specific case involving Mr. Shmulevich. He’s a devout Jew who actually defended the Koran when the first instance of its desecration came to light 10 months ago:

The suspect’s roommate in Gravesend, Brooklyn, said she was stunned by the charges.

“It’s impossible. He was defending the Koran,” said Ola Petrovich, 24, an online saleswoman. “We had that conversation. He said, ‘Don’t criticize the Koran if you haven’t read it.’

“Why would he do something so stupid?”


“He read the Koran,” she continued. “He was telling me, ‘You should read it.’ He’s Jewish, but he’s theologically sound. Both his parents are ballistic over this.”

The Korans Mr. Shmulevich threw in the toilet were school property taken from a “meditation room” on campus. Now I’m not a lawyer and will make no attempt to analyze the legal issues regarding this case. But Allah has the language of the statutes under which Mr. Shmulevich is being charged with a hate crime and to these layman’s eyes, it is perplexing to me why the prosecutor would be charging Mr. Shmulevich under either of these statutes. Instead, it appears to be a case where the prosecutor files more serious charges in hopes the defendant will plead to lesser ones.

Charge him with stealing the Korans, yes. Perhaps even charge him with a misdemeanor for vandalizing school property. But charging the man with two felony counts under dubious circumstances smacks of prosecutorial overkill.

Beyond the legal troubles of Mr. Shmulevich, there is the issue of double standards in the equal application of the law. Evidently, the law views artistic expression in a different light than other free speech issues. A crucifix in urine and putting a Koran in the toilet being done for the exact same reasons are evidently seen as separate matters all because the individual who placed the crucifix in urine says he is an artist and actually received grant money for the piece from the National Endowment for the Arts. In this case, “intent” becomes meaningless because the artist – Andres Serrano – is protected by virtue of tradition and law regarding art and the necessarily broad definition of it.

There is a strong sense among conservatives that this double standard is patently and grossly unfair. How can you protect one form of speech and prosecute another when the intent is similar? So far, there has been no case that I know of where a Muslim or anyone else has been prosecuted for desecrating the bible in this country although this fellow appears to have equalled Mr. Shmulevich’s act. I’m sure “Vile Blasphemer” would argue that he’s either engaging in satire or other forms of free expression that would protect him from the zealous prosecutor who is currently after Mr. Shmulevich. But does it really matter that much if Shmulevich was deadly serious in his protest? Suppose his defense is he was just trying to be funny? Are we to believe that this should be a mitigating factor when determining if a hate crime has been committed?

It seems to me we have not thought through all the ramifications of hate crime legislation of this type. When we skirt this close to punishing people for expressing their most passionately held beliefs – even if those beliefs offend – everyone loses a little freedom. Perhaps the statutes are drawn too broadly. In any event, an act such as that carried out by Stanislav Shmulevich must be seen in the same context we would view anyone exercising their rights granted under the first amendment. To do less, weakens the first amendment and consequently, our most cherished and fundamental freedoms.

By: Rick Moran at 8:22 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (31)

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A faithful liberal reader of this site sent me an email asking me to do a post on the charges of perjury being leveled against the Attorney General of the United States. He was extremely worried about the implications such charges had for the country:

As a citizen, the implications of the alleged behavior terrify me. Most Conservatives I personally know don’t defend Mr. Gonzales, but they essentially get off the topic as quickly as possible.

To me, “Rightwing” always had a connotation of Rebellion against Government. If anybody was going to use a shotgun to tell a government official to get off their property, it sure as hell wasn’t a liberal. The very likely extension of the perjury (if true), would have unbelievably damning implications for the W Bush Administration—the type of implications that I would have assumed would have “Rightwing” conservatives stocking up on ammo.

Excellent insight – save the shotgun toting conservative telling the “government” to get off his land. As a metaphor for conservatives wishing to have government take a back seat in people’s lives, it’s fine. However, I’m not sure even a liberal wouldn’t stand up to the government if they felt their private property was threatened.

“Mike” is correct about the right’s relationship with Gonzalez. As with just about anything regarding the Bush Administration these days, he is very difficult to defend. And I don’t think it’s necessarily because of what he’s done as a member of the Administration. One problem is that he may be the most incoherent public official I’ve ever heard. His testimony before Congress on just about anything reveals a man who can’t seem to finish a thought before moving on to the next one. This causes all sorts of problems. It is amazing how many times he is asked to clarify or repeat something simply because it is so difficult to follow his meandering, disjointed responses.

Incoherence is not a criminal offense. Neither is incompetence. But the way the firing of 8 US Attorneys was handled does not reflect well on Gonzalez and his management style. Allowing so much leeway to subordinates in such an important matter and then not being aware of what they were doing (if you believe that) bespeaks a boss without much of a clue as to what was going on in his own office.

The fact is, the Administration has sought to politicize the Department of Justice as they have tried to stamp politics on most every other aspect of government. Of course, few President’s politicized their Justice Department more than Clinton. And given the angry, partisan mood in Congress, this may be the wave of the future for Presidents; taking what used to be a semi-independent cabinet department and turning it in to an adjunct to the White House. In fact, since the Carter Administration, DOJ has progressively become less and less independent with the Clinton Administration going over the top in making Justice just another federal agency.

Anyone remember Johnnie Chung, Charlie Trie and the slew of illegal fundraising cases that the Clinton Justice Department, according to an Inspector General’s audit did not handle correctly? Ties to Chinese intelligence, money laundering at a Buddhist Temple, Commerce Department waivers in exchange for cash – all of these cases were either not pursued or followed up. Clearly, Democrats have extremely short memories about politicizing DOJ actions in the wake of Clinton Administration’s outrageous fundraising activities.

But that’s in the past. What we have today is an Attorney General who can’t seem to explain to Congress the various intelligence activities being carried out by the NSA to catch terrorists before they can strike here in the US. Part of that is certainly the fact that much of it is classified (something the AG offered to clarify in closed session – Democrats refused, wanting their circus to be televised). But beyond that, Gonzalez can’t seem to summon the coherence to differentiate between the already acknowledged “Terrorist Surveillance Program” and “other intelligence activities” being carried out by NSA.

Here is the basis for what the Democrats are calling perjury. They point to Gonzalez testimony in May on the visit to John Ashcroft’s hospital bed to re-authorize the terrorist surveillance program. The story was told by James Comey who, due to Ashcroft’s illness, was Acting AG at the time. He refused to sign off on what appeared to be a routine re-authorization of the program. And other top DOJ officials and career DOJ attorneys threatened to resign if it was given the go ahead without modifying some of its technical aspects.

Ashcroft preferred allowing his deputy Comey to do his duty because he was in no shape physically (as the left likes to paint the picture, Ashcroft was being browbeaten into approving something while on his deathbed). As Comey testified, he and Ashcroft had decided the morning the AG went into the hospital not to re-authorize the program. Not being aware of this, the White House’s Andy Card and Gonzalez went to the hospital hoping the AG would over ride what they thought was Comey’s decision.

Be that as it may, Gonzalez testified in May that what was being sought from the AG was a re-authorization of the already revealed NSA program and that there was no dispute over that “program” (the word “program” is important as we shall soon see), that the dispute was over another related classified program. Gonzalez exact words:

“[t]here has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations, which I cannot get into.”

It turns out today, that the “other matters” involved in the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program related to a massive, legal, data mining operation:

A fierce dispute within the Bush administration in early 2004 over a National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program was related to concerns about the NSA’s searches of huge computer databases, the New York Times reported today.

The agency’s data mining was also linked to a dramatic chain of events in March 2004, including threats of resignation from senior Justice Department officials and an unusual nighttime visit by White House aides to the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, the Times reported, citing current and former officials briefed on the program.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, one of the aides who went to the hospital, was questioned closely about that episode during a contentious Senate hearing on Tuesday. Gonzales characterized the internal debate as centering on “other intelligence activities” than the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program, whose existence President Bush confirmed in December 2005.

Data mining is not illegal as long as the identity of the person whose records are being mined is not captured or revealed – we think. I use that caveat because no one knows exactly how the NSA data mining operation – carried out as a part of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program – actually worked. The speculation on why DOJ attorneys balked at re-authorization of the program at that time centers around the idea that although the data mining was legal, what the NSA wanted to do with the results may have crossed the line of legality.

So is the data mining operation a different “program?” If so, that would seem to put Gonzalez in the clear as far as perjury charges are concerned:

The report of a data mining component to the dispute suggests that Gonzales’s testimony could be correct. A group of Senate Democrats, including two who have been privy to classified briefings about the NSA program, called last week for a special prosecutor to consider perjury charges against Gonzales.

The report also provides further evidence that the NSA surveillance operation was far more extensive than has been acknowledged by the Bush administration, which has consistently sought to describe the program in narrow terms and to emphasize that the effort was legal.

Again, this goes back to Mr. Gonzalez incoherence in trying to differentiate between the NSA efforts at terrorist surveillance (where one party in the communication was overseas and the other here in America) and the massive collection of data which all took place in the US with the cooperation of phone giants like AT&T and Sprint. They allowed NSA to tap into their “switching stations” in order to feed the monster computers who were chewing on trillions of bits of information in order to discern patterns of communication that could have led to a terrorist cell in this country.

But if the data mining were a part of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, how can they be two separate programs?

I think the most logical explanation is that they were separately reauthorized by DOJ, although probably at the same time. Separate paperwork could mean a separate program to many bureaucrats even though on the surface, it would appear to a lay person that both were part of the same program.

Another logical but unprovable explanation is that the technical aspects of the data mining operation were handled by a different entity than NSA. ABLE DANGER’s data mining was done in Florida out of the headquarters for Special Operations. Whether such a distinction would legally constitute a separate “program,” I haven’t a clue.

Marty Lederman has another explanation:

There was some sort of data mining program going on. Probably not of content, almost certainly not content reviewed by humans. That is to say, it involved computers searching through “meta-data” related to calls and e-mails, looking for certain patterns that might suggest connections to Al Qaeda or to suspicious activity that might be terrorism-related. (I have my theories as to what the programs might have been looking for, but don’t want to get into such speculation in this forum. And in any case, my theories are probably way off.)

This data-mining indicated that it might be valuable to do more targeted searches of particular communications “pipelines” (John Yoo’s phrase), looking for more specific information. But that’s where FISA came in. In order to target a particular U.S. person, or to wiretap a particular “facility,” FISA requires that the NSA demonstrate to the FISA court probable cause to believe (i) that the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, and (ii) that each of the facilities or places at which the electronic surveillance is directed is being used, or is about to be used, by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. 50 U.S.C. 1805(a)(3).

Perhaps, as John Yoo suggests in his book, FISA would have prohibited following up on the leads revealed by the data mining with more targeted wiretaps of suspicious “channels” or “pipelines,” “because we would have no specific al Qaeda suspects, and thus no probable cause.”

Besides all of this, Tom McGuire points out that it would be virtually impossible to make any perjury charges against Gonzalez stick for the simple reason that to do so would expose massive amounts of classified details about our intelligence gather efforts:

Let me ask an obvious question that seems to have eluded some of our Senators and is not broached by the Times – how in the world is a perjury prosecution going to proceed without a massive declassification of these classified and presumably ongoing programs? Will the jury and the public see what Sen. Feingold saw?

The greymail issue was reported by the Times in the context of the Libby trial, so let’s use their definition (if not their spelling):

Graymail is the practice of discouraging a prosecution from proceeding by contending that a defendant may need to disclose classified or sensitive information as part of a full defense. Such an approach can force the government to choose between dropping the prosecution or allowing the information to be disclosed at a trial.

In the Libby case the classified issues were somewhat tangential to the question of whether Libby lied about his interaction with various reporters, but in the Gonzales situation, I can’t imagine how a jury could rule on whether this reasonably be characterized as more than one program without a fair amount of information about the underlying activities.

God knows what a determined Democratic Congress would be willing to do in order to get Gonzalez. But I think McGuire has a good point; the downside in revealing classified data would probably prevent even the Democrats from trying to make the case.

Josh Marshall is unconvinced and believes there’s much more lurking beneath the surface that the White House is desperate to cover up:

As you can see, we now have the first hint of what was at the center of the Ashcroft hospital room showdown. According to the New York Times, what the White House calls the ‘terrorist surveillance [i.e., warrantless wiretap] program’ originally included some sort of largescale data mining.

I don’t doubt that this is true as far as it goes. But this must only scratch the surface because, frankly, at least as presented, this just doesn’t account for the depth of the controversy or the fact that so many law-and-order DOJ types were willing to resign over what was happening. Something’s missing.

Marshall is speculating based on his take of the Bush Administration’s past “illegal” activities (quotes are necessary because no one has proven anything the Bushies done is “illegal”). But to be honest, how such speculation can be considered valid when there is so much we don’t know about the warrantless surveillance and why those same attorneys who were willing to resign over these “other matters” relating to the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program had no problem with Ashcroft re-authorizing the program 20 times previously. Marshall is right. Something doesn’t fit. But whether it involves a “cover up” of other, more intrusive or illegal intelligence programs or a simple desire to hold close the most important secrets vital to our national security cannot be said with anything approaching certainty or even intelligently be guessed at.

Gonzalez should have been allowed to resign months ago over the US Attorney firings. Not because of anything illegal he did but because of the incompetent way it was handled. But Bush stuck with him and now must weather another storm of controversy that weakens him politically (if he could get any weaker). Some might admire the President’s steadfastness (I call it stubbornness) in standing behind his Attorney General. But there must come a point when doing so harms the office of the President as well as the country. That time has long passed. It’s time for Gonzo to go.

CATEGORY: Media, War on Terror

Nothing new on the Scott Thomas Beauchamp matter to report – or at least worth reporting. The fact is, I find the digression into who his wife is, what he blogged about 2 years ago, who he went to school with, or any other minutia the rightosphere has been unearthing these last 24 hours to be irrelevant to the main point.

Indeed, this point seems to have escaped the left’s attention as well. Digby’s post yesterday sums up the view from the left:

But this is bigger than blogospherics. There has been precious little good writing about the actual gritty experiences of average soldiers in these wars. Everything has been so packaged and marketed from the top that it’s very difficult to get a sense of what it’s like over there. I have no idea if this piece is accurate, but regardless it didn’t seem to me to be an indictment of the military in general, merely a description of the kind of gallows humor and garden variety cruelty that would be likely to escalate in violent circumstances. And so far, there has been nothing substantial brought forward to doubt his story—the shrieking nitpicking of the 101st keyboarders notwithstanding.

It certainly should not have have garnered this vicious right wing attack from everyone from Bill Kristol to the lowliest denizens of the right blogosphere. They want to destroy this soldier for describing things that have been described in war reporting since Homer so they can worship “the troops” without having to admit that the whole endeavor is a bloody, horrible mess that only briefly, and rarely, offers opportunity for heroic battlefield courage (which, of course, it sometimes does as well.)

(Read the whole thing for a fascinating glimpse into something I’ve been noticing more and more on the left: This need to practice armchair psychology on the right, laughably – indeed uproariously trying to “explain” why many on the right support the troops or the war. What makes it so amusing is not only their painfully obvious ignorance of psychology but their overarching hubris in believing that their diagnoses are viable.)

I find these thoughts of Digby’s fascinating on several levels. He really doesn’t have a clue the extent to which current and former vets have destroyed Beuachamp’s claims. No doubt he hasn’t bothered to read the debunkings of people who know a helluva lot more about the efficacy of Beauchamp’s stories than he or I. The critiques of the Milbloggers as well as soldiers emailing from Iraq are persuasive and compelling. It is a shame Digby didn’t feel it necessary to grant them the courtesy of reading their admittedly circumstantial but strong case for Beauchamp being a fabulist.

It is equally baffling that Digby downplays the dispatches of several embedded bloggers whose powerful reporting on the “gritty experiences of average soldiers in these wars” is rightfully seen as the best journalism out of Iraq and Afghanistan to date? Michael Yon, Michael Totten (whose detailed Lebanon dispatches have also been far beyond anything you can read in the US except perhaps the English language Arab press), and J.D. Johannes have each, to varying degrees expressed disgust with the way the war was being fought over the last three years as well as revealing bad soldiering and bad leadership. One could hardly call their writings “packaged and marketed from the top.”

What this shows about Digby is an insularity about the war I find common on both the right and left. No one wants to read anything that will shake the foundations of their beliefs about Iraq. Good news is no news for the left as is bad news about the war on the right. Perhaps this is inevitable with the current state of our shattered polity. Challenging long held assumptions gets people out of their comfort zone very quickly and stories like those told by Beauchamp are unsettling as is their attempted debunking for that reason.

Smearing the troops (and yes, that is what Beauchamp was doing and doing it knowingly) goes hand in hand with delegitimizing their efforts. John Cole makes the point that thanks to the attention paid this story by the rightosphere, the smear has spread far and wide whereas before, it was confined to TNR’s dwindling number of readers. There’s something to that notion although if, as seems very probable, much of what Beauchamp was “reporting” from Iraq were either fantasies or rumors presented as fact, certainly it needed to be exposed. But as for all the side issues about Scott Beauchamps wife working for TNR and what he may have written before being deployed seems to me a lot of fluff and non-germane to the real question no one on the left is asking.

Why didn’t TNR vet the stories before going to press?

It could be that they are simply bad journalists in which case anyone involved in getting this story out to the public should be fired. But the most common reason given for running the articles on the right is that Franklin Foer and his staff have an inherent bias against the Iraq War and wished to undermine support for it by publishing false information deliberately.

First, it should be said, support for the war can hardly be “undermined” when 70% of the country has already given up and wants the troops home. The deadly combination of George Bush’s incompetent prosecution of the war and incoherent defense of the reasons for being there along with the deliberate effort by the left to sabotage the war effort by questioning our motives and challenging the integrity and even legitimacy of those in charge has predictably caused the average voter to demand an end to the conflict.

But relating to Beauchamp, the right’s critique of his probable fables is a hollow victory. It will change no one’s mind about the war. It will not prove anything about the military that we don’t already know; that the overwhelming majority of those serving in Iraq are dedicated people who perform their duties honorably but that there are a few whose actions do not reflect well on the history and tradition of the United States Army. This is why Beauchamp’s stories seem plausible to people like Franklin Foer and Digby. Why bother to check the facts if we know this kind of thing happens all the time in Iraq? I see nothing in Digby’s piece that takes TNR to task for just now getting around to checking the accuracy of the incidents portrayed in Beauchamp’s stories which leads me to believe he didn’t think it important either.

But that is the point about the Beauchamp caper; incuriousness on the part of the press in general regarding stories about anything in Iraq – the troops, al-Qaeda, signs of progress or lack thereof, and especially about where much of the news appears to be coming from.

In the defense of journalists, more than 120 members of the press have been killed in Iraq making it the most dangerous war zone for journalists since World War II. It is an almost impossible task to cover the “big picture” for which major publications and the news nets are so fond of reporting. In fact, in a conflict like Iraq, there might not be much of a big picture or perhaps a big picture that has so many pieces to it that it becomes too expensive or too complex to cover. For the press, when in doubt, follow the blood. So because of the difficulty in telling the whole story, the press substitutes body count journalism – so many Iraqis blown up here. So many dead terrorists there. And of course, the solemn, ever rising toll on American families as their loved ones are killed or maimed.

Is this really the best the press can do? Obviously not. And Scott Beauchamp is living proof of both the pitfalls of a different kind of war reporting attempted far too rarely by the media as well as the opportunities it provides.

Is there a “larger truth” about the war to be found in the writings of people like Yon, Totten, and even Beauchamp? It may not be sexy or even very interesting in a modern media sort of way – not with the news taking on all the characteristics of show business – but I believe there is an “overall” being missed by those who cover Iraq for traditional media. It is the simple everyday travails of both the Iraqi people and our men in Iraq that will determine the success or failure of our Iraq adventure.

There is now nor will there ever be some grand denouement to the war. No general will be able to place his boot on the bloody neck of a vanquished al-Qaeda leader and claim victory. Nor I suspect will there be some cataclysmic explosion of violence that will turn Iraq into the haven for al-Qaeda and puppet of Iran. Whatever happens will occur at street level. And it is here that the worm’s eye view of the war by the internet correspondents and the wannabes like Beauchamp have it all over the traditional media.

By: Rick Moran at 9:31 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

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Dorothy: Your Majesty, If you were King, you wouldn’t be afraid of anything?
Lion: Not nobody, not nohow!
Tin Man: Not even a rhinocerous?
Lion: Imposserous!
Dorothy: How about a hippopotamus?
Lion: Why, I’d trash him from top to bottomamus!
Dorothy: Supposin’ you met an elephant?
Lion: I’d wrap him up in cellophant!
Scarecrow: What if it were a brontosaurus?
Lion: I’d show him who was King of the Forest!
All Four: HOW?
Lion: How?
What makes a King out of a slave?
What makes the flag on the mast to wave?
What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk?
What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder?
What makes the dawn come up like thunder?
What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?
All Four: COURAGE!
Lion: You can say that again…

I was trying to decide whether to use this classic Bert Lahr bit from Wizard of Oz or another classic bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to illustrate how totally disgusted I am with Republican presidential candidates who fear getting questions via YouTube from well meaning but nutty citizens that would be gleefully culled and chosen by those totally impartial and fair minded editors and producers at CNN.

Hugh Hewitt, with what we assume will soon be the official Mitt Romney position, cries Humbug!

If the GOP candidates agree to this format, expect a series of cheap shots about all of the top tier candidates. Patrick worries that the Republicans will appear behind the times if they take a pass. Perhaps, but if that means skipping a no win set-up where MSM agenda journalists work for weeks to put a video shiv into one or more of the Big Three, I am for it. The second tier folks will no doubt show up hoping for a Hail mary moment, but Giuliani, Romney and Thompson ought to say no thanks.

To illustrate,take a look at this story—a bit of agenda journalism that Jonathan Martin at told me on air today is built on a story that has been floating around for months. Imagine some YouTube video asking Rudy why he’s defending a suspected pedophile. No MSMer would dare ask such a loaded question, but imagine what the gang at CNN would do. They covered for the Dems with a series of overwhelmingly left-biased questions at the first YouTube debate, with a very few tough, serious questions thrown in. That dynamic would change completely in a GOP YouTube debate—they or their counterparts at a different network will be gunning for the Republicans, and the question set will be designed to embarrass or ridicule.

Hugh is missing the point. It’s not a question of partisanship necessarily. It’s a question of putting on a good show.

If you’re all doe eyed and worshipful about the “freedom of the press” and our grand experiment in democracy being safeguarded by these noble knights with printers ink on their fingers, allow me to disabuse you of something; these guys are not very noble and the only freedom they care about is the one that says they can make gobs of money while pretending to be journalists. Paddy Chayefsky’s nightmare screenplay Network has come true with a vengeance. It’s not about the news. It’s show business. CNN, Fox, MSNBC - the lot of them – are in “the boredom killing business” as Chayefsky so sharply observed.

Even more basic than that, it’s all about eyeballs. The news nets want your eyeballs and like the carny barkers of old, will do or say just about anything to make you stop clicking the remote long enough – 3 or 4 minutes at the outside – to watch as they dangle shiny, pretty, horrifying, funny, dramatic, titillating, and blood boiling baubles made of people and events in front of your eyes. Their goal; make you stick around until after the commercial break.

Are they partisan? Sure they are. But above and beyond that, they are consummate showmen. And a bunch of conservative Christian white men standing on stage all in a row like ducks in an old fashioned shooting gallery is just too much of a target rich environment to pass up. They’ll have every group of special pleaders (who happen to be Democratic constituencies) eager to get their shots in. Why do Republicans hate blacks? Or Hispanics? Or women? Or children. Or puppy dogs?

In the Democratic debate, the entertainment value came from the questioners themselves. The snowman, the guy who called his rifle “baby” – CNN could have cared less about the efficacy of the questions as long as the people asking them were interesting to look at.

The GOP debate would be a little different. Hugh is correct about the kinds of questions that would be chosen. But here, the entertainment value would be watching the Republican candidates squirm. The chickenhawk questions would be most entertaining – from CNN’s point of view. And can you imagine some gay guy asking Brownback why he’s persecuting him? Perfect!

So why bother, Hewitt is asking?

For God’s sake, Hugh! These people want to be President of the United States! If they can’t stand up to a little tough questioning from Democratic partisans (CNN included) how in God’s name are they going to stand up to Ahmadinejad who I guarantee will feel a helluva lot more empowered come November, 2008 than a gay guy from New York asking about gay marriage!

There would be something unseemly about Republicans ducking this debate – sort of like being too frightened to walk into a dark room full of treasure where you’ve been told a vicious beast is ready to pounce and eat you. That doesn’t mean you don’t go into the room. It means that you grab yourself a set of night vision goggles and the biggest gun in your arsenal and you go and face down the beast and grab the loot.

If Republicans don’t believe strongly enough in their ideals, then perhaps they should skip the debate. Case in point was Obama’s response to the question about meeting the thugs of the world his first year in office without pre-conditions. It’s a stupid idea. But was there any doubt in your mind that Obama didn’t believe in his answer 120%? Hillary has tried to make political hay out of Obama’s naivety but isn’t getting very far because people know that Obama believes what he’s saying.

Does Romney mean it when he says he’s anti-abortion or anti-gay marriage? Does Rudy believe it when he says he’ll name strict constructionists to the Supreme Court? Does anyone believe anything John McCain says anymore?

The GOP is in crisis because it has no leadership, no agenda, and is failing the test of history. It’s principles have crashed on the shoals of expediency and arrogance. It insists on putting its social agenda front and center in the mistaken belief that Americans care more about preventing gay people from getting married then whether they’ll have a job in six months. Or how in God’s name we’re going to get out of Iraq without leaving a bloody mess.

Stay away from the debate and the American people will judge you cowards. The press will see to that. Stand up like men, take your lumps, give back as good as you get, don’t fear the unknown, and move forward.

Or, perhaps the man behind the curtain will give you what you really need; a permanent pass to the back benches of government where you belong if you skip this debate.

By: Rick Moran at 6:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

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Ooooh boy. Three weeks worth of results. Here we go.

W/E 7/6


1. 2 1/3 Guess Where Your President Was Wednesday Morning… Insh’allah
2. 1 1/3 With Snark
Done With Mirrors
3. 1 1/3 This I Believe
The Education Wonks
4. 1 1/3 Condescension As Bigotry
Bookworm Room

5. 1 1/3 Quote of the Day: Islamophobia Edition
Cheat Seeking Missiles

Non Council
1. 4 1/3 Bless the Beasts and Children
Michael Yon
2. 2 Understanding Current Operations in IraqSmall Wars Journal
3. 1 1/3 But Who Are They?
Classical Values

4. 1 1/3 The Liberal Obsession With Whiteness at the Expense of Instilling Academic Excellence In Black Communities
Booker Rising

W/E 7/13


1. 3 High Noonan
Big Lizards

2. 1 2/3 The NYT —“Run Away! Run Away!”
3. 1 1/3 Army Recruitment and the Influencers
The Education Wonks
4. 1 1/3 Bad Medicine BUMPEDBookworm Room
5. 1 Independence Day
Done With Mirrors
Non Council

1. 3 Interview With Todd Bensman
View From a Height

2. 2 1/3 Anti-American July 4th
3. 1 2/3 Human Pre-History
Sake White
4. 1 Appreciating Snark
The Paragraph Farmer

W/E 7/20


1. 2 2/3 Harry Potter and Ostrich Syndrome
Bookworm Room
2. 1 1/3 Are Conservatives Really Hoping for Another 9/11?
Right Wing Nut House
3. 1 1/3 A President’s Legacy Quick Fix Playground—The Middle East
Soccer Dad
4. 1 1/3 Pangloss
Done With Mirrors
5. 1 Pope Reaffirms Teachings of Vatican II (UPDATED)
Rhymes With Right

6. 1 Bush Muzzled Sturgeon General—Thank God!
Big Lizards

Non Council

1. 3 1/3 Myths and Realities of the George Bush Presidency
TCS Daily
2. 2 1/3 Politics of Terror Reign Supreme
All Things Beautiful
3. 1 2/3 Preventing the West from Understanding Jihad
American Thinker
4. 1 1/3 Keith Ellison and the “Reichstag”
FrontPage Magazine
5. 1 A Petition asking Whittington to Apologize

By: Rick Moran at 9:49 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

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CATEGORY: Blogging

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald of Salon.Com referred to Michelle Malkin.Com and Michelle’s video blog Hot Air as “hate sites.” His reasoning, as always, is obscure. Evidently, Mr. Greenwald believes that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If Michelle Malkin is going to refer to DailyKos as a “hate site” for the thuggish commenters that consistently spout the most outrageous and hateful nonsense about Bush, Cheney, and conservative Republicans then, in the interests of fairness, he should be able to point to comments on Malkin’s sites as examples of similar “hate speech” so that he can triumphantly stick out his tongue and say “So there.”

The problem for Mr. Greenwald is that in his eagerness to smear Michelle Malkin and her blogs, he neglected to mention the elementary fact that Malkin never said anything about the DailyKos commenters on The Factor show that she hosted. Instead, Malkin highlighted remarks by Kos himself (“I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries [sic]. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.”) as well as those diarists who were featured or recommended. These posts were not “cherry picked” comments as inferred by Mr. Greenwald, although Mr. O’Reilly evidently used that tactic when confronting a spokesman for Senator Clinton.

Since Malkin never used the tactic, Greenwald’s article would appear to be even less relevant than most of his tiresome, overheated rants turn out to be. However, let us give Greenwald his head for the moment and examine his charges.

As the Comment Moderator for her site, Michelle was kind enough to grant me the privilege of posting a response to Mr. Greenwald’s unwarranted attacks on her blog. I do so with pleasure because I am proud of my association with Michelle Malkin and the vast majority of people who have become part of her blogging community.

First, a little history is in order. For nearly 3 years, Michelle Malkin did not allow any comments at all on her site. The reason was simple; liberals, who supposedly pride themselves on their tolerance toward those of different races were leaving the most disgusting, the most nauseatingly racist, bigoted comments imaginable – epithets slung in Malkin’s direction even to this day – and on so-called “respectable” liberal blogs that even Mr. Greenwald would find objectionable if not “hateful.”

A recent site redesign allowed Malkin the opportunity to once again make her blog an interactive site by opening registration for those who wished to obtain commenting privileges. And a privilege it is. The Terms of Use for commenting are explicit:

“I reserve the right to delete your comments or revoke your registration for any reason whatsoever. Rarely will I do so simply because I disagree with you. I will, however, usually do so if you post something that is, in my opinion, (a) off-topic; (b) libelous, defamatory, abusive, harassing, threatening, profane, pornographic, offensive, false, misleading, or which otherwise violates or encourages others to violate these terms of use or any law…”

In addition, above every comment thread, there is an additional disclaimer:

“This section is for comments from’s community of registered readers. Please don’t assume that I agree with or endorse any particular comment just because I let it stand.”

I read every comment made on the site and Michelle scans most of them as well. We are pretty ruthless in weeding out the vile, the threatening, the hateful remarks made by both right and left. And yes, we have several dozen liberal commenters on the site who, as long as they behave themselves and comment in a reasonable manner, are allowed to contribute. I sincerely doubt that there are many liberal sites with such a high tolerance for conservative commenters.

For those that can’t follow the Terms of Use, we ban them from commenting. Since comments were opened in mid-June, I have banned at least 3 dozen commenters for various infractions including anti-Muslim bigotry and racism. Michelle has also had to ban several readers for similar reasons. In addition, I have probably deleted a hundred or more comments in the 6 weeks commenting has been allowed, thus giving the lie to Greenwald’s ignorant remarks at the end of his piece:

On a daily basis, Michelle Malkin’s hate sites promote violence, rank bigotry, jihad against Muslim Americans, imprisonment of Democratic Party leaders. The comments are not deleted and are virtually never opposed.

Greenwald’s statement that the comments are “not deleted and are virtually never opposed” is simply not true. The idiocy of this statement is self-evident; how would he know if comments had been deleted or not? Greenwald’s psychic abilities (as well as his curious ability to morph into different personalities in order to comment on other sites) must be truly impressive if he is able to divine the fact that no comments have been deleted on this site. Perhaps he could hire himself out as a stock tout?

Many posts on the site are peppered with warnings from either myself or Michelle to dial back the rhetoric or risk being banned. This is something Greenwald’s crack researcher would have discovered if he spent time examining the blog for something other than his definition of “hate speech.” Indeed, this gets to the nub of the matter; just what does Glenn Greenwald consider “hate” speech?

Glenn Greenwald has a history of redefining terms to suit whatever argument he is making at the moment. This is not unusual – for a liberal. Language and definitions acquire a certain elasticity when in the expert hands of liberal wordsmiths like Greenwald. Hence, his idea of just what constitutes “hate speech” could very well mean one thing in one context and an entirely different thing in another. Would Alex Pareene writing at Wonkette referring to Malkin’s “ping pong balls” cross Greenwald’s threshold of hate speech? Since he failed to take that site to task for their infamy, one would have to assume that particular racist reference gets a pass from the New York Times Best Selling Author as, I imgaine, would other bigoted comments on blog posts directed toward Malkin

However, “Muslims go home!” rates an honored place in Greenwalds Hall of Fame of hate? I am not entirely sure in reading the thread that the comment wasn’t made in jest. Be that as it may, there is something that Greenwald apparently doesn’t understand about debate; not everyone who disagrees with him practices “hate speech.”

“Muslims go home” may prove the ignorance of the commenter but it hardly rises to the level of a hanging offense. Nor do any of the other comments highlighted by Greenwald necessarily reflect anything except a point of view I and many others disagree with. To be brutally honest, hindsight being a 20/20 blessing, I may have erred in not deleting one or perhaps two of those comments. They are borderline and perhaps my sense of their propriety would be different on another day. But I have deleted and banned people for much worse and a little less. Context is everything and taking a comment out of a thread and holding it up as an example of “hate speech” is, as Greenwald himself says, unfair.

Taking comments out of context may be unfair but Greenwald is not doing fair today. He is in attack mode which, given some of the obvious errors and misstatements he made in his article, would necessitate a clarification or two on his behalf. I’m not holding my breath. By lowering the pole to define hate speech on the right while raising it for those on the left, Greenwald proves himself an expert limbo dancer but nothing less than an angry, crass partisan engaging in a smear campaign against Michelle Malkin.

By: Rick Moran at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (42)


I was pleased to see that someone decided to spend the time and energy to scientifically debunk the politically motivated statistical study on deaths in Iraq since the invasion published by the Lancet just days before the 2004 election.

First of all, it is important that these charlatans be exposed for the scientific hacks they are. Dr. Les Brown, an epidemiologist, headed the 2004 study which estimated 100,000 or more excess Iraqis had died as a result of our invasion and occupation. What should have been the tip off to the study’s uselessness was the contention that “most of the excess deaths” were the result of violence and that “80% of those deaths were the result of air strikes.”

Unless the US was carrying on a massive bombing campaign that killed tens of thousands of civilians without the media, the UN, the Iraqis themselves, or anyone else knowing anything about it, that statement was either a laughable corruption of statistics or a bald faced lie.

And given this thorough destruction of the study by David Kane, Institute Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, the latter explanation may be the most logical.

Much of the math here is mind-numbingly complicated, but Kane’s bottom line is simple: the Lancet authors “cannot reject the null hypothesis that mortality in Iraq is unchanged.” Translation: according to Kane, the confidence interval for the Lancet authors’ main finding is wrong. Had the authors calculated the confidence interval correctly, Kane asserts that they would have failed to identify a statistically significant increase in risk of death in Iraq, let alone the widely-reported 98,000 excess civilian deaths.

An interesting side note: as Kane observes in his paper, the Lancet authors “refuse to provide anyone with the underlying data (or even a precise description of the actual methodology).” The researchers did release some high-level summary data in highly aggregated form (see here), but they released neither the detailed interviewee-level data nor the programming code that would be necessary to replicate their results.

Failing to provide the detailed interviewee-level data and the programming code so that colleagues could duplicate their results thus validating the study is a clear indication that Brown and his crew could have cared less if the study was accurate or even scientifically useful. It is an open question whether they knew the study was flawed which would make their sin a mortal one for a scientist, a transgression that would get you fired from any respectable scientific institution in the world and leave your career in tatters.

The study was a political statement – propaganda in service to people that Brown, whose work was most praiseworthy in Rwanda, should have recognized as kin to the genocidal maniacs who hacked 800,000 tribesmen to death in the 1990’s. The beheaders and mass murderers that we are fighting in Iraq were aided by this study. And Brown and his team should be abjectly ashamed of themselves for knowingly giving them assistance and comfort.

This ethical transgression by Brown should finish his career. Instead, don’t be surprised if he gets the Nobel Peace Prize.

And what of the Lancet? Publishing the study 5 days before the presidential election and then claiming that the publication date was only a coincidence exposes them as frauds and liars. One of the oldest and most respected medical journals on the planet was put in service of a partisan political agenda and in a most cowardly manner, denied it’s motives were anything except pure as the driven snow.


As we have seen with the Bush Administration, politically motivated science put in service to a specific agenda is extraordinarily damaging. For the Bushies, who have no respect for science in my opinion and see it as a tool to be used to advance their political agenda, everything from the public health to climate change was affected by their cooking the books. But Brown and The Lancet went the Bush Administration one better; they put themselves and their scientific expertise at the disposal of the enemies of civilization. They allowed their animus toward the war, or Bush, or the United States to blind them to the fact that by hurting America’s cause they were helping those who, if given the chance, would just as soon put a bullet in their brains as give them the time of day. It makes no sense.

In the end, this is an esoteric argument. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead, most of them innocent women and children. And while it’s true that insurgents and terrorists use civilians as human shields, it is also true that no study, no argument can be made to really defend or obscure the fact that for many Iraqis, this war has been a personal tragedy beyond their ability to bear. Loved ones who have died in crossfire or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when a car bomb went off, or simply because a mistake was made by American forces are lost forever. They cannot be brought back by bogus studies or “supporting the troops” or “winning through to victory” or political posturing here at home. Dead is dead. And we don’t need cooked statistics published by ethically challenged journals to tell us of the immense pain and human toll our war of choice is costing the Iraqi people.

Iraq is an open wound, bleeding as a result of our ministrations. Even though the surge is showing some signs of success in some areas – less so in others, the political differences that divide the country are a chasm that no one seems willing or able to bridge. Until the Iraqis decide they wish to live together in peace, the body count will continue to rise. The only question is will more die if we leave than if we stay.

And no one knows the answer – no one has any answers that would allow us the luxury of a quick exit.


Vindication for Shannon Love of Chicago Boyz whose series of posts on the study back in 2004 I relied on for my own piece questioning the study.

Kane shows that if the Falluja cluster is included in the statistical calculations, the confidence interval dips below zero, which is a big no-no. Since the study’s raw data remain a closely guarded secret, Kane cannot be absolutely certain that the inclusion of the Falluja cluster renders the study mathematically invalid…

…but that’s the way to bet.

In science, replication is the iron test. I find it revealing that no other source or study has come close to replicating the original study. All my original points still stand.

Ah, vindication is sweet.

By: Rick Moran at 5:15 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (20)

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I find the imbroglio over Senator Barak Obama’s remark that he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea without pre-conditions amusing on several levels.

First, who is surprised that a man of the far left would be naive enough to make himself available as a propaganda tool for our deadliest enemies? The belief among liberals that their purity of heart and plain, simple goodness will warm the cockles of beasts like Assad or Kim Jong Il has been part and parcel of lefty dogma since before Americans were accused of having “an inordinate fear of communism.”

Hence, the man who uttered those words before visiting Moscow and kissing a senile Brezhnev on the cheek 5 months before the old coot ordered Soviet troops into Afghanistan could genuinely be heartbroken at such a monstrous betrayal of “trust.” Who would have guessed that the Soviets would double cross us like that?

The answer at the time was just about anyone who chose to see the Soviets for what they were.

Obama seems to have a similar problem in identifying the difference between genuine diplomacy and handing an opponent your head on a platter. Perhaps he should ask Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking American leader to visit with President Bashar Assad of Syria in many years how well that kind of face to face diplomacy works.

Since Pelosi’s disastrous visit with Assad (in which she embarrassed herself and the United States by claiming she passed along a message of peace from Prime Minister Olmert – a notion quickly and brutally shot down by the Israeli foreign office) President Assad has proven just how easily he played his American visitor for a fool.

Just exactly what has the Syrian President been up to since that April visit?

  • He let loose the Palestinian/al-Qaeda inspired terrorist group Fatah al-Islam on the Lebanese government.
  • His forces have occupied areas inside the Lebanese border, building revetments and digging trenches.
  • The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq – about 80 a month – has not slackened one bit.
  • According to the UN he has resupplied Hebzbullah with arms and missiles to the point that the terrorist group has bragged they are as strong today as they were prior to their aggression against Israel last summer.
  • He has continued his attempts to intimidate the Lebanese government, trying to force them into bringing the pro-Syrian opposition to power.

This is what has been confirmed. Much more troublemaking by Assad has been suspected including plots to murder anti-Syrian Lebanese as well as foment a civil war in that tiny country. And his plans to destabilize the Golan Heights the same way he’s roiling the streets of Lebanon are well known by the Israelis.

What Pelosi’s face to face meeting accomplished was clear; zero for America and a PR triumph for Assad. Even non-competitive liberals have got to see that score as a losing proposition.

Now take Pelosi’s gaffe and imagine President Obama in Caracas with that smiling goat of a President-for-life Chavez introducing our hero to the multitudes of Venezuelans paid to go into the streets (or perhaps genuinely curious to see an American president handing a sworn enemy a propaganda coup). Does Chavez inch away from Tehran. Does he drop his support of the drug cartel/terrorists/communist revolutionaries in FARC? Does he stop his meddling in other South American countries?

Not likely. But Chavez has gotten exactly what he wants – legitimacy offered up on a silver platter by an American president.

Hillary has called Obama’s plan to take the 50 cent tour of America’s enemies “irresponsible and naive.” Actually, she’s probably upset she didn’t think of it first. For his part, Obama was backtracking but only slightly:

“What she’s somehow maintaining is my statement could be construed as not having asked what the meeting was about. I didn’t say these guys were going to come over for a cup of coffee some afternoon,” he said.

He added Clinton is making a larger point.

“From what I heard, the point was, well, I wouldn’t do that because it might allow leaders like Hugo Chavez to score propaganda points,” he said. “I think that is absolutely wrong.”

He likened the position to a continuation of the Bush administration diplomatic policies. And he said what was “irresponsible and naive” was voting to authorize the Iraq War.

I gather from those comments that as long as there was an agenda for such meetings, he’d attend. Fair enough. But Hillary’s point was that beyond an agenda, diplomacy is a two way street. In other words “What’s in it for us?”

Atmospherics mean little when Iran is trying to bring the entire post World War II structure of alliances and relationships crashing down in order to drive America and the west out of the Middle East. Is there anything Iran can give us – or say anything that we’d believe – that would stop their march toward dominance? The optimists like Hillary would probably say yes. And I shudder to think what she’d be willing to trade for that.

I’d like to believe that Obama’s gaffe would hurt him in the primaries. But from what I’m reading today on lefty blogs, most think the controversy is a non-issue invented by Hillary or actually support the notion of an American president giving a boost to our enemies stature and legitimacy. Most often, the precedent of talking to the Russians comes up in response to foreign policy realists who object to talking to the Damascus Don or the Tehran Terror Enabler. But just what were the Soviets after in agreeing to all of those summits – which were years in planning and carefully scripted? Nothing less than recognition that they were an equal with the United States in superpower status. The fact that they had 25,000 nuclear weapons aimed at us made that a reality that had to be dealt with.

But what of pissant dictators like Chavez? Do we offer him the same stature building, the same legitimacy? What the hell for? No matter what he says, he can’t be trusted to stop trying to foment revolutions in Latin America. Ditto the Iranians and Syrians as far as trusting them to be good global citizens. (Cuba may not be a problem by November of 2008 and Kim may be in a Chinese box by then as well.)

What makes these countries enemies is their desire to damage the interests of the United States. There is nothing concrete that we could offer them that would change that goal. No matter how much spadework was done by our diplomats and envoys, the fact is we would be giving these cutthroats exactly what they want without getting anything of substance in return. Why both Hillary and Obama would even contemplate such meetings only shows that atmospherics will always mean more to the left than what can be accomplished in the real world. And despite talk of our “broken military” and our “waning influence” in the world, I guarantee you that such nonsense is not on the agenda of leadership meetings in Iran and Syria. Potential targets inside their country for American bombs is, however, at the top of the list.

In the end, it is that perception that will modify the behavior of Iran and Syria, not the smiling, good hearted entreaties of naive American presidents who think that because the voters of America found them irresistible that the brutes who wish us ill would similarly be charmed.

By: Rick Moran at 7:27 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)