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FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 11, 2008


By Lisa Benson




By Paul Mirengoff

A week ago, I noted that the Washington Post had reported, grudgingly and on page 8, that in the judgment of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi government has met 15 of the 18 benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress for measuring political progress in Iraq. This is almost twice the number of benchmarks deemed satisfied a year ago. Our government's assessment, moreover, was corroborated by the decision of the largest Sunni political bloc (also noted by the Post on page 8) to rejoin the Iraqi government.

The Post's decision to relegate this powerful evidence of progress in Iraq to the deep in side its news section stands in contrast to its decision the following day to make a front-page story out of our "troop shortage" in Afghanistan. It also stands in contrast to its longstanding pattern of highlighting bad news from Iraq.

But the Post was downright gushy about progress in Iraq compared to the three broadcast networks. In fact, as the Media Research Center points out, none of them saw fit to mention the significant increase in the number of benchmarks deemed satisfied by the embassy and by the administration in its report to Congress. During the entire week, NBC was the only network that put the words "Iraq" and "progress" together. It did so in an item on the Today Show of July 4 about optimism on the part of American soldiers in Iraq. The networks' decision not to cover the fulfillment of nearly all of the benchmarks for political progress in Iraq earned them the Media Research Center's "Worst of the Week" award.

The mainstream media likes to tout its access to the "reality on the ground" in Iraq, a reality it claims the Bush administration has attempted to hide. In doing so, the MSM has exaggerated the scope of its first-hand coverage of Iraq. For example, a friend who spent half a year serving in Anbar province told me the only U.S. reporter he saw during that entire time was Oliver North. Nor, from what I understand, was the American MSM conspicuous in Basra during the recent fighting there.

In any event, the MSM's access constitutes an asset for news consumers only to the extent it is willing even-handedly to report both good news and bad. This is a test the MSM, and especially the broadcast networks, continues to fail.  Thursday, July 10, 2008


By John Hinderaker

Standing with his party's hard-left wing through the primary season, Barack Obama consistently opposed granting immunity to telecoms who cooperated with the federal government's foreign terrorist surveillance program in the years after September 11. Obama went even farther by vowing to oppose any cloture motion on the FISA reform bill as long as it included telecom immunity. Jake Tapper has assembled the quotes, including this one from Obama's Senate office in December:

Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies and has cosponsored Senator Dodd's efforts to remove that provision from the FISA bill. Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill, and strongly urges others to do the same....Senator Obama will not be among those voting to end the filibuster.

Like everything Barack Obama says, that pledge was operative only as long as it was in Obama's political interest. Last month, he announced a change in position. He still favored the Dodd amendment to strip telecom immunity from the act, but said he would now vote in favor of cloture and in favor of final passage of the FISA reform bill.

Today, the FISA bill came up for a series of votes in the Senate. Consistent with the new position he announced last month, Obama voted for the Dodd amendment, to delete telecom immunity from the act. The Dodd amendment failed, 66-32. Later came the cloture vote, the one on which Obama had pledged to vote "No." Obama voted "Yes." He then voted with the 69-28 majority in favor of the act.

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over Obama's flip-flop on the Left. The Associated Press wailed and gnashed its teeth a bit over the bill's passage, as well. This is how the AP began its story on the Senate vote:

Bowing to President Bush's demands, the Senate sent the White House a bill Wednesday overhauling bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shielding telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.

The Senate "bowed to President Bush's demands" in a 69-28 vote? In a parallel universe, the AP might have begun its story, "The Senate voted today, enthusiastically and overwhelmingly, to continue President Bush's program of keeping Americans safe by spying on terrorists overseas." But that's not a world any of us are likely to live long enough to see.  Wednesday, July 9, 2008




By Henry Payne




By Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama has another data point for his contention that he will get attacked on the basis of race, but as with Ralph Nader, his antagonist comes from the Left.  An open mike has Jesse Jackson on the defensive, apologizing for spontaneous comments deriding Barack Obama and the tone he takes when talking to black voters, especially in churches.  Jackson apparently offered such an obscene comment that no one wants to even paraphrase it for the record:

BLITZER:  Reverend Jackson, why did you say these things?  Because it’s so crude, we can’t even repeat it on the air right now, what you said on this open mike. What was going through your mind?

JACKSON:  Well, when I was asked about it, there was already some kind of (INAUDIBLE) reaction.  The appeal in black America is record levels of unemployment, home foreclosure crisis, records of murders, and all kind of reprehensible actions for black America.  A million blacks are in jail even as we talk today and 900,000 young black men.  So we have some real serious issues, and not just moral issues –

BLITZER:  Well then let me interrupt, Reverend Jackson.

JACKSON:  — Structural inequality.

BLITZER:  Reverend Jackson, are you suggesting that Senator Obama isn’t concerned about these issues?  Is that what you are saying?

JACKSON:  Not — by any means (ph).  He has dealt with it more effectively than anyone else has.  Each time he gives one of these message at a black church, it appears to be targeted and the media takes it and runs with it as a solution to a structural crisis — you know — his moral behavior.

Jackson may have done Obama a bit of a favor.  Mainstream America has long distrusted Jackson, and anything that puts distance between him and Obama can only help support Obama’s status as a member of the new generation of black politicians.  He didn’t do himself any favors by attacking Obama; it will underscore his identification as a mostly discredited has-been.

Let’s not forget that Jackson attacked Obama before on race — in terms very similar to that of Nader.  Last September, Jackson made headlines for accusing Obama of “acting like he’s white”.  That came in response to Obama’s seeming disinterest in Jackson’s race-baiting cause du jour, the Jena 6.  Apparently, Jesse still has that same criticism.

So what exactly did Jesse say this time?  Rumor has it that he made a castration reference, which would have caused a wildfire if it came from anyone else.  Tune in to Hannity & Colmes tonight, where they will play the tape — with the appropriate redactions, of course.  Maybe by that time, the media will have thoroughly researched their Roget’s Thesauruses for appropriate euphimisms.  (via Michelle)


By Ed Morrissey

Mort Kondracke poses this as a rhetorical question in his Roll Call editorial, but he appears to be leaning towards “phony”.  After all of the policy reversals and waffles Obama has served up in the past month, some of which Kondracke applauds as pragmatic, can he be trusted?  If he was willing to throw the netroots under the bus on FISA reform, just where will Obama take a stand on principle?

We haven’t seen that happen yet:

But much more dubious — in fact, raising questions of character — is his abandonment of a solemn promise to run his general election campaign with public funds if his Republican opponent did.

Obama still says he favors public financing and he even claimed with a straight face that his collection of hundreds of millions of dollars from small, private donors — along with a lot from big donors, too — actually constitutes public financing.

From this episode — which probably matters only to political insiders — we learn that Obama is a politician of … shall we say, flexible principles. Pastor Wright told us as much before Obama disowned him, although the pastor certainly deserved to be disowned.

Then there’s his position on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said during the primaries — and continues to say on his campaign Web site — should be renegotiated. But lately he’s said that statement was “overheated.”

It seems he wants it both ways — satisfying the anti-free-trade AFL-CIO on the one hand and a passel of pro-trade New York investment bankers on the other.

To be fair, Obama is hardly the first politician to attempt to be all things to all people.  However, he ran on the explicit promise that he was not that kind of politician, and that he despised that kind of politics.  That was the trade-off, Obama claimed, for his lack of experience; he was therefore not infected with the dreaded Beltway Disease.  Without that immunity, Obama becomes just another politician — and a greenhorn one at that, with no track record of success as a legislator and no experience as an executive or in the military.

The reversal on public financing may be the worst, as it speaks directly to character and principle. If Obama’s main theme has been change, reform has been the largest part of that theme.  Public financing, he assured people throughout the primaries, was a bedrock of that reform.  Yet he abandoned it, and lied about the reasons for doing so. Contrast that with John McCain, who refused to abandon his support for the Iraq war when it appeared it would doom his presidential campaign — or when McCain refused early release from his torturers in Viet Nam to get a break over those captured before him.

Not only did that reveal a lack of character, but it may have also revealed poor political calculation.  His fund-raising has dropped 20% or more each successive month since his peak in February, to the point where McCain outraised him in May.  Obama now has to spend time raising money when he should be campaigning, and he also has to compete with the Denver convention committee and Hillary Clinton’s debt-retirement tour.  McCain has it relatively easy, with the RNC raising ten times as much as its counterpart.

Kondracke wonders whether Obama will change course on Iraq and complete his journey to the center.  He calls it unlikely, but he believes the media has to start asking tough questions from Obama on his other course changes to determine whether Obama has the character to be President — or whether he’s a snake-oil salesman adjusting his pitch for each audience.  That may be as unlikely as Obama changing party affiliation.  Thursday, July 10, 2008




By Bob Gorrell




By Charles Johnson

Here’s the genuine photo from Iran’s missile test, showing the reason why it was altered: because one of the missiles failed to launch.

The Photoshopped version for comparison:

UPDATE: Another of the photos released by Iran turns out to have been taken last year; Kamangir has the scoop: Iranian Missile Drill: Pictures do not Lie!


By Charles Johnson

In the US, “country club” prisons are usually reserved for white collar, non-violent criminals.

In the home of our friends the Saudis, country club prisons are for mass murderers—as long as they were murdering in the name of Islam: Perks of penance for Saudi jihadis.

In a small compound on the outskirts of Riyadh, the Saudi government is exploring new ways to combat extremism.

This is still a prison, run by the Ministry of Interior and housed inside secure premises with high perimeter walls and barbed wire, but the Saudi authorities prefer to call it a “care centre” and refer to prisoners as “beneficiaries”.

Inside, prisoners enjoy access to wide-ranging recreational facilities including their own swimming pools, video games and table tennis. In return for the more relaxed environment, prisoners have to attend religious education classes where Islamic scholars challenge their views.

The thinking behind the new initiative is to fight al-Qaeda’s ideology by convincing militant Islamists they have a distorted view of Islam. The Ministry of Interior oversees the new scheme and has created the Ideological Security Unit (ISU) dedicated to co-ordinating their efforts.

“You cannot defeat an ideology by force. You have to fight ideas with ideas,” says Abdul-Rahman Hadlaq, ISU director.

But the centre goes beyond just debating ideas. It also encourages prisoners to express their “softer side” by running art therapy classes where inmates find alternative ways to express themselves.

Saudi authorities are keen to stress that any convicted Islamist will be offered a chance at rehabilitation, regardless of past crimes.

Ahmed Shayea drove a massive truck bomb into the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad in August 2003, killing nine people and injuring more than 60.  Thursday, July 10, 2008




By Ed Morrissey

Police in Kohat arrested seven Taliban extremists, and perhaps they could be forgiven for believing that 35 policemen would be enough to ensure their security.  When the Taliban showed up in almost battalion strength, however, the police found themselves cut off.  The army sent a battalion of its own, but not before the terrorists kidnapped three of the policemen and essentially captured Kohat (via See-Dubya):

A 400-strong force of Taliban militants laid siege to a police station in Hangu on Wednesday after the arrest of seven of their associates by security agencies.

According to officials, 35 policemen were present in the Doaba station when militants encircled it.

Heavily-armed Taliban militants were seen patrolling the Doaba bazaar and taking positions to counter any operation by security forces.

A military spokesman said that an army battalion had been sent from the Thall garrison to Doaba on the request of the provincial government.

The army will attempt to relieve the rest of the besieged policemen, but the three who tried to escape have been spirited away.  Electricity got cut off in the siege as well.  If the army doesn’t get there quickly, the rest of the police probably don’t stand much of a chance for survival, and the Taliban will hold this significant city, close to Peshawar.

Pakistan recently began pushing back against the Taliban, or at least some if the Taliban elements, due to a rising threat to Peshawar.   This shows that Pakistan wasn’t much wrong in its assessment.  The ability and desire to send a force of 400 to rescue 7 captured members demonstrates a strength that creates serious security issues for NWFP and everywhere else in Pakistan.  And the Gilani government only has itself to blame for legitimizing the Taliban terrorists through negotiations.

Hopefully, the new Pakistani government has learned its lesson.  Otherwise, the next city to get besieged may be Islamabad, and it will involve a lot more than 400 terrorists.

Update: The Taliban withdrew when the army arrived, and we hear more about the reason for the siege:

“The Taliban ended the siege of the police station around 3:00 am (2100 GMT) when troops started arriving,” local police station chief Jehangir Khan told AFP.

An intelligence official said the detainees were among the close circle of tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who has been accused of plotting the assassination of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud denies the charge.

So these were high-value detainees — and apparently Pakistan still holds them.  Interesting….  Thursday, July 10, 2008



Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is de facto control; yellow is under threat.

Just 10 days after the Pakistani government launched an offensive against extremist groups threatening Peshawar, the government signed a peace accord with the Lashkar-e-Islam, one of the purported targets of the operation. The peace agreement comes the same day that five members of the Frontier Corps were killed and three were wounded in an attack in Khyber.

The agreement, according to Geo TV states Lashkar-e-Islam would recognize the writ of the Pakistani government. "All religious groups would remain peaceful and the display of weapons in the region's main town of Bara would be banned," Geo TV reported. "A 13-member peace committee of tribal elders and Khyber administration officials has been formed to ensure the implementation of the pact which was signed in Peshawar." The peace jirga "mostly comprises activists and sympathizers of Lashkar-i-Islam," Dawn reported on July 7.

Prior to the peace talks, the government demanded that Lashkar-e-Islam surrender its weapons and recognize the government's rule in the tribal areas. The Lashkar-e-Islam has not agreed to surrender its weapons.

The government initiated peace talks over the weekend with Mangal Bagh, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Islam, and the military put the operation on hold and lifted a curfew in the town of Bara. Bagh refused to put up cash or other forms of collateral to ensure he would end attacks. He also refused to hand over 60 members of the Lashkar-e-Islam. The government agreed to release all of those detained during the operation. Ninety-three people were detained, according to Dawn but only 11 were members of Lashkar-e-Islam.

The operation in Khyber began after a chorus of government, military, and civilian officials warned of the growing Taliban pressure on the provincial capital of Peshawar. The government claimed it launched its offensive to target the Taliban-linked extremists groups of Ansar-ul-Islam, Lashkar-e-Islam, and a faction led by Haji Namdar. The three extremist groups were banned by the Pakistani government. Bagh ordered his forces not to resist at the onset of operation, but threatened to attack if operations against his supporters continued.

Click to view images of the senior leaders of the extremist groups operating in the Khyber agency.

But Namdar, the leader of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice who allied with Mangal Bagh's Lashkar-e-Islam, was seen riding along with the Frontier Corps, Pakistan's paramilitary group assigned to conduct operations in Khyber. "He was taken along to ensure that encounters with militants were kept to a minimum," the Asia Times reported. Government officials stated at the onset of the operation that the offensive would be limited in scope and was a "show of force."

The agreement with the Lashkar-e-Islam in Khyber is the latest in a series of peace talks and deals with the Taliban and allied extremist groups operating in the tribal agencies and the Northwest Frontier Province.

This year, the government signed peace deals in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, and Mohmand. Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been inked.

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered peace negotiations and agreements to be suspended after the Khyber operation. But Baitullah reversed his decision late last week, just as his spokesman began negotiations with Haji Namdar.  July 9, 2008


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