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War Blog By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 16, 2008


SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

By John Hinderaker

This morning, former Undersecretary of State Douglas Feith testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. This is Feith's opening statement as prepared for delivery. It is long, but worth reading in its entirety for the light it sheds on various misconceptions surrounding the Bush administration's treatment of terrorist detainees:

Mr. Chairman, I’m pleased to have a chance to testify today. I think it’s important to help counter some widely held false beliefs about the administration’s policies on detainee interrogation.

I agreed to testify voluntarily. I did so because the Committee staff gave the assurance that the aim was a serious review of administration policy – not a vitriolic hearing designed to promote personal attacks. I wish to note for the record why I did not attend the originally scheduled hearing: On the afternoon before that hearing, the Chairman’s staff told me my panel would include someone who has made a practice lately of directing baseless and often vicious attacks on me personally. That violated the assurances I had been given, so I insisted on a new date to testify. I’m glad we quickly arranged a new hearing date, but I object to the Committee’s having needlessly issued a subpoena for me. It falsely implies that I was not willing to appear voluntarily.

The history of war-on-terrorism detainee policy goes back nearly seven years. It involves many officials and both the law and the facts are enormously complex. Some critics of the administration have simplified and twisted that history into what has been called the “torture narrative,” which centers on the unproven allegation that top-level administration officials sanctioned or encouraged abuse and torture of detainees.

The “torture narrative” is grounded in the claim that the administration’s top leaders, including those at the Defense Department, were contemptuous of the Geneva Convention (which I refer to here as simply “Geneva.”) The claim is false, however. It is easy to grasp the political purposes of the “torture narrative” and to see why it is promoted. But these hearings are an opportunity to check the record – and the record refutes the “torture narrative”.

The book by Phillipe Sands is an important prop for that false narrative. Central to the book is its story about me and my work on the Geneva Convention. Though I’m not an authority on many points in Sands’s book, I do know that what he writes about me is fundamentally inaccurate – false not just in its detail, but in its essence. Sands builds that story, first, on the accusation that I was hostile to Geneva and, second, on the assertion that I devised the argument that detainees at GTMO should not receive any protections under Geneva – in particular, any protections under common Article 3. But the facts are (1) that I strongly championed a policy of respect for Geneva and (2) that I did not recommend that the President set aside common Article 3.

I will briefly review my role in this matter and then discuss Sands’s misreporting. As it becomes clear that the Sands book is not rigorous scholarship or reliable history, members of Congress and others may be persuaded to approach the entire “torture narrative” with more skepticism.

My main involvement in the issue of detainee interrogation was in January and February 2002. US forces in Afghanistan had just taken custody of the first detainees. Administration lawyers brought forward to the President the question of the detainees’ legal status. The lawyers distinguished between the worldwide US war against al Qaida and the US war with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. As I recall, no one in the administration argued that Geneva applied to the war against al Qaida, which is neither a state nor a party to Geneva.

There was controversy, however, over whether the war with the Taliban was governed by Geneva. Some lawyers contended that the President could lawfully decide that Geneva did not apply even though Afghanistan was a party to the Convention. Their argument was that Afghanistan was at that time a failed state, and the Taliban could be seen not as a government, but as as merely a criminal gang. Those lawyers were obviously straining to give their client, the President, as much flexibility as possible to handle the unprecedented requirements of the war on terrorism. I did not question their good faith, but I strongly favored a different approach, one that gave greater weight to Geneva as a treaty that embodied important American principles.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld called in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, and me to discuss this controversy. I describe that discussion in my book, War and Decision.

The main point that General Myers and I made to the Secretary was that the United States had a compelling interest in showing respect for Geneva. The Secretary, we said, should urge the President to acknowledge that Geneva governed our war with the Taliban. We argued that Taliban detainees should receive the treatment to which they were entitled under Geneva. But we did not think they had met the defined conditions for POW privileges under Geneva.

After our meeting, Secretary Rumsfeld asked me to write up what General Myers and I had argued for. The Secretary wanted to use the write up as “talking points” for the National Security Council meeting with the President on February 4, 2002.

The memo I drafted and then cleared with General Myers stressed that Geneva is crucial for our own armed forces. It said that it is “important that the President appreciate DOD’s interest in the Convention.” I described Geneva as a “good treaty” that “requires its parties to treat prisoners of war the way we want our captured military personnel treated.” I noted that “US armed forces are trained to treat captured enemy forces according to the Convention” and this training is “an essential element of US military culture.” I wrote that Geneva is “morally important, crucial to US morale” and it is also “practically important, for it makes US forces the gold standard in the world, facilitating our winning cooperation from other countries.”

The memo said that “US forces are more likely to benefit from the Convention’s protections if the Convention is applied universally.” So I warned: It is “Highly dangerous if countries make application of [the] Convention hinge on subjective or moral judgments as to the quality or decency of the enemy’s government. (That’s why it is dangerous to say that [the] US is not legally required to apply the Convention to the Taliban as the illegitimate government of a ‘failed state.’)”

The memo explained why a “pro-Convention” position is dictated by the logic of our stand against terrorism. I argued:

o The essence of the Convention is the distinction between soldiers and civilians (i.e., between combatants and non-combatants).

o Terrorists are reprehensible precisely because they negate that distinction by purposefully targeting civilians.

o The Convention aims to protect civilians by requiring soldiers to wear uniforms and otherwise distinguish themselves from civilians.

o The Convention creates an incentive system for good behavior. The key incentive is that soldiers who play by the rules get POW status if they [are] captured.

o The US can apply the Convention to the Taliban (and al-Qaida) detainees as a matter of policy without having to give them POW status because none of the detainees remaining in US hands played by the rules.

The memo urged “Humane treatment for all detainees” and recommended that the President explain that Geneva “does not squarely address circumstances that we are confronting in this new global war against terrorism, but while we work through the legal questions, we are upholding the principle of universal applicability of the Convention.”

This memo represented the thinking of the top civilian and military leadership of the Defense Department. I felt confident being aligned with General Myers on this matter and we were both pleased that Secretary Rumsfeld asked me to make these points to the President at the NSC meeting, which I did. The department’s leadership took a strongly pro-Geneva position.

The Committee can therefore see that the charge that the department’s leadership was hostile to Geneva is untrue. The picture that Mr. Sands’s book paints of me as an enemy of the Geneva Convention is false – wildly so.

Mr. Sands also misrepresents my position on the treatment GTMO detainees were entitled to under Geneva. He writes that I argued that they were entitled to none at all. But that is not true; I argued simply that they were not entitled to POW privileges.

I pointed out that Geneva grants POW privileges to captured fighters as a incentive to encourage good behavior. Geneva’s drafters wisely demanded that fighters meet four conditions if they are to receive such privileges: They must (1) wear uniforms, (2) carry their arms openly, (3) operate within a chain of command and (4) obey the laws of war. These conditions serve the Convention’s highest purpose, which is protecting the safety of non-combatants in war zones. Many journalists and others wrongly assume that if Geneva governs a conflict then the detainees must receive POW treatment. But that is misconception. Detainees in wars governed by Geneva are entitled to POW treatment only if they meet these four conditions.

In early 2002, it was clear that the President would be urged by some commentators to grant POW status to all the detainees as a magnanimous gesture, without regard to whether they met the conditions. I believed that would be a bad idea. First of all, it would have the opposite of its intended humanitarian result. Granting POW status to terrorists who pose as civilians and who purposefully target civilians would undermine the incentive mechanism that Geneva’s drafters knew was crucial to the Convention’s humanitarian purposes.

I had strong views specifically on the issue of POW status because I had worked on that issue in the Reagan administration Defense Department in connection with a treaty called “Protocol I,” which aimed to amend the Geneva Convention. President Reagan, in line with my analysis, opposed the amendments. One of his main objections was that they would have granted POW status to terrorists. I relate in my book the favorable press reaction to President Reagan’s position:

The New York Times and the Washington Post, not usually Reagan supporters, both praised his decision. In an editorial titled “Denied: A Shield for Terrorists,” the New York Times said that Protocol I created “possible grounds for giving terrorists the legal status of P.O.W.’s,” and declared that, if the president had ratified it, “nations might also have read that as legitimizing terrorists.” The Post’s editorial, “Hijacking the Geneva Conventions,” highlighted POW status for terrorists as among the “worst” features of Protocol I. “The Reagan administration has often and rightly been criticized for undercutting treaties negotiated by earlier administrations,” it concluded. “But it is right to formally abandon Protocol I. It is doing so, moreover, for the right reason: ‘we must not, and need not, give recognition and protection to terrorist groups as a price for progress in humanitarian law.’”

Preserving Geneva’s incentive system was an important reason not to grant POW status to detainees who had not earned it. Also, the purpose of holding POWs in a conventional war was different from the purpose for holding detainees in the war on terrorism. The former were held simply to keep them off the battlefield. But the latter were being held for that reason and also to interrogate them for information to prevent future 9/11-type attacks.

It was legal and proper – furthermore, it was necessary and urgent – that U.S. officials interrogate war-on-terrorism detainees effectively. In fighting the enemy after 9/11, the key intelligence was not discoverable by satellite, as it was during the Cold War when we could watch from space for signs of an imminent attack by monitoring armored divisions in the USSR’s western military district. In our post-9/11 challenge, the most important intelligence was not visible from space. It was inside the heads of a few individuals. Our best hope of preventing future attacks against the United States was to learn what captured terrorists knew about their groups’ plans, capabilities and organizations.

A detainee entitled to POW status under Geneva could not be subjected to any kind of pressure at all to provide information. He is required to reveal only his name, rank and serial number. Interrogators are not allowed to subject him to even the most ordinary techniques employed every day in U.S. jails on American criminal defendants. Regarding unlawful combatants, on the other hand, Geneva does not prohibit humane forms of pressure by interrogators.

President Bush had a constitutional duty to safeguard our national defense and to try to prevent future 9/11-type attacks. He knew the importance of the intelligence available only through detainee interrogations. It would have made no sense for him to throw away the possibility of effective interrogations by bestowing POW status on detainees who were not actually entitled to it under Geneva.

Three days after the February 4, 2002 NSC meeting at which General Myers and I made our case, the President decided – in line with the Defense Department recommendation – that Geneva governed the U.S. conflict with the Taliban and that the Taliban detainees would not receive POW privileges because they had not met Geneva’s conditions for eligibility. He decided also that Geneva did not govern the worldwide U.S. conflict with al Qaida. So neither the Taliban nor the al Qaida detainees would be given POW privileges.

So what standard of treatment should these detainees receive? U.S. forces in Afghanistan had been ordered from the outset to give any and all detainees “humane treatment.” President Bush reaffirmed the standard of “humane treatment.”

How to define the term “humane treatment” was a question on which the President looked to his lawyers for guidance. In his book, Mr. Sands focuses on whether Article 3 of the Geneva Convention (known as common Article 3, explained below) should have been the basis for the definition of “humane treatment.”

This gets to the essence of the book’s attack on me. Mr. Sands asserts that in the deliberations leading up to the President’s decision on common Article 3, I not only argued against relying on that provision, but that I was somehow the source of the argument. These assertions are false and utterly without evidence. I did not invent any argument against common Article 3. I was not even making such an argument. In fact, I was receptive to the view that common Article 3 should be used.

So Mr. Sand’s account is altogether inaccurate, both in his book and in his Vanity Fair article. This is important not simply because it smears me. It is significant because it exposes the astonishing carelessness of his book and his article. It impeaches Mr. Sands as a commentator.

In the weeks before the NSC meeting on the detainees’ legal status, administration lawyers discussed how to flesh out the term “humane treatment.” The President evidently considered this to be a legal rather than a policy question.

I was a policy official and did not serve in the administration as a lawyer, but I occasionally raised questions about matters being handled in legal channels. Two of the questions I know I raised were: Why not use common Article 3 to define “humane treatment”? And why not use so-called Article 5 tribunals to make individual determinations that the detainees are not entitled to POW status? I posed these questions not because I had done my own legal analysis or had firm opinions myself – I had not. But I remembered these provisions generally from my Geneva-related work during the Reagan administration and I thought that using them, if judged legally appropriate, would be a further sign of U.S. support for Geneva.

Answers came back to me through the Defense Department’s office of the General Counsel. The lawyers resolved against using Article 5 tribunals because the President had found that the Taliban fighters collectively failed to meet the Geneva conditions for POW status, so there was no need for individual determinations. And the lawyers also decided that common Article 3 was not applicable because (by its own terms) it covered only conflicts “not of an international character” and the conflicts with the Taliban and with al Qaida were both of an international character.

I don’t believe I even attended any of the early 2002 meetings where the lawyers debated common Article 3. But my understanding is that they gave the issue good-faith consideration. Stressing that it was a legal (rather than policy) judgment, the President declared on February 7, 2002 that he accepted “the legal conclusion of the Department of the Justice” and determined that “Common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees, because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and common Article 3 applies only to ‘armed conflict not of an international character.’”

Now, I know that lawyers dispute the Justice Department’s legal conclusion about common Article 3. Reasonable people differ on the matter. As a policy official, I never studied the legal arguments in enough depth to have a confident judgment of my own on this question. When the U.S. Supreme Court eventually dealt with common Article 3’s applicability to the GTMO detainees (a question of first impression), the justices split – the majority ruled against the administration, but there were justices who went the other way.

In no way does the record bear out Mr. Sands’s allegation that I argued against using common Article 3, much less that I invented the legal argument against it. Mr. Sands dragged me into his book and painted me as a villain without supporting evidence. He seems to have made that mistake either because he was not rigorous in his research or he interpreted what he read and heard through his own inaccurate preconceptions.

Mr. Sands’s book is a weave of inaccuracies and distortions. He misquotes me by using phrases of mine like “That’s the point” and making the word “that” refer to something different from what I referred to in our interview. I challenge Mr. Sands to publish whatever on-the-record audio he has of our interview. I believe it will clearly show that he has given a twisted account.

Likewise, Mr. Sands’s book presents a skewed account of the Rumsfeld memo referred to in the book’s subtitle. By what he says and what he omits to say, he gives the reader an extreme misimpression of the nature of SOUTHCOM’s request for authority to use a list of counter-resistance techniques on some important, recalcitrant detainees. I hope we will get into this issue during today’s hearing.

I want to conclude this statement by reiterating that I have focused on issues relating to me not because they are necessarily the most important, but because I can authoritatively say that Mr. Sands has presented those issues inaccurately. His ill-informed attack on me is a pillar of the broader argument of his book. And that flawed book is a pillar of the argument that Bush administration officials despised the Geneva Convention and encouraged abuse and torture of detainees. Congress and the American people should know that this so-called “torture narrative” is built on sloppy research, misquotations and unsubstantiated allegations.  Tuesday, July 15, 2008

www.powerlineblog.com
 

*

ICH BIN EIN BEGINNER

By Michael Ramirez



www.townhall.com/funnies

*

A SIGN OF BACKLASH AMONG THE SUPERDELEGATES?

By Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama hasn’t won many friends on Capitol Hill since apparently clinching the nomination, Politico reports.  Democratic staffers complain of arrogance and inattention to the needs of Congressional Democrats, as well as poor coordination on appearances.  Obama’s campaign has a sense of entitlement that may wind up being premature:

After a brief bout of Obamamania, some Capitol Hill Democrats have begun to complain privately that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is insular, uncooperative and inattentive to their hopes for a broad Democratic victory in November.

“They think they know what’s right and everyone else is wrong on everything,” groused one senior Senate Democratic aide. “They are kind of insufferable at this point.” …

Privately, however, there is a different message coming from some Democratic quarters on the Hill and on K Street. Some Democratic leadership staffers complain that, having defeated the vaunted Clinton political machine in the primaries, the Obama campaign now feels a “sense of entitlement” that leads to “arrogance.”

Yesterday I wrote that an effort to get Hillary Clinton a floor vote at the convention had a small chance of posing a risk to Obama’s nomination. With Obama’s FISA flip-flop, the netroots have become disillusioned with hope and change, and any shift Obama makes on Iraq will only exacerbate it.  He doesn’t have enough pledged delegates to cement his nomination, and superdelegates can change their minds at any time.

And who are those superdelegates?  In large part, the consist of the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate.  They jumped on the Obama bandwagon mostly after the primaries ended, but they could just as easily jump back off again if they believe Obama to be a losing cause.

Team Obama’s arrogant attitude has manifested itself mainly in relations with key Democrats on Capitol Hill; for instance, Obama never notified Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi of his plans to change venues at the convention until their staffers heard it on a press conference call.  Obama appears in Congressional districts without notifying the candidates, losing them opportunities to appear with the presumptive nominee.  John Bresnahan has more examples in his article as well.

Hillary Clinton has shrewdly positioned herself with the Left on the FISA bill in anticipation of an Obama meltdown.  Obama seems to have forgotten his tenuous position at the convention and the need for strong support from Capitol Hill in order to secure his nomination.  If he continues to stumble publicly and snub party leaders privately, Obama may be in for a very rude shock if Hillary gets her floor vote in Denver.  Tuesday, July 15, 2008

http://hotair.com
 

*

AN ASSASSINATION PLOT AGAINST TONY BLAIR

By Charles Johnson

Tony Blair canceled a trip to Gaza today, after Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service uncovered an assassination plot.

GAZA CITY (AFP) - International Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair cancelled what would have been his first trip to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday because of a security threat, his spokeswoman said.

“Unfortunately we had to cancel the visit because of a specific security threat... we had to turn back on the road,” Ruti Winterstein told AFP.

Winterstein said the former British premier was committed to visiting the impoverished Palestinian territory and hoped to schedule another trip at a later time.

Israel’s Shin Beth domestic intelligence agency warned Blair shortly before his arrival at the Gaza border that a “terror organisation” was planning to attack his motorcade, an agency official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The genocidal, murderous terrorist group Hamas says, “No way!”

But the Islamist movement Hamas, which had welcomed the visit, said it had made the appropriate security preparations and accused Israel of pressuring Blair into cancelling the trip.

“The Israeli occupation exerted great pressure to prevent Tony Blair from visiting the Gaza Strip because they did not want him to see the size of the disaster caused by the unjust blockade,” Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said.

“The Gaza Strip is open for any visitors who want to break the blockade and see the suffering of our people,” he added in a statement.  Tuesday, July 15, 2008 

http://littlegreenfootballs.com

*

IRAN'S DEMANDS

By Ken Catalino



www.townhall.com/funnies

*

FLYING IMAMS WANT US AIRWAYS SECURITY INFORMATION


By Charles Johnson

The trial of the infamous “flying imams” is in the discovery phase, and Douglas Bass has a report from the courtroom, where the attorney for the imams (a CAIR-NY operative) is demanding that US Airways divulge information on airline security procedures.

Yes, really: Flying Imams - Don’t Make Us, Your Honor, Make Them!

Omar Mohammedi, attorney for the imams, and President of the Board of Directors for the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, went first. His motion was for the judge, Arthur Boylan, to compel US Airways to divulge its training manuals, and information on its security procedures, so that they could show that the security procedures were not followed down to the last jot and tittle when the imams were removed from US Airways Flight 300 on November 20, 2006.

Those of you who are following this case closely might be thinking “Arthur Boylan? What happened to Ann Montgomery?” The PACER database reports that Ann Montgomery is the presiding judge, and Arthur Boylan is a referral judge. Ann Montgomery will still be the judge at the trial in 2009.

When I realized what Mohammedi was asking for, I was briefly dazed, as I heard the sound in my mind’s ear of a thousand bloggers screaming something to the effect of “Ok, let me get this straight. A group of imams led by a fundraiser for a Muslim charity (the Holy Land Foundation) which was shut down by the Treasury Department for its connections to Hamas, is asking a judge to compel an airline to divulge its security procedures. And everyone’s OK with that?!?”  Tuesday, July 15, 2008

http://littlegreenfootballs.com

*

A LOSING POLICY?

By Michael Ramirez



www.townhall.com/funnies

*

IBD POLL: DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW

By Ed Morrissey

A new poll commissioned by Investors Business Daily finds overwhelming majorities in favor of increased drilling and domestic production of oil.  By a 3-1 margin, Americans identify runaway fuel prices as a bigger problem than global warming, and they want action taken immediately to address it.  Even ANWR is on the table, although not by much:

The poll of 920 adults taken last week shows that 73% think “fuel prices at the pump” are a bigger problem for the country than climate change, the new term for global warming. Only 23% say climate change is more important.

The sentiment prevails across the board — among men and women, old and young, rich and poor, and Republicans, independents and Democrats, two-thirds of whom say gas prices are more important.

Support for offshore drilling and oil shale development is also broad-based, with the former favored by 64% of respondents and the latter by 65%.

The results suggest President Bush has strong public support as he puts pressure on Congress to back more exploration for oil.

While the numbers for drilling in the OCS and in the interior for shale transcend partisan and gender divisions, drilling in ANWR receives a bare plurality, 47-43. That indicates a political risk in pressing for drilling at that point, especially among women and working-class adults. The split occurs across partisan lines, and women oppose it 46-39.

The numbers indicate that McCain may have the right idea by keeping ANWR off the table. Including it now might give opponents a wedge to obstruct the rest of the drilling efforts and unnecessarily handicap efforts in the near term. The better strategy would be to leave ANWR off the table for the moment and ensure that the other initiatives succeed. Drilling proponents have a great hand to play in an election year without ANWR, and that option can get addressed at a later date.

President Bush took a big step yesterday in lifting the executive order banning off-shore drilling.  Nancy Pelosi took a big step, too — backwards.  As IBD notes, instead of looking for long-term solutions, she’s demanding that the US deplete its Strategic Reserve:

Despite polls showing Americans in favor of drilling more oil from America’s huge untapped supplies, Pelosi won’t allow it. She just wants to empty our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for a short-term fix to get through Election Day.

It’s an irresponsible suggestion, signaling not only an ignorance of how the economy works but also a willingness to place the nation at risk in the case of emergency.

Last Tuesday, Pelosi sent a letter to President Bush urging him to release a “small portion” of the nation’s 706 million barrels of strategic-reserve oil to bring down prices. Regardless of how one feels about whether reserves should be held at all, two big problems stand out with Pelosi’s tiny demand.

The proposal will leave us with little or no strategic reserve in case of war or natural disaster in the oil-producing regions. The Strategic Reserve doesn’t exist so that politicians can artificially lower gas prices before an election. It exists to protect the military capabilities of the nation in time of distress. Imagine, if you will, the outcry if Bush had started selling off the Strategic Reserve in September 2004 to lower prices before his re-election contest with John Kerry.

Second, as IBD points out, Pelosi has admitted that the issue is one of supply. That won’t get solved by selling off the SR; in fact, it will make the problem worse later, when the US has to refill the SR.  The only solution for a supply crisis is to find more long-term supply sources — and we have massive resources here in the US that can fill that role.

The Democrats have painted themselves into a corner.  Their anti-production policies have led the nation into crisis, and they could still lose this election if they continue to obstinately block long-term solutions to it.  Instead, they’re offering gimmickry.

REPORTER TO BUSH: WHY DON'T YOU FORMALLY INFORM OUR MORON PUBLIC THAT THEY SHOULD USE LESS GAS?

By Allahpundit

If we can’t be trusted to glean satirical intent from an over-the-top New Yorker cover, how can we be trusted to buy less of something when the price goes up? It’s Daddy President 101, with the added nuance of the media demanding a catalyzing call for action from a guy with an approval rating south of 30 whom they assure us no one in their right mind takes seriously. If he had issued some sort of formal statement inspiring the predictable semi-snarky headlines (“Bush: Conserving Energy Is a Good Thing”), the nutroots would have goofed on him for his chimplike mastery of the obvious and Slate’s ultra-keen “Bushisms” feature could have knocked off early. But look on the bright side. Next year, we’ll be treated to headlines like, “Obama: Turn Off the Light When You Leave a Room.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

http://hotair.com
 

*

OBAMA: 9/11 WAS 'A FAILURE OF EMPATHY'

By Charles Johnson

Eight days after the atrocities of September 11, 2001, Barack Obama wrote a piece for the Hyde Park Herald—and blamed the attacks on “a failure of empathy.”

Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

Obama’s comments display an appalling disconnect from reality.

Osama bin Laden came from one of the richest families in the world. None of the 9/11 attackers were poor; if anything, they could be considered “middle class.” Ringleader Mohammed Atta was educated as an architect in the West.

Almost everything Obama wrote in this article was proven wrong. And he gave absolutely no consideration at all to the ideology of radical Islam, which is much more to blame than any imaginary “poverty” or “lack of empathy.”

And now he’s within reach of the presidency.  Monday, July 14, 2008

http://littlegreenfootballs.com

*

Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted a successful dual suicide attack on an Army recruiting center in Baqubah as the Iraqi military is preparing to launch a new offensive in Diyala province.

Two suicide bombers detonated their vests inside the Saad military camp as Iraqi Army recruits gathered inside. Twenty-two recruits were killed and more than 55 wounded, some seriously, Voices of Iraq reported.

The attack in Baqubah targeted recruits just as the Iraqi government is finalizing its plans to launch a fresh offensive in Diyala province. The final orders to launch the operation are waiting for the approval of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the operations chief for Iraq's Interior Ministry told Voices of Iraq last weekend.

The operation is expected to be launched in the next week. Iraqi troops were reported to be massing near Baqubah on July 11.

Iraqi and US forces have conducted several operations in Diyala province since the surge was announced. Last summer and fall, operations focused on clearing Baqubah, the Diyala River Valley north of Baqubah, and surrounding districts of al Qaeda and Mahdi Army influence.
In January 2008, an operation was launched in the Miqdadiyah region, where al Qaeda was building a safe haven.

Al Qaeda still maintains a stronghold in the Hamrin Mountains, which span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces. This area is a major fallback position for al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups.

More Iraqis are currently being killed in Diyala province per day per capita than in any other province in Iraq, according to numbers compiled by Chris Radin of The Long War Journal. Diyala has 2.62 Iraqis killed per day per million, compared to Ninewa (1.4) and Baghdad (0.6), the second and third most violent provinces.

The upcoming Diyala operation will be the latest in a series of Iraqi planned and led offensives taking on both Sunni and Shia extremist groups. The Iraqi military took on al Qaeda and its allied terror groups in Mosul in the beginning of the year. This operation was followed by offensives against the Mahdi Army in Basrah, Baghdad's Sadr City, Dhi Qhar, Maysan, and in the wider South. US and Coalition forces have, with the exception in Sadr City, played a largely supporting role in the operations, providing, air, artillery, and logistical support.

PAKISTANI TALIBAN DESTROY PARAMILITARY FORT IN HANGU

The Taliban continue to rampage in the settled district of Hangu in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. In the latest assault, a Taliban force overran a Frontier Constabulary fort, looted weapons, explosives, and ammunition, then destroyed the outpost.

An estimated 250 Taliban surrounded the fort in the Shinawarai region in Hangu on Monday night and ordered the paramilitary troops to leave. Dawn reported that the paramilitaries were granted "safe passage," but Geo TV reported 15 troops were killed and five set free. After the troops abandoned the fort, it was looted. The Taliban then set explosive charges and detonated after abandoning the post.

Monday's destruction of the Shinawarai fort is the latest in a series of Taliban strikes in Hangu over the past week. The fighting began on July 8, after a police force detained seven Taliban fighters after a clash in Hangu. Security forces found weapons and explosives as well as “poisonous injections.” Rafiuddin, a senior Taliban leader and a deputy of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, was captured during the raid. Rafiuddin’s group is based out of South Waziristan, which borders Hangu to the south.

The Taliban then launched a siege on the police station where Rafiuddin and the other fighters were held. A force comprised of 400 Taliban fighters surrounded the police station, but dispersed after a Pakistani Army battalion was dispatched to lift the siege.

Before retreating, the Taliban kidnapped anywhere from 16 to 35 people in Hangu, including security officials, and then threatened to execute them if Rafiuddin were not released from custody. Mullah Omar, a spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, said the executions would start on July 12, but there is no indication the Taliban followed through on the threat.

On July 12, 22 Pakistanis, including 15 soldiers, were killed after the Taliban ambushed a three-vehicle convoy traveling in the region.

The Pakistani military is said to have launched a counteroffensive "to trace the culprits" of the convoy attack. The military is using artillery indiscriminately in its hunt for the Taliban forces. There are no report of Taliban casualties or of the recovery of hostages.

The tribal leaders in Hangu are urging an end to the operation and lobbying with the government for the release the captive Taliban fighters and their leader. "The jirga members want the government to allow them to take a peace message to Taliban commander Mullah Sanaullah and bring him to the negotiation table," Dawn reported.

The call for negotiations with the Taliban in Hangu is part of a government-sponsored initiative to cut deals with extremists in exchange for an end to attacks in Pakistan. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, and Khyber. 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 signed.  Tuesday, July 15, 2008

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