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FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 30, 2008


By Charles Johnson

Barack Obama’s polling “bounce” from his overseas extravaganza was very short-lived.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that Barack Obama’s Berlin bounce is gone. Obama now attracts 44% of the vote while John McCain earns 42%. When “leaners” are included, it’s Obama 47% and McCain 46%. Compared to a week ago, Obama has gained a single percentage point (see recent daily results).  Tuesday, July 29, 2008




By Eric Allie




By John Hinderaker

The Democrats' effort to keep gas prices high is reaching a crescendo, as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid prepare to adjourn for a five-week vacation without allowing a vote on increasing our energy resources. House Republicans are trying to prevent this from happening.

The Republicans have combined their "all of the above" energy proposals into the American Energy Act, but Pelosi won't allow it to come to a vote. If she did, it would likely pass, as a number of House Democrats disagree with their leadership's policy of keeping gas prices high by limiting supply.

What makes the Dems so perverse? In this rather weird Politico article--who is more pretentious, Pelosi or the reporter?--Pelosi says, "I'm trying to save the planet!" Which is, frankly, idiotic. House Republicans are fighting back by trying to prevent the House from adjourning until its members, Republicans and Democrats alike, have had an opportunity to vote on proposals to lower gas prices by expanding our energy resources. Republicans have vowed to vote "No" on the motion to adjourn, and are hoping that some Democrats will join them.

You might think that the Democrats' position, which takes money out of the pockets of all Americans, would be political poison. Not necessarily. The Democrats know who their friends are. Thus, for example, the Sierra Club, whose executive director wrote an op-ed supporting high gas prices and opposing “cheap fuel,” recently announced that it will run political ads in support of House Democratic candidates. If you're in favor of prosperity and economic growth, write your Congressman and ask him or her not to vote to adjourn Congress until members have had an opportunity to vote to lower energy costs by allowing supply to increase.


By John Hinderaker

Michael Boskin, writing in this morning's Wall Street Journal calls "Obamanomics" a "recipe for recession." Obama's tax policies are extreme to a degree we have not seen in this country in a long time:

The top 35% marginal income tax rate rises to 39.6%; adding the state income tax, the Medicare tax, the effect of the deduction phase-out and Mr. Obama's new Social Security tax (of up to 12.4%) increases the total combined marginal tax rate on additional labor earnings (or small business income) from 44.6% to a whopping 62.8%. People respond to what they get to keep after tax, which the Obama plan reduces from 55.4 cents on the dollar to 37.2 cents -- a reduction of one-third in the after-tax wage!

This chart shows the details; click to enlarge:

As Boskin points out, with a Democratic Congress writing tax legislation things could get even worse:

On economic policy, the president proposes and Congress disposes, so presidents often wind up getting the favorite policy of powerful senators or congressmen. Thus, while Mr. Obama also proposes an alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch, he could instead wind up with the permanent abolition plan for the AMT proposed by the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) -- a 4.6% additional hike in the marginal rate with no deductibility of state income taxes. Marginal tax rates would then approach 70%, levels not seen since the 1970s and among the highest in the world. The after-tax return to work -- the take-home wage for more time or effort -- would be cut by more than 40%.

That would, obviously, devastate the economy. Worse, it is unfair. It is simply immoral for the state to confiscate 70% of anyone's income. It would be deeply ironic if, at a time when the rest of the world is moving toward greater freedom in the form of lower tax rates, the United States were to regress to the stultifying statism of the 1970s. Yet that is exactly what Barack Obama promises.  Tuesday, July 29, 2008




By Richard Fernandez

Two assertions about Iraq ought to be challenged or at least examined more closely. The first is the idea that security improvements in Iraq and al-Qaeda’s defeat had little if anything to do with the US effort. The second is the assertion that the “real” strategic center of gravity always should have been Afghanistan, because the proper object of the War is to “get bin Laden”.

Take the question of whether the growing success in Iraq had anything to do with US effort. Once violence in Iraq began to wane and al-Qaeda was clearly being defeated, the search to find a non-American explanation began in earnest. For a while it was fashionable to credit Moqtada al-Sadr’s “ceasefire” with improving conditions in Iraq. The Guardian report of February 2008 ascribing nearly miraculous powers to al-Sadr typified the explanation that violence was down because he had turned it off.

the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr today threatened to end a crucial six-month ceasefire that has been credited with halving the level of violence in Iraq. … His decision to order his militia to stand down last August allowed stretched US forces to re-establish some control in the country and helped reduce violence by 60%.

A variant of the same narrative was that Iran had for reasons never fully explained, decided to let a defeated American army off the hook. The Washington Post reported in December of 2007 that violence in the South had declined because

The Iranian government has decided “at the most senior levels” to rein in the violent Shiite militias it supports in Iraq, a move reflected in a sharp decrease in sophisticated roadside bomb attacks over the past several months, according to the State Department’s top official on Iraq.

Still another line of argument was that the Anbar Awakening occurred prior to and independently of the Surge. The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein for example, wrote, “on Tuesday evening, McCain falsely claimed that the downturn in violence in Iraq’s Anbar province was a result of the surge, when in fact the surge began months afterward.” Others argued that the fall in sectarian violence in Baghdad occurred because the “ethnic cleansing” had already been completed. Taken together the sum of the arguments were that the decline in violence in both northern and southern Iraq was the result of either dumb luck or enemy pity, a view neatly summed up by Barack Obama when he ascribed improvements in Iraq to a confluence of unforseeable factors. He said:

I think that, I did not anticipate, and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the Surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment [that the Iraq was headed for catastrophe] would have been correct.

This discounts the effect of operations prior to the 20% increase in troop strength in Iraq that is commonly regarded as the start of the Surge. It discounts improvements in intelligence gathering, the creation of the Iraqi Army, the election of the Iraqi government, dismantling of the insurgency’s lines of communication of the insurgency, the change in tactics — a whole host of things — almost as if the Surge started from tabula rasa; a blank slate. Future historians can debate whether General Petraeus and George W. Bush won an accidental victory, like a monkeys who have luckily typed out Shakespeare’s XXIXth sonnet or whether the success owed something to skill and intelligence.

But that is a question for history, if Joe Klein of Time is to be believed. He wrote, “the reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be ‘lost’ at this point.” How the quagmire and lost cause became the inevitable victory is of academic interest but the more practical question is what to do next. In the opinion of Barack Obama, the US should withdraw from Iraq to concentrate on Afghanistan, the central theater of the war against Islamic terror. According to Boston.com Obama said:

It is unacceptable that almost seven years after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on our soil, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are recording messages to their followers and plotting more terror. The Taliban controls parts of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia. … I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But is Afghanistan the enemy’s center of gravity? Juan Cole, who has been a critic of the campaign in Iraq from the beginning wondered whether Obama isn’t jumping from the “frying pan into the fire”. Certainly the Pakistani politicians thought he was.

After Obama met with Karzai, reporters asked his aide, Humayun Hamidzada, if the criticism had come up. He tried to put the best face on issue, saying the Afghan government did not see the comment as critical, but as a fair observation, since it had in fact been tied down fighting terrorism. Less forgiving were the politicians in Pakistan, who reacted angrily to Obama’s comments on unilaterally attacking targets inside that country. … The governor of the North-West Frontier province, Owais Ghani, immediately spoke out against Obama, saying that the senator’s remarks had the effect of undermining the new civilian government elected last February. Ghani warned that a U.S. incursion into the northwestern tribal areas would have “disastrous” consequences for the globe.

Even laymen might wonder whether distant Afghanistan and not the Middle East was the strategic center of gravity of Islamic fundamentalism. In an earlier post I wrote: “In the debate over whether America should have focused its initial response on uprooting al-Qaeda from Southwest Asia, one thing should not be forgotten. From it’s inception al-Qaeda’s center of gravity has been the the Middle East. It was the source of its money, leadership, ideology and manpower. Afghanistan’s importance from the beginning lay in what it could provide Bin Laden in terms of prestige he could parlay into into influence in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. The strategic value of land-locked, impoverished Afghanistan to the Jihad was as a symbol rather than a geopolitical prize. The image of Jihadis defeating the Soviet Army was the ultimate source of al-Qaeda’s credibility; something that could prise money, men and political authority from their home front, treasury and recruitment depot. Given a choice between giving up Afghanistan and reprising the defeat of a superpower in Iraq, al Qaeda would have clearly preferred the latter. This does not mean that Afghanistan is strategically unimportant, but it was always secondary to the Middle East.”

Kenneth Pollack in his new book A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East essentially agrees that the Middle East, with its petroleum resources, religious ideas and population is the foundation of the Islamic challenge facing the world today. It is in the Middle East that the ideological war against terrorism will be won or lost. And speaking of ideology, America’s efforts to maintain status quo relationships with some of the most repressive and dysfunctional governments on the planet have been much more damaging than the attempt to bring democracy to Iraq has been . It wasn’t driving Saddam from Iraq that has hurt America’s image so much as maintaing support for its loyal “allies”. Lee Smith, in reviewing the book says that “Pollack argues that Washington’s greatest sin in its relations with the Middle East has been its persistent unwillingness to make the sustained and patient effort needed to help the people of the Middle East overcome the crippling societal problems facing their governments and societies.” Whether Iraq, one of the few elected governments in the region, should be written off in order to return to business as usual deserves at least some consideration.

Philip Bobbitt in his new book Terror and Consent argued that “the struggle against terrorism is plainly a war, to be called a war and fought as a war, against religiously driven Islamist ideologues …”. In Bobbitt’s view terrorism is not simply a criminal activity, but a symptom of the convulsive transition between twentieth century state and the freewheeling 21st century “market state”, in which empowered individuals seek to live in a looser — but still ordered — polity. He scathingly criticizes those who would view terrorism as a “tactical event” amenable to a “policy minimimalism” which reduces the current world crisis to an effort to “get bin Laden”. Kenneth Anderson, reviewing Bobbitt’s book writes that:

Thus, in Barack Obama’s reckoning, Islamist terrorism is just one threat among so many: climate change and poverty, genocide and disease. The task is to learn to do as Western European countries do, and manage terror and terrorism, preferably within the existing confines of the criminal justice system.

But it will not be so reduced. The treasury of the Jihad, the wellsprings of its ideology and even the source of its manpower are not to be found in Afghanistan but in the Middle East. Michael Totten, traveling through the Balkans has found that the Binladensa — the people of Osama bin Laden — spreading Wahabism through the Balkans don’t hail from Afghanistan but from Saudi Arabia. “When they came here, the Wahhabis, with the intent to take full control of the Muslim community, they used these people who had been studying in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. They were using them to put them in some of the mosques, and now they are in control of eight mosques with these people who had been studying in the Arab countries.” Whatever place Osama Bin Laden temporarily occupies the homeland of the Jihad and the place where it all comes from is arguably the Middle East.

And it is in the Middle East — in Iraq — that the Islamic extremism has been most publicly defeated and humiliated; it is in Iraq where a dictatorial Arab regime has been overthrown. An ordinary observer might be forgiven for thinking the defeat of al-Qaeda right next door to Saudi Arabia was a great victory on strategic ground, which makes the efforts to ascribe improvements in Iraq to Moqtada al Sadr, Iran or the Anbar Sheiks even more puzzling. And as for Afghanistan, even Barack Obama could not seem to muster much of an argument for its strategic importance. At a July 26, 2008 McClatchy Newspaper interview he said:

I’m not here to lay out a comprehensive military strategy. That’s the job of our commanders on the ground. I can tell you what our strategic goals should be. They should be relatively modest. We shouldn’t want to take over the country. We should want to get out of there as quickly as we can and help the Afghans govern themselves and provide for their own security. Our critical goal should be to make sure that the Taliban and al Qaida are routed and that they cannot project threats against us from that region. And to do that I think we need more troops. I also think that we need to deal with the situation in Pakistan and the fact that terrorists are able to operate with relative freedom of movement there right now.

This is a remarkable statement, a complete admission that even if he accomplished all he set out to do, he would not accomplish much. He doesn’t call for a defeat of the Taliban — which would be meaningless — and still less for dismantling of Islamic extremism. One can’t help thinking that Obama’s reason for redeploying to Afghanistan is because it is not Iraq. That is strategic vision of a sort, but of a very political kind.  Tuesday, July 29, 2008




By Michael Ramirez




By Paul Mirengoff

The story of the four female suicide bombers in two Iraqi cities drew front page coverage today, and well it might, considering the death toll (51 people according to initial reports). But how much attention will the media devote to a more significant Iraq story -- the sharp decline in U.S. losses for the month of July?

As this morning, the July death toll for U.S. troops stood at 11 and the monthly combat death toll at six. The lowest monthly number of U.S. combat deaths since the invasion is eight, the total in May 2003. Enemy attacks are also down sharply. According to General Petreaus, daily attacks during the past two months have averaged 25 to 30, down from about 160 to 170 a little more than a year ago. And even with the bloody suicide bombings of Monday, Iraqi civilian casualties are also down.

It's always front page news when U.S. casualties spike in a given month. Will the MSM "notice" what may well turn out to be a record low number of U.S. combat deaths this month? We'll see. The Washington Post made no note of the July numbers to date, or the reality they reflect, in its story about the suicide bombings (see link above).  Tuesday, July 29, 2008




By Jerry Holbert




By Charles Johnson

If you plan on visiting Beijing for the Olympics, watch out what you do on the Internet.

WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - China has installed Internet-spying equipment in all the major hotel chains serving the 2008 Summer Olympics, a U.S. senator charged on Tuesday. “The Chinese government has put in place a system to spy on and gather information about every guest at hotels where Olympic visitors are staying,” said Sen. Sam Brownback.

The conservative Republican from Kansas, citing hotel documents he received, added that journalists, athletes’ families and others attending the Olympics next month “will be subjected to invasive intelligence-gathering” by China’s Public Security Bureau. He said the agency will be monitoring Internet communications at the hotels.

The U.S. senator made a similar charge a few months ago but said that since then, hotels have come forward with detailed information on the monitoring systems that have been required by Beijing. Brownback refused to identify the hotels, but said “several international hotel chains have confirmed the existence of this order.”

Spokesmen at the Chinese Embassy in Washington were not available for comment.  


By Charles Johnson

Remember that biodiesel-burning 28-ton tour bus converted into a whacked out (but nicely designed) monument to Bush Derangement Syndrome?

Zombie’s latest is an account of the arrival of this insane waste of resources in San Francisco, just in time to cause a scene outside the John McCain campaign fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel: McCain in San Francisco: Fundraiser Protest.

UPDATE: The Bush Bus has its own web site, with a blog and everything, and they like to delete comments that criticize them: The Bush Legacy Tour.


By Charles Johnson

Here’s one that will go down in the Annals of Extremely Stupid Propaganda: Gaza smuggling tunnels are for milk, say Palestinians.

Palestinian officials from the Gaza Strip have distributed a set of carefully-staged photographs they say are evidence that the smuggling tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border are for milk and other essential goods, not weapons.

The photographs show masked Palestinian militants lifting jugs of milk and sacks of baby food from the entrance to one of the tunnels on the Gaza side of the border.

(Hat tip: LGF readers.)  Tuesday, July 29, 2008



Map of Diyala province [PDF]. Click to view.

The long awaited offensive to secure Diyala province has begun. Iraqi Army and police forces, backed by the US Army, officially started Operation Omens of Prosperity today.

Iraqi sources originally said the operation would begin in early August. An indefinite curfew has been imposed on the province to restrict the movement of al Qaeda and allied terror groups.

The bulk of the offensive is likely to take place in the rural northern regions of the province, where al Qaeda still maintains strongholds. US and Iraqi special operations forces have been hunting al Qaeda 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.

The Miqdadiyah region was reported to be an al Qaeda stronghold earlier this year. Also the Khanaqin district, which borders Iran, is a haven for al Qaeda, Ansar al Sunnah (which has reverted to its original name, Ansar al Islam), and other Islamist groups. The Mahdi Army also operates along the fault lines in the eastern and southern areas of the province.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has also operated female suicide bomber cells from the Baqubah region in Diyala province. In February, US special operation forces captured Karrar, a senior intelligence leader for al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Baqubah. Karrar facilitated suicide bombing attacks in the Diyala River Valley. This network also has been responsible for female suicide attacks in Baghdad. Yesterday, four female suicide bombers killed 70 Iraqis and wounded more than 300 in attacks in Kirkuk and Baghdad.

More than 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are said to have massed for the Diyala offensive. Elements from the 1st Iraqi Army Division -- redesignated the 1st Quick Reaction Force -- along with the 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized), and several Emergency Response Brigades will likely join the 5th Iraqi Army Division based in Diyala. The 1st, 9th, and the Emergency Response Brigades have been used to conduct operations against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and throughout central and southern Iraq.

Iraqi troops move in Kirkuk

Yesterday's suicide attack in Kirkuk, which killed 38 and wounded 178 Iraqis, has put the Iraqi military on high alert. The 15th Brigade of the 4th Iraqi Army division has shifted elements from a region west of the city of Kirkuk to the Arafa region to tamp down any potential threats.

Iraqi police also detained three members of Ansar al Islam in central Kirkuk. Ansar al Islam is a Salafist terror group that operates closely with al Qaeda in Iraq. The group is known to operate in Ninewa, Kirkuk, and the Kurdish provinces. Ansar al Islam may have been behind yesterday's attack in Kirkuk.

Ansar al Islam is using Iran as a base of operations. On July 22, the Deputy Minister of the Kurdistan Guards Forces said Kurdish forces halted an Ansar al Islam attempt to infiltrate across the Iranian border. In February, the Kurdish media reported Ansar al Islam established cells in two Kurdish cities, with the help of the Iranian government.


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