American Elephants

Massacre in Orlando, Obama Says Motivation of Killer Unknown by The Elephant's Child

Why is it so hard for people on the left to talk straight? They have to choose their words so carefully, because the words might well come back to bite them. President Obama’s immediate reaction to the tragic mass shooting in Orlando last night was to call for gun control measures.

This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” Obama said during an appearance at the White House. “We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing — that’s a decision, too.”

Well, “Never let a crisis go to waste!”

Mr. Obama added that “We have reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.”

Obama did call it an act of terror and an act of hate, but refused to characterize the attack as Islamist terrorism. If we were to actually combine “Islam” with “terrorism” — that might suggest that there was something wrong with Obama’s precious Iran Deal.

Omar Mateen is identified as the shooter. He was reported to be shouting “Allahu Akhbar” during the attack and had expressed allegiance to the Islamic State on his wife’s Facebook page, and called 911 prior to the attack pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State. Obama said that while the killer’s precise motivations aren’t known, enough is known to characterize the killings as terror.

At least 50 people were killed in what was the deadliest shooting in U.S. History. 53 people were wounded and many were in critical condition, at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. The nightclub is popular with gays, so the Broadway community was considered the proper venue for celebrity opinions on the killing. You can’t feel compassion unless you’re gay?

These were American victims of unacknowledged ISIS terror. All of us  feel shock and horror at these senseless attacks. Many Americans feel increasingly at risk from a government that does not recognize the problem of radical Islamist terrorism, and is unwilling to address its nature.

Barack Obama’s Preposterous Foreign Policy Ideas. by The Elephant's Child

Americans are puzzled by President Obama’s refusal to put the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” even close to each other in a sentence. Violent extremism is as close as it gets, and it is clear that the entire administration has been instructed in language control. If you’re good at it (Jen Psaki) you get promoted, if not, not.

But we hear the news, we remember 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, attacks in Australia, Canada, London, Denmark, Fort Hood, the Boston Massacre, and daily reports of the “violent extremism” of ISIS, beheading, crucifying, burning alive. The inability to say ‘Islamic terrorism’ seems preposterous. It is no wonder that so many think that perhaps Obama is a Muslim, or has extreme Muslim sympathies.

I don’t think so, but he probably has, as he has said, pleasant memories of the Islamic call to prayer, and of his time in Indonesia, where he lived from 1967 to 1971. He was taught to admire his absent father, and his father’s history. After 1971, he grew up in Hawaii. What brought him to national attention was “the Speech,” the keynote speech at the Democratic convention in 2004. Chicago Magazine gives a long and admiring story of how it came about and what went into it.

When Barack Obama launched into his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he was still an obscure state senator from Illinois. By the time he finished 17 minutes later, he had captured the nation’s attention and opened the way for a run at the presidency.

Barack Obama has always been fascinated by his own story. It sets him apart from other men as something truly special. It not only dominated his convention speech, but his autobiography Dreams From My Father, was published the following year, though it must have been already written. Who writes their autobiography at age 44?

Obama believed that he could bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He told us that was his ambition. It just needed his magic touch. He was good friends with Rashid Khalidi, the American-Palestinian firebrand, who is now Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University. His views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are that everything is Israel’s fault, and Palestinians are the abused party. If you read Victor Davis Hanson’s  explanation of Obama’s strategy, it becomes clear:

Leaders caricatured and demonized as a Cuban Stalinist, an Iranian theocrat, a Russian former KGB agent, and a plutocratic Chinese apparatchik in fact think no differently from us. But they have too often not been accorded a voice because the U.S. sought to bully them rather than reason with them. Polarizing and out-of-date labeling such as calling ISIS or the Taliban “terrorists” or “Islamists,” or reducing Bowe Bergdahl to a “traitor,” serve no purpose other than to simplify complex issues in ways that caricature those with whom we differ.

Instead, if we reduce our military profile and show other nations that what we are really interested in is fundamentally transforming U.S. society into a more equitable and fair place, our erstwhile enemies will begin to appreciate that we too are human and thus share their common aspirations. Ideals, persuasion, feelings, and intent are now the stuff of foreign policy, not archaic and polarizing rules of deterrence, balance of power, military readiness, and alliances.

It all makes sense to Obama. I’m not sure how much of the Democratic Party has moved sharply left. Certainly their spokesmen have, and the administration, but would the rank and file Democrats all sign on to this idea of a strategy for America in today’s world?  For me, it’s an increasingly dangerous world out there, with an administration unfamiliar with history and no understanding of strategy, or national security—conducting foreign policy with lightweights.

The mullahs of Iran have long demonstrated that they are not to be trusted at any time, on any subject. Vladimir Putin seems determined to reconstitute the Soviet Empire, without Communism, just tyranny. ISIS is growing and growing more vicious. The Defense Department is intent on getting rid of the A-10 Warthog, because they have a hot new toy for future wars, if it actually works. China is expanding in the South China Sea, and flexing its muscles. Showing other nations that we too are human and share their common aspirations just doesn’t cut it.

We tried to show Cuba our humanity, and Raul thanked us for surrendering to them and demanded that we return Guantanamo. So of course Nancy Pelosi took a delegation of Democrats to Cuba this last week. The message from Cuba is that Raul Castro has no intention of doing anything differently. He expects Washington to lift the embargo, and end any amnesty for Cuban doctors seeking asylum. Their top demand is that they be taken off the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Over Three Years and No Trial for Major Hasan. by The Elephant's Child


It was on November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood Texas when Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people and wounded 30 others — the worst shooting ever on a military base. He has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder, and 32 counts of attempted murder.

Three and a half years later, the military has still not tried Hasan. Hasan has asked, through his attorney, to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder. Army regulations prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea to charges that carry the death penalty. Hasan then tried to plead guilty to 13 counts of unpremeditated murder. The judge ruled that Hasan cannot plead guilty to these lesser charges, or to 32 additional counts of attempted premeditated murder, because these pleas could be used against him in the trial of the premeditated murder counts.

No one has doubted the identity of the shooter, Major Hasan. No one has doubted that he acted intentionally. So how come there has been no trial?

The reason it has taken so long is that Major Hasan has discovered that his religion, Islam, requires him to grow a beard. Members of the military are not allowed to have beards, and the judge of the military trial ruled that he cannot have a beard and has threatened to have it forcibly removed. This has been litigated for a good part of three years.

We revere our military, and the men and women who volunteer to serve; but we should not forget that the military is a very large bureaucracy that floats on a sea of paper and rules.

What has happened in recent years is that lawyers have become deeply integrated in the military decision-making process, down to the brigade level, with two or three lawyers deployed with every brigade. They not only apply their view of the law, but constrain action through the rules of engagement they write, and how things will appear to network TV.

The federal government does not understand terrorism. We don’t know how to treat it, we don’t know what the rules are. Islam is a religion that permeates all aspects of believers’ lives, from personal grooming to food, to war-making, to sex and marriage. When you get to religious believers who want to destroy the West and all its peoples as opposed to religious believers who belong to a religion of peace, it gets very complicated.

So we get down to Guantanamo, and terrorism, release of prisoners who immediately return to the battleground, and demonstrating our benevolence with civilian trials for terrorists, and military trials where the religious commandment to grow a beard can delay a trial for three years, and we can’t accept the prisoners’ legal admission that he killed 13 people, something everyone knows is true.

Throw in the “trusted traveler” status for Saudi Arabia. Nobody has thought through our relationship with the violent part of Islam and how the usual rules do or do not apply. Americans don’t get beheading, or amputating hands for a crime. We don’t understand veiled women and what to do with that in this country, nor “honor killings,” nor the repression of women and marrying little girls to old men.

These are questions that need answers, and the answers aren’t going to come from the JAG corps. Their “rules of engagement” have succeeded in getting a lot of our soldiers killed. And misplaced political correctness led the entire group of military doctors at Fort Hood to ignore all the warning signs, and there were many, of Major Hasan’s descent into jihad and a mass shooting.

We Need to Study Up. What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us. by The Elephant's Child

As the revelations regarding Benghazi drip, drip out, slowly, it is becoming clear that the administration’s understanding of the terrorism threat, and belief that terrorism is spawned by grievances about social, economic, and other problems for which America bears fault, play a large role in the administration’s deeply misguided foreign policy.

Andrew McCarthy had a helpful post at National Review a few days ago:

Let’s start with the intimation that “religious fanaticism” causes terrorism. To be sure, that’s a better explanation than the Left’s “blame America first” approach.  Yet, it still misses the mark. The real cause is ideology, not religion. The distinction is worth drawing because, for the most part, Islamist terror is not fueled by Muslim zealousness for Islam’s religious tenets — for instance, :the oneness of Allah.” We Westerners recognize such beliefs as belonging to the realm of religion or spirituality. To the contrary, Islamist terror is driven by the supremacism and totalitarianism of Middle Eastern Islam — i.e., by the perception of believers that they are under a divine injunction to impose all of Islam’s tenets.

Most of those tenets do not concern religion or spirituality, at least not as Westerners interpret those concepts. Instead, sharia is largely concerned with controlling what we see as secular affairs —political, social, military, financial, jurisprudential, penal, even hygienic matters. Of course, the fact that we separate church and state in the West does not mean our moral sense is without influence —indeed, profound influence — over how we conduct secular affairs. But in the West, we reject the notion that any religious belief system’s tenets should control those affairs.  In the United States, we reject the establishment of a state religion — such official primacy would suffocate freedom of conscience, a bedrock of liberty.

By contrast, the foundation of Middle Eastern Islam is submission to Allah’s law, not individual liberty.  This interpretation of Islam thus rejects a division between the secular and the spiritual.  Its sharia system contemplates totalitarian control.  That makes Islamist ideology (i.e., Islamic supremacism, or what is sometimes more elliptically called “political Islam”) just another totalitarian ideology, albeit one that happens to have a religious veneer.

The whole article is here. It is really worth your time. Andy of course, was the federal prosecutor in the trial of the Blind Sheik. His books are: The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (2010). Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (2008), and most recently Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy (2012), among others.

Andy has thought deeply and clearly about radical Islam, and takes great care with the words he uses. We can get in awful trouble if we don’t know what we’re talking about, or even thinking about.

Obama Doesn’t Have a Solid Plan for Gitmo Detainees, And Congress Has Lost Interest! by The Elephant's Child

Congress has  lost interest in closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, according to Roll Call. The Guantanamo Review Task Force report calls for transferring 126 detainees to their home countries or to a third country, prosecuting 36 in federal court or a military commission and holding 48 indefinitely under the laws of war.

“A House Democrat who previously helped lead the charge for closing the facility…said he was surprised by his and other lawmakers’ lack of attention to the issue given how much weight liberals threw behind trying to close the prison facility last year. “We were all worked up and signing letters and all kinds of stuff,” he said,” Roll Call states.

Back in the early days of the Obama administration, a former Bush administration official on background said that the Obama Team thought that everybody — or most people at Guantanamo — were innocent and shouldn’t be there.  The Bush administration was not working very hard to resolve those issues and the issues were fairly easy to resolve once adults who were really committed to doing something about it were in charge.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who supports keeping the prison open, said the issue remains “off the radar screen” because the reality is that Congress ultimately lacks the will to close the facility.

There is “simply not support from a majority of Members in either house to close Guantánamo and to move the detainees to any place in the U.S., including Thomson,” he said. “Guantánamo today meets all the standards and well beyond of a facility to hold detainees.”

Aziz Abdul Naji, an Algerian who had been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years, had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to remain at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. He claimed that he would be tortured or killed in Algeria, either by the government or by terrorist groups who might try to recruit him.

The justices, late Friday, declined to hear Naji’s appeal, and the Defense Department announced on Monday that he had been repatriated. The court ruled earlier that another Algerian detainee could be returned to Algeria.  This effectively ends the efforts  of all six Algerian detainees at Gitmo to remain there rather than be sent home.  A Syrian who had been held at Guantanamo for eight years, Abd-al-Nisr Mohammed Khantumani, has been transferred to the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa.

Algeria has provided diplomatic assurances that Naji would not be mistreated, and administration officials say that other detainees have been returned without incident. Administration officials said they take their human rights responsibilities seriously, and they will examine each detainee case seriously.

Guantanamo Bay has been a model prison where detainees are treated better than the guards who man the facility. A significant number of Gitmo graduates have returned to active warfare against American troops.  This includes detainees released by both administrations.  As Ed Morrissey says:

Closing Gitmo solves no problems, and it creates a number of others.  The chief issue is the actual adjudication method for the remaining detainees, not the geographical location of their housing.  Proponents of closing Gitmo wanted to use a transfer to the US as a way to argue that the cases should be heard in federal court instead of the military commissions repeatedly authorized by Congress.  There is no other acute issue requiring an evacuation of the facility, and the issue of jurisdiction can be handled without the costs and risks of transfers.

The object of the facility at Guantanamo has always been to keep prisoners taken on the battlefield from returning to the fight.  Some, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are to be tried for crimes against Americans.  The Obama administration has only gradually begun to understand that those held at Gitmo are extremely dangerous, rather than innocent victims.  It is the same mindset that refuses to use the words Islamic terrorism.

And Obama’s Words, Tripping Him Up. by The Elephant's Child
November 27, 2009, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Law, National Security, Politics, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

Obama demands military trial for KSM

But that was then and this is now.  Do they not understand the dangers and the consequences, or do they just not care?


Insist on Clarity. It Is More Important Than You Know. by The Elephant's Child
December 7, 2008, 6:34 pm
Filed under: History, Media Bias, Terrorism | Tags: , , , ,

Today, December 7th, is Pearl Harbor Day, a “day that will live in infamy” as President Roosevelt said in his broadcast to the American people. The American people learned about what had happened by listening to the radio.  There was no television, no instant pictures of the attack, no rush of pundits to tell us how to think about the event and what it meant and what vocabulary to use in thinking about it.

“A little over a month ago”, according to the Wall Street Journal, the  head of Japan’s Air Force, Gen. Toshio Tamogami, was fired by Prime Minister Taro Aso after he entered and won the grand prize in a history essay contest in which he advanced some very interesting ideas.  Among other things, Gen. Tamogami wrote that President Franklin Roosevelt entrapped Japan into carrying out Pearl Harbor, that Japan never waged a war of aggression, and if Japan had not fought the war it may have very well become a ‘white nation’s colony’.”

Historical revisionism is nothing new. Most countries involved in World War II have developed their own version of its story. But our current age is beset with moral equivalence and political correctness that confuse understanding.  Recent surveys show that civics and real history are unfamiliar subjects for Americans. Precise use of language is no longer considered important.

This time around, it is Bombay (or Mumbai for the politically correct).  Mark Steyn points out the morally equivalent use of language that interferes with our understanding of this horrific event.

This time around — Bombay — it was the Associated Press that filed a story about how Muslims “found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion”.

Oh, I don’t know about that.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was “linked” to any religion, least of all one beginning in “I-” and ending in “-slam”.  In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations — “Islamic terrorists,” “Muslim extremists” — and by the time of the assault on Bombay found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators “militants” or “gunmen” or “teenage gunmen,” as in the opening line of this report in the Australian: “An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok…”

…Tom Gross produced a jaw-dropping round-up of Bombay media coverage: The discovery that for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured, and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement; “It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene.”

Hmm.  Greater Bombay forms one of the world’s five biggest cities.  It has a population of nearly 20 million.  But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein.  An “accidental hostage ” that one of the “practitioners” just happened to stumble upon? “I must be the luckiest jihadist in town.  What are the odds?”

How are people to understand Bombay, or London, or Bali, or 9/11 or Iraq if they are confronted with such obfuscating language? It matters.  Careless journalism and deliberately false journalism can lead to misunderstandings that can have devastating consequences.

In a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the “militants” nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a hundful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building.  If they were just “teenage gunmen” or “militants” in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay?…

And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani “militants” in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews.  In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying “Islamic” or “Muslim” or “terrorist.” we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.

Language matters, but it is up to us to be alert to the potential of language to mislead, to understand what is not said as well as what is said.

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