American Elephants


This is Real Life, Not a Movie! by The Elephant's Child
May 30, 2009, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Law, Military, National Security, Politics | Tags: ,

The Obama administration is repeating the national security mistakes of the Clinton Administration.  Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing and knows what he is talking about, writes at National Review Online:

On Thursday, Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times broke the story that the FBI is edging the CIA out of the business of fighting international terrorism.  Under the bureau”s “global justice initiative, Meyer reported that “FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counter-terrorism cases.  They will expand their questioning of suspects and evidence-gathering to try to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option.”  Who needs a War on Terror, or even an “overseas contingency operation,” when all the world”s a crime scene?

If you’re thinking, “Hey, we’ve seen this movie before,” you”re right.  Slowly but surely, it’s September 10 again, a retreat into Clinton-era counterterrorism, when radical Islam prosecuted a war while we tried to prosecute radical Islam in court, playing cops-and-robbers while jihadists played for keeps.

Do read the whole article.  Dick Cheney was right.  The Obama administration is weak on national security, and our enemies have noticed.

The administration’s problem is an inability to recognize the difference between a criminal matter and a military matter.  They are not the same.  Obama is not much interested in foreign affairs, and it shows.  As Andy McCarthy says, “Yes, we’ve seen this movie before.  And we know how it ends.”



Vice President Cheney Gave a Splendid Speech at AEI on Thursday. Here It Is. by The Elephant's Child
May 23, 2009, 12:23 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Middle East, National Security | Tags: , ,

With an uncooperative Congress refusing to appropriate funds to close Guantanamo, President Obama didn’t really want to make a national security speech. But he was being criticized by both Democrats and Republicans who believe that bringing the “worst of the worst” detainees from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to the United States for trial and imprisonment is a bad idea. Obama really doesn’t like criticism.

And then there is Dick Cheney — Mr. Gravitas himself.  Democrats have for years  attempted to portray him as Darth Vader, but it simply doesn’t work.  Vice President Cheney is above all a patriot, and concerned for the welfare of his country.  He has served in government in many administrations with great distinction.  He is no longer in office, he has nothing to gain from speaking publicly, no favor to seek, no elections to win or lose.  He is a private citizen with vast experience who wished the present administration success in the current troubled world.  He does not criticize President Obama, but merely explains why, in the Bush administration, they made the policy decisions that they did.  It was a splendid speech and deeply illuminating, the actions that they took carefully explained.

Well.  The usual suspects (who probably didn’t either hear or read the speech) were immediately out there foaming at the mouth, calling Mr. Cheney all the usual names.

President Obama’s speech was surprisingly defensive, and deeply dishonest.  But one wonders why Obama feels it necessary to constantly denounce his predecessor, who was extremely gracious to him, helping him to meet all the living presidents in private and ask their advice, making the transition easy and comfortable.  I guess Obama is just another far-left sufferer from BDS.  But the campaign is over.  Bush has returned to private life, and Bush is not responsible for the financial problems.  It’s time for Obama to take responsibility for his own actions, and deal with the problems that he finds on his plate, without whining, as all past presidents have had to do.

The necessity for closing Guantanamo is a mystery.  So the French don’t like it — so what? If Gitmo, a state-of-the-art facility, is reduced to rubble and all detainees incarcerated in our maximum security prison, the French still won’t commit any more troops to Afghanistan, take any more of our prisoners, or commit any more funds.  They don’t care about Guantanamo at all; it’s only the usual European demagoguery.

Attorney General Holder was in Europe recently trying to get European governments to accept some of our detainees.  He was addressing a group of journalists, professors and others, and someone in the audience asked “Why can’t you just put the innocent ones in a hotel?” As if there were innocents there.

This demonstrates the problem. Those who have some foggy idea that the Iraq War was “unnecessary”, that our policies “created” terrorists, and why did we have to mess with Saddam anyway, are so far from grasping the basic nature of the problem that it is perhaps impossible to explain.  Obama is beginning to grasp the nature of the detainees and to understand that there are some that, although vicious and dangerous, have not officially committed a crime.  They are military prisoners, detained because in an ongoing war they cannot be returned to the battlefield to kill Americans.  Of those already released, one in seven has returned to fighting with al Qaeda.

A lot of thought and study went into the construction of the facility at Gitmo. A lot of propaganda effort by those opposed to the war went into an attempt to make it appear as something evil.  So re-brand it.  Change the name.  If we can continue the war by calling it an “overseas contingency operation”, then call the detention center  the Caribbean Detainee Resort, The Reeducation College for Contingency Guests.  Suggestions are welcome.  No prizes.

Here is Vice President Cheney, plain-spoken, honest and full of gravitas:



The West Coast Plot and “criminal prosecutions:” A study in political inexperience. by The Elephant's Child

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“The Obama administration is confused.” writes Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard.

The president says harsh interrogation techniques “do not make us safer,” but his top intelligence adviser says the same techniques produced “high-value information” that gave the U.S. government “a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.

Obama White House officials routinely boast that theirs is “the most transparent administration in history,” but then they release Justice Department memos about the interrogations in which the assessments confirming the value of those techniques are blacked out.

Attorney General Eric Holder tells a congressional committee that he is unaware of memos about the information gleaned in harsh interrogations that have been requested by former Vice President Dick Cheney, but his boss, the president, not only knows about those memos but also describes their contents to members of Congress.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the administration could support an independent investigation of interrogation techniques based on the 9/11 Commission.  Then he says that Obama decided long ago that such an investigation would be too political.

In the National Journal Stuart Taylor Jr. says “The review should start by taking seriously the views of the people with the most-detailed knowledge.  They say that the coercive interrogation program was highly effective.

Michael Hayden, Bush’s last CIA director and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently wrote, “As late as 2006, fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.” Former CIA Director George Tenent has said,”I know that this program has saved lives.  I know we’ve disrupted plots.  I know this program is worth more than [what] the FBI, the [CIA], and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” Former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said, “We have people walking around in this country that are alive today because this process happened.”

Marc Thiessen notes that: Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’

to use East Asian East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into a building in Los Angeles.” KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast.  The memo explains that “information obtained from KSM also led to  the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave’.”In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

“Admiral Dennis Blair, the top intelligence official in the United States” says Stephen Hayes,

believes that the coercive interrogation methods outlawed by his boss produced “high-value information” and gave the U.S. government “a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” He included those assessments in a letter distributed inside the intelligence community last Thursday, the same day Obama declassified and released portions of Justice Department memos setting out guidelines for those interrogations.

That letter from Blair served as the basis for a public statement that his office put out that same day.  But the DNI’s conclusions about the results of coercive interrogations — in effect, that they worked — were taken out of Blair’s public statement. …

The letter included this language: “From 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to Executive Branch policy makers and to members of Congress and received permission granted by “members of Congress” — permission that came from members of Obama’s own party.

Dick Cheney: “This is the first time that I can recall that we’ve had an administration come in, take power, and then suggest using the power of the government against their predecessors, from a legal standpoint.  Criminal prosecution of lawyers in the Justice Department whose opinions they disagreed with on an impor”crimitant issue.  Criminal prosecutions.  When was the last time that happened?”

Porter J. Goss, former CIA director: “Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage.  We can’t have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets.”

It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.  In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

  • We understood what the CIA was doing.
  • We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.
  • We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.
  • On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

Should the winner of a  presidential election attempt to use the enormous powers of his office to investigate and prosecute his political adversaries? Will this begin a cycle of retribution in which policy disputes are to be criminalized?   And will this tear the country apart?



Thinking about scary things, and about thinking. by The Elephant's Child
February 16, 2009, 10:16 pm
Filed under: History, Military, Movies, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

People approach events differently.  Some lean into a crisis, want to know all about it.  Others dissemble.  If it is scary, they don’t want any part of it.

For example, take war movies.  Some people don’t want to see anything that contains violence.  Others want to know as much as they can about an event, even as it is not very accurately portrayed in a movie where there is no real blood or real bullets.

Supposedly it is women who don’t want to see, hear, or think about violence.  I don’t know if that is true, though I know it to be true for many of my friends.  I assume that is where the “chick flick” vs. “war movie” division between men and women came about. But then I’ve heard “eeuw, gross!”  from plenty of guys as well.

That goes for other worrisome things as well, such as economic crisis, natural disasters and politics.

I have always been of the former kind.  I read military history, read everything I can find about the current economic crisis and the stimulus bill, am afraid of neither spiders or snakes, and am decidedly female.  Are little girls taught by their mothers to jump on a chair and say “eek!” at spiders or mice?  My mother was much like I am, though I don’t know about the war movie part.  Perhaps I am just more my father’s daughter.

My bookshelves are a testament to those interests. The Rape of Nanking, Survival in Auschwitz, The Battle Cry of Freedom, Saratoga, A Soldier’s Tale, House to House, With the Old Breed, or Black Hawk Down, for example.  Probably my all-time favorite books have been Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series of 20 books on the Royal Navy in the 1700s.  I have read them over and over, as have many historians, and recommend them to anyone who likes to read.  But the 18th century in the Royal Navy was decidedly bloody.

I have always known from the pictures of refugees streaming from the cities and bombs of World War II, that that could be me.  That the unexpected could happen. Yet I suspect most people don’t think like that.

I also believe that many people simply do not want to know about the Stimulus Bill, what it contains, or what it portends for the country.  I have been shocked at members of Congress and their aides who did not read the bill that they voted for.

There are columns by college professors concerned because their students don’t read, and suggestions that television, the internet and new media like Facebook, Twitter and Kindle are changing Americans’ relationship with words and understanding.

How about you?  Do you fear or enjoy violence?  Snakes and spiders?  Are these things related?  Do you want to know everything you can about a problem or would you prefer not to know if you feel that you can’t do anything about it?  War movies, chick flicks?  What is learned and what is innate?  And does thinking or reading about frightening things or big crises prepare you a little better for actual things that happen?



A fortnight is 14 days, two weeks. Not very long at all. by The Elephant's Child
February 4, 2009, 2:38 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, News, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

Months before his election, Mr. Obama apparently started to cultivate improved relations with the mullahs of Iran.  A senior campaign adviser, former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry met repeatedly with a representative of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (The Holocaust-denying, genocide supporting “gentleman”).

According to Frank Gafney Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy, Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke has hired as a senior adviser Professor Vali Reza Nasr — an Iranian expatriate with a record of shilling for the Islamic Revolutionary Iranian regime.

According to GeostrategyDirect.com, a newsletter published by The Washington Times national security reporter Bill Gertz:

“Diplomatic sources said that Barack Obama has engaged several Arab intermediaries to relay messages to and from as Qaeda in the months before his election as the 44th U.S. President.  The sources said al Qaeda has offered what they termed a truce in exchange for a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.  ‘For the last few months, Obama has been receiving and sending feelers to those close to al Qaeda on whether the group would end its terrorist campaign against the United States,’ a diplomatic source said. ‘Obama sees this as helpful to his plans to essentially withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq during his first term in office.'”

President Obama’s first post-inaugural interview was with Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned network.  He said he was determined to “restore” the “same respect and partnership America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”

Shades of the Dixie Chicks.  Charles Krauthammer pointed out that over the past 20 years:

America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them. … It is both false and injurious to this country to draw a historical line dividing America under Obama from a benighted past when Islam was supposedly disrespected and demonized.

It’s unclear just what President Obama hopes to accomplish with his ‘good intentions.’ Islamists are not alone in interpreting it as weakness.



Dangerous misconceptions, enacted in a dangerous rush. by The Elephant's Child
January 23, 2009, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Military, Politics, Progressivism, Terrorism | Tags: ,

Obama remains in full campaign mode.  He promised to undo all the executive orders that George W. Bush signed, in his first day of office.

A week ago, former Vice President Cheney advised the incoming president  to go slowly, look carefully at the policies and institutions that the Bush administration had put in place to protect the American people, before rushing to follow through on his campaign promises to dismantle them.   President-elect Obama said on ABC’s This Week “I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric.”

He has ordered tough new ethics rules, while his Commerce nominee has bowed out due to ethical problems, his attorney general was instrumental in pardoning a felon on the FBIs most wanted list  and pardoning Puerto Rican terrorist murderers.  His Treasury nominee, who will head the IRS,  cannot explain his tax-cheating.  His nominee for energy czar wiped clean the computers and e-mails of the EPA in direct defiance of  judicial orders, and is an official member of Socialist International.

Obama has immediately begun dismantling  executive orders, without understanding why they were made. He has ordered the Guantanamo detention center closed within a year.   He has no idea what to do with Guantanamo detainees, and has ordered the military to figure it out, without understanding that all the careful development of the detainee center in Guantanamo was in response to the complicated consequences of possible alternates.

The CIA program Obama is effectively shutting down is the reason why America has not been attacked again after 9/11.  He has removed the tool that stopped al Qaeda from flying planes into Heathrow Airport, the Library Tower in Los Angeles, London’s Canary Wharf, blowing up apartment buildings in Chicago and disrupted many, many other attacks.

Now another Guantanamo detainee, who was released in 2007 to go through rehabilitation training in Saudi Arabia, apparently flunked, for he has reemerged as a deputy al Qaeda leader in Yemen.  When he was a prisoner at Guantanamo, he claimed to be an innocent carpet buyer who was learning about urban carpet buying warfare in an al Qaeda training camp south of Kabul, Afghanistan.  Foreigners learn enough about the political correctness afflicting America  to appeal to human rights activists, who then lobby for their release.

There are those in our country, who in spite of all evidence, insist on believing the worst about America.

But now that a “progressive” is in charge, patriotism is suddenly fashionable again.  Go figure.



Pirates and Terrorists and What to Do About Them. by The Elephant's Child
December 11, 2008, 12:40 am
Filed under: Africa, Foreign Policy, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

In the news today, a cruise line disembarked its passengers in Yemen, and flew them farther down the African coast to avoid encountering Somali pirates. Last week pirates fired on a US cruise ship carrying hundreds of passengers as it steamed across the Gulf of Aden on a 32 day cruise from Rome to Singapore. This is serious trouble.

The International Maritime Bureau has estimated that more than 100 ships have been attacked off Somalia by seagoing pirates since January.  At least 14 ships and 250 crew members are still being held for ransom.  I wrote about the attack on the Saudi oil tanker on November 18, here. There was another attack the next day, on another ship.

So why are we letting them get away with it?  How can we allow them to hold 250 crew members prisoner, for ransom?  Bret Stephens explained in the Wall Street Journal, in a splendid essay called “Why Don’t We Hang Pirates Anymore?Mr. Stephens explains how we got to the point where there is, as  senior U.S. military officials indicate “no controlling legal authority”.  We have, evolved perhaps, beyond the 18th century when we could just hang them from the yardarm.  And this is not entirely a positive development.  It is a lot more complicated to be “humane warriors”, as we are, and it makes the world less secure.

Max Boot takes up the problem of pirates and terrorism and failed states, also in the Wall Street Journal.  How do we bring the rule of law to lawless states with no real governance?  There is a vast difference between a war on another state, if it comes to that, and a war against a terrorist enemy that minds no rules of engagement, no international conventions, and is just a menace to international security.

The African Union peacekeepers have been ineffective in dealing with the genocide in Darfur, nor has NATO been effective in trying to get member states to live up to their commitments in Afghanistan.  As Mr. Boot says “If NATO won’t do enough to win the war in Afghanistan, its highest priority, there is scant chance that it will commit troops to police Pakistan’s tribal areas or Somalia’s coast.  And if NATO members won’t act, who will?”

These latter two essays address the essence of some of our problems in the Middle East that are poorly understood here at home.  The alert attention that we paid to international terrorism has faded as news from the Middle East has tapered off, and we have been safe for the past seven years in America.  We forget that our safety has been the result of a lot of hard work by our security forces, as other portions of the world come under attack.  We ignore the threat, which is real, and pick at the niggling details of the security that protects us.

In the absence of other solutions, shipping companies are turning to security firms like Blackwater to cope with the Somali pirates.  Blackwater said that their 183-foot ship McArthur stands ready to assist the shipping industry as it struggles with the problem of piracy.  The ship has state-of-the-art navigation systems, full Global Maritime Distress and Safety System communications, command and control battlefield air support, helicopter decks, a hospital, multiple support vessel capabilities, and a crew of 45 highly trained professionals.

Bret Stephens said in his article: “All this legal exquisiteness stands in contrast to what was once a more robust attitude.” That sums up the situation nicely.  We need to think seriously about what it means.




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