Thursday, December 31, 2009
Egypt responds to Saudi appeal for special forces with 'polite no'
ABU DHABI — Egypt has shelved a request by Saudi Arabia for troops to battle Iranian-backed Shi'ite rebels from Yemen.
Arab diplomatic sources said Egypt has refused to respond to a Saudi request for special operations forces that could search and destroy mountain lairs of the Believing Youth in the southern Arab kingdom.
The sources said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has told Saudi leaders he would examine Riyad's request, but that Cairo was fighting its own insurgency groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
"It was a polite no," a diplomat said.
"The Saudis are simply not equipped to fight such a war, and with the exception of Jordan nobody is helping them," another diplomatic source said. "The Americans are advising Saudi troops, but they don't know the region."
So far, Jordan has sent hundreds of elite combat forces to help battle the Believing Youth, the sources said. But the Jordanians were not said to have achieved the Saudi goal to repel incursions by the Yemeni rebels, who have also taken over several border villages. At least 20,000 people have fled more than 240 villages in southern Saudi Arabia.
The sources said the Saudi military has been hard-pressed to defeat the offensive by the Iranian-backed Believing Youth in the Arab kingdom. They said the Shi'ite rebels were using mountain strongholds along the 1,500-kilometer Saudi-Yemeni border to penetrate deep into Saudi Arabia and reach the huge Shi'ite population in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
On Dec. 22, Mubarak held talks with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyad during a session said to focus on the Shi'ite rebellion. In the 1960s, Egypt contributed thousands of troops to the Saudi war against Yemen.
On Dec. 22, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan reported Saudi casualties in the war against the Believing Youth. Khaled said 73 Saudis have been killed, 400 injured and 26 others missing during clashes with the Shi'ite rebels.
"They have 24 hours to surrender, or we will destroy them," Khaled said.
Posted by whit at 12/31/2009 12:00:00 PM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Judicial Watch announced the ten most corrupt politicans in Washington for 2009, and it's no surprise that nine of the ten are Democrats.
Let's focus on the big one, President Barack Obama:
Even before President Obama was sworn into office, he was interviewed by the FBI for a criminal investigation of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's scheme to sell the President's former Senate seat to the highest bidder. (Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and slumlord Valerie Jarrett, both from Chicago, are also tangled up in the Blagojevich scandal.)
The Obama administration made the startling claim that the Privacy Act does not apply to the White House. The Obama White House believes it can violate the privacy rights of American citizens without any legal consequences or accountability.
President Obama boldly proclaimed that "transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," but his administration is addicted to secrecy, stonewalling far too many of Judicial Watch's Freedom of Information Act requests and is refusing to make public White House visitor logs as federal law requires.
The Obama administration turned the National Endowment of the Arts (as well as the agency that runs the AmeriCorps program) into propaganda machines, using tax dollars to persuade "artists" to promote the Obama agenda.
President Obama has installed a record number of "czars" in positions of power. Too many of these individuals are leftist radicals who answer to no one but the president. And too many of the czars are not subject to Senate confirmation (which raises serious constitutional questions).
Under the President's bailout schemes, the federal government continues to appropriate or control -- through fiat and threats -- large sectors of the private economy, prompting conservative columnist George Will to write: "The administration's central activity -- the political allocation of wealth and opportunity -- is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption."
Government-run healthcare and car companies, White House coercion, uninvestigated ACORN corruption, debasing his office to help Chicago cronies, attacks on conservative media and the private sector, unprecedented and dangerous new rights for terrorists, perks for campaign donors – this is Obama's "ethics" record -- and we haven't even gotten through the first year of his presidency.
Hoopster, the Crotch Bomber is a Terrorist, not a Suspect. You, allegedly, are suspected of being President of the USA. Put on a tie.
Yesterday the hoopster, formally super kool organizing man, still talking like a civil rights lawyer, looked like a diner who arrived at a restaurant not knowing the dress code and forced by the maitre d' to put on a borrowed jacket.
Alleged suspect? Fret not, Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder are on the job.
Obama has not been resting till he got the news, basketball, golf and surfing aside, Oh and one other little thing of using his security convoy, sirens and escorts blazing, raising to the beach to see to a golfing buddies' kid that got bruised on her surf board. (Now that is using all the resources of his office.)
The "suspect" is now in custody and the hoopster could not bring himself to call him a terrorist. Not once.
Obama did remind us that he has only been on the job for eight months. He forgot to mention that he came to the job with not one day's worth of relevant experience.
Want to know one other thing Obama did Yesterday?
Obama lifts veil of secrecy on some documents
Boston.com Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor December 29, 2009 06:50 PM
President Obama late today announced he had signed an executive order to expand access to classified government documents.
"I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the government’s legitimate interests," Obama said in a statement.
The order expands public access to declassified records and limits the ability of government officials to classify information "Top Secret" or "Confidential." The full order is below.
The Justice Department on Sept. 23 announced steps to make it more difficult for the government to claim it must withhold state secrets to protect national security.
OBAMA'S EXECUTIVE ORDER
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
How terrorists were dealt with by FDR
Excerpts from Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, Joseph E. Persico, 2001.
Excerpts from Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, Joseph E. Persico, 2001.
On June 19  the President received an excited call from Francis Biddle, his attorney general. Six days before, Biddle told the President, "at 1:30 A.M. an unarmed Coast Guard patrolman near Amagansett, Montauk Point, Long Island, discovered two men placing material in a hole they had dug; one of them covered the patrolman with a gun, gave him $260 and told him to keep his mouth shut. I shall, of course, keep you informed." As J. Edgar Hoover's nominal boss, Biddle later recalled the FBI chief's demeanor while describing the plan to track down the rest of the saboteurs: "His eyes were bright, his jaw set, excitement flickering around the edge of his nostrils," Biddle remembered. The question now was how much to tell the public. Hoover wanted no announcement that might alert the men still at large. The President agreed, and the press was, for the moment, frozen out of the story.
FDR's longstanding preoccupation with sabotage now seemed validated. Biddle admitted, "1 had a bad week trying to sleep as I thought of the possibilities. The saboteurs might have other caches hidden, and at any moment an explosion was possible." [Saboteur] Dasch had, in fact, revealed that, along with their transportation and industrial targets, the Pastorius mission was supposed to spread terror by placing firebombs in department stores and delayed-action explosives in hotels and in crowded railroad stations.
On June 27, ten days after the Kerling team landed in Florida, the President, then at Hyde Park, took another call from Biddie. Hoover's G-men had seven of the saboteurs in custody and were about to arrest the last one. Nearly $174,000 of their Abwehr stake had been seized. FDR responded with the habitual geniality that Biddle, a stiff Philadelphia Main Liner, envied. "Not enough, Francis," Roosevelt said. "Let's make real money out of them. Sell the rights to Barnum and Bailey for a million and a half --- the rights to take them around the country in lion cages at so much a head." Now the tale could be told, and in the ensuing publicity, Coast Guardsman Cullen became a national hero. Hoover played the capture of the ring as a case solved by the FBI, making no public mention of the fact that Dasch had turned himself in and squealed on his comrades.
Three days after all eight saboteurs were in custody, FDR sent Biddle a memo making clear his expectations. "The two Americans are guilty of treason," he told the attorney general. "I do not see how they can offer any adequate defense. . . it seems to me that the death penalty is almost obligatory." As for the six German citizens, "They were apprehended in civilian clothes. This is an absolute parallel of the Case of Major [John] Andre in the Revolution and of Nathan Hale. Both of these men were hanged." The President hammered home his point once more: "The death penalty is called for by usage and by the extreme gravity of the war aim and the very existence of our American govemment." Biddle had never quite overcome his awe in dealing with FDR. Still, the nation's chief law enforcement official was troubled, finding himself trapped between the President's questionable pressure and his own reverence for the law. The Germans had been apprehended so quickly, Biddle recognized, that "they had not committed any act of sabotage. Probably an indictment for attempted sabotage would not have been sustained in a civil court on the grounds that the preparations and landings were not close enough to the planned acts of sabotage to constitute attempt. If a man buys a pistol, intending murder, that is not an attempt at murder." In a civilian court the Germans might at best be convicted of conspiracy, which Biddle estimated would carry a maximum sentence of three years. This outcome, he knew, would never satisfy Roosevelt.
FDR essentially took charge of the case. He told Biddle that he wanted the eight agents tried, not in a civilian court, but by a military tribunal, which he himself would appoint. They had forfeited any right to a civilian trial, as Roosevelt put it, because "[t]hese men had penetrated battlelines strung on land along our two coasts and guarded on the sea by our destroyers, and were waging battle within our country." They fell under the Law of War. A military tribunal would be quick, not subject to the protracted appeals procedures of civilian courts. It would not be hog-tied by the criminal courts' exacting rules of evidence. It could impose the death sentence, not as the civil courts required, by a unanimous verdict, but by a two-thirds vote. A military tribunal offered the advantages and the assured outcome that the President wanted. A civilian court was out of the question. FDR told Biddle, "I want one thing clearly understood, Francis: I won't give them up . . . I won't hand them over to any United States Marshall armed with a writ of habeas corpus. Understand!" Averell Harriman, FDR's special envoy to Moscow, had once described Roosevelt's "Dutch jaw -- and when that Dutch jaw was set you couldn't move him." Biddle practically felt the jaw's thrust, and dutifully followed the President's instructions. Conviction should be simple, Biddle promised FDR, since "[t]he major violation of the Law of War is crossing behind the lines of a belligerent to commit hostile acts without being in uniform."
The British, early in the war, had imposed the traditional penalty on captured spies and saboteurs, execution. Seven arrested German agents were hanged with numerous others awaiting the gallows within months of the war's outbreak. Then, in 1940, a thirty-year-old Scottish major, energetic, articulate, imaginative Thomas A. "Tar" Robertson, assigned to MIS, proposed a new approach. What use to Britain were German spies moldering in anonymous graves? he asked his superiors. Instead, make an offer to them, turn or die. Thus was born the Double Cross, or XX, operation whereby most captured spies chose turning to dying. Some became double agents and sent false information back to Germany under British control. In other cases, British radiomen mastered "the fist," the distinctive sending style of these agents, and convincingly transmitted Double Cross fabrications to Germany. Double Cross was a rousing success. Only one German spy is believed to have reached Britain during the war without being caught. The alternative of turning the eight captured Germans never entered FDR's head. Their deaths were to serve notice to the Nazis of the certain fate of any other spies and saboteurs sent to America.
On July 2 the President announced that the eight accused would stand trial before a military commission composed of seven generals, and they would be charged with violating the eighty-first and eighty-second Articles of War dealing with espionage, sabotage, and conspiracy. Court-appointed lawyers for the defendants made a game effort to move the trial to a civilian court, taking the constitutional issue all the way to the Supreme Court, but the justices backed the legality of a military tribunal. Biddle himself was to prosecute, an unusual move, having a civilian serve as prosecutor in a military proceeding. But FDR was taking no chances. The Army's Judge Advocate General was rusty and had not tried a case for over twenty years. FDR wanted his own man before the bar.
On June 8 the prisoners, held in the District of Columbia jail, were shaved by prison barbers, lest they put the razor to their own wrists or throats, and hustled into two armored vans guarded by gun-toting military police. Nine Washington motorcycle patrolmen roared alongside, escorting the vans to the Department of Justice. Enterprising vendors soon were doing a thriving business selling ice cream and hot dogs to the crowds that gathered outside the department's iron gate every day to gawk at the enemy. The trial was held in Assembly Hall # 1 on the fifth floor of the Justice Department, the windows shrouded by black curtains. As the trial opened, Hoover, sitting next to Biddle, fed pages of evidence to the attorney general. During a recess, one of the defendants asked the presiding general for a cigarette. The general responded stuffily that Army regulations made no provision for such a request. A disgusted Hoover took out a pack of cigarettes and handed it to the German.
In twenty-six days it was over. All eight were sentenced to death. The generals sent their verdict to the President. Roosevelt, acting, in effect, as the court of last resort, confirmed six of the death sentences, but commuted Burger's sentence to life and Dasch's to thirty years for their willingness to betray their comrades. August 8 was set for the executions, which would take place in the electric chair on the third floor of the District of Columbia jail. Eight weeks had elapsed from the night the first saboteurs had landed on Long Island.
On execution day, FDR was at Shangri-la [now Camp David] , the presidential hideaway in western Maryland's Catoctin Mountains. The President liked to sit in the small screened porch playing solitaire or gazing by the hour out at the Catoctin Valley, lost in his private thoughts. This evening, he gathered his guests around him in the living room -- Sam Rosenman and his wife, Dorothy, Daisy Suckley, Grace Tully, poet Archibald MacLeish and his wife, Ada. The First Lady was tied up in New York. The President settled into an easy chair and seemed in unusually fine fettle. He commenced his ceremonial role, mixing the cocktails. He was conceded to make a fine martini and an old-fashioned, though lately he had become enamored of a drink made of gin and grapefruit juice, which most guests found vile. As he mixed, he swapped jests with Rosenman and MacLeish while Daisy snapped photos.
Once more Rosenman was impressed by FDR's gift for shedding the cares of office after hours, as if flipping a switch somewhere inside himself The President began reminiscing about his days in the governor's office in Albany where Rosenman had served as his legal counsel, recalling stories of appeals for clemency on the eve of executions. Sam marveled at FDR's memory, down to dates, places, offenses, and names of the condemned in a dozen New York capital cases. The President then segued into an Alexandre Dumas story about a barber who, during the 1870 siege of Paris, supplied delicious beef while thousands were starving. Gleefully, FDR related how a number of the barber's clients had turned up missing, and the "veal" was suspected of originating in the barber's chair.
What prompted FDR's black humor this evening went unspoken until Dorothy Rosenman raised the subject. The six condemned Nazi saboteurs had been electrocuted beginning at one minute past noon. By 1:04 P.M., the work was completed, an average of ten and a half minutes per man. One witness reported that they had gone to their deaths stunned, as if in a trance. Where, Mrs. Rosenman asked the President, would the bodies be buried? He had not yet decided, FDR answered. His only regret was that they had not been hanged. He then launched into a story about an elderly American woman who died while visiting Moscow and had accidentally been switched in a casket meant for a deceased Russian general who was shipped back to the States. When her family complained, the Russian government cabled back, "Suggest you close the casket and proceed with the funeral. Your grandmother was buried in the Kremlin with full military honors." The saboteurs were subsequently buried in a potter's field near Washington.
Was the evening of gallows humor Roosevelt's true mood or intended to mask the hard decisions he had had to make about six human lives? Mrs. Rosenman's firsthand account describes nothing but Roosevelt's humor and relaxed manner, but then, he was a consummate actor. In any case, the country was with him. Telegrams poured into the White House mail room. One read, "It's high time that we wake up here in this country and show the world we are not a bunch of mush hounds." It was signed, "Mother who has three loyal sons in the Army." The Victory Committee of German American Trade Unionists telegraphed the President, "We endorse the imposition of the death penalty on any saboteur or traitor. We know that no loyal German American need have the slightest fear providing he obeys the laws of the country." On Ellis Island, the execution of the six Germans was observed differently. Adolph G. Schickert and Erich Fittkau, Germans interned there, held a meeting of other internees. They announced the death of their countrymen, called for two minutes of silence, and then led the singing of the rousing Nazi anthem, the "Horst Wessel Lied."
Posted by whit at 12/29/2009 08:54:00 AM
"The SUSPECT is in custody"- Ahem, Barack, Bro, he set his balls on fire and flames hit the ceiling of the plane.
Obama comes out fighting. We will bring a lawyer to a gun fight.
"This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland," says Barack.
"We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses."
Barack, check this, the black Muslim admitted to the passengers that he was part of AQ. AQ has already taken their bows.
In its communique, an Al Qaeda affiliate said Abdulmutallab had coordinated the plot with members of its group, using explosives they manufactured. The website posting was titled "The Brother Mujahid Omar Farooq al-Nigeri's Operation," and it included a photograph of a smiling Abdulmutallab in front of an Al Qaeda banner.
Abdulmutallab has told authorities that the terrorist organization trained him and provided the explosives.
Abdulmutallab not smiling
"We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us -- whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks."
Barack, I suppose that means the black Muslim is being interrogated as we speak..Oh, you mentioned he is a suspect, uh does that mean he has a lawyer? His lawyer is allowing an interrogation?
"We will not rest," Obama said, "until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable."
Who is we? After that Barack went back to shooting hoops and playing golf.
The Yemeni foreign ministry confirmed Monday that Abdulmutallab visited several times -- ostensibly to study Arabic at a school in Sana, the capital -- including one trip from early August until early December of this year.
"Authorities are currently investigating who he was in contact with," the ministry said. But one Yemeni official said it might be hard to trace Abdulmutallab's steps, given how many students come from all over the world to study Arabic and Islam in the country.
After, (one would hope, but not necessarily) a major ass-chewing from the White House, Napolitano took to the airwaves to try to minimize criticism over remarks Sunday in which she said the security system had worked!
Without going into details Janet sort of mentioned a little failure to keep Abdulmutallab off the plane.
When asked Monday on NBC's "Today" show whether the system had "failed miserably," Napolitano answered: "It did."
"No one is happy. . . . An extensive review is underway," Napolitano said.
In Amsterdam on Monday, authorities said they were investigating whether an accomplice had helped Abdulmutallab board Flight 253 without a passport -- possibly by claiming he was a Sudanese refugee.
We are taking in African Muslim refugees who do not have passports?
No shit? Say again?
We are sending thirty thousand more good American soldiers to fight in Afghanistan to keep AQ out of Omaha and at the same time we are taking in African Muslims into the US who have no identity cards.
? Who da guessed.
In Detroit, it is reported that a scheduled hearing in Abdulmutallab's case was canceled without explanation and that prosecutors continued their efforts to get a DNA sample from him to match against evidence taken from the plane.
Efforts to get his DNA? His balls were on fire. Here is a hint to get some DNA. Check his undies or snatch some of his hair from his head.
Prosecutors? They bring a gun to a gun fight and Obama brings a lawyer. Damn, I feel better.
Detroit terror attack: 'There are many more like me,' bomber warns
Security agencies in Britain and the US are under increasing pressure to explain how the Detroit bomber was able to board an aircraft carrying explosives despite being on intelligence “watch lists” in both countries.
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent Telegraph
Published: 9:25PM GMT 28 Dec 2009
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, had been banned from entering the UK after he applied for a student visa in May to study at a bogus college, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has confirmed.
Then, six weeks ago, his family in Nigeria contacted US security officials to express “concerns” that he had become radicalised after he “disappeared” to the al-Qaeda stronghold of Yemen, resulting in him being put on a US anti-terror database.
But because the two countries failed to share their intelligence, neither was aware of the full picture about Abdulmutallab, who hid a potentially devastating explosive device under his clothes and tried to detonate it as an Airbus with 289 people on board approached Detroit on Christmas Day.
Abdulmutallab has given a defiant warning to US investigators, telling them: “There are more just like me who will strike soon.”
Dozens of Islamic militants from Britain are thought to have travelled to Yemen in recent months, where the security services fear they are being trained by al-Qaeda bomb-makers to launch further attacks against Western targets.
Last night a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attempted suicide bombing on Northwest Airlines flight 253.
In a separate statement, AQAP had earlier vowed revenge for military operations carried out by the Yemeni government earlier this month, which were backed by the US, in which the group claims 50 people died. It said: “We will not let Muslim women and children’s blood be spilled without taking revenge.”
Abdulmutallab, the privately-educated son of one of Nigeria’s most prominent bankers, managed to smuggle his bomb aboard the aircraft by strapping a condom filled with the high explosive PETN to the inside of his leg and then attempting to detonate it using a syringe filled with a liquid chemical. The PETN powder caught fire but did not explode, sparing the lives of all those on board.
Investigators are worried that AQAP has developed what is effectively an “undetectable bomb” involving PETN that can only be found by using expensive and intrusive full body scanners at airports, with huge implications for airport security.
As US agents continued to question him at a prison in Michigan, his father, Alhaji Umaru Abdulmutallab, said he had told Nigerian security officials two months ago of his concerns about his son’s behaviour, then made direct contact with US agents two weeks after that.
Janet Napolitano, the US Homeland Security Chief, admitted that America’s counter-terrorist system had failed, as Abdulmutallab, who had been placed on an intelligence database, should not have been allowed to board the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, having flown to the Netherlands from Lagos.
She said: “Our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”
Meanwhile Alan Johnson suggested Britain’s information about Abdulmutallab - which included his fingerprints - would have been shared with America, only for the Home Office to admit later that the intelligence was not passed on to any foreign law enforcement agencies.
Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons counterterrorism subcommittee, said: “The relationship between British and US intelligence agencies is absolutely vital and it doesn’t seem to have done its job on this occasion.
“The relationship has been strained recently, particularly after the early release of the Lockerbie bomber, which caused a huge amount of tension, and this latest episode points to the fact that the relationship is not as well developed as it has been in the past.”
Sources have also told The Daily Telegraph that the intelligence-sharing relationship with the US has come under additional strain as a result of legal action taken by lawyers acting for the former Guantanamo detainee, Binyam Mohamed.
They say that US counter-terrorism officials are having to consider the legal ramifications of sharing information with the British that could then be released by the British courts.
Abdulmutallab’s family said in a statement that they sought assistance from the Americans a month and a half ago, asking them to find their son and return him home.
They added: “We provided them with all the information required of us to enable them do this.”
The student has allegedly told the FBI that he was put in contact with al-Qaeda after getting in touch with a radical Yemeni preacher through the internet.
Sources also said that during his time at University College London he attended the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, where the radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, now hiding in Yemen, was invited to speak by satellite link earlier this year.
The government’s COBRA emergency committee met yesterday morning to discuss the case but ministers did not attend.
Questions have also been asked about why further checks were not carried out after he bought his ticket in Ghana, West Africa with nearly $3,000 in cash and did not check in any hold luggage when he boarded in Lagos.
One passenger has even claimed Abdulmutallab initially tried to board the aircraft without a passport, claiming he was from Sudan, in what may have been a further bid to avoid detection.
President Obama has ordered investigations into the screening of passengers at airports and the use of watch lists.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Proposed industrial development on Mars may be in jeopardy if new emission rules go into effect
The ice caps are melting — on the planet Mars. Because Mars has no cars (or little green men) to cause the south pole carbon dioxide ice cap melt — one might wonder who is to blame for this crime against martianity.
Habibullo Abdussamatov, (space research head at St. Peterburg's Plukovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia) dismissed urban myths and walked away from pop culture to deduce that the climate culprit is not the man on the moon, little green men or heaven-forbid, humans.
We earthlings have a propensity to complicate matters when we dismiss the obvious in our search for truth. Abdussamatov did not dismiss the obvious and found that solar heat fluctuations led to a pattern that matches ice ages and climate changes on both planets.
In 2007, National Geographic quoted him saying, "Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance."
Big carbon-dioxide emitting Mars Rovers like the one pictured below will be subject to new Obama Administration regulations designed to address the melting ice cap crisis
LOOK AT 3:15 ON THIS CLIP Keep in mind this is a CNN report. It is startling. What a difference a year makes. Now please explain to me why we need more troops in Afghanistan when we have know Islamic radicals from Africa getting a free pass to fly to the US.
Airline 'bomber' had been banned from Britain
By James Tapsfield and Tom Morgan, PA
Monday, 28 December Independent
The man at the centre of the failed Detroit airliner bomb plot had been banned from entering Britain, it was disclosed today.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been placed on a watch list earlier this year after UK authorities refused to renew his student visa.
Mr Johnson also said he did not believe that Abdulmutallab was acting alone, and that police and security services were examining whether he was radicalised while at University College London (UCL) between 2005 and 2008.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Johnson confirmed the 23-year-old had been refused a new visa and placed on a watch list last May after applying for a bogus course.
"If you are on our watch list then you do not come into this country," Mr Johnson said. "You can come through this country if you are in transit to another country but you cannot come into this country."
The Home Secretary said US authorities should theoretically have been informed, and he doubted there had been a "hiccup" in procedures.
American officials have said Abdulmutallab was on one of their "long" watch lists, but was not banned from travelling.
The issues being investigated by police and security services in this country included "what happened when he was in this country, was he radicalised in this country, was there any association with whoever may have been behind this plot", according to Mr Johnson.
"We don't know yet whether it was a single-handed plot or (there were) other people behind it - I suspect it's the latter rather than the former," he added.
Security at airports on both sides of the Atlantic has been heightened in the wake of the incident on Christmas Day, when Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite a device as the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam - carrying nearly 280 passengers - entered its final descent to Detroit.
Delays are expected to continue on transatlantic journeys today with passengers advised to bring only one item of luggage, and facing waits of about one hour.
Mr Johnson said the Government was looking at the use of full body scanners, which some experts have suggested were now needed at airports.
"There is an issue of cost and you always have to get this balance between ensuring that the security of our population which is our primary concern, is balanced against people going about their normal daily business," he said.
"There is an issue of cost, yes, there is an issue of convenience. But we intend to be at the cutting edge of all this technology and to ensure that we put it in place as quickly as possible."
He said answers were needed about how Abdulmutallab managed to penetrate security at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, where he transferred after flying in on a KLM flight from his native Nigeria.
According to US law enforcement officials, the suspect has claimed he received training and instructions from al Qaida operatives in Yemen.
A video posted on extremist websites affiliated with al Qaida on December 21 depicted a bearded man in head-dress, identified as Mohammed al-Kalwi, says: "We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God."
Abdulmutallab's wealthy family have said they believe he was radicalised while attending the British International School in Lome, the capital of Togo. After he broke off contact, they approached foreign security agencies expressing concern about his state of mind and requesting "assistance to find and return him home".
However, police and MI5 have been diverting resources to probe the importance of his London links.
Throughout the weekend search teams combed the imposing mansion block in Mansfield Road, close to Oxford Street, where Abdulmutallab lived in the capital.
Michael Rimmer, a Briton who taught the suspect history at UCL, said his impression of Abdulmutallab was positive, claming the youngster chose to give £50 to an orphanage rather than spend it on souvenirs in London.
Mr Rimmer said: "At one stage, his nickname was 'The Pope'. In one way it's totally unsuitable because he's Muslim, but he did have this saintly aura."
Meanwhile, Abdulmutallab has been charged in hospital in the States with attempting to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
US President Barack Obama has ordered a fresh review of screening processes to discover whether the authorities should have taken more heed of warnings about the threat the suspect posed.
"Did I say something wrong Ollie?"
As some of you know, I have a particular and personal fondness for John Kerry. He really is the jackass of the Senate. The idea that this fool would pick this time to go to Iran is a testament to his vanity and lack of understanding of the current situation in Iran.
The Obama Administration, allowing this to happen is absolutely clueless. It would only give credability to a regime on its way out.
DECEMBER 24, 2009
Kerry Floats Plan to Visit Tehran
White House Wouldn't Oppose Trip, First by Top U.S. Official in 30 Years, to Chagrin of Iran's Opposition
By JAY SOLOMON WSJ
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Kerry has suggested becoming the first high-level U.S. emissary to make a public visit to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, a move White House officials say they won't oppose.
The funeral procession for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri drew thousands to the holy city of Qom on Monday.
WSJ.com/Mideast: News, video, graphics
The offer comes as mass protests against Iran's regime are resurfacing and a U.S.-imposed deadline nears to broach international sanctions against Iran.
"This sounds like the kind of travel a chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee would -- and should -- undertake," said a White House official, adding it would be at Sen. Kerry's own behest.
It's unclear whether Iran would welcome the visit, and it would be controversial within both countries. The Iranian government has rebuffed other recent White House efforts to establish a direct dialogue.
The Obama administration hasn't decided whether to make Sen. Kerry its official representative if he goes, but as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Kerry can visit if the White House and Tehran both approve.
Many opponents of Tehran's regime oppose such a visit, fearing it would lend legitimacy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a time when his government is under continuing pressure from protests and opposition figures. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again this week to voice their opposition to the government following the death of a reformist cleric.
"We've eschewed high-level visits to Iran for the last 30 years. I think now -- when the Iranian regime's fate is less certain than ever -- is not the best time to begin," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The wrong message would be sent to the Iranian people by such a high-level visit: The U.S. loves dictatorial regimes," said Hossein Askari, a professor at George Washington University and former adviser to Iranian governments.
A trip by Sen. Kerry could provide the Obama administration a last-minute chance to directly convey its views to Iranian leaders before the U.S. moves to increase financial pressure on Tehran in an effort to derail Iran's nuclear programs.
A spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations didn't respond to requests for comment on the potential visit. In Iran, officials have been dismissive of the idea since the magazine Foreign Policy said Friday in a blog post that Sen. Kerry was considering it.
The former presidential candidate has undertaken a string of diplomatic initiatives over the past year in coordination with President Barack Obama. The Massachusetts Democrat played a high-profile role in brokering an end to Afghanistan's postelection political crisis this October through his negotiations with President Hamid Karzai. He also has been serving as an intermediary between the White House and Syrian President Bashar Assad, and traveled to Damascus last February for direct talks.
If he goes to Tehran, it would be the highest-level mission by a U.S. official in three decades. Lower-level meetings have taken place recently between the U.S. and Iran in third countries, which also could still be an option for Sen. Kerry.
Oliver North, a national security council staffer for President Ronald Reagan, secretly visited Tehran in 1986 for talks on trading arms for U.S. hostages in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. But other than that, the highest-level U.S. official to visit was James Billington, the former head of the Library of Congress, who went for a six-day cultural exchange in 2004.
Sen. Kerry and his staff, according to people briefed on the deliberations, have explored the idea of Sen. Kerry writing to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to assess his office's interest in the senator meeting senior Iranian leaders.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff also has considered proposing a parliamentary exchange with the Majlis, Iran's principal legislative body. Its speaker, Ali Larijani, was formerly Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and remains an important player.
Mr. Obama has given Iran until year-end to respond to international calls for direct negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program before facing new economic sanctions. Many U.S. and European officials believe the window for diplomacy with Iran is rapidly closing, as Tehran has largely balked.
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Sen. Kerry, said he couldn't discuss any deliberations between the senator and the White House. Mr. Jones stressed, however, that no trip has been scheduled. "Is he planning now on going to Iran? The answer is no," said Mr. Jones.
The White House has already sent two letters to Mr. Khamenei seeking a more direct dialogue on the nuclear issue, and has received little of substance in return, according to U.S. officials.
Iran last month shot down an offer from the U.S., Russia and France that would have had Tehran ship out most of its low-enriched uranium for reprocessing overseas in return for nuclear fuel usable in an Iranian research reactor. The White House viewed the fuel swap as an important confidence-building measure that could have led to other dialogue.
Late last year, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Howard Berman, also tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Larijani on the sidelines of a security conference in Manama, Bahrain, according to officials involved.
Mr. Berman went as far as arranging a flight to the Persian Gulf country for the meeting, which had been brokered by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. But at the last minute Mr. Larijani back out. Officials involved said they believed the Iranian leader feared he would have been attacked in Tehran for meeting with an American lawmaker.
Write to Jay Solomon at email@example.com
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Fearful of a backlash against the costly healthcare overhaul and bracing for huge losses in the 2010 elections, Democratic leaders are urging the Obama White House to abandon efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year.
“I am communicating that in every way I know how,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., told Politico. She’s one of at least half a dozen Democrats who've told the White House or their own leaders that “it's time to jettison the centerpiece of their party's plan to curb global warming,” Politico reported.
“We need to deal with the phenomena of global warming, but I think it’s very difficult in the kind of economic circumstances we have right now,” said Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who called passage of any economy-wide cap and trade “unlikely.”
And Sen. Ben Nelson, who took a firm conservative stance against liberal tendencies in the Senate healthcare bill, said fixing the economy for out-of-work constituents, not the climate, should be paramount.
It's the biggest no brainer in the history of Earth. With China scuttling Copenhagen, a unilateral move to curtail our economy to stop global warming amounts to a transfer of jobs to China. Particularly at this time when the real unemployment rate approaches 25% when you add in those who have stopped looking, or as college grads saying "You want fries with that?" are vastly underemployed.
Father of dirt bag bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab warned US Government about his fanatic son. Maybe he should have had tea with President Barack Hussein Obama.
The same dreary headlines when a massive government bureaucracy fails; More of the same:
(CNN) -- Passengers flying into the United States from abroad should expect additional security measures at U.S. and international airports a day after a passenger detonated a device aboard a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan, the Transportation Security Administration said Saturday.
Measures will include increased pat-downs and gate screening, as well as having to stow carry-ons and personal items, including pillows.
"We ask that passengers follow the instructions of international security and flight crews," the TSA said.
Of course they will step up their pat downs. They do not have another answer because they are besotted with political correctness and fear of profiling.
Tens of thousands of obviously middle-class middle-aged suburban American white woman will be frisked, perfume bottles and skin creams seized, while some black Nigerian with a name like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and a passport with stamps from all the usual Middle Eastern shit holes gets through the MPG (mustn't profile gauntlet). Of course when you have a president with the handle of Barack Hussein Obama, perhaps it is understandable.
Never mind, it is only a matter of time before one of these Muslim shit birds gets lucky and kills more Americans because god is so fucking great and Allah the greatest of the great.
Disaster was averted because passengers took matters into their own hands. The only thing better would have been if they had kicked the snot out of him and then strangled his sorry ass till his eyeballs rolled back in his head and he quit twitching.
Disaster was averted because passengers took matters into their own hands. The only thing better would have been if they had kicked the snot out of him and then strangled his sorry ass till his eyeballs rolled back in his head and he quit twitching.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
(lyrics are written by Samuel Johnson, from \"Lovers on a Park Bench\")
The day with its cares and perplexities is ended and the night is now upon us.
The night should be a time of peace and tranquility, a time to relax and be calm.
We have need of a soothing story to banish the disturbing thoughts of the day,
to set at rest our troubled minds, and put at ease our ruffled spirits.
And what sort of story shall we hear ?
Ah, it will be a familiar story, a story that is so very, very old,
and yet it is so new. It is the old, old story of love.
Two lovers sat on a park bench with their bodies
touching each other, holding hands in the moonlight.
There was silence between them.
So profound was theire love for each other,
they needed no words to express it.
And so they sat in silence, on a park bench,
with their bodies touching,
holding hands in the moonlight.
Finally she spoke.
"Do you love me, John ?" she asked.
"You know I love you, darling." he replied.
"I love you more than tongue can tell.
You are the light of my life.
My sun. Moon and stars.
You are my everything.
Without you I have no reason for being."
Again there was silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench,
their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight.
Once more she spoke. "How much do you love me, John ?" she asked.
He answered : "How much do I love you ? Count the stars in the sky.
Measure the waters of the oceans with a teaspoon.
Number the grains of sand on the sea shore. Impossible, you say."
"Yes and it is just as impossible for me to say how much I love you."
"My love for you is higher than the heavens, deeper than Hades,
and broader than the earth. It has no limits, no bounds.
Everything must have an ending except my love for you."
There was more of silence as the two lovers sat
on a park bench with their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight.
Once more her voice was heard.
"Kiss me, John" she implored.
And leaning over, he pressed his lips
warmly to hers in fervent osculation...
Any external military action against the Iranian regime will strengthen the regime. It will play into the hands of the mullahs.
Look at recent history in Romania. Ceausescu ran one of the most repressive regimes in Eastern Europe until the Romaanian people had enough and took matters into their own hands. That process has begone in Iran.
Once such processes begin, they are unstoppable. It is only a matter of time. The video clip from the movie of an Iranian woman being stoned, is a "To kill a Mocking Bird" moment for Iranians who see this film and others like it. It is powerful propaganda.
Recall what happened in Romania twenty years ago. The days of the mullahs in Iran are short. Only an external military attack against Iran can save them from their inevitable fate.
Opposition Supporters, Police Clash in Iran
VOA News 26 December 2009
Fierce clashes between government forces and opposition supporters in Iran are reportedly growing more violent and spreading.
Reformist Web sites say the skirmishes broke out Saturday in central Tehran, and that riot police used tear gas to try to disperse the protesters.
Witnesses say some of the demonstrators have been beaten or arrested, and that riot police smashed the windows of honking cars.
One Web site, Rah-e-Sabz, says riot police have also been joined by elite government forces. Another Web site, Jaras, says some protesters sought shelter in a building belonging to the ISNA news agencies, but that government forces followed them inside.
Reformists have recently been staging protests to coincide with public events. On Friday, a senior, hardline Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami warned opposition activists not to use the holiday to stage anti-government protests.
Saturday's demonstrations come as Iran's Shi'ite Muslims observe the Ashura religious holiday. Ashura ceremonies culminate Sunday.
During the holiday, Shi'ite worshipers mourn the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people attended the funeral of a dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, an event that evolved into a giant anti-government demonstration.
Iranian authorities cracked down on the protesters at Monday's funeral and at subsequent rallies following Montazeri's death.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Transatlantic jet incident 'was terror attack bid'
The plane was carrying 278 passengers
An incident on an airliner arriving in Detroit from the Netherlands was an attempted terrorist attack, a senior administration official told the BBC.
Sources say a man tried to blow up the jet with 278 passengers on board, but was subdued and taken into custody. No-one was seriously hurt.
The suspect said he had been acting on behalf of al-Qaeda, a police source told the Associated Press news agency.
President Barack Obama has ordered increased security for air travel.
We heard a little pop, then a bit of a smoke and then some flames and yelling and screaming and then somebody said the guy was subdued.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said the president was monitoring the situation.
US and Dutch media report that the suspect is a Nigerian national studying in London.
A source described by the Associated Press as a "senior US counter-terror official" said the passenger had been planning to blow up the plane but the device failed.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing, the agency added.
'Taped to his leg'
Northwest Airlines Flight 253 had been arriving from the Dutch capital Amsterdam when the incident occurred at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Friday afternoon.
According to a report on the ABC television network, the suspect told authorities he had had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion.
Another US intelligence official quoted by AP said an explosive device had been used consisting of a "mix of powder and liquid".
The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.
A robot was used to check the plane at one stage.
At least one passenger was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.
Passengers told AP about a bang and smoke and fire, which some took to be a firecracker going off.
Syed Jafri, a US citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane's descent.
He said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and had seen a glow and noticed a smoke smell.
Then, he said, "a young man behind me jumped on him".
"Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic," Mr Jafri added.
Another unnamed passenger heard a "little pop", then saw "a bit of a smoke and then some flames".
After "yelling and screaming", the attacker was subdued. "They took him out and it was really quick," the passenger added.
Another unnamed eyewitness said a man had reacted to the explosion by jumping "over all the other people and he took care of it so the fire went out".
Britain, Spain and Holland will have an even higher proportion of Muslims in a shorter amount of time, an investigation by The Telegraph shows.
Last year, five per cent of the total population of the 27 EU countries was Muslim. But rising levels of immigration from Muslim countries and low birth rates among Europe's indigenous population mean that, by 2050, the figure will be 20 per cent, according to forecasts.
Data gathered from various sources indicate that Britain, Spain and Holland will have an even higher proportion of Muslims in a shorter amount of time.
The findings have led to allegations that policy-makers are failing to confront the widespread challenges of the "demographic time bomb".
Experts say that there has been a lack of debate on how the population changes will affect areas of life from education and housing to foreign policy and pensions.
Although some polls have pointed to a lack of radicalisation in the Muslim community, little attention is being given to the integration of migrants, it is claimed, with fears of social unrest in years to come.
("Social unrest" being the code word for blowing up subways and airplanes from London to Madrid)
Thursday, December 24, 2009
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2009
Iran Is No Existential Threat
The best way to rescue Obama's failing diplomacy with the Islamic Republic is to stop letting Israel call the shots.
BY HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, FLYNT LEVERETT | DECEMBER 4, 2009
After months of halfhearted, fruitless attempts at engagement, the United States and its European partners are effectively re-enacting George W. Bush's Iran policy. In 2006, after Iran had ended a nearly two-year voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment, then-U.S. president pushed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send Iran's nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, which duly imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic. But the sanctions did not prove "crippling," as Bush had hoped: Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure, and the risks of a military confrontation between the United States and Iran climbed.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama's administration has decided to repeat this sorry history. Last Friday, the IAEA passed a resolution urging Iran to send most of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad. It also reported Iran once again to the Security Council. Iran has wasted no time in upping the ante rather than backing down, saying it would restrict cooperation with the IAEA only to those measures "statutorily" required. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also announced that the Islamic Republic would build 10 new enrichment facilities in coming years. He later added, "Iran will produce fuel enriched to a level of 20 percent," the level required for Iran's research reactor in Tehran. This would be well above the 3 to 4 percent level that Iran has already achieved in producing low-enriched uranium and would take Iran closer to the 90 percent-plus level required for weapons-grade fissile material.
These developments again demonstrate the counterproductive futility of enshrining uranium enrichment and sanctions as the keys to resolving the nuclear issue. By prompting Tehran to reduce cooperation with the IAEA, the United States and its European partners have done real damage to the international community's ability to monitor the state of Iran's nuclear program. More broadly, U.S., British, and French insistence on "zero enrichment" in Iran makes successful nuclear diplomacy with Tehran impossible. At this point, there is no chance that Tehran will accept "zero enrichment" as a negotiated outcome, for at least two reasons: It is a country-specific formulation applied to Iran but not to anybody else, and it requires Iran to forswear its sovereign right to the full range of civil nuclear technology.
If the United States and its partners continue on their present course, the Islamic Republic will continue to expand its nuclear infrastructure, and the risks of an eventual military confrontation between the United States (or Israel, with U.S. support) and Iran will, once again, rise inexorably. There is no set of sanctions the Security Council might plausibly authorize that would change this reality, and various unilateral and secondary sanctions initiatives moving through the U.S. Congress will not work either.
A more constructive approach would seek to maximize international monitoring of Iran's nuclear activities by emphasizing country-neutral formulations for curbing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. This would require international acceptance of enrichment on Iranian soil. Getting Iran to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be an important step in this direction, but the most effective country-neutral initiative would be the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region.
Although talk of an NWFZ -- or, more broadly, a weapons of mass destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) -- in the Middle East is not new, serious consideration of these ideas in U.S. foreign policy circles always stops as soon as Israel's nuclear status comes up. For years, the Israeli position has been that, once Arab-Israeli peace is achieved, it might become possible for Israel to join in creating an NWFZ/WMDFZ in the region. Although American foreign-policy elites typically take this position at face value, it deserves a higher degree of critical scrutiny.
It is simply not analytically credible to describe the unresolved Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese tracks of the Middle East peace process as "existential threats" to Israel. The 1978 Egypt-Israel Camp David accords effectively dispelled the prospect of Arab armies uniting to "push the Jews into the sea." Similarly, there is no amount of additional armed capabilities that would allow Palestinian and Lebanese militants to destroy Israel without also destroying the populations they are ostensibly seeking to liberate.
More recently, the dominant Israeli discourse about Iran has routinely characterized an Islamic Republic with a nuclear "breakout" capability -- not to mention actual nuclear weapons -- as an "existential threat" to Israel. (Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reiterated Israel's position that Iran's full suspension of uranium enrichment is the only acceptable outcome from nuclear talks with Tehran.) But this position, too, does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. It is not analytically serious to describe an Iran with mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle as an existential threat to Israel or any other state. Even if Iran were to fabricate a nuclear weapon, it is not credible to describe that as an existential threat to Israel -- unless one has such a distorted view of Shiite Islam that one believes the Islamic Republic is so focused on damaging "the Zionist entity" that it is collectively willing to become history's first "suicide nation."
Rhetoric from senior officials and politicians characterizing Iran as an existential threat resonates with the Israeli public, for understandable historical reasons, and Ahmadinejad's statements questioning the Holocaust only reinforce Israeli fears. As a result, there is, effectively, no political debate in Israel about Iran policy.
But, when Israeli politicians and policymakers use politically effective rhetoric about Iran's nuclear development being an existential threat to Israel, what is really motivating them? Fundamentally, Israel's political and policy elites are focused on eliminating Iran's fuel-cycle capabilities in order to preserve a regional balance of power that is strongly tilted in Israel's favor. Regional perceptions that the Islamic Republic had achieved a "breakout" capability would begin to chip away at Israel's long-standing nuclear-weapons monopoly. That, in turn, might begin to constrain Israel's currently unconstrained freedom of unilateral military action.
One can readily appreciate why Israel values its status as the Middle East's military hegemon and wants to maintain the maximum possible room for unilateral military initiative. But that strategic preference is not legitimated by the U.N. Charter, the laws of war, or any international convention. Moreover, Israel's strategic preference for preserving and enhancing its military hegemony does not, at this point, serve the cause of regional stability or containing the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities in the Middle East.
The United States has an abiding commitment to Israel's survival and security. But that commitment should not be confused with maintaining Israel's military hegemony over the region in perpetuity, by continuing to allow U.S. assurances of an Israeli "qualitative edge" for defensive purposes to be twisted into assurances of maximum freedom for Israel to conduct offensive military operations at will against any regional target.
It is time for the United States and its international partners to get serious about creating a regionwide framework for controlling WMD capabilities in the Middle East, including the full range of Israel's WMD capabilities, to create a more secure environment for all Middle Eastern states. Obama's observation, in his June 4 Cairo speech, that no single country should determine which other countries are permitted to have particular types of weapons, could be a positive first step in this direction. But, if he does not follow up purposefully, this will become one more good Obama idea that ends up disappointing the expectations it initially raised.
Flynt Leverett directs the New America Foundation's Iran Initiative and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. Hillary Mann Leverett is the chief executive officer of Stratega, a political risk consultancy. Together, they have more than 20 years of experience working on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including at the National Security Council and the State Department, and now publish www.TheRaceForIran.com.
"Going Home" Dwight Williamstrish said...
A bit of completely unrelated and maudlin navel-gazing this Christmas Eve:
I don't know why it didn't occur to me until yesterday that when I leave here I am going to lose the unique sense of freedom that comes with being a stranger in a strange land and that this is the cause (along with leaving behind those I've grown to care for and can't take back with me) of genuine sadness.
That my last pony ride was as a puke diplomat ( : ) ) in a third world country just beginning to take off, I find astounding once again - after having grown so used to it as to regard it as perfectly mundane. This has, after all, been home for two years. My everyday scenery; my life. And yet, who am I kidding, it's not TRULY home. Hence the oddly felt freedom of the resident foreigner, the transient, the In Between.
Somewhat paradoxical, that sense of freedom, given that I've never had to be more circumspect, but I benefit from
a renewed and deeper appreciation for that particular facility as well. It keeps things moving along when things need urgently to be kept moving along.
So it was inevitable that I would reach the moment of ambivalence about my return home. But as my grandfather used to say to me (and it's the curse of plenty of Army brats), "Wherever you are, you want to be someplace else. Wherever you're going, you'd rather stay instead." Irritated the hell out of me at the time, his saying that. But there's quite a bit of truth in it.
(I recall sitting at my parents' kitchen counter the morning we flew out, knowing that I really had not a clue what I was in for. All things considered, that was probably the best way to go.)
Obama Announcement for President, February 10, 2007:
When I am president, I will sign a universal health care law by the end of my first term. My plan will cover the uninsured by letting people buy into the same kind of health care plan that members of Congress give themselves.
Remarks to the California State Democratic Convention, May 02, 2007
The very first promise I made on this campaign was that as president, I will sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of my first term in office. Today I want to lay out the details of that plan - a plan that not only guarantees coverage for every American, but also brings down the cost of health care and reduces every family's premiums by as much as $2500.
If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness. Everyone will be able buy into a new health insurance plan that's similar to the one that every federal employee - from a postal worker in Iowa to a Congressman in Washington - currently has for themselves. It will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity, disease management, and mental health care.
If you cannot afford this insurance, you will receive a subsidy to pay for it... If you change jobs, your insurance will go with you... If you want more choices, you will also have the option of purchasing a number of affordable private plans that have similar benefits and standards for quality and efficiency.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
When Sarah Palin coined the term "Death Panels" liberals such as Nancy Pelosi branded it the Lie of the Year. It turns out that Death Panels not only exist, but Democrats are protecting this rationing from future change with a procedural hurdle.
No one is certain of what’s in the bill, but Senator Jim DeMint spotted one shocking revelation regarding the section in the bill describing the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (now called the Independent Payment Advisory Board), which is a panel of bureaucrats charged with cutting health care costs on the backs of patients – also known as rationing. Apparently Reid and friends have changed the rules of the Senate so that the section of the bill dealing with this board can’t be repealed or amended without a 2/3 supermajority vote.
We already see how getting a mere 60 votes is well-nigh impossible. But requiring 67 votes puts the Death Panels completely out of reach of accountability.
The truth of the matter is that I am not convinced man's affect on global warming is proven science, but I am dead certain China is an environmental nightmare and American politicians from Nixon forward sold out to Wall Street and collectively jumped the shark with the Chinese.
It is appalling to me to see what they are doing unopposed in the US and in Latin America. The Chinese are intellectual property pirates and have used the west to build an industrial and soon to be, an economic and military colossus. The Chinese choose an American industry to target and compete with that industry by stripping away all safety and environmental common sense rules, all legislated regulation, all worker social programs and bring products to the United States that no domestic producers can replicate at similar prices.
The US policies toward China have been diabolical to the point that the only way a US company can compete is to close US factories and set up new facilities in China. The Chinese recycle the dollars into a military expansion and a colonization effort on a global scale. The government of the United States of American let them get away with it.
The fruits of this folly became clear to a rookie US president in Copenhagen. I sincerely hope that Obama learned a lesson. Read this story and tell me if you share my indignation.
How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room
As recriminations fly post-Copenhagen, one writer offers a fly-on-the-wall account of how talks failed
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 22 December 2009 19.54 GMT
Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.
China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was "the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility", said Christian Aid. "Rich countries have bullied developing nations," fumed Friends of the Earth International.
All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday's Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying "no", over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as "a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries".
Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.
Here's what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors. Obama was at the table for several hours, sitting between Gordon Brown and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. The Danish prime minister chaired, and on his right sat Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN. Probably only about 50 or 60 people, including the heads of state, were in the room. I was attached to one of the delegations, whose head of state was also present for most of the time.
What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country's foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world's most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his "superiors".
Shifting the blame
To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China's representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. "Why can't we even mention our own targets?" demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil's representative too pointed out the illogicality of China's position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why – because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord's lack of ambition.
China, backed at times by India, then proceeded to take out all the numbers that mattered. A 2020 peaking year in global emissions, essential to restrain temperatures to 2C, was removed and replaced by woolly language suggesting that emissions should peak "as soon as possible". The long-term target, of global 50% cuts by 2050, was also excised. No one else, perhaps with the exceptions of India and Saudi Arabia, wanted this to happen. I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world.
So how did China manage to pull off this coup? First, it was in an extremely strong negotiating position. China didn't need a deal. As one developing country foreign minister said to me: "The Athenians had nothing to offer to the Spartans." On the other hand, western leaders in particular – but also presidents Lula of Brazil, Zuma of South Africa, Calderón of Mexico and many others – were desperate for a positive outcome. Obama needed a strong deal perhaps more than anyone. The US had confirmed the offer of $100bn to developing countries for adaptation, put serious cuts on the table for the first time (17% below 2005 levels by 2020), and was obviously prepared to up its offer.
Above all, Obama needed to be able to demonstrate to the Senate that he could deliver China in any global climate regulation framework, so conservative senators could not argue that US carbon cuts would further advantage Chinese industry. With midterm elections looming, Obama and his staff also knew that Copenhagen would be probably their only opportunity to go to climate change talks with a strong mandate. This further strengthened China's negotiating hand, as did the complete lack of civil society political pressure on either China or India. Campaign groups never blame developing countries for failure; this is an iron rule that is never broken. The Indians, in particular, have become past masters at co-opting the language of equity ("equal rights to the atmosphere") in the service of planetary suicide – and leftish campaigners and commentators are hoist with their own petard.
With the deal gutted, the heads of state session concluded with a final battle as the Chinese delegate insisted on removing the 1.5C target so beloved of the small island states and low-lying nations who have most to lose from rising seas. President Nasheed of the Maldives, supported by Brown, fought valiantly to save this crucial number. "How can you ask my country to go extinct?" demanded Nasheed. The Chinese delegate feigned great offence – and the number stayed, but surrounded by language which makes it all but meaningless. The deed was done.
All this raises the question: what is China's game? Why did China, in the words of a UK-based analyst who also spent hours in heads of state meetings, "not only reject targets for itself, but also refuse to allow any other country to take on binding targets?" The analyst, who has attended climate conferences for more than 15 years, concludes that China wants to weaken the climate regulation regime now "in order to avoid the risk that it might be called on to be more ambitious in a few years' time".
This does not mean China is not serious about global warming. It is strong in both the wind and solar industries. But China's growth, and growing global political and economic dominance, is based largely on cheap coal. China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. Its coal-based economy doubles every decade, and its power increases commensurately. Its leadership will not alter this magic formula unless they absolutely have to.
Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. This is fast becoming China's century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower's freedom of action. I left Copenhagen more despondent than I have felt in a long time. After all the hope and all the hype, the mobilisation of thousands, a wave of optimism crashed against the rock of global power politics, fell back, and drained away.