Ed Morrissey has blogged at Captain's Quarters since 2003, and has a daily radio show at BlogTalkRadio, where he serves as Political Director. Called "Captain Ed" by his readers, Ed is a father and grandfather living in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, a native Californian who moved to the North Star State because of the weather.
Fineman Pumps Dodd
Howard Fineman uses his column at Newsweek to pump some much-needed drama into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, but instead reveals how desperately dull their prospects outside of Hillary Clinton truly are. The candidate Fineman highlights in his look at the Anyone But Hillary sweepstakes is Senator Chris Dodd, a man who exists to make Joe Biden look exciting:
In presidential politics there are a series of concentric elections until the final one (in the Supreme Court.…). Money comes just after—and in conjunction with—the creation of buzz.
Can Dodd create any?
Unless you live in Connecticut, or followed the insider mechanics of the 1996 Clinton re-election race (when Dodd served an unhappy year as party chairman) you probably have no idea who he is. Let me tell you, briefly.
At 62, with snowy white hair, Dodd is a lifer in politics and government, an insider’s insider—very highly regarded within the visible and invisible club of the Senate. He retains a boyish enthusiasm for the old-school arts of bipartisan legislating and serious debate. The guy tends to know what he is talking about.
I like Dodd personally, having watched him for a while and met him once, briefly, but he has all the zing of oatmeal on a cold morning. For Democrats, he's probably at the center of the party right now, but no one would know it because Dodd attracts so little attention. The fact that Fineman had to start out his description by saying, "Let me tell you [who he is]" should tell you everything you need to know about a career politician already in his 60s. He's been in the Senate since 1974, following in his father's footsteps, and yet no one knows who he is.
The need for Dodd is explained earlier in the article by Fineman. Hillary is a strange kind of frontrunner, an almost-conceded winner who almost no one believes can actually win a general election. Fineman cites a panel of his connections within the party -- "a megamillionaire entrepreneur from Boston, an academic from Harvard, a show-biz big wig from New York, an industrial-union leader from Washington" -- in divining Democratic pessimism at Hillary's anointing. Democratic strategists are so skittish that they have tried coming up with candidates that will replace her star power with lower personal negatives, but the most high profile are retreaded losers, such as Al Gore and John Kerry.
The Democrats need a candidate who can bridge the gap between the DLC and MoveOn while appealing to centrists and independents. Dodd could probably accomplish the former with his policy initiatives, but expecting him to appeal to anyone outside of a think tank will only leave the Democrats that much more pessimistic about their chances for recapturing the White House in '08.
Fahrenheit Jimmy Carter? Er, No
The Canada Free Press site has reported that Jimmy Carter's Carter Center has taken a large amount of contributions from the bin Laden family over the past several years, reminding some of the specious lines Michael Moore attempted to draw between Osama bin Laden and George Bush in his film Fahrenheit 9/11. The only problem with this latest revelation is that it uses the same bad assumptions Moore used in smearing Bush for fun and profit on the silver screen:
Ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter is in league with Osama bin Laden.
A paper trail shows that more than $1 million has been funneled from Bakr M. Bin Laden on behalf of the Saudi Bin Laden Group to The Carter Center.
That’s an impressive bit of investigative journalism that comes your way, not courtesy of the New York Times and company, but from Melanie Morgan, Chairman, Censure Carter Committee.
"An investigation by the Censure Carter Committee into the financing for The Carter Center of Atlanta, Georgia founded by President Carter and his wife to advance his "Blame America First" policies reveals that over $1,000,000 has been funneled from Bakr M. Bin Laden for the Saudi Bin Laden Group to the Carter Center," says Censure Carter.Com in a mainstream media-ignored recent media release.
"In fact, an online report accuses former President Carter of meeting with 10 of Osama Bin Laden’s brothers early in 2000, Carter and his wife, Rosalyn followed up their meeting with a breakfast with Bakr Bin Laden in September 2000 and secured the first $200,000 towards the more than $1 million that has been received by the Carter Center."
Judi McLeod warns her readers not to expect Hollywood to correct the story told by Moore in F-9/11 in 2004. However, she may well be incorrect, because the basic premise of her article -- and of Moore's film -- fails because it assumes the Bin Laden Group reflects Osama's worldview and supports his efforts. Nothing in the record substantiates that, and by this time the Censure Carter Committee should know better.
In truth, Bakr bin Laden and the rest of the bin Ladens have had little or no contact with their terrorist-leader relative, and the BLG in many ways represents everything that Osama opposes. Two years ago, Newsweek ran a major rebuttal of Moore's film, calling it "unfair" and titling their article, "More Distortions From Michael Moore" (and here is my post on this article). Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball reminded their readers then that the bin Laden family, apart from Osama, have never had any ties to terrorist activity. It relies heavily on business with the West, and all terrorist activities that pressure their business partners cost them a great deal of money.
With that history, and with many articles and posts defending George Bush against this brainless smear already in archives all over the Internet, the use of this particular connection by the Censure Carter Committee seems very strange indeed. In the first place, using allegations that an organization's likely allies have already repeatedly debunked tends to erode credibility very quickly. Second, it attempts to burn Carter for what may be one of the more positive projects he has undertaken. If we want to transform the Middle East through engagement and democracy, having one of the most powerful Saudi families publicly supporting the Carter Center helps legitimize Western ambitions in that direction.
Most of all, it makes the Censure Carter folks look rather desperate. I have little regard for Jimmy Carter, and I know that we have plenty of material already for which to excoriate him. Why go out on a limb with this tripe? More importantly, why spend all of this money advertising this unimportant episode in an effort to get the mainstream media to notice it? McLeod works her prose into a lather, but it doesn't hide the sad truth that Bakr bin Laden is not Osama bin Laden, the Bin Laden Group is not al-Qaeda, and the Censure Carter Committee is about to spend thousands of dollars destroying its own credibility. The only affect this will produce will be to make Jimmy Carter look good in comparison.
Perhaps Hollywood and the media might spend some time debunking this if the commercials roll. That might bring an unintended side benefit of further discrediting Moore's smear campaign against George Bush. It will certainly raise sympathy for Carter at a time when he has the potential to do tremendous damage to American interests around the world. For that, we will have only the Censure Carter Committee to thank.
UPDATE: DaMav in the comments makes a good point that Carter never defended Bush on this score even though Carter had to have known the allegations were ludicrous from his own experiences with the bin Laden family, nor did he challenge Moore at the 2004 Democratic convention. That wasn't the allegation coming from the Censure Carter Committee, though, and the CCC shows itself in the same league as Moore with this silly campaign.
Holocaust Deniers Accuse Rice Of Propagandizing
After their president has spent most of the last few months trying to convince people that the Holocaust never occurred in order to gain support for ejecting the Jews from Israel, the Iranian government described Condoleezza Rice's earlier offer for direct talks in exchange for a cessation in uranium enrichment as "propaganda". The state-run news agency IRNA carried Teheran's initial reaction to Rice's offer within a few hours of her press conference today:
The official Iranian news agency said Wednesday the U.S. offer to join in direct talks with Iran about its disputed nuclear program was "a propaganda move."
The American proposal, a major policy shift after decades without official public contact between the two countries, was made conditional on Iran agreeing to stop its uranium enrichment activities.
"It's evident that the Islamic Republic of Iran only accepts proposals and conditions that meet the interests of the nation and the country. Halting enrichment definitely doesn't meet such interests," IRNA said at the end of a dispatch reporting the offer of talks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"Given the insistence by Iranian authorities on continuing uranium enrichment, Rice's comments can be considered a propaganda move," IRNA said.
The Iranians insist that any talks be held without preconditions, but that still leaves them on the defensive diplomatically. With the US willing to meet Iran after three decades of enmity arising from their unlawful sacking of our embassy and taking our staff as hostages, suspending enrichment at least temporarily is a reasonable condition. After all, the entire point of the negotiations is to stop the development of nuclear material until we can have safeguards in place to ensure that the Iranians do not use it for weapons.
The Iranian refusal to meet the US on this rational basis can only lead to two non-exclusive conclusions: either the Iranian leadership is not rational, or they intend on building nuclear weapons regardless of their international agreements. Both are probably true. The only question that remains is what kind of action will effectively communicate global insistence on the end of the Iranian nuclear research program.
Towards that end, the US may have finally bought Russian and Chinese cooperation on sanctions with this offer. Both veto-wielding UN Security Council nations had insisted on negotiations rather than sanctions. Both had criticized the laissez-faire strategy of the US in allowing the EU-3 to conduct talks on its behalf. Now Rice and John Bolton can honestly report that the US attempted to start negotiations with Teheran, only to show that Teheran has no interest in negotiating on nuclear fuel development. Fox reported an hour ago (no link yet, heard it on the FNC through satellite radio) that sources at State have informed them that a sanctions package had received approval from all interested nations, which sounds like Rice brokered a deal.
The statement by Rice has put the diplomatic option back on the table. If the UNSC can get serious about its own resolutions and about nuclear non-proliferation -- one of the main purposes of the UN -- then the combination of world powers threatening Iranian isolation will force the government into conciliation, especially to protect themselves from their own people. If the permanent members continue to exploit the situation for economic and diplomatic gain, then Iran will continue to split the powers and drive towards the realization of its nuclear ambitions. The Russians and Chinese will then be responsible for the war that follows afterward.
UPDATE: Brant at SWLiP notes that the AP had some trouble earlier in comprehending the day's events. The AP reported that the US gave a concession to Iran. One wonders at the color of the sky in the AP's world.
Iran Presser Live Blog
Since I am homebound for the moment waiting on home health care to arrive to teach me to perform home IVs on the First Mate, I will watch the press conference called by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that will apparently announce direct talks with Iran on the nuclear-proliferation crisis.
10:04 - Iran represents a direct threat to the security of the US and world, and has accelerated its efforts to enrich uranium. So far, this sounds more like an indictment, not a conciliation.
10:05 - Offering a choice for Iran between a "negative choice" - pursuing nuclear weapons at "great costs". The positive and constructive choice would be to immediately suspend enrichment activities and returning to IAEA-based negotiations.
10:07 - This is just a proposal along the same lines as we have seen before, except with the carrot of direct talks. It's significant, but not earth-shaking. Iran won't agree to suspend enrichment, and certainly won't agree to the kind of verification necessary to pursue this offer.
10:10 - "If the Iranian nation believes it will benefit from the possession of nuclear weapons, it is mistaken." The example of North Korea to the contrary, of course.
10:11 - Questions ... Any linkage to concessions from Russia and China on sanctions? It appears not. One suspects that the UN Security Council has been rendered moot by this process anyway.
10:18 - Had to change channels; Fox's anchors think they're more interesting than the news conference.
10:19 - The US decided to join the EU-3 talks directly because we feel that the negotiations require our "weight" to check their the further expansion of their program. Translation: The EU has failed to do it themselves.
10:20 - Rice calls out the Iranians for their public vacillations. Good.
10:20 - Not ready for full diplomatic relations yet, but Iran can work towards a better relationship now.
This really doesn't change much except for an American offer to join direct, multilateral talks based on a condition that the Iranians have already said they won't meet. It does provide an effective response to Ahmadinejad's latest PR campaign and puts the onus back on Teheran for progress. I suspect that was the entire purpose of this statement.
Pentagon Understood Haditha Contradictions, Ordered Investigation
The Haditha investigation started earlier than previously thought after a Marine Corps investigator noticed key discrepancies between the physical evidence and the reports from the Marines involved. The New York Times reveals that the Pentagon had already referred the matter to criminal investigators weeks before Time Magazine reported the alleged atrocities at the end of March, from a presentation of the allegations by the magazine:
A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in Iraq.
Among the pieces of evidence that conflicted with the marines' story were death certificates that showed all the Iraqi victims had gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and chest, the official said. ...
When Colonel Watt described the findings to Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the senior ground commander in Iraq, on March 9, they raised enough questions about the marines' veracity that General Chiarelli referred the matter to the senior Marine commander in Iraq, who ordered a criminal investigation that officials say could result in murder charges being brought against members of the unit.
Colonel Watt's findings also prompted General Chiarelli to order a parallel investigation into whether senior Marine officers and enlisted personnel had attempted to cover up what happened.
From this description, rather than the impression of official denial and cover-up, the Marine Corps took decisive action early to ensure that evidence could be retained and that investigators started working on unraveling the deaths in Haditha. By the time that Time reported this incident publicly in the March 27th issue, the US military had already determined that war crimes had potentially been committed at Haditha. Time Magazine reported as much in its story, noting that it presented the military with the information that started the investigation.
Another key to the investigation was the payment of compensation to the families of Haditha's victims. The military received a lot of criticism for its failure to understand Arab culture in the early days of the Iraq war when it failed to compensate families for the collateral loss of life in villages where we operated. Blood money helps keep peace and avoids the perpetuation of hostilities between tribes for unintended deaths. The Pentagon now has policies in place which allow the military to pay compensation in those instances, allowing the issue to rest rather than fester. The Marines paid $38,000 to the families of those killed at Haditha, despite an initial finding that the victims participated in an attack on US forces, which eliminated their eligibility for compensation. Colonel Watt's investigation uncovered the payment by Major Dana Hyatt, who says he was ordered to make the payment by his superiors. In this case, the advice "follow the money" may apply.
The White House has announced that the investigations will be publicly released once completed:
Press Secretary Tony Snow said that he has been assured by the Pentagon that "all the details" will be made available. "We'll have a picture of what happened," Snow said.
That will help to build some confidence in the process used to determine the validity of the charges. Once the reports have entered the public domain, we can expect the blogosphere to thoroughly vet the documents and the evidence. If they provide as damning a case as we have been led to believe, then charges should be filed and the accused be given a public trial or court-martial for their alleged offenses.
Addendum: An interesting figure has entered this story. Paul Hackett, the Iraq War veteran and attorney that failed to win election in a special election for an Ohio Congressional seat, represents Captain James Kimber, an officer relieved of command after his unit conducted themselves improperly during an interview with a British news team. Hackett emphasizes that Kimber knew nothing of the Haditha incident and that the highest-ranking person under investigation is the staff sergeant who led the convoy when the roadside bomb exploded and started the chain of events.
What The Senate Didn't Tell You About Immigration
Robert Samuelson explains to his Washington Post readers what the Senate failed to communicate when it passed its Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA) last week. Many people wrote about the Heritage Foundation's analysis of the proposal, which estimated that 100 million people would emigrate to the US over the next twenty years under CIRA's provisions. Robert Rector adjusted that figure to 66 million after CIRA passed with several new amendments which provided some limitation to entry.
The Heritage study received some criticism for its supposedly pessimistic view of immigration reform. However, Samuelson points out that the White House and the CBO actually have similar numbers:
The Senate passed legislation last week that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) hailed as "the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history." You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration. But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million.
One job of journalism is to inform the public about what our political leaders are doing. In this case, we failed. The Senate bill's sponsors didn't publicize its full impact on legal immigration, and we didn't fill the void. It's safe to say that few Americans know what the bill would do because no one has told them. Indeed, I suspect that many senators who voted for the legislation don't have a clue as to the potential overall increase in immigration. ...
One obvious question is why most of the news media missed the larger immigration story. On May 15 Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama held a news conference with Heritage's Rector to announce their immigration projections and the estimated impact on the federal budget. Most national media didn't report the news conference. The next day the CBO released its budget and immigration estimates. These, too, were largely unreported, though the Wall Street Journal later discussed the figures in a story on the bill's possible budget costs.
The immigration reformers made sure to avoid those numbers when debating the impact of their bill. Instead, we got plenty of lectures about the noble immigrant looking for a better life, as if almost all of us hadn't descended from those exact same kinds of people. We never argued for shutting out all immigration, but what we wanted was controlled and sensible immigration that would benefit us and the world.
What we got instead was the deluge. Even with the White House estimates of 40 million people over the next twenty years rather than the Heritage Foundation's 66 million, we still need to know how this nation will assimilate two million people every year, both economically and culturally. I take that back: we need to know whether this country will assimilate two million immigrants or whether we will allow them to form insular communities instead.
Even with assimilation, that scope provides a daunting one-time task, let alone every year. Minnesota, for instance, only has 5 million citizens. That level of immigration would be the equivalent of adding eight Minnesotas to the nation within a generation without adding any more territory, and that doesn't even take into account the concomitant growth through births. Where will they all go, and what will we do to house and educate them?
By 2026, over ten percent of our population will have emigrated here within the past generation. What kind of impact will that have on our economy, our culture, our politics? Has the Senate even bothered to find out?
Samuelson is right. The Senate failed to inform us of the impact of CIRA, and the media did little to correct the problem. Samuelson argues that this reflects a bias that punishes those who ask critical questions about immigration policy, labeling them as bigots or idiots. Their closed-minded approach to debate instead reveals them as partisan absolutists, and in this case has done a tremendous disservice to their consumers.
McCain Bypasses Party Building
If a candidate for the presidency had an ambivalent relationship with his party, would he (a) go out of his way to show loyalty to the party by appearing on behalf of its candidates for lower office even when the two disagree on one issue, or (b) stiff the candidate by backing out of a promised appearance over said disagreement? If you answered (a), you're one step ahead of John McCain:
Arizona Sen. John McCain on Tuesday canceled an appearance for a Republican congressional candidate who has attacked his opponent for supporting McCain's immigration bill.
McCain, R-Ariz., was scheduled to speak Wednesday at a breakfast fundraiser for Brian Bilbray, who is locked in a close runoff race with Democrat Francine Busby for the San Diego-area seat left vacant by disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The event was expected to raise at least $65,000.
The winner of the June 6 special election will fill the remaining seven months left in Cunningham's term.
In an e-mail sent to the Bilbray campaign, McCain spokesman Craig Goldman acknowledged that McCain and Bilbray "disagree on some of the issues related to immigration reform." He said McCain did not want his appearance to distract from Bilbray's campaign.
Let's acknowledge the actions that McCain's campaign did correctly. They reiterated their endorsement of Brian Bilbray over the Democrat, Frances Busby. They also pledged the maximum contribution to Bilbray's campaign, $5000, from McCain's Straight Talk America PAC. While these steps should be the minimum effort for supporting fellow Republicans in tight races, at least they did them.
However, McCain fails to understand the role of the presidential nominee even while he pursues it a second time. The nominee becomes the de facto party leader, and that role carries responsibilities beyond campaigning for the presidency in the general election. The national ticket needs to provide lift for other Republicans on the ticket in lower offices, and is expected to argue on their behalf regardless of individual policy differences. Immigration, while an important issue, is not the only reason we elect representatives to Congress. The failure to elect Bilbray might mean the difference between Democratic and GOP control of the lower chamber in the final two years of McCain's campaign.
A party leader does not cancel appearances out of pique simply because a candidate in a close race disagrees with his pet legislation. Party leaders look after more than just their own narrow interests; they work to ensure that their party remains as united and broad as possible. McCain himself will have to argue for conservative support in any general election by reminding us that if we agree on 70% of the issues, it's better than having someone take office who only agrees with us 30% of the time. How is this any different?
McCain has a reputation among conservatives for being brittle and self-serving. In this case, McCain has reinforced both perceptions. If he cannot see fit to put aside a policy difference over immigration, then he can hardly ask conservatives to do the same in 2008, and on a much larger list of issues than just immigration.
UPDATE: A CQ source in San Diego's North Coast says that the district would not have reacted well to a McCain visit, and that perhaps Bilbray responded to pressure within the local GOP to distance himself from the Senator. Well, maybe, but it was the McCain people who canceled the appearance, and considering his reputation as a reformer, a McCain appearance in Duke Cunningham's district in the aftermath of his removal from office would have carried some weight with centrists in San Diego. If this came from Bilbray and the North Coast GOP, it was pretty short-sighted.
UPDATE II: Another source in the North Coast says that Bilbray didn't cancel the appearance. Bilbray, according to this knowledgeable source, is more of a moderate and would have preferred to have McCain appear at the fundraiser.
What Are They Hiding?
The Democrats have a deep divide on electoral strategy, the Los Angeles Times reports, which has its basis in policy, at least indirectly. Instead of a party debate between moderates and leftists on the nature of the Democratic legislative agenda, however, the party cannot decide whether to be honest with the American public:
With President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress facing bleak approval ratings, many Democrats are increasingly confident that the public is ready to hear the party's alternative policy ideas as the 2006 campaign heats up.
The question is whether the Democrats have an alternative ready to present. ...
On one side are those who believe the Democrats must present a sharp alternative to Bush's direction — as Republicans did with their "Contract with America" before sweeping into control of Congress in 1994.
"It is a time to move toward offense and toward talking about the big things that we stand for," said Eli Pariser, executive director of the political action committee associated with liberal MoveOn.org.
On the other side are strategists who fear that offering too many specifics could allow Republicans to shift focus away from public discontent with how they have governed. Those sentiments appear especially strong among Senate Democrats.
"If you start to [discuss] big government programs … you open yourself up to criticism in all directions, and there's no reason for Democrats to do that now," said one senior Democratic Senate aide, who asked not to be identified when discussing internal party deliberations.
In other words, the Democrats know that their agenda will lose them support in the upcoming elections. They want to offer more big-government, big-spending programs at a time when we can't afford the programs we already have. Democrats don't need a debate to determine this; it appears to be a consensus. Instead, they divide on the tactical wisdom of telling voters who they are and what they will do if elected. Honesty may be the best policy, but dishonesty seems to be the Democratic strategy for the midterms.
That may cause them more headaches than simply acknowledging their affinity for increased government spending -- an affinity shared by some Republicans as well, as we have noted often. If the Democrats offer nothing more than broad strokes about the benefit of positive government action, they will give the Republicans an opening to translate that gibberish into more specific policy implications. The longer the Democrats wait to explain their legislative agenda, the more time Republicans have to parse it out for American voters nationwide.
This reluctance to discuss their policy aims makes it clear that they already know that voters will not support it. This is the odd state of the Democratic party these days, pushed into increasingly radical postures by its powerful but fringe elements, especially MoveOn. They have torpedoed centrist candidates, and even talk of doing the same to the more liberal Hillary Clinton in 2008 for supporting the war in Iraq. Their fundraising goes to far-left politicians like Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer instead of reaching out to the center. Small wonder that Senate Democrats have pushed especially hard for agenda silence in the mid-terms.
In a way, it's 1972 all over again but with a different, more cynical twist. The McGovernites believed that their policies would resonate with voters and did not hesitate to share them. Thirty-four years later, the Left knows that their ideas will find no resonance -- and so they simply choose to remain silent about their policy objectives. Instead, they want to campaign on Republican negatives, and we have seen the effort in the so-called "culture of corruption". Unfortunately for Democrats, it turns out that corruption knows no party affiliation, and the cases of William Jefferson and Alan Mollohan have almost nullified that argument entirely.
Will this force the Left into actually revealing an agenda for voters to appraise? Not if the Democrats can help it.
German Women Volunteer For Suicide Bombings
We noted with alarm the recent interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his attempt to inflame Germans against the West by blaming their post-war humiliation on Jews. Apparently Ahmadinejad's attempts to provoke German fringe-dwellers have a ready audience, as Der Spiegel reports that three German women had to be tracked down and arrested after proclaiming their readiness to act as suicide bombers in Iraq:
SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that German intelligence agencies have prevented three German women from travelling to Iraq in recent weeks. The women, who have close contacts to the Islamist scene in Germany and at least one whom has converted to Islam, came to the attention of intelligence agencies after one of them had announced on an Internet site that she intended to blow herself and her child up in Iraq.
After the Web posting were spotted, Germany's domestic and foreign intelligence agencies mounted an intense search for the three women. One of them was located in Berlin, the other two are believed to come from southern Germany. The Berlin woman's child was taken away from her and she has been put in a psychiatric clinic. The two other women were also prevented from leaving Germany. One of them is also believed to have a child.
It's not clear yet how serious the women were about their claims and how far their plans for an attack had progressed. There has been no official confirmation. Well-informed sources say the women have had contacts with sympathizers of Ansar al Islam, a militant group linked to al-Qaida and suspected of smuggling suicide bombers from Germany to Iraq. The group is also suspected of raising money for the resistance to the US-led forces in Iraq.
Last year, as DS notes, a Belgian woman conducted a suicide bombing in the Baghdad area, and now it appears that Ansar al-Islam wants to recruit Germans on behalf of Arab fanatics. The woman's volunteering of her child as part of her own suicide shows the sickness required to participate in such assignments, but the fact that three German women made that decision and proclaimed it rather publicly has to give concern about Ansar's efficacy in their nation.
Besides the obvious advantage of using Europeans to defuse some of the normal suspicion of people traveling into Iraq, the recruitment of Westerners gives AQ two distinct victories. First, it embarrasses the West, and AQ can use these cases to show that even those who grew up in freedom want to see it end. Second and more important, every Westerner who carries out a suicide mission allows an Arab to avoid it. From an AQ leadership perspective, that's a good trade.
Give Us The Pork Database
The Washington Examiner today endorses a Senate bill that would require the government to create a public database that would allow taxpayers to access data for all federal expenditures (except for indivdual assistance). Tom Coburn, a noted pork hawk, authored the bill and has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors which include Barack Obama and John McCain:
Abraham Lincoln said, “Let the people know the facts and all will be safe,” so the Great Emancipator would certainly cheer an unlikely group of United States senators who have recently joined forces to push a potentially landmark measure. That measure is designed to put every American citizen within a few mouse clicks of knowing the facts needed to track federal spending as never before.
This measure should receive top-priority attention in Congress and be signed by President Bush at the earliest possible opportunity. The proposal is known as the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590). Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is the original architect of the proposal, which was quickly co-sponsored by Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Tom Carper, D-Del., and John McCain, R-Ariz. ...
The Coburn-Obama-Carper-McCain measure stipulates that within 30 days of awarding federal tax dollars, the government would have to post the name of the entity receiving the funds (excluding individuals receiving federal assistance), the amount of funds received by the entity in each of the past 10 years, detailed information about each of the transactions during the previous decade, the location of the entity, where the goods or services purchased with the federal dollars will be performed or purchased, and a unique identifier such as the Dun & Bradstreet number commonly used by the private sector.
The bill itself can be read at OMB Watch, a non-profit described by the Examiner as a liberal advocacy group. OMB Watch enthusiastically supports S2590 but has its issues with the approach taken by S2718, an alternative offered by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), which it details in its report. In either case, OMB Watch will not wait for the Senate to act. It will create its own searchable database for the federal budget for taxpayers interested in how Congress spends its money, an act that might embarrass Capitol Hill into finally introducing some sunlight into a process that has existed in darkness for far too long.
This proposal has come before the Senate previously in this session. In March, Trent Lott killed an amendment offered by Coburn and Obama which would have attached the requirements of S2590 onto the lobbying reform bill under consideration in the upper chamber. He used Rule 22, which labeled the amendment as irrelevant to the purpose of the bill it amended, even though almost everyone who has urged lobbying reform has made earmarks the centerpiece of why such change is necessary. Lott, on the other hand, felt that earmarks were of no concern to taxpayers and essentially told them to butt out.
At the time, I urged Coburn and Obama to reintroduce the amendment as a separate bill so that parliamentary tricks like Rule 22 would be avoided. Now the Senate has it in front of them once more. If they truly intend to reform appropriations politics, they will allow taxpayers this tool for accurately gauging the influence of lobbyists and special interests in DC.
CQ Joins The Examiner
Earlier today, Washington Examiner editorial-page editor Mark Tapscott informed me that I have been named to the Examiner Newspapers Blog Board of Contributors. As far as either Mark or I know, the Examiner has made itself a pioneer in partnering with the blogosphere in this most substantive manner. I will join other prominent bloggers to comprise a diverse group of voices from the world of citizen journalists.
My contributions will begin next week, and I hope that CQ readers will show their appreciation to the Examiner organization with their traffic.
Able Danger: Shaffer Fights Dismissal
Mark Zaid, attorney for central Able Danger figure Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer, has filed a new supplemental declaration supporting the opposition of the government's motion for dismissal of his lawsuit. The Defense Intelligence Agency has moved to dismiss due to its insistence on refusing access to his attorney to classified material. Two weeks ago, Zaid filed a motion opposing the dismissal, and this new declaration contains some interesting revelations.
Here is the text of Zaid's latest filing:
3. Shaffer and the undersigned counsel participated in interview sessions with the defendant Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General (“DoD OIG”) on May 16, 2006, and May 24, 2006. The DoD OIG is conducting an investigation into, among other issues, the factual circumstances surrounding ABLE DANGER and also whether the defendant Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer. These two meetings, as well as two others that occurred in November 2005, have all been conducted at the unclassified level, particularly - apparently - in order to allow the undersigned to participate.
4. During both meetings (and even during the November 2005 sessions), but especially the interview held on May 16, 2006, there were numerous instances where the conversation began to encroach upon “out of bounds” classified areas. For all I know, the conversations actually extended at times into the classified arena. In any event, it is clear to me that the primary focus and core issues at the heart of ABLE DANGER remain classified. This is of concern to me, and I believe should concern this Court for purposes of this litigation and present Motion, on at least two levels.
5. First, I, as Shaffer’s counsel, cannot adequately or effectively provide him sound legal advice since I do not know all the facts of the operation, nor the full scope of Shaffer’s role within the operation. This was more than clear when the conversation involved specific questions and seemingly vague discussions surrounding the legality of operations that Shaffer, and/or ABLE DANGER, might or might not have engaged in. The investigator asking the questions, and Shaffer in providing answers, continually danced around the issue while at the same time ensuring it was abundantly obvious they both knew what they were addressing. The conversation became so alarming to me that I was forced to specifically note on the record that I was concerned for Shaffer’s legal well-being and could not provide either adequate or effective representation, and I advised that both this line of questioning and his answers cease. I cannot judge at this time whether Shaffer is in legal liability or not because of the veil that the Government has purposefully placed over my face while at the same time continuing to pursue matters that potentially expose Shaffer to either administrative, civil or even criminal penalties. This scenario is completely unfair and inappropriate of the defendants to place Shaffer, or anyone, in.
6. Second, it is also clear that specific individuals and organizations, due to their classified or protected nature, are not being discussed or addressed in the investigation (again being danced around during interviews), at least not with Shaffer, who obviously was a key player in most of the relevant events. On multiple occasions I have witnessed first-hand Mr. Shaffer being stopped from providing testimony or sworn information by investigators (and I know of instances involving congressional staff) based on “security classification”. I also know that Shaffer has not been asked, nor has he provided, classified inputs to the DoD OIG investigations on ABLE DANGER. This issue is of grave concern to me as it directly impacts the scope and accuracy of the DoD OIG investigation. It is one thing to protect classified capabilities and avoid discussion due to the presence of uncleared counsel, but it is entirely another to avoid specific relevant areas of inquiry simply because of alleged classification concerns. While I personally presently perceive the conduct of those handling the investigation to be fair and professional, I cannot imagine the investigation can be completed, and more importantly any accurate conclusions reached, without addressing the gaping holes Shaffer can apparently fill and desires to address. Due to the potential administrative and legal liability that Shaffer faces as a result of his participation in ABLE DANGER, it is imperative that the testimony he provides (unless perhaps under some grant of immunity) to the DoD OIG occur in the presence of counsel.
Interesting. While Zaid offers praise for the conduct of the investigators, he clearly senses that the depositions have aimed at making any court action impossible by tying too many classified threads into it. Not only does this confound any prosecution of the lawsuit, but Zaid cannot even be sure that it is deliberate, since he has little frame of reference about the issues at hand. As Zaid says, in this position he can do nothing to protect his client's interests.
First Mate Docks
The First Mate has returned home after six days in the hospital. It almost took an act of Congress to get out of the place; she had a bronchoscopy earlier in the day and they did not like her oxygenation levels. That did not hinder her from telling them in no uncertain terms (and certain salty nautical terms as well, under her breath) that she would not stay another night in the hospital.
She's resting comfortably at home now. Tomorrow I get lessons in how to start a home IV for her treatment over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, I will not incur her wrath from my service ...
Let's Get Ready To Rumble
Democrats who have busied themselves painting corruption as an exclusively Republican affair have hit a number of obstacles to that message -- Reps. William Jefferson and Alan Mollohan prominent among them. Now the Democrats have to add their own leadership -- again -- as the Senate Minority Leader has been exposed as taking favors from a notoriously corrupt industry while he intervened on their behalf:
Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.
Reid took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority.
He defended the gifts, saying that they would never influence his position on the bill and he was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. "Anyone from Nevada would say I'm glad he is there taking care of the state's number one businesses," he said. "I love the fights anyways, so it wasn't like being punished," added the senator, a former boxer and boxing judge.
Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts -- particularly on multiple occasions -- when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions. ...
Several ethics experts said Reid should have paid for the tickets, which were close to the ring and worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, to avoid the appearance he was being influenced by gifts.
In a further blow to efforts to paint corruption as Republican, two GOP Senators also attended fights with Harry Reid. John McCain insisted on paying for his tickets at the retail value ($1400) while Reid's fellow Nevadan, John Ensign, recused himself from participating in Reid's pending legislation.
This follows on Reid's four interventions on behalf of clients of Jack Abramoff, actions which closely coincided with large donations from the tribes Abramoff represented. Reid, some will recall, also accepted campaign assistance from a former aide, Edward Ayoob, after Abramoff hired Ayoob to work as a lobbyist. These revelations get little play from the media (the AP mentions both in this story) and none from Democratic partisans who headline almost everything they can about Jack Abramoff, even though they have been known for a year. They excuse this and a number of other Abramoff recipients by rationalizing that Abramoff donated more money personally to Republicans, even though he directed his clients to donate tens of thousands of dollars to Senators Reid and Tom Daschle, Reps. Patrick Kennedy and Dick Gephardt, and at least in the case of Reid in conjunction with specific interventions on their behalf.
Now Reid has been caught taking favors on behalf of an industry with an embarrassing past and a not-much-improved present. I enjoy boxing, but no one who has watched the sport believes that its alphabet soup of associations play straight, nor does the judging always raise its credibility above the level of professional wrestling. Reid's instinct to regulate the sport has a rational basis, even if it would be unlikely to improve anything more than boxer safety. Accepting several thousands of dollars worth of tickets while actively pursuing legislation that would impact this industry is such an obvious ethical violation that Reid's protestations of overreaction are insulting to the intelligence of the voters.
I wrote last year that Democrats would regret their attempts to turn corruption into a partisan campaign issue. That problem relates to power, not party, and corruption affects enough of both parties to require a bipartisan effort to truly contain and end it. Neither party seems willing to commit to such reform, and as long as Democrats continue to screech at corrupt Republicans while excusing the likes of Reid, Kennedy, Jefferson, and Mollohan, then nothing will ever change.
Canada: The Terrorists Among Us
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has informed Parliament that many veterans of al-Qaeda's initial war against the Soviet Union live in Canadian cities, and that some have trained since then in terrorist camps:
Canada's spy agency says potential terrorists already reside in Canadian cities.
The deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Monday that there are many people currently living in Canada who fought with al-Qaeda during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
And Jack Hooper says those same people have since trained in al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.
The testimony to the Canadian Senate came during hearings on the nation's mission in Afghanistan and how it could affect their domestic security, and that answer does not give much confidence in the status quo. The Globe & Mail did not give any more specifics about Hooper's testimony, nor did it even report whether Hooper had more discrete data on the threat.
This information comes at an interesting time for the US. We have debated for months about our overall immigration policy, but mostly have focused on the Mexican border. We have two long and mostly unguarded borders that need more attention in time of war, especially against the kind of enemies we face. The key difference between the two is that our northern partner takes border security much more seriously than our southern partner. Ottawa also has no policy encouraging and enabling swarms of migrants to cross the border in order to relieve political pressure at home.
Nevertheless, we need to remain engaged with Canada on security issues, and this should remind everyone why.
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