Israel Captures Prisoners In Bekaa (Updated)

The Israeli operation in Bekaa has met with success. In a commando raid far behind enemy lines, the IDF captured an unspecified number of Hezbollah operatives in a Baalbek hospital:

Israel poured up to 10,000 armored troops into south Lebanon Tuesday, and separately sent commandos deep into the eastern Bekaa Valley where they raided a Hezbollah-run hospital and captured guerrillas during pitched battles, a major escalation of the three-week-old war.
The Israeli military confirmed the attack on the ancient city of Baalbek, about 80 miles north of Israel. It said troops, ferried in by helicopter, captured an unspecified number guerrillas and all soldiers returned unharmed. The statement gave no other details.
The Baalbek raid was the deepest ground attack on Lebanon since fighting began 21 days ago.

Hezbollah denied that Israel captured anyone in Baalbek, telling the press that they had the commandos pinned down at the hospital. Perhaps that is why only 10 rockets and missiles flew over the Israeli border today — all of their personnel may have turned around to realize that the IDF has the capability of operating anywhere within Lebanon.
It appears that the Israelis have just taught the Islamist terrorists a lesson in tenacity — and if the rocket trend continues, perhaps Hezbollah may have learned something about futility.
UPDATE and BUMP: The Jerusalem Post confirms that IDF commandos captured “several” Hezbollah officials in the daring raid, even though they got spotted early in the operation:

After several hours of intense fighting in and around the hospital in the eastern Lebanon town of Baalbek, which was built by Iran for the express purpose of treating Hizbullah operatives, IDF commando forces on Wednesday morning took a number of Hizbullah operatives captive.
An IAF helicopter dropped commando forces a short distance from the hospital late Tuesday night. The force was discovered as it moved towards the structure, where Hizbullah operatives were suspected of hiding. Several hours of gunfights ensued, and at least 10 Hizbullah guerrillas were reported killed. Another force was helicoptered in to extricate the commandos and provide backup for the mission.
After inspecting the identification of everyone in the hospital, the IDF soldiers proceeded to arrest several Hizbullah officials, who were later transported back into Israel. The officials’ names and positions in the organization were not revealed. The main target of the operation was Muhammad Yazbek, a senior figure in the organization. Yazbek was not in the hospital at the time of the raid.
No IDF soldiers were wounded in the operation, an army spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post.

If that last part is true, then Hezbollah couldn’t even wound the IDF far to its own rear after having spotted them in action. Israeli troops had the time to enter the hospital, check everyone’s identification, round up Hezbollah officials, and then extricate both themselves and their prisoners without taking a single casualty. Even the raid on Entebbe didn’t go that smoothly, and that raid is legendary for its effectiveness.
This makes Hezbollah look like a bunch of amateurs playing out of their league — and it demonstrates that Israel can hit them pretty much at will. Hezbollah leadership has to understand that if they can’t be protected in their own strongholds, they live pretty much at the whim of Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz. More importantly, their sponsors in Damascus and Teheran now understand that their liaison teams have a substantial risk of capture, which would be more than embarrassing in the current conflict.
Israel just won a huge victory in the psy-ops wars.

The Dictator’s Islamist Dodge

Daniel Freedman, who runs the excellent New York Sun blog It Shines For All, takes an interesting look at the disincentives for dictators to defeat Islamofascism in the American Spectator. Freedman reports that the real threat to Pakistan’s military dictatorship comes not from Islamists but from Democrats, led by former PM Benazir Bhutto. However, Pervez Musharraf has plenty of motivation for painting the Islamist threat as the biggest threat — and for making sure that he never quite beats them:

THIS RESPONSE TO A PERCEIVED Islamist “threat” by the West is based on the premise that if the dictator falls, Islamists, rather than democrats, will take power. An apparent “threat” therefore ensures that the dictator won’t be pressured to introduce reform and will be showered with aid. Take Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak: He’s backtracked on democracy reforms and imprisoned democracy activists. Yet he receives $1.7 billion a year in American aid. Why? Because of the supposed threat of radical Islamists (the Muslim Brotherhood). Other experts at this trickery are the Saudi princes: They fund extremist mosques around the world and yet American taxpayers pay for American troops to protect them.
It’s also true, however, that the astute dictator has few other options if he wants to maintain his rule while maintaining good relations with the West. He’s stuck in a Catch-22 situation. Not only does an Islamist “threat” solidify the dictatorship, defeating an Islamist threat, meantime, spells trouble for the dictatorship.
Under the Bush Doctrine, if a dictator has an Islamist threat and appears to be fighting that Islamist threat, he’s an ally in the war on terror. But if the dictator ever defeats the Islamists, he’s simply a dictator and an enemy in the war on terror — as dictatorships breed terrorism. Therefore, if a dictator successfully defeats the terrorists and fulfills his tasks in the war on terror he’s really scored the ultimate Pyrrhic victory: He’s turned himself into the target. That the Bush Doctrine ends up punishing a dictator who succeeds in destroying domestic terrorists can’t have escaped dictators.

With the fighting continuing in Afghanistan, we still need a cooperative Musharraf rather than the alternative. However, this does set up a dichotomy that the US will eventually have to face. If the cure for terrorism and fanaticism is democracy — and I believe it is — then we have to quit enabling the dictators at some point.

Israelis Press Towards Bekaa

The Israeli offensive has taken an interesting turn as the IDF unleashes its ground forces in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah may have felt sanguine about their chances of outlasting Israel thanks to the efforts of world leaders in handcuffing Ehud Olmert, but now the re-energized IDF has taken aim at Hezbollah’s patron:

Lebanese army and security officials said a major Israel Defense Forces operation was underway against suspected Hezbollah positions near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley late Tuesday. IDF troops thrust deep into the area, landing troops by helicopter in the Hezbollah heartland.
Lebanese security sources said IDF soldiers had landed by helicopter near Baalbek as aircraft launched several strikes in the region.
One Lebanese officer saying the Israel Air Force presence in the air above the ancient city was “unprecedented.” … “The extreme, unprecedented number of aircraft indicates the possibility that the Israelis are planning to land troops, but we cannot yet confirm that,” said one security official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Israel had seemed ready to shut down its offensive a few days ago, but the Israeli people rose up in indignation at the criticism leveled at them for defending themselves. This shows that the new push may have all of the critics confounded. Israel is not just looking to create a buffer zone in southern Lebanon with this new action — they want to strike at Syria.
Syria has maintained their connections to Hezbollah in large measure in this area. The Bekaa Valley borders on Syria, on the eastern slope of the Lebanon Mountains in northeast Lebanon. It puts Israeli troops much closer to Damascus than they otherwise would be, and removes most of the natural obstacles between the IDF and the Syrian capital. Most importantly, the destruction of Hezbollah assets in the area would not just degrade Syrian control over their terrorist proxies, it would severely damage their status as kingmaker in Lebanon as well.
Israel must win this battle. The US has to keep running interference until Syria and Iran stop funding Hezbollah and the Lebanese government disarms the terrorists. We have to show the resolve necessary to stop accepting hudna and start winning this war. Thus far, the White House has done a masterful job of allowing Israel the space to engage the terrorists and confound their sponsors. Until the terrorists agree to lay down their weapons and stop provoking regional wars, the White House should stick to its guns.
UPDATE: I completely forgot to credit Rick at Right Wing Nuthouse for the tip; sorry, Rick.

Rightroots: The Kingston Challenge (Updated!)

Our first day of the Rightroots initiative has started off very well — and has received quite a bit of notice. In less than a day, we have already raised almost $7,000 for the eighteen key candidates we have endorsed in our effort to hold both houses of Congress. Now we have been challenged by Rep. Jack Kingston, one of the most blogosphere-savvy Congressmen in office, to raise a goodly amount of money by the end of the week — and he’s ready to open up his own checkbook if we make it:
Dear Friends,
I commend the efforts of the Rightroots movement for providing a forum which seeks to help the Republican Party secure our majorities in the House and Senate, and might even push some competitive races over the finish line in November.
I strongly believe that small donations from a large number of people will help influence public policy and change the face of politics in Washington.
This is our opportunity to send a clear message to folks that Republicans don’t just beat Democrats on the streets and on Election Day, but on every battlefield, including the Internet.
I’m going to make a pledge: If Rightroots raises a total of $26,000 by 11:59 PM (EST) on Friday, August 4, I will contribute a total of $14,000 directly to some of the candidates from my Leadership PAC in the name of our movement.
It’s time for action, and these candidates need our help. Together, we can do it.
Jack Kingston
Member of Congress
Well, let’s not let Rep. Kingston down!

UPDATE: I put up a draft, not the final — my mistake. We will have details to follow, but Rep. Kingston is very enthused about our project.
UPDATE II: We now have the final version from Rep. Kingston, and I’ve updated the post to reflect the correct numbers. We’ve raised over $7,000 the first day — so far! We can make $26,000 if we keep at it.

Unhappy Days Are Here Again

National Review’s Michael Ledeen takes us on a trip in the Wayback Machine, but unlike the journeys of Peabody and his boy Sherman, Ledeen notices that we arrive back in the present:

Certainly there is lots of bad news, most of which confirms what we already knew: The Western world hates Israel; the taboo on anti-Semitism is off; the Western world has been P.C.’ed to the edge of death; there is no stomach for fighting the war against Islamic fascism.
Sounds like the Thirties to me. …
Then, too, the mounting power of what became the Axis was ignored. As my father often reminded me, a few months before Pearl Harbor, at a time when Nazi armies were long since on the march, the draft passed by a single vote. Apologists for Hitler and Mussolini were legion, and some of our leading intellectuals were saying that American democratic capitalism was a failure, and we would do well to emulate the European totalitarians.
So I don’t see this moment as something unique, the result of some inner rot, or a moment on a greased skid leading to the abyss. It’s one of the many things we are. But we are many things, and we are not like the Europeans, many of whom are reviving their anti-Semitic fantasies in an effort to cope with their weakness and irrelevance.

We seem to have the same problem that afflicted Europe in the Thirties, as Ledeen notes. We don’t have the will to conduct war when it can be won relatively cheaply, and so we will dither until it becomes obscenely expensive. One reason for re-opening the Gulf War in 2003 was to ensure that people understood that we would not sit idly by while a nation flaunted its violation of both a cease-fire agreement and sixteen UNSC resolutions. We dithered on Iraq for twelve years while ignoring an almost-continuous series of acts of war.
Unfortunately, that effort took what little tenacity the West had to offer. Now, when a universally acknowledged terrorist organization commits an obvious act of war, the West demands that the victim stop fighting back. Instead of uniting to face down the terrorist enablers in Teheran and Damascus, we have the spectacle of the French government calling Iran a “stabilizing force” for the region. They may be right — but what kind of stabilization does France and the rest of Europe want? Apparently the same kind that Hitler provided and Vichy administered.
When we entered the war on terror, we knew where the loci of state support existed: Damascus, Teheran, Baghdad, and Kabul. We have managed to do something about the latter two, but we seem curiously unwilling to finish the job. We do not need to declare war on Syria and Iran to beat them, and in Iran’s case at least, war would definitely be detrimental to the cause. However, we need to work fast and hard to topple the terrorist-sponsoring regimes, not coddle and reward them by having them dictate the peace in the Middle East. We know what their idea of peace means — so why do we endorse it?
Let’s try winning this war. As Ledeen always says …. faster, please.

Mel Asks For Help And Forgiveness

Mel Gibson has extended his apology in a statement released earlier today, and this time he explicity acknowledges the anti-Semitic rant that has plunged one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars into so much hot water. Not only has he apologized to the Jewish community, he has asked them for help in determining the source of his bigoted words:

There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark. I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge. …
The tenets of what I profess to believe necessitate that I exercise charity and tolerance as a way of life. Every human being is God’s child, and if I wish to honor my God I have to honor his children. But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith.
I’m not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one on one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.
I have begun an ongoing program of recovery and what I am now realizing is that I cannot do it alone. I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery. Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help. I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.

The sentiment seems sincere, and he doesn’t appear to be dodging any responsibility for his words and actions over the weekend. Some may see this as a publicity stunt, and it certainly could be just that. The question for his fans and foes is whether to accept Mel at his word and challenge him to atone for his hateful and asinine actions, or whether to write him off as a human being.
I’m not suggesting that Gibson get a pass for his outburst; far from it. In fact, the responses as noted in the New York Times sound perfectly reasonable under the circumstances:

On Monday, Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network, said the company was dropping its plans to produce a Holocaust-themed miniseries in collaboration with Mr. Gibson. …
She did not connect the project’s termination to Mr. Gibson’s remarks. But his statements had already attracted sharp criticism from some who argued that he should be disqualified from moving ahead with the series, despite having apologized for several anti-Jewish statements.
“I don’t think he should be doing a film on the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had previously criticized what he saw as anti-Semitic overtones in Mr. Gibson’s hit, “The Passion of the Christ.” “It would be like asking someone associated with the K.K.K. to do a movie on the African-American experience.”

I think Hier has that about right. If Gibson wants to produce some work on Jewish history, particularly on its history of suffering and displacement, then it should not be a for-profit endeavor. He needs to atone for his sin, and one does not profit from atonement. Besides, Gibson’s words have opened up a huge credibility gap on any project involving Judaism in the near or moderate term, perhaps forever. He would do better by working with the Jewish community to really learn about Judaism and the journey of this ancient and wise people.
If he does, though, it seems that some people will still hold no possibility for forgiveness in their hearts. That’s a choice each of us has to make, but we should ask ourselves whether we believe in redemption at all. The point of Christianity is that each of us, no matter our transgressions, have the ability to redeem ourselves and change for the better. If we believe that sinners can be forgiven, then Gibson — if he sincerely repents and atones for his sins and accepts the consequences of them — has that same possibility.
I have a particular interest in anti-Semitic rants, as my maternal grandfather was Jewish, although non-practicing. He was one of the sweetest men I ever knew, and loved his family more than anything else. His own family ostracized him, more or less, when he married my Roman Catholic grandmother. He died when I was eighteen, the first person to whom I was really close to pass away. I still miss him and his sense of humor, which my mother swears I inherited. (That doesn’t make me Jewish or give me any moral superiority over anyone else opining on this topic, but in the interest of disclosure, CQ readers should understand my perspective.)
When people issue these disgusting insults and paranoid conspiracy theories, I think of my grandfather and the humble life he led, and it makes me angry. I expect it from the likes of Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and David Duke, but not from Mel Gibson, who has worked with enough Jews to know better. Still, my own faith tells me to judge a man’s actions and not the state of his soul, and I think that is where we should leave it with Gibson, at least for now. We should challenge him to repent and atone, and this statement is a good step towards the former. We should pray that he enlightens himself rather than wallow in the kind of hatred and ignorance that produced those terrible comments. If he meets the challenge, we should welcome him back into our good graces and allow him to be an example that bigotry can be healed.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Airlines To Get Free Ride On Pension Reform?

Congress is about to send a pension-reform bill to the White House that forces employers to meet their funding obligations for employee pension plans. Unfortunately, HR 2830 exempts at least one key industry from meeting that requirement, and tosses some serious pork into the stew to boot. I explain this at the Heritage Foundation Policy Blog:

Airlines employ hundreds of thousands of Americans and the risk to those pensions will require immediate action. This free pass allows the industry to continue its under-the-radar flight on pensions, which hides the instability of the industry’s economic position. Postponing action does not mean that the PBGC would not have to bail out these pension funds; if history is any judge, exemptions and postponements result in less compliance, not more.
Not only does the bill contain these exemptions, putting the retirement of many Americans at risk, the Senate has played their usual pork-barrel games in putting together this legislation. What do scenic prairie roads and the cleanup of abandoned mines have to do with pension reform? To the untrained eye, nothing at all – and yet two Senators have earmarked $50 million and $5 billion for these tasks in HR 2830, respectively.
Rep. Mike Pence has voiced serious reservations about the Abandoned Mine Land Fund under any circumstances. Since 1977, AML has existed on fees charged for coal production, and these fees will expire in 2007. The fees go to cleanup of old mining sites, and also to supplement health-care premiums of miners whose companies have left the industry or gone under altogether. The new proposal starts lowering fees on coal production, increases payments to states and retirees, and forces the federal government to replace the funds – and changes AML from discretionary to mandatory spending. This adds the $5 billion to an already-bloated set of entitlement spending by the federal government, making it ever more difficult to reduce the federal budget.

Be sure to read David John’s entire analysis of HR 2830, and why we should push for a presidential veto if it remains in its current state.

The Soft Nihilism Of Low Expectations

I return to the editorial page of the Examiner today with a piece on the double standard for Israel’s prosecution of the war, as opposed to the lack of outrage over terrorist tactics and strategy. Borrowing a phrase from George Bush, I argue that this soft nihilism of low expectations — which also snares the United States in its grip — actually encourages terrorism:

While the world holds Israel to this standard, things become curiously silent when it’s time to hold Hezbollah responsible for its conduct of war. Hardly a word has escaped from the U.N. or Europe on the 2,500 missiles that have rained down upon Israeli civilians, deliberately targeted by Hezbollah. Those attacks have displaced more than 300,000 civilians, a fact the global community and the mainstream media ignore.
Those who argue that Israel has occasionally violated the Geneva Conventions in its attacks casually ignore the blatant violations of Hezbollah, whose combatants wear no uniform, deliberately hide in civilian populations and fire weapons from residential areas. Hezbollah conducts none of its operations within the rules of war — and yet world leaders and the media never mention it.
Why? Because no one expects terrorists to follow the rules. This is the soft nihilism of low expectations.

Quite frankly, this double standard will eventually destroy Western civilization by rendering us incapable of defeating our enemies. Those nations wishing to destroy us have watched carefully over the last several years while our own people obsess — and I do not think that too strong a term — over anomalies like Abu Ghraib and Qana, and they note the lack of outrage over the fact that their proxies have deliberately launched 2,500 missiles at Israeli civilians. No leaders or media make a peep about the butchery of our enemies as displayed in the torture and beheading of our troops, except to somehow make it our fault for fighting terrorism in the first place.
What lessons do you think Iran, Syria, and the rest of the terrorists draw from these observations?
Bruce Kesler has more on this topic.

Meet The Rightroots Candidates (Update & Bump)

[Good questions from commenters — see update below!]
A group of conservative bloggers have worked on a developing a list of candidates in critical races this fall, not just for a show of support but also to allow our readers a single point where they could contribute to their campaigns. John Hawkins at Right Wing News began to organize this a couple of weeks ago, and we have selected a slate of Congressional and Senatorial races we think will get the most benefit from organized grassroots support on the Internet.
We call this effort Rightroots, and our site, powered by ABCPac, launched this evening.
The selection committee comprised the following bloggers:
John Hawkins from Right Wing News
Robert Bluey from Human Events Online
Mary Katherine Ham from Townhall
Erick Erickson from Redstate
Patrick Hynes from Ankle Biting Pundits
Lorie Byrd from Wizbang!
We have selected fourteen Congressional races and four Senate races we see as critical and close enough to warrant organized support from our readers. On our donations page, we give a description of the races and the politics involved. We deliberately avoided races where Republicans either have a large edge or face weak opposition. Each of these races may well come down to the last $100 for campaigning efforts, and winning all eighteen would provide a tremendous boost for conservatives across the nation.
All of these candidates have our unanimous endorsement for their races. We hope that you will join us in supporting these fine candidates, and follow along as we raise money for them. Bookmark the Rightroots page to see how well our candidate fare in the weeks ahead, and help us spread the word through the blogosphere.
We talk about the need to build conservative power in government — and now we have the tool to do it.
UPDATE: I’m replacing the links with those for the posts of the other Rightroots members, so keep checking back.
UPDATE II AND BUMP: I’ve received some good questions from CQ readers, and I want to explain our decisions in answer to them.
Why isn’t Candidate X on the list? Why not list all GOP candidates? – We hope that all Republican candidates win their races. However, we wanted to focus on competitive races or on seats that have a broader impact on national politics. Obviously, we still encourage people to contribute to other Republicans; it’s just that we feel contributions in these races will have the most impact.
You don’t list incumbents — Given the natural advantages of incumbency in most cases, we felt that our efforts should focus elsewhere.
Michael Steele is almost 20 points back in some polls, so why include him? – I think that’s an outlier, but even so, we felt that Steele’s candidacy has a national impact. The same goes for Diana Irey, who wants to unseat John Murtha in Pennsylvania.
What about governors? – It turns out that having this sort of effort for governors gets too complicated in regard to contribution regulations, and we were asked to eliminate those from our list. We tried!
I noticed you passed over [insert RINO candidate here] — Glad you noticed. However, we did not include incumbents as a rule, so don’t take an exclusion to mean we oppose someone’s re-election.
Your logo trips me out, dude — Actually, John has several on his site, and I chose this one for the post. Feel free to put one of the others on your site and link back to the Rightroots page at ABCPac! (And if you come up with something better, let us know!

The Dog Ate … Something

Sorry for the slow start this morning. Our dog has been sick all night and we just dropped her off at the vet. I’ll be back up and running shortly.
UPDATE: Just to explain, we lost one of our dogs, Angel, while I was in the hospital. She was almost 15 years old and had been “losing it” for a few months, so her passing wasn’t unexpected. That left us with Cory, the First Mate’s retired guide dog, who has never exactly been a canine dynamo of energy, if you know what I mean. She’s 12 now and even a bit slower these days, but over the last week she started getting lethargic even for her, and a couple of days ago stopped eating after vomiting a couple of times. We took her to the vet yesterday, where she gobbled up some treats, and everything else looked normal. We bought some medicine and the vet told us to bring her back right away if we had any more trouble.
Unfortunately, last night she got sick again and started wandering aimlessly around the house. I spent most of the night trying to get her to lay down and relax until we could take her to the vet. They’re going to keep her today and probably tonight to take some X-rays to see if she has a blockage, which is what we suspect. So now I’m pretty tired out, and thinking that this has been the summer from hell. We’ve certainly had the heat and humidity to indicate it, along with the series of family crises.
UPDATE II: The blood panel came back with no indications of kidney or liver failure, but with a substantially elevated white-cell count. The vet suspects pancreatitis, which is apparently treatable, and they’re starting antibiotics just in case. She’s also pretty dehydrated, so they’re giving her IV fluids. They can’t keep her overnight, so we’ll probably bring her home later and take her back tomorrow for more IV fluids if necessary.
I feel silly about this, but she’s such a great dog, and I’m hoping she can recover.