Muslims For Peace – Women Need Not Apply

Progress:

Some 3 million Muslims put aside their country’s violent struggle with political corruption and Islamic extremists and raised their hands in prayer for global peace at one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
The final prayer Sunday capped a three-day Islamic gathering on the sandy banks of the River Turag in a small industrial town just north of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.
Pilgrims, many of whom left work early to join the prayer, streamed into the site stretching 190 acres along both banks of the river. As the crowd overflowed the space, people arrived at the site on packed boats or climbed onto the rooftops of nearby buildings.
The annual gathering shuns politics, which have become increasingly bloody in Bangladesh, and focuses on reviving the tenets of Islam and promoting peace and harmony.

Or, not so much:

Female Muslims, with the exception of high-ranking officials, were not allowed to attend, but hundreds gathered in nearby villages to take part in the event.

The effort should be applauded and noted. Muslim moderates exist, and it’s about time we see them take to the streets to demonstrate for something other than death to editorial cartoonists. It’s even more impressive to see this kind of demonstration in a country with as much political tension as Bangladesh.
However, the exclusion of women keeps us from taking it too seriously. If moderates truly want to gain control of Islam from the lunatics, they have to free their wives and daughters.

Is This Five Years Too Late?

George Bush went into the lion’s den yesterday, addressing the new Democratic Party majority in Congress in a closed-door meeting intended to help smooth the way for bipartisanship. By all accounts, Bush did well, using self-deprecating humor to defuse the tension between the White House and Congressional Democrats. The meeting may come too late, though, to bridge the partisan gulf on the war:

President Bush, forced by circumstance to reach out to some of his strongest adversaries, appealed directly to House Democrats on Saturday to work with him to reform the immigration system, limit the cost of Social Security, curb the consumption of gasoline and balance the federal budget.
Visiting the Democrats’ annual retreat for the first time since 2001, the president told lawmakers there are “big things” they could accomplish by working together and sought to defuse any bad blood with self-deprecating humor. He opened his public remarks with an allusion to his tendency to mispronounce the name of the rival party by calling it the Democrat Party, seen by many party activists as a calculated insult.
“I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party,” Bush said to laughter. He drew scattered applause a few moments later when he used the correct name in calling on the “Democratic Party” to work with him to address the mounting future liabilities of Social Security and Medicare.
Democrats rose to politely applaud Bush before and after the speech, a sign of the outwardly cordial and respectful nature of the day’s session.
Democrats had a rare opportunity to question the president directly, using a private session after his speech to press him on Iraq, immigration, global warming, the deficit and the absence of Hurricane Katrina and veterans’ issues in his recent State of the Union address. While Bush asked Democrats to keep the conversation private, some people present said he gave no ground on his basic position on the war but was upfront in talking about its impact on the populace.

The results of the meeting appear mixed. Democrats welcomed the President politely, and appreciated his humor, and Nancy Pelosi said afterwards that she hoped for consensus and engagement in three areas — energy independence, immigration, and jobs innovation. While the latter sounds like the kind of fluff that provides little more than grist for self-congratulatory stump speeches (because the private sector generates more innovation than bureaucracies), the other two issues are significant and important considerations that relate to national security.
However, the primary issues of national security have not been bridged by this meeting, nor does it appear the White House wanted to press for that in this meeting. Pelosi threatened to block any effort by the administration to use military force against Iran, although it is not at all clear that the White House wants to do so anyway. She also wants to pursue a “no-confidence” vote in the House on the surge strategy to match the resolutions currently under debate in the Senate.
While that would have no legal effect in the US, both will have a massive impact on Bush’s ability to hold his international coalition together. Parliamentary democracies know full well what a no-confidence vote means; it means that the Bush administration has no political reservoir of strength, and nations inclined to hesitate on Iraq, Iran, and Syria know they can outlast the Bush administration. It’s a recipe for two years of stalling while Iran gets its nukes.
Clearly the Democrats want to play to the anti-war activists that helped them win their majorities. However, the White House bears some responsibility for this as well. After 9/11, the Bush administration should have made appearances at these caucus meetings each year, at least as a show of unity in the face of war. Unlike almost all of Congressional leadership, which represents the interests of the caucus, the White House represents the interests of the entire nation. (The Speaker is somewhat analogous in the legislative branch.) In the aftermath of the worst attacks on American soil, the President should have actively engaged the Democrats as a means to keep channels open and to pursue bipartisanship on the war — making it an effort of all Americans and not just the responsibility of the Republican Party.
Would the Democrats have responded? At least some of them might have, although certainly not all of them. We would find ourselves with at least somewhat more resolve to face the enemy in their backyard, and while it might have meant altering some of the policies that the administration put in place to fight the war, the commitment to it would almost certainly be stronger than it is today. At the very least, it would have made clear where bipartisanship failed had the Democrats failed to respond to the President.
I think this meeting made a lot of sense, and I commend President Bush for going with grace to meet with his political opponents. It should have happened in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. It may be too late for the war, but at least we can hopefully make some headway on other matters of national security.

Iraqi Official: Half Of Violence Comes From Syria

While the US focuses on Iran as a fomenter of the violence wracking Baghdad and its environs, Iraqi officials have begun pointing west instead east as an explanation. After the worst single bombing in the last four years took 135 lives yesterday in a Shi’ite section of the capital, an Iraqi official angrily accused Syria of allowing “Saddamists” to flow freely across the border:

A senior Iraqi official has said half of all insurgent attacks in Baghdad are carried out by militants from Syria. Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government has provided Damascus with evidence to back up this claim. …
Speaking on al-Arabiyah television, Mr al-Dabbagh said many of the insurgents emanated from neighbouring Syria.
“Fifty per cent of terrorism enters Iraq from Syria, and we have evidence” to prove that, the Associated Press news agency reported.
“The Interior Ministry and the Ministry of State for National Security gave them [the Syrians] evidence about those who are conspiring and are sending car bombs. We gave them the numbers of their apartments and the buildings where they live,” he said.

If the Iraqis really do have that kind of intelligence and they have confronted Syria about it, then perhaps it is time for the Coalition to raise the temperature a bit with Syria. There seems to be some indirect corroboration for what Dabbagh says. The Iraqis last week halted flights to and from Syria and started closing some border crossings, in what had been analyzed as preparation for the surge strategy. However, it may have had more to do with unmet demands by the Nouri al-Maliki government for the end of Syria’s support for the Ba’athist insurgency.
The recent NIE mentions the issue with Syria, and notes that Syria “continues to provide safehaven for expatriate Iraqi Bathists and to take less than adequate measures to stop the flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq.” In other words, they’re supplying a conduit for both the Saddamists and the al-Qaeda fighters that have tormented Baghdad, Diyala, and Anbar. Iran, Syria’s military ally, has supplied training and materiel at the least to the Shi’ite factions it supports. This paints a strange picture of two military allies fighting a proxy war in the center of Iraq, apparently just for the destruction it will wreak on Iraqis — and therefore the damage it will do to the US.
Perhaps Iran is too tough a nut to crack with a military solution. Its topography certainly makes any action risky, much more risky than Iraq, and military strikes there will damage the pro-Western democratic activist movement already building there. However, none of that applies to Syria. Maybe we should keep economic pressure on Iran but start using military pressure to bring Syria to heel. That would solve problems for us in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories as well as reducing the flow of terrorists into Iraq.
If Dabbagh and the NIE have it correct, Iran and Syria have Iraq in a vise grip. The best way to beat that is to eliminate one side of the vise.

AQ To British Cells: Let The Beheadings Begin

Britain’s latest success against radical Islamist terror may have heralded the beginning of a major offensive by al-Qaeda against the West. Cells in the UK have received instructions to start kidnapping victims, make tapes of them pleading for their lives, and behead them:

ISLAMIC terror cells in Britain have been instructed to carry out a series of kidnappings and beheadings of the kind allegedly planned by the nine terrorist suspects arrested in Birmingham last week.
The “strategic” assassination instruction was issued by Al-Qaeda’s leaders in Pakistan and Iraq to dozens of their followers in this country. It was uncovered by MI5 last autumn, senior security sources say.
As a result police are on standby for multiple attempts by terrorists to kidnap and then behead people across Britain. MI5 is conducting a counter-terrorism surveillance operation to prevent such an attack.
The alleged attempt to kidnap and behead a Muslim soldier or soldiers in Birmingham was just the first of a series of planned attacks, security sources say.
The revelation explains the recent deployment of a permanent SAS unit to London. The unit has been placed on 24-hour standby to respond to a terrorist attack in the capital. It would aim to carry out a hostage rescue mission within minutes of being alerted.

The British have not stood idly by while this message has filtered out to the terrorist cells with their nation. They have conducted special-ops drills since the fall, aiming to prepare for the Beslan scenario, in which terrorists gain control of a school or a public facility. The plots have marked similarities to the Toronto cell uncovered by Canadian authorities. That cell had planned to take over the Canadian Parliament and eventually behead PM Stephen Harper.
Radical Islamists have not conducted a major operation against a Coalition member since the London bombings in 2005. The kind of intelligence work demonstrated in this operation is one of the reasons why. The British may have gotten enough of a head start to foil these plots. Let’s hope this turns out to be another AQ pipe(bomb) dream. (via Hot Air)

The Momentum Of Reform Slows

Nancy Pelosi got a Democratic majority in the midterm elections by promising to clean up Congress, to drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, and especially to disconnect lobbyists from legislation. That reform appears to have been derailed, as the Washington Post explains in an editorial, by Democrats more interested in keeping fundraising from lobbyists than in draining swamps:

DISTURBING, though not particularly surprising, rumblings are emanating from the House of Representatives to the effect that some Democrats are balking at requiring lobbyists to disclose the campaign contributions they arrange or collect for lawmakers.
This important requirement was included in the lobbying and ethics package that recently passed the Senate; Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.) have introduced the same measure in the House and want to see it included in the lobbying legislation that the House plans to take up in the next few months. A similar provision was overwhelmingly approved by the House Judiciary Committee last year but unceremoniously disappeared from the final version of the legislation, which never became law in any event.
The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported last week that some Democratic House members, egged on by K Street lobbyists, are agitating to have the provision removed. That can’t be allowed to happen. Mr. Van Hollen, who’s responsible for helping to raise big money from K Street and elsewhere as the new head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, nonetheless understands that providing accurate information about the real influence of lobbyists is a critical piece of reform.

Don’t get me wrong on this. The Republicans had total control of the levers of power — or as much as one can get short of 60 votes in the Senate — and never bothered to implement this change, either. They came to Congress on the reformist impulse twelve years ago, and allowed themselves to get co-opted in the process by the lobbyists and the contributions they raise for incumbents. And at least one Republican leader in Congress, Tom DeLay, aggressively courted that relationship in order to hang onto power.
The Republicans discovered in November that the bill eventually comes due. Apparently, the Democrats intend on learning that lesson the hard way as well. A party cannot run on the reform platform and then adopt the mechanisms of corruption without people noticing. And voters have twice in this generation tossed a party out of power for forgetting their promises once given control of Congress.
It may sound like good news that the Democrats are getting this wrong and setting themselves up for a payback in 2008. However, as an American, I would cheer whichever party manages to dismantle the incumbent protection systems built by past Congresses and the lobbyists that bought them. I would have preferred that the GOP had done it and allowed us to take credit for the accomplishment, but I’d settle for applauding the Democrats for it if necessary. If they don’t, the Republicans had better take it seriously when they return to power — and learn the lesson of their last failure if their opponents do not.

Rudy On Judges

Given the more liberal tendencies of Rudy Giuliani on abortion and guns, conservatives have expressed serious misgivings about his run for the nomination. However, the main effect that a President can have on these issues involves his or her outlook on the judiciary. The federal court system has been the main battleground for both issues, with Roe specifically precluding any kind of legislative action. Court nominations have become one of the essential considerations for presidential contenders — and it may be more important for Giuliani than any other Republican candidate.
Giuliani has hinted that he would nominate jurists in the mold of Antonin Scalia and John Roberts. Today, at a visit with the South Carolina GOP Executive Committee, an audience member pressed him for his position. His campaign office has supplied us with the transcript of his answer:

On the Federal judiciary I would want judges who are strict constructionists because I am. I’m a lawyer. I’ve argued cases in the Supreme Court. I’ve argued cases in the Court of Appeals in different parts of the country. I have a very, very strong view that for this country to work, for our freedoms to be protected, judges have to interpret not invent the Constitution. Otherwise you end up, when judges invent the constitution, with your liberties being hurt. Because legislatures get to make those decisions and the legislature in South Carolina might make that decision one way and the legislature in California a different one. And that’s part of our freedom and when that’s taken away from you that’s terrible.
President Bush has the great model because I think as the President he did appointed some really good ones and both of them are former colleagues of mine – Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Justice Scalia is a former colleague of mine. Somebody that … I think Chief Justice Roberts is a great chief justice and he’s young and he can have a long career and that’s probably the reason the President and Vice President chose him. I think those are the kinds of justices I would appoint – Scalia, Alito and Roberts. If you can find anybody as good as that, you are very, very fortunate.

It sounds as if Rudy has what could be an unbeatable combination. His personal views trend to the center and perhaps even liberal on these issues — but he wants to nominate jurists that will return these questions to the legislature and stick to the explicit text of the Constitution.
Will that satisfy the Rudy skeptics? I guess we will soon see.

I’ll See Your Hyperbole …

My friend and radio partner Mitch Berg goes off the deep end with his Super Bowl prediction this weekend:

In 1940, everyone – everyone – predicted Sammy Baugh’s Washington Redskins were going to beat the Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship game.
Of course, the final result was the Bears dishing out a legendary 73-0 drubbing, a victory that set the stage for the defeat of Naziism. …
Bears 42
Clots 17.

Of course, one could more easily argue that it set the stage for Pearl Harbor … but I digress. Historical hysteria aside, the Bears have a strong defense and a good offensive line, but the Colts have Peyton Manning and a re-energized defense that shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots as if they were the Minnesota Vikings in the second half.
If the Rex Grossman that played in the second half against the Saints shows up tomorrow, then the Bears have a chance. If the one that likes to play like a liberal and re-distribute the wealth (and the football) when on offense shows up, then the Colts will cream the Bears.
My prediction: 31-24 Colts.
Oh, and as an answer to Mitch — this will usher in a new era of peace, understanding, and freedom around the world.

George Soros: America Needs ‘De-Nazification’

It’s hard to get surprised by Leftist characterizations of conservatives as fascists The epithet flows so freely that even members of the Senate have used it, the last time by an ex-Klansman. The latest version of the insult comes from George Soros, speaking at the Davos Economic Forum last week about the situation in Iraq. Claiming that the US needs to cleanse itself from conservatives, Soros compared the process necessary to that used by the US in Germany:

He went on to say that Turkey and Japan are still hurt by a reluctance to admit to dark parts of their history, and contrasted that reluctance to Germany’s rejection of its Nazi-era past. “America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany,” Soros said. “We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process.”

This is highly inflammatory and, quite frankly, anti-American. We do not purge people from the political process here. We use elections and free speech to determine the policies the nation wants implemented, and we elect our leaders on the basis of a free and unfettered franchise. Equating Republicans to Nazis and then suggesting that the government impose a process to exclude them from public office makes Soros much more of a fascist than anything he decries.
And of course, just like the rest of the private-jet Leftists, Soros didn’t have the nerve to say this in the US — where he would have generated an avalanche of bad publicity for anyone attached to his checkbook.
The New York Post, which reported this yesterday, notes that Soros has given heavily to Barack Obama’s campaign after spending $26 million in a futile effort to defeat George Bush in 2004. Will Obama endorse his patron’s call to “de-Nazify” the United States? (via McQ at QandO)
UPDATE: Interesting debate in the comments, and in the blogosphere as well. Supposedly those offended by Soros’ comments are only attempting to cover our own complicity in the oppressive Bush administration — you know, the one twice voted into office by the American electorate. The counterargument is that Soros meant that we need some kind of process for national reconciliation.
Well, if so, he chose the wrong example, and Soros knows better than to confuse de-Nazification with the South African Truth Commission. The latter was used to establish a commonly-accepted historical record of the abuses of the apartheid regime, the better to promote healing for the newly liberated South African state. De-Nazification was the systematic removal of Nazi party officials from German public life, the price that they paid for supporting a tyrannical and genocidal regime. Even suggesting that such a process is necessary for the United States is clearly meant as an attack on the Republican Party, even at its most symbolic interpretation.
As far as equating Soros’ rhetoric with the accusation that Democrats are all traitors for opposing the war, I tend to agree. However, I don’t indulge in that kind of character assassination, and it doesn’t excuse it from Soros in any case.

NARN, The Oh-Crap-I-Live-In-Minnesota Edition

The Northern Alliance Radio Network will be on the air today, with our six-hour-long broadcast schedule starting at 11 am CT. The first two hours features Power Line’s John Hinderaker and Chad and Brian from Fraters Libertas. Mitch and I hit the airwaves for the second shift from 1-3 pm CT, and King Banaian and Michael Broadkorb have The Final Word from 3-5. If you’re in the Twin Cities, you can hear us on AM 1280 The Patriot, or on the station’s Internet stream if you’re outside of the broadcast area.
This means I will have to leave the house at some point, but I’m not looking forward to it. As I write this, the temperature outside is -9, with a wind chill pushing it to -29. We do the show in the basement of the bunker that is AM 1280 The Patriot, and so if you hear teeth chattering, you will know why.
Be sure to call and join the conversation today at 651-289-4488. Tell us what your wind chill is today, if you’re listening on the stream. Gloating will be allowed but derided…

Nasrallah Admits Hezbollah Funded, Run By Iran And Syria

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah told an Egyptian interviewer that Iran and Syria fund, train, and control his organization as an effort to spread radical Shi’ite Islam throughout the region:

“Iran assists the organization with money, weapons, and training, motivated by a religious fraternity and ethnic solidarity,” Nasrallah said. “And the help is funneled through Syria, and everybody knows it.”
The Hizbullah leader added that his organization is ready to accept assistance from any Arab or Islamic party, like Egypt or Saudi Arabia.
Responding to accusations that his organization acts as “a state within a state,” Nasrallah said that the current Lebanese government has yet to fulfill its obligation of securing the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, and getting Israeli-occupied land back. Accordingly, Nasrallah said that the people, or part of the people, are free to try and realize those goals by themselves.

This comes as little surprise to anyone, but it does provide explicit confirmation of Iran’s use of proxy terrorists in the region to extend its hegemony through violence and intimidation. It also confirms that Syria allows itself to be used as a conduit for the Iranian mullahcracy. The admission makes it clear, despite Nasrallah’s insistence that Hezbollah is a Lebanese organization, that Nasrallah leads a group that owes its allegiance to Teheran and not Beirut.
Nasrallah also admitted that he miscalculated the Israeli response to their attack on IDF outposts this summer. Israel’s overwhelming use of force came as a surprise, which Nasrallah blamed on an intelligence failure. They expected Israel to respond as it had in the past, on a scale commensurate to the original attack. Instead, the Olmert government decided to respond asymmetrically, a good decision which they inexplicably scratched after launching the invasion of southern Lebanon.
That isn’t an intelligence failure, however, unless Nasrallah means to say that he’s an idiot. The Israelis at some point were going to stop playing the tit-for-tat game that Hezbollah prefers, because it was getting Israel nowhere. Anyone with half a brain could have predicted it, even if they couldn’t necessarily predict which Hezbollah attack would provoke the overwhelming response. To claim “surprise” at this reaction shows exactly how provincial Nasrallah is, and why the Iranians and the Syrians have to run Hezbollah on his behalf.