Good News In Anbar

Just as the Democrats have raised the white flag on Iraq, the New York Times reports that the surge strategy has started paying off in Anbar. Shops have reopened, people have moved back, and everyone’s challenging the insurgents except Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (via Memeorandum):

Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.
“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”
Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.
At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.

Life has not yet returned to normal, nor even close to it. Infrastructure still has yet to be rebuilt, and the loyalty of America’s new allies still remains uncertain. What does appear certain is that this former stronghold of Ba’athist resentment no longer wants to exist in a cycle of oppression, liberation, and destruction. They want to end the fighting by eliminating the insurgents.
The question will be whether they stick with that in the face of an imminent American withdrawal. It has taken four years for Anbar to understand that Sunni domination in Iraq has ended and will not return, neither in the guise of Saddam Hussein nor in a military junta ruled by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the chief Ba’athist dead-ender. Now that they have finally pulled together with the US to oppose the increasingly lunatic al-Qaeda terrorists, we have lost the will to fight the insurgents ourselves — or at least Congress has.
Government buildings and hotels are being rebuilt in Ramadi. Even the New York Times reports that violence has swiftly fallen in the region. Last summer, Ramadi had 25 terrorist attacks a day, and now it has dropped to four — still too many, but with the expanded police force holding territory for the first time since the liberation, the momentum has clearly shifted. American troops have turned to civil-affairs work, trying to kick-start the rebuilding effort that will secure some semblance of peace among the Sunnis.
The growing security forces rely on the Americans to assist them in getting the terrorists that everyone wants driven out of Iraq. Without us, they would have to sue for terms with the AQI lunatics that would have them divided and fighting amongst themselves. If we leave now, we will destroy all of the work we have done to reach this point — when even the Times acknowledges that we have finally begun to set the stage for success in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq.

Welcoming Snow In The Spring

No, I’m not talking about the notoriously fickle Minnesota weather, which at the moment is 84 degrees, muggy, and cloudy. I’m talking about the return of Tony Snow to the White House after weeks of cancer treatments:

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who will soon begin chemotherapy to fight a cancer recurrence, told fellow alumni at Davidson College that he feels great and plans to return to work Monday.
Snow, 51, has been on medical leave since announcing March 27 that a growth in his abdominal area was cancerous and had metastasized, or spread, to the liver.
“No, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be gray, shriveled and in the fetal position,” he told about 600 alumni and family members at a 30-year reunion Saturday. “To my classmates who think I’m going to lose my great hair, forget about it.”

Welcome back, Tony. Glad to have you at the podium again.

Obama, The Neocon (Updated)

Is Barack Obama an interventionist neocon in sheep’s clothing? Robert Kagan apparently thinks so, and makes his case in today’s Washington Post. I provide an answer at Heading Right, and note that one speech does not a hawk make.
UPDATE: With Democrats howling over the supposedly unprecedented politicization of the Bush White House — as if they’d forgotten all about James Carville and Vernon Jordan — Newsweek reminds them that Democrats hardly qualify as ethics scolds:

Sen. Barack Obama vows to bring a “new kind of politics” to Washington. But a copy of a 36-page fax from Obama’s Senate office, obtained by NEWSWEEK, shows that the rookie presidential candidate, riding the biggest wave this side of his native Hawaii, needs to keep a sharp eye on the details of his own campaign. Senate ethics rules allow senators with active campaigns to “split” the work time and salary of official schedulers such as Obama’s Molly Buford.
According to Obama’s campaign spokesman, Robert Gibbs, she in fact is paid by both entities. But Senate rules and federal law forbid the use of official equipment—such as faxes and phone lines—to conduct campaign business, which was what Buford was doing last Thursday when she faxed Obama’s political “call list” to the senator’s personal aide at a Columbia, S.C., hotel. “These are the call sheets for tomorrow’s call time,” she wrote on the official cover page, emblazoned with the seal of the U.S. Senate. …
The fax itself shows the campaign working to round up endorsements from established party leaders. In the “talking points” for a call to Rep. William Clay of St. Louis, Obama is advised by his Chicago political team to say: “Your endorsement is important to me and I hope that you will join the movement supporting my campaign. I would like you to take an official leadership role for my campaign in Missouri.”

Should we call for a special prosecutor to look into Obama’s ethics, too? I’d actually be more interested in the identity of the person who shoved the fax under the door of Newsweek. I’d bet that question has crossed Obama’s mind, too.

‘The Effect On The Taliban Has Been Dramatic’

The London Telegraph reports on a new tactical aggressiveness from American troops in Afghanistan which has the Taliban rocked back on its heels and unable to press forward with its expect spring offensive. The new tactics involve the heavy use of helicopter gunships and a merciless push to finish engagements. A senior Taliban commander has found exactly what that means (via Hot Air):

Caught in the middle of the Helmand river, the fleeing Taliban were paddling their boat back to shore for dear life.
Smoke from the ambush they had just sprung on American special forces still hung in the air, but their attention was fixed on the two helicopter gunships that had appeared above them as their leader, the tallest man in the group, struggled to pull what appeared to be a burqa over his head.
As the boat reached the shore, Captain Larry Staley tilted the nose of the lead Apache gunship downwards into a dive. One of the men turned to face the helicopter and sank to his knees. Capt Staley’s gunner pressed the trigger and the man disappeared in a cloud of smoke and dust.
By the time the gunships had finished, 21 minutes later, military officials say 14 Taliban were confirmed dead, including one of their key commanders in Helmand.
The mission is typical of a new, aggressive, approach adopted by American forces in southern Afghanistan and particularly in Helmand, where British troops last year bore the brunt of some of the heaviest fighting since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The Teleghraph includes a video presentation that should be seen as a companion to the article. In it, the narrator says that “the effect on the Taliban has been dramatic,” and it certainly was in this case. The commander who died in this engagement was Mul;ah Najibullah, a commander in the original Taliban who eluded us in 2001. He had been an official in Mullah Omar’s government in Afghanistan prior to getting ejected in the American invasion after 9/11.
American troops no longer break off engagements when Taliban guerillas start to flee. The British had been hard pressed in Helmand up to now, but as the Telegraph reports, they partly caused their own problems. British commanders had offered cease-fires in Helmand to allow for the Taliban to end the fighting and work with the Coalition, but all it did was to allow the Taliban to regroup and seize positions. The new American commander has put an end to all cease-fires, and has ordered constant pressure on the terrorists.
As a result, the Taliban have found it impossible to mount an offensive. They have tried raids and ambushes, but the superior firepower and the ability to get into the air makes ambushes a trap for the attackers. As this raid demonstrates, any gains made in raids last for moments, and the raiders and their commanders pay with their lives — and gain nothing.
The reporter says that the success or failure of the Taliban depends on their response to the gunships. However, it goes deeper than that. The success or failure of the Taliban depends on the commitment to fight to the last on the part of the Coalition. Now that we have started to do that, the Taliban cannot possibly hope to dislodge American and British forces. One cannot be merciful to terrorists and hope to prevail, and the Coalition may finally have learned that lesson.

Scheuer: Don’t Buy Tenet

Michael Scheuer, the CIA chief of the now-defunct Osama bin Laden unit, wrote a book recounting his frustrations spanning more than a decade of counterterrorism work for Langley. The author of such books as Imperial Hubris and Through Our Enemies’ Eyes has spent the last few years detailing how senior intelligence officials have failed several administrations and the nation. Now he responds to George Tenet and his new memoirs, and warns Americans that Tenet has not told the truth:

At a time when clear direction and moral courage were needed, Tenet shifted course to follow the prevailing winds, under President Bill Clinton and then President Bush — and he provided distraught officers at Langley a shoulder to cry on when his politically expedient tacking sailed the United States into disaster.
At the CIA, Tenet will be remembered for some badly needed morale-building. But he will also be recalled for fudging the central role he played in the decline of America’s clandestine service — the brave field officers who run covert missions that make us all safer. The decline began in the late 1980s, when the impending end of the Cold War meant smaller budgets and fewer hires, and it continued through Sept. 11, 2001. When Tenet and his bungling operations chief, James Pavitt, described this slow-motion disaster in testimony after the terrorist attacks, they tried to blame the clandestine service’s weaknesses on congressional cuts. But Tenet had helped preside over every step of the service’s decline during three consecutive administrations — Bush, Clinton, Bush — in a series of key intelligence jobs for the Senate, the National Security Council and the CIA. Only 9/11, it seems, convinced Tenet of the importance of a large, aggressive clandestine service to U.S. security. …
But what troubles me most is Tenet’s handling of the opportunities that CIA officers gave the Clinton administration to capture or kill bin Laden between May 1998 and May 1999. Each time we had intelligence about bin Laden’s whereabouts, Tenet was briefed by senior CIA officers at Langley and by operatives in the field. He would nod and assure his anxious subordinates that he would stress to Clinton and his national security team that the chances of capturing bin Laden were solid and that the intelligence was not going to get better. Later, he would insist that he had kept up his end of the bargain, but that the NSC had decided not to strike.
Since 2001, however, several key Clinton counterterrorism insiders (including NSC staffers Richard A. Clarke, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon) have reported that Tenet consistently denigrated the targeting data on bin Laden, causing the president and his team to lose confidence in the hard-won intelligence. “We could never get over the critical hurdle of being able to corroborate Bin Ladin’s whereabouts,” Tenet now writes. That of course is untrue, but it spared him from ever having to explain the awkward fallout if an attempt to get bin Laden failed. None of this excuses Clinton’s disinterest in protecting Americans, but it does show Tenet’s easy willingness to play for patsies the CIA officers who risked their lives to garner intelligence and then to undercut their work to avoid censure if an attack went wrong.

In fact, what Scheuer describes here is only a hair short of cowardice. Tenet willingly went along with the flow, regardless of who was in charge. With Clinton, he was only too happy to undermine the intelligence for a pre-emptive strike on bin Laden, because he sensed that Clinton didn’t want to take any risks. With Bush, he went along with the strongest possible analysis of the intelligence because he sensed that Bush would take action anyway. And if Tenet really means what he says in this book — Scheuer gives examples of his accusations against Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and the “neocon” cabal — Tenet never bothered to mention it to Congress or the 9/11 Commission, years after the fact.
Scheuer says that Tenet wants to get back into the good graces of the Democrats, his first political home. He well might. Some in Congress have already mentioned Tenet’s name on witness lists for their investigation, and Scheuer sees that as a rehabilitation opportunity that Tenet will not allow to pass. Tenet apparently lets Bush off the hook, as well as Colin Powell, but seems willing to throw everyone else under the bus to protect himself.
Don’t think that Scheuer is defending the decision to go into Iraq: far from it. Scheuer believes it to have been a huge mistake, which he also states forcefully in his column. He also says that the CIA warned Tenet of the problems, and that Tenet never acted on their analysis. Now Tenet says he tried, but this is the first time he’s made that assertion, and he has had a number of opportunities to tell that story between 2002 and now.
Scheuer offers this contemptuous evaluation of Tenet as CIA chief:

Still, he may have been the ideal CIA leader for Clinton and Bush — denigrating good intelligence to sate the former’s cowardly pacifism and accepting bad intelligence to please the latter’s Wilsonian militarism.

And now Tenet can sell the American public what it wants to hear.

Turkish Secularism Lives

Turkey has reached a crisis over radical Islam, as their recent elections have created a precarious position for the tradtionally secular democracy. Abdullah Gul, the candidate for the leading party, will become Turkey’s next president despite his history of supporting Islamists. The army has announced its intention to defend secularism, a most decidedly blunt warning to the Parliament not to elect Gul. The situation looks ripe for a civil war or a coup d’etat.
Today, though, Turks have rallied in force to express their own support for secularism:

Hundreds of thousands of people are rallying in Istanbul in support of secularism in Turkey, amid a row over a vote for the country’s next president.
The protesters are concerned that the ruling party’s candidate for the post remains loyal to his Islamic roots.
The candidate, Abdullah Gul, earlier said he would not quit despite growing criticism from opponents and the army.
Mr Gul failed to win election in a first round vote in parliament as opposition MPs boycotted the vote.

Gul would replace another Islamist, Tayyip Erdogan, who won the presidency on a promise to remain secular in his approach to leadership. Gul, on the other hand, appears more tied to Islamist thinking. His wife would be the first to wear a hijab. Gul’s party would also control parliament, the presidency, and the governments, and Gul could act as a Trojan horse to impose a more Islamist rule over Turkey.
That has many Turks worried and upset, and today they have gathered by the hundreds of thousands to express their concern. They do not want a coup, although the army appears poised to conduct one. Turks want a free, open, and secular democracy, where mosque and state stay separated. Islamists believe in shari’a and the Qur’an teachings that make Islam the basic form of temporal government. It is a conflict that many Arab nations either have or will approach in the near future, but the Turks had thought this conflict settled long ago.
The army conducted its last coup in 1997, to remove Islamist president Necmettin Erkaban from power. Its statement shook up the Turks, who see it as a message to the Turkish constitutional court to dissolve parliament and declare the elections invalid. The army sees itself as the defender of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal, the man who established the modern state of Turkey after World War I as a relentlessly secular democracy, and they will not allow Gul to move them backwards towards Islamist theocracy. The court has until Wednesday to stop the second round of voting, and the army’s readiness to overrule them will certainly be part of their considerations.

The New Reagan?

Fred Thompson has captured the imagination of conservatives who find themselves dissatisfied with the current crop of presidential contenders. They want to find a nominee who combines the charisma of Rudy Giuliani, the firmness on the war of John McCain, and the conservative domestic policies of Duncant Hunter and Mike Huckabee. In short, conservatives want another Ronald Reagan.
According to some of those who worked for Ronald Reagan, they may have it in Thompson:

Ronald Reagan’s closest allies are throwing their weight behind the White House bid by the late president’s fellow actor, Fred Thompson.
The film star and former Republican senator from Tennessee will this week use a speech in the heart of Reagan country, in southern California, to woo party bigwigs in what insiders say is the next step in his coming out as a candidate.
A key figure in the Reagan inner circle has now given his seal of approval to Mr Thompson, best known as a star of the television crime drama Law and Order.
As deputy chief of staff, Michael Deaver was a key member of the “troika” of aides who kept the Reagan White House on track. With the chief of staff James Baker and special assistant Ed Meese, he was the master of image and presentation.

Deaver has remained at the forefront of the Reagan legacy, and has close contacts with Nancy Reagan. Clark Judge, one of Reagan’s speechwriters, also supports Thompson, calling Thompson “a man of tremendous substance”. Roger Stone, a Reagan campaign strategist, notes that Thompson has Reagan’s self-assurance without the cockiness of George W Bush, and that he communicates wisdom and deliberation.
With this team forming, it’s obvious that Thompson will join the race. If that wasn’t enough, his upcoming appearance at the Lincoln Club this Friday should make it clear. It has worked for Republican electoral success since it helped inspire Reagan to run for governor, and it made history when it assisted Arnold Schwarzenegger and pushed the recall effort that made him a successor to Reagan in California. If Thompson can bring the Lincoln Club behind him, he will have a force in political fundraising on his team — and will have gotten a jump on the other Republicans that have conservatives pining for Fred as the new Reagan.
All of this is true, and yet Thompson is both less and more than Ronald Reagan. Thompson has a long record of political reform from the ground up, first with Watergate and then in Tennessee. His acting career followed his political career, while Reagan did it the other way around. Reagan spent years grooming himself for higher office by speaking on the dinner circuit, building his rhetorical repetoire for a long-shot run at the California governor’s office, followed by two attempts to win the Republican presidential nomination.
In contrast, Thompson has not appeared to seek high office, nor has Thompson worked on what looked to be in retrospect a grand plan for a political career. That lack of ego may work to Thompson’s advantage in an era of deep skepticism. It’s not Reagan, but it’s Thompson, and Thompson might sell as the reluctant philosopher, drafted out of necessity.

Ups And Downs

Apparently, the CQ hosting service has had some interruptions in service, but we’re back up at the moment. Remember, if CQ goes down — a rarity — I’ll post at Heading Right until service is restored.
We’re about to go on air, but I’ve been following the NFL draft. Question: Why have Cleveland, Minnesota, and Miami all passed on Brady Quinn?
UPDATE: Michael Ledeen will be on the NARN at 1:30 pm CT to talk about George Tenet’s book and his appearance in it. Don’t miss this!
UPDATE II: Cleveland traded up for Dallas’ first round pick to get Brady Quinn at #22. KC might have been interested in Quinn at #23. It’s a good move for Cleveland, who gets away with its odd choice earlier in the first round.

NARN, The Police State 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.
Today, if we can keep Dan Simpson from invading our radio station, we’ll be talking about his disarmament plan for America. While we’re fending off Simpson’s brownshirts, we’ll also talk about the capture of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, what the media left out, and what it means for America’s will to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. We’ll probably talk about Jimmy Carter’s finances, the Saudi capture of 172 terrorists plotting a 9/11-style attack on their oildfields, the surrender bill in Congress and Joe Lieberman’s reaction to it, and more.
Be sure to call and join the conversation today at 651-289-4488, if you can break free while Simpson’s storm troopers ransack your house!

Tenet A Little Foggy On The Details

I haven’t had the chance to read the book by former CIA chief George Tenet, which Harper Collins will release next week, but it has generated its share of controversy. His top-level insider’s account of the pre- and post-9/11 efforts against terrorism have current Bush administration officials unhappy — and in at least two cases, pointing out deficient fact-checking. Tenet misidentifies a key figure in an argument he makes about how back-channel analyses started, and then neglects to mention his own analysis:

Mr. Tenet also directs scorn at the Pentagon intelligence analyses by Douglas J. Feith, then undersecretary of defense for policy. He describes his fury in August 2002 as he watched a slide show by Mr. Feith’s staff at C.I.A. headquarters suggesting “a mature, symbiotic relationship” between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
He said C.I.A. officers came to call such reports, in a play on words, “Feith-based analysis.” In an interview on Friday, Mr. Feith said Mr. Tenet’s account distorts the facts of the Pentagon effort and obscures Mr. Tenet’s own public statements before the war. Mr. Feith noted that Mr. Tenet, in October 2002, sent the Senate intelligence committee a letter that said, “We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.” Mr. Tenet describes Tina Shelton, who presented part of the Feith slide show at the C.I.A. in 2002, as a “naval reservist” and quotes her as saying in introductory remarks, “It is an open-and-shut case.”
But Ms. Shelton said Friday she was never a Navy reservist and never said such a thing. She was a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst for 22 years before retiring in October, she said.

Tenet also goes after Michael Ledeen for his efforts to meet with Iranian dissidents living abroad to encourage democratization in the Islamic Republic. Calling it nothing more than “Son of Iran-Contra,” Tenet describes his anger and frustration at hearing of this back-channel effort to undermine the mullahcracy.
Well, boo hoo. First, it’s ridiculous to call this the “Son of Iran-Contra”, since the first Iran-Contra dealt with sending military hardware to the mullahs, not the dissidents. Second, since Iran has postured itself in a state of war against the Great Satan since 1979, why exactly did the CIA skip dealing with the dissidents who could have helped push back against the radical Islamists? The Pentagon apparently understood the necessity of engaging with Iranian dissidents, even if Langley and Foggy Bottom couldn’t figure it out for themselves, and they leveraged those with contacts in that community, including Michael, a CQ reader and a friend of mine.
It reminds me of the hack job Rolling Stone did on Michael last year. James Bamford couldn’t smoke out the the difference between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, when the Rolling Stone reporter wrote that Ledeen’s Iranian contacts claimed the former was hiding in Iran … in December 2001. Rolling Stone still has not corrected that mistake to this day, nearly nine months later. (See Section III.)
Tenet does the same with his recollection of the intel showing strong connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, a connection that seems even stronger with the capture of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraq, a former Saddam Hussein-era officer in the Iraqi Army (rank: major) who became one of al-Qaeda’s top field commanders. He claims that such arguments are “Feith-based analysis,” but Douglas Feith reminds the Times that Tenet himself told Congress that the CIA had solid reporting of high-level contacts between AQ and Iraq for a decade.
Tenet then misidentifies Tina Shelton as a member of the Feith clique at the CIA and puts words into her mouth. Shelton disputes both her description and Tenet’s characterization of her presentation. That forced Tenet’s co-author to backpedal, apologizing for not getting the facts straight about Shelton’s job, even though it formed a key part of Tenet’s argument regarding her credibility.
I’d say the one with credibility problems is Tenet.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Carr points out that it gets released next week, so I’ll read it then. The New York Times has had access to at least some portions of the book, and even before its release, the co-author is apologizing for getting its facts wrong.