Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Unexpected Reactions

The past couple of days evidenced two rather unusual reactions, or rather, two reactions from unexpected sources.

In the first, US Representative Keith Ellison returned from Iraq and made statements that conveyed that the situation there was improving (and better than he expected).

In the second, Senator Barack Obama continues his effort to claw his way ahead of Presidential nomination opponent Senator Hillary Clinton, declaring that as President, he would invade Pakistan to go after terrorists.


Representative Ellison made his remarks in the context of reporting back on his trip to Iraq. His primary concern, as reflected in his remarks, was to carry a message back from some of his fellow Muslims in Anbar province:
"They were very upset and concerned that al-Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam," Ellison told reporters on a conference call Monday from Germany, on his way back to the U.S. "And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about."
Ellison pointed out that since there are 150,000 soldiers in Iraq as well, of course he cares "very deeply about them" as well. Apropos to nothing in particular, Ellison immediately added a rejoinder about his equal concern for the Iraqi people: 

"I also care about the Iraqi people. I don't want to see them suffer."

Ellison, opposed to the war in Iraq, apparently did not possess this same desire for the Iraqi people not to suffer in deciding whether to liberate Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein. Perhaps he'll again lack that desire in joining calls to withdraw forces immediately from Iraq, widely viewed as likely to lead to catastrophe for the Iraqi people.
One other remark he made might call into question how well informed he has been to date about our efforts in Iraq, and the prejudices he carried with him into Congress (emphasis mine):
"The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership," he said. "So they're not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they're doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives."
What does Ellison think our soldiers have been doing in Iraq? Sure, our terrorist and state sponsor of terror enemies (and not a few anti-war domestic opponents) put forth a steady stream of propaganda that we are indiscriminately bombing innocent civilians in Iraq. But you'd think that a US Representative wouldn't be surprised to find out US forces are "respecting the people, giving the people some control over their lives," and otherwise refraining from indiscriminate killing.
Ellison's other comments lauded a US military commander, apparently good or improved security in Anbar, and an overall calm.
"I don't want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good."
For most Americans, everything changed after 9/11. For Senator Obama, everything changed after everything changed after 9/11. Here's how he started his lecture that included his willingness to invade Afghanistan:
After 9/11, our calling was to write a new chapter in the American story. To devise new strategies and build new alliances, to secure our homeland and safeguard our values, and to serve a just cause abroad. We were ready. Americans were united. Friends around the world stood shoulder to shoulder with us. We had the might and moral-suasion that was the legacy of generations of Americans. The tide of history seemed poised to turn, once again, toward hope.

But then everything changed.

We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists' base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.

Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the 21st century's stateless terrorism could be defeated through the invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
This is Obama's grand strategy for fighting terrorism, and he suggests we'll want to stop "deliberately" selling wars that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism and instead, attack terrorism with more aggressiveness (!).
Clearly, the Bush Administration has done nothing to fight terrorism, for Obama the Hawk. Note how he attempts to focus attention on his bona fides:
Just because the President misrepresents our enemies does not mean we do not have them. The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real. They distort Islam. They kill man, woman and child; Christian and Hindu, Jew and Muslim. They seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for.
We'll end our little discussion with that point, but now listen more to the Sage:
The President would have us believe that every bomb in Baghdad is part of al Qaeda's war against us, not an Iraqi civil war. He elevates al Qaeda in Iraq -- which didn't exist before our invasion -- and overlooks the people who hit us on 9/11, who are training new recruits in Pakistan. He lumps together groups with very different goals: al Qaeda and Iran, Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. He confuses our mission.
It always amazes me how Democrats in Congress first simplify and distort the statements and policy decisions of the President and his military leaders, and then criticize the caricatures they've invented. There are no better examples of confusion about our mission than the accumulated statements of Democrats in Congress.
And worse -- he is fighting the war the terrorists want us to fight. Bin Ladin and his allies know they cannot defeat us on the field of battle or in a genuine battle of ideas. But they can provoke the reaction we've seen in Iraq: a misguided invasion of a Muslim country that sparks new insurgencies, ties down our military, busts our budgets, increases the pool of terrorist recruits, alienates America, gives democracy a bad name, and prompts the American people to question our engagement in the world.

By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

And yet, somehow, intercepted communications between Al Qaeda leadership bewail the stubbornness and resilience of the Coalition, and our President, despair over their failures in Iraq, direct resources and efforts that would otherwise go elsewhere towards Iraq. Were it not for the dedicated support and encouragement of western mainstream media, Al Qaeda would show only failure in Iraq.
It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.
"I'll do everything President Bush claims to be doing, but I'll do it against our real enemies, not those phony ones [ who nevertheless try to kill civilians and as many of our soldiers as they can], and I'll do it more macho." [Just parody, this last.]
There must be no safe-haven for terrorists who threaten America. We cannot fail to act because action is hard.

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.
Again, the call to fight in Pakistan. Does Obama know that Pakistan has nuclear weapons? Just curious.
And we know what the extremists say about us. America is just an occupying Army in Muslim lands, the shadow of a shrouded figure standing on a box at Abu Ghraib, the power behind the throne of a repressive leader. They say we are at war with Islam. That is the whispered line of the extremist who has nothing to offer in this battle of ideas but blame -- blame America, blame progress, blame Jews. And often he offers something along with the hate. A sense of empowerment. Maybe an education at a madrasa, some charity for your family, some basic services in the neighborhood. And then: a mission and a gun.

We know we are not who they say we are. America is at war with terrorists who killed on our soil. We are not at war with Islam. America is a compassionate nation that wants a better future for all people. The vast majority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims have no use for bin Ladin or his bankrupt ideas. But too often since 9/11, the extremists have defined us, not the other way around.

And oddly, the President's political opponents in Washington have defined us in exactly the same terms, with the same libels and slander, and with even more vitriol, if that's possible.

When I am President, that will change. We will author our own story.
No doubt a President Obama would start insisting that Democrats stop slandering the US, our Armed Forces, and of course the President. No doubt at all. He will author a story, alright.
Major General Paul Eaton had a long and distinguished career serving this country. It included training the Iraqi Army. After Abu Ghraib, his senior Iraqi advisor came into his office and said: "You have no idea how this will play out on the streets of Baghdad and the rest of the Arab world. How can this be?" This was not the America he had looked up to.

As the counter-insurgency manual reminds us, we cannot win a war unless we maintain the high ground and keep the people on our side. But because the Administration decided to take the low road, our troops have more enemies. Because the Administration cast aside international norms that reflect American values, we are less able to promote our values. When I am President, America will reject torture without exception. America is the country that stood against that kind of behavior, and we will do so again.
I am certain Obama and his fellow Democrats would not agree, but Obama implies that the criminal and prosecuted acts of the sick, twisted guards at Abu Ghraib were the decided and explicit policy of the Bush Administration, who "decided to take the low road." This is slander, offensive in the extreme, and rehashes the propaganda of our enemies. Why?
All manner of partisans on both political sides of our efforts in Iraq can have serious disagreement about what constitutes torture, when or if its ever tolerable or acceptable, and so forth. Partisans who pretend that their assumptions in such arguments are conclusive – let alone persuasive – are naïve, disingenuous, or running for the Democratic nomination for President.
Kudos to the most succinct response to Obama, offered by John Podhoretz at The Corner:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to be: Make nice with nightmarishly bad regimes that have effectively or rhetorically declared war on the United States (North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba) but invade an erstwhile, problematic ally (Pakistan).
A more reasoned response from the Campaign Spot at NRO:
Did Congress Vote "To Give The Terrorists What They Really Want"?
From Barack Obama's speech on terrorism today:
By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.
Not quite a subtle jab at Hillary, huh?
Other bones to pick here and there:
Ending the war will help isolate al Qaeda and give Iraqis the incentive and opportunity to take them out. It will also allow us to direct badly needed resources to Afghanistan.
Iraqis lack sufficient incentive to take out al-Qaeda in their country? Blowing up markets and mosques isn't enough incentive? Isn't the issue sufficient means, i.e. a military that can secure their borders and conduct counterterror operations whereever needed?
UPDATE: Having now read through the speech, I've concluded that you can summarize Obama's promises in three categories. First, the generic pledge to "I'll Improve What We're Already Doing", to assert that as a new president Obama stepping into the job, would somehow make everyone in government do their jobs better than they're already doing.
The Politico notes an odd omission from Obama's speech:
Barack Obama was among those raising his hands in a recent debate to indicate that he believes there is a "war on terror," but his speech today -- and read the whole thing -- marks a really sharp departure from policies past, and seems to challenge Hillary either to come along or be pushed toward the White House.
One note: The phrase "war on terror" appears nowhere in the speech.
The closest he comes: "America is at war with terrorists who killed on our soil. We are not at war with Islam."
Also absent from the speech is any reference to "Islamic terrorism," "Islamism," or "Islamofacism" -- the buzzwords of those who see a global conflict between the West and a specifically Muslim insurgency.
To reiterate, Obama claimed:
"To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for."
But heavens, don't give them a Name.

Linked by Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol.

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