Archive for October, 2009

87 More Days Until Obama Breaks His Guantanamo Pledge

gitmo_delta-resizedIt’s been evident for some time that January 23, 2010, will arrive without the fulfillment of President Obama’s first executive order, to close the Guantanamo detention center within one year of the (January 22, 2009) signing.  This week brings further reminders of why breaking that pledge will be the better part of valor.  Many of the Gitmo detainees are Very Bad People, and there’s no good option for relocating them.

FDD Update, the indispensable newsletter of the indispensable Foundation for Defense of Democracies, each week offers a breadcrumb trail to the best writing on the misnamed Global War on Terror.  This week, FDD President Cliff May points to these Gitmo highlights:

In the ruling Joscelyn describes, a judge applied a “beyond-a-reasonable-doubt” standard in finding that Khaled al Mutairi could not be held as an enemy combatant.  Unfortunately, it was not a jury trial — because a jury might well have found that the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Let us connect the dots on al Mutairi: (1) He left for Afghanistan shortly after September 11 without making any plans for a return trip; (2) He used a known al Qaeda/al Wafa smuggling route to get into Afghanistan; (3) He carried $15,000 in cash with him and admittedly gave at least some of this money to al Wafa–which, again, is a known al Qaeda front–to an al Wafa representative in Kabul; (4) He spent well more than a month in the Taliban’s Afghanistan and could not offer any valid explanation for what he was doing during that time; (5) He fled towards the Tora Bora Mountains in a manner that is entirely consistent with al Qaeda and Taliban members, according to the court; (6) His “non-possession” of his passport is consistent with “al Qaeda’s standard operating procedures”; (7) His contact information appeared on multiple rosters of “captured fighters,” including one that was kept by a senior al Qaeda terrorist; (8) His passport information appeared on multiple “passport lists” maintained by al Qaeda; and (9) Kuwaiti security claims that al Mutairi was a “hardcore extremist” affiliated with al Qaeda before he ever went to Afghanistan in the first place.

Now, if you think that the above indicates that al Mutairi “more likely than not became part of Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan” (a phrase used by Judge Kollar-Kotelly in a previous habeas ruling), then you share the opinion held by the U.S. military and intelligence officials who detained him.

But the judge did not see it that way.

The Miami Herald reported that al Mutairi will not immediately be released, but rather will be placed in “a Kuwaiti rehabilitation center at the emirate designed to help men jailed for years as jihadists reenter society in the oil-rich emirate.”  Good luck with that — al Shihri went through a similar program in Saudi Arabia.

At least al Mutairi will be released on the other side of the world from America, because Kuwait was willing to repatriate him.  But think about this: most Gitmo detainees will have to be held within the United States if Gitmo is closed, because other countries want nothing to do with them.  In a post-Gitmo era, enemy combatants released by misguided judges will have to be released on our own soil if their homelands will not take them.

Mitch McConnellI usually have little patience for people on either the right or the left who claim that only the other side plays politics, or only the other side has this attribute or that one.  (Earth to fellow conservatives:  Ann Coulter is every bit as much of a self-caricature as Michael Moore or Senator Unfunny Franken.  Maybe more so.)

But sometimes it seems like only the Democrats know how to win an argument by framing the issue strategically.  For example, there is no controversy about the established historical fact that Saddam Hussein actually used weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons) not just against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War, but also against his own Kurdish citizens in Halabja.  I can’t help thinking that the Bush Administration would have enjoyed more support for the Iraq War if Bush and every senior Republican had insisted, in every interview and public statement from 2003 through 2006, that the only proper way to frame the debate was to consider whether Saddam still had WMD.

But I digress.  (Even before I get started!)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has always struck me as a fairly reasonable guy, at least by the standards of partisan Congressional leaders — today calls out the other side for dishonest framing of the healthcare debate, in a USA Today op-ed (emphasis added):

Listening to [Congressional Democratic leaders], you would think Republicans haven’t been part of the health care debate at all. I understand the tactic. It’s an old political trick to accuse one’s opponents of being against something very worthwhile when what they’re really against are the specifics that you’re proposing.

In this debate, though, proponents of the administration’s health care plan have turned this old strategy into something of an Olympic sport.

The simple fact is, every Republican in Congress supports reform.

Health care costs are too high, and too many Americans lack health insurance. I have said so in just about every one of those 50 speeches and in dozens of interviews. And every other Senate Republican is on record favoring common-sense reforms for a system that needs them — ideas such as medical liability reform and equalizing the tax treatment for businesses and individuals who buy insurance.

Republicans are also on record about what we don’t favor, and that’s a 1,500-page bill that includes a lot of things Americans didn’t ask for and very little of what they did.

An intellectual case can be made that conserve-atives should proudly embrace the Democrats’ derisive description of the GOP as “the party of no.”  (Bill Buckley standing athwart history yelling Stop, and all that.)  But “no” is intrinsically… well… negative.  I fear the Republicans may have lost the healthcare battle simply by letting the issue be framed, improperly, as healthcare “reform.”

Huck_Finn_Travelling_by_RailRather than let themselves be tarred as the enemies of reform, the Republicans should propose a different enemy, and McConnell hints at it above when he uses the term “medical liability reform.”  The more precise term is “tort reform,” and the “enemy” is John Edwards and every other legal charlatan who has ever struck it rich by repeatedly rolling the dice in hopes of getting a third of an unjust award from an inflamed jury.

Oh, and the reference above to “tarred”?  That comes from the Early American practice of tarring and feathering.  No, dammit, it’s not racial code — and opposing the President’s proposal is not racism just because the President is black.

250px-EuropeDonald Rumsfeld clung to his failed Iraq strategy for years longer than his boss should have allowed, but Rumsfeld didn’t get everything wrong.  He was on to something when he spoke dismissively of “Old Europe.”

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger discusses the mindset that just awarded a Nobel Peace Prize to a freshman president:

The unanswered question at the center of this odd Nobel is whether Barack Obama admires Old Europe for the same reasons it admires him.

When it was a vibrant garden of ideas, Europe gave the world more good things than one can count. Then it discovered the pleasures of the welfare state.

Old Europe now lives in a world of unpayable public pension obligations, weak job creation for its youngest workers, below-replacement birth rates, fat agricultural subsidies for farms dating to the Middle Ages, high taxes to pay for the public high-life, and history’s most crucial proof of decay—the inability to finance one’s armies. Only five of the 28 nations in NATO (the U.K., France, Turkey, Greece and Spain) achieve the minimum defense-spending benchmark of 2% of GDP.

Old Europe has come to resent the world’s only superpower “merely because it possesses the resources to do something Europe can no longer do, for good or ill” — i.e., protect its citizens.

Al Qaeda and its Islamofascistic fellow travelers have unequivocally demonstrated (Madrid 3/11/04, London 7/7/05) that their enemy is not just America, but Western Civilization itself.  Now that a basic (if tenuous) level of stability has been achieved in Iraq, the front lines of the war have shifted to the Afghanistan theater.

Our European allies clearly have no stomach for the fight.  As America considers sending up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, even the (relatively) stalwart UK today announced plans to send… um… 500.  As in Iraq, it will fall to the United States to achieve any victory (or even stability) in Afghanistan.  It remains to be seen whether President Obama has the fortitude to wage a war that Candidate Obama opportunistically (albeit correctly) described as “urgent.”

(Map of tiny Europe from Wikipedia)

noble_medalsWhat to make of the bizarre awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a president who had completed 0.82% of his term at the time the nominations were due?

Or, as Claudia Rosette frames the question, “What Price for Obama’s Nobel Prize?“  Her conclusion:

America, in the course of defending its own freedoms, has long extended to the likes of Norway, Denmark and Sweden a protective umbrella. Under that shelter, too many Europols have come to believe that peace is a function of nothing more than talk and hope and dreams and … premature prizes.

Obama said on Friday morning that he will accept this award as “a call to action.” Action on whose behalf? The five Norwegians who make up the Nobel peace prize committee chose to give him this award, for their own purposes. Obama, and America, owe them nothing. The real hope is that Obama will remember he took an oath (twice) not to serve as global spokesman for the Norwegian Nobel Committee, but “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Before his presidency is over, keeping faith with that oath may require him to do things [that] would knock the stuffing out of the featherbed philosophy of this sanctimonious crowd of Scandinavian free-riders.

To pick a completely unhypothetical example, it may require him to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.  At first blush, the Nobel Prize may seem to make it harder for an Obama administration to do anything involving a projection of American military power.

But there’s another way of looking at it.  While the prize is ridiculous, it’s not Obama’s fault that it was awarded.  At the risk of indulging in wishful thinking, the prize may give him protective cover to act in the long-term interests of peace — even when it involves military action in the short run.  If so, it would be part of the silver lining I’ve been monitoring since Election Day.

Revisiting Cash for Clunkers

CashForClunkers-narrowThe Wall Street Journal has just labeled the Cash for Clunkers program “one of Washington’s all-time dumb ideas.”  (Hyperbole, of course — no program costing a “mere” $3 billion could possibly qualify for the all-time dumb list.)  Here’s their reasoning:

Last week U.S. automakers reported that new car sales for September, the first month since the clunker program expired, sank by 25% from a year earlier. Sales at GM and Chrysler fell by 45% and 42%, respectively. Ford was down about 5%. Some 700,000 cars were sold in the summer under the program as buyers received up to $4,500 to buy a new car they would probably have purchased anyway, so all the program seems to have done is steal those sales from the future. Exactly as critics predicted.

Okay.  I’d want to see a few more months of statistics before concluding that most C4C buyers bought cars “they would probably have purchased anyway,” although that’s undoubtedly true in many cases.  Also, how does the September report compare with year-ago comparisons for the months just before C4C went into effect?  (I spent a frustrating 10 minutes looking for raw statistics before realizing I just didn’t care enough to spend 11 minutes.  But why don’t news reports provide links to data sources the way blog posts do?) Since September marked the start of the financial meltdown I suspect that might have been the last relatively strong month for car sales, which would skew the year-earlier comparison.

I’m still largely opposed to the very idea of artificial spending programs in the name of stimulating the economy, and I’m ferociously opposed to the wasteful and dishonest porkulus bill.  But if there was going to be a fiscal stimulus plan — and the political realities of the spring left no doubt about that — then I still think C4C was as good a stimulus as any.  And Larry Kudlow agrees with me!

Dumbest. Extortionist. Ever.

haldermanNote to would-be blackmailers: insist on cash.  Then you have at least some shot at deniability (“officer, I don’t know anything about the $2 million in the duffle bag”).

Joe Halderman, on the other hand, reportedly negotiated terms with David Letterman’s lawyer, then accepted a check for $2 million, and was arrested when he tried to deposit it.

I also find it bizarre that he thought the revelation of Letterman’s affairs would cause the late-night host’s “world to collapse.” In an entertainment industry where people are lining up in support of admitted child-raper Roman Polanski, disclosure of garden-variety infidelity is hardly likely to be catastrophic.