Sunday, July 08, 2007

'05 Raid on al Qaeda Nixed by Rumsfeld

The New York Times ran a report on Saturday about a planned secret raid in 2005 on al Qaeda leaders at a high level meeting in Pakistan. The raid was intended to capture or kill the most senior level officers in al Qaeda including Ayman al-Zawahri, the number two man in the terrorist organization and the leader of daily operations. According to just released reports, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld aborted the mission at the last minute over concerns about US and Pakistani relations. (CNN: '05 mission to get al Qaeda in Pakistan aborted, Times says.)

When Rumsfeld cancelled the mission, US SEAL teams were already aboard C-130s in Afghanistan in full mission gear. The intelligence community strenuously objected to the cancellation, however Rumsfeld refused to budge. In his view, the raid needed the approval of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, and he did not believe that would be granted due to the size of the SEAL force being inserted.

When you look back at Rumsfeld's tenure as Defense Secretary, it's very hard to overlook the number of missed opportunities that were the direct result of his decisions or intervention. Here in 2005 we had the opportunity to cripple the top leadership of al Qaeda yet passed on the opportunity so as not to anger an unstable, tenuous ally that is a major support of terrorism and of al Qaeda itself. Earlier, with Osama bin Laden virtually imprisoned in Tora Bora, decisions were made to use Northern Alliance mercenaries to capture the terrorist criminal rather than use US troops. We all know the results. Bin Laden was allowed to escape and remains on the loose today (assuming he is still alive.)

Once again, there is a lesson to be learned from history. On April 30, 1970, President Richard Nixon appeared on national television to announce the introduction of ground troops into Cambodia. The decision was extremely unpopular and resulted in numerous campus protests and riots, including the infamous riots at Kent State University in Ohio. The objective, though, was the elimination of Viet Cong strongholds in the allegedly neutral Cambodia. The Viet Cong and elements of the NVA were using Cambodia's neutrality to secure safe havens and to conduct raids on US forces operating in South Vietnam.

While the short term affects of the Cambodia Incursion were detrimental to the President, and also served to lower US esteem around the world, the long term affects were quite dramatic. The US successfully drove the NVA and Viet Cong out of Cambodia and crippled their ability to continue their terrorist tactics against US positions elsewhere. It was the Cambodia Incursion that set the stage for US withdrawal from Vietnam. Without the introduction of ground troops into Cambodia, the US would have been embroiled there well beyond the end of Nixon's term. The President took the necessary - though extremely unpopular - steps needed to cripple the enemy and setup our eventual withdrawal from the region.

The similarities with Pakistan are remarkable. Pakistan is - on paper, at least - a US ally. Despite that alleged alliance, they are a major training ground for al Qaeda, they run schools with an extreme anti-American and anti-Jewish curriculum, teaching the benefits and rewards of martyrdom, and they provide safe havens for those terrorist groups that are fighting US forces across the border in Afghanistan. The US should be no more concerned about US-Pakistani relations today than Nixon was about US-Cambodian relations in 1970. The enemy is basing itself in Pakistan, and that makes those bases a legitimate military target with or without Musharraf's permission.

If the US ever hopes to extricate itself from both Iraq and Afghanistan, then we must eliminate those terrorist strongholds that provide support, funding, and munitions to the terrorists we are fighting in both theaters. That means eliminating Pakistan's blatant support for al Qaeda. It means doing something that will be extremely unpopular and will be perceived as an escalation of the war, much as the Cambodian Incursion was viewed in 1970. It means we must pursue the enemy into Pakistan, regardless of how unpopular that decision is at home and abroad.

Remember, it only takes one side to prosecute a war. Our enemies have no intention of pulling back. Our enemies are not interested in a truce. We will not have peace until we have eliminated these terror groups, and that means eliminating their bases, training camps, and schools in Pakistan.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Bush Praises UK Terror Response

President Bush praised the UK's strong response to the recent failed car bomb attempts saying, "It just goes to show the war on these extremists goes on. You never know where they might strike." In addition to the UK's security measures, the US response is an increased level of security over the holiday period, specifically in airports and other transportation hubs. (CNN: Bush appreciates 'strong' British response; U.S. adds air marshals.)

The UK government response is not the portion that should impress the President or the people. There's a great deal we can learn from the British citizens' response to terror, however. Despite the failed attempts in London and Glasgow, a major concert at Wembley Stadium hosted by Princes Harry and William that would have been a prime target went on as scheduled. I've little doubt that we would have cancelled that concert had it been scheduled here.

We seem to have forgotten that terror attacks are nothing new to the people in the UK. Long before any of us had ever heard of al Qaeda, the British were enduring terror bombings by the IRA, also targeting crowded areas populated by innocent civilians. Even that, however, pales in comparison to what the British endured on a nightly basis throughout the Second World War. Night after night, the British endured the bombings of civilian populations with London being the centerpiece of Nazi attacks.

What continues to impress was the British response in the wake of every terror attack from the Blitz right through to the present day. The response was, and continues to be, to go about their daily business as usual. The attacks do not cause the nation to shut down for a week. They don't cause the British people to alter their plans, avoid stadiums, avoid shopping malls, or avoid subway stations. They thumbed their noses at Hitler during World War II, they thumbed their noses at the IRA in the '70s and '80s, and they continue to thumb their noses at al Qaeda. They learned long ago the lesson that we need to learn. The only way for the terrorists to succeed is if they can get us to alter our lifestyle. Great Britain refused to do that in the Second World War, and they refuse to do it today. That is the response that President Bush should praise.

The worst thing we can do in the face of terror attacks is change our lifestyle. Terrorist tactics are used by groups that are fighting a far superior force. To succeed, those tactics depend on the gradual weakening of the public's resolve. They depend on public pressure to accede to the terrorist group's demands in the hopes that the attacks will subside. Without that public response, the terror attacks are ineffective. The best way for the average citizen to fight a war against any group that uses terror as a tactic is for the average citizen to go about business as usual. Don't alter plans because of terror threats. Don't cancel your flights, your travel plans, your vacations, out of fear of potential attacks. Take a lesson from the people of London. The best response the average citizen can have in the face of a terror threat is defiance. There are lessons to be learned from history if we would only choose to listen.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Clinton Tossing Stones in Libby Case

In what has to be one of the better ironies of 2007, former President Bill Clinton is taking issue with President Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's jail sentence. While blasting the President, Clinton said, "You've got to understand, this is consistent with their philosophy." According to the ex-Pres, the current administration "believe[s] that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle." (CNN: Bill Clinton blasts commutation of Libby's prison sentence.)

Wait a moment. What's that saying about people living in glass houses? Well, for the record, I do not approve of the decision to commute Libby's sentence. I don't support what, in my view, was an abuse of power for political gain, and that is how I perceive the entire Plame affair. Granted, Libby was just the fall-guy for it, and there should have been far more heads on the platter than his. There is little doubt in my mind, however, that the commutation of his sentence was nothing more than a pat on the back for taking one for the team.

What is laughable, however, is Clinton's political posturing on this issue while campaigning with his wife. Are you sure you want to drag the issue of presidential pardons into the campaign, Bill? As I recall, the last days of the Clinton Administration saw more pardons than we have seen from any other administration, unless you count the draft criminals - I mean, dodgers - that received Ford's amnesty a couple of decades earlier. In fact, right up there on the hypocrisy meter is Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich (ironically defended by Libby from 1985-2000), the financier who's ex-wife raised considerable contributions for the Clinton Presidential Library. A political pardon for someone that provided a political service? Shocking, isn't it?

Far be it from Clinton to confuse facts with political fodder, however. In the Libby case, the ex-Pres went on to say, "It's wrong to out that CIA agent, and wrong to try to cover it up -- and wrong that no one was ever fired from the White House for doing it." Okay, Bill, I'll give you that one. You're right, the whole situation was an abuse of power at best, although the illegality of the "outing" was called into question and never really proven. (It's almost like the definition of the word "is", but we won't discuss that one again.) The problem is, Libby was never accused of outing the CIA agent. In another twist of irony, Libby was accused of the very same thing that managed to get Clinton impeached - perjury! The only difference between the two is that Libby managed to get himself convicted.

Now, I can't say I'm surprised to see the ex-Pres twist the Libby affair to his wife's political advantage. That, after all, is what politicians do best, and Clinton always excelled at the political game. What does sadden me, though, is the fact that most people have already forgotten about the Clinton pardon extravaganza. Very few people know why Libby was convicted or even what charges he faced. Fewer still know - or ever even understood - what Bill himself was charged with during the impeachment proceedings or why those charges came about in the first place.

Perhaps that's the biggest problem we face as a nation. Politicians and their handlers are masters of spin. Clinton, Bush, Mcauliffe, Rove, well, they're all cut from the same political cloth. They are the consummate illusionists, experts in misdirection, playing to a worldwide audience in a never-ending carnival. What makes them most successful, however, is the willingness of We the People to be deceived. We place these charlatans in office, then sit back for the next four years enjoying the grand charade, but we seem to forget that it's our responsibility to see beyond the illusions, to constantly look behind the curtain. Politicians on either side of the aisle cannot be left to their own devices. They depend on the gullibility of the general public in much the same way as the carnival ring master, and just like the audience that attends the carnival, we willingly oblige. For our system of government to work, We the People must stay involved. It is our responsibility to keep our politicians in check, and on that score, our approval rating must be lower than that of either congress or the current administration. We may accuse them of not doing their jobs well, but I'm sad to report that we are not doing our jobs at all.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Muslim Doctors Involved in UK Terror

There are now 8 suspected terrorists in custody in connection with last week's bumbled terror attempts in London and Glasgow. Of the eight, seven are doctors or medical students and the other is a lab technician. Several were recruited by al Qaeda while they were in the Middle East. The number of medical professionals involved in terror attacks may come as a surprise to most Americans, however history has shown that it's much more common than one might think. In fact, doctors have often gravitated to the top of terror cells, presumably because their level of education raises them into a leadership role. (CNN: Militant: 'Those who cure you will kill you'.)

What is hard to fathom is why we continue to allow the enemy to enter our country and continue to allow them to attain high level jobs here. The same issue is true in the UK. It's blatantly obvious that the terrorist problem stems from the Middle East. We are at war with Radical Islam. Why, then, do we continue to allow people to enter this country from the Middle East? Would we have allowed people from Germany or Japan to come here during World War II and take high level jobs? Not likely, since our first course of action was to inter Japanese citizens for the duration of the war.

Today, however, we're too concerned about not offending the Muslims. We're too concerned that whatever we do would be considered "profiling". We're too concerned that it would not be politically correct to close our borders to anyone travelling here from nations that are involved with these terror cells. I don't buy it. We are at war, and likely will be for years to come. I'm not worried about offending people that think nothing of blowing themselves up in a crowd of innocent civilians. I'm not worried about who may be offended by profiling, and I've never really cared about political correctness. What I do care about is fighting this war that has been brought to our shores. So far, I've seen no indication that we're serious about it.

So here's the bottom line. Close the borders to anyone travelling from the Middle East. Close the borders to anyone of Middle Eastern descent. Immediately revoke travel visas or green cards to anyone that is already here that meets those same criteria. Implement meaningful profiling measures that identify people attempting to enter this country that match the profiles of those that commit acts of terror. By all means, let's get serious about fighting this war. In case we haven't noticed, our enemy certainly is.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pentagon's Loss is a Credibility Win

A military judge refused to grant the Pentagon's request to reinstate charges against Omar Khadr, detained for killing a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2001. The charges against him were originally dropped when Judge Army Col. Peter Brownback ruled that Khadr was not classified as an unlawful enemy combatant and therefore the military courts had no jurisdiction over him. (CNN: Judge affirms ruling to dismiss Gitmo charges.)

The Pentagon will likely appeal the ruling within five days to the Court of Military Commissions Review, however given Khadr's status, it is unlikely that such an appeal will succeed. A Pentagon spokesman stated, "We are disappointed with the judge's decision in this matter." I'm sure they are disappointed, however the ruling speaks volumes for the credibility of the military judicial process.

One of the biggest concerns one has with regards to military tribunals in times of war has to do with the impartiality of the court. For the process to work, and for the Fourth Geneva Convention to have any meaning at all, the military tribunal and subsequent military courts must have credibility. For a military court to dismiss charges against an enemy combatant (as classified by a tribunal) on the grounds that his classification was insufficient to grant the court jurisdiction clearly demonstrates that there is credibility in the system. This is not a kangaroo court where the verdict is a foregone conclusion.

For good or ill, the eyes of the world are on the proceedings at Guantanamo. As with any court proceeding, the process itself as well as the outcome must be able to withstand public scrutiny. Dropping charges against Khadr goes a long way towards demonstrating the fairness of the process and establishing the credibility of the court. The Pentagon clearly lost this one, however the military's credibility and the credibility of the military tribunal process won a resounding victory.