The Weekend Web
On Thursday, we arrived in Jerusalem for the sixth time in 18 months. The first of those visits, in August 2006, was memorable. While waiting on our connection to Tel Aviv at the Jackson-Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, cnn reported that a cease-fire had been reached between Israel and Hezbollah. The Second Lebanon War was over.
A little more than a month before that, on the morning of July 12, 2006, Hezbollah terrorists crossed into northern Israel and ambushed two armored Humvees on patrol in northern Israel, killing three idf soldiers and taking two others hostage. Immediately following the intelligence failure, an idf tank chased the kidnappers into Lebanon, only to trigger a huge mine, killing all four soldiers inside. Another soldier who tried to rescue his buddies from the burning tank later died from his wounds.
Hezbollah’s co-founder, Imad Mughniyeh, masterminded the cross-border raid. He was also responsible for multiple attacks on American targets over the years, including the 1983 Beirut bombings at the American Embassy and the Marine barracks, killing more than 300 Americans. Mughniyeh was second on the fbi’s most wanted list, behind Osama bin Laden.
Last Tuesday, in a suburb of Damascus, Mughniyeh was assassinated in a car bombing, allegedly set by Israel’s Mossad. According to Israel National News,
Al-Watan reports that American intelligence had learned that Mughniyeh arrived in Damascus three days earlier with instructions from, and in coordination with, the Iranians. His objective was to meet with Hizbullah leaders and coordinate a mass attack, for which he was to receive help from Syrian intelligence.
At the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick also highlights what Mughniyeh was planning, as opposed to his past crimes. “Most of the reports of his death treated Mughniyeh as a has-been,” she wrote. “Coverage was devoted to his attacks against American, Israeli and Jewish targets in the 1980s and early 1990s. Yet at the time of his death, Mughniyeh remained one of the most dangerous and prolific terror operatives in the world.” Today’s Sunday Timessays Mughniyeh was in Syria planning a terrorist attack on Israel to avenge the idf’s successful air strike on a Syrian nuclear facility in September.
At the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn points out another fact overlooked by the major media—that Mughniyeh had been a strategic ally of al Qaeda:
Most accounts have ignored Mugniyah’s ties to al Qaeda. Others have denied that collusion between the Shiite Mugniyah and the Sunni bin Laden was possible. One Associated Press account described Mugniyah as “a Shiite Muslim not known to be connected to the Sunni al Qaeda.” James Risen of the New York Times mentioned in passing that “there is evidence of contacts between [Mugniyah and bin Laden],” including “at least one meeting in the 1990s, possibly to discuss a terrorist relationship.” If it were left to the mainstream media, then, Mugniyah’s role in the history of al Qaeda’s terror would be only a vague matter for speculation.
A close reading of the 9/11 Commission Report, however, along with legal documents produced by the Clinton administration, the trial testimony of two known al Qaeda terrorists, and a variety of other sources, tells a different story. There is a lengthy history of collaboration between Mugniyah and al Qaeda. And there remain disturbing questions about his possible involvement in the attacks of September 11.
The Palestinians, you might recall, greeted the news of 9/11 with cheering and dancing in the streets. They reacted differently to the news of Mughniyeh’s death, Caroline Glick writes:
Representatives of the reputedly nationalist, secularist Fatah terror group expressed their pride in his life’s work. “We’re very proud to have had a Palestinian holding such a high position in Hizbullah,” a Fatah official who worked with Mughniyeh in the 1970s and 1980s told The Jerusalem Post. Every Palestinian terror group—from Fatah to Hamas to Islamic Jihad, to the Popular Resistance Committees, the pflp and dflp—mourned Mughniyeh as a hero and martyr and called for revenge against Israel and the U.S.
And Fatah is the group with whom President Bush hopes to establish a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel by the end of this year.
Syria’s Democratic Allies
Advisers to both senators Clinton and Obama were in Syria last week conducting meetings with high-level government officials, including President Assad. After meeting with the Syrian president, one of Obama’s foreign-policy counselors, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is a harsh critic of Israel, told Syrian media that “talks dealt with recent regional developments, affirming that both sides have a common desire to achieve stability in the region, which would benefit both its people and the United States.”
Hassan Nemazee, one of Hillary Clinton’s national finance chairs, also conducted meetings with Assad.
Regarding the two visits, the New York Sunasked, “What in the world are advisers to both Senators Obama and Clinton doing in Syria in the middle of a presidential campaign—and why are the two campaigns so unforthcoming about the details of the visits?”
How shameful that in the same week advisers to both Democratic candidates met with Syrian officials, Imad Mughniyeh wined and dined with Syrian leaders in preparation for carrying out murderous acts of terror. According to the Sunday Times, Mughniyeh
had grown accustomed to living dangerously and there was no reason he should have feared for his safety last Tuesday as he sipped fruit juice at the party at the Iranian cultural centre. Mughniyeh was on fairly good terms with everybody present—almost all the leaders of the Damascus-based militant groups were represented. …
Informed Israeli sources said that at the time of his death Mughniyeh was working for the Syrians on a terrorist attack against Israeli targets. This was to avenge Israel’s airstrike on what was believed to be a secret nuclear site in Syria last year.
The Cult of Obama
Excitement over the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is reaching unparalleled heights, as he has won all eight caucuses and primaries since Super Tuesday. His campaign is raising a million dollars a day—double the rate of Hillary Clinton’s. The Economist is calling him “a political phenomenon.”
But an increasing number of commentators—including some on the liberal side—are discussing a worrisome undercurrent in the trend: the fact that it is all about Obama the personality rather than Obama the potential president. Ignoring substance, an almost religious fervor is building in support of this untested politician.
The National Postquoted one woman at a rally saying,
“Are you kidding me? I’d walk over hot coals to vote for this man. I mean, oh, he’s just … he’s a man that can change not our country, but the world.”
In his weekly column, Charles Krauthammer assembled some disturbing tidbits:
[T]he Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a “salvational fervor” and “idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria.”
”We are the hope of the future,” sayeth Obama. We can “remake this world as it should be.” Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country — nay, we can become “a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest.” … ABC’s Jake Tapper notes the “Helter-Skelter cult-ish qualities” of “Obama worshipers,” what Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times calls “the Cult of Obama.” Obama’s Super Tuesday victory speech was a classic of the genre. Its effect was electric, eliciting a rhythmic fervor in the audience—to such rhetorical nonsense as “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. (Cheers, applause.) We are the change that we seek.” That was too much for Time’s Joe Klein. “There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism,” he wrote. “The message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.” You might dismiss as hyperbole the complaint by the New York Times’s Paul Krugman that “the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.” Until you hear Chris Matthews, who no longer has the excuse of youth, react to Obama’s Potomac primary victory speech with “… I felt this thrill going up my leg.” When his MSNBC co-hosts tried to bail him out, he refused to recant. Not surprising for an acolyte who said that Obama “comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament.” … Obama has an astonishingly empty paper trail. He’s going around issuing promissory notes on the future that he can’t possibly redeem. Promises to heal the world with negotiations with the likes of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Promises to transcend the conundrums of entitlement reform that require real and painful trade-offs and that have eluded solution for a generation. Promises to fund his other promises by a rapid withdrawal from an unpopular war — with the hope, I suppose, that the (presumed) resulting increase in American prestige would compensate for the chaos to follow.
The Weekly Standardcalls Mr. Obama “The Magical Democrat”:
It makes one feel like a killjoy to point out that Barack Obama is merely a man, and a politician at that. At the risk of being even more of a sourpuss, one can note that, in spite of the meaning he’s already giving to so many people’s lives, Obama is a thoroughly conventional liberal.
Britain’s Loss of Identity and Confidence
On Friday, the Royal United Services Institute (rusi) published a sobering report about Britain’s national security risks. (You can view a pdf of the report here). The report’s authors argue that British weakness at home is turning these risks into dangerous threats. “The ‘war on terror’ is with us now in all its ugliness,” the report asserts. This raises a number of important questions:
Is there any longer a clear distinction between being at war and not being at war? A declaration of war is almost inconceivable today, and yet both our defense and security services are in action against active forces, abroad and at home, at this moment. The electorate sees this paradox. It also worries about the way we were committed to war, especially in Iraq, and about Washington’s sway and leadership. But equally, the electorate is disturbed by an undertow of doubt about the wider muddling of political responsibilities between Westminster and Brussels. Who actually holds, or will take, responsibility for our foreign relations, for our defense, and for our security? Who—for instance—should guarantee our borders?
Britain is indeed at a crossroads. And as we have been predicting for years, it will soon settle on a path that leads out of the EU. The rusi report seems to hint at that eventuality:
Coalitions of the willing are the only lasting kind; nations do not have permanent friends, only permanent interests. Foul weather friends are to be preferred to fair weather friends; and the British people know precisely which are which. The English-speaking world—manifestly close friends—and, less openly, those with interests common to ours, emerge as our main diplomatic resource. In making our choices, however, we need to know who we are ourselves and what we stand for. How else should we ourselves be reliable allies to others? Once we know these things and admit them, we can restore our divided house to harmony and thence to security.
“We need to know who we are ourselves.” Does Britain know who it is? On this question, the report issues its harshest criticism.
The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity. That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate. This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in misplaced deference to ‘multiculturalism’ failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism.
In Londonistan, Melanie Phillips shows how Britain’s post-Christian society has been replaced by an “anything goes” culture. “Judaism and Christianity, the creeds that formed the bedrock of Western civilization,” she wrote, “have been pushed aside and their place filled by a plethora of paranormal activities and cults.” And why does this post-Christian, multicultural society present so many national security problems for the UK? Phillips wrote,
Instead of gaining a clear-eyed understanding of the ideology that so threatens it, Britain has thus been subverted by it. Instead of fighting this ideology with all the power at its command, Britain makes excuses for it, seeks to appease it—and even turns the blame that should be heaped on it upon itself instead.
This lack of self-confidence, rusi warns, “is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without.”
A sober and accurate assessment.
American National Insecurity Too
President Bush began his weekly radio broadcast yesterday with this:
Good morning. At the stroke of midnight tonight, a vital intelligence law that is helping protect our nation will expire. Congress had the power to prevent this from happening, but chose not to.
The Senate passed a good bill that would have given our intelligence professionals the tools they need to keep us safe. But leaders in the House of Representatives blocked a House vote on the Senate bill, and then left on a 10-day recess. Some congressional leaders claim that this will not affect our security. They are wrong. Because Congress failed to act, it will be harder for our government to keep you safe from terrorist attack. At midnight, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will be stripped of their power to authorize new surveillance against terrorist threats abroad. This means that as terrorists change their tactics to avoid our surveillance, we may not have the tools we need to continue tracking them—and we may lose a vital lead that could prevent an attack on America.
At National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy writes, “Think for a moment about Tuesday’s crucial Senate bill overhauling our intelligence law that Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow the House to consider before recessing Friday—for a vacation.” In his article, McCarthy quotes from a July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which said “globalization trends and recent technological advances will continue to enable even small numbers of alienated people to find and connect with one another, justify and intensify their anger, and mobilize resources to attack—all without requiring a centralized terrorist organization, training camp, or leader.” McCarthy translates the intelligence assessment this way:
There are ever larger numbers of potentially hostile operatives who are galvanized by jihadist ideology without necessarily being connected to a known terrorist organization. Casting a broad surveillance net to collect intelligence overseas is how we detect and thwart any threat they may pose. It’s how we protect Americans in the homeland and on the battlefield.
As of midnight, that net is gone.
Free at Last! Free at Last! Oh Wait …
Kosovo declared independence today, becoming the seventh entity to emerge from what was once Yugoslavia. The U.S. and several European Union states are expected to accept the move by tomorrow.
The Trumpet has kept a watchful eye on the Balkan Peninsula ever since Croatia and Slovenia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991. That bastion of resistance to Europe in the Second World War has been dismantled and, step by step, moved toward becoming, essentially, a collection of European colonies.
That’s what made these paragraphs stand out in a Washington Postpiece today about the move toward independence.
Kosovo’s independence is constrained by the continuing role of the European Union, which is overseeing the adoption of a constitution that respects minority rights. The EU will also appoint a top diplomat who will have the authority to reject laws deemed discriminatory. Recognition of Kosovo by some EU countries, such as Britain, France and Germany, is contingent on the province’s leaders inviting the EU to exercise a supervisory role in the new country.
For some ethnic Albanians, the change in status means only that their UN overseers will be replaced by European ones. ”The European Union doesn’t speak the language of liberty,” said Albin Kurti, head of an organization called Self-Determination. “The European Union can monitor minority rights, but not rule over us. This declaration will not establish an independent Kosovo. It is just an affirmation of our continuing dependence.”
For a thorough explanation of why we take a skeptical view of Kosovo’s “independence,” read our booklet The Rising Beast: Germany’s Conquest of the Balkans.
Egyptian Youth Turning to Radical Islam
Today’s International Herald Tribunesays Egypt is becoming much more religious as the younger generation of Egyptians are turning to radical Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Religion is seen as an escape from an economy that is not providing jobs. Some excerpts:
With 60 percent of the region’s population under the age of 25, this youthful religious fervor has enormous implications for the Middle East. More than ever, Islam has become the cornerstone of identity, replacing other, failed ideologies: Arabism, socialism, nationalism.
In 1986, there was one mosque for every 6,031 Egyptians, according to government statistics. By 2005, there was one mosque for every 745 people—and the population has nearly doubled.
NIE Got It Wrong? Media Yawns
Editor of the Jerusalem Post David Horovitz compares the media coverage given to the December nie report with the recent backtracking of Michael McConnell—the man responsible for the report. Considering the anti-war bias in the media, the results are not surprising:
Typifying the American media’s top-of-the-news coverage of the original, incompetently phrased NIE, The New York Times splashed it across page one on December 4, complete with numerous substories and sidebars, under headlines hailing the “Major Reversal” in the Iran threat assessment and the likelihood that the “New Intelligence May Force a Reshaping of Bush’s Policy.”
Typifying the American media’s entirely indifferent coverage of McConnell’s volte face last week, the Times did not so much as headline it at all—not on page one, and not on any other page, either. Rather, it buried what it called McConnell’s belated “calibration” of the nie’s thrust, encapsulated in a few paragraphs, deep inside an article that headlined comments he made in the same Senate appearance about al Qaeda’s improving ability to strike within the US.
Elsewhere on the Web
Europe’s largest bank just reported its first full-year loss in its history and indicated that things may be getting worse. According to the International Herald Tribune, it has “lost $2 billion on so-called Alt-A mortgages, confirming fears that U.S. credit problems had spread well beyond the sub-prime sector of the housing market” (emphasis mine).
Bankruptcies in England and Wales hit all-time highs in 2007. Read more here.
And Finally …
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said today that Iran would face the wrath of God if it ended its nuclear program. “The Iranian people openly announce that they will defend their rights,” Khamenei said. “God will reprimand them if they do not do so.”
No wonder they want nukes.