Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons In History, Geography and Humility

On Thursday President Obama gave a rambling speech on his policy for North Africa and the Middle East. Most of the speech was nothing but more of the same old platitudes about Muslim outreach and applause for what has become known as the “Arab Spring”.

The President touted the removal of 100,000 US troops from Iraq and the conclusion of their combat mission there. What he failed to mention was that the withdrawal was part of an agreement signed by the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government and that it would not have been possible had George W. Bush not gone forward with the so-called troop “surge” that then Senator Obama vehemently opposed.

Then Obama claimed that “in Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum” (which could be debated) and reiterated his intention to begin bringing our troops home from that nation in July, with no mention of that troop departure being contingent on conditions on the ground.

Continuing with his reality-free oration, the President asserted that killing Osama Bin Laden had “dealt Al-Qaeda a huge blow”. This despite the fact that intelligence gleaned from Bin Laden’s compound indicates that the various branches of the network are self sufficient and that there is a well defined succession of leadership which means that with or without their now deceased leader, Al-Qaeda is still a very real and potent threat to the United States and our allies.

Obama also declared that “Bin Laden was no martyr” even in the face of pro-Bin Laden protests in Pakistan- and elsewhere- and threats of retaliation from Al-Qaeda. Our President seems to believe that he gets to decide whether or not Bin Laden is a martyr, when in fact the terrorist’s followers are the one that determine this reality.

This is the point in the speech where the President truly left reality behind, as he compared the actions of Mohammed Bouazizi- a Tunisian vendor who set himself ablaze after dousing himself in gasoline, because his cart was confiscated by police- to the peaceful defiance of the colonists that took part in the Boston Tea Party and the silent bravery of Rosa Parks.

The President went on to talk about the revolutions sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East in terms of the “Arab Spring” and democracy. Like many naïve liberals Obama fails to recognize that in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East where the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Sharia compliant Islamists are the only organized political factions, democracy can often lead to anything but individual freedom.
The people of Tunisia, Egypt and other nations that have been ruled by brutal dictators are likely to overthrow these autocrats only to end up being ruled by theocracies that are every bit as repressive and cruel.

Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan where the US, the United Nations and NATO were present to help provide security, and stable interim governments, that allowed time for political parties to be formed and the mechanisms of democracy to take shape, in the nations being swept up by the “Arab Spring” there are no organized political parties except the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ironically the President pointed out that many of the region’s leaders have- and still do- blame the West “as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism”. Even as he himself continues to apologize to the world for every mistake that the US and the West has ever made, without pointing out all of the good that the US has done for the Muslim world and the world in general.

Obama spoke of the “peaceful protesters” in Tahrir Square that overthrew Hosni Mubarak and of the voice of the young mother in Cairo who he quoted as saying, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time,” while he disregarded the screams of CBS reporter Lara Logan who was brutally raped as the same crowd shouted “Jew! Jew! Jew!”

Yes, our hypocritical President lectured us about “the shouts of human dignity” and the “moral force of nonviolence” achieving more in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.  But he ignored the fact that the end results: Sharia law, intolerance towards non-Muslims, women and homosexuals may very well be the same.

The President pointed to Libya as the most “extreme example” of a country in the region where calls for change have been answered by violence. He apparently was trying to justify embroiling the United States in a civil war and taking the side of so-called “rebels” whose true alliances remain undetermined- but may very well rest with Iran or Al-Qaeda. Again he ignored Iran where since 2009 the youth have been peacefully attempting to change their government, only to be met by batons and bullets.

Obama also ignored the slaughters occurring in Darfur and the Ivory Coast, where the US and the West have chosen not to act. Apparently in his inconsistent and incoherent foreign policy not all massacres are created equal.

And while the President spoke of “when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power” in Libya, in Syria; Obama said that “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way”. However the President did not explain why he had determined one brutal dictator that is waging war on his own people had to go and the other had the option to remain.

It was somewhat comical to hear the President say of foreign journalists; “We will support… the right of journalists to be heard -- whether it's a big news organization or a lone blogger”. Since this is the same administration that has attempted to intimidate and restrict the access of American journalists that have posted videos or printed stories that they felt portrayed the President or First Lady in an unflattering manner, or they consider to be biased.

Then the President got to the section of his ramblings that angered many Americans that are suffering due to our struggling economy. The President promised to “relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt” - without tying forgiving that debt to guarantees that the new government would live up to its obligations under the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel, which many Egyptians- including the Muslim Brotherhood- have expressed a desire to scrap. And if that wasn’t sufficient to frustrate the public, the President also promised to guarantee $1 billion in Egyptian borrowing without explaining where the money would come from.

To conclude his naïve, adolescent and incoherent address the President went on to begin a moral equivocation, in support of the Palestinians, at the expense of our strongest Middle Eastern ally and the only democracy in the region: Israel.

He began this section by saying, “For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.”

It is a prevarication and a rewriting of history to claim that the Israelis are occupiers. The Palestinians are displaced Jordanians, which Jordan refused to reabsorb, not Israeli refugees or an occupied people. More than once Obama spoke of Israel as maintaining an occupation.

But the most contentious portion of the speech, the part that angered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu- who was preparing to travel to Washington from Tel Aviv as Obama delivered it- and most supporters of our Israeli allies was this: “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state”.

The suggestion that the Israelis who have consistently and repeatedly given up very tangible land for completely empty promises of peace would now accept the borders that they had before the 1967 Six Day War- an unprovoked war of aggression launched against it by Egypt, Jordan and Syria- is preposterous. Those 44-year old borders are, as Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have said, “indefensible”. Returning to the 1967 lines would also mean that Israel would have to give up the strategically important Golan Heights to Syria, which is still an aggressor and closely allied with Iran.

In addition Palestine as a “contiguous state” adhering to the 1967 borders would by definition mean a divided Israel and a divided Jerusalem. This would be unacceptable to Israel and would affectively cut off Christians and Jews from the holiest sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The result of President Obama’s arrogant and foolish speech on Thursday was something he’s been in desperate need of since he first took office and began what has become known as his “apology tour” and which Prime Minister Netanyahu was only too happy to deliver to our Community Organizer-in-Chief on Friday:  A very public and embarrassing lesson in history, geography and humility.

President Obama sat, looking angry and uncomfortable, as Netanyahu lectured him on the geography of Israel and the history of the conflict. Whether Obama actually learned humility is questionable. What is not debatable is that Netanyahu made it clear that there would be no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, while Hamas and Fatah are allied and Hamas continues to profess its intention to destroy the Jewish State. He also made it clear that the 1967 borders would not be the starting point for any further dialogue.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taking A Victory Lap Without Spiking The Ball

Obama at Ground Zero Thursday
(Charles Dharapak-AP)
After the virtually flawless raid by the US Navy SEALS and CIA paramilitary forces on Sunday, which resulted in the termination of Osama Bin Laden, President Obama and his administration seem to have fallen back on bad habits.

First there was the changing narrative of just how the raid went down. Did Bin Laden resist, or not? Was he armed, or not? Did he use his wife as human shield, or not?

Then came the question of whether the administration would release the photographs of Bin Laden’s corpse or not. Initially it seemed like a no-brainer; of course the pictures would be released. CIA Director Leon Panetta said he expected the pictures would be released. The next day President Obama declared, via Press Secretary Jay Carney, that the photos would not be released. We were told “that’s not who we are”, “we don’t need to be taking a victory lap” and “we don’t need to spike the ball”.

But the reason that the Bin Laden photos are being withheld seems to be more about sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities than about avoiding “spiking the ball”. In his speech Sunday night President Obama said that Osama Bin Laden “was not a Muslim leader, he was a murderer of Muslims”. We are constantly being told that most Muslims are peaceful and not radicals. If these two statements are accurate then why would the release of the photographs of a mass-murderer who was not a Muslim leader, but killed many Muslims, offend the sensitivities of peaceful Muslims?

The President’s visit to Ground Zero Thursday seemed to be a victory lap and a photo-op, more for political gain than to comfort 9/11 families. To illustrate this, look at the visit itself. While President Obama made no remarks while at Ground Zero, there was a gaggle of politicians- mostly from his party- in attendance. By contrast only a handful of the thousands of 9/11 families were invited to be present at the wreath laying. In addition, when the President met briefly with the sister of American Airlines Flight 77 pilot Charles Burlingame, Debra Burlingame, he treated her poorly because she spoke up in defense of the CIA agents whose use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques led to the discovery of Bin Laden’s hiding place and eventual termination.

To be clear, the photographs of Bin Laden’s corpse should be released not to prove that he was killed by the SEALS- we know he was. They should be released because the sensitivities of the American people should be more important than the sensitivities of Islamic extremists that will want to kill us whether they see the photos or not. It should also be noted that our enemies respect strength and power, not weakness and dhimmitude. In war you don't worry about your enemy's feelings, you try to make them fear you and make them think twice before attacking you. Showing our Jihadist enemies the pictures of their vanquished ex-leader will show them that the United States will pursue them, no matter where they hide or how long it takes.

My brother-in-law Eric was killed on 9/11 in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. so this issue is very personal to me. I and the families of the 3,000 people murdered by Osama Bin Laden that day have waited almost 10 years for justice to be served. We and the American people have paid for those pictures with our blood and treasure and we have a right to see them.

President Obama needs to reconsider his decision and release the photographs of Osama Bin Laden. Taking a “victory lap” on the hallowed earth of Ground Zero, but not “spiking the ball” by letting the American people see the pictures of our deceased enemy is despicable.