Ordered Liberty

Ordered Liberty

Oregon and Our Post-Constitutional Republic

October 8th, 2015 - 11:51 am

Are you embarrassed by the reasons why we have the right to keep and bear firearms? Democrats think you are and, in this, they could not be more right.

That is why last week’s mass-murder shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College has led to the same tired political act we witness each time a gun tragedy or atrocity occurs: The shooting is politicized by the Left to advance gun restrictions; the timely and false suggestion is made that gun crime is on the rise (it has actually decreased dramatically in the last generation); regulatory proposals are advanced that would have had little or no chance of preventing the just-occurred shootings; gun-rights advocates point out the flaws in both the proposals and the premise that guns cause more violence than they create; and we have a stalemate in the gun policy debate while ignoring mental illness (the wayward policies on which contribute more to mass-shootings than does the availability of firearms).

Why are we debating policy? After all, gun rights are explicit in the Second Amendment. In general, there is not supposed to be much policy debate where our fundamental rights are concerned. We would not, for example, abide a suggestion that we reconsider whether the government may break into your home and poke around for evidence without a warrant. That is not to say there may not be logical reasons to allow a police officer to act unilaterally on a strong hunch; it is to say that a constitutional right is supposed to be a guarantee – something the government has to respect, not something the citizen has to justify.

So why is that not the case with guns? When pushes for more regulations and restrictions come along, as they inevitably do, conservatives and libertarians counter that these would violate the Constitution. But the claim is a muted one because the people asserting it are uncomfortable with (and sometimes uninformed about) the rationale for the constitutional right. Instead, our gun debate proceeds from the premise that the federal government is simply trying to protect Americans from gun violence. Thus, most people reason, the government deserves a fair hearing because its motive is noble, and it deserves a degree of deference because, by performing its essential police functions, it has developed expertise in balancing concerns about community safety and personal security.

It all sounds perfectly reasonable … except for being so wrong, historically speaking. Our Constitution – the debates during its drafting, the rationale for the Second Amendment – portrays government as the force to be feared, not heeded.

For the framers, the central government was the main reason the citizenry should be armed. They believed nothing more threatened individual liberty – the value the Constitution most promotes – than an all-powerful central government. Consequently, they prohibited Congress from providing for a standing army for more than two years’ duration. Standing armies, they calculated, can be turned against free people by an abusive government, leading to tyranny.

Obviously, if the country were not to have a standing army, that would encourage other countries to attack and conquer it. At that point, Congress’s power to raise an army would be cold comfort since the conquest might already be accomplished. The framers addressed this problem by encouraging the citizenry to remain armed. That way, each state would continue to have a militia that could defend the state but also could be pressed into the service of the nation if a threat or exigency required it – thus protecting the whole country while a national army was being raised.

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What Trump Should Have Said

September 21st, 2015 - 8:46 am

How ironic that, with all the offensive things Donald Trump says, something he did not say is breaking the outrage bank.

Trump is under fire for failing, at one of his campaign events, to refute an overheated audience member who asserted that President Obama is a Muslim and was not born in the United States. Trump did not make these claims or concur in them. He simply decided it was not his job to defend Barack Obama from claims that Obama himself has played no small part in provoking. Trump, instead, ignored the allegations and went on with what he wanted to say: blather about how he was looking into the possibility that radical Muslims are training inside the United States to conduct terrorist attacks here (something that is not merely possible, but has been proved in terrorism prosecutions about a zillion times since I first did it 20 years ago).

As one would expect, our Islamophilic political establishment is in high dudgeon: demands for Trump to apologize have come from Trump competitors with troubling records of cuddling up to Islamists – e.g., Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham – and from Obama’s slavish media, which has never judged worthy of examination either the president’s misrepresentations about his background or his extensive personal ties to Islam, notwithstanding his seven-year record of lies about policy objectives and extensive appeasement of Islamic supremacists.

We should thus be under no illusions about the charge against Trump. His offense is not that he failed to correct the record. It is that he failed to parrot, with due indignation, the Obama-decreed, political class-certified response, to wit: “These allegations are completely baseless and anyone who utters them should be exiled from polite society.”

I believe it would have been better had Trump tried to correct the record. Because the record is complicated and Obama is not going to be on the ballot, it is unlikely a candidate would devote the time needed to sort it out during a campaign event. But something along the following lines would be a lot more accurate than what Trump’s rivals and the media are suggesting…

Sir, your anger and confusion are understandable. After all, when four American officials are brutally killed by violent jihadists, you’d expect the commander-in-chief to condemn radical Islam, not proclaim from a United Nations podium that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

And when America’s most openly committed enemy is the jihadist regime in Iran, you’d expect our president to confront that regime and its Islamic supremacist ideology with steely resolve, not concede it a right to enrich uranium, drop sanctions against its weapons programs, and give it over $100 billion that we know it will use to underwrite jihadist terror.

Barack Obama’s place of birth has been the subject of controversy. Much of this was unnecessary, but some confusion is understandable. Not only was Obama’s father a Kenyan national; it turns out that it was Obama’s own literary agent who first peddled the claim that the president was born in Kenya. That claim is part of a pattern of Obama’s distortion of the truth when it suits his purposes — the purpose back in 1991, when he was unknown, was to portray him as an intriguing, exotic figure as he sought a contract for an autobiographical book.

Later, this same claim that Obama was born in Kenya was circulated by the failed 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign, and it has since been pursued by some of Obama’s political opponents.

You should know, though, that a Hawaiian birth record and several credible contemporaneous accounts indicate that the president was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961. He is an American citizen by birthright.

Questions about Obama’s citizenship also fester — understandably but, again, unnecessarily — because Obama spent much of his early childhood in Indonesia. There is significant evidence that, at least by operation of Indonesian law, he may have become an Indonesian national. But even if this were true, it would have no effect on Obama’s status as an American citizen. U.S. law does not force people with multiple nationalities to choose one, nor does it penalize American children with the loss of their citizenship just because the law of another country qualifies them for citizenship in that country.

The president is not a Muslim, but, again, it is understandable that you might think otherwise.

See, President Obama often lectures Americans about what he sees as the greatness of Islam and its legal code, sharia.

Many Americans see sharia as a totalitarian system that has disturbing elements of supremacism, aggression, misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and hostility to liberties we cherish — like freedom of speech and of conscience.

But President Obama maintains that it is a venerable system deserving of our highest respect.

What’s sharia got to do with this? Well, under a mainstream interpretation of Islamic law, President Obama would be considered to be a Muslim.

Islamic law holds that a child’s faith is deemed to be Islam if his father is a Muslim, regardless of the faith of his mother. The president’s father and stepfather were Muslims. This is why some Muslims, especially outside the United States, consider the president to be a Muslim. It is why, for example, the late Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator who was a Muslim, publicly referred to Obama as a Muslim.

Some guy named McCarthy wrote a book a few years ago called The Grand Jihad that traced Obama’s background and deep ties to Islam. You can also learn about it from a very thorough article, “Obama’s Muslim Childhood,” written by the highly regarded scholar Daniel Pipes.

The president’s paternal grandfather, Onyango Obama, a respected tribal elder in Kenya, converted to Islam from Christianity. In fact, he explained to people in his family that Christianity was filled with “foolish sentiment, something to comfort women.” To his mind, it compared poorly to the “strength” and “discipline” he found in Islam. To emphasize his conversion to Islam, Onyango Obama took the distinctively Muslim name, Hussein – the name of the prophet Mohammed’s grandson, a very significant figure in Islamic history. Onyango raised his children as Muslims, including his son, Barack Obama, Sr., the president’s father. Barack Sr. and, later, Barack Jr. were given the same Muslim middle name, Hussein.

Barack Sr. was a minor Kenyan government official who was educated in the U.S. While studying in Hawaii, he met the president’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

The president insists that his father, whom he barely knew, was an atheist. Yet, Barack Sr. was born a Muslim and died a Muslim — in 1982, the family members in Kenya who knew him best made sure that he was given Islamic burial rites.

When Barack Jr. was still a toddler, his mother and Barack Sr. divorced. Soon after, his mother married Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo, another Muslim foreign student studying in the U.S. Lolo Soetoro was an Indonesian oil company executive and liaison to the Suharto government. The marriage is the reason our future president moved to Indonesia when he was five. He lived there until he was about ten with his mother, Soetoro, and eventually his stepsister Maya Soetoro-Ng (who was born in 1970, shortly before Obama returned to Hawaii to live with their maternal grandparents).

Under Indonesian law at the time, if a child was adopted before the age of six by an Indonesian male, he qualified for Indonesian citizenship. The evidence suggests that Lolo Soetoro adopted Barack Jr. The child became known as Barry Soetoro, and when Soetoro and Ann Dunham divorced in 1980, they referred to our future president (who was then 19) as their child in a court filing.

Suharto’s Indonesia was a police state. The public schools, which Barry Soetoro attended, were generally reserved for Indonesians. Students were required to carry identity cards that matched their student registration information. School records identified Barry Soetoro as an Indonesian.

The also identify him as a Muslim. Obama/Soetoro took Koranic study classes in school, and the custom was that Muslim students were assigned to Koranic studies while Christian students were assigned to Christian studies. Obama/Soetoro also attended a Catholic school, the records of which identify him as both an Indonesian and a Muslim, in addition to acknowledging his birth in Honolulu.

Lolo Soetoro was a practicing Muslim. It must be noted in this regard that the practice of Islam in much of Indonesia (especially in the 1960s) has tended to be more moderate than in the Middle East. Soetoro often attended mosque on Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath, and young Barry occasionally accompanied him. Media accounts based on interviews with childhood acquaintances indicate that Barry was observant and wore a sarong (only worn by Muslims in Indonesian culture). One former teacher claimed that Barry took part in advanced Islamic religious classes, studying “mengaji” — i.e., the effort to recite the Koran in Arabic.

Of course, even if these accounts are true — and we are not in a position to verify them — we must remember that Obama was not even a teenager yet at the time. Again, when he was about ten, he left Indonesia to live with maternal grandparents, who were Unitarian Christians and skeptical about organized religion.

We do know that when the New York Times reported on Obama’s background during the 2008 campaign, his stepsister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, recalled, “My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim.”

We also know that in 2007, then-Senator Obama told the Times’ Nicholas Kristof that the muezzin’s Arabic call to prayer was “one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset.” Kristof marveled at the “first-rate accent” with which Obama was able to repeat its opening lines.

The evidence of Barack Obama’s personal ties to Islam are so extensive that his first presidential campaign felt compelled to change its story about them. In early 2007, Obama’s then-political director Robert Gibbs (who later became White House press secretary) asserted, “Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago.” But within just a few weeks, Gibbs backtracked, changing his formulation to “Obama has never been a practicing Muslim.”

This implicit concession that Obama may have been a non-observant Muslim was overstated: As we’ve seen, there is evidence that Obama was an observant Muslim — although, it must be stressed, the evidence comes from when he was a child; there is no evidence of observance in an adult capacity that anyone could credibly call a choice. Gibbs’ concession was also arguably beside the point: At least as far as classical Islam is concerned, it is not practice that makes one a Muslim; it is a status question involving whether one has been born into Islam or has ever affirmed its fundamental tenets that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.

Sharia forbids the renunciation of Islam, so the lack of practice, while sinful, is not disqualifying.

It is ironic that, while President Obama is effusive in his praise for Islam and its legal system, it is sharia’s detractors who emphatically reject the claim that Obama is a Muslim.

They point out that, here in America, we cherish freedom of religion — we reject sharia’s harsh dictate that apostasy from Islam is a grievous sin worthy of the death penalty. It thus makes no difference, these sharia critics say, that Islamic law may consider Obama a Muslim by birth, or that he may have been raised as a Muslim for a few years in his childhood. There is no indication that Obama has ever affirmed Islam as an adult, and he says that he is a Christian. Therefore he is a Christian. Period.

It is a shame that the media and the political class cannot allow this background to be discussed without slandering those who believe the president’s extensive and complex personal ties to Islam are worthy of our consideration.

President Obama’s policies have been excessively deferential to anti-American Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and hostile regimes like Iran. He has pressured the executive branch, including the intelligence community and law enforcement, to whitewash the connection between Islamic scripture, Islamic supremacist ideology, and violent jihadism.

He has falsely blamed anti-Islamic bigotry for terrorist atrocities against the United States, and he has joined Islamist governments in trying to make it illegal to engage in speech critical of Islam — notwithstanding that, as president, it is his duty to uphold First Amendment free expression.

Obviously, it is important that we try to understand what motivates our president to take these harmful positions. It defies common sense to believe his undeniable ties to Islam have nothing to do with it.

How could any member of Congress in good conscience support a deal that so blatantly empowers a brazen enemy of the United States — a regime that has killed thousands of Americans, a regime that daily continues to call for death to America and the annihilation of Israel — to the degree that even the Obama administration openly concedes that the deal materially supports terrorism?

No sooner did Obama lock up the Democratic support he needed in the Senate to ensure his deal cannot be defeated under the farcical Corker review process than did his Iran point-man, Secretary of State John Kerry, send a letter to members of Congress promising that more military aid would be given to Iran’s enemies, Israel and the Sunni Gulf states. Let’s put aside the absurdity of vowing, as Kerry does in the letter, that Obama’s deal will promote regional peace while simultaneously acknowledging that Iran’s enemies will need “increase[d] security assistance.” If the Obama administration were charged with committing material support to terrorism, a serious felony violation of federal law, Kerry’s letter would suffice as a “Guilty” plea.

The criminal statute that prohibits “providing material support to terrorists” (section 2339A of the federal penal code, Title 18) provides a jail sentence of up to 15 years — or up to life imprisonment if death results from the offense — for anyone who:

… provides material support or resources … knowing … that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, [an act of terrorism] … or in preparation for, or in carrying out, the concealment of an escape from the commission of any such violation, or attempts or conspires to do such an act[.]

The statute provides a sweeping definition of “material support or resources”:

The term “material support or resources” means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials[.]

With that background, let’s turn to Kerry’s letter to members of Congress. It explicitly admits to:

Iran’s continued support for terrorist and proxy groups throughout the region, its propping up of the Assad regime in Syria, its efforts to undermine the stability of its regional neighbors, and the threat it poses to Israel.

Note that the State Department expressly designates both Iran and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism.

But this admitted “support for terrorist and proxy groups” is going to stop now thanks to Obama’s deal, right? Wrong. Kerry flatly confesses (my emphasis):

We have no illusion that this behavior will change following implementation of the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-- i.e., Obama’s Iran deal.]

Obama’s Iran deal will provide Iran with over $100 billion, and opens the door to its acquisition of sophisticated weaponry (wholly apart from Iran’s nuclear development activities).

It is, in short, the most astronomical provision of material support and resources to terrorism — as that term is defined in federal law (see above) — in the history of the world.

Kerry’s letter to Congress goes on to concede that, after implementation of the deal, there will be a continuing need “to deter and combat regional threats, including terrorism and Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.” Kerry elaborates that there will be continuing concerns about “arms transfers to Iranian backed Hizballah in Lebanon, Houthis in Yemen, and Shia militants in Iraq, as well as transfers involving North Korea.”

So, while the Obama administration ensures that money and materiel pour into Iran, Iran will continue to provide material support to terrorists, terrorist organizations, and terrorist regimes. In light of Kerry’s blatant acknowledgment of this fact, the State Department’s most recent report on Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, from 2014, is worth quoting at length:

Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2014, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanese Hizballah, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. This year, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia militias, one of which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), in response to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) incursion into Iraq, and has continued to support other militia groups in the region. Iran also attempted to smuggle weapons to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. While its main effort focused on supporting goals in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.

Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route to Lebanese Hizballah, its primary beneficiary, and as a key pillar in its “resistance” front. In 2014, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of primarily Iraqi Shia and Afghan fighters to support the Asad regime’s brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of at least 191,000 people in Syria, according to August UN estimates.

The IRGC-QF, in concert with Lebanese Hizballah, provided training outside of Iraq as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of sophisticated improvised explosive device (IED) technology and other advanced weaponry.

Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deaths from attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank.

[I]n a November 25 speech, Supreme Leader Khamenei highlighted Iran’s military support to “Palestinian brothers” in Gaza and called for the West Bank to be similarly armed. In December, Hamas Deputy Leader Moussa Abu Marzouk announced bilateral relations with Iran and Hamas were “back on track.”

In March, Israeli naval forces boarded the Klos C cargo ship in the Red Sea off the coast of Sudan. On board, they found 40 M-302 rockets, 180 mortars, and approximately 400,000 rounds of ammunition hidden within crates of cement labeled “Made in Iran” and believed to be destined to militants in the region.

Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Lebanese Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC Aerospace Force stated in November that “The IRGC and Hezbollah are a single apparatus jointed together,” and Lebanese Hizballah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem boasted that Iran had provided his organization with missiles that had “pinpoint accuracy” in separate November public remarks. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters have used these skills in direct support of the Asad regime in Syria and, to a lesser extent, in support of operations against ISIL in Iraq. They have also continued to carry out attacks along the Lebanese border with Israel.

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Senator Barbara Mikulski has announced that she will vote in favor of President Obama’s Iran deal. Sen. Mikulski’s support is critical because she becomes the 34th Democrat to announce that she will vote yea. Under the Corker framework so ingeniously conceived by Republican leadership in Congress, this means Obama’s deal cannot be defeated – under the legislation Congress is deemed to endorse the agreement unless it can muster a now unattainable 67 Senate votes (and a similar two-thirds of the House) to enact a resolution of disapproval over Obama’s veto.

It is worth repeating that Republicans rationalized this abdication of their duty to use their constitutional powers to block Obama’s empowerment of America’s sworn enemies by claiming that the legislation ensured that Congress would get to review the deal. This, of course, was always preposterous:

(a) Congress has many tools – the power of the purse, the ability to block Obama appointments and legislative priorities, the power to conduct oversight hearings, the capacity to raise public alarm in media coverage – that could have pressured Obama to reveal the deal’s terms;

(b) there is no coup in forcing the administration to be transparent if the price tag is forfeiting Congress’s constitutional power to reject the deal under the regular rules of treaty review (under which the president must convince 67 senators, not 34, to support the deal) or legislation (under which the president must convince majorities of both houses); and

(c) the Senate’s treaty power does not depend on the president’s cooperation – it comes from the Constitution, and the Senate could have treated the deal (and it still can) as a treaty even if Obama refuses to submit it as such.

Leaving all that aside, though, it is as noteworthy as it was predictable that the Congress never got what Republicans promised the public it would get: full disclosure of Obama’s Iran deal.

Knowing that the inspection and verification provisions of the deal are a joke that could not withstand scrutiny, Obama shrewdly arranged for them to be tucked into what has been portrayed as a secret deal between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Obama and the IAEA have told Congress to buzz off: lawmakers are not permitted to review that purportedly private Iran-IAEA arrangement because that would “compromise the IAEA’s integrity.”

Most normal people who’ve had their intelligence insulted this way would announce that the ill-conceived Corker bill is null and void due to Obama’s bad faith and failure to comply with the requirement that the deal be disclosed to Congress in its entirety. Republicans instead appear to be in their default cave-in mode.

Obama’s deal will bankroll the world’s leading state sponsor of jihadist terrorism, drop sanctions against its development of missiles, oblige the United States to protect Iran’s nuclear work from Israeli interference, and pave Iran’s way to become a nuclear power. Regarding these hiccups, Sen. Mikulski shrugged and said, “No deal is perfect.” She is confident, though, that the U.S. can press ahead with the deal while “reaffirm[ing] our commitment to the safety and security of Israel.”

Meanwhile, a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard took time out from celebrating Obama’s Iran deal to vow that Iran would continue building up its military capabilities until it has defeated Israel. According to regime’s news agency, Brigadier General Moshen Kazzemeini admonished that the United States and Israel “should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine.”

Taking its cue from Obama’s see-no-evil approach, the foreign secretary of Britain, a partner in the Iran deal, sought to justify the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran by claiming that Iran was displaying a more nuanced approach to the conflict with Israel. This drew a good laugh out of the regime – which has no shortage of cause to chuckle at the West these days. A government spokesman replied, “Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan.”

Good job, Mr. President, Sen. Mikulski, congressional Democrats, and GOP leadership. What better way to “reaffirm our commitment to the safety and security of Israel” than to conceive and grease the wheels for a deal that gives breathtaking aid and comfort to its enemy – and ours.

Gwen Ifill Celebrates Clinching of Iran Deal

With all the attention Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal is getting, it is easy to overlook yet another of the president’s many foreign policy success stories: the Taliban.

It is under new leadership, and has strengthened its ties with the decidedly un-“decimated” al-Qaeda terror network.

Recall that just as Obama “ended” the war in Iraq by ceding our hard-won gains to Iran and the Islamic State (the former a longtime al-Qaeda ally, the latter the spawn of al-Qaeda in Iraq), the president is similarly “ending” the war in Afghanistan by consigning the country to the resurgent Taliban.

Toward that end, even though the Taliban continued to conduct and support jihadist attacks on American troops, the president appallingly traded five of its commanders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a deserter.

Moreover, besides its own negotiations with the Taliban — the chief enabler of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans – the Obama administration has enthusiastically supported “reconciliation” talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The suspension of disbelief we are to indulge is that, while Kabul strikes a settlement with the Taliban, the remaining U.S. forces can exit after finishing up the training of Afghan security forces, thus enabling us to “end” the war by leaving behind a stable Afghanistan and an al-Qaeda that has been “decimated” and put “on the path to defeat.”

If you believe that one, I’ve got a peaceful nuclear energy site in Parchin you might be interested in.

In fact, the Taliban continue to wage their jihad against the Afghan government they have every intention of retaking once the last U.S. troops have pulled out, if not before. The deadly attack they executed in June against the parliament in Kabul is only one of the most recent examples.

And significantly, the Taliban is continuing its campaign under new leadership with intimate ties to al-Qaeda.

As Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have been reporting at the Long War Journal, the Taliban has finally confirmed that longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is dead. There remains mystery about when Omar’s demise took place — it may have been over two years ago, though some insiders claim it was more recent. In any event, the group has named a new leader: Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

Mansour was Omar’s deputy while the latter gave sanctuary to al-Qaeda in the years prior to 9/11 — years during which al-Qaeda bombed the United States embassies in Eastern Africa and the U.S.S. Cole as it docked in Yemen.

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In a nearly unnoticed part of his Senate testimony defending President Obama’s appalling Iran deal, Secretary of State John Kerry once again claimed that the mullah di tutti mulli, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had issued a fatwa – a sharia law edict – against Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Tzvi Kahn noticed, and observes at National Review that Kerry, without a hint of irony, suggested that Americans should trust the purported fatwa while he was testifying that the Iran deal is based on verification, not trust – a laughable assertion in its own right given that there are no snap inspections, Americans are banned from inspection teams, Iran is keeping facilities of its choosing off limits from IAEA inspectors, and (as the Center for Security Policy’s Fred Fleitz reports) IAEA inspectors will be relying on Iran itself to provide site samples for testing.

Kerry told the Senate that Khamenei believes he, not the United States and its negotiating partners, is responsible for stopping any Iranian production of nuclear weapons “because he issued a fatwa, and he has declared the policy of their country is not to do it.”

As I pointed out here at Ordered Liberty back in March, however, there is no Khamenei fatwa against nukes. Despite the fact that Kerry continues to tout it – as has Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – the fatwa is a hoax.

To repeat from my post of four months ago (with some new additional material in italics):

The invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has done extensive research into compilations of Khamenei’s published fatwas. (See here and here, and citations therein.) No such fatwa has ever been published.

In a sharia state, particularly the one in Iran that is actually run by the country’s top sharia jurists, fatwas are important statements of governing law, like statutes are in the U.S. Yet despite repeated requests, Iran has never produced the purported anti-nuclear weapons fatwa from Khamenei.

Indeed, as MEMRI elaborates, Khamenei was directly asked about the purported fatwa in a 2012 Facebook exchange: “[I]s it also forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?”

He refused to answer the question:

“Your question has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent [sic] position, then it will be possible to answer it.”

The notion that Khamenei actually believes nuclear weapons violate Islamic law and would issue a credible fatwa to that effect should be seen as absurd on its face. Put aside that Pakistan, which incorporates sharia in its law, has long had nuclear weapons. For over two decades, al-Qaeda has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons and has enjoyed essential support from the regime in Tehran. [ACM: See, e.g., original Justice Department indictment against Osama bin Laden, explaining that al Qaeda forged an alliance with Iran in the early 1990s and that al Qaeda began trying “to obtain nuclear weapons components in 1993.”]

Oil-rich Iran has no need to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It has explicitly threatened to wipe Israel off the map. It has been busily been developing weapons systems capable of delivering nuclear bombs in conjunction with its uranium enrichment. It could not be more obvious that Khamenei’s regime, far from rejecting nuclear weapons as anti-Islamic, seeks to acquire them in order to promote the imposition of its Islamic-supremacist ideology. [ACM: See Congressional Research Service Report, “Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation” (May 11, 2015): “The U.S. intelligence community assesses that Iran has the largest number of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It also notes that Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction and that Iran’s progress on speace launch vehicles improves Tehran’s ability to develop longer-range missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile.”]

Moreover, as MEMRI further documents, there is a published fatwa on the subject of nuclear weapons from credible Shiite sharia scholars. In 2006, it was reported that jurists in Qom had issued a fatwa explicitly stating that “sharia does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.”

Although the date seems to shift, Iranian officials began claiming in about 2005 that Khamenei had promulgated an anti-nuke fatwa. The disingenuous suggestion was made in connection with Iran’s shrewd conclusion that the best route to developing nuclear weapons internally was to pretend that its nuclear program was peaceful.

Obama administration officials, who are desperate to strike a deal with Iran and to convince themselves that Iran might become an American ally in the Middle East, understand that the mullahs will never allow the kind of rigorous inspection system that would make an agreement trustworthy. They are thus emphasizing the phantom fatwa as a rationale for making an unacceptable deal: You are supposed to say to yourself, “We needn’t worry about the inability to verify that the Iranians are not constructing nukes because the Islamic ruler has solemnly forbidden it.”

But even if you were inclined to such self-delusion, the fact is: Khamenei has not forbidden nuclear weapons.

As Breitbart’s Joel Pollak has observed, Kenneth Pollack, a serious national security expert who is particularly influential among Democrats, discussed the purported Khamenei fatwa in his book Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. Pollack notes not only that the fatwa has never been formally issued but also that Iran disregards fatwas when they prove inconvenient to perceived national interests. Thus did the founder of the Iranian jihadist state, Ayatollah Khomeini, ignore his own fatwa against weapons of mass destruction during the long war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Obviously, as I concluded in March, “it would be lunacy, in a matter crucial to American national security, to rely on a fatwa from the head of a jihadist-terror state even if such a fatwa actually existed.” Indeed, if we’re going to start relying on decrees from the top mullah, shouldn’t we then take note that he has pronounced, again and again, that Israel must be destroyed — as he put it in a tweet one year ago: “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” Nevertheless, if Kerry and the administration are going to keep spouting this nonsense, why does Congress not demand that the State Department and the White House produce the purported Khamenei fatwa? Or is the plan to have the IAEA trust Iran to produce a sample of the fatwa?

The struggle against infanticide was lost when the language battle was lost. What we call things determines how we think about them. How we think controls what we do … and what we tolerate.

“Infanticide” called it what it was: a homicide, a killing of a child who was no less possessed of human dignity for not yet having been born.

“Abortion” was a gentler term — still pejorative because the culture back then remained repulsed by infanticide; yet pregnant, as it were, with ambiguity about exactly what was being aborted — the child’s life, or the mother’s pregnancy? And with the abortionist generally being a doctor, “abortion” connoted that “pregnancy” was not about a life to be nourished but a medical condition to be treated.

A “medical condition” is suggestive of illness, not life. And if we were now just talking about how to treat a medical condition, not killing a child, then abortion became just one option on the menu of “choice.” And whose choice? Not the child whose life is ended. The object of these language games is to vanish the child from our consciousness.

No, the choice would belong to the mother, whose designation was adjusted first to “woman” — to crop the mother-child bond out of our imagery, to tap into a hedonism masquerading as a politics of liberation.

Then, finally, the “woman” became the “patient.”

Once infanticide has been devalued into a routine medical “choice” for the “patient” on the order of whether to have the doctor remove that wart on your chin, then the child has been dehumanized into a collection of tissue. That is the logical reductio ad pravitam.

As Planned Parenthood’s Deborah Nucatola – Doctor Nucatola — will tell you between sips of cabernet, a collection of tissue can be a valuable commodity, especially if the “calvarium” is still “intact.”

Naturally, we are shocked by the video, secretly recorded by the Center for Medical Progress, that depicts Nucatola so casually illustrating that the grisly business of infanticide has a sordid commercial side. The video illustrates that Planned Parenthood is harvesting organs and other body parts from the unborn children the media takes pains to call “fetal tissue.” It is not merely (merely?) discarding the inconveniently unavoidable remains of these “surgical procedures”; it is planning, with malice aforethought, how to execute the killing while maximizing the commercial value — oh, I’m sorry, the “medical research” value — of the corpse.

As the good doctor put it:

You’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax so that, you know — we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we now that — so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.

Harvesting body parts, technically, is a federal crime. So is homicide by partial birth abortion. The video suggests that Planned Parenthood may be performing this “surgical procedure,” perhaps routinely. Doctor Nucatola again:

With the calvarium [ACM: the child’s head], in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex. [ACM: i.e., move the delivery position of the baby so that it is not head-first but feet first -- the “breech” position.] Because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have a real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last step, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.

If the baby were still alive while being partially delivered and then killed, that would be a violation of the “partial birth abortion” law. Has that been happening? It would be a question that cries out for investigation … if this were the sort of thing we were inclined to investigate.

But it’s not. If you read the partial birth abortion statute (Section 1531 of the federal penal code), you’ll see why. Notice the penalty: two years’ imprisonment.

That is not how our law usually treats the killing of human beings, or even the non-lethal infliction of pain, or the mere causing of anxiety. Murder is often punished by life imprisonment, or even the death penalty. Maiming will get you 30 years, an assault 20. An armed bank robbery is punishable by 25 years in the slammer even if no one is actually harmed.

But partial birth abortion is punishable by two years in jail — and that’s the maximum. Why is that?

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From what he bizarrely frames as a conservative perspective, Joseph Curl has penned a Washington Times op-ed ripping the purportedly out-of-touch reaction by Republican presidential candidates to the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage (SSM) ruling.

Mr. Curl takes Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker to task over their harsh criticism of the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. A bare 5-4 majority of the justices compelled all fifty states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Thus have five unelected lawyers wrested control over the definition of marriage from the people of the states, to whom the Constitution commits it.

Curl says the candidates have embarrassed themselves. The only embarrassment, besides the decision itself, is Curl’s defense of it.

In lauding Obergefell, he equates state refusals to license SSM with anti-miscegenation laws. It is a frivolous analogy, yet one Curl sees as a showstopper: “First, let’s do one simple exercise: Substitute ‘interracial’ for ‘same-sex.’ Argument over.”

As Justice Clarence Thomas put it in his dissent, “The suggestion … that anti-miscegenation laws are akin to laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman is both offensive and inaccurate.” Prohibitions on interracial marriage, Justice Thomas elaborated, trace directly to the “sordid history” of slavery and the post-Civil War white supremacy system. In stark contrast, the “traditional definition of marriage,” which has prevailed in every society that has recognized marriage throughout human history,

arose not out of a desire to shore up an invidious institution like slavery, but out of a desire to increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by both the mothers and the fathers who brought them into this world. [Citations and internal quotations omitted.]

In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts similarly explained that the repeal of racial restrictions on marriage “did not … work any transformation in the core structure of marriage as the union between a man and a woman.” SSM, to the contrary, radically alters the nature of the institution and the purpose for which it was established.

Curl’s supposed argument-ender never gets out of the starting block.

The columnist also blithely dismisses the notion that First Amendment religious freedom is under assault. As if the rest of us are too clueless to discern what he so clearly sees, Curl proclaims that the Court’s ruling has nothing to do with “marriage in a church – in the eyes of God.” “Religions,” he maintains, “will decide who they will marry[.]… The ruling means only that gays can get a license from the government” and receive other legal benefits (Social Security benefits, joint tax filing, hospital visitation, and adoption rights) on the same basis as traditional married couples.

Really? Even as it urged the Court to impose SSM on the states, the Obama administration acknowledged that such a ruling could have serious repercussions. At oral argument, in answer to a question posed by Justice Samuel Alito, the president’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, candidly conceded that the tax-exempt status of religious organizations could be denied if they fail to embrace SSM.

It is easy to see why. In the Weekly Standard, Adam White points out that Supreme Court precedent already holds that religious schools may forfeit their tax-exempt status for discrimination policies that run afoul of the Court’s construction of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment, of course, is the principal source of the Court’s newly manufactured right to SSM. Thus Verrilli’s shot across the bow was logical and predictable.

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This image provided by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles shows the design of a proposed Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate. The Supreme Court has upheld Texas’ refusal to issue a license plate bearing the Confederate battle flag, rejecting a free-speech challenge. The court said Thursday that Texas can limit the content of license plates because they are state property and not the equivalent of a bumper sticker. (AP photo and caption.)

The Supreme Court today accelerated the dangerous erosion of First Amendment protection, making way for government censorship of expression that does not conform to its preferences. In Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, the sharply divided Court ruled that the state of Texas could constitutionally engage in viewpoint discrimination by prohibiting a specialty license plate that depicted the Confederate flag.

You’re thinking, “What’s the harm?” After all, that flag is deemed by many – perhaps most (though I’ve done no research on the matter) – to be an offensive symbol of racism and slavery. Even if everyone doesn’t see it that way, enough do, and passionately so; thus, why should the state not ban the flag’s appearance on property that is issued by the government itself?

This, indeed, was the rationale of the five-justice majority — an interesting mix of the Court’s four consistent liberals (Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the opinion, and Justices Ruth Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) with one of its staunchest conservatives, Justice Clarence Thomas. Reasoning that license plates — specialty or not — are “government speech,” Justice Breyer concluded that the state has the power, unregulated by the First Amendment, to express its views on matters of policy.

But is it really “government speech”? In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito (joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy) pointed out that the state has licensed some 350 specialty plates, some of which cannot conceivably be statements of government policy (e.g., “Rather Be Golfing”; “NASCAR – 24 Jeff Gordon”; “Young Lawyers”; “Get It Sold With Remax”; and “University of Oklahoma” – a major football rival of Texas schools – as well as several other out-of-state institutions). In fact, the dissent pointed out, the state has also authorized a plate honoring “Buffalo Soldiers,” African American soldiers originally of the Army’s post-Civil War 20th Cavalry Regiment. While that outfit would be broadly popular no doubt, the plate offends at least some Native Americans, who protested that they felt the same way about the cavalry as African Americans did about the Confederacy.

The point, of course, is that although the state is the issuer of the license plates (which it requires all automobiles registered in Texas to display), the speech expressed on the specialty plates is associated with the private parties who propose, select, and exhibit the plates. Therefore, it is not reasonably understood as government speech; it is private speech that the government is regulating – and government has no business using its regulatory authority to favor or disfavor competing points of view.

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The indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert provides a good opportunity to weigh in on a subject that is especially apt for a blog called “Ordered Liberty”: over-criminalization. It is one that has gotten a good deal of attention on the right and the left — even bringing Rand Paul and Al Sharpton together, notwithstanding their disagreements on most everything else.

The ever-more sweeping regulation of human activity and concomitant diminution of liberty are elements of the “democratic despotism” problem foreseen by Alexis de Tocqueville, as Roger Kimball eloquently observes (see, e.g., here).

Students of the criminal law learn early on the difference between malum in se and malum prohibitum — i.e., conduct that is wrong in and of itself (e.g., murder, theft) versus conduct that is considered wrong only because we have chosen to legislate against it. The structuring of cash transactions is an excellent example of the latter.

There is nothing inherently wrong with dealing in cash or, to get to the specifics of Hastert’s case, withdrawing one’s own money from a financial institution in order to spend it as one chooses. Even if one desires to engage in conduct that is condemnable (whether or not criminal), the act of withdrawing money for purposes of carrying out the condemnable act is not itself inherently wrong.

Such conduct gets swept into the net of criminality because it is closely related to actual wrongs. One of the biggest concerns plaguing drug traffickers and racketeers is unexplained wealth. Crime is usually a cash business because paper trails get crooks convicted. They are a prosecutor’s dream because (a) they are irrefutable (once investigators figure out a money laundering scheme, it’s a cinch to show that cash moved from points A to B to C and so on), and (b) the paper usually comes in the form of reliable financial records (prosecutors don’t need to rely on the testimony of accomplices of dubious credibility). So “structuring” is a crime created by statute in order to force racketeers and drug traffickers to create a paper trail.

The way it works is: If a person conducts a cash transaction involving more than $10,000 with a financial institution, the bank is required to fill out a “currency transaction report” (CTR) providing information about the owner of the funds. So let’s say I’m a cocaine distributor and I need $50,000 to pay my supplier for the next shipment. I don’t want a paper trail showing I withdrew $50K – it might be used later to prove my connection to the drug transfer. To avoid this, I might go to six different banks, or go to the same bank six different times, and each time withdraw a little over $8K until I had amassed the $50K.

The structuring law imposes the obligation to complete the CTR on the bank. (The person caught structuring is convicted for causing the bank to fail to file a CTR.) This gives the bank the incentive to police structuring. Banks do this, among other ways, by compiling “suspicious transaction reports.” In effect, this lowers the $10K threshold: the bank will alert law-enforcement regarding cash transactions involving less that $10K if it suspects the withdrawals (or deposits) might be part of a bigger transaction the customer is attempting to conceal.

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