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Monthly Archives: September 2006

Terror and the United Nations — Down Under

September 30th, 2006 - 6:36 pm

Step clear of blinkered Washington politics, and terror webs become a lot easier to spot. From Australia, where the government-authorized Cole inquiry has been investigating alleged kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime via the UN Oil-for-Food program, comes word that a number of officials of AWB, Ltd., one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, could face terrorism-related charges.

What for? For deals done under Oil-for-Food — a program that helped bankroll some of Saddam’s atrocities.

Here’s an excerpt from the AP story: “Australian laws that ban funding terrorist organizations could have been breached, according to evidence that AWB staff knew that $222 million in bribes paid to the former Iraq government through the U.N. Oil for Food program could have been funding atrocities, said an official inquiry’s senior investigating lawyer, John Agius.”

Note: Credit Australia as possibly the most honest country on the planet. While many of the worst offenders involved in Oil-for-Food — such as China, Russia, Syria — have done nothing whatsoever to penalize those who profited by colluding with Saddam to skim money meant for baby milk and medicine, Australia seems determined to delve into the matter and clean up its own mess. What a pity the UN itself hasn’t done that — instead we’ve had Kofi Annan describing the biggest humanitarian scam in history in terms such as “If there was a scandal… .”

Guantanamo Weigh

September 28th, 2006 - 8:57 pm

I’ve just returned from a one-day press trip to Guantanamo Bay, on which there will be more to say. But an observation while digesting the experience –

Only in America would you find authorities trying to cope with terrorist detainees by over-feeding them. We of the media were served the same halal meal as that offered to the detainees, which meant a lunch including — this is only a partial list — spiced meat patty, egg salad, tuna, yogurt, fresh dates, freshly baked bread, juice, and a down-home Middle Eastern dessert, which left us licking from our fingers the honey and nuts of the same baklava we were told is served to Hambali, Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of the gang. Of course, this being Ramadan, the detainees have the option of dining on a different schedule, fasting by day and tucking into the baklava at night. All told, they are offered a menu that provides 4,200 calories per day — more than the 3,800 allotted for a U.S. combat soldier in Iraq.

Apparently, Al Qaeda is eating this up. Guantanamo officers say that while most of the detainees upon arrival at Gitmo ranged from underweight to normal, today the 460 or so held on the base range from normal to overweight to mildly obese. Even the two detainees currently on hunger strike, being fed through tubes, are close to normal weight. We were told that one detainee, who apparently cleans his plate — or his styrofoam meal box — weighs 410 pounds, though we did not get to see him (it is against the Geneva Conventions to put prisoners on display, so our military follows the same rule for the Gitmo detainees). “His choice,” said one of our Gitmo guides. At risk of triggering a human-rights campaign for Guantanamo Lite, I have to wonder if there’s method to this menu. There’s something very disturbing about coddling terrorists, but in some ways this helps cut them down to size: Yep, it’s Al Qaeda… with a weight problem.

It’s not your usual musical, and I would not ordinarily call attention to a stage production I have not yet seen. But the subject is one of the most wildly under-reported stories of our time — the gulag of North Korea. Despite all we have heard of the depravities of Kim Jong Il’s murderous regime, the realities of North Korea’s monstrous system remain as a rule far removed from the world spotlight. Someday this system will shatter, the cameras will go in, and when that happens we will gaze in shock, listen with horror, and ask each other how the world could have let this happen.

Some intrepid souls keep trying to tell the world about North Korea now, in any way possible. And so, despite many obstacles, Yoduk Story, a musical set in a North Korean prison camp, is opening Wednesday, Oct. 4, just outside Washington. Check it out. … Some further background: Yoduk, sometimes transliterated as Yodok, is one of the many North Korean prison camps covered in a painstakingly documented report released in 2003, by the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. With the press, human rights groups, or for that matter, just about everyone but the guards and inmates forbidden access, this gulag almost never makes the evening news. It should. Will Yoduk Story work as a musical? I don’t know. But anything that might help shine a light on North Korea’s gulag sure deserves a chance.

Flat Earth Society Does Terror Trends

September 25th, 2006 - 9:51 am

About that Sunday New York Times story headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat,” has anyone tried running the numbers on where we’d be if Saddam Hussein were still in power? Odds are, the terror threat would be worse yet.

Saddam, when toppled, had not just been sitting around hallucinating about WMDs and happily bribing UN officials through their own Oil-for-Food relief program. He had a deadlier strategy. As the CIA’s own Charles Duelfer reported, based on massive evidence found in Iraq, Oil-for-Food had become Saddam’s weapons program – giving him cover to skim and smuggle billions in illicit funds and use the money to set up a sanctions-busting global network of secret bank accounts, front companies, arms dealers and easy access to anyone he pleased. That all-star cast included Hamas, Al Qaeda, and — among other pals– the new sensation of the UN stage, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who in 2000, despite UN sanctions, dropped in on Saddam in Baghdad.

And, though Duelfer did not find WMD stashed in Saddam’s liquor cabinets, he did spend hundreds of pages of his report documenting Saddam’s preservation of WMD know-how and aim of re-booting his WMD programs as soon as sanctions were gone — a goal that under corrupt UN oversight Saddam had de facto almost reached by 2000-2001.

As for the global jihadis, they were on quite a roll long before Saddam’s overthrow in 2003 — or for that matter, long before Sept. 11, 2001. By 1998, the grand jury indictment of Osama bin Laden, issued in the Southern Dictrict of New York, outlined Al Qaeda’s involvement not only in Afghanistan, Sudan, and — yes– Brooklyn, but went on to cite Al Qaeda’s affiliation with “jihad groups” in Egypt, the Palestinian territories, “Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir and Azerbaijan,” as well as Al Qaeda alliances with “the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah.” Map the trajectory, and the real question to stack up against where we are today is what Saddam, in power, seasoned in the use of WMD, with billions in his pockets, and a worldwide reach, would by now be contributing to “Trends in Global Terrorism.”

(Editor’s Note: A reader writes in to note that the global jihadi club above does not include Iraq. Actually, make of it what you will, the 1998 indictment of bin Laden did mention Iraq, stating “In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that Al Qaeda would not work against that government, and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.” I omitted that mention because it leads on to debates that have by now filled volumes, and I figured the point can be made without it. But since it’s come up…. )

It’s Bill Clinton’s call, if in an interview with Fox News he wishes to give us a flash of his old red-faced grandiosity, telling his interviewer, Chris Wallace: “You did your nice little conservative hit job”; “You’ve got that little smirk on your face.”

But what absolutely does not deserve to stand is Clinton’s bizarre re-write of history in answer to Wallace’s question about why he didn’t do more to put Osama bin Laden out of business. Clinton scolded that “All the conservative Republicans who now say I didn’t do enough, claimed I was too obsessed with bin Laden… All the right-wingers who now say I didn’t do enough said I did too much — same people.”

All? Are we now supposed to believe that in 1998 Clinton’s critics on the right were hounding him for doing too much about bin Laden? Let’s take a moment to remember the late Bob Bartley, editor for three decades of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial-page, and for years one of Bill Clinton’s keenest critics. It is a huge loss that Bob is no longer among us to offer much-needed wisdom on the perils ahead. He died in 2003. But Clinton’s words brought back for me a memory of August 20, 1998 — the day Clinton announced he had launched attacks targeting Osama bin Laden’s “terrorist-related facilities” in Afghanistan and Sudan. Back then, I was working for the Journal’s editorial page. Bob was my boss. There was an editorial meeting at which a number of us debated what to say. There were arguments that this was a wag-the-dog moment, with Clinton trying to distract attention from his own grand jury testimony and impending impeachment. Bob settled the matter, saying that even if Clinton was targeting bin Laden for the wrong reasons, at least Clinton was finally doing something about terrorism — and it was important to encourage that.

The result was a Wall Street Journal editorial, published the next morning, August 21, 1998, which James Taranto, editor of Opinionjournal.com, has just been kind enough to retrieve and post at my request: “The System Strikes Back.”

In this editorial, the Journal praised Clinton’s action, saying “We’re glad to see him now striking back at terrorists and those who harbor them.” The editorial went on to note that: “By and large, Mr. Clinton’s critics have supported the actions,” mentioning, among the supporters, both Newt Gingrich (“the right thing to do at the right time”) and Jesse Helms (“the United States’ political leadership always has, and always will, stand united in the face of international terrorism”).

Far from criticizing Clinton for doing too much, the editorial advised — words we can only wish Clinton had heeded — “We can only hope there is some follow-through.”

There wasn’t. Bob Bartley is no longer here to speak for himself, but he was a man of principles and vision, and he left a considerable published record. It is unseemly for a finger-wagging former president to try to re-write that history — especially while sounding off about how to run the world today.

Expert Tip

September 22nd, 2006 - 1:08 pm

The New York Daily News reports a tip for Hugo Chavez from Bill Clinton:

Former President Bill Clinton said Chavez’s tactics could backfire.

“It makes him look small and undermines his effectiveness,” Clinton told Fox News Channel.

His “effectiveness” at doing what?

Ahmadinejad Spills the Kofi Beans?

September 22nd, 2006 - 12:53 am

As Pajamas editor Richard Fernandez notes, Ahmadinejad alleged at a press conference Thursday that Kofi Annan himself told Iran to ignore the Security Council deadline to stop enriching uranium: “The secretary-general told me to disregard what has happened for the time being, resort to diplomacy.” Fox has the story, including a denial by Annan’s spokesman that the Secretary-General said any such thing.

Given the well-documented record of Kofi ignoring Security Council instructions in running the Iraq Oil-for-Food program, it seems reasonable to wonder if this was a rare instance in which Ahmadinejad was telling the truth.

The Chavez-Carter Connection

September 21st, 2006 - 7:21 pm

With Hugo Chavez romping around New York this week, plugging Noam Chomsky and sniffing out sulfur, let’s not forget the man who in his own humble way did so much to make this visit possible — Jimmy Carter.

Recall that just a few years ago, Chavez was on the ropes in Venezuela. Elected president in 1998, he embarked on a despotic course that sparked enormous opposition. Ousted briefly in 2002 by a military coup, his return to power was met with nationwide strikes and protest. Jimmy Carter, with his Carter Center, got involved; and in August, 2004, Venezuela held a referendum on whether Chavez should remain in power. Amid serious signs of vote fraud, Chavez announced victory. Dismissing huge evidence of a stolen election, including such stuff as bizarre statistical discrepances, a failure of secure auditing procedures at the central tallying center, and more votes cast in some districts than there were voters, Carter went to bat for Chavez, certifying him as the victor.

Now we have this Carter-certified winner doing weapons deals with Russia, doing business and swapping avowals of brotherly love with Iran’s Ahmadinejad, and running for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Scratch almost any current threat to the U.S., and behind it — radiating mediation and appeasement — is a Jimmy Carter moment. It was during his presidency that the Soviet Union was emboldened to invade Afghanistan, creating the cauldron whence ultimately emerged Al Qaeda. It was during his presidency that Iran had its totalitarian Islamic revolution. It was Jimmy Carter who in 1994 went to North Korea and conceived the “Agreed Framework” nuclear freeze deal, which helped sustain and consolidate the cheating Pyongyang regime now testing missiles and presumed to have a stash of nuclear bombs. I could go on, but the news of the hour is the Hugo Chavez show — in which Carter, for his supporting role, deserves to take a bow.

Axis of Free-Loaders

September 21st, 2006 - 1:18 am

With the UN serving as a portal into the U.S., the tyrants of Iran, Venezuela and affiliates have been whooping it up this week at the UN General Assembly. On moral or political grounds, these global gangsters don’t even deserve entry to New York. But, in the interest of seeing whether Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have at least solid financial grounds for appropriating the UN as their personal frat party, I had a look at the always entertaining list of member state dues for the UN’s $1.9 billion “core” 2006 budget.

(more…)

Or Maybe He Should Share It With Hugo Chavez…

September 20th, 2006 - 2:15 pm

Wow. With one speech, eagerly applauded, Hugo Chavez did more today to show what’s wrong with the United Nations than some of us have managed in years of gumshoe reporting. Pajamas is all over this, with Michelle Malkin posting the details before the UN has even got an English transcript, and Roger Simon noting that the UN these days has its own New Class, a sort of UN-klatura. Chavez himself seems confused. He wants to join the Security Council. But he also described the UN as “collapsed. It’s worthless,” and wants to start a new one. Maybe he and his companero from Iran can work something out (see below).

And, moving right along, at about 4 PM today, heading for that same sulfur-suffused UN podium, we have…. Robert Mugabe.