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Monthly Archives: May 2008

How Bad is the Olmert Scandal in Israel?

May 30th, 2008 - 10:28 am

It’s so bad that the neighbors are jealous. Some reasons why, in my article in today’s NY Post: “The Virtue of Scandal: Israel’s Neighbor’s Should Be So Lucky.”

And some lines from Israel’s neighbors, in Khaled Abu Toameh’s fascinating piece in today’s Jerusalem Post, “No One Is Above the Law in Israel.” Here are some excerpts from his story:

 The corruption case against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has earned Israel tremendous respect throughout the Arab world, where many have called on their leaders to benefit from Israel’s democratic system and independent judicial system…

… Mohammed in Lebanon: “Can you imagine if there was an investigation against an Arab or Muslim leader? Do you know how much money they would discover?”

Abu Yusef in Egypt: “Unfortunately, this is the real democracy. Our enemies are very good in practicing democracy. In the Arab world, our leaders steal everything and no one ever dares to ask a question.”

Rashid in Saudi Arabia: “Despite all our problems with the Jews, they are much better than us in fighting corruption and revealing the truth.”

Israel Lover in Saudi Arabia: “Israel is a state that deserves to exist. It deserves our profound respect. I wish I were a citizen of this state.”

Hani in Ramallah: “This is democracy at its best! Enough of dictatorship in the Arab world! Let’s learn from the Israeli example. Let’s benefit from Israel’s democracy.”

Rashid Bohairi in Kuwait: “I swear Israel is a state that will succeed. They are prosecuting their prime minister because of tens of thousands of dollars. What about the millions of dollars that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority stole? How come the Palestinian people are still hungry?”

What’s with all the hand-wringing and brow-furrowing over why Scott McClellan turned on his former commander-in-chief? At the White House, they are saying they just don’t get it — how could he? who is he? According to McClellan himself, it’s all about “loyalty to the truth.”

 Uh-huh…

It may be fun to ponder the deep muddy backwaters of the human psyche, but this one seems simple. By my reading, it’s the money. And lot$ of it. With his shark attack on the President, McClellan is right now making a great big fat bundle of money. He has a number one best-selling book, he’s going to be hot on TV shows from now until November… or at least until the next ex-insider takes a cue and cashes in. And imagine the movie rights. McClellan is quite likely making lots and lots more money with this political bodice ripper than if he had turned to anything else in his post-White House life except maybe a priesthood in the Al Gore Church of Carbon Offsets –and I doubt Gore was offering. (Though over at the American Thinker, there’s an interesting item noting McClellan’s newfound proximity to the ecosphere of tycoon George Soros).

We live in an age in which everything is supposed to be more subtle and complex than it seems, and maybe sometimes it is (see post below on how Kim Jong Il forever bilks America). But in this case, if you want clarity, skip the talk shows and dig up Daniel Defoe’s classic, Moll Flanders, published in 1722, the confessions of a woman who ”during a Life of continu’d Variety” was “Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and dies a Penitent.” Moll could explain McClellan’s book. It was the money.

Whatever sense of principle or outraged betrayal or post-podium epiphany McClellan now seeks to convey on TV, he doesn’t sound like someone speaking with conviction about any of it. Here’s a link to his interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, transcribed under the headline “McClellan: I Became What I Wanted to Change” (you can say that again). ABC did us the favor of transcribing every syllable that dropped from McClellan’s lips, even the “uhs.” This is a man whose claim to fame is that for a short while he made a living as spokesman for the President of the United States. But suddenly –giving us one more reason to wonder why Bush ever had the appalling judgment to hire him in the first place — he’s having trouble saying anything at all. In this interview – if my count is accurate – along with many an “um,” McClellan says “uh” about 149 times. Try that. It’s not easy. And it’s not, uh, that, uh, interesting to, uh, wade through this, uh, interview, and my count of 149 may, uh, be off by an ”uh” or two. But again, by my reading, this isn’t about the, uh, principle. It’s about the money.  

Hot off the press — the North Korean press, that is — we find the following report by the North Korean state news agency, dated yesterday, May 28th: 

Gift to Kim Jong Il

   Pyongyang, May 28 (KCNA) — General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with a gift by the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
    The gift was conveyed to an official concerned Wednesday by a staff delegation of the committee on a visit to the DPRK.

 Come again? A Gift to Kim Jong Il????

Does House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman have an explanation for this? Does Kim Jong Il really need more tribute from the United States?  

Courtesy of a Bush administration gone AWOL these days in a rush to appease tyrants, Kim Jong Il in recent times has already received $25 million in suspect loot refunded by a U.S.- sanctioned bank in Macau, tons of free fuel, and for some time now has been enjoying the apparently limitless devotion of special envoy Chris Hill, who has taken to referring to North Korea as “we” (as in, “we” have missed and utterly muddied a whole heap o’ nuclear disarmament deadlines). In exchange for the old logs of North Korea’s aging Yongbyon reactor, Condi Rice is now twitching to take North Korea off the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring countries — never mind that North Korea has not remotely begun to come clean on kidnapped Japanese citizens, alleged ties to terrorist Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers, and — what else was there? oh right —  clandestine uranium enrichment (which Pyongyang officials admitted to in 2002, and then denied… what a great game…). And never mind the global money-laundering, weapons-vending networks that helped produce the Yongbyon copy-reactor in Syria, destroyed by the Israelis last September.

 Have “we” got any more secret nuclear projects salted around the world, Dear Leader?

So, why has Berman dispatched staffers to North Korea?  – other than to deposit tribute at the feet of Kim Jong Il. There has been talk that with some fanfare North Korea is planning sometime soon to blow up a cooling tower at Yongbyon. Please spare us. That would provide the sort of Potemkin spectacle of “progress” that North Korea specializes in, a Kodak moment that Chris Hill and Condi Rice and George Bush himself are apparently desperate to present to the American public as a sign that Kim Jong Il is now an OK kinda guy. Are Berman’s staffers also queuing for tickets?    

Phone calls and emails sent earlier today to Rep. Berman’s office and to the House Foreign Relations Committee have yet to elicit any information about these staffers, or their mission. So far, the staffers stuck home alone will only say that they can’t say, and my questions appear to have vanished into that vast alternate universe of voicemail and email. Stay tuned.

Bets are that the gift was a pewter bowl or plate with a House of Representatives seal. If Kim Jong Il needs one of those, surely his networks dealing in missiles, counterfeit U.S. currency, and uranium-enrichment components could take a moment to order it for him off ebay. But that wouldn’t have nearly the propaganda value of a gift conveyed from the Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, nor would it fit so neatly into Kim’s collection of tribute.

 

In the Ivory Coast, a 13-year-old girl is gang-raped in a field by 10 UN peacekeepers, and left on the ground, bleeding, trembling and vomiting — or so the BBC reports that the girl herself described the scene. This is part of a larger picture involving fresh allegations by a U.K.-based charity, Save the Children, of UN peacekeepers abusing children in the Ivory Coast, Haiti and Southern Sudan. As detailed by the BBC, ”the UN has said it welcomes the report, which it will study closely.”

Oh, great. The UN can add this report to its research collection of previous reports on UN peacekeeper rape in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the Congo and so forth; and we can look forward to more UN statements on the issue, such as Kofi Annan’s “zero tolerance” policy of 2005, or his zero-zero tolerance policy of 2006 (when he “strengthened” the zero tolerance of 2005), and Assistant-Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute’s zero-zero-zero “zero tolerance” promises of 2007 … and it’s getting to where with all those zeroes the UN ought to just add these policies to its list of millennium development goals, with all those other target dates and enormous numbers. You know, something like: Goal #9: Halving UN peacekeeper rape by the year 2015.    

A Memorial Day Reality Check

May 26th, 2008 - 1:05 pm

In the battle for Iraq, America is winning. While we picnic on this spring day at home, we owe a mighty thank you to all those on the front lines, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in places less visible, and in wars gone before.

For anyone fed up with the doom-saying of too much MSM reporting on Iraq, here is a link to reality: The Iraq Status Report (launched recently – in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of War, and the Long War Journal — by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, with which I am affiliated).

But in the Long War for Freedom, far too much remains in the balance. In Washington, our diplomats keep taking the achievements earned with blood and sweat in the triple-digit temperatures of the battlefield and trading them away for meaningless words from our enemies on other fronts. In Iraq and Afghanistan, our soldiers die fighting for freedom – not only for the freedom of people in far-off lands, but to defend America’s freedom against enemies who aspire to destroy our way of life. Meanwhile, from inside a Washington thus protected by real courage and sacrifice, bevies of ”threat management” experts, consultants, diplomats and politicians are constructing a parallel world of peace on paper — built on false promises from North Korea; false hopes of diplomatically containing Iran; the latest false peace in Lebanon/Hezbollahstan; the downplaying of threats posed by such enemy regimes as those of Syria and Venezuela; and of course the endless unrolling of the Palestinian “roadmap” which has already led to the establishment in Gaza of terrorist Hamastan.

These are American policies which Russia and China, in charting their own maps of the world’s future, must be watching with interest (Russia, as in Polonium 210; and China as in the recent announcement from Chengdu authorities, reported by the Associated Press, that families who have suffered a child killed or badly crippled in the recent earthquake “could get a certificate allowing them to have another child”).

America deserves better than to be re-styled as a sort of new-age negotiator, denigrating our own strength and values in the hope that dignifying our enemies with handshakes and concessions will buy us safety — at least for another Memorial Day, or maybe two, at least until sometime in the next administration. If it’s “change” we’re after, how about the kind of change that Winston Churchill believed in when in April of 1941 he told his embattled countrymen : “In the long run — believe me, for I know — the action of the United States will be dictated not by methodical calculations of profit and loss, but by moral sentiment, and by that gleaming flash of resolve which lifts the hearts of men and nations, and springs from the spiritual foundations of life itself.” … All the better if it does not require yet another Pearl Harbor before America, again, awakes. 

In the Rashomon world of UN flim-flam, some might call it a junket, some might call it a farce, some might call it a political hit job in an election year — and they’d all have a good case. Here comes Monsieur Doudou Diene of Senegal, dispatched to America as a special investigator by the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council (yes, the outfit where the delegates of China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia et al meet regularly to define human rights right down into the sewer, slam Israel, and then repair to the Mercedes and BMWs waiting to ferry them off to dinner). Diene is jetting around on a two-week tour that will — as Benny Avni reports in the NY Sun, and Nile Gardiner describes on NRO  – take him to Washington, New York, Chicago, Omaha, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico (we are not told whether he brought beach reading and a bathing suit).

One might hope that Doudou Diene has come here to learn about and report back on the virtues and workings of a free country — a field which for some at the UN Human Rights Council would be virgin terrain. But let’s not get ridiculous. This is the UN at work, and Diene is no de Toqueville — here he is in 2006 parading as a UN expert on “Islamophobia,” by-passing some of the most racist and repressive societies on earth in order to dwell upon the failings of democracies, and his desire for the Danes to corral their cartoons.

Diene will now be touring America to inquire into whether “racism,” as understood by the UN, figures in the presidential campaign. What does that portend? At the UN, ”racism” is a code word routinely slopped around to describe almost anything American, democratic, or supportive of Israel’s democracy. We can expect that he will return from his jaunt around America with a list of observations that will duly, and publicly, shock the sensitivities of the Human Rights Council -including such members as the governments of Saudi Arabia (anyone tried setting up a church on their premises lately?), Cuba (with 49 years under the Castros, no real presidential campaigns to worry about), and the People’s Republic of China (now re-educating the monks of Tibet), etc. — as well as the commission chaired by Libya, with the help of Iran, Pakistan, Cuba & Co., now preparing for a 2009 reprise of the racist, bigoted, xenophobic and terror-friendly “Death to Israel! Death to America” conference held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

How thick can the UN slather it on and get away with it? Diene is coming to the U.S. on the premise that he, and the UN, know better than American voters how to judge an American election campaign. But lest the UN gang take even more offense than whatever the UN already has planned, the U.S. government is welcoming Diene (though the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilad, did to his credit make the wistful point that there are other matters more urgently deserving of Diene’s labors).  And, of course, whatever the proximate source of his funding, Diene in coming here is surfing the multi-billion dollar wave of American taxpayer money and support which the UN has come to regard as an entitlement for anything its assorted members wish to do.

I have a suggestion. If, in the UN crusade to improve us all, Doudou Diene insists on a grand U.S. tour, by all means let’s give him a look at how America works. But when he’s done, let’s do some investigating of our own — starting with a demand for the complete release, with detailed breakdown, of his travel expenses, in their entirety, including his air tickets, meals, entertainment, per diems, hotel rooms, phone calls, limousines, miscellaneous items, souvenirs either bought or donated, and any related fees, support services and staff assistance as he produces his report. Actually, how about appending all that, in full, to his report itself — or to any information that might happen to leak out as he prepares his report. After all, for this zealous public servant come to inspect us, what’s to hide? In its way, a window onto the daily expenses of the UN’s Doudou Diene might just transform his tour into a useful learning experience for the American public — though not, perhaps, the experience intended by the UN Human Rights Council.  

    

Prepare Ye the Way: Reuters on Obama

May 17th, 2008 - 12:37 pm

Not since the Chinese Communist Party exalted in the highest its army’s apocryphal foot-soldier Lei Feng – a man so virtuous that without asking credit, he washed his comrades’ underwear – has there been such a swooning over the saintly ways of one man. Except this time, it’s not the Chinese Communist Party and Lei Feng, it’s Reuters and Barack Obama. Check out the page linked below on the MSNBC site, and next to the almost equally uncritical dispatch from the AP, scroll down under the “Candidate Chronicles” to the Reuters slideshow: “A Call to Serve: Barack Obama answers the call to public service.” And prepare ye, Oh ye unworthies of real world America, to worship.

Here they are:

Hani Hanjour, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Waleed al-Shehri, Abdulaziz al-Omari… and the rest of the 15 Saudis who were among the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes and killed almost 3,000 people in America on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Saudi government may have disowned them, but it has not shut down the hate machine that spawned them. And, as the Wall Street Journal just put it in an editorial on “Beseeching the Saudis“: “We await the explanation for why the world needs another politically unstable Islamic theocracy in possession of radioactive fuel rods.”

What’s going on here? You couldn’t make it up. With Americans reeling over gas prices, President Bush for the second time this year goes to Saudi Arabia and asks the Saudis to increase oil production. The Saudis yawn, and their foreign minister says there’s no big demand: “Customers, where are you? I want to sell oil, but where are the customers?” (Apparently, in the darkest heart of OPEC, neither soaring prices nor a direct request from the president of the United States are deemed to represent any interest on the part of customers. If anyone else wants to try communicating with the customer-bereft oil potentates of Saudi Arabia, here’s the contact information for the Saudi embassy in Washington).

But that’s just for starters. On Friday, as part of this same diplomatic adventure, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a memorandum of understanding with this same Saudi foreign minister, in which the U.S. government agreed to help Saudi Arabia develop a nuclear program. This is supposed to be a peaceful nuclear program, described by the State Department as envisioned for such uses as “medicine, industry, and power generation.” … Power generation? We are talking about Saudi Arabia, swimming in oil, run by the same folks who just told Bush they are home alone, waiting to hear from customers who don’t call.

Perhaps the White House rationale is that the Saudis are raking in enough money to buy themselves a nuclear program by hook or by crook, so America might as well try to exert some control over the process. Perhaps the idea is to set up in Saudi Arabia the very model of peaceful nuclear power in the Middle East. Or perhaps the diplomacy of the Bush administration in its final years has gone right off the rails, and in the interest of national security Condi Rice ought to sign her own memorandum of understanding with the American people that she will first do no harm, stay home and keep quiet till January. As it is, you can now read on the White House site about how America will cooperate with the Saudis in “meeting Saudi Arabia’s expanding energy needs in an environmentally responsible manner.” Who wrote that? Was it done with a straight face?

The real problem here is not that Saudi Arabia has no customers, or that the Saudis cannot meet their own “expanding energy needs,” or that Saudi Arabia’s domestic fuel consumption threatens the climate of the planet. The real problem is that Iran, with its nuclear program, is setting off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. If the Saudis aren’t interested today in listening to requests to pump enough oil to bring down the price, will they be similarly deaf should concerns arise about where the line lies between peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and the related boost toward making bombs? Who will deal with that? The metaphysicians of the IAEA?

The most environmentally friendly action this administration could take right now in the Middle East would be to stop the nuclear program in Iran, not help start one in Saudi Arabia. And maybe help out the Saudi foreign minister — get him a phone line to a couple of customers.

Would you believe, here comes yet another scandal surrounding the UN Development Program, or UNDP, home to the North Korea Cash-for-Kim scandal, and flagship agency of the UN. In that case, the UNDP ejected the whistleblower, Artjon Shkurtaj, who called attention to the problems that led to the shutdown in March, 2007 of the UNDP office in North Korea. The UNDP then rejected the recommendation of the UN Ethics office that he be given whistleblower protection. The Cash-for-Kim saga entailed a great many sub-scandals, including counterfeit U.S. cash stored in the safe of the UNDP office in Pyongyang, UNDP transfers of money on behalf of other UN agencies to accounts linked to North Korea’s weapons proliferation network, and North Korea laundering funds through UNDP-related accounts. But let us fast-forward to the matter at hand – 

 – Where the setting is the UNDP in Somalia. Now, there are reports of another whistleblower, Ismail Ahmed, a British national, kicked out by the UNDP. Ahmed claims he was trying to sound alarms about UNDP support for a Somali money transfer company with what Reuters, in a dispatch about his claims, calls “suspected links to Islamic militants.” And what militants would those be? Let us browse on to the details on this case provided by the Government Accountability Project, or GAP, which in a dossier on its web site says that Ahmed’s allegations include information about UNDP support from 2003-2005 for a Somali remittance company, Dalsan, which collapsed in 2006, with $30 million disappearing in the process. The problems with Dalsan went beyond alleged fraud. GAP also notes that Dalsan was “co-founded by a former spokesman of Al-Ittihad al-Islamiya (AIAI), an organization placed on a list of terrorist organizations by the U.S. in 2001 and by the UN Sanctions Committee.” That would be the UN list of “Entities and other groups and undertakings associated with Al-Qaida.” GAP further notes that Dalsan’s chairman when it collapsed in 2006 was Abdilkadir Hashi Farah “Ayro,” who is “the younger brother of Aden Hashi ‘Ayro’ ” – who was a top al-Qaeda commander in Somalia, reportedly killed two weeks ago by an American missile strike.

The GAP dossier further alleges that the UNDP helped Dalsan obtain the release of frozen funds, get visas and travel documents for senior company officials, and secure the appointment of a Dalsan company officer as chairman of the Somali Financial Services Association (Europe), handling the rule-making for the Somali remittance industry. According to the GAP, all that fed into the set-up in which “the UNDP Somalia Office provided Dalsan critical support that may have helped the company to flout international regulations and commit a major fraud in which hundreds of Somali migrants and remittance recipients lost an estimated $30 million.”

What do the folks at the UNDP headquarters in NY have to say about this? According to Reuters, the UNDP is promising to look into this “completely” and “get to the bottom of this as thoroughly as possible.” To that end, reports Reuters, a UNDP spokesman says an investigation team will ”fly in mid-June to Nairobi, where the UNDP’s Somalia programme is based.” Hmmm. Mid-June. For the UNDP this is so urgent that it will take a month before a team can even head for Nairobi. Maybe they have to get in line behind the UNDP’s much-delayed investigation into its own handling of Cash-for-Kim and the attendant whistleblower issues. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon promised in January, 2007 that the UN would get to the bottom of that one right away, and 16 months later, we’re still waiting. Come to think of it, when Cash-for-Kim broke, Ban-Ki-Moon initially promised a world-wide audit of all UN systems — an idea he then scrapped the following week. Too bad. Ismail Ahmed’s allegations about UNDP support for a company linked to Al Qaeda might have surfaced sooner.

As it is, the questions proliferating around the UNDP, and what Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is calling its “immutable corruption,” become ever more urgent and disturbing. As the UN’s flagship agency, the UNDP now has an annual budget of $5 billion and disburses another $4 billion per year worldwide on behalf of other UN agencies and donor programs. In countries such as North Korea, Somalia, and beyond, what exactly has the UNDP been developing?    

From my article today on NRO:

 ”The truth is that there will be no salvation for Lebanon until there is regime change in Iran. One might dicker over whether an end to the regime in Damascus might suffice, especially given the strong ties that inspire Hezbollah to decorate its rallies in Lebanon with posters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. But the epicenter of the problem; the prime boot camp where Hezbollah foot-soldiers go for indoctrination and terrorist training; the oil-rich moneybags and top dog among this transnational pack of thugs, is the regime of Iran. Until it goes, Hezbollah will have the resources, the safe havens, and the incentive to press on with its role as Iran’s proxy force on Israel’s northern border, and sharp stick in the eye of a White House that hailed and tried to support Lebanon’s 2005 Cedar Revolution.”

 … You can read it in full here.