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Monthly Archives: January 2009

With Iran building nuclear bombs, you might suppose the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency would have enough to occupy his energies. But no — Mohamed ElBaradei is busy shilling for Gaza, which is controlled by the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hamas. This is very disturbing stuff. Connect the dots:

Recently the BBC decided not to broadcast a fund-raising appeal for Gaza from a British charity umbrella group, the Disasters Emergency Committee. This offended ElBaradei, who not only canceled interviews with the BBC, but used the IAEA’s press office as a megaphone for airing his opinions. According to an IAEA spokeswoman, ElBaradei ”believes this decision violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong.”

So ElBaradei, the Egyptian Director-General of the IAEA, is using his office — the office of a public institution with a $386 million budget this year, funded in significant part by U.S. taxpayers — to criticize and bully the BBC because it did not air a fund-raiser for an enclave run by Iranian-backed terrorists who have been launching rockets into Israel — and whose charter includes the explicit aim of eradicating Israel.

And this same ElBaradei is runnning the IAEA entrusted to serve as global watchdog for such ventures as Iran’s UN-sanctioned (and sanctions-busting) effort to produce nuclear bombs. That would be the same Iran whose president, presumably with the approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

Anyone see a problem with here with conflicts of interest and abuse of the public trust on the part of His Excellency the director-general of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei?

It’s sinister news of the first order that ElBaradei could not resist using his office and global stage to get involved in matters way beyond his brief. A host of UN relief agencies and private charities are already busy raising money and funneling resources into Gaza. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon went there earlier this month, and has been issuing statements about it for weeks. The UN has just launched a $613 million fund-raising appeal for Gaza. The UN has an entire specialized agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency, devoted exclusively to Palestinians. UNRWA is headquartered in Gaza, and its interests are deeply entwined with those of Hamas — which uses the UNRWA-supported civilian infrastructure of Gaza as a base for its attacks on Israel. During the recent battle in which Israel tried to shut down Hamas’s rocket-launching terror campaign, UNRWA officials have been a main feature of the UN briefing room.

If ElBaradei is strictly concerned about “the vulnerable,” it would seem appropriate to apply himself more diligently to the job of ensuring that nuclear bombs do not get built by terrorist-sponsoring states — such as Iran or Syria. Recall that in 2007 it was an Israeli air strike, not the IAEA, that alerted the world to Syria’s clandestine nuclear reactor built with North Korean help on the Euphrates. Since then, as the Wall Street Journal reported last November, ElBaradei’s contribution on the Syrian front has been to urge the approval of a $350,000 feasibility study for a new Syrian reactor. (Syria is, of course, home to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who during the recent battle in Gaza was busy meeting at the Iranian embassy in Damascus with Iran’s Ali Larijani, nuclear negotiator and head of the Iranian parliament).

Having tipped his hand, aired his biases and abused his official post with his boycott and bullying of the BBC for its decision not to air an appeal he personally favored, ElBaradei really ought to do the honorable thing and resign. Don’t hold your breath. He’s not due to retire until the end of this year. Not soon enough.

100 Yards Long and Eats Cabbage

January 27th, 2009 - 2:08 am

Thats part of the set-up line from an old Soviet joke:

What’s 100 yards long and eats cabbage?

Answer: A Soviet meat line.

Today, the answer to that same question could be: A British national healthcare queue.

It seems that along with the horrendous waiting times endured by patients under Britain’s publicly funded National Healthcare Service, British health officials are now asking hospitals to drop meat from their menus. Their declared aim is to cater to the pronouncements of UN climate guru Rajendra Pachauri, who opined last year that people everywhere should eat less meat in order to cut “global warming” emissions — thus, by some theories, helping to preserve the world’s coastlines exactly where they were on Al Gore’s 58th birthday.

One might wonder if the further aim of these public officials is to skimp on all that loving healthcare rationed out by the British state. The “low-carbon” proposals also include reusing more equipment, and asking patients to consult doctors more often by phone, and less in person.

Out of all this, I observe one constant: The bigger the government, the less meat people get to eat. Is this America’s future?

No, I am not making this up.  The biggest lobbying bloc at the United Nations, the G-77, has just welcomed as its new head for 2009 the nation that at UN headquarters in New York will now be entrusted to pilot and promote the collective interests of the developing world. And the winner is… Sudan.

Yes, the same Sudan (as in genocide) that has been under UN sanctions since 2005. Yes, the same Sudan whose president, Omar al-Bashir, was indicted last year for crimes against humanity by the UN-engendered International Criminal Court.

That didn’t stop Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon from sending congratulations to Sudan this past Thursday, delivered on his behalf by his deputy, Asha-Rose Migiro, who offered the Sudanese ambassador Ban’s “compliments and best wishes.”

Nor did it stop the UN eminences from chowing down at Sudan’s celebratory party Friday night in the UN Delegates’ Dining Room, decorated for the occasion with ice sculptures of fish and the Sudanese flag. According to Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner-City Press, the menu was the priciest available from the UN headquarter’s catering contractor, including lobster, shrimp on ice and chocolate-covered strawberries. For an illuminating account of the entire affair, here’s a link to Matthew’s story.

One might start to wonder if being under UN sanctions actually serves at the UN these days as a credential for leadership. Sudan’s elevation by the G-77 comes on the heels of UN-sanctioned Iran taking over the executive-board chairmanship for 2009 of the UN’s flagship agency, the UN Development Program (where the same Iran-chaired board has just voted unanimously to re-open the UNDP’s North Korea office – shut down in 2007 during the Cash-for-Kim scandal).

Of course, Sudan has already had some practice presiding at G-77 meetings outside New York — the G-77 being an outfit rife with opportunities for its more ambitious members. The G-77, or Group of 77, is named for the number of founding states who came together in 1964 to form a lobbying bloc of developing countries (to “enhance their joint negotiating capacity“). Today, the G-77 is much bigger than that, listing 130 members (out of the UN’s 192 member states, the G-77 counts under its umbrella 129 states, plus the Palestinians).

The G-77 has chapters at a number of major UN office sites around the world, in Geneva, Nairobi, Paris and Rome. In 2007, Sudan chaired the G-77 chapter in Vienna. And, lest anyone think that Sudan has all the fun, last year the chair of the G-77 chapter in Geneva was — why, naturally — Zimbabwe.

President Obama’s newly confirmed ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, is expected to present her credentials to Ban Ki-Moon on Monday. As Powerline observed last year, Rice is a big backer of “engagement.” Get ready for a lot more parties, UN-style.

“Present” for the Inauguration

January 21st, 2009 - 8:43 pm

In deference to the office of the American presidency, and to Americans who lived through segregation and are rightly celebrating the change that put an end to it, I’ve been quiet about the inauguration — rather than rain on the parade. Having watched the festivities from afar, I took the Obama option, and merely weighed in with our TV remote as ”present.”

But as everyone except maybe Bill Clinton starts to exhale, it’s time for business as usual. Yes, like almost everyone else, I wish Obama well; he is now my president. I hope he leads America to a fat and sassy new era of security and wealth. But realistically, as I watch Obama’s trillion-dollar-or-so “stimulus” package roll along (while Timothy Geithner frantically apologizes for not paying his taxes, so he can get confirmed as Treasury Secretary and catch up with the bandwagon), I have this nagging feeling that my husband and I need to be re-calculating our net worth, reflecting expected real income over the next decade or two — and the direction, the direction dictated by swelling government, collectivist programs, endless spending, and central planning gussied up as ”duty,” the direction of all that is down, down, down.

Our main hope, based on what I’m hearing from Obama, would be to go ask some private investor to bankroll our household on grounds that we are planning to spend our way out of any financial problems. The worse it gets, the more we will spend. We’re willing to do whatever it takes – upgrade the furniture, re-paint the walls, invest in high-end electronics, put in a rock garden. Anything to stimulate our domestic economy. Then we have to hope we find an investor as inane and as flush with other people’s money as the U.S. government. 

On much of the spectacle surrounding the inauguration, the non-stop bread and circuses, flash and promise, filled me with foreboding. The whistle stop tour last weekend was ersatz; Lincoln took a train because they didn’t have airplanes in his day. Obama took a train because Lincoln did. The “We Are One” concert was presumptuous; The gloating commentary from many quarters about the departure of Bush did not sound like childish things were being left behind. I was listening to NPR on inauguration morning, and amid the talk of “a new dawning” and a “new way,” the phrase that really stuck, as the apotheosis of these Eva-Peron epiphanies was “renewable optimism.” Whether that is compatible with “sustainable” optimism, and whether that is the same thing as hope and change, I am not sure. It all seems to be plucked from the same bin in which George Orwell once foraged for examples of the abuse of language in service of questionable politics.

It’s of a piece with the phrase plastered on the home page of the new White House web site, which proclaims: “Change has come to America.”  Hey, wait a minute. That sounds like a campaign slogan. Something here is mixed up. When Obama was merely a candidate, he created a presidential-style seal to which he had no right, and between election and inauguration topped that off with the logo of ”Office of the President-Elect.” Now that he is president, the White House web site has become a billboard for campaign slogans. …. Maybe that will pass. Or has he already left us dusting ourselves off in the dust, as he heads for 2012?

A lot of the most disturbing questions boil down to this “new era of responsibility” — the advance-leaked theme of his inaugural address (though Bill Safire makes a good case that the address actually had no memorable theme). Is he talking about individual responsibility? (It has a great track record; I’m for it.) Or is he talking about collective responsibility? (Apart from providing for the common defense, it is far more problematic). Does he expect us to be responsible for paying our own bills? Or does he expect us to be responsible for paying each other’s bills? There is a big difference.

Similarly, there is a lot of sludge at the bottom of Obama’s statement that “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.” Sounds great. But who measures, who decides what is “decent,” who decides what is dignified, and who doles it all out — and how and to whom? Government is all over our airline system these days. Is flying an experience that most of us still find “dignified”? The government runs the Social Security Administration. How well is that working?

On foreign policy, in which Obama must now contend with that nebulously described “far-ranging network of violence and hatred,” I wait with interest to see how HillaryandBill mesh with Joe Biden, Susan Rice, and the Iranian ayatollahs now expecting negotiations without preconditions (I see that North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, having taken whatever he could get from the Bush administration and then scrapped the denuclearization deal, is now feeling out the Obama team for a similar plan).

With luck, Obama will learn in office, and the price of his education will at least be close to what this country can afford. If luck fails, I am trying to comfort myself with memories of Russians I met, in Moscow and the FSU boondocks, while covering the immediate aftermath of the 1991 Soviet collapse. Many of them were glad the Soviet Union was gone. But some — while glad to find toilet paper in the shops – missed the days of “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.” They would reminisce about the good old days, when with little work and less income, there had been a lot more time to commune around kitchen tables, drinking vodka and terrible white wine, and talking late into the night. It’s not quite the lifestyle choice I once had in mind — but I suppose it has its comforts.

In watching the United Nations, there are these moments that come along every so often in which something seems simply too bizarre to be true. I had such a moment this past week, while looking at the web site of the UN’s lead agency, its flagship UN Development Program, or UNDP, where it looked as if the executive board had just picked as its chairman of the board for 2009 — Iran. Yep, they really did. More in my column this week for Forbes.com , “Iran Wields the Gavel at the UNDP.”

In 1981, Israel did us all the great service of destroying Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor. Israel was widely condemned for it.

In 2007, Israel did us all the great service of quietly destroying Syria’s clandestine, nearly completed copy of North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor — apparently designed with North Korean help to serve as a plutonium factory on the Euphrates. No one backed up the Israelis by imposing serious penalties on Syria or North Korea. Instead, the U.S. administration kept quiet about that reactor for more than six months, lest news of North Korea’s perfidy and Syria’s nuclear ambitions might derail the diplomacy with which Condi Rice and her diplomatic proteges were busy haggling with Middle East despots and granting cash and concessions to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang’s false promises of nuclear disarmament. 

Now, courtesy of a front-page story in today’s New York Times, we read that in 2008, Israel was willing to tackle Iran’s nuclear program. But when the Israeli government secretly asked President Bush for specialized bunker-busting bombs to strike Iran’s main nuclear complex, Bush said no. Instead, as recounted in “U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site ,” Bush authorized “new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons” — according to the usual array of nameless “senior American and foreign officials.”

There are rings within rings here. One can be outraged, at varying quantum levels: at the growing menace of Iran’s “suspected” nuclear bomb program; at the fearful paralysis of the Bush administration; and at the usual self-serving carelessness of the Times, which goes on to detail some of the “covert” action — which, thanks not least to this story, we can now describe with “high confidence” (as they say in the intelligence community) as “overt.”

But three things stand out, and all of them imply an America that is trading relative calm today for horrific trouble down the road — in the form of Iranian nuclear hegemony over the Middle East, quite likely accompanied by a worldwide scramble for the bomb (signs of which we are already seeing).

1) If Israel was willing last year to take the risk of striking Iran’s bomb program, Bush should have said Thank you! and Hallelujah! Yes, there were risks, but all courses are by now fraught with risk — and the biggest risk, the monumental unthinkable-yet-now-imminent risk is that of Iran’s totalitarian terror-networking mullahs brandishing nuclear weapons, accompanied by a global scramble –defensive, offensive, you-name-it – for the bomb.

We can thank the U.S. Treasury, Justice Department and at least some portion of the intelligence community (I would prefer not to thank those who contributed to the final version of the lullaby that was the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program) for valiant efforts to stop Iran by following the money, trying to enforce sanctions, and –according to the Times, booby-trapping what they could. But, on the evidence, a strategy of bearing down on nuclear proliferators with the full might of U.S. executive orders, terrorist designations and (for a touch of comic relief) UN sanctions, does a lot less to deter them than blowing up their nuclear facilities.

In refusing Israel’s request, Bush bought some modicum of  ”peace for our time,” or at least relative calm until the end of his second term. In proposing a sitdown with the mullahs, President-elect Obama is hoping for more of the same. But Iran is already at war against us. Behind the proxy wars of Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, behind Tehran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons, behind the bloody 30-year trail of Iran’s terror-based regime both at home and abroad, lies a fundamental hostility toward America’s democratic way of life, and a declared, apocalyptic determination — “Death to Israel, Death to America” — to wipe it out. Live-and-let-live is not as a rule part of the totalitarian playbook.

Iran has paid no serious penalty for sponsoring the killing of American troops in Iraq, for taking British sailors hostage, for mocking United Nations demands to stop enriching uranium, for backing terrorist groups in Gaza and Lebanon, or for setting up a menacing bridgehead to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in America’s own backyard. No measures to date have sufficed to overthrow the mullahs, or even forced them to shut down their uranium centrifuges. Against this background, the missed opportunity chronicled by the NY Times can leave a person — how to put it? — queasy.

2) The Times reports that a major concern of the Bush administration was Israel’s request to fly over Iraq in order to reach nuclear facilities in Iran. The response, according to one of those nameless “top aides,” was “hell no” — lest that upset the Iraqis. So, let’s be clear about this. America has fought a long, costly campaign in Iraq, with the aim not only of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, but of rehabilitating Iraq as a democratic ally in the Middle East. Yet, in the matter of allowing overflights of Iraq aimed at destroying the worst menace to any prayer of peace or democracy in the Middle East today, the White House priority was — what? The sensitivities of an Iraqi government and/or population bigoted against Israel? The deals now being struck between the governments of Iraq and Iran? Something here is badly out of whack.

3) And then there is, as ever, The New York Times itself, which can add this article to its collected works detailing for the world public a whole series of ”covert” programs undertaken by the U.S. government in the interest of defending America. This article reports that “several details of the covert effort have been omitted from this account, at the request of senior United States intelligence and administrative officials, to avoid harming continuing operations.”

But that in itself is information; and as to the covert activities described, however widely understood they might already have been — with a wink and a nod — one might guess that this account was read with great interest in Tehran. Why publish it? And why now? Well, it seems that the reporter, David Sanger, put together this account out of his reporting for a book, to be published Tuesday. No doubt this front-page story will help sell copies…

Heck of a way to win a war.

So now we have UN Security Council Resolution 1860 on Gaza, calling for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire,” in which Israeli forces will pull out, and aid will pour in.

This follows a parade of statements  at the UN from worthies including the envoys of Cuba, Venezuela and, of course, Iran — terror-master of both Hamas in Gaza (cause of the current war) and Hezbollah in Lebanon (cause of the 2006 war). Iran was particularly miffed that anyone should gainsay the Israeli-focused genocidal ambitions of Hamas, chosen by a Gaza population which in 2006 “exercised its right to vote, the most basic principle of democracy.” Actually, democracy also requires just rule of law and civilized behavior after the vote. For a sample of “democracy” Hamas style, see this latest column, “Hamas’s Other War,” by my FDD colleague Cliff May, who points out (as the MSM has not) that just last weekend dozens of Palestinians were murdered in cold blood, or shot in the legs, or had their hands broken – not by Israelis, but by Hamas. The victims were members of the rival Palestinian organization, Fatah. 

Anyway, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are all dedicated to the destruction of Israel, so whatever the UN Security Council might resolve about peace and ceasefires, get ready for more wars. Part of the immediate problem is that Gaza is a giant UN welfare project, operating by grace and favor of the local authorities — a.k.a. the terrorist group, Hamas. This unholy union makes for neither peace nor prosperity. The only significant industries in Gaza are aid and terrorism — arranged in ways that tend to support each other. More on that in my column this week for Forbes.com, on the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, which is headquartered in Gaza: ”Gaza Bedfellows UNRWA and Hamas.”

What to do? Well, those who favor democratic states over terrorist enclaves can hope that Israel in its own defense has destroyed enough Hamas munitions, arms-smuggling tunnels and other terrorist infrastructure to buy a serious breather for a while on the Gaza front. That’s hugely important because Israel may soon have to focus its energies on the problems that will arise in the Middle East — and beyond – when Iran, in violation of at least five UN Security Council resolutions, completes its nuclear bomb.

As for the UN’s stated desire for peace — since the UN objects so strongly to Israel’s efforts to disarm Hamas, how about the UN actually pitching in for a change? For that, I have a practical suggestion. There’s nothing to stop Scretary-General Ban Ki-Moon from proposing a Food-for-Rockets aid program for Gaza. Instead of just shoveling free goods into the Hamas-controlled enclave, why not demand that Hamas hand over a rocket, a bomb, a stack of suicide vests, for every aid truck the Israelis wave through those crossings?

At least that would put some of the onus for Palestinian welfare on Hamas. It would neatly help clarify their priorities — guns or butter. And it would be a lot more pleasant both for the Israelis and for the Palestinian children now being used by Hamas as human shields. It might even go some distance to redeem that big blot on the UN known as Oil-for-Food. The idea here is a UN swap program that would help defang tyrannical thugs, instead of subsidizing them. Of course, it would have to wind down as Hamas ran out of munitions to trade for food, fuel, medicine and other humanitarian items. How would the UN be able to tell? Well, one indicator would be an end to the attacks out of Gaza on Israel. It might not lead to lasting peace, but it would probably work a lot better than Resolution 1860. How about it, Mr. Ban? Food-for-Rockets.

Putting Propaganda In Its Place

January 4th, 2009 - 7:37 pm

A friend sent a must-see video — I’m not sure whether it was plucked off a blog, or straight off the Fox News web site, so thank you to whoever first put this in circulation. But here it is, a news anchor who doesn’t just nod along, or ask softball questions, but who calls out a Palestinian spokeswoman on the facts, as she recites propaganda.

She tries to put down the anchor, telling him, “You have never been to the Gaza Strip. You don’t know what it looks like.” Oh, yes he has… watch it here.

Or is he simply a fool, dutifully reciting excerpts from the UN’s Moral Equivalency Manual and Guide to Validating Tyrants and Terrorists of the Middle East. (Seems like they must have one … Maybe Kofi Annan left his dog-eared copy to Ban?)

Or maybe it all amounts to the same thing. Whatever might be going through the Secretary-General’s head as he pops up to opine about Israel and Gaza, he sounds like he’s either pro-Hamas (which, with Iranian backing, is dedicated to destroying Israel) or living on Pluto.

Ban has by now established himself as a knee-jerk subscriber to the UN formulation of “disproportionate force” — the term which is never applied by the UN to Hamas (or Hezbollah) terrorists launching rockets indiscriminately into Israel, or kidnapping Israeli solders, or gunning down and blowing up Israeli civilians. But “disproportionate force” is habitually howled out by the UN when Israel — having negotiated and conceded and warned — finally strikes back, targeting terrorists in its own defense. In practice, this means that terrorists attacking Israel get a ritual and meaningless tut-tut from the UN, usually while UN aid trucks keep rolling in to keep them resupplied. But when Israel attacks terrorists, that warrants emergency Security Council meetings and special press briefings at the highest levels, and repeated, lengthy statements aimed at generating genuine, massive pressure for Israelis to lay down their arms and let the terrorists carry on. Thus Kofi Annan’s histrionics when Israel struck back after Hezbollah, unprovoked, attacked Israel out of Lebanon in 2006.

And so, since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27th, to stop the attacks out of Gaza, Ban has been preaching full-throated Moral Equivalence from the UN pulpit, demanding an “immediate ceasefire,” calling on “all parties” to “fully uphold humanitarian law,” and insisting that all border crossings into Gaza should be flung open ”to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies.” He got worked up enough about it to make a rare appearance in person at the UN noon press briefing this past Monday.

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Shades of the Late 1930s

January 1st, 2009 - 11:30 am

In Gaza, Israel attacks one tentacle of a totalitarian enemy nested in Iran that seeks the end of democratic life as we know it. And in the free world the erstwhile leaders, instead of thanking the Israelis as allies fighting on our side, recoil in dismay, fret about whether the 60 or 90 or 100 aid trucks a day rolling into Gaza are enough, and counsel an immediate round of more peace-processing for our time.

For that, there will be hell to pay. Israel’s circumstances today are ours tomorrow. More in my column this week for Forbes.com, More Peace-Processing Won’t Cut It.