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Monthly Archives: November 2012

When UNESCO — the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization — admitted the Palestinian Authority as a full member last year, the decision triggered a U.S. law that forbids American funding of any UN outfit that grants the Palestinians membership before they reach a negotiated peace deal with Israel. Since then, UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova has been campaigning, not for UNESCO’s member states to reverse the admission of the Palestinians, but for U.S. authorities to override America’s own laws in order to resume sending upwards of $78 million per year to her UN shop.

With the Palestinian Authority rolling ahead, indifferent to U.S. objections, toward a vote in the UN General Assembly that would upgrade its status on the UN General Assembly’s books from observer to non-member observer state, UNESCO may make a fresh push for the U.S. to find a way around its own laws, in order to reopen the tax dollar spigots for UNESCO’s coffers. There are plenty of good reasons why America should not do this, starting with respect for America’s own laws, versus UNESCO’s appetite for U.S. cash.  The Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer makes a sound case (disclaimer: along with his own reporting, he cites some of mine) that the U.S. would do better, a la President Reagan, to simply withdraw from the self-serving, poorly performing UNESCO — which does a much better job of thumbing its nose at U.S. interests and providing for its plushly over-staffed offices in Paris than of serving its erstwhile clientele in the world’s poorer countries.

Here’s one more item for the list. While the U.S. headlines have been focused on such pressing matters as violence in the Middle East, and the domestic wrangle over taxes, UNESCO’s chief, Irina Bokova, has just dropped in on Cuba, whence UNESCO’s media services report she has been lavishing praise on the minister of education. UNESCO reports that Bokova “expressed her appreciation to the Minister for the long-standing state policy to give the highest priority to education.” Bokova also “congratulated the Minister” on Cuba being the only country of the Latin American and Caribbean region to achieve the goal of the UNESCO-led program called Education for All.

That sure sounds commendable. Except, what’s the real condition of schooling in Cuba? What is this system that Bokova has just praised as the educational Eden of Latin America and the Caribbean?

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Here it comes again — another United Nations-sponsored grab to control the Internet. Next month, Dec. 3-14, the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is holding a conference in Dubai, at which UN member states will meet to update the ITU treaty arrangements for international communications. The window will be open for everything from proposals for UN-regulated and administered fees to, as The Hill reports, language from China and Iran, which, in an effort to share with the world at large their own domestic practices, “could lead to online censorship and government monitoring of Web traffic.”

For those of you who don’t spend hours poring over UN web sites, some quick background on the UN’s ITU. Based in Geneva, its current secretary-general is Hamadoun Toure of Mali, whose credentials include a PhD from the University of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics of Moscow; honorary degrees from, among other places, the State University of Belarus and the National University of Moldova; plus membership in the Golden Order of the Honour of the International Telecommunication Academy of Moscow. The ITU’s deputy secretary-general, Zhao Houlin, is from China.

I’d include here a list of participants expected at the Dubai conference, except, in one those ominous foreshadowings to which the UN’s more troublesome gatherings are prone, the conference web site features its roster of “Announced Participants” as a restricted link, accessible only to those the ITU deems worthy. Apparently that does not include the great unwashed Internet-using public.

But hey, with the UN on the job, what could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, of course. The UN, in one way or another, has been eyeing the internet for years as a potential font of cash and lever of control. And the UN these days is the kind of place where Iran now chairs the Non-Aligned Movement, which consists of 119 member states plus the Palestinians — and accounts for well over half the membership of the UN General Assembly. All the usual old troubles apply: The UN remains an unaccountable, murky bureaucracy, lending itself to the manipulations of its worst members.

It is devoutly to be hoped that the Internet will escape the clutches of this conference without mortal damage (see: “U.N. Agency Reassures: We Just Want to Break the Internet, Not Take it Over“). If it does not, then is there any comfort to be found?

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Now that Israel is fighting back against the rocket-launching Iranian-backed terrorists of Gaza, the United Nations has swung into a frenzy of activity, calling for immediate measures to stop the violence and end the crisis. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has rushed to the Middle East, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is firing off press releases to say she is “appalled” and “extremely concerned.” The Security Council has held an emergency closed meeting … and so on.

What a contrast to the UN response earlier this year, when for month after month, the terrorists of Hamas-controlled Gaza fired rockets into Israel, and while Israel complied with the UN’s demands for “restraint,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, pleaded with the Security Council to condemn the terrorist assaults on his country.

Prosor sent letter after letter to the Security Council, asking that the Council, the UN’s leading body for addressing matters of armed aggression, speak with one voice to condemn the terrorist attacks out of Gaza. This was evidently not a story of much interest to the international press; nor, it seems, was it a crisis of any interest to the UN Security Council. It does provides some illuminating background, however, on the run-up to the current crisis, and on the priorities of the UN (more on that in my article on The UN Tilt to Terrorists).

For the record, here are some brief excerpts from some of the letters Israel’s Ambassador Prosor sent earlier this year to the Security Council, some of them sent also to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

February 27, 2012

Since I last wrote to you, ten days ago, ten more rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli communities.

Ten days. Ten rockets. Not one word of condemnation from the Security Council.


March 13, 2012

More than 75 rockets have been fired into Israeli communities from Gaza in the past day. More than 250 rockets have been fired since last Friday. That’s one rocket every twenty minutes…

Yet, the Security Council has uttered zero words of condemnation of these attacks… It is time for the Security Council to speak with one voice against the terrorism that continues to flow from Gaza.


May 10, 2012 (this was not a letter, but part of a statement to the Security Council)

In southern Israel, terrorists from Gaza — sponsored by Iran — continue to rain down rockets on 1 million Israeli civilians. One rocket that explodes in the wrong place at the wrong time could ignite a dangerous escalation in our region. Yet the Council has not condemned the rocket fire. It has not uttered a single word.


June 21, 2012

As I write this letter, rockets continue to rain down on the people of Southern Israel. In the past three days, Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 120 rockets into the heart of Israeli homes, cities, and communities. On the night of 19 June 2012. four Israeli soldiers were injured in a rocket attack, one seriously… The Council has a duty to raise its voice above the roar of the rockets that continues to come out of the Gaza Strip.

The international community also has a clear responsibility to prevent the illicit flow of arms into Gaza — a key aspect of resolution 1860 that receives hardly any attention.


June 25, 2012

Since my last letter four days ago, 87 more rockets were fired into Israeli communities.

We see the same reality, month after month: as aid flows into Gaza, rockets fly out.

The Security Council has not uttered a single syllable about this appalling terrorism.

Caution: The Security Council’s decision to stay mute could have grave consequences.


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Finally, during his first press conference in eight months, President Obama has confirmed it was specifically “at the request of the White House” that on the Sunday after the Sept. 11 terrorist onslaught in Benghazi, his ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, appeared as the face of his administration on five TV news talk shows to discuss this debacle. Rice told the American public that the attack was the product of a “spontaneous” mob reacting to the “hateful video,” all of which just happened to get hijacked by “a small handful of heavily armed mobsters.”

That was a grossly misleading message, defying common sense and contradicting information we now know was richly available to the State Department, to others in the administration, and presumably to the president himself. It fed Obama’s narrative of an al-Qaeda in retreat, while ignoring the realities that a known al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, had already claimed credit; that an array of jihadi terrorist groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, had been recruiting and training in the region; that American personnel in Libya had been pleading for better security; and that the attack itself had the hallmarks not of an ad hoc mob, but of an organized assault.

With good reason, Rice’s TV blitz drew plenty of criticism. Nor should it excuse Rice, or her boss, that on all five networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN) she qualified her remarks with such phrases as “our current best assessment” and “the information that we have at present.” As I noted at the time, in a post titled “Rice on Libya: Obfuscating from Behind,” such locutions left the administration wiggle room to adjust its story as reporters — chiefly at Fox News — began to eke out facts the administration had not deigned to share with the public. But the main message broadcast by Rice — the takeaway, as they say — was not remotely that this was an organized act of jihadi terrorism, but that it was just some formless mob, a random event that happened to spin out of control.

With a remarkable inversion of logic, Obama in his Wednesday press conference went on to defend Rice, on grounds that she simply appeared on all those TV shows at the request of the White House and “gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.” That ought to raise the questions of what intelligence, exactly, was provided to Rice? Either the administration, in briefing her, withheld critical details, and Rice failed to exercise enough basic sense to ask obvious questions of her own administration before going on the air. Or, she was provided with important information about the terrorist nature of the attack, information we now know was already available to her boss, which she chose to ignore. Either way, the answers aren’t likely to be pretty. There was enormous disregard here for the public right and need to know that it was terrorism, not a random mob, behind the Sept. 11 destruction of an American diplomatic post and the murder of four Americans, including an ambassador, in Benghazi.

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While Americans have been debating the meaning of Tuesday’s election, al Qaeda’s Ayman al Zawahiri has been weighing in with his own views on this landscape, including the burned and abandoned wreck of the U.S. diplomatic post struck not by a “spontaneous” mob, but — yes — terrorists, at least some of them al Qaeda-linked, in Benghazi. You can find a report on The Long War Journal, by my colleague, Thomas Joscelyn, in his article “Zawahiri says raids on diplomatic facilities were ‘defeats’ for the U.S.”

Unfortunately, Zawahiri’s claims here are far better in touch with reality than the president’s candied campaign lines about a receding tide of war, and al Qaeda in retreat.

Here’s an except from Joscelyn’s article, vital reading as America faces not only immense economic challenges at home, but deadly threats abroad. It begins with a quote from an audio broadcast by al Zawahiri, referring to the signs of American weakness:

“They were defeated in Iraq and they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, and their ambassador in Benghazi was killed and the flags of their embassies were lowered in Cairo and Sana’a, and in their places were raised the flags of tawhid [monotheism] and jihad,” Zawahiri says, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“After their consecutive defeats, they are working from behind agents and traitors,” Zawahiri continues. “Their awe is lost and their might is gone and they don’t dare to carry out a new campaign like their past ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Al Qaeda-linked extremists have been tied to the three assaults on US diplomatic facilities Zawahiri mentions.

It’s not clear here whether al Zawahiri made his comments before or after the election returns rolled in on Tuesday evening. But no matter — unless the current administration, now secure in a second term, now makes a profound change of course, and in doing so, levels with the American public about the extent of this threat. A good first step would be to come clean and crystal clear on what happened in Benghazi, what exactly the president did or did not know, and do, and how he might now propose to rally the American people, not to downplay and obscure this war  at awful cost, but to win it.

Just in case you want a break from the U.S. election news, spare a thought for the UN World Tourism Organization(UNWTO), headquartered in Madrid. Sounds benign, right? Just a friendly way of promoting development in exotic places?

Well, now comes a dispatch from Iran’s PressTV news service, announcing that during a UNWTO meeting just held in Mexico, it was decided that Iran will host a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2013. This meeting will be dedicated, of course, to tourism. Not that Iran’s regime, with its apocalyptic obsessions, genocidal ambitions, domestic repression and distinct hostility toward large and restive segments of its own population, is exactly a beacon of the tourism industry. But for a regime under sanctions due to its human rights violations and illicit nuclear program, the tourism trade may have its own special charms — coupled as it looks likely to be in this case with the chance to play diplomatic patron to scores of visiting ministers, and perhaps explore the many ways in which the tourism industry lends itself to laundering money and camouflaging deals for things other than souvenir keychains and pomegranate smoothies near the Strait of Hormuz.

According to the Iran PressTV story, this proposal was offered the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, a Jordanian. It was approved by tourism ministers from member states of the Non-Aligned Movement, which with 120 members accounts for more than half the 193 members of the UN General Assembly — and which Iran is now chairing for a three-year term, from 2012-2015. Just this September, Iran took over the chairmanship at a summit in Tehran — attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

If the UNWTO is featuring this news of a planned Iranian summit on its own web site, I haven’t been able to find it. But Iran’s English-language outlets seem quite enthused about getting the word out — there’s also an item on it in the Tehran Times.

If Iran’s regime chooses to host shindigs for its closest pals, there may be little the world can easily do about it. The broader problem — not least, a taunt to countries such a the U.S. —  comes when the UN, bankrolled chiefly by the developed democracies (especially the U.S.) serves as a vehicle for organizing such occasions, and thus provides a de facto stamp of approval.

This is the same UN World Tourism Organization which just this past May celebrated Zimbabwe’s longtime despot, Robert Mugabe, as part of its “Leaders for Tourism Campaign.” Maybe we should start calling it the the UN World Tyrants Organization?

Benghazi and the Missing Obama 9/11 Timeline

November 3rd, 2012 - 1:34 am

The story of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi has been evolving for more than seven weeks now, in its many and oft conflicting variants, and the questions keep multiplying. Amid the official obfuscations and evasions, a patchwork picture has been emerging, by way of congressional questions, leaked emails, anonymous sources and documents discovered as recently as this week by reporters wandering through the still-unsecured, burned and looted diplomatic compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens apparently spent his final moments of consciousness choking on the smoke of a diesel-fueled conflagration.

Among the vital tools for clarifying what actually happened are the timelines, which are only slowly being filled in. Broadly, these stretch back months before the assault, as American personnel in Libya warned about deteriorating security, and a U.S. administration invested in the tale of al Qaeda-in-retreat, success in Libya, and a receding tide of war, chose to ignore the warnings. The timelines stretch forward as well, encompassing confusing and conflicting accounts put forth by various officials of the administration; the Sept. 16 televised blame-the-video-and-the-spontaneous-mob messages of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, and the Sept. 25 denounce-the-video speech of President Obama at the UN; the reported inability of the FBI to reach the Benghazi sites until more than three weeks after the attack; the continuing controversy about reported calls for help and the alleged orders to stand down. The list goes on.

But of special interest, in getting a handle on the truth, are the timelines for the duration of the attack itself. There are at least two provided by the administration at this stage. One comes from the State Department, outlined in a teleconference background press briefing on Oct. 9. The other was provided this past Thursday by the CIA. They don’t quite match up. Both versions agree that the assault on the main diplomatic compound began at 9:40 PM Benghazi time, and that a rescue squad came from the annex about a mile away, was unable to find the ambassador, retrieved the body of diplomatic aide Sean Smith, and then returned, under fire, to the annex — which itself came under attack, and where, in the early morning hours, former SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed by a mortar strike.

But when the rescue squad returns to the annex that deadly night, accounts diverge. According to the State Department briefer, the attack on the annex continued, at least sporadically, for hours — from the time the rescue team returned, until the time the two agents were killed. The wording in the State Department Oct. 9 transcript , referring to the time the rescue team arrived back at the annex, is: “The annex is at this time also taking fire and does take fire intermittently, on and off, for the next several hours.  The fire consists of AK-47s, but also RPGs, and it’s, at times, quite intense.”

The CIA version, as reported Nov. 1, by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, is different. According to the CIA, the attacks on the annex “stop at 1:01 A.M., and some assume the fight is over.” Then, more than four hours later, at 5:15 AM, “A new Libyan assault begins, this time with mortars.” That’s the attack in which Woods and Doherty are killed. It stops just 11 minutes later. At 6 AM, a large Libyan security escort finally shows up, takes the Americans to the airport, where some of them, including the wounded, fly out at 7 AM, and the rest depart at 10 AM, with the bodies of the four murdered Americans.

Plenty remains to be filled in and reconciled between these overlapping timelines. But the glaring omission to date is the timeline back in Washington for the commander-in-chief, the president himself. The critical interval in Benghazi spanned just over 12 hours, from the time the attack began, at 9:40 PM on Sept. 11, until the last contingent of Americans flew out, at 10 AM the next day, Benghazi is in a time zone six hours ahead of Washington. So, in Washington, that critical 12-hour interval ran from 3:40 PM, Sept. 11, until about 4 AM, Sept. 12.

What was the president doing during those 12 hours? The official White House schedule for Sept. 11 tells us he had been to a memorial service at the Pentagon that morning, then visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at 2:15 PM, returning at 4:50 PM to the White House for a previously scheduled meeting at 5:00 PM with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The White House has said that Obama was informed at about 5 PM of the attack in Benghazi. Did no one on his staff try to inform him sooner? By then, the diplomatic post had already been under attack for well over an hour. It was 11 PM in Benghazi, where a rescue squad from the annex had arrived at the burning diplomatic compound and was trying, without success, to reach Ambassador Stevens amid the intense fire and smoke.

The White House schedule for that week shows nothing for the president after that 5 PM meeting on Sept. 11, at which time he reportedly got word of the attack. The next item for the president, as now recorded in the White House schedule, was his appearance at 10:35 the next morning, Sept. 12, when he delivered a statement in the Rose Garden, deploring the deaths of the four Americans, while implying that some sort of deliberate third-party offense (the video) had provoked the attack (“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others…”).

Between 5 PM, when the president was informed of the attack, and 10:35 AM, when Obama delivered that public statement, there was an interval of more than 17 hours. When was he directly following the events in Benghazi, complete with the claim and appearance of the heavily armed terrorists of Ansar al-Sharia? When did he go to sleep? When was he informed of the death of the ambassador? During the first six-and-a-half of those hours, from 5 PM until about 11:30 PM Washington time, the American personnel on the ground in Benghazi were either under attack (intermittent, and at times intense, for hours, if you believe the State Department; or with a pause of about four hours — though with nothing definitively resolved, and the ambassador presumed dead but not yet back in American hands — if you believe the CIA). And during the first 11 of those hours, until 4 AM Washington time, there were still Americans, in peril, on the ground in Benghazi.

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