The Rosett Report

The Rosett Report

Shoulder to Shoulder, Watching ISIS Murder Hostages

February 1st, 2015 - 1:47 am

When ISIS beheaded British hostage David Haines, last September, the White House released a statement by President Obama that the U.S. “strongly condemns the barbaric murder,” and — with reference to Britain — “stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve.”

When ISIS beheaded British hostage Alan Henning last October, the White House released a statement by President Obama that the U.S. “strongly condemns the brutal murder” and –with reference to American hostages Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff beheaded by ISIS — “standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan’s murder — as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines — to justice.”

When ISIS beheaded Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa on January 24, the White House released a statement by President Obama that the U.S. “strongly condemns the brutal murder of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa, and “we stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Japan and applaud its commitment to peace and development in a region far from its shores.”

When ISIS (a.k.a. ISIL) released a video on January 31 that appears to show the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, the White House released a statement by President Obama that the U.S. “condemns the heinous murder of Japanese citizen and journalist Kenji Goto,” and reiterated that the U.S., while “standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners… will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” Secretary of State John Kerry provided the rest of what is by now the formulaic response: “We share the sorrow and continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our ally Japan in confronting terrorism.”

What are we to make of these statements?

There is much to be said for standing together — including shoulder to shoulder — with a broad coalition of allies and partners to stop terrorism and destroy the butchers of ISIS. But the message that comes through so far is that three of the world’s great powers — the U.S., Britain and Japan — along with other allies and partners, have been standing shoulder to shoulder for months, condemning and resolving and sharing grief and resolve. Nothing in all that standing together has been potent enough to stop these barbaric, brutal, heinous beheadings of American and British and Japanese citizens. That is a dangerous message of impotence for these great powers to be sending, shoulder to shoulder, to the rest of the world.







Uh-Oh: Kofi Annan to the Rescue

January 16th, 2015 - 1:17 am

The Islamists of Boko Haram rage through northeastern Nigeria with kidnappings, suicide bombings and last week’s mass murder in the town of Baga, acquiring turf in ways that some top-notch experts are comparing to ISIS — with which Boko Haram has a flourishing kinship. Hashtags on Twitter have done nothing to stop this horror, and it gets ever harder to see who or what will. But if there’s one thing that is assuredly not needed, it’s the advice of Kofi Annan. You remember Kofi: former secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997-2006, and joint winner with the UN of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

Annan’s public career should have ended along with his tenure at the UN (or even earlier). But, like another of the Nobel’s more dubious Peace laureates, Jimmy Carter, Annan just keeps turning up, perpetually ready to dispense terrible advice about the next crisis. Right on cue, here he is, telling the BBC that politicians have to find a way to “reach out” to Boko Haram.

Let’s be clear. Boko Haram is not a group of sensitive souls desperate to surrender to politicians or international bureaucrats who come bearing gifts and professing an interest in their grievances. These are terrorists who have been doing quite well for themselves with guns, bombs, abduction, invasion and slaughter. A few days ago they strapped a bomb vest to a girl who may have been as young as 10, and sent her as a suicide bomber into a busy market, to die in an explosion that killed some 20 others. Like ISIS, they are carving out turf for themselves in ways that suggest ambitions unlikely to be addressed by diplomatic group therapy.

Reaching out is not cost free. There may be circumstances in which it will work — but there are also circumstances in which it can be a disaster. It chews up time and entails concessions that can make a horrific problem even worse. Annan’s record in dealing with matters of mortal crisis suggests his advice is probably an excellent guide for what not to do. Recall that way back in early 2012, as the carnage mounted in Syria, Annan was dispatched by the UN-Arab League as a joint special envoy to sort things out. That was clearly a doomed project — as seemed obvious to some of us at the time. Annan’s period of reaching out provided an excuse for the U.S. and others to hang back in hope of some sort of politically brokered settlement. After much high-profile diplomacy — now largely forgotten — Annan finally stepped aside, one of his former UN lieutenants gave it a try and also failed, and events rolled on to staggering death tolls, chemical weapons, and the rise of ISIS. Nor did Annan’s instincts serve humanity well in such instances as his bureaucratically complacent failure while head of UN peacekeeping to heed the warning of impending genocide in Rwanda, or his administration of the UN’s profoundly corrupt Oil-for-Food program in Iraq.

If Kofi Annan feels a need these days for publicity, he could better serve humanity by confining himself to topics far removed from the realms of such mortal threats as Boko Haram. He’d still have plenty to talk about, if he chose. I’d bet he could still generate a headline or two if he ever reached out with some real answers to a host of lingering questions about his role in Oil-for-Food. But please, enough with the Elder Statesman. There are lives at stake.


On Friday, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabian authorities began carrying out their sentence of 1,000 lashes for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, co-founder of a web site, now banned, called the Liberal Saudi Network. The whipping began with 50 lashes, a process which according to various reports will be repeatedly roughly weekly until all 1,000 lashes have been inflicted — some 50 lashes per week, over the next 20 weeks. That’s just part of his sentence. As Amnesty International summarizes the case:

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi Arabian riyals (about US$266,000) last year for creating an online forum for public debate and accusations that he insulted Islam.

Reporters without Borders, which has been calling for Badawi’s sentence to be overturned, released a statement that his “only crime was to start a public debate about the way Saudi society is evolving.” The BBC, drawing on AFP eye-witness quotes, summarizes the scene of the lashing in Jeddah:

Mr. Badawi arrived at the mosque in a police car and had the charges read out to him in front of a crowd.

He was then made to stand with his back to onlookers and whipped, though he remained silent, the witnesses said.

This first bout of the lashing  of Badawi has been greatly overshadowed in the news by the Islamist rampage of terror and slaughter in Paris. But it is also something the free world must reckon with. It is part of the omerta that in so many variations, in so many places, hangs over free speech and open debate about Islam.

Last year, Saudi Arabia won election to a three-year seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council — for the third time since 2006. When the Saudi government filed a Note Verbale with the UN in October, 2013, transmitting the voluntary pledges and commitments that were part of its candidacy, that document included such statements as:

The Islamic sharia, from which Saudi Arabia derives its regulations, stresses the protection of human rights and prohibits the violations thereof.

There are seven pages of this sort of material, with 43 items, culminating in Saudi Arabia’s pledge that it will:

Continue to shoulder its humanitarian responsibility to protect and promote human rights at the national level by enacting legislation and establishing mechanisms that strengthen the institutional framework for human rights, and by adopting best practices in the field of human rights.

Evidently, by these lights, “best practices” include the public whipping every week, for 20 consecutive weeks, of a blogger who tried to exercise what is ever more quaintly known in the West as free speech.

Pages: 1 2 | 14 Comments»


In Paris, terrorist gunmen massacre the staff of a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Having injured at least 11 people and murdered 12 — including cartoonists, writers, the magazine’s director Stephane Charbonnier, his bodyguard, and a policemen — the killers depart the scene shouting “Allahu akbar.”

And from the top officials of that multilateral empire known as the United Nations — headquarters of the so-called international community — comes the ritual mix of platitudes, hypocrisies and misdirection. There are, of course, the expressions of horror. This event is quite monstrous enough that these expressions may well be heartfelt, even if some of the phrases have been recycled often enough to sound like the product of a diplomatic word extruder. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pronounced himself “appalled and deeply shocked.” At UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is headquartered in Paris, Director-General Irina Bokova — whose native Bulgaria has nominated her to succeed Ban as UN secretary-general in 2017 — said she is “horrified by this shocking attack.”

Quite. But what will the UN do? Where does the UN really stand? There was no reference in these UN press releases to any form of Islam, despite the jihadi battle cries of the terrorists, and the record of threats, as well as the 2011 fire-bombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices, after the magazine dared to exercise its right to free speech by caricaturing, among many other religious figures, the Prophet Mohammed.

Instead, Ban defaulted to the generic UN call for global “solidarity.” He called for “we” — the world community — to “stand against forces of division and hate.”  He then took it a step further, to warn immediately against any reaction by generic “extremists” — not just denouncing the attack on Charlie Hebdo (the UN has a habit of denouncing attacks, rather than denouncing the attackers) but, as Ban put it: “I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts.”

UNESCO’s Bokova was similarly generic in her effusions: “The world community cannot allow extremists to silence the free flow of opinions and ideas.”

All that might sound good, conjuring visions of some amorphous and benevolent world community, its shocked and horrified members standing shoulder-to-shoulder against “extremists of all sorts.” But the vaunted world community is neither entirely benevolent, nor, I would wager, are all its members entirely shocked. The world community — if community it is — runs the gamut from free nations to terrorist sponsors to failed states. Among the members of this community, with seats and votes at the UN, are such states as Iran (world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, according to the U.S. government) and North Korea (which in November responded to criticism of its horrific human rights violations by threatening to conduct a fourth illicit nuclear test), as well as Syria (which was shocked! shocked! to be accused in 2013 of using chemical weapons against its own people). The world community is composed of highly self-interested players, and in too many cases their schemes have nothing to do with defending freedom of expression, or freedom of any other kind. To recruit the world community is to recruit everyone, and therefore, in reality, no one. It is, at best, grandstanding without substance. And when Ban warns against extremists of all sorts, who or what is he really talking about? Anyone who might take action to genuinely confront a menace that manifests itself not with UN-style abstractions, but with a bloody trail of bullets and bombs?

Similarly, what are we to make of the hypocrisy of UNESCO’s Bokova? In her declaration of horror, she declaimed that “UNESCO is ever more determined to stand for a free and independent press.” Seriously? Is that what UNESCO stands for? This is the same Bokova who in recent years has sympathized with the terrorists of Hamas, lavished praise on the highly censored, communist-party-indoctrination-driven school system of Cuba, and this past April paid a cordial visit to the censorship-loving, terror-sponsoring regime of Iran, where UNESCO’s Tehran office last month put out a press release noting “Iran’s longstanding and excellent relationship with UNESCO.”

Pages: 1 2 | 9 Comments»

We interrupt the mayhem of the hour for an update on what is becoming one of those eternal United Nations-backed creations — yes, it’s still out there —  the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The immediate news is that on January 2, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended the Tribunal’s mandate for another three years, so it looks likely to be with us until at least 2018.

Just in case anyone is by now finding it hard to remember what this Tribunal is doing:

Its origins hark back almost a decade, to the assassination on Valentine’s Day, 2005, of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He was murdered, along with 22 others, in a huge bomb blast on a road near the Beirut waterfront. The Lebanese responded with massive demonstrations, blaming Syria, and demanding that Syria end its occupation of Lebanon. At the request of the Lebanese government, the UN Security Council mandated the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to bring to justice those suspected in the attack.

Since that 2005 bomb blast in Beirut, a lot has happened in the world. In Lebanon, Syria withdrew, but Hezbollah — terrorist client of Iran and Syria — tightened its grip, provoked a summer war with Israel in 2006, and has since rearmed. In 2011 came the Arab Spring, soon drenched in blood. The Syrian rebellion turned into the Syrian civil war; amid the carnage, Syrian refugees poured into Lebanon. By 2013 came the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, President Obama’s vanishing “red line,” and Russia’s intervention. Iran had its 2009 uprising and brutal crackdown. North Korea was caught helping the Syrian government build a secret nuclear reactor (destroyed in 2007 by an Israeli air strike), and carried out three nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013. China changed presidents. America elected a new president, and then reelected him. In Libya came the overthrow and death of Muammar Qaddafi, the Benghazi attack and the death of a U.S. ambassador. In Russia, Vladimir Putin went from being president to being prime minister, then went back to being president, in which capacity he hosted the Olympics and invaded Ukraine. The U.S. pulled out of Iraq; ISIS arose; the U.S. went back into Iraq (though officially without boots on the ground). The era of cyber warfare began to dawn, from Stuxnet in 2009-2010, to the hacking of Sony in late 2014.

Meanwhile, at stately pace, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon set up shop, and carried on. Today, the STL has a nice building in the Netherlands, near the Hague. It has officials, administrative staff, and by 2012 had completed its transition to an electronic job recruitment system. It’s hard to tell at a glance just how much has been spent on this operation, because on the STL web site the most easily located budget figures are included in a timeline of key events, which appears not to have been updated since 2008. But the total cost by now must be well upwards of $120 million — given that as the Tribunal was being organized, in 2007, the UN Secretary-General estimated the costs (“exclusive of costs related to the preparation of the premises”) at $35 million for the first year of operation, $45 million for the second year, and $40 million for the third year. (With 49% of the funding to be contributed by the government of Lebanon, and 51% provided by voluntary contributions — for which the U.S. serves as a source of “strong financial support,” according to a 2013 State Department press release, though this press release did not provide any information on the actual amounts).

What about justice? After assorted delays, the Lebanon Tribunal began its trials in January, 2014. There is now a grand total of five Hezbollah members under indictment. None are in custody. As Lebanon’s Daily Star reports, Hezbollah “has refused to acknowledge the trials or turn over the defendants.” In sum, almost 10 years after the bombing, huge resources have been spent, plenty of officials have been employed, but the delivery of justice remains a distant and elusive goal.

Note: It’s not as bad as the court created in conjunction with the UN in Cambodia to try leaders of the Khmer Rouge, though that sets an awfully low bar. The genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge ran from 1975-1979. The court did not begin its work until 2006, as NRO’s Jay Nordlinger reported in a column on “A Court in Cambodia.” One of the top Khmer Rouge leaders, Ieng Sary, was not indicted until 2010. He died in 2013, at the age of 87, before his trial had been completed.



Bravo to The Interview

December 25th, 2014 - 1:58 am

Yes, bravo to Hollywood’s comedy about North Korea.

After the epic furor of the past six months, including the early pre-release denunciation of the movie and threats voiced against it in June by North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, the hack attack in November on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the hackers’ threats in December against American movie-goers, the cancellation by Sony last week of the movie’s scheduled Christmas Day release, the scolding of Sony by President Obama in between his embrace of Cuba and his departure last Friday for a Hawaii vacation — OK, take a deep breath — Sony finally released the movie both in theaters and for rental online. So, on Christmas eve, we watched.

And yes, The Interview is crude, vulgar, silly, tedious at times and crammed with what we might politely call locker-room gags, presumably meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator of modern pop culture. If you’re in the market for a brilliant comic and cultured takedown of tyranny, era no object, then you’d do much better to spend an evening with Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, in the 1942 classic about a Polish acting troupe versus the Nazis, To Be or Not to Be.

But as a graphic jab at North Korea’s totalitarian system, including its third-generation current tyrant, Kim Jong Un, The Interview — despite its lavish dose of rubbish — is a standout achievement. It is a burlesque laced with moments of truth that anyone can understand.

OK  – spoilers ahead. There is a scene at the end, in which North Korea’s Kim regime has fallen, and Kim’s former chief of security, a comely woman named Sook (played by Diana Bang), who turns on her totalitarian boss and helps the clueless heroes free her country, is skyping freely and happily from North Korea to the U.S. For that scene alone, the movie is worth it. This depiction of a North Korea free of the long nightmare of the totalitarian Kim dynasty is a vision that seems to endlessly elude legions of extremely serious international leaders and diplomats, who are forever talking about engaging, reforming or containing North Korea’s regime — which is structured at its core to resist such efforts and carry on brutalizing its people and menacing the free world. The Interview may be short on sophistication, but it cuts to the basic truth: that regime has to go.

The plot of The Interview, in brief:  Two TV- tabloid journalists, sad sack producer Aaron Rappaport (played by Seth Rogen) and ditzy celebrity talk show host Dave Skylark (played by James Franco) land an exclusive interview with Kim Jong Un in North Korea. They are asked by the CIA to assassinate him, and after various misadventures in Pyongyang they fumble the mission. Instead, with the help of Sook, they do something even more damaging to the Pyongyang regime: in an interview televised not only internationally, but also to a North Korean audience, they expose Kim as an insecure and murderous fraud — nothing like North Korea’s official propaganda and totalitarian myth of a godlike figure presiding over a happy and thriving nation. They end up fleeing for their lives, along with Sook,  in a tank given to Kim’s grandfather, founding tyrant Kim Il Sung, by Stalin (in my country, it’s pronounced “Stallone,” Skylark tells Kim Jong Un, earlier in the movie). Kim pursues them, in a helicopter gunship. To save their own lives, they fire at him with the tank, blowing him up (and so save the world from the nuclear weapons, which Kim, in his rage, is about to launch).

There’s been a lot of debate about whether it’s appropriate to make a comedy, or any kind of movie, about the assassination of a sitting head of state. Whether Kim deserves to be classified as a legitimate ruler (he is not actually the titular head of the state; he is the monolithic supreme leader of the Korean Workers’ Party, which enjoys pervasive monopoly control over the state, utterly crushing all rivals), and whether the movie is actually about an assassination, are the more relevant questions here. In this plotline, the downfall of Kim, and his regime, comes not with the final kaboom, but with the interview in which he is exposed before a collective TV audience in his own country as a brutal fraud.

And amid the vulgarities, there is a scene that deserves to be excerpted and shown on big screens everywhere…

Pages: 1 2 | 33 Comments»

Hacked by North Korea? Just Call the President

December 20th, 2014 - 1:28 am

From Hollywood back-biting to North Korean terrorist threats against American movie-goers, the hacking-of-Sony saga by now includes so many stupefying elements that it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s focus on President Obama’s remarks at his end-of-year press conference Friday, when he criticized Sony Pictures Entertainment for canceling its planned Christmas Day nation-wide release of The Interview, the movie that incurred the wrath of Pyongyang by making fun of one of the 21st century’s most ludicrous tyrants, Kim Jong Un.

A reporter asked Obama if Sony had made a mistake in pulling the movie.  Obama summarized part of the background: “Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.”

Having staked out his ground as a sympathetic observer, he hit the punch line: “Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”

He went on to say: “I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

Pause the tape right there. What did the president leave out? Why, he omitted the terrorist threats of physical assault issued by the hackers, who — having cyber-attacked, robbed and humiliated Sony for more than three weeks — finally sent emails captioned “Warning.” These emails threatened that a “bitter fate” awaited anyone who might go to a screening of The Interview, and drove home the point with the message: “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September, 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave).”

These emails surfaced in media reports on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The threats came from hackers who had already demonstrated considerable destructive power and intent with their massive cyber assault on Sony. Movie theaters took the threat seriously (so did the police departments in Los Angeles and New York, according to Reuters), and scrapped plans to show The Interview. With no one willing to show the movie, Sony — already hit with costly destruction — pulled the plug on the release.

This was not merely a criminal attack. It was a terrorist threat issued by hackers whom, at that stage, the administration had evidently identified as working for North Korea. Look at the timing. By the evening of the next day, Dec. 17, newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were carrying stories sourced to anonymous “senior administration officials” who were saying the administration had concluded North Korea was behind the attacks — but government insiders were not yet sure when or how to officially release that information, or what to do about it. According to The Wall Street Journal, the debate had already been going on inside the administration for days. But confirmation of North Korea’s role did not start seeping out, via these anonymous tips, until after Sony had canceled the release. (Official confirmation did not come until Friday morning, three days after the threats on theaters.)

In other words, both Sony and the movie theaters were left to twist in the face of a terrorist threat, while the White House knew that North Korea was behind it, but did nothing to take the lead.  Now the president blames Sony, on the grounds that because they pulled the movie, the terrorists won. Though in the case of Sony, he did not impute the threat to terrorists. He basically implied that the problem was — to borrow a phrase — workplace violence. He said: “Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks. Is that what it takes for you to suddenly pull the plug on something?”

With that, he neatly shifted onto the private sector the job of coping with terrorist threats from North Korea, and downgraded an act of war by a nation-state to a criminal attack.

Actually, it is the federal government, not the movie industry, that is richly empowered by U.S. citizens and lavishly funded by U.S. taxpayers to protect the country against terrorist threats. It is the job of President Obama, not the head of Sony Pictures, to lead — from in front — when a state-sponsored terrorist threat is issued against Americans. And if Obama has conducted his foreign policy in such a way that North Korea is emboldened to launch this kind of assault against a company in the U.S., and issue threats invoking Sept. 11 against Americans who choose to go to a movie theater in America, then it is Obama’s job to take responsibility for his failure, and fix it.

Pages: 1 2 | 15 Comments»

Hollywood comedy slams into North Korea, and yes, the result sounds like an over-the-top movie plot — about a movie, about a plot. Except it’s real, which is the problem with a lot of the threats out there that America in its virtual slumber has been failing to take seriously for some time now. Credit Hollywood, that our entertainers — whether they meant to or not — have triggered a big wakeup call.

The plot:  Two comedians decide to make a film that mocks the most bizarre dictatorship on earth — totalitarian North Korea, ruled by 31-year-old Kim Jong Un, a hereditary tyrant with a taste for Mickey Mouse and nuclear bombs. The movie, The Interview, features these two comedians as a pair of TV-tabloid journalists who are sick of doing Hollywood fluff and want to do some serious reporting. Opportunity knocks: it turns out that young tyrant Kim is a fan of their TV show, and is offering them an exclusive interview with him in Pyongyang. That turns rather more serious than they had planned, when the CIA turns up on their doorstep and tasks them to take advantage of the interview with Kim to do him in: “Take him out.” And so, two slapstick dudes with a mission, off they go to assassinate the tyrant of North Korea.

Cut to the real world, in which it turns out North Korean officialdom has no sense of humor, and is particularly touchy about its big boss (whose leadership style is such that he was warned earlier this year by United Nations human rights investigators that he could be held responsible for “crimes against humanity”). The emperor cannot afford to allow the story to spread that he has no clothes. Pyongyang’s totalitarian regime is built around the requirements of complete loyalty, adulation and obedience rendered unto the supreme leader — a system that Kim underscored last year by executing his own allegedly wayward uncle-in-law.

When the trailer for The Interview is released, in June, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry — in lingo that itself invites lampooning — declares that distribution of the film would be “the most undisguised terrorism and a war action to deprive the service personnel and people of the DPRK of their mental mainstay and bring down its social system.”  Pyongyang threatens that “if the U.S. administration connives at and patronizes the screening of the film, it will invite a strong and merciless countermeasure.” At the UN, where North Korea’s membership is itself a sorry joke, the North Korean ambassador writes a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, demanding that the U.S. government ban this Hollywood comedy, or else the U.S. “will be fully responsible for encouraging and sponsoring terrorism.”

In late November, this scene turns far more serious, with a massive hacking attack on the computer network of the company behind the movie, Sony Pictures Entertainment. The damage is enormous. Expensive new Sony movies, not yet officially released, are leaked online (though, interestingly enough, The Interview is not among them). Also leaked are Social Security numbers, salaries, fees and confidential emails of Sony personnel, contractors and stars. Some of the emails are embarrassing. Company executives come under fire for in-house correspondence deemed insulting to a cast of characters ranging from Angelina Jolie to the president of the United States.

Now Sony is under attack not only from hackers, but from critics who are poring over its abruptly aired secrets. And investigators are still trying to track down the hackers.

North Korea denies involvement in the hack attack, but gloats over Sony’s misery. This comes by way of a statement from the Policy Department of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, released by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), in which North Korean authorities say they have no clue where in America Sony Pictures is located, nor do they know why it was attacked, nor they do feel any need to know. But they do know, as they spell out, that “the hacking is so fatal that all the systems of the company have been paralyzed, causing the overall suspension of the work and supposedly a huge ensuing loss.” They go on to say that “the hacking into SONY Pictures might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK in response to its appeal.” And, at the end of long string of blather attacking the U.S. and South Korea, and lauding “the severe punishment by the anti-U.S. sacred war to be staged all over the world,” they conclude that “the righteous reaction will get stronger to smash the evil doings.”

Pages: 1 2 | 41 Comments»

Will the United Nations ever face up to the awkward reality that it is subsidizing terrorists in Gaza? Or is that too touchy a topic because it might interfere with UN demands for more of your tax dollars?

The deputy commissioner of UNRWA — the UN’s enormous agency dedicated entirely to Palestinian refugees — was in New York this week to speak at an UNRWA pledging conference at UN headquarters. This deputy commissioner, Margot Ellis, happens to be an American citizen, educated at Cornell and Columbia, and a former longtime official of the U.S. Agency for International Development. So one might hope she would be at least dimly aware of the responsibilities of a civil servant — as opposed to, say, a hired lobbyist — to present an honest picture when shaking the can for more public money.

But when Ellis spoke to the General Assembly on Thursday, to ask for more funds for UNRWA, her account of Gaza was so neatly trimmed of highly relevant information on the real source of the trouble that it could have been written by the propaganda mills of Pyongyang. Ellis talked about this past summer’s war between Hamas and Israel in terms of “Palestinian vulnerability” and “the extreme material and human devastation of Israeli military campaigns.” She lamented that “we were certain as was the Palestine refugee community in Gaza, that United Nations schools were a safe refuge for families and children,” and she stressed — as she did at a previous UNRWA pledging conference last December — a need for more construction material, and “the lifting of the blockade.”

Here are some things she did not say. She did not make a single mention of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules Gaza, and pours resources into weapons for launching attacks on Israel, while UNRWA — to which the U.S. is the largest donor — picks up a big chunk of the tab for social services.  To hear Ellis talk about Gaza, it is as if Hamas does not exist. Neither do the guns, mortars, rockets and hate-mills.

Ellis made not a single mention of the vast tunnel network, discovered by the Israelis this past summer, that Hamas had dug into Israel to facilitate its terrorist attacks. This Hamas venture included more than 30 terrorist tunnels, which by Israeli estimates cost at least $90 million to build, and required an average of 350 truckloads of construction supplies per tunnel. (If UNRWA disagrees with these estimates, perhaps it is time UNRWA — with its extensive networks, facilities and 12,000 Palestinian staffers in Gaza — provided some information on these projects.) Reportedly Hamas used Palestinian children to help dig these tunnels, an abuse of minors that Ellis also failed to allude to.

For that matter, she also made no mention of such horrors as the Hamas mass public execution in August of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. They were paraded, hooded and bound, before a jeering crowd, and then shot to death.

Pages: 1 2 | 8 Comments»

The Infinite Maze of the Iran Nuclear Talks

November 25th, 2014 - 2:13 am

“I’m not going to confirm whether or not there’s a gap or not a gap or where the gaps are. There obviously are gaps.”

Thus did Secretary of State John Kerry summarize the impasse which has just led to a second extension of the Iran nuclear talks — which have already spanned a full year, and after failing to produce a “comprehensive agreement” by the original July 24th deadline, or the extended Nov. 24 deadline, are now planned to continue through June 30, 2015. The occasion for Kerry’s remark was a press availability he held on Monday in Vienna, following a frenzied bout of meetings in which the only clear result to emerge by the Monday deadline was the announcement that the talks would be extended for another seven months.

Kerry was responding — more or less — to a reporter’s question about what general kind of progress warrants a second extension of the talks, and what kind of sanctions relief might Iran get while the bargaining continues. On the matter of the secret yet obvious gaps, he went on to say that any disclosure of the details could spell the end of the talks: “If that becomes the public debate, this is going to end very quickly. So we’re not going to discuss the details…. We’re just not going to go there.”

What we keep hearing instead, in generic terms, is how complex and technical and difficult and time-consuming these negotiations are. Echoing the remarks over many months of other U.S. senior administration officials, Kerry noted that there are teams of experts working around the clock to vet any new idea that Kerry, or the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, or Iran’s chief negotiator Javad Zarif, might come up with. To hear U.S. administration officials tell it, their efforts to deconstruct Iran’s nuclear bomb program are at least as complicated as the bomb program itself. Which on a technical level may well be true, since the apparent aim is not to shut down Iran’s nuclear program, but to try to micro-manage it into compliance with Tehran’s official fiction that it never wanted the bomb anyway, and would have no use for it. (So, if you believe that Iran is negotiating in good faith, then the talks are needless because there was never a bomb program, and never will be — but in the interest of giving reality its due, let’s not go there).

Actually, it all gets even more complicated. Iran is refusing to provide information to the International Atomic Energy Agency on whether it has actually worked on building a bomb. But Kerry praised Iran’s Zarif —  Tehran’s envoy and chief negotiator– not only for having “worked hard” but for having “approached these negotiations in good faith.” Really? Zarif is Tehran’s mouthpiece and servant at the bargaining table. Either he is faithless toward the U.S. and its cohorts, or he is clueless about the regime he represents. Neither alternative augurs well for the nuclear talks. Nor is it auspicious that just after the talks failed to meet the Nov. 24th deadline for a deal, Kerry chose to praise Iran’s negotiator. U.S. officials keep talking as if Iran’s regime would like to give up what sure looks like a nuclear weapons program, but Tehran keeps running into enormous obstacles.

Note: The Tehran regime IS the obstacle.

Pages: 1 2 | 8 Comments»