From CNN: “Source: Hackers send new message to Sony”:
The hacker message is effectively a victory lap, telling the studio, “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
The message also says, “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”
It warns the studio executives that “we still have your private and sensitive data” and claims that they will “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”
The email was titled “Message from GOP.” The anonymous hackers have called themselves “Guardians of Peace.”
So how long will these trailers and clips remain up? It’s already become tricky to find online the final sequence of Kim Jong-un’s exploding head.
Yesterday I highlighted a report about Korean activists seeking bootleg copies of The Interview and predicted that the effect of North Korea bullying Sony into burying Seth Rogen and James Franco’s new film would be that it would leak all around the world and the internet, becoming unstoppable and much more damaging. But if the blackmailing goes a step further, if now Sony must start pulling the material they’ve already released in addition to legally threatening anyone who might be so bold as to share the film illegally, then I’m now not so sure.
It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that soon The Interview trailers will be pulled and an army of recently-recruited Sony lawyers will even start sending notices to websites that have written movie promotions or stories covering the controversy, asking them to delete pieces, lest more embarrassing emails be released.
The question will be: how far backwards could this go? Already the screenings of Team America: World Police announced to replace The Interview have been cancelled. Will this go further or will American companies fight back?
Obviously, it’s hard to expect them to want to fight when the example set by the Jarrett-Obama administration, per Cuba and Iran, has been to bend over backwards and embrace illiberal tyrannies.
Some have suggested the fantasy of the federal government buying the movie, endorsing it, and spreading the film around for free. My prescription goes several miles further in hawkishness, of course…
CNN’s South Korea correspondent, Kyung Lah, reports that activists are trying to get bootleg DVDs of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy that inspired the North Korean hack attack against Sony in retaliation for the film’s depiction of its tyrant’s death:
“They see it as being critical in trying to crumble the regime. That’s how potent this movie is being seen here in the peninsula. It has a significant amount of power,” Lah said.
Hacking goes multiple ways. My prediction of what happens next now that Sony has been bullied into pulling the film: someone is going to leak the whole movie online, just as celebrity naked pics and Sony emails have gone out. And it will then be impossible for the regime to stamp it out.
I wonder if next time the wife and I are at the laundromat here in Inglewood, and the guy comes around hocking the bootleg DVDs, if he’ll have The Interview. I imagine some bootleggers have probably had it already for weeks. Now what’s going to happen to demand for it on the black market?
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) December 17, 2014
What lessons does this debacle have for activists who want to see the world’s tyrannies overthrown? Should more movies like The Interview be produced and released en masse — perhaps by non-profits and at more modest budgets — making satirical, hilarious assaults on the leaders of slave states?
Secretary of State John Kerry tried to cheer up family members of foreign service officers posted alone abroad with a tale from the Vietnam War.
The State Department hosted the officers’ families for holiday reception yesterday. Kerry noted that there’s been a 350 percent jump in the number of FSOs who have to serve in unaccompanied posts — leaving family behind for security reasons — since 9/11.
“And it obviously is a sad commentary on the challenges that we face in the world beyond our control, where countries are in turmoil, places are in transition,” Kerry said.
“…I want to emphasize that as we gather here for what is a celebration, a festive time, we do so mindful that in a lot of vital but troubled places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Yemen, South Sudan, Pakistan, where yesterday’s news was just horrendous, we have people who are working to carry the torch for America and for universal values that go with the presence of these committed public servants.”
Kerry stressed that he knows “personally” that “it is never easy when you are separated by thousands of miles and the office and the home are, in a sense, divided, and employee from family, and it’s complicated.”
“Obviously, this holiday season, a lot of you are yearning for the idea of being together with your loved ones, and we understand that. There are going to be empty seats at a dinner table, which is hard to deal with. There are fewer hands to decorate a tree or more packages that get lugged to the post office instead of being handed over personally. We understand every aspect of what it means to be here, part of this family, this particular family within the family,” he said.
Which led to his personal anecdote:
And I know sometimes there’s tension, anxious moments, even tears. Skype has a lot of benefits, but hugging ain’t one of them. So I’ll just share with you, 46 years ago — my staff tells me it was 46 years ago — it was 1968, that I remember — 1968, Christmas, I was in a river in Vietnam up in — near the Co Chien River, for anybody who knows what that means. And I was on a patrol boat. We were out there alone at night. The tracers were flying in the sky, the flares were dropping, sounds of eruptions of machine gun fire and other things here and there, and it was Christmas Eve. And there was supposed to be a truce, but the truce was broken. And I remember thinking how absurd that was, but it was life. And I took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, went up and sat on the top of the roof of the boat, and just sat there. And frankly, I had visions of, really, sugar plums, chestnuts, New England in the snow. But what I learned was that the family of people around you make up for a lot. And I also learned that nothing ever makes up for the meaning of the quality of that service, of being able to be there for your country and make a difference.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jet has been carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State since late November on a near-daily basis, a U.S. military official said Tuesday. It marks the first time the use of the pugnacious plane against the militant group has been confirmed, although U.S. military officials disclosed last month that they had deployed the A-10 in support of the mission in Iraq and Syria.
The jet is beloved by U.S. ground troops for its ability to strikes enemy fighters from the air, but it remains in a fierce budget battle in Washington. Air Force officials and some fiscal conservatives have advocated retiring the aircraft to save money and using other planes for close-air support missions. A compromise in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act will keep it flying at least one more year, but it’s future afterward is still uncertain.
The slow-moving jet isn’t designed to get into dogfights with fighter jets, but is well suited for the mission in Iraq and Syria. Nicknamed the Warthog, it has an armored belly to protect pilots from ground fire, and carries a 30mm Gatling gun cannon and a variety of bombs, missiles and rockets. It has been in the Air Force since the 1970s and flown in combat missions since the 1990s.
This plane and its fate remain a perfect reminder of just why we shouldn’t trust the Ruling Class bureaucrats with, well, anything. To them, it’s a budget concern. To the people who have been fighting this psychotic Jihadis to protect us, this plane is a lifesaver, quite literally. Bloated morons playing with the money of the citizens are deciding the fates of American troops from afar based on accountants’ recommendations. It is bad enough that we send young Americans into battle with rules of engagement that are seemingly designed to prevent the feelings of the enemy from getting hurt, but denying them the equipment most proven in the field is unconscionable.
Russia denies Sweden’s claim that one of its military planes nearly hit a commercial jetliner over international airspace on Friday, but one congressman said Washington needs to take the near-collision as a serious threat from the Kremlin.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force pilot, said he doesn’t believe Russia as they try to sweep the incident under the rug.
“Look, especially when it comes to commercial airliners, flying close to each other is not something that you do. This is obviously the Russians’ attempt to show power and show that they have the teeth of a bear, to try to bully their neighbors, and it’s just — it’s ludicrous,” Kinzinger told Fox.
“I mean, any time you come near — the Russians can basically claim that the Ukrainians shot down the airliner out of Ukraine, but we know that they did it. And that’s what’s going to happen,” he continued. “They are going to go harass these airliners and, some day, there’s going to be something that happens where maybe a Russian jet collides with an airliner again and they have to answer to that.”
“But, no, I’m not buying that this is no big deal. It’s a show of force by the Russians and we’ve been seeing this now for the last year.”
Sweden and Denmark summoned their ambassadors from Moscow to protest the incident, according to The Moscow Times. Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said it was “completely unreasonable that civilian lives are put in danger in this way.”
The Russian intelligence plane had turned off its transponder to cloak itself from radar in the region. The Scandinavian Airlines flight involved was headed from Copenhagen to Poland.
“There were no prerequisites for an air accident,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.
Kinzinger said the first step is calling attention to what Russia is doing.
“The Russians are trying to intimidate folks. We need to show the Russians that not only are we going to be intimidated, we’re going to respond with increased NATO presence and flights along the Russian border and in the sea. This is going to be important to do. I think when you see jets — Russian jets intercepting airliners, let’s shadow with NATO jets, if we can do that,” the congressman said.
“But ultimately, again, it’s bringing shame to the Russians. You’re not showing us that you’re tough. You’re showing us that you’re reckless, doing this with innocent airline passengers, and getting yourself in a position where you may collide. I’m a pilot. I know one mistake can lead to a collision. It’s very dangerous and reckless, and not a good neighbor.”
Kinzinger added that “turning off your IFF, your squawk, your transponder is also showing a hostile intention in some cases.”
“So, look, the Russians are not being good neighbors. They are trying to show off. But it should be very clear that while there won’t be a shooting war between the West and Russia, their military would be dispatched quite quickly if, in fact, it came to that,” he said.
“When I was in Kurdistan with the military — I was there I think in 2006 — I remember the Russian jets flying over our base as a show of force. It was a frog-foot jet. And they’ve been doing this for a while. But they’re really stepping it up. So if they claim it’s a response to sanctions, maybe in their mind, it is, but this is not new. The Russians under Vladimir Putin have decided that they want to try to rebuild the pieces of the Soviet Union. And this is part of that. It’s provocation. It’s show of force. And I think the West needs to respond, not by escalation but showing that we won’t be bullied.”
Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups were allying with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, in the south, while others were surrendering their weapons to the terror group in the north.
Now a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights indicates that Jabhat al-Nusra is using TOW anti-tank missiles, which had previously been supplied by the CIA to “vetted moderates” groups, in an assault on a Syrian army position in the north (HT: Zaid Benjamin):
Idlib province: No less than 15 soldiers in regime forces were killed by an attack by Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic fighters on their bastions in Wadi al-Deif and al-Hamdia camps, while no less than 8 fighters from the other side were killed during the clashes in the area, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic battalions have taken over the checkpoints of ” al-Za’lan, al-Raii, al-Rab’an ” around the camps. Jabhat al-Nusra devastated a tank for regime forces around Wadi al-Deif camp with an American Tao [sic] missile.
A report last month indicated that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Harakat Hazm — both U.S.-backed and supplied by the CIA with TOW missiles — had surrendered or abandoned their weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.
Today the timing of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s declassified executive summary on enhanced interrogation techniques used by the Bush Administration raises an intriguing list of political questions. One is even about movies and another has huge implications for the 2016 presidential race.
Now that Senate Committee’s torture report is bedside reading for our enemies, when is ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban going to release their torture reports so we can all compare techniques?
With Republicans taking control of the Senate on January 3, 2015, why did the Democrats insist on releasing this controversial report today?
Today was scheduled to be “Gruber Day” when controversial MIT professor and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber testified before the House Oversight Committee. As predicted, Gruber generated headlines embarrassing to President Obama and the Democrats.
There is no doubt that Gruber’s testimony would have been the lead story in the next 24-hour news cycle. But now, due to the torture report, Gruber’s apologetic, yet pathetic testimony will not get the media attention it deserves. (Gruber refused to tell the committee how much he was paid even though it was been widely reported that he pocketed over $2 million of your tax dollars.)
This leads one to ask, Was Gruber Day and the torture report release merely a news day coincidence?
Now let’s ask a Hollywood question.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report says that no useful intelligence was gained by these enhanced interrogation techniques.
Therefore, was the movie Zero Dark Thirty showing how these techniques gleaned information leading our SEALS to Osama bin Laden’s hiding place, just for the sake of Hollywood action? (Didn’t the Pentagon and CIA cooperate in the making of Zero Dark Thirty?) I am confused!
Finally, let’s think about the effect of the torture report on 2016 politics.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report has been condemned by the CIA and Republicans as PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson reported. It is also a five-year $40 million one-sided exercise in Bush-bashing, detailing how the Bush Administration’s reacted to the War on Terror covering the years 2001 – 2009.
As everyone knows, there is a potential Republican presidential candidate named Jeb Bush who just happens to be the brother of the president at the center of the report. Jeb is supposed to make his decision about whether to run for the 2016 GOP nomination early next year.
As a result of this report, will Jeb Bush decide against entering the race?
Think about it like this — in order for Jeb to run for president his family name needed to be somewhat restored. Thus today, with negative headlines around the world tied to the Bush Administration — coupled with the report’s gruesome details, the Bush family name is toxic once again.
These circumstances make Jeb’s potential candidacy highly unlikely. (His campaign trail safety too.) And that sets off an entire chain of 2016 political jockeying better left for another day.
The retiring chairman of the House Armed Services Committee delivered a scathing rebuke of administration defense policy in his farewell speech on the floor yesterday, arguing that the troops’ sacrifice is repaid with failing equipment and pay cuts.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), whose 22 years in Congress have included famous tangles with the White House over weak policy, bid goodbye to colleagues as the defense reauthorization bill passed 300-119.
McKeon said he hopes a bill can come to the floor next year that ends defense sequestration. ”When that solution comes, it will be a tough vote on both sides,” he said. “For some of my colleagues, it might be a fatal vote. I pray that you will hold this thought in your hearts when that vote comes: Remember the great sacrifice our troops are making around the world.”
“Right now, they are walking patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan. They are at sea within missile range of Iran. They are flying wingtip-to-wingtip against Russia bombers over the North Sea. They are nose to nose with the North Koreans. They are sweating in the equatorial heat of Africa, fighting a horrible disease. They are standing on the sand of Iraq, risking everything against a brutal enemy. They take those risks, they make those sacrifices, because of you. They do it for you. They do it for us. For their families, for their flag. For our freedom,” McKeon continued.
“And how we have repaid them? With equipment that is falling apart. By laying them off while they’re off in war zones. By docking their pay and their medical benefits. By throwing them out of the service and onto a broken economy.”
The congressman quoted Lord Byron: “They never fail, who die in a great cause.”
“I’ve met our forces on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, dirty and sweaty from fighting. I’ve watched too many families spend long months waiting for the deployed to come home. I’ve seen too many heroes put into the ground. They never failed us. Not once,” he said. “So shame on us, if we’re unwilling to pay back the debt we owe them. Shame on all of us, from the White House down, if we cannot make far less a sacrifice on their behalf.”
McKeon said it will fall on the 114th Congress and President Obama “to make these injustices right.”
“So please, show our troops the respect they deserve. Give them the tools they need. Help keep them safe. Honor their service, with your service. I know you will do the right thing.”
Befitting a McKeon, he left the chamber with an old Irish blessing.
“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand,” the chairman said. “To this great body, and to our troops – wherever you may be — may God bless you and keep you, and may God bless America.”
As is usual for a prime minister under fire, Bibi Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset this week in a call for early elections slated for March 2015. Those on the right rejoiced as Livni and Lapid, Leftist and Center-Leftist respectively, were kicked out of their high-ranking positions in the now defunct coalition. But, that isn’t the Right’s only reason for rejoicing. As David Horovitz reports in Times of Israel, the ultra-Right stands to claim a solid victory in March 2015:
The first three instant polls, taken late Tuesday and early Wednesday, for Channel 2, Channel 10, and Walla, predict a very different Knesset array three-and-a-half months from now. The three polls produce findings very similar to one another, indicating that Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and the former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon’s as-yet-unnamed new party will win 49-51 seats together — a staggering surge compared to the 31 won by Likud-Yisrael Beytenu last time. Jewish Home also gains five seats, in all three polls, to 17. That means the right wing could muster a 66- to 68-seat coalition — a healthy Knesset majority — with no need of outside assistance. Certainly no reliance on the likes of Livni or Lapid. And no reliance, either, on Shas or UTJ. The ultra-Orthodox parties could be invited into the coalition, but they wouldn’t have make-or-break leverage.
Let’s hope they don’t. The Israeli Left was abuzz this past September during my own visit to Israel. “Netanyahu will call for early elections. He’ll form a new coalition with the ultra-Orthodox,” they shook their heads, and with good reason. Yair Lapid may be playing politics, but the former TV news anchor-turned-politician made good points regarding Netanyahu’s timing:
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party entered the fray late Monday, with chairman Aryeh Deri reiterating his own demands for entering a post-election Netanyahu government. These included cutting the 18% sales tax on many basic grocery goods, raising the minimum hourly wage from NIS 23.12 ($5.87) to NIS 30 ($7.62), changing the recently passed ultra-Orthodox draft law, restoring some funds cut by the current government from ultra-Orthodox religious seminaries and schools – and the cancellation of Lapid’s tax-free housing program, which would only apply for those who served in the military, leaving many ultra-Orthodox out.
For months I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media about the ongoing cooperation between US-backed “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel units and designated terrorist groups ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. This includes U.S.-backed rebel units who have defected wholesale to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Despite multiple reports of this cooperation, in September the congressional GOP leadership jumped on board with Obama’s proposal to spend an additional $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates” just weeks before the Obama administration abandoned the Free Syrian Army that had been the primary beneficiary of U.S. support for the past three years.
Now reports this weekend indicate growing cooperation between U.S.-backed rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra operating in southern Syria.
According to the LA Times:
Opposition activists reported intensified government bombardment in and around Sheik Maskin and the arrival of battle-tested loyalist reinforcements.
Fighting along with U.S.-backed rebels were elements of Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
In a Facebook posting, Al Nusra supporters reported “vicious battles” in the Sheik Maskin area. Earlier posts also eulogized a prominent Al Nusra commander, Abu Humam Jazrawi, who was killed in the fighting.
Al Nusra’s participation illustrates how Western-supported rebel groups often cooperate with the Al Qaeda franchise, though both sides try to play down the extent of coordination. Recent clashes between Al Nusra Front and U.S.-backed rebels in northwestern Syria do not appear to have broken the de facto alliance between the Al Qaeda affiliate and West-backed fighters in the south. (emphasis added)
Meanwhile, in northern Syria as “vetted moderate” groups were forming an umbrella with hardcore jihadist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, other U.S.-backed units were surrendering to Jabhat al-Nusra (a trend I noted last month) and turning over their CIA-provided arms to Ahrar al-Sham, McClatchy reports:
On Friday, as the groups were meeting here, the Nusra Front stormed the bases of two moderate rebel groups in Syria’s north: the Ansar Brigades in Idlib and the Haqq Front in Hama. The two groups, both of which were receiving U.S. support through a covert CIA program, surrendered to Nusra, delivered their weapons to Ahrar al Sham and returned to their homes. (emphasis added)
And today Syria analyst Aron Lund noted that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army signed an agreement last week with Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham for the Qalamoun area near the Lebanese border guaranteeing the imposition of sharia and creating a mutual defense pact.
The “vetted moderate” follies continue.
Our latest contest photo and headline come to us from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who wrote at “The Fix” blog:
But, all of the reporting on the departure suggests that it was not really Hagel’s decision at all. And, judging from the body language and facial expressions on display at the announcement this morning, the reporting is right. Big time.
And to that I say, “Who needs a secretary of Defense anyway when we have such a strong commander in chief — winner of the Nobel Peace Prize?”
Caption-contest fans will find my declaration very comforting because we know a “Peace Through Strength” sign hangs in the Oval Office. (Shhhhh, Obama does not want you to know that he crossed out “Through Strength” with his famous “red line” using a Sharpie.)
For more on why Hagel “resigned” be sure to read Bridget Johnson’s report here at PJ Media. Here is my favorite line:
“You’ve always given it to me straight and for that I’ll always be grateful,” said Obama.
Now for more “straight” talk, click to the next page to find out the winners of our last contest, which posed the question:
“Is Our King Playing with a Full Deck?”
How about taking a look at your hosts…
QOM, Iran (AP) — Shiite and Sunni clerics from about 80 countries gathered in Iran’s holy city of Qom on Sunday to develop a strategy to combat extremists, including the Islamic State group that has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Shiite-majority Iran has been helping Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces battle the Sunni extremist group on the ground while the U.S.-led coalition has been bombing it from the air. The Islamic State group views Shiites as apostates deserving of death and has massacred hundreds of captured Syrian and Iraqi soldiers, as well as Sunni rivals.
Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, the chief organizer of the conference, appealed for consensus among Islam’s two main branches, urging all Muslim clerics to work to discredit groups espousing extremism.
Such as, the regime that routinely calls the United States the “Great Satan,” Israel the “Little Satan,” and calls for the latter to be wiped off the face of the earth? No?
Some of the clerics there said helpful things about taking ISIS down. Others…not so much.
Others repeated widely-circulated conspiracy theories holding that the United States and Israel created the Islamic State group to sow discord in the Muslim world.
“IS is a pawn whose job is to deepen divisions among Muslims,” said Mahdi Alizadeh Mousavi, a lower-level Iranian Shiite cleric.
Yahoo news helpfully notes that Iran isn’t really the model state for combating terrorism.
Iran is a strong backer of the Lebanese Hezbollah — viewed as a terrorist group in the West — and supports Iraqi Shiite militias that rights groups say have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in reprisal attacks.
Iran also kept the Iraqi insurgency going for years. So there’s that.
Departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may have sealed his exit in this interview with Charlie Rose last week. Rose conducted the interview at the Pentagon.
In the interview, Hagel made two key points that serve as accusations that President Barack Obama is mismanaging the United States military and the ISIS threat.
Rose asked Hagel to elaborate on comments that he made in a speech at the Reagan Library last weekend. In that speech, Hagel said that America’s military capability, while still the best in the world, is being threatened.
Hagel re-iterated that to Rose, but also left viewers to wonder about the direction that President Obama is taking the military.
“I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” Hagel said, including Pentagon leadership but leaving both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s names out of his list of officials who are worried about the U.S. military’s declining capability. Hagel said that the Congress and the American people need to know what while the U.S. military remains the strongest, best trained and most motivated in the world, its lead is being threatened because of policies being implemented now.
Hagel went on to note that a good leader prepares their institution for future success, saying that “the main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.”
In the past couple of years, Hagel has warned that defense budget cuts implemented under President Obama were hurting readiness and capability. The “how smart you are” line may be a veiled shot at President Obama, who basks in a media image that he is a cerebral, professorial president.
In the same interview, Hagel also commented on the rise of ISIS and how it must be fought. Hagel charged that Obama’s handling of the ISIS threat is now indirectly assisting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
While President Obama has downplayed the ISIS threat, even calling the group “jayvee” as it rose to power, Hagel warned last week that it is a threat unlike any other we have ever faced.
“We’ve never seen an organization like ISIL that is so well-organized, so well-trained, so well-funded, so strategic, so brutal, so completely ruthless,” Hagel said. “We have never seen anything quite like that in one institution.
“And then they blend in ideology — which will eventually lose, we get that — and social media. The sophistication of their social media program is something that we’ve never seen before. You blend all of that together, that is an incredibly powerful new threat.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today released a “declaration of war against the Islamic State” with the intention of introducing when Congress comes back into session after Thanksgiving.
The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”
“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.
“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
It clarifies that it can’t be “construed as declaring war or authorizing force against any organization” except ISIS or direct affiliates.
It limit the use of ground forces except “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger posed by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); for limited operations against high value targets; or as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”
The lame duck Senate, still under Democratic control, has at least one major national decision to make: confirming departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s successor. That is, if President Obama nominates Hagel’s successor before the session ends.
The Senate could and should take up an important national security bill before the 113th Congress’ clock runs out. That bill is S.2329, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014. The bill directs the president to designate Hezbollah,up to now viewed primarily as a terrorist group and national security threat, as a significant narcotics trafficker and a significant transnational criminal organization.
Hezbollah has American blood on its hands. The terrorist group bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983, killing 241 American personnel. The group was founded in 1982 and has been an officially designated terrorist group for nearly 20 years. But it has flourished, thanks to its Iranian patronage and to its extensive criminal activities. In addition to launching numerous attacks against Israel, Hezbollah has killed civilians in attacks all over the world.
S.2329 was introduced by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in May 2013. There has been no Senate action on it since.
The House version passed unanimously on July 22, 2014. It has 321 co-sponsors in the House, including conservatives like Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and liberals like Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).
In the Senate, in addition to Shaheen and Rubio, the bill has 55 co-sponsors from both parties. Those co-sponsors include conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It has support across the ideological divide, in both houses of Congress, and for good reason: It would enable the United States to bring new law enforcement firepower to bear against a major international terrorist group, in two key ways.
One, it would “prevent Hezbollah’s global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail funding of its domestic and international activities.” Two, it would “utilize diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat Hezbollah’s criminal activities in order to block that organization’s ability to fund its global terrorist activities.”
The bill would also go after Hezbollah’s broadcasting operations and its worldwide logistics network. By choking off its finances and its propaganda, the U.S. may eliminate Hezbollah as a threat both to our country and to our allies. Doing so would weaken Iran’s hand as the U.S. and our allies look to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
The U.S. has had some important successes in choking off Hezbollah’s criminal funding streams over the past few years, by prosecuting banks and individuals found to be assisting Hezbollah’s financial operations. But more tools are needed to fight Hezbollah.
The bill is needed, in short, because it would add Hezbollah’s criminal activities to its its ideological-terrorism activities as crimes which the U.S. government and our allies would vigorously fight worldwide. The fact is, while Hezbollah receives funding from Iran to conduct its operations primarily against Israel, it is also a major worldwide drug trafficking network and money laundering operation. Hezbollah is both an Islamic terrorist group and a violent drug cartel. Its cartel activities fund its mass murder attacks. But its criminal activities mostly take a back seat to its ideological activities, in terms of national security priorities and its overall treatment by the United States.
S.2329 would change that, and bring significant law enforcement tools to bear against Hezbollah. These tools will help close off the terrorist group’s finance streams all over the world, and put countries that host Hezbollah on notice that they are harboring a group that the United States now considers a major global criminal network as well as an ideological foe.
All the Senates needs to do is pass the bipartisan bill. Then it would go to President Obama’s desk for his signature, and the United States would significantly ramp up the fight against Hezbollah terrorism, all over the world.
Breaking news today: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is leaving the Obama administration. The NY Times reports that Hagel is the first casualty from the Democrats’ massive defeat on Nov. 4.
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.
The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.
Hagel has “struggled to fit in” with Obama’s close circle of advisers, according to the Times, and initiated talks over his future in October.
Hagel’s departure will be announced in the White House Rose Garden this afternoon.
Hagel was the lone Republican left in Obama’s national security team. He got off to a disheartening start at Defense, in incoherent confirmation hearings. Hagel has presided over a sharp rise in the Islamic State threat, a threat that he and President Obama publicly saw very differently.
He raised the ire of the White House in August as the administration was ramping up its strategy to fight the Islamic State, directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful, although the administration still appears to be struggling to define just how large is the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Possible replacements include former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy, Democrat Sen. Jack Reed (RI), and former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, according to the Times.
Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on the surrender and defections of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel troops to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate), most notably the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and Harkat al-Hazm, the first group to receive heavy weaponry from the U.S. earlier this year.
Now Mona Mahmood of the Guardian reports that elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are defecting to ISIS:
US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.
Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.
“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.
As the article notes, rebels perceive the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as a “war on Islam”:
[FSA fighter Murad] and his fellow fighters were awaiting the arrival of Isis militants in Homs, he added. “The moment Isis fighters touch the soil of the Homs countryside, we will be the first to fight with them at the front. This [US-led] military coalition is not against Isis, it is against entire Islam.”
This sentiment is hardly aberrant among the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. As I reported back in September, the U.S.-backed Harakat al-Hazm issued a statement at the outset of the U.S. anti-ISIS bombing campaign saying it was ”an attack on the revolution.”
And I’ve also previously reported that many of these U.S.-backed and armed “vetted moderate” groups have shifting alliances that include fighting with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
As far back as July there were reports that large groups of FSA units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.
While most of the D.C. foreign policy establishment was promoting the arming of the so-called “vetted moderate” FSA, a few of us were openly skeptical of any effort to back so-called “moderate jihadists.” Whether by Republicans or Democrats, such efforts in the past have always ended in tears for the U.S. and led to increased threats to our national security.
This policy in Syria has been so disastrous the Obama administration has been openly distancing themselves from their “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel partners.
Remarkably, as I noted earlier this month, congressional Republican leadership jumped on board with Obama’s policies at the very moment he was abandoning them, voting to spend another $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates.” Meanwhile, some GOP figures who supported Obama’s policies of supporting and arming the FSA since 2011, namely John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been unapologetic in the face of the collapse and defections of their “vetted moderate” friends.
It remains to be seen whether the new Congress that will be seated in January will follow the folly of the current Congress in providing training, money and weapons to the FSA. But expect these defections by the FSA and other U.S.-backed groups to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra to continue.
Last week I had the honor of attending the FIDF (Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces) gala in San Francisco. My invite was completely unplanned yet still eye-opening. I happened to casually meet an FIDF officer’s wife who was displaying her handcrafted jewelry at a Greek festival, and after chatting with her for sometime her husband invited my spouse and I to be their guests at their $10,000 table. So we there you have it.
One word capped the evening best: Heartstrings. I was so moved by the evening that I needed a week of respite to digest the effect the powerful evening had on me. In fact, looking back the evening holds even more importance after news broke of the recent ISIS (ISIL) beheading of American Peter Kassig. Once again, proving how important our Middle East allies are and how we must treat them with the upmost respect.
Note to Obama: LIKE Israel, Respect Netanyahu
More beheadings brings home a renewed awareness of how critical our ties with Israel and Egypt are to the US. For starters, Israel is known as the “Little Satan” and of course the USA is considered the “Big Satan.” Egypt after all is the most open of the Middle East countries. It’s known for its great philosophers and for leading the pack. It was and still is the only Middle East country that signed a peace treaty with Israel. It holds an important key to the future of the Middle East. For those who don’t follow Middle East politics closely, Egypt is the game changer. Egypt must flourish with its great scholars and liberalism to lead the rest of its neighbors. And just in case it went unnoticed, ISIS is doing its best to be the game changer. The well-funded, well-organized group of 8 million strong (supported by 40 million last year) is baiting the USA to send even more boots to fight them then the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This call marks a new phase in war where our mad-masked enemy is not only unafraid of us, they taunting us into ground bloody assaults. Their call signals a type of bravado that we have yet to witness by any other terrorist group. I guess they think the head-rolling hobby they have going on is all that. Guess again.
Hearting Israel Stateside
Back to the gala. I’m one of those unique pro-Israel advocates who has never stepped foot in the Jewish nation-state let alone the Middle East. Closest I’ve come to Israel is Tunisia. Yet to my credit I’m likely one of the best layman’s experts on the Jewish nation-state you’ll ever meet. How so? Let me explain.
I not only converted to Judaism in 2008, launched a blog on Israel and world politics in 2009 on my jenniferhanin.com, co-founded Act For Israel, coauthored Becoming Jewish: the Challenges, Rewards and Paths to Conversion (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011) with then senior rabbi of Kehlliat Israel aka ‘rabbi to the stars’, Steven Carr Reuben, PhD, I also and coordinated a media fellowship to Israel with the Israeli MFA in 2012. Unfortunately, months later I had to pass on the fellowship as the second edition of my first book was due the same week.
Other ties to Israel? I communicate with my cousins via marriage on Facebook, and I can always count on their smiles to put a permagrin on my face. And I’m not talking about zealots who are complaining about incoming missiles but about incredible people living extraordinary lives.
So what thoughts did walk away with from the FIDF gala? Too many to report here yet suffice to say it was a uplifting evening that delivered warm fuzzies to anyone in attendance. Good friend Israeli Consul General of the Pacific Northwest Dr. Andy David was the keynote. Radio host, political lecturer and coauthor John F. Rothman MC’d the gala. Most touching? The FIDF dedicated the evening to lone soldiers who leave their countries with great pride to enlist in the IDF.
This tribute came to an obvious pinnacle when an attractive, young female soldier shared her testimonial and poured her heart and soul to dressed up strangers occupying a myriad of tables. She lost her soulmate in combat when she least expected it. Her American boyfriend was none other than Nissim Sean Carmeli who hailed from South Padre Island, Texas.
About twenty minutes later it was hard to find a dry eye in the soldout sea of tables as she graciously exited her tear-stained microphone. Why? Terrorists unceremoniously ambushed both Carmel and fellow lone soldier Max Steinberg who hailed from San Fernando, California while patrolling Gaza.
Surprisingly, Carmel’s Israeli funeral drew 20,000 many of which most were complete strangers. Likewise, Steinberg’s Israeli funeral drew 30,000 including US Secretary of State and failed Middle East diplomat John Kerry. Carmel (like Steinberg and other lone soldiers) didn’t receive a draft. Nor was he paid to pay the ultimate price for another country. He certainly was coerced into winning the affection of the brave Middle Easterner who shared her fleeting moments with her beloved before so many. Carmeli like Steinberg and other lone soldiers make a monumental sacrifice, and a colossal impression on locals who understand what it means to sacrifice it all.
Obama: ‘Our bond with Israel is Unshakable”
So president Obama made good on a cornerstone of his promise to Israel. He was part of funding the air defense system, the Iron Dome. I’ll give him that. It’s a godsend and a rockstar yet with all its hype its still far from boss as it boast an impressive but imperfect accuracy of about 85 percent. And despite the efforts to find and confiscate every short and long-range Iranian missile, Israelis are a lot of things but short of being psychic.
So what can we do to assure Obama stops embarrassing our ally and starts putting ‘leaders’ like Syria’s Assad, Turkey’s Erdogan, and Iran’s ayatollah on the hot seat? Plenty. Criticize Obama. Take it online. Keep the pressure on him. But don’t stop there. Go to bat for Israelis. Support the FIDF or any one of the laundry list of Jewish organizations out there. Need a list? Follow America’s most influential Jew who I’m proud to call my friend William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) via @daroff on Twitter or Capital Hill friend Eli Gold, Vice President of the London Center for Public Policy, and you’ll soon learn the network.
Israel suffered yet another murderous terror attack today. The government has responded by electing to relax gun control laws.
Let that soak in for a minute.
America suffers a horrific school shooting and the gun control lobby is out in full force before the bodies are cold, screaming about stricter gun control laws. Israel suffers a bloody synagogue terror attack and
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch pledged to ease controls on carrying weapons for self-defense after a gruesome terrorist attack at a Jerusalem synagogue that left four dead Tuesday.
It was not clear exactly what new measures would be put in place, but it was reported that the move would apply to anyone licensed to carry a gun, such as private security guards and off-duty army officers.
Aharonovitch added that “we have instructed synagogues to place security guards at their entrances.”
Israel’s gun laws are strict and the Israeli attitude towards carrying firearms differs greatly from the almost comedic depictions of gun ownership in America. A 2012 article published after the Sandy Hook massacre detailed:
“There is an essential difference between the two. In America the right to bear arms is written in the law, here it’s the opposite… only those who have a license can bear arms and not everyone can get a license.”
Amit said gun licenses are only given out to those who have a reason because they work in security or law enforcement, or those who live in settlements “where the state has an interest in them being armed.”
He added that former IDF officers above a certain rank can get a license.
Anyone who fits the requirements, is over age 21 and an Israeli resident for more than three years, must go through a mental and physical health exam, Amit said, then pass shooting exams and courses at a licensed gun range, as well as background checks by the Public Security Ministry.
Once they order their firearm from a gun store, they are allowed to take it home with a one-time supply of 50 bullets, which Amit said they cannot renew.
The gun owner must retake his license exam and testing at the gun range every three years. As of January, Amit said, a new law will go into effect requiring gun owners to prove that they have a safe at home to keep their weapon in.
The relaxed restrictions may relate to regulations imposed after a 2013 shooting in Be’er Sheva:
One day after a Be’er Sheva man shot dead four people in a local bank before turning his gun on himself, the Public Security Ministry on Tuesday announced new rules to limit the number of guns in circulation. School security guards will have to turn in their weapons, which guarding firms will reissue at the start of the new school year. Licensed gun owners will have to store their weapon in a safe at home. Security companies must obtain special exemptions from being required to store a weapon when its bearer is off duty, only one gun license will be issued to any single individual and anyone applying to renew a gun license must show why they need a weapon.
What “relaxed” means is yet to be seen. But for Americans weary of gun control arguments that continue to be completely irrelevant to the situations at hand, Israel’s response to gun ownership in the face of terror is refreshing and worthy of further examination by our own government and pro-gun lobby.
Any situation short of the Islamic State obtaining nuclear weapons, and the United States knowing about that, appears to mean that President Obama will not order American ground troops into battle to destroy the terrorist group.
Over the weekend, ISIS beheaded a third American, former Army Ranger turned aid worker Peter Kassig. But a day before that news broke, President Obama outlined an extreme scenario under which he would order troops to fight ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The president made his remarks at the G20 Summit in Australia Saturday.
Obama says that he would send ground troops into the fight, if ISIS gets its hands on a nuclear weapon.
Obama said, “There are always circumstances, in which the United States might need to deploy US ground troops. If we discovered that ISIL had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, and we had to run an operation to get it out of their hands, then yes, you can anticipate that not only would Chairman Dempsey recommend me sending U.S. ground troops to get that weapon out of their hands, but I would order it.”
Obama chuckled as he spoke about ISIS obtaining nuclear weapons.
ISIS has beheaded three Americans and two Englishmen. It has murdered thousands of Iraqi and Syrian civilians and military. ISIS has sold women into sex slavery and has destroyed historical monuments and sites. ISIS has also threatened to attack Americans in the United States itself.
Reuters reports that the Islamic State claims that it has beheaded American Peter Kassig. The terrorist group has published a video that does not show the act itself, but shows a man’s head. On the 15-minute video, a British-accented terrorist says that Kassig has been killed and will be buried in Dabiq, Syria.
“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen,” the terrorist says in the video while standing over the severed head. “Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq. Eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”
Kassig was a former Army Ranger and veteran of the war in Iraq. The 26-year-old from Indiana went to Syria as a medic and treated people who had been wounded in Syria’s civil war. He was reportedly captured by ISIS on October 1, 2013. Kassig is the third American beheaded by ISIS, following James Foley and Steven Sotloff. ISIS has also beheaded two British men, David Haines and Alan Henning.
Kassig reportedly converted to Islam while in captivity, and had adopted the name Abdul Rahman Kassig.
The video, which has not been authenticated by U.S. intelligence yet, also shows several beheadings of Syrians captured by ISIS. Those killings are carried out in mass-killing style and shown in the video.
The video included a direct ISIS threat to kill Americans in the United States:
“To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers,” the terrorist says in the video.
“And with Allah’s permission … the Islamic State will soon … begin to slaughter your people in your streets.”
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee warned today that President Obama can’t let his “Global Zero” disarmament aims get in the way of Pentagon observations and recommendations on the “sobering state of our nuclear force.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters this morning that both internal and external reviews found “a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses.”
The reviews found “evidence of systematic problems that if not addressed could undermine the safety, security, and effectiveness of the elements of the force in the future,” including “manning, infrastructure and skill deficiencies; a culture of micro-management; and over-inspection and inadequate communication, follow-up, and accountability by senior department in nuclear enterprise leadership.”
“The root cause has been a lack of sustained focus, attention, and resources, resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in the nuclear enterprise offers too few opportunities for growth and advancement,” Hagel said.
The secretary stressed that “our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. national security, and it’s DOD’s highest priority mission.”
“No other capability we have is more important… Consistent with President Obama’s guidance, our policy is to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our nation’s security strategy and to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. We’ll continue to do both, but that doesn’t diminish our responsibilities.”
Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said the findings underscore the “urgent investment needed” to ensure the “future effectiveness” of the nuclear force.
“Deterrence is the cornerstone of our national security strategy – as Chairman Dempsey has testified, it’s our No. 1 priority because it guarantees the ‘survival of the nation’. But, the Nuclear Enterprise has suffered from neglect for too long,” McKeon said. “Insufficient resources, indifferent leadership, and poor morale have taken their toll. I commend the Secretary for his leadership and for prioritizing the resources necessary to make sure our deterrent remains safe, secure and reliable.”
He noted that the Department of Energy also needs to get in the game to “re-prioritize its nuclear mission, correct for years of underfunding, and restore morale.”
“Most importantly, I hope the president will listen to his senior civilian and military national security leaders, take this as seriously as they do, and cast aside his Global Zero vision that is in reality unilateral disarmament,” McKeon said. “We can work together to follow the blueprint established by Secretary Hagel and his review and show the leadership our men and women in uniform deserve.”
Hagel’s recommendations include “changes in organization, policies, and culture,” while “others require an increase in resources, allocated to the nuclear mission.”
“We must restore the prestige that attracted the brightest minds of the Cold War era, so our most talented young men and women see the nuclear pathway as promising in value,” he said. “That’s why I have granted the Air Force authority to elevate Global Strike Command to a four-star billet and Air Staff’s head of strategic deterrence and nuclear integration to a three-star billet. They will no longer be outranked by their non-nuclear counterparts, giving the nuclear Air Force the second-to-none leadership it deserves.”
The first 25 nuclear deterrence operations service medals were awarded last week.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee declared this morning at a hearing to review the Obama administration’s strategy against ISIS that any authorization for military force that excludes boots on the ground will not make it through the House.
Before lawmakers left for the campaign recess, the White House was busy assuring Capitol Hill that they were already covered for the strikes against ISIS by the 2001 and 2003 AUMFs.
In his press conference the day after midterm elections, President Obama said he wanted Congress to pass a new AUMF — but wasn’t clear on a timetable of this Congress or the next.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey appeared before this morning’s hearing.
Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said an Overseas Contingency Operations budget amendment received by the committee on Monday “pays for the air campaign and adds more advisers, but it does not appear to reflect any changes in strategy.”
“However, we know that targeting and airstrikes are getting harder as ISIL changes tactics. And limiting our advisors to headquarters buildings will not help newly trained Iraqi and Syrian opposition forces hold terrain, much less defeat ISIL in the field. Yet the president has doubled down on his policy of ‘no boots on the ground,’ despite any advice you give him,” McKeon said.
“So my fundamental question is: how can you successfully execute the mission you’ve been given – to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIL – when some of your best options are taken off the table? Mr. Secretary, both of your predecessors, Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, have stated that we need boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. Even Coach K – Duke’s basketball coach – told an Army conference last month that declaring we won’t use ground forces is like telling your opponent you’re not going to play your best players.”
McKeon noted that Congress “may very well be considering a new AUMF in the near future.”
“But I would offer a warning that, should the AUMF proposed by the president contain such limitations, it will be D.O.A. in Congress,” the chairman warned. “I will not support sending our military into harm’s way with their arms tied behind their backs.”
Dempsey said the administration was using the strategy of “a modest footprint.”
“Any expansion of that, I think, would — would be equally modest. I just don’t foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent,” Dempsey said.
“Could there be an exception? I mentioned assumptions in my — in my prepared statement. One of our assumptions is that the government of Iraq will be inclusive. One of the assumptions is that the Iraqi security forces will be willing to take back Al Anbar Provinces and Nineveh Province,” the general continued. “If those assumptions are rendered invalid, I will have to adjust my recommendations.”
Another concern McKeon brought up in his opening statement was terrorists once detained by the U.S. returning to the battlefield — including “caliph” al-Baghdadi.
“There are reports of former Gitmo detainees returning to the fight and recruiting militants for ISIL. Despite these disturbing trends, we’ve seen an increase in notifications regarding detainee transfers from Gitmo,” he said.
“Mr. Secretary and General Dempsey, you shoulder an immense responsibility each time you sign off or concur on these releases, and I understand you’re under pressure to release even more. But the roughly 150 detainees that are left are the worst of the worst. To continue these releases – just as we have had to open a new front in the war on terror – is unwise.
Hagel said if he can “get the assurances required by the host governments and the mechanisms, and I go into detail, that it substantially mitigates the risk, then I will assign it.”
“Every certification that I make, bottom line, with all the other requirements by law that I have to comply with — and I do comply with every part of the law — in my best judgment, the best judgment of our intelligence community, of our joint chiefs, of the interagency of our — of our secretary State, Homeland Security, has to be unanimous before I will seriously entertain it,” he said of signing off on releases.
A Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the Obama administration’s fear of bringing an authorization for military force in Iraq and Syria before Congress is exactly why it should come before Congress.
Before lawmakers left for the campaign recess, the White House was busy assuring Capitol Hill that they were already covered for the strikes against ISIS by the 2001 and 2003 AUMFs.
Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate committee in mid-September that they determined they have authority because “good lawyers within the White House, within the State Department, who have examined this extremely closely, have come to the conclusion across the board that the 2001 AUMF, which says all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons responsible for 9/11, those who harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such persons or organizations. It includes al-Qaeda… ISIL began as al-Qaeda.”
“I appreciate your ability as a former prosecutor and a gifted attorney to try to make the case,” Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) responded. “I will tell you that, at least from the chair’s perspective, you’re going to need a new AUMF.”
However, in his press conference the day after midterm elections, President Obama said he wanted Congress to pass a new AUMF — but not necessarily in the lame duck.
“I’m going to begin engaging Congress over a new Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL. The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support,” Obama said.
“…And it will be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities that we have. And I’m confident we’re going to be able to get that done. And that may just be a process of us getting it started now. It may carry over into the next Congress.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote for The Daily Beast on Monday that “this war is now illegal.”
“It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended,” Paul said. “Congress has a duty to act, one way or the other.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told MSNBC last night that “there’s a growing recognition on both sides of the aisle” that an AUMF debate “must happen.”
“In the lame duck session. Mainly for two reasons. One, it’s impossible at this point to ignore the constitutional imperative. The Constitution in Article I grants war-making power to the United States Congress and the United States Congress only. There is no existing authorization that permits this president to essentially deploy another several thousand troops to fight an enemy that has not been named yet by the United States Congress,” Murphy argued.
“And, so, we have a constitutional responsibility. But, second, Secretary Hagel referenced, it is incumbent upon us as a nation to make sure that we do not go into war, that we never go into war divided. We have a responsibility as Congress to debate this. And to authorize it so that we’re standing together.”
But, Murphy added, “if the executive is been holding off on bringing an authorization to Congress because it’s hard, because it might not pass, then actually that’s the reason why it must come before Congress.”
“Because the worst thing to have happen is for the president to authorize a major new deployment of troops without the support of the Congress, which is representing American people. I think we’re going to vote on this.”
Murphy said he expects the Foreign Relations Committee to take up the AUMF “this week.”
The panel meets this evening behind closed doors for a hearing to examine the ISIS fight.
From A Call to Rights website:
Exposing Islam’s New War On Christians
Forget what the history textbooks told you about martyrdom being a thing of the past. Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered today.
Raymond Ibrahim unveils the shocking truth about Christians in the Muslim world. Believers in Jesus Christ suffer oppression and are massacred at the hands of radicals for worshipping and spreading the gospel of the Lord.
Discover the true-life stories that the media won’t report in Ibrahim’s Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.
Our new contest photo is from Drudge with the headline “Odd Couple” – “Tense.”
Here is my favorite paragraph from the Reuters report linked to by Drudge with the headline “Obama and Putin are odd couple at Beijing summit”:
When the summit opened in a sprawling convention centre at a lake outside Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping walked in with Obama and Putin, both unsmiling, on either side of him.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Putin was overheard saying in English in Obama’s general direction, referring to the ornate conference room.
“Yes,” Obama replied, coldly, according to journalists who witnessed the scene.
Well, at least they were talking and making nice-nice, but what were they thinking?
That is your mission — to go inside their brains and reveal their true thoughts. In addition, tell us what they really wanted to say aloud to each other besides this polite non-dialog, dialog.
Also, caption the photo because I know you can do better than Drudge with “Odd Couple” and “Tense.”
Here is my conversation entry:
Putin: “Ha ha ha ha.… loser.”
Obama whispers off to side: “Valerie, what I should I say?”
Now, speaking of painful moments, here are the winners of our post-election contest,
RockThisTown took the grand prize with two winners:
OUCH. I’m feeling pain in all 57 states.
OUCH. We were finally shovel-ready . . . and got buried.
JRSWINE won with:
OUCH! Honey, I shrunk the Party.
OurUnitedStates won for:
Ouch, Michelle, they cut my Harry off.
Have fun with this new contest and remember you can be as sweet and nice as Putin is to those who disagree with him.
I don’t really care who you are or what you’ve done. Richard Overton is someone you don’t want to mess with.
From The Houston Chronicle in November 2013: ”He drives and walks without a cane. During a television interview in March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine, smokes cigars every day and takes whiskey in his morning coffee. The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble.’
“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” Overton told Fox News. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”
You have to keep supple when you’re sporting a Tommy gun.
Mr. Richard Overton, the oldest living veteran. Kids, do not play on his lawn. pic.twitter.com/VQ0twXRdi1
— Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) November 10, 2014
Overton served in the Army in World War II and now lives in Austin.
Sgt. Jim McMaster heard the jeep, and looked up from the winch he was wrangling. Three stars on the bumper meant straighten up and acknowledge.
Gen. George S. Patton returned McMaster’s salute.
“What’s the hold up, Sargent?” Patton barked.
A truck hauling a Sherman tank had slid from the rutted frozen slurry, but still blocked the road and thus the convoy. McMaster told the General he’d get the tank off of the truck and use it to pull the truck back onto the road.
“Carry on, Sargent,” Patton said, snapping a salute before ordering his driver onward. And that was that.
Mac and his men got the tank off, the truck out, the convoy moving again.
Not a lot of celebrity moments like that in World War II, although McMaster did meet actor Jimmy Stewart, then a captain or a major, late one night over drinks during a Channel crossing.
No, war is more mud than stars.
Jim McMaster, my Pop, wound up raising his four grandsons, and we hung on his words when he told us war stories.
Setting out for the Normandy invasion, McMaster grabbed the ship’s rail to vault into the landing craft. The next soldier, also vaulting, accidentally kicked his wrist, sending McMaster sprawling on the deck, and his wristwatch sailing into the drink. He’s headed to fight the Nazis, but at the moment, he’s ticked about losing the new watch. Sixty years later, he tells his great-grandchildren about the watch. It was a good watch, and new.
As they approached the Normandy beach on D+4, the landing craft pilot, eager to avoid underwater obstacles, idled the engine and said, “Here’s where you get off.” McMaster looked out at the distance to the beach and knew the water was too deep.
“Take us in closer,” he said. The skipper refused. McMaster laid a hand on his sidearm.
“Take us in.”
The motor revved and the boat moved closer to the beach. When McMaster dropped from the craft into chest-high water something heavy landed on his pack. As he was about to swing an elbow and tell the soldier to find another ride to the beach, when he realized it was a woman — a Red Cross nurse. He waded in, with her on his back, until she could safely walk on her own. He stayed in touch with her by letter for a while. Then the letters stopped. He later learned that the Germans bombed her Red Cross hospital. And that was that.
When McMaster enlisted, he hoped to fly. Instead, he wound up in a tank, with engines originally designed for aircraft that used high-octane, highly-flammable gasoline.
One day, a Panzer surprised him from behind a barn, and shot a track off his Sherman. Able to move only in circles, with no place to hide the tank, he ordered his men to abandon. Two went out the turret hatch, under withering machine-gun fire from the Panzer. McMaster finally leaped free of the crippled tank, losing a piece of his knee to a machine gun round. Before the two men in the belly could escape through the hatch between the fuel tanks, the Panzer lit it up. McMaster watched his fuel-soaked buddies burn. The Sherman exploded, sending the entire turret to high heaven.
This wasn’t a frickin’ movie where the stars all get to go home at day’s end to drink chardonnay.
These were American farmers, mechanics and clerks — boys — shredded, severed, bloodied and burned.
Veterans Day ceremonies tend to be calm, somber, clean and peaceful.
Let’s remember the men who climbed from the mud to the stars to make it so.
Onetime Vietnam War POW Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said President Obama’s “gradual escalation” of the war in Iraq reminds him of Vietnam.
“We need to have a strategy. There is not a strategy,” McCain told Fox this morning. “And frankly, this graduation escalation that we’re going through — remember, the president, for years, has said ‘tell everybody what we’re not going to do rather than what we’re going to do.’”
“And as this gradual escalation reminds me of the Vietnam conflict, we have to have a strategy. The Congress and American people need to know that,” he continued. “But it puts us in a difficult situation. Are we going to abandon this effort to defeat ISIS?”
McCain is poised to take the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee in January as the new GOP majority moves in.
“We’re going to have hearings, and we’re going to have the secretary of Defense up and chairman of the Joint Chiefs and others explain to us what — how we’re going to achieve the president’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately defeating ISIS. Right now, they are not doing that,” he said.
The senator said Obama is leaning on “sort of incremental victories along the way.”
“We’re still fighting over Kobani, using the full weight of American air power,” he said. “Fact is we’re not using the full weight of American air power.”
“You can’t just defeat an enemy just by bombing them from the air. You have to have a ground component, but you also have to have forward air controllers who are identifying these targets, particularly when the combatants are in such close proximity to each other.”
McCain said he’d also add to the strategy weapons to the Kurds, a no-fly zone in Syria, and no separation of Syria and Iraq in planning. “They’re all ISIS,” he noted.
“Look, the reason why we’re separating Syria and Iraq is because of this incredibly misguided idea that if we get a nuclear agreement with Iran, which will be totally flawed, then therefore, the Iranians will cooperate with us,” he said. “So what’s happening is we’re bombing ISIS. Meanwhile, Bashar Assad is barrel-bombing the Free Syrian Army. That’s immoral.”
“We’ve got 3.5 million refugees and 200,000 dead, 150,000 in Bashar Assad’s prisons. I mean, this idea that somehow, the — having some kind of working relationship with Iran, who fund Hamas, who have brought Hezbollah into the fight, who have orchestrated terrorist attacks all over, including the latest destabilization of Yemen, is so delusional that it’s hard to imagine.”
Since President Obama promised that there would be “no boots on the ground” to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq, he has ordered two major increases in the number of boots on the ground in Iraq. American forces’ numbers jumped up to 3,000 so-called “advisers” shortly after the mid-term elections.
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart has noticed. In a monologue Monday night, he ripped Obama from the anti-war left and called the president’s promises “bullsh*t.”
In the segment, Stewart plays clips of Obama promising not to put “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS, and juxtaposes them with announcements that more troops are being sent into Iraq to serve as “advisers” to the Iraqi military. Stewart then skewers that.
“Oh, I’m sorry, that was my mistake,” Stewart mocked. “I’m sorry. So it’s not 3,000 troops, it’s 3,000 advisers. Okay. Well, you know, that’s a lot of advisers. (laughter) I feel like after the first 2,000 give their input, it’s mostly going to be like ‘I just want to reiterate what Tony said.’”
At one point, Stewart jokes that at the rate Obama keeps increasing the number of U.S. “advisers” in Iraq, “By 2016, everyone on earth will be in Iraq fighting ISIS!”
Stewart’s angry comedic riff helps explain why Obama delayed announcing the troop increase until after the elections. Had it come before the elections, the Democrats’ base would have been infuriated, and the nationwide bloodbath that saw Republicans re-capture the Senate may have been even worse for the Obama Democrats.
The Age reports that Hizballah has admitted that an ambush outside Damascus, Syria on Sunday has left five nuclear scientists dead. The five men were killed by machine gun fire while riding in a van on the outskirts of Damascus. The attack may have been carried out by Syrian rebels on Israel’s behalf.
One of the dead was reportedly Iranian. The nationalities of the other four have not been revealed.
In years past, Syrian is known to have accepted nuclear expertise from Iran and North Korea.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the deaths of the five scientists. That group is based in London but has operatives all over Syria, according to The Age.
The Syrian government has confirmed the deaths, and that one was Iranian.
Terrorist group Hizballah said that the “five scientific experts were martyred by terrorists as part of the ongoing plots of the Zionist entity,” Israel.
Israel launched a surprise raid on a previously unknown Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, and destroyed it.
The report of the killing of five nuclear scientists in Syria, and Hizballah’s public angry reaction to it, raises all kinds of questions about Syria’s ongoing nuclear ambitions and the terrorist group’s connections to that. Israel fears that should Iran develop a nuclear weapon, it could hand that off to the terrorist group for a devastating attack on Israel’s people.
Writing in the Daily Beast, Sen. Rand Paul lands on a new position on the war against ISIS.
It’s the right war, but being done by Obama in the wrong way, rendering it illegal.
The Constitution, Paul correctly writes, puts the power to declare war not with presidents but with Congress.
Congress has not actually declared war on anyone since World War II. Since then US forces have been engaged in conflicts from Korea to Vietnam to the Middle East to Central America and Europe, but not once has it actually declared war. The closest that we have gotten to a full declaration of war is probably the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Saddam Hussein.
Obama has engaged US forces in Libya and now Iraq without bothering to take it to Congress, before or after the limits imposed by the War Powers Act. That, plus Paul’s contention that the US is not under attack by ISIS, is where Paul says the problem is.
In a war with transnational terrorists on the other side, though, when are we under attack and when are we not? It’s not as cut and dried as a group of terrorists crossing the porous border and wreaking havoc. They’re not going to roll across the border in an armored column and they’re not going to launch sorties of bombers over our cities. That’s not how it works. ISIS has beheaded two Americans and has shown that it can recruit other Americans to its cause using social media. It is building a base from which it says it intends to strike us.
If the Constitution were not enough, the War Powers Act reiterates the legislature’s prerogative. The War Powers Act does not allow for any military action to take place that is not authorized by Congress or to repel imminent attack. Period. The only exception is military action to repel an imminent attack. In that case, the president has 60 days to report to Congress. Obviously, it’s an exception that doesn’t apply to any of our current wars.
This administration has allowed, as Professor Michael J. Glennon writes, “nothing less than a collapse of the equilibrium of power, the balance expected to result from ambition set against ambition, the resistance to encroachment that was supposed to keep the three branches of the federal government in a state of equilibrium and to protect the people from the government.”
It’s time for conservatives to say enough is enough. Obama’s commandeering of Congress’s powers—from making war, to remaking our health-care system—has to stop. There needs to be an across-the-board, consistent defense of the constitutional separation of powers. Nothing less will win the day. That should include this current battle in the Middle East. Taking military action against ISIS is justified. The president acting without Congress is not.
On this question, Sen. Paul is probably right. He gets there in a strange way though, decrying the unlimited geographical scope and timeline of fighting terrorism.
That’s not the choice of any American leader. 9-11, London, Madrid, Fort Hood, Boston, beheading Americans in what used to be Syrian territory…how many times do terrorists have to attack us on our own soil and our allies’ soil and elsewhere before the likes of Rand Paul figure out that the enemy isn’t bound by any of our norms, notions or ideas about anything? We hold ourselves to the Geneva Conventions regarding how we treat terror masterminds while they kidnap schoolgirls, behead reporters and sell Christian women into sex slavery — and tweet images of themselves flying their flag right outside the White House.
It would be nice to put some geographical and time limits on this war. The enemy won’t abide by any limits, though.
This is Paul’s third or fourth position on what to do about ISIS. He mused that there may be no solution (May) has had mixed feelings while taking a dovish posture (August) and in September allowed that he was coming around to a more hawkish stance. At that time, he quoted Reagan and wrote that he would have acted “more decisively and strongly against ISIS” than Obama has.
Which wouldn’t be all that difficult. Obama has trickled troops in while signaling ISIS that while they have to duck US air power they will never have to face the true might of the American military on the ground. Obama isn’t even drawing fake red lines. The president is slow-rolling America into fighting ISIS in a way that is hauntingly similar to the way US forces were slow-rolled into the war in Vietnam.
Paul’s own stances don’t really bear out the claim that he would have been more decisive than Obama. He just probably would not have been any less decisive.
That’s not much to put on the resume for someone who wants to be commander-in-chief.
In the newest Prager University course, I discuss Muslim persecution of Christians. From the Prager University website: “The most persecuted and victimized people in the world today are Christians in the Middle East. The perpetrators of the widespread destruction of that region’s Christian community? Islamists. Middle East expert Raymond Ibrahim lays out the grim details.”
According to Haaretz, Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made some helpful and conciliatory comments toward Israel. The nation’s top military officer lauded Israel for going to “extraordinary lengths” to avoid civilian casualties during the latest round of fighting with the Palestinians.
Dempsey’s comments come after unknown figures within the Obama administration blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickensh*t” and a coward. Relations between the U.S. and its ally, already shaky, were made shakier by those comments, and by the administration’s refusal to investigate who made the comments and reprimand them.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked to react to Dempsey’s diplomatic comments during today’s press conference, by the AP’s Matt Lee. Psaki had the choice of agreeing with Gen. Dempsey, refusing to offer an opinion, or disagreeing with him — the latter, carrying the possibility of opening up another argument with Israel.
Psaki chose the latter.
Lee asked Psaki to comment on whether the Obama administration believes that the Israelis lived up to their own “high standards” on civilian casualties.
Psaki undiplomatically replied, “It remains the broad view of this administration that they could’ve done more. And they shouldv’e taken feasible precautions to prevent more civilian casualties.”
Psaki’s comment here sets the United States up for criticism on the question of civilian casualties should we get more deeply involved on the ground fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. She has also singled out Israel for criticism that is ultimately unfair and impossible to satisfy. One can always “do more” to avoid civilian casualties, but the Israelis are fighting Hamas, which goes out of its way to increase civilian casualties and use them for propaganda.