Lawmakers urged Secretary of State John Kerry to step in and fight for an American contractor detained and beaten by Afghan authorities reportedly in connection with a contract dispute.
Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.), and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) sent a letter to Kerry today requesting his help in expediting the release of David Gordon, a Virginia Beach resident and employee of project management firm Tamerlane Global Services, Inc.
Gordon, a father of two with a third on the way, was arrested Wednesday without charge in Qomandani Amanya, Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Afghan Attorney General’s office said Gordon’s detention was related to an ongoing commercial contract dispute and is asking for $2.4 million to release him.
In addition to what sounds like the Afghan government demanding ransom for an illegal detention, the story gets worse.
“We were deeply concerned to learn that Mr. Gordon was beaten during the night of April 3, sustaining several injuries, and was not sent to the infirmary until April 4, 2013,” the congressmen wrote. “The threats that he is receiving and the demonstrated lack of protection during his confinement give us serious concern about his welfare.”
“We request that the Department of State intervene and expedite the release of this illegally detained American.”
At today’s State Department press briefing, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland wouldn’t say whether Kerry’s department was doing anything to secure Gordon’s release.
“We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was arrested in Kabul. We are providing appropriate consular assistance, but because of privacy considerations, I can’t give you any further details,” she said.
Judging by the description given by Gordon’s company, indications are that he was doing work to help rebuild the country.
“We specialize in serving the needs of companies, NGOs, and government entities seeking to either enter or work within emerging or frontier marketplaces. Sometimes these are countries with high growth potential yet limited infrastructure. Sometimes these are regions embroiled in conflict. Where others see these areas as pure risk, we see enormous reward.”
Projects listed in the company’s March 2013 report include developing shipping lanes within Afghanistan and helping U.S. forces move freight.
If North Korea makes good on its threats and attacks South Korea and the U.S., the war that ensues is likely to be very bloody but short — as long as China either stays out of it or sticks to sealing its border with North Korea. China’s actions will have a massive impact on the course that any war with Pyongyang is likely to take.
The United States keeps about 28,000 troops in South Korea. They’re there to act as a trip-wire and deterrent against any North Korean attack. Any serious attack on South Korea would trigger a serious U.S. response.
The South Korean military is about 600,000 strong. Through decades of training and equipment buys, it’s modern and very capable. South Korea’s total population is about 49 million.
The North Korean military is about 1.1 million strong, and is one of the largest military forces on earth in terms of manpower. But it is not one of the best trained, and its supplies are not likely to last for very long. A military that cannot eat cannot long fight, and North Korea has not been able to feed itself for decades. Its military is well fed, for now. A war would force it to burn through men and supplies quickly. North Korea’s total population is about 24 million.
The U.S. contributes more than just boots on the ground. It brings the most modern and lethal air force into any conflict, and the clearest view of the battlefield from our fleet of satellites. The B2 and F22 stealth aircraft can be expected to play a very significant role against North Korea’s layered radar and anti-aircraft defenses. Most of North Korea’s gear is Soviet-made and of that era, but it has been upgraded over the years. It will not be able to keep up with U.S. stealth aircraft. The B2 can drop the MOP, the 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, on North Korea’s dug-in bunkers and artillery positions. The B2 can launch from Guam, Japan, or Diego Garcia or even the continental U.S., and therefore can be based well out of range of any North Korean efforts to strike at it. The F22 can outrun and outshoot anything the North Korean air forces can throw at it. Like the B2, it can attack ground targets, and can remain largely invisible to North Korean anti-air.
A war with North Korea is likely to be bloody in the early going because the North has positioned massive numbers of artillery in the mountains just 35 miles from Seoul, and within range of South Korea’s capital. The North could be expected to unleash those guns on the city of 10 million. But the U.S. could be expected to establish air supremacy quickly. The U.S. could strike anywhere in North Korea by air and offshore ballistic missile, launched from submarines and surface ships. As long as the U.S. brought its full naval strength to bear, from Japan, Hawaii, and around the Pacific, the naval side of the conflict would be a quick kill for the allies. North Korea’s navy simply cannot match the U.S. navy. North Korea’s artillery would probably enjoy a short lifespan, until U.S. forces cave in the mountain tunnels from which they fire. American and South Korean conventional air power would devastate North Korea’s air defense net and then rip up Pyongyang’s military infrastructure. South Korean ground forces would probably spend the opening hours of the war repelling a massive ground invasion from the North, but as the air war shifts to the allies’ favor, would push the North Korean ground forces north of the DMZ as they chewed the Kims’ military to pieces. South Korea would suffer massive civilian casualties in the early hours to days of the war, but the North would probably have its military destroyed and then the North Korean state would be dismantled.
The Defense Department will be deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system to Guam in the coming weeks “as a precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat,” the Pentagon announced today.
THAAD is a land-based missile defense system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, and an integrated fire control system.
“This deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. Territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there,” the Pentagon said.
“The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies, and our national interests.”
The announcement came shortly after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s first major policy speech at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.
Hagel did not mention North Korea in the speech, just “an array of other security challenges of varying vintage and degrees of risk to the United States.”
During the question-and-answer portion after the speech, Hagel was asked by a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employee about the crisis.
“They have nuclear capacity now. They have missile delivery capacity now,” Hagel responded. “And so as they have ratcheted up her bellicose, dangerous rhetoric — and some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan; and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened to the West Coast of the United States. As secretary of defense, and I think beginning with the president of the United States, and all of our leaders, we — we take those threats seriously. We have to take those threats seriously.”
“I think we have measured, responsible, serious responses to those threats,” he added.
Kony 2012 may have been an Internet rage last year, but Kony 2013 is more profitable.
Under an expansion of the authority for the War Crimes Rewards Program announced today by the State Department, rewards of up to $5 million are being offered for information leading to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of fugitives such as Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012 was the last legislation of John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) passed during his time as a senator.
“We act so that there can be justice for the innocent men, women, and children who have been subjected to mass murder, rape, amputation, enslavement, and other atrocities,” Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp said in announcing the new designations today. “With this program we also send a message to others who may perpetrate such crimes: ‘there will be the means to bring you to account.’”
In addition to Kony, the list includes LRA leaders Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) leader Sylvestre Mudacumura, and nine fugitives from the Rwandan genocide: Felicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, Augustin Bizimana, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Charles Ryandikayo, and Charles Sikubwabo.
The U.S. government will consider offering protection to tipsters in addition to the rewards.
“I know coming forward takes guts, particularly when we are asking for information about notorious criminals like Kony. Let me assure you that the security of our informants is a priority of the War Crimes Rewards Program,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. “The United States does not announce the names of informants even when a reward payment has been made — and we always make good on our payments.”
The announcement comes as Uganda has suspended the hunt for Kony, citing a lack of cooperation after a coup in the Central African Republic. A hundred U.S. troops have been supporting that mission.
“It is my hope that Uganda’s suspension of operations in the hunt for Kony and the LRA will be resolved soon and that multilateral operations will quickly resume. Now is not the time to give up the search,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “In expanding its Rewards for Justice program today to include a $5 million reward for the apprehension of Kony and other LRA leaders, the United States has reasserted its commitment to bringing their reign of terror in the region to an end.”
North Korea traffics in threats. Its latest: A declaration of a “state of war” between itself and South Korea. South and North Korea have technically remained at war since 1953, but the new threat promises a new war. The reclusive communist dynasty has used threats of war against South Korea, Japan and the United States for decades, both for internal reasons and for external purposes. Internally, threats help keep the people unified around and against common foes. Externally, threats extort food and fuel aid from the US and our allies. North Korea has not been able to feed itself for going on 20 years, despite its juche self-reliance propaganda.
Up to now, there has been little reason to take Pynongyang’s threats very seriously. North Korea’s military could be expected to inflict severe damage on Seoul, South Korea’s capital city, in the early stages of a conflict due to its artillery positioned in the mountains just north of the border. But South Korea’s modern military and the overwhelming might of the US could be expected to come down on the North quickly and, with Japan’s assistance in the mix, pound the Kims’ forces into oblivion before too long, provided China stayed out of the fight.
But this time could be different. North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jung-Un, is the least prepared and least tested head of state the North has ever had. Kim Il-Sung, the dynasty’s first and founding leader, led the fight against Japan during World War II and then led the fight against the UN and the US during the Korean War. After that, he had nothing to prove to the outside world or to the generals around him or the people of North Korea. Kim built a personality cult around himself to entrench his power, but there was at least a grain of truth to the tale that he had personally fought to preserve the people. Each successive generation of North Korea’s leaders have had less connection to past military success, leading now to the current Kim. Kim Jung-Un comes to the helm with no military experience. He is a pudgy man of only 29 or 30 years old. He may be relying for much of his authority on his resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung. The new Kim may intend to prove his bona fides, or he may have to proves his bona fides, to his generals by engaging in military conflict.
South of the border and to his west, Kim may see weak leaders instead of formidable foes. South Korea has just elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye. Kim Jung-Un may see her being a woman as itself a weakness. It would not be the first time a male dictator has made the mistake of seeing a female leader as weak. Park is not new to politics or to North Korea’s brutality. She has been around the South Korean presidency since her father was president in the 1970s. A North Korean assassin murdered her mother, the First Lady at the time, on August 15, 1974. Park has even been attacked by a knife-wielding criminal herself, in 2006. It would be a mistake to see Park as weak, but Kim Jung-Un may see her that way just because she is a woman. One thing Park does lack, though, is any military experience.
In the US, we have President Barack Obama. He never served in the military. He knows nothing of military strategy. He is an ideologue who has made habits of apologizing for perceived American sins and weakening our relationships with staunch allies like Japan. Obama led from behind during Libya, showing a strong aversion both to putting US boots on the ground and to telling the American people the truth about conflict, and has yet to take any decisive action one way or another on Syria. Obama heralds ending wars, but never strives to win them. Domestically Obama has ushered in a policy, sequestration, which he and his former defense chief advertised to the world as a policy that will weaken the US military. His new defense chief, Chuck Hagel, is also not a proponent of a strong American foreign policy. Hagel does have military experience, but it was in Vietnam, and that defeat has made him a defeatist and skeptic of the use of US force for good. Hagel and Obama helming the US military may lead Kim to conclude that whatever the Americans say in response to his threats, and however many of our slick airplanes we send to Seoul, we aren’t likely to actually do very much. America is very unlikely to risk ground troops under Obama. Given the weakness of our economy, how much of a conflict we could afford to take on halfway around the world is a real question.
The Kims have always believed and propagated the myth that South Korea would welcome rule by the North. If you’re Kim Jung-Un, you have an unrealistic understanding of the world outside your hermit kingdom and you need to burnish your military credentials, there may never be a better time than the present to do that than now.
Americans’ tax dollars may currently be supporting terrorist groups by way of 43 questionable contractors used by the U.S. Army.
After passage of the “No Contracting with the Enemy Act” provision of the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) identified nine contractors and the Entity List, a notification by the Department of Commerce supported by all-source intelligence analysis, identified 34 more as potentially having direct links to an insurgent or terrorist group.
These recommendations to suspend or terminate work with a contractor were referred to the Army for investigation in September 2012. The Army’s Suspension and Debarment office has a stated goal of 30 days to process referrals from an inspector general or investigative agency, but all of the cases are backlogged.
The individuals and companies identified are believed to have links to groups such as the Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda. Ground-level investigations into the referred contractors found the parties “were active supporters of the insurgency or were otherwise engaged in actively opposing U.S. and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan” or had provided “material support to persons engaged against U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
In a letter this week to Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called for a review of these 43 outstanding cases.
“Given the serious nature of these determinations, we strongly believe these cases continue to warrant special and immediate consideration from the Department of the Army,” the lawmakers wrote.
They noted a Jan. 15 response from the Army chiefs stating “the 43 recommendations did not include any supporting evidence other than the fact that the subject individuals or entities were so listed.” But the Army needed to look at classified materials to see that evidence.
“Despite numerous attempts by the SIGAR office to facilitate involvement in these cases by the Army’s Suspension and Debarment Official (SDO), it is our understanding that this individual has not yet conducted necessary reviews of the classified materials,” the senators wrote.
“We strongly believe that these debarment referrals are sufficient to call into question the acceptability of doing business with the named individuals or companies. However, we also believe that a thorough review of the underlying evidence is essential to effectively processing these 43 cases. While we understand that the review process may have started with some cases, it is time for the Army’s Procurement Fraud Branch and the SDO to fully process these designations without further delay.”
The senators asked for a determination to be made on each case within 30 days.
North Korea Promises to Launch ‘Merciless Nuclear Attacks’ on U.S. for Threatening Generalissimos’ Statues
Random highlights today of stories at North Korea’s official media, the Korean Central News Agency:
“A meeting of Pyongyangites took place at Kim Il Sung Square Friday to support the statement of the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and to win victory in the final do-or-die battle with aggressors including the U.S. imperialists and south Korean puppet group of traitors.”
“The U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK that has been intensified after the DPRK’s launch of satellite for peaceful purposes has now reached the phase of a provocation of a nuclear war. The U.S. deputy secretary of Defense who flew into south Korea for the final examination of the preparations for a nuclear war against the DPRK ordered to ignite a nuclear war, making a bluff that the U.S. military has made the second Korean war a top priority.”
“The south Korean warmongers, elated with the backing of the U.S. master, are threatening punishment to ‘provocation’ of the DPRK and even seeking to mount precision missile strikes on the statues of the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung andKim Jong Il, symbol of the DPRK’s dignity. …It is the steadfast will of the DPRK to react to the U.S. nuclear blackmail with merciless nuclear attacks, and war of aggression with a total war of justice.”
Yet for all the impending bloodshed and mushroom cloud(s), the Tourism section of the propaganda arm predicts a rising number of foreign visitors this year.
“In particular, the arrivals will be on rise from European countries, including Germany, UK and the Netherlands.
The figure of applicants for tourism in the DPRK by plane has already exceeded last year’s twice while that of those for tourism by bicycle increased sharply as compared with last year’s.
International railway service has been improved and regular and non-regular flights from various regions will be available.
Mini-golf playing in the Rungna People’s Pleasure Park in Pyongyang will be one of attractions this year.”
According to a new report from the Arabic-language website Misr al-Gidida (New Egypt), during Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi’s recent visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, he secretly met with Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, and promised to smuggle the Egyptian-born jihadi back home. The Arabic report cites a Pakistani source saying that the meeting was clandestinely arranged, away from the delegation accompanying Morsi, and “facilitated by elements of Pakistani intelligence [ISI] and influential members of the international organization, the Muslim brotherhood” [all quotes translated from Arabic by author].
Morsi himself is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; Zawahiri is a former member who grew impatient with the Brotherhood’s tactics of non-violent patience and perseverance, eventually quitting the organization and joining the jihad, becoming its current leader. (See “Ayman Zawahiri and Egypt: A Trip through Time” for an expose on Zawahiri and his decades-long connections to Egypt, the Salafis, and the Muslim Brotherhood.)
The Pakistani source adds that “the meeting lasted 45 minutes, during which Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi promised to make preparations for Ayman Zawahiri to return soon to Egypt, indicating that some Muslim Brotherhood members would handle the operation, by first smuggling the al-Qaeda leader to a Gulf nation, likely Qatar, and then easily transferring him to Egypt—on condition that Zawahiri disappear lest he embarrass Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood with its American ally, whose security and intelligence agencies consider Zawahiri most wanted.”… Continue reading.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced at a Pentagon briefing today that civilian furloughs will be shorter than predicted before sequestration.
Pentagon officials had warned they were taking a double hit from sequestration and a continuing resolution that bound the hands of defense officials to allocate money within the department. Hagel stressed they got some but not all they were seeking in the CR: money was allocated to better places, but they still didn’t get the flexibility with funds desired.
“We are going to be able to reduce and delay these furloughs, but not eliminate furloughs, and that right now looks as though we’ll be able to go from an original estimate of 22 days to 14. That, we think, will save the department anywhere from — I think the original estimates were around $4 billion, and we can probably plan on about $2.5 billion,” Hagel said.
“What the continuing resolution has done for us, it did fix some of our urgent problems. In particular, it put some of the dollars back in the right accounts. We still don’t have the flexibility that we had hoped to get, but having money in the right accounts is particularly important.”
The secretary added that in the operations and maintenance account, “we’re going to be short at least $22 billion for F.Y. ’13.”
“I would say, also, this is an imperfect process,” Hagel added. “And any decisions we make — and we’ll have to make some and will make some — will be within the context of that imperfection.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said “the uncomfortable truth is that we’re — on Monday, we’ll be halfway through the fiscal year, and we’ll be 80 percent spent in our operating funds.”
“We don’t yet have a satisfactory solution to that shortfall, and we’re doing everything we can to stretch our readiness out,” Dempsey said. “To do this, we will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future readiness for current operations. It will cost us more eventually in both money and time to recover in the years to come. We’ll be trying to recover loss readiness at the time that we’re trying to reshape the force.”
“We can’t afford excess equipment. We can’t afford excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services. We have to reduce redundancy,” the chairman added. “And we’ve got to change at some level our compensation structure. Without that kind of reform, we will lose the human capital, the important talented young men and women, and we’ll lose combat capability. But with that kind of reform, we have it within us to stay strong, despite declining dollars and increasing risk. If our elected leaders can help us with full flexibility, our people will do the rest.”
A group of House members in coastal states are asking that the Navy move ahead with all third and fourth quarter surface ship maintenance despite omnipresent budget fears at the Defense Department.
The Pentagon had cited sequestration and the continuing resolution as a double whammy that would not only cut funds but hamstring how allocated monies can be used. Operations and maintenance have been expected to feel the worst effects.
Lawmakers argued that with the passage of the FY13 Department of Defense Appropriations as part of the continuing resolution — including the greater spending flexibility the Pentagon sought — maintenance should move forward, for the good of their districts.
“These availabilities are crucial to the long term health and sustainability of the Navy surface fleet and the industry that supports it. We understand the fiscal pressures facing the Navy under sequestration and are looking for clarification of the Navy’s plans now that Congress has passed H.R. 933,” wrote the House Members in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Navy CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert.
“It is our understanding that by alleviating the restrictive nature of a continuing resolution, we would see restoration of the maintenance availabilities that were potentially subject to cancellation.”
Fleet commanders had been directed to notify contractors of the “potential for cancellation, deferral, or de-scoping of the FY13 3rd and 4th quarter surface ship maintenance availabilities.”
“We are concerned the Navy may choose to use some of its transfer latitude granted under the FY13 Department of Defense Appropriations to hedge future consequences of sequestration by going forward with cancellation in whole or part of 3rd and 4th quarter ship maintenance availabilities,” the lawmakers wrote. “This is not an acceptable solution for us or the taxpayers.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.).
The new Egypt: Worse than the old Egypt.
Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse.
Officials at the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque said radical militias stormed the building, in the Cairo suburb of Moqattam, after Friday prayers.
“[We] deeply regret what has happened and apologize to the people of Moqattam,” mosque officials said in a statement, adding that “they had lost control over the mosque at the time.”
The statement also “denounced and condemned the violence and involving mosques in political conflicts.”
The latest crackdown is further confirmation that the Muslim Brotherhood’s most hard-line elements are consolidating control in Egypt, according to Shaul Gabbay, a professor of international studies at the University of Denver.
So, why again is the US government sending Egypt hundreds of millions of dollars and weapons?
Islamists’ treatment of mosques doesn’t get enough scrutiny in the media. Our infidel military goes out of its way to avoid even looking at a mosque the wrong way, but Islamists will bomb them, attack them, even turn them into prisons and torture chambers like the Muslim Brotherhood did in this case.
When I was in Baghdad in 2007, on a patrol with the US Army I visited a mosque run by some very unfriendly characters. The US military’s meeting with them felt like a scene out of a mob film. The local imam conducted the entire meeting like a mafia don eyeballing the cops. He had his junior capos around him, and he treated the military officers with open contempt. But for the Army’s training, the whole scene could’ve gotten ugly, quickly. Our men handled themselves with utmost grace and professionalism. The local don may have suspected that the military was about to arrest him, though, since just the week before, a missing man turned up as a prisoner inside that very mosque. He had been kidnapped, and his kidnappers had bound him and tortured him. The infidel Americans had freed him.
As a Baptist, I cannot even imagining turning my local church into a prison and using it to torture, say, a kidnapped Methodist.
In another moment of Islamic sectarian kumbayah, forces on one side of the Tigris — Sadr City — regularly lobbed mortars in the direction of Khadamiyah on the opposite side of the Tigris. They were trying to destroy a famous mosque that belonged to the Shiites, if I remember correctly. Every night they’d lob a few mortars at it just to see if they could do any damage to it. You could stand up on the roof of one of the buildings at FOB Justice after sunset and hear the thump-thump-thump of the mortars firing. The spray and pray tactic never did hit the mosque, but did hit an awful lot of houses and businesses.
As for Muslim Brotherhood Egypt:
“It will only get worse,” said Gabbay. “This has been a longstanding conflict, but now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power, it is moving forward to implement its ideology – which is that Christians are supposed to become Muslims.
“There is no longer anything to hold them back,” he continued. “The floodgates are open.”
It’s an oppressive spring afternoon in Austin, Texas. Low clouds threaten to unleash a gullywasher. After a couple of emails and phone calls I’m at an apartment complex off to the west of the University of Texas campus. A pair of young men pull up and pop the lid on the trunk of their car. One pulls a flat metal case from the trunk and I jokingly ask, “Is that a gun or a guitar?”
The lead man could blend in with the musicians and hipsters all over Austin who recently dominated the city during SXSW, but he isn’t one and what he has in the case is an instrument, but it’s not musical.
He lays the case on the parking lot pavement and opens it up. Inside are several of the objects for which he has become famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view. The dark parts are a conventional AR-15 rifle. Sen. Dianne Feinstein would ban them from personal ownership if she could, based not on their collective firepower, but on what they look like. The white parts are plastic. Wilson printed them and has test fired them at his range near Austin.
As he pulls the firearm from the case to show it to me, a woman walks by with her dog. I hope that we’re not alarming her. She didn’t seem to be surprised in the least. This is Texas, and guns are everywhere from the local Walmart to the state capitol building, every day.
The man with the strange rifle is Cody Wilson, 25, the co-director of Defense Distributed. That’s the group that in the past year has gone from not even existing to being on the verge of changing everything.
Or nothing. The fact is, neither Wilson nor anyone else knows what effect realizing his idea will have. But we’re very close to finding out.
Defense Distributed is about to create the world’s first fully functional, fully printed gun. The wikiweapon will be real.
We go into his apartment and he shows me around. It’s a typical male college student’s place — he’s a law student at UT — a bit messy and unkempt. Up in his bedroom he has a huge American flag on one wall and the famous “Come and Take It” flag opposite. It’s a replica of the flag that flew at Gonzales, Texas, on October 2, 1835 when Texians dared the Mexican army to retrieve a cannon. Wilson is from Arkansas, but the Gonzales spirit of defiance is evident in nearly everything he says and does. The American flag is ironic. He bought it to be his bedspread, but it didn’t work for that, so up on the wall it went.
Over the next hour, we converse about everything from the methods and mechanics of printing a gun, to the why of it, to the philosophy of Democratic politicians like Dianne Feinstein, Andrew Cuomo, Chuck Schumer, and Steve Israel, who believe that there is a legislative solution to everything, and that they have those solutions or are smart enough to come up with them.
Wilson is no fan of any of them. And they may not be smart enough to come up with a legislative solution to Defense Distributed. Distributing printed firearms via download may be a case of politics failing to stop the signal.
He is also no conservative in the typical sense. He’s either a libertarian or an anarchist or believes in “socialism from below,” but mostly he’s just a young man who “wants to remain a human being” by realizing an idea that up to now has only lived in the mind. That idea is printing a gun, not for hunting or for self-defense against criminals, but to defend himself against government.
Wilson has just obtained his federal firearms license. He underwent a process that normally takes about 60 days, but his took 6 months. He showed me his FFL like a “proud papa.”
“I don’t know why I got it,” he allows, “other than this is still supposedly a country of laws and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have gotten it.” The process took so long, he says, partly because Defense Distributed lost its manufacturing locations a couple of times during the process. Printer manufacturers became nervous when they found out what he was up to. He says that one, Stratasys, referred him criminally to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That referral has been resolved in his favor.
“There’s no reason for us not to get it,” Wilson continues. “I have no criminal record, my intent is to make money with the license, so okay, you can’t not give it to me. Even knowing that like, yes, I helm a project whose goal is to basically one day explode the need, or destroy the need, for something like the ATF in the first place.”
The license allows Wilson’s group to deal firearms, but more importantly to him, it allows the company to build and test prototypes in materials other than metals, as firearms manufacturers. Private individuals would face stiff penalties for engaging in activities that Defense Distributed needs to do to build the printed weapon.
It’s hard but not impossible to see how the government might eventually come to regard the printed gun. At least one law already on the books is relevant, the Undetectable Firearms Act. Others could follow. It takes a license from the state to cut hair anymore. Licensing of some sort may eventually come to play in the 3D printing realm.
Or not. The push for industry licensing frequently comes from the industry itself, as a means of using government as gatekeeper against competition. At this point, no complete firearm has ever been printed. Many parts have, but never the whole. Gun manufacturers so far have not reacted to Defense Distributed. Wilson’s group has printed a slew of magazines and lowers. They’re using a combination of standard firearms parts and common household hardware to make their printed parts function with traditionally manufactured stocks, receivers, and barrels. The 3D printing industry is new and diffuse, more a novelty than an actual industry other than among the few companies that develop and build the printers. Most 3D printers are being used to print rapid prototypes of toys, or candy molds, or even bicycles. Advocates of 3D printing as an industry have long hailed the creation of such mundane objects as “revolutionary,” only to turn around in shock and fear when Wilson turned up to do something unexpected and truly revolutionary.
“You’re printing guns for a set of specific reasons,” I say to Wilson. “What are they?”
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is imploring Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, “as a veteran yourself,” to jump in and help clear the backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As of this month, more than 600,000 claims have been pending for more than 125 days and are considered backlogged.
Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) noted the recent agreement between the Pentagon and VA “to speed the delivery of evidence necessary for the adjudication of compensation claims.”
“We request that you ensure DoD makes smart investments in the resources and manpower necessary to expedite the transition from paper to electronic records transfer,” they wrote. “We would also request that the DoD work closely with VA to ensure that Guard and Reserve records are included in this process.”
The letter highlighted “the absolute need for continued collaboration, cooperation and commitment between these two agencies.”
All of the other members of the committee also signed the letter: Sens. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
Earlier this month, Sanders suggested that the VA backlog could be contributing to vet suicides. In addition to the backlog, the VA has been slammed for its accuracy rate of 86 percent in settling claims.
“Without being overly dramatic, let me state that we are losing 22 veterans every day from suicide. This is a tragedy that we must address. I know that no one in the VA, no one on this committee, wants to add to that tragedy, because of unnecessary delays that could extenuate the problems that veterans express,” said Sanders.
Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, has set a goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015, making sure wait time on claims doesn’t exceed 125 days, and achieving a 98 percent accuracy rate on claims.
The Pentagon just announced that it is suspending the issuance of furlough notices as the continuing resolution that passed the House today is reviewed.
The CR, which keeps the government running for six months and averts a shutdown, passed the Senate on Wednesday.
Defense officials had asked Congress for greater flexibility in the CR to allocate budget resources as needed, saying that these restrictions coupled with sequestration are the double whammy that’s hitting operations and maintenance accounts too severely.
“The Department of Defense has decided to delay the issuance of civilian employee furlough notices for approximately two weeks,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement this afternoon. “This delay will allow the department to carefully analyze the impact of pending continuing resolution legislation on the department’s resources. We have not made any decisions on whether or not the total number of planned furlough days for fiscal 2013 will change as a result of this delay.”
The roughly 750,000 employees who could be subject to furloughs were expected to receive 30-day notices in mid-March. The furloughs would amount to a 20 percent pay cut between late April and September.
“We believe the delay is a responsible step to take in order to assure our civilian employees that we do not take lightly the prospect of furloughs and the resulting decrease in employee pay,” Little said.
The furloughs will exempt civilians serving in combat zones, and must include another “slightly embarrassing” exception, as noted last month by Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer Robert F. Hale: Senate-confirmed political appointees are exempt by law. About 50,000 foreign nationals working for the Pentagon will also be exempt.
House GOP officials told PJM that the party was mindful of accommodating Defense requests for flexibility in the CR.
The Syrian government may or may not have used chemical weapons in its civil war this week. Or, if you buy the word of the Syrian regime, rebels may have used chemical weapons. After an attack in the city of Aleppo Tuesday, the Syrian government released photos that it says show evidence that the rebels used chemical weapons in a rocket attack. The rebels claim that they don’t have chemical weapons at all. The US and Russian governments so far have very different views of what happened. Or didn’t. Not all experts even agree that the photos show evidence of a chemical attack at all, though a top Israeli official says chemical weapons were used. President Obama is visiting Israel this week.
Two senior U.S. officials said they don’t believe the rebels used chemical weapons and suggested the government itself may have manufactured the incident to preserve the ability to use them in the future.
“The regime is using (the claims) as a pretext for their own possible use,” one of the officials said. “The opposition has no such weapons.”
But the Russian Foreign Ministry, citing information from Damascus, said rebels did use chemical weapons, causing deaths and injuries.
“We believe the new incident is an extremely alarming and dangerous development in the Syrian crisis,” the ministry said. “Russia is seriously concerned about the fact of (weapons of mass destruction) coming into the hands of militants, which makes the situation in Syria even worse and brings the confrontation in the country to a new level.”
Syria is a long-time ally of the Russians, along with the Iranians.
The calls for more direct US intervention grew after Aleppo, on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Mike Rodgers (R-MI) says that it’s “time to act” in Syria, without specifying that the US action should be. Rep. Carl Levin (D-MI) endorsed establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. That idea was first floated during the 2012 presidential primary, by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has gone the farthest, calling for the US to insert ground troops to secure Syria’s chemical weapons sites.
“My biggest fear beyond an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is the chemical weapons in Syria falling in the hands of extremists and Americans need to lead on this issue. We need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites, either in conjunction with our partners [or] if nothing else by ourselves,” Graham said.
Asked if he would support sending U.S. troops inside Syria for the mission, Graham said yes.
“Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground. There is no substitute for securing these weapons,” he said. “I don’t care what it takes. We need partners in the region. But I’m here to say, if the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) hints of very serious difficulties to come in Syria:
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein says “The probabilities are very high that we’re going into some very dark times. And the White House needs to be prepared.”
The Obama White House has repeatedly stated that the Assad regime’s use of its chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” but has not stated what the consequences of crossing that line would be. It doesn’t appear to have a plan in place for Syria.
There are no good guys leading either side of this fight, from a strategic US perspective. The Assad regime has been a US enemy for decades and has aligned itself with the Iranian mullahcracy. It lends itself as a proxy against Israel, dominates Lebanon which it uses along with Hizballah as a base to attack Israel, and is also aligned with the Russians, raising at least the possibility of direct Russian military involvement. The rebels include many Islamists aligned with al Qaeda. The US would have to borrow more money from China to fund any Syria operations.
And yet, the Obama administration’s “red line” talk and the statements coming from Congress suggest that pressure is building to do…something.
The White House (codename: Olympus) has fallen into the hands of North Korean terrorists. They’ve neutralized the presidential security detail; captured the president, the vice president, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretary of Defense; and are held up in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC). Only disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning, played by Gerard Butler, can save the president. In all, it’s Die Hard in the White House, and it’s awesome.
After being unable to save the president’s wife after an accident, Banning is taken off his security detail. He is then relegated to a soporific desk job. As tensions along the 38th parallel intensify, which mirrors our current situation, a few North Koreans decided it’s time to bring their misery to American shores. So, they use a C-130 gunship to shoot up Washington, D.C., while using a crack commando team to storm the walls of the White House under the cover of dump trucks retrofitted with heavy machine guns to provide cover. They wipe out the entire Secret Service contingent assigned to the White House.
With the president and vice president in enemy hands, it’s up to the speaker of the House, played by Morgan Freeman, to navigate through this unprecedented situation. In the meantime, Agent Banning shoots, stabs, and chokes his way towards PEOC – and the president. However, he has very little time, as the North Koreans are working on accessing America’s nuclear arsenal.
The film is fun, action-packed, and filled with good one-liners. Concerning authenticity, Ricky James, a security advisor and counter-terrorism expert, said it’s possible to launch an attack on the White House. He said:
We’ve cut the defense budget. We’ve cut the intelligence budget. We’ve cut the intelligence staff…we have foreign and American domestic terrorists on our soil. And if you put all that in a melting pot, I’m not saying they’ll be successful in taking the White House, but an attack could take place.
James is also a veteran of presidential details for President George H. W. Bush, and served as an advisor on the film. Additionally, he hopes that Americans leave with a feeling of pride and admiration for members of the U.S. Secret Service for all that they do protecting the president and serving their country. Nevertheless, he didn’t look like he would be missing the grueling twenty-hour work days during production.
It’s an exciting film, and definitely worth the price of admission.
Ironically, just as President Obama has cancelled the final phase of the European missile shield, the Pentagon has announced additional interceptors will be deployed to the west coast to deal with the increased threat from North Korea.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans on Friday to bolster U.S. missile defenses in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by North Korea, which threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States last week.
Hagel said the Pentagon would add 14 new anti-missile interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska – an effective reversal of an early Obama administration decision – and move ahead with the deployment of a second missile-defense radar in Japan.
The Pentagon also left open the possibility of creating a site on the U.S. East Coast where the Pentagon could field more interceptors capable of striking down an incoming missile. The 14 additional interceptor deployments would cost nearly $1 billion and must be approved by Congress.
“By taking the steps I outlined today we will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitments to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression,” Hagel told a news conference.
North Korea issued its threat last week to stage a preemptive nuclear attack against the United States as the United Nations readied new sanctions against Pyongyang in response to its February 12 nuclear test, the country’s third.
Experts say North Korea is years away from being able to hit the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, despite having worked for decades to achieve a nuclear capability.
But Hagel said the moves announced by the Pentagon were justified to stay ahead of the threat, underscored by the nuclear test and a December rocket launch that analysts believe was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Hagel also cited North Korea’s display last April of what appeared to be a road-mobile ICBM.
While they successfully launched a satellite in early December last year, North Korea is not expected to have a nuclear capable missile before 2016, according to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The additional deployment of interceptors — if it happens — should be completed by that time.
Whether the interceptors will even be constructed is still open to debate. The Pentagon is reluctant to deploy the weapon due to its unreliability. The system has failed to hit a target since 2008 and kinks in the software have hindered large scale deployment, including setting up sites on the east coast to guard against an Iranian launch.
It may be that the North Koreans are simply engaged in childish bluster when they threaten a pre-emptive strike against the US. But they are a dangerous child and nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to defending ourselves.
So much for their alleged innocence.
Chase confirmed that the outage was due to a denial-of-service attack, in which attackers bombard websites with an overwhelming amount of traffic, overloading their servers and causing sluggish performance or a complete loss of service.
The hacking group taking responsibility, which calls itself al-Qassam Cyber Fighters, announced its intentions to hack a number of banks in this manner several months ago, and has targeted Bank of America, Citibank, Capitol One, and others. The group cites what it sees as U.S. refusal to remove a YouTube video grossly offensive to those who practice Islam.
The video in question is “Innocence of Muslims,” a film trailer depicting the prophet Muhammad as, among other things, a murderer and pedophile. Muslim states such as Egypt and Yemen have called for the video to be removed, but Google-owned YouTube has said the video is well within its guidelines. Although Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, described the video as “disgusting and reprehensible,” she supported the decision, as representative of the U.S.’s commitment to its citizens’ right to free expression.
Clinton also told the father of one of the Benghazi victims that the US government would go after the film maker, and they did, and he sits in jail to this day.
Question: Didn’t the Obama government basically validate the cyber jihadists’ complaint by drawing attention to and trying to blame a terrorist attack on that movie, which the president’s team called “reprehensible?”
Barack Obama has a point here. He’s not Dick Cheney when it comes to drones. Dick Cheney never killed an American citizen without due process. Dick Cheney also never accused returning veterans or pro-life advocates of being potential terror threats. Obama’s government has done both.
President Barack Obama’s defense to Democratic senators complaining about how little his administration has told Congress about the legal justifications for his drone policy: Dick Cheneywas worse.
That’s part of what two senators in the room recounted of Obama’s response when, near the outset of his closed-door session with the Senate Democratic conference on Tuesday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confronted the president over the administration’s refusal for two years to show congressional intelligence committees Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad.
In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos, the senators told POLITICO. He also tried to assure his former colleagues that his administration is more open to oversight than that of President George W. Bush, whom many Democratic senators attacked for secrecy and for expanding executive power in the national security realm.
“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said, according to Democratic senators who asked not to be named discussing the private meeting.
Obama’s entire worldview seems to boil down to: I’m not that guy, who’s worse than me, because I say so.
Even though Dick Cheney never killed an American citizen without due process.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today noted a problem of government mismanagement and service shortfall that has been building long before sequestration.
As of March 2, some 70 percent of the compensation and pension inventory of 895,000 claims were pending for more than 125 days at the Department of Veteran Affairs, the senator said at a hearing this morning to examine the backlog.
Sanders took over the gavel of the Veterans Affairs Committee from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) this Congress. Over the past several weeks, both the House and Senate panels have held four hearings with veterans’ organizations at which leaders generally raised the claims backlog as the No. 1 problem facing veterans.
In addition to the backlog, the VA’s accuracy rate of 86 percent in settling claims has raised the alarm at the GAO and with the department’s own inspector general, Sanders said.
“It is my view, and I believe the view of every member of this committee, that when men and women put their lives on the line defending this country, they must be treated with respect and dignity when they return. Not with red tape and bureaucracy, not with, in some cases, years of delay,” he said.
Sanders even suggested that the VA’s treatment of veterans could be contributing to an even deeper tragedy.
“Without being overly dramatic, let me state that we are losing 22 veterans every day from suicide. This is a tragedy that we must address. I know that no one in the VA, no one on this committee, wants to add to that tragedy, because of unnecessary delays that could extenuate the problems that veterans express,” said the chairman.
Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, has set a goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015, making sure wait time on claims doesn’t exceed 125 days, and achieving a 98 percent accuracy rate on claims.
Over the past three years the VA has completed more than 1 million claims each year.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers he will be reviewing their concerns about the proposed precedence of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal over combat medals including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
The DWM is intended to recognize those outside the theater of combat, such as drone operators.
“Secretary Hagel consulted with the chairman, the Joint Chiefs, and the service secretaries, and those with the decision to establish the medal was carefully and thoroughly analyzed within the Department of Defense,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said at today’s Pentagon press briefing. “That being said, in light of concerns about the medal’s place in the order of precedence, Secretary Hagel will work with the senior leadership to review the order of precedence and associated matters, and the secretary has asked that Chairman Dempsey lead this review and report back in 30 days.”
In the meantime, production on the medal has been stopped.
“The medals awarded to men and women in harm’s way, facing enemy fire, are very special indeed and should remain so,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). “I appreciate that it appears Secretary Hagel has heard my concerns and those of Pennsylvania’s service members. It seems he has agreed to take another look. I wrote former Defense Secretary Panetta to ask for his rationale on the medal’s ranking when I first learned of this decision in February. While I fully support appropriate recognition of all military personnel whose extraordinary actions make a difference in combat operations, I am concerned about this new medal’s ranking in DOD’s order of precedence.
“This is a good first step to properly honor Montanans and all Americans who put their lives on the line for their country. The nature of war is changing, but folks who serve directly in the theater of war are at greater risk,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “I will keep working to make sure the medals earned on the battlefield get the respect they deserve.”
“Secretary Hagel’s decision to reevaluate the Distinguished Warfare Medal’s precedence above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star is a welcomed one, especially to our veterans who raised their objections to the Defense Department’s medal ranking,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said. “Although I recognize that the standard practices of war are changing, our brave warriors who face life and death situations deserve the most distinguished medals the United States military awards. I will be following the review process carefully and look forward to a full report.”
Stubborn, Secretive Obama Admin Failed to Inform Congress of Its Intent to Grant Bin Laden Son-In-Law a Civilian Trial
Sen. Lindsey Graham is up in arms, and he should be. The Obama administration failed to inform Congress that it planned to bring Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, to New York City for a civilian trial on charges of conspiring to kill Americans.
Ghaith is not a common criminal. He has been a top al Qaeda lieutenant of his late father-in-law for years; he appeared in a video alongside bin Laden taking credit for the 9-11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000, most of those casualties at the World Trade Center in New York. He is a true enemy combatant against the United States and should be subjected to trial under the laws of war.
Three years ago, the Obama administration attempted to hold the trial of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York, as a civilian trial. The outcry was so fierce that the administration was forced to abandon that plan. KSM is facing a military tribunal, where he will not be able to grandstand to generate headlines and sympathy, and where the rules of evidence are different, and where he is subjected to the laws of war.
The Obama administration appears to have learned from that experience. Rather than inform Congress or anyone else beforehand of its intent to grant Ghaith a civilian trial, they just snuck him into the country and are making his civilian trial a fait accompli. Congress should ask, before the American people, why this president is so determined to give al Qaeda thugs access to our civilian courts, and the rights of US citizens accused of ordinary crimes.
Graham’s rage comes just a day after Sen. Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, citing the administration’s lack of transparency on the anti-terror drone program. Americans only found out that that program exists in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. The Obama administration leaked details of the program to media to shore up the president’s national security credentials.
Graham railed against Paul’s filibuster yesterday. He may be eating his words today, as another example of the Obama administration’s stubborn and opaque behavior comes to light.
Yes, I’ve been part of a “fire away” crowd. I agreed with Charles Krauthammer ‘s view that “once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protections of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war — no more and no less than those of your foreign comrades-in-arms.” However, given Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to be our next CIA director, which ended after 13 hours, I’ve reconsidered my view on the subject. Furthermore, it exposed my own shortcomings when it comes to my advocacy for adhering to constitutional principles.
I recently said that the strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda propagandist and talent recruiter, was “legitimate.” While there may have been enough evidence to convict al-Awlaki of treason, which would have stripped him of American citizenship, he was never put on trial – even in abstentia– by a U.S. court. I’m not defending him, or weeping over his death, but giving the Executive branch the power to kill Americans without due process is disturbing.
At times, my passion can get in the way. Al-Awlaki was a bad guy, who promoted jihad against the United States, but the legal framework used to justify his demise isn’t honest. As Kevin D. Williamson at National Review wrote last month, it’s not clear if al-Awlaki took up arms against us. The FBI didn’t deem him a serious threat. He was cleared of any involvement in the planning of the 9/11 Attacks, and was invited to the Pentagon for dinner as part of “Islamic-outreach efforts.” He even led prayers at the U.S. Capitol.
Williamson added that the parameters in which one could get their name on the “kill list” are also flawed.
Abdulmutallab [would-be 2009 underpants bomber] had sought out al-Awlaki in Yemen, and al-Awlaki had blessed his bomb plot and had even introduced him to a bomb-maker.
That, according to the Obama administration, is what justified treating al-Awlaki as a man-at-arms, earning him a place on the secret national hit list.
If sympathizing with our enemies and propagandizing on their behalf is the equivalent of making war on the country, then the Johnson and Nixon administrations should have bombed every elite college campus in the country during the 1960s. And as satisfying as putting Jane Fonda on a kill list might have been, I do not think that our understanding of the law of war would encourage such a thing, even though she did give priceless aid to the Communist aggressors in Vietnam. Students in Ann Arbor, Mich., were actively and openly raising funds for the Viet Cong throughout the war. Would it have been proper to put them on kill lists? I do not think that it would. There is a difference between sympathizing with our enemies and taking up arms against the country; there is even a difference between actively aiding our enemies and taking up arms against the country, which is why we have treason trials rather than summary execution.
If al-Awlaki was engaged in a firefight with U.S. troops, then he’s fair game. However, he was on the side of a road eating breakfast. Yet, there’s also the other side who argue that targeted killings can be legal. If al-Awlaki was planning an attack, then his demise in 2011 would’ve been legal.
Deborah Pearlstein wrote in Slate on February 8 that:
The white paper says that the president has some power to use force as part of his “constitutional responsibility to defend the nation.” Indeed, the Supreme Court has recognized that Article II of the Constitution gives the President at least some authority to, as the framers put it, “repel sudden attacks,” without having to go to Congress first for permission—in other words, to play defense in the moment. It’s not hard to imagine an argument that the government targeted U.S. citizen Anwar al Awlaki in Yemen because of a discovery that he was about to launch a particular, sudden attack.
But the paper doesn’t actually make that argument. It’s not just that al Awlaki goes unmentioned. So does Article II. And true enough, the administration has been at pains, in court challenges to its detention power at Guantanamo, to avoid resting its claim of authority on the president’s constitutional power alone—precisely because such claims of authority can be overly broad.
Perhaps another tack, then? There’s also the Authorization for Use of Military Force [AUMF], passed by Congress in 2001, which gives the president the power to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against the organizations responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Since 2001, Presidents Bush and Obama, the Supreme Court, and Congress have all said this “necessary and appropriate force” includes the power to detain, even the power to detain American citizens picked up in Afghanistan. The same logic by which all three branches of government have agreed the law authorizes detention—because detention is a necessary incident of war—supports the argument that it authorizes lethal targeting as well.
But as the executive, Congress, and the courts have also recognized, the power granted by the AUMF only extends as far as what is allowed by the international laws of war. And there are a lot of those laws. For now, let’s just take one of them, and for the sake of argument, state it in a way that gives the administration the widest possible latitude for targeting. According to the relevant treaties, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (the world’s most recognized interpreter of the law of war), members of organized armed groups that do not represent states may be targeted in war either if they are directly participating in hostilities when they’re targeted, or if it was their “continuous function” to prepare for, command, or take part in acts that amount to direct participation in hostilities.
Pearlstein wrote that al-Awlaki could’ve been included in this “continuous function” portion of this law, which would have permitted his killing. However, the DOJ White Paper never mentioned this, which is why there are so many questions.
Joseph Klein reiterated AUMF as a justification in his column for FrontPageMag.com on October 5, 2011, and adds that if al-Awlaki had presented himself to U.S. Courts via our embassy in Yemen – he would’ve been protected from lethal force. He didn’t.
The price of failure in capturing American-born persons of interest is high. If they escape, they become harder to find, and can continue to plot attacks against America. I’m for the drone program. I’m for killing high-level al-Qaeda targets, but if they’re American citizens, and they’re not posing an imminent threat at the time, it should be incumbent upon us to capture, detain, and place them on trial.
Our Constitution was meant to constrain government, and to ensure that certain rights can never be suspended by a usurpatory government. A president assuming the power of judge, jury, and executioner is an awesome power, and one that doesn’t have any congressional oversight as of late.
As I’ve said before, there are legitimate arguments for both sides, but the DOJ White Paper fails in making the case for legal targeted killings against American citizens abroad. As Sen. Rand Paul asked on the Senate floor, what are the limits of presidential power? Furthermore, Sen. Paul said that we know little about some of the people on these kill lists. Concerning the president’s authority to use drone strikes on American citizens within the United States, the answer should be definitely no.
What’s more disturbing is the fact that liberal Democrats seem content with this campaign. After all, we had a conservative Republican lead this filibuster effort. If this was George Bush, articles of impeachment would’ve been brought up. However, while some in the media don’t seem to be willingly to admit their failure in reporting Obama’s hypocrisy, I’m more than prepared to say that I was wrong in my support of killing American citizens abroad without due process.
The War on Terror has plunged us into new areas of warfare and legal theory, but we cannot forget the principles we’re fighting for in our conflict with al-Qaeda. What good is our Bill of Rights if we decide to shred it for a quick kill on one of our fellow citizens? Even the most despicable American deserves the right of due process under the law. John Wayne Gacy, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer, some of the most depraved Americans to ever be processed under our justice system, all received a fair trial upon their arrest. Future American terrorists deserve the same treatment. Our Bill of Rights was never meant to be applied to citizens on a case by case basis.
As Williamson wrote today in National Review, the “War on Terror” is not conventional, and requires a myriad of tools, such as law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and military operations, in order to wage it. He also added that the “battlefield is everywhere” mindset shouldn’t be taken literally, and brings us to a place that is in direct conflict with our principles about the freedom and liberty codified in our Constitution. Let’s be smart about this.
Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers are savages who will kill when and where they can; they could strike anywhere, but it does not follow that everywhere is therefore a field of battle subject to the law of war. The Museum of Modern Art and the Mall of America might be possible targets for terrorists, but martial law is not in effect in those locations, nor should it be.
If your government can put you to death without trial — not on the field of battle, but at breakfast — then you are not a citizen at all: You are a subject. And Americans were not born to be subjects.
Sen. Ted Cruz Forces Attorney General Holder To Admit Drone Strikes on U.S. Soil Are Unconstitutional
[Last] Tuesday, CIA director nominee Brennan told Paul that “the agency I have been nominated to lead does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States — nor does it have any authority to do so.” Attorney General Holder followed up with a letter that said lethal force against American citizens on U.S. soil is “entirely hypothetical” and constitutes “an extraordinary situation” “we hope no president will ever have to confront.” Holder cited 9/11 and Pearl Harbor as examples of such domestic attacks that may warrant the executive branch to authorize an attack on American citizens on U.S. soil; but, of course, he cautioned that such a circumstance is “unlikely.” (But it could potentially exist.)
However, Noah Rothman, also of Mediaite, wrote today that Sen. Ted Cruz, in a tense exchange with Attorney General Eric Holder, finally received a clear answer from the DOJ that such strikes would be unconstitutional on U.S. soil.
In your legal judgment, does the Constitution allow a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil to be killed by a drone?” Cruz asked Holder pointedly.
“For sitting in a café and having a cup of coffee?” Holder replied. Cruz clarified that his hypothetical individual subject to a drone strike did not pose an “imminent and immediate threat of death and bodily harm,” but that person is suspected to be a terrorist.
“I would not think that that would be an appropriate use of any kind of lethal force,” Holder replied.
“With all respect, Gen. Holder, my question wasn’t about appropriateness or prosecutorial discretion. It was a simple legal question,” Cruz clarified.
“This is a hypothetical, but I would not think, that in that situation, the use of a drone or lethal force would not be appropriate,” Holder replied.
“I have to tell you I find it remarkable that in that hypothetical, which is deliberately very simple, you are not able to give a simple, one-word answer: no,” Cruz added. He said he think that his scenario would constitute a “deprivation of life without due process.”
Holder agreed and added that lethal force in Cruz’s case “would not be appropriate.”
“You keep saying appropriate – my question isn’t about propriety,” Cruz goaded. “My question is about whether something is constitutional or not.”
When Cruz was about to abandon his line of questioning after a number of equivocations from Holder, the attorney general clarified that he was saying “no” such actions would not be constitutional.
While I support drone strikes on terrorists overseas, their use on American soil is unsettling. Drone strikes is one area where I agree with the president. I also think that American-born terrorists, like Anwar al-Awlaki, was a legitimate strike. He forfeited his the rights and legal protections of the United States as a citizen when he decided to commit treason by becoming an al-Qaeda recruiter.
Furthermore, if an American-born terrorist, who intends to do us harm, is sighted in the U.S., then it’s up to the FBI, or any arm of civilian law enforcement, to arrest him. To blow him, or her, out of the sky with a drone strike could be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, and I’m sure congressional approval for such an action wouldn’t find much support either. In fact, that’s the only way a drone strike on U.S. soil could be legal.
Nevertheless, the argument that American-born terrorists should be arrested, detained, and given the right of due process under the law isn’t illegitimate. In fact, one could argue that Sen. Rand Paul’s argument holds more legal weight than that outline by the Obama administration in the DOJ’s White Paper. Then again, detection and extraction of a person of interest could end in failure, and result in that individual continuing to plan attacks against the United States. Furthermore, the issues of non-state actors and the hindering a president’s wartime powers also factor into this argument. It’s a discussion worth having, but concerning drone strikes on American soil – the answer should be no. However, 45% of Americans think that the president should be able to execute such an operation, and 41% of Democrats agree.
House members are taking issue with a new Defense Department medal’s prominence in the hierarchy of military awards.
The Pentagon announced last month the creation of a new medal to adapt to a new era of technological warfare — and reward drone operators for well-placed strikes.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to service members whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition.
“I have seen first-hand how modern tools like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems have changed the way wars can be fought,” said former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the time. “We should also have the ability to honor extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight.”
But House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chairman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and 48 other lawmakers asked new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider the DoD decision to place it above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the order of precedence.
Several Democrats signed the letter, including Iraq War combat veteran and double amputee Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
“We are supportive of recognizing and rewarding such extraordinary service but in the absence of the service member exposing him or herself to imminent mortal danger, we cannot support the DWM taking precedence above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The current order of precedence for the DWM is a disservice to Purple Heart recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Country or were wounded while serving in combat. The imminent danger area requirement of the Bronze Star historically means that a service member has been deployed overseas for a military operation involving conflict with an opposing armed force,” they continued.
The lawmakers asked Hagel to “lower the precedence of the DWM to an appropriate level below the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.”
Wilson said the precedence of the new medal “does a disservice to our service members and veterans who have severed overseas in hostile and austere conditions.”
“It is my hope that Secretary Hagel will change the Department’s decision so that our veterans who have earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart will receive the appropriate recognition they deserve,” Wilson said.
The House Armed Services Committee chairman warned in a Los Angeles Times op-ed today that President Obama is conducting a dangerous experiment with the armed forces that shows a disconnect with the chiefs of staff and the threats in the world.
“Sequester hurts national security, not just because 50% of the cuts fall on the military’s 18% share of the overall budget but because the Pentagon has been the only place the president is willing to cut,” Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) wrote.
“For four years he has mismanaged our nation’s most vital resource, our uniformed military, fomenting the sequester-inspired readiness crisis it faces today. His actions, his under-resourced strategies, accelerated withdrawal plans and lead-from-behind policies have left the Pentagon far less able to shoulder the burden of another 10% cut.”
Acknowledging that waste needed to be trimmed at the Pentagon, the congressman warned “we have cut down so rapidly and so blindly that we’re in danger of breaking the back of the force.”
“If there were a proposal on the table that spared the troops and heeded Dempsey’s warning of not a dollar more from the armed forces, I would ask House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to consider it. But after cutting defense three times, the president’s solution to replacing sequester means another $250 billion out of the armed forces and more taxes. The choice the American people are being given is ‘break the military’ or ‘break the military and new taxes.’” McKeon wrote.
“Let’s be clear: Even if the president were given every dollar in new taxes he has requested, it wouldn’t make a difference in our national debt. Entitlement programs will continue to grow out of control, and the amount we spend on interest to service the debt soon will start to outpace even what we spend on the military. The cuts he continues to insist on, while below the level of sequestration, are still severe enough to hollow out our force. This approach forces me to conclude that the president, for all his stump speeches and props, wants the sequester to happen,” he continued.
“The president is forcing America to indulge him in this dangerous experiment with national security. It is unworthy of the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands in uniform whom he has directed into harm’s way over the last four years. It is a reckless experiment when one takes stock of the growing threats and commitments that occupy our forces around the world.”
In new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s speech to Pentagon staff and service members this morning, he said the word “challenge” five times in describing the global environment today’s military faces.
In his welcome message emailed to employees, he dropped “challenge” three times, and elaborated on these “future threats and challenges.”
“That means continuing to increase our focus on the Asia-Pacific region, reinvigorating historic alliances like NATO, and making new investments in critical capabilities like cyber,” Hagel said.
In neither address did he mention Iran.
“We are living in a very defining time in the world. You all know that. It’s a difficult time. It’s a time of tremendous challenge. But there are opportunities. And I think it’s important that we all stay focused, obviously, on our jobs, on our responsibilities, which are immense, but not lose sight of the possibilities for a better world,” Hagel said at the Pentagon.
“If there’s one thing America has stood for more than any one thing, is that we — we are a force for good. We make mistakes. We’ve made mistakes. We’ll continue to make mistakes. But we are a force for good. And we should never, ever forget that, and we should always keep that out in front as much as any one thing that drives us every day.”
In his letter to staff, he said the country is “emerging from more than a decade of war, yet the threats facing us are no less dangerous or complicated.”
“I have long believed that America must maintain the strongest military on earth; we must lead the international community, with a steady and sure hand to confront threats and challenges together as we work closely with our allies and partners to advance our common interests and build a more hopeful world,” Hagel wrote. “We must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests; and America must engage – not retreat – in the world, but engage wisely.”
The symbolic show of opposition to moving forward with a vote on the nomination of Chuck Hagel pre-recess wavered enough today to see the former Nebraska senator confirmed as the next secretary of Defense.
The Senate voted on cloture, or an end to debate, around noon. It was the same procedural hurdle Hagel couldn’t clear before the Senate left for Presidents Day week.
Today Hagel’s nod made it through the 60-vote-threshold cloture vote 71-27, with 18 Republicans in favor. Hours later, the Senate confirmed Hagel 58-41.
“What has their filibuster gained my Republican colleagues? Twelve days later, nothing has changed,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said earlier on the floor. “Twelve days later, Senator Hagel’s exemplary record of service to his country remains untarnished. Twelve days later, President Obama’s support for this qualified nominee is still strong. Twelve days later, the majority of Senators still support his confirmation.”
One of the surprising votes for Hagel was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) also crossed party lines to vote yes.
Paul, who supported the block of Hagel’s nomination before Presidents Day, told reporters after today’s confirmation “there are very few things I agree with the president on, but the president gets to choose political appointees.”
One of the expected “no” votes was from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“I oppose the nomination of Chuck Hagel to serve as our next Secretary of Defense. The position of Secretary of Defense is one of the most important jobs in our government. There were other, more capable choices available and I regret President Obama did not choose one of them,” Graham said.
“I’m disappointed not one Democrat stepped forward to express concerns about Senator Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran. I believe from his past actions, he has shown antagonism toward the State of Israel. In these dangerous times, his nomination sends the worst possible signal to our enemies in Iran,” he continued. “I continue to have serious questions about whether Chuck Hagel is up to the job of being our Secretary of Defense. I hope, for the sake of our own national security, he exceeds expectations.”
“There is simply no way to sugarcoat it: Senator Hagel’s performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was remarkably inept, and we should not be installing a Defense Secretary who is obviously not qualified for the job, and who holds dangerously misguided views on some of the most important issues facing national security policy for our country,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a floor speech opposing cloture.
Last Thursday, a memo from Blueprint NC was leaked to the press, which stated they intended to ‘eviscerate, mitigate, litigate, cogitate, and agitate’ the North Carolina Republican leadership. Blueprint is an ACORN-afiliated group, and its list of partners represents the core of the American far left. Since their dirty little secret was revealed, the organization has disavowed the memo.
Mark Binker of WRAL.com wrote yesterday that:
“The email from Stephanie [Bass, Blueprint NC Communications Director,] is referring to the slide deck, the POLLING MEMO and the data,” Blueprint NC Executive Director Sean Kosofsky wrote in an email on Saturday. “This document from early December is not our document at all. We never drafted that. All these news outlets have been had.
“This is a James O’Keefe-style splicing of two radially different things,” he continued, referring to a Republican filmmaker and provocateur whose work has frequently been called into question.
When interviewed on Thursday , Kosofsky defended his group’s involvement with the documents, saying that it was appropriate for 501(c)3 groups to discuss ways to push their agenda. The Charlotte Observer reported Saturday that a major Blueprint NC funder was unhappy with the memo and reviewing its funding for the group.
“If you want to push against a policy, one strategy is to take advantage of your opponents weaknesses,” Kosofsky said Thursday. He said Saturday that he did not realize the three-page strategy memo with the aggressive language was what WRAL News and other reporters were asking about. “Research is perfectly safe for your partners.”
Kosofsky describes Blueprint NC as a “back office” for nonprofit groups, helping to coordinate activities and take advantage of economies of scale that small nonprofits would not have on their own. He insists the organization is nonpartisan.
As the Civitas Institute noted, Blueprint NC was “organized and funded by the progressive Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.” Kosofsky’s remark is disingenuous in the extreme. Furthermore, he seems to not have read his organization’s mission statement.
Ultimately, Blueprint aims to influence state policy in NC so that residents of the state benefit from more progressive policies such as better access to health care, higher wages, more affordable housing, a safer, cleaner environment, and access to reproductive health services.
Also, here’s a list of Blueprint’s “nonpartisan” partners:
- Phillip Randolph Institute
- Action for Children
- American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU)
- Carolina Justice Policy Center
- Center for Community Self-Help/Center for Responsible Lending
- Center for Death Penalty Litigation
- Common Cause
- Community Reinvestment Association of NC- CRANC
- Conservation Council of NC Foundation
- Conservation Trust of NC
- Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, Inc.
- Democracy NC
- Disability Rights NC
- El Pueblo
- Environment NC
- Equality NC
- Fair Trial Initiative
- Institute for Southern Studies
- League of Women Voters – Charlotte
- Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation
- NARAL Pro-Choice NC
- NC ACORN
- NC Against Gun Violence
- NC Alliance of Black Elected Officials
- NC Association of CDCs
- NC Center for Voter Education
- NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault
- NC Coalition to End Homelessness
- NC Community Development Initiative
- NC Conservation Network
- NC Environmental Defense
- NC Fair Share
- NC Housing Coalition, Inc.
- NC Institute of Minority Economic Development
- NC John Muir Foundation (Sierra Club)
- NC Justice Center
- NC Latino Coalition, Inc.
- NC Minority Support Center
- NC NAACP
- NC Policy Watch
- People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
- Planned Parenthood Health Systems
- Planned Parenthood of Central NC
- Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
- Southern Coalition of Social Justice
- Working Families Win
A.J. Fletcher Foundation
The A.J. Fletcher Foundation, whose mission is to support progressive nonprofits, gave $205,000 to the NC Justice Center and over $66,000 to the NC Housing Coalition in 2007.
Tides Foundation received a $25,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, part of which was used to create gettraction.org. The Tides Foundation has given grants to the Center for Community Change as well as over $1 million to Project Vote.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is a federation of 57 international labor unions. In North Carolina, AFL-CIO shares a building withACORN NC and is on the North Carolina chapter of Health Care for America Now.
Service Employees International Union
SEIU has donated over $3.6 million to ACORN over the last six years. SEIU Local 100 was co-founded by ACORN founder Wade Rathke. In 2008, SEIU gave $1.1 million to the NC Democratic Party.
Binker added that when:
Asked [if] it was appropriate for his organization to participate in meetings where such memos are distributed and whether he endorsed all the ideas in the memo, Kosofsky replied via email:
Darn right. C3 nonprofits should absolutely try to stop bad policies that hurt the poor and hurt the environment, women and the middle class. If they need to exploit weaknesses of lawmakers, they should. I stand by that.
The meeting in December was of over 50 organizations. People bring their own idea. I am not going to claim or distance myself from things without greater context. The only thing that matters to Blueprint is what Blueprint does. I cannot speak for others. We cannot be held to what others do at meetings we are at. that is completely unfair.
I am not going to cherry pick ideas from that draft plan and say which ones we approve of or disapprove of. I will say this…The stakes are high for the people of NC. This governor and legislature are approving raises for their cabinet while gutting benefits for folks already injured by unemployment. Blueprint and our partners are passionate advocates for policy passed in the public interest, not passed for special interests. Our partners can educate the public, educate lawmakers and absolutely hold them accountable when they vote against the interests of the people of NC. the public should know that charitable groups can and do advocate strongly. they should. Blueprint doesn’t lobby or do any public advocacy. This isn’t about us at all.
Binker concludes his piece by saying, “it is worth noting that many of ideas contained both in the polling memo and the three-page strategy document have shown up elsewhere.” However, the Goodmon family, who owns WRAL, has four members on the board of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which has ties to Blueprint NC. The NC Justice Center originally housed Blueprint during its formation.
As I posted yesterday:
WRAL is also actually doing one of the items in the strategy memo. The memo on page 3 calls for tracking McCrory “Campaign Promises” and “slam him when he contradicts his promise.” WRAL appears to have taken that for action by launching their “Promise Tracker“, complete with cute little ”Skull & Crossbones” symbols.
WatchdogWire- North Carolina questioned WRAL over this coincidence, and responded that they “didn’t have the resources” to do this four years ago under Democratic Governor Bev Perdue.
Chuck Hagel will be confirmed. Let’s put that to rest right now. However, given his confirmation, what will the Defense Department look like under Hagel’s leadership. Additionally, how will he execute Obama’s foreign policy during his second term? His disastrous confirmation hearing, which Slate’s Dave Weigel aptly called a Fluster Chuck, shocked his former colleagues in the Senate. I’m sure it made many commentators to wonder why President Obama didn’t pick the undeniably qualified Michele Flournoy, who served as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2009-2012.
Nevertheless, we’re saddled with Hagel, and I’m sure the supporters of Israel are more on edge now that his confirmation is inevitable. Where do we go from here? National Review’s Daniel Foster wrote on February 19 that:
Maybe the best way to illustrate what the far left, far right, and dead center are missing about Hagel is with the following dilemma: Hagel’s foreign-policy views are clearly to the left of the president’s rhetoric for the last couple of years. That’s not even debatable. In practice, that will mean one of two things. Either the views expressed in Obama’s rhetoric of the last couple of years will continue to be the policy of the United States, in which case Hagel will be frustrated and constrained as defense secretary, and relegated to the role of mere bureaucrat-in-chief of the Pentagon. That, needless to say, does not appear to be his strong suit. The other possibility is that a second-term Obama will pursue a foreign policy closer to the one Hagel has avowed in speeches and writings over the last several years: a considerably smaller military, a net reduction in global power projection, especially in the most dangerous parts of the world, generous détente with Iran, skeptical neutrality or even hostility toward Israel, and so on. In that case, Hagel will be free to foolishly pursue his boss’s foolish vision.
Hagel can thus incompetently execute a decent strategy or competently execute an indecent one. So flip a coin. Heads they win, tails we lose.
Yeah, that’s not reassuring at all. Then again, when has this administration been reassuring at solving anything in the past four years?
President Obama notified Congress today that there are now “approximately” 100 U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger to aid in the fight against Islamist forces in neighboring Mali.
Per the War Powers Act, Obama sent the notification to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.).
“On February 20, 2013, the last elements of a deployment of approximately 40 additional U.S. military personnel entered Niger with the consent of the Government of Niger. This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region,” Obama wrote.
“The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100. The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.”
Obama said he directed the deployment “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests, and pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”
Secretary of State John Kerry visits Paris on Wednesday “for meetings with senior French officials on our ongoing regional and global cooperation,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier this week.
“And of course, we expect international support for Mali will be a central subject there,” she added.
There are currently about 4,500 French troops in Mali right now who have pushed back Islamist forces that had taken over much of the country. France has been firm about withdrawing those troops in early March and handing security over to the U.N.-backed African military force (AFISMA), which has about 3,800 boots on the ground in Mali.
Fifteen GOP senators today called on President Obama to withdraw the nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next Defense secretary.
“Last Thursday, the Senate voted to continue its consideration of your nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as our nation’s next Secretary of Defense. While we respect Senator Hagel’s honorable military service, in the interest of national security, we respectfully request that you withdraw his nomination,” states the letter.
The senators argued that a Defense secretary should be “neither controversial nor divisive,” and note that over the past 50 years no one in the position has taken office with more than three “no” votes in the upper chamber. In the entire history of this position, no one has ever been confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes.
The Hagel threatens to be a party-line vote, with a potential Democratic crossover or two.
“In contrast, in 2011, you nominated Leon Panetta, who was confirmed by the Senate with unanimous support. His Pentagon tenure has been a huge success, due in part to the high degree of trust and confidence that Senators on both sides of the aisle have placed in him,” they wrote. “The next Secretary of Defense should have a similar level of broad-based bipartisan support and confidence in order to succeed at a time when the Department of Defense faces monumental challenges, including Iran’s relentless drive to obtain nuclear weapons, a heightened threat of nuclear attack from North Korea, potentially deep budget cuts, a strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, military operations in Afghanistan, the ongoing Global War on Terror, the continued slaughter of Syrian civilians at the hands of their own government, and other aftermath of the Arab Spring.”
“Likewise, Senator Hagel’s performance at his confirmation hearing was deeply concerning, leading to serious doubts about his basic competence to meet the substantial demands of the office. While Senator Hagel’s erratic record and myriad conversions on key national security issues are troubling enough, his statements regarding Iran were disconcerting. More than once during the hearing, he proclaimed the legitimacy of the current regime in Tehran, which has violently repressed its own citizens, rigged recent elections, provided material support for terrorism, and denied the Holocaust.”
The letter was signed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), David Vitter (R-La.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
“Regarding U.S. policy on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Senator Hagel displayed a seeming ambivalence about whether containment or prevention is the best approach, which gives us great concern. Any sound strategy on Iran must be underpinned by the highly credible threat of U.S. military force, and there is broad bipartisan agreement on that point. If Senator Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense, the military option will have near zero credibility. This sends a dangerous message to the regime in Tehran, as it seeks to obtain the means necessary to harm both the United States and Israel,” the senators told Obama.
“We have concluded that Senator Hagel is not the right candidate to hold the office of Secretary of Defense, and we respectfully request that you withdraw his nomination.”
Just in time for the Academy Awards this Sunday, the North Koreans have what could be considered a late entry in the Foreign Film category — an action video showing what looks like the aftermath of a nuclear blast featuring President Obama and American soldiers engulfed in flames the Washington Post reports.
President Obama appears for only two seconds (0:52 -0:54) and it looks like footage from the State of the Union with him shaking hands.
NK News has the English translation in case you are wondering what all those Korean subtitles are saying.
Full Transcript (by NK NEWS):
North Korea has succeeded in proceeding with this nuclear test despite the United States’ increasingly unfair bully activities against North Korea. That United States that has no respect to others nor appreciation to equality…
It is not incorrect to state that the United States strong hostility policy and endless violence toward North Korea in the past 70 years has helped North Korea become one of the world’s strongest military power states.
Words spoken by the United States, a country that uses the law of jungle as the law of survival for fitness, is meaningless. As a result, North Korea’s high level nuclear test conducted against American imperialist invaders is a nuclear deterrent that protects our sovereignty.
Thus, the United States has practically guided North Korea towards nuclear testing and therefore needs to be considered as an American virtue.
North Korea’s third underground nuclear test! Let it be known once more that this is strictly our practical counter-measure for North’s safety and to protect its sovereignty from the aggressors. It is also a solemn warning that time is no longer on the side of the United States.
The people are watching. America should answer.
Yes, America should answer, but will we? For our new Secretary of State John Kerry is very busy after giving his first foreign policy speech on climate change.
Perhaps Kerry should take note that North Korea could really “blast open” the climate change debate if not checked.
President Obama today accepted the retirement of the general in command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, taking Marine Gen. John Allen out of the running to be the supreme allied commander in Europe.
Allen, who was the longest serving commander of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan with a tenure of 19 months, said he wants to focus on caring for his ill wife, Kathy. The 59-year-old general was cleared of wrongdoing last month in a Pentagon investigation of flirty emails he exchanged with Jill Kelley, the recipient of threatening emails from Gen. David Petraeus’ mistress Paula Broadwell.
“Today, I met with General John Allen and accepted his request to retire from the military so that he can address health issues within his family. I told General Allen that he has my deep, personal appreciation for his extraordinary service over the last 19 months in Afghanistan, as well as his decades of service in the United States Marine Corps,” Obama said in a statement. “General Allen presided over the significant growth in the size and capability of Afghan National Security Forces, the further degradation of al Qaeda and their extremist allies, and the ongoing transition to Afghan security responsibility across the country. He worked tirelessly to strengthen our coalition through his leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and to improve our relations with the Afghan government.”
“Above all, he cares deeply for the men and women in uniform who serve our nation – as well as their families – and I am grateful for the sacrifices made by his family in supporting him during his service. John Allen is one of America’s finest military leaders, a true patriot, and a man I have come to respect greatly. I wish him and his family the very best as they begin this new chapter, and we will carry forward the extraordinary work that General Allen led in Afghanistan.”
This makes Allen the fourth Afghanistan commander to go under Obama.
Gen. David McKiernan, who began commanding forces in Afghanistan in June 2008, was forced out by Obama a year before his term was up. The reason given for McKiernan’s requested resignation was the new president’s desire to switch to a “counterinsurgency” strategy instead of conventional warfare. McKiernan retired after this rare ouster of a wartime commander.
The next guy, Gen. Stan McChrystal, lasted only a year as well. The leader of the troop surge stayed from June 2009 to June 2010, when he was forced to resign after members of his staff made disparaging comments about Obama and other administration officials in a Rolling Stone article (remember “Bite Me” Biden?). The magazine now touts its archive story as the profile “that changed history.”
Next was Petraeus, who was asked to be demoted as head of U.S. Central Command to take over for McChrystal but left Afghanistan after a year to become CIA director.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was nominated by Obama to succeed Allen in Afghanistan when it seemed assured that Allen would take control of the European Command.
Last month, Allen gave a progress report to Obama, who has been eager for Afghanistan withdrawal, that recommended keeping either 6,000, 10,000 or 20,000 troops there after 2014, with the lowest number carrying the highest risk of mission failure.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he hopes some Democrats will come forward in opposition to the Chuck Hagel nomination after a report surfaced that the Defense secretary hopeful called the State Department an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office.
Hagel supporter George Ajjan summarized the Rutgers speech in a 2007 blog post, including the “bold statement” about the U.S. being controlled by Israel. “Hagel mentioned this theme several times – comprehensive, he said, in the sense that all tools should be used to achieve American foreign policy objectives (diplomatic, political, economic, and military), but also comprehensive in the James Baker sense of addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict holistically as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have proved too lazy and too incompetent to do,” Ajjan wrote.
On Fox last night, Graham called Hagel’s words a “breathtaking statement.”
“Senator Hagel said that he doesn’t recall making that statement and would disavow it. This latest report, I’m trying to absorb it,” the senator said. “But the bottom line for me, if he, in fact, said something like that, that the State Department was controlled by the Israeli foreign minister’s office, I think that would undermine his ability to serve as secretary of defense, and I hope some Democrats would come forward in light of all the other things he said.”
“If he says that the State Department’s under the thumb of the Israeli foreign minister’s office, that would show an edge about Israel and a view of the Israel-U.S. relationship that’s so far out of the mainstream, I don’t think he could effectively serve,” Graham added.
He said the “sum total of all the things he said and all the votes he’s taken” should make Hagel an “unacceptable” candidate.
Republicans blocked Hagel’s nomination in a cloture vote before the Presidents Day recess, but have indicated to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that a vote on the floor may be allowed after the break.
“If there is some evidence that he said at any time something akin to the State Department being controlled by the Israeli foreign minister’s office, in light of the other statements, the Jewish lobby statement, and the votes he’s taken and the attitude he’s exhibited toward Iran and Israel, that would be it for me,” Graham said. “And I hope some Democrats at that point would come forward and ask the president to nominate somebody new.”