The Middle East on a Collision Course (3): The Lebanese-Syrian Front

The Middle East on a Collision Course (3): The Lebanese-Syrian Front
By: H. Varulkar


Since the demonstrations of January 23 and 25, 2007 ended, calm has prevailed in the Lebanese streets. In addition, opposition leaders have stressed in their statements the aspect of a nonviolent political resolution to the crisis, and have reiterated to the Lebanese people, and particularly to their own public, that they must not be dragged into civil war. Various sources reported that the calm that currently prevails in Lebanon was the result of Iranian influence. This influence is so great that Lebanese sources have argued that the Lebanon crisis is no longer an internal matter, but is now dependent upon a regional settlement that could impose a new reality on the forces in Lebanon and even force them to make certain concessions. [1]

The stumbling block for any regional settlement is Syria, which is vehemently opposed to an international tribunal for the Al-Hariri assassination. As noted in a previous MEMRI report, [2] it was Syria that thwarted the draft agreement for Lebanon drawn up a few weeks ago by Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a result of Syria’s refusal, violent clashes broke out in Lebanon. [3] However, after the clashes were stopped, Iranian-Saudi contacts were resumed and Lebanese sources reported that some progress had been made. The Saudi daily Okaz also reported that Iran would pressure Syriato accept a settlement that would include approval of the international tribunal. [4]

The difficulty in finding a solution for the Lebanese crisis is not only due to the Syrian position, but is also the result of the overall complexity of the situation in the region. The regional initiatives focus not only on Lebanon and Syria, but also on other issues, both regional and global, including: oil issues, Saudi-Iranian relations, Sunni-Shi’ite tensions, the insurgency in Iraq, Iran’s nuclear program, U.S.-Russia relations, and the struggle for influence in the Middle East and in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

In a February 5, 2007 article in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, the daily’s editor Ibrahim Al-Amin revealed that the talks between Saudi National Security Council Chairman Bandar bin Sultan and top U.S. officials had failed, and that the U.S. had rejected Iran’s and Syria’s conditions. According to Al-Amin, this meant that the fire would continue to rage and that no settlement was on the horizon. Al-Amin added that Lebanon was facing difficult days.

Developments in the Lebanese Arena in Recent Weeks

Following the violent clashes in Lebanon on January 23 and 25, the positions expressed by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah clearly became more moderate. In a speech on January 30, 2007 marking the anniversary of the Karbala massacre, Nasrallah announced that a solution to the crisis must take the form of a political settlement: “We in the opposition believe that the solution and the settlement can only be a political [solution]…”

Recently, Nasrallah has devoted significant portions of his speeches to calling on the public supporting the opposition to be restrained and temperate, and under no circumstances to be dragged into violence and civil war. Nasrallah also warned the Lebanese not to take vengeance into their own hands, because the [unity of the] state and of the military had to be protected. He also said that the weapons of the Lebanese resistance must not be used in the domestic arena, and stressed that civil war and war between Sunnis and Shi’ites were lines that must not be crossed. [5]

On February 3, 2007, the Hizbullah website reported that “Lebanon has entered a stage of…cautious calm and undeclared hudna [temporary ceasefire], in anticipation of the results of the Saudi-Iranian efforts concerning the Lebanon crisis.” [6] The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar also reported that the opposition leaders had decided to give these diplomatic contacts a chance to bring about a solution to the crisis. [7] Likewise, opposition leaders have issued no harsh statements or threats to again escalate the situation.

Continued Mediation Efforts Fail; Sources Close to Hizbullah and Syria: “The Region Will Continue to Burn”

At the same time, Saudi-Iranian contacts have been continuing, in attempts to find a solution to the Lebanese crisis. Al-Akhbar, representing the Syria-Hizbullah axis, reported that the main obstacle in these contacts was the issue of the international tribunal, and mentioned the possibility that this issue would be postponed until the investigation of the assassination was completed. [8]

Sa’d Al-Hariri, a leader of the March 14 Forces, who visited Russia to learn its position on the international tribunal, was informed by the Russian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee chairman that Russia did not support “unnecessary haste” in investigating the assassination. Likewise, Russian National Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said that “the establishment of the international tribunal must not be a source of instability in Lebanese society…” [9] Ivanov also rejected Al-Hariri’s request that the international tribunal be approved by the U.N. Security Council without the signature of either the Lebanese parliament or the Lebanese president, who is known to be Syria’s protégé. Moreover, Russia also refused to announce its support for the government of Fuad Al-Siniora, because Russia supports only a national unity government in Lebanon, which is Hizbullah’s position. [10]

Saudi National Security Council Chairman Bandar bin Sultan, who is conducting the contacts for Saudi Arabia, went to the U.S. to discuss the crisis. In a February 5, 2007 article, Ibrahim Al-Amin reported that during the visit bin Sultan had failed to obtain U.S. backing for the understandings reached by Iran and Saudi Arabia. He wrote that Iran and Syria know that only the U.S. can provide the guarantees that they want – namely, guarantees that they will not be attacked. Therefore, bin Sultan conveyed the following messages to his American hosts: If the U.S. wants Iran and Syria to help it reduce its losses in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, it must agree to a ‘give and take’ deal. Likewise, the U.S. cannot demand that Syria and Iran hand over all their cards. Al-Amin also stated that the U.S. had told bin Sultan that it had no intention of giving up on either the Iranian nuclear issue or on the issue of the international tribunal. As a result, Al-Amin claimed, an agreement would not be reached any time soon, and the region would continue to burn. Al-Amin concluded by saying that “Lebanon is facing difficult days” and that the opposition forces had to decide, now more than ever, which path they would take in the next phase. [11]

In recent days, various sources have been reporting on the possibility that Arab League Secretary-General ‘Amr Moussa would return to Lebanon in order to renew his initiative for settling the crisis. Moussa, who is currently in Russia and who met there with top Russian officials, sent the director of his office to Lebanon on February 5 to begin talks with the various forces in Lebanon.

Lebanese opposition sources claimed that Moussa’s upcoming visit will be the last chance to discuss a solution that deals with the national unity government and with the international tribunal, but leaves the issue of early parliamentary elections for discussion by the future unity government. The sources added that were Moussa’s initiative to fail, the opposition would make an “irreversible” decision – to demand the establishment of a transitional government that would pass a new elections law and hold early parliamentary elections. The sources added that in such an event, all attempts by the March 14 Forces to intimidate the Lebanese public by invoking the specter of civil war would be useless, and that the opposition would be forced to escalate its activity to the maximum. [12]

A New Syrian Approach to the United States

In a February 5, 2007 interview for the American ABC TV, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad expressed his willingness to help broker peace, saying: “We [i.e. Syria] have credibility. We have good relations with the other factions. They should trust [us] to be able to play a role. We have [these] good relations with all the parties, including the parties participating in this government, and the others who oppose the political process. So that’s how we can help.” [13]

This new Syrian openness to U.S. apparently stems from the fact that Iranian-Saudi negotiations for a settlement are continuing, and Assad feels that Iran is about to waive his vital interest – that is, his demand to postpone the approval of the international tribunal.

* H. Varulkar is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.

[1]Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2007.

[2] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 320, “The Middle East on a Collision Course (1): Recent Saudi-Iranian Contacts to Resolve the Lebanon Crisis,” January 26, 2007,

[3] It should be noted that Syrian sources denied reports that Syria had thwarted the Saudi-Iranian agreement, saying that the reports were aimed at harming Syria. The sources added that Syria knew nothing about any Saudi-Iranian initiative, but only about an exchange of ideas between the two countries. According to these sources, Syria was not setting any conditions for efforts to resolve the Lebanon crisis, and supported anything acceptable to the Lebanese. Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, February 2, 2007.

[4] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2007.

[5] Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, , January 28, 2007; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 1, 2007.

[6] Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, , February 3, 2007.

[7] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 1, 2007.

[8] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 1, 2007, February 2, 2007.

[9] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 1, 2007.

[10] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 2, 2007. The paper also reported that Al-Hariri had conveyed to Russia a Saudi request that after his visit to Saudi Arabia, Russian President Vladimir Putin would not visit Qatar, but the request was refused.

[11] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 5, 2007.

[12] Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon,, February 5, 2007.

[13] ABC News, February 5, 2007,

MACON, GA — Mayor C. Jack Ellis, a practicing Christian throughout his life, on Thursday said he’s switched to the Islamic faith.

MACON, GA — Mayor C. Jack Ellis, a practicing Christian throughout his life, on Thursday said he’s switched to the Islamic faith.

The mayor said the conversion also means he’ll be going through the legal process of changing his name. His new name will be Hakim Mansour Ellis. The mayor said he kept his last name to maintain family ties.

“It’s a personal decision, a private decision as to how one worships. But I do understand that I’m not a private person,” Ellis said. “But being the mayor of the city, I think people have a right to know what I believe in, that I am a man of faith, and the faith I’m now a part of is the faith of Islam.”

He now calls himself a Sunni Muslim. He made the switch, Ellis said, during his December trip to Africa. Rather than call it a switch, Ellis said it was like returning home.

“I went back to my roots I guess you could say,” Ellis said. “I did convert to Islam in December of this past year in the country of Senegal. When I say, “back to my roots”, Islam was in Senegal prior to the Africans being brought here as slaves.”

Since converting, Ellis said he attends the Islamic Center on Bloomfield Road during Friday worship services. He also said he’s practicing the Islam doctrine of praying five times each day.

Ellis said he discussed his decision with his family and siblings before making it public.

“Now, I’m sharing with my broader family, the Macon community who supported me when I was a Christian and trust that they will now,” Ellis said. “I’m the same person even though I’ll be changing my name.”

Even though he switched religions, the mayor said he isn’t ranking them.

“I’m not saying that one is better than the other,” Ellis said. “We do believe that the prophet Mohammed was the last prophet as well as we believe Moses was a prophet.”

Prior to the conversion, Ellis said he attended Unionville Baptist Church on Houston Avenue and before that Harvest Cathedral on Rocky Creek Road.

The mayor completes his second consecutive four-year term in December and isn’t eligible for re-election. But Ellis said he might run for Georgia’s 8th District congressional seat in 2008.

In response to questions about whether Ellis would order new stationery and signs with his name, mayoral spokesman Ron Wildman today said, “We don’t forsee any cost to the city.”

Referring to signs and plaques around the city that bear the mayor’s name, Wildman said, “He was elected as C. Jack Ellis, and those signs reflect what he did as C. Jack Ellis.”

Fight against PKK unites Turkey, Iran

‘Fight against PKK unites Turkey, Iran’

Monday, February 5, 2007

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News

Neighboring Iran clearly seeks to lure Turkey away from its traditional moorings to the West and the Kurds may be just the wedge they need, a Turkish researcher said in an article published by the U.S. weekly Newsweek International magazine. “If you were a mullah in Tehran facing a new western ‘coalition of the willing,’ there’s one country you would try to get on your side: next-door NATO neighbor, Turkey. And lately, the Iranians have been doing this quite well,” Ömer Taşpınar, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said in his article. He said Ankara and Tehran increasingly shared a cause that unites them, that’s to say, the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

  Iran is fighting the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), the Iranian wing of the PKK.  “It is no coincidence that [Foreign Minister Abdullah] Gül and [Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar] Büyükanıt are going to Washington. The meetings should put an end to the Bush administration’s happy talk about the stability of Iraqi Kurdistan. Unless U.S. forces act decisively against the PKK, the Turks will warn and then Ankara will take matters into its own hands,” he said, apparently referring to Turkish threats over a cross-border operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq, if Washington and Baghdad fail to take action. “All this will inevitably push Turkey toward Iran and may even end up creating an unprecedented Sunni-Shiite axis of frustration against America,” said Taşpınar.

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc.

The Democrats’ hateful new imam

England: One Law for Muslims, one for the Rest —England’s Slippery Sharia Slope

England: One Law for Muslims, one for the Rest
By Warner Todd Huston (02/03/07)

England is fast becoming but simple a plot of land floating in the sea instead of a nation of culture guided by a rich legal tradition. It is a tail of warning for the USA, the moral of which is don’t allow minorities to set up a parallel culture or you will cease to be a nation of laws. You will, in fact, cease to be a nation at all.

England is on the verge of having a bifurcated legal system, one for their various religious peoples and one for the rest of the native population. Two recent stories show the degradation of the British legal system and the inequities that it creates.

In a BBC story by Innes Bowen, The end of one law for all?, the question is asked: “Ethnic and religious courts are gaining ground in the UK. Will this lead to different justice for different people?”

How could this be that hard to answer?

Naturally, the BBC strives to make it seem as if all is right and good with this destruction of the English legal system because, after all, these people are just doing what “their culture” requires that they do, neatly ignoring the fact that they are in England and NOT back in their own homeland.

Aydarus Yusuf has lived in the UK for the past 15 years, but he feels more bound by the traditional law of his country of birth – Somalia – than he does by the law of England and Wales.

“Us Somalis, wherever we are in the world, we have our own law. It’s not Islamic, it’s not religious – it’s just a cultural thing.”

Well, isn’t that nice?

A number of parallel legal universes have been quietly evolving among minority communities. As well as Somali customary law, Islamic and Jewish laws are being applied and enforced in parts of the UK.

Worse still…

While religious leaders in the UK’s Jewish and Muslim communities have not sought to enforce their own versions of criminal law, they have steadily built up their capacity to deal with civil matters within their own religious codes. What’s more, they are doing it with the help of English law.

Crucially, the legislation does not insist that settlements must be based on English law; all that matters is the outcome is reasonable and both parties agree to the process. And it’s in this space that religious courts, applying the laws of another culture, are growing in the UK.

Naturally, the BBC spends 90% of the piece saying how benign this bifurcation of the courts is and that Muslims wouldn’t wish to push their extreme Sharia laws for criminal matters in the UK. “That simply would never be acceptable”, they quote former judge Gerald Butler as saying… as if just saying it assures us all that these extremists wouldn’t push for it anyway.

Remember “There will be peace in our time”, England?

After all, to use a supposed Middle Eastern expression, once they get a nose under the tent it won’t take much to push on through. Once Sharia is accepted even in its lesser forms, Muslims will have every reason to expect that they can expand that usage of their own “courts” and to ignore the rightfully applicable English laws on any given subject.

In fact, the BBC seems in love with the idea of these wonderful religious “courts” supplanting their own. The Beeb barely gives us a word against the idea save one luke-warm warning by “Cassandra Balchin, a convert to Islam and spokeswoman for the group Women Living Under Muslim Laws” who is apparently “concerned”.

“Very often traditional forms of mediation can disadvantage vulnerable groups, such as women, within a community.”

Very often, Mz. Balchin?

Like most western news sources, the BBC seems completely ignorant of the abuse women and minorities suffer under Sharia laws the world over. Women are beaten, raped, murdered, mutilated and oppressed by Muslim “culture” and English law should never turn its back on these vulnerable members of their society. this would be a travesty and a direct refutation of western morals that posit that all people are created equal and stand the same in the eyes of the law.

After this rather benign BBC report on England’s dying legal system, the Telegraph published their report on Sharia invading England’s shores and they take a little more umbrage at the possibility of immigrant communities circumventing English law.

Sharia law is spreading as authority wanes

Islamic sharia law is gaining an increasing foothold in parts of Britain, a report claims.

However, the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali “court” sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.

In any case, this is a sure sign that England is giving up on their own way of life and allowing just anyone to bring in just any kind of “legal” system they please merely because they are “culturally used” to it!

It makes one wonder why they fought so hard to prevent the American Colonists from leaving the Empire? The Americans were at least on another continent, after all, and not trying to change what was going on right in the Motherland itself!

-By Warner Todd Huston

Mr. Huston has a keen interest in American history in general and political history in particular and writes for several websites and magazines on both topics.

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Democrats and World War IV

Democrats and World War IV

By Ted Belman

Hillary Clinton recently said:

“If I had been president in 2002, I would not have started this war.”
“If we in Congress don’t end this war before January 2009, as president, I will.”

Both of these certitudes ignore the context and the realities. This may be because the Democrats by and large are in denial or believe that America is to blame for terrorism. If only America would stop oppressing the Arabs or stop favouring Israel, terrorism would greatly diminish.
Even if they are prepared to accept that we are in World War IV with Islamists, staying engaged in Iraq is counter-productive, they argue. It produces more terrorists than it kills. It is also costly to American lives and treasure.
Finally they argue that the war in Iraq was not prosecuted properly and that more troops should have been sent. While in hindsight, there is generally consensus on the errors but now the Democrats are against the surge and any attempt to correct the errors or the tactics or the strategy. Just bring the boys home and all will be well.

But what about World War IV? What are the causes of this war and how should it be prosecuted?
This war is a product of Islamic Jihad. Andre Bostom, author of the The Legacy of Jihad, writes,

The noted 19th century Arabic lexicographer E.W. Lane, who studied the etymology of the term, observed,

“Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers”. The origins of the Muslim institution of jihad are found in the Qur’an. Sura (chapter) 9 is devoted in its entirety to war proclamations. There we read that the Muslim faithful are to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them. . . . Fight against such as those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah. . . . Go forth, light-armed and heavy armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah. That is best for you, if ye but knew.”

From such verses in the Qur’an and in the hadith, Muslim jurists and theologians formulated the Islamic institution of permanent jihad war against non-Muslims to bring the world under Islamic rule (Sharia law).
The consensus on the nature of jihad from major schools of Islamic jurisprudence is clear.
Summarizing this consensus of centuries of Islamic thought, the seminal Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun, who died in 1406, wrote:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.

Clearly the actions of the west are not the cause of the war as claimed by the Left. It is not who we are or what we do. Its all about who they are and what they believe.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Arabs turned to socialism under the Baath Party and pan-Arabism under Nasser. Their massive defeat in ’67 at the hands of the Israelis gave rise to the resurgence of Islam lead by Khomeini. With it came the call to Jihad, fueled by the new found oil wealth.
On Feb 1, 1993, one month before the World Trade Centre bombing, a Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, reported,

Since the Fall of 1992, there has been a significant increase in Islamist terrorism, subversion and violence in such diverse countries as India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Nigeria, Somalia, and many others. Despite the different circumstances of these incidents, they do not appear to be isolated events. Rather, they are the first incidents in the escalation of an Islamic Jihad against the “Judeo-Christian world order”. Thus, the climax of this struggle could well be an increase in terrorism throughout the West. [emphasis added]

Muslims went on the attack all over the world giving rise to the expression “the margins of Islam are bloody”. Americans were often the victim of these attacks, the most egregious of which occurred on 9/11.
This was not a singular occurrence but it was a dramatic escalation in the war against the west promising more of the same.
What was America to do? In the past it “lobbed a few missiles” as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq or retreated as it did from Iran and Lebanon. 9/11 required more than tokenism. It required America to fight the war it had been avoiding for over twenty years.
Even the Democrats supported the war in Afghanistan and perhaps still do. But they question why Bush invaded Iraq. They argue it had nothing to do with the war on terror as if it was enough to invade Afghanistan only. They argue that terror must be treated as a matter of criminality and fought as such.
Given this history of the rise and growth of Jihad with its incumbent terrorism, how can Democrats suggest that it has anything to do with the invasion of Iraq.
When President Bush spoke to the Joint Session of Congress and the American People on Sept 20, 2001 he described al Qaeda thusly,

This group and its leader – a person named Osama bin Laden – are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.

And continued,

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

Bush was speaking not only to the American people but for them. Yet Hillary Clinton said if she were the president in 2002, she would “not have started this war”. Was she referring to the Iraq war which started in ’03 or the Afghanistan war which was started in ’02. In any event, what would she have done to protect America or American interests? Americans deserve an answer.
And now she says, if elected, she will end the war in 2009. What does she mean? Does she intend to pull out of Iraq entirely and allow Iraq to fall to Iran which certainly will happen. If so, Lebanon and Jordan will also fall to Iran and its proxies shortly thereafter. And so will the entire Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia included.
Or is she prepared to drawn the line of retreat somewhere in order to maintain American presence in the Middle East and to protect its allies and interests. If so, where? Would it not be easier by remaining in Iraq rather then to retreating from Iraq? Americans deserve an answer.
If Americans withdraw from Iraq then what purpose was served by invading Afghanistan in the first place? Certainly the Taliban were punished for harbouring al Qaeda and the training grounds for terrorists were eliminated. But what is the point of the latter if they are allowed to regroup in Pakistan or Iraq or anywhere else for that matter?
Either America wants to prevail or it will be defeated.
Michael Gaynor in his article, Churchill, Lincoln, and Bush: Win! wrote,

PM Winston Churchill First Statement in House of Commons, May 13, 1940 put it this way,

“Victory, at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

“We will have no truce or parley with you [Hitler], or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst – and we will do our best.”

He did not pretend that war would proceed according to plan:

“No one can guarantee success in war, but only deserve it.”.

He was realistic and resolved:

“Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valor our only shield; we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible.”

He had faith in the ability of the British people, once awakened, to persevere:

“We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.”

The same must be said of the American People
One must keep in mind that Great Britain declared war on Germany before she was attacked. Still Churchill understood what was at stake.
Many have compared the threat posed by Hitler and Nazism in the thirties with the threat posed by the Islamists of today and concluded that the later is a more formidable enemy.
Even so and notwithstanding his words, Bush is not yet prepared to see the Iraq War as a regional war and certainly not as a global war. His “surge” strategy speech included

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

To my mind this was not a very aggressive stance. Yet he has done little in this regard. USA Today reviewed the US policy with respect to Iran and reported

National security adviser Stephen Hadley said the administration plans to release a report detailing its evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraqi fighting but is withholding it “to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said administration officials “want to make sure that the briefing … is dominated by facts: serial numbers, technology and so on. And so we just want to make sure that the briefing that is provided is completely reliable.

This suggests to me that the US policy with respect to Iran remains as it has been; not to take them on. Too bad.
Will Bush commit to preventing Iran from getting the bomb or expanding its influence and hegemony? Americans deserve an answer.
How will the global War on terror be fought? How will the spread of Islamism be stopped” Americans deserve an answer.
Ted Belman is the Editor of Israpundit.

The Temperature Also Rises

The Temperature Also Rises

By Selwyn Duke

With the issuing of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on February 2, waxing climactic about the climatic is the order of the day.  The esteemed, government-funded scientists with no agenda who rendered the study inform us that man is almost certainly responsible for rising temperatures and, furthermore, that dramatic climate change is unstoppable.  But, after seeing various luminaries sound the alarm, I think I can confidently say that, hell’s bells, we’re darn well gonna try anyway.
And it’s about time.  We’ve long known we were going to die unless we stopped spewing that plant-sustaining CO2 into the air.  The thing is, though, my botanical sources tell me the plants are fearful that they’ll die if they don’t stop spewing that human-sustaining oxygen into the air.  So our task is clear.
We must beat the plants.  
I’m tired of the lies.  I remember when I was a wee lad in grammar school and they warned us of an upcoming ice age.  That wasn’t as scary as the talk about the killer bees, but why, teach, oh, why did you hide the truth about melting glaciers, rising oceans and vicious hurricanes?  I suppose the ice age fiction was less unsettling to young minds.  At least we could look forward to extra snow days.
This is why I won’t sit idly by and watch today’s prevarications fobbed off on the next generation.
Can you believe I actually heard some craven, callous individuals try to rationalize away our destruction of the planet with the fancy that weather is cyclical (1500-year cycles of warming and cooling)?  So thick is the propaganda that now an elaborate fiction has been woven to convince us that Al Gore, inventor of the Internet, could actually be wrong about global warming.  Why, it just makes you hot under the collar.  Now I’ll share what I’ve uncovered about the machinations of malevolent manufacturers’ minions.
In a tale worthy of Hollywood, some “scientists” are peddling a story about a geological interval occurring between 750 and 600 million years ago, which they fancifully call the “Cryogenian Period.”  They tell us that during this time the Earth was completely covered by ice and snow.  Moreover, they’d have us believe there have been numerous ice ages since then, with the last major one ending about 12,000 years ago and causing glaciers to extend as far south as Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Outrageously, their fiction involves the notion that these alleged events were followed by warming trends that sometimes initiated intervals in which glaciers were completely absent from our planet, all without industrialization, as if we’d believe this beautiful blue orb could experience such wrenching changes without man’s meddlesome hands. 
This is an insult to our intelligence.  We all know that before the curse of humanity – and especially prior to industrialization – the Earth was a pacific place, where birds sang and fish swam and there was love and liberty, serenity and solidarity, and the lion lay down with the lamb. 
Continuing with this weather cycle con, we’re also told that between 1550 and 1920 there was a “Little Ice Age,” a time that saw increased glaciation in the Alps.  We can easily put the lie to this, however, for during part of this period CO2 levels were rising, yet, we are to believe that temperatures were dropping? 
Conversely, it’s also said that there were times when CO2 levels dropped but temperature increased.  It is to laugh. 
Even the government is in on this charade.  We know that anthropogenic glacial melt-off will cause rising sea levels that will inundate Florida and other low-lying regions, such as the Netherlands (don’t you realize our inaction could result in the destruction of the prostitution and drug capital of the world?).  So, right on cue, the National Park Service claims that during glacial periods Florida’s sea level was as much as three-hundred feet lower than today, and during the peak of interglacial ones it was one-hundred feet higher.  This, all without man’s influence?  Poppycock!   I bet these are probably the same people who tell us 98 percent of Renaissance painters were white males and that the US wasn’t founded by anti-Christian, ACLU lawyers.
Then, I found pro-plant propaganda being disgorged by the odious Center for Global Food Issues.  These miscreants actually sing the praises of higher CO2 levels and say,

. . . a warmer planet has beneficial effects on food production. It results in longer growing seasons-more sunshine and rainfall-while summertime high temperatures change little. And a warmer planet means milder winters and fewer crop-killing frosts. . . .  Infrared satellite readings show that the Earth has been getting greener since 1982, thanks apparently to increased rainfall and CO2. Worldwide, vegetative activity generally increased by 6.17 percent between 1982 and 1999-despite extended cloudiness due to the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo and other well-publicized environmental stresses. . . .  When dinosaurs walked the earth (about 70 to 130 million years ago), there was from five to ten times more CO2 in the atmosphere than today. The resulting abundant plant life allowed the huge creatures to thrive. . . .  Based on nearly 800 scientific observations around the world, a doubling of CO2 from present levels would improve plant productivity on average by 32 percent across species.

And they’re not alone in this subterfuge.  The National Center for Policy Analysis echoes these sentiments and makes the bold claim that a desire for greater plant yield is why botanists pump CO2 into greenhouses.  Even more astoundingly, this organization states that until just recently plants might have been suffering from CO2 deprivation.  These people are so low they snidely remarked that our savior, Al Gore, believes in instituting “carbon taxes.”
Don’t you see what’s going on?  Those innocuous looking organisms you so lovingly nurture in their pots as you provide water, sunlight and fertilizer, have designs on our civilization.  Haven’t you ever watched Day of the Triffids?  I tell you, we’re locked in a battle for survival itself with the plants.
Let not your heart be troubled, though, my friends.  The great teacher, the man who really knows  vegetative activity, Al Gore, is on the case with his keen intellect and sage stewardship.  I hear he’s going to make a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth titled Presidential Aspirations in the Balance, in which he will illustrate the direness of our predicament by demonstrating how he can fry an organic egg on his head in Bangor, Maine, at sunrise. 
Of course, ardent apologists for industrialization try to put a happy face on the CO2 molecule, but even they can’t deny that the gas’ levels are rising.  So, lo and behold, they try to sell us the line that it’s the result of natural processes.
For instance, a vile propagandist named Phillip V. Brennan wrote a piece in which he claims we now know there is much more geothermal activity beneath the ocean floor than scientists had suspected previously.  Ostensibly, this process heats up the oceans, causing them to release more CO2 into the atmosphere.  Brennan even tries to explain away our more mercurial weather, quoting a colleague who maintains that,

“. . . it is not global warming that’s causing the oceans to heat, it’s heated oceans that are warming the globe and setting up a scenario that includes among its consequences more and increasingly violent hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards.”

Yeah, sure, next he’ll tell us tsunamis are caused by underwater earthquakes.
Anyway, this Brennan character has no credibility.  Despite the fact we know that every scientist agrees with the anthropogenic global warming thesis, he claims that a petition was signed by,

“. . . over 18,000 scientists who are totally opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, which committed the world’s leading industrial nations to cut their production of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.”

Next, we hear the Earth destroyers’ answer to why our polar ice caps are melting.  They point out that the ice caps on Mars are probably melting as well, which is supposed to vindicate the idea that natural cycles are the cause.
But there’s something they won’t tell you, information I risk my life by divulging.
There’s actually a civilization of greedy little green industrialists on the red planet, who drive SUVs, heat their saucers with mahogany and teak, smoke fine cigars and are mean to children and old people.  And the only reason this is kept secret is that free traders want our shores inundated with their cheap goods, which are brought in through Area 51.
I now ask you to compare the dubious claims of the industrial apologists with the aforementioned facts.  I think it will be clear where the true sanity lies.
The truth is, as Mr. Gore would say, inconvenient.  We just don’t want to accept that we’ll have to radically alter our lifestyles; why, it’s ridiculous to think we can maintain our love affair with the combustion engine.  As Gore told us in Earth in the Balance, the automobile poses a most grave threat to mankind.  And, no, wise guys, it’s not because he spent time in a car with Ted Kennedy at the wheel. 
So I advise you all to follow the lead of French President Jacques Chirac, who found time between mistresses to warn us that “We are on the historic threshold of the irreversible,” as he called for a “revolution” to save mankind.  Besides, there is grave concern that Hillary Clinton’s personality may melt.
As for me, I’m going to go out and kill a plant.  Now, what will I wear?  Dang, the weatherman got the forecast wrong again….
Selwyn Duke is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. Contact Selwyn Duke.

Renewing the Conservative Narrative

Renewing the Conservative Narrative

By Christopher Chantrill

What a difference there is between a Republican defeat and a Democratic defeat.  After 1994 and 2000 and 2004 the Democrats were apoplectic.  They’re coming for the children, they roared after 1994. We wuz robbed, they spat after 2000.  The voting machines did it, they squirmed after 2004.
But like the sensible middle-class folks we are, we Republicans have gone home after November 2006 to do some thinking.  Some have complained about the congressional Republicans.  But they are politicians; they must deal in the art of the possible-this week! 
It is our job, especially on a page named American Thinker, is to do the thinking, and then show the American people how to make, in the words of F.A. Hayek,

“the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.” 

It was the great achievement of Ronald Reagan to do exactly that, and perhaps the greatest failing of President Bush to characterize the war on terror as a grim duty rather than as a mighty calling.
What we must do is build a new narrative.  Our postmodernist friends have poured scorn on the idea of narrative.  The great western Judeo-Christian story is a conspiracy to justify eurocentric phallocentric oppression, they write.  And they have a point.
But without a narrative to make sense of our origin and our noble destiny where would we be?  We would be just like secular, childless Europe-or even secular, childless blue-state America.
Remember the great narrative the Democrats had in their glory years?
You know how it goes.

Back in the 1920s working people suffered under the corruption of Warren Harding and the Ohio gang, Calvin Coolidge-a man “weaned on a pickle,” and Herbert Hoover, who sat around and did nothing while the nation plunged into the abyss.  Then came a man of action, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who deployed the federal government in a program of bold, persistent experimentation, declared that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and made Americans believe in themselves again with the NRA, workers’ rights, and Social Security.  Then came the Age of Civil Rights!  And then came the great society, medicare, women’s liberation, choice, gay rights, diversity, hate speech, driving while black, and mumble mumble, oh yes, the Bridge to the Twenty-first Century!

Something seems to have gone wrong with the Democratic narrative in recent years.  It’s hard to represent creaking old bureaucratic government programs as ever young and overflowing with hope. But our new conservative narrative cannot just be a Hayekian call to adventure.  Adventure is a guy thing.  Our political narrative must also celebrate safety, caring, listening, and conversation-girl things. (Why do you think Hillary Clinton’s first Senate campaign had a “listening tour” and her campaign for president is a “conversation?”)
Already, as Steven M. Warshawsky reports, willing conservatives have started to construct a new narrative.  Here is one more contribution to the effort.

“America has always been a can-do nation that cared.  When there’s a tidal wave in Indonesia, it is the US Navy that appears on the scene first with potable water.  When there’s an earthquake in Iran, Americans are there first to help people dig out.

“So when Horace Mann told us that a nation of 90 percent literacy wasn’t good enough, we set up a government education system to make it better.

“When Franklin Delano Roosevelt demanded a system to bring a bare minimum of dignity to people in old age, we gave him Social Security.
“When activist Michael Harrington reminded us of The Other America that FDR had described as “ill-fed, ill-clad, ill-housed,” we agreed to fund a war on poverty to fix it.
“Of course we did.  America is a generous nation, and the American people are a generous people.
“But when after a century of government education this nation is still only 90 percent literate, it is time for reform.  When the pension system to assist our senior citizens is going to eat the federal budget, it is time for reform.  When a war on poverty creates a underclass of broken families and drugs and violence, it is time for reform.
“But there is a problem.
“In America there is a political party that won’t listen. It blocks reform of education, year after year.
“In America there is a political party that won’t read the audit reports.  It blocks the reform of Social Security, year after year.
“In America there is a political party that doesn’t want to see the devastation of marginalized families.  It blocks further reform of welfare, year after year, even after the stunning success of the 1996 welfare reform.
“A party that won’t reform education doesn’t care about kids.
“A party that won’t reform Social Security doesn’t care about seniors.
“A party that won’t extend the successful reform of welfare doesn’t care about poor people.
“America doesn’t deserve this, because America has done better.  It can do better.  It will do better.
“So there comes a time when we must demand, like Lee Iacocca: Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
“That time is now.
“And that is why we call all Americans to join us in our great program of reform, to break the ice jam in our frozen river of government, and make it once again as warm, as generous, and as sensible as the American people.
“Nobody said it better than  Ronald Reagan in1992: America’s best days are yet to come.’

“Join us in our conversation.  With your help we will make President Reagan’s vision a reality.”

Christopher Chantrill is a regular contributor to American Thinker, and blogs at His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

Not One Thin Dime for Abbas

Not One Thin Dime for Abbas

As State presses Congress for more aid, Fatah’s terror wing murders more Israelis.

By Andrew C. McCarthy, NRO

When will the madness end? When will the Bush administration and Condoleezza Rice’s State Department finally stop their deranged midwifery of the Palestinian terror state conceived by the Clinton administration amid the mood music of two Intifadas?

On Monday, a 21-year-old suicide bomber, Muhammad Faisal al-Siksik, self-detonated at a bakery in the coastal town of Eilat on the Red Sea. Three innocents were killed: the bakery’s two Israeli owners and their Peruvian employee (whose family hails from Miami). Soon after came the claim of responsibility. The operation was carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, working in conjunction with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Aqsa Brigades are not just any group of terrorists. They are the most ruthless, accomplished terror wing of Fatah, the organization bequeathed to us by the late Yasser Arafat. The Bush administration delusionally regards Fatah and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas (also known as “Abu Mazen”), as the “moderate” Palestinian faction. There is nothing moderate about them. Yet, the administration appears determined to play this foolish game to its inevitable end because, like its starry-eyed predecessor, it is entranced by the holy grail of Israeli/Palestinian peace.

Peace, of course, would require two sides desirous of coexistence. We’re one short. Palestinians do not seek to coexist with Israel. They seek to destroy Israel. But that may have to await their annihilation of each other, with Fatah and its fellow thug, Hamas, now locked in a struggle for control.

Hamas is proudly unyielding in its announced intention to vaporize the “Zionist entity.” By contrast, Fatah is cagier but no less determined. In the Arafat style, it feints every now and again toward negotiation with Israel. There is, after all, a trough of Western billions for any Palestinian leadership willing to affect aspiration toward the Clinton/Bush nirvana: two states, Israel and “Palestine,” living side-by-side in peace. Fatah needs those billions to keep its operatives loyal. Historically, it is a pervasively corrupt, creakily socialist outfit — a former Soviet client averse to elementary economic development.

But the act is just that, an act. The Fatah constitution still calls for the “eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence[,]” through an “armed revolution” which is to be the “decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence” — a revolution that “will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

Consistent with this overarching plan, the U.S.-led “peace process” has been a 14-year sham — hence, the intervening Intifada and related terror gambits. Fatah may occasionally say it will live with Israel, but it has demonstrated, repeatedly, that it will never agree to the commonsense requirements of coexistence: It not only demands land and Jerusalem as its national capital; it refuses to disarm terrorist militias and insists on a refugee “right of return” — an influx of well over a million Palestinians that would effectively destroy the tiny Jewish state from within.

By our State Department’s lights, this qualifies as “moderation” — perhaps because Hamas’s direct approach is bereft of diplomatic nicety, while the savvier Fatah seems willing to attrit Israel to death. (Such new gloss on the withering Bush Doctrine is also on display in Baghdad, where the administration now regularly consults with Abdul Azziz al-Hakim, or, as the White House describes him, “His Eminence,” leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — a creation of Iran).

The murderous Aqsa Brigades, however, put the lie to Fatah’s charade rather embarrassingly. They were officially designated by the United States government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2002 after executing a series of atrocities conjoined to Arafat’s orchestration of the second Intifada, which began in late 2000 and has never officially ended.

There is no question the Brigades are part and parcel of Fatah. Documents seized by the Israeli Defense Force established that Arafat was paying them directly. Moreover, in a 2004 interview with the Arabic daily, Asharq al-Awsat, Fatah’s Ahmed Qurei, then Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, proclaimed: “We have clearly declared that the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are part of Fatah[.]… We are committed to them and Fatah bears full responsibility for the group.” Qurei maintained that they “will not be dismantled,” and that each of the Brigades’ members had “the right to play a political role within the framework of Fatah.”

The Brigades are brazen about their intentions. They have, for example, expressed their “[i]dentification with and overall support of the position and declaration of the Iranian President [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], who called with all honesty to wipe Israel off the map of the world[,]” adding: “We stress our support of the Iranian president’s position toward the fictitious Zionist state, which will disappear with the help of Allah.”

This should come as no surprise since, like many terrorist organizations, the Brigades receive financing from Iran and training from Hezbollah, with whom they coordinate attacks. (In fact, the Jerusalem Post reported just a few days ago that Hezbollah has provided Palestinian terror groups with “high-grade explosives that have significantly improved the effectiveness of roadside improvised explosive devices (IED) used against [Israeli Defense Force] patrols.”)

Of a piece with these alliances, the Brigades have recently taken to threatening the United States directly. Last May, while Abbas conferred with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the Brigades issued a warning that “[w]e won’t remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the U.S. and other countries[.]…We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad.”

Abbas keeps close ties to the Brigades. His wary confederation with Marwan Barghouti, a formative Brigades figure currently serving a life sentence in Israel for multiple murders, was essential to his 2004 election as Palestinian Authority president. The support of Barghouti and the Brigades remains key to Abbas’s hold on Fatah’s reins. Indeed, the German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported last March that Abbas has appointed another Aqsa heavyweight, Zakariya Zubeidi, to head the police force in Jenin — only after personally witnessing a demonstration of the wild popularity Zubeidi and the Brigades enjoy in that West Bank cauldron (Hat tip to the Vital Perspective Blog).

Consequently, the revelations recently reported in the Israeli press by one “Abu Ahmed,” a Fatah member and Aqsa Brigades leader, are alarming, albeit predictable. Ahmed explained that Abbas’s claim to recognize Israel’s right to exist was merely a “political calculation,” and that the aims of Fatah and the Brigades remain one and the same: the ultimate destruction of Israel. “The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Akko,” he reportedly stated. “There is no change in our position. Abbas recognizes Israel because of pressure that the Zionists and the Americans are exercising on him. We understand this is part of his obligations and political calculations.”

Regrettably, the quixotic quest for Middle East peace has rendered Secretary Rice oblivious to Fatah’s long-entrenched and quite current record of terror. In an October 11, 2006, speech at the inaugural gala for the latest “Task Force on Palestine,” she asserted:

    If peace and dignity are to prevail in the region, then it is absolutely essential for leaders to be able to show, for moderate leaders to show, that their ideas, and their principles, and their vision for the future can offer a better alternative than violence and terrorism. That is why President Bush asked me to travel last week to the Middle East — to confer with moderate voices, with moderate Arab governments and with moderate leaders, to build a support for those people who are trying and who need our help more than ever now, leaders like … most especially, of course, President Abbas in the Palestinian territories, from whom we have just heard.

It didn’t take long for Abbas to make a mockery out of this gushing tribute. On January 11, 2007, addressing a throng of about 50,000 at Fatah’s 42nd anniversary (after laying a wreath at the hallowed grave of the terror master, Arafat), the “moderate leader” railed:

    “[W]ith the will and determination of its sons, Fatah has and will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation…. We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation….”

Those “principles” were reaffirmed yet again on Monday. They snuffed out the lives of three ordinary civilians whose great contribution to the “occupation” was to toil at a bakery. It was, once more, the handiwork of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the savages who do Fatah’s dirty work while America swoons.

Remarkably, the Bush administration has asked Congress to fork up $86 million in aid for Fatah’s security forces — forces in which many Brigades members now serve, and into which Fatah envisions someday folding the Brigades. That, evidently, is the “moderate” manner of “dismantling” terrorists: you simply mantle them to the regular police.

It is madness. Congress should give Abbas not one thin dime. Let’s stop making fools of ourselves. Let’s first hear Abbas unambiguously condemn the Aqsa Brigades and purge them from Fatah. Let’s hear Abbas loudly assert that all suicide bombings and other attacks intentionally targeting civilians are unacceptable. Let’s hear Abbas acknowledge that a peaceful settlement cannot realistically include a right of return.

How hard can that be for a “moderate”?

Andrew C. McCarthy directs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Why Civilian Trials for Terrorists are a Bad Idea

Why Civilian Trials for Terrorists are a Bad Idea
By John Perazzo | February 6, 2007

On November 13, 2001 — two months after 9/11 — President Bush signed an Executive Order authorizing the
U.S. government to try accused terrorists in military tribunals (a.k.a. military commissions) rather than in civilian courts. The president’s decision was swiftly and widely condemned by the political Left, which accused him of trampling on the civil rights and liberties of defendants who, the critics said, should be entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal court system where the standards that govern the admissibility of evidence are considerably stricter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals. The indicted
al-Qaeda operative and
U.S. citizen
Jose Padilla who was initially accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb and to blow up multiple high-rise apartment buildings in an American city became a cause celebre for the anti-tribunal chorus.

Then in June 2006 the Supreme Court ruled, with a five-Justice majority, that President Bush’s military tribunals were not authorized by federal law. This did not mean that tribunal rules were flawed or unconstitutional in any way, but only that those rules needed to be formally voted into law — or formally rejected — by Congress. In response to this decision, five months later Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, formally authorizing the adjudication of war crimes and terrorism cases in military courts. The House of Representatives vote was 253 to 168 (Republicans voted 219 to 7 in favor, Democrats 160 to 34 against); the overall Senate margin was 65 to 34 in favor.

According to the Defense Department, military tribunals, where military officers serve as the judges and jurors, are designed to deal with offenses committed in the context of warfare including pillaging; terrorism; wilfully killing or attacking civilians; taking hostages; employing poison or analogous weapons; using civilians as human shields; torture; mutilation or maiming; improperly using a flag of surrender; desecrating or abusing a dead body; rape; hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft; aiding the enemy; spying; providing false testimony or perjury; soliciting others to commit offenses that are triable by military jurisprudence; and intending or conspiring to commit, or to aid in the commission of, such crimes.

The issue of whether it is appropriate to try someone accused of the aforementioned transgressions in a military court depends upon how one answers a single overriding question: Is terrorism a matter of war, or is it a legal issue where redress should be pursued via the criminal-justice system — like robbery, vandalism, or murder? To answer this question, it is useful to have an operational definition for the term “terrorism.” The FBI places terrorism in a category clearly distinct from the crimes traditionally handled by civilian courts, defining it as the “unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

By sending American troops into
Afghanistan to overthrow that nation’s al-Qaeda-sponsoring Taliban regime, President Bush signaled clearly that he considered the atrocities of 9/11 to be acts of war that merited a military response; that is, he did not view the hijackings as mere violations of criminal codes by a band of 19 outlaws, but as acts of terrorism. It would not be enough, he decided, to merely track down whoever may have personally conspired with the hijackers and try them in federal court. Fifteen years earlier, President Reagan had responded similarly to the deadly
bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by American soldiers. Once
U.S. intelligence authorities had gathered convincing evidence that Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi’s Libyan government had sponsored the attack, Reagan deemed it an act of war and, rather than standing pat until redress could be achieved in a court of law, he ordered carrier-based warplanes to strike targets in

The Left largely rejects the notion that the current War on Terror is a legitimate, or even an actual, war characterizing it instead as a contrived pretext for American imperialism (and oil-grabbing) abroad, and for the erosion of civil liberties domestically. Attorneys Spencer J. Crona and Neal A. Richardson suggest that many Americans have accepted this perspective because metaphorical references to “war” abound in contemporary vernacular references to such endeavors as the “war on poverty,” the “war on drugs,” the “war on AIDS,” and the “war on hunger.” As a result, say Crona and Richardson, people may be inclined to view the war on terror as yet another social-justice or law-enforcement undertaking that, while it might warrant some financing, certainly does not merit military action.

In addition, a significant proportion of Americans fail utterly to understand the nature of the enemy that has declared war on them. As the late Ayatollah Khomeini (a Shi’ite) of Iran announced in the wake of the 1979 hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, “We are at war with infidels…I ask all Islamic nations…to join the holy war.” Today Osama bin Laden (a Sunni) preaches a similar doctrine of death. In 1996 he issued his Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, and two years later he set forth a Declaration of Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. Whatever hatreds the Shi’ites and Sunnis feel toward one another, they are united by their shared commitment to wage war on
America. Yet leftists choose to pretend that a state of war did not exist until President Bush deployed
U.S. troops to
Afghanistan and
Iraq. Khomeini himself viewed such self-deceivers with the greatest contempt when he sneered: “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those who say this are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter their armies.”

But opponents of military tribunals argue that even if radical Islamists have in fact declared war on America, the U.S. Congress, which has sole authority to make formal declarations of war, has not done so in this case — and that the use of such tribunals is therefore logically unjustifiable. There is in fact considerable precedent, however, for trying accused war criminals in military courts even in the absence of a Congressional declaration of war: President Abraham Lincoln used military commissions extensively to sentence Confederate terrorists for such crimes as seizure, arson, and the destruction of transportation, communication or other systems of infrastructure during the American Civil War.

In all of American history, Congress has made formal declarations of war only five times: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. But as Henry Mark Holzer points out, presidents acting in their capacity as commanders-in-chief have sent troops into battle at least 130 times in the absence of such declarations. Sometimes those military conflicts, while not formally declared wars, were explicitly authorized by Congress. Among these were the
Vietnam War (authorized by a vote of 88-2 in the Senate, and 418-0 in the House); the 1991 Persian Gulf War (52-47 in the Senate, 250-183 in the House); the 2001 invasion of
Afghanistan (98-0 in the Senate, 420-1 in the House); and the 2003 invasion of
Iraq (77-23 in the Senate, 296-133 in the House).

In other cases the
U.S. has engaged in combat against a particular form of enemy aggression, even though our country was not officially at war with the nation from which the aggressors hailed. A good example of this was the 1801 Talbot v. Seeman Supreme Court case, which involved French privateers who were preying on American commercial shipping. In its decision, the Court affirmed Congress’s right to declare a “partial war” against the transgressors. Chief Justice John Marshall
wrote at the time: “The whole powers of war being, by the Constitution of the United States, vested in Congress…Congress may authorize general hostilities, in which case the general laws of war apply to our situation; or partial war, in which case the laws of war, so far as they actually apply to our situation, must be noticed.” The parallel with the current war on terror, where intelligence and military forces seek to combat saboteurs and killers from a number of nations that are not formally at war with
America, is obvious.

If we accept the premise that terrorism cases can rightfully be categorized under the heading of war, a secondary consideration in determining if military tribunals are the proper venue for their adjudication involves the question of whether a given defendant is a “lawful combatant” or an “unlawful combatant.” The former is entitled to prisoner-of-war status and its accompanying Geneva Convention protections; the latter is entitled to none of that. Article IV of the Geneva Convention defines lawful combatants as those whose military organization meets four very specific criteria: “(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign [a uniform or emblem] recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; [and] (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.” Al-Qaeda fails even to come close to satisfying these conditions. In the 1942 Ex parte Quirin case, the U.S. Supreme Court spelled out the implications of such failure:   

[T]he law of war draws a distinction between the armed forces and the peaceful populations of belligerent nations and also between those who are lawful and unlawful combatants. Lawful combatants are subject to capture and detention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful. The spy who secretly and without uniform passes the military lines of a belligerent in time of war, seeking to gather military information and communicate it to the enemy, or an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals. “Our government, the Court added, “by thus defining lawful belligerents entitled to be treated as prisoners of war, has recognized that there is a class of unlawful belligerents not entitled to that privilege, including those who, though combatants, do not wear ‘fixed and distinctive emblems.’”

If a terror suspect does not even qualify for designation as a lawful combatant, giving him access to the civil rights protections of the American jury system can properly be defined as an act of madness.

In recent years a Geneva Protocol relaxed the foregoing criteria in recognition of guerrilla fighters as legitimate combatants in what are nominally “wars of national liberation,” even though they neither wear uniforms nor bear arms openly at all times. But even under this lower standard, the designation of “lawful combatant” requires one to eschew indiscriminate attacks against civilians and to bear arms openly during military deployment and engagement requirements that al-Qaeda operatives do not fulfill. As Crona and Richardson write, “A casually attired driver of a van carrying a concealed bomb does not fit anyone’s definition of a lawful combatant.”
Apart from the question of whether military tribunals are a good idea philosophically, trying terrorists and war criminals in civilian rather than military courts poses a number of serious problems from a practical standpoint. For one thing, the rules defining admissible and inadmissible evidence in each venue differ dramatically. In civilian trials, neither coerced testimony, nor confessions made in the absence of a Miranda warning, nor hearsay evidence can presented to the court; in military tribunals the opposite is true, provided that the court determines such evidence to have “probative value to a reasonable person.” Crona and Richardson explain the profound significance of this:  A relaxation of the hearsay rule might become critical in a prosecution for terrorism where it may be impossible to produce live witnesses to an event which occurred years earlier in a foreign country. For example, the indictment in the Pan Am Flight 103 case details the alleged purchase of clothing, by Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Bassett, for placement in the suitcase with the bomb. The clothing was used to disguise the contents of the suitcase containing the bomb, which was placed inside a radio-cassette player. Under the rules of evidence applicable in U.S. District Court, the prosecution would have to produce in person the Maltese shopkeeper to identify Abdel Bassett as the man who allegedly purchased the clothing back in 1988, as opposed to producing the investigator who tracked down the shopkeeper and showed him a photograph of Abdel Bassett. Even if we assume that the shopkeeper could be located six years or more after the fact, we recognize that it is nearly impossible to secure involuntary testimony from a witness who is a citizen of a foreign country, especially one that historically has been less than sympathetic to the
United States. The reach of a federal court subpoena simply does not extend to
 The rules governing the admissibility of coerced testimony and hearsay have a direct bearing on the case of Jose Padilla, who is now being tried in a civilian court. In June 2004 the Justice Department released a declassified document enumerating Padilla’s various terrorist plans and his al-Qaeda connections. The information therein came not only from Padilla’s own admissions, but also from a number of additional al-Qaeda detainees who independently confirmed (sometimes through coerced testimony) the details that Padilla gave, particularly about the plots to detonate a “dirty bomb” and to blow up apartment buildings. But none of this evidence will be admissible in Padilla’s current trial. Consequently, he is being formally charged with offenses of far less gravity than those detailed in the aforementioned Justice Department document. As The New York Times explains:  [C]onstrained by strict federal rules of evidence that would prohibit or limit the use of information obtained during [coercive] interrogations, the government will make a far more circumscribed case against Mr. Padilla in court, effectively demoting him from Al-Qaeda’s dirty bomber to foot soldier in a somewhat nebulous conspiracy. … Senior government officials have said publicly that Mr. Padilla provided self-incriminating information during interrogations, admitting, they said, to undergoing basic terrorist training, to accepting an assignment to blow up apartment buildings in the United States, and to attending a farewell dinner with Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected master planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, before he flew to Chicago in 2002. But any confessions by Mr. Padilla while he was detained without charges and denied access to counsel — whether or not he was mistreated, as his lawyers claim — would not be admissible in court. And it is unlikely that information obtained during the harsh questioning of Al-Qaeda detainees would be admissible, either…. Trials of terrorists in civilian courts are beset by further practical limitations as well. Consider, for example, a hypothetical instance where
U.S. military personnel capture a foreign terrorist overseas and transport him to the
United States, against his will, for trial.
Explains attorney Mitchell Lathrop: “Immediately apparent are the issues of the legitimacy of the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over him by the
United States, i.e., his arrest in the first instance, and his involuntary transportation to the
United States. Then come the issues of the selection of the proper jurisdiction for the trial, the application of the laws of his own country, the selection of a jury, and even personal and subject matter jurisdiction of
U.S. courts. Any qualified defense lawyer would certainly challenge jurisdiction and a series of complicated appeals would inevitably result. In the final analysis, a plea bargain could well result just to avoid the interminable delays.” Dealing with terrorists under such a set of rules is analogous to participating in a shootout where only the enemy’s weapon is loaded. Moreover, it signals to the watching world that Americans have become consumed by guilt vis a vis the allegedly irredeemable flaws of their own culture and, as a consequence, do not possess the requisite courage for dealing aggressively with those who would seek to destroy their country.    
 Another exceedingly significant weakness inherent in civilian trials for terrorists is the fact that in such proceedings, there exists a high likelihood that classified intelligence sources will be compromised. If the government wishes to present certain incriminating evidence in a civilian trial, which is open to the public, it must disclose its sources as well as the techniques it used for obtaining the information from them. This obviously would place those sources in grave danger and would quickly lead to the non-cooperation or disappearance of many of them to say nothing of the future potential informants who would undoubtedly choose to avoid placing themselves in similar peril. Moreover, the effectiveness of any publicly disclosed information-gathering techniques would thereafter be permanently compromised. As John Dean writes, “Many cases have never been prosecuted against criminals because to do so would force disclosure of a valued intelligence source be it an informant, an enemy code that had been broken, or an illegal electronic intelligence source.” By contrast, military tribunals permit incriminating evidence to be presented to the judge and jury, while being kept secret from the public as well as from the defendant and his attorney.

ritics commonly suggest that, given the foregoing ground rules, military tribunals are little more than kangaroo courts where defendants have no chance of receiving a fair hearing. This may well have been true in Stalin’s
Russia, but by no means has it been the case where Western democracies are concerned.
Consider the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany, architects of the Holocaust. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg acquitted three of the twenty-two major defendants; sentenced four others to twenty years in prison or less; and sentenced three to life in prison. In other words, nearly half of those accused were spared the death penalty. Similarly,
United States military tribunals, which were composed solely of American judges, tried 177 other Nazi officials and members of the SS, convicting 142 and executing only 12.  It can be reasonably argued that military jurors are
less likely than their civilian counterparts to render decisions rooted in “inflamed passions” rather than in solid evidence. Finally, we must acknowledge that those who serve as jurors in the civilian trials of accused terrorists may, if they render “guilty” verdicts, be extremely vulnerable to violent retribution from affiliated terrorist and militia groups — another argument against civilian trials for terrorists.

For those who are concerned about legal precedent, it must be understood that the use of m
ilitary tribunals for the adjudication of war crimes is in no way a departure from past practices. As noted earlier, military commissions were used commonly during the Civil War. Prior to that, General George Washington employed such tribunals during the American Revolution in the late 18th century. In the era following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, military tribunals were first convened by Major General Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, to adjudicate the alleged war crimes of American troops and Mexican guerrilla fighters alike. World War II also saw the use of military courts, the most famous case involving eight marines of the Third Reich (one of whom was an American citizen named Herbert Haupt) who rode a Nazi U-boat to the east coast of the United States, where, laden with explosives, they disembarked and set off toward various locations with the intent of bombing railroads, hydroelectric plants, factories, department stores, and defense facilities across the country. The saboteurs were wearing no military uniforms or identifying emblems when they were captured, meaning that they were, in the eyes of the law (as defined by the Supreme Court in Ex parte Quirin, quoted earlier in this article), “unlawful combatants.” Refusing to grant the perpetrators civilian jury trials, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly created a secret military commission to hear their cases. All eight were convicted and sentenced to death, though two turncoats later had their sentences commuted to life in prison.

Notwithstanding (or perhaps because of) the indisputable fact that trials by military commissions would permit the United States to prosecute terrorism cases much more quickly and effectively than would civilian trials, the political Left overwhelmingly condemns such tribunals, calling instead for greater civil liberties safeguards for suspected terrorists.

University historian Alan Brinkley
calls the use of military tribunals “one of the most extraordinary assaults on civil liberties” in American history. Senator Harry Reid, D-NV, complains, remarkably, that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 “does not provide the terror suspects with enough of the civil rights granted to Americans facing trials in
U.S. courts.” And Senator Chris Dodd, D-CT, a presidential candidate for 2008, has introduced
legislation that would give habeas corpus protections to military detainees; prohibit the introduction of evidence that was gained through coercive methods; authorize military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable; and narrow the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant.”

Such is the mindset of the Left ever prepared to defend the supposed rights and liberties of every last terrorist, as if the Constitution of the
United States were nothing more than a suicide pact for the American people.

Sources: * Spencer J. Crona and Neal A. Richardson, “Justice For War Criminals of Invisible Armies: A New Legal and Military Approach to Terrorism” (Summer/Fall 1996)* John Dean, “The Critics Are Wrong” (November 23, 2001)* John Dean, “Appropriate Justice for Terrorists” (September 28, 2001)* John Dean, “Military Tribunals: A Long And Mostly Honorable History” (December 7, 2001)* Michael C. Dorf, “What Is an ‘Unlawful Combatant,’ and Why it Matters” (January 23, 2002)* Henry Mark Holzer, “Who’s Who Among American Terrorists” (October 17, 2002)
* Henry Mark Holzer, “
The Fifth Column’s Legal Team” (June 18, 2002)

* Mitchell L. Lathrop, “A Realistic Look at Terrorism Trials” (November 2001)
* Michelle Malkin, “No More Jury Trials for Terrorists” (
October 24, 2001)

* Deborah Sontag, “In Padilla Wiretaps, Murky View of ‘Jihad’ Case” (January 4, 2007)
* Jonathan Weisman, “
Battle Looms in Congress over Military Tribunals” (July 13, 2006)
* “
U.S. Supreme Court: Holtzman v. Schlesinger, 414 U.S. 1304” (1973)