Middle East Archives

September 11, After the Fact

The 9/11 memorial services came and went yesterday, with the appropriate solemnity and words for those who lost loved one, and for the rest of us who, as Tom noted, were also affected by the terror attacks. I talked again with a couple of my kids of their memories of that day, and mine, and of a family member who watched it happen live from the roof of the building where he worked in downtown New York. I think it’s good, and cathartic, to relive that occasionally and really remember how strange and terrible it was.

But it’s September 12th today. It’s after. The past decade has been one of conflicting ideas of how our country has gone and should have gone following those events. Over the weekend, I read an article that got me thinking; we’ve actually done pretty well.

With the headline “9/11: the decade since the September 11 attacks has been one to celebrate”, Richard Fenning (CEO of Control Risks, a firm advising on political, security and integrity risks), writing in the London Telegraph, reminds us that the past 10 years, while having its own set of concerns and political arguments, has actually been good for the US.

Al-Qaida and its affiliates continued to plan attacks. Some succeeded, others were frustrated by massive international counter-terrorism efforts. But we became conditioned to the inevitability of future attacks. This anxiety was used to justify forms of intelligence-gathering – extraordinary rendition, water-boarding – we had previously preferred not to know about.

Public support fractured. Moral clarity was partly replaced by cynicism in the West as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq became less about building shiny new nations and more about bringing our troops home with a modicum of dignity intact. Western opinion seemed to oscillate between aggressive defensiveness from the political right and hand-wringing contrition from the left. There seemed little space for consensus.

In the Muslim world, responses varied. In countries like Saudi Arabia, pragmatic support for the US remained firm, founded on shared animosity to Iran, and fear of local, radical Islamism. In Pakistan, the Afghan spillover ruptured fragile political stability, culminating in the killing of bin Laden by US Special Forces a few miles from a top military establishment. The prospect of an enduring peace between Israel and Palestine remains pretty much where it was ten years ago: nowhere.

But to everyone’s surprise – including a deflated al-Qaida – the decade ends with the ‘Arab spring’ dispatching rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya. Syria hangs in the balance. Theirs is an unfinished story in which unpredictability is the only certainty.

Fenning’s business is one of managing risk, so he obviously stresses those situations where things are shaky. But I would point out the good news:

  • There have been no major terrorist attacks in the US in the past 10 years. Say what you will about the measures that have been taken, if anyone, during the year after 9/11 that we’d be completely safe from anything close to that for 10 years, they would have certainly hedged any bet on that.
  • It’s the Arabs that are having a “spring”. It is they who are overthrowing their longtime dictators. Indeed, as Fenning notes, what’s to come is still uncertain, but the upheaval that bin Laden was hoping to cause here was very short-lived, relatively speaking. Instead, the Middle East is busy tearing down its autocrats, while Israel and the US are as stable as ever (economic self-inflicted wounds here notwithstanding).
  • And speaking of bin Laden, he’s no longer with us.

There are still those out there that wish to harm us, and have succeeded, on occasion, to a very small extent. But we have emerged from this ordeal with, I think, a more sober view of the world and of our “untouchableness”. The realization of who the major enemy is has been understood to varying degrees by most people.

And the feared mass persecution of Muslims never materialized. There may have been an uptick in violence, and there are those now who (fairly or not) still regard Muslims in airports with additional scrutiny, but the fact remains that the trend worldwide is still that Christians are the ones most persecuted (75% of incidences in a recent report).

I believe we’ve taken this tragedy and turned it around. Granted, as fallible human beings, not all the lessons to be learned were, and not all the changes made were for the better. But in the big picture, I think we’ve done pretty good with the hand we were dealt in 2001.

And that’s worth remembering, too.

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    Well, this was just a matter of time. "New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security’s much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry, too, leaving it unable to pay full benefits as well."

    A Jewish friend of mine give a report on Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Courage" rally in Caesarea, Israel.

    "A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them." Yes, you read that right. Read the rest of it.

    Good news on the abortion front. Defenders of human life are advancing in the war of ideas.

    If unions can get their gravy train, they’ll just take their ball and go home.

    The long obsolete Fairness Doctrine finally, officially, dies.

    When Bush’s approval ratings were low, hardly a day went by when the media made note of it. Now that Obama is in the same territory, all of a sudden approval ratings don’t seem to be news. (Just like involvement in foreign wars and casualties from the same.)

    The media will ask conservatives "Yes or no, do you believe in evolution?", but they’ll never ask a liberal "Yes or no, do you believe in the Bible?"

    Could you escape a terrorist attack in 15 seconds? In southern Israel, where rockets from Gaza are a nearly-daily occurrence, they have to.

    The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) (no, really, "CERN") published a report in the magazine "Nature" that shows the Sun really does have more influence over our weather, clouds specifically, and thus current climate models will need to be (and I quote) "substantially revised".

    Sorry, no cartoon this week. Nothing really stuck out.

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      Friday Link Wrap-up

      A new experiment suggests that the Sun may play a bigger part than first though in climate change. But since this challenges the current orthodoxy, "The chief of the world’s leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions" from that experiment. Further, a peer-reviewed study using NASA satellite data shows that the Earth is releasing more heat into space than climate computer models assumed.

      Anders Breivik, the madman who was responsible for the recent massacre in Norway, is often referred to as a "Christian terrorist". Granted, he called himself "Christian", but his aims were political. But the Left really, really wants to use him to equate radical Islamic terrorism and so-called "Christian terrorism". The Blaze asks,

      Have any churches or clergymen openly celebrated Breivik’s slaughter of innocents? Are young Christian children dancing in the streets anywhere in Europe, as young Muslims did in Gaza on September 11, 2001? Could any honest observer of the world over the past 30 years believe that Christianity and Islam have played equal parts in terrorist attacks?

      And Chuck Colson notes, the secularization of Europe, with its refusing to understand the problem of evil and sin inherent in human nature, is not helping Norway work through this or prevent it happening again.

      More rationing of health care in England. This will happen here under ObamaCare. History has already spoken.

      What G. K. Chesterton had to say about the Tea Party. (Sort of.)

      Obama may have inherited a mess from Bush, but y’know Reagan inherited a similar mess (in some cases, a worse mess) from Carter. And he did far better with it.

      The US accuses Iran of aiding Al Qaeda. Are pitiful sanctions really helping things out here? AQ would love to get its hand on a nuke, and so would Iran.

      Government, apparently in the pocket of Big Agriculture, bringing more red tape and expense to the family farm.

      The Obama administration admits "the White House doesn’t create jobs". It’s about time you realized that, guys. Congress doesn’t either. Government can get out of the way (or get in the way) of business, which does create jobs.

      When Sarah Palin came onto the scene, with her history of speaking truth to power, even within her own political party, I noted that the Democrats, who purport to love that sort of thing, went on the attack instead. Like watching "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and rooting against Jimmy Stewart. Now, the same Dems who purport to want grass-roots groups to help fix Washington ask the media to ignore the biggest grass-roots effort in a long time. True colors: Shown!

      And speaking of "terrorists" (click for a larger version):

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        The Truth About the West Bank

        Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The video explains where the terms "West Bank", "occupied territories" and "67 Borders" originated and how they are incorrectly used and applied. Before you can have a reasonable discussion about the Middle East and the Israel/Palestinian issue, you need to know your history. This is a good summary in 6 minutes.

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          "Smart" Diplomacy

          All that goodwill that George W. Bush squandered, especially in the Muslim world, was going to be returned under Obama. Yeah, right.

          Today’s eye-opening IBOPE Zogby International poll for the Arab American Institute Foundation should be a wake-up call to the White House on its failing foreign policy. After two and a half years of bashing Israel, appeasing rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria, and promising a new era of relations with the Muslim world, Washington is now less popular in major Arab countries than it was when George W. Bush was in the White House.

          The poll surveys Arab opinion in six countries: Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and reveals that “Arabs see the Obama Administration’s handling of most Middle East policy issues as having made no contribution to improving US-Arab relations. Only on the issue of the “no-fly zone over Libya” do a majority of Saudis and plurality of Lebanese see a positive contribution.”

          I don’t think Obama ever said how it was going to be different; he merely declared it would be so. Well, it’s different, just not in the way those who voted for him expected.

          Change!

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            Friday Link Wrap-up

            Medical

            UK cancer survival rates are the worst in the Western world. And yet another example of Sarah Palin’s death panels, "And the elderly are routinely denied surgery or drugs to remove tumours because doctors think it is not worthwhile."

            Politics

            President Obama brings bi-partisanship to Washington. "Crossing party lines to deliver a stunning rebuke to the commander in chief, the vast majority of the House voted Friday for resolutions telling President Obama he has broken the constitutional chain of authority by committing U.S. troops to the international military mission in Libya.

            Obama wouldn’t defend federal law in court (DOMA), wouldn’t abide by the War Powers Act, and is now ignoring a law intended to protect Medicare.

            Medical & Politics

            You can keep your current insurance under ObamaCare…unless your employer is one of the 30% that say they’d drop it.

            Under a Republican administration, this would be considered a church/state entanglement. For a Democrat, free pass.

            U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked black pastors and clergy members to help the administration fight what she called “mistruths” about the health care reform law President Barack Obama signed into law last year

            Middle East

            When 90% of folks in the Middle East hold an unfavorable opinion of Jews (Jordan 97%, Palestinians 97%, Egypt 95%, Lebanon 98%), you gotta’ wonder how possible peace is between them. You also gotta’ wonder how much is prejudice. Once you get to know those Jews, attitudes turn around. "By contrast, only 35% of Israeli Arabs expressed a negative opinion of Jews, while 56% voiced a favorable opinion."

            Iran suggests that the day after their first nuclear test would be no big deal. They are floating the trial balloon. Will the world notice?

             

            And finally, some sacrifice is shared rather unequally. (Click for a larger version.)

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              America and Israel

              Walter Russell Mead has a fascinating essay on what went wrong last week for President Obama in his latest attempts to move the Middle East peace process forward. The whole thing is worth reading. But the most striking passage comes at the end when Mead turns his focus onto what makes the relationship between America and Israel so special:

              As the stunning and overwhelming response to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Congress showed, Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth.  Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul.  The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism.  The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America.

              It means more.  The existence of Israel means that the God of the Bible is still watching out for the well-being of the human race.  For many American Christians who are nothing like fundamentalists, the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and their creation of a successful, democratic state after two thousand years of oppression and exile is a clear sign that the religion of the Bible can be trusted.

              Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith.  Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don’t ‘get’ Israel also don’t ‘get’ America and don’t ‘get’ God.

              Hat tip: James Taranto

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                What Leadership Looks Like

                In a speech that has been referred to as Churchillian, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a powerful address to Congress and provided a clear example of what true leadership looks like.

                There’s no doubt that this is the kind of leadership that Americans are craving. As Hugh Hewitt notes, ” No teleprompter is necessary when you believe what you say and have history, law and morality on your side.”

                As Republicans consider who to nominate to run against President Barack Obama next year they should look closely at the field and ask “Who is our Netanyahu?”

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                  This is 4 minute of PM Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress today. If the Palestinians will acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, that would put so much on the table.

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                    Prospects for Peace

                    From "Stand for Israel", the blog of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (where our contributor Jim now works):

                    Palestinians rioted in East Jerusalem Monday after hearing news of Osama bin Laden’s death. The rioters threw stones at police and attempted to block roads in the Silwan neighborhood, right outside the Old City of Jerusalem.

                    Hamas, which has recently announced that it is finalizing a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority, denounced the assassination of bin Laden, hailing him as an ”Arab holy warrior.” Hams leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned the U.S. for killing bin Laden and claimed that this is an example of “American policy based on the oppression and bloodshed in the Muslim and Arab world.”

                    So then, what do you think are the prospect for peace with a group that simultaneously hails the late bin Laden as a holy warrior, will not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and has been welcomed into a pact with Fatah? Hmm?

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                      Closure

                      Some thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden.

                      OBL’s death was a targeted killing. Cheers are going up all over the world for the targeted killing of a terrorist. Now can we stop condemning Israel for doing the same thing?

                      Hamas condemned the killing of bin Laden, whom they called a "holy warrior". This is the same Hamas that has just  signed a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority and that was hailed by Jimmy Carter. Great timing, Fatah. Do we really think honest negotiation will come out of this?

                      This all happened within a stones throw (well, a really good throw) of Pakistan’s military academy. Lots of questions should be asked about this.

                      OBL has been at that location since 2005. Thanks to George W. Bush for finding that out, and thanks to Barack Obama for making the gutsy call to go in with Navy Seals and confirming the kill rather than bombing the place and not being sure. This is not the end of the war on terror, but it is a huge psychological blow.

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                        Vacation Link Wrap-up

                        Last week was Spring Break for us, but that doesn’t mean I stopped reading the news.

                        The long arm of “Pastor” Terry Jones. Obama bombs a Muslim country, and all’s quiet, but one nut half a world away burns a Koran, and gets disproportional media coverage for it, and Afghans riot, killing at least a dozen people.  Jones may be overreacting, but he’s got nothing on the angry mullahs in Afghanistan. And after all, according to NBC, burning the Koran is worse than burning the Bible because the Bible was written by men, not God. (Where do they get their religion experts?)

                        A new Broadway musical attacks Muslims! This could spawn more riots! Oh, wait. It attacks Mormons. Well then, never mind.

                        Say it isn’t so! The New York Times is getting its “facts” from left-wing websites and not checking said “facts” for accuracy. Oh, that liberal media.

                        The Obama Doctrine; looking more and more like the Bush Doctrine. (And the Bush Doctrine is really just common sense.)

                        Name the Senator who used to think that a war without congressional authority would be “monarchist”? Click here for the video.

                        Carbon emissions dropped 21% from 2000-2009, without cap-and-trade. Gee, wonder who the President was during that time.

                        Jimmy Carter equates Christianity with Islam in how both religions view women as inferior. Really, Jimmy? I guess if nations that are (or were) historically Christian would do things like, oh, allow women to vote, or hold jobs, or drive, or not have to cover their entire bodies with tents, then perhaps we can revisit this question.

                        And finally, two nuclear questions. (Click for a larger image.)

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                          Friday Link Wrap-up

                          The death panels have begun, deciding which newborn babies live or die. Don Surber says, "Under President Obama the purpose of the greatest medical system ever developed has been subverted from saving lives to saving money." To be fair, insurance companies could be accused of that as well. But they could compete on customer service. When the government tells them what they can and can’t do, and co-opts them into a national health system, the government then decides on what and will not be paid for. And there’s no competing with the government.

                          Eight years ago, the media was deeply concerned over whether Bush would go to war without Congressional approval. Today, when Obama actually does it, a collective yawn (with one small exception).

                          Running out of things to tax, politicians are now trying to push a toilet paper tax in Washington. No, really.

                          Hamas terrorists in Gaza broke a cease-fire to toss 50 rockets at Israel last Saturday, while the rest of the world’s gaze was diverted to Libya. Essay question: Did you hear about this in the media, and if not, why not?

                          And finally, speaking of the media covering for the President (click for a larger version):

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                            Obama’s War

                            American cruise missiles struck Libya over the weekend after French war planes flew in first as a show of force, shooting down a Libyan MiG. (That’s something I never thought I’d write; the French went in to harm’s way first, followed by America lobbing missiles.)  This was in preparation for enforcing a no-fly zone over the country. Y’know, George W. Bush had two fistfuls of UN resolutions and Congressional approval before he went into Iraq, and he was called a war criminal. Obama has 1 resolution and nothing from Congress to back him up. One wonders if the Left will get just as anxious this time. While there have been some rumblings so far, it’s nowhere near what Bush had to put up with.

                            President Obama explained why he was attacking Libya:

                            "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy," the president said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. "We must be clear: actions have consequences."

                            Saddam Hussein did that for years, and the Left would not let the US, nor any other nation, lift a finger to help.

                            Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, there have been photos released that make Abu Ghraib look tame.

                            Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.

                            Senior officials at Nato‘s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.

                            They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.

                            As much as Bush was blamed for Abu Ghraib, I wonder how much Obama will be blamed for this happening on his watch.

                            The Left is really going to have its consistency challenged in the coming weeks. As I said, some bloggers and some members of Congress have spoken out against Obama going into Libya, but if all he gets is token resistance, their moral authority will be severely questioned. The biggest question will be, is it moral authority they’re exercising or merely political authority?

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                              Terrorism in Israel, and How It’s Reported

                              Meryl Yourish has a run-down on how the Associated Press dials things back when Palestinian terrorists from Fatah murder a Jewish family. They say, "Well, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is mostly defunct", while family is completely dead. That’s not even worth mentioning.

                              And the false equivalence of "violence begets violence" papers over the fact that in response, Israelis block roads and threw stones. And when Israel defends itself, that gets a UN resolution of condemnation.

                              More at the link.

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