More on Wiretaps, and the War

The House voted, but they didn’t go with the bipartisan Senate version of the intelligence bill. From the Wall Street Journal (emphasis in original), a glimpse of why the House version is almost unbelievably bad:

By requiring prior court approval to gather foreign intelligence from foreign targets on foreign soil, the House measure would also further involve unelected judges in warfighting decisions. By the way, since when do foreign targets have a right to any court review under the U.S. Constitution?

Now the House and Senate get to see if they can come to terms with each other. We can only hope they keep national security in mind while they do so.
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This is a great round-up of Democratic sentiment on the Iraq campaign of the Terror War (some will dismiss it because it was rounded up by President Bush’s former Senior Advisor, Karl Rove):

In September, Mrs. Clinton told Gen. David Petraeus “the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.” This week, she said “we’ll be right back at square one” in Iraq by this summer.

In December, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to admit progress, arguing, “The surge hasn’t accomplished its goals.” He said a month earlier there was “no progress being made in Iraq” and “it is not getting better, it is getting worse.”

Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Feb. 9 if she was worried that the gains of the last year might be lost, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot back: “There haven’t been gains . . . This is a failure.” Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told the Associated Press the same month that the surge “has failed.”

It indeed seems as if “Democrats appear to have an ideological investment in things going badly in Iraq.”

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Gotta Love Those Speeches

As a speechwriter, I look at speeches by prominent people from time to time, as well as the reporting about speeches. I probably don’t do it as often as I should. Then again, I don’t do a lot of things as often as I should; and some things I shouldn’t do, I do more often than I should.*

Anyway, some comments on recent speechifying.

1. Why can’t people be bothered to look up Bible quotes?

Tuesday Senator Obama gave a speech in which he attempted to … well, we’re not sure what he was trying to do, but his prepared text seemed to talk a lot about race. Others will dissect the delivered speech in more detail than we will, but this quote in the prepared text stuck out: “Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us.” Notwithstanding that it wasn’t presented as a direct quote, that’s not what Scripture says. (To be extra-inclusive, the text continues: “Let us be our sister’s keeper.” That’s not in Scripture either.) There are Scriptural references to bearing one another’s burdens that might point in that direction, but in the main that reference was just incorrect.

I remember hearing President Clinton give a speech in which he smashed two of the Beatitudes together; i.e., he joined the first half of one verse with the second half of another. It’s hard to tell if these kinds of thing are poetic license, laziness, ignorance, or a mild form of disrespect.

2. Historical ignorance, or ignoring history?

Senator Obama’s speech started with the opening of the Preamble: “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” The text continued,

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

Notwithstanding that many if not most of the delegates had been born in the colonies rather than having crossed the ocean to become colonists, this passage and the entire speech missed the key historical point that the Constitution did not “launch” our democratic experiment — it re-launched it. The “more perfect union” was specifically intended to be “more perfect” than the previous attempt; i.e., “more perfect” than the Articles of Confederation.

3. Words are important, as are the thoughts and actions behind them.

From an excellent commentary, “The Obama Bargain,” by Shelby Steele in The Wall Street Journal (emphasis in original),

… nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama’s political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday — for 20 years — in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage (“God damn America”).

How does one “transcend” race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

So, what Senator Obama said in his long — very long — speech may have been noteworthy, but it doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility of looking beyond the words.

4. Eyewitnesses to history are just like eyewitnesses to any event: they see things differently.

Yesterday, on the 5th anniversary of the coalition’s invasion of Iraq, President Bush gave a speech at the Pentagon. He said “removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision,” that the success of recent operations marks “a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror,” and that “The costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq.”

The same day, Senator Obama, front-runner for the Democratic nomination, gave a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He said, “Here is the stark reality: there is a security gap in this country — a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions.” From those words, and his previous statements on the war, it seems clear why Senator Obama gave his talk near, but not at, Fort Bragg.

Senator Clinton, also in the running for the Democratic nomination, gave remarks to supporters and said, “We cannot win their civil war. There is no military solution.” Her remarks also wouldn’t go over well at a military base — which is probably the point.

In contrast, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain gave a statement that “Americans should be proud that they led the way in removing a vicious, predatory dictator and opening the possibility of a free and stable Iraq.”

It shouldn’t surprise us that folks looking at events from different ends of the political spectrum will see them in different ways. Be that as it may, it’s easy to tell, between the leading contenders for the Presidency, who has victory in mind.

Which leads finally to this: Presidential candidates who have no military experience need to understand a few things about the military.

1. We’re very dedicated to the well-being of the country, so much so that we put it ahead of our own (and often our families’).
2. We believe we’ve been fighting on the side of truth and justice; you’re welcome to believe otherwise, but don’t try to convince us we’ve been wrong and then say you’re the best person to lead us.
3. We don’t like to lose.

In other words, Senator Obama saying “I will end this war” (as quoted in this story) will never be as compelling to a military audience as saying, “We will do whatever it takes to win this war.”

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*For the uncertain, that’s a deliberate paraphrase of St. Paul. More an allusion than a quote, it works with or without attribution.

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The Paramount Importance of Defense

Some who know me may think I’m referring to the Clemson Tigers in their quest for a first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference title, but no. (The Tigers haven’t been to the ACC finals longer than I’ve been alive, so it was great to see them get that far; and though it would’ve been terrific to see them win, it just wasn’t to be. And not because of their defense.)

No, this post refers to a new Anti-Candidate position posted in the “General Interest” forum area today, the Anti-Candidate Position on Defense:

National defense is the paramount responsibility of the government, the key thing that people cannot do for themselves.

Contrary to the best intentions of diplomats and the most pleasant dreams of optimists, the world remains a dangerous place. So we agree with Sun Tzu — Master Sun — that, in the opening words of The Art of War, “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.”

There’s more, of course, and there’s also the overall Anti-Campaign thread.

As one friend wrote us yesterday, “We’ve got quite a candidate/potential candidate field for this election. It’s a shame the United States public doesn’t have anyone it can truly trust and for which to vote. Another barren election-scape….” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the Anti-Campaign.

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Read the Oath, Sen. Obama: It Says Protect and Defend

An old boss sent me this link to a brief video of Senator Obama declaring how he would reduce our nation’s readiness. I put a thread in the Space Warfare Forum about one of his comments, but here I’d like to address his naive comments about nuclear weapons.

(First, I find it appalling that he would “institute an independent … board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.” In other words, plainly he does not trust the military, even in the person of the Secretary of Defense — whom he would appoint — and other appointees — whom he would appoint — who would oversee the QDR. But, in his defense, there’s no reason he should know much about what the QDR is or how it works, since he hasn’t been in the Senate very long. And by all accounts, considering how little work he accomplished there, he actually wasn’t in the Senate as long as he’s been a Senator.)

Now, the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” To use an overworked but still apt analogy, good luck putting that djinn back in the bottle.

As one who actually did grunt work in the field of nonproliferation (on the space technology side), I’m all for halting the spread of nuclear technologies in order to keep tyrants and crackpot ideologues from getting nukes. But what’s this happy horse manure about “hair trigger alert” and deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals? Perhaps it’s a good thing that a career civilian like the Senator doesn’t know about the safeguards in our nuclear command and control system, although it sounds as if he doesn’t believe they exist — or perhaps doesn’t trust them. But it seems almost shameful that someone who wants to be the Commander in Chief should be so unaware of how thin our nuclear arsenal has become over the last few years, as we’ve taken weapon systems offline (e.g., Peacekeeper) and not replaced them, that he would wish to cut it even more.

This is dangerous enough rhetoric, but I shudder to think how dangerous the world would be if he got the chance to put his ideas into action.

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Beware the Surgeonsoldiers

If I weren’t ill, I would’ve found something else to do than reading so deeply into the classified ads today; but then I wouldn’t have found this gem on p. 14F of today’s News & Observer:

Evolving out of the evolutions (integral to each other) of Democracy (where every voice counts), Philosophy (where every action counts) & Love (where every love counts) .. is the word ‘surgeonsoldier.’

I haven’t quoted the whole thing, and I won’t, for the simple reason that it’s too confusing and convoluted to carry much meaning … which leads me to suspect it may be a code of some sort, intended only for those who know what it means.

This may be paranoia. Or it may be prudence. As my dad says, “Pay your money and take your choice.” I’ll take the latter.

It just seemed odd, so I dug around a little online: I found a similar item from last Sunday in the Google cache of the N&O, and one from 2004 in the classifieds of the East Carolinian. Last week’s N&O item quoted the East Carolinian item, including reference to “The Day … we ‘n 10 milyun [sic] surgeonsoldiers … proceeded to Bagdad [sic].” Today’s is even more cryptic, with its inclusion of a postscript to a mysterious “Report #389 (News Argus 11/05/00).”

What does it mean that “He returned to the mosque accompanied by 10,000 doctors … to begin the warming of the Cold Peace”? I have no idea. I just hope it isn’t what I’m afraid it might be.

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Ahmadinejad Thanks U.S. For Liberating Iraq

If only it were so. Yet, in a way, it was.

Most of the press coverage of the Iranian President’s visit to Iraq focused on his statements against President Bush and the United States. But notice this paragraph from The Christian Science Monitor:

“I thank God for blessing us with the good fortune to visit Iraq and to meet our dear brothers in oppressed Iraq,” Ahmadinejad said in a brief statement after meeting with Mr. Talabani. “Visiting Iraq without the dictator is a truly joyous occasion.”

Those who are quick to cast the U.S. in the role of “oppressors” would focus on his reference to “oppressed Iraq,” but his second statement is more telling. “Visiting Iraq without the dictator” — that would be after the U.S.-led coalition toppled the dictator. It’s unlikely the Iranian leader would have visited Baghdad if Saddam Hussein were still in power. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines laid the groundwork for the “truly joyous occasion.”

A simple “Thank you” would suffice.

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Al-Qaeda: You love life and we love death

What a telling quotation: “You love life and we love death.” If so, what recourse do we have except to give them what they love?

That quotation, from “Al-Qaeda’s chief military spokesman in Europe,” was pulled from Blood & Rage: a Cultural History of Terrorism by Michael Burleigh; i.e., specifically from this review of the book: “The theatre of cruelty,” in the London Telegraph on-line.

(Alan Dershowitz, in “Worshippers of Death” in today’s Wall Street Journal, notes a similar statement from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah: “We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.”)

We haven’t read Burleigh’s book yet, but from the review the ideas in it sound familiar. Burleigh examines “the moral squalor, intellectual poverty and psychotic nature of terrorist organisations, from the Fenians of the mid-19th century to today’s jihadists – the latter group, especially, being composed of unstable males of conspicuously limited abilities and imagination.” Burleigh’s terrorist operatives are, in the words of the reviewer, “sour, lazy nobodies, ugly, of febrile imagination and indifferent talent, who can only become somebody by blowing others, inevitably persons more talented and intelligent, up.” Added to which, as Dershowitz notes in his article, radical Muslim women have recently been encouraging their sons to become martyrs — if not becoming martyrs themselves.

This all sounds familiar because it runs close to something we wrote back in 2002. In our Ornery American essay, “Yogi Berra, Polybius, and the Recurring Jihad,” we took a page from Polybius and noted that, with respect to the attacks on 9/11/01,

the nineteen assassins were young, “full of unrelenting passion,” not suffering from want or deprivation but well-educated and well-financed, and exasperated against us on the basis of their own imaginings. They and their successors differ from the Gauls [the group Polybius wrote about], however, in having an ideology that screams for conflict. Islam does not mean “peace,” but “submission.” If we forget that, we may cry out “peace, peace” when there is no peace.

There is something noble about being willing to sacrifice one’s self for a just cause. Even as we recognize that, however, the question becomes whether we believe their cause — the cause of death — is more just than ours. And the answer must be no. It cannot be.

They love death. So be it — may it come to them sooner than it comes for us.

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Who’s Afraid of Wiretaps?

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — the HPSCI, usually pronounced “HIP-see” — will take a classified briefing today on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). We presume the HPSCI members are well-versed in the FISA law itself, so this briefing will cover the current intelligence-gathering situation after the Protect America Act — which amended the FISA — expired on February 17th. In particular, it may include the matter of telecommunications companies’ immunity from lawsuits that arise from their cooperation with national security investigations.

We may hope that, after this briefing, the HPSCI members rise in support of the bill that recently passed the Senate, and pressure the House leadership to bring the matter to a vote. We remain skeptical, but optimistic. How else are we to live?

We wonder, however, at the subtle irony that on the HPSCI’s web page, http://intelligence.house.gov/, we are treated to the graphic of the Homeland Security Advisory System showing an “Elevated” threat level: “Significant risk of terrorist attacks.” How much different might that level be, were it not for our operatives’ ability to eavesdrop on potential terrorist communications? Should our elected leaders not give those operatives every possible tool to protect us?

Yes, they should; the question is whether they will.

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