Saturday, August 31, 2013

Today Obama Made the World a Much More Dangerous Place

President Obama has delayed what had been considered to be an imminent strike on the al-Assad regime in order to punish it for using chemical weapons on its own civilian citizens. The President abruptly announced Saturday that he will seek congressional approval before launching any military action against Syria. Obama had said Friday that he had decided the United States should take military action and that he believed he had "the authority to carry out sich a military action without specific congressional authorization." But his latest decision pushes back any action against al-Assad until the week of 9 September when Congress is scheduled to return from its summer vacation. The President's decision carries enormous risks to his and America's credibility, which he has argued is on the line. Obama long ago said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be allowed to cross with impunity. British Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat when the House of Commons refused to support his call for military action against Syria. Today's developments are a stunning turnaround in a crisis in which Obama has struggled to gain international support for a strike, while dozens of lawmakers at home urged him to seek their backing. Ordinary Americans are also unhappy with rhe President's stance in Syria. Eighty percent want President Obama to seek approval from Congress before deciding to launch a military attack on Syria, according to a new NBC News poll taken on Wednesday and Thursday this week. An overwhelming 79% of respondents - including nearly 70% of Democrats and 90% of Republicans - say Obama should be required to receive authority from Congress before taking any action against the Syrian regime for its suspected use of chemical weapons. The findings of the poll also reflect the sentiment on Capitol Hill where 140 legislators, including 21 Democrats, have signed a letter saying Obama would violate the Constitution by striking Syria without first getting authorization from Congress. The poll also found that 50% of Americans oppose the US taking military action compared with 42% who support it. Only 21% think taking action is in the national interest, while 33% disagree and 45% don’t know enough to have an opinion. Just 27% say that US military action will improve the situation for Syrian civilians, compared to 41% who say it won’t. At the same time, the public overwhelmingly disapproves of Obama’s handling of the situation in Syria - only 35% approve of the President’s actions. Meanwhile, reaction to Obama's surprise delay was swift and worldwide. In Syria, the al-Assad regime continues to blame rebels for the 21 August chemical attack, and has threatened retaliation if it is attacked. Syrian rebel leaders are obviously disappointed and called pn Obama to mount a more robust attack on al-Assad. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was appealing to a Nobel Peace laureate rather than to a President, urging Obama to reconsider. A group that monitors casualties in the Syrian civil war challenged the US to substantiate its claim that 1,429 died in the chemical attack, including more than 400 children. But, whether Obama was thinking about it or not, the new timetable gives time for UN inspectors to receive lab results from the samples they took during four days in Damascus, and to compile a final report. Republicans expressed satisfaction at Obama's decision, and challenged him to make his case to the public and lawmakers, by sharing his evidence that proves that American power should be used to punish al-Assad. The Israeli military disclosed it has deployed an "Iron Dome" missile defense battery in the Tel Aviv area to protect civilians from any possible missile attack from next-door Syria or any of its allies. Missile defenses were deployed in the northern part of the country several days ago, and large crowds have been gathering at gas mask-distribution centers to pick up protection kits. ~~~~~ Dear readers, today we have seen the face of perfectly incompetent US presidential leadership. Obama has said he has proof that it was al-Assad forces that launched the chemical attack. He has said this represents a national security threat to the United States. He has allowed his Secretary of State to put US credibility on the line over the chemical attack. He has said he has authority to act without cobgressional approval. But today, what can only be described as Obama's psychological incapacity to make decisions won the fight that is constantly waging inside the President. He will let Congress decide -- just as he left it to Congress to draft the Obamacare legislation and settle the debt ceiling crisis. Barack Obama is paralyzed by any need to make critical decisions. And that makes the world a very dangerous place.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Support President Obama on Answering al-Assad's Use of Chemical Weaponsl

Syria today : US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke today. He said US intelligence is clear - more than 1400 dead in the 21 August Syrian chemical attack, 400 of them children. Kerry said the Intel is sure - it was the al-Assad regime that launched the attack. The UN inspection team "can tell us nothing rhat we do not already know." Kerry said Americans are weary of war : "I am, too," he added. "But that does not excuse us from our duty." Then, later today, President Obama spoke. "We are looking at the possibility of a limited, one-time act." The President said a military solution will not solve the Syrian problem. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is now time to rally behind President Obama. Democrat - Republican - Independent - International. Whether you support Obama or detest him. Whether you are a Harry Reid liberal or a tea partier. Whetber you detest war or support military intervention. Whether you are in favor of continued Middle East activism or of withdrawing and pulling up the ladder. ~~~~~ There are moments when America must stand up for humanity. No one else can unless we lead. France still stands with us. But if we were completely alone, it would make no difference. Gassing children and civilians is beyond the pale. Let your elected officials in Washington...let the White House...know you support delivering the message to al-Assad that he may not use chemical weapons. How will you sleep at night if you do not stand up when it counts. It is a phrase we Anglo-Saxons...we Americans...may I add, we French...know only too well - the call to honor of King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry V : "This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'd; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Obama's Middle East Lack of Policy Evident in Syrian Chemical Weapons Crisis

"A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week." __George S. Patton. The major chemical attack on Syrian civilians occurred on 21 August. It is now 28 August. We have been literally bombarded with stark photos on site, analysis ad nauseum, and world political leaders united against the use of chemical weapons but paralysed when it comes to deciding how or what to do. We have watched as the determination of world leaders to strike and punish has become a series of questions and inconclusive answers. BUT, we have learned something far more important. We have learned that the era of a US President and his Secretaries of Defense and State determining when and where to take up hostile action is over. We have entered an era in which these major players have been joined, perhaps even forced, into public discussion of every sort with "experts" of greater or lesser competence about the alternatives and their consequences. So, let's enter this newest of the brave new worlds and analyze where we are vis-à-vis Syria and al-Assad. The Obama administration has said that neither incomplete intelligence nor allies' concerns would affect their plans. But the complicated intelligence picture Obama insiders present has made Obama say on TV that he has "not made a decision." He says he worries that the attack could later be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels. Others say it has not been possible to pinpoint the exact locations of Assad's supplies of chemical weapons, and Assad could have moved them in recent days as the US rhetoric heated up. But that lack of certainty means a possible series of US cruise missile strikes aimed at crippling al-Assad's military infrastructure could hit newly hidden supplies of chemical weapons, accidentally triggering a deadly chemical attack. Some say that with shifting front lines in the civil war and uneven satellite and human intelligence coming out of Syria, US and allied intelligence units have lost track of who controls some of the country's chemical weapons supplies. US satellites have captured images of Syrian troops moving trucks into weapons storage areas and removing materials, but US analysts have not been able to track what was moved or, in some cases, where it was relocated. They are also not certain that when they saw what looked like al-Assad's forces moving chemical supplies, those forces were able to remove everything before rebels took over an area where weapons had been stored. It has now been suggested that intercepts by US intelligence reveal Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an al-Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander. US intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on al-Assad's orders. Some have even talked about the possibility that rebels could have carried out the attack in a calculated attempt to draw the West into the war. SO...may we ask why President went out on such an obviously weak limb in the first place? ~~~~~ OR, dear readers, is there another question we ought to be asking. Should we be asking if President Obama deliberately overstated his confirmed intelligence in order to create the worldwide image of himself as a President determined to teach al-Assad the "chemical weapons" lesson. Alternatively, did Obama know that his initial intelligence was absolutely correct and he ran with it to get the worldwide "white hat" effect he badly needs - but being the fundamentally indecisive Obama we all recognize, he just simply couldn't carry out the plan. So, Obama scrambled up the intelligence - after all, who can prove him wrong - and has fallen back into his usual routine of hauling out all the possibilities and acting on none of them, thereby leaving British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande lined up behind a fuzzy ghost. To them, we may add Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the Arab League. Will Obama launch a series of cruise missile strikes against Syrian government infrastructure, perhaps some aircraft strikes, as well? It really doesn't matter because both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have spread the word publicly that their goal is not to shape the course of the Syrian civil war or force out al-Assad. Their goal is to punish the al-Assad regime for using chemical weapons. This will not help anyone, least of all the Syrian rebels. Obama cannot be sure what a cruise missile attack would create - a response from al-Assad against more civilians, against US units in Jordan or Qatar, against Israel. Or no response - the ultimate show of contempt for a toothless tiger. Unless Obama and his allies are prepared to undertake the removal from Syria of al-Assad, the capture and removal of ALL chemical weapons, and the delivery of as much humanitarian infrastructure as the US and its coalition can put in place so that it reaches people in need, then firing missiles in a schoolboy temper tantrum is useless. And, what would come after al-Assad should not be on the coalition table. That weighty matter should be left to a civilian-military panel led by the Arabs who understand the issues involved and will have to live with the outcome. Otherwise, Obama will simply be repeating his catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martin Luther King, Justice and Mercy

It's the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Martin Luther King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott at age 26, and Rep. John Lewis helped to lead freedom rides at 23, not letting age stop them from contributing to the push for social reform. There are many young people exerting their influence this year's March on Washington, including the Black Youth Vote coalition. And today, the veterans are people like Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, who were 8 and 5 years old, respectively, in 1963 when the first March took place. In his drive for equal rights, Dr. King spoke for social equality, voting rights, integrated equal education, and jobs. Now 73 and a Democratic congressman from Georgia, John Lewis, the youngest of Dr. King's inner circle, has been interviewed often in the past week. He told ABC : "When you have been sitting on a lunch counter stool and someone walks up and spits on you or pours hot water or hot coffee on you and you say you're committed to non-violence, you have to grow up....So by the time of the March on Washington, I was 23, but I was an older person." The basic rights Dr. King fought for have long since been secured for Black Americans. Today, all Americans - Black, White, Hispanic and Latinos, Native, Asian, other minorities - face serious problems, including joblessness, drug addiction, street violence, poor education opportunities. These problems impact America's future because they fall heavily on the young. And they must be solved by an America united, with the goodwill and brotherhood enshrined in American culture. Dividing groups for political reasons, baiting or exclusion based on race or cultural differences, ignoring the problems because one happens to live in a community not negatively affected by them - these are not American values. President Barack Obama, who cites Martin Luther King as a major influence on his life, spoke today to honor the effort of his role model and the road that must still be walked. He called it "a step for justice " ~~~~~ But, dear readers, I would suggest that justice has been achieved. And it is insufficient because it is blind and therefore merciless. America has lost its sense of reaching out to bring others in. It has abandoned mercy and brotherly love for fierce demands for justice. Most American hearts and consciences do not seek blind justice. They seek social peace. They seek an econony that works and provides jobs and advancement for all. They seek education that prepares their youngsters for life as Americans who respect themselves and everyone else. Shakespeate said it well 400 years ago, when Portia spoke in The Merchant of Venice : "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. It is mightiest in the mightiest, It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown. His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, An attribute to awe and majesty Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings. But mercy is above this sceptred sway, It is enthroned in the hearts of kings. It is an attribute to God himself. And earthly power dost then become likest God's, Where mercy seasons justice." Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

America and the GOP Must Oppose Obamacare Now

Whether Obamacare is good or bad as a health care system is no longer the question. Americans have already come down on one side or the other of that question - and in the latest poll, a majority of Americans oppose the implementation of Obamacare and want it defunded. This makes Obamacare a political question. Democrat Senators and Congress members, most of whom voted for Obamacare at President Obama's, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid's and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's insistence, are now less enthusiastic and one has called it a train wreck. Republicans opposed Obamacare as a bill and some are even more negatively opposing it now -- because small and large businesses, the health care sector, insurance companies unions and a majority of Americans no longer support it. Conservative Republicans, often associated with the tea party movement, have decided to make Obamacare a 2014 congressional campaign issue, and they've developed an aggressive plan. They've identified GOP incumbents who have clearly stated that they will not oppose Obamacare funding because that could mean shutting down the government if the GOP refuses to approve a budget including Obamacare funds. But one conservative group is launching a radio ad challenging Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to oppose any money for funding Obamacare, even if it means triggering a government shutdown. The ad will be divisive for Republicans because McConnell is locked in a tough race for a sixth term. The GOP leader faces both a primary rival, GOP businessman Matt Bevin, and a Democratic foe, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. "Republicans in Congress can stop Obamacare by refusing to fund it, but Senator Mitch McConnell refuses to lead the fight," says the ad. And the conservative Madison Project launched a radio spot on Monday critical of McConnell, calling him a Washington politician who pretends to be conservative. The Madison Project supports Bevin. Former Republican Senator Jim DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation, says the Senate Conservative Fund that he founded is spending close to $200,000 on radio ads in six states calling on GOP senators to refuse to fund the health care law. The group's targets are North Carolina's Richard Burr, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mississippi's Thad Cochran and Arizona's Jeff Flake. In a statement in July, Senate Conservative Fund executive director Matt Hoskins said that McConnell could lose the Senate race and cost the GOP its shot at the Senate majority. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it takes a real political crisis to make any party take on its leaders. Obamacare is such a crisis. And it reflects the deep alienation between President Obama and the American people. As a wise old Washington insider once told me, "Never get between the dog and the tree." Mitch McConnell is right there. Right now. He can join the defeatist GOP voices, many of whom have deep battle scars and are afraid of doing damage to the Party yet again. They are telling the Grand Old Party to go along...get along...with Obamacare. Or he can find the courage to get out in front of the younger, more aggressive Republicans who represent the core of the GOP. Because, finally, what good is a political party if it rolls over and plays dead every time a really key issue comes along to disturb it. If Lincoln had done that, the United States would not exist today. Obamacare is a disaster. Everyone knows that. It was ill-thought and ill-prepared. It threatens jobs and health care availability. And now it is threatening the Republican Party. And, do not make the mistake of thinking that Obamacare should divide conservative and moderate Republicans. Obamacare is an Americans-vs-Obama issue. Stand up, Senator McConnell. Stand up, Speaker Boehner. Don't hide from Obamacare. Solve the problem.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Egyptian Military Gains Control of the Country's Political Agenda

Despite the continuing but decreasingly street-driven pressure from the pro-Morsi Moslem Brotherhood, the military-backed interim government has pushed ahead with its road map for a post-Morsi political transition. A first draft of an amended version of the now-suspended constitution was finalized and published in local media, the first step toward changing the islamist-backed charter that was one of the major dissatisfactions leading to opposition to Morsi and his ouster. Last Friday, the street rallies called for by the Brotherhood to show popular opposition to the military coup that ousted Morsi were very sparsely attended, with marchers in the hundreds and low thousands. Perhaps as a result of Friday's disappointing turnout, on Monday two former Egyptian militant groups have proposed a truce between the military and Morsi's Moslem Brotherhood, highlighting the extent to which islamists have been weakened by the massive security crackdown, as well as by the general indifference of ordinary Egyptians to the pro-Morsi cause. Morsi's allies have previously insisted on his reinstatement as a precondition to talks, but islamic jihad leader Mohammed Abu Samra told The Associated Press that the proposed truce had no "red lines." Although not offered by the Brotherhood itself, the initiative reflects a softened position by the pro-Morsi radical-islamist camp, whose protest campaign is faltering. "We are paving the way for talks," Abu Samra said, adding that a truce is necessary because talks cannot be held at swordpoint with the military, which he accused of "defaming" the Brotherhood in the media and mosques. But the military crackdown continued Monday, as the state news agency announced the arrest of former youth minister and senior Brotherhood member Osama Yassin. Abu Samra said the pro-Morsi Brotherhood opposition needs "confidence-building measures." However, he added, "the other side didn't show a single gesture or any sign that it is ready for dialogue. It only talks about it." Meanwhile, the Brotherhood called for new rallies on August 30. A security official said authorities would be on high alert nationwide that day to prevent a new round of violence. The interim president's office did not comment, however, Egypt's Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi had earlier told reporters that security measures will not be enough on their own and that Egypt "must go down the political path" to work out a democratic transition through reconciliation. However, he ruled out talks with anyone who had engaged in violence. Meanwhile, in southern Egypt, a public school teacher was arrested because parents complained she was teaching children pro-Morsi songs and anti-military chants, a security official said. Also in the south, Mohammed Hassan, spokesman of the Gamaa Islamiyah group - which once attacked police, Coptic Christians and tourists - said islamists fear that the army could break up if it continued using what he called excessive force against islamists. "Things could get out of control and the army could fall apart," he said. Many islamist groups already appear to have bowed to the security crackdown. The ultra-conservative al-Nour party, which was the only islamist political faction to support Morsi's ouster, at first opposed amending parts of the constitution related to Islamic Shariah law. But on Sunday it said it will join a 50-member panel tasked to review the charter, saying it hopes to defend key Islamic references added to the text under Morsi. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is becoming apparent that the Egyptian military has gained control of the streets and has stripped the radical-islamist Brotherhood of its leadership. This has also given it control, although still fragile, of the political agenda. It is supported by the majority of Egyptians. The radical-islamist allies of the Brotherhood have sensed this and are seeking dialogue with the military. If the words they use sound familiar, it is because their Palestinian "cousins" have used them for years in confronting Israel. What their choice of words points to, if a real political accommodation cannot be achieved - something that seems highly unlikely - is that the Egyptian radical-islamists and the Moslem Brotherhood are once again recreating their underground opposition to the military and are preparing a long campaign of proposing dialogue while making it impossible through incessant complaints and demands. The military is the real unifying force in Egypt, the only entity now capable of overseeing the Egyptian government, and the only group in Egypt that has the confidence of the Egyptian people. Is it too much to hope that President Obama and Europe will understand this and quickly renew their support for the Egyptian military and, with it, their support for the Egyptian people.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Churches Seek Shelter from Supreme Court Definition of Marriage

Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible allows only marriage between one man and one woman. Some churches fear that it's only a matter of time before one of them is sued by a gay couple that asks to be married in a church they have attended and are refused because the church believes as a matter of faith that Christian marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples. AP cites some examples : "I thought marriage was always between one man and one woman, but the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said no," said Gregory S. Erwin, an attorney for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, an association of Southern Baptist churches and one several groups advising churches to change their bylaws. "I think it's better to be prepared because the law is changing. America is changing." Erwin was referring to the June Supreme Court decision in which the Court struck down a definition in a federal law that states that marriage must be between a man and a woman to qualify for certain federal benefits. The decision refers only to the federal government. And, in California, Kevin Snider, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues, said his organization released a model marriage policy a few years ago in response to a statewide gay marriage fight in California. Snider said some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. ~~~~~ The US Constitution is very clear about keeping the government out of religion : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (United States Constitution, Amendment I, 1791; see also Article VI.). This prohibition of governmental meddling in the personal freedom of religion has been widely upheld as such. BUT, and it is a big "but," the Supreme Court has often interferred in the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution as a matter of equal rights for minorities. The Fourteenth Amendment has been read by the Supreme Court to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion : "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law." It is the Fourteenth Amendment that has been the basis for long list of cases that include halting the reading of the Bible or mandatory prayer in public schools and eliminating Christmas creches in public buildings, There was such a public and congressional outcry when the Court seemed poised to eliminate the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance to the national flag that the Court found a procedural reason to settle the case without tossing out the words "under God." But the Court cases embrace more than Christian beliefs -- the Court has eliminated polygamy, protected Native American religious ceremonies, and forced education and minimum life-saving medical intervention for children, all under the Fourteenth Amendment and a broad constitutional principle articulated over and over by the Founders - separation of church and state. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, it may be wise for Christian churches that believe as a matter of faith that marriage may only be undertaken between a man and a woman to spell it out now. It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would force a church to perform a ceremony that relates to a civil right not recognized by the particular church, i.e., performing religious marriage ceremonies for gay couples. But, it might be safer to act now. If such a case were upheld, it would be harder to seek written shelter after the fact.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Obama's Inability to Connect Ethically with the Syrian Crisis

It is very clear that President Obama is stalling for time, hoping that, as after past uses of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, events will move on and the chemical attack will be forgotten and evidence wiil disappear. More agressively, British Foreign Minister William Hague said today that the fact is that UN experts would have been allowed to investigate the site if there had not been a chemical attack by al-Assad forces. But President Barack Obama takes a much less assertive position. Here are excerpts from a live interview the US President gave on American television this morning. Mr. Obama said that a possible chemical weapons attack in Syria this week is a "big event of grave concern" that has hastened the timeframe for determining a US response. It is something that requires America's attention." However, the President said the notion that the US alone can end Syria's bloody civil war is "overstated" and made it very clear he would seek international support, including UN approval, before taking large-scale action. President Obama added : "If the US goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work," he said in the interview on CNN's "New Day" show. "Those are considerations that we have to take into account." While he appeared to signal some greater urgency in responding, his comments were largely in line with his previous statements throughout the two-year conflict. The President said the US must determine that its actions are consistent with its national interests, "both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region." Obama has warned that the use of the deadly gases would cross a "red line," but the US response, which is determined by Obama, to the confirmed attacks earlier this year has been minimal. That has engendered fierce criticism against Obama, both in the US and abroad. Among those leading the criticism is Arizona's Republican Senator John McCain, who says America's credibility has been damaged because Obama has not taken action to stop the violence. President Obama's response to McCain? : "Well, you know, I am sympathetic to Senator McCain's passion for helping people work through what is an extraordinarily difficult and heartbreaking situation, both in Syria and in Egypt," he said. "It is in our long-term national interests, even as we work cooperatively internationally to do everything we can to put pressure on those who would kill innocent civilians." The UN team is currently on the ground to investigate two earlier alleged chemical attacks. However, the President was pessimistic about those prospects, saying, "We don't expect cooperation, given their past history." ~~~~~ President Obama did not do himself any favors on TV this morning. He appeared coldly detached from the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. His responses were intellectually driven, with little evidence that he really feels the problem. Barack Obama has not learned what is perhaps the most important lesson for leaders - that governing is as much a question of heart as it is of facts. Leadership is not about mastering the law or ordering position papers. Leadership is about a visceral emotional connection to those being led and an awareness of the ethical precepts that guide them. President Obama seems far removed emotionally and ethically from the Americans he leads. So it is perhaps impossible for him to do anything about Syria that would reflect America's agony over events there.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

President Obama, Prove You Are not a Fool or a Monster - Save Syria Now

On Wednesday, Syrian anti-Assad activists accused the government of carrying out a toxic gas attack in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, killing as many as 1,300 people, including children. The claims coincided with a visit by a UN chemical weapons team to three previous sites of alleged attacks, who demanded access to the site. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government rejected the accusations, and US officials said they were seeking details of what happened. For the United States, the death toll and painful images again put a spotlight on President Barack Obama's "redline" pledge almost exactly a year ago, on 20 August 2012, to respond forcefully to any chemical weapons use by the al-Assad government. Since then, the Obama administration has said it has confirmed that Syrian forces have committed such attacks and has ordered a lethal aid package of small arms to be sent to some rebel groups, though it's unclear if any weapons have been delivered. Yet up to now, Obama has refused all options of direct US military intervention in a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced at least 2 million. Compare this international inaction with the horrific images from Damascus showing lifeless children - wrapped in white shrouds, deathly faces unmarked by any wound - lined up shoulder to shoulder in a vivid demonstration of a chemical attack. AP reported that there was little evidence of blood or conventional injuries and most appeared to have suffocated. Survivors of the purported attack, some twitching uncontrollably, lay on gurneys with oxygen masks covering their faces. For a year, the rebels, the United States, Britain and France have accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in its campaign to try to stop the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad that began in March 2011. The regime and its ally, Russia, have denied the allegations, blaming on the rebels. In June, the US said it had conclusive evidence that al-Assad's regime had used chemical weapons against opposition forces. Cynically, Russia called Wednesday's reports "alarmist." Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich denounced an "aggressive information campaign" laying full blame on the Syrian government as a provocation aimed at undermining efforts to convene peace talks between the two sides. George Sabra, a senior member of the rebel Coalition, blamed the regime, as well as "the weakness of the UN and American hesitation" for the deaths. "The silence of our friends is killing us," he said, adding that Wednesday's attack effectively eliminated any chance for peace negotiations with the regime. A researcher who specializes in chemical and biological weapons and disarmament, said that in videos of the victims, the hue of their faces appeared to show many suffered from asphyxiation. However, he said the symptoms they exhibited were not consistent with mustard gas or the nerve agents VX or sarin. Mustard gas would cause blistering of the skin and discoloration, while the nerve agents would produce severe convulsions in the victims and also affect the paramedics treating them - neither of which was evident from the videos or reports. "I'm deliberately not using the term chemical weapons here," he said. "There's plenty of other nasty stuff that was used in the past as a chemical warfare agent, so many industrial toxicants could be used too." A pharmacist who identified himself as Abu Ahmad told the AP that he attended to dozens of wounded people in a field hospital after the shelling on Zamalka and Ein Tarma early Wednesday. He said many had their eye pupils constricted, and those who were brought in while still alive could not draw their breaths and died subsequently....The skin around their eyes and noses was grayish." Mohammed Saeed, an activist in the area, told the AP via Skype that hundreds of dead and injured people were rushed to six makeshift hospitals in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. On Thursday, al-Assad forces are reportedly bombing the area where the chemical attack occurred, possibly in an effort to obliterate evidence. And rockets were launched from Lebanon into Israel - in what observers say may be a related test of their ability to attack Israel with chemicals. ~~~~~ Dear readers, there are moments in history when mankind comes face to face with evil and world leaders must oppose the evil or be forever blackened by it. We are at such a moment. President Obama may prefer to avoid new action in the Middle East. He may prefer to turn a blind eye to the ongoing 'holocaust' in Syria. He may even be naive enough to believe that a radical-islamist hegemony in the region could be tolerated and useful - I sincerely trust that Mr. Obama does not actually prefer such an outcome. But, whatever his personal fears or preferences, President Obama must act now to end the Syrian civil war or be remembered forever as the Chamberlain-like fool and monster who actually believed that evil can be managed and admitted into civilization. Mr. President, Americans are neither monsters nor fools. Assume your responsibilities as their leader or be damned by history.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thomas Jefferson's Perfect Summary of Constitutional Republican Government

President Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (March 4th, 1801) -- Friends and Fellow-Citizens CALLED upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. §§A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye-when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue, and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. §§Utterly, indeed, should I despair did not the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked... §§During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. §§Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions....But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. §§We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary,is the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. §§Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter - with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? §§Still one thing more, fellow-citizens - a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. §§About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its imitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti republican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people - a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that abor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety. our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our politica faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Egyptian Military Is Looking More in Control - America is on the Outside Looking in

The daily news in Egypt make most theatre pale by comparison. Today's events include : (1). Military-backed authorities arrested Mohammed Badie, the Moslem Brotherhood's supreme leader, dealing a serious blow to the embattled movement that is struggling to maintain street protests against the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in the face of an army-led government crackdown. Badie was arrested in the latest army move that has resulted in hundreds of Brotherhood members being taken into custody. Badie's last public appearance was at the Nasr City protest encampment last month, where he delivered a fiery speech in which he denounced the military's removal of Morsi. His arrest followed the killing of his son Ammar, who was shot dead during violent clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters in Cairo on Friday. Badie and his powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shater, are to stand trial later this month on charges of complicity in the June killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood national headquarters in Cairo. Brotherhood spokesmen say the arrests will not stop the movement or lead its followers away from their principles. But, pro-Morsi street protests have diminished in recent days, with demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere attracting mere hundreds, or even dozens, of protesters. (2). Morsi himself has had his detention in an undisclosed location extended. He is facing accusations of conspiring with the militant Palestinian Hamas group to escape from prison during the 2011 uprising and complicity in the killing and torture of protesters outside his Cairo palace in December. (3). The Brotherhood released Badie's weekly address text. In it he quoted heavily from the Coran and warned that anyone, including Arab governments, who helped the army would soon regret it. Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref sought to downplay the significance of Badie's arrest, writing on his Facebook page Tuesday: "Mohammed Badie is one member of the Brotherhood." (4). Yesterday, suspected Islamic militants ambushed two minibuses and killed 25 off-duty policemens, gangland style, in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Monday's attack took place near the border town of Rafah in northern Sinai. A few hours later, militants shot to death a senior police officer as he stood guard outside a bank in el-Arish, another city in the largely lawless Sinai area, security officials said. Nobody claimed responsibility for either attack. (5). Meanwhile, a little-known law professor, Sayed Ateeq, filed a case today against Mohamed ElBaradei, accusing the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of committing "high treason" and damaging the country's world image by quitting his job as interim vice president last week. Egyptian law allows citizens to file cases like that, although many are swiftly thrown out by judges. ElBaradei quit to protest the use of force by security forces in clearing the Morsi supporters' sit-in camps, warning the violence will only breed more violence and play into the hands of extremists. He has since been the target of a media and political campaign accusing him of abandoning the country at a time when his services were most needed. Some questioned his credentials as a politician who could withstand the pressures of politics. (6). Soldiers killed an Egyptian journalist working for the country's state-run flagship daily Al-Ahram newspaper at a military checkpoint, security officials confirmed. Tamer Abdel-Raouf's death brings to five the number of journalists who have died in the past week of violence in Egypt. The military initially said that Abdel-Raouf sped through a checkpoint Monday evening after a nighttime curfew began, and that soldiers fired warning shots before shooting at the car. It said the military did not deliberately shoot to kill. However, Shaimaa Abu Elkhir of the Committee to Protect Journalists quoted a witness who was in the car with Abdel-Raouf as saying there were no warning shots and the incident took place an hour before the 7 pm start of the military-imposed curfew. Hamed al-Barbari of Al-Gomhuria newspaper told the media watchdog group that they were turned back by soldiers at the checkpoint and told they could not pass. The soldiers then fired at the car as they were making a U-turn, al-Barbari said. Abdel-Raouf was shot in the head and the car then hit a light post. Al-Barbari was injured in the collision, according to CPJ. The two journalists had been doing an interview with a newly appointed provincial govennor northwest of Cairo. (7). News in the US today appeared to confirm that approximately $500 million in military aid to Egypt has been put on hold. For nearly three decades, the US has propped up Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian military with financial and military support. In exchange, Egypt helped protect US interests in the region, including a peace treaty with Israel. But that long and tangled relationship is now traumatising the Obama administration as it grapples to create and articulate a coherent Egypt policy following the ouster of Mubarak's successor, Mohammed Morsi. The US has refused to call Morsi's ouster a coup because that would require President Obama to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid. And State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the current aid delay was not an indication that a policy decision about cutting off aid had been made. Saudi Arabia re-affirmed today that it will cover any holes left by American or European withdrawal of funding. (8). Amid the tumult, Egyptian judicial officials announced Monday that former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could be released from jail later this week. The White House refused to take a position on the status of its former partner, saying it would be inappropriate to comment on a legal matter. now,...because that is a process that is internal to Egypt, it's not something that I'm in a position to comment on from here," a White House spokesman said. But the US often comments on foreign legal proceedings, including the jailing of Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the sentencing in Russia of the band Pussy Riot and the arrest of American aid workers in Egypt last year. Perhaps President Obama fears, as do many, that Mubarak's release would deepen the anger among Morsi's supporters in the Brotherhood, which was illegal under Mubarak. ~~~~~ Dear readers, there is little to say about these events. However...and not to take the extremely serious events in Egypt lightly...if this were a football (soccer) match, I would say the half-tome score is Egyptian army and people 4, Saudi Arabia and the Arab world 3, Moslem Brotherhood 0, United States and Europe -1. I know that -1 can't happen in football, but in this case the extremely bad play makes an exception, or a red card, likely.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rand Paul's Libertarian Egyptian Policy Is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

American Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Representative Keith Ellison joined the call to suspend aid to Egypt on Sunday, after last week's crackdown on the pro-Morsi Moslrm Brotherhood by the military that left hundreds dead. Senator Ayotte said, "The United States gave the military-installed interim government time to take appropriate actions, but now it's time to use the funds as bargaining chip." Ayotte, who had supported continuing aid to Egypt after the July 3 ouster of Morsi, appeared on NBC "Meet the Press," and said President Barack Obama was right to suspend joint military exercises and condemn violence last week, but he didn't go far enough. "I think he fell short when he really didn't come out and call out the real question on the suspension of aid, because that is the real influence that we have with Egypt," Ayotte said. [Note that the Arab world's leaders have pledged to make up any funds withdrawn by the US or the EU.] Repesentative Ellison said that the United States should pull back on aid to Egypt until the bloodshed stops and the strife-torn country returns to a path toward democracy : "I would cut off aid," Ellison said on ABC's "This Week." "In my mind, there's no way to say that this was not a coup. It is. We should say so. And then we should follow our own law, which says we cannot fund the coup leaders." Ellison said the administration needs to engage in "intense diplomacy" with Egypt, and Congress needs to "suspend aid" to the country until its leaders establish a set of Democratic protocols and stop the violence. Ellison and Ayottte were joining the call made by influential Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to end the aid to Egypt. Graham warned on Sunday that Egypt could become a "failed state" and a safe haven for al-Qaida."The [Muslim] Brotherhood will go underground, al-Qaida will come to their aid, and you're going to have an armed insurgency, not protesters, on your hands in the next 60 days or 90 days,” said Graham on CBS's "Face the Nation.""We're going to have to suspend our aid because we can't support the reaction of the military, even though the Brotherhood overplaying their hand started this, we can't support what the military's doing in response," Graham said. Graham, who just returned from a trip to Egypt with McCain, said, "What would happen if we cut off the aid is that Western tourism ends in Egypt for the foreseeable future for as far as the eye can see. Western investment comes to a standstill. Egypt becomes a begger client state of the Arab Gulf states. Egypt’s future is really damned." McCain renewed his call on Sunday to stop the aid. "For us to sit by and watch this happen is a violation of everything that we stood for," said McCain on CNN's "State of the Union." "We're not sticking with our values." Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul said on "Fox News Sunday" that US aid to Egypt was more likely to "buy a chateau in Paris" for an Egyptian military leader than "bread in Cairo" for the poor. "I don't think we're buying any friendship with the Egyptian people," Paul said especially when people see tanks supplied by the US to the Egyptian military on the streets of Cairo."We are not winning the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people," said Paul. "The aid has to end." But Republican Representative Pete King told "Fox News Sunday" that cutting aid could reduce US influence over Egypt's interim government."I'm reluctant to cut off aid," King said. ~~~~~ Here, dear readers, we have a microcosm of the stupidity afloat in America today concerning foreign policy generally and Egypt in particular. That it was Republicans and not Democrats leading the charge against the Egyptian military makes little difference. Both parties are naive and amateurish beyond belief when it concerns the Moslem Brothethood, Egypt's and Israel's future, aw well as the desire of most peoole in the Middle East to find their way to self-government. Senator Graham's statements supoort continuing aid to the Egyptian military - how he arrived at his conclusion to stop that aid defies logic. What is shocking is that the most senior military affairs expert in the GOP, John McCain, should lead the parade. It is extremely worrying. We may take some comfort in the fact that McCain is serving his last term as Senator from Arizona and will "fade away," having already proved he cannot win a presidential election. Far more dangerous is the position being espoused by Senator Rand Paul, a heavyweight contender to be the 2016 GOP presidential candidate. The libertarian siren song Paul is singing sounds sweet to a nation tired of war and islamist plots and terrorism - and I dare say, tired of the entire Middle East and Arab world. Senator Paul's call to abandon Egypt to the Brotherhood would save money and American lives -- right up to the moment when Egypt, stripped of its military glue, implodes in civil war, and the Middle East with it, thereby also calling Israel's existence into question. On that day, America will have no choice but to engage the Brotherhood and its offspring, Hamas, directly. Senator Rand's penny wise policies will then be seen to be hundreds of billions of pounds foolish.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Egypt Will Be Saved by the Army or Lost to Radical Islam

Dear readers, I am more and more disturbed by what the media is saying and what experts speaking to or writing in the media are saying - about Egypt. The perfect, an article in The American Conservative beats the title : "Cut Egypt Loose." As if Egypt were a derelict rowboat that should be allowed to sink. The post quotes an earlier article which said : "With blood in Egypt’s streets and a return to a state of emergency, it’s time for Washington to stop pretending. Its efforts to maintain its lines of communication with the Egyptian military, quietly mediate the crisis, and help lay the groundwork for some new, democratic political process have utterly failed. Egypt’s new military regime, and a sizable and vocal portion of the Egyptian population, have made it very clear that they just want the United States to leave it alone. For once, Washington should give them their wish. As long as Egypt remains on its current path, the Obama administration should suspend all aid, keep the embassy in Cairo closed, and refrain from treating the military regime as a legitimate government." In "Cut Egypt Loose" the writer agrees with this conclusion : "It might have seemed clever to withhold judgment on the July coup and try to nudge the military towards a return to elected government, but this was interpreted by all sides as a positive endorsement of the coup and confirmation that there was nothing that the Egyptian military did that would trigger the suspension of aid....The U.S. can’t constructively influence what the Egyptian military and its interim government do, and it should stop pretending that it does nothing but harm America’s reputation to be backing a coup government that kills civilian protesters in the streets. It costs the U.S. very little to end that support, and it gains the U.S. nothing but grief to continue the status quo." ~~~~~ THIS IS WRONG...WRONG...WRONG. We are not witnessing in the Moslem Brotherhood a new Martin Luther King trying to gain constitutionally guaranteed civil rights for American Blacks. This is not Selma or the March on the Mall. The Moslem Brotherhood does not have "a dream." It is attempting to impose a nightmare on Egyptians who do not support their radical vision of Islam. The Moslem Brotherhood spawned Hamas - the organization that "kidnapped" the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip by promising democracy and economic development but delivering charia law, imposed leaders without further elections and economic collapse. Morsi tried to "kidnap" Egypt with a similar set of election promises. He then hired corrupt security forces to monitor civilians. He rigged the parliamentary elections and foisted an islamist-charia leaning constitution on Egyptians who were cut out of the governmental process. He gave himself dictarorial powers. BUT Morsi made one mistake. He thought Egyptians were as docile as the Gaza Palestinians. They were not. Egyptians rose up in the tens of millions to demand that the army get rid of Morsi and let them restart their march toward self-government. WHAT HAS THE ARMY DONE? The army stepped in. It took Morsi from power. It named an interim government after consulting all groups in Egypt. It announced a plan, still on schedule, to write a new constitution, approve it in a referendum and then hold parliamentary and presidential elections. The interim prime minister today reaffirmed all this in a TV appearance. WHAT HAS THE BROTHERHOOD DONE? It has encouraged its followers to block significant crossroads making some Cairo areas difficult to live and work in, while torturirg and killing some who refused to join the Brotherhood. It has pleaded that it is the innocent democratic victim...just re-read above to understand the cynicism at work here. It collected arms, ammunition and bombs - many of which have been seized by the army this week. It has desecrated and burned Christian churches. It has killed a cab driver who supported the army with a photo in his taxi. It has beheaded at least one policeman. It occupied a mosque and used tbe prayer minaret as a vantage point for sniper fire on citizens and soldiers in the streets - the army offered safe exit to Brotherhood followers and others in the mosque and helped many exit before clearing it of Brotherhood members today. ~~~~~ Yes...the army has killed people this week. Yes...the situation is precarious. BUT imagine the massacres all over Egypt if the army loses control to the Brotherhood. Imagine an Egypt controlled by islamist radicals. Imagine the future of the Suez Canal. Imagine Iran in Egypt with no restraining force left to keep them and the Brotherhood and Hamas from making good on their vow to eliminate Israel. The world is not Utopia. Choices must be made. Choose the dream of self-government for Egypt. Do not cast out her people into the arms of terrorists. Support the Egyptian army as it tries to hold the country together.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Missing Element in the Egyptian Tragedy is Leadership

Events are fluid and rapidly changing today in Egypt. Here is a summary of what I have seen and heard reported. *Friday's marches were for the most part peaceful, with 33 deaths and 180 injuries reported by the Egyptian Health Ministry. There was sporadic gunfire and CNN reported early today that some pro-Morsi Brotherhood marchers carried hidden homemade pistols and pellet guns. The Egyptian army observed the marchers and prevented entry into Tahrir and Ramses Squares. The curfew is now in effect and seems largely to be effective. *The Brotherhood has called for daily marches until Morsi is reinstated as president. *Attacks on Christian churches have subsided - or are not being reported. *The Egyptian ambassador to the United States told a CNN anchor that the pro-Morsi group has beheaded at least one policeman. *Middle East countries are sticking to their previous positions - either condemning or supporting Wednesday’s crackdown by the Egyptian army against Moslem Brotherhood protesters. Turkey, Iran and Qatar, which identify with the Brotherhood and its Islamist agenda, condemned the violent dispersal of the protests, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE continued to back the military. *The European Union has called for a review of its relations with Egypt. *Israel is watching in silence. If any country needs a stable and friendly Egypt, it is Israel and the silence reflects the Jewish fears that an islamist Egypt could emerge. *Expert Middle East watchers are in unanimous agreement that whatever influence America once had in Egypt has largely disappeared because of President Obama's lack of a coherent Middle East policy. Their conclusion is that the $1.5 billion that the US is using as a lever in trying to make the Egyptian military adhere to a policy that welcomes the Brotherhood into its political fabric will not work - because the aid the Egyptian military is receiving from its Arab neighbors far exceeds the small amount Obama is dangling. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is not at all clear that the Egyptian military is either anti-democratic or excessively violent. Their program of presenting a draft constitution is on target to be completed in August. They were very careful today in the face of very large pro-Morsi / anti-mitary marches. And the marchers themselves were restrained and peaceful for the most part. While the two sides in this battle are far apart politically and culturally, their rhetoric is similar. They seek democracy. They want a popularly elected government. They deplore the violence. These positions may well be cynically made for TV consumption. But they could offer the chance to talk -- if there were a leader capable of bringing them together. It is a truism that leadership is never missed until it is needed. But, at that point, it is too late.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Worldwide Radical-Islamist Terrorism Is Everyone's Problem, Mr. Obama

Let's review what has happened in the Middle East today. (1). A car bomb exploded in a crowded southern Beirut neighborhood that is a stronghold of the militant group Hezbollah, killing at least 14 people and trapping dozens in burning cars and buildings in the latest violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria, officials said. Opponents of Bashar al-Assad have threatened to retaliate against Hezbollah for intervening on behalf of his regime in the conflict. The blast raises the specter of Lebanon being pulled further into the Syrian civil war, which is becoming increasingly sectarian. The blast appeared to be an attempt to frighten the group's civilian supporters and did not target any known Hezbollah facility or personality. (2). Eight separate car bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing 25 and wounding at least 200. This is the latest episode in a continuing escalation of violence that has killed 1,000 and wounded 2,000 Iraqis this year. Iraq's foreign minister, in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, told CNN's Hala Gorani that the fundamental problems in the Middle East include the ongoing and spreading civil war in Syria and the lack of leadership both at the regional level and internationally that could give direction. (3). Egyptian authorities authorized police to use deadly force to protect themselves and key state institutions from attacks, after presumed supporters of deposed Islamist-Moslem Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi torched two local government buildings near the capital in the latest of a series of apparent reprisals following a bloody crackdown on their protest camps yesterday. The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of national security, said that the new measures come after an angry crowd stormed the buildings in Giza, the city next to Cairo that is home to the Pyramids. Officials say the death toll is now 43 security force members and 525 Morsi-Brotherhood supporters, while 3,700 have been injured. Meanwhile, Egypt's military-backed government pledged to confront "terrorist actions and sabotage" carried out by members of Morsi's Moslem Brotherhood group. "These actions are carried out as part of criminal plan that clearly aims at toppling down the state." Also today, in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, witnesses and a security official said they saw Morsi supporters stab a taxi driver to death for hanging a picture of Defense Minister General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, the leader of the July 3 coup, in his cab. The cab driver argued with them to watch out, they pulled him out (of his car) and stabbed him," said Mohammed el-Mashali, a reporter for the al-Fagr weekly who said he witnessed the killing. Tamarod, the youth organization that started the protests that led to Morsi's ouster, asked civilians to set up neighborhood watch groups to protect government and private property. Meanwhile, attacks on Coptic Christian churches continued for a second day, according to Egypt's official news agency and human rights advocates. Egypt's MENA agency said Morsi-Brotherhood supporters set fire to the Prince Tadros church in the province of Fayoum, nearly 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Cairo. There have been eyewitness reports of incidents of violence against 30 or more churches, monasteries, Coptic schools and shops in different parts of the country. ~~~~~ These events do not offer any sense that the Middle East is able to manage itself. And yet, today US President Obama made the following comment : "America cannot determine the future of Egypt." This was Obama's first statement since violence erupted Wednesday. "That's a task for the Egyptian people. We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure." He said Egypt would have "false starts" in its efforts to embrace democracy and recalled America's own "mighty struggles to perfect our union." The President also ordered his national security team to "assess the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the US-Egyptian relationship. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that he called Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to relay the decision that the biennial joint US-Egypt military exercises have been cancelled by Presidenr Obama. Hagel said he made it clear that "the violence and inadequate steps towards reconciliation are putting important elements of our longstanding defense cooperation at risk." ~~~~~ Americans, Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians, Libyans, Tunisians and Egyptians have become accustomed to President Obama's lukewarm to non-existent support for Middle East governments battling radical-islamist terrorists trying to insinuate themselves into the political process. The media, intent on denouncing the violence of conservative governments, often launch verbal attacks those very governments when they are simply trying to stave off radical-islamist takeovers leading to repressive Islamist religious states. And the UN, always ready to talk and give advice but lacking any success it can point to, will now talk about Egypt. We do not need more talk. We do not need western security and political experts telling Egypt to bring the Moslem Brotherhood into the political process - would the US or France or the UK want to be told to try to bring car-bomb terrorists into their political processes? We need to act -- by making military and intelligence advisors and aid available to governments under radical-islamist attack; by offering social and economic aid and cover to make sure it gets to those local groups trying to cope with radical-islam in their terrorist-shattered communities; by stopping the drumbeat of messages that suggest that these governments are as evil as the radical-islamists they are confronting. It is not Egypt's problem, alone. It is the worldwide war on radical-islamist terrorism. We are all on the front line. So, Mr. President, when your holiday is over, perhaps you would consider working day and night with the Egyptian military to keep Egypt, the lynchpin of the Moslem world, from turnng into a radical-islamist terror-ground. If not you - and America - who?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Egypt and Tunisia Prove that the Arab Spring Is about Self-government

Early Wednesday, Egyptian security forces began to clear two sit-ins by supporters of the country's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, who is the titular head of the Moslem Brotherhood. The security forces of the military-backed government moved into a square near Cairo University at dawn and cleared it. The much larger protest camp located at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square near a large mosque in an area of Cairo that is the stronghold of the Brotherhood is still being cleared as I report at 3:30 pm European time. Access routes around the Rabaa camp have been blocked but CNN reported that 15,000 pro-Morsi Brotherhood supporters have entered the camp to re-inforce their numbers. The military have reported that ammunition and weapons caches were found in the Rabaa camp. Officials have also halted all trains into Cairo, presumably in an effort to keep Brotherhood supporters out of the city. But, south of Cairo there have been reports of Brotherhood attacks on police stations and Christian churches, with one church being burned. Morsi's supporters continue to say that they will not leave the camp until the president, ousted in a popularly supported coup July 3, is reinstated. The international community tried without success to negotiate a truce between the Brotherhood and the interim government, which says the Brotherhood protests have frightened residents of Cairo and disrupted normal life and business in the Egyptian capital. Both sides blame the other for using firearms today and the government reports 15 deaths while the Brotherhood says 200 are dead. CNN says both estimates should "be taken with a grain of salt." A Brotherhood spokesman in London today said the Brotherhood protest is completely peaceful and called the military-led interim government a "junta." Interim government supporters have told CNN that the Brotherhood has captured, beaten and killed people in the camp neighborhood who refuse to support them. Reports of the Brotherhood using children in the camp as shields is denied by leaders of the camp, who say they cannot prevent families from joining the protest camp, which independent sources describe as a small town occupying several city blocks. A CNN local citizen-reporter said today that it is time to take Cairo back from the Brotherhood which took power and then used it to try to force Egyptians into a radical-islamist society. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we could be watching the beginning of a long, bloody civil war in Egypt. It would turn Egypt into another Syria. The consequences would be disastrous for the Middle East, calling out the region's sectarian partisans on both sides of the radical islamist-democratic factions. It would also almost certainly threaten the existence of Israel, calling in the United States. I believe that it is the last chance for the international community to prevent such an endgame. It is not easy to choose sides between two questionable forces, but we already know two things about the Brotherhood : (1). They are incapable of governing Egypt economically. (2). The Brotherhood cynically used democratic processes to gain control of the Egyptian government and then use the power gained to turn Egypt into a radical-islamist society against the will of the majority of Egyptians, who demonstrated massively, calling on the military to oust Morsi. What we know about the military is that even today they are supported by the vast majority of Egyptians and they were willing to try to compromise, something the Brotherhood refused to do. America, Europe and the UN should do all they can to support the military...stop suggesting that the Brotherhood was "democratically" elected...refuse to become naive proponents of extremist radical-islamists. Refuse to blame the Egyptian military for today's events. Denounce the cynical protests of the Brotherhood. Help Egyptians find their way toward a democratic society.~~~~~ If the Arab Spring has taught us anything, it is that once younger Moslems get a taste of self-government, they are not easily herded back into radical-islamist straightjackets. Tunisia and Egypt are the proof. I hope the world can understand this by looking at the mechanics of initial manipulated elections in Tunisia and Egypt instead of simplistically focusing on the fact of voting as the total reality. Once this truth sinks in, it will be much easier to help those groups and governments in the Arab and Moslem worlds who deserve our help.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

President Obama Must be Made to Adhere to the Constitution

Latest information coming out of Washington strongly suggests that the Internal Revenue Service is still targeting tea party and conservative groups that file applications for tax-exempt status, more than three months after the scandal first burst onto the American scene. An aide to Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told The Washington Post : "In plain English, the IRS is still targeting tea party cases." Camp, a Michigan Republican, released a transcript of testimony from an IRS agent who told a Ways and Means investigator that the agency was still targeting such groups. The testimony was given in a closed-door session on August 1. Camp called the continuing scrutiny "outrageous." The IRS agent, who was not identified, told the committee that applications for tax-exempt status from tea party groups are forced into a special "secondary screening" because the agency has not yet developed new application review guidelines for such groups. In the transcript Camp released, a Ways and Means investigator asked the IRS agent : "If you saw — I am asking this currently, if today if a tea party case, a group— a case from a tea party group — came in to your desk, you reviewed the file and there was no evidence of political activity, would you potentially approve that case? Is that something you would do?" The IRS agent answered : "At this point, I would send it to secondary screening, political advocacy," The Committee examiner asked : "So you would treat a tea party group as a political advocacy case even if there was no evidence of political activity on the application? Is that right?" The IRS agent : "Based on my current manager's direction, uh-huh." The original scandal erupted in early May when a Treasury Department inspector general revealed that nonprofit tea party, conservative, and religious groups had been singled out for special scrutiny by the IRS for their tax-exempt applications from 2010 through the 2012 presidential election. During this period, the IRS agents placed groups with words like "tea party and"patriot" in their names on a "be on the lookout" - or BOLO - list for additional screening of its applications for tax-exempt status. The 501(c)(4) status allows groups to keep their donors private. President Barack Obama fired Steven Miller, the head of the IRS, who apologized when testifying before the Ways and Means Committee, calling it "horrible customer service." Miller had been a deputy commissioner whose portfolio included the unit that decided on tax-exempt status. He was briefed about the practice by IRS officials sometime after May 2012. At least three other IRS officials have been replaced or put on administrative leave. Lois Lerner, who managed the IRS division that targeted the groups, is still on administrative leave after invoking her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination in May when she refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating the matter. Twenty-five such groups have since sued the IRS and the Obama administration in federal court over the additional, unconstitutional, scrutiny. But Danny Werfel, the acting head of the IRS, told Congress six weeks ago that the BOLO list had been suspended. He also reaffirmed the inspector-general report's finding that no employees or outsiders intentionally subjected tea party and other conservative groups to extra scrutiny. "While fact-gathering is still underway, we have not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing" by anyone outside or inside the IRS, Werfel said in June. But asked by the Ways and Means investigator how it now handles such applications, the IRS agent said: "If a political advocacy case came in today, I would give it, or talk about it. to my manager, because right now we really don't have any direction, or we haven't had any for the last month and a half." Ways and Means Chairman Camp says : "It is outrageous that IRS management continues to target tea party cases without any justification. The harassment, abuse, and delays these Americans have faced over the last few years has been unwarranted, unprovoked and, at times, possibly illegal. The fact that the IRS still continues to treat the tea party differently and subject them to additional targeting is outrageous - and it must stop immediately." ~~~~~ Dear readers, this revelation implies outrageous behavior by the Obama administration on several levels : (1). Putting in place clearly unconstitutionally discriminatory procedures to harass and delay the legitimate requests of conservative groups for tax exempt status. (2). Using the procedures to diminish the effectiveness of these conservative groups' participation in the 2012 presidential election, thereby making it easier for Obama to win re-election. (3). Lying to Congress - a criminal act - by saying that the practice did not exist...had existed but was ended...was confined to to the IRS Cincinnati officer when it was actually more widespread. (4). Lied to both Congress and America by saying the procedure had been stopped when it is, in fact, still being used today. ~~~~~ President Obama is responsible for the actions of his administration. It is now time to ask the White House for specific written answers to questions posed by the House Ways and Means Committee. Until President Obama is made to realize that he is not above the law, that the Constitution applies to him as it applies to all Americans, until he is forced to behave in a manner that comports with the historic role of the President in his relations with his administration, Congress and the American people, we will continue to see a President who behaves more like an absolute ruler than an American officer elected to uphold the Constitution.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Benghazi Attack Dogs Obama and Clinton

While Washington is on vacation, new disclosures about the Benghazi attack on American diplomatic personnel last September are keeping very much alive a disastrous failure of security for US diolomats that the Obama administration is seeking to bury by calling it a "phony scandal." Fox News has reported that at least five CIA employees have been forced to sign new nondisclosure agreements aimed at discouraging them from leaking their stories to the media, even though they had signed such agreements prior to the attacks. CNN reports that some CIA operatives are being required to take frequent, even monthly polygraph tests in an effort to uncover who may be talking to the media or Congress about the attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that took the life of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Former CIA operative and CNN analyst Robert Baer said it is highly unusual for agency employees to be polygraphed more often than every three or four years. CNN has reported that according to communications it has obtained, one insider states: "You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation." CNN is also reporting that dozens of Americans were in Benghazi on the night of the attacks and are "being intimidated into staying silent." According to CNN, a source told it the number was 35, with perhaps as many as seven wounded, but it is not clear how many Americans in the city were working for the CIA. Only losses suffered by the State Department have been reported to Congress. Some in Congress have speculated that US agencies in Benghazi were secretly helping to move missiles out of Libya through Turkey and into the hands of Syrian rebels. The State Department has claimed it was only helping the Libyan government destroy old or damaged weapons. If CNN's report is correct, the CIA is at minimum trying to hide its unauthorized weapons deliveries to Syria from Congress, something that CIA agents might otherwise want to reveal. Congress should press for information. Republican Representative Frank Wolf, whose district includes CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., is disturbed by the lack of information and the pressure to silence CIA operatives. "I think it is a form of cover-up," he said. He has gone to the floor of the House several times to ask for the establishment of a select committee to probe the Benghazi affair. In another action, Representative Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican, said on Thursday he plans to force a vote in Congress on creating an investigative body. And House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has issued two subpoenas to the State Department for documents related to the deadly assault in Benghazi. He said he wants all documents the State Department gave to an independent review board headed by former diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, and all documents related to interviews conducted by the board. Fox News has also reported that some Congress members believe that while the government is making efforts to keep Benghazi personnel silent, not enough progress has been made in tracking down those responsible for the attacks. Although the US Justice Department has just filed sealed charges in New York against several people in the Benghazi affair, including Ahmed Abu Khattala, allegedly the Benghazi leader of Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militia group that advocates strict Sharia law, none of the officials would discuss the specific charges against Khattalah in the sealed complaint. But in a recent CNN interview, Khattalah acknowledged being at the Benghazi mission after the attack but denied any involvement. He also told CNN he had not been questioned by Libyan authorities or the FBI in the investigation and that no one from the US government has contacted him. US law enforcement officials said it was not unusual for the FBI to not interview defendants in a case while they collect other evidence. The investigation is led by agents from the FBI in New York and has included some members of the Washington field office, who have traveled to Libya to interview hundreds of witnesses, officials told CNN. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Republicans have accused the White House of not increasing security before the Benghazi attack, of botching the response to it and of misleading the public for political gain less than two months before the November 2012 presidential election. The Benghazi attacks involved scores of militants using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons. Five days after the attacks, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice went on five Sunday morning talk shows, working from talking points that were heavily edited largely at the request of the State Department, and said the assaults began as a peaceful protest against an anti-Moslem film and that the protest was later "hijacked" by militants. The administration later acknowledged, however, that the attacks were the work of a possible terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida and not a reaction to the video. Rice is now President Obama's national security adviser. Since the Benghazi attacks, the White House has come under steady attack from Republicans, particularly by Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte. The senators, members of the Armed Services Committee, have repeatedly said that the administration, the State Department, and other federal agencies barred those who worked in Benghazi from testifying before Congress. There is one person who could shed light on much of the Obama administration's actions during and after the Benghazi attack. Hillary Clinton. She must be subpoenaed and made to answer questions directly instead of allowing her to engage in the theatrical posturings that she used the last time she appeared before Congress in order to avoid answering truthfully or, in the alternative, put herself in danger of lying.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Senator Harry Reid Is a Blundering Fool

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has once again proven that he is familiar with racist comments - because he seems to let them tumble from his lips rather often by American standards. Yesterday on a National Public Radio interview in Las Vegas, Reid said he hopes Republicans who oppose the president do so "based on substance and not the fact that he's an African American." Reid, who is a Nevada Democrat, lamented Republican filibusters and claimed opponents do everything they can to make Obama fail. He recalled that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said during Obama's first term that his most important goal was ensuring Obama wasn't re-elected. (Wake up, Senator Reid - EVERY Republican's goal is to prevent the re-election of Democrats - and vice versa. Did the GOP call you a religious "racist" because you tried to keep Mormon Republican Mitt Romney from being elected? ) Senator Reid continued : "Here we are seven months into his second term and nothing has changed....It's been obvious they are doing everything they can to make him fail. And I hope, I hope, and I say this seriously, it's based on substance and not the fact that he's an African American." NO, Senator Reid, the GOP is not racist, as you are. The GOP opposes Obama's programs - when one actually emerges from the fog that has submerged the White House since 2008. And the GOP will continue to oppose the tax-and-spend attitudes of Obama, and you and your Democrat colleagues on Capitol Hill until you come to your senses and begin to help the GOP dig America out of its fiscal mess before it is too late. But to get back to the Reid interview, Reid's comments went unchallenged by the program's moderator, but not by Newsmax contributor and conservative African-American columnist Clarence V. McKee, who said there was no reason for Reid to raise the race issue during the interview. “It’s been typical for the last 3½ years whenever he’s [Obama] criticized the first thing they yell is ‘race or racism,’” said McKee who held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as the Reagan presidential campaigns. “For the Senate majority leader to stoop that low and go into the racial gutter is disgusting.” He said Reid’s comments were tantamount to “liberal, elitist, racism.” McConnell's office referred a request for comment to Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican from South Carolina, who said Reid's remarks were offensive and asked for an apology. In 2010, Reid apologized for comments he made about the president’s race during the 2008 presidential campaign. Reid described then-Senatior Obama as “light skinned’’ and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’’ In his 2010 apology, Reid attributed his private description of Obama to a “poor choice” of words. “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” he said at the time. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.’ In his radio interview, Reid also criticized members of the tea party, comparing them to anarchists who helped spark World War I. He said that while modern anarchists don't resort to violence, they do not believe in government and rejoice in its troubles."They have the same philosophy as the early anarchists," he said. "They don't believe in government. Anytime anything bad happens to the government, that's a victory for them. It makes it very difficult to get things done." ~~~~~ Dear readers, as President Reagan would have said, "There he goes again." Senator Reid, tea partiers are not anarchists. They are hard working middle class Americans who understand something that you and your Democrat Party fail to comprehend -- that America is in a horrible fiscal black hole caused by your Democrat policies. Tea partiers are trying to change how things work in Washington and to save America from your efforts to kick the can down the road until it falls off the fiscal cliff, and America with it, and tea partiers are using a time-honored mechanism. It is called the constitutional right to free speech, peaceful assembly and voting. Think about it, Senator Reid. Voting. That is not anarchy. It is the opposite of anarchy. It is the exercise of the fundamental right of every American to vote for the candidates and parties he or she prefers. Got it, Senator Reid? Constitution. Racial equality. Voting. America.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Obama's Foreign Policy Blunders Multiply

There have been few weeks so much about President Barack Obama as this past week. Let's consider the trail he has left behind. ~~~~~ (1). Last week on Friday, the American government issued a worldwide travel warning for US tourists and closed 19 US embassies in the Moslem world because of what was called a serious but non-pinpointed terrorist threat. Many European governments followed the American lead. As last weekend rolled toward Monday, the threat was announced to be focused in the Arabian Peninsula, either as target or as perpetrator. Yemen took charge of its part of the problem, with the help of US drones, and by mid-week, Yemen said it had eliminated a current threat to oil and gas fields in its territory, adding that it was not certain that this was the same threat America was talking about. Some US and European intelligence experts began to ask if Obama had overreacted and whether the very public announcement had actually compromised the US intelligence gathering systems in the Middle East. Then, Thursday night, the US announced the closing of its Lahore, Pakistan, consulate because of a serious threat not related to the earlier worldwide warning, according to rhe Obama administration. And, except for a five-minute chat with the host of an American late-night comedy show, the world has had very little explanation from the President. (2). Obama unceremoniously and suddenly pulled tbe plug publicly this week on a scheduled summit meeting wirh Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been sheduled in September at the G8 meeting in Moscow. The first White House explanation was that the President was angry with Putin's decision to grant temporary asylum to the American who had stolen intelligence information and released it after fleeing US jurisdiction -- the Stockton affair. Later in an obvious scramble to recover the diplomatic gaff, the President and his spokesmen said there were other outstanding issues to be resolved at lower levels and the decision to cancel was not just because of Stockton. President Putin quickly seized the diplomatic high ground, without mentioning Stockton, saying he held no grudges and would not resort to reprisals. (3). President Obama made it known that he had asked Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham to go to Egypt and try to find a compromise to calm the waters between the Morsi Brotherhood faction and the military that had ousted him from the presidency. Obama apparently forgot to mention to McCain that "coup" was a forbidden word because it could trigger the freeze of military and other aid to Egypt under American law - because McCain, at his first Cairo press conference called the military ouster a coup. The US State Department scrambled to say the official position of the Obama administration is that there is no need to use the word coup in reference to the "transition" now underway in Egypt. ~~~~~ If, dear readers, when you try to follow what's going on in the White House this week, you get the feeling you are on a roller coaster or a rodeo broncing steer being tossed about from pillar to post - give a thought to President Obama. He must want to pull the bed covers over his head and stay there until 2016. But, things like this week's fiascos happen when you have no foreign policy, have no advisors capable of creating foreign policy, and are arrogant enough to believe that you are above the need for foreign policy because you are an Immortal sent by Zeus to smile upon us poor human beings.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Judge Rules to Allow Major Hasan to Continue with his Defense Strategy

The military court martial trial of the military officer accused in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood took a new turn yesterday. Many experts had already been surprised by US Army Major Nidal Hasan's decision to act as his own lawyer, something very rare in military trials. Then Hasan made an opening statement of less than one minute in which he stated that the facts would show that he was the killer. Even though acting as his own counsel, Hasan has a team of court-appointed lawyers whose role is to advise him by answering his questions about how to proceed with his personally developed defense strategy. The team of defense lawyers, led by Lt. Colonel Kris Poppe, has determined that Hasan is trying to guarantee himself a death sentence, saying they believe he is trying to convince jurors to convict him. After only one day of testimony, the lawyers said, they couldn't watch him fulfill a death wish. While the defense legal standby team cannot easily prevent Hasan from seeking his own conviction, the lawyers are faced with a question of legal ethics of major proportions. Lawyers are under a professional oath to protect the rights of clients and Poppe told the presiding judge on Wednesday that Hasan's strategy " repugnant to defense counsel and contrary to our professional obligations." Poppe told the judge he and the other standby lawyers want to take over the case. And if Hasan is allowed to continue on his own, they want their roles minimized so Hasan can't ask them for help with a strategy they oppose. The judge had to decide what to do, knowing that any decision will be scrutinized by a military justice system that has overturned most soldiers' death sentences in the last 30 years and last executed a soldier in 1961. Hasan faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Richard Rosen, a law professor at Texas Tech University and former military prosecutor who attended the first two days of trial, said, "I think whatever she [the judge] does is potentially dangerous, at least from the view of an appellate court." Rosen and other experts said that if the judge allows Poppe and Hasan's other standby defense attorneys to take over, the judge could be seen as having unfairly denied Hasan's right to defend himself, a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. But if she lets Hasan continue defending himself, she could be depriving him of adequate help from experienced attorneys. Another law professor who is an expert in military justice said, "The worst thing that can happen would be to retry the case all over again....At the end of the day, the defendant has the absolute right to decide who's going to represent him, including deciding to represent himself." When Poppe noted that Hasan didn't object to any jurors during jury selection, the judge suggested that Hasan could simply be following a different strategy to ensure he'd have more jurors, knowing that only one juror has to vote against a death sentence for him to be spared. "Some would think that is a brilliant strategy," the judge told Poppe. Experts agree, saying that Hasan declining to cross-examine most witnesses - especially victims who survived the shooting - wasn't necessarily a bad move, explaining that questioning victims could merely have angered the jurors. The trial resumed Thursday morning with the judge giving her decision on defense counsel requests. ~~~~~ And, dear readers, the defense attorneys have had their request denied. The judge sided with Hasan on Thursday, saying it's clear the standby attorneys simply disagree with Hasan's defense strategy. This decision may possibly be appealed by the Poppe standby legal team, as a matter of procedure, arguing that the judge's ruling will have a serious impact on the trial outcome. They will have a high hurdle to jump to get an appellate hearing during the trial because they are in essence challenging, without explicitly stating it, the determination that Hasan is mentally competent to stand trial. The bizarre twists in the Hasan trial continue.