Monday, June 30, 2014
The Israeli military today found the bodies of the three missing teenagers, just over two weeks after they were abducted in the West Bank, allegedly by Hamas militants. The discovery ended an urgent search that led to Israel's largest ground operation in the Palestinian territory in a decade and raised fears of a renewed Israeli-Hamas confrontation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed tough action : "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," Netanyahu said in a statement, adding the teenagers "were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals." The three boys - Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship - disappeared while hitchhiking home near the West Bank city of Hebron after 10pm on June 12. Despite the dangers, hitchhiking is common among Israelis traveling in and out of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The teens had been studying at Jewish religious seminaries in the West Bank. "The bodies are currently going through forensic identification. The families of the abducted teens have been notified," the army said. Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the bodies were found "under a pile of rocks" near the village of Halhul, just north of Hebron. Binyamin Proper, who was among the civilian volunteers that found the bodies, told Israeli TV that a member of the search party "saw something suspicious on the ground, plants that looked out of place, moved them and moved some rocks and then found the bodies. We realized it was them and we called the army." The disappearance of the three teenagers had sparked a frantic manhunt throughout the West Bank, including the arrest of nearly 400 Hamas operatives. Last week, the Israeli security service named two Palestinian suspects in the abductions - Marwan Kawasma and Amer Abu Aysha - who are described as well-known operatives in the Islamist militant group Hamas. The two men remained on the run late Monday. The search for the three boys captured the attention of everyone in Israel. Israelis held daily prayer vigils, including mass gatherings attended by tens of thousands of people at the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site in Judaism, and in a downtown square in Tel Aviv. The boys' mothers appeared on TV often, asking for the release of their sons. News of their deaths caused a spontaneous outpouring of grief in Israel. Friends and neighbors rushed to the homes of the families in the Israeli towns of Nof Ayalon and Elad, and the West Bank settlement Talmon, while supporters lit memorial candles. "All of Israel bows its head today," said President Shimon Peres. ~~~~~ Prime Minister Netanyahu was huddling with his Security Cabinet, a group of senior government ministers, late Monday debating a response. But, AP reports that Israel's options may be somewhat limited. The two-week crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank means that few major targets remain. Hamas was already weakened by seven years of pressure by Israel and the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli forces seemed to find very little during the latest crackdown. So Israel may focus on the Gaza Strip. Israel has been battling a wave of rocket fire from Gaza that erupted in response to its West Bank operation. There have been almost daily Hamas rocket attacks, followed by Israeli reprisals. Israel has not shown publicly its evidence that Hamas was responsible for the kidnappings or that the kidnappers received orders from higher-ups, rather than acting on their own. And Hamas, while it has praised the kidnappings, has never claimed responsibility. Today in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against undertaking a broad offensive. Gaza militants possess thousands of rockets and would almost certainly unleash heavy barrages at Israel if Israel attacks. "Netanyahu should know that threats don't scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him," Zuhri said. In Washington, President Obama said : "As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms senseless acts of terror against innocent youth." Naftali Bennett, the conservative Israeli minister of finance and a supporter of building Israel settlements, told the Israeli media : "There is no mercy for the murderers of children. This is the time for action not words," And Yuli Edelstein, speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, said : "It's time for Israel to wage an unrelenting war against terror in general and against Hamas in particular." Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, said Israel would step up its calls for Abbas to dissolve the unity government he recently formed with the backing of Hamas. Abbas has said he will not do this, although he has condemned the kidnappings and helped Israel in its search for the boys. ~~~~~ Dear readers, in a moment when the world pauses to consider the death of three innocent Israeli teenagers who were simply returning home after religious studies, we first turn to their families, and especially their mothers who were shown on European TV several times, asking for the return of their sons with a quiet dignity that belied the anguish and resignation in their eyes. Then, we reach out to Israel, once again victimized by an unrelenting faceless terror that lives next door to them. But, then, as reasoning human beings, we ask why these deaths are so painful - they are the latest, but surely not the last, and they join the hundreds of thousands of Middle East Jews and Moslems slaughtered by jihadist terrorists and the governments that support them. We must surely today recall the bloodstained bodies of Syrian infants and the faces of the young Nigerian Christian schoolgirls staring out of enforced, unwanted veils put there by Boko Haram. We remember the lifeless bodies of mothers trying to cover their children to keep them alive in the chemical attacks of Saddam Hussein in southern Iraq. Why? Why do terrorists and tyrants - for they are the same, only their methods differ - feel compelled to sow hatred, to brutally kill those, even children, whose crime is to be sunni...or shiite...or Christian...or Jewish? And why is it these three Jewish schoolboys who make us stop in our tracks? Because they have faces and names and mothers -- we saw them..we heard them...we knew in the deep recesses of our souls that they were walking in the valley of the shadow of death. And they are Jewish...peace-loving reasonable, beleaguered believers in the holiness of life and the brotherhood of man - whose children are always at risk in a part of the world where peace and brotherhood are condemned to the killing fields. The next time a Western politician tries to tell you that these murdering jihadist terrorists can be reasoned with or contained or treated as if they had normal human feelings or souls -- remember Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16. They are murdered Israeli schoolboys. They are also the faces of all our children who will also be slaughtered if we do not find the will to defeat the evil that is stalking us.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited a President's power to make temporary high-level administration appointments, ruling in favor of Senate Republicans in their argument with President Barack Obama. But the Justices did not take the more sweeping decision that would have effectively ended a President's power to make recess appointments when the Senate takes a break. It was the Court's first case concerning the Constitution's recess appointments clause, and it was a unanimous 9-0 decision that Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 without Senate confirmation were illegal. Obama's position before the Court was that the Senate was on an extended holiday break and that the brief sessions it held every three days - what lawmakers call "pro forma" - were a sham intended to prevent him from filling seats on the National Labor Relations Board. The majoriry opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, rejected Obama's argument, ruling that the Senate is not in recess if lawmakers actually say they are in session and retain the power to conduct business. He said a congressional break has to last at least 10 days - arrived at by reviewing the 150-year history of intra-session recess appointments - to be considered a recess under the Constitution. The impact of the decision may be less important since Senate Democrats changed the rules to make it harder for the Senate's minority party - currently the GOP - to block Obama's nominations. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said : "We disagree with the Court's ruling." But he said that while the White House was reviewing the decision, "we'll honor it." Not a very respectful attitude toward the Supreme Court, but we have come to understand that the Obama White House is not high in the "respect" category. ~~~~~ The outcome was the least significant loss possible for President Obama. The appellate court ruling had gone further, deciding that the only recess recognized by the Constitution is the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress. It also said that only vacancies that arise during that recess could be filled. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for himself, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, said he would have upheld the reasoning of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. He noted that the Constitution's Recess Appointments Clause gives the President the power to "...fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate by granting Commissions which shall expire at the end of their next Session." ARTICLE II, Section 2, clause 3. For Scalia, that the majority deviated from that clear constitutional language will only cause future problems when the Court is asked to decide other separation of powers questions. As for the opinion based on the facts at hand, Justice Scalia writes : “The Court’s decision transforms the recess-appointment power from a tool carefully designed to fill a narrow and specific need,into a weapon to be wielded by future presidents against future Senates....The only remaining practical use for the recess-appointment power is the ignoble one of enabling Presidents to circumvent the Senate's role in the appointment process, which is precisely what happened here." Scalia took the unusual step of reading his concurrence from the bench. For anyone who wants to read Justice Scalia's majestic concurring opinion, in which he demolishes the majority's faulty reasoning, caused by their refusal to accept the perfectly clear words of the Constitution's Recess Appointmrnts Clause - google 'NLRB vs. Noel Canning et al' - it is a masterpiece. ~~~~~ This Supreme Court decision is a major ruling because sets out clear rules for a President's exercise of his executive power to make recess appointments, a well-established practice that has been used thousands of times without generating a Supreme Court ruling. Obama has said that other Presidents have made more recess appointments than he has - and that is true as far as it goes - but Obama literally forced Supreme Court intervention because he was the first President to try to make recess appointments when Congress explicitly said it was not in recess. The Constitution requires that the Senate and House must get the other's consent for any break lasting longer than three days. At the end of 2011, the Republican-controlled House would not give the Democratic-led Senate permission for a longer break. The partisan roles were reversed during G.W. Bush's presidency, when Senate Democrats sought ways to prevent the President from making recess appointments. In fact, the very basis on which the Justices decided this case - that the Senate can use extremely brief sessions to avoid a formal recess - was a tactic devised by now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to frustrate President Bush. But, now the rules have been spelled out by the Supreme Court. And, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minoriry Leader Mitch McConnell, praised the Court for rejecting what they described as Obama's unconstitutional power grab. If, as expected, the Republicans hold their House majority and gain enough Senate seats to become tbe majority party in the Senate, on a practical level, there may be little difference between how the Court decided the case and the way Justice Scalia wishes it had been decided -- because a President's recess appointment power has more and more often been forced to yield to the now-common Senate practice of blocking recess appointments by convening for pro forma sessions every three days. The Supreme Court's decision blesses this new reality. And it is now clear that a recess appointment cannot last more than two years. ~~~~~ Dear readers, because of President Obama's seemingly psychological need to challenge everything about the way the US government works under its Constitution, he forced upon himself a 9-0 Supreme Court decision against his action. It may seem odd that a President who considers himself a constitutional law expert could be so wrong-headed in a matter that is so cleatly against him. The words of the Constitution are clear - as clear as any in the document. And, President Obama narrowly avoided a far broader loss, one that could have limited recess appointments to breaks between Congress’s formal annual sessions, and even then to vacancies that occurred during those breaks - as supported by the appellate court decision and the approach embraced by the Supreme Court’s four conservative members and articlated by Justice Scalia : “The majority practically bends over backwards to ensure that recess appointments will remain a powerful weapon in the president’s arsenal,” Justice Scalia wrote. But - Justice Scalia would have added if he had wanted to give the Court majority and the President a political lesson to match his constitutional construction lesson - but only when the Senate majority is the same political party as the President. Now, for all practical purposes, the Court has shut down the President's recess appointment power when the Senate majority party is not the President's party. For 150 years, Presidents have avoided getting this obvious answer from the Nine Men in Black...it took a President who is a "constitutional law expert" to force the wrong question and get the answer that limits presidential powers in the manner the Constitution clearly envisioned.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Pope Francis visited Calabria in southern Italy last Saturday and dropped a bombshell. Calling the practices of the Italian 'Ndrangheta crime group the “adoration of evil,” Pope Francis said the Calabria Mafiosi “are excommunicated” from God and the Catholic Church. The comments came in his outdoor address to more than 100,000 people : “Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated. This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it,” Francis said, promising that the Vatican would make every effort to combat Mafia activity. Francis condemned 'Ndrangheta as the “adoration of evil and contempt of the common good.” The pontiff sent a message directly to the mob : “Power, the money you have now from your many dirty dealings, from your many Mafia crimes, is blood money, it is power that is stained with blood, and you will not be able to take it with you to the next life. Repent, there is stil time, so as not to end up in hell.” ~~~~~ Now, in the 21st century, the spectacle of a Pope excommunicating evildoers may seem quaint. But don't be fooled. Pope Francis has made a serious frontal attack against a major criminal organization that is the scourge of southern Italy. 'Ndrangheta, centered in Calabria, has become the most powerful syndicate of Italy. Although tied to the Sicilian Mafia, 'Ndrangheta operates independently and is believed to make its money from drug trafficking, extortion and money-laundering. Its activities are equal to least 3% of Italy's GDP, with a revenue of 53 billion Euros annually, according to a confidential report made by the US Consul General in Naples that was revealed by Wikileaks. 'Ndrangheta's international links, especially with Latin America, have helped them dominate global cocaine trade. Nicola Gratteri, a prosecutor tracing the organization's international reach, told the Guardian newspaper that 80% of cocaine in Europe is smuggled by Calabrian mobsters. Enzo Macri from the National Antimafia Directorate says 'Ndrangheta has perhaps 10,000 members and represents the “globalisation” of Italian organised crime. Colombians would rather deal with the Calabrians,” says Macri. “They are much more reliable. They don't talk. And they pay on time.” ~~~~~ So, Pope Francis has hit a major blow at a large criminal economic system. It is a big deal that the Pope has told 'Ndrangheta they have excommunicated themselves from the Catholic Church. Barring the mobsters from membership and participation in the Church is personal for the Mafiosi. But remember, Pope Francis wasn't formally excommunicating all Mafiosi, Vatican spokesman Reverend Ciro Benedettini clarified - that's a legal process. Francis' cut was deeper. In the unscripted comments, the Pope suggested to mobsters that they should refrain from taking part in the sacraments, and also attempted to "isolate Mafiosi within their own communities," Benedettini said, an indication that the Catholic Church does not consider them "uomini d'onore," or "men of honor." Southern Italy's mobsters are a 'pious' bunch - overwhelmingly active Catholics, who use religious celebrations as an important part of their public image and local legitimacy. Religion offers the Mafia a way to bind their organizations together, and gives them the feeling that they are extorting and killing in the name of a noble cause. Pope Francis took a meat axe to such posturing. ~~~~~ A prominent anti-Mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, recently told an Italian newspaper that the 'Ndrangheta was "getting very nervous" about the Pope's push for financial transparency at the Vatican Bank, and "will seriously consider" taking him out for potentially damaging changes to Mafia money laundering operations - it was business, a much likelier reason for the 'Ndrangheta to target Pope Francis. He wouldn't be the first pontiff to warn the Mafia of eternal punishment. In 1993, Pope John Paul II traveled to Sicily with a message for the Sicilian Mafiosi : "You will one day face the justice of God." The Cosa Nostra didn't try to kill John Pau II, but it did apparently respond by bombing several Roman churches a few months later, including the Basilica of St. John Lateran, his parish church in his role as Bishop of Rome. That reaction to Pope John Paul's relatively mild rebuke lends some credence to fears of a Mafia hit after Pope Francis' frank condemnation. And the Mafia isn't above killing prominent figures or men of the cloth, either. In 1993 Cosa Nostra hit men murdered Reverend Pino Puglisi outside his Palermo church for telling his parishoners to speak out against the Mafia. In 1994, Reverend Giuseppe Diana was gunned down after testifying about the Naples-based Camorra mob, and threatening to refuse communion for Mafiosi. In 1992, the Mafia killed crusading organized crime prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Of course, it's relatively unlikely that the 'Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra, Camorra, or other Mafia groups would try to kill the Pope for generally excommunicating them. Parish priests in Calabria and Sicily will probably still serve the Eucharist to mobsters, who can't really think they're in good standing with their God anyway. ~~~~~ Dear readers, I don't want to unduly alarm you about Pope Francis' safety. He is well-protected, despite his famous plunges into crowds and refusal to use bulletproof shielding on his popemobile. Besides, the Mafia depends on the cooperation and goodwill of the communities that support them. And southern Italian communities are very Catholic. Killing a Pope, especially a very popular one, could cause a violent backlash against all Mafiosi. If the Mafia were to take the grave step of taking a hit out on the Pope, it would probably be because of money or another existential threat to the criminal enterprise, not the wounded egos or piety of mobsters. Something like Pope Francis' efforts to reform the Vatican Bank, or Institute for Religious Works, are reportedly a threat to the Mafia. In November, John Dickie, a London university professor who specializes in the Mafia, downplayed the idea of a Mafia hit : "The Mafias rarely kill without first carrying out a cost-benefit analysis. Even a rudimentary projection of the likely consequences of a hit on the head of the Catholic Church would show it to be a catastrophic own goal." But in the interview in the Il Quotidiano newspaper, Gratteri, the prosecutor, who lives under constant police protection for his own anti- Mafia work, said the Pope should be cautious. “If the godfathers can find a way to stop him, they will seriously consider it,” Gratteri said. “Those who have up until now profited from the influence and wealth drawn from the Church are getting very nervous. For many years, the Mafia has laundered money and made investments with the complicity of the Church.” Even so, a much more probable scenario is that Pope Feancis will carry on reforming the Church's finances, while the dirty money is spirited away out of the Vatican Bank. But Francis will undoubtedly pursue the Mafia. His courageously righteous Jesuit soul would not have it otherwise.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Hillary Clinton had it nailed. She would do the grand tour to roll out her Opus Magnum, "Hard Choices," clear the room of all Democrats who might be possible rivals for the Party's 2016 presidential nomination, and then sit back until early 2015 to formally announce her candidacy. ~~~~~ But politics is a dangerously unpredictable business. And Mrs. Clinton has just learned that. She pinned her foreign policy credentials on her tenure as Secretary of State. But, in announcing early in her book tour that she agreed with the foreign policy of her boss, President Obama, she didn't count on Iraq blowing up in his...and her...face. Americans blame the Obama administration's push to withdraw all American troops from Iraq in 2011 for the catastrophic advance of the terrorist jihadist ISIL through northern Iraq. "A policy of weakness and accommodation that came from the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton team has led to "very serious and negative results," said Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, in a Fox News interview. "There's almost not a place in the world that's better off because of [Clinton's] leadership in the State Department." And as America's top diplomat during the failed 2011 Iraq-US troop negotiations, Hillary Clinton's role is sure to be dissected as a major cause of the unravelling of the American military's work in Iraq. In an October 2011 interview with CNN, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton downplayed the importance of keeping troops in Iraq, saying American forces would still have plenty of capacity to deal with situations that might arise. "We have a lot of presence in that region, in addition to a very significant diplomatic presence in Iraq, which will carry much of the responsibility for dealing with an independent sovereign democratic Iraq, and we have bases in neighboring countries." Many analysts predicted al-Maliki's crackdown on the Sunni minority in the country would revive a dormant insurgency, but speaking recently at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton said the insurgents' success was unforeseeable. "I could not have predicted however, the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamic state. That's why it's a wicked problem," she said. Hardly a promsing start for someone who wants to be America's Commander-in-Chief and assume responsibility for US security. In the 2008 presidential campaign she tried to atone for her 2002 pro-Bush Iraq invasion vote that angered the left wing of her Democrat Party by becoming one of the Senate's vocal anti-war voices. She opposed the Iraq surge and voted to block it in a bill that never got to a final vote. Later, she said that while the increased troops had helped improve security temporarily, the surge ultimately "failed" in its broader goals. She did, in August 2007, call on the Iraqi Parliament to replace al-Maliki with "a less divisive and more unifying figure," prompting an angry response from the leader. But, remember that in 2007 the sunni insurgency against repressive al-Maliki actions aimed at them had already resulted in a sunni-shiite bloodbath that only US troops could put down. So Hillary Clinton was not being visionary - she had only to read the daily headlines. Now, her response to the situation in Iraq is dependent on the man who used her Iraq policy against her in the 2008 presidential campaign - Barack Obama. As a probable 2016 Democrat presidential candidate and one of Obama's top foreign policy officials, the strength of her foreign policy record - and by extension, her most often cited expertise as a reason for making a White House bid - rides on the success of Obama's foreign policy. ~~~~~ And how is Obama's foreign policy viewed by Americans? It's in the tank. A majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama's handling of the widening crisis in Iraq - and overall dissatisfaction with his foreign policy agenda has shot up among both Republicans and Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Fifty-two percent of Americans say they don't like how Obama is dealing with the violence in Iraq, while just 37% approve, the poll showed. "I voted for him because he said, 'Give me four more years and I will fix everything,' but nothing is being fixed," Michelle Roberts, 34, a Democrat from Salem, Massachusetts, told the New York Times. The poll also found 58% of Americans disapprove of Obama's foreign policy strategies - a jump of 10 points in the last month to its highest level since he took office in January 2009. Nearly a third of his own party don't approve of his handling of foreign policy, according to the poll results. The Times pointed out that the lack of support across the political spectrum has helped fuel a plunge in the President's approval rating - now at a dismal 40% - with 54% unhappy with his job performance, up 6 points since last month, the survey found. Despite voters' poor opinion of Obama's Iraq strategy, 51% of voters support his decision to send 300 military advisers to Iraq. Fifty-six percent said they would support the use of drones in Iraq to deal with militants known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which is gaining ground in the northern parts of Iraq. A little over half of Americans also favor the idea of working with Iran in a limited capacity to try to resolve the situation in Iraq. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Hillary Clinton's foreign policy successes do not exist. When we hear that she has 40 years of political experience, we can laugh. She spent seven years as a Senator, during which time she introduced not one piece of major legislation nor made any important contribution to anyone else's. She spent four years as Secretary of State, where her failures include Benghazi, the Iraq troop withdrawal, Syria, North Korean and Iranian nuclear negotiations, and Palestinian refusal to sit down with Israel to work out a peace deal. The other 29 years, she rode the coattails of her husband, Bill Clinton, racking up more failures - her healthcare plan similar to Obamacare that she couldn't get Congress to consider, the questionable death of a member of her senior staff, Whitewater corruption charges that sent her partner to prison. And, don't cry for me, Arkansas, when Mrs. Clinton tries to play a poverty card. She has never been poor in the soul-crushing sense that many Arkansas citizens were poor under her husband's watch and are still poor. Hillary Clinton is a fraud, a creature created by PR advisors and political gurus she pays to churn out an image that American voters might be persuaded to buy in 2016. Hillary is not even a good politician - the proof? Her failed book tour rifled with "I couldn't foresee that" and her shredding by journalists who actually wanted to make her look good. If the Clintons want another four years in the White House, they ought to find the moral courage to field the real politician, like him or not, Bill Clinton. At least he has a record to run on and successes to hold up for discussion. Hillary is simply a fantasy created by PR mirrors.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
After months of pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to find a way to force President Obama to work normally with them instead of acting by executive order, the Republican House Caucus finally had good news today. Boehner confirmed Wednesday that he intends to sue President Obama in the long-running dispute between the administration and congressional Republicans over the scope of the administration's executive authority to enforce laws. Boehner told reporters : "The Constitution makes it clear that a President's job is to faithfully execute the laws. In my view, the President has not faithfully executed the laws." Boehner also said : "Congress has its job to do and so does the President. And when there's conflicts like this between the legislative branch and the administrative branch, it's in my view our responsibility to stand up for this institution in which we serve." Boehner can use his authority as Speaker to convene the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a five-member legal panel appointed by GOP and Democratic House leaders, but weighted towards the majority. BLAG has authority to direct the US House Office of General Counsel, to participate in litigation and to represent the US House itself. The group consists of Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip/Majority Leader-Elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy are Republicans. Pelosi and Hoyer are Democrats. Only a simple majority is required for BLAG to authorize action, and Boehner is expected to bring legislation to the floor after the Fourth of July recess to authorize the House to file the lawsuit. ~~~~~ The proposed lawsuit has the potential to test the constitutional balance between the legislative and executive branches. Republicans have long maintained that the White House has overstepped its legal authority by subverting laws approved by Congress on a number of matters. It is unclear which executive actions Boehner will challenge, but in recent years Republicans have protested executive actions halting the deportations of immigrants illegally residing in the United States, delaying enactment of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and actions to expand gay rights and close the gender pay gap. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama would prefer to work with Congress, but "where necessary, he is willing to take action on his own using the executive authority that's vested in the presidency." Earnest was dismissive of Boehner’s lawsuit, suggesting it’s “not something that’s going to consume the attention of the White House. The fact that they are considering a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the United States for doing his job, I think, is the kind of step that most Americans wouldn’t support,” Earnest said. “I think what most Americans would say is they want their leaders in Washington, DC, to make progress on behalf of the American people.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the effort "subterfuge" because Republicans need "some aura of activity" in a log-jammed Congress. ~~~~~ Speaker Boehner said the lawsuit is not about impeachment but rather is about standing up for Congress when the White House has overstepped its boundaries and encroached on the duties of the legislative branch. “This is about defending the institution in which we serve,” Boehner said. “What we’ve seen certainly over the last five years is an effort to erode the power of the legislative branch." He said he had not yet decided what specific executive actions would be included in the lawsuit, although House Republicans have accused Obama of overstepping on everything from overextending environmental regulations to bombing Libya without congressional approval to ignoring immigration laws to making illegal "recess appointments" during periods in which Congress was not actually in recess. Congress and the executive branch regularly clash over the extent of their powers, but Mr. Obama has been more obvious than previous Presidents in welcoming the chance to circumvent Congress. When Congress has deadlocked on his priorities, Obama has tried to fill the breach by issuing executive orders or administrative procedures that go at least part of the way to carrying out his wishes without congressional approval, using what he terms his "pen and phone" authority. ~~~~~ Boehner did not detail his plans at the press conference, but sent a detailed memo to House Republicans later on Wednesday. In it, he said he plans to bring legislation authorizing the suit to the House floor in July, citing concerns that Obama's executive actions could shift the "balance of power decisively and dangerously" in favor of the White House -- giving the President "king-like authority." In the memo, Boehner cited concerns over policies on health care, energy, foreign policy and education. "On one matter after another during his presidency, President Obama has circumvented the Congress through executive action, creating his own laws and excusing himself from executing statutes he is sworn to enforce -- at times even boasting about his willingness to do it, as if daring the America people to stop him," he wrote. The decision to sue still would have to be formally approved by BLAG, and then the House. The plaintiff would be the House of Representatives. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Speaker Boehner is beginning a legal process in which the fundamental structure of the United States under its Constitution will again be examined. The separation of powers is the key to the constitutionally balanced operation of the American federal government and to the protection of the personal freedom and liberties of its citizens. Article I, Section 8 gives the Congress broad and detailed powers over taxation, budgets, executive appointments and program suggestions, commerce and war -- because the Congress and especially the House of Represrntatives, being popularly elected by voters in state districts, is the closest to American citizens, who can remove them every two years. The executive branch led by the President basically proposes programs and asks Congress to enact and finance them through the congressional lawmaking power. Even the President's role as Commander-in-Chief is subject to congressional approval of declarations of war and providing war financing. It is easy to see how great has been the slippage of power toward the President, unconstititionally denying Congress - and the American people it represents - its right and duty to balance executive action with congressional budgeting, lawmaking and oversight. John Boehner is trying to rebalance the constitutional separation of powers to give back to Congress its fundamental powers. A federal court, perhaps the Supreme Court in a case placed directly before it, must first decide it can act to resolve a constitutional question not otherwise solvable, and then decide where executive constitutional power must stop in order to preserve the constitutional powers of Congress. Speaker Boehner's use of the term "king-like authoriry" is correct - it is exactly what the Founders feared in giving a President largely undefined powers - that a President acting in bad faith would become a king, suppress Congress, and appoint judges to his non-republican liking. America should support John Boehner, who is taking the high road to preserve the Constitution and bring a renegade executive branch back under control.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The nation's archivist, David Ferreiro, told Congress Tuesday during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that the Internal Revenue Service did not follow the law when it failed to report the loss of records belonging to a senior IRS executive, Lois Letnet. When Lerner's computer crashed, resulting in the loss of records that are sought in investigations into the agency targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, the agency tried unsuccessfully to recover the records. On Tuesday, Ferriero would not say that the IRS broke the law. He would only say that the agency didn't "follow" the law. He explained that federal agencies have the duty of "preventing the unauthorized disposition of federal records, including their unlawful or accidental destruction, deletion, alteration, or removal from federal custody," he said. "When an agency becomes aware of an incident of unauthorized destruction, they must report the incident to us." The National Archives and Records Administration did not learn about the lost records until earlier this month, Ferriero said. ~~~~~ Republicans have raised serious questions about the timing of the hard drive crash, suggesting key records - emails that might have shown if there was White House involvement in the harassment tactics - sought in the investigation have conveniently gone missing. But in a rare evening hearing before the same committee Monday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that he has seen no evidence anyone committed a crime when the agency lost emails that might shed light on the targeting of tea party and other political groups before the 2010 and 2012 elections. At the Monday night hearing, committee chairman Darrell Issa subpoenaed White House counsel Jennifer O'Connor to testify about her time at the IRS from May to November 2013. While at the IRS, O'Connor helped the agency gather documents related to the congressional investigation. On Tuesday, Issa called O'Connor a "hostile witness." O"Connor answered, "I am definitely not hostile." Later in the hearing, Issa said he consulted with another member who is a former prosecutor and the proper term to describe O'Connor is a "non-cooperative witness." House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that the Obama administration is not helping Congress get to the truth over the IRS close scrutiny of conservative groups and the agency's recent revelation that it lost emails related to that probe. "The've not only not fully cooperated, they haven't done a damn thing to help us get to the truth of what really happened," Boehner said. "Lois Lerner refuses to tell us the truth, and then all of sudden, 'Oh my goodness, we lose two years' worth emails.' Listen, I grew up in a bar, this doesn't pass the straight face test." ~~~~~ The Oversight Committee is investigating the handling of applications from tea party and other political groups. In May, the House voted to hold Lois Lerner, who was head of the IRS group responsible for the tax-exempt status applications, in contempt of Congress. Congressional investigators want Lerner's emails to see if there is evidence that anyone outside the IRS was involved. Koskinen said there was no evidence that Lerner intentionally destroyed the emails. To the contrary, he said the IRS went to great lengths trying to retrieve lost documents on Lerner's computer, even sending it to the agency's forensic lab. The IRS backs up emails on computer tapes, but at the period in question, the tapes were recycled every six months, Koskinen said. He said Lerner's hard drive was recycled and presumably destroyed, an admission which visibly shocked everyone in the hearing room. Some Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 period were later recovered because she had copied other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013, but not emails from Lerner thzt went outside the IRS. Koskinen also said that the IRS inspector general is investigating the lost emails. ~~~~~ White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today that the White House is fully cooperating in the investigation : "Our commitment to cooperating with legitimate congressional oversight and in some cases illegitimate congressional oversight is pretty well documented," Earnest said. Asked if the House Oversight and Government Reform committee investigation was "illegitimate," Earnest said, "I'm saying that there are legitimate questions that can be raised about the partisan motivation of some of those who are conducting oversight in this circumstance." ~~~~~ Dear readers, I suppose on the surface the House investigation of the IRS scandal may seem like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped. The 2012 presidential election wil not be re-done, so determining the extent to which Romney's victory was prevented by illegal executive branch actions is not going to change the election result. But, Americans are rightly and extremely angry about what the IRS did - not because any one candidate won or lost, although a Romney victory would have made a huge difference in the path America has traveled since Obama's 2012 victory. Americans are angry because the IRS knows just about everything about just about everybody. That is a situation already unlike any other in American government and it is tolerated because until the IRS started to harass the political opponents of the sitting President - Mr. Obama - the IRS was politically neutral and independent of the White House to a very great degree. The IRS harassment of conservative political groups who were simply trying to get approval to use the same tax status that liberal political groups were using without being harassed by the IRS changed everything. Americans are no longer tolerant of the IRS intrusion into every corner of their lives - because down the road, they may become targets for IRS harassment themselves. That is not American constitutional government. It is a big step toward Star Chamber secret courts that crush political opponents. It will, unless halted now, lead to the suppression of First Amendment rights and eliminate the free flow of political ideas. It will choke off the one thing that has made America the envy of much of the world - the free circulation of ideas in a political dialogue that leads to the election of candidates in an unbiased and untainted process. The IRS threatens this cornerstone of America's greatness. If you don't believe that, find a video of IRS Commissioner Koskinen when his believability was challenged by Paul Ryan. The smirk on his face speaks volumes. Now is the time to act. No governmental agency has the right or mandate to destroy America. Not John Koskinen. Not the IRS. Not the White House. Not Barack Obama.
Monday, June 23, 2014
The White House has announced actions to address the spiraling illegal immigration crisis at the US-Mexican border, but Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu told Newsmax that President Obama still "doesn't get it... This President not only doesn't get it, he has completely failed in his core responsibilities to enforce the law and secure our border," Babeu, the chief law- enforcement officer in Pinal County in southern Arizona, said in an interview Friday. "There is no longer any law when it comes to immigration. He's now termed it as 'a humanitarian crisis.' " Babeu, 45, is a Republican who dismisses as inadequate administration efforts to address the worsening situation, particularly the problem of minors traveling alone. Obama's latest remedies include speeding up deportation hearings by adding more immigration judges and providing other enforcement resources. In his interview, Babeu challenged recent Department of Homeland Security figures, saying they actually were closer to 60,000 than to the 52,000 reported : "Because there is no longer any consequence or enforcement of the law when it comes to immigration, don't be scratching your head when 60,000 turns into 200,000 or more...They understand that if they get to the border, they're home free." That's the message that President Obama just sent to everyone - not just in Mexico, but throughout Central America." Vice President Joe Biden mer with Central American leaders in Guatamala in an effort to counter rumors that legal status will be granted for illegals who arrive in America without documentation. Biden said the US will provide $9.6 million in additional support to Central American governments to use in receiving and reintegrating repatriated citizens. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson visited detention centers for illegal minors on military bases in the US at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Similar facilities have been created on bases in California and Oklahoma, raising concerns that national security may be compromised by illegal immigrants' presence on military installations. The administration is also opening new centers throughout the country for illegal families, to augment the only one that is now operating, in York County, Pennsylvania, which houses fewer than 100 people. Obama's moves came as the DHS announced that more than 52,000 illegal minors had been arrested at the US border from October 2013 to June 15 of this year, which was more than double the previous 12 months. The young illegals come from Mexico and Central America, and immigration experts say they are fleeing poor economic conditions and widespread violence in their home countries. But Republicans charge that Obama's policies are encouraging illegals to come to America. Critics also have cited news reports in Central American media that create the impression of lax enforcement of immigration laws by the Obama administration. DHS statistics show that more than 174,000 people - mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala - have been arrested in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas this year. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn attacked Obama's illegal immigrant policies : "After years of ignoring the law and sending a very dangerous message to Central American families, the administration is finally taking small steps to address this enormous problem. Now, it remains to be seen if the President will follow through." Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe toured a detention center for illegal minors on Friday at the Fort Sill Army Base in Lawton, about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, where 600 children are housed and base officials have been told to prepare for as many as 1,400. Imhofe said : "Something must be done to secure our borders and to force the Obama administration to abide by our immigration laws. The flood of children coming to the border without parents is a humanitarian crisis, and the President is turning it into a national security issue by housing these individuals on our military installations." Both House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Representative David Schweikert have demanded that President Obama deploy the National Guard to help stem the crisis. Schweikert told Newsmax : "Arizona border patrol agents are telling us that some of their best trackers, some of their best folks, are now providing social services at the detention facilities to children. We need to shore up our border presence." ~~~~~ Sheriff Babeu labelled the Biden session in Central America "window dressing" and demanded that National Guard troops be posted at the border. Former President George W. Bush deployed thousands of troops to the border during his second term as he aurrhorized the Border Patrol to increase its ranks. The patrol has nearly doubled to more than 20,000 agents and the number of immigrants seized while crossing the border illegally has declined overall. Babeu, a retired Army National Guard officer who once commanded 700 soldiers, cited a two-year effort he worked on with US agents to secure a portion of the border at Yuma, Arizona. The program - "Operation Jump Start" - cut illegal immigration and drug- smuggling by 98%, he said : "What worked was armed soldiers. We secured the border in Yuma." Babeu said that same approach needs to be taken to secure the heavy-traffic sectors of the 2,000-mile border stretching from California through Texas that the US shares with Mexico. Babeu also called for adding other necessary improvements, such as better fencing, lighting, sensors and security cameras. "You have to have armed soldiers first - and you build the infrastructure necessary to secure the border at high-traffic areas. You don't need to build the 'great wall of Mexico.' But none of this will be effective without stronger enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. There must be consequences for breaking the law. There is no enforcement of the law." ~~~~~ In addition to the rising numbers of illegal immigrant minors flooding into Arizona, Pinal County authorities face another problem: drug cartel "scouts." They are adult illegals who live in the mountains for up to a month and spot authorities' locations for drug couriers, Sheriff Paul Babeu told Newsmax. His deputies arrested eight "lookouts" in February and March in a sting operation lasting several months. Three were convicted and sentenced to prison on felony drug-related conspiracy charges. Four others remain in custody pending trial. Another pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal syndicate and received supervised probation. The sting involved US Border Patrol agents and a SWAT team from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office. "They have binoculars looking for my deputies...if the coast is clear, they tell the cartels to bring up the drugs....They pass them to the next mountaintop, where another scout...can see for 10 miles." The scouts - as many as 100 according to the DHS - also have food, water, and other such equipment as encrypted radios, cell phones, and solar panels for recharging batteries. They're generally unarmed, but one of the eight arrested was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. "It's almost like I'm talking about war-torn Afghanistan," said Babeu, who served in Iraq as part of the Army National Guard. "Where's the President's outrage or sense of duty to protect our country and secure our border here?...They're passing through my county on their way to their destination, metro Phoenix...It's their platform for smuggling drugs and people across the country...We are, in the country, the No. 1 pass-through county for drug smuggling." The illegal drug cartel activity in Pinal County has led federal authorities to post warnings to Americans traveling through the county, Babeu said : "Instead of the President putting up signs warning American citizens that it's not safe on American soil - as laughable as this sounds..." why not keep the cartels out of the US? ~~~~~ Dear readers, there is no greater presidential duty than that of protecting the borders of the United States. There is no clearcut reason why President Obama should not be doing this. We can only guess -- is he too soft-hearted to turn away children? Is he unable to devise a plan that will help border states to stem the tide of illegals entering the US? Has he cut back rhe US military so drastically that he has no National Guard to spare? Is he naive enough to believe that the trend will reverse itself if he pays sufficient repatriation dollars to Mexico and Central American countries? OR does he not care about keeping America's borders secure - because he wants to dilute the political power of Republican border states (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico) by packing in illegals who would try to cast Democratic votes? Or does Obama see the illegal immigrant issue as a way to keep Americans from blaming him for high taxes, few new jobs, a broken Obamacare, and VA, IRS, NSA, Middle East and Benghazi problems haunting his White House. My guess is that it's these bungled messes he fears.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
For the first time in the Ukrainuan crisis, the leaders of Ukraine and Russia seem to be communicating with each other. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support Saturday for Ukraine's unilateral cease-fire in the battle with pro-Russian separatists. Putin appealed to both sides to halt all military operations. But he warned that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's blueprint for peace would not work unless there is action to start peace negotiations. Poroshenko's effort to halt the conflict was made in the face of a series of shifting Kremlin moves and statements that leave unclear the level of Moscow's commitment to de-escalation. However, always ready with a stick to match his carrot, Putin's conciliatory words came on the same day that he ordered large-scale military exercises that NATO criticized as likely to raise tensions, while US officials accused Russian troops of moving back into positions near the border with Ukraine's troubled east. The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin "calls on the opposing sides to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table." Putin's statement said that he supports Ukrainian President Poroshenko's decision to order Ukrainian troops to observe a unilateral cease-fire starting Friday night. But it added that Putin wanted to draw "attention to the fact that the proposed plan, without practical action directed at a beginning for a negotiating process, will not be viable or realistic." Poroshenko says the unilateral cease-fire is designed to make possible a wider peace plan that would include an amnesty for pro-Russian separatist fighters who disarm. Further steps would include joint security patrols, a buffer zone on the border, early regional and parliamentary elections, protections for the language rights of people who use Russian as their main language, and eventually changes in the constitution to permit more regional self-government. Ukrainian troops have tried for weeks to suppress separatists who have seized buildings and declared independence in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions near the border with Russia. Ukraine and the United States have accused Russia of supporting the insurgency, including permitting tanks to cross the Russia-Ukraine border to end up in the rebels' arsenal. Russia counters that it does not support the insurgents and that any Russians who have joined the fighting are doing so as private citizens. ~~~~~ While the US and EU have called on Russia to support the ceasefire and stop its support for the pro-Russia rebels, it is unclear whether Russia can or will influence the pro-Russian fighters to de-escalate, join the ceasefire and negotiate. Pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine have dismissed the cease-fire as fake and they continued to shoot at Ukraine border positions after the truce began Friday night. There have been some injuries but no large-scale fighting was reported Saturday, the first full day of what is to be a 6 ½-day stand-down by the Ukrainian military ending next Friday morning. Putin and Poroshenko have consulted several times by phone on the Ukraine cease-fire initiative, but earlier Russian statements on the peace plan had called it an "ultimatum" seeking to pressure rebels to disarm. The latest conciliatory Putin statement contrasted with his Saturday order to put 60,000 military troops in central Russia on combat alert and to launch an exercise for airborne troops. The alert and exercises are in the Ural mountains, not western Russia, and will end next Saturday, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu on Saturday expressed concern for Moscow's military exercises, saying that "it can be seen as a further escalation of the crisis with Ukraine." ~~~~~ Dear readers, there is still the possibility that Vladimir Putin will change his mind and revert to support for hostilities against the elected government in Kiev, but his prepared statement said that President Putin : "supported the declaration of a unilateral cease-fire by President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine on Friday, as well as his intent to take a number of specific measures to reach a peaceful settlement.” But the statement added : “The peace plan proposed by President Poroshenko should not take the form of an ultimatum to militia groups...The opportunity that opens up with the end of hostilities should be used to start constructive negotiations and to reach a political compromise between the parties to the conflict in southeast Ukraine.” Perhaps Putin senses that Russia could become bogged down in a long-term civil conflict with no advantages for Russia - only the disadvantages of economic sanctions and the inevitable costs of supporting east Ukraine and its ageing industrial infrastructure. Russia has better uses for its resources, especially since Russia has already gotten what it wants - Crimea. And Putin knows that no effort to retake Crimea would be viable. As a Greek friend told me recently, "Everyone knows that Crimeans are Russian." So, it would be a good strategy for the US and the EU to use this week to finalize the details for negotiations that would bring Poroshenko and Putin to the table. There has never been a better opportunity to end the Ukraine ctisis. Poroshenko has given Putin what he needs - a face-saving way out.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Today, when Representative Paul Ryan told IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, "Nobody believes you," Koskinen responded, “I have a long career. That’s the first time anyone’s said I don’t believe you.” Ryan shot back, "I don't believe you." Koskinen was defiant during his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, telling lawmakers he felt no need for the agency to apologize about accusations of a cover-up in the targeting scandal of conservative groups. Republican lawmakers had demanded that emails between ex-IRS official Lois Lerner and other government officials - including some at the White House - be turned over to determine whether there was a coordinated effort to stonewall conservative groups. Earlier this week, Senator Orrin Hatch, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he's been told that Lerner's hard drive was simply destroyed -- "They just got rid of it," he told Fox News. "It really looks bad and I've got to say it looks like a cover-up to me." Hatch and Democrat Senator Ron Wyden are leading a bipartisan investigation in the Senate Finance Committee into the IRS targeting scandal, separate from the House Ways and Means probe. ~~~~~ Republicans were outraged at last week's IRS disclosure that it had lost several years of former administrator Lois Lerner's emails on the targeting of tea party groups. Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell, who is representing several of the groups in a federal lawsuit over the targeting in their applications for tax-exempt status, said : "Liars. They're such liars. Unbelievable....outrageous...This is like the 18-and-a-half minutes in Rose Mary Woods' tape." The Mitchell reference was to the gap in the audio tape of a June 20, 1972, conversation believed to have been held between Nixon and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. Mitchell called it standard fare for the Obama White House : a late-Friday afternoon release of major negative news. "They do it over and over and over...There are so many questions : "Why are we just hearing this today, more than a year after the investigation started? What exactly are the FBI and NSA's forensics experts doing to retrieve this 'hard-drive crash'? Do we believe that the FBI has not been called in - and that they have not been able to retrieve these 'lost' emails? There are so many things." Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing 41 targeted groups in a federal lawsuit against the IRS, said "this is insanity. Hollywood couldn’t write a script with any more scandal and intrigue than what is unfolding in the IRS targeting scandal." His report is posted on the ACLJ website. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, blamed the White House for being dishonest : "Isn’t it convenient for the Obama administration that the IRS now says it has suddenly realized it lost Lois Lerner’s emails requested by Congress and promised by Commissioner Koskinen? Do they really expect the American people to believe that, after having withheld these emails for a year, they're just now realizing the most critical time period is missing?" The IRS told Congress last Friday that it could not locate many of Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed that summer. Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The targeting generally involved unusual delays and detailed requests for information. The tactic started in 2010 and continued to just before the 2012 presidential election. Lerner retired last September because of the scandal and was found in contempt of Congress in May after refusing to testify before Issa's committee. When she first appeared before the committee not long after the scandal broke, Lerner denied wrongdoing but refused to answer questions, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She took the Fifth in a second hearing before the panel in March. The Oversight Committee has been investigating the IRS scandal for more than a year, along with the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. The Justice Department and the IRS inspector general are also investigating. Emails have since been disclosed showing that Lerner discussed working with Justice to prosecute nonprofits that she felt had "lied" about their political activities. In February, Commissioner Koskinen, who took over the IRS in December, had pledged to work with Congress on the various investigations before seemingly reversing his strategy at today's Ways and Means Committee hearing. The IRS said in a statement last Friday that it was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had variously copied 83 other IRS employees. The agency said it pieced together these emails. But an undetermined number are gone, the agency said. Representative Dave Camp, the Ways and Means Committee chairman, noted that the missing emails primarily involve people from outside the IRS : "such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, [Federal Election Commission], or Democrat offices. The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS's response to congressional inquiries," Camp said in a statement before today's hearing, adding, "There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the inspector general." In addition, the IRS said in its statement that it had gone to great lengths cooperating with congressional investigations, spending nearly $10 million to produce more than 750,000 documents, including 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013. "The IRS is committed to working with Congress," the agency said. "The IRS has remained focused on being thorough and responding as quickly as possible to the wide-ranging requests from Congress while taking steps to protect underlying taxpayer information." ~~~~~ The IRS's position has angered many Republicans. Senator Orrin Hatch, the top GOP member on the Finance Committee, called the disclosure "an outrageous impediment" to its investigation. "Even more egregious is the fact we are learning about this a full year after our initial request to provide the committee with any and all documents relating to our investigation. And while the IRS has agreed to turn over additional documentation, I am still greatly troubled that the administration failed to notify the committee of this when they first became aware of it." ~~~~~ The Washington Post reported that the IRS gave a fuller explanation in a letter to Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch. According to the Post, the agency kept email backups for six months on digital tape, so when the congressional committee asked for them, the records went back only to late 2012. The Post also reported that two other policies complicated matters : first, there is a limit on how big employees' in-boxes can be, and second, there are poorly defined criteria for which emails are important enough to be considered an "official record" to be committed to a hard copy. The Post noted that the letter sent to the Senators suggests that it was up to the user to determine what emails met those standards, and that it's not clear if Lerner had any hard copies of important emails. In 2011, when Lerner's computer crashed, the Post reported that she asked the IRS's information technology division to try to recover the data from her hard drive, but it couldn't do so, and it appeared individual machines like hers weren't backed up. House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, who has subpoenaed the information, as well as Lerner's computer, was skeptical of the crash excuse, telling "CBS This Morning" on Monday that it was : "just not believable. We have enough evidence of her wrongdoing that we want to review every email that she has sent or received. That's reasonable to do when you have someone who takes the Fifth," he said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, this IRS scandal will not go away -- because it is not only an example of an agency supposed to be independent that was clearly being used for, or taking unauthorized action to, target American groups with one particular political persuasion - championing conservatism. The outrage is that the IRS scrapped the First Amendment - free speech and assembly and the right to petition the government were trashed by an executive agency run by the President. No court agreed. No congressional okay was asked for. No announcement of an IRS policy change was published. And now we learn that Lerner's computer has been destroyed and that six other relevant IRS computers "crashed." It is a constitutional crisis of major proportions. And if the President were fulfilling his duty to protect and defend the Constitution, he would be outraged with the rest of America. But Mr. Obama is silent - his silence speaks volumes.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
" Tear down this wall!" The four most famous - and perhaps the most momentous - words of the 20th century. It was the challenge issued by United States President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall, in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. President Reagan was in Europe to attend a G-7 meeting and went to Berlin to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the founding of the city. Reagan challenged Gorbachev, who was then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear down the Berlin Wall as a sign of Gorbachev's good faith in expressing his desire to increase freedom in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe - Gorbachev's perestroika (restructuring) and Glasnost (transparency). The Brandenburg Gate site was chosen to highlight President Reagan's conviction that Western democracy offered the best hope to open the Berlin Wall and his speech contained a series of political initiatives to achieve this end. The famous "tear down this wall" phrase was intended as the logical conclusion of the President's proposals. But, when the speech was being drafted, those four words became a source of considerable controversy within the Reagan administration. Several senior staffers and aides advised against the phrase, arguing that it might cause further East-West tensions or embarrass Gorbachev, with whom President Reagan had built a good relationship. However, American officials in West Germany and presidential speechwriter Peter Robinson disagreed. Robinson traveled to West Germany to inspect potential speech venues, and gained an overall sense that the majority of West Berliners opposed the wall. Despite getting little support for suggesting Reagan demand the wall's removal, Robinson kept the phrase in the speech text. On May 18, 1987, President Reagan met with his speechwriters and responded to the speech by saying, "I thought it was a good, solid draft." White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker objected, saying it sounded "extreme" and "unpresidential," and Deputy US National Security Advisor Colin Powell agreed. Nevertheless, Reagan liked the passage and said, "I think we'll leave it in." ~~~~~ Here are those four words spoken by President Reagan : "We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" ~~~~~ Dear readers, we should have honored Ronald Reagan's immortal challenge to tyranny a week ago. But it has been a busy seven days -- seven days that have seen Iraq torn apart by terrorists while an American President who scarcely deserves the title tries to stay out of harm's way - seven days in which American Special Forces who understand that terrorism must always be challenged went into harm's way to take one Libyan terrorist out of action - seven days in which a Ukrainian president challenged tyranny by preparing to join the European Union, despite sabre rattling from Vladimir Putin, the president of an non-democratic Russia, Ukraine's giant neighbor - seven days in which newly elected Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al- Sissi spoke the first words of hope that Egyptians have heard in more than a half century, promising to stop the routine abuse of women and demanding that his new cabinet actually roll up their sleeves and work hard to build a modern and more democratic Egypt. A busy week. One that proves that tyranny and terrorism must be challenged every day and fought back into oblivion whenever they try to enslave mankind...no matter where...no matter who...no matter how many or how few. It is the job that President Reagan entrusted to each of us -- Tear Down This Wall.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
A team of US Special Operations Forces and the FBI has captured a man long thought to be a key leader in the 11 September 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The announcement was made by Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby : "I can confirm that on Sunday, June 15, the US military - in cooperation with law enforcement personnel - captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a key figure in the attacks on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012. There were no civilian casualties in the raid, and the suspect is in US custody at a "secure location outside of Libya." Kirby said all US troops and personnel have "safely departed Libya." Another source told Fox News : "He didn't know what hit him." Other sources said there was no firefight. After similar raids, the United States has held suspects aboard naval ships before flying them to America. Khattala is expected to be questioned by a special team of US interrogators for potential intelligence leads for the next few days, senior US officials told ABC News, but eventually he will be tried in federal court in Washington, DC, where the US filed charges last year against Khattala and a dozen others in connection with the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Only Khattala, who is expected to be arraigned in Washington, has been apprehended. A one-page criminal complaint against Khattala unsealed Tuesday accuses him of "killing a person in the course of an action on a federal facility," providing and conspiring to provide "material support to terrorists resulting in death" and using a firearm in relation to a violent crime. Attorney General Eric Holder said the US reserves the right to add charges "in the coming days." Khattala is the commander of the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia. He had openly granted media interviews after the attack, but until now had evaded capture. One US official told the Washington Post that Khattala's capture is "a reminder that when the United States says it's going to hold someone accountable and he will face justice, this is what we mean." ~~~~~ Reuters reported today that Libya has condemned the United States for capturing Khatallah, describing the arrest as a violation of Libyan sovereignty. President Obama authorized Sunday's US Special Forces operation inside Libya. The action is very sensitive for the weak Libyan government which is under pressure from militias, islamists and armed tribesmen who helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority. Libyan Justice Minister Saleh al-Marghani said Khatallah should be returned to Libya and tried there : "We had no prior notification. We expect the world to help us with security. We expected the United States to help us, but we did not expect the United States to upset the political scene." He said Khattala had been wanted by Libyan authorities for questioning but they had been unable to arrest him due to the security situation. Diplomats say Libya has done next to nothing to make arrests over the 2012 consulate attack in which four Americans died - because the government has little influence in Benghazi. Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Said a Saoud said : "This attack on Libyan sovereignty happened at a time when Benghazi is suffering from many problems." He asked that Khatallah receive a fair trial. A similar US Special Forces operation that captured al Qaida suspect Abu Anas al-Liby in Tripoli in October 2013 had serious consequences for the Libyan government -- a militia briefly kidnapped the then prime minister, Ali Zeidan, from his hotel suite, accusing him of having known about the operation. Al-Liby was later charged in a US federal court in New York in connection with the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Kenya, which killed more than 200 people. ~~~~~ President Obama confirmed Tuesday that Khattala is on his way to America to face charges : "He is now being transported back to the United States. I say that, first of all, because we continue to think about and pray for the families of those who were killed during that terrible attack. But more importantly...for us to send a message to the world that when Americans are attacked, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will bring them to justice." ~~~~~ Sonce 2012, Republicans have accused the Obama administration of playing down the role of al-Qaida in the Benghazi attack for political reasons. They said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had failed to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of American diplomatic personnel, an issue that is still sensitive as Clinton considers running for US president in 2016. Republicans cheered Kattala's capture and praised the Special Forces and FBI, but they demanded that Khattala be held at Guantanamo Bay and questioned thoroughly. President Obama, however, has decided not to send Khattala to Guantanamo, said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden : "The administration’s policy is clear on this issue : We have not added a single person to the GTMO population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system." Key Republicans commented on how Khattala should be dealt with. House Speaker John Boehner said : "It is obviously good news that this terrorist is now in American custody. I am grateful for the work of our military, assisted by the FBI, in capturing him...and I expect the administration to give our military professionals time to properly gather any useful intelligence he has." Four Senators - John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz - said that Khattala should be viewed as an enemy combatant and held at the US prison camp at Guantanamo. McCain told the Washington Post : "Obviously he should be put on trial. I'd bring him to Guantanamo. Where else can you take him to?" Graham told the Post that Khattala should not be read his Miranda rights : "I hope we gather intelligence through the law of war interrogation. He should be going to Gitmo." Rubio said : "the Obama administration should immediately transfer him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay...In order to locate all individuals associated with the attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, we need intelligence." And Cruz said that Khattala : "has been openly defying the United States for more than 20 months. Now that he is in custody, the proper authorities should be given ample time to assess what intelligence he may have about ongoing terrorist operations against Americans. Khattala is a foreign terrorist, captured by our Special Forces overseas...He belongs in Guantanamo and in the military justice system, not in the US civilian court system with the constitutional protections afforded US citizens." Last month, Speaker Boehner established a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks, which is chaired by Representative Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor, who has since charged that he has evidence of a "systematic, intentional" effort by the Obama administration to withhold documents from Congress about the Benghazi attacks. Representative Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Post : "The American people and the families of the victims deserve answers on this attack. As with all detained al-Qaida-affiliated extremists, I hope Khattala will be treated as an enemy combatant...Obtaining information and intelligence from this terrorist must be our first priority." House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa called Khattala's arrest "long overdue" : "Our military deserves credit for conducting a successful opetation. There is evidence that he is one of dozens, if not hundreds of individuals, involved in the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The Obama administration has an obligation to share whatever information he offers with Chairman Gowdy and the select committee about events before and during the Benghazi attacks." No GOP legislators expressed support for torturing Khattala. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Senator Jim Inhofe touched the real issue surrounding Khattala not being sent to Guantanamo : "Once again, the President has made the wrong decision on how our nation should be handling terrorists that are a threat to Americans and our national security...The president is more focused on his legacy of closing Guantanamo Bay than preventing future terrorist attacks like what happened in Benghazi." Obama has the same inflexible goal of keeping US troops out of the Middle East. Both Obama goals are wrong. Flexibility to protect America and her allies is the right goal -- whatever it takes.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
At the US Embassy in Baghdad dozens of Marines and Army troops have moved in to reinforce security. Another 100 personnel are in the region to provide support, if needed, the Pentagon said. The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush and five other warships are now in the Persian Gulf. More than 500 Marines and dozens of helicopters are on standby. Their top priority : evacuate all Americans at the embassy if it becomes necessary. Meanwhile, the violence in Iraq continues, as militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, battled to gain control of the city of Baquba, only about 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of Baghdad. According to one Baquba police official and an official in the Baquba governor's office, ISIL has made a great advance on Baquba and is pushing very hard to take it, but the city has not fallen to the militants. The al-Maliki government says it still controls large areas in the city. Eyewitnesses told CNN of clashes in Baquba between ISIL fighters and Iraqi government forces. Baquba officials told CNN that ISIL is moving in on the western side of Baquba and that villages just west of the city, as well as some areas in western Baquba, are under ISIL control. Families, mainly shiite, are fleeing the west side of the city, the officials said, and moving deeper into Baquba or leaving the city to escape the anticipated violence. The ISIL push started late Monday with a large-scale attack on the Al Wahda police station on the western edge of Baquba. Heavy clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL militants killed at least one Iraqi security force member, nine militants and 44 prisoners, according to Baquba officials. Iraqi state television reported that 52 prisoners were killed when ISIL militants launched hand grenades into the local prison. ISIL says the prisoners were shot by government guards. Kurdish security sources also reported fighting around Saadiya, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) north of Baghdad, where Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are trying to retake control from ISIL militants. The two sides are also fighting for control of Bashir village, southwest of Kirkuk city, as frightened civilians flee ISIL shelling. ~~~~~ Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki's media adviser, Ali al Mosawi, told CNN today that al-Maliki's meeting with the US ambassador to Iraq had been "productive" and that the two nations were coordinating to combat the terrorist threat. The government hopes "there will be more cooperation from the American side to combat terrorism. There is cooperation, but we are looking for more support," Mosawi said. Another statement from al-Maliki's office accused the Saudi government of appeasing terrorists and providing radical groups with material and moral support, in an apparent response to a Saudi call for a more inclusive shiite-sunni government. "The Saudi government must bear responsibility of the serious crimes committed by these [ISIL/sunni] groups," according to the statement. Media reports indicate that sunni private donors in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia financially support ISIL. ~~~~~ The West is scrambling to decide how to respond to the ISIL advance toward Baghdad. The US and Iran held "very brief discussions" about Iraq and the threat posed by ISIL in Vienna on Monday, a USCState Department spokeswoman said. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is in Vienna for nuclear talks with Iran. And Great Britain, which was allied with the United States during the war in Iraq, is concerned about ISIL migration to Britain. Today, British Prime Minister David Cameron said at a news conference that ISIL's advances in Syria and Iraq constitute the "most serious threat to Britain's security that there is today. The number of foreign fighters in that area, including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK, this is a real threat to our country," Cameron said. "And we will do absolutely everything that we can to keep our people safe." It means, he said, "arresting people who are involved in plots...and focusing our security our policing, our intelligence effort" on the area of the world where ISIL operates. The Obama administration faces difficult choices should it decide to respond to the ISIL blitz. The US has increased drone surveillance over western and northern Iraq to gather more intelligence. But using fighter jets to strike at militant targets could be difficult. Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling explained : "It's the same reason it was so hard to target them when we had 160,000 troops there : They intermingle with the people," said General Hertling. "I think the uninitiated might say: 'Hey, What's so hard about that? Let's just drop a couple bombs.'" but it isn't that easy. Senator John McCain would agree. He does not support Obama's decision to rule out US troops on the ground for reasons partly related to air strikes - Senator McCain says that forward air controllers on the ground would be necessary to properly target aerial bombings. And an Obama decision to use American ground troops would be opposed by most of his own Democrat Party, from House minority leader Nancy Pelozi to Senate majority leader Harry Reid to Hillary Clinton, who today said she would not put US troops on the ground in Iraq. And Obama would also be opposed by his Hollywood donors. ~~~~~ While these decision points are the major topic in Washington, there are growing indications of a return to sunni-shiite sectarian violence in Iraq. The bullet-riddled bodies of four men in their late 20s or early 30s, very likely sunnis, were found at different locations in the Baghdad shiite neighborhood of Benouk, according to unnamed police and morgue officials. Also today, a car bomb in Baghdad's shiite Sadr City district killed 12 people and wounded 30 in a crowded outdoor market. No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but attacks targeting shiite districts are usually the work of sunni militants. In the rampaging sectarian violence of 2006 and 2007, Baghdad woke up virtually every morning to find dozens of bodies dumped in the streets, on trash heaps or in the Tigris river with torture marks or gunshot wounds. ~~~~~ Dear readers, President Obama is still trying to make a decision about what to do to help hold Iraq together. Iran and the US are eyeing up each other as the odd couple that might save Iraq. Britain is facing up to the possibility of ISIL attacks in Europe. The sunnis are determined to use ISIL to regain their voice as the majority group in Iraq. ISIL itself is determined to create an islamist state that stretches from northern Syria through Iraq to the Iran border - and the $500,000,000 it stole from Mosul banks makes it by far the richest jihadist militant terrorist group in the workd. As a comparison, al-Qaida under Osama bin Laden had an estimated $35,000,000 to $70,000,000 war chest. And, while everyone is in decision mode, ISIL militant brigades sleep tonight 40 miles north of Baghdad.
Monday, June 16, 2014
One hundred Marines and Army troops were deployed to the US Embassy in Baghdad today, and three US warships, the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and two missile ships from the northern Arabian Sea, arrived in the Persian Gulf, as tensions continue to rise in the face of the radical jihadist Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) sweep across northern Iraq. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a fourth ship, the amphibious ship USS Mesa Verde, into the Persian Gulf today. The Mesa Verde carries 550 Marines and Osprey planes. The US took the additional precautions as ISIL expanded its territorial gains in Iraq by capturing the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul. Tal Afar has 200,000 inhabitants, most of them Iraqi Turkmen, an ethnic minority group. The embattled city in northwest Iraq fell to millitants Sunday, according to Iraqi General Mohammed al-Quraishi, CNN and other media reported. The Iraqi military earlier had claimed that Tal Afar was still in government control. In addition, fresh details emerged of a massacre carried out by ISIL, including top Moslem clerics who refused to pledge loyalty to the fanatic Islamic group. ISIL militants had released graphic videos appearing to show its fighters forcing both Iraqi soldiers and local shiite civilians into shallow graves and then spraying them with machine gun fire. The massacred men were soaked with blood. AP and the Iraqi military have vetted the videos and AP says they agree with reports of AP journalists on the ground. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, the evacuation of some personnel from the US embassy in Baghdad and the reinforcement of security forces was carried out as explosions rocked the Iraqi capital. The US State Department said in a statement that an undisclosed number of staffers will be moved to Amman, Jordan, and to other installations in Iraq not immediately threatened by ISIL. The State Department also issued a travel warning for Iraq Sunday night that cautioned US citizens to avoid all travel to Iraq except for the most urgent reasons and warned that travel inside Iraq is dangerous. In Baghdad, a car bomb early Sunday killed 10 and wounded 21 in the city center. After nightfall, another explosion went off in the area, killing two and wounding five. A third blast hit near a falafe shop in the Sadr City district, killing three and wounding seven. ~~~~~ During the weekend, President Obama, in the desert resort area of Palm Springs, California, was briefed on the Iraq situation by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, the White House said, as Obama considers possible military options for Iraq. And US Secretary of State John Kerry said there is no question ISIL militants have targeted not just Iraq and Syria, but also in the United States and Europe. In an interview with Yahoo, Kerry raised the sensitive issue of US cooperation with Iran in Iraq, confirming that the US is open to discussions with Iran : "I wouldn't rule out anything that would be constructive," Kerry said, indicating that the United States could consider cooperating militarily with Iran, one of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's key allies. US State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki later said that no discussions are ongoing between America and Iran. Kerry also said that US President Barack Obama was carrying out "a very thorough vetting of every option that is available," including drone strikes. He added that the US is "deeply committed" to the integrity of Iraq as a country. The US wants to include the Iran question in its discussions with all of Iraq's neighboring states, "to encourage Iran to play a role in encouraging Iraqis to act in a responsible non-sectarian way," she said. "We're asking Iraqi leaders to do that as well." ~~~~~ Dear readers, analysts agree that addressing the ISIL insurgency without addressing the underlying shiite-sunni sectarian causes for ISIL's success would be ineffective. A US coalition with the shiite Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki and the shiite leader, Iran, would certainly also raise issues with sunni leader, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, who would be opposed to a direct shiite-led military intervention that doesn't at least secure the interests of Iraq's sunni majority. But, the Wall Street Journal reported today that the Obama administration is already preparing to open direct talks with Iran on the situation in Iraq and ways to counter the radical sunni militia. According to the WSJ, the discussions are set to start in a week though no format has been set. Al-Maliki’s marginalisation of sunnis, aided by the Syria civil war that accelerated ISIL’s rise, has led to their control in Iraq of Fallujah in January and now Mosul and other towns on the road to Baghdad. ISIL is now threatening some of Iraq’s energy infrastructure. ISIL’s insurgence can be blamed on many, but first in line must be al-Maliki’s failed policies. He chose to either ignore or violently crush those - especially sunnis - who opposed to him. He engaged in power plays to take advantage of shifting regional alliances and the survival of fragments from the Saddam era. Similar tactics were used in Syria by Bashar al-Assad. But as in Syria, al-Maliki's tactics served to feed revolt and empower extremists such as ISIL and the anti-Maliki groups aligned with them. The future of Iraq is now an open question. Will Iraq descend again into an all-out sunni-shiite civil war? Will al-Maliki be able to forge a coalition with Iraq’s Kurds - the only viable non-sectarian player - to oppose ISIL? Kurdish territory borders Nineveh province where ISIL is headquartered and the Kurds are strong fighters. Will the US again be forced by circumstances send troops to Iraq? Would armed drones - Obama’s favorite counter-insurgency weapon – stop the uprising? There are lots of questions and no answers today. But the answers will be swift in coming because absent US/Middle East intervention, Baghdad will fall to ISIL and al-Maliki and his shiite government will cease to matter. And if the sunni tribes think they will be able to simply thank ISIL and take over Iraq, they are wrong. The likelihood is that Iraq will become "Syria II" - an ever more vicious civil war that nobody can win. Once more, President Obama must decide. His propensity is to let things play out until even his drones become irrelevant. The decision in Iraq is not about whether to do something. The decision is about what to do. Because the shiite monolith led by Iran and defended by ISIL will be sitting on Saudi Arabia's border if Iraq falls. That will be the ancient shiite-sunni hatred face-to-face with 21st century technology. Not a comforting thought.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
The Obama travesty in Iraq. Maya Angelou once said : "When a person shows you who they are, believe them." ~~~~~ Well, dear readers, I am tired of being shown. -- I am tired of Obama talking about "America's interests" as if they are what makes us Americans. It is human interests that make us exceptional as Americans, caring for those in need, protecting the weak, defending human dignity and freedom, standing with our friends and allies. That is American. Is Obama an exceptional American? -- I am tired of Obama talking as a substitute for acting. Today, he plays golf while Iraq is being torn apart. Will Obama be tried for the war crime of indifference when a sectarian slaughter kills thousands of innocent people who thought America was their friend? -- I am tired of a Commander-in-Chief who purges the American military general officer corps of anyone who speaks up against his dangerous policies around the world. Has Obama ever borne the weight that must guide a soldier's combat decisions, let alone the weight that a general carries to his grave in his soldier's soul? Does Obama have the right to call himself the Commander-in-Chief of any American who has faced death in battle for American beliefs? -- I am tired of Obama thinking that a few billion dollars for humanitarian aid will make up for his refusal to permit America to do her duty as the world's leader of last resort. Does Obama think that being President of the United States is equivalent to leading the Red Cross, or is he paying Blood Money? -- "When a person shows you who they are, believe them." Barack Obama has shown America who he is. His madness must end. It is now time for Mr. Obama to leave Washington quietly...or be forced out by Articles of Impeachment.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Republicans have slammed President Obama over the swiftly collapsing Iraqi government of the shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. The GOP charges that Obama's decision to withdraw troops in late 2011 enabled violent islamist jihadist militants to seize cities in a move to establish their own state in Iraq and Syria. "It was something that was avoidable," Senator Jim Inhofe told Newsmax. Inhofe was one of several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to blast Obama for the insurgence of Sunni fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), which defeated government forces in Mosul and Tikrit and is now 60 miles noFurther, ISIS "are rrth of Baghdad, continuing to drive off the Iraqi army by telling them that if they lay down their arms and equipment they can go home. Inhofe referenced letters Republicans sent to Obama in 2009, 2010, and last year : "It was something that we warned the President about over a three-year period. Now, it's worse than it was before. It's very depressing. One of the most dangerous battlegrounds during the Iraq war was Fallujah. To lose that, after they [American troops] spent their blood to gain it - this is an America that I have never known before." Senator John McCain, also a Committee member, told Politico that Obama has to make changes in his foreign policy team : "The first thing is to get rid of this national security team, which has been a total failure. It’s a colossal failure of American security policy." Committee member Senator Lindsey Graham warned that the US needs to evacuate all US embassy staff in Iraq to avoid a repeat of the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including two former Navy SEALS. "We’ve got another Benghazi in the making here," Senator Graham told Politico after a classified Committee briefing by the White House. "What I heard in there scared the hell out of me." House Speaker John Boehner charged that Obama was caught "taking a nap" on Iraq despite Republican warnings, particularly in the last year : "It’s not like we haven’t seen this problem coming for over a year. And it’s not like we haven’t seen, over the last five or six months, these terrorists moving in and taking control of western Iraq. Now, they’ve taken control of Mosul. They’re 100 miles from Baghdad. And what’s the President doing? Taking a nap." Since Tuesday, ISIL militants have seized Mosul and Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, and other towns and cities north of Baghdad. The Iraqi army evaporated, abandoning bases and weapons provided by the US. Security sources say Sunni militants now control parts of the town of Udhaim, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, after most Iraqi troops left their positions. ~~~~~ President Obama announced in October 2011 that all US troops would leave Iraq. He said on Thursday that the administration would need to help Baghdad control the escalating violence but was not specific, saying : "We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria for that matter." In the past year, Al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders have repeatedly asked President Obama for additional support because of the rising jihadist violence, but the administration has taken no action. Iraqi leaders made a fresh request earlier this week, asking for a mix of drones and manned aircraft that could be used for both surveillance and active missions. Officials said Obama was considering those requests and was expected to talk to world leaders before deciding on a course of action within a few days. The Iraqi insurgency has been fueled in part by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Northern Iraq has become a passage for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are spreading the Syrian war's violence into Iraq. The other problem in Iraq relates to the sunni tribes that feel al-Maliki's shiite government is deliberately mistreating them to the point that the tribes, which do not like ISIL or its intentions for Iraq, have joined ISIL militants in trying to drive al-Maliki out of power. The Obama administration, as in Syria, worries that lethal aid to Iraq could fall into the hands of militants or be otherwise misused. State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki said the US is sending about $12 million in humanitarian aid to help nearly a million Iraqis who have been forced from their homes by recent fighting. ~~~~~ The anger among moderate and conservative Congress members over Obama's handling of the Iraq problem is palpable. While there have been no calls for putting American ground troops back in Iraq, Obama's advisors make it clear the President will not even consider this option. Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the President has no desire to plunge the US back into a conflict there : "We need to come up with solutions that can enable the Iraqis to manage their internal security and their internal politics." Even after American troops left Iraq, the US has continued to send weapons and ammunition - although not nearly as much as Baghdad has requested. A US training mission for Iraqi counterterror forces dwindled to almost nothing earlier this year, and Baghdad asked as early as last summer for armed US drones to track and strike terrorist hideouts. One of the sore points for many in Congress is Fallujah. In 2004, two battles were fought there. The second one, in November, was the bloodiest. Coalition forces won the 46-day battle, but 95 US soldiers died along with about 1,350 insurgents. The city, west of Baghdad, was destroyed in the fighting. ISIL took Fallujah as one of the first prizes in its current battle for Iraq. The current escalating Iraqi violence led 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to cite Baghdad as yet another example of President Obama's inept foreign policy : "His foreign policy is what has led to these foreign crises all over the world. Trying to recapture the lead and keeping these things from happening is going to be a real challenge. This is the result of the President’s missteps over the last several years." Several Democrats also called for a strong White House response to the crisis. Democrat Senator Tim Kaine told MSNBC : "The way we ought to do this here in Washington is that the President should put a plan on the table and make a suggestion to Congress about what we should do. The administration has not provided any plan or a suggestion, although they are deeply and constantly engaged now within the United States and with allies to determine what that should be." Graham said US airstrikes were critical : "There is no scenario where we can stop the bleeding in Iraq without American air power. If American airpower is not interjected into the equation, I don’t see how you stop these people." But Inhofe told Newsmax that Obama has so depleted the nation's military since taking office that the US probably could not help Iraq on that front. According to Inhofe : "Part of our strength is airpower. We don’t have that anymore. We have a lot of problems right now in terms of our ability just to defend America, leave alone to take care of our allies and the freedom fighters around the world. Obama is the commander in chief, [but] He does not have the best interest of America in his actions." The Iraqi turmoil led Senator Kelly Ayotte to question the wisdom of Obama's plans to remove all US troops from Afghanistan by 2016. "The President’s announcement exactly when we’re going to withdraw from Afghanistan - instead of making it based on conditions on the ground - to tell the Taliban, is a mistake," the Republican, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee, told Politico : "I would hope that the President would take some of the lessons that we’re seeing happening in Iraq and not repeat them in Afghanistan." Many Republican lawmakers placed some of the blame for the escalating violence in Iraq on Obama's reluctance to re-engage in a conflict he has long opposed. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is impossible to defend President Obama's abandonment of the Middle East. But, if Obama has allowed his dislike of President Bush and his policies dictate his own policies and actions in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, then we have hit a new low in presidential decision-making. We have also come to an impasse that no amount of White House analysis can paper over. Whatever President Obama's reasoning, he has become a danger that America and the world cannot afford. And, if Ukraine is the precursor, Europe should mot expect real help from Obama if ISIL or al-Qaida arrive on its doorstep. Barack Obama has disgraced America. He has trashed her reputation as an ally to be depended upon. He has allowed the Middle East to disintegrate into a killing field for extremist jihadist militants. Will there be anything left for a new President can salvage in 2016? Not if Obama continues his dismantling of America and her military.