Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bulldog, Chihuahua and who even cares!

Tragic as the Va. Tech killings were every day Israelis face similar insanity on the part of terrorists. (See 1, 2, 3 and 4 below.)

Then we have articles about the English press boycotting Israel because of Israeli actions against Palestinians and Lebanese and an article whether France can be saved.

As for Britain, the once proud and defiant bulldog has turned into a pitiful pip-squeaking Chihuahua and as for France who really gives a damn whether it can be saved. Both countries are engaged in denial and appeasement and will pay with their freedom given time. Recently, Britain decided to eliminate all reference to The Holocaust in their schools and school texts so as not to inflame their Muslim citizens.(See 5,6 and 7.)

Meanwhile the foreign press is having a field day accusing our nation of having double standards and being a lawless society because of events at Va. Tech. If you are interested in what the world says about our country click on Watching America.Com


1) Hamas threatens to start abducting Israelis and Jews overseas.

The threat, issued Sat. April 21, is in response to Israel’s refusal to bow to the terms for releasing the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit and BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Israeli security sources: Lacking networks outside the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hamas is expected to employ the extensive Lebanese Hizballah covert infrastructure which branches out across the Middle East, Africa and Europe, for its threatened kidnap offensive abroad.

Regarding the Palestinian group’s previous vow to kidnap more Israeli soldiers, its spokesmen say that there enough Zionist figures and agents in various parts of the world who can be targeted equally. The Shin Bet security service has circulated a kidnap alert to Israeli embassies, overseas firms and Jewish institutions. The Hamas escalation is taken very seriously. It is also seen as further confirmation of its close working ties with Hizballah under active orchestration by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

In the next 24 hours, Palestinian spokesmen plan to release another false bulletin purporting progress in the negotiations for the release of Gilead Shalit who has now been held for nine months without a word on his fate. Sources stress these bulletins are fabricated deliberately to deceive.

2) Three generations of terrorists
By Zvi Bar'el

The Algerians were angry at the publication of the warning and the image it created, as though U.S. intelligence knew something that Algerian intelligence did not. The Algerian Foreign Minister, Noureddine Yazid Zehrouni, could not agree to this. Zehrouni, responsible for internal security in the country, controls the information about terror groups, and when a warning is published that is not coordinated with him, he suspects an American plot to humiliate his intelligence service.

This confrontation did not calm anyone. On the contrary, the impression that the countries of the Maghreb - Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya - are concerned about a renewal of terror acts of the sort that occurred in the 1990s has only been reinforced. The nightmare of those years, which exacted about 200,000 deaths, calmed down significantly in recent years; some of the local terror organizations even "repented," and their members were granted amnesty in the national reconciliation that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared. Even small terror groups that refused to join this arrangement are now asking the president to extend the amnesty period and include them in the process.

The fear today is of a new sort of terror that does not rely on local political justifications and operates along the lines of Al-Qaida. In Algeria they are pointing the finger at Iraq, the new exporter of international Islamic terror. In a series of reports on the new terror in the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat, impressive data exists on entire groups of civilians, especially from the Maghreb, Jordan and Syria, who since the beginning of the Iraq war have volunteered to go out to fight the Americans.

The Algerian volunteers would fly with that country's airline to Syria, where an Iraqi representative of the terror organizations would wait for them and take them across the border. They would do the first part of their military training in Algerian camps, and get their baptism of fire in Iraq. Iraq has thus become the new Afghanistan, a production line for creating and training foreign terrorists.

Upon their return to their homeland, in the attempt to import the religious ideology and fighting methods they learned in Iraq, it became clear to most of them that their names were already in the hands of the intelligence services, information that appears to be the fruit of cooperation between Algeria and Syria. Some of these volunteers have even been extradited from Syria to Algeria, and a number of them have been tried. Algerian law imposes a punishment of life imprisonment on anyone who cooperates with an illegal organization outside the country.

When a precise mapping of these volunteers was carried out, it emerged that some went to Iraq to fight the Americans, and some went to Iraq to join the branch of Al-Qaida that was established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed last summer.

The distinction between these two groups has also been manifested in the punishments that have been meted out to the militants. The Algerian Al-Qaida activists received the stiffest sentences possible, whereas terrorists who operated against the American occupation in Iraq were sentenced to relatively light punishments.

Thus, for example, members of a group that carried out a terror attack against military armored vehicles in which American soldiers were killed were sentenced to only three years in prison. The classification is aimed at distinguishing between terror groups - the fight against whom requires international cooperation - and local terror groups. It presents three "generations" of terrorists: volunteers who were trained and fought in Afghanistan during the period of struggle against the Soviet occupation between 1979 and 1989, volunteers who fought the American occupation in Iraq who are now returning to their homeland, and the third generation of terrorists who are not active in any defined territory and are not under any specific religious authority. They obtain their knowledge and their missions via the Internet, and are prepared to act anywhere against opportune targets, especially Western targets.

The differences among these three generations are in the sense of mission, the possibility of locating them and keeping them under surveillance, and the loose connection between the terrorists and the state to which they belong. There are organizations that upgrade themselves in the spirit of the times. An example of this is the Algerian organization, the Salfite Group for Preaching and Struggle, which was founded in 1966 and to which the terror attack in Algiers this month has been attributed.

This is a group that broke off from the Militant Armed Islamic Group, which was itself for a short time part of the Islamic Salvation Front. The Front is the umbrella organization that won a sweeping victory in the local elections in Algeria in 1990, and in the first round of the parliamentary elections in 1991. After the authorities canceled the election process, fearing an absolute victory by supporters of the organization, the civil war in Algeria broke out in full force. This war showed for the first time the military abilities of volunteers who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets and had returned to act on behalf of local interests in Algeria.

In effect, during the first decade of the civil war, during which groups split and established fighting organizations and terror gangs, it was clear the struggle was directed against the government, which was considered heretical and atheistic, and not against the West and its representatives. The aspiration to establish a government that would derive its authority from religion was the common denominator among most of the Algerian organizations, which differed from one another by their modes of action and the targets of their attacks.

The Salfite Group for Preaching and Struggle joined Al-Qaida - at least according to statements by its leadership - only at the end of 2006, shortly before the speech by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahari, on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. From that moment the organization's name was changed, and it is now called Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb Countries.

However, from reading the organization's charter, it is difficult to know from where it derives its religious authority: Do they accept Zawahari of Al-Qaida as a spiritual leader, or is there an unknown religious sage who is distributing his words over the Internet? This compares with the previous period when this organization, like other organizations in Algeria, had sources of religious authority in their own country.

The "transition" from being a local organization to a branch of Al-Qaida does not necessarily indicate significant change in aims and ideology. The main goal was and remains harming the Algerian government and its "pagan army," as stated in the organization's aims. Though the organization has an aim that crosses borders - the destruction of the Arab governments that do not observe religious law - operational logic has it that an Algerian organization will move against the Algerian government and not in another country.

Not only ideology, but also past conflicts between leaders play a role in shaping the image of the organization. Thus, for example, last week the founding leader of the organization, Hassan Hattab, disassociated himself from the terror attacks that the group had carried out the previous week in Algiers. In the past, conflict developed between Hattab and the current leader of the organization, Abu Mus'ab Abed al Wadoud, over the control of the group and its modes of action. Hattab's successor in the role, Nabil Saharawi, who was killed two years ago, is the one who began the process of getting closer to Al-Qaida, mainly for economic reasons, and thus, in Hattab's opinion, distanced himself from the organization's primary aim.

Conflicts between commanders and changes in direction as a result of this characterize the organizations in Algeria and also in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt. But the problem worrying those Arab governments is that in the past four years, out of the chaos, these organizations have "won" a country, Iraq. There they can train relatively conveniently, maintain relations with weapons dealers, teach combat in real battles, obtain funds and integrate into the supra-national hierarchy of the organizations. Here lies the terror threat that the Iraq war has engendered.

3)A direct hit during the "ceasefire" - detailed report from Sderot
By Noam Bedein

At 8:30 PM on Saturday night, April 21st. 2007 , less than an hour after
the Bibiyen family finished the Sabbath with the traditional blessing over the
spices, wine and a candle-- all the symbols of the hope to begin a new week
of living -- a missile fired from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
(UNRWA) camp in Jabalya in the Gaza strip scored a direct hit on the
Bibiyen home.

The extended Bibiyen family consisting of two grandparents, Dvora 52 , and
Yigal, 64, had welcomed the families of their four sons and one daughter to
spend the Sabbath with them. Everything had ended on such a pleasant note.

This reporter spoke with the Bibiyen family on Sunday morning while they
were cleaning through the rubble.

All of them were stunned and still trying to comprehend the miracle that
occurred the previous night.

One of the sons, Yahav 31, still a bit shaken, said that he did not realize
until Sunday morning how close each family member was to being literally
blown to bits.

Yahav told the story, fresh in his mind, how the "Color Red" alarm had gone
off, and, only seconds later, how he heard a huge explosion upstairs on the
second floor; where his mother and his wife -- in her fifth month of
pregnancy-- were sitting and talking.

The missile tore through the staircase, flinging the stairs 30 meters away
to the street below, smashing into the roof of a car.

Yahav added that it took almost an one hour until his wife and mother were
evacuated from the second floor, from where a fire engine ladder lifted both
of them into a waiting ambulance -- both of whom diagnosed by a medic to be in
a an advanced state of shock and in need of immediate treatment. On the
Sunday morning after, they were both resting in the hospital in Ashkelon.

With a sigh of relief, Yahav said that "I am glad that everyone is ok
--physically-- , and when I think of how my brother had just left with his
two children 10 minutes before after watching TV exactly where the wall had
fallen down, how my other brother with his 8 months pregnant wife had left
5 minutes before, and how my sister and father had just come downstairs into
the kitchen, I am overwhelmed..."

Yahav walked through the house, and pointed out that the pictures of the
Rabbis on the walls weren't damaged, while all other pictures and fixtures were
destroyed, and carefully marked the places where each and every one from
the family was standing where one could see the hole that the rocket bore
through the wall and the staircase was blown away.

Yahav said that he could not understand how this miracle had happened,
because if anyone in the family had been standing a few steps away, from where they
were standing, this would have meant certain death.

"If we had 2 more seconds to start running down the staircase -- we
wouldn't be here today. If my brother would have decided to stay a bit longer with his children, who knows what could have happened" said Yahav, who also noticed
that the missile had barely missed the gas balloons.

Yuval, Yahav's older brother, was asked how his two children were doing
who had left the house only ten minutes before.

They heard the blast and ran back to the house and watched their grandmother
and Aunt being rescued from the second floor.

Yuval said that his children are only worried about their grandmother,
Devorah, and they keep asking what happened to her.

Yuval said that he would have trouble taking his children to visit their
grandparents' home again. They will simply not understand why and how it was

Yahav goes back to work on Lag B'omer, the day that wedding season resumes
on the Jewish calendar. That is because Yahav is a wedding video photographer
for his livelihood.

Yahav used a cover missile attacks for Israel TV and quit because he
wanted to film happier events. That is, happier events than the 212th
missile to hit the western Negev since Israel declared a self-imposed "cease-fire" on
November 26th, 2006.

4) Hamas calls for new attacks on Israel

Hamas on Sunday called for new attacks on Israel after nine Palestinians were killed in a surge of fighting over the weekend.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urged Palestinians to be prepared for a new round of confrontation.

"The blood of our people is not cheap," he said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. "Therefore we are calling on ... (Hamas's armed wing) and the Palestinian resistance groups to be united in the trench of resistance and to use all possible means of resistance and to respond to the massacres."

Meanwhile, IDF troops on Sunday morning shot and killed a Palestinian youth near Ramallah as he prepared to throw a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers.

Overnight Saturday, an IDF soldier was lightly wounded by gunfire during arrest operations in the West Bank city of Nablus, as troops killed two Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades operatives in the city.

The two Aksa terrorists, including a top bombmaker, were killed in the Casbah of Nablus after IDF troops surrounded a building where they were hiding and ordered people out, the group said. Most occupants came out, but the two operatives remained holed up inside. An exchange of fire broke out, and the two men were killed.

The group said the dead included Amin Lubadi, a bombmaker who had been wanted by the IDF for more than three years.

Palestinian medical officials confirmed the deaths of two men.

On Sunday morning, two Kassam rockets struck fired by Palestinian terrorists struck the western Negev, with one scoring a direct hit a Sderot home, lightly wounding three people.

On Saturday night, IAF helicopters killed a member of a Kassam rocket cell in a car in the northern Gaza Strip, wounding one of his confederates. It was the second such missile strike since Israel accepted a Gaza cease-fire in November.

Earlier Saturday, Gazans fired four Kassam rockets into Sderot; one scored a direct hit on a home, sending several people into shock.
Three terrorist organizations - Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades - claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks in a joint statement.

They said they were carried out to avenge the deaths of three terrorists killed by border police in Jenin earlier in the day.

In the Jenin incident, an undercover Border Police unit killed three known terrorists belonging to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades who were driving in a car.

Later in the evening, a Palestinian teenager was killed in Jenin when security forces raided her house in search of her brother, a wanted terrorist.

Several hours earlier, gunfights broke out between troops and Palestinians in a village near Jenin. PA policeman Muhammad Said Abed, 22, was killed in the clashes.

Separately, a full closure was imposed on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip starting at midnight, to remain in effect until after Independence Day on Monday. IDF officials said its liaison office would allow Palestinians to enter Israel in cases deemed "exceptional."

5) Brits' new snit: Israel should honor journos' boycott
By Zev Chafetz

In 1930, Humbert Wolfe wrote his immortal ode to the English press.

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank G-d) the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do Unbribed,
there's no occasion to.

Eight decades have done nothing to alter the essential character of England's Fourth Estate. That was demonstrated last week, at the convention of the National Union of British Journalists when, by 66 to 54, delegates of the 40,000-member group voted to impose a boycott on Israeli goods.

This may not be as dire as it seems. Presumably, British journalists will now avoid Jaffa oranges, Negev tomatoes and other Zionist fruits and vegetables. They may swear off kosher wine, too. I sent an e-mail to the NUBJ in London, asking for details, but it has gone unanswered. This raises the possibility that British journalists will no longer be allowed by their union to talk to Israelis (although, as an Israeli, this seems a lot to hope for).

It's not every day that a community of western journalists takes such a clear stand against the pretense of neutrality. The "journalists" of Arab dictatorships routinely boycott Israel, but they're coerced. The Brits are, in Wolfe's phrase, unbribed.

The NUBJ accompanied its boycott decision with the sort of anti-Zionist rhetoric usually heard only in Tehran and Columbia University: It denounced Israel's "slaughter of civilians in Gaza" and the "savage pre-planned attack" in Lebanon.

These are strong words made stronger by their obvious lack of balance and proportion and other journalistic conventions. After all, Israel did leave Gaza a year ago. The slaughter taking place there is almost entirely carried out by Palestinian statesmen of rival factions.

Hamas, the elected government — which is officially dedicated to the destruction of Israel — routinely fires rockets at Israeli civilians. Israel does strike back, and painfully; evidently the British journalists regard this as unfair.

As for Israel's "savage attack" in Lebanon last summer, it was precipitated by a Hezbollah border raid so blatantly aggressive that even the Saudis criticized it. Hezbollah, which proceeded to fire thousands of missiles at Israeli civilian targets, was supported by Iran, Syria and David Duke. Now the Party of Allah has a new ally in National Union of British Journalists.

Some of the less progressive members of the NUBJ decry such partisanship. But as a longtime observer of Middle Eastern journalism — I was director of the Israeli Government Press Office under Prime Minister Menachem Begin — I welcome it as a moment of exceptional clarity and even courage.

A more image-conscious group than the NUBJ would have postponed its endorsement of the Palestinian jihad until the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston from his captivity in Gaza. It would also have refrained from announcing its boycott of the Jewish state on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Points to the British journalists for standing up to the Zionist lobby.

Israel now faces a unique problem. No open society in history has ever been boycotted by Western journalists. Some in Jerusalem will be tempted to denounce it as a declaration of war by the British media. But I think this is shortsighted.

Israel, I believe, should not only respect the British boycott, but join it.

There are some journalists who — while prepared to forego Israeli dairy products and such — will find it difficult to break their habit of access to the story. The government of Israel can make this easier by removing temptation. It should ask all British correspondents stationed in Israel to leave, either by way of Ben Gurion Airport or, if they prefer, via Gaza.

And it should withhold visas and accreditation from members of the National Union of British Journalists (and the media companies that employ NUBJ members) until the journalists of Britain decide to resume at least the fiction of impartiality.

6) Can France Be Saved?
by Michel Gurfinkiel

French elections can be as entertaining as Russian roulette. Twelve years ago, in early 1995, it was taken for granted that Edouard Balladur, a conservative prime minister, would succeed the outgoing socialist president François Mitterrand without further ado. The Left was then a spent force. So, evidently, was Jacques Chirac, another conservative Gaullist and a former prime minister (and unsuccessful contender for the presidency). But then a satiric TV show, Les Guignols de l’Info (The News Puppets), started featuring Chirac as a French-style Forrest Gump who would answer questions on any topic, political or economic, with the phrase “Eat apples.” In April 1995, Jacques “Apple” Chirac won out over both Balladur and the socialist candidate Lionel Jospin.

Two years later, Chirac called a new parliamentary election, not in order to solve a crisis between the executive and the legislature but simply to suit his political convenience. This, though allowed under the constitution, had never been done before, and the public did not like it. His parliamentary majority was ousted and replaced by the socialists. Jospin now became prime minister and remained in place for five years.

The next presidential election, in 2002, was even more sensational. Bidding for a second seven-year term, Chirac was challenged again by Jospin, who this time looked sure to win. But then France’s two-ballot system came into play. In the first round, a plethora of left-wing candidates pulled so many votes away from Jospin that he was reduced to the third position, behind Chirac and the far-Right agitator Jean-Marie Le Pen, and was ejected from the race. On the second ballot, some 80 percent of the voters backed Chirac over Le Pen. Chirac was foolish enough to believe they had elected him.

And now we have the elections of 2007. First the presidential election, with its first ballot on April 22 followed by a runoff between the two top vote-getters on May 6; then the National Assembly elections in June. Two years ago, everyone would have sworn that the presidential winner would be the maverick conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s minister of the interior. Then Sarkozy’s fortunes declined sharply, while those of another star—and another maverick—were rising: Ségolène Royal, the socialist governor of Poitou-Charentes in western France. Early this year, Sarkozy made a strong comeback, and Royal fell from grace. At that point a third candidate, François Bayrou, a nice, decent, articulate, over-ambitious centrist, unexpectedly entered the picture, effectively challenging both Royal and Sarkozy. Complicating matters still further was the perennial candidacy of Le Pen.

By the time this issue of COMMENTARY reaches subscribers, the first ballot will be over, and the two candidates with the highest number of votes will have begun battling it out for the May 6 runoff. But what does it all mean? Common wisdom—in America at least—is that the French are and will always remain an utterly fickle people, as individuals and as a nation. This may be true—up to a point. My own belief is that the vagaries of the French vote tell us a great deal about the profound uncertainties the country is now facing.



Books about “national decline” and the “growing national crisis” have been best-sellers in France for at least the past four years. The first and still the most trenchant was La France qui tombe (“Falling France,” 2003), by Nicolas Baverez, a lawyer and a graduate of the immensely prestigious Ecole nationale d’administration (National School of Public Administration, or ENA). The same year saw the publication of Le Grand Gaspillage (“The Great Waste”) by the distinguished Sorbonne historian Jacques Marseille, followed by the same author’s La Guerre des Deux France (“The War of the Two Frances,” 2004) and more recently Les Bons Chiffres pour ne pas voter nul en 2007 (“The Right Figures for a Sensible Vote in 2007”).

Both Baverez and Marseille can be described as moderately conservative free-marketeers; both write columns for Le Point, the right-of-center weekly of news and opinion. Two other declinists come from a very different background. Michel Godet, a professor of industrial economy, was originally close to the Christian Left but over time developed a robust critique of French industrial and social policy. His 2003 book Le Choc de 2006 (“The Shock of 2006”) pointed to the exorbitant price the country was paying for its extensive welfare state, a thesis elaborated this year in Le Courage du bon sens (“The Courage of Common Sense”). Claude Allègre, a geologist of repute, served as a minister in Jospin’s government, where he tried and failed to reform the French educational system. Subsequently he became one of the country’s best columnists, first at L’Express, the left-of-center weekly, and then at Le Point.

A fifth should be mentioned: Louis Chauvel, a young sociologist at the Institut de sciences politiques de Paris (Paris Institute for Political Science, or “SciencesPo,” as everybody calls it), who has produced a short, dry assessment of the collapse of the French middle class, Les Classes Moyennes à la dérive (“The Middle Class Adrift”). Like Godet and Allègre, Chauvel was seen initially as a man of the Left, and is still supposed to be close to that orientation—which makes his indictment all the more notable.


To understand where these various authors are coming from, it helps to bear in mind the bedrock fact that France is one of the founding nations of Europe—that is to say, one of its oldest nation-states. Since the Great Revolution of 1789, since Napoleon, it has been a modern, secular society. In the 19th and 20th centuries it grew into a world leader in science, technology, finance, culture, art, and literature. It conquered and then emancipated a large colonial empire. And it took a decisive role in the formation of what is set to become a 21st-century superpower, the European Union.

Very few countries can lay claim to such a glorious destiny, or to a more stable national identity. To be endowed with a special destiny and identity is, in itself, a political blessing. But what if that glory is challenged, and the national identity eroding? What if the actual stuff France is made of—its shared culture, its assurance of a common heritage—is disintegrating?

It has happened before. The early decades of the 20th century were a time when France, suddenly mired in a demographic and economic slowdown, seemed to hover between national pride and national despair. This culminated in the full-fledged disaster of 1940, when France was crushed by Germany and subjected to nation-wide occupation. Fortunately, Germany was crushed in turn by the Anglo-Saxon powers and Soviet Russia, and France was allowed to recover. And so it did, with a vengeance. From the 1950’s through the 1970’s, there was much talk in the world of a Japanese miracle, a German miracle, even an Italian miracle. France was a fourth and no less impressive miracle. National independence and national influence were restored, demographics improved, the economy boomed once more. France felt like France again.

Despite warning signs, like the simultaneous rise of Le Pen’s National Front on the far Right and of various Trotskyite and other radical groups on the far Left, this newfound optimism lasted for two more decades. Since the mid-1990’s, however, it has become untenable. Drawing from the works of our four or five whistleblowers and others, we can reliably paint the following portrait of France today.

7) In Memoriam:
This week, UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Moslem population which claims it never occurred.

This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and
how easily each country is giving into it. It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Syria and Iran must be dealt with effectively!

Peter Zeihan discusses the future of Russia, its dark and white side and who may be Putin's successor. (See 1 below.)

Arabs continue to press the Saudi Plan's acceptance. (See 2 below.)

In the final analysis there is only one truism from my perspective and it is: Once you have identified nations that are supplying and aiding those who kill our troops the president must do something about this otherwise it border on treason to send our troops in to battle and allow our adversaries a free pass at killing them. This means we must attack Syria and Iran and prove we mean business.

All other diplomatic initiatives and acts are secondary.


1) The Coming Era of Russia's Dark Rider
By Peter Zeihan

Russian opposition members rallied in Moscow's Pushkin Square on April 14. The so-called Dissenters' March was organized by Other Russia, an umbrella group that includes everyone from unrepentant communists and free-market reformers to far-right ultranationalists whose only uniting characteristic is their common opposition to the centralization of power under President Vladimir Putin's administration.

Minutes after the march began, the 2,000 or so protesters found themselves outnumbered more than four to one by security forces. They quickly dispersed the activists, beating and briefly detaining those who sought to break through the riot-control lines. Among those arrested were chess-champion-turned-political
-activist Garry Kasparov and Maria Gaidar, the daughter of Russia's first post-Soviet reformist prime minister. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov only avoided arrest because his bodyguards helped him to escape. A Reuters crew was permitted to capture the events and disseminate them to the West. A day later, another protest, albeit far smaller, was broken up in a similar way in St. Petersburg, though Kasparov was detained before the protest even began.

What gives? The protests were insignificant in both numerical and political terms. Moreover, with all that is going on in the world right now, the last thing the Putin government needs is to attract negative attention to itself. The answer becomes apparent when one considers Russia's point in its historical cycle and the mounting pressures on Putin personally that have nothing whatsoever to do with "democracy."

The Russian Cycle

At the risk of sounding like a high school social studies teacher (or even George Friedman), history really does run in cycles. Take Europe for example. European history is a chronicle of the rise and fall of its geographic center. As Germany rises, the powers on its periphery buckle under its strength and are forced to pool resources in order to beat back Berlin. As Germany falters, the power vacuum at the middle of the Continent allows the countries on Germany's borders to rise in strength and become major powers themselves.

Since the formation of the first "Germany" in 800, this cycle has set the tempo and tenor of European affairs. A strong Germany means consolidation followed by a catastrophic war; a weak Germany creates a multilateral concert of powers and multi-state competition (often involving war, but not on nearly as large a scale). For Europe this cycle of German rise and fall has run its course three times -- the Holy Roman Empire, Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany -- and is only now entering its fourth iteration with the reunified Germany.

Russia's cycle, however, is far less clinical than Europe's. It begins with a national catastrophe. Sometimes it manifests as a result of disastrous internal planning; sometimes it follows a foreign invasion. But always it rips up the existing social order and threatens Russia with chaos and dissolution. The most recent such catastrophe was the Soviet collapse followed by the 1998 financial crisis. Previous disasters include the crushing of Russian forces in World War I and the imposition of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk; the "Time of Troubles," whose period of internal warfare and conspiracy-laden politics are a testament to the Russian predilection for understatement; and near annihilation under the Mongol occupation.

Out of the horrors of defeat, the Russians search desperately for the second phase of the cycle -- the arrival of a white rider -- and invariably they find one. The white rider rarely encapsulates what Westerns conceive of as a savior -- someone who will bring wealth and freedom. Russian concerns after such calamities are far more basic: they want stability. But by Russian standards, the white rider is a rather optimistic fellow. He truly believes that Russia can recover from its time of trial, once a level of order is restored. So the Russian white rider sets about imposing a sense of consistency and strength, ending the free fall of Russian life. Putin is the current incarnation of Russia's white rider, which puts him in the same category as past leaders such as Vladimir Lenin and, of course, Russia's "Greats": Catherine and Peter.

Contrary to portrayals of him by many in the Western media, Putin is not a hard-nosed autocrat set upon militarization and war. He is from St. Petersburg, Russia's "window on the West," and during the Cold War one of his chief responsibilities was snagging bits of Western technology to send home. He was (and remains) fully cognizant of Russia's weaknesses and ultimately wanted to see Russia integrated as a full-fledged member of the Western family of nations.

He also is pragmatic enough to have realized that his ideal for Russia's future and Russia's actual path are two lines that will not converge. So, since November 2005, Putin has been training two potential replacements: First Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov. At this point, nearly a year before Russia's next presidential election, determining which one will take over is a matter of pure guesswork. Also unclear is what role, if any, Putin will grab for himself -- up to and including a continuation of his presidency.

The question of who takes over in March 2008 is generating much interest and debate among Kremlinologists. It clearly matters a great deal both politically and economically, though geopolitically the discussion misses the point. The real takeaway is that Russia's current white horse period is coming to an end. Putin's efforts to stabilize Russia have succeeded, but his dreams of Westernizing Russia are dead. The darkness is about to set in.

The Dark Rider

In the third phase of the Russian cycle, the white rider realizes that the challenges ahead are more formidable than he first believed and that his (relative) idealism is more a hindrance than an asset. At this point the white rider gives way to a dark one, someone not burdened by the white rider's goals and predilections, and willing to do what he feels must be done regardless of moral implications. The most famous Russian dark rider in modern times is Josef Stalin, of course, while perhaps the most consuming were the "Vasilys" of the Vasily Period, which led to the greatest civil war in Russian medieval history. In particularly gloomy periods in Russia's past (which is saying something) the white rider himself actually has shed his idealism and become the dark rider. For example, Ivan the IV began his rule by diligently regenerating Russia's fortunes, before degenerating into the psychotic madman better known to history as Ivan the Terrible.

Under the rule of the dark rider, Russia descends into an extremely strict period of internal control and external aggression, which is largely dictated by Russia's geographic weaknesses. Unlike the United States, with its deep hinterland, extensive coasts and lengthy and navigable river networks, Russia's expansive barren landscape and lack of maritime transport options make trade, development and all-around life a constant struggle. Russia also lacks any meaningful barriers to hide behind, leaving it consistently vulnerable to outside attack.

Understanding that this geographic reality leaves Russia extremely insecure is critical to understanding Russia's dark periods. Once the dark rider takes the state's reins, he acts by any means necessary to achieve Russian security. Internal opposition is ruthlessly quashed, economic life is fully subjugated to the state's needs and Russia's armies are built furiously with the intent of securing unsecurable borders. That typically means war: As Catherine the Great famously put it: "I have no way to defend my borders except to extend them."

After a period of unification and expansion under the dark rider, Russia inevitably suffers from overextension. No land power can endlessly expand: the farther its troops are from core territories, the more expensive they are to maintain and the more vulnerable they are to counterattack by foreign forces. Similarly, the more non-Russians who are brought under the aegis of the Russian state, the less able the state is to impose its will on its population -- at least without Stalin-style brute force. This overextension just as inevitably leads to stagnation as the post-dark rider leadership attempts to come to grips with Russia's new reality, but lacks the resources to do so. Attempts at reform transform stagnation into decline. Stalin gives way to a miscalculating Nikita Khrushchev, a barely conscious Leonid Brezhnev, an outmatched Mikhail Gorbachev and a very drunk Boris Yeltsin. A new disaster eventually manifests and the cycle begins anew.

Why the Crackdown?

The April 14-15 protests occurred at an inflection point between the second and third parts of the cycle -- as the white rider is giving way to a dark rider. Past Russian protests that involved 2,500 total people at most would have been allowed simply because they did not matter. The Putin government has a majority in the rubber-stamp Duma sufficient to pass any law or constitutional change in a short afternoon of parliamentary fury. All meaningful political parties have been disbanded, criminalized or marginalized; the political system is fully under Kremlin control. The Kasparov/Kasyanov protests did not threaten Putin in any meaningful way -- yet in both Moscow and St. Petersburg a few dozen people were blocked, beaten and hauled off to court.

This development was no accident. Roughly 9,000 riot police do not spontaneously materialize anywhere, and certainly not as the result of an overenthusiastic or less-than-sober local commander. A crackdown in one city could be a misunderstanding; a crackdown in two is state policy. And one does not send hundreds of batons swinging but allow Reuters to keep filming unless the objective is to allow the world to see. Putin chose to make these protests an issue.

Putin, then, is considering various groups and rationalizing his actions in the context of Russia's historical cycle:

* The West: Putin certainly does not want any Western capital to think he will take exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky's recent threats of forcible revolution lying down. Berezovsky says violence is a possibility -- a probability even -- in the future of regime change in Russia? Fine. Putin can and did quite easily demonstrate that, when it comes to the application of force in internal politics, the Russian government remains without peer.

* The people: Putin knows that governance is not so much about ruling as it is about managing expectations. Russians crave stability, and Putin's ability to grant that stability has earned him significant gravitas throughout Russia as well as a grudging respect from even his most stalwart foes. He is portraying groups such as the Other Russia as troublemakers and disturbers of the peace. Such explanations make quite attractive packaging to the average Russian.

* The opposition: It is one thing to oppose a wildly powerful and popular government. It is another thing when that government beats you while the people nod approvingly and the international community barely murmurs its protest. Putin has driven home the message that the opposition is not just isolated and out of touch, but that it is abandoned.

* The Kremlin: Just because Putin is disappointed that his dreams are unattainable, that does not mean he wants to be tossed out the proverbial airlock. Showing any weakness during a transition period in Russian culture is tantamount to surrender -- particularly when Russia's siloviki (nationalists) are always seeking to rise to the top of the heap. Putin knows he has to be firm if he is to play any role in shaping Russia during and after the transition. After all, should Medvedev and Ivanov fail to make the grade, someone will need to rule Russia -- and the only man alive with more experience than Putin has a blood-alcohol level that precludes sound decision-making levels.

2)Thirteen Arab League foreign ministers set up four working teams to promote the Saudi peace plan – but line up with radical bloc on talks with Israel .

Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal announced at the end of their Cairo meeting on April 18 that three teams will explain to world governments the plan’s importance and lobby for its implementation. The fourth team will hold talks with Israel. The team charged with discussing the Saudi plan with Israel is restricted to Egypt and Jordan, which are in any case in regular official contact with the Israeli government. This restriction bows to the Palestinian unity government’s demand to keep Arab governments which bar recognition from Israel out of contact with the Jewish state, lest this be interpreted as recognition. It also enabled Syria at the head of the radical bloc make the meeting’s decisions unanimous.

The Saudi plan stipulates Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries, acceptance of Jerusalem as capital of the future Palestinian state and acceptance of the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return.”

Arab League secretary Amr Mussa repeated Wednesday his objections in principle to any Arab negotiations with Israel. “Israel must first demonstrate a fundamental change in its policy towards the Palestinians,” he said.

In these circumstances, even if Israel accepts an invitation to join these narrow-based talks – presumably in Cairo or Sharm e-Sheikh – they will only produce condemnation for its refusal to accept the Saudi peace plan wholesale and unconditionally.

We still do not fathom the larger issue of radical Islamism!

This is a summary of why there are so many recent spy accusations are floating around. Personally I doubt Sec. Gates is in the Middle East to co-ordinate a future attack on Iran.(See 1 below.)

Caroline Glick explains why Britain is the weakest link and why Britain has cost Bush a great deal of leverage. She also goes into some detail about why Britishers must be confused now that they have been humiliated by Iran, saw their pro-Palestinian reporter nabbed and possibly killed all the while their own hatred of Israel grows. What goes around comes around and now the Brits are beginning to find their love affair with Arabs is not paying off as they would have expected. (See 2 below.)

Jonathin Tobin goes after two Pennsylvania politicians for lending their support to CAIR whose policies are deemed anti-democratic and adverse to our national interests (See 3 below.).

A retired pathologist calls attention to the fact that the Iraq War is part of a bigger issue which we apparently still do not fathom. (See 4 below.)


1)Espionage Galore under a Middle East Nuclear Cloud

It sounded like a contest.

On Tuesday, April 17, the Shin Bet intelligence service reported Iranian intelligence had intensified its efforts to recruit Israelis as spies, targeting former Iranians applying for visas to visit their families. One young man had been snared and paid “expenses” for enlisting a friend in security and collecting information. The Shin Bet detained him on landing home, before he did any harm.

Two hours later, in Cairo, a nuclear engineer Mohammed Gaber, was accused by Prosecutor-General Abdul-Maquid Mahmoud of spying on Egypt’s nuclear program on behalf of the Mossad, which was said to have paid him $17,000. An Irishman and Japanese were sought in connection with the affair. Israel dismissed the charge as another of Cairo’s unfounded spy myths, whose dissemination was not conducive to good relations.

Neither case is isolated. Two days earlier, the Israeli-Arab parliamentarian Azmi Beshara admitted from a safe distance to the Qatar-based al Jazeera TV channel that he was under suspicion of spying for Hizballah during its war with Israel and would not be returning home any time soon.

Add on the US defense secretary Robert Gates’ visits to Jordan, Israel and Egypt this week reportedly to coordinate and oversee preparations connected to a potential military operation against Iran and, in the view of intelligence sources, these espionage rumbles denote a far greater upheaval boiling up below ground.

Most can be traced one way or another to the mysterious disappearance of the Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari from Istanbul in February. Tehran’s job description of the missing general – a former deputy defense minister, who also worked with the Lebanese Hizballah in the 1980 - is correct as far as it goes. But the failure to bring it up to date is an attempt to obfuscate the fact that, at the time of his disappearance, he headed Iran’s Middle East spy networks.

The cases disclosed Tuesday may be just the tip of the iceberg, with more spy dramas on the way. But even at this early stage of a potential intelligence earthquake, certain conclusions are indicated.

Firstly, Israeli will soon have no choice but to declare Iran an enemy state and ban Israeli travel to the Islamic Republic for the first time in the 28 years since Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. Surprisingly, Israelis are still legally permitted to visit Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The Shin Bet did not need to publicize Iran’s intense hunt for Israeli spies in order to stop those visits; there are other ways. The espionage case would not have been brought out in the open without the knowledge of the relevant ministers – certainly not a graphic account of how the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, whence Gen. Asgari vanished, doubles as the distribution center for visas to Iran and a recruiting center for spies. Israelis applying for visas are obliged to deposit their Israeli passports there and issued with travel documents which gain them entry to Tehran. This process is drawn out to enable Iranian intelligence agents to make their first pitch to the targeted Israeli. It is followed up after he enters Iran.

The Shin Bet’s sudden outburst of transparency indicates that the scene is being set for a major diplomatic, military or intelligence step in the summer. This time, the Israeli government will not repeat at least one of the mistakes committed in July 2006, when it refused to declare that Israel was at war and the Hizballah an enemy, even after its forces crossed in to northern Israel, kidnapped two soldiers and let loose with a Katyusha barrage.

Israel is now putting the horse before the cart and declaring Iran an enemy country before the event.

It is therefore vital to deter Israeli nationals from visiting Iran in advance of potential Middle East hostilities. If Iran is involved, even through its allies or the Hizballah, Israelis in the Islamic Republic would be in danger of being taken captive or hostage.

Israel’s latest posture and precautions are likely to have the dual effect of raising Middle East tensions and placing Iran’s ancient Jewish community, reduced now to 25,000, in jeopardy. “Israeli spy rings” may soon be “uncovered” by Iranian security agents.

Second, the Middle East has embarked on a nuclear arms race. It is no secret that at last month’s Arab summit in Riyadh, the Saudi ruler strongly urged his fellows to unite their national nuclear programs under a single roof. Though played down, this was the summit’s most important decision – not the so-called Saudi peace plan, although it made the most waves. It was a step intended to produce an Arab nuclear option versus the Iranian weapons program.

Every aspect of the unified Arab nuclear program is therefore extraordinarily sensitive and hemmed in with exceptional security measures. Each has become a prime intelligence target - and not only for Israel. Hence the song and dance the Egyptian prosecutor general made Tuesday of an alleged Israeli spy network said to operate out of Hong Kong, with an Irish and a Japanese agent charged with planting Israeli espionage software in Egyptian nuclear program’s computers, together with an Egyptian engineer. Egyptian intelligence was making sure to warn off any Egyptian tempted to work for Israeli intelligence, just as the Shin Bet was cautioning Israelis to beware of falling into Iranian intelligence traps.

The events of a single day brought Iran and its nuclear threat into sharp relief as the most pressing issues for Israel. Relations with the Palestinians and Syria, on which so many words are poured day by day, pale in comparison.

2) Caroline Glick: Britain - the weakest link

The British people could be forgiven if they feel bewildered by the poor
treatment they have been receiving at the hands of the Muslims of late.

Iran places Britain in the category of Satan, along with the US and Israel,
and eagerly kidnapped its servicemen and humiliated Her Majesty's Admiralty
and Government. But for all of Iran's anti-British rantings, the fact of the
matter is that Britain is the mullahs' most effective defender.

By working with France and Germany to fecklessly negotiate with the
ayatollahs regarding their nuclear weapons program, the British were more
responsible than anyone for giving the mullahs three years to work freely on
developing their nuclear weapons. If the French and Germans had engaged Iran
without the British at their side, the Bush administration would have
condemned the talks for the stalling tactic they were and set out to shape a
coherent, effective policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs.

When, last summer, it became impossible to ignore the fact that the
Europeans' jaw-jaw had failed, it was once again Britain who curbed
Washington by convincing President George W. Bush to empower the UN Security
Council to deal with Iran's nuclear program. Without Britain pressing the UN
route, it is difficult to imagine Bush agreeing to subordinate US national
security to a body more or less dedicated to demonizing, isolating and
eviscerating America.

THE IGNOMINY Britain suffered at the hands of Iran occurred a week after BBC
Gaza reporter Alan Johnston was abducted by Palestinian terrorists. After a
month of silence, Sunday his kidnappers announced that they had executed

Monday morning, the kidnapers had yet to produce their promised execution
film, and so Johnston's status was still unknown. But with or without a body
bag, the British could be excused for feeling even more confused by their
reporter's plight than by their servicemen's kidnapping in Iraqi coastal

After all, since the 1920s, the Palestinian Arabs have had no friend more
stalwart than the British. Until Israel declared independence 59 years ago
the British did everything possible to prevent the establishment of the
Jewish state. They even enabled the Holocaust by blocking the doomed Jews of
Europe from escaping to the Land of Israel.

Since Israel declared independence, the British have been unrelenting
detractors of the Jewish state and champions of the Arabs. In recent years,
British support for the Palestinians against Israel has been one of the
rallying cries not only of the Foreign Office but of British society as a

In a sharp departure from both British and EU official policy, Britain's
consul-general in Jerusalem Richard Makepeace held open talks with Hamas
terror commander and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on
April 5 in a bid to secure Johnston's release.

Last week, after declaring a "day of action" on Johnston's behalf, BBC
Chairman Mark Thompson went to Ramallah, where he met with Fatah terror
chief and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. After the meeting Thompson praised
Abbas and announced that Abbas claimed to have "credible evidence that
Johnston was safe and well."

POOR JOHNSTON was so biased in favor of the Palestinians that he could have
been forgiven for believing he would be safe from Palestinian terror. As the
BBC's Middle East Bureau chief Simon Wilson put it, Johnston "is regarded as
a Gaza journalist foremost and a foreign journalist second." The Palestinian
Journalists Syndicate said that Johnston is "famous for his opinions which
are supportive of the Palestinians."

Of course, there is nothing extraordinary about Johnston's anti-Israel
positions. The day before his execution was announced his colleagues in
Britain went out of their way to prove their anti-Israel animus. By a vote
of 66-55, Friday the British National Union of Journalists voted to boycott
Israeli goods.

It will be interesting to see how they manage to implement their boycott and
work as reporters at the same time. Since Israeli engineers developed their
cell phones, their Pentium chip computers, their voicemail and their instant
messenger software, boycotting Israel will involve giving up their ability
to quickly amass their anti-Israel propaganda, vomit it out on their
computers and send it off to their Israel-bashing editors.

But then, even if they figure out a way to work without technology, one can
still only wonder at their decision. After all, their Palestinian colleagues
don't seem too concerned with Israel these days. They have real tyrants to
contend with.

In response to Johnston's disappearance and in protest against the utter
lack of press freedom in the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian
Journalists Syndicate called a boycott not of Israel, but of the PA.

THE SAD truth is that British journalists are far from the worst
Israel-bashers in Britain. Anti-Semitism has increasingly become the
defining characteristic of British society.

First there are the non-governmental organizations. Last week, Oxfam, one of
Britain's largest charities, chastised Blair, claiming that both his
decision to participate in the US-led campaign in Iraq and his refusal to
side with Hizbullah against Israel in last summer's war have damaged
Britain's international clout. Oxfam is calling for the UK and the EU to
resume their transfer payments to the Hamas-controlled PA.

Yet Oxfam, which claims to "support Israel's right to exist alongside a
viable and independent Palestinian state," could be mistaken as an Israel
advocacy group compared to those tasked with educating British students.
Last year, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher
Education (NATFHE), the largest university and college trade union in the
UK, and the Association of University Teachers (AUT), agreed to institute a
"silent boycott" of Israeli universities, students and professors.

NATFHE urged its members to consider "the appropriateness of a boycott of
those [Israelis] that do not publicly dissociate themselves [from Israel]."
The organization also castigated the British media and government for their
response to Hamas's victory in the January 2006 Palestinian elections.
NATFHE decried the "hysterical reporting of the [election] result by most of
the British news media and the outrageous bias shown by UK government
statements against the outcome of a democratic process."

BRITAIN TODAY is in the throes of a noxious blend of virulent anti-Semitism
and indifference. An example is the willingness of school teachers to
abandon their professional duties in a bid to appease their Muslim students.
Rather than confront the Muslims' rabid anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial,
their teachers have opted to stop teaching about the genocide of European

According to a study just released by Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth
Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, another
product of this mix has been a steep rise in anti-Jewish violence in

In one of the 136 "major violent attacks" against Jews last year in Britain,
last August, while riding a London bus, Jasmine
Kranat was brutally beaten by a gang of Muslims. The attackers refused to
believe her when she denied being Jewish. They beat her unconscious, then
continued to stomp on her chest and head, breaking the orbital bone in her
Not one of the bus passengers or the bus driver came to her defense.

It is true that the Blair government is criticized by the British people for
not following them in labeling Israel the greatest threat to global
security, and the US as the second-greatest threat to global security. But
the fact is that the Blair government has been responsible for turning the
Bush administration into a loud proponent of Palestinian statehood. And it
was Blair who brought the White House on board with both the so-called road
map peace plan and the Saudi peace plan. Were either of the plans to be
implemented, Israel would lose its ability to defend itself or to survive as
a sovereign Jewish state.

YES, IT is more than understandable for the British to wonder why they are
being targeted by the likes of the Iranians and Palestinians, whose
interests they have done so much to advance.

But to answer the question they need to look in the mirror. In their
relentless campaign to advance the interests of the Palestinians and
Iranians who daily call for their destruction, the British have made
themselves the most attractive targets for attack.

They are the weakest link in the alliance of so-called Satans. And as
members of the alliance, the British are in the best position to pressure
the US and Israel. Iran, the Palestinians and their allies understand and
exploit this fact.

The British will continue to be targeted for as long as they champion the
cause of their enemies and then react to attacks against them by redoubling
their pressure on the US and Israel to join them in appeasing those sworn to
our collective destruction.

If it wished, the Bush administration could try using the bully pulpit to at
least stem Britain's societal dementia. For its part, aside from warning
British Jewry to leave before it is too late, the Jewish state can do
nothing to influence England.

THE MOST urgent change that must be made in Israel's policy toward Britain
is to cease viewing it as an ally. As with France, it is possible for Israel
to cooperate with Britain on certain levels, but impossible to trust British
support on any level.

Although they share the same enemies and interests as Israel, the British,
blinded by their bigotry, are incapable of understanding this basic reality.
Until they do, Israel must keep its distance and watch its back when the
British come a-calling.

3) Two Fail Leadership Test on Terrorism
By Jonathan Tobin

Among the most important things public servants can do is to conduct themselves in such a way as to inspire public confidence in their ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, the grades for this all-too-basic test of behavior for two leading political figures result in a resounding "F."

The men in question are Rep. Joe Sestak, the freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Philadelphia suburbs, and Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania. By appearing at a fundraising dinner for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations this past weekend, the two have allowed their personal prestige to be used to bolster a group whose conduct and goals remain anathema to democracy and the defense of the United States and Israel.

Though CAIR presents itself as a group whose purpose is to advocate for embattled American Muslims, it was founded a decade ago as the public-relations arm of American supporters of Hamas, a terrorist group declared as such by the U.S. government. It raised money for Hamas- front group, the Holy Land Foundation, which has since been deemed illegal by the federal government. Its members and leaders have been known to advocate for terrorist acts against Israel and the United States.

CAIR has declared its opposition to such things, yet it has remained a loyal supporter and apologist for Hamas and Hezbollah. A campaign on its behalf (funded largely by sources in the Arab world, whose antipathy to America and Israel are well-known), has sought to whitewash it. But there is no evading the fact that CAIR is a hate group, as well as a vicious opponent of both Israel and America's war on Islamist terror.

You would think that such a record would render the group's events off-limits to national leaders.

However, Sestak, whose planned speech was a source of controversy for weeks, and Rendell, who made an unscheduled appearance at the same event, defend their behavior as simply a matter of meeting with constituents. In particular, Sestak has claimed that it was his obligation to speak to CAIR, even if he disagreed with it.

To his credit, in his speech the congressman did chide CAIR for refusing to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah. He rightly said that to do so was akin to those who "did not speak out against the perpetrators of Jim Crow laws." But by his presence there, Sestak has lent credibility to CAIR's laughable pretense that it is a "civil-rights group."

The truth is that CAIR has more in common with segregationists and other hate groups than it does with the NAACP. Would he — or Rendell, for that matter — show up at a Ku Klux Klan fundraiser and say it was just a matter of talking to voters?

Their appearance has also unfortunately helped bolster the false argument that the only opponents of CAIR are anti-Muslim extremists. Opposition to the group runs across the board among national Jewish organizations and anti-terror experts. Sadly, Sestak and Rendell's misjudgment also helps stifle the efforts of genuinely moderate American Muslims and Arabs who have been crowded out of the public square by extremists.

It must be clearly stated that although both these men are Democrats, this is not a partisan issue. Leading national Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others have stated on the record that they want nothing to do with CAIR. Like most Democrats, Sestak has an established record of support for Israel, as does Rendell, the longtime mayor of Philadelphia. But by helping to sanitize CAIR's image and to boost its already bulging purse, they have materially damaged the fight against terrorism and the efforts to defend the Jewish state.

4) Iraq: Part of a larger conflict

Except for a handful of informed individuals in the administration and the media, almost all the Western world does not recognize the obvious fact that the events following 9/11 over the past four years, including the coalition’s part in toppling Saddam Hussein and the inevitable consequence of the resumption of the vicious feud between the Shiites and the Sunnis, is only a skirmish within a much more important conflict for the whole world.

The vicious war is the global activities of the Muslim fundamentalists or Islamists, extremists who resort to terrorism to achieve their nefarious goals. The agenda for these goals has been set decades ago, and they bided their time until a propitious moment to resume their activities at a much larger scale that trivializes the 9/11 catastrophe.

The Al-Qaida organization, chased from Afghanistan, found havens in multiple other areas of the world sympathetic to its beliefs and methods, at times despite the authority of the governments of the countries they are harbored in. Unfortunately, the so-called coalition for the Iraqi campaign is indeed composed of a piteous force of the United States, the United Kingdom and symbolic numbers of other militarily minor nations — with the distinct absence of France, Germany and Russia, who will rue the day they stood back and watched us hoist the banner almost single-handedly.

It is absolutely inadvisable to predict the end of a war in the middle of the fight. Not only is it frequently wrong but, more importantly, it can be demoralizing for both our fighting forces and the populace at home, who unfortunately are mostly uninformed about world affairs. On the other hand, it is very important to examine strategies and modify both military and political maneuvers to maximize the chances of victory, but having set the goal at the outset one must continue undaunted to the end to achieve it. Capitulating, retreating or disengaging militarily are not viable options.

A political solution in this morass called Iraq is wishful thinking. There is no alternative to our victory.

Our leaders erred in more ways than one in the recent campaign in Iraq. First, the stated goal for entering the foray was narrow and not well-stated or explained to the people. We cannot excuse the administration for its obvious failings in this regard, whether the sins were that of omission or commission.

I cannot imagine that the administration was unaware of the existence or nature of our real enemy, the terrorist extremists. Furthermore, the failure to recognize the global nature of the ongoing conflict or the vicious goal of our enemies is a more egregious dereliction of duty.

How is it possible to misread what Iran is and what its goals are? What are we waiting for, for Iran to reshape the geography of the Middle East and beyond? Or are we going to, in final desperation, nuke them when we already know that everything short of that will not work?

To commit the same error the Europeans committed, of ignoring the obvious inhumanity of fascist regimes and monsters like Hitler, by our refusing to decipher the obvious global goals of Muslim extremists is nothing short of suicide. It took a sole voice, that of Churchill, who was berated as a warmonger, to wake up nations on both sides of the Atlantic in time to resist these evil regimes.

The senselessness and childishness of the dialogue and confrontations between the administration and Congress in this country are a pitiful sight. The loss of precious time, which would be better-spent in learning the truth and magnitude of our enemies, and rallying the reluctant nations around the world, is an unprecedented fragmentation of leadership.

What we are sorely in need of at this sensitive juncture is understanding and nonpartisan cooperation between the administration and executive branches of government to conduct a successful war against a relentless enemy.

Dr. Demian of Columbia is a retired professor of pathology.

Monday, April 16, 2007

U.S Clout replaced by U.S rout!

More dithering on Olmert's part as Iran flexes its muscle. (See 1 below.)

If Israel rejects the terms of the Saudi Plan, which if embraced would destroy the nation through diplomacy, the Syrian Information Minister says Arab nations have a right to attack Israel. I realize these are just mouthed words but they suggest the tenor of the continual threat Israel faces. (See 2 below.)

Excerpt from Janes' about polarizing impact of radical Islamists in Maylasia. (See 3 below.)

Caroline Glick writes about the long effort required to fight terrorism as if we still have the stomach for it. Iran and the Radical Islamists have won the first round and I suspect, until we are attacked again or something akin to that happens, they will continue to press forward. Their sails are unfurled and with the positive support they are receiving from Russia and China, the timidity of Europe and the withdrawal message from the Democrats, Iran and Radical Islamists have every reason to feel emboldened. (See 4 below.)

Lebanon to sue Israel. Maybe the World Bank can pay the Lebanese off. (See 5 below and my comments about Wolfowitz and The World Bank.)

I am no particular fan of Mr. Wolfowitz, President of The World Bank, but if there ever was a situation where the pot called the kettle black his is one. He went along with the directives of the Bank's ethics panel after he recused himself vis a vis any action pertaining to a female friend employed by the Bank before he was made head. They told him he must participate in her compensation plan which he then did. He is now being hung for following their advice. He stupidly made an apology and now is being accused of ethical violations because his lady friend was given certain financial considerations.

Wolfowitz has been trying to reform The Bank and hold them accountable for their lending results. That is deemed sinful by the Bank's bureaucracy because The World Bank has a pitiful record of accomplishments and reeks with cronyism and incompetence. It is now pay back time and the Europeans are jealous of the fact that we contribute the most and generally can veto much of its actions. The Europeans want their selection as President so they can continue dolling out dollars, mostly ours, in The Bank's continued historical and wasteful manner.

One more example of how we are being trashed because of our failures in Iraq and it demonstrates how far we have fallen. U.S. clout has been replaced by U.S. rout! (See 6 below.)

History will eventually record that the Bush Presidency was surrounded by a series of hypocrisies that are mind-boggling to which the administration succumbed because it was incapable of mounting any kind of meaningful response. GW is not only inarticulate but he is brain dead when it comes to knowing how to fight back.


1)Tehran arms Lebanese Hizballah militia with air defense missile wing as part of war build-up.

Iranian Shahab Sagheb anti-air missile based on Chinese FM-80

April 15, on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders staged a grand ceremony at the Imam Ali base in northern Tehran to celebrate the launch of Hizballah’s anti-air missile wing. They cheered the 500 Lebanese graduates of a course in the use of three anti-air missiles supplied by Iran:

The Sayyad 1 (Hunter), the Misagh 1 (Convention [with Allah]) and the Shahab Sagheb (Meteor), which is based on the Chinese Feimeng-80 system.

Military sources report that these new weapons will seriously restrict the Israeli Air Force’s tactical freedom over Lebanon. In the event of hostilities, Israeli warplanes will have to evade a dense array of Hizballah-operated anti-air missiles which will also defend the terrorist group’s surface rocket batteries.

Those sources disclose that the Iranian-Chinese missile has already been smuggled into Lebanon and is in Hizballah’s hands. It is designed to shoot down planes and helicopters flying at ultra-low altitudes under radar screens for surprise assaults on ground targets such as military bases, missile positions and artillery. Ordinary radar and air defense missiles are mostly ineffective against these low-flying tactics. The new missile makes up for this shortcoming.

On March 7, the 500 Hizballah trainees flew out of Damascus airport for Tehran aboard two civilian airliners; on April 16, they returned home – again through the Syrian airport - after training in the Imam Ali base under Iranian experts commanded by Iranian Col. Mohammed Mnafi.

Military circles made wry remarks to the effect that, while Israel’s heads of state and chief of staff solemnly declared: “Never again!” in speeches marking Holocaust Remembrance day, they are seriously short on action for curbing Hizballah-Hamas preparations for their next war on the Jewish state. Surface missiles are routinely smuggled into Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, unopposed. But the arming of Iran’s Lebanese proxy with deadly anti-air missiles poses a new and extraordinarily threat to the Israeli Air Force and, moreover, prevents air attacks on the Hizballah batteries shooting rockets into Israel. Questions are being asked about how Israel’s policy-makers and top brass could have allowed 500 Hizballah trainees to fly out of Damascus airport unhindered and return as air defense specialists, highly trained for shooting missiles at the Israeli Air Force and preventing Israeli warplanes from halting surface rockets should they fly against Israeli civilian locations once more.

2) Syria: Without peace, resistance will liberate Golan Heights

Syrian information minister says Damascus wants peace, but will resort to
violence if Israel rejects peace proposal; 'any nation living under
occupation has the prerogative to resist,' he says.

"If Israel rejects the Arab League peace proposal, resistance will be the
only way to liberate the Golan Heights," warns Syrian Information Minister
Muhsen Bilal, at a press conference in Damascus Monday.

The minister explained that Syria had an interest in renewing talks with
Israel with support from America and Russia. "Syria wants to reach a fair,
comprehensive peace," he added. However, he also stated that "any nation
living under occupation has the prerogative to resist. In Lebanon, Palestine
and Iraq, we must liberate all occupied Arab land."

Bilal blamed Israel for causing instability in the Middle East.

He also referred to Ibrahim Soliman's visit to Israel. Soliman, a
Syrian-American, is recognized as someone who reached an understanding with
former Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Liel regarding peace between
Israel and Syria.

"We have nothing to do with his visit," Bilal made clear. "Nobody elected
Soliman to represent Syria. He does not speak for any Syrian institute. It
is not our approach, to conduct underground negotiations."

Damascus announced Monday that it planned to host an international
conference to discuss "media coverage of the Palestinian problem and Iran's
right to have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."

Bilal told reporters that the conference would focus on "several studies on
the Arab media coverage - professional ethics versus commitment to national
matters - as well as the concept of resistance in the Arab media."

The conference will take place on April 30; it will be headed by Syrian
President Bashar Assad; and 350 journalists, academics and politicians are
planned to attend.

3) The polarising force of Islam in Malaysia

Malaysia has long been noted for its liberal and tolerant interpretation of Islam and hailed by the West as a model for modern Islamic society. However, a series of controversial incidents involving Islamic hardliners has heightened concerns about the creeping Islamisation of the country's multi-racial and multi-faith society.

The recent case of R Subashini, a Hindu Malaysian woman who lost her appeal to prevent her Muslim-convert husband from going to an Islamic sharia court to dissolve their civil marriage and convert their children to Islam, has sparked a blaze of controversy.

Civil rights groups and the Malaysian Bar Council argue that it is unfair to subject a non-Muslim to the jurisdiction of an Islamic court, as sharia only applies to Muslims. They also question why the civil court, which is ostensibly in place to protect the rights of ordinary citizens, failed to intervene. They say the rulings of the Islamic courts should never surpass the right to religious freedom guaranteed under Article 11 of the constitution.

A similar case in 2006 saw the Hindu wife of a Muslim convert lose the right to have her husband buried according to Hindu tradition. Islamic authorities intervened and ordered a Muslim burial, with the Civil High Court refusing to intervene in what it deemed to be an Islamic issue.

Under Article 11, freedom of religion is guaranteed for Malaysia's multi-ethnic population, of which more than half are Malay Muslims but which also includes Chinese and Indian Malaysians who practise other faiths.

4) The long road to victory
By Caroline B. Glick

The common wisdom in Washington these days is that the Americans will leave Iraq by the end of President George W. Bush's presidency regardless of the situation on the ground. This view is based on the proposition that Iraq is unwinnable. It has had a devastating impact on the administration's confidence that it can handle Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Monday's events brought that impact home starkly. On the one hand, the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad came as the US wages a seemingly last-ditch attempt to defeat the insurgency in Iraq. On the other hand, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's performance at the Natanz nuclear installation where he said, "With great pride, I announce as of today our dear country is among the countries of the world that produces nuclear fuel on an industrial scale," indicated that he for one, does not believe he has anything to worry about from America.

"Right-thinking" people these days claim that if the US and Britain hadn't invaded Iraq, everything today would have been perfect. The US would have been loved. The Europeans, Arabs and the UN would be standing on line to support the US in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

As British commentator Simon Jenkins put it in *The Guardian* on Tuesday, "If ever [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair hoped to carry his 'western values agenda' on a white charger to the gates of Tehran, that hope vanished in the mire of Iraq."

Yet this is untrue. The US's difficulties with confronting Iran have little to do with the decision to invade Iraq. Rather, America's feckless diplomacy towards Iran to date is the result of the administration's early misunderstanding of Iraq and of Iranian and Arab interests.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration identified certain basic guiding realities and missed others. First there was the issue of Arab tyranny. As Bush recalled last September, "For decades, American policy sought to achieve peace in the Middle East by pursuing stability at the expense of liberty. The lack of freedom in that region helped create conditions where anger and resentment grew, and radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits."

Yet recognizing this basic reality did not lead the administration to adopt appropriate policies. Rather than promote liberty, which at its core revolves around a certain foundational understanding of human dignity, the administration promoted elections — fast elections — in Iraq and throughout the region.

In so doing, the administration placed the cart before the horse, with predictable results. The legacy of tyranny is hatred and dependence. And the values of hatred and dependence were those that were expressed at the ballot boxes in Iraq, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. In all jihadists, often allied with Iran, were empowered while those that were considered moderates modified their positions in opposition to the US.

The Americans pushed for elections in the hopes of finding a silver bullet that would instantly solve the problem of tyranny in the Arab world. But in their rush, the Americans trampled the very liberal democrats they sought to empower.

These forces, who receive no money from Iran and Saudi Arabia to buy votes, and have no private militias to intimidate voters, couldn't compete against the likes of the Dawa party in Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority.

In Iraq, the one openly liberal party, led by Mithal al Alousi won one seat. In the Palestinian elections, all political parties were either directly or indirectly tied to terrorist organizations. And in Egypt, the supposedly liberal Kifaya party one-upped dictator Hosni Mubarak when it demanded to nullify Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

By pushing fast elections, the US entrapped itself. It inadvertently empowered its enemies and so was unable to embrace the duly elected governments. In opposing the forces it expended so much energy getting elected, the US was perceived as weak, foolish, and hypocritical.

After September 11, Bush explained that the attacks showed that the friend of your enemy is also your enemy. As he put it last September, "Americamakes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror, and those that harbor and support them, because they're equally guilty of murder."

Yet, Bush failed to note is the converse of that reality: the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. Here the distinction generally relates to Sunnis and Shiites. The administration's failure to grasp that just because Shiites and Sunnis are rivals doesn't mean that they will join forces with the US to fight one another, or won't join forces with one another to fight the US, has caused the Americans no end of difficulty.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration did recognize this truth. In its handling of the Iran-Iraq War, the Reagan administration adopted a policy of dual containment. The Americans helped both sides enough to ensure they could keep fighting, but too little to enable either side to emerge the victor. Rather than believing the fiction that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," the Reagan administration advanced US interests by using their rivalry to weaken both.

Rather than follow its predecessor's example, the Bush administration clung to the delusion that Shiites and Sunnis would ally with the US against one another. This fantasy has confounded the administration in every one of its subsequent initiatives towards Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Palestinians.

In Iraq, for three years the Americans treated al-Sadr, Teheran's man in Baghdad as a potential ally due to the fact that he too is an enemy of al Qaida. The delusion only ended finally when al-Sadr moved to Iran in February ahead of the US surge operation in Baghdad.

The Americans' treatment of al-Sadr is similar to its treatment of his state sponsor. Since the fall of Saddam, the Americans have repeated the mantra that Iran and Syria share America's interest in bringing stability to Iraqbecause the current instability destabilizes them.

While it is true that the chaos in Iraq breeds instability in Syria and Iran, it does not follow that the Iranians and Syrians are interested in ending it.

Since Iran and Syria view the US as their enemy, their ideal scenario is for the US to bleed in Iraq while propping up a weak Shiite government that has no inclination or ability to threaten them. That is, for Iran and Syria, the current situation in Iraq aligns perfectly with their interests, (which explains why they are working so diligently to maintain it.)

As for the Arab world, the administration believes that since the Arabs oppose Iran's quest to become a regional nuclear power, they will help the US both in stabilizing Iraq and in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Here too, the administration confuses common interests with common agendas. The fact that the Arabs share common interests with the US does not make them allies. As a young Saudi imam put it this week to the *Wall Street Journal*, "We are waiting for the time to attack [the US]. Youth feel happy when the Taliban takes a town or when a helicopter comes down, killing Americans in Iraq. It is a very dangerous situation for the US in the whole Muslim world."

The fruits of America's disorientation were revealed in last month's three Saudi summits: the Hamas-Fatah summit, the King Abdullah-Ahmadinejad summit, and the Arab League-Iranian summit.

Since last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah and more intensively since the publication of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report on Iraq last November, the Bush administration has been advancing a vision of an anti-Iranian Arab coalition which will join forces with America to confront and defeat Teheran.

There has been no rational basis for this view since the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians responded last year to Iran's nuclear advances by announcing that they will get their own nukes. But it took last month's diplomatic cavalcade in Saudi Arabia to finally destroy the fantasy.

First there was the Hamas-Fatah summit in Mecca where Abdullah undermined the US by promising to pay Hamas terrorists a billion dollars in exchange for their agreement to let Fatah terrorists be their junior partners in government.

If that wasn't sufficient proof that Abdullah is not a friend, there was his warm and fuzzy love-fest with Ahmadinejad.

Their meeting shocked Israeli, American and British intelligence services who perceived it as the culmination of a progressive Saudi estrangement from the US. It was preceded by a massive expansion of Saudi ties with China and Russia.

Any notion that the US could expect assistance from the Arabs in contending with Iran disintegrated a week later when Abdullah and Mubarak enthusiastically signed onto the Arab League and Iranian statement referring to the US presence in Iraq as an "illegal occupation".

Yet for all their overt anti-Americanism and competition with Iran to see who can destroy Israel first, the Arabs have not become Iran's allies. They do not want Iran to win its war against America. They want to play Iran and the US against one another. That is, the Arabs are implementing the double containment strategy that the US should have adopted towards them.

The fact of the matter is that the Americans are capable of learning from their mistakes. This week, the commander of US forces in Iraq General David Petraeus published a letter to the Iraqi people ahead of the fourth anniversary of Baghdad's fall. In it, he discussed the anti-American rallies that al-Sadr organized from Iran.

As Petraeus put it, "On this April 9th, some Iraqis reportedly may demonstrate against the coalition force presence in Iraq. That is their right in the new Iraq. It would only be fair, however, to note that they will be able to exercise that right because coalition forces liberated them from a tyrannical, barbaric regime that never would have permitted such freedom of expression."

In the end, the protests were ill attended. Now al-Sadr is now whining that he will pull his support for the government as US forces destroy his militia in Diwaniyah and daily release information about Iranian support for the insurgency.

The success the US is now experiencing in Iraq is the result of a process of identifying and correcting mistakes. If such learning could take place regarding the US's regional strategy, there is every reason to believe that it will contend successfully with Iran and the Arab world. But to correct mistakes it is first necessary to recognize them.

The US is not failing to contend with Iran because it went to war in Iraq. It is failing because it is implementing policies that prefer imaginary silver bullets to real solutions to real problems.

There are no shortcuts in this war. But victory is still waiting at the end of the long and difficult road.

5) Lebanon says to seek war reparations from Israel

Finance Minister Jihad Azour says country preparing to go to international tribunal to seek reparations for damage caused during last summer’s war; ‘Israeli aggression was beyond the purpose,’ he says.

Lebanon is preparing to go to an international tribunal to seek reparations from Israel for damage caused during last year’s month-long war, the country’s finance minister Jihad Azour said on Monday.

Speaking at Johns Hopkins University, Azour declined to say which court or international tribunal Lebanon would petition and added that the case is still being prepared.

Israel invaded southern Lebanon in July after Hizbullah guerrillas captured two of its soldiers in a cross-border raid.

The war killed over 1,100 Lebanese, displaced thousands and destroyed swathes of infrastructure, including roads, bridges and power systems.

Azour said Lebanon’s economy had been set back 10 years by the attack. Over a million cluster bombs had been dropped on his country, killing civilians, he added.

“We were attacked. The (extent of the) Israeli aggression was beyond the purpose. Therefore we want to seek reparation, first of all, for the principle that you cannot kill 1,400 individuals, most of them civilians, displace so many people and destroy the economy without being asked for reparations,” he said.

“We are preparing our case,” he added.

'Financial dimension is secondary'

Asked if Lebanon wanted money from Israel or an apology, he said: “Both. It’s not about money but about principle.”

The minister told Reuters after the speech Lebanon’s Justice Ministry had commissioned international lawyers to prepare the case. He said he was not aware of how much compensation would be sought.

“Lebanon’s objective is above all to set a precedent. The financial dimension is secondary,” he added.

In December, a United Nations human rights inquiry said Israel should be made to pay compensation to Lebanon. It suggested setting up an international compensation program similar to the one that paid out billions of dollars to cover losses due to Iraq’s 1990-91 invasion of Kuwait.

Israel, supported by the United States, has rejected the findings, saying it had acted in self-defense.

6) Iraqi Blowback: Explaining why Paul Wolfowitz is a travesty and Sandy Berger is a snooze.
By Victor Davis Hanson

The resigned Scooter Libby did not leak Valerie Plame’s name, a fact known to a special prosecutor charged with finding out who did and if were a crime. After hours of testimony, he was found self-contradictory under oath (though self-contradictory hardly to the extent of a Joe Wilson who said and wrote things about his yellow-cake inquiries that could not be conceivably true), and now faces a possible prison term.

Ditto the exemption given to the Duke accuser who repeatedly lied in her sworn testimonials, but will apparently not be charged with perjury because her stories are so implausible that officials think she must be unhinged — a new rationale that the perjurer is apparently free from indictment when the concoctions exceed possible belief.

Alberto Gonzalez perhaps (emphasize “perhaps,” as yet we don’t know all the facts) showed a lapse in judgment or at least of political savvy by firing politically appointed federal attorneys, something that was not unusual in past Democratic administrations.

Paul Wolfowitz, who sought to curb corruption that undermines support for World Bank aid to Africa, likewise is facing a lynch mob over perhaps a similar one-time lapse of judgment in regard to compensation of a companion — nothing, however, ranking with the various scandals surrounding Kofi Annan, whose son profited by United Nations exemptions given through his family ties. In today’s moral calculus, presiding over a $50-billion-dollar Oil-for-Food scandal that led to frequent death in Iraq and profit among global elites is a misdemeanor, recommending a pay package for an employee one dates is an unforgivable felony.

One could go on with the furor over the misdirected pellets from Dick Cheney’s shotgun, or the clamor for the Rumsfeld resignation. Yet contrast all this hysteria with the slight whimpers surrounding recent controversies over conflicts of interest or lapses in judgment surrounding Richard Armitage, Harry Reid, or Dianne Feinstein. The destruction of federal documents that might well alter history’s consensus by former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was a snore for most journalists.

What, then, is the one common tie that explains all these furious efforts of the media and partisans to go after these present and former Bush-administration officials?

Payback for Iraq.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Jerry Lewis for President!

Uzi Benjamin is concerned the new head of the IDF is too macho and will make mistakes trying to avenge the last war against Hezballah should the IDF, because Ashkenazi said he will make sure at the end of the next war there will be no doubt over who won. Note Ashkenazi believes the "next" war is inevitable.(See 1 below .)

Azmi Bashara, an Arab Israeli and KM, reportedly has fled the country because of a Shin Bet interrogation involving matters pertaining to alleged very serious security breaches. His supposed renouncing of his citizenship could soon become the pre-text of concentrated Arab attacks on Israel's justice system and treatment of its non- Jewish citizens. (See 2 and 3 below.)

What the Arab world had to say about Speaker Pelosi's visit to Syria. (See 4 below.)

Has the raising of money become the key issue in determining who will be president? If so Jerry Lewis would qualify hands down! I never thought I would long for the day of hearing that word "Gravitas" again!(see 5 below.)

Truth! What's that? Certainly don't expect it from the media. (See 6 below.)


1) The IDF's lost honor
By Uzi Benziman

On the eve of Pesach, MK Effi Eitam told the nation that he now sleeps a lot better. This occured after he heard Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi tell the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee about how he will make sure that at the end of the next war there will be no doubt over who won. Until then Eitam was worried about the spirit pervading the IDF command, but the briefing by the new chief of staff filled him with optimism: Ashkenazi's language was lucid, he posed clear objectives and he gave his listeners a sense of confidence that he knows what he's doing.

Fighting moods are a bad thing when they come from the chief of staff. During the 1950s, chief of staff Moshe Dayan told prime minister David Ben-Gurion that he preferred commanders who were noble stallions, ones that needed to be restrained when they exhibited excessive enthusiasm to encounter the enemy. Battalion, brigade and division commanders and their subordinates are indeed expected to be soaked in fighting spirit and ready to carry out the missions assigned to them. The members of the general staff, on the other hand, must be much more level-headed in the way they approach the political-security situation.

The Second Lebanon War has left the IDF damaged. The army feels it failed to meet expectations and has since been obsessed with a wish to make amends. A short while after the cease-fire, circles in the IDF began airing assessments that by the following summer (which is closing in) there will be a second round of fighting. The general staff concluded in a series of meetings last November that it was necessary to prepare for an offensive by Syria and Hezbollah in the summer of 2007.

In December 2006, a dispute emerged between the Mossad and military intelligence over Syria's intentions. In February, Brigadier General Yossi Beiditch, head of research at military intelligence, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Syrian leader is indeed serious about peace with Israel, on his terms, but is preparing for a confrontation because he does not want to be surprised. Last week, the chief of military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, told the cabinet that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are preparing for an American assault against Iran in the summer, and that Syria is taking into account that Israel is actively involved, and so Damascus is preparing for all eventualities.

All this talk is dangerous. Israel emerged from the Second Lebanon War bruised, and with an eroded deterrent. It recognizes this and its enemies believe it. The mere image of a country whose wings have been clipped entices Syria, Hezbollah and the Palestinians to challenge it. At the same time, the feeling of stained honor has aroused in the IDF a desire to once more raise the flag of victory and teach the hostile neighbors a lesson they will remember for a long time. There is also a feeling of plain vengeance, and a basic desire to restore to Israel its deterrent. This constellation of considerations and motives feeds a dialogue inside the general staff, which echoes beyond the conference rooms and gives Israel's enemies the impression that it is preparing for war in the coming months - whether this takes place in the Gaza Strip or at the northern border. This situation is sufficient to escalate the tension and begin the motion toward a boiling point.

The politicians were burned in the July-August 2006 conflagration, and it is safe to assume that there will be no rush to go to war, as suggested by the prime minister's statement last week that sought to calm Syrian fears of an Israeli offensive. Nonetheless, the fighting spirit now forming in the IDF - whether against Hamas or Hezbollah - has a great force that can affect the views of the prime minister and his cabinet. The chief of staff will make a serious mistake if he looks at the northern and southern fronts solely through the perspective of weapons. It would not be superfluous to remind him that his real test will be more in preventing war by restoring the deterrent capacity of the IDF, instead of ordering the army's divisions once more into battle.

2)Report: MK Bishara to resign from Knesset

Balad chairman has left Israel and is expected to resign from Knesset after
Passover, Israeli Arab newspaper al-Sinara reports; Balad MK Wasil Taha
denies report. Bishara questioned by police several times in past,
particularly following his visits to Syria.

Balad chairman, Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, has left Israel and is expected
to submit his resignation from the Knesset after Passover, the website of
the Nazareth-based newspaper al-Sinara reported Sunday afternoon, quoting
"senior sources."

The police confirmed that Bishara had left the country.

Balad MK Wasil Taha denied the report. "The publication is unfounded," he
told Ynet.

Syria Visit

"Knesset Member Bishara did not leave the country. He was invited to take
part in a number of conventions and important meetings in Qatar, India and
Egypt. In one of the conventions he is expected to be one of the main
speakers, and may also hold meetings regarding his book which is about to be
published," he said.

Asked whether Bishara planned to resign, Taha said, "This is a hypothetical
matter. The resignation issue is his private matter, and we know nothing
about it."

Bishara has been questioned by the police several times in the past,
particularly following his visits to Syria.

According to the short report, the MK left the country two weeks ago and
returned on Thursday for a couple of hours in order to attend a wedding in

The Israeli Arab newspaper reported that Bishara planned to submit his
resignation letter via one of his colleagues.

According to the report, Bishara is also expected to announce his
resignation on the Qatari-based satellite TV station al-Jazeera, where he
recently appeared several times as a commentator. His party is also expected
to issue a statement on the matter.

Trip to Syria
More than half a year ago, MK Bishara was questioned by the Police
International Investigation Unit after traveling to Syria and Lebanon.
Before he was questioned, Bishara said that those who should have listened
to his impressions from the visit were the prime minister or minister,
rather than the police.

Bishara went on to call the law which prohibits visits to Syria and Lebanon
a political law.

"They are using propaganda here for which principle? For what, for something
they long to do. The law which prohibits trips is a political law made by
small politicians.

"Would Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On allow me to work politically? He
would like me not to even visit Israel. This is a political struggle, they
are fighting against us. They should take care of their own business and
leave politics for us," he said.

About two weeks ago, the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center organization
petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the citizenships of the
three members of the Balad faction be revoked following their visit to Syria
several months ago.

The petitioners urged Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to dismiss the MKs. The
petition is based on the Citizenship Law, according to which an Israeli
citizen automatically loses his citizenship if he visits an enemy state.

According to Basic Law: The Knesset, anyone who is not an Israeli citizen
cannot serve as a Knesset member; the petition therefore claims that the
three National Democratic Assembly members could not keep their positions,
as they violated the Citizenship law, and as a result should lose their

The petition emphasized that the MKs were not immune to the law.

"The Knesset Member Immunity Law, which allows Knesset member to leave the
country unrestrictedly, does not allow them to enter enemy states without
permission," it pointed out.

3) Report: Bishara will quit the Knesset

MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) will resign in the coming days, the Nazareth-based A-Sinara newspaper reported on Sunday.

Bishara will resign following "very serious" allegations; however, a gag order prevents releasing any further details.

Bishara is the chairman of Balad and one of the more outspoken Arab MKs in the Knesset.

According to sources, Bishara left the country immediately following the allegations. The MK, who is currently staying in a Jordan hotel, has been overseas for nearly a week and a half. His family joined him in Jordan on Sunday.

Bishara, said the report, planned to announce his resignation in a televised Al Jazeera interview from Jordan in the coming days and would submit his letter of resignation to the Knesset via one of his colleagues after the Pesach holiday.

The MK's reported upcoming resignation could be connected to suspicions that Bishara had violated a 2001 law forbidding political officials from traveling to enemy states.

# Balad MKs questioned over visits to enemy states

Bishara, along with four other Knesset members, was questioned in September 2006 for making visits to both Syria and Lebanon.

4) The visit to the Middle East, and to Syria in particular, by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has provoked mixed reactions in the Arab world. Some wrote that Pelosi's visit challenged the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and that it had improved the U.S.'s image in the Arab and Muslim world. Others took a more skeptical approach, denying that the visit had made any major change. Still others were highly critical, and accused Pelosi of damaging the cause of democracy in Syria.

The following are reactions from the Arab media to Pelosi's visit:

Syrian Journalist: Pelosi Has Opened the Door to a Syria-U.S. Dialogue

Pelosi's visit was well received in Syria. While a number of delegations of U.S. congressmen had come to Syria in recent months, due to her status this visit was understood to be a significant development that could initiate a Syria-U.S. dialogue.

In an interview, Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal told Arab television stations that Pelosi's meeting with Assad was "effective and positive."

He added that the visit had "helped to break the barrier that the American administration wanted to erect around Syria," and that "Pelosi, who represents Congress and the American people, has a spirit of dialogue and understanding for issues in the region and for Syria's important role in the region."(1)

Columnist Muhammad 'Ali Boza wrote in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra that Pelosi's visit was "an important turning point in American public policy, on the level of the street and public opinion, which has begun to act as a pressure on [the government] and to understand – even if belatedly – the severity of the damage that the official policy of the new Republicans [sic] has caused…

"There is no doubt that the diplomacy of dialogue and negotiations with Syria, and listening to the Syrian position on the burning subjects and the numerous issues relating to the region and the conflict, are recognition of the importance and centrality of the Syrian role, and [recognition] that it is impossible to ignore it and leap over it, and that it would be absurd to put forward plans or solutions to which Syria does not agree, and which are not in keeping with Syria's fundamental national and pan-Arab principles…"(2)

Egyptian Press: Pelosi Proved that Isolating Syria is Absurd

The official Egyptian dailies also saw Pelosi's trip to Syria as a positive step. Al-Ahram's Arab affairs editor Mas'ud Al-Hanawi wrote: "The statements by Pelosi, who ignored the White House's criticism of her, were more balanced, sensible, and diplomatic [than the White House's approach] when she said that her visit to Damascus was a good opportunity to gather facts and build confidence… What has greater benefit and influence – the isolation of the president of a large and influential country like Syria, or dialogue with it and getting to know the true Syrian positions from the source?..."(3)

An editorial in the following day's Al-Ahram read: "Pelosi's visit is likely to verify the failure of the Bush administration's foreign policy in the Middle East, and it may be assumed that the visit will cause great embarrassment to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited the region three times this year without her talks having yielded any concrete results…

"The visit to Damascus has achieved two important things. First, the opening of a U.S.-Syria dialogue to understand the situation… in the region, [as a step] towards taking affairs [into the hands] of both sides, in matters in which the U.S. believes Syria is involved, and can settle through peaceful means…

"Second, Pelosi's visit to Damascus included the possibility of renewing the peace negotiations between Syria and Israel, which have been frozen since 2000.

"It is clear that Pelosi's talks in Damascus attest to the absurdity of isolating Syria, in that it is a central player in the region."(4)

Qatari Columnist: "It Is As If Lightning Had Struck the White House"

Qatari columnist Mazen Hammad wrote in the Qatari daily Al-Watan: "It is as if lightning had struck the White House. This is how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Damascus could be described. This wise woman, who is considered the third most senior American [official], is not only bringing her country back to sanity, but is also contributing to improving the image of the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world.

"The talk in the White House of 'mixed signals' sent to Syria by the visit is not true. The visit sends one [single] message – a message of the American people's challenge to the foreign policy adopted by the American administration…

"The important message that Nancy Pelosi has sent, not only to the Middle East but to the entire world, is that the closed-door policy always fails, and that the use of military force and economic violence in order to assure political ends that rely on [American] hegemony is equivalent to robbery… Force that does not open political horizons cannot succeed in forcing solutions.

"Pelosi's visit does not work wonders, but it is a kind of cry that emphasizes that dialogue is important in order [to arrive at] an agreement, and that the colonialist desire that drives people like Bush and Cheney and guides their positions on foreign policy is political sadism, arrogant egoism, and hidden racism that derives pleasure from humiliating others and hearing their groans…"(5)

Saudi Daily: The Visit Breaks No New Ground

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh took a reserved stance on Pelosi's visit: "The exaggerated attention to the differences between the two American parties is illogical, since at the high level, the supreme interests remain, and do not change with a change in leadership, or even with a change of the party [in power]. House Speaker Pelosi's visit to the region breaks no new ground, when she comes to Damascus after a visit to Lebanon and Israel…

"The new visitor needs to understand that delegations that continue to come to visit and present some convoluted solutions with impossible conditions cause the Arabs to place no trust in any new faces, so long as they have not given anything concrete…"(6)

Editor of Arab Reformist Website: "Shame on Ms. Pelosi!"

In an article titled "Shame on Ms. Pelosi for Shaking the Hand of the Damascus Hangman!" Omran Salman, the Bahraini editor of the reformist website Aafaq, wrote that Pelosi had turned her back on Syrian reformists and had harmed the cause of democracy in Syria:

"Of course no observer of Middle Eastern affairs could at all take seriously what Pelosi said [about Syria's willingness to renew the peace process]. The most [such an observer] could do would be to struggle to keep from laughing…

"What the honorable U.S. congresswoman said has no basis in reality. Syria did not say that it would stem the flow of terrorists into Iraq. Likewise, it did not say that it would close the offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Damascus and expel their leaders. If it had wanted to do this, it would have done so years ago, in response to American demands and pressures…"

Pelosi Delivered a Blow to the Liberal Opposition in Syria and Frustrated Reformists' Hopes

"The only result that Pelosi achieved in visiting Damascus, and in sitting down with the Syrian president and shaking his hand, was to deliver a blow to the liberal opposition in Syria and frustrate reformists' hopes for change. By breaking through the ring of isolation [surrounding] Bashar Assad's regime, Syria advanced [several] steps towards repression and despotism, and the march of reform and democracy fell behind.

"Is it any secret that the Syrian regime supports terrorism and is the prime suspect in being behind the… Hariri assassination and the assassinations of a number of other Lebanese journalists and politicians?

"Is it any secret that the Syrian regime is one of the most vicious of regimes, and one of the most repressive, in the region…?

"Perhaps Pelosi did not know… that during her visit to Damascus, this regime was specializing in torturing Syrian oppositionists – among them Kamal Al-Labwani, the founder of the Liberal Democratic Rally in Syria…

"What was Kamal Al-Labwani's crime? In October-November 2005, Al-Labwani toured Europe and the U.S. to gather support for the cause of democracy in Syria. In the U.S., Al-Labwani met with members of the U.S. government and Congress and members of Amnesty International…"

Pelosi Rewarded the Hangman and Turned Her Back on the Victim

"Instead of demanding [Al-Labwani's] immediate release [from prison], Pelosi went to reward the hangman, and turned her back on the victim. Did Al-Labwani fall victim to the trust he placed in America's promises to support democracy and those demanding it?

"This is more than saddening; it is disgraceful to the highest degree. But not all of the blame falls on Ms. Pelosi alone. Over the last four months, more than 10 U.S. members of Congress, from both parties… have made the pilgrimage to Damascus and met with Assad… What is certain is that support for reform and democracy in Syria was not on their agenda.

"Any observer cannot help but be astounded how elected representatives of the American people, which loves liberty and humanity and is devoted to democracy, can engage with a first-rate dictatorial regime..."(7)

(1) Teshreen (Syria), April 5, 2007.
(2) Al-Thawra (Syria), April 6, 2007.
(3) Al-Ahram (Syria), April 6, 2007.
(4) Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 6, 2007.
(5) Al-Watan (Qatar), April 6, 2007.
(6)Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), April 4, 2007.
(7) , April 6, 2007.

5) The End of Inevitability:
By Richard Wollfe

The Clinton camp pressed donors to give only to Hillary. Then the strategy backfired.
Obama is a master at working the crowd.

There's a turncoat inside Hillary Clinton's money machine. Over the past several years, Leonore Blitz has helped raise about $250,000 for Clinton's Senate races, and she signed up early to help the new presidential campaign. But in recent weeks the Manhattan marketing consultant has secretly attended finance meetings and fund-raisers for Clinton's archrival, Barack Obama. Under intense pressure from the Clinton team to pick sides, Blitz—who bundled more than $1 million for John Kerry in 2004—felt deeply conflicted. Clinton operatives have warned donors not to contribute to other campaigns, and put a price on disloyalty: early supporters will be valued and latecomers scorned. But now Blitz is coming out of the shadows, ready to test the rules. "I have been a lifelong advocate of women and minorities' participating and running for political office," she told NEWSWEEK last week. "Therefore, I'm supporting both Clinton and Obama."
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The Clinton campaign denies that it has strong-armed anyone, saying the warnings were made in jest. But whatever tactics Clinton is using, she cannot be happy about how they're working. Clinton operatives had described March 31, the reporting deadline for initial fund-raising, as "the first primary." Their aim was to knock out weaker rivals and reinforce Clinton's aura of invincibility. As it happened, Obama won the money contest with $23.5 million for the primaries, while Clinton raised an estimated $20 million. (The remainder of Clinton's cash—an additional $16 million—is either destined for the general election or was carried over from her Senate race last year.) Clinton attracted half the number of donors that Obama recruited, despite the Illinois senator's late start in mid-January. Online fund-raisers contributed about a third less to Clinton than to Obama, giving her $4.2 million, compared with his $6.9 million.

What happened to the Clinton juggernaut? The answer lies partly in her go-for-broke strategy. There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and for some fund-raisers the Clinton team crossed it. "They clearly communicated a message that this candidacy is inevitable because we'll have more experienced consultants, more political insiders, more money and more of every resource that is vital to being nominated," says a prominent New York donor who joined the Obama camp but declined to be named to protect friendships with Clinton supporters. "Therefore, you are politically stupid if you don't get it, if you can't add."

Big donors to any campaign are keenly interested in what their money gets them. Newcomers to Clinton's orbit don't expect to have much influence or access. So they have fewer reasons to call on wealthy friends for more cash. "That tent seemed pretty much full," says Howard Gutman, a D.C. lawyer who was part of the small team that raised $10 million for Mark Warner's aborted presidential effort. Several campaigns courted Gutman, but he chose Obama over Clinton. "I could raise money from now to eternity and not really be on the radar screen. And the Obama camp seemed to offer more upside in terms of personal fun for the next year and change for the country for the future." In that way, the start-up feel of the Obama campaign—even with its lack of manpower and experience—is a selling point for some donors. "The fact that this is new and people are having their input and also having a voice in the process is all part of the attraction," says Penny Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair. (The campaign has mirrored that on its Web site, asking supporters to contribute policy ideas.)
A handful of old friends from Bill Clinton's campaigns are setting aside loyalties to join Obama's camp. Alan Solomont was an overnight guest at the Clinton White House in the first term, and the national party's finance chair in the second. Now he's raising cash for Obama because, Solomont says, he represents change. "People are ready for a new generation, a new face and a new voice," Solomont tells NEWSWEEK. "And Barack Obama is the only candidate who speaks to that."
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Of course, the money race has only just begun: the first real primaries are still nine months away. In the peculiar expectations game of this early phase, Obama must now prove that he's not a one-quarter wonder. His fund-raisers believe they have room for growth among the 45,000 online donors who gave less than $100 last quarter. But they also are bracing for a big comeback from their rivals.

Clinton's network of consultants and deep-pocketed friends may be her best asset in a long, expensive contest. But her big campaign machine is also costly. Clinton spent on average more than $1.4 million a month during her Senate campaign last year, including $400,000 a month on consultants. It's not clear how much cash she's burning now, but her consultants remain the same.

Finding a lot of new donors, even among some of Clinton's natural allies, may not be easy. Blitz founded the National Women Business Leaders Council for the DNC in 2004. But when she called on her group to attend a Clinton fund-raiser last month, less than a third signed up. "I was surprised when I found out this wasn't a greater percentage of women," she says. "I know there are some major New York women donors that are not supporting Hillary to the extent they could." Why not? Hope Winthrop also raised a seven-figure sum for Kerry in '04 and thinks of Clinton as "a great senator." But she's more attracted to what she sees as Obama's freshness. "There was a sense of inevitability around the Clinton campaign that maybe made people a little wary," she says. "Now they will see there are several choices out there and it's not all locked up." That's the problem with inevitability: once the all-powerful aura is gone, it's hard to get it back.

6) America's Broken-Down Media
By Ray Robison

According to Mark Thompson, writer for Time magazine, America's army is broken. While it can not be argued that the military can possibly maintain the same state of readiness in war time as it does in peace time, broken has a certain specific ring to it: incapable, demoralized and poorly trained.

Mr. Thompson begins the article, - featured on the Drudge Report - with the story of Private Matthew Zeimer. Brave PVT Zeimer died within hours of his arrival at a Forward Operating Base in Iraq. Thompson describes PVT Zeimer's training before going on to make the case that the surge cut the young Private's training short. In Mr. Thompson's recounting of PVT Zeimer's tale, he essentially was killed because he had insufficient training.

If Zeimer's combat career was brief, so was his training. He enlisted last June at age 17, three weeks after graduating from Dawson County High School in eastern Montana. After finishing nine weeks of basic training and additional preparation in infantry tactics in Oklahoma, he arrived at Fort Stewart, Ga., in early December. But Zeimer had missed the intense four-week pre-Iraq training-a taste of what troops will face in combat-that his 1st Brigade comrades got at their home post in October. Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture. That's the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals' household staffs the finer points of table service.

Yes No
Yes No

Yes No

Mr. Thompson finds confirmation from Congressman Murtha:

The truncated training-the rush to get underprepared troops to the war zone-"is absolutely unacceptable," says Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and opponent of the war who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. A decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam, Murtha is experiencing a sense of déjà vu. "The readiness of the Army's ground forces is as bad as it was right after Vietnam."

Sounds like a pretty solid case doesn't it? But something just didn't sit right with me. I immediately knew this wasn't the full story. So I used a journalistic research tool, possibly unavailable to Time, called Google.

You see, this article makes the brave young Matthew Zeimer sound like an infantry soldier. Infantry soldiers go to the Infantry Training Brigade for 14 weeks of intense training after completing basic training. How can it be he didn't go? Is the army so bad off infantry soldiers don't go to Advanced Infantry Training anymore?

In my research, I found this article "Soldier's last days at home memorable" at the Billings Gazette. The article tells the story of the brave Private's short military career as told by his family and friends.

Matthew had come home on leave Nov. 8, after more than five months of basic training

Five months of basic training? What this article means is that he did nine weeks of Basic Training, which every soldier does, and then went for three more months of Advanced Individual Training in which a soldier trains on their MOS (Military Occupational Skill). explains the process well:

Individuals who enlist under the 13X Infantry option attend Field Artillery OSUT (One Station Unit Training), which combines Army Basic Training and Field Artillery AIT (Advanced Individual Training), all in one course.

But most civilians just think of it all as basic training. The point being, this is three more months of a 24 hour a day resident course, tough as nails training that Mr. Thompson has neglected to mention. Three months is a significant amount of training.

And it doesn't stop there. According to the Billings Gazette:

Staff Sgt. Thad Rule, with the U.S. Army Recruiting Office in Glendive, said Matt joined the Future Soldier Program at the start of his senior year of high school, shortly after he turned 17. He spent nearly 10 months learning some of the basics about the Army, preparing him for his training.

Rule said Matt "wanted to do a combat job" and couldn't wait to join the Army. To speed things up, he opted to undergo artillery support training rather than going into the infantry, a move that got him into the Army a month earlier.

Not only did PVT Zeimer do three more months of training than Thompson lets on, he spent ten months of training before he even went in the army. While this certainly does not equate to training in an active duty setting, it is a training opportunity that most soldiers don't get. In real terms, this brave young man was ahead of the training that a typical artillery junior enlisted soldier received when I was an artillery officer in the mid-90s under President Clinton.

So was this truncated training as Murtha called it effective? Was he really ready? The Gazette goes on:

Matt was 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed maybe 175 pounds when he went in for basic training.

"The kid came back and he was fit," Rule said. "I'd say his confidence was the big thing."

Tessa Hopper, Matt's former girlfriend, noted the same thing when she spoke Sunday evening during a wake service for Matt.

"He was proud as a peacock when he came home for the holidays," she said.
Damon noticed it, too. Matt had always liked to exercise, he said, but he got in excellent shape during basic training.

"He loved the way he looked when he came home from basic," Damon said.

So according to PVT Zeimer's loved ones, he was fit, proud, motivated and anything but broken-down. He was a soldier damn it! Not a victim. Not a political talking point.

Mr. Thompson also tells us:

The Army and the White House insist the abbreviated training was adequate. "They can get desert training elsewhere," spokesman Tony Snow said Feb. 28, "like in Iraq." But outside military experts and Zeimer's mother disagree. The Army's rush to carry out President George W. Bush's order to send thousands of additional troops more quickly to Iraq is forcing two of the five new brigades bound for the war to skip standard training at Fort Irwin, Calif. These soldiers aren't getting the benefit of participating in war games on the wide Mojave Desert, where gun-jamming sand and faux insurgents closely resemble conditions in Iraq.

Thompson tells us that the army callously failed to train the young private in desert warfare (which is not a deployment requirement for US Army soldiers anyway). His writing certainly makes Tony Snow appear flippant about the issue. But we learn this from the Billings Gazette:

After leaving the U.S. on Jan. 13, Damon said, Matt went to Kuwait for additional training before shipping out to Iraq on Jan. 25.

Yet more training? Yes, and it was in the desert just like Tony Snow indicated. But what about that training in Fort Irwin at the National Training Center (NTC) that Mr. Thompson referred to in his article? Would that have helped the brave Private? You bet. More training is always better. But at some point the training stops when the fighting starts (actually, it continues even in combat, but not at a training facility). And a better understanding of what the NTC training mission is makes this clear:


Provide tough, realistic joint and combined arms training

Focus at the battalion task force and brigade levels

Assist commanders in developing trained, competent leaders and soldiers

Identify unit training deficiencies, provide feedback to improve the force and prepare for success on the future joint battlefield

Provide a venue for transformation

Take care of soldiers, civilians, and family members

Joint, combined, battalion, brigade, these are all keywords which mean that the NTC is first and foremost a unit trainer. The individual soldier goes to NTC more by providence than by design. Nobody keeps track of your NTC rotations. It is not a training requirement for individual readiness. An individual unit may not be scheduled for rotation to the NTC for as long as two years. It is one facility and there are many brigades. The NTC is not and has never been a requirement for individual deployment.

What happens at NTC? A unit rotation lasts four weeks. The unit typically spends the first week in preparation and the last week in recovery. That means that the unit spends two weeks "in the box". While the training is valuable, and is the best two weeks of training a unit can get in the army, it is only two weeks after all.

While it certainly increases the skills of the individual soldier, you don't have to send a soldier to brigade level training to learn how to clean the sand out of your weapon as Mr. Thompson laments. And dealing with civilians on the battlefield can be taught anywhere.

Mr. Thompson's article also states:

Under cover of darkness, Sunni insurgents were attacking his new post from nearby buildings. Amid the smoke, noise and confusion, a blast suddenly ripped through the 3-ft. concrete wall shielding Zeimer and a fellow soldier, killing them both.

What Mr. Thompson doesn't tell the reader is than the soldier that was killed with PVT Zeimer was "Spc. Alan E. McPeek, a 20-year-old who had been in Iraq for 14 months" according to the Gazette. Of course, it's difficult to make a soldier appear to have died due to lack of training when the soldier who died next to him was a 14 month combat veteran, isn't it?

As disgusted as I am by the absolutely misleading nature of Mr. Thompson's article and how it affects the general public's perceptions, I am far more sickened by these vultures not explaining to the families of men like PVT Zeimer that their son was a hero, not a victim to be used in creating a political talking point for shoddy journalists and opportunist politicians. Army officials should explain what the standards of deployment training are to the families of our brave soldiers before rotten tomatoes like these convince them that heroes like Matthew died for lack of training.

God bless you Private Zeimer.