Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Simply Inexplicable

The Democrats demonstrate once again why they are temperamentally unsuited to handling matters related to national security. Debra Burlingame explains the problem in this New York Post column. Here are some excerpts:

...Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) rose to propose an amendment directed at a dangerous new threat to national security.

His motion was a response to the "John Doe" lawsuit filed by six "Flying Imams." Last November, the six were ejected from a US Airways flight after their fellow passengers reported what they saw as strange and disturbing behavior. The imams claim that they were victims of "intentional" and "malicious" discrimination and are seeking compensation, including punitive damages - from the airlines, and also from the passengers and crew, who are identified in the suit as "John Does" to be served with legal papers once a court order reveals their actual identities.

That lawsuit is a dangerous threat aimed at a vital component of public-transit security - the public itself.

King explained as much, speaking on behalf of his amendment, which would protect anyone who makes a reasonable, good-faith report of suspicious activity from being the target of a lawsuit.

Every New York City rail and transit rider has seen the signs: "If you see something, say something." The principle is obvious - in an age of terror, we should all have our eyes open. If the imams' lawsuit prospers, how many people won't say something - for fear of being sued?

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who'd offered an earlier bill to protect good Samaritans who alert officials, rose to speak after King. "If we allow these suits to go forward," he warned the House, "it will have a chilling effect on the future of American security . . . If we are serious about fighting terrorism, if we are serious about protecting Americans and asking them to help protect each other, then we must pass this motion."

This is the kind of no-brainer legislation that every member of Congress should vigorously support. Yet House Democrats reacted to King's proposal as if he'd thrown a bomb into the House chamber itself.

According to witnesses in the gallery and on the floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi displayed a classic deer-in-the headlights look as the Democratic leadership went into a huddle - plainly eager, not to embrace this common-sense measure, but to sidetrack it.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, took the floor to oppose King's motion - and to defend the lawsuit against John Does. "We should be tolerant," he argued; people shouldn't be singled out because they "look different."

In fact, the flying imams triggered concerns by a variety of unusual actions, as well as words that roused the concern of another Arabic-speaking passenger. Witnesses say that House members started booing Thompson.

Finally, a member of the leadership realized how this would look to Americans watching on C-SPAN: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) was seen staring at Thompson and repeatedly drawing his hand across his throat - an urgent signal to get off the floor.

With Democrats realizing they couldn't argue against King's measure, it went to a vote, and passed, 304 to 121

Every one of those 121 votes aimed at defeating protection for "John Does" was a Democrat - indeed, more than half of all Democrats present voted "nay."

And, with the exception of Rep. Anthony Weiner (Brooklyn), Democrats from the New York-New Jersey metro area led the way in voting against it.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes Ground Zero, voted no. So did Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose district includes Midtown, and Rep. Nita Lowey, who lost dozens of Westchester neighbors on 9/11.

Rep. Bill Pascrelle hails from New Jersey, the home of 700 9/11 victims. Earlier that night, he had praised the bill's provision protecting government whistleblowers from retaliation. But he voted against such protection for John Does who don't have government jobs.

The story isn't over yet. To become law, this measure must also pass the Senate - and survive House-Senate conference, where the leadership might try to quietly excise King's reform.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will certainly push for that. After all, the radical "civil rights" group - which supports the terrorists of Hamas and has received millions in funding from Saudi Arabia - is paying the lawyers in the "Flying Imams" lawsuit.

Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, defends the suit's targeting of ordinary citizens. The clerics, he explains, will only sue passengers who made false reports or acted in bad faith. But the suit cites an "elderly couple" who watched the imams in the gate area and then made a cellphone call. How will CAIR determine who the couple called and whether anything they did was intended to discriminate against the imams, without first finding out their names and forcing them to defend against the charge? What about their civil rights?

In the future, who will be willing to risk their savings in the face a potential lawsuit underwritten by wealthy Middle Eastern donors?

If King's measure becomes law, that worry will vanish. But the bill will have to survive the instinct of Congress' Democratic leadership to pander to political correctness and CAIR's special-interest pressure.

It is awfully hard to imagine why anyone would vote against this bill, but 121 Democrats apparently think that your right to be free from intimidation is not as important as other peoples' right to intimidate and threaten you.

The writer of this piece, by the way, is the sister of one of the pilots killed on 9/11.


Pelosi Diplomacy

Nancy Pelosi has traveled to Syria and met with Bashir Assad, one of the two major patrons of terrorist murder in the world. The AP says this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [has visited] Syria, a country President Bush has shunned as a sponsor of terrorism, despite being asked by the administration not to go.

Pelosi will not be the first member of Congress in recent months to travel to Syria, but as House speaker she is the most senior. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the speaker "should take a step back and think about the message that it sends."

"This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the Senora government in Lebanon and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow into Iraq from its borders," Perino said.

Fox News opines:

Apparently Ms. Pelosi missed the high school civics lesson which underlined how the President (and not the Speaker of the House) is the chief diplomat of the United States. Pelosi's actions seriously undermine US foreign policy, not to mention that it also sets a dangerous precedent for future executive-legislative relations. Imagine the media outcry if Newt Gingrich had made a similar trip during the Clinton administration.

I'm sure Fox's concern is groundless. If Newt had tried to do an end-run around Clinton while he was at war in the Balkans, the media would doubtless have remained completely objective about it.


Redeploying to Irrelevance

A frequent refrain heard on MSNBC and similar precincts is that the real war that we should be fighting is in Afghanistan, not in Iraq. The Democrat plan is to pull troops out of Iraq and redeploy them to Afghanistan. Charles Krauthammer finds the reasoning adduced in support of this policy exceptionally shoddy:

Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer -- a Martian -- and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources, no industrial and no technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure which, though suffering decay in the later Saddam years, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e. wrong) hands.

Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.

Al-Qaeda has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that "the most serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq." Al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq "is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era."

And it's not just what al-Qaeda says, it's what al-Qaeda does. Where are they funneling the worldwide recruits for jihad? Where do all the deranged suicidists who want to die for Allah gravitate? It's no longer Afghanistan, but Iraq. That's because they recognize the greater prize.

The Democratic insistence on the primacy of Afghanistan makes no strategic sense.

Indeed, that may well be the reason why Democrats call for troops to be redeployed there. It helps them avoid appearing weak on the war on terror since they can boast that they're ready to fight where terrorists live, and it also prevents us from succeeding in Iraq and thereby compounding our status as a global hegemon. I suspect that this is the main reason the left wants us out of Iraq. Victory there would simply add to American influence and power which the left sees as a source of great evil in the world and which therefore must be prevented.

So much of what they say and do is explicable only when this attitude or mindset is understood.

I suspect that once troops were redeployed to Afghanistan from Iraq it wouldn't be long until pressure would mount to send them somewhere else where they would be even more marginalized, like Darfur, or brought home altogether.


The "Everybody Knows" Argument

Andrew Sullivan quotes John Yoo, a former Bush administration official, asking a perfectly sensible question about the use of torture:

"Death is worse than torture, but everyone except pacifists thinks there are circumstances in which war is justified. War means killing people. If we are entitled to kill people, we must be entitled to injure them. I don't see how it can be reasonable to have an absolute prohibition on torture when you don't have an absolute prohibition on killing. Reasonable people will disagree about when torture is justified. But that, in some circumstances, it is justified seems to me to be just moral common sense. How could it be better that 10,000 or 50,000 or a million people die than that one person be injured?"

Sullivan then displays his gift for missing the point by responding with this:

Yoo seems completely unaware of just war theory. There is an obvious distinction between the killing necessary in a just war - killing that should nonetheless be minimized and directed solely at legitimate military targets - and torturing defenseless detainees who are already under your complete control. With Yoo, one is tempted to wonder what is worse: his ignorance of basic moral concepts, his support for any means necessary against terrorism, his empowerment at the highest levels of the Bush administration, or the completely dispassionate way in which he discusses the most horrifying acts of sadism and cruelty. One day, we must find a way to bring this war criminal to justice.

Sullivan never presents an argument as to why a proscription against torture should be absolutized in this screed. He simply assumes that any moral person would agree that it should be. If they don't agree, why, then, they must be war criminals.

For a reply to Sullivan's assumption that the ban on torture must be absolute click on the NAE on Torture link in the Hall of Fame in the left margin of the page.