That’s what we all said nearly twenty years ago while struggling to cope with our grief. Since the days of George Washington, we’d thought of ourselves as more or less removed from what he called “messy, foreign entanglements,” protected from the rest of the world by two great oceans and divine providence.
We’d jumped into the thicket a time or two. America saved the world at least twice during the 20th century, probably three times given our willingness to contest an expensive, global Cold War which occasionally turned hot in places like Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East at the cost of our greatest treasure: the young men and women sent to fight.
Was it strange that we never asked to be thanked for it? No, that’s just the way we are. We want to live our lives in peace, left alone to make our own choices, secure in our liberties as God gave them to us. We flirted with the building of empires but that really wasn’t for us. We wanted to be, and often were, the good example for others to follow.
Then came 9/11. A group of religious fanatics hijacked four U.S.-flagged airliners, turning them into flying missiles aimed straight at the heart of our political and commercial institutions. Two of them hit New York’s Twin Towers with such explosive force the buildings crumbled to the ground as if they were made of sand.
A third jetliner reportedly headed for the White House crashed instead into the Pentagon. On the fourth plane, the passengers who’d learned what had happened on the other three revolted against their captors. The ensuing struggle meant their plane, instead of piercing the dome of the U.S. Capitol as planned, broke apart in a field in Pennsylvania.
“Never forget,” we said afterward. “Never forget the everyday Americans and the others from all walks of life who perished that day,” we said. “The people who represented the multitude of differences between Americans but were, for a brief moment, united by their humanity.”
“Never forget,” we said about the first responders from the police and fire departments and emergency techs in New York City, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and rural Pennsylvania who came to the aid of those injured, dying, or dead. Especially those who died that day because their jobs had them rushing into the burning buildings rather than out of them.
America, we forgot—and we should be ashamed.
Over the last decade, we’ve watched as the nation turned in on itself. First responders are being shunned, even assassinated. In California this past weekend, so-called peaceful protestors gathered outside the hospital where two Los Angeles County deputies who’d been ambushed were being treated, shouting their hopes the officers would die.
This didn’t start with Donald Trump. This didn’t start with Barack Obama. It started outside politics, in the American culture where somehow we’ve been divided up, piecemeal, into groups airing grievances. Left or right, it makes no difference. We’ve allowed ourselves to be pitted against one another, and we should be ashamed.
We’ve forgotten that in America each life matters. We’re all created equal, as individuals, not assigned at birth into groups because of skin color, economic status, education, or biological sex. We are an imperfect nation, to be sure, but almost certainly less imperfect than any other.
The fanatics responsible for the murder of more than 3,000 of our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers on that dark day nineteen years ago didn’t attack us in protest of the country’s history of systemic racism. Or because women get paid less on average than men. Or because some people think you should have to show a government-issued photo ID that proves you are who you say you are before you can exercise your right to vote. Pick any complaint you want; it isn’t why America was attacked.
We were attacked because, out of all the nations of the world, America stands for the idea that all men and women are by their birthright free and should be treated equally under the law. We were attacked because of our ideas about religious liberty—that different faiths can coexist respectfully and peacefully—and because we believe women have just as much right as men to pursue an education. And for many other reasons, all of which have to do with what is best about us, because of the ideas that make our civilization strong. We are one nation and, fundamentally, we all matter. In the heat of the moment, we’ve forgotten that. Yet rather than dwell much longer on our errors, let’s come together in our strengths to make this nation all it can be, for now and for generations to come.
Back in January, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking openly of the need to rebalance the allocation of U.S. forces around the world.
As he explained it, the need to address potential military threats from Russia and Chinese expansionism in the Pacific Basin may have to be given precedence over American commitments elsewhere.
Gen. Milley’s remarks were footnoted by the suggestion any changes were, at that point at least, notional and would be presented to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and through him to the president as options for the future. Nonetheless, many see his comments as foreshadowing a major change in the importance the U.S. has assigned the war on terror.
President Trump entered office vowing to bring home many of the U.S. troops pursuing terrorists and prosecuting “unwinnable” wars.
He can take pride in the fact he is keeping those promises, having successfully subdued if not eliminated ISIS, entered into continuing negotiations aimed at allowing the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and, by using a drone strike to take out Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader and terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani, perhaps turned an important corner in Iraq.
None of that justifies a U.S. withdrawal from its commitments in the Middle East or North Africa. Both regions are rife with the kind of radical Islamic extremism from which anti-U.S. terror cells develop.
The raging conflagrations in these regions, feared by many, may have cooled to embers — but extinguishing those embers will take time and is linked inexorably to the same future conflicts to which Gen. Milley suggests the U.S. may need to shift its focus.
In Africa, we have assisted our allies there in the fight against extremism. The nations of North Africa have moved in our direction. Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco have vanquished terrorists within their borders and, with U.S. training and logistical support, proven themselves invaluable in the fight against those threatening the entire region.
To abandon them would be a mistake that would be, ironically, to Beijing’s benefit.
The Chinese, as we’ve most recently seen in the way they have conducted themselves through the coronavirus crisis, cannot be trusted. They operate by their own rules when it suits them, no matter what.
In many ways, they are economic partners with the West. They trade with us and we with them, but they are not our allies and cannot be treated as such.
From a national security perspective, we must remain vigilant – which is why reducing the limited U.S. troop commitments in North Africa would be a major mistake. If America leaves, China moves in – as it has been doing all over the developing world while engaging in rapprochement with Washington.
The current troop levels are small as such things go, fewer than 10,000 spread out among different countries on different missions. Merely by being there, however, the American military prevents the creation of a vacuum into which China would be glad to move to increase its economic and military presence on the continent.
This would fit perfectly into Beijing’s long-term strategic plans. Through its trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, the Chinese have been “helping” the developing world build commercial and civil infrastructure since 2013.
By acting as a predatory lender, China has gotten its hooks into nearly 70 counties and international organizations, saddling them with projects so expensive that the money borrowed cannot possibly be repaid.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has been pushing back against this initiative by sending teams of advisers into countries to demonstrate that anyone considering saying “yes” to China is making a bad deal. But that’s not enough.
To prevent the creation of satellite outposts available to further Beijing’s global ambitions requires something more than accountants and attorneys.
Any hopes we once had of the world becoming a safer place with the fall of the Berlin Wall must now, unfortunately, be held in abeyance.
A new global order is forming, something President Trump rightly recognizes and is preparing for militarily as well as economically.
Pulling out of commitments that don’t make sense and asking our allies to shoulder a greater burden of the cost of those that do are steps in the right direction. Pulling out of commitments that do make sense, like our limited but successful activities in North Africa, would be folly and we’d regret it later if we do.
According to the AFP, Gen. Milley said “economy of forces does not mean zero” and that Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. Let’s hope Secretary Esper and the president affirm this soon.
Democratic leaders didn't act against Obama's military overreach as he launched attacks across the Middle East and North Africa.
Soon after the United States delivered a major blow to Iran’s terror infrastructure Friday by ridding the world of Qassem Soleimani, top general of the country’s brutal Quds Force, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to take further military action against Tehran.
Even after several Democrats indicated they wanted to be more deliberative with any such effort following Iran’s retaliatory strikes on U.S. service members in Iraq on Tuesday, she persisted in holding a vote on a war powers resolution Thursday. “The administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’ war powers granted to it by the Constitution,” Pelosi said of the Soleimani strike in explaining the purpose of the measure.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched.
The speaker’s insistence on introducing the resolution even after tensions eased up Wednesday suggests she believes strongly that presidents must have a specific authorization for the use of military force (known as an AUMF) from Congress before engaging in military action. But she doesn’t believe that. The Democrats’ attacks on Trumpfor the Soleimani strike simply show, once again, that their views of executive power depend on the party membership of the executive in power. That’s no way to protect Americans’ national security.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yet, Pelosi didn’t complain then about this complete disregard for Congress’ authority.
Instead, Obama simply relied on the two AUMFs granted his predecessor — the 2001 AUMF authorizing strikes against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and those who aided them, and the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War — as sufficient justification for just about any military action he wanted to take in the Middle East and North Africa.
As such, Trump actually has the better argument that the existing AUMFs gave him the power to target Soleimani in Iraq, where he was visiting when he was killed. (The administration in any case contends that the strike was justified on the grounds of self-defense since the Pentagon said Soleimani coordinated strikes that killed an American contractor in Iraq on Dec. 27, approved a siege on the U.S. Embassy there and came to the country to plot more American deaths.)
Indeed, the 2002 AUMF directed the president to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” One can argue about the legitimacy of extending that permission to targeting Soleimani, as he was Iranian. But the Pentagon has noted that he’s responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, not including those killed since then by the Iraqi proxies he controls. And he was assessed to be about to engage in further attacks against U.S service members there.
What is less arguable, however, is that Obama’s repeated invocation of Congress’ 2001 AUMF launching the “war on terror” was more of a stretch for his less-focused undertakings throughout the region. That war powers resolution authorized the president to use force only against “those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Its language seems clear, doesn’t it? It’s easy to see how this allowed President George W. Bush to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had sheltered and aided Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And it’s easy to see why it passed both chambers of Congress with only a single vote against it.
A dozen years later, in 2013, Obama declared that the war in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda was coming to a close, and he promised “to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But that never happened. Instead, he used it to justify military action against various other terrorist organizations in countries as far afield as Libya, Yemen and Syria.
In Libya, he actually at first tried to claim that he didn’t need any authorization at all. In 2011, when he launched the attack that would eventually unseat Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the White House argued it didn’t require congressional approval to enforce a cease-fire in the Libyan civil war because “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”
Perhaps his administration came to realize how weak this argument looked after those operations led to Libya’s violent change of government. Because when Obama’s Pentagon announced in 2016 that it had launched a new attack on Libya, this time against the Islamic State militant group, and a reporter asked what gave it the legal authority to do so, a press secretary replied, “Under the 2001 authorization for the military force,” and added, “Similar to our previous airstrikes in Libya.”
ISIS didn’t even exist when the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were written. But Obama used the resolutions to justify hitting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, as well as Libya. At least the Trump administration can point to the Taliban — which was certainly in the minds of members of Congress when they approved the 2001 authorization — as connected to the Soleimani action. Iran gives the terrorist group shelter as well as direct aid in the form of money, fuel and weapons, with the Quds Force commander a lynchpin in that operation.
It’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted.
Furthermore, Democrats this week have been particularly angry that Trump “assassinated” someone — terrorist mastermind Soleimani — without congressional approval. But the use of targeted killings steadily increased during the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership didn’t make a move to stop them. In eight years, Obama ordered more than 500 drone strikesthat killed thousands of people, including a few hundred civilians. One of them — another terrorist mastermind, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in Yemen in 2011 — was an American citizen.
These examples of military action with little, if any, connection to the resolutions used to justify them show it’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted to have — making it clear that their current gambit is merely to punish Trump. Like the Republicans, they make constitutional arguments when they’re not in power and sidestep the Constitution when they’re in power.
The founders understood that power corrupts, which is why they made sure not to invest it in a single person or body. Congress usually only remembers — and tries to restore — its power when the executive branch is held by the opposite party. But principles should come over party, and never more so than when the stakes are as high as war.
Under Trump, we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it really is.
The false analogy fallacy occurs when superficial similarities between events being compared are outnumbered by fundamental differences. This cognitive bad habit has always existed, but has become more prevalent since Vietnam and the increasing politicization of mass news on network and cable television, social media, and especially the internet. The specious analogy between a recent, short-lived attack on our embassy in Baghdad, and the 2012 Benghazi fiasco during Obama’s watch, is a recent example.
Useful analogies are predicated on the permanence of a flawed human nature driven by greed, power, or irrational hatreds. One of the greatest historians ever, Thucydides, explicitly said he wrote his history of the Peloponnesian War in order to provide “an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it.” That’s why he called his history a “possession for all time.” Similarly the Roman historian Livy, writing at the end of nearly a century of savage civil wars, intended to show “what to imitate,” and to “mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result.” Without those aims, history is just antiquarianism or another form of high-brow entertainment.
And politics, which thrives on false analogies. The war in Vietnam left us two malign cultural consequences. The first was the antiwar Democrats and their media subsidiary transformed a military victory into a defeat. This created the Left’s paradigm for every U.S intervention abroad as prima facie a neocolonialist, unjust, racist war against national self-determination in order to profit arms manufacturers, the “merchants of death,” and other capitalist “malefactors of great wealth.” Following this ideological deformation came the “another Vietnam” false analogy, and the “Vietnam syndrome”: fear of casualties, self-doubt about our goodness, and angst over “quagmires” and “escalation.”
Leftist Democrats, opportunistic presidential candidates, and the usual media suspects all exploited the Vietnam false analogy to demonize the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few weeks into the former conflict, New York Times columnist R.W. Apple asked, “Could Afghanistan become another Viet-Nam?” and used the loaded word “quagmire.” The concern over Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, just one of the many predicates for the Senate’s authorization for the war, was called a lie––“Bush lied, millions died,” the protestors chanted. This claim echoed the alleged false predicates for the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Congressional joint resolution concerning two attacks on U.S. naval vessels by the North Vietnamese. This resolution authorized the president to use “armed force” in the region, and became the imprimatur for subsequent “escalation.”
So too the Patriot Act, which removed the “wall of separation” between domestic and foreign intelligence. That “wall” prevented the FBI from examining the computer of another jihadi training to fly a jet a month before 9/11. Yet despite the dangers of the “wall” made obvious after 9/11, leftist critics like ACLU accused the act of “Put[ting] the [CIA] in the business of spying on Americans,” evoking the Vietnam-era bogey of the CIA trying to subvert the antiwar movement, among other violations. Indeed, the 1975 Church Committee investigation of domestic spying during the Vietnam era led in 1978 to the creation of FISA courts––which we now know have been corrupted into tools for spying on Americans by the FBI and other security agencies.
Likewise the humiliation and “torture” of prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2002, which included legal enhanced interrogation techniques like loud noise, sleep deprivation, and extreme heat and cold, were transformed into the equivalent of the My Lai massacre in 1968, when between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were massacred by U.S. troops, an analogy we saw in the Los Angeles Times headline in 2002 that read, “Military Must Squarely Face ‘New My Lai.’” In fact, what happened at Abu Ghraib was light-years from what went on there under Hussein, such as taking a power drill to people’s skulls, let alone a mass slaughter like My Lai.
Then there was the Democrat opposition to the 2007 “surge” strategy for gaining control over sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq. Senator Barack Obama called the surge a “reckless escalation,” implying a parallel to Vietnam, and introduced legislation calling for the complete withdrawal of all troops by March 2008––an aim he later achieved as president in 2011, creating the vacuum filled by ISIS and Iran, which has turned Iraq into its satrapy and led to the disorder Trump has to deal with.
Why do such false analogies with Vietnam persist? Because they serve the ideological delusions and propaganda of the left. The common interpretation of Vietnam as a “bad war” motivated by racism and power-hunger has been repeated over and over by historians, the media, and popular culture. Reporters at the time, most of whom sat in Saigon and reported hearsay, were lavished with prizes and book contracts, movies like agitprop master Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now were celebrated, and textbooks from grammar school to university continue to recycle this skewed history. That culture-wide cachet makes Vietnam the go-to analogy for a Left that wants to demonize America and weaken its resolve.
So it’s no surprise that some on the Left would try to turn one of Obama’s and Hillary’s worst foreign policy failures and examples of covering up the truth with lies, into a weapon against Trump, as MSNBC’s Joy Reid and a left-wing veterans group did. But the analogy is so egregiously false that Democrats recognize the obvious difference and have avoided coming anywhere near it. The most important difference is the fact that no Americans died on Trump’s watch, unlike the four Americans who withstood 13 hours of attacks waiting for help that never came. In contrast to Obama doing nothing, Trump immediately sent reinforcements to bolster the scaled-back diplomatic corps, and made it clear that any further violence will be met with immediate retaliation.
Nor was the threat empty. After receiving actionable intelligence of an imminent attack on American personnel in Iraq last week, Trump ordered the killing of Qassim Soleimani, the chief of the Iranian Republican Guard’s Quds force, who had directed for decades Iran’s terrorist attacks abroad. Soleimani had gallons of American blood on his hands, being responsible for 17% of U.S. dead in Iraq from the shaped charges and more deadly mortars he provided the jihadists attacking our forces. Soleimani was the same designated terrorist Obama would not sanction killing, even though he was for two decades the most deadly and skilled enemy of our country. And to further signal his resolve, after Soleimani’s demise the president ordered a strike on the convoy of another Iranian proxy, the Imam Ali Battalion, killing its chief Shebl al-Zaidi, a particularly vicious jihadist.
Another contrast between the response to the Benghazi and Baghdad attacks is the shamelessly politicized and dishonest attempts on the part of Obama officials to spin the organized attack in Benghazi as a spontaneous reaction to an obscure anti-Muslim internet video. The purpose was to protect Obama’s duplicitous campaign narrative that the terrorists had been neutralized. But most despicable was Hillary Clinton’s lying to the faces of the grieving parents of the four dead heroes as they stood near their sons’ coffins. Trump, however, has nothing to hide or spin because he did what a commander-in-chief should do––defend our military and diplomatic personnel, and retaliate for their deaths.
Rather than the “strategic patience,” “leading from behind,” and reticence to punish aggression that were obvious in the Benghazi debacle, Trump has authorized an aggressive offensive against the Iranian thugs and proxies now dominating the Iraqi government and endangering American lives.
Finally, a consequence of the failure to prevent and retaliate for the Benghazi attack was the energizing of jihadist outfits by a victory over the hated infidel, just as the Iranian assault on our embassy in 1979 did. Such victories and killing of Americans–– like the Beirut bombing of our military barracks in 1983, the retreat from Mogadishu in1993, the murder of American military personnel in Riyadh in 1995 and Dharan in 1996, the east African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000––all have provided morale and prestige to the jihadists and strengthened their resolve.
Such a boon will not follow the recent failed attack on our embassy in Iraq. In fact, after just a few days of protests the militiamen and their supporters, whom the New York Timeseuphemized as “mourners,” had called the whole thing off and gone away, leaving a few militiamen to lob some fireworks and Molotov cocktails that damaged a parked car. A few rockets were also fired, to no effect, in the vicinity of the Green Zone. Perhaps their appetite for a more aggressive assault on Americans was dulled by the 100 Marines and the Apache helicopters Trump sent sent to protect the embassy. And rather than retreat or pull back from Iraq, Trump has ordered even more troops and weapons to Baghdad and the region. This build-up will enhance our ability to handle any attempts to get revenge for Soleimani’s death.
As Trump said, his handling of the Baghdad embassy attack is the “Anti-Benghazi,” which enhanced American prestige, whereas the Obama-Hillary response to the attack in Benghazi diminished it. But the Benghazi analogy will quickly fade away. Not even Democrats are stupid enough to try and weaponize a foreign policy failure like Obama and Clinton’s in Benghazi, and remind people of their two biggest political stars’ worst moments.
But don’t think that the Democrats’ shying away from the Benghazi analogy means that they’re starting to accept reality and think coherently. Their loathing for America is too deeply engrained in their worldview. This is obvious in their eagerness to blame the embassy attack on Trump’s earlier bombing of an Iranian proxy-militia’s military base and other sites, killing 25 jihadists, and their second-guessing of the killing of Soleimani: Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi both used the Vietnam-era cliché “dangerous escalation.” Making the U.S. the global evil genius responsible for all the world’s ills is an old tactic for the Left, one so banal that it’s spawned a cynical truism useful to America’s allies and enemies alike: “When all else fails, blame the Americans.”
The longevity of the “blame America first” trope is explained not just by the Left’s inveterate hatred of the U.S., but by the progressives’ voodoo psychology that turns ruthless, illiberal global despots and murderous gangs into children so traumatized by Uncle Sam’s abuse that they blindly lash out in violent reaction to our alleged oppression. So Leftists and even some Republicans blame jihadist terror on Israel, colonialism, the absence of political freedom, our support for corrupt autocrats, jobless economies, the lack of accessibility to women, and “disrespect” to Islam and Mohammed––anything and everything except the Koran, hadith, sira, and 14 centuries of Islamic doctrine and practice that have consistently commanded the faithful to “fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” as Mohammed said. And isn’t it ironic that those who demonize the West as a racist oppressor, and who trumpet their groveling respect for, and tolerance of dark-skinned “others,” in fact patronize them and diminish their humanity by stripping them of their agency, their power to act on their own ideals, beliefs, interests, and goods?
That two-bit psychology is the mother of all false analogies and the fake news they spawn. And the most dangerous. For as Sun Tzu said, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Maybe under Trump’s leadership we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it is––traditional Islam, rather than a figment of our own therapeutic obsessions and self-loathing political ideologies
Column: And scores a victory against terrorism
The successful operation against Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, is a stunning blow to international terrorism and a reassertion of American might. It will also test President Trump’s Iran strategy. It is now Trump, not Ayatollah Khamenei, who has ascended a rung on the ladder of escalation by killing the military architect of Iran’s Shiite empire. For years, Iran has set the rules. It was Iran that picked the time and place of confrontation. No more.
Reciprocity has been the key to understanding Donald Trump. Whether you are a media figure or a mullah, a prime minister or a pope, he will be good to you if you are good to him. Say something mean, though, or work against his interests, and he will respond in force. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be polite. There will be fallout. But you may think twice before crossing him again.
That has been the case with Iran. President Trump has conditioned his policies on Iranian behavior. When Iran spread its malign influence, Trump acted to check it. When Iran struck, Trump hit back: never disproportionately, never definitively. He left open the possibility of negotiations. He doesn’t want to have the Greater Middle East—whether Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, or Afghanistan—dominate his presidency the way it dominated those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. America no longer needs Middle Eastern oil. Best keep the region on the back burner. Watch it so it doesn’t boil over. Do not overcommit resources to this underdeveloped, war-torn, sectarian land.
The result was reciprocal antagonism. In 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by his predecessor. He began jacking up sanctions. The Iranian economy turned to shambles. This “maximum pressure” campaign of economic warfare deprived the Iranian war machine of revenue and drove a wedge between the Iranian public and the Iranian government. Trump offered the opportunity to negotiate a new agreement. Iran refused.
And began to lash out. Last June, Iran’s fingerprints were all over two oil tankers that exploded in the Persian Gulf. Trump tightened the screws. Iran downed a U.S. drone. Trump called off a military strike at the last minute and responded indirectly, with more sanctions, cyber attacks, and additional troop deployments to the region. Last September a drone fleet launched by Iranian proxies in Yemen devastated the Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. Trump responded as he had to previous incidents: nonviolently.
Iran slowly brought the region to a boil. First it hit boats, then drones, then the key infrastructure of a critical ally. On December 27 it went further. Members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia launched rockets at a U.S. installation near Kirkuk, Iraq. Four U.S. soldiers were wounded. An American contractor was killed.
Destroying physical objects merited economic sanctions and cyber intrusions. Ending lives required a lethal response. It arrived on December 29 when F-15s pounded five Kataib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq and Syria. At least 25 militiamen were killed. Then, when Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias organized a mob to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, setting fire to the grounds, America made a show of force and threatened severe reprisals. The angry crowd melted away.
The risk to the U.S. embassy—and the possibility of another Benghazi—must have angered Trump. “The game has changed,” Secretary of Defense Esper said hours before the assassination of Soleimani at Baghdad airport. Indeed, it has. The decades-long gray-zone conflict between Iran and the United States manifested itself in subterfuge, terrorism, technological combat, financial chicanery, and proxy forces. Throughout it all, the two sides confronted each other directly only once: in the second half of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. That is about to change.
Deterrence, says Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, is credibly holding at risk something your adversary holds dear. If the reports out of Iraq are true, President Trump has put at risk the entirety of the Iranian imperial enterprise even as his maximum pressure campaign strangles the Iranian economy and fosters domestic unrest. That will get the ayatollah’s attention. And now the United States must prepare for his answer.
The bombs over Baghdad? That was Trump calling Khamenei’s bluff. The game has changed. But it isn’t over.
President Donald Trump announced the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Sunday morning in an address to the nation after a Saturday night raid in northwest Syria.
“He died like a dog, he died like a coward,” Trump said.
Baghdadi’s death marks the execution of the world’s most dangerous terrorist since Osama Bin Laden’s killing in 2011. Baghdadi, the founder of the Islamic State, otherwise known as “ISIS” or “ISIL,” oversaw the extrajudicial killings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Muadh al-Kasasbeh capturing international attention in addition to the slaughtering of hundreds more.
The obituary from the Washington Post however, framed one of the world’s most brutal terrorists as an “austere religious scholar.”
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48,” read the initial published headline from one of America’s leading newspapers.
The headline published was actually the second headline picked by the paper, which at first read, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48.”
They had it right the first time.
The Washington Post changed the headline on its Al-Baghdadi obituary from “Islamic State’s terrorist-in-Chief” to “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State.”
The headline has since been changed to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
While the Post eventually made the headline somewhat better, though they were spot-on the first time, the obituary still reads remarkably well-disposed touting the ISIS leader’s academic credentials and career building his vast terrorist empire responsible for torturing countless innocent people.
The Post, after chronicling Baghdadi’s rise to power, waited until the 40th paragraph of the obituary to mention Baghdadi was also a serial rapist for much of the last decade.
“Later, former hostages would reveal that Mr. Baghdadi also kept a number of personal sex slaves during his years as the Islamic State’s leader, including slain American hostage Kayla Mueller and a number of captured Yazidi women. U.S. officials corroborated the accounts,” the Post wrote.
Democracy dies in arresting genocidal would-be militants
The most amusing part of the Washington Post‘s profile of Representative Ilhan Omar this past weekend was unquestionably the part where they caught her blatantly ripping off classical literature and passing it off as part of her life story. As Omar tells the story, she was once in a courtroom and saw a “sweet, old . . . African American lady” arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-old granddaughter.”
The old woman spent two days in jail awaiting trial, and the when the woman was given a fine of $80 that she couldn’t pay, Omar stood up and yelled “Bulls—!” The entire room began to clap. Omar then addressed the judge and said, “And so, Your Honor, you see it’s true, that woman bears no more guilt than you!” Ripping open her jacket, Omar revealed a tattoo on her chest and bellowed “2-4-6-0-1!”
That last part I made up of course, but Omar seriously tried to pretend everything up to and including the loud profanity was true. One wonders how she beat the contempt of court charge. Yet as the Post notes, Omar’s story “echoed the plot of ‘Les Miserables.'” If not entirely fictional, it’s highly embellished; Minneapolis police are not allowed to lock people up simply for shoplifting and the typical sentence is just attending a three-hour class. The Post reports that Omar later acknowledged that “she may have flubbed some facts.”
That was certainly worth a chuckle, but what really threw me for a loop came later on in the piece, when the Post profiled another typical Minnesota Somali-American family. Filsan Ibrahim and her family run a day care, they celebrate Ramadan together, they share jokes around the dinner table, they worked their way through college and graduate school, they got a welcome letter from George W. Bush when they immigrated to the States, they rally behind convicted ISIS terrorists, they lived through the “uncertainty, hope and joy that accompanied her family’s first days in America,” and “have complicated views of their adopted country that mix gratitude, frustration, alienation and pride.”
Wait, what was that one part? About the ISIS terrorists?
A few days later Filsan, her mother and her sisters attended a fundraiser and rally for nine Somalis who had been convicted in 2016 of trying to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.
Omar had written a letter on behalf of the men on the day she was elected in 2016, urging rehabilitation instead of prison time. “The desire to commit violence is not inherent in people — it is the consequence of systemic alienation,” she wrote the judge. She had known other young men from school who died fighting for al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.
Since her letter she has kept her distance from the case, which she knew was politically toxic, an easy opportunity for her enemies to paint her as un-American.
Can you imagine? If Omar’s enemies used her public defense of a convicted ISIS terrorist? To “paint her” as un-American?
For Filsan, the trial remained a source of anger and frustration. Her generation of Somali refugees saw America as home, but they lived under a shadow of suspicion. Armed American drones regularly fired missiles into their homeland. In Minneapolis, the FBI was surveilling their mosques and paying off informants.
Filsan had protested the FBI’s “countering violent extremism” program in Minneapolis, which sought to dissuade Somalis from joining terrorism groups, but which she believed stigmatized the Somali community.
Just your average Somali-American family that opposes Obama-created federal programs to peacefully persuade American Muslims to reject radical terrorism and feels “anger and frustration” when radical terrorists are arrested. You’d think the apprehension of nine radical Islamic terrorists in Minneapolis– a hotbed for terror recruitment— would be seen vindication of the FBI’s surveillance and persuasion efforts, but I guess not.
To Filsan, it didn’t make sense. The men on trial had never touched a weapon or left the United States. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting into and I don’t think they need to give up their lives for something that never happened,” she said. “That’s madness.” The heavy sentences, she said, were the product of racism, Islamophobia and the never-ending war on terror.
The men never touched a weapon or left the United States because they were arrested before they went through with their concrete and detailed plan to leave the United States and take up weapons. They knew exactly what they were getting into. Ibrahim surely knows this.
As for the heavy sentences, racism has nothing to do with it. It’s true that the specific terrorist Ibrahim was rallying for, Guled Ali Omar, received 35 years. That was a combination of the fact that he was the ringleader and that he refused to take a plea deal and elected to take his chances at trial. The two other members who refused plea deals got 30 years. Those who took deals got only ten years and those who turned state’s witness got even less prison time. That seems more than fair for plotting to join a genocidal enemy of the state.
About a dozen of Guled’s friends lingered in the parking lot, posing for pictures they planned to post on Instagram. “Fingers up,” someone called out.
Most of the men raised their index fingers, a gesture that symbolizes the oneness of God and has become widely associated with the Islamic State. They flashed the same sign during the trial in 2016, drawing the ire of the prosecutor.
The young Somalis in the parking lot — a mix of men and women — said they didn’t subscribe to the Islamic State’s fanatical interpretation of the Koran. And they certainly didn’t support any terrorist groups. But, on this night, they were trying to send a message — one of Muslim solidarity, alienation and defiance.
You must be kidding.
Imagine this sequence of events: a group of young white, right-wing people attend a rally for, let’s say, the man convicted of threatening to kill Ilhan Omar. In the course of this rally, they tell reporters that they feel anger and frustration at the government’s surveillance of nativist groups and hostility to white nationalism. They downplay the crime– because hey, it’s not like he ever went through with it!– suggest the harsh sentence was politically motivated. Then afterwards, they all head outside and flash the alt-right “okay sign” or grab some tiki torches, but then explain that they don’t subscribe to alt-right beliefs or support alt-right terrorists.
Do you believe, in a million years, that Washington Post reporters would A) credulously parrot the claim they aren’t actually extremists, and B) finish by characterizing it all as a show of “solidarity, alienation and defiance”? Or might they conclude that this rally is at best a hotbed of white nationalist apologists, and more realistically is full of plain old white nationalists?
Alas, the actual extremists and terror sympathizers in questions are part of a liberal constituency, supported by a popular young liberal politician, and are members of a faith group often targeted by the Trump administration. The reporters allowed their biases to blind themselves to reality and the result is absurd: an honest-to-god puff piece of a rally on behalf of convicted terrorists. Take a bow, WaPo.
by Morgan Chalfant • Washington Free Beacon
Criminal and terrorist networks are evolving “out of view” of U.S. intelligence and increasingly cooperating to achieve their goals, according to a new document from the U.S. military that calls for a better coordinated effort between the Pentagon and other government agencies to counter threat networks.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the United States to deter threats from transnational networks such as terrorist organizations and groups trafficking illicit goods, according to the document from the Joint Chiefs of Staff published in late December.
The Joint Publication 3-25, which was recently highlighted by the Federation of American Scientists, evaluated the United States’ efforts to counter networks threatening U.S. interests at home and abroad, calling for more interagency work and partnerships with international organizations and allies to deter them. Continue reading
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Two airlines sanctioned by the United States for enabling Iran’s global terrorist operations appear to have played a central role in moving illicit missile components from Ukraine to the Islamic Republic, according to information obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Ukrainian authorities confirmed this week they had seized a shipment of missile system components bound for Iran, which could put the Islamic Republic in violation of international bans prescribed under the nuclear agreement.
Video of the seizure show Ukrainian authorities uncovering 17 boxes of missile parts bound for Iran and meant to be used in its Fagot anti-tank guided missile system.
Sources familiar with the incident told the Free Beacon that the airlines involved in this illicit activity have long been sanctioned by the United States for providing support to Iran’s global terror network. Continue reading
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
The Obama administration has given clearance to Western airline manufacturers to sell planes to Iran at the same time the Islamic Republic is using commercial airliners to smuggle weapons and other illicit arms to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, according to new intelligence and congressional communications obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The disclosure of this new intelligence, which shows that Iran has been using its commercial airline company to smuggle advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and terrorists operating in Syria, has placed renewed focus on a congressional inquiry that has been stymied by Obama administration officials since early October.
Senators, led by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), have been pushing Obama administration officials to explain why they are helping airline manufacturers Boeing and AirBus sell planes to Iran, despite clear evidence that Tehran is using its commercial airline as cover for its continued terrorist operations across the region. Continue reading
Lawmakers say Obama admin may violate U.S. law for Iran
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Leading foreign policy voices in Congress say they are preparing to fight against an Obama administration effort to provide Iran unprecedented access to U.S. financial resources as part of an expanded package meant to address new demands from the Islamic Republic’s for greater economic concessions, according to several conversations between the Washington Free Beacon and top lawmakers.
The Obama administration is currently exploring new options to grant Iran more sanctions relief than promised under the comprehensive nuclear agreement reached last year, just days after Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a speech accusing the United States of interfering with Iranian banking.
Top foreign policy voices in Congress told the Free Beacon in recent days that they are exploring a range of responses if the Obama administration goes through with reported plans to grant Iran further concessions beyond the purview of the nuclear deal, which dismantled key nuclear-related U.S. sanctions against Iran. At least part of this action could violate current U.S. laws, they said. Continue reading
Iran blames Jews for forcing Arab states to designate Hezbollah as terrorist group
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Iranian leaders publicly broke ranks this week with major Arab Gulf nations in a series of statements criticizing these regional powers for formally designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, a regional governing coalition comprised of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain, announced last week that it is formally designating the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
The GCC joins the United States, Israel, Canada, and a host of other nations in labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization. These nations, including Saudi Arabia, have already taken steps to blacklist organizations and individuals associated with Hezbollah. Continue reading
Dozens of alleged refugees have entered Germany on fake Syrian passports, which were produced using technology similar to that used to forge documents for some of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, the German Bild newspaper reported Tuesday, citing government sources.
Last week, two French citizens posing as refugees were arrested in Austria on suspicion of having links to the November 13 Paris terror attacks. The suspects, of Algerian and Pakistani descent, were allegedly using fake Syrian passports and are believed to have entered Austria with some of the Paris attackers in October. Individuals posing as refugees entered Germany using passports made by the same means as those found on the suspects arrested in Austria.
“They contain the same features of forgery,” one of the sources told the German media outlet.
Stolen genuine documents were so intricately altered by counterfeiters that the forgery was not detected immediately, meaning those who entered the country on fake passports have not yet been found, according to the newspaper. Continue reading
By Eli Lake & Josh Rogin • BloombergView
When the administration presented the agreement to Congress, lawmakers were told that new sanctions on Iran would violate the deal. Now the administration is trying to sidestep a recently passed provision to tighten rules on visas for those who have visited Iran.
Since the accord was struck last summer, the U.S. emphasis on complying with its end of the deal has publicly eclipsed its efforts to pressure Iran. In that time, Iranian authorities have detained two American dual nationals and sentenced a third on what most observers say are trumped up espionage charges. Iran’s military has conducted two missile tests, one of which the U.N. said violated sanctions, and engaged in a new offensive with Russia in Syria to shore up the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Continue reading
Obama admin promises new laws will not violate nuke deal
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Secretary of State John Kerry is working to reassure Iranian leaders that recent congressional efforts to tighten counter-terrorism measures will not harm Iranian interests, according to a letter sent by Kerry to Iran’s foreign minister.
The assurances come following efforts by Congress to tighten restrictions in the visa waiver program, which they claim has gaping loopholes that may enable suspected terrorists to legally enter the United States with few background checks.
Iranian leaders expressed anger over the move in recent days, prompting senior Obama administration officials to convey their own concerns to lawmakers. Continue reading