Obama’s Dubious Mosque Choice

Mehmet Kaman / Anadolu Agency/AFP

Mehmet Kaman / Anadolu Agency/AFP

IPT News
February 2, 2016

1345Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) Wednesday, his first visit to a U.S. mosque since becoming president.

ISB leaders have amassed a record of support for radical Islamic causes over the years, including endorsing the Chechen jihad and Palestinian suicide bombings. Its former imam was active in a charity later linked to terror financing including Hamas, the Taliban, and for providing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to Osama bin Laden.

More recently, a resident scholar described homosexuality as a threat to societal health, in stark contrast to the president’s views on the issue.

It’s safe to assume the White House vetted the ISB and found it an acceptable venue for a presidential appearance despite this history. And that is not surprising. The Obama administration has repeatedly embraced contact with the Muslim Brotherhood, repeatedly meeting with its officials during and after the Arab Spring while ignoringsecular democracy advocates. It praised the early tenure of Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi when he briefly served as Egypt’s president. The administration also helped a Brotherhood delegation skip routine screening by U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon landing in America.

And, as we reported in December, a White House meeting also aimed at standing by the Muslim-American community featured representatives of Islamist groups, including some with consistent records of opposing U.S. law enforcement counter-terrorism efforts.

ISB officials have worked closely with one of those groups, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In 2014, two ISB officials joined with CAIR in a news conference blasting Israeli military actions in Gaza. The conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge, started when Hamas operatives kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens and continued its incessant campaign of firing rockets with the hope of killing Israeli civilians.

Those rockets were fired from densely populated areas, including near schools andhouses of worship.

But Hamas’ murders and ongoing efforts to carry out more were never mentioned by the CAIR and ISB officials. Instead, they blamed Israel when raids aimed at rocket launchers and other Hamas targets inadvertently killed and injured civilians.

ISB President Muhammad Jameel recklessly invoked “genocide in the name of self-defense” and said that, “as an American I am ashamed to stand here.”

Abid Husain, the ISB’s general secretary, joined Jameel in calling for the U.S. to pressure Israel into opening Gaza’s borders, ending an embargo that was enacted to stop the flow of weapons and materials used to make them.

“The U.S. government must not remain silent about Israel’s indiscriminate assault and unjust use of force,” Husain said. “The right of a nation to defend itself does not extend to unrestrained aerial bombardments of civilian populations and must be condemned.

Far from genocide, which is the systematic elimination of a people, and from an indiscriminate attack, Israel campaign against Hamas “went to extraordinary lengths” to minimize civilian casualties, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Israel dropped leaflets and called residents of buildings targeted for bombing in hopes the residents would heed the warnings and seek safer locations.

After the conflict ended, Dempsey sent a team of senior officers to learn from Israeli military leaders to study the tactics in Gaza to minimize civilian casualties. “In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties,” he said.

Another ISB official, resident scholar Yaseen Shaikh, sermonized against homosexuality as a mental disorder and “something which we despise.” The talk is dated May 2013, just weeks before he joined the ISB.

The Quran says “harm them” to those who engage in homosexuality, he said. “What does this mean? If it was not an aberrant act, if this was not a despised act, why would Allah … say, ‘Harm them’? Allah then says, ‘[Several Arabic words],’ ‘If they repent and they reform and they transform themselves and change, then let them be.”

As the Daily Caller reported, a past ISB imam worked with an Islamic charity latershuttered by the Treasury Department for supporting terrorists.

Mohamad Adam El Sheikh was a regional representative for the Islamic Africa Relief Agency (IARA) in Baltimore the same time that he was an ISB imam and director.

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An archived ISB action alert says that the “Islamic Society of Baltimore was recently visited by an IARA representative who brought the attached pictures of atrocities committed by Russians against the Muslims in Chechnya.”

Although links to several pictures from the Chechen jihad are still available on ISB’s archived web page, the actual pictures are no longer accessible.

“Despite all of this, by the grace of Allah, the Mujahidin in Chechnya have been able to defend themselves and remains a formidable threat to heavily armed Russian Army. However, it is also our responsibility as Muslims all over the world to help them in their Jihad effort,” the action alert added.

The action alert further solicited donations “to help the Refugees and Mujahidin in their struggle.”

In 2004, El-Sheikh justified Palestinian suicide bombings, saying they are acceptable when “certain Muslims are to be cornered where they cannot defend themselves, except through these kinds of means, and their local religious leaders issued fatwas to permit that.”

Another page on the ISB’s archived “Official English Site” links to a feature on the “Jihad in Chechnya” on the Azzam Publications website. Azzam publications was an al Qaida-tied website that was “one of the most well-known supporters of jihad, or holy war, on the internet.” The site is replete with material promoting jihad and martyrdom operations and includes a photo and link to a biography of Osama bin Laden’s mentor,Abdullah Azzam.

Just after 9/11, the ISB hosted speakers who would become prominent advocates of jihad, including American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike. Awlaki’s online sermons remain some of the most watched, most effective terrorist recruiting material online.

A page from ISB’s archived website links to the homepage of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Qaradawi. Qaradawi has issued fatwas or religious rulings in support of terrorism and described suicide operations as “heroic martyrdom operations.” In a 2004 fatwa, Qaradawi called abducting and killing Americans in Iraq is “a [religious] duty.”

At a 1995 conference held by the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) in Toledo, Ohio, Qaradawi called for the “conquest” of Europe and America through Dawa, or proselytizing. “We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword but through Dawa,” he said.

The ISB’s leaders have had connections with radical Islamists and espoused extreme viewpoints throughout its history. Like a lot of mosques, it continues to segregate men and women during prayer, something American-Islamic Forum for DemocracyPresident Zuhdi Jasser called “gender apartheid.”

During an appearance on Fox News Monday, Jasser said he was insulted by the president’s choice of the ISB. It continues an administration policy of working with Islamist groups and ignoring Muslims like him who stand against theocracy.

“It’s disgraceful that this is one of the mosques – or the mosque – that he’s picked to be the first visit,” he said. ISB’s website looks like “a covert operation. There’s no name on it. It basically has pictures of individuals, but no names.”

For an event that is expected to focus on tolerance, diversity and inclusion, Obama made a puzzling choice in the ISB. Its leaders sympathize with terrorists, hate homosexuals and treat women as less than equal.

Senators: Obama Counter-IS Strategy Failing

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined by the committee's ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., right, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., speaks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, about Counter-ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) Strategy. Defense Secretary Ash Carter defends President Barack Obama's strategy to defeat Islamic State group militants amid blistering criticism from Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined by the committee’s ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., right, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., speaks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, about Counter-ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) Strategy. Defense Secretary Ash Carter defends President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat Islamic State group militants amid blistering criticism from Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, July 8, 2015:

President Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State terror group came under harsh criticism from senators on Tuesday who said the United States is losing the war by not doing more to attack the group.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said the president was guilty of “self-delusion” in claiming progress is being made against the ultra-violent al Qaeda offshoot, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

During a committee hearing with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, McCain said 5,000 allied air strikes on IS targets have so far done little to stop IS advances.

“Since U.S. and coalition airstrikes began last year, ISIL has continued to enjoy battlefield successes, including taking Ramadi and other key terrain in Iraq, holding over half the territory in Syria and controlling every border post between Iraq and Syria,” McCain said.

“Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends,” he said. “That suggests we are not winning, and when you’re not winning in war, you are losing.”

Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, said restoring Iraqi sovereignty over IS-held territory in Iraq will take at least three years, and defeating the terror group could take up to 20 years.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) also said the president’s strategy against IS is failing.

“And I am deeply disappointed,” Sessions told Carter. “I don’t see the confidence in your testimony or Gen. Dempsey’s testimony. I believe we’re actively carrying out a strategy that the president has, and I don’t believe it has sufficient respect for the use of military force necessary to be successful.”

Additionally, Republican senators criticized the Pentagon leaders for adopting a counter-IS strategy that excludes a concerted military effort to oust Syria’s Bashir Assad from power.

McCain said the failure to deal with the Syrian civil war, where Iran, pro-Iran Hezbollah forces, and Russia are supporting Assad, is the greatest accelerant for Islamic State gains in both gaining recruits and on the battlefield.

“None of our efforts against ISIL in Iraq can succeed while the conflict in Syria continues, and with it, the conditions for ISIL’s continued growth, recruitment, and radicalization of Muslims around the world,” McCain said.

A U.S.-backed program to train Syrian rebels has been restricted to training fighters solely to battle IS militants and not the Assad regime. Fewer than 100 fighters have been trained so far, the Senate testimony disclosed.

The administration launched a Syrian rebel training program just three months ago that plans to produce a force of 7,000 volunteer anti-IS rebels.

“As of July 3rd, we are currently training about 60 fighters,” Carter, the defense secretary, said. “This number is much smaller than we’d hoped for at this point.”

The Pentagon currently has some 3,500 troops involved in training Iraqi forces and has conducted over 5,000 airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq and Syria.

McCain, however, said a large number of the aircraft sorties returned to their bases without dropping bombs because of a lack of ground spotters.

Dempsey testified that IS terrorism is one of several global threats that include Russian revanchism in Eastern Europe, Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, Iranian terrorist activities in the Middle East, and new technical advancements by North Korea, as well as a growing cyber threat.

“While our potential adversaries grow stronger, many of our allies are becoming increasingly dependent on the United States and on our assistance, and some of our comparative military advantages have begun to erode,” Dempsey said.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said the Islamic State is expanding its operations to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

“There have been a series of spectacular terrorist attacks in the Sinai peninsula,” he said. “The Islamic State takes credit for those attacks. We still have the multinational force and observers in the Sinai peninsula, almost 1,800 soldiers, 1,200 of which are American personnel.”

Dempsey said the Joint Staff conducted a vulnerability assessment of the Sinai and added some new weapons and communications to U.S. and Egyptian forces there.

“I’m confident that [American forces] are adequately protected today, but I fully expect that threat to increase,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey, under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) agreed that currently more terrorist organizations are operating in more safe havens, and with more weapons and people capable of striking U.S. homeland than at any time since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The four-star general also said IS is expanding to other countries outside Syria and Iraq.

Graham said IS is “recruiting more foreign fighters than we’re training [for the] Free Syrian Army.”

“The math doesn’t work. This is never going to result in Assad or ISIL being degraded or destroyed. The only way I see ISIL to be degraded or destroyed is for a ground force, regional in nature, to go into Syria,” Graham said.

The defense secretary said the U.S. objective in Syria is to force Assad to step down through political and not military means.

Carter and Dempsey said in their testimony that the U.S. ground forces in the region are limited to being used as trainers for Iraqi forces.

Four divisions of U.S.-trained Iraqi military forces deserted during the IS incursion from Syria into Iraq last year, providing both military equipment and a propaganda edge for the group.

“The lack of coherent strategy has resulted in the spread of ISIL around the world to Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and even to Afghanistan,” McCain said.

“We have seen this movie before, and if we make the same mistakes, we should expect similarly tragic results,” he said. “I do not want to attend another hearing like this with your successors, trying to figure out a strategy to clean up after avoidable mistakes.”

Under questioning from Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) Carter said IS exercises “mixed” command and control over affiliate terror groups and individual jihadists in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

“ISIL is more resilient because it is more decentralized and informal in that sense,” Carter said.

Carter and Dempsey met Monday with Obama at the Pentagon to discuss the administration’s counter-IS strategy that includes nine “lines of effort.”

They include military, diplomatic, and intelligence programs, along with sanctions and efforts to counter IS propaganda and recruitment.

Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, a former senior CIA counterterrorism leader, said in an interview that the administration’s Syrian training program is a waste of time.

Clarridge said the Pentagon should fund and organize a regional military force of Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, and Persian Gulf militaries based on the Sunni Arab National Front for the Salvation of Iraq, also known as the Awakening Movement, that was developed in Iraq from 2008 to bring stability to the country.

“Then you’d have a real force that could whack ISIS to the ground,” he said.

Additionally, Clarridge said the Pentagon needs to stop sending all arms and aid through Baghdad and should follow Germany’s lead in sending weaponry directly to Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.

Clarridge also said that the Obama administration is doing nothing to counter IS propaganda and recruitment efforts, he said.

“Everyone says you can’t win this war militarily. But where is the psychological warfare effort? I have people monitoring this day in, day out, and there is none, zero,” Clarridge said, adding that the current efforts is limited to a few people at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“There are people standing by with large capabilities, Muslims, ready to put their capabilities to work, if someone would organize it,” Clarridge said.

Additionally, no radio broadcasting is being carried out in Iraq and Syria, he said.

Carter said the key Iraqi city of Ramadi that was overrun by IS forces on May 17 needs to be retaken but not until Iraqi forces are better prepared for the counter offensive.

“This will be a test of the competence of the Iraqi security forces, and it’s a test that they must pass,” Carter said. “Our and the coalition’s involvement is to try to train and equip and support them to be successful.”

Dempsey said a counter attack against Ramadi was called off about a month ago because Iraqi troops were not ready.

According to a detailed situation report from Iraq by the contractor Falcon Group, coalition forces conducted 11 airstrikes on July 6, near Sinjar, the Makhmour district, Kirkuk province, Baiji, Haditha, Ramadi, and Fallujah. The strikes hit an IS tactical unit and destroyed a heavy machine gun and a building.

Reports from the region indicated that IS forces near Baiji, where a major oil refinery is located, carried out a major counter offensive against Iraqi forces, the Falcon Group said.

“IS elements also attacked in the oil refinery and now control 60 percent of the refinery,” the report said.

The Iraqi government denied the reports and said most of the refinery remains under Iraqi security forces’ control.

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Also see:

No, the Benghazi Questions Aren’t All Answered

pic_giant_010614_SM_Down-the-Times-Benghazi-Rabbit-Hole_0By Jim Geraghty:

NBC News’s Chuck Todd, speaking on MSNBC Tuesday morning, contended that the newly formed House select committee investigating Benghazi was likely to rehash familiar arguments and miss broader issues worth discussing:

It certainly looks more partisan than it looks like a serious inquiry. They’ve done a ton of these inquiries already, the House has. There’s been a Senate Intelligence investigation. Forget just the State Department. I think you could argue that yes, Congress should have done what it did, which is go through some of these committees. But as for the need for the select committee — you know, I’ll hear from Republicans that say, ‘But there are unanswered questions!’ Well, no, all the questions have been answered. There’s just some people that don’t like the answers, that wish the answers were somehow more conspiratorial, I guess.

Their focus seems to be off. Have a conversation about the policy. Have a debate, an investigation into whether the policy is working; to whether the response to the Arab Spring, whether we did the right thing with the light footprint in Libya. But to sit here and investigate talking points seems to be totally missing the larger point here. It’s like investigating who cut down one tree in a forest that’s been burned down.”

Todd is half-right that there are broader issues worth examining. But there is good reason for Republicans to believe that full answers have been withheld, and Americans have seen little or no real accountability for a largely preventable outrage.

As Todd notes, several House and Senate committees launched their own inquiries, but the White House withheld certain documents and evidence, which raises serious doubts about how thoroughly and accurately those committees’ questions have been answered. For example, the White House never sent Congress an e-mail from Ben Rhodes instructing then–ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to “underscore these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy,” infuriating lawmakers.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the White House didn’t include the e-mail in its disclosures to Capitol Hill because it wasn’t about Benghazi, but ABC News’s Jonathan Karl noted that the e-mail in question has an entire section labeled “Benghazi.” How many other documents have been withheld because the administration judged them not relevant, were momentarily struck with inexplicable illiteracy, or simply deemed them too damaging or embarrassing to turn over to Congress?

Earlier, senators had complained about heavily redacted documents:

“It was so redacted that there was no information whatsoever,” said the source, who spoke to Fox on the condition they not be identified. “There were some documents that were 100 pages with every word on the page redacted. They were worthless.”

More than a year after the attack, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) was informed that he could not interview the survivors of the attack because it would somehow interfere with the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators. This decision came as surprising news to FBI director James Comey, whose agency is responsible for that prosecution. Comey said he had no objection to the interviews. After Graham finally did speak with the survivors, he said some told him “they’ve been told to be quiet.”

While it’s entirely possible that Graham is misinterpreting or mischaracterizing the survivors’ comments, it’s impossible to know as long as the survivors’ comments and testimony remain hidden from the public. When the public has gotten to hear from those close to the events on the ground, such as Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya who was in Tripoli at the time of the attack, the testimony has offered a gripping, eye-opening, and disturbing portrait of the U.S. government being caught flat-footed and unable to mobilize in a crisis.

This is a particularly cynical strategy by the administration: They take as long as possible to provide the information and then complain that Congress remains obsessed with long-ago issues. Former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor exemplified the delay-then-demand-others-move-on approach when he recently told Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”

Read more at National Review

Diane Feinstein says the unsayable

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Center For Security Policy, By Frank Gaffney:

Yesterday was a red letter day – or perhaps it should be called an Islamic green letter one – for U.S. intelligence.  For the first time I can recall, the top legislator on a congressional oversight committee has actually made clear what motivates our enemies in what used to be called euphemistically the “War on Terror,” and that Team Obama now dubs even more opaquely as the effort to “counter violent extremism.”

This breakthrough came in the course of a joint appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” by the chairpersons of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), respectively. The media seized on the ostensibly big news out of their remarks: bipartisan agreement that the United States is at greater risk of terrorist attack today than two years ago.

But important, ominous and accurate as that assessment is, it wasn’t the most important point made by these two respected lawmakers. Instead, it was Sen. Feinstein’s observation in response to a question about what causes the “hatred” that makes our situation more perilous:

“There is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist jihadist Islamic community, and that is that the West is responsible for everything that goes wrong and that the only thing that’s going to solve this is Islamic shariah law.”

What makes this incontrovertible statement so noteworthy?  It is the fact that the intelligence community is not allowed to say what Sen. Feinstein did.  Under Obama administration guidelines, for intelligence officers – and for that matter, law enforcement, Homeland Security and military personnel – to talk about Islamic jihadism and shariah as the motivation for terrorism can be a career-ending offense.

For example, on May 10, 2012, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, used a press conference to denounce a highly decorated and up-and-coming Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley, for teaching an elective course at the Joint Forces Staff College using an approved curriculum.  According to Gen. Dempsey, what prompted this extraordinary action was that a student – who it turns out had not actually been enrolled in Col. Dooley’s class – “was concerned that the course was objectionable and that it was counter to our values…our appreciation for religious freedom and cultural awareness. And the young man who brought it to my attention was absolutely right. It’s totally objectionable.”

At the core of what was so “totally objectionable” is the fact that students were exposed to information that made plain the gravity of the threat of which Sen. Feinstein warned: the supremacist, totalitarian Islamic doctrine of shariah and the jihad or holy war it obliges adherents to perform.  Col. Dooley’s promising career was cut short and the files of his institution and that of the rest of the national security community have been purged of all such information deemed by unidentified subject matters experts engaged for the purpose to be “counter to our values.”

Sen. Feinstein’s forthright declaration is particularly gratifying as I had an opportunity to discuss the danger posed by shariah with her in the course of testimony I provided the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 24, 2013 at the invitation of her colleague, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).  In the course of making the case for keeping the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open, I observed:

“We have been obliged to go to war because it was thrust upon us. And, if we are to prevail in this conflict, we must understand the nature of the enemies with whom we are at war. They are shariah-adherent jihadists who believe, in accordance with that doctrine, that it is God’s will that they destroy our way of life and subjugate us to theirs.”

At the time, Sen. Feinstein strongly disagreed with my view that shariah’s dictates make it impossible safely to release its adherents from Gitmo or, alternatively, to incarcerate them instead in this country – where they might exploit rights foolishly conferred upon them to secure their freedom and wage jihad here.  I hope that the clarity she expressed Sunday about the inexorable nature of the shariah doctrine and the supremacist hatred it impels will cause the senior senator from California both to insist that such insights are once again inculcated in those responsible for our security and to reconsider her support for closing Guantanamo Bay.

 

The evidence for Syrian chemical weapons use crumbles

eb6a718b2aab49148e4190b3003c4b1d-e1378733601938By Kenneth Timmerman:

Now we learn that President Obama may be second-guessing his “decision’ to launch military action – that Secretary of State John Kerry insists is not “going to war” — to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack the United States has not proved it carried out.

That is good news for the American servicemen and women who would be facing very real threats on a very real battlefield if the President did give the order to fight. For example, if the Russian spy ship Priazovye (SSV-201), now stationed in the Mediterranean, were to have used its high-power laser systems to blind American pilots flying toward Syria, would they become victims of “workplace violence,” like the victims of Fort Hood jihadist, Major Malik Hassan?

In classified hearings last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, was hard-pressed to justify unilateral U.S. military action, sources privy to the closed door sessions tell me.

As currently conceived by the President, U.S. military strikes would not significantly degrade Assad’s military, Gen. Dempsey admitted. And there was a “real possibility’ that our actions would widen the conflict, bringing in Iran and Russia and involving Israel.

Now the White House is soft-peddling its so-far unsupported claims that the Syrian regime was responsible for the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people in a suburb of Damascus.

With the 13-minute compilation of YouTube videos the administration presented before the Senate Select Committee on intelligence last Thursday – and provided to CNN on Sunday – the Obama administration is now resorting to a “hearts and minds” campaign with the American public.

We are now supposed to launch military strikes on Syria based on a guilty conscience. Or as Secretary Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations committee last week, because if we fail to act, who knows what bad things Assad will do in the future.

The administration’s case for limited military strikes against Syria is falling apart even before President Obama has spoken to the American people.

Read more at the Daily Caller

 

Just say no on Syria

1609301503CSP, By Frank Gaffney, Jr.:

Team Obama’s public campaign to embroil the United States in Syria’s civil war has kicked into high gear.  The President’s senior subordinates have been warning incessantly about the costs of inaction, and making preposterous promises about the benefits of conducting a limited attack on Bashir Assad’s regime.

President Obama is throwing himself into the sales pitch, too, with a saturation round of TV appearances Monday night and an address to the nation Tuesday.

Will all this lobbying work?  Will skeptical legislators ignore their constituents – who overwhelmingly recognize the folly of this proposal – and do as the White House and some Republicans demand?  Not if the common sense of most Americans prevails, as common sense tells us our attacking Syria will not make things better.  Rather, it likely will make matters worse, and probably much worse.

Here’s a sanity check on the case being made by the proponents.

The principal argument of advocates of a new authorization for the use of military force principal has two facets:  First, the United States has an international responsibility to act in the face of chemical weapons use.  And second, if we don’t, Assad, Iran and others will employ them with impunity and the mullahs in Tehran will no longer fear our red lines on their nuclear programs.

The United Nations, the Left and others hostile to American power have long sought to subordinate it to the dictates of the so-called “international community.”  The doctrine of a “responsibility to protect” (R2P) was tailor-made for this purpose:  It furthers the notion that the use of force is only legitimate when a UN mandate has been provided or, where that’s not possible (due to Russian and/or Chinese vetoes), where some other grounds can be found for invoking an international authority.

More to the point, R2P ensures that the U.S. military’s finite – and currently seriously overstretched – resources will be put to use punishing those whose barbarism violates “international norms,” the enforcement of which becomes defined as a vital American interest.  Consequently, a vote for Obama’s Syria resolution is a vote to legitimate and authorize the transnationalist grab for control of the only armed forces we have, at the expense of our sovereignty and, inevitably, of our security.

As to the possibility that, absent our attack, we will confront more chemical weapons use, it cannot be ruled out.  On the other hand, no one – no one – has explained how “degrading Assad’s capabilities” and “changing the momentum of the battlefield” (as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution demands) will assure greater control of the Syrian dictator’s vast chemical arsenal.  In fact, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey has testified that the U.S. strike will target the regime’s weapons used to protect that arsenal.

Even in the absence of such a deliberate purpose, we have to assume that either the designated terrorist group allied with Assad (Hezbollah) or the one dominating the opposition (al Qaeda) will gain access to some of these arms.  Consequently, those voting for the President’s resolution have no claim to a higher moral authority than the opponents when it comes to preventing future examples of the horrific incidents captured in videos of Syrian victims that the administration is shamelessly exploiting to buffalo legislators.

Then, there is the ultimate appeal being made to patriots – in and out of the Congress – found in the assertion that not just the President’s credibility, but the nation’s, is on the line. Some Republican legislators and a number of former officials of GOP administrations have embraced this argument.  They warn that the repercussions of defeating Mr. Obama this time will be to damage confidence in America for the duration of his presidency, with potentially devastating effects.

Unfortunately, inordinate damage has already been done to our leadership in the world as a result of nearly five years of what passes for this president’s security policy-making.  That has been the predictable effect of the Obama Doctrine – which I have reduced down to nine words: emboldening our enemies, undermining our allies, diminishing our country.  And, as Norman Podhoretz trenchantly put it in the Wall Street Journal on Monday: “[Obama’s] foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish….The fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country’s power and influence.”

As a result, the question before the Congress this week is not whether the United States credibility will be degraded by its repudiation of what is, in fact, more of a Gulf of Tonkin-style blank-check than a restrictive authorization for only a limited military action.  Rather, it is:  Will we be able to measure the marginal additional harm done to our nation’s prestige, power and influence – all ingredients in its credibility – given the damage Mr. Obama has already done to them?

It was predictable, and predicted, that the whirlwind Barack Obama has sown, would be reaped eventually.  That moment may be at hand.  Thanks in no small measure to the decisions taken to date – including those that have hollowed out our military, reduced our presence and power-projection capabilities and contributed to the metastasizing of, among other threats, the Islamist cancer – there are no good options in Syria.  Unfortunately, the worst of them at the moment appears to be our going to war there, and Congress should decline to do so.

A war the Pentagon doesn’t want

images (90)By Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general, and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

The tapes tell the tale. Go back and look at images of our nation’s most senior soldier, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and his body language during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Syria. It’s pretty obvious that Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, doesn’t want this war. As Secretary of State John Kerry’s thundering voice and arm-waving redounded in rage against Bashar al-Assad’s atrocitiesDempsey was largely (and respectfully) silent.

Dempsey’s unspoken words reflect the opinions of most serving military leaders. By no means do I profess to speak on behalf of all of our men and women in uniform. But I can justifiably share the sentiments of those inside the Pentagon and elsewhere who write the plans and develop strategies for fighting our wars. After personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days, I feel confident that what follows represents the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals who have been intimate witnesses to the unfolding events that will lead the United States into its next war.

They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.

They are repelled by the hypocrisy of a media blitz that warns against the return of Hitlerism but privately acknowledges that the motive for risking American lives is our “responsibility to protect” the world’s innocents. Prospective U.S. action in Syria is not about threats to American security. The U.S. military’s civilian masters privately are proud that they are motivated by guilt over slaughters in Rwanda, Sudan and Kosovo and not by any systemic threat to our country.

They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about “red lines.” These acts would be for retribution and to restore the reputation of a president. Our serving professionals make the point that killing more Syrians won’t deter Iranian resolve to confront us. The Iranians have already gotten the message.

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