Which country has the ugliest record of human rights? North Korea? Syria? Iran? Nope. In fact, if you went by what the United Nations says, the most abusive country in the world is also the only free society in the entire Middle East. The UN, the supposed best hope for world peace, condemns Israel more than any other country. The UN Human Rights Council routinely singles out Israel for criticism.In the newest Prager University course, “Israel vs. the UN,” scholar Anne Bayefsky clearly proves that the UN has an anti-Israel bias. Why is this? That’s for another video, but in short, since the 1940s, the UN has moved from a pro-Western orientation to an anti-Western and anti-Israel orientation.
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Democrats were understandably thrilled that it was their guy, Barack Obama, who finally nailed Osama bin Laden, who has for the past decade been as elusive as he was hated. But just how much of a political boon is the victory for the president? That’s the question asked today by the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, who sees it as a major shift away from the Democrats’ dovish image:
But now, the killing of Osama bin Laden is changing this equation dramatically. Alleged Muslim Barack Obama did in two and a half years what Bush couldn’t do in seven and a half. It wasn’t just the result. The nature of the operation is still breathtaking, weeks later, and the risk Obama took, which he conveyed with masterful cool in his 60 Minutes interview, is mind-blowing (imagine if bin Laden hadn’t been there!). You can call the president who oversaw the operation many things, but weak isn’t one of them.
To talk as if there were two separate hunts for bin Laden is an astoundingly dishonest oversimplification. The truth is that American intelligence officials spent years following the key intelligence trail:
Some time after Sept. 11, detainees held by the U.S. told interrogators about a man believed to work as a courier for bin Laden, senior administration officials said. The man was described by detainees as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and “one of the few Al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin laden.”
Initially, intelligence officials only had the man’s nickname, but they discovered his real name four years ago.
Two years ago, intelligence officials began to identify areas of Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated, and the great security precautions the two men took aroused U.S. suspicions.
Last August, intelligence officials tracked the men to their residence in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a relatively wealthy town 35 miles north of Islamabad where many retired military officers live […]
President Obama was made aware of the compound when it was discovered last year. By mid-February, the intelligence was solid and since mid-March, Obama led five meetings with the National Security Council regarding the issue.
Intelligence officials worked with the U.S. military to plan the operation and a small team accepted the risk and began to train for it.
On April 29, this past Friday, Obama gave the final go ahead.
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“I think things could have been done somewhat differently,” Paul said this week. “I would suggest the way they got Khalid [Sheikh] Mohammed. We went and cooperated with Pakistan. They arrested him, actually, and turned him over to us, and he’s been in prison. Why can’t we work with the government?”
Asked by WHO Radio’s Simon Conway whether he would have given the go-ahead to kill bin Laden if it meant entering another country, Paul shot back that it “absolutely was not necessary.”
“I don’t think it was necessary, no. It absolutely was not necessary,” Paul said during his Tuesday comments. “I think respect for the rule of law and world law and international law. What if he’d been in a hotel in London? We wanted to keep it secret, so would we have sent the airplane, you know the helicopters in to London, because they were afraid the information would get out?”
Actually, there are conflicting reports about the possibility that the United States did have Pakistan’s permission to get bin Laden on our own if we got a bead on him. Now, your guess is as good as mine as to who’s telling the truth, but something tells me that getting the details straight wouldn’t change Paul’s opinion. Either way, one wonders if Paul has ever stopped to consider the fact that bin Laden spent six years in a sizeable compound built in a town dominated by the Pakistani Army, and wonder how that little detail could have possibly escaped the Pakistanis’ notice.
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The Left has a problem. Attacking countries that haven’t attacked us first is a major no-no, but the president who’s initiated the latest campaign in Libya, Barack Obama, is their standard-bearer, not a warmongering right-winger. What to do?
On the Daily Beast, Leslie Gelb, Assistant Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, has an analysis of the situation which liberals eager to give Obama cover might find useful: the neocons made him do it!
Neocons and liberal interventionists stampeded Obama into imposing a no-fly zone against Libya—despite the absence of vital U.S. interests there […]
The manufactured crisis in Libya is a prime case in point. No foreign states have vital interests at stake in Libya. Events in this rather odd and isolated land have little bearing on the rest of the tumultuous Mideast region. Also not to be dismissed, there are far, far worse humanitarian horrors elsewhere. Yet, U.S. neoconservatives and liberal humanitarian interventionists have trapped another U.S. president into acting as if the opposite were true.
Obama’s been “trapped” into ordering airstrikes? How?
Once this terrible duo starts tossing out words like “slaughter” and “genocide,” the media goes crazy. Then, the chorus begins to sing of heartless inaction by the U.S. president, blaming him for the deaths. White House common sense crumbles into insanity. The reason why neither President Obama nor his coalition partners in Britain and France can state a coherent goal for Libya is that none of them have any central interest in the outcome there. It is only when a nation has a clear vital interest that it can state a clear objective for war. They’ve all simply been carried away by their own rhetoric.
The drama usually starts when leaders and thinkers are seduced by the feeling they must do good. Sometimes, they essentially ignore the killings, even as deaths climb into the hundreds of thousands, as in Rwanda and millions as in Congo. Other times, the deaths number in the hundreds or so, as in Libya—and the guy doing the killing is someone they have good reason to dislike, and so they want to do good and stop him. It was just so with the irresistible trio of Senators—John McCain, John Kerry, and Lindsey Graham—and with their counterparts in foreign-policy land.
And just like that, interventionists insist there’s “no time to deliberate,” and the president helplessly complies with their calls to arms.
There are a couple problems with this theory, though. First, polls show that, on the whole, Americans approve of the action now that we’re in it, but their support is far from overwhelming. On Capitol Hill and among the Tea Party, the battle lines are similarly muddied, with politicians of Obama’s own party blasting him for intervening while his sworn enemies in the Tea Party are more open to the idea. So if Obama really thought getting involved was a bad move for the United States, there’s certainly enough political cover for him to withstand interventionist condemnation for staying out.
It seems to me that it becomes a no-brainer. In other words, look, here we have a mass slaughter of people going on, and we have military jets bombing innocent civilians. The country is going down the tubes. And Qaddafi obviously has to go. And the U.S. doesn’t have the moral authority to lead and it is hesitant and it’s slow to react? I’m having a hard time understanding why?
The president said in Rio, you know, we are going to make the world safe from tyrants. Are we going to Sudan? Are we going after Mugabe? Are we going to go in Bahrain, Yemen? Are we going to insert ourselves in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia? Are we going to insert ourselves in Saudi Arabia? I mean, what is — how do we define success here? What is our mission here? And what is the new Obama standard here?
When — I don’t know what to make of this. Is this now the Obama doctrine? That if there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place and the international community is onboard, that we can’t standby with empty words, we have to take some action. Does that apply to Mugabe, Sudan, taking him out? Does that apply to, you know, Syria, Lebanon? You know, where do we take this? Is it Bahrain? Saudi Arabia? What does that mean?
If you guys had your way, the torture chambers and mass graves would continue […] Your way would appease evil.
March 7: The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.March 23: I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.
[T]he relative lack of Tea Party angst over the no-fly zone has been surprising. There is no discussion of Libya happening at Ginni Thomas’ Liberty Central, no statement from Tea Party Patriots or the Tea Party Express.
Quite a few liberal Democrats have come out and criticized the president. There were more Democrats who criticized President George W. Bush during the run-up to Iraq, but there have been enough to generate real heat for the White House. It was Kucinich, rather than a Republican, who first floated the idea that the strikes on Libya might be grounds for impeachment; Newt Gingrich, who mused that Obama could be impeached for failing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, hasn’t gone that far. Half a dozen Republicans who identify with the Tea Party have criticized the Obama administration’s shoot-first-ask-Congress-later approach, but most Republicans haven’t […]
There could be more Tea Party criticism of the Libya strategy if the conflict drags on. On Monday, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots told me that the group may poll members to determine whether they should take a stance. If CNN’s poll on Libya is right, TPP might find itself taking the pro-Obama, anti-Ron Paul line on Libya. The poll, conducted from March 18 to March 20, found 70 percent of all voters favoring a no-fly zone. Among “Tea Party supporters,” it was 73 percent. Fifty-four percent of all voters favored attacks “directly targeted at Gaddafi’s troops who are fighting the opposition forces in Libya.” That number rose to 58 percent among Tea Partiers.
There are individual Tea Party leaders, like Williams or Rand Paul, who wince at a military intervention undertaken like this. The Tea Party is libertarian in plenty of ways. But if it has one defining characteristic, it’s that it’s nationalist. If there’s a way to remove Qaddafi decades after he aided the Lockerbie bombers, then that’s more important than a debate over the deep thoughts of the founders. In a Saturday interview with Fox News, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., one of the most popular politicians to win the support of the Tea Party, explained that his problem with the intervention was about grit, not the Constitution.
“Back two or three weeks ago,” said West, “we could have taken care of this situation if we had done the exact same thing that Ronald Reagan did back in the early ’80s to Muammar Gaddafi, when he dropped the bomb in his back yard. Muammar Gaddafi didn’t say a word for the next 30 years.”
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Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is in Israel right now, which for some reason is perplexing to some in the chattering class back home. Taking the most cynical approach, Newsweek Jerusalem bureau chief Dan Ephron takes to the Daily Beast to explore what Palin might stand to gain politically from the visit:
For the former Alaska governor, the trip offers a chance to distinguish herself as more pro-Israel than other American politicians and, perhaps, to make amends for her “blood libel” gaffe in January that angered many Jews. Palin has already pointed out that President Obama has yet to visit Israel during more than two years in office. At a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she was expected to distance herself from the position of some fellow Tea Partiers—chiefly Congressman Rand Paul—in favor of cutting aid to Israel.
Leftists and left-wing groups which claim to speak for Jews complained about the “blood libel” nonsense at the time, but a.) that doesn’t necessarily translate to “many Jews,” and b.) I doubt Palin took that line of attack too seriously, considering the frequency with which both sides have used the term in the past. Attempting to compare favorably to Obama’s inattentiveness (and worse) to Israel is more likely, as is the idea that she’s distancing herself from Paul’s stances on that front, especially considering that she supported him.
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At CPAC 2011, Ann Coulter made the following claim:
Democrats are all for meddling in other countries –- but only provided a change of regime will harm U.S. national security interests.
It probably wasn’t his intention, but this week the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart has set out to prove her right. Beinart (who, recall, doesn’t think the War on Terror is a war and says conservatives only support profiling because we don’t believe people who look like us are capable of bad things) has chosen to lecture us about “the hypocrisy of the right’s shallow rhetoric on liberty and human freedom,” allegedly displayed by those of us who aren’t all that optimistic that a post-Mubarak Egypt will be any more free or humane:
[T]he people with the biggest megaphones on the American right—people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich—are not preaching democratic idealism. They’re warning that Egypt and Bahrain are about to become Iranian- or Taliban-style theocracies. They’re comparing Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter for not standing behind our favored strongmen. And they’re suggesting that, at the very least, America should demand that Islamist parties be banned. When it comes to Muslims and democracy, much of the supposedly idealistic American right turns out to be pretty pessimistic. It turns out that the people uninterested in the human rights of Muslims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay aren’t all that concerned about them in Egypt or Bahrain either.
What human-rights disinterest are you referring to, Peter? The way I remember it, conservatives overwhelmingly condemned the actual abuse and the military punished those responsible all on its own, while waterboarding has saved American lives. And Beck, Palin and Gingrich’s doubts are far from groundless—the radical Muslim Brotherhood is among the factions vying for control of Egypt’s new government, and as David Horowitz sarcastically pointed out to Bill Kristol, recent history doesn’t suggest great odds for Egypt:
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For the better part of the past decade, moviegoers have gotten a new batch of comic-book adaptations every summer. The trend continues in 2011 with Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, and the latest film in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: First Class.
Set in the 1960s, First Class goes back to the origins of the mutant team, before leader Professor Xavier and archenemy Magneto became foes. And as the just-released trailer for the film reveals, this prequel has an unexpected political twist.
It seems that the X-Men intervene in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now, there are a couple different directions this could go: a) President John F. Kennedy is, for whatever reason, unable to stop Soviet aggression himself, so it’s up to our heroes to save the day, or b) the X-Men have to get involved because the United States and the Soviet Union are both hell-bent on settling their differences in the most violent way possible rather than talking to each other. Either scenario could pan out—we all know how Hollywood feels about America and Communists, but we also know how much leftists revere JFK, and may be reluctant to portray the country as too evil under him.
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The enemies of liberty may be gaining steam in Egypt right now, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to notice. No, to them we’re still our own worst enemy. Mike Fleming at Deadline reports that no less than seven potential film projects based on cyber-anarchist Julian Assange and his whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks are under consideration:
The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal and Management 360 have partnered with financier/producer Megan Ellison to option The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller. Ellison, an exec producer of True Grit, will finance development through her Annapurna Pictures and she, Boal and Management 360 will produce. Boal might write the film, but that will depend on if he has time […]
His is just the latest in a growing number of Julian Assange/WikiLeaks movies that should continue to swell as more books about the controversial figure get published. I’ve heard DreamWorks is circling Inside WikiLeaks, a book that will be released February 15. It is written by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s number 2 at WikiLeaks who defected because he wanted WikiLeaks to apply journalistic discretion in the dispersal of secret government documents while Assange wanted to release as many as he could get his hands on.
There is also the $1.5 million memoir by Assange. Movie/TV rights will be handled by CAA for lit agency Peters Fraser & Dunlop, and rumors are that The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass might come attached (insiders said that’s not definitive). Among the other Assange movies that have already mobilized, Universal Pictures will finance and distribute an Alex Gibney-directed documentary on Assange and WikiLeaks that will be produced by Gibney and former Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger, and HBO is in talks with BBC to collaborate on a pic that would be based partly on Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker article No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency. Another documentary, WikiLeaks: War, Lies and Videotape has been picked up to be distributed by Zodiak. There are two more books available for movies: WME is handling Megaleaks by Andy Greenberg, and there is also WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy is coming from David Leigh and Luke Harding, two reporters from UK’s The Guardian who were the first to receive leaks from Assange and then shared them with Der Spiegel and The New York Times.
All of this is to be expected, of course—Hollywood has a track record of presenting the United States government as the bad guy in our conflicts abroad, from Vietnam onward. They pretty consistently bomb at the box office, but Hollywood keeps churning them out anyway, their left-wing ideology drowning out whatever good business sense or understanding of what the audience wants they may have.
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Television can be a force for liberty in totalitarian and theocratic societies, but it can be used to thwart liberty, as well. Case in point: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s Daily Beast report on disturbing events in Afghanistan:
In the past several weeks, controversial television presenter Nasto Naderi has stepped up a campaign he began this year accusing women’s shelters of supporting prostitution and other behavior considered immoral. In December, Naderi showed footage of a family guidance center run by the organization Women for Afghan Women, followed by pictures of family guidance and women’s shelter staff entering their offices. According to Naderi, women’s shelters encourage behavior that violates Islam, though he has yet to offer any evidence to support his allegations.
The unwanted attention has sent a chill through women’s rights supporters in Kabul and created an environment of both fear and defiance among shelter workers. In a conservative country with little history of providing safe havens for domestic-violence victims, the concern is that Naderi’s charges could do great harm—and put shelter workers at risk.
“By these kinds of programs, people’s minds may be swayed, and they may think negatively about these kinds of safe houses,” said Selay Ghaffar of the organization HAWCA, which offers legal aid and temporary shelter to Afghan women seeking to escape domestic abuse.
Naderi makes no bones about what’s really driving his propaganda campaign, boasting that his people “have fought 30 years to put the word ‘Islam’ in front of Afghanistan […] But some NGOs come and want to make another way for our country.” It certainly isn’t concern for the shelters’ quality—“Mr. Nadiri says he hasn’t visited any of the 17 shelters officially registered with the government.”
Women’s defenders fear the legitimization of the Taliban could mean the end of the shelters: