On January 3, 2014, al Qaeda-affiliated fighters took over the city of Fallujah, Iraq after a bloody three-day battle, raising their flag over government buildings as a symbol of their victory. In response to this development, Kerry said that the U.S. would "stand with the government of Iraq and with others who will push back against their efforts to destabilize," but emphasized: “This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis ... We are not contemplating returning."
Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called the events “as tragic as they were predictable” and said:
“While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the administration cannot escape its share of the blame. When President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces … over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests. Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever....
“The administration's narrative that Iraq's political leadership objected to U.S. forces remaining in Iraq after 2011 is patently false. We know firsthand that Iraq's main political blocs were supportive and that the administration rejected sound military advice and squandered the opportunity to conclude a security agreement with Iraq."
On January 14, 2014, Dennis Prager wrote the following powerful condemnation -- titled "The Immorality of Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan" -- of the Obama administration's decision to withdraw from Iraq without leaving behind any U.S. forces to help maintain stability:
On every level and from every perspective -- from pure national interest to the purely moral -- the decision by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to withdraw American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is indefensible.
Let's begin with Iraq.
Here is how the front-page article in yesterday's edition of USA Today began:
"When the last U.S. combat troops departed Iraq in December 2011, they left behind a defeated al-Qaida and an Iraq where traditional rivals Sunni and Shiite Muslims were sharing power in the world's only Arab democracy.
"Two years later, al-Qaida has seized major cities where hundreds of U.S. troops died while fighting alongside their Iraqi brethren. The population once freed by the U.S.-Iraqi alliance has now watched those same jihadist insurgents return to command the streets and impose their will."
As a result of the United States withdrawing its troops at the end of 2011:
In 2013, 7,818 Iraqi civilians were killed, higher than the 2008 toll of 6,787 (United Nations figures). In 2010, there were approximately 10 car bombs per month; in 2013, there was an average of 71.
At great expenditure in money, lives and limbs, the United States had defeated al-Qaida in Iraq. American troops had turned such terrorist dominated cities as Fallujah and Ramadi into relatively peaceful cities governed by pro-government, anti-al-Qaida Sunnis. And al-Qaida had been handed its greatest defeat.
In 2008, the American people elected as president a man dedicated to bringing the troops home.
Discussing Iraq last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "The president made a commitment to end the war in Iraq. He fulfilled that commitment." The language Carney used is instructive. The president made a commitment "to end the war."
That is how Democrats see abandoning countries to mass death: the "war ends."
That is the amoral and provincial perspective of the Democrats. All the death, torture and fighting that takes place because Americans have withdrawn don't really matter. For the Democrats and others on the left -- the self-proclaimed compassionate folks -- the amount of suffering caused by America withdrawing its troops is just not important.
This began with the withdrawal from Vietnam. By 1972, when the Democratic Party nominated George McGovern, it had, for the first time, ceased being a liberal party. It had been taken over by the left, and remains so until this day.
Forced by the Democrat-controlled Congress, the United States abandoned Vietnam in 1975. On April 30 of that year, the last American helicopter left Saigon, leaving our Vietnamese allies to be "re-educated," tortured and murdered -- and all the Vietnamese to be enslaved by a Stalinist Communist regime.
After America left Vietnam, about two million South Vietnamese were sent to re-education camps, of whom about 165,000 died, between 100,000 and 200,000 were executed, 50,000 died performing hard labor in "New Economic Zones," and another 200,000 to 400,000 Vietnamese died fleeing Vietnam (the "Boat People").
The same month the last American left Vietnam, the Communist Khmer Rouge ("Red Cambodians") under Pol Pot took over Cambodia and proceeded to murder about two million, or about one out of every three or four Cambodians.
Eight months after the Americans left Vietnam, Communists took over Laos who then proceeded -- with the help of the Vietnamese Communists -- to engage in genocide against the Hmong population.
Meanwhile about three million additional people fled Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
But for the left, the "war ended."
Having lived through all that, I recall only silence from previously vociferous anti-war protestors about the mass murders that followed the American withdrawal from Vietnam. The campuses were quiet, the intellectuals were quiet, the Democratic Party was quiet.
We are reliving that now as the left and its political party abandon Iraq and soon Afghanistan. The amount of death and human suffering that will follow in each country mean nothing to the left and the Democratic Party (and, to be fair, to the Libertarian Party as well) -- so long as there is no American involvement.
And the most amazing aspect of all this is that the left and the Democrats are certain that they are the moral and compassionate ones.
But there is one difference this time: In all the previous abandonments of allies, only the benighted allies suffered the consequences. This time, with a victorious al-Qaida in Iraq and Taliban in Afghanistan, we will, too.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Criticizes Obama Administration in His New Book
On January 7, 2014, Time magazine reported the following:
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has harsh words for Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy judgement in his soon-to-be-released memoir [Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War].
According to the New York Times, which obtained an early copy of the memoir, Gates calls Biden “a man of integrity,” but questions his record. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates writes, according to the Times.
Gates, the only high-level holdover from the Bush administration to the President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, reveals he nearly quit his post in September 2009 while Obama reviewed his Afghanistan strategy. According to the Times, Gates writes he was “deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation — from the top down — of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war…I came closer to resigning that day than at any other time in my tenure, though no one knew it.”
Gates was a backer of a substantial troop increase for Afghanistan early in Obama’s first term, while Biden argued for a smaller counter-terrorism mission in the country.
The Washington Post quotes a separate exchange in the book between Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where they discussed their opposition to the 2007 Iraq surge in the context of politics. “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the  surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”
... And Gates recounts how, as the president lost faith in Gen. David Petraeus's handling of hostilities in Afghanistan, he – Gates – lost faith in Obama's commitment to accomplishing much of anything.
'As I sat there,' he recalls, 'I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.'
In a subsequent interview (on January 12, 2014), Gates told CBS News:
"It's one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It's another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed. President [George W.] Bush did that with the troops when I was Secretary. I did not see President Obama do that. As I write in the book, it was this absence of passion, this absence of a conviction of the importance of success that disturbed me."
Al Qaeda Now Controls More Territory than Ever Before
Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama had repeatedly stated that Al Qaeda was "on the run" and was "being decimated" thanks to his anti-terror initiatives. Contrary to this claim, however, CNN reported the following on January 9, 2014:
From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East, according to English and Arab language news accounts as well as accounts on jihadist websites. Indeed, al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.
The focus of al Qaeda's leaders has always been regime change in the Arab world in order to install Taliban-style regimes. Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged as much in his 2001 autobiography, "Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet," when he explained that the most important strategic goal of al Qaeda was to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world, explaining that, "without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing."
Now al-Zawahiri is closer to his goal than he has ever been. On Friday al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq seized control of parts of the city of Falluja and parts of the city of Ramadi, both of which are located in Iraq's restive Anbar Province. ...
The al-Nusra front has claimed to control parts of at least a dozen Syrian towns. Those include sections of the ancient city of the Aleppo in the northwest, where fighters have been filmed running a community fair and preaching al Qaeda's values to crowds of children. The group has also released videos on jihadist websites claiming that it is providing services to the people of several towns in the governorate of Idlib, which borders the Aleppo Governorate to the west. Al Nusra claims that it is a quasi-government and service-provider in the towns of Binnish, Taum, and Saraqib.
Al-Nusra fighters allied to al Qaeda function like a government in areas they control in Syria. The group provides daily deliveries of bread, free running water and electricity, a health clinic, and a strict justice system based on Sharia law in the eastern Syrian city of Ash Shaddadi, where it also took control of the city's wheat silos and oil wells. In September a CNN reporting team concluded, "Al Qaeda has swept to power with the aim of imposing a strict Islamist ideology on Syrians across large swathes of Syria's rebel-held north."
In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory. Al-Nusra is engaged in a protracted fight to maintain a foothold in the eastern city of Dayr al-Zur, where, as in Ash Shaddadi, the militants have their hands on an energy source, this time in the form of natural gas.
Approximately 80,000 Pages of New Federal Regulations Each Year
In January 2014, Senator Mike Lee posted an online photo of the 2013 Federal Register, massive stacks of paper consisting of nearly 80,000 pages of new rules, regulations, and notices all written and passed by unelected bureaucrats. By contrast, the photo also showed a small stack of papers occupying scarcely 2% as much space as the the Federal Register; these were the laws passed by elected members of Congress and signed into law by the president. From 2002 through 2013, the yearly page counts of federal regulations were as follows: 2002: 75,606; 2003: 71,269; 2004: 75,675; 2005: 73,870; 2006: 74,937; 2007: 72,090; 2008: 79,435; 2009: 68,598; 2010: 81,405; 2011: 81,247; 2012: 78,961; 2013: 79,311.
Claims of Discrimination Against Black Schoolchildren
In January 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan issued the first-ever national guidelines for discipline in public schools. These guidelines demanded that schools adhere, as an Associated Press (AP) report put it, "to the principle of fairness and equity in student discipline or face strong action if they don't." "[I]n our investigations," said the administration, "we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students. In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem." Holder, for his part, declared: "A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct." And Duncan stated that "we need to keep students in class where they can learn."
In particular, the Obama administration was troubled by the fact that:
Black students without disabilities were more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended.
Black students comprised more than a third of students suspended once, 44% of those suspended multiple times, and more than a third of those expelled.
Black and Hispanic students were more than half of those involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement.
“Too often, said Holder, "so-called zero-tolerance policies [which mandate uniform and swift punishment for such offenses as truancy, smoking, or carrying a weapon], however well intentioned they might be, make students feel unwelcome in their own schools; they disrupt the learning process. And they can have significant and lasting negative effects on the long-term well-being of our young people, increasing their likelihood of future contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems."
To address this matter, the Obama administration encouraged schools to:
ensure that all school personnel are trained in classroom management, conflict resolution and approaches to de-escalate classroom disruptions;
ensure that school personnel understand that they are responsible for administering routine student discipline instead of security or police officers;
draw clear distinctions about the responsibilities of school security personnel;
provide opportunities for school security officers to develop relationships with students and parents;
establish procedures on how to distinguish between disciplinary infractions appropriately handled by school officials compared with major threats to school safety; and
collect and monitor data that security or police officers take to ensure nondiscrimination.
Obama Pledges to Use Executive Orders if Congress Does Not Advance His Agenda
President Barack Obama put lawmakers on notice during his first official cabinet meeting of the year, telling his top deputies that his 2014 agenda will move forward whether Congress votes for it or not.
On Tuesday morning [January 14], the White House press corps was allowed to film part of a meeting between the president and his cabinet officials. Obama’s opening remarks focused on his desire to pass comprehensive immigration reform and extend unemployment benefits. “Congress is going to be busy,” he said, “and I’m looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans, House members and Senate members, to try to continue to advance the economic recovery, and to provide additional avenues of opportunity for everybody.”
But if Congress balks, Obama promised he’s prepared to go it alone.
“One of the things I’ll be emphasizing in this meeting,” he said, “is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”
“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” the president asserted, “and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”
“And I’ve got a phone,” he continued, “that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life — nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities — to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme, making sure that this is a country where if you work hard, you can make it.”
Since Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, the Obama administration has increasingly ignored Congress and relied on administrative fiat to advance the president’s agenda. In 2012, he appointed three lawyers to the National Labor Relation Board without Senate approval, bypassing Senate confirmation procedures in a move three separate federal judges have declared unconstitutional. And the president has repeatedly delayed or altered vast portions of Obamacare without returning the legislation to Congress, in what many legal scholars view as a usurpation of Congress’ power to make laws.
Developments with Iran
On January 14, 2014, journalist Benny Avni wrote that since the November 24, 2013 nuclear agreement between the U.S. (as well as 5 other countries) and Iran:
"Tehran [had] continued to grow its nuclear program, reportedly introducing a new generation of centrifuges to its facilities in Natanz and Fordow, and vigorously building its Arak heavy-water facility."
"[Iran had] added 1,000 pounds to its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 5 percent, and 66 pounds to its 20 percent stock, getting it thisclose to breakout capacity."
"International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were turned away when they sought to visit the Parchin military base, where the IAEA indicates that Iranians are experimenting with ways to weaponize nukes."
On January 14, 2014, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said:
"Do you know what the Geneva agreement means? It means the surrender of the big powers before the great Iranian nation. The Geneva agreement means the wall of sanctions has broken. The unfair sanctions were imposed on the revered and peace-loving Iranian nation. It means an admission by the world of Iran's peaceful nuclear program."
Also in mid-January 2014, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon suggested that John Kerry's “obsessive” and “messianic” quest to strike a deal with Iran was aimed, ultimately, toward winning a Nobel Peace Prize. “The only thing that can ‘save’ us is for John Kerry to win his Nobel Prize and leave us alone,” Ya’alon said.
On January 22, 2014, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN that the Obama administration was creating a false impression of what Iran had agreed to do. Urging the interviewer to read the actual text of the agreement, Zarif said:
"The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again. If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment.... [W]e are not dismantling any centrifuges, we're not dismantling any equipment, we're simply not producing, not enriching over 5%."
That same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Zarif's assertion that his country's government had no intention of destroying existing centrifuges.
Obama Administration Says Illegal Immigrants Have "Earned the Right to Be Citizens
On January 24, 2014, CNS News reported the following:
Speaking at the United States Conference of Mayors on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the approximately 11 million people who are in the country illegally have “earned the right to be citizens.”
“An earned path to citizenship for those currently present in this country is a matter of, in my view, homeland security to encourage people to come out from the shadows,” said Johnson, in what he remarked was one of his first public speeches since being confirmed as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief in December.
“It is also, frankly, in my judgment, a matter of who we are as Americans,” he said, “to offer the opportunity to those who want to be citizens, who’ve earned the right to be citizens, who are present in this country--many of whom came here as children--to have the opportunity that we all have to try to become American citizens.”
Johnson, who had earlier served as general counsel for the Department of Defense under Obama from 2009 to 2012, told the more than 270 mayors in attendance that enforcing immigration law was one of the main missions of DHS.
“The five core missions of the Department of Homeland Security are guarding against terrorism, securing our borders, enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, safeguarding cyberspace and critical infrastructure in partnership with the private sector, and supporting emergency preparedness and response efforts at every level,” Johnson said.
Then he concluded his remarks by calling for “comprehensive, common sense, immigration reform.”
“Common sense immigration reform is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, businesses, and if the polls (are) to be believed, the majority of the American people,” Johnson said. “Border security is inseparable from homeland security.”
“And border security must and should be part of comprehensive immigration reform – protecting our borders, securing our ports, promoting the lawful flow of trade and travel through our ports to cities and other communities,” he said.
Johnson touted the alleged improvement in border security over the last four years and said comprehensive immigration reform also would increase that security.
“Comprehensive immigration reform would also promote a more effective and efficient system for enforcing our immigration laws, and should include an earned path to citizenship for the approximately 11-and-a-half-million undocumented immigrants present in this country, something like 86% of whom have been here almost 10 years,” Johnson said.
“An earned path to citizenship for those currently present in this country is a matter of, in my view, homeland security to encourage people to come out from the shadows, to be accountable, to participate in the American experience, the American society,” he said.
“It is also, frankly, in my judgment, a matter of who we are as Americans,” said Johnson. “To offer the opportunity to those who want to be citizens, who’ve earned the right to be citizens, who are present in this country – many of whom who came here as children – to have the opportunity that we all have to try to become American citizens.”
Obama Eulogizes Pete Seeger
When folk singer Pete Seeger (a longtime communist) died on January 27, 2014, the official Barack Obama Twitter account released a quote personally attributed to the President, saying that "we will always be grateful" to Seeger for "showing us where we need to go."
Iran Sends Warships Near U.S. Waters
On February 8, 2014, the Associated Press reported the following:
Iranian warships dispatched to the Atlantic Ocean will travel close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time, a senior Iranian naval commander said Saturday.
The commander of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, said the vessels have already entered the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The fleet, consisting of a destroyer and a helicopter-carrying supply ship, began its voyage last month from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. The ships, carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews, are on a three-month mission.
The voyage comes amid an ongoing push by Iran to demonstrate its ability to project power across the Middle East and beyond.
IRNA quoted Haddad as saying the fleet is approaching U.S. maritime borders for the first time. The Islamic Republic considers the move as a response to U.S. naval deployments near its own coastlines. The U.S. Navy's 5th fleet is based in Bahrain, just across the Persian Gulf.
Iranian Supreme Leader Criticizes America's "Controlling and Meddlesome Attitude"
On February 8, 2014, the Jerusalem Postreported the following:
In a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, added that officials seeking to revive the economy should not rely on an eventual lifting of sanctions but rather on home-grown innovation.
"American officials publicly say they do not seek regime change in Iran. That's a lie. They wouldn't hesitate a moment if they could do it," he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
... He added: "Our (hostile) stance toward the United States is due to its controlling and meddlesome attitude."
Obama FCC Seeks to Put Federal Monitors in Newsrooms
On February 10, 2014, Ajit Pai, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal indicating that the FCC was planning to send monitors into television and radio newsrooms to investigate how they make their reporting and editorial decisions. Of special importance to the FCC, said Pai, were the issues of "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations." Wrote Pai:
News organizations often disagree about what Americans need to know. MSNBC, for example, apparently believes that traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., is the crisis of our time. Fox News, on the other hand, chooses to cover the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi more heavily than other networks. The American people, for their part, disagree about what they want to watch.
But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.
Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs," or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.
The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about "the process by which stories are selected" and how often stations cover "critical information needs," along with "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
How does the FCC plan to dig up all that information? First, the agency selected eight categories of "critical information" such as the "environment" and "economic opportunities," that it believes local newscasters should cover. It plans to ask station managers, news directors, journalists, television anchors and on-air reporters to tell the government about their "news philosophy" and how the station ensures that the community gets critical information.
The FCC also wants to wade into office politics. One question for reporters is: "Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?" Follow-up questions ask for specifics about how editorial discretion is exercised, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions.
Participation in the Critical Information Needs study is voluntary—in theory. Unlike the opinion surveys that Americans see on a daily basis and either answer or not, as they wish, the FCC's queries may be hard for the broadcasters to ignore. They would be out of business without an FCC license, which must be renewed every eight years.
This is not the first time the agency has meddled in news coverage. Before Critical Information Needs, there was the FCC's now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, which began in 1949 and required equal time for contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues. Though the Fairness Doctrine ostensibly aimed to increase the diversity of thought on the airwaves, many stations simply chose to ignore controversial topics altogether, rather than air unwanted content that might cause listeners to change the channel.
The Fairness Doctrine was controversial and led to lawsuits throughout the 1960s and '70s that argued it infringed upon the freedom of the press. The FCC finally stopped enforcing the policy in 1987, acknowledging that it did not serve the public interest. In 2011 the agency officially took it off the books. But the demise of the Fairness Doctrine has not deterred proponents of newsroom policing, and the CIN study is a first step down the same dangerous path.
The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.
This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?
Should all stations follow MSNBC's example and cut away from a discussion with a former congresswoman about the National Security Agency's collection of phone records to offer live coverage of Justin Bieber's bond hearing? As a consumer of news, I have an opinion. But my opinion shouldn't matter more than anyone else's merely because I happen to work at the FCC.
Obama Slashes the Size of the Army
In February 2014, it was reported that the Obama administration—in accordance with a $496 billion military spending cap negotiated two months earlier by President Obama and Congress—planned to reduce the number of U.S. Army personnel to between 440,000 and 450,000, the smallest force since 1940 and far below the post-9/11 peak of 570,000. The cuts also included the elimination of the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft. A New York Timesreport noted:
"Pentagon officials acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries."
Russia Negotiates to Use Military Facilities in 8 Countries
At a time of escalated tensions with the West over Ukraine, Russia says it is negotiating with eight governments around the world for access to military facilities, to enable it to extend its long-range naval and strategic bomber capabilities.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday the military was engaged in talks with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.
“We need bases for refueling near the equator, and in other places,” ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.
Russia is not looking to establish bases in those locations, but to reach agreement to use facilities there when required.
The countries are all strategically located – in three leftist-ruled countries close to the U.S.; towards either end of the Mediterranean; in the Indian Ocean south of the Gulf of Aden; and near some of the world’s most important shipping lanes in the Malacca Strait and South China Sea.
Access to the new locations would extend the Russian military’s potential reach well beyond its existing extraterritorial bases, at the Syrian port of Tartus and in former Soviet states – Ukraine’s Sevastopol, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Shoigu said Russia was also beefing up its existing military presence in the post-Soviet region, doubling its troop numbers in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and deploying a regiment of troops to Belarus where it already has fighter aircraft stationed.
“Russia has started reviving its navy and strategic aviation since mid-2000s, seeing them as a tool to project the Russian image abroad and to protect its national interests around the globe,” the RIA Novosti state news agency commented.
“Now, Moscow needs to place such military assets in strategically important regions of the world to make them work effectively toward the goal of expanding Russia’s global influence.”
During his previous tenure at the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin in 2002 shut down a Cold War-era radar base in Cuba and a naval base in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Russia cited financial constraints, but the move was also seen at the time as an attempt to improve relations with Washington.
The listening station near Havana had been a key intelligence facility for decades, while the Vietnamese base, which was built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, was leased to the Soviet Union in 1979 and became the largest Soviet base in the world beyond Moscow’s Warsaw Pact allies.
Upon his return to the presidency in 2012, Putin began exploring options to renew alliances with the communist countries, and Russian Navy chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov said that year Cuba and Vietnam were in the frame.
Russia is now helping Vietnam to upgrade facilities at Cam Ranh Bay, including a submarine training center, and Russia is negotiating for preferential access to refueling and repair facilities there for its ships.
As for the Western hemisphere, Russian Navy ships in 2008 made their first visit since the end of the Cold War, holding joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy in the Caribbean, navigating the Panama Canal, and making a port call in Havana.
Russian Navy vessels visited Cuba again in 2009 and last August – and on Wednesday, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, the Viktor Leonov, docked in Havana harbor with no explanation from the government or state media coverage, the Associated Press reported.
Russian strategic bombers also visited the region in 2008 – for the first time since long-range flights by the aircraft were halted after the Soviet Union’s collapse – and again last fall, when two Tupolev “Blackjacks” carried out combat training patrols between Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Russian defense spending has been climbing sharply in the years since its last military engagement – the invasion of Georgia in August 2008 – and early this year it was reported to have overtaken Britain to become the world’s third biggest spender, behind the U.S. and China.
According to the British consultancy HIS Jane’s, Russia’s defense expenditure has more than doubled since 2007, and will have tripled by 2016.
Obama's Statement on Possible Russian Intervention in Ukraine
February 22, 2014: Protesters take control of presidential administration buildings in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, without resistance. Opposition leaders call for elections on 25 May. Ikrainian President Yanukovych is nowhere to be seen, and reports emerge that he has left for Kharkiv in the north-east part of Ukraine. Parliament votes to remove him from power with elections set for 25 May. Mr Yanukovych appears on TV to insist he was lawfully-elected president, and denounces a "coup d'etat". His arch-rival, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko who in 2011 was sentenced to seven years in jail, is freed and travels from Kharkiv to Kiev.
February 23, 2014: Parliament names speaker Olexander Turchynov as interim president.
February 28, 2014: Unidentified gunmen in combat uniforms appear outside Crimea's main airports, sparking fears of Russian military intervention. At first news conference since fleeing Ukraine, Mr Yanukovych, now in Russia, insists he remains president and says he opposes any military intervention or division of Ukraine.
Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine. Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. Together with our European allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged Ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring.
I also spoke several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we've made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.
However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.
It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions. But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future.
Russian President Putin openly defied Obama's warning and sent troops into the Crimean Peninsula. As the Washington Postreported:
"Within hours, Putin asked the Russian parliament for approval to send forces into Ukraine. The vote endorsing his request was unanimous, Obama’s warning drowned out by lawmakers’ rousing rendition of Russia’s national anthem at the end of the session. Russian troops now control the Crimean Peninsula."
Russia Warns It Could 'Reduce to Zero' Its Economic Dependency on U.S.
Russia could reduce to zero its economic dependency on the United States if Washington agreed to sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, a Kremlin aide said on Tuesday, warning that the American financial system faced a "crash" if this happened.
"We would find a way not just to reduce our dependency on the United States to zero but to emerge from those sanctions with great benefits for ourselves," said Kremlin economic aide Sergei Glazyev.
He told the RIA Novosti news agency Russia could stop using dollars for international transactions and create its own payment system using its "wonderful trade and economic relations with our partners in the East and South."
Russian firms and banks would also not return loans from American financial institutions, he said.
"An attempt to announce sanctions would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system," he added.
He said that economic sanctions imposed by the European Union would be a "catastrophe" for Europe, saying that Russia could halt gas supplies "which would be beneficial for the Americans" and give the Russian economy a useful "impulse".
Economists have long mocked his apocalyptic and confrontational vision of global economics but also expressed concern that he appears to have grown in authority in recent months.
A high ranking Kremlin source told RIA Novosti that Glazyev was speaking in the capacity of an "academic" and his personal opinion did not reflect the official Kremlin policy.
Glazyev descrived the new Ukrainian authorities as "illegitimate and Russophobic", saying some members of the government were on lists of "terrorist organisations, they are criminals".
"If the authorities remain criminal then I think the people of Ukraine will get rid of them soon," he added.
Obama Angry at Senate Rejection of Debo Adegbile Appointment to Justice Department
On March 5, 2014, the Senate voted 52-47 against Debo Adegbile's confirmation as as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Eight Democrats were among those who voted "No." In an angry written statement released after the vote, President Obama said:
"The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant. Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable. He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked. His unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law—including voting rights—could not be more important right now."
Evidence That the White House Knew That Kathleen Sebelius Was Soliciting Funding on Behalf of Enroll America (to promote Obamacare)
In response to the Washington Examiner's June 2013 FOIA request for emails pertaining to Sebelius's fundraising on behalf of Enroll America, HHS's Freedom of Information Act office released 257 pages of heavily redacted emails in late January 2014. According to the Examiner:
"The emails show that White House Office of Public Engagement staffers participated in weekly conference calls with HHS and Enroll America. The emails also show that the agenda of these phone meetings included Sebelius' calls to outside entities, high-level operational planning and more focused outreach with private partners through senior White House aides."
This contradicted White House officials' previous assertions that they had not signed off on calls made by Sebelius to solicit donations for Enroll America, and that they had been only generally aware that Sebelius would be seeking support from outside organizations.
Putin Rebuffs Obama's Condemnation of Military Action in Ukraine
On March 7, 2014, the Reuters news agency reported:
President Vladimir Putin rebuffed a warning from U.S. President Barack Obama over Moscow's military intervention in Crimea, saying on Friday that Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.
After an hour-long telephone call, Putin said in a statement that Moscow and Washington were still far apart on the situation in the former Soviet republic, where he said the new authorities had taken "absolutely illegitimate decisions on the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.
"Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law," Putin said.
Ukraine's border guards said Moscow had poured troops into the southern peninsula where Russian forces have seized control.
Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the border guards' commander, said there were now 30,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea, compared to the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.
Putin denies that the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow's command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.
The most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War -- resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after violent protests in Kiev - escalated on Thursday when Crimea's parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia. The region's government set a referendum for March 16 -- in just nine days' time.
A report issued by investigators inside the Environmental Protection Agency found rampant abuse in employees' use of the agency's government credit cards, warning that officials were ignoring a long list of safeguards designed to avoid the waste of taxpayer dollars.
The EPA's Office of Inspector General found $79,254 in 'prohibited, improper or erroneous' spending in a sample of $152,602 in transactions. And more than 93 per cent of the time the employees used the cards, they 'were not in compliance with EPA policies,' the IG wrote.
'These transactions represented purchases of gym memberships, food [and] hotel space,' according to the report. And many purchases were 'split' among two or more transactions in order to avoid spending more than $3,000 at a time – an amount that should trigger more extensive scrutiny.
Some of the 80 transactions the IG chose to audit represented payments to vendors listed in the categories like 'dance hall,' 'child care' or 'theater and music,' the report explains.
Seven separate cases were identified where EPA employees bought untraceable gift cards with taxpayer funds.
'In one example, 20 American Express gift cards were purchased for $1,588 to provide on-the-spot awards,' the IG reported.
'There was no third-party verification that any awardees received the gift cards.'
Congress has given the EPA $8.2 billion to spend this year, which is $50 million more than the Obama White House asked for.
Three of the 80 transactions the IG reviewed were for 'gym memberships that required pre-payment for services totaling $2,867.'
'Two of those purchases were for family memberships, and not just the EPA employee,' the report explains.
In addition, 35 per cent of the time the employees with the credit cards never verified that the items they bought were received.
Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative anti-tax group in Washington, unearthed the March 4 report on Wednesday.
'An obvious culture of improper spending has developed at the EPA with little to no oversight,' the organization said in a statement. 'Thus in years to come Americans could again find themselves paying for EPA employees' gym memberships, gift cards, and whatever else may strike their fancy.'
ATR president Grover Norquist took it in stride.
'The world is divided in two groups,' Norquist told MailOnline: 'Those who are not surprised that bureaucrats handed credit cards might misuse the opportunity, and those who believe deeply in unicorns.'
Putin Accuses U.S. of Pursuing "Rule of the Gun"
On March 17, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a joint session of parliament: "Our Western partners headed by the United States prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right."
Russian Deputy PM Laughs off Obama Sanctions
On March 17, 2014, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin laughed off sanctions imposed by President Obama on 11 top Russian and Ukranian officials for their role in Russia's recent military invasion of Ukraine. The New York Post reported:
[A]t least two of the targets mocked the president’s effort as ineffective and largely meaningless. Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy Russian prime minister and one of the targets, Tweeted, “Comrade @BarackObama, what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn’t think about it?”
In an earlier message, Rogozin wondered if “some prankster” had gotten hold of the sanctions list issued by the administration.
Sergei Aksenov, the new Crimean prime minister and another target, Tweeted a photo-shopped image of Obama dressed in a Russian military uniform to poke fun at the president.
A third target, Vladislav Surkov, shrugged off the impact. “It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing,” said Surkov, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
No sanctions were imposed on Putin himself.
The targets will have their assets frozen, won’t be able to do businesses with US banks or engage in deals in which currency is converted into dollars, and won’t be able to get visas to travel to the United States.
The administration said that would make it hard to get financing from other foreign entities as well — although officials didn’t provide an estimate of how much in assets was frozen.
“We’re going to stand firm in our unwavering support for Ukraine,” Obama said in a televised statement from the White House.
Not long after the crackdown was announced, Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a “sovereign and independent state.”
Russian markets rallied on word that the sanctions weren’t more broad-based, and Russia reportedly prepared to hit back at US individuals with its own set of penalties.
Away from the conflict in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is quietly seeking a foothold in Latin America, military officials warn.
To the alarm of lawmakers and Pentagon officials, Putin has begun sending navy ships and long-range bombers to the region for the first time in years.
Russia’s defense minister says the country is planning bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and just last week, Putin’s national security team met to discuss increasing military ties in the region.
“They’re on the march,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said at a Senate hearing earlier this month. “They’re working the scenes where we can’t work. And they’re doing a pretty good job.”
Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command said there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel” in Latin America.
“It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence,” Kelly said at the March 13 hearing.
The U.S. military says it has been forced to cut back on its engagement with military and government officials in Latin America due to budget cuts. Kelly said the U.S. military had to cancel more than 200 effective engagement activities and multi-lateral exercises in Latin America last year.
With the American presence waning, officials say rivals such as Russia, China and Iran are quickly filling the void.
Iran has opened up 11 additional embassies and 33 cultural centers in Latin America while supporting the "operational presence" of militant group Lebanese Hezbollah in the region.
“On the military side, I believe they're establishing, if you will, lily pads for future use if they needed to use them,” Kelly said.
China is making a play for Latin America a well, and is now the fastest growing investor in the region, according to experts. Although their activity is mostly economic, they are also increasing military activity through educational exchanges.
The Chinese Navy conducted a goodwill visit in Brazil, Chile and Argentina last year and conducted its first-ever naval exercise with the Argentine Navy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. had to cancel the deployment of its hospital ship USNS Comfort last year.
“Our relationships, our leadership, and our influence in the Western Hemisphere are paying the price,” Kelly said.
Some experts warn against being too alarmist, and say Russia, China and Iran do not have the ability or desire to project military power beyond their borders.
Army War College adjunct professor Gabriel Marcella said Russia's maneuvering is more about posturing than a real threat.
"Latin America is seen as an opportunity to challenge the United States in terms of global presence," he said. "They want to show the flag to assert their presence and say they need to be counted on the world stage."
Other experts said the encroachment of rivals has huge economic implications for the U.S., which has more trade partners in Latin America than in any other region in the world.
“[Russia’s presence] serves to destabilize what has become a more stabilized, middle class continent with an increasing respect for the rule of law. ... Any type of unsettling of that environment will scare off investors,” said Jason Marczak, deputy director at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
“Market economies and democracies are fundamental for trade, for jobs, and for stable investment environments," he said.
Marczak noted the instability in Venezuela, which is facing civil unrest from anti-government protestors.
“In Venezuela, a lot of the money that’s been able to prop up President Chavez and now Maduro has been Chinese money,” Kelly said.
So far, 31 protestors have been killed in clashes with government security forces.
“I see a real degradation in what used to pass as Venezuelan democracy. There's less and less of that now,” Kelly said.
And while Chinese investment in Latin America could have positive aspects for the region, it could also make it more difficult for U.S. official to push labor and environmental safeguards that it argues are building blocks for democracy, Marczak said.
Angel Rabasa, a senior political scientist at RAND, said cuts to the defense budget are going to accelerate a long trend of U.S. neglect and disengagement with Latin America.
According to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), there are 10 countries in Latin America that currently have no U.S. ambassador because they either haven’t been nominated yet or confirmed, a sign that the region is seen as a low priority.
“We will be losing the ability to influence developments in a region that is very important to us because of proximity,” Rabasa said.
Fireworks have been let off over Moscow on President Vladimir Putin’s orders as Russia celebrated the formal annexation of Crimea, in a front to the West.
Mr Putin laughed off the US sanctions that targeted his inner circle, promising the Russian government would “have the back” of those on the list, and even opening a personal account at a sanctioned bank as an act of solidarity.
“Far as I’m aware, it’s an average bank,” Mr. Putin said on Friday of Bank Rossiya, the only institution on the list of sanctions targets released by the US Treasury Department on Thursday. “I don’t have a personal account there, but I’ll open one on Monday.”
The United States announced its intention on Friday of relinquishing its remaining control of the Internet.
In a statement, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration said it wants to relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers [ICAAN].
ICAAN is a kind of cooperative that includes a wide array of companies and people, as well as more than 100 governments. One of the key functions overseen by the U.S. is the assignment of domain names. (Think of .com or .org.)
"The timing is right to start the transition process," Lawrence E. Strickling, the assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, said in a statement. "We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan."
NPR's Steve Henn tells our Newscast unit that the world community has been calling for this handover for a while. But the current revelations over spying by the National Security Agency has led to louder calls.
"The announcement by the Commerce Department Friday that it would relinquish its oversight role of ICANN was widely viewed as a response to that criticism," Steve reports. "Administration officials have said any new governance structure for ICANN should be transparent and free from any hint of government interference."
The Commerce Department adds that it was always the intention of the United States to hand over these responsibilities to the global community.
Kowtowing to global pressure, President Obama has unilaterally decided America should give up its oversight of the Internet's most vital infrastructure.
Specifically, Obama's Commerce Department is making plans to surrender protection of the Internet's domain name system (DNS) and the vital Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to some unknown international bureaucrats — a dangerous abdication of authority that could take place as early as next fall.
These functions are the lifeblood to the free flow of information online — linking easy-to-remember domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
This is why the federal government has so zealously safeguarded its independence. In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton issued a directive to Commerce to maintain "a market-driven policy architecture that will allow the new digital economy to flourish while at the same time protecting citizens' rights and freedoms."
Since 1998 the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) — a nonprofit working under the auspices of the federal government — has performed this oversight role. In addition to helping foster a new era of global competitiveness, this arrangement has afforded citizens access to the American justice system in the event their First Amendment freedoms were violated.
The American people must not allow Obama's recklessness with our Internet freedoms to go unchallenged.
Now Obama wants to forsake these essential protections in the name of global accommodation — potentially giving countries like China, Russia, Cuba or even bodies like the United Nations the ability to impose their own definition of Internet "freedom."
According to Obama ally retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., such a surrender would reflect "the broad diversity of the global Internet community."
Actually, Obama's decision would reflect American appeasement — a betrayal of our own liberties in the name of empowering nations with long traditions of censoring their citizens and imposing government control over their media outlets.
Of course such a policy is eerily consistent with Obama's views on net neutrality as well as his Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) recent efforts to place monitors in U.S. newsrooms — to say nothing of his Justice Department's surveillance of professional journalists.
Holder Says Obama's "Clemency Project 2014" Will Help Drug Offenders Sentenced Under "The Old Regime"
In a video released on April 21, 2014 to announce the Obama administration’s “Clemency Project 2014,” Attorney general Eric Holder criticized drug-crime sentences that had been doled out under “the old regime.” He was referring to the fact that prior to August 2010, when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, crimes involving crack cocaine (committed mostly by black offenders) had been punished much more severely than those involving powder-based cocaine (committed mostly by white offenders). Said Holder:
“In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act reducing unfair disparities in sentences imposed on people for offenses involving different forms of cocaine. But there’s still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime. This is simply not right.”
Obama Refuses to Meet with Survivor of 2009 Fort Hood Massacre Shootings
On April 11, 2014, ABC News reported the following:
As President Obama spoke of old "wounds” at Fort Hood this week, the White House declined a request from a survivor of the 2009 massacre there to meet with Obama for a few minutes so the veteran could explain face-to-face how he believes the government has mistreated and disrespected the victims of that attack.
Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford (ret.) was shot seven times in November 2009 when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13 people. Despite Hasan’s admission that he carried out the attack on behalf of the Taliban and revelations that he had been in contact with high-profile al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, the Department of Defense has refused to classify the shooting as “terrorism,” which the survivors claim in lawsuit against the government has meant they’ve been denied Purple Hearts and combat-related benefits afforded to victims of other terrorist attacks.
“As you may know, the President and high-ranking members of the military promised me, my family and the other Fort Hood terror attack survivors that the federal government would 'make them whole.' After more than four and one-half years, however, the government has yet to make good on this promise,” Lunsford wrote to Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough a day before Obama's visit. “We believe that if the President could hear, first-hand, our plight and our mistreatment at the hands of his bureaucracy, that he would take the steps needed to set things right. Therefore, we ask for ten minutes of his time.”
The White House had announced days before that the President would be coming to Fort Hood this week to honor three people who were killed in another shooting earlier this month – this one carried out by an Army specialist with “mental health issues” who purportedly became enraged after an employee wouldn’t give him a leave of absence form.
“Part of what makes this so painful is that we’ve been here before,” Obama said at Fort Hood Wednesday, standing at a podium behind the boots, rifles and helmets of the three fallen, arranged in the same manner as 13 others in 2009. “This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe.”
Though he spoke of figurative wounds from 2009, Obama did not meet with Lunsford, who suffered actual wounds that day.
“After receiving your letter yesterday, and consulting with the White House Counsel’s office, we forwarded your letter to the Departments of Justice and Defense, who are leading the government’s efforts to ensure the victims of the 2009 shooting receive the justice and benefits they deserve,” McDonough said in a letter to Lunsford dated April 10, a copy of which was provided to ABC News by attorney Reed Rubinstein. “Unfortunately, we were unable to meet your specific request for a meeting with the President yesterday.”
Obama Lauds Al Sharpton and Warns That Voting Rights for Blacks Are in Peril
On April 11, 2014, President Obama spoke at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention in New York and said to Sharpton: “Of course, one thing that has not changed is your commitment to problems of civil rights for everybody and opportunity for all people.”
Focusing also on the issue of Republican proposals to tighten ID requirements for voting in political elections, Obama claimed that such measures would unfairly make it more difficult for millions of Americans to cast their ballots. Said Obama, to thunderous applause: “America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves and others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren. The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today.”
Obama Denounces the Death Penalty and Laments the "Significant Problems" Associated with the Execution of a Particular, Remorseless Black Murderer
On April 20, 2014, a 38-year-old, black Oklahoma man named Clayton Lockett was executed by lethal injection because he had raped and murdered a 19-year-old girl named Stephanie Neiman fifteen years earlier. The injection procedure was botched, however, and it took a full 43 minutes after the drug was administered before Lockett died. A TulsaWorld.com report provided background on the crime that had led to this execution:
Stephanie Neiman ... was dropping off a friend at a Perry [Oklahoma] residence on June 3, 1999, the same evening Clayton Lockett and two accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery there. Neiman fought Lockett when he tried to take the keys to her truck.
The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman didn’t back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police.
The men had also beaten and kidnapped Neiman’s friend along with Bobby Bornt, who lived in the residence, and Bornt’s 9-month-old baby....
Neiman was forced to watch as Lockett’s accomplice, Shawn Mathis, spent 20 minutes digging a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road. Her friends saw Neiman standing in the ditch and heard a single shot.
Lockett returned to the truck because the gun had jammed. He later said he could hear Neiman pleading, “Oh God, please, please” as he fixed the shotgun. The men could be heard “laughing about how tough Stephanie was” before Lockett shot Neiman a second time.
He ordered Mathis to bury her, despite the fact that Mathis informed him Stephanie was still alive.
A few days after Lockett's execution, a foreign reporter raised the issue with Obama and compared America's use of the death penalty to that of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China. After conceding that the death penalty might be appropriate in a very “terrible” crime such as “mass killing” or “the killings of children,” Obama went on to denounce the capital punishment generally:
"The application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, you know, situations in which there were individuals on death row who later on were discovered to have been innocent because of exculpatory evidence. And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied. And this situation in Oklahoma I think just highlights some of the significant problems there.
"So I’ll be discussing with Eric Holder and others, you know — you know, to get me an analysis of what steps have been taken, not just in this particular instance, but more broadly in this area. I think we do have to, as a society, ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions around these issues."
Most Americans are already feeling man-made global warming, from heat waves to wild storms to longer allergy seasons. And it is likely to get worse and more expensive, says a new federal report that is heating up political debate along with the temperature.
Shortly after the report came out Tuesday, President Barack Obama used several television weathermen to make his point about the bad weather news and a need for action to curb carbon pollution before it is too late.
"We want to emphasize to the public, this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama told "Today" show weathercaster Al Roker. "Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak."
Climate change's assorted harms "are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond," the National Climate Assessment concluded, emphasizing the impact of too-wild weather as well as simple warming.
Still, it's not too late to prevent the worst of climate change, says the 840-page report, which the Obama administration is highlighting as it tries to jump-start often-stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases. Said White House science adviser John Holdren: "It's a good-news story about the many opportunities to take cost-effective actions to reduce the damage."
Release of the report, the third edition of a congressionally mandated study, gives Obama an opportunity to ground his campaign against climate change in science and numbers, endeavoring to blunt the arguments of those who question the idea and human contributions to such changes. Later this summer, the administration plans to propose new regulations restricting gases that come from existing coal-fired power plants....
The report says the intensity, frequency and duration of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes have increased since the early 1980s, but it is still uncertain how much of that is from man-made warming. Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity and have shifted northward since the 1950s, it says. Also, heavy downpours are increasing — by 71 percent in the Northeast. Heat waves, such as those in Texas in 2011 and the Midwest in 2012, are projected to intensify nationwide. Droughts in the Southwest are expected to get stronger. Sea level has risen 8 inches since 1880 and is projected to rise between 1 foot and 4 feet by 2100.
Climate data center chief Karl highlighted the increase in downpours. He said last week's drenching, when Pensacola, Florida, got up to two feet of rain in one storm and parts of the East had three inches in one day, is what he's talking about.
The report says "climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways." Those include smoke-filled air from wildfires, smoggy air from pollution, and more diseases from tainted food, water, mosquitoes and ticks. And ragweed pollen season has lengthened.
Flooding alone may cost $325 billion by the year 2100 in one of the worst-case scenarios, with $130 billion of that in Florida, the report says. Already the droughts and heat waves of 2011 and 2012 have added about $10 billion to farm costs, the report says.
The Obama administration appears to have a terrorist “hands off” list that permits individuals with extremist ties to enter the country, according to internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents obtained by a United States Senator....
The disturbing details of this secret initiative were made public this week by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who has obtained DHS electronic mail discussing what could be a terrorist “hands off” list. The exchange includes a 2012 email chain between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking whether to admit an individual with ties to various terrorist groups. The individual had scheduled an upcoming flight into the U.S., according to an announcement issued by the senator.
The person was believed to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a close associate and supporter Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the mail exchange obtained by Grassley’s office. The terrorist suspect had also been in secondary inspection “several dozen times of the past several years,” the agency emails reveal, but had not undergone a secondary inspection since 2010. This seems to imply that the suspect has been on the U.S. government’s radar for some time....
The DHS emails also reveal that this particular terrorism suspect has actually taken legal action against the U.S., presumably because authorities violated the hands off policy. The subject “has sued CBP twice in the past and that he’s one of the several hands off passengers nationwide,” according to the DHS emails obtained by Senator Grassley’s office. The documents go on to say that the terrorist’s records were removed and that the DHS Secretary (at the time Janet Napolitano) was involved in the matter....
[T]he senator has tried for months to get answers from DHS. In February he wrote a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson saying this: “I’m puzzled how someone could be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, be an associate of [redacted], say that the US is staging car bombings in Iraq and that [it] is ok for men to beat their wives, question who was behind the 9/11 attacks, and be afforded the luxury of a visitor visa and de-watchlisted. It doesn’t appear that we’ll be successful with denying him entry tomorrow but maybe we could re-evaluate the matter in the future since the decision to de-watchlist him was made 17 months ago.”
The agency’s response, dated April 10, apparently frustrated the senator enough to make the whole thing public this week. DHS let CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske get back to Grassley. His letter says the agency does not have the authority to ignore information that renders an individual alien inadmissible because CBP does not have the discretionary authority to admit an inadmissible alien. “Accordingly, CBP does not have any list or other mechanism which would render an individual free of the grounds of inadmissibility or from any other inspection requirements, including secondary inspections,” Kerlikowske writes.
He goes on to pass the buck to another agency, the Department of Justice (DOJ). “The Terrorist Watchlist is maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center, which was created by the Attorney General and is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigations,” the CBP commissioner writes. “All questions related to the watchlist should therefore be referred to the Department of Justice for response.” Kerlikowske also offers to provide the senator with a “more detailed briefing on the particular case cited in your letter, in the appropriate setting.” That means nothing will be put in writing so as to avoid any sort of future incrimination in the event the scandal blows wide open.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released 36,007 convicted criminal aliens last year who were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings, according to a report issued Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies.
The group of released criminals includes those convicted of homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault, according to the report, which cites a document prepared by the ICE.
A majority of the releases were not required by law and were discretionary, the organization says.
According to the report, the 36,007 individuals released represented nearly 88,000 convictions, including:
In a statement which accompanied the findings, Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, called the number of criminal aliens released "shocking."
"This information is sure to raise concerns that, despite professions of a focus on removal of criminal aliens, Obama administration policies frequently have allowed political considerations to trump public safety factors and, as a result, aliens with serious criminal convictions have been allowed to return to the streets instead of being removed to their home countries," Vaughan said.
She went on to add that the ICE could use more detention capacity and said the agency should be asked to "track and disclose what additional crimes may have been committed by these individuals after their release."
"Studies have shown that fewer than a quarter of aliens who are released from custody while awaiting the outcome of immigration proceedings will show up for immigration court to finish their case. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice should be asked to disclose how many of these criminal aliens became fugitives after their release from ICE custody," she continued.
The ICE issued a statement in response to the report, saying that most of the individuals described in the report were released under restrictions, such as GPS monitoring, telephone monitoring, supervision or surety bond.
The organizations said that in some cases, the ICE was required by law to release the individuals from custody.
"The releases required by court decisions account for a disproportionate number of the serious crimes listed in the report. For example, mandatory releases account for over 75% of the homicides listed," the statement said. "Others, typically those with less serious offenses, were released as a discretionary matter after career law enforcement officers made a judgment regarding the priority of holding the individual, given ICE's resources, and prioritizing the detention and removal of individuals who pose a risk to public safety or national security."
But, Vaughan said in an email to Crimesider Tuesday that ICE's response is "hardly reassuring." She said the fact that the agency is admitting to having released 25% of the homicide convicts listed by their own choice is "truly alarming."
Columnist Deroy Murdock pointed out:: "These drunk drivers, rapists, and killers are atop the 67,879 criminals whom Obama separately unleashed in 2013, before their deportation proceedings had begun. All told, Obama has sprung 103,886 illegal-alien criminals."
Russia Says It Will Deny U.S. Access to International Space Station
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced Tuesday that Russia has denied a NASA request for continued co-habitation of the International Space Station beyond 2020, citing sanctions on Russia over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as a reason the Russia government wants to distance itself from the US space program.
Reuters reports Rogozin announced that the United States would not be able to use the International Space Station beyond 2020, when the mutual agreement to use it was set to expire, though NASA had requested an extension to 2024. The money used to keep it open would go to "more promising space projects" after 2020, he said.
In addition, Russia would not allow its native rocket engines to launch US military satellites and would close off eleven GPS sites on its territory until further notice. The measures are in response to sanctions from the United States, which Rogozin called "out of place and inappropriate."
While the United States has had access to the International Space Station for years, the only way to enter the station is using Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the Daily Mail notes. This gives Russia full discretion to decide which astronauts can access it.
Rogozin had previously hinted that Russia might use the space program as a way to counter a series of sanctions on it from the United States after Russia annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea. After an initial round of sanctions in April, Rogozin tweeted that America should find another way to reach the International Space station: "I suggest U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS [international space station] with a trampoline."
That outburst came as a response to a sanction directly related to NASA. In April, the American space agency announced that "Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Nasa is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation." Those engagements did not include the International Space Station, however, which NASA was keen on keeping open for longer than the original date set to expire in 2020. That announcement came a month after questions surrounding the tensions between ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine escalated, during which NASA announced that all ties with Russia's space program were "normal."
Deportation policy: Secure Communities needs 'fresh start,' Obama official says
President Barack Obama's review of the nation's deportation policies may result in changes to a contentious program that hands over people booked for local crimes to federal immigration authorities. But such steps are unlikely to satisfy advocates demanding dramatic action to help millions of people living here illegally.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, offering his first public hints at the outcome of the review he's conducting at Obama's behest, said Thursday that the so-called Secure Communities program needs a "fresh start." He suggested it might be revamped to focus on people who actually have been convicted of crimes, not just those arrested or booked....
The program allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to run fingerprints of anyone booked for a local or state crime through a federal database for immigration violations. If there's a match, ICE can ask local police and sheriffs to detain the person, and then decide whether to deport them.
The program, which was started in 2008 under the Bush administration but has been expanded under Obama, has led to complaints that people are being deported for immigration violations without being convicted of any crime, or with only minor offenses. Police and sheriff's officials also complain people are afraid to interact with law enforcement and report crimes because they worry they'll be deported....
Many advocates, who have been holding hunger strikes and rallies to protest record-high deportations on Obama's watch, want Secure Communities eliminated entirely.
"We're skeptical that this is going to be the meaningful change that the community is asking for," said Kamal Essaheb, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. "We don't want any changes around the edges. This is a program that's poisoned trust between police and immigrant communities."
The White House will be “picking up the pace on executive actions,” as Congress focuses its efforts on the newly formed select committee investigating Benghazi, senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer declared Tuesday.
In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Pfeiffer argued that congressional Republicans are not interested in engaging on the economy, instead spending time “obsessively trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act” and “ginning up politically motivated investigations.”
“Given this dynamic, President Obama has only one option — use every ounce of his authority to unilaterally improve economic security,” Pfeiffer said.
“Next week, as congressional Republicans spend their energy on yet another partisan investigation, we'll be picking up the pace on the executive actions to help the economy,” Pfeiffer added.
The White House has dismissed the select committee investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, announced earlier this month by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as redundant and politically motivated. Republicans have argued that the special panel was necessary after the release of a previously undisclosed email from White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes showing involvement in drafting then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's infamous talking points.
The veteran White House aide did not detail exactly how the president would exert his executive authorities in the coming days, although Obama is expected to take at least two major actions on the environment.
On Wednesday, Obama is slated to designate the largest national monument of his presidency in the mountains of New Mexico. And Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy hinted Monday that the president would personally present new carbon emissions limits on coal-fired power plants. The White House has said that announcement would come in early June....
“We have many more executive actions to come, and every day the president has charged us with looking for additional ways to expand opportunity,” Pfeiffer said.
Obama blames Founding Fathers’ ‘structural’ design of Congress for gridlock
At a May 22, 2014 Democratic fundraiser in Chicago, President Obama blamed his inability to move his agenda forward more quickly, on the “disadvantage” of having each state in the Union represented equally in the Senate. Reported The Washington Times:
At a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago Thursday night, Mr. Obama told a small group of wealthy supporters that there are several hurdles to keeping Democrats in control of the Senate and recapturing the House. One of those problems, he said, is the apportionment of two Senate seats to each state regardless of population.
“Obviously, the nature of the Senate means that California has the same number of Senate seats as Wyoming. That puts us at a disadvantage,” Mr. Obama said.
The Founding Fathers decided in the “Great Compromise” in 1787 to apportion House seats based on population and give each state two seats in the Senate regardless of population. The solution was a compromise between large states and small states in a dispute that nearly dissolved the Constitutional Convention.
The president also blamed “demographics” for the inability of the Democratic Party to gain more power in Congress, saying Democrats “tend to congregate a little more densely” in cities such as New York and Chicago. He said it gives Republicans disproportional clout in Congress.
“So there are some structural reasons why, despite the fact that Republican ideas are largely rejected by the public, it’s still hard for us to break through,” Mr. Obama said.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, all but said on Sunday [May 25] that negotiations over the country’s illicit nuclear program are over and that the Islamic Republic’s ideals include destroying America.
“Those [Iranians] who want to promote negotiation and surrender to the oppressors and blame the Islamic Republic as a warmonger in reality commit treason,” Khamenei told a meeting of members of parliament, according to the regime’s Fars News Agency.
Khamenei emphasized that without a combative mindset, the regime cannot reach its higher Islamic role against the “oppressors’ front.”
“The reason for continuation of this battle is not the warmongering of the Islamic Republic. Logic and reason command that for Iran, in order to pass through a region full of pirates, needs to arm itself and must have the capability to defend itself,” he said.
“Today’s world is full of thieves and plunderers of human honor, dignity and morality who are equipped with knowledge, wealth and power, and under the pretense of humanity easily commit crimes and betray human ideals and start wars in different parts of the world.”
In response to a question by a parliamentarian on how long this battle will continue, Khamenei said,“Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist. … This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought. … This requires a difficult and lengthy struggle and need for great strides.”
Khamenei cited the scientific advancement of the country. “The accelerated scientific advancement of the last 12 years cannot stop under any circumstances,” he said, referring to the strides the regime has made toward becoming a nuclear power.
As reported on May 19 on The Daily Caller, Iran has put up new roadblocks to reaching a deal with the P5+1 world powers over its illicit nuclear program. The powers are the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.
Three days of negotiations in the fourth round of Geneva meetings ended recently without concrete results when the Iranian team presented the country’s new “red lines” — diminishing any hope by the Obama administration to claim victory in its approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, according to reports from Iran.
The Obama administration had hoped that with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showing an eagerness to solve the nuclear issue and address the West’s concerns, there would be a possibility for a negotiated solution. An interim agreement penned last November in Geneva was touted as an “historic nuclear deal.”
Under that agreement, Iran, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, limited its enrichment activity to the 5 percent level with a current stockpile of over 10 tons (enough for six nuclear bombs), converted much of its 20 percent enriched stock to harmless oxide, and agreed to allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear plants by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspections were limited to only agreed-upon facilities.
The Iranian delegation last week presented new red lines that could not be crossed, including the expansion of the country’s research and development for its nuclear program, the need of the country to continue enrichment, and the fact that the country’s ballistic missile program — despite U.N. sanctions — is not up for negotiation.
At the same time, IAEA officials met again with their Iranian counterparts last week in Tehran to discuss information on the work on detonators and needed collaboration by the regime to clear outstanding issues on its nuclear program as part of seven transparency steps Iran had agreed to fulfill by May 15, which has yet to take place.
Scores of undocumented immigrants from Central America have been released at Greyhound Lines Inc. bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix over the past several days after they were flown to Arizona from south Texas, officials acknowledged.
Andy Adame, a spokesman for the Border Patrol in Tucson, confirmed that over the weekend federal officials flew about 400 migrants apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to Tucson to be processed. He said the migrants were flown to Arizona because the Border Patrol does not have enough manpower to handle a surge in illegal immigrants in south Texas.
The economy shrank by one percent during the first three months of 2014, according to new report by the Bureau of Economic Affairs.
That’s almost a four-point drop from the last quarter, when the economy grew by 2.6 percent.
The drop highlights President Barack Obama’s economic record, which has produced a very slow recovery from the 2008 crash. The economy grew 2.8 percent in 2012, and 1.9 percent in 2013, which was much slower than during previous post-crash periods....
The estimated inflation rate was 1.3 percent, but that number excludes the cost of energy and food, both of which are drifting upwards. If the rising cost of energy and food were added to the mix, the first-quarter decline would be greater than 1 percent.
The drop-off since the fourth quarter of 2013 was especially sharp in company profits, which support Wall Street’s high prices. First quarter profits were down $213.4 billion, compared to a rise of $47.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Obama Trades 5 Guantanamo Prisoners for the Last American POW from Iraq War
Not everyone is welcoming Bowe Bergdahl home with open arms. Some of the men who served with the Taliban POW believe that he deserted his post. And they say six American soldiers died because of his actions.
Bergdahl's release, brokered with the Taliban in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees [all senior Taliban cammanders], has ignited fury in some corners of the U.S. military community and re-opened old wounds.
"Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him," former Sergeant Matt Vierkant told CNN....
Bergdahl, the last American hostage from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, was released this weekend in a prisoner exchange that saw five Guantanamo terrorism suspects freed....
The men who are said to have died looking for Bergdahl are: Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, 29, and Private First Class Morris Walker, 23, who were killed in an IED explosion on August 18, 2009;Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss, a 27-year-old father of two, who died in a firefight on August 26, 2009; Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, 34, and Private First Class Matthew Michael Martinek, 20, [who] died after a rocket-propelled grenade ambush on September 4, 2009; and Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey, 25, [who] was killed in an IED blast on September 5, 2009.
Michelle Malkin subsequently reported that in fact eight -- not six -- American soldiers were killed in the process of trying to locate and recover Bergdahl.
The five released prisoners were all senior Taliban commanders and were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban government. Before the exchange Saturday, none were deemed eligible for release by the Pentagon.
Muhammad Fazl, 47, served as Taliban deputy defense minister during the U.S. invasion and commanded troops fighting the U.S. forces in northern Afghanistan, according to a 2008 Defense Department document on his case. He was wanted by the United Nations for "possible war crimes, including the murder of thousands of Shiites," the document said. "If released, the detainee would likely rejoin the Taliban," it added.
Khairullah Khairkhwa, according to another 2008 Defense Department document, served as the Taliban government's interior minister and as governor of Herat province, and he was "directly associated" with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader. Khairkhwa also "was associated" with a military training camp run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a notorious Al Qaeda-linked leader later killed by U.S. forces in Iraq. In addition, he was "probably one of the major opium drug lords in western Afghanistan," the document said.
Mullah Norullah Noori, according to a similar 2008 document, was the senior Taliban commander in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif during the 2001 invasion. He was wanted by the U.N. for possible war crimes, including the deaths of thousands of Shiite Muslims, the document said. He was "associated" with Omar and senior Al Qaeda leaders, it said.
Abdul Haq Wasiq, according to a 2008 document on his case, served as deputy minister of intelligence during the Taliban rule and was involved in recruiting other militant groups to fight against the U.S. after the 2001 invasion. He used his office to support Al Qaeda and "arranged for Al Qaeda personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff," it said.
Mohammed Nabi was a "senior Taliban official" with close ties to Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and other groups that fought the U.S. in Afghanistan, according to a 2008 Defense Department document. He was part of a militant cell in Khowst that attacked U.S. troops and facilitated the smuggling of weapons and fighters, the document said.
The Weekly Standard offered the following profiles of the released Taliban:
Mullah Mohammad Fazl (Taliban army chief of staff): Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites.” Fazl “was associated with terrorist groups currently opposing U.S. and Coalition forces including al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), and an Anti-Coalition Militia group known as Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami.” In addition to being one of the Taliban’s most experienced military commanders, Fazl worked closely with a top al Qaeda commander named Abdul Hadi al Iraqi, who headed al Qaeda’s main fighting unit in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 and is currently detained at Guantanamo.
Mullah Norullah Noori (senior Taliban military commander): Like Fazl, Noori is “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.” Beginning in the mid-1990s, Noori “fought alongside al Qaeda as a Taliban military general, against the Northern alliance.” He continued to work closely with al Qaeda in the years that followed.
Abdul Haq Wasiq (Taliban deputy minister of intelligence): Wasiq arranged for al Qaeda members to provide crucial intelligence training prior to 9/11. The training was headed by Hamza Zubayr, an al Qaeda instructor who was killed during the same September 2002 raid that netted Ramzi Binalshibh, the point man for the 9/11 operation. Wasiq “was central to the Taliban's efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against U.S. and Coalition forces after the 11 September 2001 attacks,” according to a leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment.
Khairullah Khairkhwa (Taliban governor of the Herat province and former interior minister): Khairkhwa was the governor of Afghanistan’s westernmost province prior to 9/11. In that capacity, he executed sensitive missions for Mullah Omar, including helping to broker a secret deal with the Iranians. For much of the pre-9/11 period, Iran and the Taliban were bitter foes. But a Taliban delegation that included Kharikhwa helped secure Iran’s support for the Taliban’s efforts against the American-led coalition in late 2001. JTF-GTMO found that Khairkhwa was likely a major drug trafficker and deeply in bed with al Qaeda. He allegedly oversaw one of Osama bin Laden’s training facilities in Herat.
Mohammed Nabi (senior Taliban figure and security official): Nabi “was a senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles.” Nabi “had strong operational ties to Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) groups including al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), some of whom remain active in ACM activities.” Intelligence cited in the JTF-GTMO files indicates that Nabi held weekly meetings with al Qaeda operatives to coordinate attacks against U.S.-led forces.
In an email to his father just days before he deserted the U.S. military in 2009, Bowe Bergdahl wrote: “I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid.” He thundered: “I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.” His father replied: “OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!” (Emphasis in original.)
On May 28, 2014, Bergdahl’s father, Robert, tweeted the following: "I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen!" [sic]
On May 31, 2014, Robert Bergdahl and his wife joined President Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House to speak to reporters about the release of their son. In the course of his remarks, Mr. Bergdahl recited the most frequent phrase in the Koran — “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” —which means “In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Compassionate.” A moment later, he finished his statement and Obama hugged him.
Barack Obama broke a federal law that he signed just six months ago when he authorized the release of five high-ranking Taliban terror targets from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in exchange for the return of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, senior congressional Republicans claimed today.
And the president may also have written a new chapter in the case for his own impeachment, according to a former federal prosecutor who helped bring the 1993 World Trade Center bombers to justice.
'The return of senior terrorists to the Taliban [is] ... a "high crime and misdemeanor",' author Andrew C. McCarthy told MailOnline.
Obama 'clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress thirty days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated,' House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon of California and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. JIm Inhofe of Oklahoma said Saturday....
The law Obama is accused of breaking, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013, requires Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to 'notify the appropriate committees of Congress ... not later than 30 days before the transfer or release' of detainees from Guantanamo. Hagel is required to explain why prisoners are being let go, why it's 'in the national security interests of the United States,' and what the administration has done 'to mitigate the risks' that the terror targets will 're-engage' in war against the U.S.
Obama signed the lengthy law in December – it sets budgets and policy for the entire Defense Department – but issued a statement saying that he thought the notification requirement was unfair.
'[I]n certain circumstances,,' he wrote, it 'would violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.'
According to Andrew C. McCarthy, transferring the five high-value prisoners to Qatar, as Obama authorized, "violates the law against material support to terrorism. And because high crimes and misdemeanors are not statutory offenses but political wrongs that endanger the United States, the return of senior terrorists to the Taliban while we still have soldiers in harm’s way is, in my view, a 'high crime and misdemeanor'."
President Obama's June 2, 2014 claim that the U.S. would "be keeping eyes" on the five freed Taliban leaders, was immediately challenged by a senior Gulf official who said that they would in fact be permitted to "move around freely" and then be allowed to travel outside Qatar after a year -- and even "go back to Afghanistan if they want to." The official further contradicted Obama's claim that U.S. officials would be involved in monitoring their movements.
"U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a 'mujahid,' or warrior for Islam, according to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News....These real-time dispatches were generated by the Eclipse Group, a shadowy private firm of former intelligence officers and operatives that has subcontracted with the Defense Department and prominent corporations to deliver granular intelligence on terrorist activities and other security-related topics, often from challenging environments in far-flung corners of the globe."
"Bergdahl has converted to Islam and now describes himself as a mujahid. Bergdahl enjoys a modicum of freedom, and engages in target practice with the local mujahedeen, firing AK47s. Bergdahl is even allowed to carry a loaded gun on occasion. Bergdahl plays soccer with his guards and bounds around the pitch like a mad man. He appears to be well and happy, and has a noticeable habit of laughing frequently and saying 'Salaam' repeatedly."
At a June 5, 2014 press conference, President Obama was asked about the backlash over the Bergdahl deal. He replied: "I'm never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington."
On June 6, 2014, NBC News reported: "One of the five Taliban leaders freed from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release has pledged to return to fight Americans in Afghanistan, according to a fellow militant and a relative. 'After arriving in Qatar, Noorullah Noori kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there,' a Taliban commander told NBC News via telephone from Afghanistan."
In an August 21, 2014 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that President Obama had violated a “clear and unambiguous” law by releasing the 5 detainees in exchange for Bergdahl. “[The Department of Defense] violated section 8111 because it did not notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the transfer,” said the report. “In addition, because DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act. The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in an appropriation.”
Rejecting the Obama administration's suggestion that the law wa unconstitutional, the GAO report said: “It is not our role or our practice to determine the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes. In our view, where legislation has been passed by Congress and signed by the President, thereby satisfying the bicameralism and presentment requirements in the Constitution, that legislation is entitled to a heavy presumption in favor of constitutionality.”
On September 21, 2014, the New York Postreported the following about Bergdahl:
Before slipping away, Bergdahl shipped much of his gear, including a personal computer, back home to Idaho. In e-mails to his parents, excerpted in Rolling Stone, he complained he was “ashamed to even be American” and was “sorry for everything here,” adding: “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”
When he left his outpost near the Pakistan border, he left behind his body armor and weapon and only took with him water and a backpack with a camera, notebook and writing materials — bizarre, given the hostile territory around his post.
He left a farewell note in which he stated he was deserting and explained his disillusionment with the war, according to The New York Times; other reports say he sought to renounce his American citizenship. Within 24 hours, the Taliban confirmed they had picked him up, whereupon he expressed his displeasure with his countrymen and “wanted to accept Islam,” two Afghans who were Taliban commanders at the time told NBC News.
Bergdahl converted to Islam during his captivity and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, according to secret military documents obtained by Fox News.
Soon after his rendezvous with the Taliban, the improvised explosive devices the enemy used to attack US convoys became more accurate and lethal. “IEDs started going off directly under the trucks; they were getting perfect hits every time,” Beutow recalled, suggesting Bergdahl shared military intelligence with his captors.
The Pentagon never classified Bergdahl a POW during his five years in captivity.
Taliban Vows More Kidnappings, in Wake of Taliban Prisoner Transfer
A Taliban commander close to the negotiations over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told TIME Thursday that the deal made to secure Bergdahl’s release has made it more appealing for fighters to capture American soldiers and other high-value targets.
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”
The commander has been known to TIME for several years and has consistently supplied reliable information about Bergdahl’s captivity.
Report from Pentagon Sources: Obama ignored chances to rescue Bergdahl on the ground because he wanted a terror trade to help close down Guantanamo Bay
The Obama administration passed up multiple opportunities to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl because the president was dead-set on finding a reason to begin emptying Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a Pentagon official. 'JSOC went to the White House with several specific rescue-op scenarios,' the official with knowledge of interagency negotiations underway since at least November 2013 told MailOnline, referring to the Joint Special Operations Command. 'But no one ever got traction.' 'What we learned along the way was that the president wanted a diplomatic scenario that would establish a precedent for repatriating detainees from Gitmo,' he said.
The official said a State Department liaison described the lay of the land to him in February, shortly after the Taliban sent the U.S. government a month-old video of Bergdahl in January, looking sickly and haggard, in an effort to create a sense of urgency about his health and effect a quick prisoner trade.
'He basically told me that no matter what JSOC put on the table, it was never going to fly because the president isn't going to leave office with Gitmo intact, and this was the best opportunity to see that through.'
While military commanders wavered on the value of rescue plans, a second Pentagon source said Wednesday, they were advised by their chain of command that the White House was pushing hard for a prisoner swap, over the objections of the intelligence community.
That official told MailOnline that at least two separate intelligence agencies cautioned against taking the January video at face value.
The Daily Beast reported Monday, however, that the White House moved the process along too fast to permit a formal intelligence assessment of the impact of allowing what some on Capitol Hill are now calling the Taliban's 'dream team' to return to the Middle East.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News on Wednesday that the Obama administration 'bypassed the intelligence community' to make the deal, adding that 'I believe he bypassed Congress because this was done for political reasons. There was no policy justification for this.' The result, according to multiple published reports, was an environment in which the White House could insist on moving forward quickly on the basis that a soldier's health was at immediate risk – using that justification also to explain its failure to keep Congress informed.
The White House has yet to explain why the deterioration of Bergdahl's health, seen in a video in January, was sufficient reason to steamroll a decision that ended up taking four months to execute.
In a video distributed Wednesday morning by the Taliban, Bergdahl appeared to be strong and in good health as he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces on Saturday.
Obama Announces Emissions Cap on Power Plants; Sidesteps Congress Which Failed to Pass Cap & Trade
The Obama administration took aim at the coal industry on Monday by mandating a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions at fossil fuel-burning power plants by 2030 -- despite claims the regulation will cost nearly a quarter-million jobs a year and force plants across the country to close.
The controversial regulation is one of the most sweeping efforts to tackle global warming by this or any other administration.
The 645-page rule, expected to be final next year, is a centerpiece of President Obama's climate change agenda, and a step that the administration hopes will get other countries to act when negotiations on a new international treaty resume next year.
While the plan drew praise from environmental groups, the coal industry was immediately suspect.
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said he's "certain that it will be very bad news for states like Kentucky who mine and use coal to create electricity."
The draft regulation sidesteps Congress, where Obama's Democratic allies have failed to pass a so-called "cap-and-trade" plan to limit such emissions.
Under the plan, states could have until 2017 to submit a plan to cut power plant pollution, and 2018 if they join with other states to tackle the problem, according to the EPA's proposal.
States are expected to be allowed to require power plants to make changes such as switching from coal to natural gas or enact other programs to reduce demand for electricity and produce more energy from renewable sources.
They also can set up pollution-trading markets as some states already have done to offer more flexibility in how plants cut emissions.
If a state refuses to create a plan, the EPA can make its own.
Without waiting to see what Obama proposes, governors in Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have already signed laws directing their environmental agencies to develop their own carbon-emission plans. Similar measures recently passed in Missouri and are pending in the Louisiana and Ohio legislatures.
On Saturday, Obama tried to bolster public support for the new rule by arguing that carbon-dioxide emissions are a national health crisis -- beyond hurting the economy and causing global warming.
“We don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children,” Obama said in his weekly address. “As president and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
The rule attempts to reduce greenhouse gases that Obama and supporters blame for global warming.
Among the plants that have to comply will be hundreds of coal-burning plants, which has resulted in strong opposition from the energy industry, big business and congressional Democrats and Republicans, who argue Obama’s green-energy agenda is tantamount to a “War on Coal.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues that the rule will kill jobs and close power plants across the country.
The group is releasing a study that finds the rule will result in the loss of 224,000 jobs every year through 2030 and impose $50 billion in annual costs.
Both sides of the argument appear to agree that the rule change will increase electricity prices, considering the United States relies on coal for 40 percent of its electricity. However, the plants also are the country’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Many of the Democrats who are raising concerns represent coal-producing states and face tough 2014 reelection bids.
Journalist Arnold Ahlert discussed the implications of this move:
On Monday, the Obama administration announced the first-of-their-kind national limits on carbon emissions from the nation’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The proposed regulation, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will demand a 30 percent cut in emissions by 2030.
At a Feb. 11, 2014 hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations related to the status of clean coal programs, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) spelled out the real-world consequences of such a plan, explaining that Americans could expect an increase in electricity costs ranging from 40 percent at a coal gasification facility, to as much as 80 percent at a pulverized coal power plant, according to the Department of Energy’s own documentation. The reliably leftist New York Times illuminates the implications, noting that the regulations could lead to the closing of “hundreds” of such facilities.
Unsurprisingly, the effort completely bypasses Congress, undoubtedly because it would be as DOA as it was when the Democratically-controlled legislative branch failed to pass such cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. Thus our constitutionally-comtemptuous president has rendered members of Congress superfluous, even as the EPA becomes their de facto replacement.
The administration offers a degree of flexibility in achieving these goals. They include allowing states to reduce emissions by installing solar, wind or other energy-efficiency technology, and by creating or joining cap-and-trade programs at the state or regional level that allow such entities to cap emissions, and then buy and sell permits that allow plants to continue to emit greenhouse gases—as long as they pay a suitable fee for doing so. That fee that will inevitably be passed down to consumers. Yet in keeping with the administration’s imperialist impulses, if such state- or regionally-imposed rules do not satisfy the EPA’s guidelines the agency will act unilaterally to force such entities into compliance.
Those affected are planning to sue. “Clearly, it is designed to materially damage the ability of conventional energy sources to provide reliable and affordable power, which in turn can inflict serious damage on everything from household budgets to industrial jobs,” said Scott Segal, a lawyer with Bracewell & Giuliani, a firm representing coal companies in anticipated litigation. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt also plans to challenge the regulations in court. “The Clean Air Act clearly sets out a role for EPA to suggest guidelines, while granting states authority to develop and implement specific proposals to achieve the goals of the Clean Air Act,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Should the EPA’s proposed regulation force states to adopt a ‘cap and trade’ scheme or any other specific proposal, it would violate the law and likely be challenged in court.”
Such challenges, as well as litigation anticipated by other industry groups and other states such as West Virginia, North Dakota, Alaska and Texas revolve around the EPA’s use of a little-used section of the Clean Air Act to create its new regulations. The implementation of section 111 (d) of the Act is necessitated by the reality that carbon dioxide isn’t regulated under major Clean Air Act programs that address air pollutants. The EPA claims it has used that section to previously regulate five sources of air pollutants, but none of those approach the magnitude of their attempt to regulate carbon dioxide.
As the Wall Street Journal explains, the relatively rare instances in which section 111 (d) has been invoked, creates the “unusual circumstance in which potential challengers to the carbon rules would be litigating largely on a blank slate against the EPA,” thus testing “how far a president can go in using the long-standing air-pollution law to try to address climate change.” The paper further notes that such a blank slate accrues to the EPA’s advantage, because courts generally give deference to administrative agencies, provided they are not imposing regulations in an “arbitrary and capricious manner.”
Moreover, the courts have an already-established track record of siding with the EPA. Recent decisions include the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that allowed the EPA to curb power-plant emissions blowing across state lines, while appeals courts have upheld the right of the EPA to regulate mercury emissions from power plants, rules on auto emissions, and the agency’s 2009 contention that CO2 and other greenhouse gases posed a threat to public health. Washington environmental lawyer Sean Donahue spelled out the implications. “There’s more room to make legal arguments because the courts haven’t specified what the statute means and doesn’t mean, but it also leaves more room for the agency’s judgment,” he explained.
It is a judgement completely aligned with global warming alarmism, irrespective of two realities. First, even if one buys the notion of global warming, the key word is “global.” According to the International Energy Agency, by 2012 the United States had cut CO2 emissions more than any nation on earth since 2006, due in large part to the already occurring shift from coal to gas in the nation’s power sector. The world’s leading polluter is now China, which emitted 9.0 billion tons in 2012, compared to only 5.3 billion metric tons released by the U.S. By 2020 that total is expected to top 11.5 billion metric tons, while we remain flat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Moreover, China and India will be constructing three-quarters of the 1,200 coal-fired plants being proposed globally, according to the World Resources Institute in Washington. As Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program explained to Bloomberg News, even if America reduced its carbon emissions to zero, “global emissions would continue to increase. So, the direct impacts of the new power plant rules on atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations will be small.”
The reasons for the increases are blindingly obvious: underdeveloped nations wish to raise their standard of living, and no amount of hectoring by the nation with one of the highest standards of living on the planet is likely to alter those ambitions in any substantial way. Nonetheless the administration remains tethered to the notion that cutting emissions will give American climate change negotiators a stronger hand at the United Nations General Assembly next fall, when governments engage in the attempt to hammer out a worldwide treaty by 2015. “I fully expect action by the United States to spur others in taking concrete action,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.
In the meantime, such “concrete action” by the United States will do serious damage to an already damaged economy. “The administration has set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs,” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said in the GOP weekly address Saturday. “If it succeeds in death by regulation, we’ll all be paying a lot more money for electricity — if we can get it.” The Chamber of Commerce contends the new regulations will cost the economy $50 billion per year, and the loss of 3.5 million jobs over 15 years, while the National Center for Public Policy Research asserts that they will “disproportionately hurt lower income people and minorities.”
... As always, progressives ignore real world evidence that doesn’t accrue to their agenda. In Spain 2.2 jobs were destroyed for every green job created. In Italy, the capital needed to create one green job could create five in the general economy. In Denmark, the commitment to wind power generated the highest electricity rates in the EU. And in Germany, the green energy job creation myth is currently collapsing, as seven-out-of-ten green jobs will be lost without continuing government subsidies. Oliver Krischer, deputy leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, acknowledged inconvenient reality. “A few years ago the renewable sector was the job miracle in Germany, now nothing is left of all of that,” he conceded.
Nothing is a relative term, and the real agenda here may be a familiar one: the Obama administration’s desire to have government determine the nation’s “winners” and “losers” by executive fiat. “Given the facts, we must consider the possibility that this is not about global warming at all but is instead simply another tax, and a relatively large one, that will be used to underwrite favors for Democratic interest groups while creating corporate subsidies for politically connected businesses — namely, those liberal financiers who have large financial positions in so-called clean-energy technologies and stand to make a hefty profit from government mandates for renewables,” writes the editors of the National Review. “Come for the feel-good greenwashing, stay for the corporate welfare.”
Russian Bombers Fly within 50 Miles of Californis Coast
Four Russian strategic bombers triggered U.S. air defense systems while conducting practice bombing runs near Alaska this week, with two of the Tu-95 Bear H aircraft coming within 50 miles of the California coast, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) confirmed Wednesday.
“The last time we saw anything similar was two years ago on the Fourth of July,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Norad spokesman, told the Free Beacon.
Davis said the latest Bear H incursions began Monday around 4:30 p.m. Pacific time when radar detected the four turbo-prop powered bombers approaching the U.S. air defense zone near the far western Aleutian Islands.
Two U.S. Air Force F-22 jets were scrambled and intercepted the bombers over the Aleutians.
After tracking the bombers as they flew eastward, two of the four Bears turned around and headed west toward the Russian Far East. The bombers are believed to be based at the Russian strategic base near Anadyr, Russia.
The remaining two nuclear-capable bombers then flew southeast and around 9:30 P.M. entered the U.S. northern air defense zone off the coast of Northern California.
Two U.S. F-15 jets were deployed and intercepted the bombers as they eventually flew within 50 miles of the coast before turning around and heading west.
A defense official said the four bombers also were supported by two IL-78 aerial refueling tankers that were used for mid-air refueling during the operation this week.
The Tu-95 is a long-range strike aircraft capable of carrying nuclear cruise missiles. Other versions are equipped with intelligence-gathering sensors and electronic warfare gear. It has a range of around 9,400 miles without refueling.
Davis said the aircraft “acted professionally” and the bombers appeared to be conducting a training mission.
“They typically do long range aviation training in the summer and it is not unusual for them to be more active during this time,” he said. “We assess this was part of training. And they did not enter territorial airspace.”
The bomber incursion is the latest Russian nuclear saber-rattling amid stepped up tensions over Moscow’s military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, called the Russian flights “intentional provocations.”
“Putin is doing this specifically to try to taunt the U.S. and exercise, at least in the reported world, some sort of saber-rattling, muscle-flexing kind of nonsense,” Conaway said in an interview. “Truth of the matter is we would have squashed either one of those [bombers] like baby seals.”
“It’s a provocation and it’s unnecessary. But it fits in with [Putin’s] macho kind of saber-rattling,” he said, adding that he expects Russia will carry out more of these kinds of incidents in the future.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former Alaska commander for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said he does not remember a case of Russian strategic bombers coming that close to the U.S. coast.
“Again we see the Obama administration through their covert—but overt to Mr. Putin—unilateral disarmament, inviting adventurism by the Russians,” McInerney said in an email.
“At the height of the Cold War I do not remember them getting this close. Mr. Putin had to approve this mission and he is just showing his personal contempt for President Obama right after meeting him in Normandy less than a week ago,” McInerney said.
McInerney said no American president has been treated with such disrespect in U.S. history.
“A sad day indeed and at the same time Mosul and Tikrit [Iraq] fall to radical Islamists after the Obama administration’s failed Iraq policy,” he added. “He snatched defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.”
The Alaska-California bombers flight also came a month after a Russian Su-27 interceptor jet flew dangerously close to a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan.
In that incident on April 23, the Su-27 jet flew close to the RC-135, turned to reveal its air-to-air missiles to the crew, and then flew dangerously close to within 100 feet of the cockpit in a maneuver military officials called reckless.
Davis said in the past 10 years, 50 Bear H bombers were intercepted near U.S. air defense zone, although he acknowledged that Monday’s flight near California was unusual.
In April, a telephone conversation between two Russian ambassadors was posted on YouTube and appeared to show the diplomats joking about the Ukraine crisis and discussing the possible incursions in the United States and Eastern Europe.
The leaked conversation between Igor Nilokaevich Chubarov and Sergey Viktorovich Bakharev, Russian ambassadors to the African nations Eritrea and Zimbabwe and Malawi, respectively, includes references to post-Crimea Russian imperialism to include Eastern Europe and “Californialand” and “Miamiland.”
Russian Bear H flights elsewhere have increased in recent years.
In February 2013, two of the bombers were intercepted as they circled the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, in a rare long-range incursion.
Two Bear Hs also were intercepted near Alaska on April 28, 2013.
A Russian Bear H incursion in Asia took place in in July 2013 when two Tu-95s were intercepted by Japanese and South Korean jets near the Korean peninsula and Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island.
The July 4, 2012, bomber flights near the West Coast were the first time since the Cold War that Russian jets has traveled so close to the U.S. coastline.
That action followed an earlier intrusion by Tu-95s near Alaska that were part of large-scale strategic nuclear exercises by the Russians aimed at practicing strikes on enemy air defenses.
Russia has stepped up provocative nuclear war games in recent years as part of propaganda efforts to display Moscow’s dislike of U.S. missile defenses in Europe.
Insurgents in Iraq Seize Key Cities, Advance Toward Baghdad
Insurgents inspired by al-Qaeda rapidly pressed toward Baghdad on Wednesday, confronting little resistance from Iraq’s collapsing security forces and expanding an arc of control that now includes a wide swath of the country.
By nightfall, the militants had reached the flash-point city of Samarra, just 70 miles outside Baghdad, after having first seized Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, and other cities while pressing southward from Mosul.
The stunning speed with which the rout has unfolded in northern Iraq has raised deep doubts about the capacity of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, and it has also kindled fears about the government’s grip on the capital.
In a country already fraught with sectarian tension, with parts of western Iraq already in Sunni militant hands, the latest gains by insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria prompted cries of alarm from leaders of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority.
It appeared that the militants were facing more robust resistance as they moved south, where Iraq’s Shiites have a stronger presence. But several experts said it would be wrong to assume that heavily fortified Baghdad, with its large Shiite population and concentration of elite forces, could easily fend off an ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams] attack.
On Thursday, the militant group vowed to march on to Baghdad . A spokesman for the Islamic State of Iran and the Levant says the group has old scores to settle with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.
The spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, also threatened that ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] fighters will take the southern Iraqi Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, which hold two of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims. The statement, which could not be independently verified, came in an audio posting Thursday on militant Web sites commonly used by the group, the AP said....
The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, insisted for a second straight day that security forces were capable of reversing the militants’ gains. In a televised address to the nation, he pledged that Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, which fell to insurgents early Tuesday, would soon be back in government hands.
“This is just the latest round of fighting against ISIS, and it won’t be the last,” he said.
In Washington, the State Department said the United States is “expediting” the delivery of critical weaponry to the Maliki government but gave few details. “You can expect that we will provide additional assistance to the Iraqi government to combat the threat,” said Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman.
Among those caught up in the fighting were dozens of Turkish citizens, including some diplomats, who were detained by militants during attacks in Mosul that included a strike on the Turkish Consulate there.
The conflict in the city, which began Monday evening, has sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing, many to the safety of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Civilians fleeing Mosul gave insight into why ISIS has been able to gain such a strong foothold in the Sunni-majority city, where anti-government sentiment is high....
At a checkpoint seven miles outside Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, a 33-year-old soldier who gave his name as Abu Sultan unzipped a bag to show his uniform, which he said he was not sure he would wear again, after nine years in the military.
He said that when his base south of Mosul came under fire Monday night, officers ordered the men to “leave everything and run away.”
“The leadership collapsed,” he said. “We left in our military vehicles, just with our AK-47s and handguns.”
Speaking at a news conference, Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, said army commanders had given assurances about their capabilities “only an hour before they got on a plane, leaving their weapons and fleeing.”
“This caused a total collapse of the security in the city of Mosul,” he said.
Oil companies said that so far the fighting had not affected Iraq’s 3.3 million barrels a day of oil production. To the south are the biggest oil fields — where Exxon Mobil, BP, the Chinese National Petroleum Corp. and others are working to boost production to pre-Hussein-era levels.
Other oil fields are located in the Kurdish-controlled area slightly east and north of the route the militants are taking toward Baghdad.
... It was not supposed to be this way. Back in 2008, U.S. counter-insurgency commanders touted the Iraqi city of Mosul, 200 miles northwest of Baghdad, as a model success in the American “troop surge” that helped contain the Sunni-Shia civil war. But today Mosul became the de facto capital of a jihadist newcomer that is not only crumbling the authority of the Iraqi government but also overshadowing al Qaeda.
The siege of Mosul by ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams], who overran the northern city on Tuesday after Iraqi forces fled posts and government buildings, also amounts to a severe blow to the government of Nouri al-Maliki. The Iraqi government has floundered in its efforts to stop the country from sliding back into a vicious spiral of bloodshed that claimed more than 8,800 lives last year alone.
Following the loss of his country’s second-largest city, the hard-pressed Iraqi prime minister is now turning to the U.S. for more assistance, reportedly asking the Obama administration for missiles and artillery—although he has not asked for a return of U.S. troops, a request unlikely to be viewed favorably either in Washington, D.C., or by Maliki’s Shia Muslim supporters.
Sheik Jassim told The Daily Beast: “The situation on the ground has been deteriorating for the last seven months, but in the last couple of days it has significantly gotten worse.” He added, “We in Anbar want U.S. air and military support because what happened in Mosul could happen in Anbar and we want to prevent it.”
The U.S. has yet to respond to a request from Iraq made last month to mount air attacks against militant training camps in western Iraq, according to two American officials who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. One of the officials said President Barack Obama is reluctant to revisit a war that he opposed and has repeatedly declared over.
Contrast to Obama's 2011 declaration that Iraq was a "sovereign, stable and self-reliant" state
When Obama had withdrawn the last U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, he called it a "moment of success" and announced that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.”
"[G]unmen are seen carrying out indiscriminate drive-by shootings on motorists and pedestrians. Armed with a machine-gun, the gang film themselves shooting cars off the road then move in to video close-ups of the victims' blood-stained bodies slumped in the seats. In another clip, they gun down a pedestrian....
"BBC correspondent Paul Wood said one woman from Mosul, Iraq’s second city, had spoken of seeing a ‘row of decapitated soldiers and policemen’. The refugee woman told how the victims’ heads were placed in rows – a trademark, trophy-style execution favoured by ISIS militants."
Obama Parties and Fundraises While Americans in Iraq Face Great Danger
Around June 13, 2014, some 600 Americans who were trapped at Balad Air Force base amid the chaos in Iraq made it to safety. Their escape occurred under heavy fire and with no support from the U.S. military. They had been trying desperately for about a week to escape. As journalist Daniel Greenfield wrote: "they came out of there under heavy fire and with no support from the U.S., while Obama partied and fundraised and golfed at Palm Beach."
How Obama SET FREE the merciless terrorist warlord now leading the ISIS horde blazing a trail of destruction through Iraq
The United States once had Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in custody at a detention facility in Iraq, but president Barack Obama let him go, it was revealed on Friday.
Al Baghdadi was among the prisoners released in 2009 from the U.S.'s now-closed Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq.
But now five years later he is leading the army of ruthless extremists bearing down on Baghdad who want to turn the country into an Islamist state by blazing a bloody trail through towns and cities, executing Iraqi soldiers, beheading police officers and gunning down innocent civilians.
It is unclear why the U.S. let the merciless al Qaeda leader slip away, however, one theory proposed by The Telegraph is that al Baghadadi was granted amnesty along with thousands of other detainees because the U.S. was preparing to pull out of Iraq.
The United States began withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2010, and Camp Bucca closed in 2011 along with the United States' other military facilities as President Obama declared that the War in Iraq had come to an end.
Who Lost Iraq?
On June 13, 2014, journalist Arnold Ahlert published thid analysis of how President Obamalost the Iraq War:
Iraq’s disintegration may be imminent, as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears incapable of stopping the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The terrorist offshoot of al Qaeda now has its sights set on the capital city of Baghdad. Adding to the chaos, the city of Kirkuk was overtaken by Kurdish soldiers absent any resistance by government forces. After having ignored the prescient warnings of Iraq’s fragility post-U.S. abandonment, the Obama administration and Democratic Party’s determination to end America’s involvement in Iraq irrespective of events on the ground is rapidly approaching its inevitable—and disastrous—conclusion.
Those events on the ground are changing dramatically and quickly. On Tuesday, after only five days of resistance, the city of Mosul fell into terrorist hands as ISIS seized government buildings, the airport, and large quantities of U.S.-supplied weaponry, when Iraqi security forces and police reportedly abandoned their posts and joined the 500,000 refugees fleeing the city of 1.8 million residents. ISIS fighters also freed up to 2,400 prisoners from jails in the northern Nineveh province, reprising the successful raids they conducted against the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons last July. On Wednesday the Turkish consulate was also taken and its diplomatic staff was kidnapped, precipitating an emergency gathering of Turkish officials by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss their options.
Yet by far the most daunting aspect of Mosul’s seizure are reports that the terrorist organization gained access to $500 billion Iraqi dinars, or $425 million, making it one of the richest, if not the richest, terrorist organization in the world. Gunmen initially looted Mosul’s central bank, and according to Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of the Nineveh province, they garnered additional funds from numerous banks across the city as well as a “large quantity of gold bullion.” Regional analyst Brown Moses tweeted that such a windfall will “buy a whole lot of Jihad,” further noting that “with $425 million, ISIS could pay 60,000 fighters around $600 a month for a year.”
In Kirkuk, Kurdish security forces known as the “Peshmerga” took control Tuesday of the oil-rich city that has been the focus of a long-running dispute between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds. The Kurds have autonomous control of their own region in the northern part of the nation, and while Kirkuk sits just outside of that area, the Kurds have long considered it to be their historical capital. And once again, government security forces fled without a fight. “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” said Secretary-General of the Ministry of Peshmerga Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now.”
Maliki, who in an earlier televised conference called a national emergency while urging the public and government to unite “to confront this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi,” alluded to the fact that military was disloyal. He also called for a 10 PM curfew in Baghdad and the surrounding towns, while Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the formation of “peace units to defend the holy sites of both Muslims and Christians in Iraq, in cooperation with the government.” Other Shi’ite leaders reported that four brigades known as the Kataibe Brigade, the Assaib Brigade, the Imam al-Sadr Brigade and the armed wing of the Badr Organization had been hastily assembled to protect Baghdad and the government. Each group contains 2500-3000 fighters.
Wednesday also saw the capture of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s former hometown, by ISIS forces, but by yesterday, state-run Iraqiya TV claimed the city had been re-captured by government forces. Yet a later report by Al-Sumaria television indicated the battle for control of the city was ongoing.
By late Wednesday, ISIS was joined by Sunni militants alienated from Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government, and together they were battling government forces at the northern entrance of Samarra, a city only 70 miles north of Baghdad. Samarra is home to the Askariya Shrine, one of the Shi’ites’ most treasured religious symbols. Its golden dome was shattered by a bomb in 2006 in an effort to ignite a sectarian civil war, and ISIS commanders once again threatened to destroy it if those defending it refused to lay down their arms.
It was initially reported that government soldiers offered little resistance, leading to speculation that they have been ordered to surrender. In an interview, a local commander in the Salahuddin Province that contains the city of Tikrit, confirmed that assessment. “We received phone calls from high-ranking commanders asking us to give up,” he claimed. “I questioned them on this, and they said, ‘This is an order.’ ” Residents of Tikrit also reported that government soldiers willingly gave up their weapons and uniforms to the militants, a notable deviation from the expectation that they would be killed on the spot.
By Thursday, the battle for Samarra had reportedly tilted in the government’s favor. The Long War Journal noted attempts by ISIS to enter the city had been blunted by government forces that stopped an armed convoy from entering the city. Aircraft deployed by the government were part of the equation, as were the aforementioned Shi’ite brigades organized for the battle.
The battle for Tikrit had reportedly turned as well—courtesy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Two battalions of the Quds Forces have been sent to aid Maliki, and combined Iraqi-Iranian forces have retaken 85 percent of that city, according to security forces from both nations. The combined forces were also helping the government retain control of Baghdad and Najaf and Kabala. While Iran is helping a fellow Shi’ite ally, keeping ISIS out of Najaf and Kabala, which are sacred sites on a par with Mecca and Medina.
Unfortunately, Thursday also saw Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish factions boycott a meeting of the Iraqi parliament preventing a quorum from being attained for a vote on declaring the national state of emergency requested by Maliki, two days earlier. The factions, already alienated by Maliki’s preferential treatment of the nation’s Shi’ite majority, were adamantly opposed to giving extraordinary powers to the Shi’ite Prime Minister.
That reality was also reflected by reports that a number of former Ba’athist military commanders from the Hussein era had joined forced with ISIS in the effort to overthrow the Maliki regime. “These groups were unified by the same goal, which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form the Sunni Region,” said Abu Karam, a senior Baathist leader and a former high-ranking army officer, who said planning for the offensive had begun two years ago. “The decisive battle will be in northern Baghdad. These groups will not stop in Tikrit and will keep moving toward Baghdad.”
In other words, the ultimate stability of the government—and Iraq itself— remains very much in question.
In the meantime, reports indicate that Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider providing air support to his government, in the form of drones, airmen and drone pilots. “What we really need right now are drone strikes and air strikes,” said a senior Iraqi official Wednesday. Such appeals have so far been rebuffed. Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, declined to comment on the requests. “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions,” she said in a statement. “The current focus of our discussions with the government of Iraq and our policy considerations is to build the capacity of the Iraqis to successfully confront” ISIS. However, on Thursday afternoon, President Obama hinted at some flexibility. “I don’t rule out anything,” he said in response to a question about possible air strikes. “We do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria.”
Such a statement strains credulity. For the last three years the president and his administration have done nothing to mitigate the rise of ISIS, which has transformed itself from a terrorist group into a full blown army that controls a cross-border swath of territory from Mosul up through the Anbar province, and west to the Syrian town of Al Bab on the outskirts of Aleppo. “This organization has grown into a military organization that is no longer conducting terrorist activities exclusively but is conducting conventional military operations,” said retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane, who was a key advisor to Gen. David Petraeus during the war in Iraq. “They are attacking Iraqi military positions with company-and battalion-size formations. And in the face of that the Iraqi security forces have not been able to stand up to it.”
That inability is a direct consequence of Obama’s determination to completely withdraw from Iraq in December of 2011, irrespective of events on the ground and advice of military commanders. Withdrawal was precipitated by the president’s failure to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed some U.S. troops to remain in country. And while the media prefer to blame Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the fault lies squarely with a president who demonstrated a calculated indifference towards negotiating a deal in 2011 similar to the one George W. Bush procured in 2008 under far more difficult circumstances.
The result was President Obama’s commitment of only 3,000-5,000 troops to Iraq following the 2011 withdrawal. That number seriously undercut the recommendations of his military commanders who had asked for 20,000 troops to carry out such missions as counterterrorist operations, diplomat support — and the training and support for Iraqi security forces. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen would have been satisfied with 10,000 troops, but Obama rejected this. The Maliki government, already risking a domestic backlash for keeping any troops in the nation, concluded that the political risks involved weren’t worth it when Obama was so transparently unserious.
His fellow Democrats are no better. Ever since the 2004 presidential campaign, when anti-war activist Howard Dean temporarily vaulted to the head of the Democratic pack of presidential contenders, many of the same Democrats who initially supported the war began their long and ultimately successful campaign to undermine it in order to gain political advantage. This includes current Secretary of State John Kerry, who had said there was “no question in my mind that Saddam Hussein has to be toppled one way or another,” Vice President Joe Biden, who said that “Saddam either has to be separated from his weapons or taken out of power,” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who cast her vote for war authorization “with conviction.” By the 2004 election, however — after unanimously voting to demolish the country’s existing political infrastructure — these Democrats spoke of little else but abandoning Iraq and allowing it to degenerate into the sectarian chaos on display today.
After ten years, the Left’s wish for Iraq has finally been realized. Democrats are now in a lurch justifying the descent of the country. Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Thursday, Clinton hypocritically bemoaned the “dreadful, deteriorating situation,” which she herself played a role in engineering, and claimed she “could not have predicted the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create a new state.” However, the rise of ISIS, due to the dramatic withdrawal of U.S. forces, has been predicted for quite some time. Just last February, a threat assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency asserted that the ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah,” due to the weak security environment “since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011.”
Obama, Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party received ample warning about where their sabotage of Iraq would lead. And despite the clear disaster unfolding in the country, Obama and his party will reprise the same inadequate troop level/scheduled departure strategy in Afghanistan. Does a similar fiasco await us there? Americans should expect nothing less from a party at the helm that conflates abandoning wars with winning them.
US-made Stinger missiles have likely fallen into ISIS hands, officials say
U.S. officials with access to the latest U.S. intelligence on Iraq told Fox News it "appears likely/probable" that U.S.-made Stinger missiles have fallen into the hands of Sunni insurgents.
It is possible that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters acquired them from army bases they have taken over in recent days, the sources said.
The Stinger missile is a shoulder-fired surface-to-air weapon that is used against aircraft.
As ISIS forces have advanced through Iraq, concerns have increased that more U.S.-made weaponry could fall into the hands of the radical group.
Iraqi intelligence officials said ISIS fighters managed to take control of two big weapons depots late last week holding some 400,000 items, including AK-47 rifles, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells and mortars. A quarter of the stockpiles were quickly sent to Syria in order to help the group's comrades there, they said.
Also last week, according to a report from the West Point Combating Terrorism Center, the ISIS "now possesses scores of Iraqi military equipment originally provided by the United States, from Humvees and cargo vehicles to small arms."
Russia Sends Tanks into Ukraine
Shortly after President Obama warned Vladimir Putin that the West would impose “additional costs” on Russia if its provocations in Ukraine were to continue, it was reported on june 13, 2014 that Russia had sent tanks and other heavy weapons to separatists in Ukraine. The New York Timesreported:
A convoy of three T-64 tanks, several BM-21 multiple rocket launchers and other military vehicles crossed the border near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne, State Department officials said. The Ukrainian Army reported Friday that it had destroyed two of the tanks and several other vehicles in the convoy.
“This is unacceptable,” said Marie Harf, the deputy State Department spokeswoman. “A failure by Russia to de-escalate this situation will lead to additional costs.”
Overnight Friday, separatists using antiaircraft and heavy machine guns fired on a military transport plane as it was landing in Luhansk, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. It did not give details of casualties, but offered condolences to family members of the victims. News reports said the plane was carrying as many as 49 military personnel.
Earlier, a Western official said that intelligence about the movement of the tanks and other weapons into Ukraine was shared on Friday with NATO allies. Secretary of State John Kerry complained this week about the flow of Russian arms to separatists in Ukraine in a phone call to Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
Obama Plans to Create World's Largest Marine Preserve
President Obama on Tuesday announced plans to create what could be the largest marine preserve in the world, an initiative that aims to protect "pristine" Pacific Ocean environments but could run into opposition from the fishing industry and lawmakers worried about the president's use of executive power.
The president announced his plans via video message at an oceans conference hosted by the State Department, and attended by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
"We can protect our oceans for future generations," Obama said, vowing to use his "authority as president" to protect "some of our most precious marine landscapes."
The president did not get into detail in his video message, but officials say Obama is considering a massive expansion to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, to protect it from drilling, fishing and other actions. The protected waters surround a group of mostly uninhabited islands, controlled by the U.S., that sit between Hawaii and American Samoa.
The Washington Post reported that Obama is looking at expanding the preserve, from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles. The monument, created by President George W. Bush just before he left office in 2009, includes seven islands.
The Post reports that the designation is expected to face opposition from the U.S. tuna fleet, which operates in the region. Republicans in Congress have called the proposal another attempt by the administration to test the limits of executive power.
"For years the Obama Administration has threatened to impose ocean zoning to shut down our oceans, and today the president is making good on that threat," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said in a statement on Tuesday. "This is yet another example of how an imperial president is intent on taking unilateral action, behind closed doors, to impose new regulations and layers of restrictive red-tape."
Hastings said the announcement "will likely make the U.S. tuna fleet even less viable, meaning in the not-too-distant future all of America's tuna will be caught by foreign vessels."
... The White House's Council on Environmental Quality said the waters in the south-central Pacific Ocean contain "some of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world."
"These tropical coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification," the White House said in a statement.
Obama Lies About Why U.S. Left No Troops Behind in Iraq
President Obama surprised a few people during a news conference Thursday by claiming that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, a politically popular move on the eve of an election year, was made entirely by his Iraqi counterpart. The implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.
But the facts prove otherwise. In his October 22, 2012 debate against Mitt Romney, Obama said: "What I would not have had done was left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. And that certainly would not help us in the Middle East." The full exchange went as follows:
ROMNEY: “With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement.” OBAMA: “That’s not true.” ROMNEY: “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” OBAMA: “No. What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. And that certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”
In a humiliating rebuke to President Obama, the Supreme Court affirmed in a labor relations case yesterday that there continue to be constitutionally prescribed limits to the powers of the nation’s Chief Executive.
The Court invalidated three recess appointments the president made in an attempt to unconstitutionally manipulate federal labor relations policy.
Justices held unanimously in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning Thursday that Obama overreached on Jan. 4, 2012 when he recess-appointed three members to the NLRB without bothering to wait for the U.S. Senate to recess. Obama’s goal was to pack the under-staffed NLRB with likeminded leftists and give the board the quorum it previously lacked to conduct official business.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lauded the Court’s clampdown on “President Obama’s unlawful abuse of the president’s recess appointments power.”
“This marks the 12th time since January 2012 that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Obama administration’s calls for greater federal executive power,” Cruz said. ...
The lawsuit disposed of yesterday was brought by Noel Canning of Washington state, the owner of a soft drink bottling and distribution company who was displeased by a ruling the board made against him after its quorum was restored by the purported recess appointments. The NLRB found that Canning’s firm engaged in unfair labor practices by declining to sign a collective bargaining agreement. Canning argued the board had no legal authority to render the decision because the president’s recess appointments, made when the U.S. Senate did not consider itself to be in recess, were improper.
The Recess Appointments Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 3) of the U.S. Constitution states, “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit previously sided with Canning and his company, finding that the president may make recess appointments only when the Senate is in recess between numbered sessions of Congress, and only then if the vacancy arose in that same time span. The high court concurred, finding that the president cannot arrogate to himself the power to determine when the Senate is in recess. It is for the Senate to judge when it is in recess.
“We hold that, for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority decision for the high court.
During oral arguments earlier this year, nearly every member of the Supreme Court questioned the constitutionality of Obama’s NLRB appointments.
Chief Justice John Roberts defended the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to approve nominees as a vital check on an out-of-control executive branch. Senators “have an absolute right not to confirm nominees that the president submits,” he said.
Left-leaning Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee who had served as the president’s solicitor general, told government counsel, “The history is entirely on the Senate’s side, not your side.”
However, in rendering their decision this week the justices split over whether to preserve the president’s recess appointment powers. ...
It is worth recalling that two of the three recess-appointment labor board members were professional leftists.
At the time of his appointment Richard Griffin was general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Since 1994 he had served on the board of directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee.
When she was recess-appointed, Sharon Block was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor. Between 2006 and 2009, Block was Senior Labor and Employment Counsel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee where she worked for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Appointee Terence F. Flynn, who had served as Chief Counsel to NLRB board member Brian Hayes, didn’t stick around long enough to influence much at the NLRB. He resigned four months into his term after an official probe was launched into allegations that he unlawfully leaked internal documents to a Republican colleague. Flynn denied any wrongdoing. ...
Obama Vows to act "on my own, without Congress," regarding Immigration
Prompted by a conversation with Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama said Monday he is done waiting for Congress to act and taking steps to reform nation’s immigration system through administrative action.
“America cannot wait forever for them to act. That’s why today I am beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, with Vice President Joe Biden by his side. The President lamented that Republicans have “proven again and again that they're unwilling to stand up against the Tea Party.”
At an event celebrating professional golfers last week, Boehner told Obama "Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least until the remainder of this year," Obama said.
In a statement, Boehner said "In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don't trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue." Obama said he will direct Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to figure out what Obama can do unilaterally to fix the nation’s immigration system, in addition to shifting resources southward to secure the border.
“I’ve also directed Sec. Johnson and Attorney Gen. Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can,” he said. “If Congress will not do their job at least we can do ours.”
The president said he would be expecting the recommendations by the end of the summer and that he “intends to adopt those recommendations without further delay.” He added that he still would like Congress to move forward with immigration reform for a more comprehensive solution. ...
Obama further asserted that the reason he takes executive actions is due to Congress’ inaction. “I don’t prefer taking administrative action. I’d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face. Certainly that’s true on immigration. I’ve made that clear multiple times,” he said.
“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing,” he stressed. And in this situation, the failure of Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and its bad for our future,” Obama added.
Meanwhile Boehner blamed Obama’s executive orders for the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the southwest border. "The president’s own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay,” Boehner said. “The White House claims it will move to return these children to their families in their home countries, yet additional executive action from this president isn't going to stem the tide of illegal crossings, it’s only going to make them worse.”
Obama Vows to "Be Creative" in Issuing Executive Orders
President Barack Obama gave his cabinet a pep talk for executive actions Tuesday saying that, if Congress does not act on “core issues,” they will.
“What I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress,” Obama said at a Tuesday cabinet meeting.
Obama stressed that he believes his executive actions have already been a success helping American families and that given Congress’ inaction, there should be more.
“Part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief–-I think shared by most Americans--that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class,” he said.
According to Obama, while he would prefer to work with Congress, if they are unable to get things done "then all of our Cabinet members here -- and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways -- and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress."
House Speaker John Boehner has said he is planning a lawsuit over Obama’s executive actions.
“I believe the president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country and, on behalf of the institution and our Constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in the best long-term interest of the Congress,” Boehner explained last week.
Monday Obama announced he will be taking more unilateral action to revamp the nation’s immigration system.
“America cannot wait forever for them to act. That’s why today I am beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress,” Obama said in his Rose Garden announcement.
Boehner fired back that Obama cannot be trusted to enact the laws Congress passes and blamed the president for the crisis of unaccompanied minors and family units flooding illegally across the border.
The cold-blooded murder of three youths, one of them an American citizen, is no time to go wishy-washy on terrorism.
Yet that’s what President Obama did Monday when he failed to identify the terror organization Hamas as the perpetrator of what he called a “senseless act of terror.”
Absurdly, he then called on Israel to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority “to find perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice” — ignoring the fact that Hamas just picked roughly half the ministers in the new PA government.
As a final twist, Obama also advised restraint by “all parties” — again refusing to acknowledge that one party, Hamas, is at fault for the killing of Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel....
Is the Obama administration really unsure of Hamas’s culpability in the killings? ...
[P]erhaps Obama’s refusal to name Hamas isn’t about evidence, but politics.
The kidnappings, after all, came merely 10 days after the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, presented a new government, made possible when he signed a cooperation agreement with Hamas in late May.
The Obama administration said it would “cooperate” with the new government, giving America’s blessing to the union — with most of the world following suit.
That kind of recognition of the unity government gave terrorism “much tailwind,” said Ophir Akunis, a Netanyahu deputy.
After all, Hamas remains dedicated to Israel’s destruction by any means necessary. And it’s not just Israel that lists it as a terrorist group: So do the United States, the European Union and others.
When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000. In a region where Christians predate Muslims by centuries, over one million Christians have been killed or have had to flee because of jihadi persecution, while America is basically standing by and watching. This is the sad news that Breitbart’s National Security Editor and one of the world’s leading experts on asymmetric warfare, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, brought to Breitbart News Saturday, hosted by Editor in Chief Alex Marlow on Sirius XM Patriot Radio.
Dr. Gorka explained that “in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter “N” for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you.”
Gorka points out that, over the last 20 years, America has stood up around the world to save Muslims. “Whether it was to save the Muslims in Bosnia or the Albanians, Kosovars, and Muslims in Serbia, it is now time for a humanitarian operation to save the remaining Christians in Iraq,” he said. “It is time for the American people and our representatives to do something for our co-religionists remaining in the Middle East.”
Marlow observed that the blatant religious cleansing is horrifying and asked Gorka: “Why is it that the mainstream press is not interested in the story?” Gorka first responded by saying "Let's face it, this is a Christian version of the Holocaust and nothing less.”
The Middle East expert went on to explain that the mainstream media is in full support of the White House narrative “that the President single-handedly killed Osama Bin Laden, and that Al Qaeda is now on the ropes; therefore, jihad must be shriveling up around the world.” This myopic strategy of only targeting Al Qaeda has provided great opportunities for other jihadists and has given rise to ISIS.
Tearing into companies he dubbed “corporate deserters,” President Obama on Thursday launched an election-year push to make it harder for U.S. companies to avoid paying taxes.
Under a bright sun at a trade and technical college in Los Angeles, Obama issued a damning assessment of a “small but growing” group of companies taking advantage of a “loophole” in corporate tax law by reorganizing overseas, often in low-tax countries.
Obama accused the companies of “renouncing their U.S. citizenship” and “fleeing the country” while sticking U.S. taxpayers “with the tab.”
“You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from the American taxpayer,” Obama told a crowd gathered at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The speech capped a three-day West Coast trip primarily focused on raising money for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections....
The president's remarks were a rhetorical return to an economic populism that served him well in his own reelection and may be key to revving up Democratic turnout in November. Obama’s words echoed previous campaign-friendly initiatives to close corporate jet tax breaks or raise taxes on millionaires....
Obama’s target on Thursday was so-called inversion transactions, a practice that allows U.S. companies to reincorporate overseas, either through a merger or purchase of a foreign entity, and thus avoid paying U.S. taxes on its foreign earnings.
The practice is often used by companies even as they retain a U.S. headquarters and continue to do much of their business in the U.S., senior administration officials said this week in advance of the president's remarks.
The president acknowledged the practice is legal, but added “my attitude is, ‘I don’t care if it’s legal -- it’s wrong.’”
The White House is urging Congress to change the law quickly ...
Obama, speaking at a technical college in Los Angeles, said corporations were taking advantage of a loophole not available to average workers — and in the process, forcing the middle class to take up more of the tab for infrastructure and job-training programs.
“I don’t care if it’s legal. It’s wrong,” Obama told the California crowd. “You don’t get to choose the tax rate you pay. These companies shouldn’t either.”
Obama pressed Congress to enact a measure making it impossible for a U.S. corporation to swallow up a smaller foreign company in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
In the process, Obama echoed his Treasury secretary, Jack Lew, who last week called for a “new sense of economic patriotism.” ...
“You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from American taxpayers,” Obama said.
"They [corporations] don’t want to give up the best universities and the best military and all the advantages of operating in the United States." said Obama. "They just don’t want to pay for it. So they’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship."
The United States tortured al-Qaeda detainees captured after the 9/11 attacks, President Obama said Friday, in some of his most expansive comments to date about a controversial set of CIA practices that he banned after taking office.
'We tortured some folks,' Obama said at a televised news conference at the White House. 'We did some things that were contrary to our values.' Addressing the impending release of a Senate report that criticizes CIA treatment of detainees, Obama said he believed the mistreatment stemmed from the pressure national security officials felt to forestall another attack....
'I understand why it happened. I think it's important to recall ... how afraid people were' after the 9/11 attacks, Obama added.'People did not know if more attacks were imminent.'
That view, which he expressed as a candidate for national office in 2008 and early in his presidency, explains why Obama did not push to pursue criminal charges against the Bush era officials who carried out the CIA program....
In 2009, Obama said he preferred to 'look forward, not backwards,' on the issue, and he decided that no CIA officer who was following legal guidance -- however flawed that guidance turned out to be -- should be prosecuted.
A long-running criminal investigation into whether the CIA exceeded the guidance – which is an allegation of the Senate report – was closed in 2012 without charges. Still, Obama's remarks on Friday were more emphatic than his previous comments on the subject, including a May 2009 speech in which he trumpeted his ban of 'so-called enhanced interrogation techniques,' and 'brutal methods,' but did not flatly say the U.S. had engaged in torture.
At an April 2009 new conference, he said, 'I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.' In addition to water boarding, the CIA used stress positions, sleep deprivation, nudity, humiliation, cold and other tactics that, taken together, were extremely brutal, the Senate report is expected to say....
Obama on Friday did not mention a specific method, but he said the CIA used techniques that 'any fair minded person would believe were torture.''We crossed a line,' he said. 'That needs to be understood and accepted...We did some things that were wrong, and that's what that report reflects.'
Obama Says He Is Disappointed That Reporters Did Not Ask Him About His Upcoming (August 4) Birthday at Press Conference
In the middle of a tough press conference covering a wide range of difficult topics — the situation in Ukraine, the Israeli-Hamas conflict, the CIA’s admission that it had spied on the Senate, ISIS, Ebola, etc. — Barack Obama lost his legendary cool and asked the White House pool why they weren’t grilling him about the recent news about the rebounding economy, which he began the presser with.
“I think it’s useful for me to end by just reminding folks that in my first term, if I had a press conference like this, typically, everybody would want to ask about the economy, and how come jobs weren’t being created, and how come the housing market is still bad, and why isn’t it working?” he said.
“You know what? What we did worked, and the economy is better. And when I say that we have just had six months of more than 200,000 jobs that hasn’t happened in 17 years, that shows you the power of persistence...."
“I thought that you guys were going to ask me how I was going to spend my birthday,” he said in exasperation as the conference broke into non-birthday questions. “What happened to the birthday thing?”
A leaked intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveals the exact numbers of illegal immigrants entering and attempting to enter the U.S. from more than 75 different countries. The report was obtained by a trusted source within the CBP agency who leaked the document and spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of anonymity. The report is labeled as "Unclassified//For Official Use Only" and indicates that the data should be handled as "Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU)."
The numbers provided are in graphics and are broken down into “OFO” and “OBP.” The Customs and Border Protection agency is divided into the Office of Field Operations (OFO) and the Office of Border Patrol (OBP). The OFO numbers reflect anyone either turning themselves in at official U.S. points of entry, or anyone caught while being smuggled at the points of entry. The OBP numbers reflect anyone being caught or turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents between the points of entry, or anyone caught at interior checkpoints by Border Patrol agents. The “OFO Inadmissible” designation to any individual from a nation other than Mexico or Canada means that U.S. authorities took the individuals into custody. Whether they were deported or given a Notice to Appear is unknown. It is important to note these numbers do not include data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The unavailable ICE data are in addition to these numbers.
The report reveals the apprehension numbers ranging from 2010 through July 2014. It shows that most of the human smuggling from Syria and Albania into the U.S. comes through Central America. The report also indicates the routes individuals from North Africa and the Middle East take into the European Union, either to illegally migrate there or as a possible stop in their journey to the United States. The data are broken down further into the specific U.S. border sectors where the apprehensions and contact occurred.
Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.
As of July 20, 2014, 1,443 individuals from China were caught sneaking across the porous U.S. border this year alone, with another 1,803 individuals either turning themselves in to U.S. authorities at official ports of entry, or being caught attempting to illegally enter at the ports of entry. This comes amid a massive crackdown by Chinese authorities of Islamic terrorists in the Communist nation.
Twenty-eight individuals from Pakistan were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 211 individuals either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.
Thirteen Egyptians were caught trying to sneak into the U.S. this year alone, with another 168 either turning themselves in or being caught at official ports of entry.
Four individuals from Yemen were caught attempting to sneak into the U.S. by Border Patrol agents in 2014 alone, with another 34 individuals either turning themselves in or being caught attempting to sneak through official ports of entry. Yemen is not the only nation with individuals who pose terror risks to the U.S. that the report indicates travel from. The failed nation of Somalia, known as a hotbed of Islamic terror activity, was also referenced in the report. Four individuals from Somalia were caught trying to sneak into the U.S. by Border Patrol agents in 2014. Another 290 either turned themselves in or were caught attempting to sneak in at official ports of entry. This reporter previously covered the issue of illegal immigration into the U.S. from Somalia and other nations in the Horn of Africa.
Russian Bombers Repeatedly Enter U.S. Air Space
On August 7, 2014, the Washington Free Beaconreported:
Russian strategic nuclear bombers conducted at least 16 incursions into northwestern U.S. air defense identification zones over the past 10 days, an unusually sharp increase in aerial penetrations, according to U.S. defense officials.
The numerous flight encounters by Tu-95 Russian Bear H bombers prompted the scrambling of U.S. jet fighters on several occasions, and come amid heightened U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine.
Also, during one bomber incursion near Alaska, a Russian intelligence-gathering jet was detected along with the bombers.
“Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. air defense identification zones,” said Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Smith called the Russian flights “a spike in activity” but sought to play down the threat, stating the flights were assessed as routine training missions and exercises.
The bomber flights took place mainly along the Alaskan air defense identification zone that covers the Aleutian Islands and the continental part of the state, and one incursion involved entry into Canada’s air defense zone, Smith said.
The Russian strategic aircraft included a mix of Tu-95 Bear H heavy bombers and Tu-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance aircraft, she said, adding that one IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft was detected during the flight incursions over the past week to 10 days.
The bomber flights are the latest case of nuclear saber rattling by the Russians.
However, other defense officials said the large number of aerial incursions is very unusual and harkens back to the Cold War, when Soviet bombers frequently sought to trigger air defenses along the periphery of U.S. territory as preparation for a nuclear conflict.
Moscow, under strongman President Vladimir Putin, is engaged in a major buildup of its strategic nuclear forces. The modernization includes new missiles of several ranges, new strategic missile submarines, and new long-range bombers.
As for its long-range aviation flights near U.S. coasts, Russia has been sharply increasing the activities, especially in the Pacific Northwest near Alaska, Canada, and the West Coast.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported that two Bear bombers flew within 50 miles of the California coast on June 9—the closest the Russians have flown their nuclear-capable bombers since the days of the Cold War. A U.S. F-15 intercepted the bombers.
A defense official disagreed with the spokeswoman on the increased bomber forays. Russian strategic nuclear forces appear to be “trying to test our air defense reactions, or our command and control systems,” said an official familiar with reports of the incursions.
“These are not just training missions,” the official added.
Northern Command and NORAD in the past frequently sought to dismiss the Russian bomber incursions as non-threatening as part of the Obama administration’s conciliatory “reset” policy of seeking closer ties with Moscow.
The Pentagon and other commands, however, have toughened rhetoric toward Russia and its activities after the Russian military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in June.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have soured. The State Department last month accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty by developing a new cruise missile.
Moscow dismissed the charges as untrue.
Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, expressed concerns about the increase in Russian strategic nuclear activities during a speech in Washington June 18.
Haney said Russian nuclear activities coincided with recent tensions over Ukraine and included the test launch of six air-launched cruise missiles in a show of force.
A Russian Defense Ministry statement on the cruise missile test launches said a Tu-95 bomber “is capable of destroying the critical stationary assets of an enemy with cruise missiles, in daytime and nighttime, in any weather and in any part of the globe.”
Moscow also conducted several large-scale nuclear war games in May, Haney said.
“Additionally, we have seen significant Russian strategic aircraft deployments in the vicinity of places like Japan, Korea, and even our West Coast,” Haney said at a defense industry breakfast.
“Russia continues to modernize its strategic capabilities across all legs of its triad, and open source [reporting] has recently cited the sea trials of its latest [missile submarine], testing of its newest air-launched cruise missile and modernization of its intercontinental ballistic force to include its mobile capability in that area,” he said.
Russia’s recent Cold War-level aerial encounters over the Pacific near Alaska followed an earlier U.S.-Russian aerial duel in Europe.
U.S. officials confirmed that an RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic intelligence gathering aircraft was forced into violating Swedish airspace by a Russian fighter jet July 18. The U.S. jet was seeking to evade the Russian interceptor jet at the time.
That encounter took place a day after Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine.
Report: Obama military downsizing leaves U.S. too weak to counter global threats
An independent panel appointed by the Pentagon and Congress said Thursday that President Obama’s strategy for sizing the armed services is too weak for today’s global threats.
The National Defense Panel called on the president to dump a major section of his 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and write a broader strategy that requires the military to fight on multiple fronts at once.
It also said the shrinking U.S. armed forces, which are being downsized to fit that strategy and budget cuts, is a “serious strategic misstep on the part of the United States.” The forces’ numbers spelled out in Mr. Obama’s QDR are “inadequate given the future strategic and operational environment.”
The warning comes as Mr. Obama is under criticism from many Republicans and some Democrats for his standoff policy toward Syria and his limited response to a June offensive by an al Qaeda offshoot that has gobbled up swaths of territory in Iraq.
Congress authorized the panel of outside experts to review the QDR, a strategy for shaping the active and reserve force. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appointed the co-chairmen: former Defense Secretary William Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton, and retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, who ran U.S. Central Command during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
The panel’s report said the past several years of budget cuts and mandated reduction in personnel and weapons have stirred deep unease among allies who would count on the U.S. in a crisis.
“Not only have they caused significant investment shortfalls in U.S. military readiness and both present and future capabilities, they have prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve,” the report said. “Unless reversed, these shortfalls will lead to a high-risk force in the near future. That in turn will lead to an America that is not only less secure but also far less prosperous. In this sense, these cuts are ultimately self-defeating.”
It calls the defense cuts “dangerous” as “global threats and challenges are rising.” The experts point to China’s and Russia’s new territorial claims, nuclear proliferation by Iran and North Korea and al Qaeda’s rapid rise in Iraq.
The panel knocks Mr. Obama’s QDR for reducing the military’s global mission from being able to defeat two enemies nearly simultaneously to defeating one and denying the objectives of a second. The report calls on Mr. Obama to expand this overriding mission statement.
“The international security environment has deteriorated since then,” the report said of the QDR, which was released earlier this year. “In the current threat environment, America could plausibly be called upon to deter or fight in any number of regions in overlapping time frames.”
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the independent review shows the QDR was more concerned with justifying budget cuts than meeting global security needs.
“It is the same conclusion many Americans have already reached,” Mr. McKeon said. “There is a cost when America does not lead, and there are consequences when America disengages. What the president fails to understand — which the report points out — is that a strong military underwrites all other tools our nation has for global influence.”
On the two-war requirement, the panel said: “We find the logic of the two-war construct to be as powerful as ever and note that the force sizing construct in the 2014 QDR strives to stay within the two-war tradition while using different language. But given the worsening threat environment, we believe a more expansive force sizing construct — one that is different from the two-war construct but no less strong — is appropriate.”
It proposes a new overriding strategy requirement that talks of taking on and stopping adversaries in multiple theaters of war.
The experts said both the Navy and the Air Force are too small....
Islamic State terrorists have begun their promised killing of Christians in Mosul, and they have started with the children. According to a report via CNN, a Chaldean-American businessman has said that killings have started in Mosul and children's heads are being erected on poles in a city park.
"There is a park in Mosul," Mark Arabo told CNN during a Skype interview from San Diego, "where they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick and have them in the park."
Arabo, who is a prominent Chaldean-American businessman and met with other leaders of his community in the White House last week, has called upon American political leaders to grant asylum to about 300,000 Christians fleeing the ISIS invasion....
"The world hasn't seen this kind of atrocity in generations," he told CNN. He's mostly correct. Although genocides have happened repeatedly throughout history, including famous genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as Cambodia, the genocide perpetrated against Christians and other minorities is extreme, partly because it is being gleefully publicized.
The terrorists who have invaded Mosul and other ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq have made music videos of themselves murdering civilians and captured soldiers. They are literally enjoying the act of killing and the fear and suffering experienced by others. This sadism may be the purest manifestation of evil witnessed since the Rape of Nanking during WWII.
Already, several images have emerged of Christian children beheaded by ISIS, merely for being Christian.
According to Arabo, women are being raped, then murdered, and men are being hanged. These are the people who were warned - convert to Islam of be put to the sword.
Even families that pay the tax, mandated by ISIS for Christians who remain, are now being victimized. The women are allegedly being taken from their husbands and made into "wives" belonging to the ISIS fighters. This means they can rape them and even kill them, if they do not subsequently agree to convert to Islam.
Not all Christians could flee, perhaps because they were caring for elderly relatives or small children or had some other reason they could not walk out of the city and trek across the desert. Perhaps some thought paying a tax would save them and their homes and businesses.
Still, in another part of Iraq, refugees retreated into the mountains where they have been surrounded by ISIS rebels who are now waiting for them to starve and die from exposure.
What is happening in Iraq and Syria, especially to Christians, is not hyperbole. The pledges of ISIS must be taken seriously. They have carried out every threat they have made. They have shown no mercy to children or their mothers. They revel in killing and are nothing more than an army of religious zealots and psychopaths. Their numbers are growing because nobody in the world is doing anything to stop them. Every murderous, blood-lusting Muslim who can reach the area is flocking to join ISIS and participate in the killing spree.
Two retired four-star generals blast Obama for failing to use 'decisive' force in Iraq, and for 'political posturing'
Two retired four-star U.S. Army Generals heaped scorn Friday on President Barack Obama's authorization of targeted airstrikes in northern Iraq, with one war hero calling it a 'political gesture' calculated to provide the impression that the U.S. is 'doing something' about a humanitarian crisis developing there. 'There's a huge tragedy unfolding: 1.5 million refugees, a couple of hundred thousand just in the last few weeks. 50,000 of this minority group stuck on – up in the mountains,' Gen. Garry McCaffrey said on MSNBC. 'But these are political gestures using military power. ... We dropped three aircraft loads of water and food to 50,000 people in the mountains. Now we're striking ISIS artillery units. It looks to me as if a lot of this is internal U.S. politics to show we're doing something.'
'I mean, if you're going to use military power,' said McCaffrey, 'you have to write down your objective and then use decisive force to achieve your objective. So I'm a little dismayed at what we're up to here.' He called Obama's strategic bombing 'pinprick strikes,' saying that 'if you're going to protect refugees, 50,000 people without water and food, you don't do two F/A-18 strikes on an artillery unit somewhere in the vicinity.'
On the Fox News Channel, retired four-star General Jack Keane said that if Obama had approved Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's initial request three months ago for military aid, the situation in Iraq would look very different today. 'We did not respond,' Keane said, because the president came forward and said, "I'm going to make a condition for American military response to be a political reconciliation of the government in Iraq".' 'I think now in the full face of light, the fact of the matter is, that was an excuse not to act. The harsh reality is ISIS needs to be stopped regardless of the political situation in Iraq.'
Obama Says He never wanted to leave 10,000 Troops Behind in Iraq
In his Otober 22, 2012 debate against Mitt Romney, Obama said: "What I would not have had done was left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. And that certainly would not help us in the Middle East." The full exchange went as follows:
ROMNEY: “With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement.” OBAMA: “That’s not true.” ROMNEY: “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” OBAMA: “No. What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”
Egypt Allies with Russia for Military Aid, Filling Vacuum Left by U.S. Suspension of Military Aid
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi focused on boosting trade and military cooperation on his first presidential visit to Russia, where he was greeted with a display of weapons right upon arrival.
Russia has signaled its desire to expand ties with Egypt, an important U.S. ally in the Middle East. When el-Sissi visited Moscow in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin wished him success in the presidential election — though el-Sissi hadn't yet announced his candidacy.
Egypt was Moscow's closest Arab ally in the 1950s and '60s, when nationalist leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser turned from U.S. support to win Soviet backing for his drive to modernize the country and the military. The Egyptians partnered with the Soviets to build the High Dam, a mega-project to control floods and provide electricity and water for irrigation.
Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, broke with Moscow and evicted Soviet military advisers.
Under el-Sissi, Egypt has shown a renewed interest in Russian arms. An array of weapons, including new armored vehicles and missile systems, was displayed at the airport in Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Games, and el-Sissi listened attentively to his guides as he toured the exhibition.
Following talks with el-Sissi, Putin said they agreed to expand military cooperation. Putin said Russia started supplying weapons to Egypt after signing a memorandum in March, but gave no details.
The Russian president said Moscow would welcome more imports of Egyptian oranges, potatoes and other agricultural products, while Russia plans to sharply expand grain exports to Egypt this year.
Russia last week banned most food imports from the West, retaliating for Western sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis.
El-Sissi, who was elected president in May, ousted Egypt's democratically elected Islamist president a year ago and then led a violent crackdown.
New-York based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called for an international inquiry into the mass killings during the crackdown and urged Egypt's allies to suspend military aid and cooperation until the government adopts measures to end human rights violations. Egypt's government rejected the report.
The United States partially suspended military aid to Egypt following last year's coup. Within weeks, Russia's foreign minister and defense minister each paid a visit to Cairo
Obama Plays golf Immediately after Adderessint the Videotaped Terrorisrt Beheading of American Journalist
President Barack Obama teed off again on Thursday, just 24 hours after pictures of his wide grin on the golf course drew condemnation in the wake of the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley.
'Admit it,' a White House pool reporter emailed the press corps. 'You all made small-dollar bets that POTUS would be playing golf today. And ... you would be right!. We are at the Farm Neck Golf Club at 1:13 pm. and POTUS is hitting the links again.'
The president drew fire Wednesday after reacting to Foley's on-camera slaying for just five minutes, and then gripping his driver.
He had told a global audience minutes earlier that 'when people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.' Then he was seen laughing with friends and fist-bumping them during a five-hour round at Farm Neck on Martha's Vineyard.
Thursday's round is his eighth in 11 days. Wire photos of the president and his playing partners depict a more serious commander-in-chief with none of the yukking that characterized photos a day ago.
His high-fiving on Wednesday has brought a chorus of condemnation from TV commentators, journalists, conservative partisans and Twitter users.
The Obama Administration's Irresponsible Leak About Failed Effort to Rescue the Recently Beheaded Reporter, James Foley
Yesterday, the news broke that the United States had tried to rescue James Foley and several other American hostages of ISIS somewhere in Syria. As The New York Times explains:
The officials — speaking a day after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted a video showing the American journalist James Foley being beheaded — described what they called a “complicated operation” in which the commandos were dropped by helicopter into Syrian territory in an attempt to rescue Mr. Foley and others being held by the Sunni militant group.
The Army commandos fought their way to the spot where they believed that ISIS was hiding the hostages, the officials said. But when the team swooped in, the hostages were gone. “We’re not sure why they were moved,” a Defense Department official said. “By the time we got there, it was too late.” The official said it may have been “a matter of hours, perhaps a day or two” since the hostages had been there.
One of the American commandos was slightly wounded in the skirmish, which lasted several minutes before American aircraft flew the soldiers to safety. At least one of the aircraft came under fire, but all members of the team were evacuated successfully. The administration officials said they believed a number of the terrorists were killed.
The news of this raid was released via a conference call by Obama administration officials with reporters. While I obviously cannot read minds, I have to think that the release of this information was done in hopes of drawing attention away from the fact that Obama went right back to his vacation after delivering his speech condemning ISIS.
Whatever the Obama administration’s motivations for releasing this information, it certainly was not a wise decision. As the Times article notes:
Two Defense Department officials, who spoke separately on the condition of anonymity because of the operation’s delicate nature, expressed anger at the administration for revealing the mission. One of the officials said the aborted raid had alerted the militants to the Americans’ desire and willingness to try to rescue the hostages, and, in the aftermath, had probably forced the captors to tighten their security.
But, the official said, the conference call on Wednesday revealed new details that ISIS is not likely to have known. “This only makes our job harder,” the official said. “I’m very disappointed this was released. We knew any second operation would be a lot harder.”
These two anonymous Defense Department officials are not the only ones who understand the kind of mistake the Obama administration has made. Retired General Jack Keane, a former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, went on Fox News to express his disapproval of the decision. The Washington Free Beacon gives us the video: (Click here)
Keane makes two major points here. The first is that that the release of this information might inspire journalists to search for information that, quite frankly, should remain secret, and second, we lose the element of surprise for potential future rescue operations. Special Operations Forces typically conduct their missions in secrecy. That’s part of the job description. While releasing information on the raid that killed Bin Laden is defensible on the grounds that he had been one of the main villains in the War on Terror, it is nevertheless not a good principle to establish. It’s also an even worse idea to publicize failed secret operations when you’re still actively at war.
Revealing the fact that we made a failed attempt to rescue Foley, along with some other American hostages, at such a time as this is a decision that can only have negative repercussions for us. In addition to the aforementioned criticisms, one has to wonder what kind of effect this will have on ISIS’ morale. Even if several of their own were believed to be killed in the operation, they are almost certainly emboldened by the fact that they foiled an attempt by the mighty United States to rescue some of its citizens. The release of this information also runs the risk of exposing the resources we used to locate Foley, resources whose security is already tenuous enough.
But failure here doesn’t just impact what we are doing in the Middle East. The entire world now knows not only that we failed in a military operation with some of our best soldiers but also that our intelligence failed us. People like Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, and Xi Jinping are taking note of this.
In a written statement, Scott Taylor, the president of OPSEC Team, an organization devoted to protecting and advocating for Special Operations and national security interests, sums up the debacle this disclosure creates succinctly:
“This administration has once again leaked, released, and acknowledged classified information pertaining to a SOF mission. None of these actions were either called for or necessary, but done so for political gain. These actions continue to demonstrate the reckless disregard by this administration for the SOF/intelligence community, their families, and may well endanger future operations.
They have also disclosed that former hostages were debriefed, thereby lessening the chances others will be released. It is quite apparent that this Administration is more concerned with saving face than it is with protecting the lives of our Special Operations Forces, intelligence community, and ultimately Americans held captive overseas.”
All of this was done to give our President some cover, but at what cost? This decision jeopardizes America’s interests and resources in the region, risks the exposure of sensitive details at home, and it can only embolden our enemies. We will be paying the consequences for this alongside our thus far halfhearted attempts to counter ISIS militarily.
Obama will sidestep Congress by signing sweeping international climate change agreement
Barack Obama is pursuing a sweeping international climate change agreement that would compel the U.S. and other nations to cut emissions, all without getting the okay from Congress.
While the president may not enter into legally binding treaties without backing from two-thirds of the Senate, he and climate negotiators intend to sidestep the Constitutional rule by agreeing to what they call a 'politically binding' deal.
It's a move that has already infuriated congressional Republicans in coal and gas producing states.
Meanwhile, Tuesday's New York Times report on the proposed deal comes just as a United Nations report on the imminent and irreversible damage of man-made climate change was leaked widely to the press.
'If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,' Clinton administration climate change official Paul Bledsoe told the New York Times.
Instead, Obama's deal would blend legally binding conditions the US already agreed to in a 1992 treaty with voluntary pledges to enact carbon-cutting domestic laws.
In essence, the Times reports, the deal would be an update to the treaty 'and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.'
For Republican leaders, it was another tiresome example of Obama's willingness to use executive power to work around Congress.
'Unfortunately, this would be just another of many examples of the Obama administration's tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard laws it doesn't like — and to ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don't agree,' Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told the Times.
The deal would require nations to enact new policies but only pledge to specific emissions cuts and to send funds to poorer countries in order to help them cut their own emissions.
According to an international science report, the time is now or never to curb global emissions if 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems' are to be avoided.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday sent governments a final draft of its synthesis report, which combines three earlier, gigantic documents by the Nobel Prize-winning group. There is little in the report that wasn't in the other more-detailed versions, but the language is more stark and the report attempts to connect the different scientific disciplines studying problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.
The 127-page draft, obtained by The Associated Press, paints a harsh warning of what's causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.
'Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,' the report says. The final report will be issued after governments and scientists go over the draft line by line in an October conference in Copenhagen.
Depending on circumstances and values, 'currently observed impacts might already be considered dangerous,' the report says. It mentions extreme weather and rising sea levels, such as heat waves, flooding and droughts. It even raises, as an earlier report did, the idea that climate change will worsen violent conflicts and refugee problems and could hinder efforts to grow more food. And ocean acidification, which comes from the added carbon absorbed by oceans, will harm marine life, it says.
Without changes in greenhouse gas emissions, 'climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century,' the report says.
In 2009, countries across the globe set a goal of limiting global warming to about another 2 degrees Fahrenheit above current levels. But the report says that it is looking more likely that the world will shoot past that point. Limiting warming to that much is possible but would require dramatic and immediate cuts in carbon dioxide pollution.
The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.
In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.
“If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,” said Paul Bledsoe, a top climate change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House on international climate change policy.
Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming.
“There’s a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse,” said Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations. “There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate.”
American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.
Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.
“There’s some legal and political magic to this,” said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. “They’re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold” in the Senate.
The strategy comes as scientists warn that the earth is already experiencing the first signs of human-caused global warming — more severe drought and stronger wildfires, rising sea levels and more devastating storms — and the United Nations heads toward what many say is the body’s last chance to avert more catastrophic results in the coming century.
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York next month, delegates will gather at a sideline meeting on climate change to try to make progress toward the deal next year in Paris. A December meeting is planned in Lima, Peru, to draft the agreement.
In seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy. In June, he bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions. That regulation, which would not be final until next year, already faces legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed on behalf of a dozen states.
But unilateral action by the world’s largest economy will not be enough to curb the rise of carbon pollution across the globe. That will be possible only if the world’s largest economies, including India and China, agree to enact similar cuts.
The Obama administration’s international climate strategy is likely to infuriate Republican lawmakers who already say the president is abusing his executive authority by pushing through major policies without congressional approval.
“Unfortunately, this would be just another of many examples of the Obama administration’s tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard laws it doesn’t like — and to ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, said in a statement.
A deal that would not need to be ratified by the United States or any other nation is also drawing fire from the world’s poorest countries. In African and low-lying island nations — places that scientists say are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change — officials fear that any agreement made outside the structure of a traditional United Nations treaty will not bind rich countries to spend billions of dollars to help developing nations deal with the forces of climate change.
“Without an international agreement that binds us, it’s impossible for us to address the threats of climate change,” said Richard Muyungi, a climate negotiator for Tanzania. “We are not as capable as the U.S. of facing this problem, and historically we don’t have as much responsibility. What we need is just one thing: Let the U.S. ratify the agreement. If they ratify the agreement, it will trigger action across the world.”
Observers of United Nations climate negotiations, which have gone on for more than two decades without achieving a global deal to legally bind the world’s biggest polluters to carbon cuts, say that if written carefully such an agreement could be a creative and pragmatic way to at least level off the world’s rapidly rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story About a dozen countries are responsible for nearly 70 percent of the world’s carbon pollution, chiefly from cars and coal-fired power plants.
At a 2009 climate meeting in Copenhagen, world leaders tried but failed to forge a new legally binding treaty to supplant the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Instead, they agreed only to a series of voluntary pledges to cut carbon emissions through 2020.
The Obama administration’s climate change negotiators are desperate to avoid repeating the failure of Kyoto, the United Nations’ first effort at a legally binding global climate change treaty. Nations around the world signed on to the deal, which would have required the world’s richest economies to cut their carbon emissions, but the Senate refused to ratify the treaty, ensuring that the world’s largest historic carbon polluter was not bound by the agreement.
Seventeen years later, the Senate obstacle remains. Even though Democrats currently control the chamber, the Senate has been unable to reach agreement to ratify relatively noncontroversial United Nations treaties.
Do you remember this bit from the Constitution of the United States?
[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; . . .
That’s the so-called “Treaty Clause” from Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution. It is one of several checks on executive power thoughtfully provided by the Founders but flouted by the Golfer-in-Chief currently occupying the White House.
Can’t get two-thirds of the Senate to approve a bit of Green Legislation you favor? No problem! Just pretend that the United States of America is subject not to its Constitution but to the transnational organization of gangsters, kleptocracies, and Third-World dictatorships known as the Untied Nations.
Sound extreme? We can talk about the composition of the Untied Nations another time. But when it comes to Barack Obama’s cavalier treatment of the Constitution, you need look no further than this morning’s New York Times. Under the headline “Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty,”  the paper explains how the president, frustrated by Congress’s unwillingness to barter away U.S. sovereignty by signing on to the so-called “Kyoto Protocol ,” the economy blighting climate standards devised by Greenies and other folks eager to hamstring the world’s most productive economies, especially the Untied States, is planning to “sidestep” Congress.
It’s written in soporific journalese, but it is an explosive story:
The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.
In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions.
I’ve highlighted a few passages for special consideration. I invite you to ponder in particular the conjunction of these two nuggets: 1.) “under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate”; and 2. “To sidestep that requirement, . . . .” In other words, even the New York Times is onto the extra-Constitutional, i.e., the illegal, activities of the Obama administration. Do they care? Do you?
The proposed “deal,” as the Times goes on to say, “is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.”
“The only realistic path”: what do you suppose that means? The only way that the Obama administration and these unnamed “negotiators,” i.e. Greenie activists, can circumvent national sovereignty and the will of the people and impose their eco-nutty agenda on an unwilling world.
In fact, I suspect the chances of any such agreement meeting with the approval of China and India, let alone those struggling “poor countries” that the Times contemptuously heaped together with “Republicans on Capitol Hill,” are approximately nil. Indeed, even if they signed on to any such agreement, they would contrive to evade its requirements. But all that is secondary to Obama’s effort to stymie U.S. productivity and blight its prosperity. It’s part of his announced effort to “fundamentally transform the United States of America .” The only question is whether We, the People of the United States are going to sit back and let it happen.
Obama Says U.S. Has No Strategy for Dealing with ISIS Terrorists
On August 28, 2014, President Obama admitted that his administration had not yet developed a strategy to combat the the Ilamic terror group ISIS (aka ISIL) that has already taken control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria. When asked whether he would seek Congressional approval for U.S. attacks on ISIS targets in Syria, Obama replied, "I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet." He then said that he would review his military options with the National Security Council. “The options that I’m asking for from the Joint Chiefs focuses primarily on making sure that ISIL is not overrunning Iraq,” said Obama.
White House Spokesman Says the Delay in ISIS Strategy Is Due to Pentagon Not Having Developed It Yet
White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained that Obama's assertion that he did not yet have a strategy for dealing with ISIS, simply meant that he was waiting for the Pentagon to come forth with some recommendations on what to do. “The Pentagon is developing plans or military options for the president to consider if he decides that it’s necessary to do so,” said Earnest.
ISIS Has Been Growing In Strength for 4 Years, As Obama Did Nothing
A new report from the West Point counterterrorism center challenges the notion that the Islamic State only recently became a major terror threat, describing the network's gains in Iraq as a crisis four years in the making.
Meanwhile, Fox News has learned that top aides to President Obama expect the threat from the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to outlast Obama's time in office.
The details underscore the challenge facing the U.S. government and its allies as the president and military advisers weigh how -- and where -- to confront the Islamist militant forces.
"ISIL did not suddenly become effective in early June 2014: it had been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years," the report from the West Point center said.
The report said that the "shattering" of Iraq's security forces in June is a "case-in-point, the result of years of patient preparatory operations."
The report, obtained in advance by Fox News, was published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, an independent, privately funded research group. It was written by Michael Knights, with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The report pointed to a long trail of warning signs, after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "re-booted" the organization in 2010. The report said it has developed a "highly-motivated cadre of light infantry forces" since 2012, while launching major attacks like a wave of car bombs across multiple cities that lasted until the end of 2013.
Despite these warning signs, President Obama earlier this year compared ISIS and related groups to a "jayvee team" during an interview with The New Yorker.
The White House has since defended those remarks, claiming the president was not referring only to the Islamic State. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also claimed earlier this month that the network indeed "has gained capacity in the last several months."
Rhodes said the Islamic State poses "a greater threat today than they did six months ago."
Left unclear is when that danger might diminish.
With the Islamic State now controlling large swaths of territory across Syria and northern Iraq, senior Obama administration officials have repeatedly referred to the terrorist army as a "long-term" threat.
Asked if that means that the dangers posed by ISIS will extend beyond Obama's time in office, a senior State Department official told Fox News: "Probably. Probably."
The official hastened to add that the U.S. has embraced similarly lengthy time frames in its post-9/11 efforts to combat other major terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that such a view -- especially given the success against Al Qaeda in those regions -- should not be mistaken for a lack of initiative or zeal in the president's approach.
The official also stressed that the administration does not see a 9/11-style attack on the American homeland as among the threats the Islamic State presently poses. Rather, the group is thought by U.S. policymakers to threaten Washington's regional allies and interests, as many administration officials have emphasized in recent weeks.
The State Department source also pointed to the variety of methods the administration is using to address ISIS. These range from "kinetic" operations aimed at "taking their leadership off the battlefield" to online initiatives designed to choke off the group's financing to diplomatic activities that will stem the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS' breeding ground, Syria.
"We are also working on getting others to stand up and push them out," the source said.
Obama Had Received Intelligence about ISIS's Growing Threat for at Least a Full Year
A former Pentagon official confirms to Fox News that detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of ISIS was included in the PDB, or the President’s Daily Brief, for at least a year before the group took large swaths of territory beginning in June.
The official, who asked not to be identified because the PDB is considered the most authoritative, classified intelligence community product providing the President with analysis of sensitive international events, said the data was strong, and “granular” in detail, adding a policy maker “…could not come away with any other impression: This is getting bad.”
The official who has close knowledge of the process said the President, who reads the PDB unlike his predecessors who traditionally had the document briefed to them, was not known to come back to the intelligence community with further questions or “taskings.” Asked to describe the frequency, the former Pentagon official said “not generally.”
After suggestions that the administration may have been blindsided by the rise of ISIS, and that poor intelligence was to blame, the former Pentagon official said some of the intelligence was so good it was described as “exquisite” when the President drew a red line on chemical weapons use in Syria in 2012.
The source who is familiar with the deliberations said “(we) were ready to fire, on a moments notice, on a couple hundred targets,” but no order was given. In some cases, targets were tracked for a “long period of time” but then slipped away.
On whether the administration delayed acting on the Foley rescue, as first reported by the Sunday Times of London to be 30 days, the former Pentagon official confirmed there was significant delay, describing a White House that was racked with “hesitancy” and continually asking for “the intelligence to build up more.”
At the time, Fox News is told that a large, heavily armed compound, believed to be housing Foley, and other potential captives, was identified near the ISIS strong hold of Raqaa, Syria.
And yet, notwithstanding the evidence about this highly accurate intelligence, Obama continued to lie about it; he continued to say that ISIS had grown unexpectedly strong because of intelligence failures. As The Daily Mail reported in late September 2014:
President Barack Obama admitted that U.S. intelligence underestimated the Islamic State's emergence in Syria, and that breaking up the terrorist cell will be a complicated battle involving both military and political action. The president spoke about the multi-national effort against ISIS in a televised interview with 60 Minutes, which aired Sunday night.
Citing earlier comments by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Mr Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence didn't take seriously enough what had been taking place in Syria. "Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria," Mr Obama said.
Conversely, the United States overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the militant groups, Obama said in the interview taped on Friday, days after the president made his case at the United Nations for action.
Islamic militants went underground when US Marines quashed al-Qaeda in Iraq with help from Iraq's tribes, he said.
"But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos," Obama said according to a clip of the interview broadcast earlier. "And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world."
However, the president says he is now committed to breaking up ISIS in order to give the Iraqi people time to establish a stable democracy. "It’s so important for us to recognize part of our solution here is going to be military," Mr Obama said. "We just have to push them back and shrink their space and go after their command and control and their capacity and their weapons and their fueling and cut off their financing and work to eliminate– the flow of foreign fighters."
Notably, Obama's assertion that "part of our solution here is going to be military" directly contradicted what he had previously said many times. For example, in June 2014 he had said of Iraq: "Tthere’s not going to be a military solution to this problem.... We gave Iraq the chance to have an inclusive democracy, to work across sectarian lines, to provide a better future for their children. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen is a breakdown of trust.... There’s no amount of American firepower that’s going to be able to hold the country together."
And on August 7, 2014, White House spokesman Josh earnest had said: “There are no military solutions to the very difficult problems that exist in Iraq now. The American people cannot solve this problem for the Iraqi people. The only solution that exists is an Iraqi political solution.”
Obama's Denial That His "JV" Reference Was Specifically about ISIL, Is a Lie
On September 8, 2014, TruthRevolt.org reported on an interview from the previous day, in which reporter Chuck Todd had asked Obama about the president having said the following about ISIS/ISIL in January 2014: Obama:"The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant."
When asked about his "JV team" statement in an interview aired on "Meet the Press" Sunday, President Obama denied that the characterization was about ISIS. The checkers at "PolitiFact called the President's denial a lie.
During a discussion about the president's strategy for dealing with ISIS, new "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd said that Obama’s response to the terrorist group was a "long way from when you described them as a JV team," and asked, "Was that bad intelligence or your misjudgment?"
Obama responded by denying that he was talking about ISIS/ISIL:
Obama: Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL. I've said that, regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally, weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11.
PolitiFact did a little digging into the original source of the JV comment, a New Yorker profile of Obama by editor David Remnick, and came to a different conclusion:
The New Yorker published Remnick’s profile on Jan. 27, 2014. In it, he wrote, "In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been ‘decimated.’ I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Fallujah, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too."
Obama responded: "The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant."
Remnick confirmed to PolitiFact that the interview took place on Jan. 7 and he was referencing a specific event that had happened just days before: the overtaking of the Iraq city of Fallujah on Jan. 3.
At the time, Islamic State (often referred to as by its acronyms ISIS or ISIL) was not a household name. It was often referred to as an al-Qaeda-linked group in press reports. But reports from the time clearly indicate that the group was responsible for taking over the city.
Al Jazeera America reported on Jan. 4: "On Friday, ISIL gunmen sought to win over the population in Fallujah, one of the cities they swept into on Wednesday. A commander appeared among worshippers holding Friday prayers in the main city street, proclaiming that his fighters were there to defend Sunnis from the government, one resident said:
"‘We are your brothers from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant,’ gunmen circulating through the city in a stolen police car proclaimed through a loudspeaker. ‘We are here to protect you from the government. We call on you to cooperate with us.’ "
Officials within the Iraqi government told the "Agence France-Presse that ISIL, the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, remained in control of parts of the two cities on Thursday," according to NBC.
So when Remnick referenced an al Qaeda group taking over Fallujah, it’s clear whom he was talking about.
Adding to the evidence is the fact that on Aug. 25, when White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claimed Obama’s comment was being taken out of context and that the "president was not singling out" Islamic State in that interview, but rather Islamic extremist groups in general, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post Fact Checker also called it a lie, giving it four Pinocchios.
Kessler compared Earnest's statement to a transcript of the conversation with Remnick provided to him. Remnick: "You know where this is going, though. Even in the period that you’ve been on vacation in the last couple of weeks, in Iraq, in Syria, of course, in Africa, al-Qaeda is resurgent."
Obama: "Yes, but, David, I think the analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian."
Remnick: "But that JV team just took over Fallujah."
Obama: "I understand. But when you say took over Fallujah –"
Remnick: "And I don’t know for how long."
Obama: "But let’s just keep in mind, Fallujah is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology is a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into."
Both fact checkers believe that it is fairly clear that Obama was talking about ISIS. While Remnick did not use the word, ISIS, ISIL, or Islamic State in his question, he specifically asked about the group that took over Fallujah. The transcript backs this up, as do news events from the time of the discussion.
In his prime-time speech to the nation on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Obama vowed to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria with airstrikes and 475 U.S. boots on the ground – but he also made a particular point of declaring that the Islamic State terrorists “are not Islamic.”
“Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic,” Obama said, speaking from the state floor of the White House residence. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”
He added, “And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
Holder Announces Resignation
On September 24, 2014, Eric Holder announced that he would soon resign from his post as Attorney General. He would stay on, he added, until his successor was named and confirmed by the Senate.
Al Sharpton Says He Is Helping Obama Find Replacement for Holder
Upon Holder's announcement that he would soon be resigning, Al Sharpton said that his own civil rights organization, the National Action Network, was already "engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder." "The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder is met with both pride and disappointment by the Civil Rights community," added Sharpton. "We are proud that he has been the best Attorney General on Civil Rights in U.S. history, and disappointed because he leaves at a critical time when we need his continued diligence most."
Obama Administration Invents the Fictional "Khorosan Group"
For six years, President Obama has endeavored to will the country into accepting two pillars of his alternative national-security reality. First, he claims to have dealt decisively with the terrorist threat, rendering it a disparate series of ragtag jayvees. Second, he asserts that the threat is unrelated to Islam, which is innately peaceful, moderate, and opposed to the wanton “violent extremists” who purport to act in its name.
Now, the president has been compelled to act against a jihad that has neither ended nor been “decimated.” The jihad, in fact, has inevitably intensified under his counterfactual worldview, which holds that empowering Islamic supremacists is the path to security and stability. Yet even as war intensifies in Iraq and Syria — even as jihadists continue advancing, continue killing and capturing hapless opposition forces on the ground despite Obama’s futile air raids — the president won’t let go of the charade.
Hence, Obama gives us the Khorosan Group.
There is a reason that no one had heard of such a group until a nanosecond ago, when the “Khorosan Group” suddenly went from anonymity to the “imminent threat” that became the rationale for an emergency air war there was supposedly no time to ask Congress to authorize.
You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan — the –Iranian–Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.
The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network’s Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week’s U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he’s something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.”
“Core al-Qaeda,” you are to understand, is different from “Jabhat al-Nusra,” which in turn is distinct from “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (formerly “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” now the “Islamic State” al-Qaeda spin-off that is, itself, formerly “al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Sham” or “al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant”). That al-Qaeda, don’t you know, is a different outfit from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula . . . which, of course, should never be mistaken for “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” “Boko Haram,” “Ansar al-Sharia,” or the latest entry, “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.”
Coming soon, “al-Qaeda on Hollywood and Vine.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if, come 2015, Obama issued an executive order decreeing twelve new jihad jayvees stretching from al-Qaeda in January through al-Qaeda in December.
Except you’ll hear only about the jayvees, not the jihad. You see, there is a purpose behind this dizzying proliferation of names assigned to what, in reality, is a global network with multiple tentacles and occasional internecine rivalries.
As these columns have long contended, Obama has not quelled our enemies; he has miniaturized them. The jihad and the sharia supremacism that fuels it form the glue that unites the parts into a whole — a worldwide, ideologically connected movement rooted in Islamic scripture that can project power on the scale of a nation-state and that seeks to conquer the West. The president does not want us to see the threat this way.
For a product of the radical Left like Obama, terrorism is a regrettable but understandable consequence of American arrogance. That it happens to involve Muslims is just the coincidental fallout of Western imperialism in the Middle East, not the doctrinal command of a belief system that perceives itself as engaged in an inter-civilizational conflict. For the Left, America has to be the culprit. Despite its inbred pathologies, which we had no role in cultivating, Islam must be the victim, not the cause. As you’ll hear from Obama’s Islamist allies, who often double as Democrat activists, the problem is “Islamophobia,” not Muslim terrorism.
This is a gross distortion of reality, so the Left has to do some very heavy lifting to pull it off. Since the Islamic-supremacist ideology that unites the jihadists won’t disappear, it has to be denied and purged. The “real” jihad becomes the “internal struggle to become a better person.” The scriptural and scholarly underpinnings of Islamic supremacism must be bleached out of the materials used to train our national-security agents, and the instructors who resist going along with the program must be ostracized. The global terror network must be atomized into discrete, disconnected cells moved to violence by parochial political or territorial disputes, with no overarching unity or hegemonic ambition. That way, they can be limned as a manageable law-enforcement problem fit for the courts to address, not a national-security challenge requiring the armed forces.
The president has been telling us for years that he handled al-Qaeda by killing bin Laden. He has been telling us for weeks that the Islamic State — an al-Qaeda renegade that will soon reconcile with the mother ship for the greater good of unity in the anti-American jihad — is a regional nuisance that posed no threat to the United States. In recent days, however, reality intruded on this fiction. Suddenly, tens of thousands of terrorists, armed to the teeth, were demolishing American-trained armies, beheading American journalists, and threatening American targets.
Obama is not the manner of man who can say, “I was wrong: It turns out that al-Qaeda is actually on the rise, its Islamic State faction is overwhelming the region, and American interests — perhaps even American territory — are profoundly threatened.” So instead . . . you got “the Khorosan Group.”
You also got a smiley-face story about five Arab states joining the United States in a coalition to confront the terrorists. Finally, the story goes, Sunni governments were acting decisively to take Islam back from the “un-Islamic” elements that falsely commit “violent extremism” under Islam’s banner.
Sounds uplifting … until you read the fine print. You’ve got to dig deep to find it. It begins, for example, 42 paragraphs into the Wall Street Journal’s report on the start of the bombing campaign. After the business about our glorious alliance with “moderate” allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who so despise terrorism, we learn:
Only the U.S. — not Arab allies — struck sites associated with the Khorasan group, officials said. Khorasan group members were in the final stages of preparations for an attack on U.S. and Western interests, a defense official said. Khorasan was planning an attack on international airliners, officials have said. . . . Rebels and activists contacted inside Syria said they had never heard of Khorasan and that the U.S. struck several bases and an ammunition warehouse belonging to the main al Qaeda-linked group fighting in Syria, Nusra Front. While U.S. officials have drawn a distinction between the two groups, they acknowledge their membership is intertwined and their goals are similar.
Oops. So it turns out that our moderate Islamist partners have no interest in fighting Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate. Yes, they reluctantly, and to a very limited extent, joined U.S. forces in the strikes against the Islamic State renegades. But that’s not because the Islamic State is jihadist while they are moderate. It is because the Islamic State has made mincemeat of Iraq’s forces, is a realistic threat to topple Assad, and has our partners fretting that they are next on the menu.
Meantime, though, the Saudis and Qatar want no trouble with the rest of al-Qaeda, particularly with al-Nusra. After all, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch is tightly allied with the “moderate opposition” that these “moderate” Gulf states have been funding, arming, and training for the jihad against Assad.
Oh, and what about those other “moderates” Obama has spent his presidency courting, the Muslim Brotherhood? It turns out they are not only all for al-Qaeda, they even condemn what one of their top sharia jurists, Wagdy Ghoneim, has labeled “the Crusader war against the Islamic State.”
“The Crusaders in America, Europe, and elsewhere are our enemies,” Ghoneim tells Muslims. For good measure he adds, “We shall never forget the terrorism of criminal America, which threw the body of the martyred heroic mujahid, Bin Laden, into the sea.”
Obama has his story and he’s sticking to it. But the same can be said for our enemies.
Obama Has Attended Only 42.1% of Daily Intelligence Briefings
A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) report reveals that President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings (known officially as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB) in the 2,079 days of his presidency through September 29, 2014.
The GAI report also included a breakdown of Obama’s PDB attendance record between terms; he attended 42.4% of his PDBs in his first term and 41.3% in his second.
The GAI’s alarming findings come on the heels of Obama’s 60 Minutes comments on Sunday, wherein the president laid the blame for the Islamic State’s (ISIS) rapid rise squarely at the feet of his Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” said Obama.
According to Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake, members of the Defense establishment were “flabbergasted” by Obama’s attempt to shift blame.
“Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” a former senior Pentagon official “who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq” told the Daily Beast.
On Monday, others in the intelligence community similarly blasted Obama and said he’s shown longstanding disinterest in receiving live, in-person PDBs that allow the Commander-in-Chief the chance for critical followup, feedback, questions, and the challenging of flawed intelligence assumptions. “It's pretty well-known that the president hasn’t taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since the early days of 2009,” an Obama national security staffer told the Daily Mail on Monday. “He gets them in writing.” The Obama security staffer said the president’s PDBs have contained detailed threat warnings about the Islamic State dating back to before the 2012 presidential election.
“Unless someone very senior has been shredding the president's daily briefings and telling him that the dog ate them, highly accurate predictions about ISIL have been showing up in the Oval Office since before the 2012 election,” the Obama security staffer told the Daily Mail.
This is not the first time questions have been raised about Obama’s lack of engagement and interest in receiving in-person daily intelligence briefings. On September 10, 2012, the GAI released a similar report showing that Obama had attended less than half (43.8%) of his daily intelligence briefings up to that point. When Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen mentioned the GAI’s findings in his column, then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dubbed the findings “hilarious.” The very next day, U.S. Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American staff members were murdered in Benghazi. As Breitbart News reported at the time, the White House’s very own presidential calendar revealed Obama had not received his daily intel briefing in the five consecutive days leading up to the Benghazi attacks.
Ultimately, as ABC News reported, the White House did not directly dispute the GAI’s numbers but instead said Obama prefers to read his PDB on his iPad instead of receiving the all-important live, in-person briefings.
Panetta Says Obama Administration Was "Eager to Rid Itself" of Iraq War
A former high-ranking Obama administration official writes in his forthcoming memoir that the White House was 'so eager to rid itself of Iraq' that advisers steered the president toward withdrawing all U.S troops instead of trying to ink an agreement to let them legally stay past 2011.
Leon Panetta, Obama's first CIA director and his second Defense secretary, writes in the book Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace that Obama's inner circle lacked a sense of urgency about finalizing a deal with Iraq's then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
'To my frustration,' Panetta writes, 'the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them,' leaving the Defense and State Departments to proceed 'without the President’s active advocacy.'
The U.S. wasn't willing to allow soldiers and Marines to stay past Obama's drawdown deadline – the end of 2011 – without A Status Of Forces Agreement, which would have protected U.S. military personnel from legal prosecution by Iraq's notoriously arbitrary and vicious justice system.
Al-Maliki, according to Panetta, insisted that his nation's divided and fiercely sectarian Parliament needed to debate and approve any such agreement.
That, he writes in 'Worthy Fights,' put the deal in limbo and left the White House wringing its hands even though the leaders of all Iraq's skirmishing factions wanted the U.S. to stay, in some form, as a backstop against opportunistic jihadis.
'To this day,' Panetta insists, 'I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.'
Time magazine published a short excerpt from the book on Wednesday evening.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday during her regular daily briefing that the U.S. 'didn’t have the requirements needed to leave our troops there' at the time.' The administration, she said, 'was certainly committed to doing everything we could to secure the requirements needed to have forces there. Obviously, we were unable to do that.'
Panetta disagrees, writing that the administration ignored 'leverage' the U.S. had over al-Maliki in the form of reconstruction aid dollars. 'My fear, as I voiced to the President and others,' he writes, 'was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S.'
'I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.' But although the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military commanders on the ground in Iraq agreed, 'the president’s team at the White House pushed back, and the differences occasionally became heated.'
'Those on our side,' Panetta says, 'viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.'
Panetta's book ruffled its first feathers two weeks ago when '60 Minutes' reported that he and the rest of Obama's national security team had urged the president in 2012 to arm moderate Syrian rebel groups hostile to dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Obama, Panetta wrote, overruled them all.
More recently, with two additional years of civil war in the rear-view mirror, Obama has secured $500 million from Congress to 'train and equip' the rebels.
'I think that would've helped' in 2012, Panetta told 60 Minutes' during a Sept. 21 broadcast. 'And I think, in part, we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS.'
He also hinted at his belief that a less-complete troop pullout at the end of 2011 'would've given us greater leverage over Iraq's government.
In his new book, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace (released on October 7, 2014), Panetta said: “We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.” "To this day," added Panetta, "I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country."
America's plans to fight Islamic State are in ruins as the militant group's fighters come close to capturing Kobani and have inflicted a heavy defeat on the Iraqi army west of Baghdad.
The US-led air attacks launched against Islamic State (also known as Isis) on 8 August in Iraq and 23 September in Syria have not worked. President Obama's plan to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State has not even begun to achieve success. In both Syria and Iraq, Isis is expanding its control rather than contracting.
Isis reinforcements have been rushing towards Kobani in the past few days to ensure that they win a decisive victory over the Syrian Kurdish town's remaining defenders. The group is willing to take heavy casualties in street fighting and from air attacks in order to add to the string of victories it has won in the four months since its forces captured Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, on 10 June. Part of the strength of the fundamentalist movement is a sense that there is something inevitable and divinely inspired about its victories, whether it is against superior numbers in Mosul or US airpower at Kobani.
In the face of a likely Isis victory at Kobani, senior US officials have been trying to explain away the failure to save the Syrian Kurds in the town, probably Isis's toughest opponents in Syria. "Our focus in Syria is in degrading the capacity of [Isis] at its core to project power, to command itself, to sustain itself, to resource itself," said US Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, in a typical piece of waffle designed to mask defeat. "The tragic reality is that in the course of doing that there are going to be places like Kobani where we may or may not be able to fight effectively."
Unfortunately for the US, Kobani isn't the only place air strikes are failing to stop Isis. In an offensive in Iraq launched on 2 October but little reported in the outside world, Isis has captured almost all the cities and towns it did not already hold in Anbar province, a vast area in western Iraq that makes up a quarter of the country. It has captured Hit, Kubaisa and Ramadi, the provincial capital, which it had long fought for. Other cities, towns and bases on or close to the Euphrates River west of Baghdad fell in a few days, often after little resistance by the Iraqi Army which showed itself to be as dysfunctional as in the past, even when backed by US air strikes.
Today, only the city of Haditha and two bases, Al-Assad military base near Hit, and Camp Mazrah outside Fallujah, are still in Iraqi government hands. Joel Wing, in his study –"Iraq's Security Forces Collapse as The Islamic State Takes Control of Most of Anbar Province" – concludes: "This was a huge victory as it gives the insurgents virtual control over Anbar and poses a serious threat to western Baghdad".
The battle for Anbar, which was at the heart of the Sunni rebellion against the US occupation after 2003, is almost over and has ended with a decisive victory for Isis. It took large parts of Anbar in January and government counter-attacks failed dismally with some 5,000 casualties in the first six months of the year. About half the province's 1.5 million population has fled and become refugees. The next Isis target may be the Sunni enclaves in western Baghdad, starting with Abu Ghraib on the outskirts but leading right to the centre of the capital.
The Iraqi government and its foreign allies are drawing comfort, there having been some advances against Isis in the centre and north of the country. But north and north-east of Baghdad the successes have not been won by the Iraqi army but by highly sectarian Shia militias which do not distinguish between Isis and the rest of the Sunni population. They speak openly of getting rid of Sunni in mixed provinces such as Diyala where they have advanced. The result is that Sunni in Iraq have no alternative but to stick with Isis or flee, if they want to survive. The same is true north-west of Mosul on the border with Syria, where Iraqi Kurdish forces, aided by US air attacks, have retaken the important border crossing of Rabia, but only one Sunni Arab remained in the town. Ethnic and sectarian cleansing has become the norm in the war in both Iraq and Syria.
The US's failure to save Kobani, if it falls, will be a political as well as military disaster. Indeed, the circumstances surrounding the loss of the beleaguered town are even more significant than the inability so far of air strikes to stop Isis taking 40 per cent of it. At the start of the bombing in Syria, President Obama boasted of putting together a coalition of Sunni powers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to oppose Isis, but these all have different agendas to the US in which destroying IS is not the first priority. The Sunni Arab monarchies may not like Isis, which threatens the political status quo, but, as one Iraqi observer put it, "they like the fact that Isis creates more problems for the Shia than it does for them".
Of the countries supposedly uniting against Isis, by the far most important is Turkey because it shares a 510-mile border with Syria across which rebels of all sorts, including Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, have previously passed with ease. This year the Turks have tightened border security, but since its successes in the summer Isis no longer needs sanctuary, supplies and volunteers from outside to the degree it once did.
In the course of the past week it has become clear that Turkey considers the Syrian Kurd political and military organisations, the PYD and YPG, as posing a greater threat to it than the Islamic fundamentalists. Moreover, the PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.
Ever since Syrian government forces withdrew from the Syrian Kurdish enclaves or cantons on the border with Turkey in July 2012, Ankara has feared the impact of self-governing Syrian Kurds on its own 15 million-strong Kurdish population.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would prefer Isis to control Kobani, not the PYD. When five PYD members, who had been fighting Isis at Kobani, were picked up by the Turkish army as they crossed the border last week they were denounced as "separatist terrorists".
Turkey is demanding a high price from the US for its co-operation in attacking Isis, such as a Turkish-controlled buffer zone inside Syria where Syrian refugees are to live and anti-Assad rebels are to be trained. Mr Erdogan would like a no-fly zone which will also be directed against the government in Damascus since Isis has no air force. If implemented the plan would mean Turkey, backed by the US, would enter the Syrian civil war on the side of the rebels, though the anti-Assad forces are dominated by Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate.
It is worth keeping in mind that Turkey's actions in Syria since 2011 have been a self-defeating blend of hubris and miscalculation. At the start of the uprising, it could have held the balance between the government and its opponents. Instead, it supported the militarisation of the crisis, backed the jihadis and assumed Assad would soon be defeated. This did not happen and what had been a popular uprising became dominated by sectarian warlords who flourished in conditions created by Turkey. Mr Erdogan is assuming he can disregard the rage of the Turkish Kurds at what they see as his complicity with Isis against the Syrian Kurds. This fury is already deep, with 33 dead, and is likely to get a great deal worse if Kobani falls.
Why doesn't Ankara worry more about the collapse of the peace process with the PKK that has maintained a ceasefire since 2013? It may believe that the PKK is too heavily involved in fighting Isis in Syria that it cannot go back to war with the government in Turkey. On the other hand, if Turkey does join the civil war in Syria against Assad, a crucial ally of Iran, then Iranian leaders have said that "Turkey will pay a price". This probably means that Iran will covertly support an armed Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Saddam Hussein made a somewhat similar mistake to Mr Erdogan when he invaded Iran in 1980, thus leading Iran to reignite the Kurdish rebellion that Baghdad had crushed through an agreement with the Shah in 1975. Turkish military intervention in Syria might not end the war there, but it may well spread the fighting to Turkey.
In Interview, Obama Encourages Democrat Candidates to Say Whatever They Need to Say in Order to Win Election, and Then to Later Vote with the Left
In an October 2014 interview with Al Sharpton, Obama addressed the fact that many Democratic candidates in red states were trying to distance themselves and their policies from the president, as evidenced by their refusal to endorse certain policies of his, and their refusal to have him make any public appearances with him. Said Obama: “These are all folks who vote with me, they have supported my agenda in congress.... These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me.... You know what, I tell them. I said 'you do what you need [to do] to win."
The Imperial Presidency Continues: Obama Plans to Bypass Congress to Strike a Nuclear Deal with Iran
On October 20, 2014, historian Ron Radosh wrote the following:
President Barack Obama has just taken another giant step towards implementing his imperial presidency.
The announcement in yesterday’s New York Times that he will seek an Iran deal “that will avoid Congress” reveals his utter contempt for the American people. Moreover, it shows us that what clearly will be a very, very bad deal is one he hopes to portray as proof that he has brought stability to the Middle East, and that — just as he had argued — Iran has shown that it is cooperative, is under “moderate” leadership, and has proved that it wants peace and can be a partner of the United States.
As the Times story by David E. Sanger puts it: “President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.” He will do it with a sleight-of-hand semantic trick which involves removing sanctions on Iran without Congressional approval, which a Treasury Department study evidently argues that he can do. By calling it simply an “agreement” and not a treaty, Obama thinks he can accept a bad deal and legally not have to obtain a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
The reason he wants to do this is obvious: even if the Democrats control the Senate, he would not have enough votes for a treaty to pass.
We have known for a long time that the Obama administration has decided that Iran can have a bomb and still act responsibly, despite its proven support of international terrorism and its promise to destroy Israel. In the mind of the administration’s so-called “realists,” letting Iran have a bomb will make it an equal player among the world’s nuclear powers. Then, the old doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (appropriately dubbed MAD) will be honored by the Ayatollahs, just as the Soviet Union worked with its main antagonist, the United States, to carry on its conflict without using the atomic weapons they possessed.
Of course, the apparatchiks of the Kremlin subscribed to the materialist Marxist-Leninist theory. Unlike the religious zealotry of the commissars, the Mullahs subscribe to a reading of Islam that demands the eventual triumph of the Caliphate that will make Iran a leading world power, and a perch from which Sharia law will be the law of the land wherever it attains hegemony.
A solid argument warning against the deal was made by Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman, and Ray Takeyh in The Washington Post some time ago. The three former policy makers note the following:
The ebbs and flows of the war on terrorism should not be allowed to conceal the fact that the theocratic Iranian regime and its attempt to upend the regional order remains the United States’ most consequential long-term challenge in the Middle East.
The Islamic republic is not a normal nation-state seeking to realize its legitimate interests but an ideological entity mired in manufactured conspiracies. A persistent theme of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speeches is that the United States is a declining power whose domestic sources of strength are fast eroding. In today’s disorderly region, Iran sees a unique opportunity to project its influence and undermine the United States and its system of alliances.
The Times and others, including anyone in the Obama administration, might just as well read any of the columns on PJ Media by Michael Ledeen, who more than anyone else has been telling the hard truth about the true nature of the Iranian regime. Ledeen has continually explained the game the Mullahs have been playing, of which our president has become a patsy.
To date, the president has ignored such advice from those who have long been involved in Middle East affairs. Now, we at least have bipartisan opposition to the kind of deal Obama wants to accept.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R, IL) said: “Congress will not permit the president to unilaterally unravel Iran sanctions that passed the Senate in a 99 to 0 vote.” Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, (D, NJ) boldly stated: “If a potential deal does not substantially and effective dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, I expect Congress will respond. An agreement cannot allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear state.”
Obama’s dangerous foreign policy has thus achieved the impossible: uniting Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. They are intent on preventing a deal that depends largely on Iran’s good word, which as we all know, does not amount to much.
Top Iranian Official: Obama is ‘The Weakest of U.S. Presidents’
On October 23, 2014, the Washington Free Beaconreported:
The Iranian president’s senior advisor has called President Barack Obama “the weakest of U.S. presidents” and described the U.S. leader’s tenure in office as “humiliating,” according to a translation of the highly candid comments provided to the Free Beacon.
The comments by Ali Younesi, senior advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, come as Iran continues to buck U.S. attempts to woo it into the international coalition currently battling the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, or ISIS).
And with the deadline quickly approaching on talks between the U.S. and Iran over its contested nuclear program, Younesi’s denigrating views of Obama could be a sign that the regime in Tehran has no intent of conceding to America’s demands.
“Obama is the weakest of U.S. presidents, he had humiliating defeats in the region. Under him the Islamic awakening happened,” Younesi said in a Farsi language interview with Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.
“Americans witnessed their greatest defeats in Obama’s era: Terrorism expanded, [the] U.S. had huge defeats under Obama [and] that is why they want to compromise with Iran,” Younesi said....
“We [the Islamic Republic] have to use this opportunity [of Democrats being in power in the U.S.], because if this opportunity is lost, in future we may not have such an opportunity again,” Younesi said.
The candid comments by Rouhani’s right-hand-man could provide a window into the regime’s mindset as nuclear talks wind to a close.
The Obama administration has maintained for months that it will not permit Congress to have final say over the deal, which many worry will permit Iran to continue enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon.
About the potential for a nuclear deal, Youseni said, “I am not optimistic so much, but the two sides are willing to reach results,” according to an official translation posted online by Fars News.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have adopted a much more pessimistic view of Iran’s negotiating tactics, which many on the Hill maintain are meant to stall for time as Tehran completes its nuclear weapon.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), for instance, wrote a letter to the White House this week to tell Obama his desire to skirt Congress is unacceptable.
“Congress cannot and will not sit idly by if the Administration intends on taking unilateral action to provide sanctions relief to Iran for a nuclear deal we perceive to be weak and dangerous for our national security, the security of the region, and poses a threat to the U.S. and our ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen wrote.
“If the Administration opts to act in a manner that directly contradicts Congress’ intent, then Congress must take all necessary measures to either reverse the executive, unilateral action, or to strengthen and enhance current sanctions law,” she told the president.
“President Obama does believe that by rewarding Iran and permitting it to do whatever it wants in the region, the mullahs in Tehran will be convinced to compromise,” said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
However, “the result has been disastrous: Iran controls 3 Arab capitals (Damascus, Beirut, and Baghdad) and its allies just captured the fourth one (Sana in Yemen) and Iran’s economy has significantly improved,” Ghasseminejad explained.
“Unfortunately, it does not seem that the mullahs reached the conclusion desired by the administration,” he said. “Iranians believe this administration is weak, it has lost its economic leverage over Iran and there is no credible military option on the table. Iran has been rewarded upfront, they now ask for more while are determined to keep their nuclear program intact.”
U.S., allies scramble jets almost daily to repel Russian incursions
On October 23, 2014, the Washington Timesreported:
Russian military provocations have increased so much over the seven months since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine that Washington and its allies are scrambling defense assets on a nearly daily basis in response to air, sea and land incursions by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Not only is Moscow continuing to foment unrest in Eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials and regional security experts say Russian fighter jets are testing U.S. reaction times over Alaska and Japan’s ability to scramble planes over its northern islands — all while haunting Sweden’s navy and antagonizing Estonia’s tiny national security force.
“What’s going on is a radical escalation of aggressive Russian muscle flexing and posturing designed to demonstrate that Russia is no longer a defeated power of the Cold War era,” says Ariel Cohen, who heads the Center for Energy, National Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington.
“The more we retreat, the more we are encouraging Russia to behave in a more aggressive way,” Mr. Cohen said. “We need to be engaging more deeply with our Central Asian allies, but instead we are in the process of abandoning turf to Russia, and it’s wrong — it’s against our interests geopolitically to let Russia feel that they all of a sudden have won all the turf without firing a shot.”
The Obama administration resists such characterizations, asserting that the White House is doing anything but “retreating.”
To the contrary, administration officials say they’re bolstering U.S. support to NATO and several non-NATO Baltic states specifically to confront Mr. Putin. They also assert that the current economic downturn inside Russia — where inflation is reported to have crested to 8 percent in recent weeks — is driven as much by a dip in global oil prices as by the slate of sanctions leveled by the White House in response to Russian meddling in Ukraine.
For his own part, Mr. Obama stopped short of directly addressing the uptick in Russian military maneuvering during a major U.N. speech last month. The president did, however, assert that “Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones.”
He also threatened to “impose a cost on Russia for aggression.”
Mr. Obama’s comments were followed this month by the deployment of some 20 M1A1 Abrams battle tanks and roughly 700 U.S. troops across Poland and three Baltic States — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — a move military officials said was designed to send a message that serious Russian aggression in the area could mean war with NATO.
But Mr. Putin has appeared undeterred. NATO officials confirmed this week that the Russian air force flew an Ilyushin-20 spy plane into Estonian airspace Tuesday, triggering a swift reaction from NATO fighter jets patrolling the area.
The incursion came just days after Sweden made international headlines by scrambling a fleet of naval vessels to search for a suspected submarine sighted about 30 miles off the coast of Stockholm in the Baltic Sea.
Swedish authorities avoided pinning the incident directly on Russia, and Moscow denied involvement. But regional analysts like Mr. Cohen say they’d be surprised if the sub was not Russian.
The development, the analysts say, fits within a growing list of similar Russian actions, including some directly challenging U.S. territory.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled jets to scare off two Russian strategic bombers that suddenly appeared to conduct practice runs in airspace just 65 miles off Alaska in June. A similar incident occurred in September, with U.S. and Canadian fighters scrambling to deter six Russian aircraft, including two nuclear bombers, two fighter jets and two refueling tankers, according to news reports.
Around the same time, Russian ground forces were making the unprecedented move of arresting an Estonian security official at gunpoint near the Baltic nation’s border with Russia. The official is reportedly now in Moscow facing espionage charges.
More worrisome are reports that Japan has had to scramble fighter jets to ward off Russian bombers and spy planes twice as often as usual over the past six months. Japanese government figures released this week show flights dispatched to meet Russian aircraft in the latest six months soared to 324 from 136 over the preceding six months, according to a report by Reuters.
Steve Ganyard, the president of Avascent International, a global security consulting firm in Washington, says Russia’s moves reflect Mr. Putin’s desire to bring about a new era of cat and mouse-style games that were “prevalent in the Cold War.”
Tuesday’s Estonia incursion, for instance, was “quite deliberate,” said Mr. Ganyard, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot who has also held past posts at the Pentagon and State Department.
Mr. Putin is engaged in a ploy to garner international recognition as a way to reassure Russian citizens that their nation remains a formidable military power, he said.
“Military has its own appeal to nationalism, and that is what helps him keep [his] power and keep his approval ratings so high,” he said.
“Putin knows how to play domestic politics,” Mr. Ganyard added. “Right now, one of his platforms is to return Russia to its glory, and part of that means its military glory” by bolstering the “myth of the Red Army saving the motherland.”
In February, Mr. Putin’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, made headlines by claiming the Russian military was engaged in talks with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore — and that the Russian navy was seeking permission to use ports in Latin America and Asia.
Such claims are in keeping with “a Russian narrative of a more assertive and powerful country,” said William Pomeranz, a national security analyst at the Wilson International Center for Scholars and Russian law professor at Georgetown University.
Putin Accuses U.S. of Damaging World Order
On October 24, 2014, Reuters reported the following:
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of endangering global security by imposing a "unilateral diktat" on the rest of the world and shifted blame for the Ukraine crisis onto the West.
In a 40-minute diatribe against the West that was reminiscent of the Cold War and underlined the depth of the rift between Moscow and the West, Putin also denied trying to rebuild the Soviet empire at the expense of Russia's neighbors.
"We did not start this," Putin told an informal group of experts on Russia that includes many Western specialists critical of him, warning that Washington was trying to "remake the whole world" based on its own interests.
"Statements that Russia is trying to reinstate some sort of empire, that it is encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless," the former KGB spy declared in a speech delivered standing at a podium, without a smile, in a ski resort in mountains above the Black Sea city of Sochi.
Listing a series of conflicts in which he faulted U.S. actions, including Libya, Syria and Iraq, Putin asked whether Washington's policies had strengthened peace and democracy.
"No," he declared. "The unilateral diktat and the imposing of schemes (on others) have exactly the opposite effect."
Putin, 62, has stepped up anti-Western rhetoric since returning to the Kremlin as president in 2012, helping push up his popularity ratings since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.
Even so, the speech was one of the most hostile Putin has delivered against the West and it appeared partly intended to show Russian voters he will stand up to the rest of the world and defend their interests.
The criticisms of a world order dominated by Washington, more than two decades after the Cold War, recalled a 2007 speech in Munich in which Putin shocked the West by lambasting Washington's "unipolar" world view. The speech prompted many Western leaders to reassess their view of Putin.
The annual meetings of what is known as the Valdai Club have rarely featured such open, direct and tough language in their debates on Russian policy.
Critics say the meetings have become a showcase for Kremlin policy, with the session attended by Putin shown live on state television and little discussion of Russia's record on human rights and democracy, which is criticized in the West.
Putin rejected criticism over the Ukraine crisis, in which Moscow has sided with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and threw the West's criticisms of Moscow back in its face.
Repeating accusations that Western governments helped pro-Western groups stage a coup d'etat that ousted a pro-Moscow president in Kiev in February, Putin said: "No one wanted to listen to us and no one wanted to talk to us."
"Instead of a difficult but, I underline, civilized dialogue they brought about a state coup. They pushed the country into chaos, economic and social collapse, and civil war with huge losses," he said.
Dismissing U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow as a mistake, he said: "Russia will not be posturing, get offended, ask someone for anything. Russia is self-sufficient."
He made only passing references to the decline of Russia's $2 trillion economy, which is in danger of sliding into recession as its currency tumbles along with the price of oil, its main export item.
But he said in a question and answer session after his speech that Russia would not burn though its gold and foreign currency reserves thoughtlessly to prop up the economy.
Putin has increasingly sought to shift blame for the economic crisis onto global problems, the sanctions and the oil price. He and other Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have also used increasingly tough language to blame the West for the Ukraine crisis.
A ceasefire has been in force in Ukraine since Sept. 5, but it has been violated daily and the West says Moscow continues to have troops and weapons in east Ukraine. Russia denies this.
Obama Administration Hacks the Computer of CBS Journalist Sharyl Attkisson
On October 28, 2014, Howard Kurtz of Fox News reported:
From the moment that Sharyl Attkisson met a shadowy source I’ll call Big Mac, she was plunged into a nightmare involving mysterious surveillance of her computers.
They met at a McDonald’s in Northern Virginia at the beginning of 2013, and the source (she dubs him Number One) warned her about the threat of government spying. During their next hamburger rendezvous, Big Mac told Attkisson, then a CBS News reporter constantly at odds with the Obama administration, that he was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” by his examination of her computer and that this was “worse than anything Nixon ever did.”
Attkisson’s forthcoming book--“Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction and Intimidation in Obama’s Washington”—reads in part like a spy thriller. Just when you think Attkisson’s imagination might be running away with her comes wave after wave of evidence that both her CBS computer and personal iMac were repeatedly hacked and its files accessed, including one on Benghazi. A consultant hired by CBS reached the same conclusion. Further scrutiny of her personal desktop proves that “the interlopers were able to co-opt my iMac and operate it remotely, as if they were sitting in front of it.” And an inspection revealed that an extra fiber-optics line had been installed in Attkisson’s home without her knowledge.
This is chilling stuff.
There is the strong implication that an administration that spied on the Associated Press and Fox News correspondent James Rosen might have been involved. A Justice Department spokesman said in an earlier statement that "to our knowledge" the department "has never 'compromised' Ms. Attkisson's computers" or tried to obtain information from any of her devices. A spokeswoman for CBS News said the network had no comment on the book.
In the fall of 2013, with White House officials accusing Attkisson of being biased in her Benghazi reporting, the files in her MacBook Air suddenly began deleting at hyperspeed right before her eyes. She videotaped the process and showed it to two computer experts. "They're [blanking] with you," one says. "They're trying to send you a message," says the other. The experts also found evidence that the intruders had tried to cover their tracks by erasing 23 hours of log-in information.
Both Attkisson’s work and personal computers were compromised after she began digging into the Fast and Furious and Benghazi scandals, and she now openly states that she believes a “government-related entity” was behind the hacking.
After a lengthy investigation into the breach, she says a source told her it was a “sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”
“The intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool,” Attkisson wrote, according to a New York Post review of her book. She added that her source is “connected to government three-letter agencies.”
Attkisson quoted the source: “This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America.”
... Now for the phone problems. By November 2012, writes Attkisson, disruptions on her home phone line were so frequent as to render it unusable: “I call home from my mobile phone and it rings on my end, but not at the house. Or it rings at home once but when my husband or daughter answers, they just hear a dial tone. At the same time, on my end, it keeps ringing and then connects somewhere, just not at my house. Sometimes, when my call connects to that mystery-place-that’s-not-my-house, I hear an electronic sounding buzz,” reads one passage in “Stonewalled.” She also alleges that her television set “spontaneously jitters, mutes, and freeze-frames.” The home alarm, too, “sounds at a different time every night” and when she checks with the alarm system, it indicates that there’s “trouble with the phone line.”
Phone, TV and computer service chez Attkisson all run on Verizon’s FiOS service. “Jeff” asks to inspect the exterior of the house in a check for anything suspicious. He finds a “stray cable dangling from the FiOS box attached to the brick wall on the outside of my house. It doesn’t belong.” “Jeff” says the cable in question is an “extra” fiber-optic line that could be used to download data and then send it off to another spot.
Attkisson takes a picture of the cable. Then she calls Verizon, which tells her that it’s not something they would have installed; they refer her to law enforcement. Attkisson doesn’t feel its a matter for the cops, and in any case Verizon calls back to say that they want to have a look for themselves as soon as possible — on New Year’s Day, no less. “Yeah, that shouldn’t be there,” the Verizon technician tells Attkisson.
The technician removes the cable and prepares to take it with him. Attkisson stops him and instructs him to leave it; he “seems hesitant but puts down the cable on top of the air-conditioning fan next to us.”
Days later, on her commute to work, Attkisson remembers that cable on top of the fan and calls her husband to go out and collect it. “It’s gone,” reports the husband. Attkisson’s efforts to get through to the Verizon technician fail.
A firm hired by CBS News to investigate Attkisson’s computer problems counsels Attkisson to have her FiOS box moved to the interior of her house. When the company’s technicians visit the house, they refuse to perform that request. “It’s not necessary, they say,” writes Attkisson in “Stonewalled.” “They know their business. As adamant as I am about moving the box, they’re just as adamant about not doing so.”
At one point, Attkisson gets a visit from pseudonymous “Terry,” who has “connections to the three-letter agencies.” “Stonewalled” takes it from here:
Terry tells me of a conversation he’d had with my husband back in 2011. He’d noticed a white utility truck parked up the street by a pond. “I didn’t like that. I didn’t like it at all,” he tells me now, shaking his head. . . . “I didn’t like it because I recognized the type of truck and the type of antennae it had. And if you look” — he points up the street — “there’s a direct line of sight from where it was parked to your house.” My husband, who once worked in law enforcement intelligence, had on several occasions in the past couple of years mentioned the presence of nondescript utility trucks parked in our neighborhood — trucks that were working on no known utility projects. Neighbors noticed, too. Ours is a small community filled with people who pay attention to such things. Some of them worked for the three-letter agencies.”
USA Today’s Susan Page: Obama administration most ‘dangerous’ to media in history
At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”
USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act.
Obama Pokes Fun at Chicago's History of Voter Fraud
At an October 28, 2014 rally in Milwaukee for Wisconsin's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, President Obama poked fun at the corrupt political history of his hometown Chicago, saying: "You can only vote once — this isn't Chicago, now.”
Russia's Numerous and Alarming Provocations
On November 2, 2014, the New York Times reported:
... Here are recent examples of Russia’s new assertiveness. Of course, none of this has been confirmed by Moscow.
In response to an “unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” NATO scrambled fighter jets to intercept 26 Russian aircraft in just two days this week, including 19 Russian fighters, bombers and refueling aircraft on Wednesday.
The Russian planes, which were intercepted in international airspace over the Black Sea, Baltic Sea and North Sea, included Tu-95 Bear H bombers, Su-27 fighter jets, and Il-78 tanker aircraft. According to NATO, they did not file flight plans or maintain contact with civilian air traffic control.
Mr. Putin has dispatched bombers as a show of force before: During a period of heightened tensions in 2007, he resumed the Soviet-era practice of long-range patrols far beyond Russia’s borders.
An Estonian intelligence officer ended up in Russian custody in Moscow in September. How that happened remains in dispute.
Estonian officials said that Russians armed with stun grenades and radio-jamming equipment crossed the border and subdued Eston Kohver, the intelligence officer, while he was on duty. The possible incursion of Russian security forces in Estonia came as violence was still surging in eastern Ukraine, and other countries on Russia’s borders had voiced concerns about security.
The F.S.B., Russia’s security service, said in a statement that Mr. Kohver had been “detained on Russian territory,” and that he had been found to be carrying a pistol and ammunition cartridges, 5,000 euros (about $6,500), surveillance equipment and “intelligence-gathering instructions.”
This was not the first recent claim of an extrajudicial kidnapping by Russian forces or their proxies. A Ukrainian pilot who disappeared during fighting in eastern Ukraine suddenly reappeared in a prison in the southern Russian city of Voronezh. She claimed she had been kidnapped by Ukrainian separatists. But Moscow said she had sneaked across the border on a mission. She was charged with war crimes for her part in the Ukrainian conflict and remains in custody.
In what came to be playfully called “The Hunt for Reds in October,” the Swedish Navy launched the country’s largest mobilization since the Cold War to find a mysterious submarine first detected near Stockholm on Oct. 17.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Suspicion quickly fell on Russia because of heightened tensions over Ukraine, media reports that the vessel was communicating with Kaliningrad, where Russia’s Baltic fleet is, and the fact that it was reminiscent of the “Whiskey on the Rocks” incident, when a Soviet submarine carrying nuclear weapons ran aground near the south coast of Sweden in 1981, prompting an international standoff until it was returned to the Soviet fleet.
Russian officials denied the recent vessel was theirs, suggesting it might be a Royal Netherlands Navy submarine, which the Dutch denied. Despite a weeklong search by minesweepers, helicopters and ships last month, no submarine was found.
American intelligence officials quickly focused attention on Russia when the White House’s unclassified computer systems were discovered to have been infiltrated by sophisticated spying software; after all, the rising brinkmanship went virtual when George W. Bush was still president.
On Tuesday, the Silicon Valley investigator FireEye released a report detailing Russian cyberattacks against NATO, an American defense contractor, the government of Georgia and other Eastern European governments and militaries over the last seven years.
The report did not cite specific evidence of Russian government involvement, but alleged that Russia stood behind the attacks because the software was programmed on Russian-language machines during working hours in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and because the targets were closely aligned with Russian intelligence interests.
In July, three security firms tied a string of coordinated attacks on Western oil and gas companies to Moscow, though the motive behind the attacks then appeared to be industrial espionage.
Obama Says Mothers Shouldn't have to Choose to Stay Home with Kids and Earn Less Money over the Course of Their Careers
During an October 31, 2014 speech in Rhode Island, President Obama emphasized the importance of public pre-school and noted that daycare was becoming too expensive. “Moms and dads deserve a great place to drop their kids off every day that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg,” he said. “We need better child care, day care, early child education policies.” Obama went on to lament that because America lacks universal public pre-school as an alternative to high-priced daycare, women are often forced to stay home with their children rather than go to work and maximize their present and future earning power. He explained: “Sometimes, someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”
Russia Says It Will Conduct Bomber Patrols over Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico
Russia's long-range bombers will conduct regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, the military said Wednesday, a show of muscle reflecting tensions with the West over Ukraine.
A statement from Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu came as NATO's chief commander accused Moscow of sending new troops and tanks into Ukraine - a claim quickly rejected by Russia.
He said Russian long-range bombers will conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean. He added that "in the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico."
He said that the increasing pace and duration of flights would require stronger maintenance efforts and relevant directives have been issued to industries.
Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers were making regular patrols across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans during Cold War times, but the post-Soviet money crunch forced the military to cut back. The bomber patrol flights have resumed under President Vladimir Putin's tenure.
The patrols have become even more frequent in recent weeks with NATO reporting a spike in Russian military flights over the Black, Baltic and North seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean.
Earlier this year, Shoigu said that Russia plans to expand its worldwide military presence by seeking permission for navy ships to use ports in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for replenishing supplies and doing maintenance. He said the military was conducting talks with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.
Shoigu said Russia was also talking to some of those countries about allowing long-range bombers to use their air bases for refueling.
Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank, said the bomber patrols were part of Kremlin's efforts to make the Russian military "more visible and more assertive in its actions." ...
On Monday, the European Leadership Network issued a report that found a sharp rise in Russian-NATO military encounters since the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea, including violations of national airspace, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea, harassment of reconnaissance planes, close overflights over warships and Russian mock bombing raid missions.
Three of the nearly 40 incidents, the think tank said, carried a "high probability" of causing casualties or triggering a direct military confrontation: a narrowly avoided collision between a civilian airliner and a Russian surveillance plane, the abduction of an Estonian intelligence officer and a large-scale Swedish hunt for a suspected Russian submarine that yielded no result.
In September, the report said, Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea off Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the U.S. In June, two F-22 fighter jets were scrambled after a pair of Russian bombers were spotted 50 miles off the coast of California.
Russia-West ties have dipped to their lowest point since Cold War times over the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia insurgents in Ukraine. The West and Ukraine have continuously accused Moscow of fueling the rebellion in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons - claims Russia has rejected.
Fighting has continued in the east despite a cease-fire agreement between Ukraine and the rebels signed in September, and Ukraine and the West accused Russia recently of sending in new troops and weapons.
U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove said Wednesday that in the last two days "we have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine."
ISIS Beheads American; Obama Eulogizes the Victim by Using the Muslim Name He Adopted When he Converted While in Captivity
On November 16, 2014, ISIS/ISIL terrorists beheaded another American, Peter Kassig, an ex-Army Ranger who later became an aid worker in Syria. The killers also released a 16-minute video displaying Kassig's severed head and mocking him. It should be noted that Kassig, while hw was in captivity, had "converted" to Islam and adopted the name Abdul-Rahman Kassig.
In a statement regarding the killing, President Obama referred to Kassig by his Muslim name. He also took pains to emphasize that ISIS/ISIL and its ideology were not representative of true Islam. In fact, he maintained that ISIS/ISIL represented "least of all the Muslim faith." Said Obama:
"Today we offer our prayers and condolences to the parents and family of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known to us as Peter. We cannot begin to imagine their anguish at this painful time.
"Abdul-Rahman was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity. Like Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff before him, his life and deeds stand in stark contrast to everything that ISIL represents. While ISIL revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict. While ISIL exploits the tragedy in Syria to advance their own selfish aims, Abdul-Rahman was so moved by the anguish and suffering of Syrian civilians that he traveled to Lebanon to work in a hospital treating refugees. Later, he established an aid group, SERA, to provide assistance to Syrian refugees and displaced persons in Lebanon and Syria. These were the selfless acts of an individual who cared deeply about the plight of the Syrian people.
"ISIL's actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own. Today we grieve together, yet we also recall that the indomitable spirit of goodness and perseverance that burned so brightly in Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and which binds humanity together, ultimately is the light that will prevail over the darkness of ISIL."
The Obama administration is expected to release on Wednesday a contentious and long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.
The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.
Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.
The proposed regulation would lower the current threshold for ozone pollution from 75 parts per billion to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion, according to people familiar with the plan. That range is less stringent than the standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups, but the E.P.A. proposal would also seek public comment on a 60 parts-per-billion plan, keeping open the possibility that the final rule could be stricter....
“Ozone is the most pervasive and widespread pollutant in the country,” said Paul Billings, a senior vice president of the American Lung Association. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said, “Ozone is not only killing people, but causing tens of millions of people to get sick every day.”
But industry groups say that the regulation would impose unwieldy burdens on the economy, with little public health benefit.
“Air quality has improved dramatically over the past decades, and air quality will continue to improve under the existing standards,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry. “The current review of health studies has not identified compelling evidence for more stringent standards, and current standards are protective of public health.”
The proposed ozone rule comes as the longstanding battle over Mr. Obama’s use of the Clean Air Act to push his environmental agenda is erupting in Congress and the courts. The ozone rules are expected to force the owners of power plants and factories to install expensive technology to clean the pollutants from their smokestacks.
Next year, the E.P.A. is expected to make final two more historic Clean Air Act rules aimed at cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Those rules, which are intended to curb pollutants that contribute to climate change, could lead to the shutdown of hundreds of power plants and freeze construction of future coal plants....
The E.P.A. had planned to release the new ozone rule in August of 2011, but as Republicans and powerful industry groups prepared to go on attack against the plan, Mr. Obama decided to delay its release, fearing that opposition to the regulation would hurt his re-election chances in 2012.
At the time, Mr. Obama said the regulation would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.
Environmental advocates, who took the delay as a setback, then sued the Obama administration, and earlier this year a federal judge ordered the E.P.A. to release the rule by Dec. 1.
Obama Releases Six More al Qaeda Members from Guantanamo; They Are Now Free Without Conditions
The U.S. government said early Sunday that it had transferred six detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for over 12 years to Uruguay for resettlement as refugees. All six men had been detained as suspected militants with ties to Al Qaeda, but had never been charged. A Pentagon statement on Sunday identified the men as four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian. They are the first Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be sent to South America. They had been cleared for release since at least 2010 but they could not be sent home and languished as the U.S. struggled to find countries willing to take them.
Among those transferred is 43-year-old Syrian Abu Wa'el Dhiab, who was on a long-term hunger strike at Guantanamo to protest his confinement. He was at the center of a legal battle in U.S. courts over the military's force-feeding of prisoners who refuse to eat. The other Syrians sent to Uruguay on Saturday were identified by the Pentagon as Ali Husain Shaaban, 32; Ahmed Adnan Ajuri, 37; and Abdelahdi Faraj, 39. Also released were Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan, 35, and 49-year-old Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi of Tunisia.
The latest release brings the total number of prisoners at Guantanamo to 136 -- the lowest number since the first month the prison opened in January 2002. The U.S. has said that the men pose no threat, but cannot be allowed to return to their countries of origin.
Prisoner Exchange (and Normalization of Relations) with Cuba
Cuban President Raul Castro hailed a landmark exchange of prisoners with the United States on Wednesday and praised U.S. President Barack Obama as the two countries agreed to normalize relations after more than five decades of hostility. The United States earlier on Wednesday freed three convicted Cuban spies in return for the release of U.S. foreign aid worker Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba in 2009, and of an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and had been held for nearly 20 years.
The release of the three Cuban agents will be seen as a major victory for Castro inside Cuba.
Castro, known for his low-key style, avoided triumphal statements in his televised address but said their release was a cause of "enormous joy for their families and all of our people."
The three had served 16 years in U.S. jails for spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida. Two others of the so-called Cuban Five had been previously released after serving their terms in U.S. prisons.
In a rare nod to a sitting U.S. president, Castro praised Obama for agreeing to the prisoner exchange and pushing for a new relationship with Cuba.
Communists are ecstatic. “The Cuban Five Are Free” is a statement from the U.S. support network for the Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. for various crimes, including participating in a murder conspiracy.
Obama essentially released the three remaining Cuban spies in exchange for American Alan Gross, who had been held hostage by the Cuban regime for over five years. Gross was a foreign aid worker imprisoned by the Castro regime for trying to help ordinary Cubans communicate with the outside world. President Obama confirmed the role of Pope Francis, a vocal critic of Western-style capitalism, in the deal.
Once again, we are treated to a display of secret and deceptive government by the Obama administration, in this case designed to bolster an anti-American regime. The announcement was made after Congress adjourned for the legislative session....
Humberto Fontova, author of the book, The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro, tells Accuracy in Media (AIM) that the deal confirms that Gross was a hostage all along. “He was quite simply a hostage,” said Fontova. “That was the word that the media tried to avoid. He was a hostage. The Castro regime grabbed Gross as a hostage, and it worked like a charm.” ...
The deal also proves that Obama’s officials had been lying all along. Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald reported back in June that “The Obama administration says it is not negotiating for the release of Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor arrested in Cuba in 2009 on alleged spy charges.” The Miami Herald quoted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) as saying back in June that she didn’t think the administration was being honest about negotiating with the communist regime. “I seriously believe the administration is considering a swap,” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said. “The administration has shown itself not to be faithful to the law and is not to be trusted.”
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen was correct.
I wrote about the proposed deal in my column, “Obama May Free Cuban Spies and Terrorists.”
We noted that before being appointed to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan was Obama’s solicitor general and submitted a legal brief in the “Cuban Five” case. She noted in the brief that members of the “Cuban five” were affiliated with the Cuban intelligence service and the “Wasp Network,” whose purpose included penetrating U.S. military facilities and transmitting information about the facilities’ operations and layout to Cuba, and infiltrating Cuban-American groups.
One of the “Cuban five,” Gerardo Hernandez, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of four people, members of Brothers to the Rescue. The four were shot out of the air in international waters by Cuban MiGs after the spy alerted Cuba to their plans.
Through this deal, Obama is equating murder and spying against the U.S. with Alan Gross trying to bring Internet freedom to the Cuban people.
What’s more, Obama says he will review whether Cuba should remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism....
If Obama had been devoted to freedom for the Cuban people, he would have sought regime change in Cuba. Obama could also have used his policy of “humanitarian intervention” to protect the courageous dissidents in Cuba, who are beaten up and tortured by the secret police of the regime. But Obama has decided to pursue a policy of keeping the Castro brothers in power and simply talks about possible changes in Cuba....
In covering the deal, our media are conveniently ignoring the fact that, during the Cold War, Cuba hosted Soviet nuclear missiles targeting the U.S. Former CIA officer Brian Latell’s book, Castro’s Secrets, includes the revelation that Fidel Castro knew that Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-declared Marxist and Castro sympathizer, was going to kill President Kennedy.
CIA defector Philip Agee died in Havana after doing terrible damage to our intelligence efforts. The FBI file on Agee shows that Agee was a Cuban DGI and Soviet KGB operative.
Fontova tells AIM that Obama has already done a lot to bolster the Castro regime, by facilitating travel to the communist island and enabling Cubans in the U.S. to send money back to their relatives. The latter, he said, amounts to about $4 billion a year—more than what the Soviets provided on a yearly basis to the regime.
Still, he says some aspects of the Cuban embargo are written into law. “The votes are not there” to lift the embargo entirely, he said.
But he said Obama will do everything possible to undermine what’s left of the embargo through more executive orders.
Under Obama’s plan, Castro will be able to open a full-blown embassy in Washington, D.C., which will function as a major base of spying operations, in addition to its United Nations mission. The so-called Cuban Interests Section currently operates as Castro’s embassy in the nation’s capital and as a front for the Cuban intelligence service, the DGI.
On January 28, 2015, the Daily Mail reported:
Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on [January 28] that the United States return the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two nations re-establish normal relations.
Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full diplomatic relations but 'if these problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense.'
Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on December 17 that they would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening embassies in each other's countries. The two governments held negotiations in Havana last week to discuss both the reopening of embassies and the broader agenda of re-establishing normal relations.
Obama has loosened the trade embargo with a range of measures designed to increase economic ties with Cuba and increase the number of Cubans who don't depend on the communist state for their livelihoods.
The Obama administration says removing barriers to U.S. travel, remittances and exports to Cuba is a tactical change that supports the United States' unaltered goal of reforming Cuba's single-party political system and centrally planned economy.
Cuba has said it welcomes the measures but has no intention of changing its system. Without establishing specific conditions, Castro's government has increasingly linked the negotiations with the U.S. to a set of longstanding demands that include an end to U.S. support for Cuban dissidents and Cuba's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
On Wednesday, Castro emphasized an even broader list of Cuban demands, saying that while diplomatic ties may be re-established, normal relations with the U.S. depend on a series of concessions that appear highly unlikely in the near future.
The U.S. established the military base in 1903, and the current Cuban government has been demanding the land's return since the 1959 revolution that brought it to power. Cuba also wants the U.S. to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for losses caused by the embargo.
'The re-establishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalizing bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base,' Castro said.
He demanded that the U.S. end the transmission of anti-Castro radio and television broadcasts and deliver 'just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they're suffered.'
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Castro's remarks.
The State Department's Rose Gottemoeller, under secretary for arms control and international security, spoke at the Brookings Institution Thursday where she reaffirmed the United States' "unassailable" commitment to putting the nuclear weapons genie back in the bottle. Gottemoeller told the attendees at the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative-sponsored event that "the U.S. commitment to achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons is unassailable."
She went on to note that the nation's stockpile of active weapons is down 85 percent from maximum cold war levels, falling to 4,804 in 2013 from a high of 31,255. But, she said, "We still have more work to do.... As you all might know, I have been traveling quite a bit lately and was just recently in the Czech Republic for a conference on the Prague Agenda. I reminded people at that conference that when President Obama laid out his vision for the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons, he made it clear that it was not a desirable, but unattainable dream. The Prague Agenda is an achievable long-term goal and one worth fighting for. I will say here what I said in Prague. There should be no doubt: the U.S. commitment to achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons is unassailable. We continue to pursue nuclear disarmament and we will keep faith with our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments, prominent among them, Article VI. Our responsible approach to disarmament has borne fruit in the form of major reductions in nuclear weapons, fissile material stocks and infrastructure. These efforts have led us to reduce our nuclear arsenal by approximately 85% from its Cold War heights. In real numbers, that means we have gone from 31,255 nuclear weapons in our active stockpile in 1967 to 4,804 in 2013. We know we still have more work to do."
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is put out by the Federation of American Scientists, Russia has about the same number of active weapons now as the U.S., and both countries have several thousand more warheads awaiting deactivation. Due to security concerns governments are reluctant to divulge exact numbers, but it's generally beleived that most of the older nuclear powers (U.S., Russia, the UK, and France) have reportedly been gradually declining their stockpiles. Israel, never publicly acknowledging its possession of nuclear weapons, is believed to be holding steady on its stockpile. China, India, and Pakistan, on the other hand, are all still believed to be gradually increasing their numbers. The exact status of North Korea's nuclear program and stockpile of weapons remains unknown.
Not only is China's stockpile of nuclear weapons believed to still be on the increase, but this week the Washington Free Beacon reported that China is continuing to develop delivery systems. This past Saturday, China conducted a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering multiple warheads.
Obama's Unpopularity With U.S. Miltary Members
In December 2014, The Military Times reported: "According to a Military Times survey of almost 2,300 active-duty service members, Obama's popularity — never high to begin with — has crumbled, falling from 35 percent in 2009 to just 15 percent this year, while his disapproval ratings have increased to 55 percent from 40 percent over that time."
The Defense Department announced Wednesday that five more prisoners will be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay to another nation, in the latest step by the Obama administration to whittle down the prisoner population in pursuit of ultimately closing the camp.
The five men will be transferred to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement, the U.S. government announced.
The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen -- who have been at the camp for a dozen years -- had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands. The U.S. has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo to third countries but this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted any for resettlement.
Their release brings the prison population at Guantanamo to 127, according to a Pentagon statement on Tuesday.
The transfer appears to be the latest step in the administration's strategy to rapidly bring down the prison population at Guantanamo, potentially to under 100, so that the White House can make a more aggressive argument to Congress that the camp should be closed. Congress continues to block Guantanamo prisoners from being brought for detention on the U.S. mainland.
Many vocal critics of the administration's push to close the camp, though, have not backed off their concerns. And the accelerated prisoner transfers have raised additional security concerns.
All the prisoners being transferred to Kazakhstan had been captured in Pakistan and turned over to the U.S. for detention as suspected Islamic militants with ties to Al Qaeda.
The U.S. identified the Yemenis as Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, who is about 46; Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, who is about 36; and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi, about 44.
According to a 2007 Defense document, posted on The New York Times website, Al-Khalaqi was "assessed" to be part of Al Qaeda and was captured alongside an Al Qaeda commander at Tora Bora.
Al Qurashi, likewise, allegedly got "militant training" at an Al Qaeda training camp and was arrested at an Al Qaeda safe house. Both were assessed to be "medium risk."
The U.S. identified the Tunisians as 49-year-old Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, who military records show is about 48.
None of the men were ever charged and a government task force determined it was no longer necessary to hold them.
The U.S. does not say why they could not be sent home but the government has been unwilling to send Yemenis to their country because of unrest and militant activity there while in the past some Tunisians have feared persecution.
Nearly 30 prisoners have been resettled in third countries this year as part of Obama's renewed push to close the detention center over opposition from Congress. Earlier this month, four Afghan detainees were returned to their home country.
The Washington Post reported that the administration plans to "significantly reduce" the camp's population over the next six months by transferring prisoners out. Officials reportedly are hoping other nations will accept the roughly 60 prisoners approved for transfer.
Which terrorist will Obama set loose next from Gitmo? A better question might be is there any terrorist he won’t free? Is there an Al Qaeda or Taliban Jihadist who poses too much of a threat to the United States for Obama to free with a lot of airline miles and Michelle Obama’s recipe for arugula fruitcake?
If Obama has a red line when it comes to releasing terrorists, we haven’t seen it yet.
There appears to be no threat that a terrorist can pose and no crime he has committed too severe to prevent him from getting a plane trip out of Gitmo at taxpayer expense.
The last releases saw terrorists rated as high risk freed by Obama. They included fighters with experience on the battlefield and covert operations. Obama set loose a suicide bomber, a document forger and a bomb maker who trained other terrorists to make bombs. Those are exactly the sorts of enemies whose license to Jihad will cost lives.
But that’s nothing compared to Obama’s latest gift to the Jihad.
When Mohammed Zahir was caught, among his possessions was found a small sealed can marked, in Russian, “Heavy Water U235 150 Grams.”
According to the classified report, the uranium had been identified by Zahir “in his memorandum as being intended for the production of an “atom bomb.”
Zahir was not just another captured Jihadist. He was the Secretary General of the Taliban’s Intelligence Directorate and was in contact with top leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. His possessions included a fax with questions intended for Osama bin Laden and he had been arrested on suspicion of possessing Stinger missiles.
But that may not have even been the worst of it.
Among the items was a notebook containing references to large sugar shipments to Washington D.C. Investigators believed that sugar was used as a code word for heroin. The Black Sea stops mentioned in the notebook are major hubs for smuggling heroin and for nuclear smuggling as well.
Not only was Mohammed Zahir a terrorist kingpin, but he was also a drug kingpin and the notebook suggested that his eye was on the United States of America.
It was no wonder that Mohammad Zahir had been rated as posing a high risk, but Obama had already freed a number of other high risk Guantanamo Bay detainees. Yet Zahir was the closest thing to a major nuclear terrorist in United States custody. Freeing him was wildly irresponsible even by the standards of a leader who had sacrificed thousands of Americans in a futile effort to “win” Afghan hearts and minds.
Nor did Obama even bother with the plausible deniability of releasing him to a South American country, the way he had with his previous batch of ISIS recruits, or at least to Qatar. Instead Mohammed Zahir went back directly to the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Obama couldn’t have done more without handing over the blueprints for constructing a nuclear bomb.
And yet it wasn’t surprising that Obama would free Mohammed Zahir. He had already freed Zahir’s old boss, the Taliban’s Deputy Minister of Intelligence, as well as another senior Taliban intel official under whom Zahir had used to work. It just happened to be Zahir’s turn.
If the other Gitmo detainees freed by Obama are deadly, Zahir was part of an effort to engage in the mass murder of Americans using weapons of mass destruction. Considering how many Gitmo detainees returned to terrorism once they were released, it is highly likely that Zahir will go on doing what he used to do and that American soldiers and civilians will end up paying the price for Obama’s license to Jihad.
Zahir wasn’t released on his own. Accompanying him back to the motherland of terror were Khi Ali Gul, who was linked to Al Qaeda’s Haqqani Network, Shawali Khan, the member of group that merged with Al Qaeda and Abdul Ghani, who had frequently bragged about his high rank in the Taliban and had participated in rocket and mine attacks on American soldiers.
These men were assessed as very dangerous. Like the last batch released, they’re almost certain to return to the industry of terror.
Even as a $5 million bounty has been put on the head of Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, a Gitmo terrorist released for rest and rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia, the same mistakes that led to his release continue to be made.
Ibrahim al-Rubaysh returned to play a leading role in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Mohammed Zahir and his pals will have an even shorter trip to get back into the fight. They won’t even have to go through the charade of being rehabilitated before they return to their bloody trade.
With the release of the latest batch of Taliban figures, Obama is helping the Taliban rebuild its organizational structure at the top. Even while he’s declaring victory over the Taliban, he is helping the Taliban win.
And in the process he is sending dangerous men back into the fight. Men like Mohammed Zahir.
Mohammed Zahir may not go back to his old tasks of smuggling heroin to Washington D.C. or trying to assemble materials for an atomic bomb. Or this top Taliban intelligence official may decide to pick up where he left off. It’s bad enough that Obama is empowering Iran’s quest for a nuclear bomb, but now he has also managed to aid the Taliban’s search for weapons of mass destruction.
Americans no longer expect the man in the White House not to release terrorists. We no longer expect him not to release dangerous terrorists who will go on to kill Americans. Now we also know that it’s useless to expect him not to release terrorists caught trying to assemble materials for a nuclear bomb.
We’ve tried to grade Obama on a curve when it comes to national security, but the curve just got nuked.
The very lowest possible expectation we can have of Obama is that he won’t release a nuclear terrorist. And even this lowest of all possible expectations proved too much for him to live up to.
Which terrorists will Obama release next? The answer appears to be all of them.
Obama had sought to take Osama alive so he could receive a trial in civilian court. The SEALS put a stop to that plan and to Osama, but if they hadn’t, then next week we might be seeing Osama bin Laden boarding a plane to Qatar or Afghanistan with a can of uranium tucked under one arm.