Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2010
AL QAEDA SPEAKS AGAIN, BUT WILL WE LISTEN? – AT 9:10 P.M. ET:
Printer bombs planted on two cargo flights last month cost only a few thousand dollars and were intended to affect the American economy, according to a newly published Al Qaeda-affiliated magazine.
The attempt was called "Operation Hemorrhage," boasted the magazine, and the entire plot cost al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, only $4,200.
Yesterday, a special edition of Inspire magazine -- an English-language propaganda publication produced by AQAP -- gave a detailed description of how the attempted attack was conceived and produced.
"Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200," one article said. "That is all that Operation Hemorrhage cost us. In terms of time, it took us three months to plan and execute the operation from beginning to end."
The magazine also revealed the attack was not meant to kill more than the plane's pilot and co-pilot, and was meant to force the U.S. government to spend billions of dollars on preventive security screening measures.
The strategy, the magazine said, was "of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death."
COMMENT: Some of this may be bravado, but it makes sense. AQAP may not be capable of a 9-11 type attack, but it is capable of the "thousand cuts." And of course they are right. If several of these attacks succeed, we will have to ramp up security, if only to satisfy public demand.
And what if attacks are conducted in shopping malls? Aboard trains and buses?
Israel responded to attacks like that by building a security fence, and it worked. We aren't even serious about securing our southern border, which could easily be used to transport small bombs.
ANOTHER FAMOUS VICTORY – AT 10:33 A.M. ET: While the administration exhibits no particular urgency about North Korea (see post just below), it is absolutely adoring about another problematical country, the rinky-dink kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the Obamans are pursuing the largest arms deal in American history with the country that's sponsored more Muslim extremism than any other. And it tried to get the deal in under the radar. From ABC News:
The Obama administration has quietly forged ahead with its proposal to sell $60 billion worth of fighter jets and attack helicopters to Saudi Arabia unhampered by Congress, despite questions raised in legislative inquiries and in an internal congressional report about the wisdom of the deal.
The massive arms deal would be the single largest sale of weapons to a foreign nation in the history of the U.S., outfitting Saudi Arabia with a fully modernized, potent new air force.
"Our six-decade-long security relationship with Saudi Arabia is a primary security pillar in the region," Defense Sec. Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in a Nov. 16 letter to congress. "This package continues that tradition."
But some critics are questioning the deal, and the stealthy effort by the Obama administration to avoid a more probing congressional review by notifying Congress last month, just as members were headed home for the November elections. Congress had 30 days to raise objections -- a review period that concludes Saturday. With most members leaving Washington today, any significant effort to block the deal appears dead for now, officials said.
"I do not think there will be any action" to hold up the sale, Rep. Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Bloomberg News Thursday.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, submitted a resolution this week to try and block the deal, and was among those who objected to the way the administration approached the required congressional review.
"Hiding this in a recess announcement is a sign of how unpopular it is," he said. "It's bad policy that now is further tainted by shameful process."
COMMENT: As one observer noted, as long as Saudi Arabia remains stable and considers itself an ally of the U.S., if a troublesome ally, there may not be much danger to the deal. But Saudi Arabia is run by 80-year-olds, and is facing instability in the south, which borders on the hot terrorist base of Yemen. It also is home to a corps of radical Muslim teachers and propagandists.
The sneakiness of the administration will once again raise the deepest suspicions about the president's apparent bias toward the Muslim world. Even if the deal goes through, there are ways down the road for Congress to stop or reduce it. It clearly requires extensive hearings and assurances.
SURPRISED AGAIN – AT 10:18 A.M. ET: If there are two words that define the recent failures in American foreign policy they are "North Korea." Now, apparently, we've been surprised again, and in a very grim way. These are chickens that will come home to roost. From the BBC:
An American nuclear scientist says he was shown a vast new nuclear facility when he visited North Korea last week.
Dr Siegfried Hecker said he had been shown "more than 1,000 centrifuges" for enriching uranium, which can be used for making nuclear weapons.
The Stanford University scientist was stunned at how sophisticated the plant was, according to reported remarks.
When international weapons inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009, the plant did not exist, officials say.
Dr Hecker's discovery was first reported in the New York Times, where he spoke of being taken to see an "ultra-modern control room".
In subsequent remarks obtained by AP news agency, he said that unlike other North Korean facilities it "would fit into any modern American processing facility", and spoke of more than 1,000 centrifuges "all neatly aligned and plumbed below us".
He said the facilities appeared to be primarily for civilian nuclear power - and he saw no evidence of plutonium production.
But Dr Hecker said the new facilities he viewed "could be readily converted to produce highly enriched uranium bomb fuel", AP reported.
The North is believed to have weaponised enough plutonium for at least six atomic bombs but is not known to have a uranium-based weapons programme.
COMMENT: I love that last line, the old leftist BBC trying to reassure us. But the facts are clear: North Korea is going ahead with its nuclear program despite all the years of negotiations, and there appears nothing is going to get in their way. The North recently sank a South Korean warship, and received little more than a reprimand.
North Korea is known to export its technology. It is also unstable and impoverished. This is one of the most dangerous situations in the world, and we really don't seem to care much. Democracies, as a rule, need to be jolted awake.
ANOTHER ECONOMY BITING THE DUST – AT 9:59 A.M. ET: Americans are understandably preoccupied by their own economic problems. But we should be aware that a number of European countries, including ones that regularly lecture us, are also in trouble. Their problems might become our problems before too long if Europe slips into a deeper recession. From The New York Times:
DUBLIN — Ireland has formally applied for a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Brian Lenihan, the country’s finance minister, said Sunday.
Speaking on Ireland’s RTE radio, Mr. Lenihan said the application would be approved at a cabinet meeting later Sunday in Dublin.
The bailout would be in the tens of billions of euros, he said, adding that the final figure was subject to further negotiations.
His announcement ended a feverish bout of speculation on the rescue talks, which took on added urgency this weekend as the depth of the problems in the Irish banking sector became known to I.M.F. and European officials. People briefed on the talks said that the fear had grown that without swift action, a full-fledged banking panic might materialize on Monday.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Brian Cowen insisted that no form of debt restructuring would be on the table, despite a growing cry in Ireland and abroad for the bondholders — who financed the boom that has brought such a painful aftermath in this country — to share some of the pain.
COMMENT: Yeah, what about that boom? Where did it go? It proves once again that economic prosperity on Monday is no guarantee of boom times on Tuesday. Remember Japan, and how it would take over the world? Why, the Japanese were buying American icons like Rockefeller Center and Columbia Pictures.
And today? Japan struggles along, predicted Japanese dominance but a memory.
We're told that China will soon dominate the world's economy. But China is plagued with problems, including an inability by the central government to control distant provinces.
Other countries sometimes look ten feet tall to us. It was only a few years ago when "Ireland's miracle" was being advertised. No longer. We wish Ireland well, and we wish ourselves well.
Y'KNOW, THIS MAY NOT BE A BAD IDEA – AT 8:05 P.M. ET: Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaks bluntly, as demonstrated by this. From Gateway Pundit:
Governor Rick Perry told FOX Business Network that the federal government ought to take the TSA gropers and put them on the border with Mexico instead.
The Hill reported:
The incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association suggested Friday that TSA screeners would be more help securing the nation’s border with Mexico.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday on Fox Business Network that states need to “push Washington back into that box that we call the United States Constitution,” but said the federal government needs to follow through on its responsibility of securing the U.S. border.
COMMENT: We noted this week that the politically correct media won't deal with the delicate question of the kind of people who get hired for those TSA jobs. Some appear to be very rough indeed, and probably have backgrounds to match.
Perry might be onto something: Have them do some serious groping on the border.
SPEAKER-TO-BE JOHN BOEHNER – NOW IT CAN BE TOLD! – AT 7:27 P.M. ET: Well, the truth comes out, doesn't it? And if it comes from Nancy Pelosi, so what? I've always wanted to know the real truth about our incoming speaker of the house. Now we have it:
Outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be giving up the gavel to Rep. John Boehner in the next Congress but she hinted this week that she still wears the pants in the House.
In an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, Pelosi highlighted her successor's softer side when asked if she saw him tear up on election night as he addressed his supporters after Republicans captured the House.
"You know what? He is known to cry. He cries sometimes when we're having a debate on bills," she told the newspaper. "If I cry, it's about the personal loss of a friend or something like that. But when it comes to politics – no I don't cry. I would never think of crying about any loss of an office, because that’s always a possibility, and if you're professional, then you deal with it professionally."
Boehner's office declined to respond to Pelosi's remarks.
COMMENT: So, Boehner is a softie. And Pelosi is a...well, you fill in the blank. But anyone who tells you she's never cried over a political loss isn't someone I'd depend upon for the straight story on anything.
OH, I'M JUST SO ASHAMED, AREN'T YOU? – AT 10:47 A.M. ET: The Politico informs us of the dismay expressed by an American diplomat over things his embarrassing countrymen have said:
GLOBAL HEAD SCRATCHING – Congress’s growing ranks of climate skeptics have the rest of the world a little confused, the top U.S. climate negotiator told reporters yesterday in Crystal City. “People from around the world look at some of the things that some of the people running for the Senate and House have said, some of the positions that are taken,” and “there is puzzlement,” Todd Stern said at the end of a two-day meeting on climate for the world’s largest economic powers.
COMMENT: Well whoop-dee-do. I'm so distressed that there's puzzlement. Maybe some of the "puzzled" should look beyond their left-wing, politically correct newspapers and realize there's a real debate going on, and that serious scientists are expressing skepticism over "global warming" – excuse me, I meant to use the more stylish "climate change." We want to be fashionable here.
The issue is not whether there is climate change. The climate is always changing a bit. The issue is whether we should commit trillions of dollars to strategies based on unproved assumptions, projections and doomsday scenarios. That is a discussion we must have, with or without the permission of our diplomats or their overseas constituencies.
Stern's patronizing observation reminds me of the story, which we've told here before, of our great former secretary of state, George Shultz. When a new ambassador was appointed, Shultz would call him or her in, take the appointee to a map, and ask, "What is your country?" The appointee would inevitably point to some nation overseas. "No," Shultz would reply, pointing to the United States, "that is your country."
AND IN THE REAL WORLD – AT 10:16 A.M. ET: I have no independent corroboration of this, but I think it's worth passing on. From The Jerusalem Post:
Al-Qaida and associated groups were believed to be planning an attack on the German parliament's seat - the Reichstag in Berlin, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.
Ah yes, we remember the Reichstag well, from a previous bit of bother.
According to the report, the groups planned to take hostages and "perpetrate a bloodbath" using firearms. The cell planning the attack was supposedly comprised of one German, a Turk, a man from North Africa and an unknown suspect.
The attack was planned to take place in February or March. Authorities said that intelligence about the plot was behind Wednesday's announcement by the German Interior Ministry of an imminent attack, Spiegel reported.
The warning came from a jihaidst who wanted to leave his terrorist group. The man contacted a German law enforcement agency several times last week, according to the report.
Another warning came to the Germans via the FBI in the United States. The FBI allegedly told the Germans that a Shi'ite group from India has entered into a pact with al-Qaida and has sent two men to carry out an attack in Germany, Spiegel reported.
The domestic intelligence services in both Germany and the US (the BKA and FBI, respectively) were said to be very concerned by the reports, but the foreign intelligence services of the two powers (the BND and CIA) were said to be skeptical, according to the report.
COMMENT: The report sounds logical. Even if this report doesn't pan out, attacks of that kind would make sense for any terrorist group.
As readers probably know, a member of the U.S. cabinet, one who is in the line of succession to the presidency, is always away from Washington the night the president delivers his State of the Union message – to protect against a total destruction of the government if the Capitol is attacked.
Puerto Rican terrorists attacked the House of Representatives during the Truman administration.
ON THIS THE PEOPLE ARE WRONG – AT 9:50 A.M. ET: Rasmussen reports that a good chunk of the American people doesn't have much faith in the future of the country:
A plurality of voters nationwide believes America’s best days have come and gone, but that number has remained fairly consistent since the beginning of the year.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just over one-third (37%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe America’s best days are in the future. Forty-seven percent (47%) say the nation’s best days are in the past, while 16% are undecided...
...Just before President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, 48% said the country’s best days were still ahead, and 35% said they had come and gone.
Only 26% of voters now think the country is heading in the right direction.
COMMENT: And, of course, we have a president who does nothing to change the grim perception about our future, probably because he shares it – he and the pseudo-intellectual crowd he hangs with.
What a contrast to Ronald Reagan, who always said, "It's morning in America." And it is. This country is endlessly resourceful, and its greatest resource is its people. And the only way that resource can be damaged is if people start to believe the propaganda in our schools and in the media that this is an inferior country filled with sin.
We need a change in leadership. We need a leader who sees the morning, not the night.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of The Angel's Corner was sent Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late Friday night.
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