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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APRIL 24, 2011
AGAIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES – AT 10:16 P.M. ET: The New York Times is now running a major story, based on what it admits are classified documents it has obtained, about the Guantanamo prison:
WASHINGTON — A trove of more than 700 classified military documents provides new and detailed accounts of the men who have done time at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, and offers new insight into the evidence against the 172 men still locked up there.
Military intelligence officials, in assessments of detainees written between February 2002 and January 2009, evaluated their histories and provided glimpses of the tensions between captors and captives. What began as a jury-rigged experiment after the 2001 terrorist attacks now seems like an enduring American institution, and the leaked files show why, by laying bare the patchwork and contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in criminal court or a military tribunal.
COMMENT: You can read the whole story for details. Frankly, I don't think there's anything shocking here. It appears that the documents are part of the WikiLeaks collection, and once again we have the issue of a newspaper, on its own, releasing classified files. In this case the release might jeopardize criminal prosecutions. But The Times, lofty and above us all, seems to feel it has this right.
One thing revealed is a list of the countries that sent interrogators to Guantanamo. This list was kept secret to avoid embarrassing these governments, and now they will be embarrassed. They'll be a bit more careful next time in dealing with the United States.
I don't see where this release advances public knowledge or responsible journalism. But why would The Times be concerned about little things like that?
CHRISTIAN FEAR IN SYRIA – AT 11:37 A.M. ET: On this Easter Sunday we might pause to note the plight of Christians in Middle East countries. Ironically, some of the dictators have done a better job of protecting Christians than the people who may replace them, if the current revolutions slide downhill. From the Washington Post:
DAMASCUS, Syria — In the days leading up to Easter Sunday, Syria’s Christian community should have been busy preparing. This year, however, signs of festivities were hardly visible.
Following anti-government protests that have been violently suppressed, leaving about 300 people dead, street parades and other forms of public celebration have been declared illegal by authorities.
Meanwhile, fear is mounting among the nation’s Christians that the uprising that has rocked this tightly controlled country over the past month will bring them only misery.
For decades, the government of President Bashar al-Assad has protected Christian interests by enforcing its strictly secular program and by curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent years, Assad has visited the town of Maaloula and other Christian communities to pray and pass on messages of goodwill. At Christmas, he addresses Syria’s Christians, carrying similar tidings. Assad is himself from the minority Alawite sect, a branch of Shia Islam, and many Christians feel they can relate to him.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, have largely stayed out of the anti-government protests, fearing what change could bring.
COMMENT: This is also the case in Egypt. We recently witnessed a Muslim riot in one part of Egypt over the appointment of a Christian (Copt) to a government position.
There seem to be no good choices in many of these Mideast countries. Jews have already been driven out of many, or have chosen to leave out of fear. Many Christians have left the Palestinian territories – those acres of tolerance – and it's quite possible we'll see a Christian exodus from other Arab countries.
WHY LIBYA IS SO COMPLICATED – AT 10:50 A.M. ET: The news out of Libya is thoroughly confusing. Bottom line: Qaddafi is still in power. From Fox:
TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyan tribal leaders are trying to get rebels in the city of Misrata to lay down their arms within 48 hours, a government official said early Sunday, after a day of fierce clashes between opposition fighters and Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces.
If negotiations fail, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said tribal chiefs may send armed supporters into the city of 300,000 to fight the rebels. In the meantime, the Libyan military is halting operations in Misrata, Kaim said.
Can you imagine? In this day and age we're talking about tribes. The impression given is that the tribes support Qaddafi, but that impression may be exaggerated.
However, the Misrata area is not known to have very large or dominant tribes, and rebels in the city questioned how much support Qaddafi had among them. It is also unclear whether the rebels would be willing to negotiate, particularly after claiming to have forced government forces to retreat. Kaim said tribal chiefs are still trying to get in touch with the rebels.
Hundreds of people have been killed in two months of a government siege backed by tanks, mortars and snipers firing from rooftops. Late last week, rebels drove snipers from a tall downtown building, in a setback for Qaddafi loyalists who had controlled the city center. The rebels have defended positions around Misrata's seaport.
NATO has an air campaign going against government forces, and, although the U.S. has sent in pilotless drones, it has not sent in the very aircraft that could make a difference – the C-130 gunships and the deadly A-10 tank killers. Obama seems to have no strategy and NATO has proved mostly ineffectual.
There is no identifiable end game here. Combined with our strangely mild criticism of the brutal suppression of dissent in Syria, we look awfully weak.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS – AT 10:26 A.M. ET: It is Easter, and the faithful will strive to spend the holiday with family. But not Jimmy Carter. He is out saving the world in his usual manner – by appeasing international outlaws. And he's brought friends:
BEIJING (AP) — Ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter and three other former leaders arrived in Beijing on Sunday en route to North Korea to discuss the revival of nuclear disarmament talks.
Carter and the group of veteran statesmen known as the Elders are to travel to Pyongyang on Tuesday as part of international efforts to restart the negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear program.
Elders but not wisers.
The group, which includes former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson, said it also plans to discuss North Korea's chronic food shortages.
Mary Robinson is a case unto herself. She presided over the infamous Durban hate-fest in 2001, a week before the 9-11 attacks. Another contribution to humanity.
International disarmament talks with North Korea have been stalled for the past two years amid growing concerns over its nuclear programs.
"At a time when official dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea appears to be at a standstill, we aim to see how we may be of assistance in reducing tensions and help the parties address key issues including denuclearization," Carter was quoted as saying in a statement.
We have negotiated with North Korea for years and years, with nothing to show for it. When will Carter understand that they're not giving up their nuclear program. This is show biz, not diplomacy.
Carter, a Democrat from Georgia who was president from 1977 to 1981, is well regarded in North Korea despite its longtime animosity with the U.S.
I have absolutely no doubt about that.
COMMENT: Before World War II the BBC refused to put Winston Churchill on the air, considering him a warmonger. It had no problem with the appeasers. The world listened to the appeasers. Had it listened to Churchill, there might have not been a World War II.
BUT WHAT COMES NEXT? – AT 8:00 P.M. ET: An Arab tyrant bites the dust, but the next guy at bat may turn out to be worse. From Fox:
SANAA, Yemen – Yemen's embattled president agreed Saturday to a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators to step down within 30 days and hand power to his deputy in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a major about-face for the autocratic leader who has ruled for 32 years.
A coalition of seven opposition parties said they also accepted the deal but with reservations. Even if the differences are overcome, those parties do not speak for all of the hundreds of thousands of protesters seeking President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster, and signs were already emerging that a deal on those terms would not end confrontations in the streets.
A day earlier, protesters staged the largest of two months of demonstrations, filling a five-lane boulevard across the capital with a sea of hundreds of thousands of people. Day after day of protest have presented a stunning display of defiance in the face of a crackdown that has included sniper attacks and killed more than 130 people.
The uprising and a wave of defections by allies, including several top military commanders, have left Saleh clinging to power and now appear to be pushing him to compromise on his earlier refusal to leave office before his term ends in 2013.
COMMENT: Yemen is a main center for Al Qaeda in the Mideast. Saleh has been kind of an American ally, although I wouldn't put him up there with Churchill. In that part of the world you never know what those boys are really doing.
A fear in some American circles is that the power vacuum will give Al Qaeda new opportunities. In the Mideast it's very rarely a battle between good and bad. It's usually a fight between different levels of bad.
UTTERLY OUTRAGEOUS – AT 11:08 A.M. ET: When Mohamed ElBaradei was heading the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency there were serious suspicions that he wasn't playing it straight, not that this would be shocking for a UN official.
ElBaradei seemed to favor the Iranians, a suspicion ratified after his tenure ended, when we found out he'd held back critical information about the Iranian nuclear program. Indeed, ElBaradei never seemed to meet a dictatorial regime he didn't like.
For his deceptions and appeasement of thugs, ElBaradei was, natch, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the little Norwegian politicians who give out that embarrassment. Among other "deserving" recipients: Al (it's too darned hot) Gore and Jimmy (I'm the best ex-president ever) Carter.
Now ElBaradei is running for president of Egypt, where he has lived only rarely in recent years. And he's written a sickening book. From AP:
The former chief United Nations nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei suggests in a new memoir that Bush administration officials should face international criminal investigation for the shame of a needless war in Iraq.
Freer to speak now than he was as an international civil servant, the Nobel-winning Egyptian accuses U.S. leaders of grotesque distortion in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, when then-President George W. Bush and his lieutenants claimed Iraq possessed doomsday weapons despite contrary evidence collected by ElBaradei's and other arms inspectors inside the country.
Of course he doesn't point out that virtually every intelligence agency in the world agreed with our assessment. Nor does he point out his own laxness in pursuing the issue. And he certainly doesn't point out that, while we didn't find stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, we found the WMD programs, ready to be restarted.
The Iraq war taught him that deliberate deception was not limited to small countries ruled by ruthless dictators, ElBaradei writes in The Age of Deception, being published Tuesday by Henry Holt and Company.
The 68-year-old legal scholar, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009 and recently a rallying figure in Egypt's revolution, concludes his 321-page account of two decades of tedious, wrenching nuclear diplomacy with a plea for more of it, particularly in the efforts to rein in North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions.
Notice how the Reuters story paints this jerk as kind of demi-god. In fact, he did a real botch job, maybe intentionally.
"All parties must come to the negotiating table," writes ElBaradei, who won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the IAEA in 2005. He repeatedly chides Washington for reluctant or hardline approaches to negotiations with Tehran and Pyongyang.
Sickening. Just sickening. Iran and North Korea are countries that murder their own citizens. And we have negotiated with them for years.
He is harshest in addressing the Bush administration's 2002-2003 drive for war with Iraq, when ElBaradei and Hans Blix led teams of UN inspectors looking for signs Saddam Hussein's government had revived nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs.
As noted above, inspections after the war concluded that the programs were about to be restarted.
COMMENT: Do you get the feeling that ElBaradei is playing to his crowd? You can be sure his book will receive laudatory coverage in parts of the mainstream media. Now it's important that former Bush officials answer this apologist for dictators and confront his own cynical record.
ONE SMALL STEP FOR MANKIND – AT 10:52 A.M. ET: Columbia University, which became a major symbol of resistance to ROTC, has now officially decided to accept the return of NROTC.
The Ivy League school, which once educated more than 20,000 Navy officers, and whose officer training was featured in "The Caine Mutiny," turned against ROTC during the trendy late sixties. Now, thanks in part to a young generation that doesn't share the juvenile anti-military attitudes of that bad time, Columbia has decided to open the door once more. From the Columbia Spectator:
Columbia has reached an agreement with the U.S. Navy to officially recognize a Naval ROTC program on campus, University President Lee Bollinger said in a statement.
The Reserve Officers' Training Corps has not been recognized by Columbia since 1969, when protests over the Vietnam War led to the elimination of Columbia's longstanding NROTC program. Bollinger told Spectator that the agreement is a “historic turning point” for the University.
“I really wanted to do what the community wanted to do,” Bollinger said. “So in that, I am pleased that the outcome is definite and points in the direction of reengagement.”
Columbia students currently enrolled in NROTC will continue to participate in military training programs and classes through a consortium at the State University of New York Maritime College in Queens, but the new agreement means that Columbia can give them academic credit for this work.
Navy spokesperson Tamara Lawrence said that it is not unusual for a school to participate in NROTC through a nearby school with an already-established program. But the agreement will give NROTC a “very visible” presence at Columbia, she added.
“The ROTC program will certainly benefit from being at Columbia,” Lawrence said. “That is absolutely a relationship we’ll be able to open up and offer up some choices for students.”
COMMENT: This follows the return of NROTC to Harvard. At one time colleges participated actively in national defense. Many, especially in the South and Midwest, still do. We hope the examples set by Harvard and Columbia will lead other "elite" schools to condescend to become part of the country once again.
SYRIAN OUTRAGES CONTINUE – AT 10:28 A.M. ET: The Syrian regime, which our own government was recently calling "reformist," continues its outrages today. From Reuters:
A witness reports that Syrian security forces killed at least six people when they opened fire on thousands at funeral processions Saturday.
Two witnesses say forces fired at crowds heading to the southern village of Izraa, killing two. Another witness says forces killed four people outside the capital of Damascus.
The crackdown comes one day after security forces killed at least 75 people in the deadliest day of monthlong protests against authoritarian President Bashar Assad.
The witness accounts could not be independently verified and they spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned Friday’s use of force by Syria against anti-government demonstrators and said the regime's "outrageous" use of violence against the protesters must "end now."
COMMENT: The brutality goes on. The Western left, of course, remains silent. It is amazing to see the level to which the left, and, especially, "anti-war" groups, have sunk. Well, not really amazing. Routine, actually.
But we have in Syria, to be fair, the same problem we have elsewhere in the erupting Middle East. We don't know exactly who the protesters are, and what they stand for. Remember, the people of these countries have been subjected to decades of press propaganda and the 10th-century rantings of religious leaders. These things had to have their effect. We note that Iran, a relatively sophisticated, rather Westernized country, fell under the spell of the Islamists when the shah was ousted with American help in the late 1970s. We don't want a repeat performance.
"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 late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late last night.
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