As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Tag Archives: terrorism

Obama’s Contradictory, Appalling New Hostage Policy

President Obama Wednesday announced a new policy regarding U.S. hostages that is designed, albeit not purposely, to get more Americans kidnapped and killed.

The policy, in short, is that while the government still may not ransom hostages, private citizens can – even though it’s against the law – and will be aided by the government in their “communications” with the terrorists.

Obama said as much during an appearance at the White House, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it was only “likely” that the administration would at least try to dissuade families from paying ransoms and did not deny a reporter’s statement that the government was giving its “tacit approval” to the practice.

The policy against ransoming hostages was a sound one based on something the Obama administration doesn’t understand – economic incentives. That is, if you pay someone after they kidnap Americans, the first principle of economics states that they will therefore be incentivized to repeat the practice in order to earn more money.

But private sector economics, whether practiced by U.S. corporations or Islamist barbarians, is beyond the comprehension of the Obama administration folks.

Obama hostage remarks

How, please, to explain a policy that prevents the government from ransoming hostages but allows private citizens to do it? Is money provided by the government qualitatively different in some way than that given by individuals? Does a dollar of money from the Treasury buy more suicide vests, IEDs, plastic explosives, and beheading knives than a dollar from John Q. Smith?

One of the ways this tragically misconceived policy came about was that the hostage families apparently kidnapped the president, as Obama revealed today:

I’ve called these families to offer our condolences after they’ve received gut-wrenching news no parents ever want to hear. I’ve visited with them. I’ve hugged them. I’ve grieved with them. I just spent time with some of the families, as well as some former hostages here at the White House. And needless to say, it was a very emotional meeting. Some are still grieving . . .

As I said to the families who are gathered here today, and as I’ve said to families in the past, I look at this not just as a President, but also as a husband and a father. And if my family were at risk, obviously I would move heaven and earth to get those loved ones back.

If Obama cannot stop his emotions from getting the best of him, with the result that he emits emotion-driven, irrational policy, then he needs to stop meeting with hostage families.

And soon he’s going to be meeting with even more of them.

And BTW, he needs to “look at this” a lot less “as a husband and a father.” Because his personal family feelings are not really relevant to hard-headed national security policy decision making.

This kind of sappiness is exactly what got Ronald Reagan into the Iran-Contra crisis. Reagan got too emotionally attached to U.S. hostages controlled by the Iranians and ended up trading arms for them. And the minute someone was released, more hostages were taken.

Please explain how these comments by Obama make sense:

As President, I also have to consider our larger national security. I firmly believe that the United States government paying ransom to terrorists risks endangering more Americans and funding the very terrorism that we’re trying to stop. And so I firmly believe that our policy ultimately puts fewer Americans at risk . . .

At the same time, we are clarifying that our policy does not prevent communication with hostage-takers — by our government, the families of hostages, or third parties who help these families. And, when appropriate, our government may assist these families and private efforts in those communications — in part, to ensure the safety of family members and to make sure that they’re not defrauded . . .

In some cases, families feel that they’ve been threatened for exploring certain options to bring their loved ones home. That’s totally unacceptable . . .

In particular, I want to point out that no family of an American hostage has ever been prosecuted for paying a ransom for the return of their loved ones.

So we’re against ransoming unless we’re for it.

See if you can make any sense of Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco’s attempt to resolve the contradiction in U.S. policy. Actually, she doesn’t even try.

Note too how casually Obama, now that he’s done it several times, announces that a statute simply will not be enforced. It’s against the law to ransom hostages, but you’ll never see the inside of a courtroom if you do it.

We are a country of principles. We are a country of laws. Unless the president decides otherwise.

Obama’s willlingness to loudly and repeatedly ignore laws sets a dangerous precedent that will no doubt mark the rest of his tenure and probably that of his successor, perhaps even whether that person be a Republican or Democrat.

The viability of the republic rests on the existence of honorable men and women to uphold it and an obedience to the rule of law. Both are now in dangerously declining supply.

Why No Presidential Statement on Garland?

More than a week after an attempted terrorism attack in Garland, Texas that could have killed dozens of citizens had it succeeded, there has been no statement of condemnation from the president.

What exactly does this lack of seriousness about the attack say to those planning future assaults against U.S. targets and free speech? The White House response should have been sure, bold, and unequivocal, even if President Obama didn’t like the message of the group that was attacked.

ISIS, whelped in the vacuum of a irresponsible U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by Obama, now presents a grave danger to the United States.

While perhaps not directed by ISIS, the attacks appear more closely linked to the organization than just random inspiration. One of the attackers, Elton Simpson, “appears to have been part of a network of Islamic State adherents in several countries, including the group’s hub in Syria, who have encouraged attacks and highlighted the Texas event as a worthy target,” the New York Times wrote today.

obama chopper

The Garland event, which featured a Muhammed drawing contest, was no doubt provocative. But speech that must be protected is always provocative. And the contest was at least as much an effort to lay down a bold red line stating that free speech will not be abridged by the emotions of radicals.

As a Jew, I recognize I’m just going to have to live with it if someone wants to plaster on a Charlie Chaplin mustache and go goose stepping down the sidewalk with his arm raised high in salute.

Instead of a statement by the president, we got the weak tea of offhand comments by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who said:

There is no expression, however offensive, that justifies an act of terrorism or even an act of violence. And that apparently is what these two individuals in Texas were trying to do. They were responding to one form of expression that they found offensive, and tried to use that as justification to carry out an act of terror.

And that is something that the President has repeatedly and consistently condemned. And this is a firm principle that we’re going to protect when it comes to the freedom of expression, and freedom of press, and freedom of speech.

Well, hopefully ISIS was watching the briefing on CSPAN.

One cannot help but think that were a group Obama were in sympathy with attacked in this way, we would have heard from the president. Imagine if two white supremacists sought to shoot up a meeting of the NAACP. The president would be all over it, leading all of us in an expression of outrage and intolerance of future such attacks.

Free speech is free speech, and terrorism is terrorism. The president ought to be on it, no matter his personal feelings.

On a lighter note, another Muhammed drawing contest for your perusal.

White House Signals Weakening of Hostage Ransom Stance

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Thursday signaled a change in U.S. policy toward ransoming hostages of terrorist organizations, suggesting the United States government may soon tolerate people attempting to ransom their kidnapped family members and even help with the process, though government funds would not be used.

A review underway of U.S. hostage policy, ordered by President Obama, is expected to recommend that families be free to try to ransom loved ones who have been taken prisoner.

A report in the Wall Street Journal this week said that not only did the FBI in 2012 not prosecute family members for trying to ransom kidnapped aid worker Warren Weinstein, it offered logistical help abetting the ransom attempt. In the end, $250,000 was paid but Weinstein was not freed and was later killed accidentally in a U.S. drone strike.

Earnest, while not commenting directly on the case reported by the Journal, drew a line between ransom and abetting ransom, saying it was important to help the families of hostages.

Helping with a ransom payment, to use your word, is not tantamount to paying a ransom. And what we are trying to do is to aggressively enforce this policy — which we do — while also supporting these families that are relying on the expert advice and support of the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, and other national security officials that are trying to secure the safe return of their loved one . . .

And the question is how do you try to do everything you can to rescue an American that’s being held hostage and support their family that’s going through living hell at the same time? And that’s something that our law enforcement agencies, our intel community, our military, and our diplomats go to great lengths to try to do.

Earnest insisted that actual payments by the U.S. government for ransoms will not be made. But it’s unclear to me what the distinction really is. If you oppose ransoming hostages – for the very good reason that it spurs more taking of captives – than you should not in any way facilitate or condone ransoms.

Once the door is opened to helping families ransom hostages, it becomes very easy for officials to contrive new and expanding strategies for doing so, leading perhaps to the point where the government is doing everything to ransom hostages but coming up with the money.

Families of hostages deserves our empathy. And no doubt, working with them, federal officials become particularly sensitive to their plight. But this new policy could put the word out that the U.S. is effectively in the hostage ransom business. And then there will be many more captives taken and offered back for a price.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills American al Qaeda Hostage

Two Western al Qaeda hostages, one an American, were accidentally killed in an operation – reportedly a drone strike – that was launched with the goal of killing terrorists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The American hostage, Warren Weinstein, had been held since 2011 after being kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan. The other hostage was Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto, who had been in al-Qaeda captivity since 2012.

U.S. officials were apparently unaware the hostages were present when the strike was ordered. Also killed during the operation was Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qa’ida leader.

President Obama announced the deaths during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room. He took responsibility for the operations, strongly expressed his regret, and said a probe was being conducted to try to avoid such mistakes in the future. He took no questions.

“We believed that this was a al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present, and that capturing these terrorist was not possible,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, Adam Gadahn, an American who became well known as a spokesman for al Qaeda, was killed in a separate operation, the White House said. Neither of the terrorists were specifically targeted.

Both incidents occurred in January. Obama said he authorized the declassification of the operations as soon as the cause of the hostages’ deaths was determined.


Obama Says Some Seeds of Radicalism Exist in Muslim World

Amidst criticism of his refusal to use a term like “Islamist extremism” to describe the terrorist threat, President Obama today made an important step in that direction as he described an attitude within Muslim communities that is abetting the radicalism that breeds terrorists.

Speaking Wednesday to a White House conference on “violent extremism,” Obama suggested that a failure by some Muslim leaders to clearly reject the terrorists’ ideology and a “sometimes widespread” outlook among Muslims in some areas that perceives problems they face as flowing from the West are helping lay the groundwork for terror.

Obama of course didn’t use anything like the phrase “Muslim extremism.” But he did get to the root of the problem with not using the phrase: a recognition that the enemy we face is rooted within Islam – however perverted the interpretation – and that changes are needed from within the Muslim community.

Obama sought to explain his refusal to add any mention of Islam to the description of the terrorists, saying it would lend them “religious legitimacy” they crave and seek to use as a recruiting tool.

That at least gives a rationale for not calling them Islamists that isn’t rooted in ignorance of the problem or political correctness. But I would argue that they aren’t looking to us for legitimacy, and using the term is the only way to help us understand what we’re fighting and get Muslims to recognize that the problem is from within.

Nevertheless, at a conference that has been ridiculed for its “all-inclusive” approach to the origins of terrorism, Obama highlighted the problem emanating from the Muslim world:

Now, just as those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict, or modern life and Islam are in conflict, I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well. Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw, selectively, from the Islamic texts. They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations.

He was careful, of course, to offer caveats:

Of course, the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology. They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism. (Applause.)

And to their credit, there are respected Muslim clerics and scholars not just here in the United States but around the world who push back on this twisted interpretation of their faith. They want to make very clear what Islam stands for. And we’re joined by some of these leaders today.

But he was also specific that the responsibility for the violence is shared by attitudes in the Muslim world, and that this has to change:

But if we are going to effectively isolate terrorists, if we’re going to address the challenge of their efforts to recruit our young people, if we’re going to lift up the voices of tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim community, then we’ve got to acknowledge that their job is made harder by a broader narrative that does exist in many Muslim communities around the world that suggests the West is at odds with Islam in some fashion.

The reality — which, again, many Muslim leaders have spoken to — is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances — sometimes that’s accurate — does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it’s been polluted by Western values.

So those beliefs exist. In some communities around the world they are widespread. And so it makes individuals — especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated — more ripe for radicalization. And so we’ve got to be able to talk honestly about those issues.

Not only must beliefs change, but Muslims need to speak up.

We’ve got to be much more clear about how we’re rejecting certain ideas. So just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there’s an inherent clash in civilizations. Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn’t defend Islam or Muslims, it damages Islam and Muslims. (Applause.)

And when all of us, together, are doing our part to reject the narratives of violent extremists, when all of us are doing our part to be very clear about the fact that there are certain universal precepts and values that need to be respected in this interconnected world, that’s the beginnings of a partnership.

Universal principles? Obama?

This rare abandonment of moral relativism is to be welcomed. It’s a courageous and significant statement by Obama indicating that he understands the issue and gets that terrorism isn’t simply a quirk of human nature for which we are all responsible.

When he said, “no religion is responsible for terrorism,” the applause was strong. When he spoke about the responsibility of Muslim leaders, the applause was more tepid.

So be it. Message received. I’m surprised and pleased that it was delivered. May this newly serious approach to the issue now elevate the seriousness of the president’s actions.

Marie Harf’s Nuanced Approach

We already knew we were dumber than State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. On Tuesday, she, assuming the information was no longer stored within the limited amount grey matter we have available for use, reminded us:

We cannot kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try. How do you get at the root causes of this? It might be too nuanced an argument for some, like I’ve seen over the last 24 hours some of the commentary out there, but it’s really the smart way that Democrats, Republicans, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat it.

Is this not the girl who was always raising her hand in class and begging to be called on and complaining that she “probably failed” her test and then surprisingly enough got an “A” instead?

Are we, really, too intellectually challenged to catch Ms. Harf’s nuance and recognize “the smart way?” Or is it she who is missing the nuance here?

Harf may have ample brain power, but it is cluttered up to the point of dysfunction with ideology and hubris.

She believes that people around the world respond to reason, the way she thinks she does. That we are all the same underneath, and that a GI bill for Islamists will get them on the road to modest material success, the holy grail of liberal paternalism.

But comfort is not necessarily what everyone wants. Her inability to perceive this is at the root of the problem with President Obama’s failure to recognize the existence of Islamist terrorism.

There will always be many, many poor people in the Middle East. Our ability to affect this is surely extremely limited, particularly given our lack of success in eliminating poverty in our own country. We should of course do the best we can by allowing the private sector to flourish in this country and encouraging others to do the same, though I doubt that’s what Marie has in mind.

Marie Harf

The critical problem is a movement within Islam that has attracted a serious, albeit minority, following, that promotes rigid adherence to Islamic Sharia Law and blood curdling violence to defend and expand its influence. The only counterpoint we can effectively make with those who might be attracted to this is to make it a very dangerous option – that is, by killing them. Then Muslims who promote and quietly abide this branch of their religion might start a movement from within to eradicate it.

If you notice, Harf mentions killing terrorists as if it were a “given,” almost an afterthought. And that is exactly how Obama is approaching it. He has decided to attack ISIS at a leisurely pace, despite the grave threat it poses. Harf’s talk of terrorism as if it were an employment issue is emblematic of an attitude that places an emphasis on peaceful solutions to a problem that must, tragically, be solved with massive and sustained military action.

Harf said “we cannot kill our way out of this war.” And that is exactly the attitude that loses wars. We have to defeat military opponents decisively, ending the war.

Then we can go about helping them put their nation’s on a more stable footing. The most important aspect of this is a continuing military presence that keeps the peace. I don’t like it, but as we’ve seen, it’s true.

Had Obama understood the need to fight such poisonous ideologies with military power, he would not have withdrawn entirely from Iraq, and ISIS would not have been given the room to grow like it did. And, being treated with kid gloves, it continues to grow, most lately into Libya, where Obama also led from the backseat  in a limited action against a dictator who at least could have had the place locked down.

It is the Marie Harf’s of the world, with all their subtlety, who have caused this mess. In asking us to sign up for subtlety, she is really just seeking acceptance of her worldview. Liberals like Harf equate their viewpoint with intelligence and reason, failing to understand that it’s an opinion.

That her approach has plunged the world in chaos, since the advent of Obama, is irrelevant. For Harf, there are only those who get “subtlety,” and the dimwits in places like the Tea Party who don’t.

But Harf is not being subtle. She just is a person with an opinion. And wrong one at that.

Even Bob Schieffer Can’t Believe Obama’s ISIS Response

CBS’ Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer has seen a lot. And he’s no war hawk or cheerleader for the Republicans. But he seems pretty flummoxed at the casual attitude of President Obama toward ISIS:

We have another American hostage killed, and the president goes off to California to do a fundraiser and some other stuff, and the Congress goes on vacation, and they say, “yeah, we’ll debate what to do about all this, but we’re going to do it as long as it fits into the schedule.”

Were These People Not Christians?

The White House Sunday issued a statement condemning the barbaric beheadings of more than a dozen Egyptian Coptic Christians, but somehow the statement failed to note that that they were killed because they were Christian – or even that they were Christian at all. The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one… Continue Reading

Thanks, but No Thanks, for the AUMF

Updated February 12, at 10:25 am ET Republicans must immediately reject President Obama’s proposed authorization for the use of military force against ISIS,  because that’s not even really what it is. Obama already believes he has the power under current law to wage war against ISIS. What he wants is for Congress to sign onto… Continue Reading

State Department Won’t Acknowledge Jews Targeted in Paris Attack

Updated February 11 at 11:00 am State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki today refused to say that terrorists who attacked a Jewish deli in Paris, killing four people, were targeting Jews, saying it was a matter for the French government to decide. “There were not all victims of one background or one nationality,” Psaki said. Actually, they were… Continue Reading

White House: Global Warming a Greater Threat than Terrorism

Even as America’s Islamist enemies multiply in the Middle East, the White House today left little doubt that President Obama views global warming as a greater threat than terrorism, refusing to say this wasn’t the case and asserting that more people are affected by changes in the weather than by terror. White House Press Secretary Josh… Continue Reading