Does Obama believe in human rights? (and what that might mean for Israel)

October 25, 2009

* Obama pulls out of commemorative event to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall, abandons pro-democracy groups in Iran and Egypt, and says he will engage with Sudan’s genocidal president but not with the pro-peace Dalai Lama

* “In Massachusetts not long ago, I found myself driving behind a car with ‘Free Tibet,’ ‘Save Darfur,’ and ‘Obama 08’ bumper stickers. I wonder if it will ever dawn on the owner of that car that at least one of those stickers doesn’t belong”

* “If you think Israelis are irrational in fearing Obama’s foreign policies, perhaps Tibet will help persuade you otherwise”

* White House now declines to say who murdered 241 Americans in Beirut

 

CONTENTS

1. Now ranked in YouTube’s “Top 100”
2. “Britain wins the silver. Who’s cheering?”
3. “By contrast it took just a couple of hours…”
4. Who are the Baluchis?
5. Obama continues to abandon pro-democracy movements in Iran and Egypt
6. Obama’s appeasement of Sudan’s genocidal leader ok with human-rights crowd
7. Obama withdraws from event commemorating 20th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall
8. Worried about Israel? Think Tibet
9. Don’t know much about history
10. “The Goldstone report: A moral atrocity” (By Harold Evans, The Guardian, Oct. 20, 2009)
11. “Does Obama Believe in Human Rights?” (By Bret Stephens, WSJ, Oct. 20, 2009)
12. “Obama and the Dalai Lama: Why Israel worries about the U.S.” (By Dennis Prager)
13. White House can’t remember who murdered 241 Americans (By Barry Rubin)
14. Der Spiegel: Some East German jokes about communism


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

NOW RANKED IN YOUTUBE’S “TOP 100”

Last week, within hours of British army commander Colonel Richard Kemp’s address to the UN Human Rights Commission (in which he stated that in Gaza in January “the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare”) I posted a video of Kemp’s statement (filmed by the Geneva-based group UN Watch) on this website (item 5 here.)

Since then many other websites have posted it, and last week it entered the “Top 100 most watched news and political videos” on YouTube for the week worldwide.

If you have yet to watch this short video, it is worth watching here:

 

“BRITAIN WINS THE SILVER. WHO’S CHEERING?”

Also last week, Sir Harold Evans, one of the world’s most distinguished journalists (and a long-time subscriber to this email list), published an article taking up some of the themes in the dispatches on this list.

The article by Evans, who among other things was the editor of The (London) Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, carried added significance since it was published in the anti-Israel paper The Guardian and under the heading “A moral atrocity: Judge Goldstone has been suckered into letting war criminals use his name to pillory Israel”.

Evans wrote:

Aren’t the British sickened by the moral confusions of their government? First, we have the weasel words to justify the unjustifiable release of the Lockerbie bomber. Now we have the sickening spectacle of Britain failing to stand by Israel, the only democracy with an independent judiciary in the entire region.

It was to be expected that the usual suspects of the risible UN human rights council would be eager to condemn Israel for war crimes in defending itself against Hamas. If you treat people as the Chinese do the Tibetans or Uighurs (“Off with their heads!”); or as the Russians eliminate Chechen dissidents; or as the Nigerians tolerate extrajudicial killings, the evictions of 800,000, rape and cruel treatment of prisoners; or as the Egyptians get prisoners to talk (torture) and the Saudis suppress half their population … well, go through the practices of all 25 states voting to refer Israel to the security council for the Gaza war, and you have to acknowledge they know a lot about the abuse of humans. Anything to divert attention from their own atrocities.

Only six refused to join the farce – Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine and the US. Britain didn’t just abstain. It shirked voting at all (along with those beacons of civilisation Angola, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, and surprisingly, France).

… The Hamas rockets were war crimes and ought to have been universally condemned as such. While new rockets hit Israel over many months there was no rush by the world’s moralisers – including Britain – to censure Hamas, no urgency as there was in “world opinion” when Israel finally responded. Then Israel was immediately accused of a “disproportionate” response without anyone thinking: “What is a ‘proportionate’ attack against an enemy dedicated to exterminating your people?” A dedication to exterminating all of his?

… The Goldstone report won the gold standard of moral equivalence between the killer and the victim. Now Britain wins the silver. Who’s cheering?

(Harry Evans’s full article, which is well worth reading, is below.)

***

THE ANGRY LEFT

True to form, Guardian readers launched a hateful tirade of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments on the paper’s website under Evans’ article (many of which have now been removed by the paper’s online editors). One called him “the Jew-lover Evans”. Another compared Evans, who is a friend of mine, to the leader of the Taliban. Another to Goebbels. Others used swear words. One said Israel had raped 800,000 Palestinian women. Almost none of the comments I saw attempted to respond intelligently to what Harry Evans had written and the points he made.

 

“BY CONTRAST IT TOOK JUST A COUPLE OF HOURS…”

The item below originally appeared last Monday on the website of The National Review (America) and of The National Post (Canada). I sent it to some subscribers to this list then.

Obama, Iranian thugs, and The New York Times
By Tom Gross
National Review / National Post
October 19, 2009

It is amazing. It took many, many days for the administration of Nobel peace-prize laureate Barack Obama to condemn the brutalization of pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran last June (and even then it did so only in the most tepid way), but by contrast it took just a couple of hours for the Obama administration to condemn the attacks on the brutalizers yesterday.

US condemns Iran bombing; denies involvement
Sun Oct 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States on Sunday condemned a suicide bombing that struck Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, and denied any involvement in the attack.

“We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives,” State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement.

The attack reportedly killed Brig. Gen. Nourali Shoushtari, the lieutenant commander of IRGC ground forces, the commanders of Sistan and Baluchistan province, the Iranshahr Corps, the Sarbaz Corps and the Amiralmoemenin Brigade, Iran’s Fars News Agency said.

***

Tom Gross continues: Meanwhile, The New York Times, which routinely refuses to call the blowing up by Hamas and Fatah of Israeli children in buses, cafes and shopping malls acts of terrorism – even when American children, such as 14-year-old American Baptist Abigail Litle, are among the victims – had no problem calling the political assassination of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards commanders “terrorism,” as one can see from the email below.

– – - Forwarded Message – –
From: NYTimes.com News Alert
To: Tom Gross
Sent: Sun, October 18, 2009 9:02:21 AM
Subject: News Alert: Five Iran Guard Commanders Are Killed in Bombings

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sun, October 18, 2009 – 9:01 AM ET
– – -

Five Iran Guard Commanders Are Killed in Bombings

Five commanders of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps were killed and dozens of others left dead and injured
in two terrorist bombings in the restive region of the
nation’s southeastern frontier with Pakistan, according to
multiple Iranian state news agencies.

The coordinated attacks appeared to mark an escalation in
hostilities between Iran’s leadership and one of the nation’s
many disgruntled ethnic and religious minorities, in this
case the Baluchis.

 

WHO ARE THE BALUCHIS?

The Baluchis are one of several ethnic minority groups severely suppressed in Iran about which the world’s media and international human rights groups seemingly couldn’t care less.

Southwest Asia’s beleaguered Baluchi minority, including those that live in Pakistan, number over 8 million. They have long sought autonomy as a separate nation. Their latest insurgency – their fifth in modern history – began in 2004.

Non-Persians make up 40 per cent of Iran’s 70 million population, with around 16 million Azeris (mainly in the north-west), seven million Kurds (in the west of the country), five million Ahwazis (in the south-west) and 1.5 million Baluchis (in the south-east).

I have occasionally mentioned the Baluchis on this list. See, for example, item 8 here.

 

OBAMA CONTINUES TO ABANDON PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENTS IN IRAN AND EGYPT

The Obama administration and the state department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton continue to reverse George W. Bush-era policies of promoting pro-democracy groups in authoritarian countries.

As the BBC website reported last week, in the latest such example, the Obama administration “has all but dismantled the Iran Democracy Fund” which helped supply funding to pro-democracy groups in Iran. The timing, of course, could not be worse, as democracy advocates continue to be rounded up and in some cases raped and killed by Iranian Islamic prison guards for protesting the disputed June elections. Just last week, Iran announced plans to execute three activists.

The director of one benefactor of the Iran Democracy Fund, the U.S.-based Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center, told The Boston Globe that they never expected it would be Obama and Hillary Clinton who would cut their funding.

Earlier this year, the State Department stopped funding the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, which maintains what is thought to be the most extensive record anywhere of Islamic Iran’s 30-year history of brutality. The Obama administration also abruptly ended funding for Freedom House’s Gozaar project, an online Farsi- and English-language forum for discussing political issues.

The mind boggles at liberals who support Obama failing to criticize this, and it is left to those liberals like myself (who have serious doubts about many of President Obama’s foreign policies) to do so.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration – in stark contrast to the Bush White House – has refused to speak out against the ongoing campaign of mass arrests of opposition leaders and bloggers in Egypt. Jailed pro-democracy activist Kamal al-Fayoumi said: “We are distraught with President Obama. He has given the regime the green light to do what it wants with the Egyptian people.”

 

OBAMA’S APPEASEMENT OF SUDAN’S GENOCIDAL LEADER OK WITH HUMAN-RIGHTS CROWD

Jonathan Tobin writes (on the website of Commentary magazine):

For most of the past few years, liberals who claim to care about human rights have pointed to the disaster in the Darfur region of Sudan as the prime example of the failure of the international system to act against genocide. The Bush administration’s halting efforts to isolate Sudan were consistently branded as insufficiently militant.

… But now the chief liberal icon of the moment has taken his philosophy of “engagement” with dictators to the next level by a policy of outreach to the government that the United States has accused of genocide in Darfur. After months of internal arguments about the best way to deal with Sudan, the administration announced it would reward the country’s murderous dictator, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir – a man currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court for his role in directing the murder of hundreds of thousands of people – with economic incentives to try and bribe him to stop behaving in such a beastly fashion.

The idea of appeasing al-Bashir was enough to give even the Obama cheerleading squad at the New York Times editorial page pause; it demurred from its usual unflinching support to express a degree of skepticism about the idea that lifting sanctions will change the behavior of this rogue regime or cause it to no longer grant safe haven for terrorists.

The Times’s editorial board rightly concludes by warning that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “must be held to account if it fails.” But don’t expect the same liberal groups that railed against Bush to take to the streets to do that…

 

OBAMA WITHDRAWS FROM EVENT COMMEMORATING 20th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL

The leading German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that “U.S. President Barack Obama has shelved his plans to attend festivities marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9.”

Berlin is going all out for the anniversary, with Kofi Annan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa among those who have confirmed their attendance.

Der Spiegel reports that Obama has explained to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he has “scheduling difficulties”.

This is, of course, an unfortunate snub to a democratic ally, and a missed opportunity to celebrate a very significant achievement on behalf of the free world. No doubt Obama will make it to Norway on December 10 however.

***

In an article (attached further down this dispatch) Wall Street Journal columnist (and subscriber to this email list) Bret Stephens asks “Does Obama believe in human rights?” and outlines the record of Obama in reversing Bush-era pro-democracy efforts in places like China, Burma and Sudan for the sake of “engagement”.

Stephens writes: “In Massachusetts not long ago, I found myself driving behind a car with ‘Free Tibet,’ ‘Save Darfur,’ and ‘Obama 08’ bumper stickers. I wonder if it will ever dawn on the owner of that car that at least one of those stickers doesn’t belong.”

 

WORRIED ABOUT ISRAEL? THINK TIBET

I also attach an article by another subscriber to this list, syndicated columnist and talk radio host Dennis Prager.

Prager writes:

According to The Jerusalem Post, as recently as six weeks ago, just 4 percent of the Jews of Israel regarded President Obama as pro-Israel. Even if exaggerated, it is likely the most negative Israeli view of an American president since Israel’s creation.

If you think Israelis are irrational in this matter, perhaps Tibet will help persuade you otherwise.

Yes, Tibet.

Whereas every Democratic and Republican president since 1991 has met with exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, when he visited the United States, President Obama has decided that he will not do so during the Tibetan leader’s visit to the United States. The president does not wish to annoy China’s dictators prior to his upcoming visit to Beijing.

… This is particularly troubling to Israelis because it means that an American president is placing appeasement of strong dictators above America’s traditional defense of embattled small countries. (One assumes that the Taiwanese are equally worried; and the Iranian fighters for liberty have come close to giving up on Obama’s America.)

The line between selling out Tibetans and selling out Israelis is a direct one… The world is quite aware of the importance of Obama’s snubbing the Dalai Lama. Even liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd noted that.

… Those who worry about good and evil know that if America decides that the world’s approval is important, evil will increase exponentially. Only an America willing to be disliked, even hated, will consistently support the smaller good guys against the bigger bad guys.

If America starts shaping its foreign policy based upon getting along well with everybody, it will become less tenable to support Israel. The number of people and countries that want Israel destroyed are far more numerous than tiny Israel and its people…

(Prager’s full article is below. I also wrote about Obama’s snub to the Dalia Lama in the second item here.)

 

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY

Writing on his blog yesterday, Barry Rubin points out that in their latest remarks, the White House can’t seem to remember who murdered 241 Americans in Beirut in 1982.

The White House has just released a very routine but still quite disturbing declaration by President Barack Obama:

“On the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, we remember today the 241 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors who lost their lives 26 years ago as the result of a horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The military personnel serving in Beirut were there to bring peace and stability to Lebanon after years of internal strife and conflict. The murder of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines on this day on 1983 remains a senseless tragedy... In remembering this terrible day of loss, we are at the same time hopeful that a new government in Lebanon will soon be formed. We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people.”

The problem is not so much the wording of the declaration but the context in which it’s issued. After all, the president of the United States has access to U.S. intelligence. And U.S. intelligence knows:

--That the bombing was carried out by Hizbullah under the guidance of Syria and Iran.
--Today, attacks are being carried out against U.S. military personnel in Iraq under the guidance of Syria and Iran, and
--Iran is trying to stage such attacks in Afghanistan.

--In addition, Iran’s current minister of defense was the head of covert operations at the time that these were killing U.S. citizens.

--Hizbullah was involved in other attacks on U.S. citizens and servicemen in Lebanon.

--It is also the anniversary of the killing of three U.S. security agents by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who the Palestinian Authority never punished and Hamas is now protecting. There is no apparent effort by the U.S. government to bring these killers to justice or to press the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to cooperate in doing so or to punish them for not doing so.

All of these forces, however, are left anonymous. No one is named for involvement in that “horrific terrorist attack.” And, of course the attack was not “senseless” but part of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah campaign to take over Lebanon and drive U.S. influence out of the region. In fact, it was counted as a great victory for these forces since it showed America’s vulnerability to being hit by terrorism – an inspiration for September 11?

(The full item is towards the end of this dispatch.)

***

Since I have mentioned Der Spiegel, and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, at the end of this dispatch I attach some East German jokes about communism that Der Spiegel this week printed for posterity.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

“THOSE BEACONS OF CIVILIZATION”

A moral atrocity
Judge Goldstone has been suckered into letting war criminals use his name to pillory Israel
By Harold Evans
The Guardian
October 20, 2009

Aren’t the British sickened by the moral confusions of their government? First, we have the weasel words to justify the unjustifiable release of the Lockerbie bomber. Now we have the sickening spectacle of Britain failing to stand by Israel, the only democracy with an independent judiciary in the entire region.

It was to be expected that the usual suspects of the risible UN human rights council would be eager to condemn Israel for war crimes in defending itself against Hamas. If you treat people as the Chinese do the Tibetans or Uighurs (“Off with their heads!”); or as the Russians eliminate Chechen dissidents; or as the Nigerians tolerate extrajudicial killings, the evictions of 800,000, rape and cruel treatment of prisoners; or as the Egyptians get prisoners to talk (torture) and the Saudis suppress half their population … well, go through the practices of all 25 states voting to refer Israel to the security council for the Gaza war, and you have to acknowledge they know a lot about the abuse of humans. Anything to divert attention from their own atrocities.

Only six refused to join the farce – Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine and the US. Britain didn’t just abstain. It shirked voting at all (along with those beacons of civilisation Angola, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, and surprisingly, France).

Of course, here the fig leaf for being scared of dictators, especially oil-rich abusers, is the report by the South African judge Richard Goldstone. Poor Judge Goldstone now regrets how his good name has been used to single out Israel. The Swiss paper Le Temps reports him complaining that “This draft [UN human rights council] resolution saddens me … there is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report. I hope the council can modify the text.” Fat hope.

The truth is he was suckered into lending his good name to a half-baked report – read its 575 pages and see. He said that, as a Jew himself, he was surprised to be invited. He shouldn’t have been, and should never have accepted leadership of a commission whose terms of reference were designed to excuse the aggressor, Hamas, and punish the defender, Israel. The council’s decision was to “dispatch an urgent, independent, international fact-finding mission … to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and [it] calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully co-operate with the mission”.

Israel is not an “occupying power” in Gaza in either fact or international law. Four years ago it voluntarily pulled out all its soldiers and uprooted all its settlers. Here was a wonderful chance for Gaza to be the building block of a Palestinian state, and for Hamas to do what the Israelis did – take a piece of land and build a model state. They didn’t. Instead of helping the desperate Palestinians, they conducted a religious war.

In signing on for the UN mission – with others who had already condemned Israel – it seems to have escaped the judge that Hamas is committed not just to fight Israeli soldiers; it is a terrorist organisation hellbent on the destruction of the state of Israel. The terms of reference he accepted validate the torment of Israeli civilians. Hamas launched 7,000 rockets – every one intended to kill as many people as possible – then contemptuously dismissed repeated warnings from Israel to stop or face the consequences.

The rockets were war crimes and ought to have been universally condemned as such. While new rockets hit Israel over many months there was no rush by the world’s moralisers – including Britain – to censure Hamas, no urgency as there was in “world opinion” when Israel finally responded. Then Israel was immediately accused of a “disproportionate” response without anyone thinking: “What is a ‘proportionate’ attack against an enemy dedicated to exterminating your people?” A dedication to exterminating all of his?

Israel risked its own forces by imposing unprecedented restraint. In testimony volunteered to the human rights council (and ignored), Colonel Richard Kemp, a British commander in Bosnia and Afghanistan, stated: “The Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” The “collateral damage” was less than the Nato allies inflicted on the Bosnians in the conflict with Yugoslavia.

No doubt there were blunders. A defensive war is still a war with all its suffering and destruction. But Hamas compounded its original war crime with another. It held its own people hostage. It used them as human shields. It regarded every (accidental) death as another bullet in the propaganda war. The Goldstone report won the gold standard of moral equivalence between the killer and the victim. Now Britain wins the silver. Who’s cheering?

 

OBAMA AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Does Obama Believe in Human Rights?
Human rights “interfere” with President Obama’s campaign against climate change
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
October 19, 2009

Nobody should get too hung up over President Obama’s decision, reported by Der Spiegel over the weekend, to cancel plans to attend next month’s 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany’s reunited capital has already served his purposes; why should he serve its?

To this day, the fall of the Berlin Wall on the night of Nov. 9, 1989, remains a high-water mark in the march of human freedom. It’s a march to which candidate Obama paid rich (if solipsistic) tribute in last year’s big Berlin speech. “At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning – his dream – required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West,” waxed Mr. Obama to the assembled thousands. “This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom.”

Those were the words. What’s been the record?

China: In February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Beijing with a conciliating message about the country’s human-rights record. “Our pressing on those [human-rights] issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,” she said.

In fact, there has been no pressing whatsoever on human rights. President Obama refused to meet with the Dalai Lama last month, presumably so as not to ruffle feathers with the people who will now be financing his debts. In June, Liu Xiaobo, a leading signatory of the pro-democracy Charter 08 movement, was charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” But as a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing admitted to the Journal, “neither the White House nor Secretary Clinton have made any public comments on Liu Xiaobo.”

Sudan: In 2008, candidate Obama issued a statement insisting that “there must be real pressure placed on the Sudanese government. We know from past experience that it will take a great deal to get them to do the right thing…The U.N. Security Council should impose tough sanctions on the Khartoum government immediately.”

Exactly right. So what should Mr. Obama do as president? Yesterday, the State Department rolled out its new policy toward Sudan, based on “a menu of incentives and disincentives” for the genocidal Sudanese government of Omar Bashir. It’s the kind of menu Mr. Bashir will languidly pick his way through till he dies comfortably in his bed.

Iran: Mr. Obama’s week-long silence on Iran’s “internal affairs” following June’s fraudulent re-election was widely noted. Not so widely noted are the administration’s attempts to put maximum distance between itself and human-rights groups working the Iran beat.

Earlier this year, the State Department denied a grant request for New Haven, Conn.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The Center maintains perhaps the most extensive record anywhere of Iran’s 30-year history of brutality. The grant denial was part of a pattern: The administration also abruptly ended funding for Freedom House’s Gozaar project, an online Farsi- and English-language forum for discussing political issues.

It’s easy to see why Tehran would want these groups de-funded and shut down. But why should the administration, except as a form of pre-emptive appeasement?

Burma: In July, Mr. Obama renewed sanctions on Burma. In August, he called the conviction of opposition leader (and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi a violation of “the universal principle of human rights.”

Yet as with Sudan, the administration’s new policy is “engagement,” on the theory that sanctions haven’t worked. Maybe so. But what evidence is there that engagement will fare any better? In May 2008, the Burmese junta prevented delivery of humanitarian aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some 150,000 people died in plain view of “world opinion,” in what amounted to a policy of forced starvation.

Leave aside the nausea factor of dealing with the authors of that policy. The real question is what good purpose can possibly be served in negotiations that the junta will pursue only (and exactly) to the extent it believes will strengthen its grip on power. It takes a remarkable presumption of good faith, or perhaps stupidity, to imagine that the Burmas or Sudans of the world would reciprocate Mr. Obama’s engagement except to seek their own advantage.

It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism – or perhaps cowardice – to treat human rights as something that “interferes” with America’s purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them. Yet that is exactly the record of Mr. Obama’s time thus far in office.

In Massachusetts not long ago, I found myself driving behind a car with “Free Tibet,” “Save Darfur,” and “Obama 08” bumper stickers. I wonder if it will ever dawn on the owner of that car that at least one of those stickers doesn’t belong.

 

“IF YOU THINK ISRAELIS ARE IRRATIONAL, PERHAPS TIBET WILL HELP PERSUADE YOU OTHERWISE”

Obama and the Dalai Lama: Why Israel worries about U.S. president
(Syndicated column)
By Dennis Prager
Oct. 20, 2009

According to the Jerusalem Post, as recently as six weeks ago, just 4 percent of the Jews of Israel regarded President Obama as pro-Israel. Even if exaggerated, it is likely the most negative Israeli view of an American president since Israel’s creation.

If you think Israelis are irrational in this matter, perhaps Tibet will help persuade you otherwise.

Yes, Tibet.

Whereas every Democratic and Republican president since 1991 has met with exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, when he visited the United States, President Obama has decided that he will not do so during the Tibetan leader’s visit to the United States. The president does not wish to annoy China’s dictators prior to his upcoming visit to Beijing. As US News & World Report reported, “The U.S. decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedaling criticism of China’s human rights ...”

This is particularly troubling to Israelis because it means that an American president is placing appeasement of strong dictators above America’s traditional defense of embattled small countries. (One assumes that the Taiwanese are equally worried; and the Iranian fighters for liberty have come close to giving up on Obama’s America.)

The line between selling out Tibetans and selling out Israelis is a direct one. Even liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was disturbed by the president’s snubbing of the Dalai Lama:

“Dissing the Dalai was part of a broader new Obama policy called ‘strategic reassurance’ – softening criticism of China’s human rights record and financial policies to calm its fears that America is trying to contain it ... the tyro American president got the Nobel for the mere anticipation that he would provide bold moral leadership for the world at the very moment he was caving to Chinese dictators. Awkward.”

The world is quite aware of the importance of Mr. Obama’s snubbing the Dalai Lama. Dowd noted that:

“In an interview with Alison Smale in The Times last week, Vaclav Havel pricked Barack Obama’s conscience. Havel (who led) the Czechs and Slovaks from communism to democracy, turned the tables and asked Smale a question about Obama Was it true that the president had refused to meet the Dalai Lama on his visit to Washington?”

Those who worry about good and evil know that if America decides that the world’s approval is important, evil will increase exponentially. Only an America willing to be disliked, even hated, will consistently support the smaller good guys against the bigger bad guys.

If America starts shaping its foreign policy based upon getting along well with everybody, it will become less tenable to support Israel. The number of people and countries that want Israel destroyed are far more numerous than tiny Israel and its people. The price of supporting free, democratic, tolerant Israel against its death-loving, totalitarian and authoritarian enemies is reduced popularity of America in those countries. And if America now values getting along well with everyone above moral considerations, the days of strong American support for Israel are numbered.

They may indeed be numbered for additional reasons. Having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama may be even less inclined to consider an American attack, or in any way countenance an Israeli attack, on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate isn’t supposed to support, much less initiate, first strikes.

Additionally, the president, given his yearning for a nuclear weapons-free world, may support an Iranian offer to disband its nuclear weapons program if Israel is forced to abandon its nuclear arsenal.

All this combined with the economically weakest America in memory – increasingly dependent on other countries to help prevent the dollar from becoming more like Monopoly money – means that the 96 percent of Israelis who do feel they cannot rely on this president of the United States as they have on prior presidents is, unfortunately, not irrational.

This president characterizes his presidency as essentially the opposite of that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. He may be right, as reflected by this note from the Washington Post: “The last time he (the Dalai Lama) was here, in 2007, George W. Bush became the first sitting president to meet with him publicly, at a ceremony at the Capitol in which he awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian award.”

If you were Israeli, which American president would you feel more secure with – the first one in 18 years who refused to meet with the Dalai Lama or the first one ever to meet with him publicly and give him a public honor?

 

WHITE HOUSE CAN’T REMEMBER WHO MURDERED 241 AMERICANS

White House on Beirut marine barracks bombing: Can’t remember who murdered 241 Americans
By Barry Rubin
rubinreports.blogspot.com
October 23, 2009

The White House has just released a very routine but still quite disturbing declaration by President Barack Obama. And it goes like this:

“On the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, we remember today the 241 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors who lost their lives 26 years ago as the result of a horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The military personnel serving in Beirut were there to bring peace and stability to Lebanon after years of internal strife and conflict. The murder of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines on this day on 1983 remains a senseless tragedy... In remembering this terrible day of loss, we are at the same time hopeful that a new government in Lebanon will soon be formed. We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people.”

The problem is not so much the wording of the declaration but the context in which it’s issued. After all, the president of the United States has access to U.S. intelligence. And U.S. intelligence knows:

--That the bombing was carried out by cadre of Hizbullah under the guidance of Syria and Iran.
--Today, attacks are being carried out against U.S. military personnel in Iraq under the guidance of Syria and Iran, and
--Iran is trying to stage such attacks in Afghanistan.

--In addition, Iran’s current minister of defense was the head of covert operations at the time that these were killing U.S. citizens.

--Hizbullah was involved in other attacks on U.S. citizens and servicemen in Lebanon.

--It is also the anniversary of the killing of three U.S. security agents by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who the Palestinian Authority never punished and Hamas is now protecting. There is no apparent effort by the U.S. government to bring these killers to justice or to press the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to cooperate in doing so or to punish them for not doing so.

All of these forces, however, are left anonymous. No one is named for involvement in that “horrific terrorist attack.” And, of course the attack was not “senseless” but part of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah campaign to take over Lebanon and drive U.S. influence out of the region. In fact, it was counted as a great victory for these forces since it showed America’s vulnerability to being hit by terrorism -- an inspiration for September 11? -- and did succeed in paralyzing the U.S. effort in Lebanon. Ultimately, this lead to the withdrawal of the peace-keeping forces altogether, paving the way for Syria’s turning Lebanon into a satellite state for two decades at a great financial and strategic profit. .

None of these attacks were perpetrated by al-Qaida, the only group that remains a target of this administration’s version of a war on terrorism, a phrase which is no longer used.

It is bad enough the administration doesn’t say any of this. Is it aware of these factors at all?

Indeed, the president’s advisor on terrorism is on record as saying that Hizbullah is no longer a terrorist group, which opens the door for U.S. contacts in future.

This raises the question of the declaration’s final sentence. Let’s repeat it:

“We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people.”

While negotiations are complex and ongoing, the government being discussed for Lebanon would include a large contingent of Hizbullah cabinet ministers and would give Hizbullah veto power over government decisions.

Now it could be argued that this would not constitute, in U.S. eyes, a government promoting stability and prosperity. But who knows? Without even naming Hizbullah as an adversary, however, the implication is that the United States does not oppose a government including Hizbullah, which is one more step to having such a government.

Consider just one such additional case. Colonel William Richard Higgins, kidnapped by Hizbullah men while serving with UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon in 1988, horribly tortured, turned over to the Iranians and murdered. Does the White House remember him?

So 241 U.S. servicemen died 26 years ago. Who killed them? Will the murders be punished in any way or will the groups and states that stood behind the attack be rewarded? On this, the declaration is silent.

 

DER SPIEGEL: SOME EAST GERMAN JOKES ABOUT COMMUNISM

From Spiegel Online International’s ongoing series “20 Years after the Wall”:

Did East Germans originate from apes? Impossible. Apes could never have survived on just two bananas a year.

Such jokes were whispered in communist East Germany – and West German spies recorded them diligently to gain insights into the public mood, according to recently released intelligence files.

“What would happen if the desert became communist? Nothing for a while, and then there would be a sand shortage.”

Jokes like that made the rounds among East Germans during the communist era, and West Germany’s intelligence service would collect them, as a way to assess the public mood behind the Iron Curtain but also to amuse its masters in Bonn, the West German capital.

The ubiquitous Trabant or Trabi, East Germany’s legendary plastic car with its clattering two-stroke engine, was a favorite butt of jokes as well. Like this one: “A new Trabi has been launched with two exhaust pipes – so you can use it as a wheelbarrow.”

East Germans weren’t averse to secretly lampooning their political leaders, bureaucracy or the chronic supply shortages that plagued the country, even though it was risky for them.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.