#TortureReport: I look forward to the Republican report of how much Democrats knew

December 15, 2014
What did she know?

What did she know?

Setting aside for a moment the questions of what constitutes “torture,” when are harsh methods justified in interrogation, and the effectiveness of such methods, one of the most galling aspects of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s majority report is its raging hypocrisy. Feigning a shock and outrage that would make even Captain Reynault blush with shame, Senate Democrats lead by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) loudly denounced the CIA (and by extension the Bush administration) for employing tactics that amounted to torture.

Funny how they’re outraged now, when they’ve known for years:

Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s point man for counterterrorism between 2002 and 2004, told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday that Democratic lawmakers now accusing the CIA of keeping Congress in the dark on some interrogation methods “knew exactly what we were doing.”

“I remember very clearly briefing [California Democrat] Nancy Pelosi in September of 2002,” he said, claiming he “briefed her specifically on the enhanced-interrogation techniques of Abu Zubayda. So she knew, back in September of 2002, every one of our enhanced interrogation techniques.”

“These people were fully aware of all of the techniques that were given to us and approved by the Office of Legal Counsel at Justice,” Rodriguez continued, saying that neither Nancy Pelosi nor other Democrats — with the exception of then–California congresswoman Jane Harman — “ever objected to the techniques at all.”

Senators knew, too; the article mentions Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in particular. But I’d like to know just how much Senator Feinstein knew and when she knew it. She’s been on the intelligence committee for years and was surely briefed. But it’s only now, with Democrats soon to lose control of the Senate and Feinstein her chairmanship of the committee, that she decides to rush out this hack-job of a report. I’ll repeat what I wrote in 2009, when Nancy Pelosi was the one screaming over harsh interrogation methods:

You want a truth commission, Mrs. Pelosi? Fine. Bring it on. Let’s have that full-throated discussion of “harsh” interrogation of terrorists who believe they’re doing Allah’s work when they carve off heads or fly planes into buildings and who’d dearly love to set off a nuclear weapon in the US. Let’s clear away the cobwebs of convenient amnesia to let the world know just how much you and your party members supported those same techniques, funding them year after year and even wondering why we weren’t doing more. Let’s bring out all the details of how those techniques saved Americans from horrible deaths and find out what the American people support: a government that recognizes that its highest, first duty is to protect and defend its citizens, or one willing to gut its intelligence service and put the people at risk, all in the name of a preening sanctimony that’s nothing more than a cover for a partisan hack job.

So, let’s have that truth commission, Speaker Pelosi. Just remember, truth hurts.

Let’s see if they can handle the truth.

RELATED: For a much more sensible critique of the interrogation program, read counterintelligence specialist John Schindler’s post “CIA Torture: An Insider’s View.”


When science fiction becomes reality: US Navy deploys laser weapon

December 10, 2014
"Boom"

“Boom”

Say it after me, kids: “We have all the best toys!

A new laser gun mounted on the USS Ponce has been operational for months in the Persian Gulf, and it has exceeded expectations as far as its range and durability, senior Navy officers said Wednesday.

The Navy calls it the LaWS, short for laser weapon system. It was installed on the Ponce over the summer, and deployed this fall. Video released by the service on Wednesday shows it taking out an incoming speedboat in a test at a long, undisclosed range with directed energy. No laser beam can be seen, but the boat bursts into flames.

“It’s almost like a Hubble telescope at sea,” said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, the Navy’s chief of naval research. “Literally, we’re able to get that kind of power and magnification.”

Video is available at the WaPo article. There’s no special-effect colored beam flashing across the seas, but the real is very real — the target bursts into flames.

The model on the Ponce is “only” 30 kilowatts strong, but the Navy has plans for models of up to 150 kilowatts. And it saves money on ammunition, each “shot” being far cheaper than a shell for a main gun. With work also underway on a shipboard railgun, the US Navy might give even Cthulhu pause.

Nah.

The impetus for developing this weapon was the perceived threat to our ships, especially our carriers, from explosives-laden Iranian speedboats on suicide missions: imagine dozens of small craft, each intent on reenacting the attack on the USS Cole. In the eternal dance between offense and defense, the new threat, which illiterate commenters thought overwhelming, is now being thwarted with new technology and tactics.

As, eventually these early laser will be countered. Max Boot wrote a great book on this very process.

Still… Lasers on warships! How cool is that?

(And how soon before the Chinese steal it?)

via Gabriel Malor

 

 


Pearl Harbors then and now

December 7, 2014

In the last surprise attack on American soil before 9/11, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor:

The end of the USS Arizona

(Credit: Aviation History)

My grandfather was a Petty Officer aboard the USS Nevada during the battle. Below are a couple of pictures of his ship under attack, the only battleship to get underway that day:

…and…

Grandpa was having a bad day

(Both photos credit: Naval Historical Center)

As you can see, they had been hit pretty hard. Thankfully, Grandpa survived.

Thirteen years ago, we were hit by another fascist enemy, Muslims waging “jihad fi sabil Allah,” with casualties 25% higher than Pearl Harbor:

(credit: September 11th News)

…and…

(Credit: Aspersions)

…and…

(Scene at the Pentagon. Credit: US Navy via Wikimedia)

Our grandfathers finished their job. Let’s not do any less, shall we?

RELATED: The story of Lt. John William Finn, the last surviving Medal of Honor winner from Pearl Harbor.

NOTE: This is a republishing of a post I put up each December 7th.


#ISIS: Rand Paul’s declaration of war

November 24, 2014
"Of course you know, this means war."

“Of course you know, this means war.”

One of the criticisms of President Obama’s conduct of our foreign affairs (and of our domestic affairs, frankly) is that he disregards statutes and the provisions of the Constitution whenever it is convenient for him to do so. This extends to the war powers inherent in the presidency under Article II. Both in Libya and, now, in Syria and Iraq in the fight against ISIS, Obama has been accused of acting without authorization from Congress, either under the specific War Powers Act of 1973 or Article I of the Constitution, the latter of which grants Congress the sole power to declare war. With regard to ISIS, Obama has claimed authorization under the existing Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda, since ISIS is an al Qaeda “spawn.” Not surprisingly, critics call that a stretch.

One of the critics is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who has often accused Obama of acting unconstitutionally. At PJM, Bridget Johnson reports that Paul has plans to assert Congress’ authority over the war-power by introducing a bill to declare war on ISIS:

The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.

“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

The bill also contains specific limitations on the authorization to use force, namely action is to be limited to ISIS and its “affiliates,” and specifies that ground troops can only be used to protect Americans and American facilities, and in certain limited offensive operations.

I have my quibbles with this proposal (1), but overall I support the idea. Obama has created a constitutional crisis by pushing the limits of the presidency’s powers past their breaking point. We’re running the risk of passively acquiescing to our transformation from a republic with separate, co-equal branches of government, each with their own powers, to more of a strongman presidential model, such as in France (2).

To prevent that, Congress needs to start acting to jealously guard its prerogatives and assert its status, as Madison described several times in the Federalist Papers. Senator Paul’s bill to declare war may be a good start to redressing the balance.

RELATED: Charles Cooke on why Republicans should not retaliate in kind for Obama’s usurpations. Jay Cost on the proper way to rebuke Obama. Andrew McCarthy on “President Orwell.”

Footnote:
(1) Namely that I believe US “boots on the ground” in offensive operations will be necessary to defeat the new Caliphate; the Arab forces in the area are worthless.
(2) Not that I’m implying that France is a dictatorship — far from it. But the presidency under the Gaullist system is quite a bit more powerful than the legislature.


Why the Islamic State is Winning

November 15, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Some needed hard words from XX Committee. if we don’t get our heads on straight, we’re going to let these refugees from the 7th century win.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Today’s headlines bring word of some sort of ceasefire, or at least modus vivendi, between the Islamic State (*Da’ish) and Al-Qa’ida (AQ) in Syria, where the Salafi jihadists have been bitter enemies, fighting each other often more than the Assad regime which they both seek to overthrow. While it would be unwise to think this is more than a tactical allliance, any rapprochement between Da’ish and AQ is an important development that has worrisome implications for their mutual enemies.

This is particularly the case because the U.S.-led campaign to prevent Da’ish from taking over more of Syria and Iraq than the fanatical group already controls is going poorly, to be charitable. The belatedly named Operation INHERENT RESOLVE has been underway for over three months already and its accomplishments are few. Beyond some individually impressive airstrikes on Da’ish targets, there is less here than meets the eye, strategically speaking. In…

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Good news! Some of our vetted, moderate Syrian allies have defected to al-Qaeda!

November 2, 2014

satire oops embarrassed button

I swear, our foreign policy would be turning out better results if it were run by the Keystone Cops. Via Patrick Poole at PJM, while some have just surrendered to al Qaeda, others have switched sides. Oh, and handed over he weapons we gave them. What was it bin Laden said about people preferring the strong horse?

Guess who’s the weak horse?

Two of the main rebel groups receiving weapons from the United States to fight both the regime and jihadist groups in Syria have surrendered to al-Qaeda.

The US and its allies were relying on Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front to become part of a ground force that would attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

For the last six months the Hazm movement, and the SRF through them, had been receiving heavy weapons from the US-led coalition, including GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles.

But on Saturday night Harakat Hazm surrendered military bases and weapons supplies to Jabhat al-Nusra, when the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria stormed villages they controlled in northern Idlib province.

The development came a day after Jabhat al-Nusra dealt a final blow to the SRF, storming and capturing Deir Sinbal, home town of the group’s leader Jamal Marouf.

Remember, these were among the guys we were counting on to fight ISIS. That’s some vetting job we did there.

Read the rest of Poole’s report for information on a growing rapprochement between ISIS and al Qaeda, which would reunite the two branches of our deadly enemy. Between this and the desultory, micromanaged air campaign ordered by a diffident president who’d much rather be golfing, the self-proclaimed Caliphate and their al-Nusra besties should be marching into Baghdad and Damascus by New Year’s.

We’re in the best of hands.

UPDATE: Michael Totten, who knows the Mideast better than you and I ever will, says Syria is gone.


Poland Prepares for Russian Invasion

October 30, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Poland has had sad experience of Russian aggression several times over the centuries, and now again they’re worried — with justification. But it’s not just Putin who worries them: read through to the end for absolutely brutal comments from Polish officials about Obama and his administration.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to threaten Ukraine, having stolen Crimea in the spring and exerted de facto Kremlin control over much of the Donbas this summer, war worries are mounting on NATO’s eastern frontier. New reports of Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border this week are not reassuring to those Atlantic Alliance members who suffered Soviet occupation for decades, and still live in Moscow’s neighborhood.

Neither are Russian air force incursions into Western airspace calming nerves with their reborn Cold War antics: yesterday, NATO fighters intercepted no less than nineteen Russian combat aircraft, including several heavy bombers. No NATO countries are more worried about Kremlin aggression than the Baltic states, with their small militaries and lack of strategic depth, which are frankly indefensible in any conventional sense without significant and timely Alliance assistance.

But Poland is the real issue when it comes to defending NATO’s exposed Eastern…

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