WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2009—
The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.
Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.
"I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum." Holder said at a news conference on the arrest of more than 700 people in a drug enforcement crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S.
Mexican government officials have complained that the availability of sophisticated guns from the United States have emboldened drug traffickers to fight over access routes into the U.S.
A State Department travel warning issued Feb. 20, 2009, reflected government concerns about the violence.
"Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades," the warning said. "Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico, but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez."
At the news conference today, Holder described his discussions with his Mexican counterpart about the recent spike in violence.
"I met yesterday with Attorney General Medina Mora of Mexico, and we discussed the unprecedented levels of violence his country is facing because of their enforcement efforts," he said.
Holder declined to offer any time frame for the reimplementation of the assault weapons ban, however.
"It's something, as I said, that the president talked about during the campaign," he said. "There are obviously a number of things that are -- that have been taking up a substantial amount of his time, and so, I'm not sure exactly what the sequencing will be."
In a brief interview with ABC News, Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Association, said, "I think there are a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill cringing at Eric Holder's comments right now."
During his confirmation hearing, Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee about other gun control measures the Obama administration may consider.
"I think closing the gun show loophole, the banning of cop-killer bullets and I also think that making the assault weapons ban permanent, would be something that would be permitted under Heller," Holder said, referring to the Supreme Court ruling in Washington, D.C. v. Heller, which asserted the Second Amendment as an individual's right to own a weapon.
The Assault Weapons Ban signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 banned 19 types of semi-automatic military-style guns and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds.
"A semi-automatic is a quintessential self-defense firearm owned by American citizens in this country," LaPierre said. "I think it is clearly covered under Heller and it's clearly, I think, protected by the Constitution."
28 February 2009
This week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in support of an Oklahoma law allowing employees to store legally owned firearms in locked, private motor vehicles while parked in employer parking lots. This decision upholds NRA-backed legislation passed in 2004.
"This is a victory for the millions of American workers who have been denied the right to protect themselves while commuting between their homes and their workplace," said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. "Their effort to overturn the law was aimed at skirting the will of the American people, and the intent of legislatures across this country while eviscerating Right-to-Carry laws. This ruling is a slap at the corporate elitists who have no regard for the constitutional rights of law abiding American workers."
In March 2004, the Oklahoma legislature passed an amendment holding employers criminally liable for prohibiting employees from storing their legally owned firearms in locked vehicles on company property. A number of corporations subsequently filed suit in opposition to the new laws, alleging they were unconstitutionally vague; an unconstitutional taking of private property; and preempted by various federal statutes. The lower court ruled in favor of the injunction.
"This issue was contrived by the gun control lobby who goaded corporations into doing their dirty work for them," said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox. "However, this ruling is a vindication for every hardworking and lawful man and woman whose basic right to self-defense was taken away on a whim by corporate lawyers. NRA is prepared to defend this right and to ensure the safety of every American worker."
In October 2008, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry (D) and Attorney General Drew Edmondson appealed the lower court decision to strike down the NRA-backed worker protection laws to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. This week's opinion, handed down by Circuit Judges Paul J. Kelly, Bobby R. Baldock, and Michael W. McConnell, reversed the lower court's grant of a permanent injunction.
20 February 2009
Virginia Inmate Forcibly Carried to Death Chamber
JARRATT, Va. —
An inmate declared his innocence Thursday after he was forcibly carried into Virginia's death chamber, where he was executed for gunning down a police officer.
Edward Nathaniel Bell, who was convicted of killing the officer during a foot chase a decade ago, was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. Thursday at the Greensville Correctional Center.
When the door between Bell's cell and the death chamber opened, the inmate thrust his hips backward and wouldn't step toward to the gurney where the lethal injection was administered. Six stocky corrections officers pulled him through the doorway and lifted him onto the gurney.
"To the Timbrook family, you definitely have the wrong person," Bell said in the death chamber, addressing the victim's family. "The truth will come out one day. This here, killing me, there's no justice about it."
Bell's lawyer, who also witnessed the execution, said a sedative the inmate was given made it difficult for him to walk.
"Eddie's case is an example of how the system does not catch and correct errors," said attorney James G. Connell III.
Bell, 43, was condemned for shooting Winchester police Sgt. Ricky Timbrook as the officer chased him down a dark alley on Oct. 29, 1999. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine denied Bell's request for clemency earlier Thursday.
At least 10 current and former Winchester police officers witnessed the execution, including Winchester Sheriff Lenny Millholland.
"I can't say it's closure but it's another chapter in the life of Ricky Timbrook and it ends the chapter that included Eddy Bell," said the sheriff, who was on the police force in 1999 and investigated Timbrook's death.
Bell maintained that he did not shoot Timbrook, a 32-year-old popular police officer, SWAT Team Member and DARE instructor. Prosecutors, however, say Bell was a flashy drug dealer who held a grudge against Timbrook for arresting him two years earlier for possessing a concealed weapon.
Bell initially was scheduled to be executed last year, but Kaine pushed that back while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a Kentucky case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections. The court upheld the method in April.
The following month, the court granted Bell a temporary reprieve to consider whether his lawyer did a poor job representing him. It later dismissed his appeal.
Bell, a father of five, met with four of his children, his sister and two women with whom he had children, his lawyer said. Connell said his client didn't request a last meal because "he remained hopeful 'til the end" for a pardon and instead ate a cheese sandwich, which was what the rest of the inmates had.
Since Timbrook's death, the city has since named a park, a public safety building, a children's outreach fund and a food-and-toy drive in honor of him.
His wife, Kelly, was pregnant with their only child, Ricky Lee Timbrook II, now 9, when Timbrook was shot.
Kelly Timbrook has been reluctant to talk to the media, but she wrote letters and appeared in a television ad for Kaine's opponent in the 2005 governor's race. She questioned whether Kaine, a Roman Catholic who is opposed to the death penalty, would uphold Bell's sentence.
Before Thursday, Kaine had allowed eight executions and commuted one sentence since he took office in 2006.
A half-dozen protesters gathered outside the prison during the execution.
"One of the scariest parts of the death penalty is that it's hard to ever be certain. And ending someone's life takes away any opportunity to correct any wrongful conviction," said Beth Panilaitis, executive director for Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Bell was the 103rd Virginia inmate executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Virginia ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions since then.
19 February 2009
There are too many gun dealers in the U.S.
This refrain often is accompanied by ridiculous comparisons of the number of firearms dealers in the U.S. with the number of gas stations or even with the number of McDonald's hamburger stands. As Shakespeare reminds us, "Comparisons are odious," especially so when they are employed in public policy debate as a substitute for facts.
Reducing the number of dealers, we are told, will decrease illegal gun sales to traffickers. The simple fact is, however, federal law provides strict penalties in cases where a licensed dealer is involved in criminal activity. The law requires dealers to maintain records of every firearm bought or sold. The law requires dealers to present those records to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agents for purposes of compliance inspections and make the records available to law enforcement authorities engaged in crime investigations. The law requires dealers to inform both the BATF and state or local law enforcement officials whenever an individual buys more than one handgun in a five-day period. (18 U.S.C. 923) Additionally, under federal law it is a crime punishable by 10 years in prison for a dealer knowingly to provide a firearm or ammunition to a prohibited person such as a felon.
Since passage of the Gun Control Act (GCA) in 1968, any person engaged in the business of buying and selling firearms for the purpose of profit is required to have a federal firearms license (FFL). The BATF oversees the issuance of these licenses and regulates the manufacture and commercial sale of firearms in the U.S.
In particular the FFL was created:
to facilitate lawful firearms trade, including for those who lived in remote or rural areas who inordinately were impacted by the GCA's ban on interstate sales
to allow for scrutiny of firearms transactions records to prevent prohibited persons from acquiring firearms through legal means
to allow an individual with an interest in having a business in firearms to lawfully engage in that activity interstate.
For years, those who have sought to reduce the private ownership of firearms have done so by promoting laws to prohibit or delay firearms sales. Having failed more often than not in that effort, they have more recently turned to calling for a reduction in the number of individuals licensed to sell firearms. Their calls increased in volume in the early 1990s. Concern among gun owners over the Clinton/Gore Administration's anti-gun agenda caused an increase in the market for firearms, which, in turn, increased the number of individuals obtaining licenses to sell firearms. By April 1993, the number of federally licensed dealers hit an all-time high of 281,600.1
In August 1993, President Clinton sent a memorandum to the Treasury Secretary, suggesting that pressure be put upon low-volume dealers. "Today there are in excess of 287,000 Federal firearms licensees, and a great number of these persons probably should not be licensed," he said. "[P]robably 40% of the licensees conduct no business at all, and are simply persons who use the license to obtain the benefits of trading interstate and buying guns at wholesale. [Another] 30% of licensees engage in a limited level of business typically out of private residences."2
The Clinton Administration's belief that low-volume dealers should not be allowed to remain in business has no legal basis, however. Indeed, federal law does not require a dealer to sell large quantities of firearms; it merely requires that if a person is "dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms," such person be licensed. [18 U.S.C. ¬ß921(a)(21)(C)]
In November 1993, Clinton signed the Brady Act, a provision of which dramatically raised license fees for firearms dealers. Then, in late 1993 and early 1994, BATF increased its regulatory pressure upon dealers. The agency "required applicants to submit fingerprints and photographs of themselves [though fingerprints are not necessary to conduct a records check on an applicant], furnish a diagram of the business premises where their firearms inventories were located, and provide a description of their security system for safeguarding firearm inventories."3
To accomplish the Clinton Administration's goal, BATF used an orchestrated plan of coercion to intimidate dealers into surrendering their licenses. BATF agents denied license renewals for reasons that fall beyond their legitimate purview such as local zoning ordinances and insisting on things that federal law does not provide for, such as requiring a formal storefront. Since 1993, more than two-out-of-three licenses have been eliminated.
1. General Accounting Office, "Issues Related to Use of Force, Dealer Licensing, and Data Restrictions," GAO/T-GDD-96-104, April 3, 1996.
2. General Accounting Office, "Various Factors Have Contributed to the Decline in the Number of Dealers," GAO/GDD-96-78, March 1996, pp. 41-42.
3. General Accounting Office, "Issues Related to Use of Force, Dealer Licensing, and Data Restrictions," GAO/T-GDD-96-104, April 25, 1996.
17 February 2009
by Doug Giles
I’ve got a great idea: Let’s kiss some terrorist butt! I’m talkin’ a big, slobbery wet one right on their back forty. We might as well, as we are about to muck up the rest of our country with a stimulus package that will stimulate only a liberal government’s lug nuts.
Danka, Obama. Good job, Pelosi. Suffering succotash, Barney Frank.
Barney Frank. What an SNL skit waiting to happen. If I were named Barney, I’d be pissed. (Though given his sexual proclivities, he does have quite the apropos surname, eh?)
In addition to the FUBAR governmental enslavement our nation’s about to be saddled with, we’ve officially begun the mainlining of secularism, the okaying of nation-sinking sins, the Ex-Laxing of our immigration laws, the acceleration and radical funding of abortions aplenty, and the real possibility of the government duct-taping any mouth that does not repeat Obama’s mantras. I’d say we’re pretty much sunk.
Welcome to hell, America. Can I take your coat?
As America begins its swirl around and down the global toilet, I say we expedite our demise and put on some buttsmacker lip balm and kiss some terrorist booty. We’re courting other failed strategies, why not be nice to those who want us on ice?
What’s that? You say we already are smooching Achmed’s arse? Oh wow! I didn’t know. I’ve been watching MSNBC, and since Obama’s been elected all I’ve seen on that unwatched network is that everything is beautiful in its own way.
Check this out.
According Martin Mawyer, President and Founder of the Christian Action Network, we’ve been turning a blind eye and deaf ear to Islamic death camps, not in some sucky Suckistan country around the world but in our own backyard and, and, we’ve been doing this for quite some time.
Mawyer informed me on my talk show last Thursday of something the American public was never supposed to know:
“The 2006 Justice Department document that exposes 35 terrorist training compounds in the U.S. was marked ‘Dissemination Restricted to Law Enforcement.’ All the copies of Sheikh Muburak Gilani’s terrorist training video, ‘Soldiers of Allah,’ had been confiscated and sealed—all of them, that is, except one—that Christian Action Network now reveals in the documentary Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S.
It seems unfathomable—nearly three-dozen terrorist training compounds in the U.S.—and the FBI, Homeland Security, and State Department are no help at all? But the evidence is irrefutable: as Jamaat ul-Fuqra (known in the U.S. as Muslims of America) leader Sheik Muburak Gilani professes on the Soldiers of Allah video, ‘We are fighting to destroy the enemy. We are dealing with evil at its roots and its roots are America.’ Gilani’s strategy to off us infidels is ‘Act like you are his friend. Then kill him.’
The Soldiers of Allah training video teaches American students how to operate AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers, and machine guns; how to kidnap Americans and then kill them; how to conduct sabotage and subversive operations; and how to use mortars and explosives.
With almost 50 terrorist attacks on American soil linked to Jamaat ul-Fuqra—ranging from bombings to murder to plots to blowing up American landmarks—what will it take for the government to protect its citizens from self-professed enemies of Americans? They hide across 35 American cities as innocuous-sounding as Hancock, NY; Red House, VA; and Seattle, WA.
The allegations are serious, which is why Christian Action Network took more than two years to research Muslims of America—going inside the compounds with their video cameras and questions to confront violence and confirm the truth. Their mission? To make Americans aware of the threats and have Jamaat ul-Fuqra placed on the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organization Watch List, thereby shutting down the camps in the U.S. run by ul-Fuqra's front group, Muslims of America.
The State Department issued a statement on January 31, 2002, regarding why the group was no longer recognized as a terrorist organization: ‘Jamaat ul-Fuqra has never been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. It was included in several recent annual terrorism reports under ‘other terrorist groups,’ i.e., groups that had carried out acts of terrorism but that were not formally designated by the Secretary of State. However, because of the group’s inactivity during 2000, it was not included in the most recent terrorism report covering that calendar year.’
The effect of being removed from terrorist reports? In January 2002 Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and later beheaded while attempting to attend an interview with Jamaat ul-Fuqra leader Sheikh Muburak Gilani.
Was this an isolated incident? Hardly. In March 2003, Fuqra and al Qaeda member Lyman Faris pled guilty in federal court to a plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, and the list goes on.
16 February 2009
U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) recently sponsored H.R. 45, also known as "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act." The bill is, at its core and as its name implies, a licensing and registration scheme.
The measure calls for all handgun owners to submit to the federal government an application that shall include, among many other things: a photo; an address; a thumbprint; a completed, written firearm safety test; private mental health records; and a fee. And those are only some of the requirements to be licensed!
The bill would further require the attorney general to establish a database of every handgun sale, transfer, and owner's address in America. Moreover, the bill would make it illegal to own or possess a "qualifying firearm" -- defined as "any handgun; or any semiautomatic firearm that can accept any detachable ammunition feeding device…" [emphasis added] without one of the proposed licenses.
Additionally, the bill would make it illegal to transfer ownership of a "qualifying firearm" to anyone who is not a licensed gun dealer or collector (with very few exceptions), and would require "qualifying firearm" owners to report all transfers to the attorney general's database. It would also be illegal for a licensed gun owner to fail to record a gun loss or theft within 72 hours, or fail to report a change of address within 60 days. Further, if a minor obtains a firearm and injures someone with it, the owner of the firearm may face a multiple-year jail sentence.
H.R. 45 is essentially a reintroduction of H.R. 2666, which Rush introduced in 2007. H.R. 2666 contained much of the same language as H.R. 45, and was co-sponsored by several well-known anti-gun legislators--including Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. H.R. 45 currently has no co-sponsors.
13 February 2009
For paving the way for future feminazis by leading with example, Irma Grese will always remind us what a feminazi can do when she puts her mind to it. Gloria Steinham would only be able to strive to fill her shoes.
Belsen was liberated by the British and Irma along with the camp's Commandant, Joseph Kramer, and other guards were all arrested. He and 44 of the others were indicted for war crimes by a British Military Court, under Royal Warrant of the 14th of June 1945, on various charges of murder and ill treatment of their prisoners at Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps. The first phase of the Belsen Trials, as they were known, took place at No. 30 Lindentrasse, Lüneburg in Germany between the 17th of September and the 17th of November 1945. All the accused were represented by counsel. Irma being defended by Major L.S.W. Cranfield.
Irma pleaded not guilty to the specific charges brought against her. Many of the survivors of Belsen testified against Irma. (see photo at her trial wearing her number.) They spoke of the beatings and the arbitrary shooting of prisoners, the savaging of prisoners by her trained and half starved dogs, of her selecting prisoners for the gas chambers and of her sexual pleasure at these acts of cruelty. She habitually wore heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol.
She was alleged to have used both physical and emotional methods to torture the camp's inmates and seemed to enjoy shooting prisoners in cold blood. It was claimed that she beat some of the women to death and whipped others mercilessly using a plaited cellophane whip. Survivors reported that she seemed to derive great sexual pleasure from these acts of sadism.
It has been claimed that in her hut was found the skins of 3 inmates that she had had made into lamp shades, although this is now disputed.
She said in her defense that "Himmler is responsible for all that has happened but I suppose I have as much guilt as the others above me."
On the 54th day of the trial she was, not surprisingly, found guilty on both counts one and two of the indictment.
For paving the way for future feminazis by leading with example, Irma Grese will always remind us what a feminazi can do when she puts her mind to it. Gloria Steinham would only be able to strive to fill her shoes.
12 February 2009
By Frederick W. Kagan
President Obama has said many times that America must succeed in Afghanistan. He is right, and he deserves our full support in that effort.
Afghanistan is in many respects harder to understand than Iraq was. Even with a good strategy and sufficient resources, success will almost certainly come much more slowly. But as a great man said two years ago, hard is not hopeless.
The keys to finding the right approach lie in nine fundamental principles.
1. UNDERSTAND WHY WE’RE THERE
Afghanistan is not now a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it. Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban government we removed in 2001, is alive and well in Pakistan. He maintains contacts with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the other key al-Qaeda leaders, who are also based in Pakistan (although in a different area). Mullah Omar supports Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan from his Pakistani havens, while al-Qaeda and its affiliates support insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. Allowing Afghanistan to fail would mean allowing these determined enemies of the United States to regain the freedom they had before 9/11.
Pakistan itself is another reason Afghanistan is vitally important to America. It’s a country with 170 million people, nuclear weapons, and numerous terrorist groups. As long as Afghanistan is unstable, Pakistan will be unable to bring order to its own tribal areas, where many terrorist sanctuaries persist. It will also be distracted from addressing the more fundamental problems of Islamic radicalism that threaten its very survival as a state. Further, Afghan instability makes the U.S. dependent on Pakistan logistically—there is no way to replace completely the land route from Karachi with another route through Central Asia. This dependence in turn reduces our ability to influence Islamabad on other matters of great importance, such as stabilizing civilian rule in Pakistan and stopping support for terrorist groups like the one that attacked Bombay.
2. KNOW WHAT WE HAVE TO ACHIEVE
Success in Afghanistan does not require creating a paradise in one of the poorest countries on earth, but we cannot define victory down. Preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again, helping Pakistan fight its own terrorist problems, and liberating ourselves from dependence on Pakistan will require building an Afghan state with a representative government.
Afghanistan has a longer tradition of such political organization than Iraq has. It has been independent since 1747, and had a functioning constitutional and parliamentary monarchy in the middle of the 20th century. Centrifugal forces in Afghanistan have always been powerful, making the prospects for a strong centralized government in Kabul poor, but the country is neither ungovernable nor artificial. It cannot be stable at this point in history, however, without a representative system. Its multiethnic makeup and decades of internal war mean that any attempt to impose a strongman or to break the country up into effectively independent, warlord-ruled fiefdoms will lead to perpetual violence.
3. UNDERSTAND OUR ENEMIES AND FRIENDS
There is no such thing as “the Taliban” today. Many different groups with different leaders and aims call themselves “Taliban,” and many more are called “Taliban” by their enemies. In addition to Mullah Omar’s Taliban based in Pakistan and indigenous Taliban forces in Afghanistan, there is an indigenous Pakistani Taliban controlled by Baitullah Mehsud (this group is thought to have been responsible for assassinating Benazir Bhutto). Both are linked with al-Qaeda, and both are dangerous and determined. In other areas, however, “Taliban” groups are primarily disaffected tribesmen who find it more convenient to get help from the Taliban than from other sources.
In general terms, any group that calls itself “Taliban” is identifying itself as against the government in Kabul, the U.S., and U.S. allies. Our job is to understand which groups are truly dangerous, which are irreconcilable with our goals for Afghanistan—and which can be fractured or persuaded to rejoin the Afghan polity. We can’t fight them all, and we can’t negotiate with them all. Dropping the term “Taliban” and referring to specific groups instead would be a good way to start understanding who is really causing problems.
Recognizing the limitations of the current government is a good next step. That government is ineffective and deeply corrupt. Provincial governors and district leaders were not elected, but appointed by Pres. Hamid Karzai, often with an eye toward marginalizing potential rivals and consolidating his power. Karzai’s popularity is dwindling, and the postponement of Afghanistan’s presidential elections from May to August allows his opponents to paint him as illegitimate. It is possible that even if Karzai wins the August election, many Afghans will continue to view him as illegitimate.
The U.S. cannot, however, turn away from the central government and seek solutions only at the local level. For one thing, important local leaders are Karzai’s appointees. For another, building local solutions that do not connect with the central government is the path toward renewed warlordism and instability. The key, therefore, is to develop local solutions that are connected to the central government but not necessarily completely controlled by it.
Local governments—possibly at the level of individual villages—will have to play a role in selecting individuals to help maintain security once it has been established. Afghan villages often have representative bodies, or at least local elders who can identify needs and priorities while balancing tribal concerns. Local and provincial governments connected to Kabul will have to provide weapons and compensation to local security forces and will therefore acquire a certain limited control over them.
Similar approaches are likely to be required on the economic front—local groups and leaders, in some cases supported initially with funding from the U.S. Commander’s Emergency Response Program, can get economic projects going, but they will have to connect those projects to central-government representatives for long-term funding and integration into regional and national economic systems. The bottom line is that we must work hard to develop local solutions to local problems, but always with the goal of integrating those solutions into a loose but real central support-and-control system.
4. COMMIT TO THE EFFORT
The consistent unwillingness of the U.S. government to commit to the success of its endeavors in Afghanistan (and Iraq) over the long term is a serious obstacle to progress. The Pakistani leadership appears convinced that America will abandon its efforts in South Asia sooner rather than later, and this conviction fuels Pakistan’s determination to retain support for (and therefore control of) Afghan Taliban groups based in its territory. It also contributes to instability within Pakistan, because Pakistani leaders are tentative about committing to the fight against their internal foes as long as they are unsure of our determination to do our part.
At the local level within Afghanistan, people who are not convinced that coalition forces will stay to support them if they oppose the terrorists are unlikely to risk retaliation by committing to us. When U.S. forces moved into insurgent strongholds in Iraq in 2007, the first thing they were asked was: “Are you going to stay this time?” When the answer was yes (and we proved it by really staying and living among them), the floodgates of local opposition to the insurgents opened. The people of Afghanistan need the same reassurance. Until it is widely believe that the U.S. will remain in the fight until the insurgency is defeated, doubt about our commitment will continue to fuel the insurgency. If we are going to fight this war, as our interests require, we must make it clear that we will do what it takes to win.
Our history is very much against us in this effort. Islamists point to our retreat following the Marine-barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, the “Blackhawk Down” incident in 1993, our abandonment of Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989, and our abandonment of Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis to Saddam Hussein’s retribution in 1991 and 1992. At the end of 2006, our enemies in Iraq were already declaring victory, convinced that the pattern would repeat itself. The question they are now asking is: Was the surge an aberration in U.S. policy or a new pattern?
Our friends have the same question. We are asking them to put their lives on the line in support of shared goals, and they need to know we will stand by them. More rides on the outcome of our effort in Afghanistan than the particular interests we have there. American security would benefit greatly if we changed the global perception that the U.S. does not have the stomach to finish what it starts.
5. LEARN AND ADAPT THE RIGHT LESSONS
We cannot dismiss our extensive and painful experiences in Iraq, but we must recognize the differences between that country and Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most important lesson of Iraq that is transportable to Afghanistan is this: It is impossible to conduct effective counterterrorism operations (i.e., targeting terrorist networks with precise attacks on key leadership nodes) in a fragile state without conducting effective counterinsurgency operations (i.e., protecting the population and using economic and political programs to build support for the government and resistance to insurgents and terrorists). We will never have a better scenario in which to test the limitations of the counterterrorism model than we had in Iraq in 2006. U.S. Special Forces teams had complete freedom to act against al-Qaeda in Iraq, supported by around 150,000 regular U.S. troops, Iraqi military and police forces of several hundred thousand, and liberal airpower. We killed scores of key terrorist leaders, including the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, in June 2006. But terrorist strength, violence, and control only increased over the course of that year. It was not until units already on the ground applied a new approach—a counterinsurgency approach—and received reinforcements that we were able to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq (even without killing its new leader).
In Afghanistan, we have nothing like the freedom of movement we had in Iraq in 2006, and nothing like the force levels. We have, furthermore, been targeting leadership nodes within terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan for seven years now, yet the groups are not defeated. Absent a counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy that leads the population to reject the terrorists, killing bad guys will not defeat well-organized and determined terrorist networks.
Enthusiasm has been growing for some time over the idea of generating “awakenings” in Afghanistan similar to the Anbar Awakening that helped turn the tide in Iraq in 2007. Conceptually, this enthusiasm is sound. As noted above, success will require developing local solutions that are integrated in some way with the central government—the most abstract rendering of the “awakening” phenomenon in Iraq.
But we must be very careful about trying to apply Iraq “lessons” of greater specificity. For one thing, what happened in Iraq was not a single phenomenon. The Sunni-Arab rejection of al-Qaeda and turn to the coalition consisted of myriad local developments rather than being a coordinated movement. The coalition response to and support of those local developments was coordinated—we coined the term “Sons of Iraq” and treated SOIs as though they were a coherent group for certain funding and bureaucratic purposes—but each group remained independent. The SOIs never developed a corporate identity, and the local movements transformed their local political contexts rather than evolving into a country-wide movement.
The same will be true in Afghanistan. Local groups in Konar will not identify with local groups in Helmand, nor should they. There is no “Sons of Afghanistan” program that can be centrally defined and directed during its formation. As in Iraq, we must allow and encourage local movements to grow organically—in accordance with local conditions and traditions, but moderated by Afghan and coalition forces that understand the local area. It should go without saying that any effort to develop local security forces in areas that have not been cleared of insurgents will fail, either exposing the locals to vicious retribution or helping the insurgents co-opt new fighters.
6. CONSIDER THE HUMAN TERRAIN
Pashtuns are not Arabs. They have different traditions, different tribal structures, different ways of resolving differences. One of the most important (and least remarked-upon) differences is that Iraqis fight in their cities and villages while Pashtuns, on the whole, do not.
Saddam Hussein planned his defenses against U.S. attack with the intention of drawing us into urban fights he thought we would fear. Indigenous Iraqi insurgents dug into villages and cities and blended into the population. So did the external terror groups.
Coalition forces fought their way through Iraqi cities and villages, sometimes doing fearful damage to the cities and local populations. We devastated Fallujah and Ramadi, for example. But local grievances did not focus on the collateral damage. Considering the scale of the destruction, Iraqi complaints about it were very mild. In 2007, victorious coalition troops who had fought their way through insurgent and terrorist sanctuaries in Baghdad were more popular at the end of the fight than at the beginning. Iraqis generally recognize that their wars are fought in their cities, horrible though that is, so they have a fairly high tolerance for collateral damage and even for the presence of foreign forces in their urban areas and villages. They are generally more interested in who is going to win.
Pashtuns don’t work that way. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979 and quickly occupied all of the major urban areas. The insurgents, for the most part, did not contest that occupation. They focused instead on cutting off communications between the cities, on ambushing Soviet troops moving outside urban areas and villages, and on attacking isolated Soviet outposts. The Soviets did not know how to respond—they had no context for thinking about a rural insurgency. They had fought the Second World War city by city, and had suppressed rebellions in their Eastern European satellites by fighting through their capitals. They tried to subdue the Pashtuns with ferocious and indiscriminate bombing of Afghan villages, generating 5 million refugees and strengthening the resistance rather than breaking it.
Today’s situation is similar. The major urban centers are not insurgent sanctuaries, and most insurgent attacks occur not only beyond the city limits but outside of the villages as well. American troops accustomed to setting up positions within Iraqi cities and towns may find that the same procedures in Afghanistan incense the population rather than reassure it. That does not mean the problem lies with our overall “footprint” in Afghanistan, but rather that we should rethink where to put our feet. We must also remember that Afghan tolerance for attacks within villages and cities is much lower than Iraqi tolerance, which is why complaints about collateral damage in Afghanistan are much louder than Iraqi complaints were, even though the damage is milder.
Understanding this principle is vital, because if we misinterpret the nature of the “footprint” problem we might come to the erroneous conclusion that success requires fewer forces rather than more—or, as some senior leaders are increasingly suggesting, that our presence is the problem. In fact, to solve the problems in Afghanistan we must have a deep understanding of local dynamics in many different areas. In the current security environment, only American and allied military forces can understand those dynamics, and they can do so only by living among the people in a way that is mutually acceptable to our forces and the Afghans. Pulling back to bases may reduce local resentment of us, but it will also deprive us of any ability to interact with Afghans and their leaders at the level necessary for success. As General Petraeus is fond of saying, you can’t kill your way out of an insurgency. Neither can you defeat one long-distance. Success in Iraq required finding the right way to deploy American forces among the Iraqi population. Success in Afghanistan will require finding the right way for Afghanistan, which will almost certainly be different from the right way in Iraq.
7. UNDERSTAND WHAT WE MUST DO, CAN DO, AND CAN’T DO
The Afghan National Army consists of perhaps 70,000 troops (on paper). This number will rise gradually to 134,000—itself an arbitrary sum, based on assumptions about what the fifth-poorest country in the world can afford to pay for an army that is certainly too small to establish and maintain security. The Afghan National Police are ineffective when not actively part of the problem. Afghanistan is significantly larger than Iraq, its terrain is far more daunting, and its population is greater. The Iraqi Security Forces that defeated the insurgency (with our help) in 2007 and 2008 numbered over 500,000 by the end. There is simply no way that Afghan Security Forces can defeat the insurgents on their own, with or without large numbers of coalition advisers.
Breaking the insurgency will have to be a real team effort. Coalition units must partner with Afghan army units to clear critical areas, and then work with local leaders to develop local security solutions that smaller numbers of residual U.S. and Afghan troops can support while other areas are cleared.
It is better, in general, for Afghans to take the lead in moving into or through Afghan towns, but this is not always as desirable as we might think. In many regions, Afghan villagers are highly localized. Iraqis were accustomed to traveling across their country, maintained active links with and made frequent visits to relatives in various regions, and were willing to see the Iraqi army as their army even when its units were drawn from other parts of the country. Many rural Afghans are not nearly as mobile, particularly after decades of fighting in which the insurgents worked studiously to disrupt communications. In some areas, any outside forces—even Afghan forces—are seen simply as outsiders.
We can observe this phenomenon clearly in Pakistan today, as Pakistani soldiers (largely Punjabis) move into Pashtun areas and are attacked as foreigners. It is not remotely in our interest to generate a similar situation in Afghanistan. We must also remember an important lesson from our efforts to transition security responsibilities prematurely in Iraq in 2005 and 2006: It does not matter much if the local population resents us; it does matter if they resent and mistrust their own security forces. Some counterinsurgency operations are better conducted by outside forces simply because the resentment they generate will leave with them rather than stick to the indigenous government.
8. HAVE A GOOD PLAN
Adding more troops to a failing strategy rarely works. Current military and political leaders recognize this, which is why reviews are underway in CENTCOM, the Joint Staff, and the White House to develop a new strategy for Afghanistan. At the end of the day, however, the detailed campaign plan for implementing a new strategy has to come from the commander in the theater. That commander, Gen. David McKiernan, suffers from a number of significant handicaps that Generals Petraeus and Odierno did not face in Iraq in 2007.
Developing a detailed campaign plan requires a large military staff. Coordinating the use of force with political, economic, and social projects also requires a large staff, on both the military side and the civilian side. In Iraq in 2007, General Petraeus had a large staff (Multinational Force–Iraq). He had a terrific civilian partner in Amb. Ryan Crocker, who headed the largest U.S. embassy in the world and had the power to coordinate most of the non-military efforts in Iraq. Petraeus also had the support of Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno and the large and excellent staff of the III Corps. Odierno and his staff did most of the work developing the military plans to defeat the insurgents, working through five division-level (two-star) commands and as many as 22 combat brigades. Every part of that command structure was necessary to understanding the problem and developing plans to respond to it that were truly integrated at every level.
General McKiernan has no such resources. His staff is too small and is a hodgepodge of U.S. and allied officers whose main function, when the staff was formed, was the coordination of an allied reconstruction effort. The much larger number of allies in Afghanistan, and the fact that NATO took control of the operation in 2006, places an enormous burden on McKiernan and his staff that Petraeus did not face. There is no corps headquarters in Afghanistan, moreover—no equivalent to Odierno’s III Corps and the staff that actually developed the war plan in Iraq. There are five subordinate headquarters (regional commands), but some have few troops and only one has the resources that the five division staffs in Iraq provided. Current plans may put as many as six U.S. brigades on the ground by the end of this year. The U.S. mission in Afghanistan has nothing like the authority that Ambassador Crocker had; on the contrary, the proliferation of allies and international aid efforts has frustrated attempts to unite them in a coherent civil-military campaign plan.
The situation in Afghanistan requires a significant augmentation of McKiernan’s staff: the addition of a corps headquarters under him and at least one division headquarters in the south. It also requires a body that can coordinate international efforts and mesh them with military planning, either through the U.S. mission in Afghanistan or through the U.N.’s special envoy. Without such an increase in headquarters and planning capabilities, even the best work by our commanders can mitigate only a portion of the problems. The solutions that emerge will likely be suboptimal.
Before it departed, the Bush administration decided to send reinforcements to Afghanistan, and the new administration has supported that decision. Rightly so—Afghanistan needs more U.S. troops. But until a thorough and detailed joint campaign plan has been developed in the theater—with buy-in from the overall military commander, our allies, and the civilian organizations that will have to help execute it—it will not be possible to know exactly how many troops are needed, what exactly they should be doing, or what resources they will require. Developing such a plan and evaluating the resource requirements should be an urgent priority—more urgent even than getting more troops into the theater.
Developing a coherent plan for the entire country requires the involvement of our many allies. That involvement, in turn, requires coming to a common understanding of the situation, the tasks to be performed, and the challenges we face. When Afghanistan became a NATO mission, the presumption was that it was primarily a nation-building exercise. Many allied countries committed troops without intending to participate in counterinsurgency efforts. Although it is natural to complain about the national caveats that restrict some (but by no means all) allied troops from leaving their bases or fighting, we must recognize that many of our allies never signed up for this kind of war. They have therefore been reluctant to admit that we now face a full-fledged insurgency. The Obama administration and its newly appointed envoy, Amb. Richard Holbrooke, have a real opportunity for constructive diplomatic engagement here. It should be their priority to help our allies accept the reality in Afghanistan, at the same time making it clear that we do not expect them to engage in combat operations they never intended to undertake. As in Iraq, we should accept whatever contributions they are willing and able to make, but avoid allowing tensions over those contributions to distort the overall understanding of the fight.
9. PRIORITIZE EFFORTS
While the situation in Afghanistan is indeed deteriorating, it would be wrong to rush forces out of Iraq this year in response. Most important, as detailed above, we have not yet established the conditions in Afghanistan that would allow a surge to be decisive. Also, the theater cannot absorb too many reinforcements too quickly. The surge in Iraq brought U.S. troop levels up to something over 160,000 soldiers—about the same number we had had there at the end of 2005. By contrast, coalition force levels in Afghanistan are already at their highest levels. The logistical base that supports them is very sparse. In Iraq there was enough reserve logistical and infrastructure capacity to integrate five additional brigades and two battalions in the space of six months. Because similar resources are lacking, it would be much harder to accomplish such a feat in Afghanistan at this point.
It would also be wrong from the standpoint of U.S. global interests and grand strategy. The dramatic improvement in the situation in Iraq has already increased our options and flexibility—forces are moving from Iraq to Afghanistan this year without imposing unacceptable risks on our position in Iraq. General Odierno has identified 2009 as a critical year for Iraq, starting with the successful Iraqi provincial elections that just occurred and ending with the election of a new central government.
Maintaining American presence in Iraq in support of this effort is essential. Every estimate suggests that, if we maintain such a presence this year, the requirement for continued U.S. forces in Iraq after 2009 will drop dramatically. We can surge troops into Afghanistan, in other words, in 2010 without compromising success in Iraq, and after we have developed the command and logistical structures—and, above all, the plan-to support them in Afghanistan. Therefore, sound grand strategy means using 2009 to set the conditions for decisive operations in Afghanistan while ensuring that Iraq remains stable enough to permit dramatic force reductions.
The key problem with this approach is that Afghanistan must elect a new president this year, and many areas of the country are not secure enough for a legitimate election. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do to address this problem through troop redeployments. Two additional combat brigades are already on the way and will arrive in time to make a difference. Redirecting other combat brigades now meant for deployment to Iraq requires a good six months of advanced warning—among other things, the troops have to train for an entirely different climate, culture, and situation. Any additional brigades would therefore be arriving shortly before the elections. Considering that it takes a unit anywhere from 30 to 60 days on the ground to get deployed and gain enough situational awareness to develop reasonable plans and methods, it is already too late to get more troops to Afghanistan (at least in any prepared and orderly fashion) in time to make much of a difference to the elections.
The theater commander might be able to mitigate the problem to some extent by committing the theater reserve to help; our European allies might be able to help a little with a mini-surge of their own. But rushing out of Iraq now is far more likely to ensure that we are distracted by problems in Mesopotamia in 2010 than to turn the tide in South Asia.
PROLEGOMENON TO A PLAN FOR WINNING IN AFGHANISTAN
This essay does not provide a plan or a strategy for success in Afghanistan. It provides, rather, a set of guidelines for thinking about how to develop one, and for evaluating plans articulated by the administration, its generals, and outsiders. Ultimately, a plan for winning in Afghanistan has to be developed in Afghanistan, just as the plan for winning in Iraq was developed in Iraq. It is a truism that any plan must involve not only the U.S. and allied militaries, but all relevant civilian and international agencies, and must deeply involve the Afghans themselves at every level. Our military and civilian leaders understand that truism. We have failed to date in accomplishing the objective not because we haven’t known that we must, but because it is very hard to do.
But hard is not hopeless in Afghanistan any more than it was in Iraq. The stakes are high, as they always are when America puts its brave young men and women in harm’s way. President Obama has an opportunity in the difficult challenge he faces. So far, he appears determined to try to do the right thing. He deserves the active support and encouragement of every American in that attempt.
11 February 2009
A political battle has erupted over next year's census with Republican lawmakers protesting President Obama's decision to take a bigger role in supervising the process.
The Census Bureau director, who reports to the commerce secretary, now also will keep the White House directly in the loop.
The White House says it is following a historical precedent and that this simply shows that the census is a priority for the president. But Republicans say it looks like a political power grab.
"The United States census should remain independent of politics," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "It should not be directed by political operatives working out of the White House."
"I'm very concerned," Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told FOX News. "The Census Bureau has worked for decades to get rid of the cronyism and the partisan politics that had permeated that agency.
"And they have done it by bringing professionalism to the agency and making certain that individuals that came there went through a very thorough process. Anytime there is an administration that will tamper with that, this is a concern to anyone."
Blackburn, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says the committee will hold hearings to investigate the change.
The census count is supposed to be a non-partisan process. But it also helps to determine how congressional lines are drawn. And it shows the demographic changes of the nation of the past 10 years, which could shift billions of dollars in federal funding for things like schools and roads and job training.
Some Republicans suspect this could be a move by the White House to gerrymander those political boundaries so they benefit Democratic candidates.
The move comes after some advocates worried that Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Obama's nominee for commerce secretary, wouldn't push hard for a count of Hispanics and other minorities in the census.
Boehner said the White House oversight "appears to be motivated by politics" because Gregg has been picked by Obama to take over the Commerce Department.
But Obama officials insist they're simply returning to the model used under President Clinton.
"I think the historical precedent of this is there's a director of the census that works for the secretary of commerce, the president and also works closely with the White House to ensure a timely and accurate count," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The Clinton and Bush administrations had different ways of dealing with the census. The Clinton administration placed a panel of experts at the Census Bureau in charge of adjusting data for people the census missed or double-counted. Clinton officials said it would insulate the decision from political pressure.
The Bush administration changed those regulations before that panel ruled on the 2000 results, leaving it up to the commerce secretary to oversee the bureau's work.
10 February 2009
Firearms are unsafe and therefore ought to be regulated under consumer protection laws.
A quarter-century ago, anti-gun activists, disillusioned with the refusal of Congress and most state legislatures to prohibit, or severely restrict, firearms ownership, conceived the idea of subjecting the manufacture of firearms to the dictates of a federal bureaucracy. They believed that anti-gun policies that had been rejected by lawmakers and voters could be imposed anyway, by empowering federal agencies to regulate firearms design under the guise of "consumer products safety."
Their concept includes two obvious flaws: first, that firearms can be designed by bureaucrats with no technical knowledge of firearms engineering, firearms uses, or the preferences of consumers. Second, that firearms should be designed the same, without concern for the varied needs of individual gun owners and the purposes for which firearms are used.
Congress settled the question in 1976, voting overwhelmingly (76-8 in the Senate and 313-86 in the House) to exempt the firearms and ammunition industries (and certain other industries) from the Consumer Safety Protection Act of 1972. Congress recognized that firearms aren't traditional "consumer products." Like the tools of a free press, firearms are among the few products that the Bill of Rights specifically protects the right of the people to own, possess and use. Congress clearly stated its intent: "The Consumer Product Safety Commission shall make no ruling or order that restricts the manufacture or sale of firearms, ammunition, including black powder or gun powder, for firearms."
Today's anti-gun activists are trying to revitalize their predecessors' regulatory agenda. Their common refrain: "In America, Teddy bears are more regulated than guns." But the analogy is a fraud. U.S. firearms makers not only comply with a tangled web of federal, state and local laws, their manufacturing standards are reviewed by the FBI, the U.S. Customs Service, various other public and private agencies, and even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Industry standards are set by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI), an organization founded in 1926 at the request of the federal government. Today, SAAMI publishes more than 700 voluntary standards related to firearm and ammunition quality and safety.1
SAAMI is an accredited standards developer for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These standards are reviewed by outside parties, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and every five years the validity of the standards is re-affirmed. The U.S. Armed Forces, the FBI and many other state and local agencies frequently require that their firearms are manufactured in accordance with SAAMI specifications.
Anti-gun activists also claim that the technology exists to make a "smart" or "personalized" gun that can be fired only by a single user and that consumer protection laws could mandate that technology be added to guns.
In fact, the technology does not exist. In 1994 the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded a "Smart Gun Technology Project" to study the issue for law enforcement use. The study concluded that the technology was still not in a reliable and marketable form and even stated: "It may take a generation of smart gun systems to come and go before a smart gun is not only common but is favored over a non-smart gun. . . . To accomplish this goal a great deal of time and resources will have to be expended for the smart gun application."2
On Oct. 7, 1999, Andrew J. Brignoli, vice president of Colt's Manufacturing Co.--which has received federal grants to research "smart" guns--told a special commission in Maryland: "No technology exists in a form that has been proven to be safe. We cannot support any effort to mandate this technology."3
More recently, in 2001, extensive research conducted at the New Jersey Institute of Technology found "no proven technology in development or in open scientific literature that satisfies requirements for an automated firearm whose design allows discharge only by an authorized person or class of people and blocks discharge by those outside the class.
"Specifically, no firearm meets the following NJIT specification for a personalized weapon, i.e., a gun endowed with an authentication system which:
Senses distinctions between authorized and unauthorized users
Allows only authorized users the ability to discharge the weapon
Possesses a power system to energize its electronic and electromechanical components."4
More importantly, however, no mechanical device should ever be relied upon as a substitute for safe gun handling practices. And no one should be fooled by "smart" gun rhetoric. Anti-gun groups push for a "smart" gun mandate, because it would add several hundred dollars to the price of a handgun, placing the most effective means of self-defense beyond the reach of less fortunate citizens--those who are most often forced to live in high-crime areas.
1. "SAAMI Is An Accredited Standards Developer for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)," SAAMI 2002, www.saami.org/technical.
2. "A Boon to Sales, or a Threat? Safety Devices Split Industry," Washington Post, May 20, 1999.
3. "Colt Plans 'Smartguns' but Opposes Mandates, Official Tells," Washington Post, October 8, 1999
4. NJIT Personalized Weapons Technology Report, Executive Summary, 2001.
07 February 2009
GOP Senators Risk Political Backlash Over Support of Stimulus Bill
Until Friday, President Obama's plea for bipartisanship support of his costly plan for stimulating the economy mostly had fallen on deaf GOP ears, but that changed when three Republican moderates pledged their support.
In doing so, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter risked drawing the wrath of their fellow Republicans and of some constituents
The trio's support is expected to give Democrats the 60 votes needed in the Senate to advance to a final vote on the $827 billion stimulus bill next week -- and ultimately push the controversial mix of massive spending and tax cuts over the finish line.
Collins said she broke ranks with her party because of the progress congressional negotiators had made on the bill.
"Well, I know that some of my Republican colleagues are unhappy with the position that I've taken," Collins told FOX News on Saturday. "I hope they will look at the fact that we were able to cut $110 billion of unnecessary spending from this bill. I think that's a good accomplishment. I also think that it's important that we do pass a stimulus bill to help turn the economy around."
Snowe has kept a low profile since the deal was struck, while Specter said Friday night that the agreement wasn't perfect but it was necessary.
Not everyone agrees.
Julie Ann O'Brien, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said she already has received plenty of e-mails from people across the country, some praising and some scolding the two Senators for their support of the bill.
"We have heard from both sides," she told FOXNews.com. "We've heard from those who are pleased that Sen. Collins, in particular, has been willing to play and negotiate. And there are others who feel strongly that they are not acting like Republicans are supposed to act."
O'Brien said the majority of the e-mails she's received have been critical of the senators.
The Republican Party of Pennsylvania and the National Republican Committee did not return calls Saturday seeking comment for this story.
O'Brien said she wasn't surprised by Collins' stance.
"She always has voted her conscience," O'Brien said, adding that both senators have independent streaks. "For whatever reason, we have a string of independent thinkers from Maine."
O'Brien doesn't anticipate any local political fallout for the senators, noting that both won't face re-election for several years and that voters are familiar with them.
"People know what they're getting when they vote for them," she said. "They lean conservative on most issues -- that's why they're Republicans. But they really do, I feel, do what is right -- not politically right but morally right."
Specter, on the other hand, is up for re-election in 2010.
Collins didn't rule out the possibility of changing her mind after Senate and House negotiators work out the differences between the bills approved by the two bodies.
"It's important we get this bill to the president's desk as soon as possible," she told FOX News. "But if the bill that comes back to the Senate from the conference committee is once again bloated with wasteful spending and it's too expensive, then I'll vote against it."
She added that she believes the support from her and the other two GOP senators "helps to put pressure on the conference to keep the costs down and to focus on spending and tax relief that will really help create jobs and turn our economy around."
We should ban all firearms that have no legitimate, sporting purpose.
REMEMBER: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!
Gun control activists pretend that there are such things as "illegitimate" and "legitimate" guns, then claim to be "reasonable" in wanting to outlaw only the former group--those that they, the national media and cynical politicians demonize as "assault weapons," "Saturday Night Specials" or "junk guns."
The pretense has an obvious flaw: Any firearm, regardless of type, size, caliber, cost or appearance, can be, and is most often by far, used for legitimate purposes. Despite the powerful images cast by nightly news broadcasts and violence-oriented TV programs, guns of all sorts are put to good use far more often by the tens of millions of upstanding gun owners than they are misused by evil or irresponsible people. And despite protestations to the contrary by anti-gun groups, there is no gun or type of gun that criminals generally prefer.1
One long-time gun control supporter, criminologist Philip Cook, has rejected the "illegitimate" gun theory. "Indeed, it seems doubtful that there are any guns that are 'useless' to legitimate owners, yet useful to criminals," Cook wrote. "Any gun that can be used in self-defense has a legitimate purpose, and therefore is not 'useless.' Similarly, any gun that can be used in crime can also be used in self-defense."2
Why do today's anti-gun groups campaign to outlaw only certain, often arbitrarily defined groups of guns? Because they have seen the incremental approach to civilian disarmament work in other countries, such as Australia and England.
First targeted were handguns, portrayed as the guns of criminals, versus rifles and shotguns, portrayed as the guns of sportsmen. (This is despite the widespread use of handguns for personal protection and sports.) Failing in their attack upon all handguns, anti-gun activists later focused upon compact, small-caliber handguns, which they labeled "Saturday Night Specials."
Then, in the late 1980s, the leader of one anti-gun group called upon his peers to downplay handguns in favor of a new target of opportunity. "[T]he issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press and public," wrote anti-gun crusader Josh Sugarmann. "Assault weapons" are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully-automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons--anything that looks like a machine gun is presumed to be a machine gun--can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. . . . Efforts to restrict assault weapons are more likely to succeed than those to restrict handguns."(Emphasis in the original.)3
Sugarmann noted that gun control groups get a boost when "something truly horrible happens." Then, in 1989, a drifter who had slipped through the criminal justice system numerous times used a semi-automatic rifle in a multiple shooting in Stockton, California. Anti-gun activists, politicians and reporters put handguns on the back burner and launched a campaign against a new target of opportunity.
Putting their "illegitimate" gun theory into practice, anti-gunners claimed that semi-automatic rifles were the "weapons of choice" of criminals, despite reports from state and local law enforcement agencies showing that such guns were used in very small percentages of violent crime.
The Federal "assault weapons" law took effect in September 1994, prohibiting manufacturers from including features such as bayonet mounts and flash suppressors on various semi-automatic rifles, with similar restrictions on shotguns and handguns. Considering that there had been no crimes committed previously with bayonets affixed to rifles, and criminals in no way benefit from any of the features prohibited, the irrational law was purely political in motivation and consequence.
With the "assault weapons" law on the books until its scheduled expiration in September 2004, gun control advocates--who since 1989 had claimed that those guns were the "weapons of choice" among criminals--changed their tune overnight. They began claiming, as they had during the early and mid-1980s, that compact handguns were the "weapons of choice." The "Saturday Night Special" term, with its racist roots,4 was dropped in favor of "junk guns," implying that the next guns targeted for prohibition were only the least expensive, poorly made handguns. In fact, their proposals would ban compact handguns irrespective of price or quality.
Criminologists on both sides of the gun control debate have rejected the notion that compact handguns are the weapon of choice of criminals and that they have no legitimate purpose. Early in the debate, The Police Foundation reported that the "evidence clearly indicates that the belief that so-called 'Saturday Night Specials' (inexpensive handguns) are used to commit the great majority of these felonies is misleading and counterproductive" and "seems to contradict the widespread notion that so-called 'Saturday Night Specials' are the favorite crime weapon."5
More recently, criminologist Gary Kleck observed that "most SNSs are not owned or used for criminal purposes. Instead, most are probably owned by poor people for protection." Laws directed specifically at SNSs, Kleck says, "would have their greatest impact in reducing the availability of defensive handguns to low income people."6
Refuting the idea that compact handguns are somehow useless for protection, James J. Fotis, Executive Director of the 65,000-member Law Enforcement Alliance of America has said: "Small-caliber handguns have been carried by law enforcement officers for years, often as backups to their primary handguns. These handguns are useful for protective purposes because of their concealability and serve the primary function of 'backup' if a disarming occurs or if you have no time to reload. There is no reason to believe that small-caliber handguns are any less useful for protection when in the hands of other law-abiding citizens."7
Aside from other objections to prohibiting certain kinds of guns, there is also the issue of the futility of such a policy. As a study for the National Institute of Justice concluded, "There is no evidence anywhere to show that reducing the availability of firearms in general likewise reduces their availability to persons with criminal intent, or that persons with criminal intent would not be able to arm themselves under any set of general restrictions on firearms."8 Additionally, a law restricting certain guns, even if successful, might be counter-productive. As Gary Kleck has noted, criminals deprived of specific guns would merely switch to other, perhaps more effective, guns.9
1. Partial listing: Kleck, Targeting Guns; Don B. Kates, et al., "Problematic Arguments for Banning Handguns," The Great American Gun Debate, San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, 1997; Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Guns Used in Crime," July 1995; Joseph F. Sheley and James D. Wright, In the Line of Fire: Youth, Guns, and Violence in Urban America, N.Y.: Aldine de Gruyter, 1995; James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi, "The Great American Gun War: Some Policy Implications of the Felon Study," The Gun Control Debate: You Decide, Lee Nisbet, editor, Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1990; Steven Brill, The Police Foundation, "Firearm Abuse: A Research and Policy Report," 1977.
2. Philip Cook, "The 'Saturday Night Special': An Assessment of Alternative Definitions from a Policy Perspective," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1981, p. 1737.
3. Josh Sugarmann, "Assault Weapons and Accessories in America," The Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence and The New Right Watch, Sept. 1988, pp. 26-27.
4. B. Bruce Briggs, "The Great American Gun War," The Public Interest 45, Fall 1976, p. 50.
5. See footnote 1, Brill, pp. v, 49.
6. Gary Kleck, Point Blank, pp. 85-86.
7. Telephone inquiry.
8. James D. Wright, et al., Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America, N.Y.: Aldine de Gruyter, 1983, p. 138.
9. Kleck, Targeting Guns, p. 134.
REMEMBER: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!
06 February 2009
(February 5, 2009) It has been famously said and often repeated that the Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means. While this statement is generally true, it is incomplete. Regardless of what the Supreme Court says, the Constitution ultimately means what the People believe it to mean.
So far in our history the Supreme Court has refrained from any interpretation of the Constitution that was so flagrantly at odds with the beliefs of the People that a serious, violent uprising ensued. But they may have come perilously close in last year’s decision in DC v. Heller. In that case the Court unanimously agreed that the Second Amendment refers to an individual right to arms, but disagreed in a 5 – 4 split as to whether the District of Columbia’s virtual ban on handguns violated that individual right. Even in the prevailing opinion, the justices expressed positions which are completely at odds with the understanding of those of us in the Second Amendment community.
The Second Amendment exists to ensure that the government does not trample the rights of the People under color of law. There are some 90 million gunowners in the U.S. and at least one third of those maintain a relatively purist understanding of the Second Amendment; meaning that at least 30 million citizens would strenuously object to any interpretation of the Second Amendment supporting the banning of any type of commonly held firearm or the mandatory registration of firearms or licensing of firearm owners. That’s 30 million people – with guns – rejecting unconstitutional laws, regardless of what the Supreme Court might approve.
That is not to say that 30 million gunowners would rise up in armed revolt at the passage of an “assault weapon” ban or a registration scheme; we would not. A fair number of us would however roundly refuse to comply with such laws and thus, officially become criminals. If even a third of those Second Amendment fundamentalists refused do comply with an unconstitutional ban, the results would be disastrous. Any attempt to apprehend and punish any of those 30 million, otherwise law-abiding citizens, for the crime of disobeying an unconstitutional law would undoubtedly escalate tensions and could lead to some very serious consequences.
This is not Great Britain or Australia; American gunowners are not just hunters, collectors, and hobbyists; we are patriots and see our firearms as part of our patriotic duty. We are the heirs of liberty and we see it as a sacred obligation to protect and defend the rights ensconced in the Constitution. We see our firearms, along with our convictions, as the final guarantors of liberty and protections for the Constitution.
It matters not one whit what hoplophobic politicians and radical anti-rights activists – or even the majority on the Supreme Court – might think is reasonable and acceptable; there are at least 30 million of us who Know what the Second Amendment means and we are not going to be swayed by hollow arguments about “public safety,” “terrorist threats,” or “the greater good.” We Know that we are the good guys and that we are right. We Know that we are no threat to anyone except, criminals, tyrants, and jack-booted thugs. We Know that attacking our Constitutional Rights – whether by regulation, legislation, or court order – is attacking our nation and our way of life and we will not simply roll over and surrender the Constitution.
The American people need to understand that what the hoplophobes and gun prohibitionists are suggesting with their gun bans and licensing schemes is that the government declare me and millions of other patriotic, law-abiding citizens to be criminals. They are advocating that if I do not comply with their unconstitutional orders I should be hunted down, and either incarcerated or killed! Killed because I believe the Constitution means what it says and I choose to safely own firearms which scare them.
Perhaps part of gun grabbers’ plan is to push gun control far enough to drive the most extreme of our number to push back with violence and thus justify the need to disarm the rest of us. So the most dedicated of the Second Amendment purists might actually play into the strategies of any of our opponents, but I honestly wouldn’t put it past some of them. That’s why it is so critical that we go on the political offense and remain steadfastly on the civil defense. If the enemies of the Second Amendment can provokd a violent action they can convince a broad majority of Americans that gunowners are a greater threat than unchecked government power; at that point there would be little possibility for peaceful resolution.
Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes is hereby granted provided this credit is included. Text is available at FirearmsCoalition.org. To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA 20108.
04 February 2009
REMEMBER: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!
There is little evidence of a relationship between the number of privately owned guns and the amount of violent crime. For example, between 1973 and 1992:
* The rate of gun ownership in the United States increased by 45 percent.
* The number of handguns increased by 110 percent, from 37 million to 78 million.
* The national homicide rate fell by nearly 10 percent, and areas with relatively high gun ownership rates tended to report relatively low violent crime rates.
Studies claiming to show gun control measures reduce violent crime are plagued by flaws, including the failure to control for other factors, the selective use of data and the failure to measure the real impact of gun laws on the rate of gun ownership.
However, a comprehensive 1993 study covering all forms of gun violence and encompassing every large city in the nation analyzed the impact of 19 kinds of gun control measures on six categories of violence. In 90 of the resulting 102 relationships, gun control laws had no significant negative effect on violence.
Gun control laws, which usually focus on handguns, encourage the substitution of other weapons. Further, most handgun violence is perpetrated by criminals who are already forbidden by law to possess firearms and who acquire guns on the illegal market, where background checks and waiting periods are not enforced. Therefore, gun control laws are more likely to disarm the general public than criminals.
Source: Daniel D. Polsby and Dennis Brennen, "Taking Aim at Gun Control," Policy Study No. 69, October 30, 1995, Heartland Institute, 800 E. Northwest Highway, Suite 1080, Palatine, IL 60067, (708) 202-3060.
REMEMBER: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!
Tennessee Man Convicted of Killing Elderly Couple Executed by Lethal Injection
See you in hell douche!
A man convicted of killing an elderly couple found dead in their burned-out farmhouse was executed by lethal injection in Tennessee.
Correction officials say 55-year-old Steve Henley was pronounced dead at 1:33 a.m. Wednesday.
Henley was sentenced to death for the 1985 murders of Fred and Edna Stafford, who lived near his Jackson County farm about 65 miles northeast of Nashville.
An autopsy concluded that the Staffords had been shot, and that Edna Stafford was still alive when the house was set on fire.
Henley had always maintained his innocence.
The chief witness against him was a co-defendant who testified that Henley was drunk, high on drugs and angry over a debt he believed the Staffords owed his grandparents.
See you in hell douche!
03 February 2009
Allowing people to carry guns for protection will lead to more violence and injuries.
1. John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), pp. 50-96.
2. Gary Kleck, "Reasons for Skepticism on the Results from a New Poll on: The Incidence of Gun Violence Among Young People," The Public Perspective, Sept./Oct. 1993.
3. David Kopel, "The Untold Triumph of Concealed-Carry Permits," Policy Review, July-August 1996, p. 9.
4. Jim Myers, "Critics, Police Fear 'Calamity and Carnage'" USA Today, Oct. 1, 1997.
7. H. Sterling Burnett, "Concealed Handgun Laws Help Fight Crime," Human Events, June 30, 2000, p. 15.
Remember: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!
Anti-gun rhetoric is its most outlandish when the subject turns to right-to-carry laws, under which people obtain permits to carry firearms concealed for protection against criminals. For years, gun control supporters have tried to convince the public that the average person is neither smart enough, adept enough nor responsible enough to be trusted with firearms, especially where using firearms for protection is concerned.
In his book, More Guns, Less Crime,1 Prof. John R. Lott, Jr. provides the most comprehensive study of firearm laws ever conducted. With an economist's eye, Lott examined a large volume of data ranging from gun ownership polls to FBI crime rate data for each of the nation's 3,045 counties over an 18-year period. He included in his analysis many variables that might explain the level of crime--factors such as income, poverty, unemployment, population density, arrest rates, conviction rates and length of prison sentences.
With 54,000 observations and hundreds of variables available over the 1977 to 1994 period, Lott's research amounts to the largest data set that has ever been compiled for any study of crime, let alone for the study of gun control. And, unlike many gun control advocates who masquerade as researchers, Lott willingly made his complete data set available to any academic who requested it.
"Many factors influence crime," Lott writes, "with arrest and conviction rates being the most important. However, nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws are also important, and they are the most cost-effective means of reducing crime."
Nondiscretionary, or "shall-issue" carry permit laws reduce violent crime for two reasons. They reduce the number of attempted crimes, because criminals can't tell which potential victims are armed and can defend themselves. Secondly, national crime victimization surveys show that victims who use firearms to defend themselves are statistically less likely to be injured. In short, carry laws deter crime, because they increase the criminal's risk of doing business.
Lott's research shows that states with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest decreases in violent crime. And, it is high-crime urban areas and neighborhoods with large minority populations that experience the greatest reductions in violent crime when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns.
Lott found "a strong negative relationship between the number of law-abiding citizens with permits and the crime rate--as more people obtain permits there is a greater decline in violent crime rates." Further, he found that the value of carry laws increases over time. "For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect the murder rate declines by 3%, rape by 2% and robberies by over 2%," Lott writes.
"Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but the effect is especially pronounced for women," Lott notes. "An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about three to four times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men."
While right-to-carry laws lead to fewer people being murdered (Lott finds an equal deterrent effect for murders committed with and without guns), the increased presence of concealed handguns "does not raise the number of accidental deaths or suicides from handguns."
The benefits of concealed handguns are not limited to those who carry them. Others "get a 'free ride' from the crime fighting efforts of their fellow citizens," Lott finds. And the benefits are "not limited to people who share the characteristics of those who carry the guns." The most obvious example of what Lott calls this "halo" effect, is "the drop in murders of children following the adoption of nondiscretionary laws. Arming older people not only may provide direct protection to these children, but also causes criminals to leave the area."
How compelling is John Lott's message? How threatening is his research to those who would disarm the American people? He devotes an entire chapter of his book to rebutting attacks leveled at his research and at him personally. He recalls how Susan Glick of the radical Violence Policy Center publicly denounced his research as "flawed" without having read the first word of it.
This type of unfounded and unethical attack unfortunately is not uncommon. Criminologist Gary Kleck explains why: "Battered by a decade of research contradicting the central factual premises underlying gun control, advocates have apparently decided to fight more exclusively on an emotional battlefield, where one terrorizes one's targets into submission rather than honestly persuading them with credible evidence."2
Law professor and firearms issue researcher David Kopel notes, "Whenever a state legislature first considers a concealed-carry bill, opponents typically warn of horrible consequences. Permit-holders will slaughter each other in traffic disputes, while would-be Rambos shoot bystanders in incompetent attempts to thwart crime. But within a year of passage, the issue usually drops off the news media's radar screen, while gun-control advocates in the legislature conclude that the law wasn't so bad after all."3
Thirty-two states now have right-to-carry laws. Half the U.S. population, including 60% of handgun owners, live in right-to-carry states. Twenty-two states have adopted right-to-carry since 1987. In each case, anti-gun activists and politicians predicted that allowing law-abiding people to carry firearms would result in more violence. Typical of this sort of propaganda, Florida State Rep. Michael Friedman said, "We'll have calamity and carnage, the body count will go up and we'll see more and more people trying to act like supercops."4 Similarly, Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro said, "This could set us back 100 years to the time of the Wild West."5 But since Florida adopted right-to-carry in 1987, its murder rate has decreased 51%, while nationwide the murder rate has decreased 33%.6 Less than two one-hundredths of 1% of Florida carry licenses have been revoked because of firearm crimes committed by licensees, according to the Florida Dept. of State.
Before Gov. George W. Bush was able to sign Texas' carry law, predictions of a return to the Wild West were also made. But honest public servants who initially opposed the law have stepped forth to admit they were wrong. John B. Holmes, Harris County's district attorney, said that he thought the legislation presented "a clear and present danger to law-abiding citizens by placing more handguns on our streets. Boy was I wrong. Our experience in Harris County, and indeed statewide, has proven my initial fears absolutely groundless." And this from Glen White, president of the Dallas Police Association: "All the horror stories I thought would come to pass didn't happen. . . . I think it's worked out well, and that says good things about the citizens who have permits. I'm a convert."7
Contrary to the picture painted by anti-gun groups, evidence supporting the value of right-to-carry laws and the high standard of conduct among persons who carry firearms lawfully is overwhelming and continues to mount.
1. John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), pp. 50-96.
2. Gary Kleck, "Reasons for Skepticism on the Results from a New Poll on: The Incidence of Gun Violence Among Young People," The Public Perspective, Sept./Oct. 1993.
3. David Kopel, "The Untold Triumph of Concealed-Carry Permits," Policy Review, July-August 1996, p. 9.
4. Jim Myers, "Critics, Police Fear 'Calamity and Carnage'" USA Today, Oct. 1, 1997.
7. H. Sterling Burnett, "Concealed Handgun Laws Help Fight Crime," Human Events, June 30, 2000, p. 15.
Remember: OPPOSE H.R. 45!!!
02 February 2009
By Andrew C. McCarthy
A much-anticipated report laments that prisoners “live under conditions, rules, and policies designed” for “incorrigibly violent” detainees. The security controls were found to be “extraordinary,” employing “isolation and lack of in-cell as well as out-of-cell programs and activities.” Even allowing that these measures were in fact designed for some of the most savage of killers, the report nonetheless asserted that the strictures imposed were “pointlessly harsh and degrading.” They included “extreme” measures such as “lack of windows, denial of reading material, a maximum of three hours a week out-of-cell time, [and] lack of outdoor recreation.”
In sum, the report concluded, the detention conditions imposed by the United States government “can only be explained as reflecting an unwillingness to acknowledge the inmates’ basic humanity.”
In short, the federal penitentiary at Florence, Colo., is no Guantanamo Bay.
On the contrary, Gitmo — despite being repeatedly condemned as a blight on America’s reputation by the Obama campaign, congressional Democrats, alleged human-rights activists, European solons, and the legion of lawyers who’ve volunteered their services to al-Qaeda — is a model facility. According to a Pentagon investigation to be presented at the White House this week — a study ordered with great fanfare by Barack Obama in the first hours of his presidency — the detention camp, where about 245 alien enemy combatants are held, is in full compliance with the humane-treatment requirements of the Geneva Conventions.
The Human Rights Watch report cited above was a study of conditions in American civilian prisons, including those maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Specifically, it addresses “supermax” prisons, such as the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado. In these prisons, the government houses convicted terrorists alongside some 20,000 of the most violent offenders in U.S. custody — many of whom are Americans, not foreign jihadists.
The HRW report was completed in February 2000, in the last days of pre-9/11 obliviousness. That fact should remind us of the danger we invite by allowing transnational progressives to define our national-security priorities — as the Left has been allowed to do with Gitmo.
It seems like ancient history but, since history is repeating itself, it’s worth revisiting: Before nearly 3,000 Americans were slaughtered on September 11, 2001, the great progressive crusade was against American incarceration practices. Putting criminals in jail and keeping them there for appropriate periods of time was the 1980s course-correction that led to dramatic declines in crime rates, which had skyrocketed after the criminal-rights revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
The success of these reforms led to predictable caterwauling on the Left about root causes and rehabilitation, and to the claim that imprisonment causes more crime (in much the same way that we’re today told that defending ourselves against terrorists causes terrorism). This campaign against our effective anti-crime policies often took the form of maddening stories in the New York Times, which frequently and hilariously puzzled over the supposed paradox that crime rates had plummeted “and yet” prison populations were still high. The anti-incarceration campaign also was conducted through studies such as the HRW report, which posited that supermax prisons violated U.S. treaty obligations, that prison authorities were failing to “respect the inherent dignity of each inmate,” and that they were subjecting “prisoners to treatment that constitutes torture or that is cruel, inhuman, or degrading” — that they were, in short, operating prisons “in ways that violate basic human rights.”
It sounds familiar because, following 9/11, this litany was repackaged as the case against Gitmo, the Bush torture-chamber of lefty lore where, in reality, prisoners have mostly gained weight, because they’ve never in their lives eaten better (scrupulously halal) meals or gotten better medical care. And when they aren’t exercising or praying on their government-issued prayer rugs, they are free to spend their leisure time studying the government-issued Korans distributed to inmates by ceremonially gloved Muslim prison guards — despite the fact that the prisoners believe the book instructs them to kill Americans.
This narrative repackaging, though, was done with a strange twist. We needn’t be concerned about shutting Gitmo, we are told, because we have perfectly good prisons in the United States for detaining dangerous terrorists — the very facilities the same critics described as human-rights outrages before 9/11.
We don’t seem to recognize this game, no matter how often it is played. Before 9/11, the bane of the ACLU’s existence was FISA (the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). The FISA court, critics said, was just a rubber stamp for “domestic spying,” its judges mindlessly authorizing national-security surveillance and searches. After 9/11, Bush, like all wartime presidents, ordered monitoring of potential enemy communications without seeking court permission. The Left’s response was to denounce this as an outrageous violation of FISA, whose laudable checks and balances, we were now told, provided the careful judicial oversight that was our insurance against domestic spying.
Or take Afghanistan. Remember when it was a quagmire? It was futile. We were going to be stuck there for decades. But then came Iraq, and suddenly Afghanistan was the “good war” in our campaign against jihad — the war all Americans supported. But Afghanistan was the bad war before it was the good war, and our military operations there had been lambasted by the Left because they reflected Bush’s post-9/11 conclusion that the law-enforcement approach to terrorism (the one we are now backsliding into) was not working.
And even the ineffective law-enforcement model was once too robust for some: Before they discovered the glories of the criminal-justice system in the rubble of the World Trade Center, the Left had insisted that our legal approach was a sham, with kangaroo courts where terrorists were serially convicted (at a 100 percent rate) because the Justice Department had incited an atmosphere of intimidation in which prosecutors, using elastic conspiracy laws, could convict innocent men simply because they were Muslims or Arabs, or because they were engaged in political dissent.
The only thing we can be sure of is that the minute the critics get their way they will immediately move the goalposts. If Gitmo is too harsh and prisoners are sent to federal supermax lockups, then those will be too harsh, too. If military-commission trials are considered unfair, the same people will say that terrorists convicted in civilian courts were railroaded by overzealous prosecutors, fearful juries, and suspect evidence.
Gitmo, as the new study documents, is a model prison. It is also a necessary one. Even the Obama administration has come to terms with the fact that we must be able to detain dangerous people who cannot, for various good reasons, be tried in our civilian courts. We need to hold those people, and interrogate those people, somewhere — and Gitmo is the best place we have. We could close Gitmo, and undermine our national security, in an attempt to satisfy the critics. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think they will ever be satisfied.