Sound Diagnosis, Pathetic Prescription

Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offered a surprisingly realistic and cogent evaluation of the threat posed by ISIL. This clip is only a minute and a half long, but it sums up the danger well:

Hagel says, correctly, that ISIL “is beyond anything we’ve seen,” creates a “whole new dynamic,” is “as sophisticated and well-funded as any organization we’ve seen,” an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” which poses a threat to our homeland for which we had better “get ready.” That’s the diagnosis.

So today the Obama administration announced that it is opening a criminal investigation into the murder of James Foley. I’m not kidding:

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of the death of American journalist James Foley, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday. …

A U.S. official said American investigators were urgently attempting to “identify and capture” the man in the video.

I am sure the prospect of having Eric Holder on his trail will strike fear into the guy who sawed off Foley’s head. When you catch him, though, make sure to read him his rights!

This isn’t even bringing a knife to a gun fight, this is bringing a legal brief to a gun fight. Let’s hope the administration has plans for ISIL that go beyond legal harassment.

GAO: Obama administration violated law in releasing Gitmo detainees to Qatar in Bergdahl deal

The Government Accounting Office has concluded that the Obama Defense Department violated section 8111 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act when it transferred five detainees at Guantanamo Bay to Qatar without providing at least 30 days notice to certain congressional committees. Section 8111 prohibits the Defense Department from using appropriated funds to transfer any individuals detained at Gitmo unless the Secretary of Defense provides such notification.

The GAO also found that, by using its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act, as well.

The prisoner transfer occurred in May of this year as part of the deal in which the Taliban released Bowe Bergdahl. Naturally, the Defense Department used congressionally appropriated funds to effectuate the transfer.

In doing so, says the GAO, it violated the unambiguous terms of section 8111 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Section 8111 prohibits the use of “funds appropriated or otherwise made available” in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014, to transfer any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay to the custody or control of a foreign entity “except in accordance with section 1035 of the [FY 2014 NDAA].”

Section 1035 unambiguously requires the Secretary of Defense to notify certain congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of such a transfer. This the Obama administration did not do.

Here we have yet another example of Obama’s disregard for the law.

It should also be noted that Qatar, the government to which he transferred the Gitmo detainees, is a supporter of terrorist groups. For example, it is a major backer of Hamas whose leader-in-exile, Khaled Mashaal, lives in Qatar.

Qatar has also credibly been accused of funding ISIS (now the Islamic State), although this matter appears to be in dispute. You can’t help but wonder whether some of the five transferred prisoners will eventually join other Gitmo alums in ISIS’s jihad.

Thus, it’s easy to understand why Congress would have been interested in knowing about the transfer in advance, and why Obama violated the law that required him to provide that heads-up.

A word from the Daily News

Joining the British tabloids, the New York Daily News delivers a rousing and heartfelt jeer to President Obama on its cover today (below). And it ties it to an accompanying editorial: “Obama’s duty to act.” We are far, far into “more mush from the wimp” territory, and we have two-and-a-half years to go.

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Via Twitchy.

Defender of the faith

In his statement on the beheading of James Foley by devotees of the Islamic State (referred to in his statement as ISIL) yesterday, Obama spoke up on behalf of Islam:

Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims — both Sunni and Shia — by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people.

So ISIL speaks for no religion.

Obama continued in a theological vein:

Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.

ISIL is of course an acronym for the Islamic State in the Levant. It purports to have created or restored an Islamic caliphate in the territory under its control. How do you edit Islam out of the Islamic State?

Like Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and all the rest, the Islamic State promotes the imposition of Sharia law in the name of Islam. They all understand themselves to be Muslims acting on behalf of the faith. Yet Obama makes a special point of standing up for the good name of Islam, such as it is.

We can compare and contrast Obama’s words regarding “ISIL” and Islam with his recent remarks declaring that “we tortured some folks.” He asserted: “When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted.”

While he declared us guilty of “torture,” Obama instructed that the torture we committed was “contrary to our values.” So we have that going for us. Like true Islam, according to Obama, “our values” are worthy. The Bush administration officials who countenanced the “torture” and the CIA officers who undertook it on our behalf stand outside the American creed like the bloodthirsty maniacs of the Islamic State.

All is not lost. Obama has come to redeem the time. Like a merciful God who understands all, Obama allowed: “I understand why it happened. It’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were.” Obama does not purport to understand the devotees of the Islamic State, but his reticence in this case serves the reputation of Islam.

Team Obama reveals that it tried to rescue Foley

When it comes to combatting ISIS, the Obama administration has precious few successes to talk about. So today it touted a failure:

U.S. Special Operations forces staged an unsuccessful operation this summer to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other Americans being held in Syria by Islamic State militants, according to senior Obama administration officials.

The attempt, involving several dozen U.S. commandos, one of whom was injured in a fierce firefight with the militants, was the first known U.S. ground operation in Syria since the country’s descent into civil war. It came after at least six European hostages freed by the militants last spring had been debriefed by U.S. intelligence.

This information comes right after the beheading of ISIS hostage Jim Foley. Obviously, Team Obama wants to show the American public that it did what it could to save Foley, and it should be commended for the attempt.

But public relations aside, was it wise for the administration to make this announcement? That’s not clear.

The rescue team did not find the hostages; they had been moved. Our warriors ended up fighting Syrian “militants.” Thus, it’s highly probable that ISIS knew about a rescue attempt at the time it occurred.

On the other hand, the administration didn’t disclose the mission until after Foley’s slaying. Thus, it must have perceived either some strategic advantage or some advantage to Foley in keeping quiet. And if there was a perceived advantage to Foley, it may have resided in ISIS not knowing for certain that there had been an American rescue mission. Other than for PR purposes, why reveal this?

There’s also the question of whether the administration released too much information. For example, a senior administration” said that the rescue operation “was conducted by a joint force with virtually every service represented, including “special operators and aircraft both rotary and fixed wing,” with surveillance aircraft overhead. Why reveal this sort of detail? It might be useful information for terrorists holding other Americans.

After the raid that killed bin Laden, there reportedly was consternation within the intelligence and military communities about the amount of detail provided by Team Obama. Arguably, this is something of a repeat performance.

The administration should err on the side of reticence about sensitive operations even if it means some measure of sacrifice in the quest to make Obama look good.

Contempt [Updated]

In recent months, Barack Obama has crossed an important threshold. He has always shown contempt for his opponents; now he shows contempt for his supporters. He has quit pretending to be a leader, and more or less quit pretending to be a president. On the right and the center, he has become a joke. Click to enlarge:

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But that isn’t the worst of it. No doubt there are a few liberals who still defend Obama, but they are the ones who haven’t been paying attention. Miss Weathervane, Maureen Dowd, exemplifies the larger group of liberals who are heading for the exits:

First the president couldn’t work with Republicans because they were too obdurate. Then he tried to chase down reporters with subpoenas. Now he finds members of his own party an unnecessary distraction.

His circle keeps getting more inner. He golfs with aides and jocks, and he spent his one evening back in Washington from Martha’s Vineyard at a nearly five-hour dinner at the home of a nutritional adviser and former White House assistant chef, Sam Kass.

The president who was elected because he was a hot commodity is now a wet blanket.

The extraordinary candidate turns out to be the most ordinary of men, frittering away precious time on the links. Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems as though he were being chased by demons, Obama’s main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected.

The same trend is under way internationally. Thus, from Israel’s liberal Haaretz, formerly a staunch Obama backer: “Will the Middle East ruin Barack Obama’s summer vacation?”

It isn’t very hard to pretend to be president: Obama did it for five years or so. But now, he can’t be bothered. He leaves his allies with no ammunition with which to defend him, thereby showing, one might argue, even more contempt for them than for his enemies. There is an adage, Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned. If that is true, Obama is in for a long two years.

UPDATE: This is the lead story on the U.K.’s formerly pro-Obama Daily Mail:

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On James Foley, Compare and Contrast

Scott noted earlier today President Obama’s “appalling” statement on the murder of journalist James Foley by ISIL. There is also this:

Shortly after delivering a statement denouncing the execution of American journalist James Foley by Islamist militants in Iraq, President Obama hit the golf course on Wednesday.

Obama completed the statement at a school in Martha’s Vineyard where he is vacationing, before arriving minutes later at a local golf club.

The president planned to play a round with former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, private equity investor Glenn Hutchins, and longtime friend Cy Walker‎, according to the White House.

Obama Golfing

Whereas, on the other hand, we see this report from Great Britain:

David Cameron has condemned the murder of a US journalist by a British jihadi as “shocking and depraved” and broken off his holiday to lead the government’s response to the crisis.

The Prime Minister is expected to chair a meeting with officials from the Foreign Office and Home Office to discuss the actions of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Mr Cameron said: “If true, the murder of James Foley is shocking and depraved. I will today chair meetings on the situation in Iraq and Syria.”

The Prime Minister has broken off his holiday in Cornwall after just a day, having previously said that he would return “immediately” if the situation in Iraq deteriorated.

God only knows what Cameron would have done if Foley had been British.