Bin Laden had the book on Obama

Being on bin Laden’s bookshelf has become, in a way, the modern version of being on Richard Nixon’s enemies list. Bob Woodward gets a special award. He gained both distinctions, if that’s the right word.

Politico contacted some of the authors in question for comment. Warning: Greg Palast’s response is nausea-inducing.

What should we make of the bookshelf? Above all, it confirms that bin Laden was obsessed with the United States. Unlike ISIS, which strives to capture territory and create a caliphate, bin Laden focused on attacking America and American interests.

But attacking America wasn’t an end in itself. Bin Laden’s overriding goal was to drive the U.S. out of the Muslim world so that al Qaeda and its affiliates could topple hostile governments in these regions.

Once we understand this, we must see bin Laden as more of a success than a failure. And we must see President Obama as the vehicle through which bin Laden succeeded.

Under Obama, the U.S. is basically exiting the Muslim world. We pulled out of Iraq (and haven’t re-entered to any significant degree). We’re pulling out of Afghanistan. We never pulled into Syria, despite the advice of many in both parties that we should.

We didn’t stay in Libya. We’ve been driven out of Yemen. Our influence with Egypt and Saudi Arabia (two countries of special interest to bin Laden, surely) has waned considerably.

As for the toppling of governments, bin Laden’s dream is partially realized. The Afghanistan government hasn’t fallen, but it may well, once the U.S. leaves. And the government’s hold on large portions of the country is weak to non-existent.

The Iraqi government hasn’t fallen, but it has lost huge chunks of territory to Islamic terrorists, with even Baghdad now threatened. The government of Syria is in basically the same condition.

The pro-Western government of Yemen has fallen and, in the battle for control, an al Qaeda affiliate is in the mix. Control of Libya is also up for grabs and an al Qaeda’s affiliate is in the mix there too.

How well did bin Laden understand America? Probably not very. I’m sure he got a lot of stuff wrong.

But I’m also sure he knew there were strong elements in our politics that were weary of involvement in the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent, and that if these elements prevailed, the U.S. would pull out — to the great advantage of al Qaeda and other jidhadists.

Bin laden was right about this. And though he is gone, his broad vision for the Muslim world is alive and kicking.

This Week’s Energy Unicorn

The belief that we can power the world with unicorn flop sweat, Obama’s incandescent speeches, refined banana peels, etc runs deep. I call it “energy romanticism,” and like all other kinds of romanticism it is hard to shake, even with things called facts, which are always inconvenient to the dreams of world-saving liberals.

Typical is the story last year about how we could put solar panels on roads, a really stupid idea that naturally has received federal grant money. (Is there really no adult in the room to ask how solar panels, which need cleaning on rooftops in the best of conditions, would hold up under car and truck traffic?) As usual, the news stories about this venture offer no details about costs or actual power output, which is the principle defect of about 95 percent of all media reports about new energy ideas. It is like reporting on a new car without giving the gas mileage or that it only seats one person.

Solar Bike Path copyThe Dutch have tried to push this idea with a $3.7 million solar bike path that provides enough electricity for  . . . one person.  And after six months, the solar bike path is already starting to come apart.  True, it’s only 70 meters long, but what a bargain for $3.7 million. It has “smart meters”! If we increase spending by an order of magnitude, to $370 million, we can power 100 households.

The predictably depressing part of the story is this:

The group behind the project is now in talks with local councils in the Netherlands to see if the technology can be rolled out in other provinces. A cooperation agreement has also been signed with the US state of California.

Of course. It would only cost about $450 billion to power all of California’s households with solar-powered roads and bike paths. No doubt this has deep appeal to Jerry Brown.

Up next in this new series: Tesla’s new home battery, which is also way overrated.

Delusional White House Calls ISIS Strategy “A Success”

As I wrote on Monday, the administration’s policies on the Middle East are in a state of collapse. This is partly–but only partly–because ISIS is rampaging across Syria and Iraq. So on Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was pressed on how the president’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” ISIS is going. Overall, Earnest said, the president’s strategy has been a success:

Because the administration’s strategy has been successful “overall,” Earnest said, there is no reconsideration of that strategy underway.

Michael Ramirez responded this morning to the administration’s declaration. Click to enlarge:


The situation would be grim enough if ISIS were our only “setback,” as Earnest says, in the Middle East. Unfortunately, with Iran’s impending nuclear capability, the ongoing slaughter in Syria and the failed state of Libya, ISIS isn’t even at the top of the list.

More evidence, via “Sid Vicious,” of Hillary’s Benghazi deceit

Some of the information Sidney Blumenthal supplied to Hillary Clinton about Libya is said to have been flawed. But “Sid Vicious” got one important thing right.

Two days after the attack, Blumenthal told Hillary that “sensitive sources” in Libya said Ansar al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda-backed terror group, had planned the attacks for a month and used the protest as a cover. (The day before he had advised Hillary that demonstrators protesting an anti-Muslim video were to blame.)

Notwithstanding Blumenthal’s heads-up that terrorists had planned and were behind the attack, Hillary peddled the video-was-to blame line to the families of victims of the attack. And, of course, Susan Rice, standing in for Hillary, peddled it when she made the Sunday talk show rounds.

What was Hillary’s response to Blumenthal’s notification that al Qaeda affiliates were behind the Benghazi attack? She immediately passed the information on to her top aide Jake Sullivan and told him “we should get this around asap.”

Hillary’s instruction to Sullivan can be interpreted in either of two ways. One interpretation is that Hillary viewed Blumenthal’s report as, at a minimum, a plausible account that the White House needed to know of as it tried to nail down who was behind the attack.

A second interpretation is that Hillary viewed Blumenthal’s account — whether plausible or not — as politically dangerous. With the presidential election less than two months away, it contradicted President Obama’s triumphant line that al Qaeda was on its way out. Thus — again whether plausible or not — Team Obama needed to know that sources in Libya were pointing to al Qaeda.

We know from other Clinton emails that she was concerned about the political fallout from Benghazi. Indeed, in October, Blumenthal himself warned her of the Republicans’ intent to exploit the Benghazi attacks in order to damage Obama a month before the election. She forwarded his warning to Sullivan, telling him to “be sure Ben [Rhodes at the White House] knows they need to be ready for this line of attack.”

I doubt, though, that Hillary needed Blumenthal to tell her this in October. Surely she figured it out soon after the September 11 attacks.

If Hillary viewed Blumenthal’s account as plausible, she cannot justify blaming the attack on the video or having aides participate in the process (i.e., fixing the infamous “taking points”) whereby Susan Rice ended up doing so. ( Ed Morrissey makes the astute point that “with Blumenthal’s e-mail in on the 13th. . .Hillary would have known better than to get stuck on video telling the whoppers that Rice ended up delivering on Obama’s behalf.”)

Thus, Hillary, or her backers, will likely argue that she didn’t credit Blumenthal’s account. Instead, she simply wanted to give the White House a heads-up.

But this claim is highly dubious for two reasons. First, we know that Hillary took Blumenthal’s reports seriously, routinely burdening her staff and the Libya diplomatic mission with them. Second, as Ed points out, this particular report was corroborated a few days later by a DIA memo.

This week Clinton explained why she made use of Blumenthal’s Libya “intel.” She said she liked to obtain information not just from sources within “the bubble,” but also from trusted friends like Blumenthal.

In the case of the Benghazi attacks, “the bubble” and her trusted friend were in accord — the attacks were planned and carried out by terrorists. Yet, Clinton, motivated by politics, ducked that narrative and pushed a different one.

As always, politics trumped the truth for Hillary Clinton.

Is Hillary’s Glass Jaw Starting to Crack Already?

If Hillary Clinton’s feeble performance in the 2008 campaign is any indication, she has a glass jaw as a candidate, which will manifest itself at some point—though perhaps too late for a credible candidate other than Joe Biden to have enough time to organize a serious campaign. People keep saying the Republicans might have a brokered convention, but maybe it will be the Democrats who revive the e-cigarette-filled-backroom.*

As we keep getting more and more information that Clintonworld is an unpleasant and chaotic cash machine, a fresh piece of information appears in the Wall Street Journal this morning that is doubtless raising fresh red flags among Democratic insiders:

Hillary Clinton Super PAC Struggles to Raise Money

The super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid is struggling to raise money and now expects to collect only about $15 million through the end of June, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

So naturally Hillary is addressing this problem with a new series of paid speeches a staff shakeup!

The group, Priorities USA Action, is shaking up its senior staff in hopes of jump-starting a fundraising operation that, five weeks after Mrs. Clinton entered the presidential race, has garnered only about $5 million in “hard commitments,” two people familiar with events say. . .

Even if it meets its $15 million short-term expectation, the pro-Clinton group will raise far less than PACs backing some potential Republican rivals. Super PACs backing Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) say they have raised more than $31 million, and all-but-announced candidate Jeb Bush, while not giving a fundraising tally, has said his team has broken all prior GOP fundraising records.

Why, the Clinton campaign is practically dead broke. C’mon donors—don’t you realize the Clintons have bills to pay!?! No wonder Hillary is starting to fly commercial to Iowa. (Recall that mismanaging money was one of the difficulties in Hillary’s 2008 campaign.)

The Journal story goes on to report that some potential donors just aren’t ready to move on yet from Mr. Hope’n’Change, and still harbor bad feelings about the Clintons from the 2008 campaign.

* The Eleanor Clift story on Biden linked above has this suggestive tidbit:

Once a self-described “vociferous” Clintonsupporter—he went door-to-door in New Hampshire with Bill in ’92—he chose Obama in early ’07 despite his historical ties with the Clintons. “It’s more than charisma; it’s more than the ability to emote; it’s the ability to speak to 25,000 people and have every one of them feel you’re speaking to them. Clinton had it, Bush had it, Obama had it, Reagan had it. Joe Biden has it—he can bring people to tears. She ain’t got it.”

I’ll just modify this slightly by suggesting that Biden’s supposed ability to “bring people to tears” is obviously just evoking the tears of a clown.

Also, this:

Hillary's Pay Pal copy

Notes on “Days of Rage” (2)

Reading Bryan Burrough’s book Days of Rage from cover to cover over the weekend, I flipped over the book. In this post I continue to jot notes on the book to amplify the attention it has received so far. Part 1 is posted here; our interview with Bryan Burrough, recorded on Tuesday, is posted here.

• Burrough tells the story of six terrorist groups that conducted campaigns of “revolutionary violence,” as the book’s subtitle has it, over the period 1970-1985. One common thread that unites the groups is their militant leftism. In addition, each of the groups went “underground” to pursue their activities. What does that mean? How did they go “underground”? What was “underground” life like? I’ve always wondered. Burrough has the story, and it is indeed interesting. As for quality of life “underground,” Burrough presents a mixed picture. For Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, I think it is fair to say, life was good in southern California.

• Burrough’s book covers the SLA through its dissolution. He therefore includes the story of Kathleen Soliah’s teaming up with the group and her participation in the crimes it committed to sustain itself after the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Burrough does not explore Soliah’s life after the dissolution of the SLA, but she was living an extraordinarily visible and extremely comfortable life as a physician’s wife and mother of three in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul under under the name Sara Jane Olson until her apprehension in 1999. She had built up friendships in the Twin Cities’ Democratic establishment and artistic community. After her capture, the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild held a fundraiser for her in St. Paul at which Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (then an aspiring politician practicing law in Minneapolis) was a featured speaker. We will return to this aspect of the story in part 3 of this series.

• Burrough occasionally credits the members of the six groups with “idealism.” He is unable to fill in the picture of the groups’ revolutionary objectives, however, because their Marxism was little more than the vessel into which they poured their bottomless hate.

• The Symbionese Liberation Army represents a sort of reductio ad absurdum of leftist hatred and nihilism. Burrough recalls the group’s motto: “DEATH TO THE FASCIST INSECT THAT PREYS UPON THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE!” Burrough drily observes that it was “a line that sounded as if uttered by the villain in a 1930s-era Buck Rogers serial[.]”

• When it comes to the SLA, Burrough briefly drops the objectivity he brings to his examination of the history of each group. The SLA did its best to mimic the routines of the Weatherman group, he writes, “but all of it was in service to a worldview that veered between the comical and the truly insane.” I think that is an observation that is generally applicable to the groups under review. Their truly serious object was the active organization and expression of their hatreds.

• Here is Burrough’s account of the SLA’s professed goals: “It sought to abolish prisons, marriage, and rent while attacking ‘racism, sexism, ageism, capitalism, fascism, individualism, possessiveness, competitiveness and all other institutions that have sustained capitalism.’” Plus ça change

• The SLA was of course the group that kidnapped Patty Hearst and compelled her father to undertake the distribution millions of dollars worth of free food to the poor on designated days in the Bay area. Let me devote a separate bullet point to Ronaldus Magnus’s “memorable quip,” as Burrough calls it: “It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.”

• Weatherman is probably the most famous of the groups that Burrough covers. I had thought that Weatherman and the other groups were largely motivated by opposition to the Vietnam War. Burrough demurs, however, quoting Weatherman member Howard Machtinger: “We related to the war in a purely opportunistic way. We were happy to draw new members who were antiwar. But this was never about the war.” What was “this” about? Burrough writes: “What the underground movement was truly about–what it was always about–was the plight of black Americans. Every single underground group of the 1970s, with the notable exception of the Puerto Rican FALN, was concerned first and foremost with the struggle of blacks against police brutality, racism, and government repression.”

• Burrough traces the emergence of the Black Liberation Army from a succession of black leaders. Beginning with Robert Williams, Burrough traces the line of succession to Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panthers Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver. Burrough identifies Cleaver as the essential inspiration of the Black Liberation Army. “Not only would he emerge as the guiding force behind the Black Liberation Army,” Burrough writes, “but, having forged alliances between black convicts and white Bay area radicals, he created the intellectual framework for what became the Symbionese Liberation Army.”

• Cleaver made his name with the book Soul On Ice, expounding the revolutionary virtue of raping white women. Deemed “an exceptional volume, both in what the author says and in how he says it” by Thomas Lask in the New York Times of March 13, 1968, and “highly readable and often witty” by Charlayne Hunter (as she then was) in the March 24, 1968 number of the New York Times Book Review, Soul On Ice became a publishing phenomenon and Cleaver an international sensation. I looked up those New York Times reviews myself, for the record. Eric Hoffer’s assessment was more reliable than those of the Times. Hoffer observed that Cleaver’s book would more aptly have been titled Soul On Horse Manure, though Cleaver later became a Christian, a capitalist, and, in 1977, a memorable guest of WFB on Firing Line, his second time around on the show.

• The groups whose story Burrough tells conducted a campaign that included thousands of bombings and many horrible murders, yet most have been entirely forgotten. Why? In his epilogue, Burrough gives the penultimate word to Joseph Connor. On his ninth birthday Connor lost his father in the 1975 bombing of the Fraunces Tavern by the FALN in New York City. Burrough notes that “[W]hat truly drives [Connor] ‘mental’ is the notion that modern terrorism on U.S. soil dates only far aback as the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. ‘That gets me every time,’ he says. ‘To think that America thinks none of this ever happened, that it’s not ever remembered, it’s astounding to me. You know, I blame the media. The media was more than happy to let all this go. These were not the kinds of terrorists the liberal media wanted us to remember, because they share a lot of the same values. They were terrorists. They were just the wrong brand. My father was murdered by the wrong politics. So they were let off the hook. That what we’re left with today, a soft view of these people, when they were as hardened as anybody. They were just terrorists. Flat-out terrorists.’”

• Burrough also notes that Bill Clinton pardoned 16 of the 18 FALN terrorists convicted in the group’s two bombing campaigns; the other two convicted FALN members rejected Clinton’s offer of pardon. Debra Burlingame condemned these “terror pardons” in a superb 2008 Wall Street Journal column. Kudos to Bryan Burrough for remembering these events in his important book and making it more difficult for us to forget again.

ISIS gains big in Iraq; Obama remains functionally indifferent

U.S. policy in Iraq is in a shambles — there can be no serious disagreement about that. Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and a mere 70 miles from Baghdad, has been captured by ISIS. Mosul, Iran’s second largest city, remains in ISIS’s hands.

As importantly, it’s now clear that military success against ISIS hinges on the use of Iranian-dominated militias, but that these forces will not be able to drive ISIS out of Iraq entirely. Thus, the influence and power of America’s two arch enemies — Iran and ISIS — is expanding.

President Obama vowed to degrade and eventually destroy ISIS. Why has his policy failed to accomplish this in Iraq?

Tom Cotton says it’s because Obama is “not providing the resources” needed to defeat ISIS. Here again, I don’t think there can be any serious disagreement.

Consider the fall of Ramadi. Kimberly Kagan and Frederick Kagan, writing in the Washington Post, point out that neither ISIS nor any other al-Qaeda offshoot has ever taken a major urban area actively defended by the United States in partnership with local forces.

But lack of adequate U.S. resources helped pave the way for ISIS’s victory in Ramadi before the battle commenced. ISIS’s successful offensive against that city was preceded by the movement of numerous fighters across Syria and Iraq. The Kagans acknowledge that bad weather impeded the ability fully to detect this movement. But, they say, with more resources and greater freedom to use them, the U.S. military could have inflicted serious losses on ISIS before its forces ever reached Ramadi.

In sum, say the Kagans, the fall of Ramadi was unnecessary and avoidable.

What happens next? Given the fecklessness of U.S. policy, if Ramadi is retaken it will be retaken by forces in which Iranian-dominated militias play the decisive role. In this scenario, Iran is the winner and the Sunnis of Anbar province will be vulnerable to a sectarian bloodbath.

But there is another way. Sen. Cotton proposes that the U.S. send a few thousand more troops to Iraq. What would be the likely impact of such a deployment? According to Kimberly and Frederick Kagan:

A few thousand additional combat troops, backed by helicopters, armored vehicles and forward air controllers able to embed with Iraqi units at the battalion level, as well as additional Special Forces troops able to move about the countryside, would certainly prevent further gains by [ISIS].

They could almost certainly regain Ramadi and other recently lost areas of Anbar, in cooperation with local tribes. They might be able to do more.

Obama undoubtedly finds the deployment of even a few thousand U.S. troops an unpleasant prospect. But by now it’s obvious what the alternative is: the establishment and entrenchment of an America-hating terrorist state.

You would think that Obama finds this alternative more unpleasant. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that he doesn’t.