Entries from April 2006

Deep Throats

David Frum April 26th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

A tale of two leaks:

One leak provoked an international scandal–it is the leak of the name of Valerie Plame, the CIA agent who arranged for her husband, Joseph Wilson, to travel to Niger in 2002 to investigate reports of Iraqi attempts to purchase nuclear fuel in Africa. You probably know the rest of the story. Wilson published a newspaper article in the summer of 2003 accusing the administration of deceit. The administration responded by pointing out that many of WilsonÕs statements were false or exaggerated. In the struggle, somebody divulged the Ms PlameÕs name. And since Ms Plame had worked as an undercover agent half a dozen years before, this divulgence was certainly improper, arguably illegal–but only very remotely a breach of national security.

The media, led by the New York Times, angrily demanded a special prosecutor. One was appointed, and he at length indicted Vice President CheneyÕs chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Now the second leak, or rather set of leaks. The New York Times and the Washington Post have just both won Pulitzer Prizes for major revelations about US secret programs. The Times won its prize for revealing that the government was intercepting electronic conversations between terrorists abroad and sympathizers inside the United States, a practice that might (or might not) violate existing US law.

The Washington Postreported that friendly governments in Eastern Europe were detaining al Qaeda prisoners for questioning by the United States.

Unlike the Plame revelation, the Times and Post stories betrayed hugely important national secrets. The Times story alerted terrorist sympathizers in the United States that the government was monitoring them more closely than they realized. The Post story revealed the location of some of the worldÕs most dangerous prisoners. It invited terrorists to add Poland and Romania to their list of target countries. And since it was printed just as the European Union was finishing work on its multiyear budget, the story created an opportunity for governments who disapproved of PolandÕs robustly Atlanticist foreign policy to retaliate by cutting back PolandÕs EU budget allocations.

But thereÕs another way in which the Times and Post stories differ from the Plame revelations–and that is the remarkable lack of enthusiasm in the press for investigating and punishing the leakers.

The woman fired for leaking the Post story, Mary McCarthy of the CIA, has denied being the PostÕs source. My National Review colleague Byron York, a close student of the Plame case, has asked (with heavy sarcasm):

“What now? Well, using the template established in the Plame/ Fitzgerald investigation, the next steps seem clear. First, the Justice Department will begin an investigation. Then, McCarthy, like Lewis Libby, Karl Rove, and many White House staffers, will sign a waiver releasing Priest [the Washington Post reporter who broke the Eastern European prisons story] from any pledge of confidentiality.

Next, prosecutors will subpoena Priest to tell prosecutors what McCarthy told her. Then, if Priest argues that McCarthy’s waiver was coerced, McCarthy will assure Priest that it was given willingly and give her blessing to Priest’s testimony. And then Priest, like Judith Miller [a New York Times reporter who received leaks in the Plame/ Wilson case] Matthew Cooper [a Newsweek reporter who also received Plame/Wilson leaks], and others, will–under oath–tell prosecutors precisely what McCarthy said.

“Right?”

Well of course not right. The US press these days sharply distinguishes between leaks that do harm to Bush administration policies–which are patriotic, commendable, and to be protected by the First Amendment–and leaks which discredit Bush administration critics–which are vicious, deplorable attacks on national security to be prosecuted to the limit of the law.

That distinction is very convenient for the administrationÕs many political opponents. It is tragically destructive for the United States.

The Truth About Hamas–and Its Followers

David Frum April 25th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Over the past two years, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its Canadian affiliate, CAIR-Canada, have filed a series of lawsuits against journalists and others who have traced the connection between CAIR and the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. Among the targets of these lawsuits have been the Web site Anti-Cair-net.org, the Canadian terrorism expert David Harris, and this newspaper and myself.

On April 12, CAIR-Canada settled its lawsuit against Harris. The lawsuit ended without retraction or apology by Harris. The suit against Anti-Cair-net was settled a few days earlier. Although the terms of Anti-Cair’s settlement are confidential, Anti-Cair’s Web site has likewise issued no retraction or apology. The words that triggered the lawsuit remain posted on the Anti-Cair site: Anti-Cair stands by its charge that CAIR is a “terrorist-supporting front organization . . .founded by Hamas supporters” that aims “to make radical Islam the dominant religion in the United States.”

The lawsuit against the National Post and myself was settled with an editor’s note that likewise offered no apology or retraction.

The settlement of the Harris lawsuit should be of special interest to Canadians. David Harris is one of Canada’s leading experts on terrorism: a former chief of strategic planning for CSIS and now president of the Insignis consulting firm. His views are regularly heard on television and radio. Now he has recovered his full freedom to speak and to alert Canadians to the dangers in their midst. This should establish once and for all that media organizations can broadcast his carefully chosen words without legal risk.

These lawsuits represented a very considerable gamble for CAIR and its Canadian branch. So long as they lasted, it’s true, they inhibited media organizations’ ability to speak about CAIR. But once they terminated, as they were bound to do, the full facts of the case would become matters of public record.

By coincidence, just as the Anti-Cair and Harris lawsuits were being shut down, Yale University Press released the most detailed study of the Hamas terror group ever offered to readers without a security clearance. The book is Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad; the author is Matthew Levitt, the chief intelligence officer of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and one of the world’s leading experts on Hamas.

Levitt’s book was excerpted on these pages a few weeks ago. The Post excerpts described Hamas’s indoctrination of young people, Hamas’ electoral strategy in the Palestinian Authority and the close co-ordination between Hamas’ social-welfare projects, its terrorism and its overall ideological mission of building a global Islamic caliphate.

But Levitt also has a good deal to say about Hamas’ operations in North America. “[U.S.] Federal investigators have uncovered a surprisingly large number of front organizations supporting Hamas in the United States,” he observes, and proceeds to explain an intricate network of fundraising and ideological advocacy dating back to the 1980s. One Hamas front organization, the Holy Land Foundation, raised $57-million between its founding in 1992 and its final shuttering by the U.S. government in December 2001. Another Hamas front group, the Islamic Association for Palestine, engaged in advocacy and propaganda work.

The leadership of the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic Association for Palestine in turn interlocked with the leadership of CAIR. CAIR’s co-founder, Omar Ahmed, had previously co-founded the Islamic Association for Palestine. CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad, is a self-described “supporter of the Hamas movement.” Lower-level CAIR officials have been arrested and indicted on terrorism-related charges in the United States; one accepted deportation rather than face trial.

Nobody associated with CAIR-Canada has been charged with any criminal misconduct. Internal CAIR-Canada documents uncovered during CAIR’s litigation against the National Post suggested, however, that 70% of CAIR-Canada’s revenues were forwarded to CAIR in the United States.

Canada’s new federal government has acted decisively against international terrorism. The Harper government has announced that aid to the Palestinian Authority will be suspended so long as it is governed by Hamas. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has added the Tamil Tigers to the list of prohibited terrorist organizations–a move Mr. Day has described as “long overdue.” And the days when Prime Minister Paul Martin sought advice from CAIR-Canada have mercifully been left behind.

Now, with these libel cases closed, Canadians can freely join a larger conversation, not just about terrorism, but about the larger problem of ideological extremism from which terrorism emerges. Canadians owe David Harris thanks for winning that freedom. Now Canadians owe him something even more urgent: their attention to his words and warnings.

Bush’s Youth

David Frum April 19th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

If the Republicans do badly in the November 2006 elections – and you
have to assume they will – the international press will attribute the
losses to the Iraq war.

And look: Iraq does not help. But Iraq was not going so well in November 2004 either. Yet the Republicans still won decisively. If they lose this time, viagra the difference will less be Iraq than immigration and the scandals in the GOP Congress. To understand why, try take a closer look at the mechanics of an off-year congressional election.

When the presidency is not at stake, prescription fewer Americans turn out to vote. Some 105 million Americans voted in 2000 for example – but only
89 million voted in 2002.

In 2004, some 120 million Americans voted – almost 60% of the total voting-age population, the highest proportion since 18-year-olds got the vote. (And since about 15 million of the voting-age population are non-citizens, 120 million people is closer to two-thirds of the actual eligible electorate.)

But nobody expects anything like that number to turn out to vote in 2006.

So the great question that will decide the outcome is: Who will come out – and who will stay home?

In 1994, the year the Republicans took both houses of Congress from the long Democratic majority, there was a surge of some 4 million new voters over the number who voted in 1990.

1998 by contrast was a low turnout year: 2.5 million fewer people turned out to vote than in 1994. And that year the Republicans lost seats – a defeat that cost Newt Gingrich his job as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

WhatÕs going on? One very rough way to think about the American electorate is that the Democratic party relies most heavily on the votes of older women, especially older nonwhite women, while the Republican party does best among younger white men. And the great Republican challenge is: young men are much less likely to vote than older women.

In 1994, younger white men were offended by the leftward bias of the Clinton administration: gays in the military, the presidentÕs wife as an unelected co-president, tax increases and so on. So they come out in big numbers to punish the administration.

In 1998, by contrast, the impeachment battle failed to galvanize
Republican voters – but did mobilize older women, who rallied to support President Clinton. Turnout dropped, and so did Republican seat totals.

2002, by contrast, saw another huge vote surge: up to 89 million, 5.8 million more than in 1998. The issue was the war on terror – and perceived Democratic weakness in the face of AmericaÕs Muslim extremist enemies. The result: Republican gains.

This time, though, the big issues of the day do not excite Republican voters: They demoralize them. Overspending by the Bush administration and congressional Republicans now threatens the tax cuts of 2001 and 2002: the administrationÕs one great conservative legislative achievement. Those tax cuts are scheduled to expire in 2010, and few expect them to survive intact even if the Republicans do hold Congress.

And if that were not enough to offend the GOP base, President Bush and the Republican Senate are pushing an immigration plan that amounts to an amnesty for illegal aliens – and a “guestworker” plan that would bring millions more low-wage workers into the country more or less permanently. Republican voters overwhelmingly prefer to emphasize enforcement of the immigration laws – but their wishes have been disregarded. Immigration splits the Republican party: It divides Republican voters from Republican donors. The party leadership has chosen to heed the wishes of the donors – and so nobody should be too surprised if the voters in their turn choose to stay home.

Maybe The Mullahs Don’t Want War

David Frum April 18th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Suppose, reader, that you were a mad Iranian mullah determined to obtain nuclear weapons at the earliest opportunity. Would you brag and boast and taunt the West–before you had actually finished your work? Or would you keep very still and quiet, denying everything until you had the bomb safely in your clutches?

The choice seems obvious, right? And yet the Iranian mullahs consistently choose option one–with all the risk of provoking an air war against a nuclear program they must certainly greatly value.

Last week, Iran announced that it had successfully enriched uranium and “joined the nuclear club.” A senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claimed to have trained 40,000 suicide bombers and aimed them at 29 Western targets. On Sunday, Iran announced a US$50-million gift to Hamas–only hours before a Palestinian suicide bomber struck in Tel Aviv.

What on earth can the Iranians be thinking?

One possibility is that they are so confident in their own defenses that they think they can defeat or deter an American strike against their nuclear facilities.

The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, a think-tank that follows Iranian issues closely, last week reported that Iran’s uranium-enrichment facility at Nantanz has been hardened with new layers of earth and concrete: The facilities are now 26 feet underground.

Other facilities have been distributed across the country, and nobody feels confident that U.S. intelligence has located all or even most of them. So maybe the Iranians think their nuclear program can survive anything the Americans throw at them.

If so, that’s quite a gamble they are taking.

Which leads to a second possibility: The Iranians believe that American willpower has been so weakened by Iraq that the United States will not dare to attack them.

Certainly, the Iranians have often professed to believe this. In August 2005, newly elected Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent the Iranian parliament a policy document that declared Iran a “sunrise” power and America a “sunset” power “in its last throes.”

U.S. opponents of a strike against Iran warn that Iran can retaliate against U.S. forces in Iraq–that’s the main reason that James Fallows, a journalist who often reflects Democratic party foreign-policy thinking, argues in the current Atlantic that “Realism about Iran starts with throwing out any plans to bomb.”

But however busy the U.S. Army may be in Iraq, the U.S. Strategic Air Command has plenty of under-employed B-1 and B-2 bombers back in North America. And if Iran can retaliate against the United States, the United States can counter-retaliate against Iran. In Sunday’s New York Times, former Clinton officials Richard Clarke and Steve Simon observed that the key to war-gaming a problem like Iran is to figure out which side possesses “escalation dominance”–or in plain English, who can ultimately hit whom harder. Can even the mullahs doubt that the U.S. holds this dominance?

And even if mullahs do fantasize that they are a rising power and that America is declining, would they not then be wiser to stage their confrontation 10, 20 or 30 years from now? Why today, when America still looks strong and is led by a president the Iranians regard as eager for a fight?

Which leaves this third possibility: Maybe the mullahs do not want war–but they do want this confrontation.

Look at what the Iranians are getting from this crisis: $70 oil; the attention of the world; and an ever more lavish buffet of inducements and bribes from the EU-3 negotiating team. This week, it is said, the EU-3–the U.K., France and Germany–are offering security guarantees to Iran; that is, promises to protect the Iranian mullahs against the enemies they have made (including Israel?) and even potentially against their own people.

You can understand why the Iranians would look at today’s mess and say: “Works for us.”

If there is to be any hope of avoiding a U.S.-Iranian war, the U.S. and its friends have to act now to stop the confrontation from working for the mullahs–and start making it work against them.

That would begin with recognizing that the Iranians do fear the United States and do fear war–and that the more credible the threat of an American strike is, the better the hopes for a negotiated end. Which in turn means that America’s friends must applaud, not criticize, when the Americans take a tough line–when, for example, they position their forces in a more menacing way, or test “bunker-busting” bombs, or fund anti-regime Iranian groups.

There are nervous days ahead, and the winner will be the side better able to keep its nerve. And if anyone finds this confrontation too scary, please keep in mind: The confrontations will only get scarier after the Iranians go nuclear.

The Truth About The Un

David Frum April 11th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

“How corrupt is the UN?” That’s the question asked by Claudia Rossett in the current issue of Commentary magazine. If any reporter on earth can offer a definitive answer, it is Rossett. A former editor at the Wall Street Journal, Rossett has led the investigation of the oil-for-food scandals–and the broader issue of corruption at the United Nations.

The UN is a large and poorly understood institution. Although it declares a formal “core” budget of only US$1.9-billion per year, the UN and the various quasi-autonomous agencies under the direct control of the Secretary-General spend between US$8- and US$9-billion per year, or about the size of the Canadian defense budget. Semi-autonomous UN agencies like UNICEF and the UN Development Program spent US$8- to US$10-billion more, for a total of about US$18-billion.

The UN directly employs some 40,000 people. Local field staffs employ thousands more, among them the 20,000 Palestinians on the payroll of UNRWA, the agency created to serve Palestinian refugees. (Another agency, the UN High Commission on Refugees, serves all the rest of the planet’s refugees.)

Rossett observes: “Little of this system is open to any real scrutiny even within the UN, and no single authority outside the UN has proved able to compel any genuine accounting.”

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein, however, has cast some unexpected light upon the UN.

In 1990, the UN Security Council had imposed sanctions upon Iraq. Those sanctions remained in place after the Gulf War left Saddam in power–and over time, they wrought great hardship upon the Iraqi people. In 1996, the Security Council created a humanitarian program, Oil for Food, that allowed Saddam to sell restricted quantities of oil to buy food and other necessities for the Iraqi people. The UN Secretary General accepted responsibility for overseeing and auditing the program to prevent abuse.

Over the next seven years, the Secretariat oversaw US$64-billion worth of transactions. The opening of the Iraqi archives after 2003 has revealed where this money went.

Between US$11-billion and US$17-billion was skimmed off by Saddam personally.

Money ostensibly spent for food was redirected to buy weapons. Thus, Saddam bought “milk” from a major Chinese weapons manufacturer. He purchased all of Iraq’s supplies of “detergent” from the following list of countries: Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. He claimed to have imported Japanese cars from Russia.

The UN rarely questioned any of these transactions. Although the UN collected some US$1.4-billion over the life of the program in handling fees, the Oil-for-Food program spent less auditing Saddam’s contracts than it did redecorating its own offices.

Why so uncurious? The head of the program received at least US$1.2-million in kickbacks from Saddam. Kofi Annan’s son was paid US$195,000 by an oil-for-food contractor. And, Rossett reports, the UN’s own inquiry into the scandal discovered that Canada’s “Maurice Strong, a long-time UN Undersecretary-General, accepted in 1997 a check bankrolled by Saddam in the amount of US$988,885. Strong (who has denied knowing where the money came from) was then serving as chief co-ordinator of UN reform, no less.”

Neither Annan nor the UN seem to feel much remorse over the Oil-for-Food scandal, or much urgency for reform. The disgraced head of the program continues to collect a UN pension.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated scandal, two senior UN officials–including the head of the UN budget oversight committee–have stepped down for allegedly accepting bribes in cases involving close to US$1-billion of procurement contracts. They were caught not by the UN, but by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Undeterred, UN officials continue to strike moral attitudes against the developed and democratic world. Remember how the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, blasted the U.S. as “stingy” after the December 2004 tsunami–and then demanded that all aid donations flow through the UN and only the UN?

After examining the UN’s customarily cryptic accounts, the Financial Times reported last year (as Rossett reminds us) that the organization ended up spending three times as much on overhead as private charities.

The UN could and should be a powerful force for good — a place where democratic countries can work together to speak out on behalf of the conscience of mankind. Canadians have believed in the UN with special intensity. Too often, however, Canadians have tried to support their idealistic beliefs by refusing to acknowledge the truth about the UN–by championing the UN-as-we-wish-it-were and not the UN as it actually is: corrupt, systematically biased against democracy, and often actively dangerous to world peace.

Those who still cherish the UN-as-we-wish-it-were need to stop making excuses for it–and start working to change it.