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June 19, 2008

Obama: Not Naive, Merely Clueless

Sometimes, the comedy just writes itself:

An advisor, Daniel Kurtzer, to Barack Obama says that Obama didn’t realize what he was saying to AIPAC when he used the term ”undivided” in reference to Jerusalem. According to Kurtzer, Obama had “a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones.” Kurtzer says that only after the speech did Obama realize it was a “code word” to use the phrase, “but it does not indicate any kind of naivete about foreign affairs.”

Merde! Let us see if this mare's nest is any less incomprehensible when deconstructed from the original Phrench. Obama, a man who seeks to command the world's largest superpower:

- took a position more radical than that of any American president in recent decades
- without making sure he had "a current picture of Jerusalem"
- or realizing 'undivided' was a code word that carried a special meaning to his audience

But all of this is OK, because it turns out he didn't know what he was saying anyway.

Oh. And he's not naive about foreign policy.

But then who expects a world leader to keep himself informed on these matters? It's not as though trivialities like situational awareness or nuance play a significant role in international diplomacy: should one put a foot wrong, there is always the time-honored excuse, "Ah! But you who fail to understand. My boss didn't know what he was talking about."

So credibility enhancing, that line. We shall have to keep it in mind for future use.

Code words. They seem to be everywhere, these days. Who knew, for example, that "arrest" was a code word?

It must be. Either that, or Obama (who, as he likes to remind us is not just a lawyer but a professor of Constitutional law) had a different picture in his mind of what the terms "arrest" and "in prison" mean when he said this:

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

Oh, really?

...where is the 1993 World Trade Center bomb-builder? Is he in a U.S prison, as Obama claims? Not even close.

Abdul Rahman Yasin conducted the first attempted chemical weapons attack on U.S. soil by terrorists with the 1993 World Trade Center bomb. The bomb that detonated in the WTC garage in 1993 was built by Yasin to create smoke filled with sodium cyanide, which he hoped would rise through elevator shafts, ventilation ducts, and stairwells to suffocate 50,000 people.

Yasin fled the United States after the bombing to Iraq, and lived as Saddam Hussein's guest in Baghdad until the invasion. He is still free, and wanted by the FBI.

Interestingly enough for Obama's "case", it turns out that he is partially correct.

Some of the 1993 co-conspirators were eventually convicted and jailed, though in the case of Ramzi Yousef, not before he had committed other acts of terrorism. But the bomb maker - an Iraqi - and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Ali Fadden, who financed and advised Yousef and went on to mastermind 9/11, escaped justice. And a closer look at the details of at least one of the "arrests" is chilling, especially in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision to grant constitutional rights to foreign detainees in the war on terror.

One of the 1993 co-conspirators - Ahmed Ajaj - was actually in U.S. custody at the time of the '93 WTC attack. Despite this, (and owing to the liberal "rights" afforded to prisoners in the American justice system) he was able not only to maintain contact with, but to actively participate in plans for the upcoming attack on the World Trade Center:

Incarcerated from September 2, 1992, Ajaj remained in contact with Yousef and other co-conspirators and continued to be involved in the World Trade Center bombing plot. Ajaj never contacted Yousef directly. Calls were patched through "Big 5 Hamburgers" in Dallas, rendering law enforcement detection more difficult. The calls were not translated until long after the WTC bombing. (LATimes 11/14/2001)

Beginning on December 4, 1992 (and later on December 29, 1992) Yousef placed a series of calls to Ajaj's lawyer in New York and to Ajaj's friend in Texas. Later that same day, a call from Ajaj was transferred to Yousef, permitting the two to speak directly. In the conversation, Ajaj immediately brought up the terrorist kit informing Yousef that the Court had ordered the Government to return Ajaj's belongings. When Yousef asked if he could take possession of Ajaj's things, Ajaj readily agreed at first, but then said that it was not a good idea for Yousef personally to obtain the materials from the Government because it might jeopardize Yousef's "business," which, Ajaj said, would be "a pity!"

Ajaj was released from prison March 1, 1993 - three days after after WTC bombing. He was rearrested in connection with the attack March 9, 1993, and his asylum request was denied on April 24, 1993. In jail at the time of the WTC bombing, Ajaj was convicted of having played a role "in the early stages of the conspiracy" and convicted of 9 counts, sentenced to 115 years, fined $250,000, and ordered to pay $250 million dollars in restitution. (Terrorism Knowledge Base)

Ajaj did not give up on his political asylum claim. He petitioned for a new attorney and an exclusion hearing - held to determine whether someone is admissible in the U.S. - in Houston, where he had filed his original political asylum claim. Ajaj's request was denied April 24, 1993, on grounds that a passport holder from a visa waiver country who uses a fraudulent passport (Ajaj had used a bogus Swedish passport) is not entitled to such a hearing. Not satisfied with that outcome Ajaj asked to file a new political asylum claim and was given ten days by an immigration judge to do so. Thus, Ajaj was able to file a political asylum claim after his arrest for involvement in the WTC bombing.

In the late 1990s Ajaj was diagnosed with lung cancer. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons moved him to a medical facility, where he had surgery to remove the cancerous lung and received radiation treatment. He has filed scores of grievances and several lawsuits against the U.S. prison system, alleging everything from interference with his mail to denial of access to lawyers, and violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. (Abbott, Rocky Mountain News 3/26/2005)

Ajaj was the only remaining plaintiff in a lawsuit by federal prisoners alleging harm from secondhand smoke seeping through the air filtration system at SuperMax.

So tricky, this law business. But in any event, it is good of Senator Obama to remind us of the good old days of the Clinton administration, when terrorist attacks were dealt with by legal and humane means: firmly but effectively through the existing criminal justice system.

*cough*

Alternatively, it is possible that, as happened earlier this year with the Kennedy/Khruschev talks, the history of U.S. presidents negotiating with despots, or our military options regarding Pakistan, Obama simply had no idea what he was talking about.

There does seem to be a definite pattern of extreme cluelessness followed by denial. But I suppose if it's change the country wants....

Posted by Cassandra at June 19, 2008 06:32 AM

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Comments

Obama had “a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones.”

Huh. Who'd a-thunk Barry H. Obama II would have such a grasp of world events at the tender age of five. Or that Djakarta TV had such extensive coverage of the Middle East back then...

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2008 09:15 AM

Apparently he had about the same grasp of the efficacy of lawfare.

After all, "those who were responsible" for the 1993 WTC were "arrested" and "incapacitated"...

...all except for the guy who went on to spearhead the 9/11 WTC attack

Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Come to think of it, that Ajaj dude sure seems "incapacitated" too:

Ajaj's request was denied April 24, 1993, on grounds that a passport holder from a visa waiver country who uses a fraudulent passport (Ajaj had used a bogus Swedish passport) is not entitled to such a hearing. Not satisfied with that outcome Ajaj asked to file a new political asylum claim and was given ten days by an immigration judge to do so. Thus, Ajaj was able to file a political asylum claim after his arrest for involvement in the WTC bombing.

...He has filed scores of grievances and several lawsuits against the U.S. prison system, alleging everything from interference with his mail to denial of access to lawyers, and violations of his Eighth Amendment rights.

As they said in the movie "Gettysburg",

"We want our rahts".

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2008 09:30 AM

But but but they're just words, according to Obama...words that mean things!

Posted by: Cricket at June 19, 2008 09:36 AM

Oh come now... All we need is a nice cup of tea and a good story to properly align our efforts on the GWoT and to provide the necessary perspective to make it so.

I feel so much better now... Not to mention being relieved of the burden of hoping and changing, and hoping anew.

Spare change brothers and sisters?

Posted by: bthun at June 19, 2008 10:13 AM

I suppose there is some benefit to this neverending election cycle after all.

A year ago I thought of Obama as a decent person who I disagreed with. Now, I've come to the conclusion that he is the least qualified and least aware major party candidate of my lifetime. Even Carter had more going for him.

Obama seems to have little understanding of the country he wants to lead. He seems to know little of our history or our people.

It would be interesting if someone put together a list of Obama gaffes and attached Bush's name to them. Many people would think it was proof of W's stpidity.

Posted by: Schnauzer at June 19, 2008 10:13 AM

And Schnauzer hits the nail on the head. My first impressions of Obama were that he was a glib, smooth talking Lib politician. Fine. Now, I honestly believe he's the worst possible candidate for President at the worst possible time (well, short of 2004). John McCain, though I disgree with many of his policies, is FAR superior as a Presidential candidate than Barack Obama. He's not my first, nor even my second choice for the Republican nomination (he was like 3rd or 4th), but even so, I'll take him over the Illinois Senator any day.

Posted by: MikeD at June 19, 2008 10:56 AM

Not just W's stpidity, but his overall lack of strategery. :D

Obama seems pretty smart when he hangs with his set of people, who are of like mind. But get him out of his comfort zone, and......

I really don't see him losing, unless he really screws up on something (Rezko, anybody seen Tony?) and part of the MSM turns on him. That would bevery unlikely, in any event, as they are already heavily invested in him. If you don't watch the network news in the evenings (and I certainly don't with any regularity), you are probably not aware how the MSM has prepared the ground for Obama, and how unwilling they are to, in anyway, objectively analyze him. He is the penance they are paying to their idealogical idylls for not fighting harder against the Iraq war; the best example is Matthews on MS-DNC.

He is, of course, the person we have all been waiting for. Like waiting for Godot.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 19, 2008 11:46 PM

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