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November 23, 2009

Amateur Hour in the Oval Office Continues....

And the hits just keep on comin':

In Tokyo, the new center-left government even pulled out of its participation in a mission which saw the Japanese navy refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean as part of the Afghanistan campaign. In Beijing, Obama failed to achieve any important concessions whatsoever. There will be no binding commitments from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A revaluation of the Chinese currency, which is kept artificially weak, has been postponed. Sanctions against Iran? Not a chance. Nuclear disarmament? Not an issue for the Chinese.

The White House did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China. The president, who had said only a few days earlier that freedom of expression is a universal right, was coerced into attending a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at which questions were forbidden. Former US President George W. Bush had always managed to avoid such press conferences.

But do not be alarmed. If this bizarre story can be believed, Obama's prodigious efforts to "restore America's moral legitimacy" in the eyes of the world continue apace:

It comes to our attention that the MEMRI Blog highlights an article from the Saudi _al-Watan_ in Arabic that - according to an Afghan source - the United States is talking to the Taliban seeking to trade control of 5 provinces in exchange for the cessation of attacks on US bases.

A number of things make me suspicious of this story. Not the least of them is the fact that previous leaks haven't, for the most part, proven accurate or reliable. But though I agree about the need for skepticism, it's disturbing that this story is seen as even marginally plausible. Can you imagine the reaction if George Bush were still in office? Would any sane person give a story like this the time of day?

Sadly, Obama's hands off (to put it mildly) leadership style and ineffectual waffling inspire confidence in neither his grasp of the situation nor his resolve:

The story defies logic and belief, but unfortunately if the US State Department (or the White House) hasn't responded clearly and forcefully to unequivocally deny the allegations yet, now would be a good time to do that, too. The current administration has elected to conduct its Afghanistan business via leaks and rumors. Presidential decrees that they're "not appropriate" are correct - but insufficient. Among other complications the practice lends credence to stories like this one. Because of that, regardless of source, and no matter how foolish or self-destructive a rumored course of action might appear, the sliver of doubt that it's a complete fabrication exists.

And in this case that "sliver" can grow to damaging size; the interpretation of described events as "whispers of surrender" unfortunately doesn't seem at all far-fetched, and that thought has probably crossed the minds of allies and potential allies alike.

Bingo. It's worth considering that the man we're supposedly negotiating with was disowned by the Taleban in 2003:

The current government of President Hamid Karzai says it is considering whether to hold talks with Mr Mutawakil, the most senior Taleban to have been held in US custody.

...A spokesman for Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the BBC Pashto service on Tuesday that Mr Mutawakil "does not represent our will".

He said the Taleban's struggle would continue.

Mr Mutawakil has been traditionally seen as a moderate member of the Taleban which has been increasingly active in south-east Afghanistan in recent months.

This guy surrendered to US forces. There are even rumors that he sought asylum outside Afghanistan. He's widely viewed as a moderate. So what reasonable basis is there for believing the hard line Taliban (you know... the ones we're worried about) would trust a man like this to represent them, much less bind them to an agreement? Especially when there's little incentive at present for them to make concessions?

US and some Pakistani officials, however, are skeptical, arguing that the Taliban have little incentive to negotiate when their strength and sway in Afghanistan is growing and public and international support for the US-led war in Afghanistan is waning.

Najmuddin Shaikh, formerly the top bureaucrat in the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, said the Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table if they saw a greater American military commitment and more investments in the Afghan countryside.

"It's a little premature for talks [with the Taliban]," Shaikh said. "There has to be a change in the ground situation, things happening in the next six to eight months that shows the 'ink spots' strategy – [McChrystal's idea of protecting Afghan population centers] – is taking hold, that some foot soldiers are being weaned away, then talks become possible."

Translation: unless and until we begin to make progress, we have little leverage over the Taliban. That said, let's not forget who were talking about. We're talking about making deals with - trusting - people like this:

These photos show what happens to real women who wear the Islamic Veil. The photos depict horrifying hate and the unbearable suffering it inflicts upon female innocents. The photos were taken by Emilio Morenatti of the Associated Press. The text is based on work done by Nicholas Kristof—one of the few people at the New York Times whose work I am proud to quote. You may find them HERE. (Thanks to Yehuda for calling this to my attention).

What are we seeing?

The Arabization or the Saudi-ization of Muslims in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan is the hidden hand behind these acid attacks upon women. These poor girls and women have had their lives ruined; some have been forced to undergo surgery 20-30 times in order that they may see a little, or breathe a bit, hear something, perhaps in order to eat or make themselves understood. They look like…monsters. That was what their attackers wanted to accomplish. To render their faces into self-portraits of their attackers.

Why was acid thrown into their faces? The main reasons are because they dared to reject someone in marriage or because they wanted a divorce. The “jilted” suitors (or husbands) took their revenge in this fashion. If he can’t have her, no man will; I will make sure that no man will ever want her.” One young girl was gang-raped aftger which her rapists threw acid on her face. Another committed the “crime” of disappointing her father by being born female, not male. Many were disfigured as a result of a “family dispute.”

Thus, the punishment for being born female, for exercising any will of one’s own is, Saudi-style, the most horrible punishment. The men tried to make the women loathsome to humanity, to sentence them to painful surgeries, self-hatred, perhaps to lives lived in isolation.

Make no mistake. This tendency to disfigure women–even those who wear the Islamic Veil–is real. And, it might be coming our way if we do not stop the Wahhabi and Salafi influence which is funding our universities in North America as well as the Islamic religious schools.

For once, I will leave aside the question of what must be done and allow the photos to speak to you.

It's your choice, Mr. President. But if you can look into those eyes and abandon these women to the rule of monsters, then honor is dead.

Whether or not you like the choices you've been afforded, you campaigned on the premise that Afghanistan was a war we couldn't afford to lose. You promised to resource it adequately. Nothing has happened to change the basic realities on the ground. You knew in March that Karzai was considered likely to win the election, so the notion that all of a sudden, we can't work with his "illegitimate" government is laughable.

You knew the deal back in March when you announced your carefully considered and comprehensive strategy. If you failed to do your homework with regard to the cost, the troop numbers, or whether you could work with Karzai, then shame on you. Because those questions were all on the table back then and it was your job to consider them and make a decision.

I and thousands of military families expected you to do your job back in March.

We're still waiting. 815 American service men and women have died in Afghanistan. They didn't fight and die so you could turn Jim Mattis' motto on its face; so that potential allies would look at America and think, "No Worse Friend, No Better Enemy". To the extent that others fear us, they should fear our wrath - not a stab in the back from a nation they thought was an ally.

I wish I could say your record inspires me with confidence.

I wish I could say I wasn't filled with foreboding. That neither our allies nor our enemies have the slightest idea where you stand on winning this war speaks volumes. All we know for certain is that you're looking for a way out and that doesn't smell like victory to this Marine wife.

Update: Glenn Reynolds, commenting on one of the stories linked above, comments:

If only he were as tough on America’s enemies as he is on Fox News.

John Hinderaker comments: “President Obama took office wanting to distinguish himself from President Bush. . . . Now, as Der Spiegel concludes, he is trying desperately to distinguish himself from Jimmy Carter.” I don’t think he’s trying all that hard . . . .

Both comments got me thinking: no one had any idea who Barack Obama was during the campaign and ten months into his first term, he's still a cipher. How many Presidents has he been compared to? Lincoln, JFK, FDR, Nixon, Carter, Bush. It seems to me that people keep searching for someone to compare him to because there's nothing to him.

We have no idea what he stands for. And so the only way we can make sense of his Presidency is by clothing him in the garb of past Presidents to see if we can find a "fit".

Some leadership. We don't even know who we're supposed to be following.

Update II: Via LMA, the Prez is going into a huddle!!!

The upside to all of this is when the press run out of former Presidents to compare 'Bam to, they'll have the NFL queued up.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Posted by Cassandra at November 23, 2009 05:36 PM

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As someone who is on the way out the door to the litterbox, I wish our nominal commander in chief would defecate or remove himself from the porcelein throne.

We are doing all kinds of planning, but no one knows what to plan for. Victory? Not with this guy. Withdrawl? Maybe, but how? Slow and controlled, or run like hell? Maybe he can kiss enough AQ bootie and get his political win, since it appears as though the negotiation is all he knows.

Long ago I was told you can negotiate with a reasonable person, but if they are not reasonable and mean you harm, then it is your job to stop them before they do more harm.

So here we are....the Ditherer in Chief is playing golf and working on a science fair. Maybe he can outdo a 6th grader - after all, he is the smartest man we have ever had as Pee-resident. As Pancho Barnes famously said (edited to keep from getting a schoolmarmly language admonition):

"you need to do your frakkin' job, pudknocker."

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at November 23, 2009 08:08 PM

It's become standard practice for the Obummy administration to lie, and I'm sure whatever they're claiming about negotiations, are merely an attempt at the appearance of busy work. Nor do I believe the claims that they made, ie... "we won't be able to get health care reform passed til next year", et al.. they use such claims as props to distract us. We need an independent prosecutor with the force of law to investigate and expose the Obummy criminal enterprise.

Posted by: Jenny at November 23, 2009 08:21 PM

Cutting deals with the Taliban...

A few years ago, Ralph Peters wrote:

"One of the most consistently disheartening experiences an adult can have today is to listen to the endless attempts by our intellectuals and intelligence professionals to explain religious terrorism in clinical terms, assigning rational motives to men who have moved irrevocably beyond reason."

And in 1940, Paul Reynaud--who became Prime Minister of France just prior to the German onslaught--said:

"People think Hitler is like Kaiser Wilhelm. The old gentleman only wanted to take Alsace-Lorraine from us. But Hitler is Genghis Khan."

Posted by: david foster at November 23, 2009 08:31 PM

"Update II: Via LMA, the Prez is going into a huddle!!!"

Obama is like a quarterback who spends all his time on the field "huddling," but who only gets around to making his big play...AFTER THE GAME IS OVER.

His Majesty is truly our first "European President": all process, no action.

Sarah Palin is going to crush this fool in 2012.

Posted by: MarkJ at November 23, 2009 09:24 PM

Regardless of the upbeat chirping from the administration's flaks, the only thing ObamaTour '09 did was convince Asia that Obie is not only gonnna *not* rock their boat, he's not even gonna move from his stateroom in the bilge locker...

bthun will get the implications of that one.

Posted by: BillT at November 23, 2009 11:36 PM

The story defies logic and belief, but unfortunately if the US State Department (or the White House) hasn't responded clearly and forcefully to unequivocally deny the allegations yet, now would be a good time to do that, too.

They were sure quick enough to deny the rumor that Obie intended to grant FOX an interview during his stay in China.

Posted by: BillT at November 23, 2009 11:46 PM

My Tourette's is back with a vengeance and since this is Cass' living room, I'll refrain from commenting other than to say that I'll be over at the bar...

Posted by: Carrie at November 24, 2009 07:28 AM

This President is more bumbling then a Georgia Peanut Farmer, and quite possibly the most inept individual to ever hold office.

Posted by: Nate at November 24, 2009 08:41 AM

I can't help but wonder if all this is happening because word got out that the March strategy was the strategy that the Bush team left him. Surely a President of the United States wouldn't be that petty... would he... ?

Posted by: Cousin Dave at November 24, 2009 08:57 AM

Heartbreaking doesn't even BEGIN to touch on this. Mr. President, where is your "human rights are universal" now? We're in a position to DO something about this horror, and you're looking for the most expedient way to give that up. With all due respect, sir, you're not worth a cup of warm spit, much less the title "man", if you're willing to let these women, and hundreds of thousands like them, suffer like this when we can actually do something to prevent this. Let our troops do their job!

Posted by: MikeD at November 24, 2009 10:10 AM

As I watch BO (Mouth in Chief), and reading your column, this keeps coming back to me:

You have to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything..

Posted by: brat at November 24, 2009 01:02 PM

Have to have a spine to stand.....which may go a long ways toward explaining the greeting methods of The Lord of the Lies. Well, that and what Michael Ramirez suggests.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 24, 2009 02:03 PM

I'm reminded of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four when I hear Barry talk. Remember how Orwell defines doublethink as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary.” That’s what I hear when Barry opens his mouth whether he's chatting about the failed "stimulus", or attempting (yet again) to define his Afghanistan "strategy", or that his take on history is important only within the context of his greatness. That he is president of this great country is a nightmare. There are consequences to elections, and then there's the law of unintended consequences. For us, for the women at the gates of hell in the middle east, and our men and women valiantly fighting and showing us what nobility and valor and honor really mean.

Stay the course, Cassandra, and thanks.

Posted by: Barbara at November 24, 2009 03:11 PM

Cassandra, I am truly humbled and grateful I live here, have the faith I do and the freedom to say what I think. I am even more humbled to have men and women protect me.

This got to me in so many ways; I have to just take it all in a little at a time.

Posted by: Cricket at November 29, 2009 09:00 PM