Archive for April 16th, 2010

“When Armageddon Lives Next Door” By Benny Morris

Friday, April 16th, 2010

I take it personally: Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants to murder me, my family and my people. Day in, day out, he announces the imminent demise of the “Zionist regime,” by which he means Israel. And day in, day out, his scientists and technicians are advancing toward the atomic weaponry that will enable him to bring this about.

The Jews of Europe (and Poles, Russians, Czechs, the French, etc.) should likewise have taken personally Adolf Hitler’s threats and his serial defiance of the international community from 1933 to 1939. But he was allowed, by the major powers and the League of Nations, to flex his muscles, rearm, remilitarize the Rhineland and then gobble up neighboring countries. Had he been stopped before the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II, the lives of many millions, Jews and Gentiles, would have been saved. But he wasn’t.

And it doesn’t look like Ahmadinejad will be either. Not by the United States and the international community, at any rate. President Obama, when not obsessing over the fate of the ever- aggrieved Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, proposes to halt Ahmadinejad’s nuclear program by means of international sanctions. But here’s the paradox: The wider Obama casts his net to mobilize as many of the world’s key players as he can, the weaker the sanctions and the more remote their implementation. China, it appears, will only agree to a U.N. Security Council resolution if the sanctions are diluted to the point of meaninglessness (and maybe not even then). The same appears to apply to the Russians. Meanwhile, Iran advances toward the bomb. Most of the world’s intelligence agencies believe that it is only one to three years away.

Perhaps Obama hopes to unilaterally implement far more biting American (and, perhaps, European) sanctions. But if China and Russia (and some European Union members) don’t play ball, the sanctions will remain ineffective. And Iran will continue on its deadly course.

At the end of 2007, the U.S. intelligence community, driven by wishful thinking, expediency and incompetence, announced that the Iranians had in 2003 halted the weaponization part of their nuclear program. Last week, Obama explicitly contradicted that assessment. At least the American administration now publicly acknowledges where it is the Iranians are headed, while not yet acknowledging what it is they are after — primarily Israel’s destruction.

Granted, Obama has indeed tried to mobilize the international community for sanctions. But it has been a hopeless task, given the selfishness and shortsightedness of governments and peoples. Sanctions were supposed to kick in in autumn 2009; then it was December; now it is sometime late this year. Obama is still pushing the rock up the hill — and Ahmadinejad, understandably, has taken to publicly scoffing at the West and its “sanctions.”

He does this because he knows that sanctions, if they are ever passed, are likely to be toothless, and because the American military option has been removed from the table. Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates — driven by a military that feels overstretched in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and a public that has no stomach for more war — have made this last point crystal clear.

But at the same time, Obama insists that Israel may not launch a preemptive military strike of its own. Give sanctions a chance, he says. (Last year he argued that diplomacy and “engagement” with Tehran should be given a chance. Tehran wasn’t impressed then and isn’t impressed now.) The problem is that even if severe sanctions are imposed, they likely won’t have time to have serious effect before Iran succeeds at making a bomb.

Obama is, no doubt, well aware of this asymmetric timetable. Which makes his prohibition against an Israeli preemptive strike all the more immoral. He knows that any sanctions he manages to orchestrate will not stop the Iranians. (Indeed, Ahmadinejad last week said sanctions would only fortify Iran’s resolve and consolidate its technological prowess.) Obama is effectively denying Israel the right to self-defense when it is not his, or America’s, life that is on the line.

Perhaps Obama has privately resigned himself to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and believes, or hopes, that deterrence will prevent Tehran from unleashing its nuclear arsenal. But what if deterrence won’t do the trick? What if the mullahs, believing they are carrying out Allah’s will and enjoy divine protection, are undeterred?

The American veto may ultimately consign millions of Israelis, including me and my family, to a premature death and Israel to politicide. It would then be comparable to Britain and France’s veto in the fall of 1938 of the Czechs defending their territorial integrity against their rapacious Nazi neighbors. Within six months, Czechoslovakia was gobbled up by Germany.

But will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follow in Czech President Edvard Benes’ footsteps? Will he allow an American veto to override Israel’s existential interests? And can Israel go it alone, without an American green (or even yellow) light, without American political cover and overflight permissions and additional American equipment? Much depends on what the Israeli military and intelligence chiefs believe their forces — air force, navy, commandos — can achieve. Full destruction of the Iranian nuclear project? A long-term delay? And on how they view Israel’s ability (with or without U.S. support) to weather the reaction from Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria.

An Israeli attack might harm U.S. interests and disrupt international oil supplies (though I doubt it would cause direct attacks on U.S. installations, troops or vessels). But, from the Israeli perspective, these are necessarily marginal considerations when compared with the mortal hurt Israel and Israelis would suffer from an Iranian nuclear attack. Netanyahu’s calculations will, in the end, be governed by his perception of Israel’s existential imperatives. And the clock is ticking.

Benny Morris is the author of many books about the Middle East conflict, including, most recently, “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War.”

Original Link.

Judge: National Day Of Prayer Unconstitutional

Friday, April 16th, 2010

An activist judge has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. We are one step closer to becoming a Godless nation.

The National Day of Prayer, honored in the United States for more than a half-century, is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled.

In a 66-page opinion issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said the holiday violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, which creates a separation of church and state.

“I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray,” Crabb said in her opinion. “That is unfortunate. A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination.”

The opinion comes in a case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of self-described “atheists” and “agnostics.”

Crabb said her ruling is based on “relevant case law,” and it does not prevent religious groups from organizing prayer services or prevent the President from discussing his views on prayer.

“The only issue decided in this case is that the federal government may not endorse prayer in a statute,” Crabb said.

The Justice Department would not say whether it expects to appeal Crabb’s ruling.

“We are reviewing the court’s decision,” a Justice Department spokesman said.

Within hours of the ruling, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee urged the Justice Department to “immediately” file an appeal.

“The decision undermines the values of religious freedom that America was founded upon,” Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., said in a statement. “What’s next? Declaring the federal holiday for Christmas unconstitutional?”

Crabb said the ruling would not have any effect until any appeals are exhausted.

She insisted her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer.

“No one can doubt the important role that prayer plays in the spiritual life of a believer,” Crabb said in her opinion. “In the best of times, people may pray as a way of expressing joy and thanks; during times of grief, many find that prayer provides comfort. Others may pray to give praise, seek forgiveness, ask for guidance or find the truth. … However, recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.”

The National Day of Prayer was first established by Congress in 1952, with a more specific date for the holiday set in 1988. It is now observed on the first Thursday in May.

Smith said he can “assure” Americans that “Congress will do everything in its power to protect the National Day of Prayer.”

On the holiday last year, President Obama issued a statement saying Americans have always “come together in moments of great challenge and uncertainty to humble themselves in prayer.”

“In 1775, as the Continental Congress began the task of forging a new Nation, colonists were asked to observe a day of quiet humiliation and prayer,” the statement said. “Almost a century later, as the flames of the Civil War burned from north to south, President Lincoln and the Congress once again asked the American people to pray as the fate of their Nation hung in the balance.”

Original Link.