- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

EYES WIDE SHUT

“On Christmas Day, an Islamist fanatic tried to blow up an airplane whose passengers were mostly Christians. And we helped,” New York Post columnist Ralph Peters writes.

“Our government gets no thanks for preventing a tragedy. Only the bomber’s ineptitude preserved the lives of nearly 300 innocents,” Mr. Peters said.


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“How did we help Umar [Farouk] Abdulmutallab, a wealthy Muslim university graduate who decided that Allah wanted him to slaughter Christians on their most joyous holiday?

“By continuing to lie to ourselves. Although willing - at last - to briefly use the word ‘terror’ [Monday], President Obama still refused to make a connection between the action, the date and Islam.



“Was it just a ticketing accident that led to a bombing attempt on Christmas? Was it all about blackout dates and frequent-flyer miles?

“It wasn’t. You know it. And I know it. But our government refuses to know it. Despite vast databases crammed with evidence, our leaders - of both parties - still refuse to connect Islamist terrorism with Islam.

“Our insistence that ‘Islam’s a religion of peace’ would have been cold comfort to the family members of those passengers had the bomb detonated as planned.

“Abdulmutallab’s own father warned our diplomats that his son had been infected by Islamist extremism. Our diplomats did nothing. Why? Because (despite a series of embassy bombings), the State Department dreads linking terrorism to Islam.

“Contrast our political correctness with Abdulmutallab’s choice of Christmas for his intended massacre. Our troops stand down on Muslim holidays. A captive terrorist merely has to claim that a soldier dog-eared a Koran, and it’s courts-martial all around.”

WHERE’S OBAMA?

Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn says President Obama is making a big mistake by playing down human rights.

“Here’s a timely New Year’s resolution the president might do well to deliver to his National Security Council: ‘When it comes to nasty regimes that brutalize their people, we will never again forget that the most powerful weapon in a president’s arsenal is a White House photo-op.’

“The December headlines remind us that we have no shortage of these nasty regimes,” Mr. McGurn said. “In China, the government sentences Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for writing a letter calling for legal and political reforms. In Iran, security forces fire on citizens marching in the streets. In Cuba, pro-government goons intimidate a group of wives, mothers and sisters of jailed dissidents - with President Raul Castro characterizing these bullies as ‘people willing to protect, at any price, the conquests of the revolution.’

“In all these cases, the cry goes up: Where is the president of the United States?

“For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. With every statement not backed up by action, with every refusal to meet a leader such as the Dalai Lama, with every handshake for a Chavez, Mr. Obama is defining himself to foreign leaders who are sizing him up and have only one question in mind: How much can we get away with?”

STATE OF ERROR

“The mishandling of the would-be airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s visa is only the latest piece of evidence that the granting of visas should be taken away from the State Department. Doing so would improve our national security - and actually help the State Department itself,” Elliott Abrams writes at NationalReview.com.

“The granting of visas has little to do with State’s main function, which is to manage relations with foreign governments. …

“Granting visas is a function that most people at State relegate to the margins of their activities. State’s mandarins - foreign-service officers or ‘FSOs’ - look down at the consular officials who handle visas,” said Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations who served as the deputy national security adviser handling Middle Eastern affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

“This is considered a third-rate assignment, something young FSOs have to suffer through for a few years at the very start of their careers. It is less a training assignment than a form of hazing. They then escape into ‘real’ State Department work - diplomatic activity, conducted in the regional bureaus of the Department and in our embassies abroad.

“Relieving State of the need to manage the visa process would remove from it a task for which it has no enthusiasm - and for which its top officials have no expertise.

“For the granting of visas - especially today, when terrorism is such a complex threat - is far closer to being a law-enforcement function. The obvious place for this task is the Department of Homeland Security, which houses customs and immigration enforcement already, and which sees protecting the country from terrorism as its central focus.”

IN TROUBLE

“Don’t be fooled by the year-end reprieve of President Obama because the economy looks a bit brighter and the Senate passed a health bill,” Leslie H. Gelb writes at TheDailyBeast.com.

“He’s been pummeled hard all along the political spectrum. He’s in trouble. If he doesn’t overhaul himself and his administration quickly, right-wing bizarros will control Congress in 2011 and he’ll be looking for another job in 2013. He’ll end up a one-termer like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush,” Mr. Gelb said.

“Obama can’t afford to wait to make a midcourse correction a year from now. He’s got to make a quarter-course correction in the next months. He needs to prioritize and focus his energies on the economy, teach his opponents to fear him, and change some top personnel. Above all, he’s got to modify his own ways. He puts far too much store on being the smartest guy in the room and not enough on experience. He’d do well to remember that Jimmy Carter also rang all the IQ bells.”

c c Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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