The inevitable outcome of the Greek financial crisis – soon to be followed by comparable events in Portugal, Spain and probably Italy – will be the collapse of the Euro and a sharp halt in the momentum for European integration.
Ultimately, there is only one nation in Europe that investors trust – Germany. And they will only support the Euro and treat the southern European nations (now called Club Med) as credit-worthy if Germany backs up the debt. The current $1 trillion fund is a palliative that will not satisfy the market once the larger obligations of Spain ($1.6 trillion) and Italy ($2 trillion) come into question.
Germany will have to buy the southern European debts and assume national responsibility for their repayment. But while her leaders may be willing to do it, I doubt that her voters will acquiesce. German nationalism – the force that dominated Europe for one hundred years – will not take kindly to paying the bills for their profligate neighbors to the south.
While conservatives are quick to blame the social welfare policies of Greece and the other Club Med nations for their deficits, the fact is that this increasing level of debt is what inevitably happens when a nation is not allowed to use monetary policy to counter economic downturns. With the German-dominated European Central Bank in charge of interest rates, Club Med nations did not have the zero interest option the Fed embraced in this country. So the only way out of recession was through fiscal policy which led to deficits that are out of control and a debt that cannot be repaid.
But unless Germany steps up and assumes responsibility for these debts – something its voters likely will not permit – the Euro is dead. Some have spoken about creating a two tier Euro, one backed by Germany and a softer currency that would not be. But this is merely a euphemism for the end of the single currency for the continent.
Ultimately, those who wanted to broaden the European Union will have trumped those who sought to deepen it and blocked the path to total political unity, at least on a continent-wide basis.
This does not mean that trade barriers will return to Europe and it does not preclude deeper ties among the well-behaved nations of northern Europe. But it does mean that the United States of Europe will not come to be.
Those who value freedom should heave a sigh of relief at this prospect.
He has already missed his own self-imposed deadline, and President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suffered more setbacks last week when lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol took steps to block him.
On Friday the full House voted 282-131 to prevent Mr. Obama from transferring any of the detainees being held at Guantanamo to the United States, while the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a bill Thursday stopping Mr. Obama from buying a new prison to house the detainees.
“We can’t stop every terrorist from coming to the United States but we can stop the ones that are coming from Guantanamo,” said Rep. Randy J. Forbes, the Virginia Republican who offered the amendment in the House that prohibits any detainee from being moved to the U.S.
Mr. Obama made closing the prison a key goal of his presidential campaign, and two days after taking office he signed an executive order halting trials by military commission and requiring the prison to be closed “no later than 1 year from the date of this order.”
The administration has said it cannot close the facility until there is a prison in the U.S. that can handle the detainees – and that requires congressional approval to purchase a prison.
The Justice Department has identified a prison in Illinois, known as the Thomson facility, that it wants to acquire and refurbish to handle detainees, who have have to be held under different conditions than regular prisoners.
A White House official said Friday they are still pursuing the process.
“Congress has requested further information from the administration before granting funds to transfer detainees to Thomson, and we will work to provide that information,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have a DOJ appropriations request to acquire Thomson for the purpose of housing federal prisoners there, and that request has not yet been voted on.”
The House and Senate votes came on versions of the annual defense policy bill.
The Senate version still must be voted on by the full Senate, and Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said he expects the ban on buying a prison to be re-fought on the Senate floor.
Mr. Levin, Michigan Democrat, told reporters the committee adopted its ban by voice vote. The committee’s debate on the defense policy bill was closed to the public.
The House, meanwhile, did not prevent purchase of a prison but did vote to ban the administration from retrofitting a building to make it suitable to house detainees – which amounts to a prohibition.
But in adopting Republicans’ amendment to prevent transfers, the House went a step further. All but one Republican supported the transfer ban, while Democrats were split: 114 voted for it, and 130 voted against it.
“There’s no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to fighting terrorism,” said Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who urged his colleagues to accept Republicans’ amendment.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a Senate committee last month that the administration has identified 48 detainees who will need to be held indefinitely, in addition to those whom the government wants to put on trial in regular courts or military commissions. He said the administration needs Congress to pass funding to acquire the Thomson prison before the detainees can be moved from Guantanamo Bay.
“We have to have an option, and that will require congressional support for the funding request we have made,” Mr. Holder said.
Republicans’ amendment also requires an inspector general to determine whether defense lawyers for suspected terrorists have passed names of key military and intelligence figures to those accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
This Memorial Day, there’s one gravesite I’ll make sure to visit. The only problem is, I don’t know where it’s located.
But I’m sure the object of my search is definitely dead. That would be the thing I call the Great American Backbone. Remember when this nation, and its leaders, had backbone?
That backbone must be dead. How else do you explain Mexican President Felipe Calderon swaggering into Washington D.C. earlier this month, proclaiming Arizona’s law requiring cops to question those legally stopped about their immigration status “discriminatory,” and getting a standing ovation from some members of Congress?
How else do you explain the silence from most members of Congress after Calderon urged them to pass another law banning assault weapons, as if he had the business to presume to tell us how to run our country?
Calderon is the one who can’t get a handle on drug gangs waging a veritable insurrection in his country. You’d have thought those Democrats who cheered him on would have mentioned that, but they were too busy groveling.
It was the most craven display since Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan chumped members of the National Association of Black Journalists – at their own convention. That one happened in 1996.
The NABJ had invited Farrakhan as the keynote speaker. He spent most of his speech dissing the journalists, talking about how their “failure” to go to bat for him when the “white media” criticized him. After he got through telling them how worthless they were, the journalists rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
I’m betting most of them were Democrats.
The nation’s leading Democrat, President Obama, was no better than those in Congress. After Calderon expressed his disapproval of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 during a press conference in the Rose Garden, Obama was quick to second the motion. Here’s what Obama should have said to Calderon:
“It’s inappropriate for you as a head of state to comment on our nation’s internal matters. Furthermore, Mr. Calderon, our nation liberalized its immigration laws considerably by passing the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.
“The result has been an influx of immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East that has transformed America into the most ethnically and racially diverse country in the world. Your country, on the other hand, has mostly Mexicans, and, compared to ours, a rather draconian immigration law.”
Yes, that’s what Obama should have told Calderon, and would have told him, if he had the backbone. But Americans who cast ballots in the presidential election of 2008 didn’t go for backbone. We went for change, hope and the audacity of hope. We had little use for backbone, and in Obama, we’ll never get it.
But my search for the gravesite of the Great American Backbone may be premature. Maybe it isn’t dead. Maybe it’s simply fled the Democratic Party and taken up residence in … Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
It was Cornyn who chided both Calderon and Obama for the Mexican president’s stepping out of line with his comments. It was Cornyn who mustered the backbone to tell Mr. “We Send Back Them” that if he wants to be part of America’s debate about illegal immigration, then he’s more than welcome to move to this country and apply for citizenship.
When Obama and the rest of the nation’s Democrats were getting seconds and thirds of wuss juice, Cornyn was in the line getting an extra dose of backbone. I hope he has enough to spread around to the Democrats.
Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and respect for those who have given their lives for the freedoms that bless this nation. Most Americans no longer visit memorials and cemeteries; our nation’s wars do not touch them except for quick sound bites on the news. Fewer still actually know a service member or understand the sacrifices they make with their service, the time away from home and family, the inherent risks and the real possibility that they will sacrifice their lives. Since September 11, 2001, 5,456 American service members have perished fighting terror in all its forms. They all have family and friends who mourn their loss. They are the human face of this long conflict, and they will not be the last — the fight goes on, as it must. They were the best of us, and they deserve to be honored by the nation they fought to preserve.
Senior Airman Bradley Smith was killed in southern Afghanistan supporting the 4th Infantry Division on January 3, 2010. His foot patrol was ambushed by the Taliban, who detonated a series of bombs as they entered the small village of Ashoque. Two soldiers were killed from the initial blasts, two severely wounded. Airman Smith and the unit medic moved forward to render aid to the wounded and recover the dead. As they reassembled, a second bomb detonated. Airman Smith was standing on it. In all, five members of the patrol perished, and six were badly wounded, including Airman Smith’s fellow Air Force member Senior Airman Michael Malarise, who was blinded by shrapnel and is still recovering from his injuries.
Senior Airman Michael Malarsie (left) & Senior Airman Bradley Smith (right):
Both Airmen were part of an elite group of Air Force warriors known as Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP). These remarkable airmen accompany forward Army units to coordinate air support to ground operations. Their training is rigorous and demanding. Their school at Hurlburt Field Florida has a high washout rate. Only the best get to wear the black beret with its distinctive crest. Airman Smith was one of the best, a battlefield airman, who always strived to excel, who always put in the extra effort, who earned the respect of all who knew him.
Brad was born on Sept 11, 1985. It was his birthday when hijacked airliners hit the Twin Trade Towers and the Pentagon. He was sixteen. He and his brother Brian both joined the Air Force. Most Americans spend their whole lives without doing a thing for their nation, but the Smiths had two sons volunteer to serve, to go into harms way, to do what has to be done. Their family has given us their most precious thing: the life of a son, their joy and their pride and their legacy. It is impossible to repay that sacrifice. It should make every American bow his head and say a prayer of thanksgiving that we have such families among us who raise our heroes and know such grief.
As much as Brad was a warrior, he was gentle — he fed the homeless and mentored young people at his church. He was loyal friend, a loving husband and proud new father, who called his wife Tiffany and their baby daughter Chloe Lynn every day, even from the war zone. Brad loved them with the same irrepressible energy with which he approached everything in his life.
At Brad’s funeral, after the service had ended but before the interment, a long line of young men in blue uniforms and black berets slowly walked past the graveside. Each one briefly stopped to murmur private words of thanks and pressed the crest from their beret into the wood of his casket. A hundred and fifty were pinned there when the line ended. Then, in unison, those men, his comrades and fellow TACP airmen, saluted — a final farewell to a fallen brother. On their chests were purple hearts and awards for bravery, symbols of sacrifice and a commitment to duty we can only imagine. They have faced our enemies for us in all the perilous places of the world. They have fought the depravity of his ideology to bring freedom to those who have never known it.
Remember Brad on this Memorial Day. Bow your head in thanks for the terrible sacrifice his family has made for us. Remember Tiffany and Chloe as they struggle to cope in a world without their beloved husband and father. Remember Senior Airman Michael Malarise, who suffers with grievous wounds still. Remember all who now serve, far from home, in harms way, to guard the freedoms we too often forget were bought for us with the blood of fine young men like Senior Airman Bradley Smith.
The brave men who fell on 3 January 2010 in southern Afghanistan:
SGT Joshua Allen Lengstorf
B Co., 1-12 IN
SPC Brian Robert Bowman
B Co., 1-12 IN
SPC Robert John Donevski
B Co., 2-12 IN
PFC John Phillip Dion
B Co., 1-12 IN
SrA Bradley Randall Smith
10th Air Support Operations Squadron
The Tactical Air Control Party site http://usaftacp.com/ has photos of Brad’s funeral and Tiffany and Chloe.
Israel’s prime minister has expressed his support for the military’s actions in a deadly raid against an aid flotilla sailing to the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says he spoke Monday to top Israeli diplomatic and security officials by telephone from Canada and voiced his “full backing” for the military.
Commandos stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens after encountering unexpected resistance as the forces boarded the vessels.
The operation in international waters off the Gaza coast was a nightmare scenario for Israel that looked certain to further damage its international standing, strain already tense relations with Turkey — the unofficial sponsor of the mission — and draw unwanted attention to Gaza’s plight.
White House spokesman Bill Burton, speaking on the eve of a meeting that President Barack Obama had scheduled at the White House with Netanyahu, said the United States “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained” in the incident. Netanyahu announced Monday he would cancel his White House visit to deal with the crisis.
Burton also said that administration officials are “currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.” The United States, among others, has been trying to restart direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, but progress toward this achievement has lagged severely in recent months.
SLIDESHOW: World Responds to Israeli Gaza Flotilla Attack
The tough Israeli response also drew condemnations from Turkey, France and the U.N.’s Mideast envoy, while Greece suspended a military exercise with Israel and postponed a visit by Israel’s air force chief.
The U.N. Security Council announced they would meet Monday afternoon to discuss the attack.
About 10,000 Turks also marched from Israel’s Consulate in Istanbul toward the city’s main square, shouting slogans denouncing Israel. The protesters earlier Monday tried storm the Consulate building but were blocked by police.
In response, Israel advised its citizens Monday to avoid travel to Turkey and instructed those already there to keep a low profile and avoid crowded downtown areas.
The Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Greece were summoned for meetings, and the French foreign minister called for an investigation. Activists from all of those European countries were on board the flotilla. In neighboring Jordan, hundreds demonstrated in the capital Amman to protest the Israeli action and demand that their government breaks diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
There were conflicting accounts of what happened early Monday.
An Al-Jazeera reporter on one of the Turkish ships said the Israelis fired at the vessel before boarding it. The Israelis, who had declared they would not let the ships reach Gaza, said they only opened fire after being attacked by activists with sticks, knives and live fire from weapons seized from the Israeli commandos.
“On board the ship we found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces,” declared Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.
“The organizers’ intent was violent, their method was violent and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome.”
Israeli security forces were on alert across the country. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli “aggression,” declared three days of mourning across the West Bank and called on the U.N. Security Council and Arab League to hold emergency sessions on the incident.
Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the rival Hamas government in Gaza, condemned the “brutal” Israeli attack and called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene.
The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission meant to draw attention to a 3-year-old Israeli blockade of the coastal territory. Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group, violently seized the territory. Critics say the blockade has unfairly hurt Gaza’s 1.5 million people.
“It’s disgusting that they have come on board and attacked civilians. We are civilians,” said Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement, which organized the flotilla. She spoke from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and said she had lost contact with the flotilla.
Before the ships set sail from waters off the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Sunday, Israel had urged the flotilla not to try to breach the blockade and offered to transfer the cargo to Gaza from an Israeli port, following a security inspection.
Israeli naval commandos stormed the ships in a predawn raid while they were in international waters after ordering them to stop about 80 miles from Gaza’s coast, according to activists.
A Turkish website showed video of pandemonium on board one of the ships, with activists in orange life jackets running around as some tried to help an activist apparently unconscious on the deck. The site also showed video of an Israeli helicopter flying overhead and Israeli warships nearby.
Turkey’s NTV showed activists beating one Israeli soldier with sticks as he rappelled from a helicopter onto one of the boats.
The al-Jazeera satellite channel reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain.
“These savages are killing people here, please help,” a Turkish television reporter said.
The broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, “Everybody shut up!”
The Israeli military said troops only opened fire after encountering unexpected resistance from the activists. Activists attacked troops with knives and iron rods, and opened fire with two pistols seized from the forces.
A total of five soldiers were wounded, two seriously, including at least one hit by live fire, the army said. Two of the dead activists had fired at soldiers with pistols, the army said.
“They planned this attack,” said Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch. “Our soldiers were injured from these knives and sharp metal objects … as well as from live fire.”
The violent takeover threatened to deal yet another blow to Israel’s international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
It occurred a day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the Middle East peace process.
The ships were being towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, and wounded were evacuated by helicopter to Israeli hospitals, officials said. One of the ships had reached port by midday.
There were no details on the identities of the casualties, or on the conditions of some of the more prominent people on board, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85.
Satellite phones on board the ships were turned off, and communication with a small group of reporters embedded with the Israeli military was blocked.
The Free Gaza Movement is an international group of pro-Palestinian activists that claims the blockade, imposed three years ago after the militant Islamic Hamas group overran Gaza, is unjust and a violation of international law.
Organizers included people affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that often sends international activists into battle zones, and the IHH, a Turkish aid group that Israel accuses of having terrorist links.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli raid and said it was summoning the Israeli ambassador for an “urgent explanation.”
Hasan Naiboglu, the Turkish maritime affairs undersecretary, told the Anatolia news agency that Israel had jammed communications with the ships. He accused Israel of violating international law by carrying out the raid in international waters.
Turkey had unofficially supported the aid mission and has been vocally critical of Israeli military operations against Palestinians in Gaza.
Israel’s Ynet news website said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Turkish officials, including the defense and foreign ministers, to discuss the raid.
The United Nations expressed “shock” and condemned the killings. “We are in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation,” said a statement from the highest-ranking U.N. official in the region, Robert Serry.
The flotilla of three cargo ships and three passenger ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid and 700 activists was carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, like cement and other building materials.
This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza movement has tried to ship in humanitarian aid to Gaza since August 2008.
Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers in January 2009.
The Department of Homeland Security is trying to deport the son of a Hamas founder who told of his conversion to Christianity and decade of spying for Israel in a New York Times best-seller.
“Son of Hamas” author Mosab Hassan Yousef revealed on a blog hosted by his publisher he is scheduled to appear June 30 before Immigration Judge Rico J. Bartolomei at the DHS Immigration Court in San Diego.
Yousef said the DHS informed him Feb. 23, 2009, he was barred from asylum in the U.S. because there were reasonable grounds for believing he was “a danger to the security of the United States” and “engaged in terrorist activity.”
An incredulous Yousef said the U.S. government’s belief he is a terrorist is based on a complete misinterpretation of passages of his book in which he describes his work as a counterterrorism agent for the Israeli internal intelligence service Shin Bet.
Yousef said he’s not so much worried about himself as he is “outraged” about “a security system that is so primitive and naive that it endangers the lives of countless Americans.”
“If Homeland Security cannot tell the difference between a terrorist and a man who spent his life fighting terrorism, how can they protect their own people?” he asked in his blog post.
Yousef said whatever Judge Bartolomei decides will be appealed, “and this insane merry-go-round can go on like that for decades.”
Yousef’s asylum case – A 088 271 051 – was filed Aug. 22, 2007, about seven months after he arrived in the U.S. from Israel.
The office of DHS Senior Attorney Kerri Calcador, who is handling the case, referred WND’s request for comment to Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lauren Mack, who said the agency is barred by policy from commenting, or even confirming or denying the existence of any case.
WND tried to reach Yousef for further comment, but he was not available.
As WND reported, Yousef worked alongside his father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, in the West Bank city of al-Ghaniya near Ramallah while secretly embracing Christian faith and serving as one of the top spies for Israel’s internal security arm. Yousef was recruited by Shin Bet in 1996 at the age of 18 while at an Israeli detention facility.
Since publicly declaring his faith in August 2008, he has been condemned by an al-Qaida-affiliated group and disowned by his family.
His chief Shin Bet handler, “Captain Loai,” has confirmed his account and praised him in media interviews for disrupting dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts by Hamas, saving hundreds of lives.
Yousef said he recently received a document from DHS in which attorney Calcador pointed to passages in his book as evidence of terrorist activity.
Calcador cites a passage in which she says “a member of Shin Bet shows the respondent a list of suspects implicated in a March 2001 suicide bombing and asks the respondent whether he knows the individuals. The respondent indicates that he does know five of the people on the list and states that he previously drove them to safe houses.”
In the DHS document, Calcador concludes, “At a bare minimum, evidence of the respondent’s transport of Hamas members to safe houses … indicates that the respondent provided material support to a [Tier I] terrorist organization.”
Yousef’s response: “Is she kidding? Either Homeland Security’s chief attorney has zero reading comprehension, or else she intentionally took the passage out of context. And I am not sure which is worse.”
Yousef explained his job as a Shin Bet agent required him to be involved with his father’s activities.
“So when he asked me to go with him to pick up these guys when they were released from the Palestinian Authority prison, I went,” he said.
He insisted that no one at the time – not his father or even Israel – knew the five men were involved in suicide bombings.
He further argued he was the one who later provided Israel the evidence that connected the men to the terrorist bombing at the Hebrew University cafeteria in July 2002.
“And Homeland Security would do well to remember that there were five American citizens among the dead,” Yousef said of the attack. “Apparently the agency needs also to be reminded that I was the one who located the terrorists and led to their arrest or death.”
For that, he said, Homeland Security “today tells me ‘thank you’ by trying to deport me!”
He explained it was “part of his job” to pose as a terrorist and participate in “terrorist meetings” with Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, his father and other Hamas leaders.
“I passed on to the Shin Bet all the information I gathered during those meetings and saved the lives of many people – including many Americans,” he said.
‘Exposing the weaknesses’
Yousef said his intent for writing the blog post was to alert Americans to the danger they face.
“I believe that God is using this situation to expose the weaknesses of Homeland Security and to put pressure on it to make changes that can save lives and preserve freedom,” he said.
Hamas rally on 22nd anniversary in Gaza
He recalled that when he arrived in America Jan. 2, 2007, he “walked into the airport like anyone else on a tourist visa.”
When he went to the Homeland Security office seven months later, he said, he knocked on the door and told them, “Hey, guys, I am the son of Sheik Hassan Yousef, my father is involved in a terrorist organization, and I would like political asylum in your country.”
He said the officials were shocked.
“I wanted them to see that they have huge gaps in their security and their understanding of terrorism and make changes before it’s too late,” Yousef explained.
Yousef said that when DHS demanded evidence of his claims, he presented a draft of his book “Son of Hamas.”
“Surely this would make everything perfectly clear,” he thought. “They would discover that I was an intelligence agent, not a terrorist. That I tracked down terrorists and put them in prison. That I was an asset, not a threat.”
But Homeland Security, according to Yousef, doesn’t “get it.”
He said the FBI, in contrast, “has a much better understanding of terrorism and recognizes me as a valuable asset.”
“They told Homeland Security that I am not a threat and advised them to drop the case. But Homeland Security shut its eyes and stopped up its ears and told the FBI, ‘You have nothing to do with this. It is our job,'” Yousef said.
The agency’s performance, he asserted, “should worry the American people.”
“If Homeland Security cannot understand a simple story like mine, how can they be trusted with bigger issues?” he asked. “They seem to know only how to blindly follow rules and procedures. But to work intelligence, you have to be very creative. You have to accept exceptions. You need to be able to think beyond facts and circumstances.
“Homeland Security has absolutely no idea of the dangers that lie ahead,” he said.
‘Imagine suicide bombers in America’
He warned the U.S. is not prepared as al-Qaida adapts its strategy to lessons learned from terrorist groups like Hamas.
Suicide Bomber Hits Southern Israeli Town Of Dimona
“For nearly 30 years, I watched from the inside as Hamas dug its claws deeper and deeper into Israel. They started awkwardly, clumsily, but they got good at it. And al-Qaida is becoming more like Hamas,” he said.
The strategy of Hamas, Yousef explained, has always been to destroy Israel through a “slow bleeding war.”
“They don’t have nuclear bombs, so they send a suicide bomber here, another one there. And over the years, they severely damaged the economy and gave Israel a bad reputation all over the world,” Yousef said.
While al-Qaida began with massive attacks like 9/11, Osama bin Laden “understands how effective the Hamas strategy will be on American soil,” he said.
The U.S. has experienced nothing like Israel has endured, said Yousef, and the country is not ready.
“Try to imagine attacks by suicide bombers and car bombers, attacks on schools, in shopping malls, in the gridlock of rush-hour traffic, week after week, month after month, year after year, here and there, in big cities and rural towns,” he said.
“No one feels safe anywhere. There seems to be no reason behind the attacks, no pattern. Everyone is a target.”
Having been raised on the inside of this kind of environment, from both sides, he said he is only asking Homeland Security “to be humble and listen, so they can learn.”
“Exposing terrorist secrets and warning the world in my first book cost me everything,” he said. “I am a traitor to my people, disowned by my family, a man without a country. And now the country I came to for sanctuary is turning its back.”
They don’t look like your typical Army soldiers. These guys are all out of central casting. Jokingly I thought to myself these soldiers are obviously the A-team – having no idea that the term actually refers to their 8 to 12 member operations teams known formally as “Operational Detachments Alpha” or ODAs. This is the world of US Army Special Forces – the Green Berets.
Fox News was given exclusive access to First Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group’s last pre-mission training before these frontline forces deploy to Afghanistan. The Fort Bragg based battalion traveled to a dusty, desert like base camp near the Mexican border that looked a lot like Afghanistan thanks not only to its natural landscape of red sand and mountain air but also because of a fabricated Afghan Bazaar (think shopping center) and mock village that included Afghans acting as local villagers and random goats and chickens roaming the unpaved village streets.
“This is the culmination exercise for our battalion – the teams have been training all year and we do these when we have an upcoming deployment,” explains Major Michael Sullivan. This thirty eight year old war veteran is the operations officer for the entire battalion and is preparing to deploy for the fifth time. Asked about how he prepares to leave his wife and three kids to head into harm’s way, his eyes drift to the right for several seconds before he explains, “I don’t know if I ever really prepare myself… It’s hard…getting the kids ready – it’s hard to say they are ever used to it and I think as they get older they get more dependent on you being around and that assurance that dad is there. It’s difficult.” He explains that as his kids get older they understand the danger. Twelve members of the battalion have been killed in action in Afghanistan since the start of the war.
The battalion commander, Lt. Colonel Christopher Riga, confirms the danger. Without emotion he explains “most of our deployments and most of the operations that we execute are very high risk. Everyday our soldiers are in harm’s way. They are at the tip of the spear and executing operations that are extremely dangerous and complex.” The battalion’s A teams typically travel out to remote locations and often live with the populace – in the villages – conducting possible combat missions and also trying to gather intelligence and information.
Twenty nine year old Captain Aaron Baty is an A-team leader whose dad was in a Special Forces unit for 22 years. Following in his father’s footsteps, Baty was commissioned as an officer in 2003 and was itching to get assigned to a unit that would deploy in the aftermath of September 11th. This husband and father of three is deploying for the third time. When asked about what he is giving up when he deploys, he does not explain that he might miss out his young daughter’s first steps or first words. “You could potentially be giving up everything when you deploy. You always make that plan for when I get back what will I do but in reality you don’t know if you’re coming back… You give up the possibility of seeing your kids graduate high school and walking your daughters down the aisle, waiting for my son to stop being a seven year old boy and start being a man that I can do things with.”
Special Forces soldiers deploy approximately every six months. When they are home they are not just sitting around. Their schedules are packed with training. Lt. Col. Riga explains “They are looking for something…that puts greater responsibility on them. They’re looking for a mission that will seem more important because they are at a greater risk.”
President Obama has approved a “surge” of some 30 thousand additional US forces to Afghanistan and for the first time since 2003, there are now more US forces in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Lt. Col. Riga points out the soldiers “…know it’s a critical time in our nation’s history…They have spent a lot of time in [Afghanistan.] There has been a lot invested – a lot of lives lost…”
Despite the dangers of his job and the time away from home, Capt. Baty like every other soldier interviewed, is eager to serve. “…It’s a better feeling to know that the fight is on someone else’s front door step and you can come home to yours…It’s worth it because… it is our country and I do believe in what our country stands for.”
“It’s what we do and what we love – we have a stake in it for people that have deployed multiple times – to continue on with what they had done previously. We’re Americans. We don’t quit. We want to win – that’s who we are,” adds Major Sullivan. “I don’t think there’s anyone who is tired of it – there are some of us who would love to go and stay until it’s over.”
Sullivan carries around a FDNY (Fire Department New York) baseball hat attached to his backpack. It’s with him at all times – a reminder of the terror attacks of September 11th and part of his motivation for continuing his 16 years of military service. “9/11 is something that hurt us all and I don’t want that to ever happen again to this country.”
from the Marines Combat Outpost in Tahgaz, Afghanistan:
There is much Fox News can’t report about the valor and heroism of the most recent casualty in Afghanistan, a U.S. Marine with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. It’s just too soon.
But after spending time with his unit, Alpha Company of the 1st L.A.R., two things are clear: this Marine’s loss is being felt deeply by his brothers in uniform and his unit has not wavered in its mission to bring peace and stability to the Helmand River Valley.
The Marine’s base at Tahgaz is the furthest south and west in the country and some platoons are stationed even further out in the remote desert and surrounding hills. While L.A.R. Marines are used to working out of their Light Armored Vehicles (LAV’s), the Marines at Tahgaz are primarily patrolling on foot, for eight to ten hours a day or more.
They’re led by Captain John Bitonti, a combat veteran who I met while embedded with his unit, the 3rd L.A.R., during the invasion of Iraq. He went back for another tour in Fallujah in 2004. Now he leads well over 100 men in sometimes hostile territory.
“The enemy is out there” the Captain told me. “They’re watching, they want to kill us. The key is that we need to be more vigilant than them and be prepared to stop them before they stop us.”
I asked him about the fallen Marine, who is the 1000th U.S. casualty in Afghanistan since troops first arrived here in late 2001. He told me the men were out on foot patrol and spotted a lone figure across the river who didn’t move, despite the sandstorm. After waiting and observing the man, they decided to resume their patrol and an IED exploded from a berm, killing one of the Marines and seriously wounding two others.
“For me to lose him? Yeah, absolutely, it tears me apart, it hurts inside, but we have a mission to continue and I’m gonna get more marines hurt if we don’t continue with our mission, which is exactly the reason the night of the incident we pushed patrol literally right afterwards. That patrol was getting those marines out, another patrol was already patrolling the same area. We can’t let them know that they got the best of us and I know after that attack, they’re watching us to see what we’re gonna do… and they know if they try to do that again, we’re gonna be ready this time.”
“This marine, yeah, he’s not with us physically, but he’s with us in spirit and I haven’t given him a leave of absence yet… so he’s still on patrol, he’ll be redeploying back to the states when we do.”
Captain Bitonti spends much of his time meeting with locals, trying to convince them the U.S. is here to help. It was his unit that was first made aware of a six year old local boy who’d been bitten in the face by a deadly Viper snake. They called for the airlift that saved the boy’s life.
“In a counterinsurgency fight, the center of gravity is the people, and that’s who we’re fighting for right now. It’s between us and the Taliban… and we gotta show them that the Taliban are the bad guys and that we’re the winning side.”
Is it hard to keep fighting after suffering such a loss?
“For me to continue? No it’s not hard, because my job is to go get these guys. My job is to hunt down the enemy so we don’t have to be here any longer.”