Meanwhile, There's A War On
by John Hinderaker
We noted here the mysteriously under-covered story of the three would-be terrorists who were arrested in Italy after vowing to launch an attack on America that would dwarf September 11. A reader sent us a link to this article, which has more:
The mainstream U.S. media outlets have failed to report a major terrorist plot against the U.S. - because it would tend to support President Bush's use of NSA domestic surveillance, according to media watchdog groups.
News of a planned attack masterminded by three Algerians operating out of Italy was widely reported outside the U.S., but went virtually unreported in the American media.
Italian authorities recently announced that they had used wiretaps to uncover the conspiracy to conduct a series of major attacks inside the U.S. Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said the planned attacks would have targeted stadiums, ships and railway stations, and the terrorists' goal, he said, was to exceed the devastation caused by 9/11.
Italian authorities stepped up their internal surveillance programs after July's terrorist bombings in London. Their domestic wiretaps picked up phone conversations by Algerian Yamine Bouhrama that discussed terrorist attacks in Italy and abroad.
Italian authorities arrested Bouhrama on November 15 and he remains in prison. Authorities later arrested two other men, Achour Rabah and Tartaq Sami, who are believed to be Bouhrama's chief aides in planning the attacks. The arrests were a major coup for Italian anti-terror forces, and the story was carried in most major newspapers from Europe to China.
"U.S. terror attacks foiled," read the headline in England's Sunday Times. In France, a headline from Agence France Presse proclaimed, "Three Algerians arrested in Italy over plot targeting U.S."
Curiously, what was deemed worthy of a worldwide media blitz abroad was virtually ignored by the U.S. media, and conservative media watchdog groups are saying that is no accident.
"My impression is that the major media want to use the NSA story to try and impeach the president," says Cliff Kincaid, editor of the Accuracy in Media Report published by the grassroots Accuracy in Media organization.
"If you remind people that terrorists actually are planning to kill us, that tends to support the case made by President Bush. They will ignore any issue that shows that this kind of [wiretapping] tactic can work in the war on terror."
The Associated Press version of the story did not disclose that the men planned to target the U.S. Nor did it report that the evidence against the suspects was gathered via a wiretapping surveillance operation.
Furthermore, only one American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, is known to have published the story that the AP distributed. It ran on page A-6 under the headline "Italy Charges 3 Algerians." The Inquirer report also made no mention of the plot to target the U.S. - although foreign publications included this information in the headlines and lead sentences of their stories. Nor did it advise readers that domestic wiretaps played a key role in nabbing the suspected terrorists.
One obvious question media critics are now raising: Did the American media intentionally ignore an important story because it didn't fit into their agenda of attacking President George Bush for using wiretapping to spy on potential terrorists in the U.S.?
"It's clear to me," says AIM's Kincaid, "that they're trying their best to make this NSA program to be an impeachable offense, saying it is directed at ordinary Americans. That's why they keep referring to this as a 'program of spying on Americans' - whereas the president keeps pointing out it's a program designed to uncover al-Qaida operations on American soil."
President Bush did a town hall-type appearance in Louisville, Kentucky today. He was unbelievably good, as was the audience. You can read it all here. Please, please do. Here are a few excerpts, but they can't begin to capture the sincerity and the compelling logic that President Bush put forward.
I vowed that we'd find those killers and bring them to justice. And that's what we're doing. We're on the hunt for an enemy that still lurks. I know, because I'm briefed on a daily basis about the threats that face the United States of America. And my duty is to assess this world the way it is, not the way we'd like it to be. And there's a danger that lurks -- and there's a danger that lurks because we face an enemy which cannot stand freedom. ***
And so we took action. We took action because the Taliban refused to expel al Qaeda. And we took action because when an American President says something, he better mean it. In order to be able to keep the peace, in order to be able to have credibility in this world, when we speak, we better mean what we say. And I meant what we said. And we sent some brave souls into Afghanistan to liberate that country from the Taliban. ***
You know, when I was growing up, or other baby boomers here were growing up, we felt safe because we had these vast oceans that could protect us from harm's way. September the 11th changed all that. And so I vowed that we would take threats seriously. If we saw a threat, we would take threats seriously before they fully materialized. And I saw a threat in Saddam Hussein.
I understand that the intelligence didn't turn out the way a lot of the world thought it would be. And that was disappointing, and we've done something about it. We've reformed our intelligence services. But Saddam Hussein was a sworn enemy of the United States. He was on the nations that sponsor terror list for a reason. I didn't put him on the list; previous Presidents put him on the list. And the reason why is because he was sponsoring terrorism. He was shooting at our airplanes. He had attacked his own people with chemical weapons. I mean, the guy was a threat. ***
We gave the opportunity to Saddam Hussein to open his country up. It was his choice. He chose war, and he got war. And he's not in power, and the world is better off for it. (Applause.)
[Things in Iraq] are good. I'm confident we'll succeed. And it's tough, though. The enemy has got one weapon -- I repeat to you -- and that's to shake our will. I just want to tell you, whether you agree with me, or not, they're not going to shake my will. We're doing the right thing. (Applause.)
You hear a lot of talk about troop levels. I'd just like to give you my thinking on troop levels. I know a lot of people want our troops to come home -- I do, too. But I don't want us to come home without achieving the victory. (Applause.) We owe that to the mothers and fathers and husbands and wives who have lost a loved one. That's what I feel. I feel strongly that we cannot let the sacrifice -- (applause) -- we can't let their sacrifice go in vain.
I told you I've got good confidence in these generals and the people who report to them. These are honest, honorable, decent, very capable, smart people, and they'll decide the troop levels. They hear from me: Victory. And I say to them: What do you need to achieve victory? (Applause.)
This is an ideological struggle, as far as I'm concerned, and you defeat an ideology of darkness with an ideology of light and hope. History has proven that democracies yield the peace. If you really look at some of the past struggles where -- in which the United States has been involved, the ultimate outcome, the final product, was peace based upon freedom. Europe is whole, free, and at peace because of democracy. ***
Q I'd like to ask, recently in the media, you've been catching a lot of flak about that National Security Agency thing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q There's people in our states and there's people that are in D.C. that will take and jeopardize what I feel is our national security and our troops' safety today for partisan advantage, for political advantage. They're starting an investigation in the Justice Department about the -- looking into this, where these leaks came from. Is the Justice Department going to follow through and, if necessary, go after the media to take and get the answers and to shut these leaks up?
THE PRESIDENT: First let me talk about the issue you brought up -- and it's a very serious issue. I did say to the National -- it's called the NSA, National Security Agency, that they should protect America by taking the phone numbers of known al Qaeda and/or affiliates and find out why they're making phone calls into the United States, and vice versa. And I did so because the enemy still wants to hurt us. And it seems like to me that if somebody is talking to al Qaeda, we want to know why.
Now, I -- look, I understand people's concerns about government eavesdropping. And I share those concerns, as well. So obviously I had to make the difficult decision between balancing civil liberties and, on a limited basis -- and I mean limited basis -- try to find out the intention of the enemy. In order to safeguard the civil liberties of the people, we have this program full scrutinized on a regular basis. It's been authorized, reauthorized many times. We got lawyers looking at it from different branches of government.
We have briefed the leadership of the United States Congress, both Republican and Democrat, as well as the leaders of the intelligence committees, both Republicans and Democrats, about the nature of this program. We gave them a chance to express their disapproval or approval of a limited program taking known al Qaeda numbers -- numbers from known al Qaeda people -- and just trying to find out why the phone calls are being made.
I can understand concerns about this program. Before I went forward, I wanted to make sure I had all the legal authority necessary to make this decision as your President. We are a rule -- a country of law. We have a Constitution, which guides the sharing of power. And I take that -- I put that hand on the Bible, and I meant it when I said I'm going to uphold the Constitution. I also mean it when I'm going to protect the American people.
I have the right as the Commander-in-Chief in a time of war to take action necessary to protect the American people. And secondly, the Congress, in the authorization, basically said the President ought to -- in authorization of the use of troops -- ought to protect us. Well, one way to protect us is to understand the nature of the enemy. Part of being able to deal with this kind of enemy in a different kind of war is to understand why they're making decisions they're making inside our country.
There's a lot of investigation, you're right, in Washington -- which is okay. That's part of holding people to account in a democracy. But at one point in time the government got accused of not connecting the dots. You might remember that debate -- we didn't connect the dots. And all of a sudden, we start connecting the dots through the Patriot Act and the NSA decision, and we're being criticized. Now, you know, I got the message early: Why don't you connect dots? And we're going to. (Applause.) And we're going to safeguard the civil liberties of the people. That's what you've got to know. ***
I made a foreign policy decision in the Middle East that said, we can't tolerate the status quo any longer for the sake of inexpensive energy. In other words, there was a period of time when people said, let's just kind of deal with the situation as it is, sometimes tolerating strong men for a economic objective. I changed our foreign policy that said, that attitude of kind of accepting the things the way they are is going to lead to the conditions that will allow the enemy to continue to breed hatred and find suiciders and soldiers in their attempt to do harm.
What I'm telling you is, is that the part of the world where we've started this democracy initiative hasn't known democracy, except for in Israel and Lebanon. So to answer your question, it's going to be the spread of democracy, itself, that shows folks the importance of separation of church and state. And that is why the constitution written in Iraq is an important constitution, because it separates church for the first time in a modern day constitution in Iraq.
The Iraqi example is going to spread. I believe that -- one of the big issues in the Middle East is women's rights, the freedom of women, that they're not treated fairly. (Applause.) And, yet, when you're guaranteed rights under a constitution and people are able to see that life is improving, it will cause others to say, I want the same kind of right.
And I loved this question by a small business owner:
Q Hello, Mr. President. You just made a very poignant -- about math and science. I am a -- number one, I'd like to thank you for taking time to be here. I think all of us would reiterate that. I am a business owner and I am living the American Dream, and I would like to personally thank you for having a will that will not be broken. And the men and women of the armed forces that protect the freedoms that we have had and that we oftentimes take for granted and give us this way of life.
The question followed. And, finally:
How old are you?
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. That's good. (Laughter.)
Q How can people help on the war on terror?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's the hardest question I've had all day. (Laughter.)
First of all, I expect there to be an honest debate about Iraq, and welcome it. People can help, however, by making sure the tone of this debate is respectful and is mindful about what messages out of the country can do to the morale of our troops. (Applause.)
I fully expect in a democracy -- I expect and, frankly, welcome the voices of people saying, you know, Mr. President, you shouldn't have made that decision, or, you know, you should have done it a better way. I understand that. What I don't like is when somebody said, he lied. Or, they're in there for oil. Or they're doing it because of Israel. That's the kind of debate that basically says the mission and the sacrifice were based on false premise. It's one thing to have a philosophical difference -- and I can understand people being abhorrent about war. War is terrible. But one way people can help as we're coming down the pike in the 2006 elections, is remember the effect that rhetoric can have on our troops in harm's way, and the effect that rhetoric can have in emboldening or weakening an enemy.
So that was a good question. Thank you. (Applause.)
Let's see, yes, ma'am. I'm running out of time here. You're paying me a lot of money, and I've got to get back to work. (Laughter.)
Regular readers of this site know that we admire, above all others, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. President Bush's reference to "victory" as the mandate he gives to his commanders recalls, intentionally, I am sure, Churchill's great speech upon becoming Prime Minister in May 1940--the speech in which he said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." This, though, is the key passage from that speech:
You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
George W. Bush is Churchill's heir in our century.