Monday, January 26, 2009

It's Official

War on Terror Is the Most Successful Military Campaign In US History.

Before President George W. Bush leaves office it's only fitting to give credit to where credit it due. Although you would not know this from the anti-Bush media or democrats, the US military has waged the most successful major military campaign in American history these past 8 years.

The War on Terror has been an amazing success not only in what has been accomplished but in what it has cost in lives. Two brutal regimes were obliterated, Al-Qaeda was decimated, fledgling democracies were established. But, most importantly, the US was able to do this while sacrificing the fewest number of soldiers monthly than in any other military campaign in US history. In fact, the US today is losing fewer soldiers each month in Iraq and Afghanistan combined than the average number of soldiers lost monthly during the Clinton years (~35 to 78).

Here's how the War on Terror stacks up with other US Wars:

The population today in the US is much larger than when these previous wars were fought. If you factor that in it really puts things into perspective.

In Afghanistan: The US has suffered 604 fatalities in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda has suffered 12,000 fatalities. 28,700 militant Islamists have been captured.

In Iraq: The US has suffered 4227 fatalities in Iraqi Freedom. More than 19,429 Al-Qaeda and Islamic militants have been killed. Over 18,900 insurgents have been captured.

Not only that but as Vice President Dick Cheney said this week we've achieved most of the objectives in Iraq that were established in the spring of '03:

We've got the violence level down to its lowest level since '03. We've had three national elections, a constitution written, a new government stood up, new army recruited and trained, the Iraqis increasingly able to take on responsibility for themselves. And we've now entered into a strategic framework agreement with the new Iraqi government that will provide for the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. forces.

You could not have asked for much more than that in terms of the policies that we started on in '03.

It's only fitting that this is reported before President Bush leaves office. Obviously, you won't hear this from the liberal media. It certainly doesn't fit their narrative that Bush's War was the worst foreign policy mistake in US history.

UPDATE: Terry Gain adds this:

1. More innocent Iraqis were being killed and dying because of sanctions when Hussein was in power than have been killed during the liberation of Iraq. The war has saved lives even as it’s being fought.
2. The vast majority of the killing of innocent Iraqis has been by the domestic insurgents and foreign terrorists. Americans have killed a small percentage of the innocents who’ve been killed.
3. The American war against Iraq ended on April 9, 2003. The war against Iraq by domestic insurgents and al Qaeda followed. That war is also largely over. The pacification of Iraq is continuing apace.
4. The pacification is also proceeding inexorably. Iraqis show every sign of keeping the gift of democracy they have received from the United States.
5. Calling for an end to the war – as have Reid and Pelosi – when it is insurgents and al Qaeda who are continuing the war is a brain -dead Democrat talking point. Even Obama understands that if the United States withdraws prematurely the hard won victory over the insurgents may be reversed.
6. Premature withdrawal will cause the war to continue, not end.

UPDATE 2: Bill Kristol added this on Bush's legacy today:

But I don’t think keeping us safe has been Bush’s most impressive achievement. That was winning the war in Iraq, and in particular, his refusal to accept defeat when so many counseled him to do so in late 2006. His ordering the surge of troops to Iraq in January 2007 was an act of personal courage and of presidential leadership. The results have benefited both Iraq and the United States. And the outcome in Iraq is a remarkable gift to the incoming president, who now only has to sustain success, rather than trying to deal with the consequences in the region and around the world of a humiliating withdrawal and a devastating defeat.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Why Israel Is Bombing Gaza

By Ephraim Sneh

When demands are made of Israel to halt its military activities in Gaza, a brief historical reminder is in order.

In September 2005, Israel vacated Gaza, dismantled all the settlements in the Gaza Strip and did not leave a shred of a presence there.

In January 2006, rule over Gaza passed to the Hamas government under Ismail Haniyeh. Instead of bringing investors to Gaza, the Hamas government brought the guerrilla-warfare trainers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Instead of launching economic projects, this government launched rockets every day at Israeli towns and villages across the border. They smuggled in vast amounts of explosives, weapons and rockets; they prepared themselves for battle.

In June 2007, in a brutal and bloody military coup, Hamas took control of Gaza and soon killed or chased out the leaders of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement. Gaza became nothing less than a military base for Iran.

Up until the Hamas takeover, 750 trucks would cross the border each day with imports and exports. As Israel's deputy defense minister at the time, I was in charge of this activity and promoted this trade with Gaza, since the border crossings were being controlled by Abbas's Presidential Guard, not by terrorists. The Hamas takeover is what in effect locked the gates of Gaza and forced its residents to suffer.

The rain of rockets on the citizens of Israel intensified. The cease-fire that lasted from June until Dec. 19 was used by Hamas to increase its military strength -- mainly to smuggle in Grad-type rockets from Iran, which have a range of 20 miles. In recent days, these missiles have struck cities such as Ashdod, Israel's main port, and Beersheva, the capital of Israel's south. No sovereign state would have resigned itself to having its cities -- cities such as Houston or Atlanta -- bombarded. No sovereign state would allow itself to be hit by even a single missile. That is the reason for the military campaign that Israel launched this week in a series of aerial strikes.

But the campaign's objective is not to end the rocket fire. The true objective should be the end of Hamas rule in Gaza. Israel cannot resign itself to having a missile and terror base five miles from one of its principal cities, Ashkelon.

Gaza's Palestinians, too, in telephone and e-mail conversations, are expressing their urgent wish to end the nightmare that Hamas has imposed on them. An end to the Hamas regime in Gaza is essential for them, as well. It is not possible to govern Gaza in the absence of close cooperation with Israel on issues of trade, energy, environment, water and health. Those who reject the legitimacy of Israel can't provide a normal life for Gaza's 1.5 million residents, who on average are living on $2 a day.

Israel could bring about a collapse of the Hamas regime in Gaza by means of a lengthy, large-scale ground campaign. With a clear exit strategy lacking, this is not an appealing option for us. At the moment, unfortunately, this is the only option available.

Yet there is another way. Those demanding a cease-fire must produce a comprehensive solution, a "package" containing the following elements:

· Full dismantling of the military power of Hamas in Gaza, including destruction of all stockpiles of rockets and missiles.

· Transfer of control over border-crossings between Gaza and Egypt and between Gaza and Israel to the Palestinian Authority government of Salam Fayyad.

· Until the elections to the Palestinian parliament and the presidency in January 2010, Gaza is to be run by a civilian administration appointed by the government in Ramallah.

· Augmented Egyptian supervision of the border between Gaza and Egypt.

· The return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Such an agreement will require international and regional support. Countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia can play an important role. Syria, if it uses its influence over the Hamas leadership that is comfortably hosted by Damascus, can win points toward any future discussions with the United States and Israel.

In the absence of such a package, the fighting in Gaza will not end. Israel has no reason to end it.

Ephraim Sneh, a former member of the Israeli cabinet and deputy defense minister from 1999 to 2001 and from 2006 to 2007, is chairman of the Strong Israel party.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

How Hamas Governs Gaza

By Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Jonathan Schanzer, director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center. He has served as a counterterrorism analyst at the U.S. Department of Treasury and as a research fellow at Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author of the new book, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle For Palestine. Daniel Pipes wrote the foreword to the book and some of the research was undertaken at Pipes' Middle East Forum.

FP: Jonathan Schanzer, thank you for joining us again.

Schanzer: My pleasure, Jamie.

FP: Today, I'd like to talk about the way Hamas has governed Gaza since taking it over by force in 2007. But first, please briefly review the thesis of your new book Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle For Palestine.

Schanzer: My new book documents the ongoing political and military struggle between the two largest Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah – dating back to 1988. Today, as a civil war rages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel, the international community cannot even identify a legitimate Palestinian interlocutor. The book looks at how we arrived at this difficult place.

FP: Please tell our readers about the June 2007 war between Hamas and Fatah.

Schanzer: In a word, it was brutal. The battle for Gaza lasted a mere six days. Fatah’s forces, trained and armed by the United States and other western nations, failed miserably. Some left the field of battle. Others joined the Hamas fighters. Those who stood their ground were likely not prepared for their brutal enemy. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Hamas violence was indiscriminate, demonstrating a willful disregard for the conventions of war. Hamas fighters pushed Fatah members from the roofs of tall buildings. Hamas even killed people who were already injured, or shot their enemies at point-blank range to ensure permanent disabilities. Hamas also attacked private homes and apartment buildings, hospitals, ambulances, and medical crews. All told, the June fighting claimed the lives of at least 161 Palestinians, including 7 children and 11 women. Some 700 Palestinians were wounded.

FP: What happened when the guns fell silent?

Schanzer: Hamas began to govern through a combination of violence, authoritarianism, and Islamism. Ismael Haniyeh, the ascendant ruler of Gaza, officially denied accusations that Hamas intended to establish an Islamic emirate. However, by November, the British press reported that “only believers feel safe” in Gaza and that “un-Islamic” dress sometimes resulted in beatings. According to a UN report, women “felt coerced to cover their heads not out of religious conviction but out of fear.”

The new Hamas government attacked the media and peaceful demonstrations, and engaged in the “destruction, seizure, and robbery of governmental and non-governmental institutions,” according to one human rights report.

In short, the few reluctant steps toward liberalization that the PA had taken during its 13-year rule in Gaza—small advances in press and political freedoms, for example—were wiped out in days.

FP: There were reports of torture. Were these accurate?

Schanzer: Yes. Some 1,000 people, almost all members of Fatah and the PA, were illegally arrested in the first months of Hamas rule by the new Hamas police, the Executive Force. The leader of the Executive Force actually admitted to the use of torture and violence against Hamas’s political enemies. He stated in August that torture occurred in Hamas prisons but that the EF was trying “to minimize violations and avoid them through the training of our members.”

The allegations of torture continued, however. In September, Hamas abducted five Fatah men who were later transferred for treatment to a Gaza hospital, where evidence of torture was reported. Rights groups reported that other Fatah prisoners “sustained fractures to the feet” as a result of beatings with sticks. In other instances, Fatah men were “handcuffed and blindfolded” and had pieces of cloth stuffed in their mouths to stifle their screams.

FP: How did Gaza’s Christian population fare?

Schanzer: They probably suffered the most. Hamas grossly mistreated the minority Christian community, mostly Greek Orthodox, which had lived in relative peace for centuries amid Gaza’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population.

In June 2007, masked gunmen attacked the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church in Gaza City. Hamas gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church. Then they destroyed almost everything inside. That same month, Hamas kidnapped Professor Sana al-Sayegh, a teacher at Palestine University in Gaza City, and forced her to convert to Islam against her will. Her family’s attempts to meet with Hamas leaders to find her repeatedly failed. Requests by community leaders to meet with Hamas were also turned down.

In October, the body of 30-year-old Rami Ayyad, the owner of the Holy Bible Association, was found in an eastern suburb of Gaza City. Ayyad’s organization had been the target of a grenade attack during protests stemming from the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

In February 2008, unidentified gunmen blew up the YMCA library in the Gaza Strip. Two guards were kidnapped, offices were looted, and vehicles were stolen, and more than 8,000 books were destroyed. That attack came only days after a Hamas “modesty patrol” attacked a Christian youth’s car after he was seen driving a female classmate to her home. Both were injured in that attack.

By one count, more than 50 attacks had taken place in the first few months following the June coup. Targets included barbershops, music stores, and even a UN school where boys and girls played sports together.

FP: Did the Gaza population fight back?

Schanzer: Some tried non-violent resistance. However, those who held demonstrations against the lack of law in Gaza also suffered. According to al-Jazeera, the Executive Force beat peaceful Fatah demonstrators after the coup. By August, Hamas banned unlicensed demonstrations by the Fatah party. According to Hamas, the demonstrations were “being used to create chaos and terrorism.”

Hamas’s apprehension over the demonstrations was understandable. They sometimes turned violent, particularly when Hamas security forces began forcefully dispersing the crowd. Associated Press television aired images of Hamas men beating an unarmed protester with sticks. In some cases, according to Amnesty International, Hamas deliberately shot unarmed demonstrators. In two cases, Palestinians were shot and killed while trying to help other demonstrators who were injured.

It is interesting to note that when Hamas threw rocks at Israelis during the 1987 and 2000 uprisings, the group called this “resistance.” When Palestinian protestors threw stones at Hamas, the new rulers of Gaza called them “outlaws” and arrested them.

FP: So, why did most people not hear about this in the West?

Schanzer: Hamas worked assiduously to cover its own tracks. To control the reporting out of Gaza, Hamas began to issue government press cards to journalists. Predictably, journalists whom Hamas did not like did not receive credentials. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate protested that the tactic threatened journalists and prevented them from doing their jobs. The syndicate alleged that under the Hamas government’s draconian rules, phrases such as “Hamas militias” and “ousted government” were banned. Hamas also announced it would ban stories that did not support “national responsibilities” or those that would “cause harm to national unity.”

The more journalists complained, the more difficult Hamas made it for them. The Union of Palestinian Journalists reported that after a series of threats, Hamas forces raided the home of one journalist. The union further noted that its ranks had been threatened and blackmailed by Hamas on a daily basis. The Foreign Press Association confirmed these reports, claiming Hamas had engaged in “harassment of Palestinian journalists in Gaza.” Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog group, noted that Hamas “failed to investigate” these incidents.

FP: How did Hamas manage the Gaza economy?

Schanzer: Rather horribly. Due to Israel’s sanctions against the Hamas government, stores in Gaza were out of many products, and hospitals ran low on crucial supplies, including anesthetics and antibiotics. Seeking to avert a humanitarian crisis, the Israelis eventually allowed certain medical supplies into Gaza but vowed to withhold other nonessentials. However, Hamas ensured that goods and supplies would be cut off every time they launched rockets into Israel. Indeed, they had a choice. They could either fire rockets and ensure continued suffering for their people, or cease the violence and make sure the population was provided for. For nearly a year, Hamas chose violence.

Hamas also neglected Gaza’s infrastructure. As a result of Hamas mismanagement, several Gaza sewer pipes burst, which flooded homes and businesses with a foul river of waste that was several yards high. Gazans were infuriated when it was learned that the Israeli-made pipes that were intended to repair Gaza’s decrepit sewage system had been sold to Hamas but used to assemble Qassam missiles and bunkers.

The most anger, however, likely stemmed from the Hamas government’s decision to raise taxes on cigarettes. Lucky Strikes used to cost 10 shekels ($2.50) per pack. After Hamas came to power, the same pack of cigarettes cost 16 or 17 ($4.00 or $4.25) shekels. Other American cigarettes could cost Gazans upward of 40 shekels per pack ($10.00). The Gazans who could not afford to smoke were said to be “fuming.”

FP: Some people say that there were positive aspects of Hamas rule. How is that possible?

Schanzer: Hamas, of course, attempted to highlight the positives. Within weeks of the takeover, the Islamists boasted that crime, tribal clashes, and kidnapping had all dropped precipitously in the Gaza Strip. But, this drop in crime was more than likely the result of fear on the part of Gaza residents rather than a sign of increased or improved law enforcement.

Hamas proved once again that terrorist groups, much like their Fatah predecessors, were unfit to govern. The Islamist group exhibited an almost criminal indifference to the suffering of Gaza citizens impacted by the violence, lack of services, deepening poverty, collateral damage from the battles, and the predictable Israeli reprisals that resulted from Hamas attacks.

FP: Jonathan Schanzer, thank you for joining us.

Schanzer: You’re quite welcome, Jamie. Always a pleasure.