Poland

President Trump began his second foreign trip with a stop in Poland. His speech to the Polish People was broadcast live early this morning, immediately after which Joe Scarborough on MSNBC called it the worst speech ever given by a President on foreign soil.

I didn’t get the same impression. A few key points from the speech.

On terrorism:

“We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding, and their networks, and any form of ideological support that they may have. While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.”

On Russian aggression:

“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”

On capitalism:

“Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”

And on NATO:

“To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.”

He’s sending the right message.

Tomorrow is a big day. G20 Summit and a meeting with Putin. Look for discussion about North Korea.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

London

Overnight in London, another terror attack was felt by a city that has already been through so much this year. Another truck attack on pedestrians. One dead. Ten injured.

But this time it was different.

This time, the truck that plowed into a group of pedestrians was not driven by a Muslim. This time, the 47 year old driver leaped from the truck and proclaimed, “I want to kill all Muslims!”

And that’s wrong. Very wrong.

Retaliatory attacks by non-Muslims against Muslims will fuel the fires of radicalization. In other words, Muslims in the mainstream who face a decision about whether or not to join ISIS may look at attacks like this a some kind of justification for radical Islam’s attacks. Frankly, it worsens the war on terror.

As I’ve previously written, the civilized world defeats radical Islamic terrorism by defeating the ideology in the arena of ideas and thereby preventing radicalization. We stall terrorists’ recruitment techniques.

Practically, this happens when the world together stands against terrorism. We isolate the terrorists by not giving them a safe haven from which to base operations. We choke their funds by declaring that any nation suspected of supporting terrorists will be regarded as terrorists themselves. And we quickly condemn terror attacks quickly and loudly.

Last night’s attack was the exact opposite of this and should stand condemned. Yet, seventeen hours after the event, the world still waits for words from the President of the United States.

A month ago, President Trump told the Muslim world in his speech in Saudi Arabia, which laid out a clear strategy for defeating ISIS, “The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

If we need the help of the Muslim world to defeat ISIS, and we do, we can’t allow attacks on Muslims to go unregarded. Doing so reveals a lack of global leadership on the part of the United States.

And that’s a problem.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Jeff Sessions

The big story to come out of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this afternoon is that it increasingly appears there is not a big story there.

Once again, anyone looking for facts to confirm the existence of Trump Administration election collusion with Russia or Trump obstruction of justice in the Russia election interference investigation came away disappointed.

What we did see was an emotional Sessions emphatically deny the accusations above. 

We also learned the following from various news organizations’ Twitter feeds:

Sessions testifies he told Comey that FBI, DOJ “needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with WH.”

Sessions: I was confident Comey understood “rules limiting communications with the White House” on investigations

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he did not have third meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Sessions says “it’s conceivable” that he had a third conversation with Russian ambassador

Sessions says running into ambassadors could happen at the grocery store

Sessions: “I have never met with or had any conversation with” Russian officials regarding election interference

I didn’t have any private mtg nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian official at Mayflower Hotel

Sessions: I recused myself from Russia probe due to a DOJ regulation, “not because of any asserted wrongdoing”

AG Sessions says the scope of his recusal “does not & cannot interfere” w his ability to oversee DOJ, including the FBI

“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor from false and scurrilous accusations,” Sessions says.

AG Sessions: “The people of this country expect an honest and transparent government, and that’s what we’re giving them.”

Attorney General Sessions: “I have confidence” in special counsel Robert Mueller.

Sessions says he does not know whether President Trump records conversations in the White House

Warner: Did you every talk with Comey about his job performance?

Sessions: “I did not.”

Jeff Sessions says there was a “lack of discipline” at the FBI.

So…

Anything there newsworthy?

Meanwhile, the real news of the dayis being overshadowed.

Secretary Mattis: We are NOT winning the war against ISIS in Afghanistan. Changes are necessary.

And

Secretary Tillerson: The Palestinian Authority has changed its policy and will stop paying the families of terrorists who attack Israeli’s.

Both of these are a big deal and deserve discussion in the public arena.  Alas, another time maybe. Today was about Russia…

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

Qatar

Three weeks ago, President Trump gave a speech in Saudi Arabia, during which he said the following about Muslim extremism, “There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.”

He said, “Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization.”

He said, “America is prepared to stand with you…But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

And most importantly, he said, “Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil…We must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.”

In other words, we defeat terrorism by standing together and isolating the terrorists.

Which brings us to the present.

Saudi Arabia this week, along with Egypt, The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, established a physical and economic blockade against Qatar due to what they claim is Qatar’s funding of terrorism, a charge which Qatar denies.

Qatar has historically been a U.S. ally and even hosts our largest air base in the region. Its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is believed to have ties to terrorist organizations, complicates its U.S. relationship.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a statement today in which he called for Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease the blockade against Qatar. He said the blockade is harming U.S. businesses in the region and restricting our ability to fight ISIS.

Hours later, President Trump spoke to the media in what many viewed as a statement in contrast to the words of his Secretary of State. The President called Qatar a “funder of terrorism” and called on the country to cease that activity immediately.

So who is correct?

There is no easy answer, but as with most things in life, we must prioritize. And isolating terrorists should be highest on everybody’s list.

On the night of September 11, 2001, President Bush gave an address to the nation in which he said the following: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

That applies here.

If money from Qatar is ending up in the hands of terrorists, our first priority is to isolate Qatar. The Arab countries behind the blockade are sending an important message, and the President promised to stand with them.

We must be vigilant. Now is not a time to waver.  Or were those just words the President spoke three weeks ago in Saudi Arabia?

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Homeland Security

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly testified today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he said the following:

“[Vetting refugees] is even more problematic when dealing with so-called ‘failed states’ such as Syria or Somalia, where infrastructure and record-keeping has been degraded by conflict. When someone says, ‘I’m from this town and this was my occupation,’ [officials] essentially have to take the word of the individual.”

Wait a minute. What happened to this?

“So many of the world’s refugees come from just three countries ravaged by war — Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia…In recent years, in the United States, we’ve worked to put in intensive screening and security checks, so we can welcome refugees and ensure our security — in fact, refugees are subject to more rigorous screening than the average tourist.”  – President Obama, September 2016

Given the clear contradiction between these two statements, could it be that the American people were lied to by our former President? It wouldn’t be the first time.

(If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor…There’s not a smidgeon of corruption in the IRS scandal…A spontaneous protest caused by an internet video…The Syrian government voluntarily and verifiably gave up 100% of its chemical weapons…)

The list goes on…

Meanwhile, the “Travel Ban” is tied up in the court system.  As Secretary Kelly indicated, the six countries listed on the Travel Order are countries without functioning central governments.  This means proper vetting on their end is basically impossible, and verification on our end, despite Mr. Obama’s words, is difficult if not impossible as well.

Why is this important?  Because, according to the CIA, hiding terrorists in the flow of refugees is an ISIS strategy. 

From the Washington Times: “The CIA said last year that the terrorist group’s official strategy is to hide its operatives among refugees entering Europe and the United States via human flows out of the Middle East and North Africa.”

In fact, earlier this year, then FBI Director James Comey testified in March that of 2,000 violent extremist investigations, 300 are people “who came to the United States as refugees.” That’s 15%, a significant number when one considers that such vetting is taking place on the honor system.

Maybe it’s time for American citizens to put their focus back on the country and not on the President they so passionately love to hate.

Homeland Security could use the help.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

Defeating Terrorism

Let’s get something straight. Terrorism is a tactic. What we are trying to defeat is the radical ideology that leads to the evil terroristic deeds.

I’m a big proponent of freedom of thought. We shouldn’t punish individuals for their thoughts. It’s only when thoughts produce actions that infringe on others’ rights does it become a problem.

We should encourage freedom of thought and the free exchange of ideas. Why? Because our ideas are better. We can win in this arena and prevent radicalization.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it best at an anti-terrorism conference a few years back, “Militant Islam…will ultimately disappear from the stage of history because I think it’s a grand failure – it doesn’t know how to manage economies, it cannot offer the young people to which it appeals any kind of future.”

Now don’t get me wrong. Defensive measures and vigilance are absolutely necessary, but that will only contain the problem and serve to minimize damage. The same is true with killing terrorists. It’s necessary, but it’s not enough. As long as they can radicalize more terrorists, it’s an unending battle.

We win, in the long run, by changing minds.

How does that happen?

Courage, Clarity, and Isolation

Netanyahu said, “All the other qualities that we could bring to bear in the battle against terrorism are meaningless if you don’t have courage.”

We must, as individuals and collectively, have the courage to stand up to radical ideas. Engage our neighbors. Educate. Exchange ideas. Don’t be afraid to say what you believe.

We must also have the courage to admit when we are wrong. Part of the free exchange of ideas involves adjusting our positions as better information is acquired. Sometimes it takes more courage to do that than it does to speak out in the first place.

Having the courage to change our opinions adds clarity to the views we hold. It makes our opinions stronger and easier to defend. It gives us the vision to understand why we are right and radicalism is wrong.

Netanyahu again, “(We must have the) clarity to understand they’re wrong, we’re right; they’re evil, we’re good. No moral relativism there at all. These people who lop off heads, trample human rights into the dust – are evil and they have to be resisted. Evil has to be resisted.”

Which takes courage.

Courage and clarity. That’s a long term solution. How do we fight the battle of ideas for near term results?

Isolation.

President Trump talked about it in Saudi Arabia. The global community of nations must deny territory, support, and funding to any and all sponsors of terrorism. If a country is discovered to be funneling money to a terrorist group or providing safe haven, they too must be isolated.

We must deny terrorists a future, and this can only happen if all nations stand in solidarity.

Military action will limit the tactic of terror. This will win battles. If we fight in the arena of ideas and take practical steps to remove any hope of a future life after terrorism, we can win the war.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Manchester

What happened last night in Manchester is inexcusable. Of course, no act of terror is acceptable by anyone for any reason, but this one should hit all of us in the civilized world especially hard.

An apparent suicide bomber blew himself up as concert goers were leaving an Ariana Grande concert, killing nineteen and injuring fifty-nine.

Targeting young women and girls leaving a concert is a new low. An evil, evil, cowardice.

This appears to be a level of sophistication not typical of the recent European terrorist acts involving cars driven into crowds or random stabbings. A bomb consisting of shrapnel may hint at the sponsorship of a foreign terrorist organization, it was reported last night.

So where do we go from here?

How do we as a civilized society combat radical extremism?

How do we protect ourselves?

How do we change the world?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave solid advice on this in a speech at an anti-terrorism conference on September 11, 2014:

“(The ability to attack and defend against terrorism) requires weapons, defensive and offensive, but above all it requires, I believe, clarity and courage – clarity to understand they’re wrong, we’re right; they’re evil, we’re good. No moral relativism there at all. These people who lop off heads, trample human rights into the dust – are evil and they have to be resisted. Evil has to be resisted. And the second, it requires courage and responsibility. It requires courage because all the other qualities that we could bring to bear in the battle against terrorism are meaningless if you don’t have courage.”

Courage to educate.

Clarity to explain well why we are right, and militant Islam is wrong.

More Netanyahu:

“I may surprise you when I tell you that I think militant Islam will be defeated. I think it will be, I think it will ultimately disappear from the stage of history because I think it’s a grand failure – it doesn’t know how to manage economies, it cannot offer the young people to which it appeals any kind of future. It can control their minds for now but ultimately the spread of information technology will obviate that, will give people choices. But this may take a long time.”

President Trump two days ago:

“There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.”

President Bush, 2001:

“”We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and Freedom will prevail.”

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Israeli Palestinian Conflict

President Trump spent day three of his first foreign trip in Israel meeting with Israeli officials. Also on this trip, he will meet with Palestinian leaders.

One of his stated goals for his presidency is the establishment of a lasting peace between the nation of Israel and the Palestinians.

A lofty goal indeed.

When considering the issue, it is important to be aware of the history of the conflict to provide the proper context around which decisions can be effectively made.

If you only listen to the way it is described in the media, you’ll likely come away with the opinion that a two-state solution is reasonable, and Israel’s resistance to a two-state solution is unreasonable.

You may even believe that Israel is the aggressor and has invaded land not belonging to them just as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait or, more recently, Vladimir Putin invaded part of the Ukraine.

That’s not the whole story. Here is a brief timeline of Israel’s modern history:

May 15, 1947 – United Nations General Assembly formed a committee to prepare a report on the issue of Palestine and its Jewish immigrants.

September 3, 1947 – The committee proposed the formation of an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, both independent from Jerusalem and Bethlehem which would be controlled by the United Nations.

Neither side liked it, but most of the Jews in the region accepted the plan. “Every major Arab leader objected in principle to the right of the Jews to an independent state in Palestine.”

November 29, 1947 – A slightly amended version of the previous plan was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Thirty-three nations voted in favor, thirteen opposed, and ten nations abstained. “The Yishuv accepted the plan, but the Arabs in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states rejected the plan.”

Immediately following approval of the plan, attacks began – shootings, stonings, bombings, rioting – by Arabs against the Jewish population in Palestine.

May 14, 1948 – In the face of violence by those denying its right to exist, Israel declared itself a sovereign nation. “The declaration was stated to be ‘by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly’. The Declaration stated that the State of Israel would ‘ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The next day, Israel was invaded by Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Israel fought them back, capturing land and expanding its borders in the process. The 1949 Armistice Agreement was signed by Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. Per the agreement, Egypt controlled Gaza Strip. Transjordan controlled the West Bank.

1950-1967 saw attacks on Jewish civilians stemming from Gaza Strip.

1967 – Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt known today as the Six-Day War. Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and took complete control over Jerusalem.

In August 1967, “Arab leaders met in Khartoum in response to the war, to discuss the Arab position toward Israel. They reached consensus that there should be no recognition, no peace, and no negotiations with the State of Israel.”

1972 – At the Summer Olympics, eleven members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists.

1973 – Syria and Egypt declared war on Israel in what is known as the Yom Kippur War.

September 9, 1993 – “Yasser Arafat sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stating that the PLO officially recognized Israel’s right to exist and officially renouncing terrorism.” This began the Oslo Peace Process in which Israel gave up control over certain regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, Palestinian terrorist acts continued which escalated from both sides of the conflict.

Terror continues to this day.

A two-state solution may or may not be the best solution to the conflict. Given the history, however, peace is difficult when one side refuses to acknowledge the right of the other side to exist.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Saudi Arabia Day Two

In a predominantly Muslim country, President Trump gave a speech today to the leaders of more than fifty Muslim majority countries about the risks of radical Islamic terrorism, although he did not use the phrase, and how the world must combat it.

He called for cooperation from the Muslim world.

President Trump declared that “Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization.”

He said “estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.”

To the leaders, he said, “There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.”

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between Good and Evil.”

His message to the Muslim world can be summarized by the following statement:

“America is prepared to stand with you — in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

And in a reminder that America is a peaceful nation, the President said, “Above all, America seeks peace — not war.”

So how do we accomplish this? What’s the strategy?

The President:

“Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.”

“As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.”

“And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”

The President also called out Iran and called for isolation:

“But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.”

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

This is leadership.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Sally Yates Testimony

I almost didn’t write on today’s Sally Yates, James Clapper testimony tonight, simply because I couldn’t find a fact to pull from. 

Three hours of live testimony covered by the cable news outlets, and I didn’t feel like we learned anything we didn’t already know.

Michael Flynn did bad things.  Still no direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russia government.  Sally Yates doesn’t like the travel “ban” executive order.

Yada, yada, yada…

And then I found this.

Via a Mark Levin tweet linked to a conservative review update linked to a National Review article, I found a nugget of truth:  15% of active terrorism investigations came to the United States as refugees.  

That’s significant.

Read the transcript of FBI Director Comey’s testimony from last week:

COMEY: “If we have about 1,000 home grown violent extremist investigations and we probably have another 1,000 or so that are — I should define my terms. Home grown violent extremists, we mean somebody — we have no indication that they’re in touch with any terrorists…Then we have another big group of people that we’re looking at who we see some contact with foreign terrorists. So you take that 2,000 plus cases, about 300 of them are people who came to the United States as refugees.”

So, a thousand are home grown. Another thousand are actually in touch with foreign terrorists. And 300 came in as refugees. 

And that’s why the travel “ban” is important.

I use quotations because it was never a true ban, but rather a pause to allow six foreign countries to get their house in order.

It was also not a restriction on a single religion, either, which seemed to be the focus of Ms. Yates’ discussion with Senator Cruz.

She said: “I’m also familiar with an additional provision … that says no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against in issuance of a visa because of race, nationality, and place of birth. That I believe was promulgated after the statute that you just quoted. And that’s been part of the discussion with the courts … whether this more specific statute trumps the first one (about the President’s ability to control immigration).”

There are many other predominantly Muslim countries that were not included in the executive order.  Yet, the six countries that were included in the order all have one thing in common, and it isn’t religion.

Each country in the executive order does not have a functioning central government.  They have no way to effectively vet refugees on their end. 

This is why the 300 number is important. 15% of those being actively investigated by the FBI for ties to terrorism came into the United States as a refugee.

This is why the travel “pause” was issued. Of those 300 refugees under investigation, it only takes one terrorist to kill a lot of Americans.  None of us want that.

As a closing thought, let me remind you of this mischaracterization from November 17, 2015 regarding objections to Syrian refugees:

“Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” Obama said of Republicans. “At first, they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of three year old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me.”

Now we learn 15% are potential terrorists. President Trump’s executive order would have made America a safer place.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

blog@johnanchor.com