Tag Archives: Mark Memmott

The King Hearings… A Small Sampling

Mark Memmott at NPR:

The House Committee on Homeland Security’s hearing on what Chairman Peter King (R-NY) says is the domestic threat from “Muslim radicalization” continues on Capitol Hill. We posted earlier on the emotional testimony from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim member of Congress and on a father’s warning about the “extremist invaders” who he says programmed his son to kill.

King, as you can see in this video from The Associated Press, said he will not “back down … to political correctness.”

“There is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” King said

Chris Good at The Altantic:

In a move that’s stirred much criticism, New York Rep. Peter King on Thursday, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, will hold a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee examining radicalization among American Muslims.

Not since the Bush administration has public debate erupted so sharply over whether a particular congressional hearing should even be held.

King says the hearing is “absolutely necessary.” Radicalization exists in the Muslim community in America, and it’s his job as committee chairman to fully investigate it, King has said.

“I have no choice. I have to hold these hearings. These hearings are absolutely essential. What I’m doing is taking the next logical step from what the administration has been saying. Eric Holder says he lies awake at night worrying about the growing radicalization of people in this country who are willing to take up arms against their government. I believe that the leadership, too many leaders in the Muslim community do not face up to that reality,” King recently told CNN’s Dana Bash.

“I never want to wake up the morning after another attack and say if only I had done what I should have done as homeland security chairman, this wouldn’t have happened,” said King, who represents a district on Long Island.

Others don’t see it that way: Many have raised questions about whether King is wrong to single out a particular religious group. Comparisons to McCarthyism have being raised.

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, spoke this morning at the controversial hearings led by Long Island Republican congressman Peter King, and broke down in tears while telling the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an American citizen from Pakistan, who died in the Septemper 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Ellison first warned of the dangers of “ascribing evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community,” before sobbing through the story of Hamdani, who was slandered when he went missing on 9/11, accused of being complicit in the attack. “His life should not be indentified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion,” Ellison said, “but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.”

King, meanwhile, announced today that he has had around-the-clock security since late last year, when he announced plans to hold hearings that examine recruitment for Al Qaeda and the threat of “radicalization.”

More important is Ellison’s moving plea. If this country has any sense, his impassioned testimony will be the lasting image from this detrimental sham masquerading as government action.

David Weigel:

Much of the liberal opposition to Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Muslim radicalism today has focused on King himself — his past support of the IRA, his treasure trove of heated comments about terrorism.

That came to the fore just now, after Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Homeland Security Committee’s ranking member, asked about the implications of a member of Congress saying there were “too many mosques.” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., took umbrage at that.

“I haven’t heard any member of our committee say there’s too many mosques,” he said. The implication was shameful.

King briefly took the microphone. It was him, he said: “I’d said there are too many mosques.”

Indeed, he sort of did. It’s complicated. In 2007, he said those exact words in a Politico interview, but immediately pointed out that they were taken out of context — he meant to say* that there are “too many mosques not cooperating with law enforcement.”

Rep. Peter King: There Are Too Many Mosques In The US

It was just one skirmish in the long-running war between King and CAIR et al.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

I’m of two minds about the hearings on domestic terrorism that Rep. Peter King is holding today. I’ve been a staunch defender of Muslims–of their patriotic record as American citizens, of their right to build houses of worship anywhere they want, including near Ground Zero. But let’s face it: there have been a skein of attacks over the past year–starting with the Fort Hood massacre and running through the aborted Times Square bombing–that have been attempted by U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslims. This is something new and, I think, it is a phenomenon that needs to be (a) acknowledged and (b) investigated as calmly and fairly as possible.

I’m not sure that King, an excitable bloviator, is the right person to conduct the hearings–but we need to know whether there is a pattern here, whether there are specific mosques that have been incubators, and how much an influence the American-born terrorist Anwar Awlaki, who is now living somewhere in Yemen, has been. We should do this with the assumption that American muslim terrorists are about as common as American Christian anti-abortion terrorists. We should do it as sensitively as possible, with the strong assertion that Islamophobia is unacceptable in America. But we should do it.

Rick Moran:

This is such a no-brainer issue that the only possible reason to oppose King’s hearings is to score political points. There is no earthly reason that Muslims should oppose rooting out radicals in their midst – especially since law enforcement says that either out of fear or anti-Americanism, many ordinary Muslims do not cooperate with the police or FBI.

I have a feeling this hearing is going to be an eye opener. And that might be why some Muslims are so opposed to having it.

Jennifer Rubin:

The notion that we should ignore the obvious in an attempt to curry favor with “moderate” Muslims here in the U.S. and to avoid offending those overseas is badly misguided. For starters, it assumes that those audiences are infantile in their inability to distinguish, as the rest of us do, the difference between radicalized, murderous Islamic fundamentalists and those who pose no threat whatsoever. In doing so, we only serve to undermine the efforts of those non-radicalized Muslims abroad who could use some assistance, even if it is only rhetorical in pushing back against extremists.

Moreover, it glosses over a real issue in the U.S.: a number of groups who offer themselves as “moderate” and with whom the administration consults are not helping matters, as evidence by the fit thrown over the prospect of examining how their fellow Muslims turn to murder and mayhem. Let’s take CAIR, for example. This ostensibly anti-discrimination group has refused to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. As I wrote last year:

CAIR has created its own cottage industry by hassling airlines, intimidating government investigators, and generally spraying lawsuits and claims of “discrimination” at those who single out Muslims for additional scrutiny in efforts to defend ourselves in a war waged by Islamic fascists against our civilization. (CAIR figures also had their share of encounters with the law. See here and here.)

It’s not hard to figure out why public discussion of all this strikes fear in the hearts of those who would rather not see a public accounting of their actions. But even the administration has to acknowledge that failure to identify, understand and combat the role of Islamic fundamentalists’ recruitment of Americans is foolhardy in the extreme. And, so, lo and behold, we learn, “While the thrust of McDonough’s remarks seemed aimed at declaring common cause with the Muslim community, the White House official was also careful not to minimize the dangers posed by efforts to radicalize Muslims inside the United States. He also managed to announce, in advance of King’s hearings, that the administration will soon roll out a comprehensive plan aimed at combating the radicalization effort.” Well, I suppose CAIR won’t like that either.

If King’s hearings have spurred the administration to get off the stick and begin work on this issue, they are already a success. And if nothing else they have exposed just how unhelpful some Muslim American groups are in the war against Islamic jihadists.


Filed under GWOT, Political Figures, Religion

And Now For News Other Than Sarah Palin…

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up. Fisher:

Lebanon’s government is on the verge of collapse as Hezbollah, the paramilitary group and national political party, threatens to withdraw from the shaky government coalition. At the heart of the political dispute is Hezbollah’s objection to an ongoing United Nations investigation that is expected to indict Hezbollah members for the 2005 bombing that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri’s son, current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, met today with President Obama to discuss the political crisis. Obama is getting involved after negotiations, sponsored by Syria and Saudi Arabia, failed to resolve the dispute. As is so often the case with Lebanon, the situation is tenuous and the dangers of escalation are high

Tony Karon at Time:

Even as Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday for urgent talks over the future of his government, Hizballah decided to pull the plug on that government and leave Hariri’s status uncertain. Eleven ministers from the Shi’ite Islamist party and its allies resigned from the Cabinet and demanded the formation of a new government, leaving Hariri unable to govern. The collapse of yet another fragile consensus government once again raises the specter of Lebanon’s descending into a new cycle of sectarian violence — but it could also simply be a hardball negotiating tactic by Hizballah to cement its position and highlight the limited power of its enemies, including the U.S., to manage events in Lebanon.

The Hizballah walkout was prompted by the collapse of a deal brokered by Saudi Arabia and Syria under which the Lebanese government would distance itself from the U.N. tribunal investigating the murder of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, in February 2005. Although Syria was initially widely blamed for the killing, it has been reported that the U.N. tribunal will in fact indict members of Hizballah, the Iran-backed movement whose militia remains the single most powerful military force in Lebanon, and whose electoral support in the Shi’ite community gives it a central role in government. Hizballah had warned for months that it would not allow the arrest of any of its members, and branded the U.N. tribunal a Western-Israeli plot to undermine the movement. The U.S. has insisted throughout the crisis that the interests of political stability cannot be allowed to impede the pursuit of justice in the Hariri murder.

Richard Spencer at The Telegraph:

Lebanon is becoming the Berlin Wall of the new Cold War: the frightening, potentially nuclear proxy struggle between allies of the West and Iran.

The West came to West Berlin’s short-term rescue with the 1948 airlift, but then could do little but stand and watch as the Soviet Union boxed Germany’s former capital into a corner for four decades.

Now Lebanon’s democratically elected government has had its legs taken away from under it by Hizbollah, Iran’s local front organisation. The country faces its own division, stand-off and stagnation, if not worse.

Like Berlin after the Second World War, Lebanon is a fractured place, with the major world powers – in this case, the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran/Syria – having their own local front men.

Saad Hariri, the prime minister, inherited the country’s largest fortune when his father, Rafiq, was murdered in 2005. His enemies were Syria and Hizbollah: both have been blamed. Hariri, a Sunni, made his fortune in Saudi Arabia which has backed him and then his son ever since. The Saudis, of course, loathe Iran.

Hariri’s not without support. He won the last election – though, rather like Northern Ireland, that only has the effect of rearranging the seats around the power-sharing cabinet table. He has majority support from Middle Eastern governments, including the big Gulf oil players. And, of course, he has America behind him.

Hizbollah made itself extremely popular after taking on Israel in 2006. But that popularity may have peaked – many Lebanese and others can see the danger of having a separate armed militia pursuing its own agenda. No-one wants a civil war, while if starts a conflict with Israel, it won’t exactly be taking a vote from the people who will be on the receiving end of Israeli air force strikes.

Scaremongers say that war would bring in Syria on its side – but does Syria, which has good self-preservatory instincts these days, really think that is a good idea?

Mark Memmott at NPR

Qifa Nabki:

The current crisis has its roots in Hizbullah and AMAL’s cabinet walkout of late 2006, which led to over a year and a half of government paralysis, a huge downtown sit-in and protest, escalating street violence, the May 7 clashes, and, eventually, the Doha Agreement. The opposition’s principal demand at that stage was greater representation in cabinet — the so-called “blocking third” — so as to be able to meaningfully block legislation proposed by Hariri’s majority March 14 coalition. More fundamentally, the opposition was seeking a “nuclear option”: the ability to bring down the government in precisely this kind of situation, whereby Saad al-Hariri and his allies would remain committed to supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon all the way until the release of indictments.

If the opposition resigns later today, they will have finally exercised the option that they fought to gain between 2006 and 2008.

Many questions come to mind:

  1. Why now? What prompted the breakdown of the Saudi-Syrian initiative that was supposedly drawing close to some kind of temporary solution in Lebanon? Did the negotiations fall apart as a result of US pressure (as some are suggesting) or was the whole thing a charade from the beginning?
  2. Where do the local parties go from here? Will the opposition call for protests and strikes in an effort to display popular support for their call to end Lebanon’s cooperation with the STL? How will March 14th respond?
  3. When will the STL release its indictments? Rumors suggest that this could be imminent, but we are unlikely to learn the content of the indictments for weeks, given that the pre-trial judge will probably review them privately.
  4. Finally, and more crassly, who will come out on top in this confrontation between March 14 (and its allies in Washington and Riyadh on one hand) and March 8 (and its allies in Damascus and Tehran)? Are we headed for a “Doha 2″ agreement?

Let’s not jump the gun. The opposition still needs to make good on its threat. Until then, the floor is open for discussion.

Roger Runnigen at Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama said the collapse of Lebanon’s unity government today shows Hezbollah’s fear of a united country acting for all Lebanese people.

“The efforts by the Hezbollah-led coalition to collapse the Lebanese government only demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government’s ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people,” Obama said in a statement issued after he held a private meeting at the White House with Prime Minister Saad Hariri.


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The Textile Factory Is Not Times Square

Mark Memmott at NPR on May 10:

At least 75 people have died in attacks today in Iraq, the Associated Press reports, making it the nation’s “bloodiest day of the year so far.”

The most carnage occurred at a textile factory in Hillah. After two car bombs were set off and a crowd gathered to help victims, a suicide bomber walked into the scene and set off explosives strapped to his belt. At least 40 people died there and another 135 or so were wounded. Hillah is 60 miles south of Baghdad.

According to the BBC, more than 20 people were also killed “in a series of attacks which included drive by shootings and suicide bombings on police checkpoints and a market.”

From Baghdad, NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports that “the spike in violence is adding to the anxiety in Iraq as the U.S. military prepares to reduce its presence dramatically, and as Iraqi politicians struggle to form a new government in the wake of inconclusive elections back in March.”

Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis:

There’s little to say about the violence, honestly. We’ve assembled a list of the attacks, and the casualty counts, after the jump. The scope is stunning: A dozen attacks on police and army checkpoints in Baghdad; coordinated car and suicide bombings in Hilla, Suweira and Fallujah; and other brazen attacks against security and political officials.

Iraq’s political class — distracted by the government formation process — hasn’t said much about the violence. Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki hasn’t released an official statement on the violence, and I haven’t seen him (or any other Iraqi officials) quoted in the Iraqi/Arabic press.

Ali al-Dabbagh, Maliki’s spokesman, did say tonight (عربي) that the attacks “have the hallmarks” of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Rebecca Santana and Lara Jakes at Huffington Post:

Al-Qaida is trying to … use some gaps created by some political problems,” Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for Baghdad’s security operations center, told Arabiya TV. “There are well-known agendas for the terrorist groups operating in Iraq. Some of these groups are supported regionally and internationally with the aim of influencing the political and democratic process inside Iraq.”

More than two months after the March 7 election, Iraq’s main political factions are still struggling to put together a ruling coalition. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite bloc has tried to squeeze out election front-runner Ayad Allawi – a secular Shiite who was heavily backed by Sunnis – by forging an alliance last week with another religious Shiite coalition. The union, which is just four seats short of a majority in parliament, will likely lead to four more years of a government dominated by Shiites, much like the current one.

Sunni anger at Shiite domination of successive governments was a key reason behind the insurgency that sparked sectarian warfare in 2006 and 2007. If Allawi is perceived as not getting his fair share of power, that could in turn outrage the Sunnis who supported him and risk a resurgence of sectarian violence.

The relentless cascade of bombings and shootings – hitting at least 10 cities and towns as the day unfolded – also raised questions about whether Iraqi security forces can protect the country as the U.S. prepares to withdraw half of its remaining 92,000 troops in Iraq over the next four months.



Over there.

BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a textile factory Monday in a crowd that gathered after two car bombings at the same spot in the worst of a series of attacks that killed at least 84 people across Iraq, the deadliest day this year.

Locally, some guy failed to set gasoline on fire.

Minstrel Boy:

its interesting to compare the murdering competence of these Iraqis against the clown that hit us in Times Square. What Iraq experienced today is about equal to the OKC bombing. I’m not sure America could handle a wave of these. We’ve come to expect some sort of exemption from the world’s violence

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Apparently, She Was Also The Crazy Cat Lady

Maureen O’Connor at Gawker:

Seven Muslims were arrested Tuesday for trying to kill yet another Muhammad-doodling European cartoonist. Among them was Colleen LaRose, a blond-haired green-eyed suburbanite who met her co-conspirators on YouTube and online forums, under the name JihadJane. According to a federal indictment, the 46-year-old LaRose began her jihad in June of 2008 when, under the username JihadJane, she commented on YouTube that she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” Muslims. She began corresponding with like-minded people in South Asia and Europe, two of whom advised Jihad Jane to take advantage of her imperviousness to racial profiling so they could attack a target CNN identifies as Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who earned a fatwa for depicting Muhammad astride a donkey.

Mark Memmott at NPR:

Colleen LaRose, the Pennsylvania woman who authorities say called herself ”Jihad Jane” and used the Web to recruit others for violent attacks around the world, was “the weird, weird, weird lady who lived across the hall,” neighbor Eric Newell tells the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call. ”We always called her the crazy lady.”


Newell, the neighbor, says in the Morning Call that LaRose, 46, “was mostly notorious for getting drunk and getting into fights.” The newspaper adds that “Newell’s wife, Kristy, said LaRose talked to her cats all the time. But they never heard her discuss politics or extremist plots.”

The Jawa Report:

Here is The Jawa Report’s exclusive report* from the person who notified the FBI about Colleen “Jihad Jane” La Rose’s online activities in support of terrorism.

There have been so many media inquiries made to The Jawa Report and YouTube Smackdown about our involvement in the “Jihad Jane” case. We here at The Jawa Report and the YouTube Smackdown Corps were involved to varying degrees in tracking and “smacking down” her various YouTube videos and accounts. By “smacking down” we mean we helped with an organized campaign to “flag” terrorist propaganda videos uploaded to YouTube in an effort to have those videos removed.

Howie and Stable Hand at the Jawa Report, for instance, were much more active in following Colleen — who in addition to calling herself “Jihad Jane” also used the name “Fatima LaRose”.

Andrea, Sabby, The Bartender, Celebrimbor, & Lam from the Smackdown Corps also followed Jihad Jane over the years. And Star CMC was instrumental both in the Corps and in enlisting the help of members of the Free Republic forum for various YouTube smackdowns.

But one individual in particular decided that Colleen’s pro-terrorism videos and statements crossed a line last year. I think we all thought of Colleen as pathetic and perhaps deranged. But at some time a year or more ago she also caught this person’s attention and they made the judgment that Colleen was also dangerous.

Michelle Malkin:

My friends at The Jawa Report, the counterterrorism blog that has done heroic work unmasking jihadi operatives online and on YouTube, have an exclusive report on the whistleblower who turned in “Jihad Jane.”

Read the whole thing here — and be sure to send thanks and praise to the vigilant bloggers and watchdogs looking out for us and acting.

Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent:

Why did she think she’d get away with it? Charlie Savage and Anahad O’Connor explain:

Ms. LaRose is white, with blond hair and green eyes, according to the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to share details of the case and spoke only on the condition of anonymity. …

The indictment refers to e-mail messages in which a conspirator, citing how Ms. LaRose’s appearance and American passport would make it easier for her to operate undetected, allegedly directed her in March 2009 to go to Sweden to help carry out a murder.

But the Department of Homeland Security insists on singling out citizens of mostly-Muslim “terror-prone” countries for additional airport screening, a move that would not have caught shoebomber Richard Reid (British citizen, Jamaican heritage); would-be-underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab at the time (Nigerian citizen, lots of time spent in the U.K.; and now Jihad Jane (American citizen, white as the driven snow, and we know white people can’t be terrorists). But ethnic profiling is great at humiliating and infuriating dignitaries of countries like Pakistan, whose assistance is absolutely crucial to an ultimate defeat of al-Qaeda.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

Mowbray asks:

So why are the Feds downplaying the case? And why is much of the mainstream media playing along? Most important, why is she going to do less jail time than many petty thieves?

The reason is that everyone (even Joel) is in thrall to the same false notion, expressed most succinctly by a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza after 9/11: “There’s no relationship between immigration and terrorism.” In other words, let’s just let in the good Mexican illegal aliens but keep out the bad Arab illegal aliens. But until we realize that, under modern conditions, national security is impossible without comprehensive immigration control, we’re going to keep seeing stories like Jihad Jane over and over again. She is, in the words of the Tancredo ad everyone felt superior in pooh-poohing, “The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.”

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Filed under GWOT, Homeland Security

What The Hell Is Happening In Nigeria?

Heather Horn at The Atlantic has a round-up

Mark Memmott at NPR:

Horrible news this morning from Nigeria:

“Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people including a 4-day-old infant, residents said, less than two months after sectarian violence in the volatile region left more than 300 dead. The violence in three mostly Christian villages Sunday appeared to be reprisal attacks following the January unrest in Jos — when most of the victims were Muslims, said Red Cross spokesman Robin Waubo.” (Associated Press)

The BBC says the already terrible death toll may be even higher — “some 500 people, many women and children, are now reported to have died in a weekend religious clash near Nigeria’s city of Jos, officials say.”

According to The Guardian, “bodies were reportedly piled in streets near the central city of Jos.”

The Jawa Report:

The Australian dutifully reports ,”500 die in Nigerian race riots”

Er uh, Islam is not a race! To add insult to injury they go on to quickly blame the violence on the “Christian race”.

In Jos, Yusuf Alkali, a member of the Fulani group, said he believed the attacks were a reprisal for the killings of four herdsmen two weeks ago, when a Fulani settlement was raided by ethnic Berom youths.

So see, according to the effing Dhimmis at The Australian” the Muslim race was like totally justified in hacking off the heads of women and children?

Rod Dreher:

I didn’t realize “Christian” and “Muslim” were ethnic categories. You read down into the story, and you realize that the Christian victims were members of one ethnic group, and the Muslim perpetrators are members of another. OK, fine. But what kind of cockeyed editorial policy downplays the religious nature of this violence? Does it really enhance our understanding of the deadly conflict in Nigeria to marginalize the religious element of the fighting?


But I want to know more about why Nigerian Muslims and Nigerian Christians are fighting so viciously. Anyway, this screwball headline brought to mind the headline on this Times story from 2002: “Killing Underscores Enmity of Evangelists and Muslims.” It was about Lebanese Muslims who had murdered an Evangelical medical missionary. The enmity only went one way, obviously; that headline really misled the reader.

Robert Mackey at NYT:

In a telephone interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday, the Rev. Benjamin Kwashi, the Anglican archbishop of Jos, described the attacks on Christian members of Plateau’s leading ethnic group, the Beromas, by Fulani herdsmen, who are Muslims, as “systematic and quite well organized,” and suggested that they were carried out by “people who knew what to do and were trained on how to do it.”

Asked if he knew who was orchestrating the attacks, Rev. Kwashi said, “If we had an idea of who it was, the problem would be solved. That’s what we have been facing in Jos, we don’t know who,” is responsible for the repeated outbreaks of violence between the two communities. He added:

Suddenly from [say,] the construction of a house, people are killed, churches are burned. […] These are faceless people. If they could identify themselves we could ask them ‘what do you really want’ and some meaningful negotiations can be done.

In January, Rev. Kwashi argued in an essay for Christianity Today magazine — headlined, “In Jos We Are Coming Face to Face in Confrontation with Satan” — that violence in the region was not motivated by religious differences, writing: “those who have in the past used violence to settle political issues, economic issues, social matters, intertribal disagreements, or any issue for that matter, now continue to use that same path of violence and cover it up with religion.”

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Bombs In Baqubah

Daily Beast:

Iraqi militants have stepped up their game in anticipation of Sunday’s national elections, The New York Times reports, with twice as many people dead from violence in February as in the previous month. On Wednesday, a series of three bomb blasts killed at least 30 people and wounded 45 in the city Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. At least 15 of the victims were members of security forces. The attacks included two car-bombs aimed at government buildings, and one attack on a hospital where victims of the earlier blasts were being treated. On election day, officials plan to stem potential violence by banning cars and issuing curfews.

Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis:

Two car bombs went off simultaneously this morning, around 9:30 local time, at the provincial government’s main building in Baquba (the capital of Diyala) and in a nearby intersection. A third bomber, reportedly wearing a police uniform with the rank of lieutenant, blew himself up at Baquba’s main hospital — as casualties from the first two bombings began arriving for treatment.

The third bomber reportedly tried to kill the provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Hussein al-Shimari, who was visiting the wounded in the hospital. Shimari wasn’t harmed in the explosion. At least 12 of the casualties were members of Baquba’s police force.

Talib Mohamed Hassan, the head of Diyala’s provincial council, blamed the attacks on foreign fighters.

“Even if such attacks continue on election day, people will vote. It has become a challenge,” he said.

I don’t know if foreign fighters or homegrown insurgents are responsible — Diyala has a sizable Sunni population and a long-running Sunni insurgency — but the timing of the attacks seems linked to the election. But I also doubt attacks like this have any strategic significance vis-a-vis the elections. The insurgency hasn’t mounted any kind of coordinated campaign — indeed, another Sunni group announced yesterday that it would not target polling places — and isolated bombings aren’t likely to change the outcome of the vote.

The Jawa Report:

Now that al-Qaeda in Iraq are in a hopeless situation, they try to solve it the way al-Qaeda always tries to solve their problems. Murder.

Mark Memmott at NPR:

As deadly as today’s attacks were, and even though there have been some other similar attacks in recent weeks, Quil reports that violence in Iraq has not been as bad as some authorities had feared in the run-up to this coming Sunday’s national elections. Quil also notes that this will be Iraq’s fifth nationwide poll since American forces entered the country in early 2003, but is the first election in which Iraqi forces will be in charge of security.

Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy:

I am sorry to see the three bombings that killed at least 29 people in Baqubah today, but I am not using the “unraveling” title on this because I think the current bombings in Iraq are simply an attempt to scare people before this Sunday’s election. They may get media attention but don’t seem to me necessarily to represent any long-term trend.

The big question in my mind is what happens in the three months after the election. How long will it take to form a government? And will that process exacerbate ethnic and sectarian tensions? If we don’t see an Iraqi government by June 1, I will be very concerned.

It isn’t a “dark victory,” either. For fun, read aloud this Newsweek piece and substitute “Vietnam” and “Saigon” for Iraq and Baghdad. Reads like a Luce product circa 1967. Or maybe China 1946, for that matter. Funny how a Western symphony orchestra and a store selling Johnny Walker are such perennial signs of a breakthrough in a land war in Asia. All we need is a scholarly Asian president who enjoys reading Shakespeare in his rare moments of relaxation. Speaking of the Lucites, Time magazine does a much better job of describing the outlines of post-occupation Iraq. And the AP reports that a new warrant for the arrest of Mookie has been issued. Interesting timing.

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Two Iraq Items: Chemical Ali Finally Dead And Three Bombings In Baghdad

David Sessions at Politics Daily:

Ali Hassan al-Majeed, Saddam Hussein’s cousin who became known as “Chemical Ali” after he gassed 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1988, was executed Monday, CNN reports. He was hanged after being convicted in four separate trials for 13 counts of killings and genocide.

Al-Majeed was held by the United States from the day of his capture in 2003 until 24 hours before he was to be executed, when he was turned over to Iraqi officials. The execution had been postponed for political reasons, and it is unclear what change led it to be suddenly carried out.

In addition to the Kurdish genocide, Al-Majeed was sentenced to death separately for his role in putting down a Shiite uprising against Hussein in 1991, and for his part in putting down a Baghdad revolt in 1999.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Of all the atrocities committed against the Kurds during the Saddam’s rule, Halabja has come to symbolize the worst of the repression against the Iraqi Kurds. Halabja was a town of 70,000 people located about 8-10 miles from the Iranian border.

In March 1988, the town and the surrounding district were unmercifully attacked with bombs, artillery fire, and chemicals. The chemical weapons included mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and VX. At least 5,000 people died immediately as a result of the chemical attack and it is estimated that 7,000-10,000 were injured.

The Jawa Report

Steve Clemons at Washington Note

It’s interesting to remember that Ali had been pronounced dead before with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, and others at US Central Command saying that in April 2003 General Ali’s body had been found.

Mark Memmott at NPR:

Three large explosions in Baghdad this morning have killed more than 30, police tell the Associated Press and Reuters. Scores more were wounded.

The AP adds that the blasts happened around 3:40 p.m. local time in a “popular hotel and restaurant district along the Tigris River.”


Update at 8:50 a.m. ET: The death toll keeps rising. Reuters reports police say at least 24 people were killed. The AP is reporting that at least 31 have died. We have updated above as well.

Update at 8:47 a.m. ET: The AP now reports the death toll is “at least 16” and says that “scores” have been wounded. Earlier, police had said there were at least 11 fatalities. We’ve updated above with the higher number.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. AFP/Getty Images has just distributed this photo of smoke rising from the scene of one explosion:

Smoke rises hundreds of meters into the sky following an explosion in Baghdad on January 25, 2010. Three massive blasts were heard in the Iraqi capital. (Photo by Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images)

(Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images)


Update at 8:20 a.m. ET. Lourdes says that:

— “There were a series of explosions … three bombs that targeted three different hotels.” At one, a minibus exploded. The bomb destroyed a row of houses and a family may be trapped inside at least one.

— “The fact that there were three explosions … shows this was a coordinated attack, at least that’s what the police are telling us.”

— “From what I heard … (there were) three different explosions and a lot of firefights.”

— “It’s pretty chaotic … There’s mangled cars and frankly, bits of bodies littered around the area.”

Jim Romenesko:

The recent move out of the Hamra was no accident, nor was it simply good luck. Hannah Allam, who oversees the Baghdad bureau from her base in Cairo, was in Iraq late last year overseeing the merger with the Monitor and was alarmed by the deteriorating security conditions at the hotel and some developments in the immediate neighborhood, most colorfully the openings of two brothels across the square, which in addition to their primary purpose provided an ideal place to survey the Hamra and its defenses without attracting much notice. The security force had shrunk to about half of what’s needed, largely because NBC News has bailed out of Iraq and taken its budget with it, and one day workers arrived and began tearing down the blast walls, we suspect because of a dispute over payments to someone in authority.

Foreign Editor Roy Gutman and foreign affairs correspondent Warren Strobel, both of whom did recent tours in Baghdad, agreed with Hannah’s assessment, and so we decided to find a new location and get out of the Hamra while the getting was good.

The bombings today killed at least 31 people and included a suicide car bombing inside the compound that surrounds the Hamra. Witnesses said gunmen on the main road outside the hotel began firing at the security guards manning the checkpoint that leads to the hotel compound, and then drove a pickup packed with explosives past the security barrier. The guards shot the driver dead just before the truck detonated on the street directly outside the hotel.

Laura Rozen at Politico

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I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Elizabeth Lev at Politics Daily:

As Christmas Eve Mass began in St. Peter’s Basilica last night, an unidentified woman leapt over the security barrier, apparently in a wild attempt to embrace the Pope. Although the papal security guards intercepted her with a tackle that would do the NFL proud, the woman caught hold of the Pope’s vestments and pulled Benedict down with her.

Then the 82-year-old pontiff went right back to work. After a moment or two on the ground, Pope Benedict got up, to cheers of “Viva il Papa!” and continued his procession down the aisle. The Mass was celebrated without interruption and the Pope’s voice was clear and steady as he read the homily. Given that the Christmas Mass had been moved back to 10:00 p.m. to save the Benedict’s energy, his stamina and sangfroid surprised many people.

Lisa Derrick at Firedoglake:

The Vatican Swiss Guard, which function like the Papal Secret Service, are getting kinda sloppy. This is the second time in two years women have breached Vatican security during the Pope’s Christmas Eve service. Last year, before she could get to His Holiness,  guards tackled the attacker. This year a shameless rowdy harridan lunged and knocked the Pope over as he walked down the aisle, bringing Ill Papa Ratzinger and Cardinal Roger Etchegaray to the carpet. Oh the blasphemy! What a harlot! There’s video below, but maybe you’ll enjoy some other shameless, rowdy harridan celebrating Jesus’ birth instead.

Cheryl Phillips at The Examiner:

The Vatican stated that the woman who knocked over the Pope is Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss and Italian citizen with a history of mental problems, and said she was not armed. She was dressed in a red hooded sweatshirt and reportedly the attempt she made in 2008 came after Midnight Mass but guards stopped her before she could get to Pope Benedict. She also wore a red sweatshirt last year.

Mark Memmott at NPR:

Today, NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome, an “undaunted” pope delivered his Christmas Day message from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. She says he “asserted that while mankind is being buffeted by a financial crisis, it is being even more profoundly affected by a moral crisis and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts.”

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Russian Cyber Gangs Attack Citi Or At Least That’s What The Wall Street Journal Says

Mark Memmott at NPR:

The two sides of this story couldn’t be further apart:

The Wall Street Journal says it’s been told by unnamed “government officials” that the FBI “is probing a computer-security breach targeting Citigroup Inc. that resulted in a theft of tens of millions of dollars by computer hackers who appear linked to a Russian cyber gang.”

But Citigroup’s Joe Petro, managing director of its Security and Investigative Services, says that “we had no breach of the system and there were no losses, no customer losses, no bank losses. … Any allegation that the FBI is working a case at Citigroup involving tens of millions of losses is just not true.”

Owen Fletcher at PC World:

The Russian Business Network is a well-known group linked to malicious software, hacking, child pornography and spam. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing the case, the report said.

It was not known whether the money had been recovered and a Citibank representative said the company had not had any system breach or losses, according to the report.

The report left unclear who the money was stolen from but said a program called Black Energy, designed by a Russian hacker, was one tool used in the attack. The tool can be used to command a botnet, or a large group of computers infected by malware and controlled by an attacker, in assaults meant to take down target Web sites. This year a modified version of the software appeared online that could steal banking information, and in the Citi attack a version tailored to target the bank was used, the Journal said.

John Hudson at The Atlantic has the round-up. Douglas McIntyre at Daily Finance:

The U.S. banking system may be at risk from these cyberattacks, but the financial system may not be their most important target, at least as far as the federal government is concerned. Last July, hackers, probably from North Korea, targeted government websites in the U.S. and South Korea. Computers at the Treasury Department and FTC were shut down briefly.

Programmers are becoming much more sophisticated at breaking into the servers and PCs that run major websites, including those run by the U.S. government. Anti-hacker software is supposed to be well-designed and highly effective, but it appears that is not always the case.

The government and businesses with sensitive information, including banks and defense contractors, are likely to be subject to more and more of these breaches, and there isn’t much evidence to show that all of them can be stopped.

Ryan Chittum at Columbia Journalism Review:

The paper counters that with an explanation of why Citi would lie:

U.S. banks have generally been loath to disclose computer attacks for fear of scaring off customers. In part this is an outgrowth of an experience Citibank had in 1994, when it revealed that a Russian hacker had stolen more than $10 million from customer accounts. Competitors swooped in to try to steal the bank’s largest depositors.You can bet this one was one of the most heavily “lawyered” WSJ stories in a good while. The liability for getting this one wrong would be huge, especially after a flat denial.


It’s rare to see a story like this where the subject denies the very premise of a super-sensitive story and yet the paper goes ahead and writes it anyway.

The WSJ is calling Citigroup a liar. Good for it.

Alain Sherter at Bnet

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