Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why Won’t Republicans Get to the Bottom of Benghazi?

It’s not just Democrats who don't want a full public airing. 

Something bothers me about the first and only hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Something I haven’t been able to shake.

It was a desultory hearing. That’s not the main thing that bothers me, but it grates. Many Americans still seek real accountability for the jihadist-empowering policies and recklessly irresponsible security arrangements that preceded the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack — to say nothing of the fraud and stonewalling that followed it. We were thus cheered when the GOP-controlled House finally appointed a select investigative committee . . . although we were equally puzzled why it took so much prodding, why Republican leadership seemed so reluctant. Five months have elapsed since then, and the committee has not exactly been a bundle of energy.

The panel is chaired by Representative Trey Gowdy. We were buoyed by that, too: He is an impressive former prosecutor from South Carolina. To date, though, he has convened just the one, remarkably brief public hearing. It was on September 17, a few days after the second anniversary of the Benghazi massacre, during which terrorists killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans: Sean Smith, Ty Woods, and Glen Doherty.

The hearing seemed to be a futile quest for buy-in from committee Democrats, whose mission is to undermine the legitimacy of an investigation their party opposed — one that, if thorough and competent, cannot but damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions. Representative Gowdy agreed to the minority’s request for a session that would explore the recommendations of the Obama State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) and the administration’s diligent implementation thereof.

The ARB probe, conducted by Washington fixtures handpicked by then–Secretary of State Clinton for damage-control purposes, was hopelessly conflicted. It failed to interview key witnesses — including, natch, Mrs. Clinton herself. Its recommendations are thus of dubious value. More to the point, they are far afield from the salient matter: accountability for the disastrous decisions, actions, and omissions before, during, and after the attack.

It was obvious why Democrats wanted a hearing focused on the ARB recommendations. It could nicely frame their contention that Benghazi has already been thoroughly investigated by bipartisan Beltway eminences who found fault (though not much, and not by anyone of significance) and proposed fixes, which fixes the Obama administration anxiously and responsibly adopted. End of story, which after all, dude, was like two years ago.

In spinning this yarn, Democrats could not have chosen a more perfect witness: Gregory Starr, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security. Mr. Starr is a highly experienced diplomat, articulate with just the right edge of condescension, and, best of all, out of the loop on anything of consequence. He wasn’t at State when Benghazi happened. He was brought back to the Department by Mrs. Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, after a stint at the UN. He was therefore perfectly positioned to give forceful soliloquies about how crucial personnel security is to the State Department and the Obama administration, yet able to dodge any questions about the unconscionable security lapses in Benghazi under Secretary Clinton.

To their credit, committee Republicans did a fine job debunking the Democrats’ narrative. Chairman Gowdy in particular was characteristically effective in showing that the ARB recommendations were essentially the same ones proposed, and quickly forgotten, after every terrorist attack on a government facility over the past three decades. He also pointed out that security for high-threat facilities was supposed to be personally approved by the secretary of state, not a subordinate — a problem given that, under Secretary Clinton, security in Benghazi was decreased despite attacks, threats, and expert assessments that clearly signaled an intensifying threat.

Still, there was no reason for committee Republicans to put themselves in a defensive posture. Chairman Gowdy decides what the hearing topics will be. In the days before the hearing, three security contractors assigned to protect the CIA annex in Benghazi went public with allegations that they’d been obstructed by superiors when they tried to come to the aid of the Americans under attack. The delay may have cost lives. Was that not more to the point of the select committee’s mission — more appropriate fodder for its much-anticipated first hearing — than the ARB recommendations?

Of course, we conservatives are used to GOP accommodations designed to both entice Democrats into good-faith cooperation and impress the media with how bipartisan or, in Gowdy’s framing of it, how non-partisan Republicans can be. The civility and sobriety is always unrequited, yet they keep trying.

But that is not my main problem. What really bothers me is what happened toward the end of the hearing.

It was the day’s most dramatic exchange: Representative Gowdy was questioning Secretary Starr. The chairman had expertly set the stage by adducing Starr’s agreement that diplomatic security in dangerous places is a cost-benefit analysis. That is, the degree of risk tolerated depends on the government’s calculation of the benefit derived from whatever mission requires an American presence. With his witness thus cornered, Gowdy pounced: There being no more perilous place on the planet for Americans than the jihadist hornet’s nest of Benghazi, he asked Starr,
We know the risk of being in Benghazi. Can you tell us what our policy was in Libya that overcame those risks? In other words, why were we there?
Starr tried to dance away, going into a speech about how such questions “have been fundamental to the Department for over thirty years,” and that there have thus been evacuations, removal of family members, reductions of personnel, etc. Gowdy, however, would have none of it — after all, none of the measures Starr listed was taken in Benghazi. So again, the chairman demanded,
We know the risk in Benghazi. My colleagues and you and others have done a wonderful job of highlighting some of the “trip wires” — I think [that] is the diplomatic term. What policy were we pursuing in Libya that was so great that it overcame all of the trip wires?
After some hesitation, Secretary Starr meekly replied: “Not being here at the time, sir, I cannot answer that question for you.” 


Starr’s job is diplomatic security and, as he conceded, it cannot be done without knowing the administration’s policy objectives. Regardless of what his responsibilities were when the Benghazi massacre occurred, he cannot responsibly do his current job without knowing what the government’s policy was at the time. Libya has been steadily disintegrating ever since the attack — in fact, our embassy in Tripoli recently had to be evacuated just before being stormed and taken over by jihadists. It is inconceivable that Starr does not know what the Libya policy was.

But that is just half the equation. When a knowledgeable witness refuses to answer a critical question, the interrogator does not just let him off the hook. The witness gets grilled: Isn’t it a fact that the policy was X?

Gowdy did not grill Starr. And Gowdy — the chairman who has access to the intelligence the committee has been gathering for five months, the accomplished prosecutor who is not fool enough to ask a key question to which he did not know the answer — did not fill in the information gap. He abruptly ended the hearing, content to leave the policy shrouded in mystery.

In the midst of Libya’s civil war, the United States government decided to switch sides — we went from support for the Qaddafi regime that had been regarded as a key counterterrorism ally to support for “rebels” who very much included the anti-American jihadists Qaddafi had been helping us track. That was not just an Obama-administration policy preference; it had strong support from prominent senior Republicans in Congress. The toppling of Qaddafi that resulted enabled jihadists to raid the regime’s arsenal. That has greatly benefitted both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorists currently rampaging in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and much of northern Africa.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration, again with significant Republican support, decided to aid and abet Syrian “rebels” who, as in Libya, very much included anti-American jihadists. There is colorable suspicion that this assistance included the gathering up of arms in Libya for shipment to Syrian “rebels.” Abdelhakim Belhadj, the al-Qaeda operative who was Ambassador Stevens’s “rebel” point-man in Benghazi, was clearly involved in at least one major shipment of weapons that went to Syrian “rebels” — including to some of the jihadist groups the United States is now bombing. That shipment was coordinated by Turkey, a country with which Ambassador Stevens, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama worked closely — a country whose ambassador was the last diplomat Stevens met with in Benghazi before being killed.

There will be no accountability for the Benghazi massacre absent a full public airing of what the United States government was doing in that most dangerous of places: Setting up shop among anti-American jihadists and staying there like sitting ducks even as other countries and international organizations pulled out. What was the benefit? Trying to limit the damage caused by switching sides in Libya? Fueling a new jihadist threat in Syria and Iraq — the very one we are now struggling to quell?

In Washington, there seem to be a lot of people resistant to a full public airing of the policy. They may not all be Democrats.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Remembering the Battle of Tours

Posted By Mark Tapson On October 10, 2014 @ 12:18 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments

Nineteenth-century illustration of Battle of Tours by A. de Neuville.

The month of October marks the anniversary of an epic event that unfortunately is no longer widely known but which nonetheless shaped the future of the Western world, and which may still hold inspiration for the West today.

After the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad in 632, Islam spread like a bloody tide throughout the Arabian peninsula, north to the Caspian Sea and east through Persia and beyond, westward through Egypt and across North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. From there it crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and consumed all of the Iberian peninsula, or al-Andalus as the Saracens called it. In a mere one hundred years, Muhammad’s aggressive legacy was an empire larger than Rome’s had ever been.

By 732 that fallen Roman empire had devolved into a patchwork of warring barbarian tribes. When Abd-ar-Rahman, the governor of al-Andalus, crossed the Pyrenees with the world’s most successful fighting force and began sweeping through the south of what would become France toward Paris, there was no nation, no central power, no professional army capable of stopping them.

No army except one – led by the Frankish duke Charles, the eventual grandfather of Charlemagne. His infantrymen, as Victor Davis Hanson puts it in a fascinating chapter of Carnage and Culture, were “hardened veterans of nearly twenty years of constant combat against a variety of Frankish, German, and Islamic enemies.” Hanson writes that the Roman legions had crumbled “because of the dearth of free citizens who were willing to fight for their own freedom and the values of their civilization.” But Charles had spirited, free warriors under his command who were willing.

Sometime in October (the exact date is disputed), on the road between Poitiers and Tours (and so it is sometimes called the Battle of Poitiers) less than 175 miles from Paris, Abd-ar-Rahman arrayed his cavalry against Charles’ solid block of Frankish footsoldiers, which at 30,000 was by some estimates half the size of the Arab and Berber army (Hanson speculates that the armies were more evenly matched).

The opposing forces sized each other up for a full week. And then on Saturday morning Abd-ar-Rahman ordered the charge. But his cavalry, which counted on speed, mobility, and terror to defeat dying empires and undisciplined tribes, could not splinter the better-trained and better-armed Frankish phalanx. At the end of the day’s carnage, both sides regrouped for the next day’s assault.

But at dawn, Charles and his men discovered that the Muslim army had vanished, leaving the booty stolen from ransacked churches behind, as well as 10,000 of their dead – including Abd-ar-Rahman himself. It was not the last Muslim incursion into Europe, but it was the beginning of the end.

Some contemporary historians downplay the magnitude of the Muslim threat, claiming that Abd-ar-Rahman’s force was only a raiding party. They minimize the significance of the battle’s outcome, too; at least one historian even claims that Europe would have been better off if Islam had conquered it. But Hanson notes that “most of the renowned historians of the 18th and 19th centuries… saw Poitiers as a landmark battle that signaled the high-water mark of Islamic advance into Europe.” Edward Creasey included it among his The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. Many believe that if Charles – whom the Pope afterward dubbed Martel, or “the Hammer” – had not stopped Abd-ar-Rahman at Tours, there would have been nothing to prevent Europe from ultimately becoming Islamic. Edward Gibbon called Charles “the savior of Christendom” and wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776 that if not for Charles’ victory, “perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford.”

If only Gibbon could see Oxford now. Not only is the interpretation of the Koran taught there, but Islam thrives in Oxford, thanks partly to the patronage of dhimmi Prince Charles. In his essay “Islam in Oxford,” faux moderate Muslim scholar Muqtadar Khan writes smugly that “Gibbon would have been surprised to learn the lesson that military defeats do not stop the advance of civilizations and the globalization of Islam is unimpeded by the material and military weaknesses of the Muslim world.”

Apart from his dubious suggestion that Islam has anything to do with the advance of civilization, Khan is right. Today the Islamic invasion of Europe and the rest of the West is of the demographic, not military, sort. The continent faces an immigration crisis from at least one generation of young Muslims, many of whom not only are willfully unassimilated, but who are waging cultural and physical aggression against their hosts, establishing parallel communities ruled by sharia and “no-go” zones of violence toward infidels. “Nothing can stop the spread of Islam,” insists Islamic apologist Reza Aslan. “There are those who would try, but it simply will not happen. Absolutely nothing can stop the spread of Islam.”

But Charles Martel begged to differ in 732. The tide was turned back then, and if necessary it can be turned back again, by new Martels. The conflict is different now – it’s far from being as straightforward and elemental as two armies facing off – and so those new Martels won’t necessarily be soldiers. They will also be culture warriors and activists and ordinary citizens willing to put themselves on the front lines against this new incursion. We need “free citizens willing to fight for their own freedom and the values of their civilization” – as Charles Martel and his warriors once were.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.  

Subscribe to Frontpage’s TV show, The Glazov Gang, and LIKE it on Facebook.

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine:

Bombing for show? Or for effect?

By Charles Krauthammer
October 9, 2014

Turkish tanks secure the area as airstrikes by an alleged alliance war plane target the Islamic State in the west of Kobane, Syria. (Tolga Bozoglu/EPA)

During the 1944 Warsaw uprising, Stalin ordered the advancing Red Army to stop at the outskirts of the city while the Nazis, for 63 days, annihilated the non-Communist Polish partisans. Only then did Stalin take Warsaw.
No one can match Stalin for merciless cynicism, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is offering a determined echo by ordering Turkish tanks massed on the Syrian border, within sight of the besieged Syrian town of Kobane, to sit and do nothing.
For almost a month, Kobane Kurds have been trying to hold off Islamic State fighters. Outgunned, outmanned and surrounded on three sides, the defending Kurds have begged Turkey to allow weapons and reinforcements through the border. Erdogan has refused even that, let alone intervening directly. Infuriated Kurds have launched demonstrations throughout Turkey protesting Erdogan’s deadly callousness. At least 29 demonstrators have been killed.
Because Turkey has its own Kurdish problem — battling a Kurdish insurgency on and off for decades — Erdogan appears to prefer letting the Islamic State destroy the Kurdish enclave on the Syrian side of the border rather than lift a finger to save it. Perhaps later he will move in to occupy the rubble.
Moreover, Erdogan entertains a larger vision: making Turkey the hegemonic power over the Sunni Arabs, as in Ottoman times. The Islamic State is too radical and uncontrollable to be an ally in that mission. But it is Sunni. And it fights Shiites, Alawites and Kurds. Erdogan’s main regional adversary is the Shiite-dominated rule of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Erdogan demands that the United States take the fight to Assad before Turkey will join the fight against the Islamic State.
It took Vice President Biden to accidentally blurt out the truth when he accused our alleged allies in the region of playing a double game — supporting the jihadists in Syria and Iraq, then joining the U.S.-led coalition against them. His abject apologies to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey notwithstanding, Biden was right.
The vaunted coalition that President Obama touts remains mostly fictional. Yes, it puts a Sunni face on the war. Which is important for show. But everyone knows that in real terms the operation remains almost exclusively American.
As designed, the outer limit of its objective is to roll back the Islamic State in Iraq and contain it in Syria. It is doing neither. Despite State Department happy talk about advances in Iraq, our side is suffering serious reverses near Baghdad and throughout Anbar province, which is reportedly near collapse. Baghdad itself is ripe for infiltration for a Tet-like offensive aimed at demoralizing both Iraq and the United States.
As for Syria, what is Obama doing? First, he gives the enemy 12 days of warning about impending air attacks. We end up hitting empty buildings and evacuated training camps.
Next, we impose rules of engagement so rigid that we can’t make tactical adjustments. Our most reliable, friendly, battle-hardened “boots on the ground” in the region are the Kurds. So what have we done to relieve Kobane? About 20 airstrikes in a little more than 10 days, says Centcom.
That’s barely two a day. On the day after the Islamic State entered Kobane, we launched five airstrikes. Result? We hit three vehicles, one artillery piece and one military “unit.” And damaged a tank. This, against perhaps 9,000 heavily armed Islamic State fighters. If this were not so tragic, it would be farcical.
No one is asking for U.S. ground troops. But even as an air campaign, this is astonishingly unserious. As former E.U. ambassador to Turkey Marc Pierini told the Wall Street Journal, “It [the siege] could have been meaningfully acted upon two weeks ago or so” — when Islamic State reinforcements were streaming in the the open toward Kobane. “Now it is almost too late.”
Obama has committed the United States to war on the Islamic State. To then allow within a month an allied enclave to be overrun — and perhaps annihilated — would be a major blow.
Guerrilla war is a test of wills. Obama’s actual objectives — rollback in Iraq, containment in Syria — are not unreasonable. But they require commitment and determination. In other words, will. You can’t just make one speech declaring war, then disappear and go fundraising.
The indecisiveness and ambivalence so devastatingly described by both of Obama’s previous secretaries of defense, Leon Panetta and Bob Gates, are already beginning to characterize the Syria campaign.
The Iraqis can see it. The Kurds can feel it. The jihadists are counting on it.

Read more about this topic:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

School Told to Call Kids ‘Purple Penguins’ Because ‘Boys and Girls’ Is Not Inclusive to Transgender

Nebraska teachers are instructed to ask students what their preferred pronouns are. 

A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.

“Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention,” instructs a training document given to middle-school teachers at the Lincoln Public Schools.

“Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet on the rug,” it advises.

The document also warns against asking students to “line up as boys or girls,” and suggests asking them to line up by whether they prefer “skateboards or bikes/milk or juice/dogs or cats/summer or winter/talking or listening.”

“Always ask yourself . . . ‘Will this configuration create a gendered space?’” the document says.

The instructions were part of a list called “12 steps on the way to gender inclusiveness” developed by Gender Spectrum, an organization that “provides education, training and support to help create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for children of all ages.”

Other items on the list include asking all students about their preferred pronouns and decorating the classroom with “all genders welcome” door hangers.

If teachers still find it “necessary” to mention that genders exist at all, the document states, they must list them as “boy, girl, both or neither.”

Furthermore, it instructs teachers to interfere and interrupt if they ever hear a student talking about gender in terms of “boys and girls” so the student can learn that this is wrong.

“Point out and inquire when you hear others referencing gender in a binary manner,” it states. “Ask things like . . . ‘What makes you say that? I think of it a little differently.’ Provide counter-narratives that challenge students to think more expansively about their notions of gender.”

The teachers were also given a handout created by the Center for Gender Sanity, which explains to them that “Gender identity . . . can’t be observed or measured, only reported by the individual,” and an infographic called “The Genderbred Person,” which was produced by

Despite controversy, Lincoln Superintendent Steve Joel has declared that he is “happy” and “pleased” with the training documents.

“We don’t get involved with politics,” he told KLIN Radio’s Drive Time Lincoln radio show.

“We don’t get involved with gender preferences. We’re educating all kids . . . and we can’t be judgmental,” he said.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

State Department Endorses Canadian Islamist Manual that Describes Jihad as ‘Noble’

October 8, 2014 2:29 PM

Shahina Siddiqui, President of the Islamic Social Services Association reads from the handbook, United Against Terrorism - A Collaborative Effort Towards A Secure, Inclusive and Just Canada, during a press conference at Winnipeg Central Mosque Monday, Sept. 29, 2014.
Shahina Siddiqui, President of the Islamic Social Services Association reads from the handbook, United Against Terrorism - A Collaborative Effort Towards A Secure, Inclusive and Just Canada, during a press conference at Winnipeg Central Mosque Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (The Canagian Press/John Woods)

At the Washington Free Beacon, Adam Kredo reports that the State Department has issued a tweet endorsing a manual that promotes sharia and admonishes investigators not to use terms like “jihad,” which it describes as “a noble concept” in Islam.  

The manualUnited Against Terrorism, is said by its sponsors – the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – to combat the radicalization of young Muslims. Yet, after being consulted during the manual’s writing, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police rejected the final product due to its “adversarial tone.”

That’s putting it mildly. Upon reading the book, Toronto Star columnist Anthony Furey observes that it frowns on “liberal values,” forbidding such things as the intermingling of the sexes in civil society and the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim, while promoting the treatment of adultery and premarital sex as crimes for which “punishments are harsh.”

The manual admonishes that “Terrorism is not jihad. Jihad is a noble concept in Islam.” It further discourages Muslims from cooperating with law enforcement officials, even if the police are seeking information about Islamic radicals – the very “extremists” the manual ostensibly sets itself against. It also derides investigative measures designed to gather intelligence against terrorists.
Yet, the U.S. State Department lauded the manual yesterday, tweeting: “Canada: handbook to help parents understand extremists, combat recruitment [with a link to the manual.]”

As Mr. Kredo notes, the State Department’s approbation struck some Twitter users as curious. It should not have. The State Department, throughout the tenures of Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, has been second only to the White House itself in championing the Muslim Brotherhood, whose promotion of sharia and project to forbid notice of the Islamic doctrinal roots of Islamic terrorism are amply reflected in the manual.

The airbrushing of jihad is also familiar. It is the same spin I discussed here in 2010 when then-White House counterterrorism czar (and now-CIA director) John Brennan claimed that we must not “describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’” because “jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam” that merely means “to purify oneself or one’s community.”

In point of fact, according to the authoritative sharia manual Reliance of the Traveller, which has been endorsed by scholars at al-Azhar University in Cairo (the seat of Sunni scholarship since the tenth century) and by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (the Muslim Brotherhood’s think-tank), “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims.” As Answering Islam’s Yoel Natan has recounted, jihad is referred to in 164 verses of the Koran, almost exclusively in terms of combat.
Moreover, if – even as jihadists are rampaging – you want to indulge the Brennan/Obama administration fantasy that jihad has evolved, Brennan’s anodyne rendering of the concept is hopelessly flawed. I explained why in the 2010 column:
Jihad is, always and everywhere, the mission to implement, spread, or defend sharia, the Islamic legal code. It is not exclusively violent; an army doesn’t need to be violent if its enemies are willing to give ground. But jihad only “means to purify oneself or one’s community” in a very narrow sense. It is not the syrupy quest to become a better person but the command to become a better Muslim; it is not the smiley-face mission to “purify” one’s community of crime but the command to cleanse one’s community of non-Islamic influences. 
The inextricable bond between jihad and sharia is also easily explained. In Muslim doctrine, sharia is deemed the necessary precondition for Islamicizing a society. Islam’s designs are hegemonic: Even in its less threatening iterations, it is taken as a given that believers must call all of humanity to the faith. What separates the true moderates from the faux moderates and the terrorists are the lengths to which one is willing to go in carrying out that injunction. That it is an injunction, however, is not open to debate. 
Our political leaders can continue to trivialize jihad as if it were some benign struggle to brush after every meal. They can continue to ignore the core tenets that make sharia antithetical to a free, self-determining society. But they can’t do that and do the only job we need them to do: protect our lives and our liberties.
Again, if the State Department, the administration, and the Beltway political class are going to keep looking at Islamists –i.e., Islamic supremacists who promote sharia – as part of the counterterrorism solution rather than a big part of the anti-American, anti-Western liberalism problem, we are never going to get out of our own way.

The Islamic State Is Here

Posted By Robert Spencer On October 9, 2014 @ 12:58 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments

During the recent race riots in Ferguson, Missouri, CNN’s Jake Tapper was walking down a street and filming a segment when someone emerged out of the shadows behind him, holding a banner emblazoned, “ISIS is here.” At that point it was just a threat, or a boast, or both, but on Tuesday Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said that the Islamic State was doing all it could to make it a reality: “At least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas.”

“There’s nobody talking about it,” Hunter added. “If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border. It’s that simple…They caught them at the border, therefore we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them then you know there’s going to be dozens more that did not get caught by the border patrol.”

Indeed. And jihadist exploitation of our southern border is nothing new. In June 2014, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) foreshadowed Hunter’s announcement when he said: “This jihadist group ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have promised direct confrontation with America. He is looking forward to that day and he has said that publicly, we should believe him when he says that. These folks hate everything about the United States.” What’s more, “Of course the way they would come to the United States would be through the porous border with Mexico. The drug cartels will bring people into the country no matter who they are — for money. Everyone in the world knows that the border between the United States and Mexico is completely porous.”

Jihad terrorists and their enablers and accomplices have been entering the U.S. illegally by means of the Mexican border for many years. According to TheBlaze, “Hezbollah members and supporters have entered the U.S. through the southern border as early as 2002, with the case of Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison by Mexican authorities on charges of organized crime and immigrant smuggling. Mucharrafille had owned a cafe in the border city of Tijuana, near San Diego. In 2002, he was arrested for smuggling 200 people into the U.S., including Hezbollah supporters, according to a 2009 Congressional report.”

And in May 2010, the Department of Homeland Security warned local police along the southern border about a Muslim named Mohamed Ali who was suspected of being a member of the jihad terror group al Shabaab. An official who spoke to CNN about the warning said that it wasn’t clear whether or not Mohamed Ali was trying to enter the country illegally, but it seems unlikely that such an alert would have been sent out to police along the border if that had not been the case. Ali was, in any case, apparently involved in operating a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” that had brought hundreds of Somali Muslims into the U.S. illegally.

Top officials in Washington have known about how jihad terrorists have attempted to exploit the vulnerabilities of the southern border for many years now. In 2006, the House Homeland Security Investigations Subcommittee, under the leadership of Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), issued a report entitled A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Borderwhich stated: “Members of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization, have already entered to the United States across our Southwest border.”

Nothing changed. Investigative journalist Deroy Murdock reported in 2010 that “according to the federal Enforcement Integrated Database, 125 individuals were apprehended along the US/Mexican border from Fiscal Year 2009 through April 20, 2010. These deportable aliens included two Syrians, seven Sudanese, and 17 Iranians, all nationals from the three Islamic countries that the US government officially classifies as state sponsors of terrorism.” During the same period, border agents also apprehended “two Afghans, five Algerians, 13 Iraqis, 10 Lebanese, 22 Nigerians, 28 Pakistanis, two Saudis, 14 Somalis, and three Yemenis. During FY 2007 and FY 2008, federal officials seized 319 people from these same countries traversing America’s southwest border.”

Murdock grants that these illegals may simply have come to pursue the American Dream, as Leftist dogma would have it. But he notes disturbing signs to the contrary: “Besides Iranian currency and Islamic prayer rugs, Texas Border Patrol agents discovered an Arabic clothing patch that reads ‘martyr’ and ‘way to immortality.’ Another shows a jet flying into a skyscraper.” And for some, their malign intentions were unmistakable: “The Department of Homeland Security issued an April 14, 2010 ‘Intelligence Alert’ regarding a possible border-crossing attempt by a Somali named Mohamed Ali. He is a suspected member of Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based al-Qaeda ally tied to the deadly attack on American GIs in 1993’s notorious ‘Blackhawk Down’ incident in Mogadishu.”
Murdock offered an update in an April 2013 article, in which he gave the numbers of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally via Mexico from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism.
As indicated by the latest information in Table 34 of Customs and Border Protection’s Immigration Yearbook 2011, 198 Sudanese were nabbed while penetrating the USA. Between FY 2002 and 2011, there were 1,207 such arrests. (These figures cover all U.S. borders, although, as Table 35 confirms, 96.3 percent of the overall detainee population intruded from Mexico.) Like other immigrants, most Sudanese seek better lives here. But some may be vectors for the same militant Islam that literally tore Sudan in two.In FY 2011, 108 Syrians were stopped at our borders; over ten years, the number is 1,353. Syria is a key supporter of Hezbollah, and Bashar Assad’s unstable regime reportedly has attacked its domestic opponents with chemical weapons. 
As for Iranians, 276 were caught in FY 2011, while 2,310 were captured over the previous ten years. Iran also backs Hezbollah, hates “the Great Satan,” and craves atomic weapons. 
The other ten “countries of interest” are Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and: 
Afghanistan: The Taliban’s stronghold and current theater of America’s longest war. Afghans halted in FY 2011: 106. Prior ten fiscal years: 681. 
Nigeria: The land of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab suffers under sharia law in its northern provinces. Respective data: 591, 4,525. 
Pakistan: Hideaway of the Pakistani Taliban and the late Osama bin Laden. 525, 10,682. 
Saudi Arabia: Generous benefactor of radical imams and militant mosques worldwide; birthplace of 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers. 123, 986. 
Somalia: Home of Indian Ocean pirates and al-Qaeda’s al-Shabaab franchise. In October 1993, Islamic terrorists there shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, killed 18 U.S. soldiers, and dragged several of their bodies through Mogadishu’s streets. 323, 1,524.
Each passing year brings new stories of this kind, new investigations and new recommendations – but no real action to secure our southern border. And in July 2014, Breitbart News published what it described as “photos of what American security contractors on the ground believe is a Muslim prayer rug found near the border in Arizona last week.”

That same month, Texas rancher Mike Vickers found an Urdu-English Dictionary on his property, which runs along the border and is frequently trespassed upon by illegals. Urdu is, of course, the language of Pakistan, an Islamic Republic that has produced a healthy number of jihad terrorists. A Texas Border Patrol Agent noted: “We’ve found Korans, prayer rugs and many other unusual items at the border that certainly raise concern.”

All these warnings, all this information, and yet year after year, nothing is done. And as long as Barack Obama is President and the Democrats are the majority party, nothing will be done – except the repetition of the charge that concern about border security is “racist.” If the Islamic State manages to get jihadis into the country from Mexico and they succeed in mounting a large-scale attack, our leaders can console themselves amid the carnage that at least they were never “racist.”

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

Subscribe to Frontpage’s TV show, The Glazov Gang, and LIKE it on Facebook.

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine:

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Today's Tune: The War on Drugs - Under the Pressure

Adam Granduciel: Inside Man

How the War on Drugs' Adam Granduciel beat back crippling anxiety and isolation to make one of the year's most inclusive—and best—rock records.

Adam Granduciel of the Philadelphia band The War on Drugs (Dusdin Condren)

By David Bevan
September 23, 2014

“This is not my safe place, I want to be in my bedroom.”

At the very end of last year, atop a mountain surrounded by miles of rainforest, Adam Granduciel felt the floor begin to shudder. The War on Drugs frontman had just eased his band into their afternoon set at Falls Festival, an annual New Year’s Eve gathering on a remote farm 15 minutes from Australia’s southeastern coastline. The song was a warm, bath-like meditation named “Best Night", and the views in every direction were both spectacular and serene, save for the overwhelming distance from the one place Granduciel had spent much of 2013. And then: “classic panic attack.”

As a subwoofer groaned beneath him, the vibrations in the stage forced his left leg to shake unexpectedly. His chest tightened, his mind shut down, and he grew so uncomfortable that he nearly stopped playing. “The weird part is, if you had filmed me and then had me watch it later, I don't know that I'd be able to tell,” Granduciel told me. “You don't wear it on your face.”

Or perhaps you do. Earlier that day, after the drive up to the festival site left him feeling increasingly uneasy—“in the middle of nowhere, where anything can happen”—Granduciel gave a brief on-camera interview that was later spliced together with performance footage. Onstage, he appears clenched. And when answering questions about Lost in the Dream, the album that he and his bandmates had finished weeks earlier, he looks at odds with the sunlight, like someone who hadn’t been outside for the better part of a year. 
He hadn’t.

A month later, on a brutally cold January morning, Granduciel was standing in the kitchen of his Philadelphia home, peering out its frosted windows. A blizzard had just barreled through the Northeast and buried it in snow. The sky was heavy, the color of sheet metal. “When I moved in here 11 years ago, that was a landfill,” he said, pointing to a lengthy back lot behind the house, all of it submerged in white. “But now it’s a sweet garden. And every winter, when my gas bills are really high and the house is drafty, I say, 'Ah, I’m fuckin’ moving out.’ Then in spring, the perennials come out and I think, 'This is the best.’”

Inside, his refrigerator was clad in Bob Dylan magnets, his lonesome dining room adorned with a rare, imported promotional poster for Neil Young’s 1979 album Live Rust, hung strategically to hide extensive water damage. The walls weren’t insulated, the roof was failing, and five cats could be heard but not seen. Strips of blue electrical tape clung to the living room’s peeling cappuccino paint job, labeled and leftover from a distant recording session. Natural light seemed to fade the moment it entered. 

Over the past decade, this three-story row house in the neighborhood of South Kensington has functioned as a practice space, barracks, and makeshift home studio where Granduciel would often work by himself. It has helped birth three albums of music under the War on Drugs moniker, and a number of recordings by friends including Kurt Vile, his former bandmate and creative sibling. “I was the guy who didn't get a cool little apartment,” Granduciel said. “I took one for the team. I liked having the place we could make noise in, the place that could be the center of the music. I sat down and calculated it one day, and over the years, I've had something like 38 roommates.”

“Do you keep in touch with any of them?” I asked him.  
“Not a single one,” he said, sharply. “Except for the few that were my friends. I don't think I would have the friends I have if I didn't live here.”

Knowing that he wanted to finally move out this year, Granduciel chose to memorialize the house in the artwork for Lost in the Dream, an album that owes as much to his fractured state of mind as it does the small group of friends that rallied around him to finish it. In the grip of an anxiety and depression so severe he was frequently afraid to fall asleep at night, the 35-year-old endured a recording process so harrowing, all-consuming, and genuinely cathartic, it almost broke him entirely. Like its predecessors, Lost in the Dream places Granduciel’s oceanic vision of the American rock canon on full, psychedelic display. But unlike those early, relatively insular records, it is an outward, emotionally dynamic exploration of self and sound, full of anthems and comedowns, storms and lighthouses.

“Whatever has been said, whatever will be said, and whatever becomes the mythology of the record is insufficient,” War on Drugs bassist Dave Hartley told me. “Because it was pretty crazy to witness: We as a band went from worrying about the record to worrying about the person.”

Though he hadn’t suffered a panic attack in weeks, Granduciel was visibly anxious that morning. Through fine, dark hair down to his shoulders, there were ripples of tension in his jaw. He spoke in clipped, circular sentences, many of which seemed to surprise and further confuse him. At Hartley’s suggestion, he’d been seeing a therapist, in an effort to make sense of what had happened to him, and was still happening. In less than 48 hours, he was due to board a flight to Amsterdam, for the first stop in a week-long press tour through Europe. The thought of dying on the plane had crossed his mind more than once.

“Sometimes,” he said, “I wake up in the morning and I pull the blinds and I get that feeling I still can't shake: Today is just going to be another long, shitty fucking day, and hopefully tomorrow will be better.” We stood quietly for a moment, the silence punctuated by the violent clanging of old radiator pipes on the other side of the house. “I may have been living with this my whole life,” he continued, “but I can tell you the day it really started.”

A year earlier, on February 16, 2013, Granduciel walked to a Mexican restaurant not far from his home to watch some basketball and have a drink with Hartley. It was the day after the singer’s 34th birthday, a Saturday. The restaurant was mostly quiet and empty, and Granduciel joked with a few other bar patrons that he was “captain of the block,” a bit of a bon vivant around the neighborhood. As the night oozed on, the bandmates enjoyed what Hartley described as “a gallon of tequila.”

In the six months leading up to that night, Granduciel had been working at home on Howard Street. As was his routine, he’d get up each morning in his third-floor bedroom and come downstairs to his living room, where, amid a tangle of equipment, he would write and record for hours, alone. But on the morning of February 17th, he didn’t come downstairs. “I woke up,” he recalled, “and something inside my head had flipped.”

Granduciel experienced a “massive, crazy” panic attack, the first of many that would soon come as often as five times a day. He grew depressed and paranoid, and began feeling the physiological effects of his anxiety in the form of sudden electrical sensations in his limbs, excruciating tension in his skull, and frightening pains in his chest. 
What may have been a standard-issue headache felt to him like the beginnings of a brain aneurysm. What were likely palpitations or acid reflux were thought to have been the onset of a heart attack. Triggers would present themselves at indeterminate moments and places, be it in Whole Foods, in his van, or eventually, his own home. “The second I would step back into the house, I'd tense up,” he said. “I'd think the house was the source of great sadness or pressure. I knew it wasn't. I knew it was just where I lived. But I'd walk up the stairs and the second floor was just desolate. My old bedroom: empty. My old rehearsal room: empty. First floor studio: messy and empty. Middle room: broken gear everywhere.”

He retreated almost entirely to his bedroom, where he had moved everything he needed to both live and work. Days passed without him stepping outside of that room, the hours creeping by as he stared at his computer and his reel-to-reel recording setup, paralyzed. “In the course of two weeks,” Hartley recalled, “Adam quit everything he possibly could. He quit drinking alcohol and coffee, he quit smoking pot, he became a vegetarian, and he broke up with his girlfriend. He wasn't even really eating food—he was just drinking juice from a juicer he bought on an infomercial. It was like Howard Hughes.”

Increasingly concerned, his bandmates—Hartley and keyboardist Robbie Bennett— would come by the house on Sunday nights to eat Indian take-out and watch “Breaking Bad”, a show so relentlessly tense it would often send Granduciel reeling. Fortunately, he'd already booked several days of studio time in New Jersey and North Carolina, spread out over the first half of 2013, from late February to June. It was a reason to leave the house, albeit briefly. “I didn't know why I was second-guessing everything,” Granduciel said. “I didn't know why I was feeling the way I was feeling all the time. I didn't know why I was making my life smaller. I didn't know what was making me sad.”

At the first of those sessions, in Hoboken, just 10 days after his initial panic attack, Granduciel experienced a turning point. The band had just cut the basic tracks for “Red Eyes”, a future single that felt like it could last. “I knew it was going to be a great song,” he said. “I realized I really wanted to make something that was great, something that makes other people happy. I went to bed that night in the studio, thinking, ‘Oh man, I hope I don’t die before this record comes out, because I want people to hear that song.’”

A native of Dover, Massachusetts, 20 miles southwest of Boston, Granduciel grew up a self-described loner. He played guitar, but rarely in bands. He was a member of his high school’s varsity soccer team, but a goalkeeper. His parents were private. “My mom and dad never really had friends, never went on vacations,” he said. “We stayed home. And I see a similarity there: A general anxiety runs pretty deep.” After studying history and fine arts in central Pennsylvania, he moved to the Bay Area, where he hoped to emulate the work of mid-20th-century West Coast artists Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, both known for abandoning abstract expressionism in favor of more defined forms.

When he painted, he would listen to music: Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin. The more he listened, the more he felt compelled to start recording on his own. And once he began, Granduciel developed a decidedly solitary process, often working through the night in his Oakland apartment, sculpting and conjoining layer upon layer of guitar. In completing his first cassette, he labeled it “Granduciel,” a portmanteau and nickname given to him by a high school French teacher as a joke, a word-for-word translation of the English words in his real last name, Granofsky.

After returning to New England in 2002, Granduciel befriended a crew of musicians in Boston that included singer-songwriter Carter Tanton, who had recently finished an album he’d recorded on his own, in a studio he’d built in his childhood bedroom. “He was sleeping in his parents’ basement, playing every instrument, going through this breakup,” Granduciel said. “That was the first time I saw someone make music obsessively. I’d never seen anyone living inside of something, to that level. Within minutes of being introduced to those guys, I realized that this was the world I wanted to live in—I loved playing music, I just never knew how to connect with people doing it.”

The next year, he left for Philadelphia on a whim, and through pure happenstance he met Vile, a gregarious-yet-enigmatic guitarist as fond of fingerpicking and Fahey as he was. Together, they began playing guitar side-by-side, for hours, luxuriating and splashing about inside the classic rock songbook they both loved. Though Vile played on—and left the band shortly after the release of—the War on Drugs’ 2008 debut, Wagonwheel Blues, his influence remains paramount. “I never really like to talk about it because it was such an important part of my life that I don't want to be reduced,” Granduciel said of his relationship with Vile. “It was that moment where you gain confidence in your work, when you finally find that one person that likes you as a musician, likes being around you, seeks you out, asks you for advice, and relies on your approval. I don’t want it to become a tiny moment.”

As musicians and songwriters, the two have, as Granduciel phrased it, “expanded on our original idea, but apart from one another.” As people, they differ in fascinating ways. Granduciel described Vile as a “very outward guy” who’s “always surrounding himself with people, his family.” In contrast, Granduciel—a former member of Vile’s live outfit, the Violators—would often come home from tours and revert back to working alone in his cavernous house. And as Vile slipped into the role of relatively traditional singer-songwriter, Granduciel became what he now likens to a producer, an architect whose exquisitely textured home recordings were open-ended enough that a band could help expand on them further, if not forever. As the two have ceased to tour with one another, each of their subsequent releases have been met with questions of rivalry. “It's competitive,” Granduciel admitted. “But I think that everyone needs that healthy competition with people you really respect and love. You want to show them that you're good, too. That's true of anything. All those crazy Impressionist painters in France were friends but they would write about how jealous and competitive they were. That's what makes good art.”

After a series of early touring mishaps left Granduciel in debt, he was forced to borrow money to finish 2011's Slave AmbientFacing a deadline, he and local engineer Jeff Zeigler sifted through nearly two dozen songs—all built from hundreds of layers of experiments and amorphous sounds—without “any instance of mental breakdown.” Perhaps, Granduciel suggested, the relative ease of that recording experience was the result of “zero expectation—it was like, 'I love this, but it's for the 400 people who bought Wagonwheel,and a middle finger to the booking agent that dropped us.”  

But Slave Ambient didn’t feature songs so much as vast weather systems. Granduciel had further developed a highly interactive way of writing and recording that allowed him to vaporize his influences—Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen—then move through them. To record collectors, it felt both prehistoric and completely modern: the romantic sweep of major American singer-songwriter fare wed to krautrock's hallucinogenic expanse. But not a single track featured a traditional chorus or distinct emotional center. And though its modest commercial success inspired his touring band to solidify around him, it also forced Granduciel to confront the nature and gravity of what he was doing creatively: The War on Drugs was becoming much more than just a solo endeavor.

“I loved it,” he said, of touring and leading a band of his own. “But I was also wondering, 'What is this really about? Who am I? What am I doing? Am I really contributing, or am I hiding behind these "soundscapes? Am I hiding behind my fake last name? What are people connecting with? Are they connecting with an idea or are they connecting with the music?’ Because what I always connected with was songs.

On that snowy day in January, we had dinner at the same Mexican restaurant where Granduciel and Hartley drank a year earlier: Loco Pez. It was full and loud and humming with the sound of young people as they slurped up house sangria and tore apart tacos. Granduciel ordered a glass of red wine. Bundled up in a shearling-collared, tan canvas coat, he said he’d been keeping six Ativan in his back pocket for nearly a year, but because he tends “to fight the pill,” to prevent it from taking effect, it was unlikely that he’d take one on the flight to Europe. Since his first panic attack, he’d only opted to medicate himself once: During the mixing of Lost in the Dream in Brooklyn last September, when, wandering the streets of Williamsburg and Greenpoint on his own, crushed by the enormity of what he’d just recorded, he started to shiver. “I had a total fucking nervous breakdown,” he said.

His approach to work had long been obsessive in nature. But Lost in the Dreamrepresented more than just an anticipated follow-up record, or an opportunity to keep his friends on the road—it became the sublime and strangely symphonic response to existential questions that had been gnawing at him long before he saddled up to the bar that February night: Is what I’m doing of value? Am of value? Perfect takes were cast aside in hopes of capturing pure magic, much to the frustration of his patient bandmates. Every monumental guitar lead, every seismic chorus, every breathless synth riff and titanic “woo!” had to feel timeless and transcendent. The resulting album is both a triumph and paradox, marked by song titles and lyrics that, held aloft by incandescent arrangements, hit like locomotives. If there is a moment of clarity to be found in its hour-long running time—insofar that it all but confirms Granduciel’s confusion—it comes halfway through “Eyes to the Wind”, on which he wails, “There’s just a stranger, living in me.”

In trying to better understand himself and his art, Granduciel said he’d “opened a door” to feelings and fears he hadn’t considered for the first 30 years of his life. “Who am I connecting with?” he asked himself as we ate. “I don’t want to leave my house, yet I want to connect with stadiums? I want to play huge festivals, but the idea of standing in line at Whole Foods sends me over the edge?”

I suggested to him that there was a reasonable chance that this album would allow him to make records for a long time to come, that it was a beginning.

“I hope so,” he said. “I hope it’s a long life. Because sometimes I’m convinced that it won’t be.”

Several months later, Granduciel is sitting behind his house, carefully restringing his weed whacker in the August heat. After being away on tour for much of this year, his garden had grown wild. Since its release in late March,Lost in the Dream has spent more than 15 weeks on the Billboard Top 200, with sales that have already, in just six months, doubled those posted by Slave Ambient. Granduciel hasn’t moved out of his house and, in fact, he’s currently planning to have it re-carpeted, in preparation for a “nice couple” from North Carolina who are moving in while he’s away on an increasingly sold-out tour of large rooms across North America. “There's been so many animals living in this house, there are just years on the carpet,” he says. I ask if he’s chosen a color. “I don't think they make tie-dye,” he says, “so I’ll probably just go with a dark charcoal.”

His voice sounds lighter. Between tours, he’s been leaving Philadelphia for New York and Los Angeles, where—in a surreal twist—his new girlfriend, former “Breaking Bad” actress Krysten Ritter, both lives and works. A few days before we spoke on the phone, paparazzi had snapped them strolling hand-in-hand through lower Manhattan. “I wasn't naive about the fact that she was a well-known actress,” he says. “That was a decision I had to make.” But Ritter has also had a calming effect on him personally and creatively: “She’ll tell me, ‘Baby, you have to make life big.’ That's a beautiful thing. I don't know what I was so scared of before. But I want to start trusting my gut and seeing what happens when you let go a little bit.”

Though his panic symptoms have subsided significantly in the past seven months, he’s incisive when I ask how he’s feeling. “I feel the same,” he says, twice. “But I'm wary of the triggers. I have a better understanding of where some of my fears in life lie—sometimes I'll feel a little twitch, but I now know what that twitch is.” The pressure he’d felt wasn’t caused by making an album, but rather, “the pressure of committing to a life, a path.” Over the course of this year, he’s been moved by the positive response to Lost in the Dream, by the ways in which these songs are being received each night during performances, and how he’s finally connecting. “I want to be surrounded by good people all of the time,” he says. “I want to grow with this band. Playing with them in front of people is a really safe place. I fear most things, but that I don’t.”