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In Dark Times, Remember Wallenberg: Irwin Cotler, Algemeiner, Jan. 18, 2015— It has been a dark January.
While the World Has Been Looking Elsewhere, Boko Haram Has Carved Out its Own, Brutal Country: David Blair, National Post, Jan. 14, 2015— You might not have noticed, but the world has acquired a new country.
Let us Mourn for Paris – And No Less for Nigeria: Globe & Mail, Jan. 12, 2015— Millions gathered in Paris this weekend as a tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and in defiance of the Islamic extremists who murdered them..
This Is Obama’s Last Foreign Policy Chance: Leslie H. Gelb, Daily Beast, Jan. 14, 2015 — Here’s why America’s failure to be represented at the Paris unity march was so profoundly disturbing.
Obama: Charlie Who?: Charles Krauthammer, National Review, Jan. 15, 2015 — On Sunday, at the great Paris rally, the whole world was Charlie.
On Topic Links
Satellite Images Show Boko Haram Massacre in Nigeria: Drew Hinshaw, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2015
Chad Soldiers to Fight Boko Haram in Cameroon: Emmanuel Tumanjong & Drew Hinshaw, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2015
Boko Haram’s Campaign of Terror in Nigeria is Only Getting Worse: Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2015
When Normal Is Deadly: How Boko Haram Made Us Ok With Slaughter: Joe Randazzo, Daily Beast, Jan. 18, 2015
IN DARK TIMES, REMEMBER WALLENBERG
Algemeiner, Jan. 18, 2015
It has been a dark January. Thus far, 2015 has brought tragic and infuriating terrorism, anti-Semitism, and assaults on liberty in France; a car bomb in Yemen that killed and injured dozens; and the massacre of thousands in Nigeria by Boko Haram, as well as yet another of the group’s mass kidnappings. This is in addition to continuing mass atrocities and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Central Africa, Sudan, and elsewhere, and it comes on the heels of the deadly hostage-taking in Sydney, and the barbarous terrorist attack on a school in Pakistan that left more than a hundred dead, most of them children. At times like these, the evil in the world can feel overwhelming, and it can be tempting to cede to despair, aggravating the problem of the international community as bystander to atrocity and injustice. How appropriate, then, that January 17 was Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada, in remembrance and tribute to this disappeared hero of humanity.
Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, was a beacon of light during the darkest days of the Holocaust, and his example remains so today. Prior to his arrival in Budapest in July 1944, some 430,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to the Auschwitz death camp in the space of ten weeks – the fastest, cruelest, and most efficient mass murders of the Nazi genocide. Yet Wallenberg rescued more Hungarian Jews from the Nazis than any single government, notably saving 20,000 by issuing Schutzpasses – documents conferring diplomatic immunity. He even went to the trains as mass deportations were underway, distributing Schutzpasses to people otherwise consigned to death. Other diplomatic missions followed suit, saving thousands more.
Wallenberg saved an additional 32,000 by establishing dozens of safe houses in a diplomatic zone protected by neutral legations. He organized hospitals, soup kitchens, and childcare centres, providing human dignity along with the essentials of life. Moreover, when thousands of Jews were sent on a 125-mile death march in November 1944, Wallenberg followed alongside, distributing improvised Schutzpasses, as well as food and medical supplies. To Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi desk murderer who organized the mass deportations to Auschwitz, Wallenberg was the judenhund, the Jewish dog; to thousands of survivors and their families – many of whom have shared their stories of Wallenberg’s bravery with me – he was a guardian angel. Finally, with the Nazis preparing to liquidate the Budapest ghetto as the war neared its end, Wallenberg warned Nazi generals that they would be held accountable and brought to justice, if not executed, for their crimes. The Nazis desisted, and 70,000 more Jews were saved.
Regrettably, 70 years ago on January 17, Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets, who had entered Hungary as liberators. He disappeared into the Gulag, and his fate remains unknown. Initial Soviet claims that he died in custody in July 1947 have since been contradicted by investigations, including the International Commission on the Fate and Whereabouts of Raoul Wallenberg, a group I chaired in 1990, and which included Nobel peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Soviet scholar Mikhail Chelnov, former Israeli attorney general Gideon Hauser, and Wallenberg’s brother, Guy von Dardel, who was the driving force behind the commission’s establishment. In 1985, a U.S. Federal Court found the evidence “incontrovertible” that Wallenberg lived past 1947, “compelling” that he was alive in the 1960s, and “credible” that he remained alive into the 1980s; but precisely what became of him remains a mystery.
It is tragic that, while too many of the Holocaust’s guilty have lived out their lives in peace, this saviour of the innocent was detained and disappeared. Indeed, the person who saved so many was not saved by so many who could. Yet, while we pursue the moral obligation of discovering the truth of Wallenberg’s fate, his legacy endures, reminding us of the power of an individual with the compassion to care and the courage to act to confront evil, resist, and transform history. In recognition of his heroism, Canada named Wallenberg our country’s first honorary citizen 30 years ago. He has been granted the same distinction in Hungary, Australia, Israel, and the USA – where many states mark Wallenberg Day on October 5. There are monuments to him in cities around the world, as well as streets and schools that bear his name. In Paris, there has been a Rue Raoul-Wallenberg since 2007.
Wallenberg is a shining example of how to confront overriding evil. By intervening to save civilians, he personified what today we call the Responsibility to Protect; by giving out food and medical supplies, he provided what today we call humanitarian relief and assistance; and by issuing his warning to Nazi generals, he prefigured the Nuremberg principles and what today we call international criminal law. At a time when it seems as though each day brings a new heart-wrenching catastrophe, let us be inspired by Raoul Wallenberg, who came face to face with the horrors of Nazism, and was moved not to despair, but to action.
WHILE THE WORLD HAS BEEN LOOKING ELSEWHERE,
BOKO HARAM HAS CARVED OUT ITS OWN, BRUTAL COUNTRY
National Post, Jan. 14, 2015
You might not have noticed, but the world has acquired a new country. With its own capital, army and self-styled “emir,” this domain possesses some of the features of statehood. But don’t expect an application to join the United Nations: the consuming ambition of this realm is to reverse just about every facet of human progress achieved over the past millennium. Boko Haram, the radical Islamists responsible for enslaving the Chibok schoolgirls and killing hundreds of people in the past week alone, have carved out a heartland in the plains of northern Nigeria. Every insurgency tries to graduate from launching hit-and-run attacks to controlling territory. Boko Haram has now crossed this vital threshold. Scores of towns and villages have fallen into the hands of its gunmen across the states of Borno and Yobe. Today, Boko Haram rules a domain the size of Belgium with a surface area of about 32,000 square kilometers and a population of at least 1.7 million people. The capital, incidentally, is a town called Gwoza. The terrorist state’s army comprises Boko Haram’s fearsomely well-equipped insurgents and the “emir” is a maniacal figure called Abubakar Shekau.
For the second time in less than three years, an African government has been sufficiently absent-minded to lose a swathe of its country. Ever since the attacks on September 11, a central goal of Western counter-terrorism policy has been to prevent al-Qaida or its allies from controlling territory. But, somehow, it keeps happening – over and over again. Back in 2012, al-Qaida’s affiliate in North Africa managed to take over two thirds of Mali, achieving mastery over an area three times the size of Britain. France’s brilliantly executed intervention broke al-Qaida’s grip on that domain in 2013, but there is no prospect of Boko Haram being similarly defeated in Nigeria. As Shekau proclaims the birth of his new African “Caliphate” – to go with the similar creation of Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS) in the Middle East – three questions arise: How did it come to this? How dangerous is the world’s newest country? And, most vitally of all, what is to be done?
The first question is easiest to answer: Boko Haram achieved its advances because of the corruption and incompetence of the Nigerian state. Now that a string of towns has fallen, the failure of the country’s army to stand up to the insurgents is glaring. Partly, that is explained by the fact that the Nigerian armed forces are relatively small: the army has only 62,000 soldiers to defend a country four times bigger than Britain, with no fewer than 180 million people. But that is not the sole reason for the failure. Instead of spending their generous security budget – almost $8 billion in 2014 – on proper weapons and equipment, Nigerian generals tend to pocket the money themselves or blow it on showpiece helicopters that attract generous commissions but are of precious little use against Boko Haram. The result is that the beleaguered 7th Division, which has primary responsibility for fighting Boko Haram, confines itself to mounting a static defence of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Back in 2013, the Islamists managed to destroy most of this unit’s helicopters. Lacking the means to wage a mobile war and crippled by a venal and inept leadership, the 7th Division has made no serious effort to recapture territory from Boko Haram…
As for the dangers posed by the birth of Boko Haram-land, the immediate threat is that the new state will become a base for more conquests. That has already happened, with the town of Baga falling last Wednesday and the Islamists launching regular raids over the border into neighbouring Cameroon. Does this pose a wider peril, stretching beyond West Africa? At the moment, the answer is probably not. Boko Haram shares the anti-Western fanaticism of al-Qaida, but the insurgency stubbornly fails to conform to neat categories. Even its name is not what it seems. Boko Haram is generally taken to mean “Western education is banned,” but “Boko” means book in the Hausa language, so “books are banned” would be a more accurate translation. By implying that their campaign is motivated by an objection to “Western education,” we risk allowing Boko Haram to appear less atavistic than they actually are…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
LET US MOURN FOR PARIS – AND NO LESS FOR NIGERIA
Globe & Mail, Jan. 12, 2014
Millions gathered in Paris this weekend as a tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and in defiance of the Islamic extremists who murdered them. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Islamic extremists continued the grim work of slaughtering innocents. The heavily armed Islamist group known as Boko Haram has cut a bloody swath through the country since 2009. It now controls a territory of roughly the same size as the one that suffers under the yoke of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
It’s not yet known how many people died during a vicious, week-long rampage in and near Baga, a fishing town in the strife-ridden northeast. Estimates vary, but it’s claimed that between 600 and 2,000 were killed. The weekend toll from the towns of Potiskum and Maiduguri is more precise: 19 dead and 26 injured, after a pair of explosions in crowded outdoor markets. It’s believed the suicide bombers were 10-year-old girls. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that “the international jihadist movement has declared war” and that countries like Canada must face it head on. International jihadists may or may not amount to one monolithic enemy. But Mr. Harper is right. With the Nigerian military on the run in Baga – where the national army has itself been accused of mass killings in the past – and as calls multiply for greater international involvement, this is a good opportunity for Canada to define more clearly how this country could contribute to thwarting radical Islamist violence. Ideally, it would go beyond the modest military involvement in Iraq. It’s not realistic to send on its own a Canadian mission, military or otherwise, to Africa’s most populous nation. But surely Canada has a role to play. Mr. Harper and the other party leaders should urgently sketch out their conceptions of it.
The insurgency led by Boko Haram – which explicitly rejects Western niceties like public education, gender equality and democracy – is precisely the sort of thing a country serious about opposing violent, obscurantist zealots ought to help stamp out. It’s time to break with the West’s scandalous pattern of inaction in the face of large-scale loss of life in Africa. Millions proclaim, “Nous sommes Charlie.” Let’s also be Baga.
THIS IS OBAMA’S LAST FOREIGN POLICY CHANCE
Leslie H. Gelb
Daily Beast, Jan. 14, 2015
Here’s why America’s failure to be represented at the Paris unity march was so profoundly disturbing. It wasn’t just because President Obama’s or Vice President Biden’s absence was a horrendous gaffe. More than this, it demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national security policy in the next two years. It’s simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is—with his current team and his way of making decisions. America, its allies, and friends could be heading into one of the most dangerous periods since the height of the Cold War.
Mr. Obama will have to excuse most of his inner core, especially in the White House. He will have to replace them with strong and strategic people of proven foreign policy experience. He’ll also need to seed the Defense and State Departments with new top people serving directly as senior advisers to the secretaries. And he also will need to set up regular consultations—not the usual phony ones—with the two key Senate leaders in this field, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, two people who can really improve his decisions and bolster his credibility. Many will be tempted to dismiss these crash solutions as several bridges too far, as simply unrealistic. But hear me out. It can be made much more plausible than it seems at first blush. What’s more, if Mr. Obama doesn’t do something along the lines of what’s proposed here, he and we are in for unmanageable trouble. Before I continue, I have to tell you that I’ve never made such extreme and far-reaching proposals in all my years in this business. I’ve never proposed such a drastic overhaul. But if you think hard about how Mr. Obama and his team handled this weekend in Paris, I think you’ll see I’m not enjoying a foreign policy neurological breakdown. It was an absolute no-brainer for either Mr. Obama or Mr. Biden personally to show the American flag on the streets of Paris. Of course every senior staff person should have recommended it three seconds after the news of the Parisian horrors. So far as we know, none did. Sure, this was an inexplicable and utter staff failure, but the president and the vice president shouldn’t have required anyone to tell them what to do in this situation. It was, after all, about terrorism, the main issue of the era. If all these top officials blew this obvious decision, shudder at how they’ll handle the hard ones.
First, Mr. Obama will have to thank his senior National Security Council team and replace them. The must-gos include National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, chief speech writer/adviser Ben Rhodes, and foreign policy guru without portfolio Valerie Jarrett. They can all be replaced right away, and their successors won’t require senatorial confirmation. Here’s who could succeed them and inspire great confidence immediately at home and abroad: first rate former top officials and proven diplomats Thomas Pickering, Winston Lord, and Frank Wisner; Republicans with sterling records like Robert Zoellick, Rich Armitage, Robert Kimmitt, and Richard Burt; or a rising young Democrat of proven ability and of demonstrated Cabinet-level quality, Michele Flournoy. Any one of them would make a huge difference from Day 1 in a top role. Others among them could be brought on to the NSC as senior advisers without portfolio to take the lead on specific problems. These are not just my personal opinions about these individuals; they are practically universal ones.
The State Department really needs help, too. Anthony Blinken, the new No. 2 there, is quite good and should stay. But Secretary of State John Kerry has been described even by the faithful in this administration as quixotic. Any of those mentioned above for the top NSC job could also serve as senior advisers without portfolio to Kerry and Blinken. But they would have to be given real access and authority. Even if they could only do their advising two or three days a week, these are the kind of people who carry most of the relevant information in their heads already, and their experience is unmatched. Ashton Carter, the defense secretary to be, will be very strong and very good, but he too could use some senior national security/foreign policy advisers to help him through the long list of problems. Particularly good in this role would be Dov Zakheim, a Pentagon undersecretary in a Republican administration. He knows budgets and policy. Carter could also take aboard first rate retired military minds such as Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army.
And Mr. Obama also has a great opportunity that he should try his best to pursue: establishing a genuine working relationship with two new senatorial power brokers. Bob Corker and John McCain really know their stuff and are very good heads. Nothing can stop McCain from going beyond acceptable limits of critiquing Mr. Obama, and if he’s determined to do it so be it, but he has the knowledge and often the good instincts to really improve the president’s defense policies. This can work only if McCain accepts that he is not president of the United States and commander in chief. At some point, he’d have to be a team player as he has proved he can be. Corker is much more self-controlled and a very wise head on foreign policy. The more Americans get to know him in the coming years, the more this gem of a public servant will be recognized. Finally, Mr. Obama will need the usual wise men for regular informal consultation: Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and James Baker. These suggestions are all ad hoc and a bit helter-skelter. But no one can figure out how to make the present Obama team work, and I haven’t heard other solutions.
In the end, making the national security system work comes down to one factor, one man—Barack Obama. He’s the key problem, and he’s the only one who can bring about a solution. He’s such a closed person. He’s first rate as an intellectual thinker, but he thinks about problems as an intellectual and not as a policy maker and a leader. Alas, that’s just too clear. He also doesn’t like to be challenged with give and take. If he were to bring in the kind of people I suggest, he would have to resolve at the outset to give them a full hearing and tangible respect for their views. The world’s challenges to America today are not mere distractions from domestic priorities. They are gut challenges to our national security in the Middle East, with Russia and China, and with the terrorist threat inside and outside our borders. The terrorism and cyber warfare challenges in particular imperil our very survival. Mr. Obama will not be a lesser man but a greater man if he recognizes what’s at stake and accepts the help he must have to ensure our survival. End of story.
OBAMA: CHARLIE WHO?
National Review, Jan. 15, 2015
On Sunday, at the great Paris rally, the whole world was Charlie. By Tuesday, the veneer of solidarity was exposed as tissue thin. It began dissolving as soon as the real, remaining Charlie Hebdo put out its post-massacre issue featuring a Muhammad cover that, as the New York Times put it, “reignited the debate pitting free speech against religious sensitivities.” Again? Already? Had not 4 million marchers and 44 foreign leaders just turned out on the streets of Paris to declare “No” to intimidation, and to pledge solidarity, indeed identification (“Je suis Charlie”), with a satirical weekly specializing in the most outrageous and often tasteless portrayals of Muhammad? And yet, within 48 hours, the new Charlie Hebdo issue featuring the image of Muhammad — albeit a sorrowful, indeed sympathetic Muhammad — sparked new protests, denunciations, and threats of violence, which in turn evinced another round of doubt and self-flagellation in the West about the propriety and limits of free expression. Hopeless.
As for President Obama, he never was Charlie, not even for those 48 hours. From the day of the massacre, he has been practically invisible. At the interstices of various political rallies, he issued bits of muted, mealy-mouthed boilerplate. These were followed by the now-famous absence of any U.S. representative of any stature at the Paris rally, an abdication of moral and political leadership for which the White House has already admitted error. But this was no mere error of judgment or optics or, most absurdly, of communication, in which we are supposed to believe that the president was not informed by his staff about the magnitude, both actual and symbolic, of the demonstration he ignored. (He needed to be told?) On the contrary, the no-show, following the near silence, precisely reflected the president’s profound ambivalence about the very idea of the war on terror. Obama began his administration by purging the phrase from the lexicon of official Washington. He has ever since shuttled between saying (a) that the war must end because of the damage “keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing” was doing to us, and (b) that the war has already ended, as he suggested repeatedly during the 2012 campaign, with bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda “on the run.” Hence his call in a major address at the National Defense University to “refine and ultimately repeal” Congress’s 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, the very legal basis for the war on terror. Hence his accelerating release of Gitmo inmates, in full knowledge that about 30 percent will return to the battlefield. (Five more releases were announced Wednesday.) Which is why, since, oh, the Neolithic era, POWs tend to be released only after a war is over.
Paris shows that this war is not over. On the contrary. As it rages, it is entering an ominous third phase. The first, circa 9/11, involved sending Middle Eastern terrorists abroad to attack the infidel West. Then came the lone wolves — local individuals inspired by foreign jihadists to launch one-off attacks, as seen most recently in Québec, Ottawa, and Sydney. Paris marks Phase 3: coordinated commando strikes in Western countries by homegrown native-speaker Islamists activated and instructed from abroad. (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo killings, while the kosher-grocery shooter proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State.)…
The War on Terror 2015 is in a new phase with a new geography. At the core are parallel would-be caliphates: in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State; in central Africa, now spilling out of Nigeria into Cameroon, a near-sovereign Boko Haram; in the badlands of Yemen, AQAP, the most dangerous of all the al-Qaeda affiliates. And beyond lie not just a cast of mini-caliphates embedded in the most ungovernable parts of the Third World from Libya to Somalia to the borderlands of Pakistan, but also an archipelago of no-go Islamist islands embedded in the heart of Europe. This is serious. In both size and reach it is growing. Our president will not say it. Fine. But does he even see it?
Satellite Images Show Boko Haram Massacre in Nigeria: Drew Hinshaw, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2015—
Chad Soldiers to Fight Boko Haram in Cameroon: Emmanuel Tumanjong & Drew Hinshaw, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2015—Chad began deploying troops on Friday to fight Boko Haram in neighboring Cameroon, officials from the two countries said, drawing the landlocked, Central African nation into a now-regional conflict against the Islamic militants.
Boko Haram’s Campaign of Terror in Nigeria is Only Getting Worse: Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2015 —While the world fixated on the murder of 17 people by Islamic terrorists in and around Paris last week, another slow and grisly massacre was taking place in Nigeria, at the hands of the Islamist militants of Boko Haram.
When Normal Is Deadly: How Boko Haram Made Us Ok With Slaughter: Joe Randazzo, Daily Beast, Jan. 18, 2015—In the first few days after Boko Haram’s recent attack in the remote village of Baga, most of the news coverage I saw about it concerned the lack of news. Why, the media wondered, was the media not more interested? As many as 2,000 people had been slaughtered, a figure that, if true, would dwarf the number killed in Paris around the same time.
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