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US special forces launch rare attack inside Syria ALBERT AJI, Associated Press Writer Albert Aji, Associated Press Writer –Abu Kamal, Syria, where U.S. military launched rare attack on fighter network; DAMASCUS, Syria – U.S. military helicopters launched an extremely rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as “serious aggression.” A U.S. military official said the raid by special forces targeted the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area because Syria was out of the military’s reach. “We are taking matters into our own hands,” the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids. The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq. A Syrian government statement said the helicopters attacked the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown and fired on workers inside, the statement said. The government said civilians were among the dead, including four children. A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh said some of the helicopters landed and troops exited the aircraft and fired on a building. He said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d’affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest against the strike. “Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria,” the government statement said. The area targeted is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency. Iraqi travelers making their way home across the border reported hearing many explosions, said Farhan al-Mahalawi, mayor of Qaim. On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq’s western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a “different story.” “The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,” Kelly said. “We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement.” He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border. “There hasn’t been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years,” Kelly said. The foreign fighters network sends militants from North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaida and loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, the U.S. military official said. He said that while American forces have had considerable success, with Iraqi help, in shutting down the “rat lines” in Iraq, and with foreign government help in North Africa, the Syrian node has been out of reach. “The one piece of the puzzle we have not been showing success on is the nexus in Syria,” the official said. The White House in August approved similar special forces raids from Afghanistan across the border of Pakistan to target al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. At least one has been carried out. The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has been cut to an estimated 20 a month, a senior U.S. military intelligence official told the Associated Press in July. That’s a 50 percent decline from six months ago, and just a fifth of the estimated 100 foreign fighters who were infiltrating Iraq a year ago, according to the official. Ninety percent of the foreign fighters enter through Syria, according to U.S. intelligence. Foreigners are some of the most deadly fighters in Iraq, trained in bomb-making and with small-arms expertise and more likely to be willing suicide bombers than Iraqis. Foreign fighters toting cash have been al-Qaida in Iraq’s chief source of income. They contributed more than 70 percent of operating budgets in one sector in Iraq, according to documents captured in September 2007 on the Syrian border. Most of the fighters were conveyed through professional smuggling networks, according to the report. Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing U.S. Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became secure only after Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the United States earlier this year of not giving his country the equipment needed to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. He said Washington feared Syria could use such equipment against Israel. Though Syria has long been viewed by the U.S. as a destabilizing country in the Middle East, in recent months, Damascus has been trying to change its image and end years of global seclusion. Its president, Bashar Assad, has pursued indirect peace talks with Israel, mediated by Turkey, and says he wants direct talks next year. Syria also has agreed to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon, a country it used to dominate both politically and militarily, and has worked harder at stemming the flow of militants into Iraq. The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Sunday’s raid. _____ Associated Press reporter Pamela Hess in Washington and Sam F. Ghattas in Beirut contributed to this report.

The Importance Of Age And Experience: A Clinton Catalog Of Missed Opportunity

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, September 11, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Another of our youngest presidents, Bill Clinton, was 46 when sworn in and became the first Democrat since FDR to serve two terms.


IBD Series: The Importance Of Age And Experience


Born in Arkansas, educated at Georgetown University and a graduate of Yale Law School, he was also a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He had weaknesses as well as strengths but was popular with the average man and woman, and especially with minorities.

He was a smart politician and a great salesman whose way with words earned him the nickname of Slick Willie when he was governor of Arkansas.

The economy was strong during Clinton’s term, benefiting in no small part from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It occurred during the Reagan-Bush years but paid a “peace dividend” in the ’90s in the form of huge defense cuts that helped achieve a balanced budget.

After Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, Clinton wisely moved to the center and agreed over liberal objections to what turned out to be a successful restructuring of the welfare system. But an unrealistic attempt by Clinton and his wife Hillary to have the federal government take over and run the entire medical and health care system failed.

The late ’90s saw the dawning of the Internet, a bounty of biotech start-ups and the rise to leadership of young, entrepreneurial companies such as Microsoft, Amgen, Dell, Adobe, Oracle, Cisco, Qualcomm, America Online and EMC, plus innovators like Home Depot and Charles Schwab. All had come public since 1982 during the low-tax Reagan-Bush incentive period. Stocks of these companies rocketed 25,000% to 90,000% from their offering prices.

It was a wild, anything-goes era much like the late 1920s. From September 1998 to March 2000, the NASDAQ composite index advanced 203%, or two and a half times the climax run in the Dow industrials from 1928 to the 1929.

Both markets blew up due to excessive speculation. Under Clinton’s watch from March 2000 to January 2001, the NASDAQ market that had led the run-up plummeted ____%, the sharpest decline since 1929. But the boom was great while it lasted.

Arguments about who or what is best for the economy go on and on. But since World War II, the United States has done pretty well in every cycle regardless of the person or party in power. Our free-market economy, after all, is driven not so much by government as by entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors who start new businesses, create new products and generate new jobs for all who are willing and able to work.

But when it comes to national defense and foreign relations, the age, experience and judgment of the person occupying the Oval Office become absolutely critical.

History teaches that no matter how attractive younger, less-experienced presidents may be, they simply exercise more bad judgment and make the kinds of mistakes that take years to correct and sometimes put our country in danger.

Take, for example, the threat to our national security posed by Osama bin Laden and the terrorists of al-Qaida:

• It was only a month into his first term that President Clinton was tested by al-Qaida. On Feb. 26, 1993, terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in New York, killing six and injuring 1,000. Some of the terrorists were trained at the Khalden terrorist camp in Afghanistan. They had hoped to kill 250,000. But this was treated as a local police matter.

• In October of that year, Somali warlords with al-Qaida trainers and weapons shot down two Black Hawk helicopters. Seventy-three Americans were wounded and 18 were killed, some of them shown on TV as they were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. But Clinton retreated and withdrew all U.S. forces. Said bin Laden later: “They planned for a long struggle, but the U.S. rushed out in shame.”

• In January 1995, Philippine police discovered that Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the Trade Center bombing, had another plan to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners over the ocean and crash a plane into CIA headquarters. Clinton’s government was made aware of the plot.

• In November 1995, a car bomb exploded at a joint Saudi-U.S. facility, killing five Americans.

• In June 1996, 19 Americans were killed and 372 wounded in a bombing at a housing complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, where U.S. forces were stationed. The attack was carried out by Saudi Hezbollah, with help from Iran and al-Qaida.

• In July 1996, the U.S. received from senior-level al-Qaida defectors intelligence on the creation, character, direction and intentions of al-Qaida.

• In February 1998, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri issue a fatwa declaring “war on America” and making the murder of any American on earth the “individual duty” of every Muslim.

• In May 29, 1998, after a series of deadly bombings stretching back six years, and with bin Laden urging attacks on the U.S., Clinton’s CIA created a plan to raid and capture bin Laden at his Tarnak Farms compound in Afghanistan.

After months of planning and full rehearsals that went well, the raid was called off by CIA Director George Tenet and others who were worried about possible collateral damage and second-guessing and recriminations if bin Laden didn’t survive.

• On Aug. 7, 1998, al-Qaida blew up U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 200 and injuring 5,000. Clinton’s team decided to fire Tomahawk missiles at bin Laden’s training camp and a Sudan aspirin factory.

But they gave a 48-hour heads-up to Pakistan’s army chief of staff so that India wouldn’t think missiles were aimed at them. Forewarned, bin Laden and other leaders left, no terrorists were killed, and U.S. incompetence and ineffectiveness were on full display.

• On Dec. 20, 1998, intelligence learned that bin Laden would be at the Haii house in Kandahar, Afghanistan. But the U.S. passed on this opportunity, too, again fearing collateral damage and risk of failure. Clinton approved a plan by his national security advisor, Sandy Berger, to use tribals to capture bin Laden. But nothing happened.

• Next, the Pentagon created a plan to use a more precise HC130 gunship against bin Laden’s headquarters, but the plan was later shelved. Lt. General William Boykin later told the 9/11 Commission that “opportunities were missed due to an unwillingness to take risks, and a lack of vision and understanding.”

• On Feb. 10, 1999, CIA found out that bin Laden would be at a desert hunting camp the next morning. The military failed to act, however, because a United Arab Emirates aircraft was there and it was feared an Emirate prince or official might be killed.

• In May 1999, the CIA learned from several sources that bin Laden would be in Kandahar for five days. All agreed this would be the best chance to get him, but word came to stand down. It was believed Tenet and Clinton were still concerned about civilian collateral damage. A key project chief angrily said three opportunities were missed in 36 hours.

• In October 2000, the USS Cole was bombed, killing 17 U.S. sailors. No action was taken due to concerns expressed by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

All told, the Clinton administration had at least 10 chances to get bin Laden but repeatedly could not make the decision to act. Too many departments were involved, creating too much confusion, and no leader was strong enough to make the tough call. All were timid and overly concerned about repercussions if they failed.

The Clinton administration also allowed the selling of vital defense technology and secrets to China. Now the Chinese have silent submarines we can’t track.

Contrast this unwillingness to confront an enemy to the willingness of a more experienced, 62-year-old Harry Truman to defend Greece, beat the Soviet Union’s Berlin blockade and stop North Korea from taking over South Korea. Or to the resolve of Ronald Reagan, who in his 70s defeated the Soviet Union and freed 20 countries and 240 million people.

Based on what these more seasoned presidents achieved, we rate Reagan as our fifth-best president, Harry Truman seventh-best and Dwight Eisenhower our ninth-best. Eisenhower entered office in 1953 when he was 62 and served two terms as a popular and productive chief executive until age 70.

Our three youngest post-war presidents — Kennedy, Carter and Clinton — were all intelligent and well-educated. But they were also inexperienced in matters of national defense and security and far from successful in dealing with America’s hardened enemies. In some cases, they also failed to place competent people in Cabinet or advisory positions.

So, who would you rather have deal with and stand up to Putin’s Russia, Iran’s nukes, China’s emerging power and al-Qaida’s radical Islamic terrorists — someone in his 40s with little understanding of the military or someone in his 60s or 70s with sounder experience and judgment?

This concludes a five-part series that is available in its entirety at www.IBDeditorials.com/specialseries.