By law, illegal aliens convicted of heinous crimes -- rape, murder, child molestation -- are to be deported once they've served their jail terms. But lately, thousands of them have simply been let go. And Justice Department officials have refused to release a government database that could help journalists and private citizens find these aliens...
The Justice Department refused to provide any of the data sought by [Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau journalists Eliot Jaspin and Julia Malone]. Why? For three reasons, according to Rachal Madan, Office of Justice Programs' general counsel: (1) the grants data are exempt from disclosure under the FOIA because it concerns matters "of internal significance in which the public has no substantial interest," (2) processing the data "would place an unjustifiable administrative burden" on the Office of Justice Programs, and (3) releasing the data would "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of (the convicted illegal aliens') personal privacy."
In other words, the government refused to make the data available because the public -- that's you and me, our families and neighbors -- wouldn't benefit, the agency can't be bothered and it would be wrong to violate the criminals' privacy!
Such "reasoning" defies understanding. It is the most outrageous violation of the concept underlying the FOIA -- taxpayers have a right to know what their government is doing with their tax dollars -- I've seen in my two-decades-plus as a journalist in our nation's capitol...
This isn't the only way that various government institutions are deceiving the public about dangerous illegal alien criminals. As I reported Wednesday, look what happens to Latinos, including illegal aliens, in Arizona and many other states:
Is it a reasonable expectation that Arizona police reports on sexual crimes routinely identify Latino suspects as being White?
So, why is the Arizona Department of Public Safety routinely reclassifying Latino sex offenders as being White? According to their website, there doesn't appear to be a Latino sex offender in the entire State of Arizona.
Can you imagine the outcry we'd hear if White sexual predators were routinely reclassified as Latino?
The Powerline guys are guest-hosting the Hugh Hewitt Show today, and one of them (Hindrocket, I think) tried to draw an analogy between the Democrats' position in the coming fight over Social Security reform and the Maginot Line. The reasoning is that the Democrats are using an outmoded defense, etc. Well, okay... but as (I think) Big Trunk observed, the Maginot Line analogy makes President Bush a Nazi, which is a lethal objection.
The "government uber alles" Democrats are on the defensive while we Republicans are the liberating Allies. Just as the Allies earlier drove the Germans out of North Africa, we have thrown down the Democrat strongholds of post-Vietnam malaise, gun control and the death penalty. We finally had our D-Day in the 2004 elections when we decisively won the Presidency, House, and Senate with popular majorities. The Democrats are on their heels, looking to salvage and consolidate the remnant of their waning New Deal power. If Social Security is reformed, we march to Berlin.
Other battles will follow, but the hard-Left Democrats instinctively recognize that Social Security reform will pierce their lines and divide their forces. If anyone needed evidence, the tactless and vocal dissent of the Democrats when President Bush was discussing reform in last night's State of the Union address is more than ample.
The timing of the battle, 2005, comes on the eve of the first of the Baby Boomers' 60th birthdays in 2006. This enormous generation, greater in number than those before or since, has been watched throughout their lives by economists and actuaries, with an eye toward the societal effects of their retirement, now only a few years away. The Boomers are the trigger of the crisis in Social Security because they didn't produce enough children to maintain its solvency. The professionals even coined a nickname for the representation of this generation as it moved through the demographic charts, and that's where we'll find our analogy for the fight over Social Security reform:
The short answer is that there isn't much pro-reform blogging on the Right when compared to the anti-reform blogging from the Left. Take a look at the latest Technorati search on "social security privatizing" and you'll see what I mean. Click back a few pages; the Left is on top of Social Security privatization in a way that the Right isn't.
Here's a look around at the privatization blogging on the right:
ACCOUNTING BY AARPTHUR ANDERSON USANext catches AARP cooking the books in a poll showing public opposition to Social Security reform. In a letter to Congress, USANext reports that "National pollster John McLaughlin has a devastating analysis of the methodology behind the recent survey released by the AARP. It shows how that organization is attempting to falsely frame the debate over reforming Social Security by manipulating the American people, Congress, and the media. ...The following are examples of the misleading methodology:
What happens in 2042 (or earlier) when working Americans are not paying enough in Social Security taxes to cover the benefits for retired Americans. Some of those IOUs in that filing cabinet are going to have to be cashed in. And where is that money to come from? The U.S. Treasury, that's where. Can you tell me where the huge surplus resides from which that money can be drawn? Yup, you're right. There is no fund anywhere just waiting to cough up the money to cash in those trust fund IOUs. This means that our congress will have to either (a) cut spending in other areas to come up with the cash; (b) raise taxes to come up with the cash, or (b) borrow the money. That's a crisis, folks, by any definition. A crises denied by Democrats .. denied for purely partisan reasons.
Two good pieces by Democrats who disagree with their party's seeming obstruction and opposition to Social Security reform. One from former Senator Bob Kerrey, and the other from Democratic financial advisor and fundraiser Steve Rattner. Both are willing to explore personal savings accounts, albeit government-controlled investments. But at least that’s a good step in the right direction. Kerrey talks about opening accounts at birth, with no taxes on income earned. He mentions a "muscular market response." Rattner points out that state and local pension plans, as well as the Federal Reserve and other government entities, "[are] invested in assets that Democrats brand as risky." He suggests using broad market indexes.
If you want to see why black Americans should favor President Bush's social security plan, please look at today's Investor's Business Daily. Using charts from the Social Security Administration, the Rand Corporation, and the Cato Institute, IBD makes a devastating case. For example, the monthly benefit for a black worker born in 1970, earning $13,000 a year, would be $665 under a funded social security estimate, compared to $2266 if invested 50/50 in stocks and bonds. In 1995, for the 50th income percentile, total net worth of elderly households was $77,800, but for blacks only $17,000. Please read the whole article.
Then there was the heavy emphasis on Social Security reform, including another surprise announcement: young workers choosing personal retirement accounts will eventually be able to set aside four percentage points, or roughly two-thirds of their payroll taxes, in the accounts. At lower tax rates on saving and investment,young workers will have strong encouragement to redirect their taxes to the investment markets where the money will finance entrepreneurship and creative technological advances rather than support unproductive government spending.
Over time this will be a huge contribution to economic growth. In effect, the social security reform will reduce government spending and increase personal saving. If unnecessary budget programs are indeed permanently eliminated, then Bush's fiscal restructuring will increase both public and private saving. For all the political screaming about "risky" market investing, the fact is that no respectable economist in either political party should object. For however dubious the evidence, honest Keynesians in the Democratic party would admit that greater national saving would reduce our reliance on foreign capital inflows, thereby narrowing the trade deficit and strengthening the dollar.
WOULD YOU WANNA USE A PHONE FROM 1935 ?
WOULD YOU WANNA DRIVE A CAR FROM 1935 ON US 95?
WOULD YOU WANNA FLY TO EUROPE IN A 1936 PLANE?
So why would ANYONE wanna government retirement stipend system designed in 1935?!
It is time to innovate. Partial privatization would be OVERDUE, EVEN IF there were no looming demographic shortfall.
When the paleo-libs deny there is a looming demographic shortfall, they are denying what Clinton and other libs admitted six years ago. Which is sort of like the paleo-lib position on Saddam: he was a grave threat to them in 1998 - when Clinton was in power - but a well-contained pussycat as soon as Bush became president.
Data from First Financial Benefits, which administers the Galveston Alternate Plan, shows that county workers earning slightly more than $17,000 a year can retire at age 65 with a monthly payment of $1,285 compared with $782 a month under Social Security.
Due to having more money withheld and the effects of compounding interest, higher income employees in Galveston see even larger benefits under the Alternate Plan. Workers earning $51,263 a year could retire at 65 with a monthly benefit of $3,846, while the same worker participating in Social Security would receive $1,540 each month.
"We must recognize what a large and growing number of Iraqis now believe," said Sen. Ted Kennedy last week, that "the war in Iraq has become a war against the American occupation."
Even with the heroic and heartening election turnout, Kennedy is not entirely wrong. The insurgency has always been a war against the U.S. occupation and those Iraqis who cooperate with us. But the paradox Kennedy fails to address is this: While the U.S. invasion and occupation precipitated the insurgency, it has grown to where only the U.S. military keeps it from seizing power. Should we withdraw now, there is a near certainty the insurgents in the Sunni Triangle would inherit the country.
Leave it to Buchanan to use the Reuterspeak "insurgency" and "insurgents" for the alliance of Al Qaeda terrorists and remnant Ba'athist butchers who are fighting to return Iraq to bondage. American forces didn't "precipitate" them, we removed them from absolute power to declining and desperate butchery.
Given our dilemma -- the U.S. military presence is the cause of the insurgency, but also the only barrier to its success -- the answer suggests itself: We must bring an end to our military presence, even as we build an indigenous force to replace it.
Brilliant! Genius! Get President Bush on the phone!
With the elections now completed, President Bush should lay down, for the Iraqis and the world, conditions for the withdrawal of U.S. forces and their replacement with Iraqi forces. Specifically, President Bush should:
* Inform the new Iraqi assembly the United States has no plans for any permanent U.S. military presence on Iraqi soil.
* Pledge continued U.S. aid in battling the resistance and rebuilding the country, as long as an elected government endures.
* Accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi army forces, and the transfer to them of the duty to defend their own government.
* Announce an initial drawdown of U.S. forces, so Iraqis get the message that the defense of democracy in their own country is first and foremost their own duty, not ours. While we will aid them in their battle, its ultimate outcome will depend upon them.
Memo to Pat: your first three recommendations are already being done, but recommendation #4 would create incentive for Al Qaeda and the Ba'athists to continue their attacks, because our premature withdrawal of troops is exactly their goal. It's not likely necessary to subject innocent Iraqis to more bloodshed in order to persuade them to desire that our presence won't be permanent.
...if the Shia, 60 percent of the country, and Kurds, 20 percent, plus the anti-Baathist Sunni, are unwilling to fight a bloody restoration of Baathist tyranny, we need to find out now, before more U.S. blood is shed.
We already know that the Kurds and Shia are willing to fight; both attempted uprisings against Saddam Hussein during the 1990s. Earlier in his column, even Buchanan acknowledged that the anti-Saddam uprisings failed because they lacked firepower:
The Shia believe they are being compensated for having been abandoned in 1991, when George H.W. Bush urged them to rise up against Baghdad, but let them be slaughtered when Saddam sent his Revolutionary Guard to massacre the rebels.
Now Buchanan is advocating a partial withdrawal to test the will of the Iraqi people to fight the Ba'athist/Al Qaeda reactionaries, at the very moment when the success of the Iraqi elections have demoralized the forces of tyranny.
...apparently [Buchanan] thinks that we either leave now and they take over, or we stay and prevent them from taking over, but in the process keep making them stronger so that they will be in an even better position to take over in a year.
Pat's reflexive, convoluted isolationism, as usual, leads him a wish that a rope would be thrown to the enemy.
Hasn't Pat Buchanan already been given enough rope?
The best parts of the domestic policy laundry list of Bush's SOTU speech were that he kept it relatively brief, courageously and correctly addressed the vital areas of judges, litigation reform, a Constitutional Marriage Amendment, and Social Security reform.
The laundry list is typically the most boring part of typically overlong SOTU addresses. Putting it at the beginning of the speech and building to an outward-looking crescendo was an outstanding development that will hopefully be reprised the next three years and beyond.
Among the items on the list:
America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government. I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. (Applause.) My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all. (Applause.)
Nice sentiment, but some specifics, some vetoes, and less expansive social spending would be nicer.
To make our economy stronger and more dynamic, we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, standards are higher, test scores are on the rise, and we're closing the achievement gap for minority students. Now we must demand better results from our high schools, so every high school diploma is a ticket to success. We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career, by reforming our job training system and strengthening America's community colleges. And we'll make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants. (Applause.)
Does this sound like fiscal restraint? One of the President's problems is that he often doesn't hasn't walked the walk of less intrusive, less expensive central government. He likes big government when he likes big government, as in No Child Left Behind, Campaign Finance Reform, and the costly Prescription Drug Entitlement.
To make our economy stronger and more competitive, America must reward, not punish, the efforts and dreams of entrepreneurs. Small business is the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities, so we must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits. (Applause.) Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back by irresponsible class-actions and frivolous asbestos claims -- and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year. (Applause.)
Wholehearted agreement. Trial lawyers need to be kicked in the teeth at every opportunity.
I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda with tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance, a community health center in every poor country, improved information technology to prevent medical error and needless costs, association health plans for small businesses and their employees -- (applause) -- expanded health savings accounts -- (applause) -- and medical liability reform that will reduce health care costs and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need. (Applause.)
Medical liability reform needs to happen yesterday. Other reforms that inhibit federal meddling and empower self-financing of health care are badly needed.
I'm assuming that "a community health center in every poor country" is a typo for "county," which indicates the President's affinity for big government health care. States are responsible for their counties, so this should be thwarted, otherwise future budget battles will hinge on what constitutes a poor county, and much pork would follow.
To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. (Applause.) Nearly four years ago, I submitted a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, alternative sources, a modernized electricity grid, and more production here at home -- including safe, clean nuclear energy. (Applause.) My Clear Skies legislation will cut power plant pollution and improve the health of our citizens. (Applause.) And my budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology -- from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol. (Applause.) Four years of debate is enough: I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy. (Applause.)
Nuclear energy, cleaner coal technology, and more domestic production are good ideas. Hydrogen cars are boondoggles and ethanol is farmbelt pork. The allusion to ANWAR was good, though I would have preferred it had been more explicit, but it's a minor quibble.
America's immigration system is also outdated -- unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists. (Applause.)
The weakest and least honest moment of what was an otherwise President Bush has given short shrift to border and interior enforcement against illegal aliens throughout his Presidency, and now wants to legalize twice as many illegal aliens as have previously been legalized in the History of the United States. Oh, but he opposes Amnesty.
Year after year, Americans are burdened by an archaic, incoherent federal tax code. I've appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the tax code from top to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will work together to give this nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all. (Applause.)
Wholehearted agreement, and then some. The entire tax code should fit on five single-sided sheets 8 x 11 paper, in 12 point type.
Better yet, abolish the income tax Constitutionally while authorizing a national sales tax that could never exceed 10%, without two-thirds supermajorities in Congress.
Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat -- and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than $300 billion. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt. If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be dramatically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.
Bravo. Social Security reform is crucial, and is one of the President's strongest domestic cases for a mandate. His recent outreach to blacks on retirement reform and privatization was a particularly bold and positive step.
The Democrats heckled him when he stated that Social Security would be bankrupt by 2042. They'll cite studies in their behalf, while neglecting to mention that those studies also indicate that 30% cuts in benefits would be necessary to maintain solvency. Bush is proposing reforms that protect benefits, and the status quo can not achieve that without onerous tax increases on our children and grandchildren.
Fixing Social Security permanently will require an open, candid review of the options. Some have suggested limiting benefits for wealthy retirees. Former Congressman Tim Penny has raised the possibility of indexing benefits to prices rather than wages. During the 1990s, my predecessor, President Clinton, spoke of increasing the retirement age. Former Senator John Breaux suggested discouraging early collection of Social Security benefits. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recommended changing the way benefits are calculated. All these ideas are on the table.
These were great rhetorical strokes. The Democrats are already trying to demagogue the issue, so the President stood with four prominent earlier Democrats in urging the need for bipartisanship in Social Security reform.
As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts. (Applause.) Here is how the idea works. Right now, a set portion of the money you earn is taken out of your paycheck to pay for the Social Security benefits of today's retirees. If you're a younger worker, I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account, so you can build a nest egg for your own future.
Here's why the personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver -- and your account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will receive from Social Security. In addition, you'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children and -- or grandchildren. And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away. (Applause.)
Personal retirement accounts are highly desirable, but the details will be interesting. Earlier the President properly declared that the benefits of those 55 or older would be secure. Would everyone under 55 then be considered a "younger worker" and eligible for the PRAs? Hopefully so.
Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage. (Applause.)
The President has the support of the American people and is on the right side of History here, Wavering and weak GOP legislators should fall in line.
Same-sex marriage is one of the great threats to American civilization, because the institution of marriage is the fundamental social unit of civilization. If the fundamentals are altered, everything changes, and the CMA is the only certain way of preventing rogue judges from "growing" our civilization into something unrecognizable.
Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. (Applause.) As President, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate men and women who understand the role of courts in our democracy, and are well-qualified to serve on the bench -- and I have done so. (Applause.) The Constitution also gives the Senate a responsibility: Every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote. (Applause.)
In Iraq the Al Qaeda terrorists and the Ba'athist remnants sought to restore tyranny by preventing people from voting on their future. In Congress the Democrats seek to maintain judicial tyranny by preventing votes on the President's judicial nominees.
While the American Left isn't murderous, they do incline toward their own forms of totalitarianism.
In the three and a half years since September the 11th, 2001, we have taken unprecedented actions to protect Americans. We've created a new department of government to defend our homeland, focused the FBI on preventing terrorism, begun to reform our intelligence agencies, broken up terror cells across the country, expanded research on defenses against biological and chemical attack, improved border security, and trained more than a half-million first responders. Police and firefighters, air marshals, researchers, and so many others are working every day to make our homeland safer, and we thank them all. (Applause.)
Other than the President's half-hearted approach to border security, this is a fair and commendable assessment of his Administration's responses to 9/11.
In the long-term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. (Applause.) Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the "evil principle" of democracy. And we've declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. (Applause.)
The Zarqawi line can't be repeated and tossed into the faces of the American Left often enough. Whether or not they admit it, heir opposition to the President's conduct of the war in Iraq makes them strategic allies of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
I wince whenever I hear the "only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom" rhetorical flourishes. If by "the force" the President means the Author of History, he should plainly say so.
The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies. They seek to impose and expand an empire of oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers control every aspect of every life. Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace. (Applause.)
The President is acknowledging law of realpolitik that democracies don't attack each other. We should encourage democracies, but we should also take caution that cultures not known for pluralistic instincts may prove to be exceptions. For example:
The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. Tomorrow morning, Secretary of State Rice departs on a trip that will take her to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. She will discuss with them how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent, democratic state. To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal. (Applause.)
With the death of Arafat the Egyptian, the Arabs of the terror conglomerate called "the Palestinians" have used democracy to elect Abbas, aka abu Mazen, the financial bag man for many terrorist attacks and murders of Israelis, including the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre.
Democracy is always an experiment, even now in America. Abu Mazen represents the first experiment in terrorist democracy.
It's doubtful that a genocidal culture will lose their bloodlust through the ballot box.
To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, the United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. (Applause.)
These were important points, especially focusing attention on Egypt and the Wahabbi jihadist state of Saudi Arabia, the nations that spawned all of the September 11th hijackers. Let the experiments in Muslim democracy reach every dusty corner of Islam. Whatever the result, there will be clarity that can only be achieved for making the attempt.
To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom. (Applause.) Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you. (Applause.)
Syria and Iran are the two remaining Islamic poles of the declared Axis of Evil. The President reminds them that they should not expect inattention. Bush's solidarity with the people of Iran is admirable, but runs the risk of going the way of Eisenhower's similar remarks to the people of Hungary, if, like Eisenhower, he doesn't militarily prevent the slaughter of any uprising that his encouragement evokes. The first President Bush made a similar error with uprisings against Saddam Hussein after the Kuwait War, as did President Clinton with Iraqi uprisings in the mid-1990s.
All evidence to date indicates that the current President Bush is not inclined to repeat those mistakes, but it's not obvious we have sufficient military resources to avoid them, given current commitments, if any sort of Persian Tiananmen Square should seem imminent. Hopefully we do.
One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "We were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. Thank you to the American people who paid the cost, but most of all, to the soldiers." Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country -- and we are honored that she is with us tonight. (Applause.)
The terrorists and insurgents are violently opposed to democracy, and will continue to attack it. Yet, the terrorists' most powerful myth is being destroyed. The whole world is seeing that the car bombers and assassins are not only fighting coalition forces, they are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis, expressed in free elections. And the whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
A report on the ABC News yesterday said that it had been the quietest day of terrorism since American troops entered Iraq. The demoralization of the terrorists has to be demoralizing to those who still insist the war was wrong.
Recently an Iraqi interpreter said to a reporter, "Tell America not to abandon us." He and all Iraqis can be certain: While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances, our commitment remains firm and unchanging. We are standing for the freedom of our Iraqi friends, and freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come. (Applause.) We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out.
Yet Nancy Pelosi wants a date for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. She wants to take actions that would resuscitate the jihadists.
Hokay... Contrast Pelosi's attitude to those who have served and sacrificed for the war in Iraq, their loved ones, and liberated Iraqis:
Some of our servicemen and women have survived terrible injuries, and this grateful country will do everything we can to help them recover. (Applause.) And we have said farewell to some very good men and women, who died for our freedom, and whose memory this nation will honor forever.
One name we honor is Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed during the assault on Fallujah. His mom, Janet, sent me a letter and told me how much Byron loved being a Marine, and how proud he was to be on the front line against terror. She wrote, "When Byron was home the last time, I said that I wanted to protect him like I had since he was born. He just hugged me and said, 'You've done your job, Mom. Now it is my turn to protect you." Ladies and gentlemen, with grateful hearts, we honor freedom's defenders, and our military families, represented here this evening by Sergeant Norwood's mom and dad, Janet and Bill Norwood. (Applause.)
What followed was the most moving moment of any State of the Union Address of my lifetime. Safia Taleb al-Suhail, whose father was murdered by Saddam Hussein's regime, gave grateful embrace to Mrs. Norwood, whose son fell to insure that tyrants like Saddam could no longer murder innocent Iraqis with impunity. Those who could watch these two women, who've lost so much, and yet still fail to understand what has happened and is happening in Iraq lack ordinary capacities for reason and human empathy.
In these four years, Americans have seen the unfolding of large events. We have known times of sorrow, and hours of uncertainty, and days of victory. In all this history, even when we have disagreed, we have seen threads of purpose that unite us. The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom's power to change the world. We are all part of a great venture: To extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty, and to spread the peace that freedom brings.
As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." And we live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. The abolition of slavery was only a dream -- until it was fulfilled. The liberation of Europe from fascism was only a dream -- until it was achieved. The fall of imperial communism was only a dream -- until, one day, it was accomplished. Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable -- yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.
Update (7:20 pst): Mmmmm... that's some good crow!
No Teddy moment tonight, I didn't even see him on the screen. I still think he'll be part of the Amnesty that the President is pretending he isn't proposing. More on the rest of the speech later, I just wanted to get this in while Harry Reid is babbling.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has removed an online pamphlet from the state Web site that offered advice in Spanish to illegal immigrants on living and working in Colorado.
Titled "Enterese!" which means "Inform Yourself," the 50-page pamphlet was posted on the Colorado Department of Education Web site until Monday, when the governor's office had it removed after criticism from advocates for tighter borders.
The 2003 guide, which included a welcome message from Mr. Owens and the Mexican consul general, was intended to offer advice to legal immigrants, said Mr. Owens' spokesman, Sean Duffy.
But the guide wound up resembling a "how-to" manual for illegal aliens, providing them with tips on how to obtain medical care, open a bank account, earn university scholarships, and deal with police and other authorities.
"The way it was described to us was that it would be a tool for recent arrivals — I'm assuming legal arrivals," Mr. Duffy said.
Examples of advice offered by the pamphlet, as translated into English, include:
"Private organizations such as clinics or schools by policy do not ask about the immigration status of persons who attend. They do not report them to immigration authorities, either."
"The job of the police is not to report you to Immigration. Always carry the name and phone number of an attorney who will take your calls. If you do not have [immigration] papers, you also have the right to remain silent or call a lawyer."
"Many businesses employ illegal aliens without papers, or without verifying that papers are legitimate since they do not have the responsibility to investigate the legal status of employees or contractors. ... All workers, regardless of their legal status, have the same rights — the right to work — regardless of your nationality or legal status ..."
"Regardless of your economic or immigration status, you have the right to receive medical attention if you go to the [emergency room]."
"You can receive medical services at the community clinic closest to you. Doctors do not deport."
The pamphlet also mentions university scholarships for "Hispanics, legal or illegal aliens," and that bank accounts can be opened using a Matricula Consular card, which is frequently used by undocumented workers who cannot obtain other forms of identification.
The guide was copyrighted by two Colorado organizations, Salud Family Health Centers and Focus Points Family Resources Center. Neither organization could be reached for comment. The credits page also lists the Mexican consulate-general of Denver.
The guide, which was "made possible" by the First Data Western Union Foundation, also offers advice on how to send money back to Mexico by electronic transfer by using companies "such as Western Union." A sample budget for "Jose and Ana Maria" budgets $200 per month to "family in Mexico."
...the president tonight also is expected to renew his push for a "guest-worker" plan. It's amnesty for illegal aliens. We have a real four-letter word for that -- dumb.
Administration allies say opposition to the president's plan is a "knee jerk." Give it a chance, they argue. Well, the only "chance" we see is for "guest workers" to become the newest members of this nation's ever-expanding shadow population.
Private Social Security accounts will strengthen the state of our union. Illegal alien amnesty will undermine it. We are encouraged by the former. The administration must come to recognize the latter.
The department's investigative arm, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has operated under severe financial crisis for more than a year -- to the point that use of agency vehicles and photocopying were at times banned. The problem stems from funding disputes with other DHS agencies.
"DHS is still a compilation of 22 agencies that aren't integrated into a cohesive whole," said its recently departed inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin, who released many critical reports and was not reappointed after a falling-out with Ridge. Asked for examples of ineffectiveness, he replied: "I don't know where to start. . . . I've never seen anything like it."
Ervin cited a report from his office last month that DHS immigration inspectors had continued to let dozens of people using stolen foreign passports enter the United States -- even after other governments had notified the agency of the passport numbers. Using stolen passports is a well-known tactic of al Qaeda operatives.
Even when immigration officials realized someone had entered the United States on a stolen passport, they did not routinely notify sister agencies that track illegal immigrants, the report said.
When officials made missteps such as this, Ridge rarely intervened, Ervin said. "Tom Ridge is a prince of a man, but he's not a tough guy," he said.
Several officials described the undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, former representative Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), as a consensus-builder who had difficulty demanding an end to the turf fights. Especially troublesome was a personality conflict between the affable Hutchinson and one of his subordinates, Robert C. Bonner, the aggressive head of Customs and Border Protection, whose airport and seaport inspectors investigate people and cargo.
"There were knock-down, drag-out meetings every day" between leaders in some parts of the department, said Loy, who added that "management styles can pour gasoline" on such arguments. But he said the fights are now resolved.
Asked about conflicts with Bonner, Hutchinson said: "I'd be enormously disappointed if I didn't have agency leaders who leaned forward and fought for their agencies." But, he added, "people who work under me know I make decisions."
Any use of this information to threaten, intimidate, harass, or create a criminal act against another person will result in criminal prosecution.
Notice that the racial designation for these sex offenders with Spanish surnames is "W," as in "White."
Is it a reasonable expectation that Arizona police reports on sexual crimes routinely identify Latino suspects as being White?
So, why is the Arizona Department of Public Safety routinely reclassifying Latino sex offenders as being White? According to their website, there doesn't appear to be a Latino sex offender in the entire State of Arizona.
In the search field, enter any Latino surname you can think of... Valdez, Jimenez, Gomez, etc. Submit Query.
Then click on one of the profiles that comes up. You'll get a mugshot of a Latino sex offender, with some vital statistics.
Then look at the perp's race. "W." Always "W."
Latino sex offenders in AZ are routinely being reclassified as Caucasians.
Some may quibble that Latino is not a race, which is a fair point. It is, however, an understood ethnic designation that is often used by law enforcement and census bureaus, so why isn't it used with regard to so many sex offenders? These predators are obviously not what the average person on the street would call "White."
The particular Latino sex offenders I've highlighted here all fugitive absconders. Whether or not any of them are illegal aliens is not known. It's certainly a serious question, given what Heather MacDonald has told us about The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave and The Immigrant Gang Plague. In any case, it's a fact of life that Latino criminals often disappear across the Mexican border. How effective is it for a Latino sex offender to turn into a Caucasian and hide in plain sight in Mexico? Probably not very:
Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, an organization that "cares for orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean," breaks down Mexican ethnic groups as
mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%.
This is beyond political correctness, this is the active misrepresentation of the ethnicity of sexual predators that have been released into our society. Setting aside the advisability of the releases themselves, how is the public served by this policy?
One of the most interesting features of the Firefox browser is its support for extensions. Extensions are rapidly adding useful features to Firefox. An excellent example is Sage 1.3.
Sage is an extension that adds support for XML news feeds. The Firefox/Sage combination can really streamline your web browsing. Sage integrates the latest news feed headlines into a browser sidebar. This makes it easy to scan the news, and then click and view pages that you want to read.
The Bush administration's decision not to hire 2,000 new Border Patrol agents for fiscal year 2006 will seriously hamper efforts to control illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, said current and retired officials.
President Bush is expected to seek an increase of only about 200 agents for the new fiscal year, according to law-enforcement authorities and others, significantly short of the 2,000 per year authorized for each of the next five years in the recently passed intelligence overhaul bill.
Passed by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Bush in December, the bill authorized 10,000 new Border Patrol agents as part of Congress' response to the September 11 commission's findings. The panel revealed deep institutional failings and missed opportunities by U.S. authorities in stopping the al Qaeda terrorists who crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 people.
The proposed influx of new agents would nearly double the size of the Border Patrol in the next five years as concern increased over new terrorist threats and a significant rise in the number of assaults against agents assigned along the border. Fears were heightened particularly in Arizona, where agents captured more than 40 percent of the 1.15 million aliens caught last year trying to sneak into the country.
Agents on a 260-mile stretch of Arizona-Mexico border, known as the Tucson sector, are being assaulted at a rate of once every two days, according to Border Patrol statistics.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, who heads border and transportation security, confirmed separately that Mr. Bush will not seek funding for the extra agents this year. His fiscal 2006 budget request is due in February.
Mr. Ridge, who has resigned and will leave office tomorrow, referred to the intelligence bill authorization of 10,000 agents as "fool's gold," saying it would be an inefficient use of Homeland Security funds. Mr. Hutchinson, who has quit effective March 1, said funding issues within the department precluded such a large increase in manpower.
At the time the President said: said: "We have strengthened the security of our nation's borders and ports of entry and transportation systems."
Apparently swearing an oath on the Bible two weeks ago excuses President Bush from faithfully executing his duties to abide by and uphold the legislation he just signed that adds 2000 more Border Patrol agents this year..
Even John Fund of the open-borders Wall Street Journal is alarmed.
Many Republicans are steaming about what they see as White House obtuseness on immigration. Last month, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, held up passage of the bill revamping the nation's intelligence services until he got a promise that his colleagues would fast-track a bill that would make it harder for a foreigner to claim political asylum in the United States, impose strict national standards for driver licenses and strengthen border enforcement this year.
Now Mr. Sensenbrenner is furious over a USA Today story that quoted outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge as saying that a part of the intelligence reform bill that did pass doubling the size of the Border Patrol was "fool's gold" that wouldn't be included in the president's budget. "It's nice to say you're going to have 10,000 more Border Patrol agents in five years, but what other part of Homeland Security do you want to take money from?" Mr. Ridge asked.
Soon the five GOP House conferees who negotiated the intelligence bill sent a letter to President Bush demanding that he fully fund the Border Patrol provisions. Speaker Dennis Hastert's office told Human Events that he too favored inclusion of the funds in the president's budget.
One of the five signers of the letter to President Bush was Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee. He is undergoing a swift political course correction on immigration. Last year, two radio talk show hosts in Los Angeles named John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou spent weeks urging listeners to defeat Mr. Dreier, who they claimed was only paying "lip service" to efforts to halt illegal immigration.
Mr. Dreier spent the last two weeks of the campaign promising a renewed focus on immigration, even running ads featuring his friend Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calling him "tough as nails" on immigration. Mr. Dreier won, but his 54% showing against a woefully underfinanced Democrat was the lowest of his career. Only weeks after the election, Mr. Dreier announced he would introduce legislation to require creation of a photo-embedded Social Security card, which employers would be required to check with a national database to determine the immigration status of a job applicant.
Is that a riot? John Fund thinks we're steamed at what we "see as White House obtuseness on immigration."
No, we're steamed at White House obtuseness on immigration.
We're also less than thrilled with the obtuseness of the staff of the Wall Street Journal on illegal aliens, who aren't immigrants at all, they're trespassers and squatters.
Our Border Patrol already opposes the Bush Amnesty, saying the "intention of the President sends contradictory signals to agencies tasked with securing our borders."
Throughout the 1990s we heard about the detrimental effect of President Clinton's military policy on the morale of our armed forces; how beneficial is it to the morale of the Border Patrol when President Bush will send our Border Patrol agents to help protect Iraq's border during the elections elections there, but won't support them in protecting our border with Mexico? How is BP morale boosted when the coyotes who are funded by the President's "good-hearted" illegals are becoming increasingly viloent, shooting at members of our Border Patrol, while President Bush refuses to give them the resources they need? How are borders made more secure when the Bush Administration suspends a wildly successful unmanned drone surveillance program that tracked 853,000 illegal aliens in less than six months for under $5 million with just four drones over a segment of the Arizona-Mexico border? Yet only 1,250 of those illegals were ultimately apprehended and sent back over the border.
With more drones and more agents on the ground our Border Patrol could make a big enough dent in the illegals coming over that hundreds of thousands of others would be deterred from trying to enter. With fewer attempts to cross our border America would have fewer illegal aliens and fewer of them would be dying in the desert. It's a safe, humane, legal strategy, but the President won't support it.
Several lawmakers at the retreat said the president pledged to put forward a major tax overhaul this year, after the tax reform commission he appointed reported in July.
Before leaving for the retreat Thursday, Representative Deborah Pryce of Ohio said Republicans were not about to tell Mr. Bush that any of his proposals could not pass this year, except for his proposal for a guest-worker program in which currently illegal immigrants might be eligible. Still, the president told the Republicans at the retreat that he would continue to push for that program.
The National Border Patrol Council has called the Bush Amnesty a "slap in the face" to them. T.J. Bonner, President of the NBPC, has disputed the President's claims that America is safer than on 9/11 even as he starves the Border Patrol budget.
Hutchinson's opponents could also call on T. J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents about 10,700 border-patrol agents. Bonner says morale on the front line has never been lower. "If you look at the border, you have to say not much has changed since 9/11. It's still incredibly easy to cross that border [illegally] -- millions of people do it successfully every year -- so if we're grading on that criteria, he gets a failing grade," Bonner said.
Indeed. Who appointed Asa Hutchinson?
The Bush Amnesty would legalize twice as many illegal aliens as the Reagan and Clinton Amnesties combined. There is no intellectually honest hair the President can split that redefines Amnesty in such a way that he isn't guilty of attempting it. The Reagan Amnesty led us to the mess we're in, and President Bush's solution is to force more of the problem upon America's unwilling soil.
Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen and Assyrians all want to create a country that will suit them. The major questions to be answered remain: Will Iraq be a secular country or an Islamic one, and will it be divided into states or into regions, which would give the Kurds the autonomy they want?
Iraqi politicians celebrated Sunday evening an important step on the way to achieving a free and democratic country.
"This is a day of joy for the Iraqi people," Adnan Pachachi, the head of the Independent Democratic Movement list and a former foreign minister, told The Jerusalem Post.
But Pachachi is worried about the fight that lies ahead. As the main figure behind the US-backed temporary administrative law – a prototype constitution – he said he hoped there would be few changes made to it and that it would be signed by the August 15 deadline.
The place of religion in the state, he said, was the main dilemma for the future.
"Basically, the split is between those who want to establish a secular democracy and those who want to establish a theocracy," he said. "This is the real split, not Sunni-Shi'ite."
Adnan Ali, a member of the Shi'ite Dawa Party and chief of staff of the Vice President Ibrahim Jaafari, disagreed. He told The Jerusalem Post his party saw no problem in making Islam the official religion of the state.
"There is no harm to write in the constitution that the religion of Iraqis is Islam because it is for the majority of Iraqis," said Ali, whose list is probably going to win the majority of seats. But he said the religious Shi'ites promised not to make Islamic law the state law.
...the sweeping public legitimacy given to the elections by the Iraqi people is no guarantee of democracy's success in their country, and the two issues - democracy and elections - should not be confused. The idea of elections was formulated from the start as a solution to enable the existence of a temporary government, in which the main political players, the Shi'ites in their many factions and the Kurds, could run the country by agreement, with the Americans. Therefore, with all due respect that should be ascribed to the successful elections, it is the results of the voting that will determine the political coalitions and constellations. Those coalitions will determine the nature of Iraqi democracy: how much freedom of speech an Iraqi citizen enjoys, what the rights of women and of ethnic and religious minorities will be - and, no less important, how the country's foreign policy will be forged.
There was no need for elections to know that the Shi'ite majority would run Iraq. But will it be a secular Shi'ite majority headed by Dr. Iyad Allawi, the current prime minister, or the religious Shi'ites, whose leader is Abdul Aziz Alhakim? Will the Kurds agree to give up their demand for a federative regime in which their district is run independently, and will they go with whomever promises them more control over Kirkuk, which has become the flammable focus of Kurdish rivalries?
The 275 parliamentarians elected yesterday will have to provide an answer to these questions very soon, after it becomes evident who won and who will be the president and prime minister. It's not merely a matter of ministerial portfolios and jobs. The important task of framing a constitution is at stake. Two important obstacles face the the framers: one involves the Kurdish veto over any change to the current, temporary constitution, and the second, the role of religion as a source of constitutional authority (according to the current, temporary constitution the sharia - Islamic law - is only one of the sources of authority of the constitution).
Both amendments are opposed by the Kurds, who don't regard themselves as part of the Arab or Iraqi religious fabric. Subjecting the Kurdish district to Baghdad's rule, an issue that was not solved under the current regime, will therefore be a major issue for the next government.
The success of the elections can largely be attributed to the determination of the religious Shi'ite leadership, headed by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to organize and hold them, and the political preparations he made to advance his goals. Sistani, who was largely responsible for putting down the rebellion of Shi'ite isolationist Muqtada al-Sadr, opposes the establishment of a religious state along the lines of Iran, where the religious leader is also the political leader. But he won't concede the role of religion as an integral part of legislation, with a much more comprehensive scope than that existing according to the temporary constitution. That could have an impact on the relationship between the new government and parliament with the Kurds and the Sunni minority, which anyway feels it got the short end of the stick and won't have any influence over political life in the country.
The government's relationship with the Kurds, which will be part of the Iraqi parliament and the new government that is formed, will also have to deal with the fears of the other countries in the region with Kurdish minorities - Turkey and Iran. Any move by the Iraqi government to allow an independent Kurdish district, or even a federative government in Iraq, will encounter Turkish and Iranian opposition that could affect the new government's ability to consolidate its powers. Iran is already suspected of fomenting subversive activity in Iraq to create a political base there, while Turkey could hurt Kurdish trade that passes through it, thus creating another friction point.
Iraqi journalist Ziyad al-Samarrai told Aljazeera on Monday that voter turnout in Baghdad was poor, especially in the al-Yarmuk, al-Amiriya, and al-Adhamiya districts - the main population centres in central and western Baghdad.
The Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI) said on Sunday its initial tally of 72% had been little more than a guess based on local estimates.
The panel has since revised the estimated turnout at 60% to 75%.
On the other hand, the International Organisation for Migration said on Monday nearly 94% of Iraqi expatriates who had registered to vote outside Iraq took part in the elections.
The commission decreased the expected rate stated before on the volume of the Iraqis who would took part in the elections. Its stressed by its chief Fred Ayar that the current estimates indicate that actual rates might not exceed 60% of the Iraqis who are eligible to voting, and not 72% as announced earlier. Certain Iraqi cities and governorates witnessed a high turnout for voting. The ballot centers in the Kurdish cities to the north of the country witnessed a great turnout since the early hours of the day on Sunday. Observers said that the turnout for the ballot centers in the southern governorates where the Shiite majority live had witnessed tangible progress.
On the contrary the central areas in Iraq, where the Sunni majority live witnessed a weak turnout. News reports and information from the governorates of al-Anbar, Salah Eddine and Deyali said that most of the ballot centers there were empty of voters and elections officials, alike.
Only one ballot center was opened in Samera and voting was almost nonexistent in the two cities of al-Ramadi and Tikrit.
Sunni Arab states fear the emergence of a hostile Shiite government in Iraq after the first free elections there in 50 years that may also add pressure on them to introduce their own political reforms.
"Victory for Sistani," the Cairo daily Nahdat Misr headlined Monday, referring to the Iran-born Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who engineered a joint list that is widely expected to win power for Iraq's long oppressed majority community.
Cairo University law professor Mohammed Nur Farhat asked if there had not been "an understanding, even partial, between the United States and Iran," paving the way for the Shiites' expected rise to power for the first time in an Arab state in 11 centuries.
In his first news conference since the elections, Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called on Iraqis to join together to re-build the Iraqi society.
"The terrorists now know that they cannot win," he said. "We are entering a new era of our history and all Iraqis - whether they voted or not - should stand side by side to build their future." He promised to work to ensure that "the voice of all Iraqis is present in the coming government."
BAGHDAD, 31 January 2005 — Iraqis braved bombs and voted in their millions in Iraq's first free election in half a century yesterday. Insurgents made good their promise of turning the election into a bloodbath. Nine of their suicide bombers killed at least 35 people.
Women in abayas whispered prayers at the sound of a nearby explosion as they waited to vote at one Baghdad polling station. But the mood elsewhere was triumphant, with long lines in many places in the city: civilians and policemen danced with joy outside one site, and some streets were packed with voters walking shoulder-to-shoulder toward polling centers.
"This is democracy," said Karfia Abbasi, holding up a thumb stained with purple ink to prove she had voted.
RIYADH/JEDDAH, 31 January 2005 — Reaction of Saudi academics and businessmen to Iraq's first free election in 50 years yesterday was mixed, with some saying the poll was deeply flawed and would give democracy a bad name. Others voiced support for the election, saying the move to hold election in itself was important though the timing and mechanics were flawed. They said that internal violence and the poor showing of Sunnis at the polls undermined it.
Dr. Fauzia Al-Bakr, a professor at King Saud University (KSU), welcomed the elections saying: "The poll is a positive move, but the Arabs have been largely dissatisfied with the whole exercise because of violence, the continued occupation and sectarian reasons." Al-Bakr said some Sunni groups had boycotted the election, saying it cannot be free and fair because of the US military presence and daily bloodshed in the Sunni heartlands of the war-torn country.
In Jeddah, Saudis and Arab expatriates welcomed the Iraqi election, describing the 60 percent voter turnout as a success for the democratic process. They felt that the fact that Iraqis turned out in force defying terrorist threats showed that they were keen on a new democratic deal.
"This will usher in a new era, as Iraqis are deciding on their own future in defiance of insurgents," said Waleed Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi businessman and member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry. "Once a democratically elected government assumes office and chalks out a program of rehabilitation and development, the entire Arab world can benefit from the implementation of various projects."
"It's something good that has happened to Iraq and its people and hopefully will bring peace to the region," said Waleed Karanouh, a Lebanese PR and media consultant. "After, all Iraq is part of the Arab world and whatever happens in that country has its ramifications in other parts of the region."
Baghdad: Voters turned out in surprisingly high numbers yesterday for Iraq's first free election in half a century, defying insurgents who unleashed suicide bombers and mortar attacks that killed at least 37 people.
Rebels wearing belts packed with explosives targeted polling stations and even the home of a minister to try to wreck the election that took Iraq a further step away from the legacy of Saddam Hussain.
Amid estimates from Iraqi officials and foreign observers of a strong turnout amid a massive security clampdown nationwide, the United States and the Iraqi government declared the election had been a success despite the killings.
US President George W. Bush promised that Washington would continue trying to prepare Iraqis to secure their own country.
"The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the centre of the Middle East," Bush told reporters at the White House four hours after the polls closed.
He praised the bravery of Iraqis who turned out to vote despite continuing violence and intimidation.
Bush said they "firmly rejected the antidemocratic ideology" of terrorists.
Allawi, a contender to be renamed prime minister, is keen to build popular support after a poll in which election officials estimate eight million Iraqis voted, confounding predictions many would be scared away by insurgent threats of a bloodbath.
Yet while the election day onslaught of suicide bombers and mortars was less bloody than expected, Allawi warned the insurgency was far from over.
"There will be violence," he said, but added: "The terrorists know they cannot win.
""The whole world is watching us. As we worked together yesterday to finish dictatorship, let us work together towards a bright future -- Sunnis and Shi'ites, Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen," he said.
BAGHDAD: Millions of Iraqis flocked to vote in a historic election yesterday, defying insurgents who killed 37 people in a bloody assault on the poll.
Voters, some ululating with joy, others hiding their faces in fear, cast ballots in higher-than-expected numbers in Iraq's first multi-party election in half a century.
Samir Hassan, 32, who lost his leg in a car bomb blast last year, said as he waited to vote in Baghdad: "I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me."
Allawi, a contender to be renamed prime minister, is keen to build popular support after a poll in which election officials estimate eight million Iraqis voted, confounding predictions many would be scared away by insurgent threats of a blood bath.
Yet while the election day onslaught of suicide bombers and mortars was less bloody than expected, Allawi warned the insurgency was far from over.
"There will be violence," he said, but added: "The terrorists know they cannot win. The whole world is watching us. As we worked together yesterday to finish dictatorship, let us work together towards a bright future - Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen."
Confirming Allawi's warnings, Al-Qaeda's group in Iraq vowed on Monday to continue its "holy war," slamming historic elections seen as a success by the U.S.-allied government as an "American game," according to an Internet statement.
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi also on Monday congratulated his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari on the successful holding of elections.
In his message, Kharrazi said the elections showed the political maturity of the people and it was a great step toward the democratization of Iraq.
The Iranian minister expressed hope that the historic election would help strengthen the relations between the two nations of Iran and Iraq and help secure the region without the presence of foreign forces.
"The elections would never have been possible without the power of the clergy and the religious authorities" who urged Iraqi people to participate in elections, said the Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
"Today, the Iraqis must protect their vote and make sure not to allow fraud" that would deny the Shiites their victory in Sunday's elections, said Rafsanjani.
The majority Shiite community and Kurds concentrated in the north had been predicted to vote in high numbers in one of the most dangerous and controversial elections of modern times. But the election commission said even among Sunni Arabs -- who were the ruling elite under Saddam and all previous Iraqi governments -- turnout was higher than expected despite boycott calls from clerics and politicians.
The government sealed frontiers, closed Baghdad international airport and imposed a night-time curfew during the poll. Vehicle traffic near polling stations was also banned. Despite the measures, Iraq's government said 36 people were killed and almost 100 wounded Sunday. About nine suicide bombers also died, officials said.
A group that organised 10,000 independent observers said fraud had been limited. "In general the elections went ahead in an excellent way and there was very little fraud or violations," a spokesman for the Ain (eye) non-governmental organisation said.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Iraqis must be encouraged to take control of their own destiny as voters cast ballots in Sunday's historic elections in the country.
"The Iraqis who turned out today are courageous, they know that they are voting for the future of their country," Annan told a press conference at an African Union summit in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
"We must encourage them and support them to take control of their destiny," he said in remarks in French.