‘OUT OF CONTROL’: Trump blasts Pelosi’s defense of ‘hateful’ Omar

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her ongoing defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Omar (D-Minn.), has been under constant fire in recent weeks after making comments that were deemed anti-Semitic by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The controversy began in February after the freshman Democrat responded to a tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who had commented on GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s threat to punish Omar and another congresswoman for being critical of Israel.

Omar wrote back, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” insinuating that Republicans only supported Jews and Israel for financial gain.

In a follow-up tweet Omar named the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, claiming the organization was funding Republican support for Israel.

Then last month, Omar again sparked controversy after making what many saw as hurtful comments regarding the September 11, 2001 terror attacks

“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” Omar said in March in a speech to the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Pelosi was featured in a “60 Minutes” segment on Sunday night in which she slammed Trump’s leadership and appeared to downplay Omar’s inflammatory comments.

“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made,” Trump tweeted. “She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”

The president’s latest statement on the issue follows a tweet he put out on Friday which contained video footage of the September 11 terror attacks. In it he criticized Omar’s comments.

In a statement released late Sunday, Omar claimed she has been the subject of death threats following the president’s 9/11 tweet.

“Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief,” Omar said. “We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”

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JOE SCARBOROUGH: President Trump a ‘far greater threat to America’ than 9/11 hijackers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday referred to President Donald Trump as a ‘far greater threat’ to American safety than terrorists.

The controversial “Morning Joe” host made the outlandish comments during a special edition of his morning show commemorating the seventeenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Scarborough, who’s made no secret of his disdain for Donald Trump claimed events such as 9/11 have worked to bring Americans closer together, while Trump continues to “tear them apart”.

“If you strip America of its ideas, forget about knocking down buildings in the financial district — forget about running planes into the Pentagon. Those are tragedies, but those tragedies bring us closer together,” he said. “America is an idea. You gut America of that idea, that’s when you do the most harm to America.”

Scarborough then went on to detail what he called the “negatives” of the Trump administration which he deemed a “threat” to the United States.

“You have just this week, Brett Kavanaugh who wants to be on the Supreme Court refusing to answer whether people should be banned from coming to the United States because of their race — and his reading of the Constitution,” Scarborough continued.

“The accumulation of that, the retweeting of neo-Nazi videos, Charlottesville, I mean I could go on and on, what he said about the majority black countries — that is tearing more at the fabric of America than attacks on the Twin Towers did. We rebuilt from that. We became stronger because of that,” he said. “But this seems to me a far graver threat to the idea of America.”

Scarborough’s comments follow an op-ed he wrote for Tuesday’s Washington Post Tuesday, where he proclaimed that Trump is harming America “more than any foreign adversary every could.”

“For those of us still believing that Islamic extremists hate America because of the freedoms we guarantee to all people, the gravest threat Trump poses to our national security is the damage done daily to America’s image,” he wrote.

Scarborough’s comments drew almost immediate criticism from both sides of the political spectrum with Real Clear Politics issuing a piece stating that he owed both Trump and the American people an apology.

“September 11 should not be about politics, nor about Donald Trump, and surely not about Joe Scarborough,” Real Clear Politics’ Steve Cortes wrote Tuesday. “Only 17 years separated from that incredibly painful day, the solemnity of our national remembrance should remain particularly poignant and reservedly reverent. After all, there are many thousands of still-school-aged young Americans who lost parents on that fateful day or in the global military struggle that followed.”

“But MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” callously used the calamity of 9/11 to take cheap political shots at President Trump, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that he “is harming America more than any foreign adversary every could” and declaring on-air that Trump presents a “graver threat” to America than the 2001 attacks did,” Cortes continues. “Such hyperbole would be ridiculous and disqualifying coming from some anonymous troll on Twitter, but is jaw-dropping from a former congressman and prominent cable news morning host.”

“Scarborough’s comments revealed not just a hardness of heart and total lack of decorum but also an abject hypocrisy that has marked his media career,” Cortes went on. “Scarborough should apologize for denigrating our national day of remembrance with his shameful clickbait.”

 

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REPORT: Seventeen years after Sept. 11, Al Qaeda may be stronger than ever

LOS ANGELES, CA (L.A. Times) — In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States set out to destroy Al Qaeda. President George W. Bush vowed to “starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.”

Seventeen years later, Al Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, U.S. policies in the Mideast appear to have encouraged its spread.

What U.S. officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that Al Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.

The group has amassed the largest fighting force in its existence. Estimates say it may have more than 20,000 militants in Syria and Yemen alone. It boasts affiliates across North Africa, the Levant and parts of Asia, and it remains strong around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

It has also changed tactics. Instead of the headline-grabbing terrorist attacks, brutal public executions and slick propaganda used by Islamic State (Al Qaeda’s onetime affiliate and now rival), Al Qaeda now practices a softer approach, embedding itself and gaining the support of Sunni Muslims inside war-torn countries.

Here’s a look at how Al Qaeda has grown in some key Middle Eastern countries:

Iraq:

The United States went to war against Iraq in 2003, based in part on the assertion — later debunked — that Al Qaeda had ties to dictator Saddam Hussein.

That claim turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In victory, the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi army, putting hundreds of thousands of disgruntled men with military training on the street. Many rose up against what was perceived as a foreign invasion, feeding an insurgency that has never stopped. The insurgency gave birth to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a local affiliate that pioneered the use of terrorist attacks on Shiite Muslims, regarded as apostates by Sunni extremists.

In its 2007 “surge,” the U.S., in concert with pro-government Sunni militias, largely defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq. But by 2010, the group was “fundamentally the same” as it had been before the boost in troops, according to Gen. Ray T. Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time.

The 2011 uprisings in neighboring Syria gave the group the breathing space it needed. Two years later it emerged as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, and split from Al Qaeda’s central leadership.

It also launched an audacious offensive that saw large swaths of Iraq fall into the hands of the jihadists. Although Islamic State has since lost most of its territory, it remains a threat.

Yemen:

Al Qaeda was active in Yemen even before Sept. 11: It orchestrated the October 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in the port of Aden. After the World Trade Center twin tower attacks, Bush hailed Yemen’s then president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, as a vital partner in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism.

Saleh received what he called “limitless” U.S. support to fight the jihadists. He in turn gave the U.S. a free hand to conduct attacks against the group’s operatives, including controversial drone strikes, which began in 2002.

But by January 2009, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (known as AQAP) had emerged and was soon considered the group’s most dangerous branch.

President Obama unleashed special forces teams to hunt down AQAP operatives. He also ramped up drone strikes, launching roughly 200 from 2009 to 2016, according to a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. President Trump has launched 160.

But the strikes and raids often killed more civilians than militants.

In late 2014, Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim rebels known as Houthis swept in from the country’s northwest to seize the capital, Sana. Amid the resulting chaos, AQAP netted a prize: the city of Mukalla, with Yemen’s third- largest port. It became the centerpiece of an Al Qaeda fiefdom.

As early as 2012, Nasser Wuhayshi, AQAP’s self-styled “emir” and founder, had said the group needed to win people over by “taking care of their daily needs.”

The group rebranded itself as Ansar al Sharia, or Supporters of Islamic Law, and slowly introduced Al Qaeda’s harsh form of Islamic law and governance.

Under Trump, the United States has largely continued Obama’s policies in Yemen. It has given full support to an air campaign led by Saudi Arabia against the Houthis, despite criticism that the strikes have caused most of the 16,000 civilian casualties in Yemen since the war began.

But even as the U.S. has continued to carry out airstrikes and raids against AQAP, the group has positioned itself as a virtual ally, battling the Houthis alongside tribal fighters supported by Saudi Arabia.

Somalia:

The fall of Somalia’s government in 1991 led to the rise of the Islamic Courts Union, a collection of clerical organizations that formed a sharia-based judiciary. It gained legitimacy by offering services such as education and healthcare.

Washington, suspecting links to Al Qaeda, supported the group’s enemies, and enlisted the Ethiopian army to crush it, which it did in 2006. In the de-facto occupation that followed, the Islamic Courts Union’s radical youth wing, the Shabab, grew as an independent resistance movement that took over most of Somalia’s central and southern regions.

Despite its unpopular application of fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine, residents tolerated the Shabab because it fought the Ethiopians, who are mostly Christian and have a long-standing enmity with Somalis.

In 2012, it was declared as the new Al Qaeda affiliate. The change of status attracted a significant number of foreign fighters, including some from the United States.

The Obama administration’s policy of drone strikes along with support for African Union peacekeeping forces, flushed the Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011. It lost control of most of Somalia’s towns and cities.

And in September 2014, a U.S. drone strike killed its leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.

But the group held sway in rural areas, where its estimated 4,000 to 6,000 militants make it one of Al Qaeda’s largest franchises. They carry out guerrilla attacks on African Union forces and civilian targets and have launched attacks in others parts of East Africa, including the 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Syria:
On Dec. 23, 2011, a car bomb struck a residential neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, that was home to the State Security Directorate.

The building was all but destroyed. Drivers unfortunate enough to be near the explosion were burned alive. A second car bomb detonated soon after. All told, 44 people were killed.

That attack marked the debut of Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The Syrian government had once given the jihadis passage to Iraq to fight coalition forces there. With the civil war, many had now come to return the favor. Nusra’s battle-hardened fighters delivered dazzling successes to the rebel coalition seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

It was so effective that U.S. officials, including former CIA Director David Petraeus, suggested arming and deploying the Al Qaeda jihadis to fight their former comrades in Islamic State.

And despite its adherence to a strict Islamist code of behavior and its imposition of sharia in areas it controlled, the group enjoyed popular support from civilians tired of dealing with rapacious opposition factions more interested in looting than fighting.

Yet here again, the affiliate did not declare a caliphate. Instead, it rebranded itself, publicly cutting ties with Al Qaeda even while retaining some of the group’s top operatives.

The group, now known as the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, is estimated to have 10,000 to 15,000 fighters, including foreigners from as far as Albania and China.

Libya:
Officially, there is no Al Qaeda group in Libya. Its affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was disbanded in 2011; its members renounced violence but distinguished themselves as relatively disciplined rebels once the revolution against Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi kicked off.

Since then, some, such as former group leader Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and was renditioned by the U.S. after 2001, have become powerful Islamist leaders, with a significant role in Libya’s chaotic politics.

Others have gone over to Islamic State’s Libyan branch or joined other Islamist groups, including a number that took over the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

But while the U.S., other Western nations and the United Arab Emirates have focused almost exclusively on dislodging Islamic State from its bastions in the north and northeast, Al Qaeda has enjoyed a resurgence, according to an August report from the United Nations.

The group’s threat in Libya registered with the U.S. only this year. In March, the Pentagon’s Africa Command said it had killed two Al Qaeda militants in a drone strike, including what was said to be a high-ranking official, Musa Abu Dawud.

It was the first such attack against the group in Libya. More followed, including another in June, in what is thought to be an expanded counter-terrorism campaign in the country.


The Los Angeles Times’ Nabih Bulos contributed to this report.

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‘AMERICA DOES NOT BEND’: President commemorates first September 11 as president; Vows, ‘Our nation will endure’

NEW YORK, N.Y. — President Donald Trump on Monday presided over his first 9/11 ceremony in office, marking the 16th anniversary of the most deadly terror attack to occur on U.S. soil.

With wife Melania by his side, the president observed a solemn moment of silence first at the White House, followed by a second at the Pentagon.

The first moment of silence took place on the White House grounds at 8:45 a.m., marking the moment the first plane, American Flight 11, struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. The second, at the Pentagon, occurred at at 9:03 a.m., marking the moment officials say another plane slammed into Pentagon headquarters 16 years ago.

“For the families with us on this anniversary, we know that not a single day goes by when you don’t think about the loved ones stolen from your life,” Trump said to a crowd of hundreds attending the ceremony. “Today, our entire nation grieves with you and with every family of those 2,977 innocent souls who were murdered by terrorists 16 years ago.”

“On that day not only did the world change, but we all changed,” the president said. “Our eyes were opened to the depths of the evil we faced, but in that hour of darkness we also came together with renewed purpose. Our differences never looked so small, our common bonds never felt so strong.”

“We can never erase your pain, but we can honor their sacrifice by pledging our resolve to do whatever we must to keep our people safe,” the president, himself a native New Yorker, vowed.

Joining Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford a short time later, the president laid a wreath in honor of the victims killed.

Secretary Mattis, who also spoke at the ceremony, said that America will never be intimidated by those who seek to do us harm.

“We never asked for this fight but we are steadfastly committed to seeing it through,” Mattis said at the Pentagon. “We Americans are not made of cotton candy. We’re not seaweed drifting in the current. We are not intimidated by our enemies.”

Mattis added: “Mr. President, your military does not scare.”

“The horror and anguish of that dark day were seared into our national memory forever. Innocent men, women, and children whose lives were taken so needlessly,” Trump said. “Our values will endure, our people will thrive, our nation will prevail, and the memory of our loved ones will never, ever die.”

Last week, the president proclaimed Sept. 11 as “Patriot Day.”

“We rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our country and unite us as one,” said Trump in a statement, “as we commemorate all the heroes who lost their lives saving others.”

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