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McConnell: “Guantanamo is the place to try terrorists”

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Senator Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed today for the Washington Post, in which he suggests Guantanamo as a location for trials for suspected terrorists. In this piece, he references the alleged Bowling Green terrorists Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi. Should they be tried in Kentucky or Guantanamo?

Guantanamo is the place to try terrorists

By Mitch McConnell  Washington Post op-ed  June 22, 2011

Speaking to a crowd of lawyers in Washington last week, Attorney General Eric Holder made an audacious claim about the war on terrorism. Overlooking the all-volunteer military force that has heroically battled terrorists and insurgents for nearly a decade, our outstanding intelligence and counterterrorism experts, and many others, Holder asserted that America’s “most effective terror-fighting weapon” is its civilian court system.

These comments insult those who have served on the front lines, but Holder’s clear intent was to justify the Obama administration’s two-year misadventure in treating captured terrorists like common criminals. This is evident most recently in Bowling Green, Ky., where two Iraqi nationals who have admitted to targeting American troops in Iraq were arrested last month.

Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi made their way to the United States from Iraq in 2009 through what appears to be a bureaucratic mistake. Expert intelligence and police work led to the discovery of their violent past and their plans to support their terrorist comrades from the safety of their new home. When they were arrested, they were plotting to equip foreign fighters in Iraq with missile launchers, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles, machine guns and cases of C4 explosives.

The Justice Department says Alwan and Hammadi should be tried in a civilian setting because they were caught here. This is ludicrous. The fact that bureaucrats mistakenly allowed two foreign fighters into the United States does not entitle them to all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens. If it did, we’d have to grant the same rights and privileges to any foreign fighters who had escaped from the battlefield and illegally entered the United States. Once we knew who they were, our top priority should have been to capture, detain and interrogate them to ensure they could no longer harm Americans.

Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta recently estimated that there are 1,000 members of al-Qaeda in Iraq operating in that country. Kentuckians, including the state’s Democratic governor, want to know why two of them are sitting in a Kentucky jail cell instead of the military facility we built for such men at Guantanamo. I called on the Obama administration last week to transfer them. I have not yet received an answer, nor have I heard a good argument as to why Guantanamo is not a superior alternative.

Aside from the propriety of housing and, if necessary, trying enemy combatants such as Alwan and Hammadi in a military setting, the costs and burdens of trying them in a civilian setting are significant. My constituents do not think that civilian judges and jurors in their community should be subjected to the risk of reprisal for participating in a terrorist trial. Nor should the broader community have to shoulder the security costs or inconvenience of such trials.

Consider the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui in Alexandria, before the military commissions legislation was passed. Alexandria’s Democratic mayor summed up residents’ reaction: “We’ve had this experience and it was unpleasant,” he said. “Let someone else have it.” Last year, New Yorkers rejected Holder’s plan to try Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court in Manhattan, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) calling the proposal to hold terror trials in New York a “wrongheaded idea.” In April, Holder reversed course and said the trial would be held at Guantanamo.

Like Bowling Green residents, New Yorkers knew that while it may be possible to try terrorists in civilian courtrooms, our overriding goal in such cases should be to prevail in the war against terrorism, not to make a point about the flexibility of our justice system.

Early on, the administration signaled its intent to use conventional law enforcement and courts to deal with unconventional enemies. The problem with this is that the civilian system was never intended to deal with foreign fighters or to gather intelligence in the pursuit of additional terrorists. The confusion surrounding the interrogation of the would-be Christmas Day bomber underscores this. Moreover, the criminal justice system is oriented toward prosecution, while our top priority in battling terrorism should be to find, capture and detain or kill those who would do us harm.

The administration has shown admirable flexibility in making decisions concerning national security and has shown that it is willing, on occasion, to put safety over ideology. President Obama launched a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, ignored calls to hastily withdraw from Iraq and recently agreed to extend the Patriot Act without weakening its provisions or making them harder to use. He should make the right decision about the treatment of captured enemy combatants.

Guantanamo is uniquely suited to the unconventional threat posed by foreign terrorists. By sending Alwan and Hammadi to Guantanamo, the president could again show his flexibility, make us safer and let Holder know that our civilian courts are off-limits to foreign fighters captured in the war on terrorism.

The writer is the Senate Republican leader.


Written by Matt Markgraf

June 22, 2011 at 11:08 am

On The Road: Weihai Part IV

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In the last few days here in Weihai I’ve had time to visit a zoo, eat dinner with university administrators, give a presentation on student activities at MSU and go to a KTV to sing my heart out.

Good Group, Great Dinner and Strong Fire Water

Let’s get the official (literally) business out of the way first.  Part of a MSU delegation trip to Shandong University at Weihai is to have a reception and meet with university administrators. So, on this particular evening we met with the president, the secretary a dean and professor. We were all presented with gifts and we reciprocated, then on to dinner. Here’s where the fun begins. First, to my knowledge professional/business banquets in China involve significant consumption of high proof alcohol, and there are some “rules” to the drinking. Picture a round table with assigned seats.  The party host sits directly across from the entrance of the room. The second host sits directly across the table. The role of the first host is to welcome guests and give three toasts. The role of the second host to my knowledge, as told to me by our intrepid leader Issac, is to get drunk. Now on to the guests (us MSU folks) The guests, who sit next to the first and second host, historically should do as the hosts do, or at least give it the college try.  And who gets the seat next to the second (drunk) host???? Me.  He was a great man who spoke little English, but I gathered he got his graduate degrees in the Koreas, South and North (interesting). I also gathered he has quite the tolerance for high proof alcohol. The traditional drink for these dinners is a “white wine” but to us is more like fire water. (tested and proven, burns a blue flame) 54 percent alcohol, translates into 108 proof. Three glasses translate into a sweaty headache, a fire in the stomach and smidge of blurred vision. But, we made it.  By the end of the dinner the second host referred to me as his little brother and gave me a hug (He stands to my left in the photo next to Sarah Clark). Good Times.

Generic KTV Logo: Thanks Travel Blog

Believe it or not the firewater buzz didn’t lead to a night out singing karaoke, but a day at the zoo and visiting the easternmost coastal point in northern China did. You can see more about our zoo trip and beautiful photos on Dana’s blog. Anyway, our group had some busy days and wanted to blow off some steam, and we did at a family- oriented KTV. I write family oriented, because a quick Google search of KTV’s in China sometimes brings up some questionable photos and stories. So, here are a couple of things to note. KTV’s are individual singing rooms you rent for an hour or two where you and a group of friends shut the door, sit on couches drink various beverages eat some popcorn and sing as loudly and obnoxiously as you’d like. If you find yourself in a Chinese KTV be aware there are an array of American pop songs, but not all are translated correctly into karaoke versions, and the music videos don’t make much sense. For example, we sang “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and the video depicted a series of grand prix car wrecks. Or, John Lennon’s “Imagine” had some very beautiful shots of vines, cherry trees, children crying, soccer matches and a frying pan.  But we did have fun, with our popcorn, drinks and friends, new and old.


Tonight was the last presentation for our delegation regarding MSU. Dana and I gave our presentations on student life and organizations to a room full of SDUW students. They went well. But, honestly the best part comes at the end. Students flock to the floor of the presentation room to chat with us about all things American or Murray State. I spoke with a delightful girl whose American name is Amy. Amy asked if our group was going out to party tonight. I said no, and then returned the question. What about you? She says… “No, partying isn’t too popular here.” I suppose the campus-wide curfew puts a damper on late night gallivanting.   Anyway, I asked what they do on the weekends when the curfew is extended to 11:30 p.m. Amy provided no real response, because she was bursting with excitement to tell me that she and her friends had a huge weekend planned. Was it windsurfing on the beach? Was it going on a road trip to visit another school? Was it an off campus party?   NOPE. Amy and her friends were going to a mountain two hours away to pick cherries. Not the exhilarating beach, coastal schoolgirl’s response I expected. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when the hottest seller on campus is not an ice cream cone, soda, or candy bar, but huge slices of melon on a stick.  Anyway, it just goes to show the sheer innocence these students possess. It is absolutely amazing. When is the last time you got uncontrollably excited about picking cherries with your friends? When is the last time you took time enjoy the company of people without any outside distracting influence?  I’ve tried to hone in on what makes these people so accommodating and genuine, and I don’t think I have the complete answer, but I think Amy gave me a tidbit of it.  What a great experience.



Written by Chad Lampe

May 27, 2011 at 10:21 am

On the Road: Wehai Part II

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Day II in Wehai:

Thinking bubble "What is WKMS News covering today?"

So, first of all, jet lag lives. Day two of waking up bright eyed at 4:30 a.m. and staving off crashing at 2:00 p.m.  I disobeyed all suggestions of powering through the day to prevent further lag. I dozed for maybe an hour, and so far so good. I’m hoping to push through 10:00 this evening.

Since I last posted we’ve taken a tour of Weihai City, the Beach and Shandong University.

First Stop on City Tour

In other “news” During our tour of campus we learned that housing here and in most Chinese universities is a bit tighter than in the U.S. Many dorms have five or six students per room. And as far as necessities go, the campus has  one major bath house for the entire student body. So, it is very common to see a large group of students walking around with towels and soap dishes into a building near our dormitory. Imagine sharing a bath house with around 15,000 people.

And, if you read my earlier post regarding waiting in line for the library, I can  confirm it is true. I can also confirm that the library is the largest building on campus, 12 floors and full.

That Big Building.. Yep that's the library

Today we had our first “shadow boxing” lesson. It is nothing like boxing, more like miming with a side of kungfu. Technically, it is Tai Chi and our crew put up a good fight, but ultimately ended up looking completely awkward. Documentation of the awkwardness might never be revealed, but cameras were present.  We also had a great culture lesson from our fearless leader Issac. And we learned a bit of calligraphy. The photo below is work from our teacher. My work might best be compared with the artistic ability of an infant.

Wonderful Ornate Work from our Calligraphy Teacher

We topped off the evening with a wonderful meal and the first round of our presentations to students regarding Murray State. One of my colleagues, Dana Howard, is also blogging. See more here: Dana Discovers China

Jet Lag is starting to win again.


Written by Chad Lampe

May 20, 2011 at 9:36 am

Kentucky’s Senators Respond to State of the Union

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Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul both delivered a response to last night’s State of the Union address. If you missed the President’s speech, NPR has the transcript.

Click below for the comments from our state’s Republican Senators.


Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Angela Hatton

January 26, 2011 at 11:00 am

Why the Military Family should be TIME Person of the Year

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by Kristen Tsetsi

Speaking at Camp Pendleton in June 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “I’ve issued a national challenge—a challenge to every sector of American society to mobilize and take action to support and engage our military families.”

One of the easiest ways to respond to this challenge is to join the twitter or facebook “Like It for TIME” pages in support of making the American military family a candidate for TIME Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year.

Social networking websites aren’t just silly distractions; they actually make an impact. In April of 2009, actor Ashton Kutcher and CNN received wide media attention when Kutcher challenged CNN to be the first to get one million followers. (The actor beat the news.) Later, in 2010, a facebook campaign succeeded in landing “Golden Girls” actress Betty White a hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live.”

If actors can use social networking sites to increase their personal fame, surely supporters of military families can be just as successful utilizing them for a far more meaningful pursuit: increasing awareness of a segment of our society that has long been underrepresented.

“Military families are the backbone of our service,” writes Iraq Veteran Jonathan Powers in The Truman National Security Project’s Memo to Congress: Conducting Successful Military Outreach: Rules of Engagement. “Their opinions strongly affect reenlistment as well as military morale. Yet according to a recent online Blue Star Families survey, 94% of military family members feel, ‘the general public does not truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by service members and their families.’”

Military families will be the first to say they don’t want to be honored or praised, but Person of the Year isn’t an honor; it’s a “recognition of somebody’s effect on the world,” TIME Magazine editor Richard Stengel says in a YouTube video explaining the selection process. “Person of the Year is given to the person, group, or thing that has most influenced the culture or the news during the past year.”

Some might argue Person of the Year should go to someone who has had a more immediate and obvious impact on the culture or the news, like 2010 candidate Julian Assange, but evidence of the military family’s impact on popular culture can be found in Oprah’s multiple shows honoring the military family, in the upcoming fifth season of Lifetime network’s “Army Wives,” and in the E! Entertainment channel special, “E! Investigates:  Military Wives.” I would also argue that any time the wars in the Middle East are in the news, so is the American military family. Any time the media takes less ten seconds to announce the deaths of soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan before launching into a longer feature story on a Hollywood star’s drug habit, they’re talking about the military family.

Rudy Giuliani was chosen for Person of the Year following the September 11 attacks because he “embodied what was really most important, what we learned about ourselves, which was that we could recover,” explains a TIME editor in the YouTube video.

The military family embodies what is most important after a decade of war and multiple deployments: a show of strength and undying support even in the face of acute anxiety and long family separations.

When the American Soldier was chosen for 2003 Person of the Year, it wasn’t for being famous in the news. It was, according to TIME, “[f]or uncommon skills and service, for the choices each one of them has made and the ones still ahead, for the challenge of defending not only our freedoms but those barely stirring half a world away.”

According to a February 2009 study conducted by Boston University’s Sloan Work and Family Research Network, “43.2% of active duty forces have one or more children.” Without a military family care plan—siblings, grandparents, spouses, or others to care for those children—the soldiers would not be permitted to deploy. Nearly half of our deployed forces would be rendered useless.

It’s time. It’s time to recognize the value of the military family, to get to know them in a new way, and to acknowledge the impact they’ve had on the country. Follow the twitter page or like the facebook page. Take the challenge issued by retired Air Force Colonel Dale Kissinger, creator of the military information and discount website

I … challenge the military associations, military organizations and DoD to get behind this effort. If MOAA, AUSA, Navy League, AFA, ROA, NCOA, American Legion, USAA, AMVETS and VFW (just a few examples) got behind this effort it would accelerate the attention. If an entertainer can have a million followers, why can’t we?

Editorial: Working Together to Improve College Readiness

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by Bob King, President, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Every several years, the Council on Postsecondary Education publishes what we call the High School Feedback Report, which summarizes the college readiness of our high school graduates. Studies show that improved college readiness leads to improved student success, job opportunities, and overall quality of life.

Each report is available on our website.

As I have been travelling around the state in recent weeks, sharing the specific data on the high schools in the counties I have visited, I have come to understand how valuable these reports can be. Historically, parents are often directed to focus on graduation rates and average GPAs as evidence of how their local high school is performing. Our reports allow parents and educators to look more deeply into actual performance measured by an external, unbiased resource–the ACT exam results–now required of all Kentucky students.

In a recent presentation, I shared with the audience that by focusing on the usual measures their local high school looked quite effective. It reported a 92 percent graduation rate and an average GPA for its graduating seniors of 2.8 (slightly above the district average). When tested, however, 67 percent of their graduates were not ready to take freshman math, 57 percent were not ready to take freshman English, and 41.5 percent were not ready to for college-level reading. For many of these students, long accustomed to receiving A’s and B’s in high school, the fact they would need to take remedial courses in college was devastating.

Why the conflicting results?

What I hear often is that kids are told that rigorous, college preparatory courses are: “too hard”, “require too much homework”, “impose tough grading standards limiting the size of KEES awards”, “that they interfere with sports or the band”, and other rationale which discourage our high school students from adequately preparing themselves for college.

It has also been the case that our K-12 and college standards and curriculum are not aligned. The good news is that the recently enacted Senate Bill 1 from 2009 will correct the alignment problem, and will set as the goal of a high school education the readiness of each graduate for college or career.

And higher education has been complicit in this decline, admitting underprepared students, and sending the unintended message that you don’t have to work hard to get into college. While it has been the case that it is not difficult to get in, the same cannot be said for getting through and earning a degree. College faculty have high expectations for their students, and employers depend upon the quality of degrees awarded to those who persist to graduation.

So what to do?

First, parents and K-12 educators need to focus on the right data. What do our children actually know? Are they ready to take college level courses when they graduate or meet an employer’s expectations if they go directly into the workforce? Ask the right questions and demand answers.

Second, we have to stop being reluctant to set high expectations of our young people. In the most recent international testing, the results of which were published Dec. 6, 2010, American 15-year-olds ranked significantly behind their peers in Europe and Asia in math, reading, and science. These results will have a profound impact on the economic strength, prosperity, and security of the United States if we allow this situation to persist. If average kids in China, India, Korea, Canada, and Finland, for example, can perform at very high levels, then so can ours. But we need to set high expectations, and encourage our children to take rigorous courses. Whenever and wherever we have done that, our kids soar.

Third, our campuses need to re-evaluate admissions standards and align them with college readiness standards. By doing so they will be sending a message to high school and middle school kids that dedication and hard work will be required of them to both enroll and succeed in college.

Fourth, we need to serve teachers more effectively. We also need to do a better job preparing those who go into teaching: stronger content preparation, stronger pedagogical and diagnostic skills, and a deeper understanding of what will be expected once they get into the classroom. We also need to get re-engaged in supporting teachers during their career with relevant, effective professional development programs, and incisive research.

Finally, we need to unshackle ourselves from structures that have been carefully cultivated over decades to protect the adults in our education system, which too often elevate their needs over the needs of our kids. At the end of the day, our teachers and building principals are the most important players in the equation. They need top quality training, competitive and appropriate compensation, working conditions that encourage innovation and professional dedication, and ongoing support to keep their skills at the leading edge of successful practice. They also need to be accountable for results—results measured by the performance of their students. Highly effective teachers understand the myriad of factors that impact student learning and have applied their skills and training to navigate through them, creating brilliant results, obstacles notwithstanding. It will be a system filled with these great teachers that will assure a bright and vibrant future for our children and grandchildren in the 21st century.

The views expressed in commentaries are the opinion of the commentator and don’t necessarily reflect the views of WKMS.

Written by Angela Hatton

December 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Listener Commentaries Regarding Juan Williams:

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The following are two listener commentaries regarding the firing of NPR News Analyst Juan Williams. Also a reminder the views expressed in the following commentaries are not representative of WKMS its staff or members.


Sensitivity police’s war on honesty claims another victim

-Richard Nelson

NPR’s firing of Juan Williams furthers divide between political right and left

If America’s freedom of speech is the envy of the world, then political correctness must be its bane. Some political candidates and news commentators this election season are finding that out the hard way. Just last week, the monster of political correctness raised its ugly head and resulted in the firing of Juan Williams by National Public Radio.

Williams, a long-time civil rights advocate, told Bill O’Reilly that “political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality when I get on a plane if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

Is this not the same thought also shared by many frequent airline travelers? Yet because of the perceived offense, it was a thought NPR execs believed best kept out of the public arena, so they fired him.

But was it really a wise move in a time when the divide between the political left and right has never been greater? NPR reported that Williams’ presence on “Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.” Why? NPR is known for its eloquence and dialogue, but instead of fostering communication between the two sides, they fired an accomplished ambassador for the left. Even as William’s actually warned O’Reilly against painting Muslims with broad brushstrokes, NPR painted him with a broad brushstroke and fired him. So the cold war of ideology continues.

What thinkers on both the left and right can agree upon is that the war radical Islam has declared on the West has kindled the fears of many, and has sometimes led to intolerance and bigotry toward Muslims who don’t subscribe to violence. But the war on ideas and politically incorrect opinion by the speech patrol has wider ranging consequences. We should insist upon respect and high standards of dialogue, but don’t we expect our leaders and analysts to tell us the truth? Or are some thoughts just too offensive to be aired publicly? Juan Williams is no Bobby Seale. Nor was he advocating the burning of the Koran. So why was he lumped in with extremists?

I have a friend in Belgium who has decried political correctness in Europe for years. It is now a rare individual who speaks out against radical Islam. And for those who do including journalists who caricature Mohammed, they face death threats. If they are willing to come out of hiding, then they face legal proceedings from a society so steeped in political correctness that it has lost its ability to think or respect individual thought.

A new Rasmussen Reports released on Oct. 19, found that 74 percent of Americans regard political correctness as a problem in the United States today. Rasmussen also found that 63 percent blamed political correctness for preventing “the U.S. military from responding to warning signs that could have prevented Major Nidal Malik Hasan from massacring 13 people and wounding many others at Fort Hood, Texas.”

When the whitewashing of language and laundering of ideas leads to collective stupidity, then it’s time to reevaluate. When political correctness out of fear of offending someone or some group eviscerates civil discourse, what have we gained? Respect and tolerance have always been and always should be benchmarks of civil discussion and standards by which any media should live by. But as George Orwell once said, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

It’s time as Americans to assert that we still have the right to restate the obvious. Hopefully, the rest of the media will join us.

Richard Nelson is a policy analyst for The Family Foundation, a non-profit public policy organization. He currently resides in Trigg County with his family. If you have an opinion, interest or review you’d like to share with WKMS listeners, see guidelines on the commentaries page of our web site and send us an email.



In Response to Mr. Nelson

-Dr. Barbara Cobb

More is at stake than freedom of speech when a person who is employed as a news analyst voices his prejudices. By making public his tendency to prejudge people “in Muslim garb,” Williams compromised his ability to do his job: he made it impossible for his employer to utilize him as an analyst in any situation in which the people involved in a news event are people “in Muslim garb.” Freedom of speech is a protection for the individual, but it does not extend to those whose exercise of that freedom compromises their abilities to do their jobs. Teachers, hospital nurses, many police officers, and news analysts for NPR are among those in our society who, because of their vocations, cannot demonstrate prejudices like that expressed by Williams.

The strangest thing about Williams’ remark is the seeming ignorance that would have to underlie any person’s saying what Williams said. Terrorists, even radical Muslim terrorists, do not tend to dress up in “Muslim garb” to implement their plots, at least not in American airports. Williams – and Nelson — know this. Could it be that Williams had already chosen to give up his job as news analyst to become a full-time panelist and contributor?

I have no illusions that I, as a teacher, can say anything I want in public. It’s not because of political correctness that I make sure to confirm my professional integrity in my public statements. There’s nothing political about it. It’s merely doing my job.  All of us have the Constitutional right to free speech, but many of us, including NPR news analysts, have a responsibility to those we serve in our vocations that is far more powerful than a right to make strange remarks about people “in Muslim garb.”

Written by Chad Lampe

November 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

Posted in Opinion