"This is our 9/11," says Merissa Khurma, press attache at the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, referring to the triple suicide-bombing attacks that shook Amman.
For Khurma, the terrorists hit home. Her cousin, Mosab Khurma, who grew up across the street from her in Amman, was killed at the Hyatt Hotel, where he and his fiancee were planning their January wedding. The fiancee survived.
Before joining the embassy, Khurma was a research associate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, her primary focus terrorism studies and democratization in the Arab world. Earlier this year, this columnist accompanied her to Jordan, where she had arranged for interviews with the country's leaders on those very topics. The U.S. has few stronger allies in the war against terrorism than Jordan, a Muslim nation best described as "a rose between the thorns."
Several weeks ago, Jordan's King Abdullah II paid a visit to Catholic University in Washington, where he ripped into the twisted minds and ideologies of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, citing each by name.
In past days, he's been more blunt, labeling the terrorist pair and their ilk "insane."
One might argue that bin Laden and Zarqawi are finally feeling this young king's heat, albeit Jordan now has paid in blood. In addition to being a staging ground for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the kingdom hosted a major international Islamic conference this summer, attended by 45 nations representing all eight traditional schools of Islamic thought.
"They issued a joint statement of accord to help end abuses of our faith," the king pointed out, chiefly that "religious edicts cannot be issued by people lacking the proper qualifications and religious knowledge - like bin Laden and Zarqawi."
Jordan also issued the "Amman Message," articulating Islam's essential values of compassion, respect and acceptance, freedom of religion, and rejection of Muslim isolation from the worldwide human society - which bin Laden and Zarqawi both demand.
"In the Middle East . . . senior Muslim clerics have spoken out, authoritatively, against terror," assured the king, who vowed to take back his religion "from the vocal, violent and ignorant extremists who have tried to hijack Islam."
One day after pleading for international assistance in these efforts, King Abdullah yesterday got a much-needed boost from an Arab ally. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced that he's seen enough positive developments in Iraq to pledge $1 billion toward rebuilding the infrastructure of the war-torn country.
"My fears are much more eased," the Saudi prince said
We'd written recently that Arizona Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth won't ask for any campaign assistance from President Bush when seeking re-election in 2006.
However, Hayworth has invited Bush to visit Arizona to see for himself how the state's porous border with Mexico permits tens of thousands of illegal aliens - potential terrorists among them - to waltz into the United States unchecked.
Now, weary of waiting for federal intervention, Hayworth has introduced the Enforcement First Immigration Reform Act of 2005. Some highlights:
The names of 400,000 illegal aliens who, despite standing deportation orders, are now roaming U.S. streets and neighborhoods - "including murderers, rapists and other violent criminals" - would immediately be added to the National Crime Information Center database for the benefit of local police officers who unknowingly cross paths with the aliens every day.
Meanwhile, to provide temporary housing for any apprehended aliens, the congressman is demanding that federal detention space be increased by a minimum of 10,000 beds.
Finally, employers who now pay a mere $50 fine for hiring an illegal alien and submitting false W-2 data to the Internal Revenue Service on that hire, would be penalized $500 per infraction, with a proposed penalty cap increasing from $250,000 to $2.5 million.
STICK TO HARLEM
John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, dropped by The Washington Times for lunch yesterday and was asked whether he thought former President Bill Clinton could ever become the U.N. secretary-general.
"The five permanent members have never had a secretary-general and probably never will," he said. "It's called 'the perm five convention.' We serve on all U.N. governing bodies but will never seek the top job. It's served our interests well.
"(The tradition has) not been honored entirely in recent years, but I think it's a good one."
"Unclassified" - or so reads the subject line of a military dispatch typed and sent by Army Maj. Gary Henderson to The Beltway Beat.
"I enjoy reading your column, even when deployed in the Middle East," says the military officer, who when not rooting out terrorists from their hiding holes keeps occupied with one of his favorite hobbies: Washington politics.
"Concerning the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, which the Republicans won 19 to 11, it was spun (by Democrats) in a news release," reveals Maj. Henderson, having read this column's take on the GOP trouncing.
From the front lines, the major retrieved the Democratic Party's spin: "We, the Democratic team, had an outstanding season once again, as we only lost one game. That's right, we only lost one game in a highly successful season. The Republican team, on the other hand, had a rather dismal season, only winning one game. Imagine the shame and damage to self esteem having won one game all season."
"Spin," Maj. Henderson concluded, "you have to love it."
Setting the record straight on why the U.S. invaded Iraq, while aiming to silence a particularly outspoken politician in the process, the White House has taken the unusual step of issuing a list of previous statements uttered by a senator who "has found more time to say negative things about President Bush than he ever did about Saddam Hussein."
It is Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, if you didn't already guess.
By his recent barrage of attacks, the senator has sent "the wrong signal to our troops and our enemy during a time of war," charges White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who recalls Kennedy stepping before the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Sept. 27, 2002, and warning: "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Several days later, on Oct. 6, Kennedy went on CBS' "Face the Nation" and declared: "Saddam Hussein is a dangerous figure. He's got dangerous weapons."
Any closing observations, McClellan?
"If America were to follow Senator Kennedy's foreign policy, Saddam Hussein would not only still be in power, he would be oppressing and occupying Kuwait," he says.
"Look in the coming weeks for them to renew their tired attacks that claim children will be starving, seniors will be thrown into the streets, and the end of the world is near." - Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican, referring to members of Congress who don't want to cut government spending.