The week when Hanoi Jane gave her strongest apology yet for her infamous expressions of collaboration with the enemy during the Vietnam War, was also the week in which Fallujah Mike doubled down on his.
In his little noticed follow-up to his well-covered “snipers were cowards” tweets, Michael Moore painted the Saddam loyalists and al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists as the heroes — and U.S. forces as the invading marauders.
Cable news, talk radio, the blogosphere and the Twitterverse have adequately covered Michael Moore’s tweet about his calling snipers “cowards”:
My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse
Despite Moore’s hilarious disclaimer that he did not mean Chris Kyle and the requisite implication that it was just a coincidence of timing that he tweeted this out on American Sniper’s opening weekend, Moore has received the blowback he deserves. (By the way, is no one going to ask Michael Moore if his uncle braced every German soldier he encountered face to face like in a B-western, or gave them all a chance to surrender?)
Chris Kyle—deservedly—is America’s hero of the moment, and jumping on his bandwagon is an easy way to get airtime and demonstrate one’s rhetorical prowess.
But the Coward Tweet was not by any means the worst thing Moore said that day. He also called Chris Kyle a man who murdered good neighbors who were protecting each other and every American serviceman a marauding invader:
But if you’re on the roof of your home defending it from invaders who’ve come 7K miles, you are not a sniper, u are brave, u are a neighbor.
The response? Crickets.
The lack of attention to his follow up tweet is a mystery to me. Is defending our in general troops too difficult? Does it feel to commentators like they will have to defend the whole Iraq War all over again if they go here?
This is not a hard argument to have. If you think that personalizing this issue to the person of Chris Kyle gets you more internet hits or viewers, just frame it as I did above.
Or maybe just point out that last week, those “good neighbors” executed a batch of little kids for watching a soccer game on television.
If you doubt that Michael Moore has always been on the side of the people Chris Kyle rightly called “f**cking savages.” Here was his website posting in April of 2004:
The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win….I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle…the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe — just maybe — God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.
That’s right, you know, like that guy using the power drill on a child’s head? The farmers who marched on Lexington and Concord in the cause of Liberty would certainly have welcomed him into their ranks.
But Michael Moore and Jane Fonda are only the most clumsy of those who root for the defeat of US forces. When Harry Reid with the regularity of Baghdad Bob declares the defeat of American efforts no matter the news of the day, (and considerably after the success of the Surge) that’s a deliberate effort to undermine the war effort.
And the Commander-in-Chief who later claimed victory and went home, leaving the country to ISIS, had been doing the same thing.
When Ron Paul claims we are meddling in the civil war of another country or invading a “sovereign nation,” the biggest difference between that and Michael Moore is he doesn’t go as far in his praise of the f**king savages.
But maybe that’s what commentators on the Right who see an opportunity to rile up patriotic Americans with the low hanging fruit of pitting the singularly un-appetizing Michael Moore vs. a guy played by Bradley Cooper in a movie, are afraid the debate will expand to—a war they don’t want to fight anymore.
Ironically, however, protecting Chris Kyle’s reputation without protecting the reputations of our troops in general is the exact opposite of the legacy of Chris Kyle.
Here is how Chris Kyle reacted to the notion of personal fame, notoriety and being labeled Number One:
The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, [emphasis mine] but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives. Everyone I shot in Iraq was trying to harm Americans or Iraqis loyal to the new government. I had a job to do as a SEAL. I killed the enemy — an enemy I saw day in and day out plotting to kill my fellow Americans. I’m haunted by the enemy’s successes. They were few, but even a single American life is one too many lost.
The outpouring of support for American Sniper shows that even in death, Chris Kyle can take care of himself. By all means, come to his defense, but make room on the bandwagon for the other soldiers he dedicated his career—and his life—to defending.
“A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.” So reads the synopsis of the upcoming film Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke and Mad Men’s January Jones.
Hawke plays Tom Egan, the drone pilot in question, offering a brooding portrait of self-loathing. Such is the proper attitude of a man toward killing while facing no personal danger. The film’s tagline reads: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?”
“Don’t ask me if this is a just war. It’s not up to us,” Bruce Greenwood advises as Hawke’s grizzled commanding officer. “To us, it’s just war.”
“I am a pilot, and I’m not flying,” Hawke bemoans. “I don’t know what it is that I am doing. But it’s not flying.”
Evoking recent comments directed at the late Chris Kyle, Hawke continues, “Everyday, I feel like a coward, taking potshots at somebody halfway around the world.”
While overt characterizations of American military action as cowardice may be confined to Hollywood and the halls of academia, they proceed from a theory of war which has dominated American foreign policy since World War II.
So-called just war theory emerges from a bastardization of Christian doctrine which prescribes sacrificial combat. According to the doctrine, war should not be fought strictly in self-defense, but in service of some “higher” goal – like the freedom or relief of others. Shedding American blood for something like “Iraqi freedom” is considered a superior motive to fighting strictly for American sovereignty or American lives.
A critical component of just war theory is “proportionality,” the idea that a retaliatory response should be restrained and remain comparable to the threat faced. The tenet of proportionality would have rejected the dropping of two atomic bombs on Imperial Japan, for instance.
From such a perspective, it’s easy to see how one might judge a role like sniper or drone pilot to be cowardly. After all, the explicit purpose of such roles is to engage in highly disproportionate combat, to maximize lethality while minimizing risk. That doesn’t jive with a sacrificial agenda. To be “just,” combat must present similar risk to all combatants. You must “face your enemy.” On a larger scale, “just war” must be fought not to win with overwhelming force, but to save an enemy population from themselves.
Just war theory is anything but moral. A truly moral war policy, which you can find articulated here, would not derive its righteousness from sacrificial risk-taking. Rather, the morality of military force would be judged solely on whether it was retaliatory in nature. The objective would not be to “fight fair,” but to achieve unquestioned victory through the utter destruction or unconditional surrender of the enemy.
Illustrating the point I made in these pages three weeks ago — that movies with conservative or libertarian themes did amazingly well at the box office in 2014 - American Sniper has made over $110 million this month, shattering January box office records, and is well on its way to becoming Clint Eastwood’s most successful movie.
For many on the left, this cannot stand. So while positive reviews pour in and moviegoers sell out theaters all across the country, criticism of the film — and the Iraq War — is growing.
Steve Pond, at TheWrap, writes “multiple Academy members told TheWrap that they had been passing around a recent article by Dennis Jett in The New Republic that attacks the film for making a hero out of [Chris] Kyle.” One Academy member was quoted as saying that Kyle “seems like he may be a sociopath” before admitting that “he had not yet seen the film.”
That didn’t stop The New Republic, which published Jett’s hit piece on the film before he’d seen it as well, basing the review on the film’s trailer and the book upon which it was based. If you’ve read that book, Jett writes, then you know that, “[Kyle’s] bravado left no room for doubt. For him, the enemy are savages and despicably evil. His only regret is that he didn’t kill more.”
Lindy West at The Guardian struck a similar chord, writing that Kyle “bare minimum, was a racist who took pleasure in dehumanising and killing brown people.” It is unclear whether or not West saw the film before publishing the piece, which is more about the film’s backstory.
Alex Horton, also writing for The Guardian and a veteran of the Iraq War, did see the film and gets to the heart of Kyle’s guilt, “not the guilt of taking lives, but the agony of not saving enough. It’s a vital part of countless veterans that civilians must understand.”
Chris Kyle is confirmed to have killed 160 people, and he claimed to have killed 255. In a 2012 interview with Time he appeared to confirm the fears of Jett and West, saying
I’m not over there looking at these people as people. I’m not wondering if he has a family. I’m just trying to keep my guys safe.
These three sentences perfectly capture the controversy surrounding the film and the moral ambiguity surrounding the Iraq War itself.
Chris Kyle killed a lot of brown people. Liberals will focus on this fact almost to the exclusion of all others. It doesn’t matter what those brown people were doing, or would have done. America invaded Iraq under false pretenses and it follows, in Jett’s analysis, that every “excess” death in Iraq can be laid at the feet of not only George W. Bush, but every single American.
Seven-hundred-ninety-six of those “excess” deaths occurred on August 14, 2007, near Mosul, Iraq, in what is second only to 9/11 as the deadliest terrorist attack in history. Four near-simultaneous suicide car bombs, targeting the Yazidi community in Kahtaniya and Jazeera, “crumbled buildings, trapping entire families beneath mud bricks and other wreckage as entire neighborhoods were flattened.”
I would characterize this as “despicably evil.” I can think of few things more evil than slaughtering innocent men, women, and children, but liberals like Jett must find a way to rationalize evil to place the blame on the American people. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, according to the theory, then this wouldn’t have happened. The American invaders, therefore, are responsible for creating this evil.
But are we? The same Yazidi community targeted in 2007 was persecuted and massacred again by ISIS just last year. America famously left Iraq in 2011, but the killing hasn’t stopped.
I lived in a small outpost in central Baghdad for months during the surge in 2007 — we were attacked only once by harassing small-arms fire. The gas station less than a mile away from our outpost was blown up by a car bomb that summer, killing scores of innocent civilians. The murderers didn’t target my team, they targeted innocent civilians. Am I responsible for that massacre?
There is an insidiously racist strain in much of the commentary surrounding American Sniper and the Iraq War. Calling Chris Kyle a racist because he killed a lot of brown people dehumanizes the people he killed. They weren’t marionettes forced to dance by the hand of American foreign policy. The people who ordered the suicide attacks which killed nearly 800 Yazidi in 2007 were living, breathing sentient human beings making their own decisions.
They were brown people capable of and enthusiastic about murdering hundreds of people.
That sentence may strike many on the Left as irredeemably racist, but it is precisely the opposite. All humans are capable of evil. White people in the U.S. military are capable of evil, former SSG Robert Bales being just one example. Evil is not the defining characteristic of white military members, and it is not the defining characteristic of brown Iraqis.
Chris Kyle had to clearly delineate between good and evil. In the film’s opening sequence he is confronted with a woman and a young boy moving toward a group of Marines with a grenade. That woman was not in a military uniform and was not carrying arms openly, unlawful under the Geneva Convention. She was hoping that her gender — and the fact that she was with a child — would prevent decent American troops from identifying her as a threat before she could kill a few of them.
In Kyle’s judgment she was “already dead,” the only question was how many soldiers she would take with her. His answer? Zero.
Many of the people we fought in Iraq wouldn’t bother with this type of moral calculation. Sunni suicide bombers and Shiite death squads did quite the opposite of Kyle, killing as many innocent men, women and children they could.
When we find evil in our military ranks — like we did at Abu Ghraib — we punish those responsible. We can argue about whether the right people were punished, or whether they were punished severely enough, but compare that process to the Al Qaeda or ISIS process to prosecute members of their organizations who kill innocent civilians.
Except you can’t. Killing a massive number of innocent civilians is their preferred tactic. That’s evil.
Murdering someone because of their religion is evil. Murdering someone for a cartoon they published is evil. Murdering someone because of their sexual orientation is evil. Are any of these things made less evil when they are perpetrated by brown people?
No. And to suggest as much is racist and dehumanizing.
Commentators, both on the political Left and within libertarian circles, have been wringing hands over the tremendous commercial success of Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle bio-pic American Sniper. From The Wrap:
Over the weekend, multiple Academy members told TheWrap that they had been passing around a recent article by Dennis Jett in The New Republic that attacks the film for making a hero out of Kyle, who said: “The enemy are savages and despicably evil,” and his “only regret is that I didn’t kill more.” Kyle made the statements in his best-selling book, “American Sniper,” on which the film is based…
…Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”
“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.
And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”
Moore has since walked back his comments, if only just a bit. The Interview star Seth Rogen came under scrutiny for comparing American Sniper to a Nazi propaganda film only to also walk his comments back. In these and many other lower-profile cases, the common denominator is a moral equivalence between America and forces like Nazi Germany, the Taliban, or ISIS.
Consider the president’s track record. He’s told us that Libya was a triumph, al Qaeda was dead, the war in Iraq was over, the war in Afghanistan was won, relations with Russia have been reset and China is our friend. Given those credentials, it’s fair to conclude that Mr. Obama has about as much to tell us about foreign affairs as the Syfy channel has to say about science.
So where can you find some truly educational television tonight? Here’s some alternative programming that can teach us some important lessons about how to keep America safe.
5. Marco Polo
The Netflix series tells the story of famed adventurer at the court of Kublai Khan. Bloodthirsty, ruthless, cunning barbarian at heart? Yes. Presidential material? No. On the other hand, the great Khan was a strategist who understood the wisdom of China’s greatest military philosopher,
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer. … If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Compared to a White House that even seems to struggle at parsing friend and foe, this entertainment is refreshing fare.
With all due respect to Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty (and I have paid mad respect to both), Clint Eastwood’s amazing American Sniper is the film for the war on terror.
But it’s more than that. It is a timeless American war movie that explores the necessity of having men who are–and bear the burden of being–really really good at killing bad guys.
In fact, this is easily one of the ten best American war movies of all time. (I won’t place it any higher than that until I’ve had the chance to see it again and let the initial emotional impact wear off; but right now, I can’t think of three I would rate above it.)
Eastwood both allows the character of Chris Kyle to speak to that unabashed pride in doing a necessary job — his warts-and-all honesty about how he neglected his family while letting the job consume him — and uses the tragic events that followed the publication of the book to show us how doing that job takes a toll.
The result is a shining example of material finding the perfect director. In many ways, Eastwood’s whole career has been leading up to this statement. It’s what Unforgiven couldn’t quite get to because it was merely about a previously vicious man sliding back into his old ways, even if his cause was just.
The film — like the book — opens as newly minted Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle takes a bead on a small Iraqi boy whose mother has just handed him a grenade and sent him running toward a squad of American Marines.
Then, while Kyle is waiting for that space between breaths, between heartbeats, that still moment of the trigger pull, we flash back to how he got there.
This is a perfectly executed and superbly made bio-pic. Despite the heroism it shows, it never lapses into hagiography or sappy preaching. Eastwood is clear-eyed throughout, and confident at letting his story tell itself.
American Sniper lives up to its title. This is an intensely American film. Everything about Chris Kyle’s background, from hunting with his father, to the little country church, to wanting to be a cowboy, is not just Texas, it’s America.
From Sergeant York, to Audie Murphy, to Dick Bong (WWII’s ace of aces who also left combat only to die serving on the home front), to Chris Kyle, small-town, do-for-yourself America has produced these men for whom taking up arms to protect their country just comes naturally (even, eventually, for the Quaker, York).
The motivation is summed up in a talk Chris Kyle’s father gives at the dinner table — a speech many American fathers have given their sons (and many more should), but rarely with this perfect an analogy.
Chris has had trouble in school for beating up the bully who was picking on his younger brother — but he is not in trouble at home. His father explains there are three kinds of people in the world: Sheep, who can’t protect themselves; wolves; and sheepdogs, who protect the sheep. He expects his son, who has the ability, to be a sheepdog – and if he ever becomes a wolf, he will get an ass whooping he will never forget.
Later, when drinking away the memory of a cheating girlfriend and the Khobar Towers bombing news story comes up on television news, a hitherto aimless Chris Kyle knows exactly what he is supposed to do.
While American Sniper takes no firm position on the wisdom of the war in Iraq — various characters express varied opinions on that — it is very clear-eyed about the nature of the enemy, or, as Kyle refers to them as, “the f***ing savages.”
Not since The Deer Hunter has the enemy been as accurately portrayed in an American film as the bestial evil that they are, and without over-the-top Hollywood histrionics. The good guys have their flaws, but these bad guys have to be opposed — and killed in as large a number as possible.
There are four great battle-set pieces in American Sniper that are breathtakingly effective — and, thankfully, Eastwood knows how to give immediacy and a you-are-there feel to the scenes without the herky-jerky handheld camera gimmicks and incoherent quick-cut edits that lesser directors use to pull off a complicated scene.
At one point, Kyle’s sheepdog instincts take him off the rooftops — against orders — and down into the streets with the Marines. He knows his SEAL training has prepared him better for house-to-house combat and he can’t sit by without teaching them how to do it better.
Eastwood has been exploring these themes for years, imperfectly in Heartbreak Ridge, much better in The Outlaw Josey Wales, of course in Dirty Harry, and most recently (showing he understands the protective impulse of the American soldier) in Gran Torino, where this really was the under-explored theme.
The performances are all first rate (I’ll rave about Cooper in a minute) and it’s really about time that people realize the beautiful Sienna Miller is an actress of grit and grace.
So in the pantheon of great American war movies, where does American Sniper place? It’s more personal and emotionally shattering than even The Deer Hunter, because that great film spread its emotions around to the effect of the Vietnam War on a whole town.
It does an even better job of portraying the sacrifices and effects of war on the family of a warrior than We Were Soldiers.
And of course it is a more realistic look at a highly decorated soldier who performed at an almost superhuman level than either Sergeant York or To Hell and Back – and not just because of the allowances of modern filmmaking.
It’s hard to explain the greatness of Bradley Cooper’s performance, unless you have seen Chris Kyle’s interviews. But Cooper does not just inhabit his role, or give a great interpretation of a character — he disappears into it.
Sure, the muscle gain helps, because it keeps us from remembering this is svelte Bradley Cooper who has given so many memorable performances the last few years (and was the softer male character way back on TV’s Alias).
But watching American Sniper, you feel as though Chris Kyle was allowed to play himself — maybe better, since this is a more convincing portrayal than even Audie Murphy gave playing… Audie Murphy.
Which makes the tragic ending of this story all the more shattering. Eastwood’s choice at the end of American Sniper is almost as important as the one he makes at the beginning. At the screening I attended, there were gasps as a credit announced what happened to Kyle, muffled sobs during the real footage of his funeral that ran over the credits, and no one — and I mean no one — moved until the credits were done. As people filed out, it was as quiet and somber as if we had attended the funeral ourselves.
Seeing American Sniper is an American experience. Don’t miss it.
Editor’s Note: This is a much longer essay than we usually publish at PJ Lifestyle but by the time you finish the first page it should be more than clear that you’re going to want to take the time to read the whole thing. Tom Weiss is an extraordinary emerging writer you should start following. Here he delivers an inspiring rebuttal in defense of America’s military heroes.
Early on a Sunday morning in late January, 2008, the last members of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division arrived back in the United States after spending almost sixteen months in Iraq. We landed in Bangor, ME just as the sun was coming up and groggily prepared to disembark for a couple hours while the aircraft was re-fueled and serviced.
I was one of the first people off the plane that morning and as I walked down the jet-way I didn’t expect much of anything. I assumed the terminal would be deserted and hoped, at such an early hour, that something would be open so I could grab a cup of coffee and maybe a little breakfast.
I was completely unprepared for what was about to occur.
At first, I saw just a couple people on either side of the corridor some fifty meters ahead of me. My tired mind paid them little attention until their numbers began to swell. A couple turned into a dozen. Then two dozen. Then four. By the time I reached them well over a hundred people were lined up – half on one side of me, half on the other – and every single one of them wanted to shake my hand, and the hand of every other soldier on the plane, as we walked past. Even now I get emotional just thinking about this moment.
I had landed that Sunday morning in the midst of the Maine Troop Greeters, a group devoted to greeting service members upon their return from overseas. “As long as there are U.S. armed forces serving overseas,” their web site declares, “we will be here to greet them.”
My second return from combat in Iraq wasn’t as pleasant. I flew in on a stretcher and spent the next month in the hospital at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas enduring one surgery after another. Once I was released from the hospital, I spent a few months living at the Fisher House on the hospital grounds and working with the physical therapy team at the Center for the Intrepid. One afternoon, sitting out on the patio following a grueling therapy session, I was approached by a Fisher House volunteer. She asked whether I had, on my way to Iraq, flown through Bangor.
When I told her we did stop in Bangor she told me to stay put, she’d be right back. I joked that I wasn’t going anywhere quickly in my wheelchair and when she returned she handed me a t-shirt, which I thought strange until she explained its meaning.
She was from Bangor and also volunteered with the Maine Greeters. She told me that since I didn’t get the opportunity to return with the rest of my unit, I owed Bangor, ME a visit. She then showed me that the shirt had exactly that phrase embroidered on the front, “I owe Bangor, ME a visit.”
I was born in 1971 and have no memory of the Vietnam War itself, only its aftermath. I learned of the anti-war protests in school and read news stories about how Vietnam vets were greeted upon their return. I’ve returned from overseas combat tours three times, but never had to endure treatment like this.
Gary Rodd, describing the reaction to his Marine Corps unit marching in a parade to honor the Apollo astronauts, said “As soon as you marched out, all you could hear from the crowd was, ‘Baby killers!’”
And here is the experience of Edward Kenney:
Demonstrators were marching outside Travis Air Force Base in California “in the wee hours of the morning” when the plane bringing him back to the states landed, said Edward Kenney, who served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.
“And they put us in a reception hall and said, ‘If you don’t have civilian clothes, buy them. You will not leave this facility in your uniform,’” he recalled.
Back in Glens Falls, Kenney agreed to speak to a class at St. Mary’s Academy.
“What I was surprised about, I thought I was going to go there just to maybe relay what kind of life I had lived and how it was,” he said. “They didn’t want to know that. They wanted to know how it was that I would support the politics of the current administration and the previous administration that would send us over there to kill us. I almost backed out of that place.”
Why the disconnect between conservative electoral wins these last thirty-five years, and how leftward American culture and law has slithered? How did it come to this?
Thought being the father of action, ineffective efforts spring from flawed worldviews. Our ballot box wins having proven at best delaying actions against the Left’s Borg-like assimilation of the United States, it is time for conservatives to take a hard look at how conservatism views itself and the Left.
Ultimately, much of the problem results from certain conceptual metaphors inherent in modern conservatism. Change those metaphors, and different, more effective actions will result.
The Importance of Conceptual Metaphor
A conceptual metaphor means understanding one idea in terms of another—for instance, argument is war or life is a journey. What metaphor we use affects how we act on or towards the idea.
As George Lakoff and Mark Johnson discuss in their groundbreaking work on the subject, Metaphors We Live By, we see markers of conceptual metaphors scattered throughout our language. Because our culture views argument as war, we seek to win debates, attack our opponent’s position, claim their position is indefensible, and probe for weak points in the other side’s argument. With such a metaphor, it is not surprising that arguments are often very charged in our culture.
To demonstrate how profoundly different conceptual metaphors can affect views and actions towards the same subject, Lakoff and Johnson mused on how a society that likened argument not to war but to a dance might approach debate:
[T]he participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently [than in a culture where argument is war]. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all: they would simply be doing something different. It would seem strange even to call what they were doing “arguing.”
A more individual example of how conceptual metaphors can affect thought and so action is to imagine two men. One thinks of life as a gift. The other thinks of life as struggle. Who’s more likely to have a happier life?
I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday night for the first in a very long time. I made the decision somewhere between learning that the Grand Synagogue of Paris had closed its doors on Shabbat for the first time since the end of World War 2 and the starling fact that 15 Jewish patrons of the kosher supermarket in Paris huddled in a storage freezer to avoid being executed by terrorists.
Roger L. Simon wrote a compelling piece in the wake of last week’s barbaric attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris. Reading his article I observed with irony that he writes about America’s need for a Churchill. Perhaps, pray to God in His mercy we have one, as we are now surely England with a Neville Chamberlain at the helm. Europe, on the other hand, does not have a Churchill in sight. Europe’s Churchills and their children have fled and are fleeing, some at a breakneck pace. The only Churchill I see on the world horizon is Bibi Netanyahu, which is why he will no doubt be elected to another term as prime minister in Israel, regardless of the deals he may or may not cut with the ultra-religious. Internal politics have to be placed on the back burner when international enemies are this bloodthirsty.
Remember after 9/11, when all kinds of bloggers posted that clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark?
You know: The one in which, bored with an Arab swordsman’s show-offy moves, Jones pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead?
Seeing all those posts really cheered me up back then.
“Wow,” I thought. “America is gonna go kick some ass!”
And then those same bloggers and pundits — many of whom I respect mightily — kept repeating the words of some Iraqi guy during the invasion, who was gleefully shouting, “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!”
Those bloggers and pundits were certain that this meant millions of Muslims had been dying (literally) for the good guys to rescue them.
They wanted the same things we wanted. George Bush said so in his Second Inaugural.
I wanted to believe. But I wasn’t so sure.
Any more than I was as certain as these bloggers that the future lay in the latest cool gadgets, and how cameras and computers were getting cheaper all the time, and Bush just got reelected and hey, Who’s going to the Rose Bowl this year?
Maybe because I’m Canadian.
Maybe because I’m a girl.
Maybe because I was raised Catholic.
Maybe because I’m naturally contrarian.
For whatever reason, all this boyish bluster, I thought, didn’t bode well.
— Magnificent (@Ironyisfunny8) January 8, 2015
Ahmed Merabet, the police officer who first responded to the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices only to get shot to death at point-blank range by the attackers, will inevitably become the poster boy for both sides of the Muslim debate. His truth was that of a Muslim who integrated into French society and professionally defended Western values resulting in his untimely murder at the hands of Islamic radicals. That truth is already being manipulated by multiculturalist news outlets bent on defending universalism despite its deathly consequences.
The Atlantic is using Merabet’s story to drum up what they believe to be obvious anti-Muslim sentiment in France, obvious only because news agencies scrambling to cover the Charlie Hebdo story didn’t jump on Merabet’s paragraph to defend Islam against radical Islamic terrorists. (Priorities, people.) Joining with The Atlantic crowd, Max Fisher opines at Vox:
Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.”
This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion.
Our hearts mourn for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and much as on September 11, 2001, the whole of the civilized world were Americans, today we are all Parisians.
No one watching the news felt shocked at the Islamic identity of the killers, given Charlie Hebdo’s past experience with terror and the murder of Theo Van Gogh. The only question facing the world lies in whether the attackers are lone wolves – though don’t three make a pack? – or an assault coordinated with an organized group.
So in the aftermath of Islamic terror attacks, many ask a reasonable question: Why does the greater Muslim community not speak out against the barbarity?
I’d ask that question today in light of the Paris terror attack. However, it would not be quite accurate. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had already given a full-throated call for reform in the Islamic world.
First, let me say that I come here to mostly praise Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series, not to bury it. This is not another history snob sniffing that there is “nothing new” in the books. While I can’t say that I have learned any Major New Truths of history from reading the books—and it is a fair statement to say that the heavy lifting of original research has been done by others—I am still very happy these books exist, and the history snobs should be, too.
Why? Because these books all contain Big Truths that those of us who love history all sit around and say, “What your high school history teacher should have told you is…”
Nor am I going to snipe that the books are filled with little details—like the pattern of the tablecloth at Potsdam—that scream “look at all my cool research”? If you really are a history buff that makes them kind of fun.
I actually picked up Killing Patton, because this is the one time that O’Reilly and his coauthor Martin Dugard (whose books on David Livingstone and Captain Cook are among my all-time favorites) propose to make a Big Revelation in their new book: That General George S. Patton was killed by the NKVD at Stalin’s orders.
Early in the book, O’Reilly and Dugard bring up the forced suicide of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Patton’s famed nemesis. The German commander of the defense of Normandy was a sympathizer of the German Resistance that nearly killed Hitler.
But while the authors inform us of the color of Rommel’s mucous after he ingests cyanide, this dismissive sentence of an actual Big Truth drove me nuts.
The book states that the attempted assassination of July 20, 1944 was, “engineered by members of the German military who no longer believed Hitler was fit to rule Germany.”
While this might be true of Rommel, to blow off the rest of the heroic circle of conspirators — which included labor leaders and clergy — in this way would be like saying the Founding Fathers “thought British taxes on tea were cutting too far into their profits.”
Good grief, Bill, even Tom Cruise got this one right.
Next: Why FDR Wanted Hitler Alive
10. The abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian jihad group named the Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad and better known as Boko Haram (“Western Education Is Sinful,” or “Books Bad”), disgusted and horrified the world last May, and even provoked a Michelle Obama hashtag, by abducting over three hundred schoolgirls and selling them into sex slavery. Shekau even published a video in which he gloats about the abduction, telling the girls’ grieving families:
I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah….There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell.
Shekau had a point: the Qur’an really does allow for the owning of sex slaves. Muslim men can take “captives of the right hand” (Qur’an 4:3, 4:24, 33:50). It also says: “O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war” (33:50). 4:3 and 4:24 extend this privilege to Muslim men in general, as does this passage:
Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive, and they who turn away from ill speech, and they who are observant of zakah, and they who guard their private parts except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed (Qur’an 23:1-6).
None – absolutely none – of the extensive international coverage of the abduction discussed the justifications for this practice within the Qur’an. This refusal to deal with the root causes only ensured that the practice would happen again, and it did later in the year, when the Islamic State pressed Yazidi and Christian women into sex slavery.
An Israeli year is usually tumultuous. It has to do with the hostile Middle Eastern environment, with Israel’s problematic parliamentary system that often produces rickety, short-lived coalitions, and with the dynamism of a young society undergoing dramatic economic and demographic growth.
This wasn’t one of Israel’s most tumultuous years but also definitely not one of its quietest. The Gaza war and a wave of terrorism broke five years of relative calm since the 2008-2009 Gaza war. The Obama administration kept lambasting Israel publicly, while in Israel a governing coalition collapsed after less than two years in office. Outside the media limelight, though, Israel kept making diplomatic and economic gains, and the immigrants kept coming.
We all need help. We need strength, courage to do the things that need to be done on a daily basis. There are many sources for that strength and courage. I get mine from my relationship with God. In Joshua 1:9 it is written,
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Knowing that God is with us wherever we go is an amazing source of strength. Many times throughout my military career I was tasked to perform something that was very dangerous, but I could do it without fear knowing that God would be with me.
During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I was the executive officer of a cavalry regiment. We were stationed in Doha, Kuwait, and were the last American presence in Kuwait. Everyone else had returned home, and we were still there. Concerned that Saddam might come back into Kuwait, we kept our ammo close by. One day I received a call that the motor pool was on fire, and hopped in my HMMWV with my driver to investigate. Soon I realized that a vehicle had caught fire, and was about to explode. I ordered the evacuation of the motor pool, which was completed about the time the vehicle exploded, and detonated thousands of pounds of ammunition along with it. For six hours I remained in that motor pool with my driver, helping people who had remained in there. Unexploded ordinance was all around. I was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for my actions that day, the nation’s highest award for heroism outside of combat. People ask me how was I able to perform that task. It was easy: I knew God was with me.
In Iraq on one of my tours, I was tasked to negotiate with the insurgency. It was important that we talked with them to understand their issues. Routinely I would meet in a room with numerous armed insurgents. They hated all Americans, and they viewed us as occupiers of their country. The tension in the room was high. At any moment one of the insurgents could have easily taken out an American general. Again, folks asked whether or not I was afraid. The answer is no. God was with me.
I am not the only military leader who turned to our God for strength and courage. During the Civil War, the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson said,
My religious beliefs teach me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time of my death. I do not concern myself with that, but to always be ready whenever it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and all men would be equally brave.
So, when times look bleak, and you find yourself afraid, go to God for strength and courage. God will be with you. Seek out those difficult tasks that everyone else seems afraid of performing. As it is said in Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said Here am I. Send me!”
And remember, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
image illustrations via shutterstock / Blaj Gabriel
Check out the previous installments in James Jay Carafano’s ongoing series exploring war films: The 10 Best Movies to Watch to Understand the Cold War, 10 War Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry, America’s First Wars in 10 Movies, 10 Movies For Understanding the Civil War, A 10 Film Introduction to America’s Turn of the Century ‘Small Wars,’ America Over There! A 10 Film Introduction to World War I, Telling the Story of World War II in 10 Movies, 10 Films that Tell the Future of War, and 10 Films That Show Respect for the American Veteran. Also visit the PJ Store where Victor Davis Hanson presents “World War II,” a six episode video lecture series.
Watching Sony cave to threats over screening a film ridiculing North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, it is hard to imagine that once Tinseltown was a very different place. After Pearl Harbor, Hollywood went to war. A string of A-listers put their talent in the service of the nation. In some cases, they put themselves in harm’s way to tell the story of the fight for freedom. Here are 10 largely forgotten examples of patriotic cinema at its best.
10. The Battle of Midway
The legendary John Ford, director of the classic western Stagecoach (1939), found himself and his camera crew filming in the middle of one of World War II’s biggest naval battles. The result was a stunning, 18-minute technicolor film. The riveting live-action combat scenes earned the film a share of the 1942 Oscar for best documentary.
Oscar Wilde once said that “you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.”
What holds true for men holds true for nations and cultures as well.
An America confident in its values and place in the world watched the villainy of Nazis and Soviets on the big screen and later television. After cultural revolution wracked America in the ’60s and ’70s, the new bad guys were Big Business and old white men in the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies.
By seeing how Hollywood wanted to wear (hey, trigger warning) a black hat, America, and the world, saw what the cultural revolutionaries wanted them to see. Since their enemy was traditional America, we knew the quality of the progressives to be low.
But Wilde only got it half right. It’s not just who you stand against. How you make that decision gives insight into quality. Sony’s decision to pull The Interview in light of cyber-warfare and terror threats highlights this truth.
The Wall Street Journal explains how in future films North Korea is going to get the kid-glove treatment in terms of being a big screen bad guy:
[t]he calculus involving North Korea appeared to be changing quickly following the Sony hack and its aftermath, and many studios were reconsidering even minor references to the Communist nation.
However, the reason for putting the Hermit State off limits has nothing to do with political correctness. It’s not sympathy for the regime’s Juche political philosophy, the way Sean Penn pals around with Latin American Marxists. In its own way, one might admire, or at least comprehend, political solidarity.
Nope. We’re witnessing abject fear.
Liberty Island has announced one grand prize winner, four runners up, and five honorable mentions in this year’s Holiday Writing Contest. They’ll each be excerpted here at PJ Lifestyle through the week.
Start your holidays with a bang. Here’s an excerpt from the Grand Prize Winner, check out “The 1011000-100110110000011010011 Truce” by Thomas A. Mays:
“Merry freakin’ Christmas, boys. It don’t get no better than this.” Staff Sergeant Malcolm Riddell glared at the snowy, broken battlefield before him and took another long pull from the glass bottle in his hand. The amber liquid within burned harshly going down, but that pleasant pain was a welcome distraction from the monotony the Keystone War had devolved into.
“Pardon, SSGT,” a nearby Jarhead buzzed, “recommend you return to the bunker immediately. Your exposure may constitute an acceptable target upon which the enemy can expend resources.” The vaguely humanoid robot remained prone with its weapon, squelched into the battlefield’s half-frozen mud, but it had oriented its stereoscopic targeting head toward him. Riddell figured that meant it “cared,” at least a little.
“Well, hell, I wouldn’t want to upset anybody’s combat calculus, would I?” He turned around and staggered back to the open hatch leading to his own deep shelter. At the utmost limit of his hearing he could perceive the growing whistle of artillery, so he staggered a bit faster. By the time he had both of the surface airlock’s hatches dogged and started down the ladder, the screaming whumps of exploding laser-guided shells shook his access trunk and tore apart the Canadian border soil of the ground overhead. He briefly wondered if the poor Jarhead model on watch would survive intact.
At the bottom of the trunk, deeper than even hyper-velocity orbital bombardment bunker busters could reach, a much more humanoid Elite command bot awaited him, surrounded by a baker’s dozen of the short, many-limbed Grunt models, tidying up where they could. His own slovenly state seemed to be gaining ground despite their best efforts, however. The Elite passed its unblinking nest of red and black eyes over their efforts and then focused on Riddell. “You should not take such needless chances, SSGT. Where would the war effort be if you perished?”
Riddell smiled. “I imagine the ‘war effort’ would suddenly have a large surplus of bad bourbon to go along with its slight decrease in personnel. Don’t imagine for a second that I’m vital to this fight, ‘Leet. I am the very definition of expendable, not that I’ll be expended any time soon given the current stalemate.”
“Combat operations are not permitted in complete autonomy. If you were to be killed, we would be barred from any offensive actions until a new human overseer reported on station. This would unacceptably give the Canadian drone forces a distinct tactical and strategic advantage through a reevaluation of the risk/resource balance.”
“Oh no! You mean you finally might start shooting at one another? What a terrible thing to happen in your shooting war.” Riddell’s sarcasm was deep enough that even the bot could appreciate it.
The Elite’s hard drive whirred for a moment in its chest before the bot responded. “SSGT, you have made your feelings regarding combat calculus and autonomous drone warfare well known. We need not rehash old arguments.”
“Ha! Like I have anything better to do!” His laugh contained little humor. Riddell plopped into a threadbare chair in front of his dusty operations console. “‘Leet, the whole reason everyone started using autonomous combat drones and bots was to shorten conflicts, reduce errors, and save lives when war could not be avoided. The problem is, you machines are completely beholden to this combat calculus, refusing to make a move or expend resources unless you perceive a decisive tactical advantage. And the other side does the exact same thing, with the end result being we’ve all maneuvered ourselves into a worldwide standoff, everyone poised for combat on a dozen different fronts, but nobody actually shooting unless somebody makes a mistake or shifts the calculus. Thus, I am stuck here, watching over fighting robots that DON’T FIGHT, instead of going home and ENJOYING CHRISTMAS!”
The Elite’s hard drive whirred even longer this time. “Please explain the operational significance of Christmas.”
Riddell laughed again, but at least his braying contained some actual humor this time. “Christmas has no operational significance, which is what makes it so significant. Let that one burn up your logic circuits.” The humor did not last, however. Bitterness returned and Riddell leaned forward, elbows on knees, his face in his hands.
He continued. “War is a terrible thing: achieving sociopolitical goals through the complicated process of killing the people who disagree with you until they concede your side of the argument. But there were moments of grace–distinctly human moments–that made it less awful. Christmas was one of those.” He looked up from his hands. “Did you know that back in World War One both sides actually stopped fighting for Christmas? They came out of their trenches and foxholes and celebrated the holiday together, exchanging gifts and uniforms, playing soccer. It was called the Christmas Truce. Look it up.”
image illustration via Liberty Island
Cevin Key, the band’s keyboardist, says the band at first planned to design an album cover based on an invoice for the U.S. government, rather than sending a physical invoice. But after learning that the government had allegedly used their music without permission, Key says the band was told it could bring a suit against the Department of Defense.
“We sent them an invoice for our musical services considering they had gone ahead and used our music without our knowledge and used it as an actual weapon against somebody,” Key told CTV’s Kevin Newman Live.
As someone who has tried and utterly failed to withstand Skinny Puppy’s music on more than one occasion, I’d urge the government to pay up — the band is worth every penny at Gitmo.
The Navy’s ship-deployed laser we talked about last month has been deployed on the USS Ponce — and tested, too. And it works:
The Navy announced that it had deployed and fired a laser weapon this fall aboard a warship in the Persian Gulf. During a series of test shots, the laser hit and destroyed targets mounted atop a small boat, blasted a six-foot drone from the sky, and destroyed other moving targets.
“This is the first time in recorded history that a directed energy weapons system has ever deployed on anything,” Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, told reporters at the Pentagon. “A lot of people talk about it—we decided to go do it.”
It was built cheap, using lots of COTS parts — a rare instance of our procurement system working as advertised.
After I retired from the US Army, I wrote a book about adaptive leadership entitled Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General. I took 35 years in the Army and 4 years at West Point and condensed those down to 9 leadership principles with a focus on Faith and Family. I am convinced that we as a Nation are struggling due to ineffective leadership who can’t adapt to changing circumstances. This is occurring at all levels, from National down to local communities. We must change that.
A critical trait for effective, adaptive senior leaders is to focus on opportunities, not obstacles. In our day-to-day lives, routinely things happen that were unforeseen. Resources that we thought were going to be made available are no longer available. The time we thought we had is truncated. Events took a different turn than we expected. Effective leaders look upon these changed circumstances as an opportunity, not as an obstacle. I was taught many years ago that you can’t roll up your sleeves while you are wringing your hands. We must capitalize on opportunities as they come our way.
We as a nation now have an opportunity as a result of the mid-term elections. America has voted. We have decided who will be our leaders at all levels. We selected US Senators and Representatives, Governors, and State Legislators. Starting January 1, 2015 we will have our elected leaders in place. The question is will they, on behalf of the American public, embrace the changes and focus on the opportunity at hand. We must demand that they do.
The key element in all this will be to focus on doing what is right for America, as opposed to doing what is right for a particular political party. As a leader, I always asked three questions: (1) Are we doing the right things? (2) Are we doing things right? (3) What are we missing? These are very important questions. If we are doing the right things the right way, let’s drive on. If not, let’s stop and make the appropriate correction. That’s what needs to happen now throughout America.
I am concerned that we as Americans have lost our identity. In the past, we proudly introduced ourselves as Americans. Now the tendency is to introduce ourselves as Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, etc. We must regain our identity, and our leaders must focus on what is right for America. They must put aside their petty differences and work towards compromise. They cannot spend all their time focused on how to win the next election, but rather on how to enact laws and pass legislation that is in the best interests of America. We must break out of the current stalemate, and make things happen.
In a democracy, the elected officials work for us. Let’s demand that they spend time focused on opportunities for America, and then do things to make those opportunities come to life. We must demand action. Let’s not let them spend time worrying about the obstacles in their path, commiserating about who won or lost the election or how do we make the other party look bad. Let’s not accept that. Our Nation’s future depends on leaders who will take advantage of the opportunity given to them to do what is right for America.
Buffalo Springfield never intended this song to be about Viet Nam, but it very soon became another standard on the airwaves.
3. Buffalo Springfield – “For What it’s Worth” (1967)
Editor’s Note: Over the spring and summer we launched the PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight feature, highlighting reader suggestions for great songs worth featuring. One contributor’s infectious enthusiasm and good nature won us over. He’s since expanded his music recommendations to a series of list-article-mix tapes. Now in this daily feature we’re going to start drawing from his lists (and growing an archive of them) to discuss the songs and artists included. Who should be included next? What ideas do you have for music or other culture or lifestyle ideas you’d like to see discussed at PJ Lifestyle? Get in touch DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter. Here’s Allston’s archive so far, but he’s got more list-mix-tapes in the works:
The New War Music Series
- 10 Classic Songs from the World War II Era
- 10 More World War II-Era Classic Songs
- 10 Songs of the Korean War Era
- 10 Songs That Embody the Vietnam War Era
By Artist and Band
- 5 Terrific Tracks from Horace Silver, Jazzman Extraordinaire
- The 5 Musical Periods of the Yardbirds
- Your 6 Song Introduction to Traffic
By Decade and Era
- Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear
- 15 Classic 1970s Songs Millennials Should Know
- 15 More Classic 1970s Songs for the Millennials
- 15 More 1970s Songs Showcasing the Decade’s Wide Range
- Your 15 Song Introduction to The New Wave Punk Sound That Ended the 1970s
- 15 Early Punk And New Wave Songs Bridging the 1970s to 1980s
- 7 Spooky Halloween Tunes
- Ranking the 5 Most Excellent Bluesmen
he Bv2 model has a lot of improvements and the army is in the process of upgrading all 400 of its existing RQ-7Bs to the v2 standard. Among the improvements is the use of the same communications system (TCDL) used in the larger MQ-1C. TCDL is encrypted, has higher throughput, is more reliable and allows data to be shared with other aircraft or ground troops using the latest comm and network gear. The v2 wings are 42 percent larger helping to increase endurance to nine hours. It’s now easier to remove and install different (or just malfunctioning) sensor packages. The sensor packages now come with a laser designator.
Version 3 is already in development, and this one will include a more powerful and reliable engine as well as the ability to use weapons.
We’re damn near reaching a Singularity in the ongoing increase of deadly firepower available to the individual combat soldier. But as each soldier becomes deadlier, he also becomes more expensive to train, equip, supply, and send to war — and to lose.
As a result, we need to get out of the Occupy & Rebuild business we’ve been in since WWII, to declining success rates. Occupation of a relatively civilized place like post-Imperial Japan or post-Nazi Germany can be accomplished with a comparatively light footprint. Defeating the Iraqi Army only took three weeks and about five divisions — but pacification of a place like Iraq or Afghanistan can’t be accomplished without a lot more boots on the ground and the patience of Job. But we lack the patience and Cold War-sized Army is out of the question.
When dealing with great numbers of primitive barbarians, the proper role for a small, professional and deadly military is the same as it was for the professional legions of ancient Rome or imperial Britain: The punitive expedition. Get in, get out, and by the damage done leave one simple and unforgettable message…
“Don’t make us come back here.”