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It’s Not New at Brandeis; ‘Repressive Tolerance’ was Born There

April 10th, 2014 - 6:40 pm

Shutting down a speaker, or a professor, or a book with which you strongly disagree is nothing new. Indeed, if there’s anything really new about Brandeis’ disinvitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it’s that they invited her at all, no matter how briefly.  I was amazed and (briefly) encouraged.  Could it be, I wondered, that Brandeis, of all universities, was offering an honorary degree to someone so totally out of step with multiculturalism?  So I tip my hat to those who pulled it off, it took real intellectual courage.  You can be sure that they’re in plenty of pain these days.  They are stuck in Waltham, while Ayaan is comfy down the road in Cambridge, surrounded by security guards ever attentive to the possibility that some day some one will attempt to carry out one of the many death threats she receives.

Of course they were rolled, and if the other honorees had any real integrity, they’d cancel.  If the school’s donors took freedom seriously, they’d cancel their contributions.  But the key to understanding Brandeis is that it has been this way for half a century.  Banning Ayaan is indeed the fulfillment of a famous call to censorship by one of the most famous leftist philosophers of the last century:  Herbert Marcuse, a Brandeis professor who in 1965 published a vigorous defense of ideological repression called “Repressive Tolerance.”  Here’s how he sums up the thrust of his essay:

The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed. In other words, today tolerance appears again as what it was in its origins, at the beginning of the modern period–a partisan goal, a subversive liberating notion and practice. Conversely, what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.

Marcuse didn’t like American liberal bourgeois society, and he was infuriated by its popularity, which he blamed on a combination of bad education and powerful media (advertisements particularly alarmed him).  What to do?  He despaired of convincing a majority of Americans that we needed a communist revolution, so he called for censorship.  Just ban the ideas on which the country rested.

He neatly anticipated the anti-free speech campaign now waged against those who challenge the current orthodoxy, whether in science, politics, or entertainment.  If you can’t beat them, silence them:

The toleration of free discussion and the equal right of opposites was to define and clarify the different forms of dissent: their direction, content, prospect. But with the concentration of economic and political power and the integration of opposites in a society which uses technology as an instrument of domination, effective dissent is blocked where it could freely emerge; in the formation of opinion, in information and communication, in speech and assembly.

Ergo, in order to get “really free” thought, you must destroy free speech:  “the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions…”

It’s a seductive mantra.  Silencing one’s opponents has long appealed to those to whom skepticism is a four-letter word, and without skepticism, toleration has no meaning.

Marcuse was one of the great culture heroes of his time, and acquired quite a substantial following “Repressive Tolerance” was dedicated to his Brandeis students, and one of the most infamous of them–the Communist leader Angela Davis–did her best to translate it into practice.

The silencing of Ayaan carries on that old Brandeis tradition, and no doubt Herbert Marcuse is celebrating it as best he can.  He must have been horrified when she was invited in the first place.

Arming the Mullahs

April 7th, 2014 - 6:03 pm


Somebody on Twitter posted an upbeat message saying the US delegation to the latest round of talks with Iranian officials was quite optimistic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a born optimist and I love optimism, but I’d rather revel in victory than hope for good news, and the Iranians have every reason to revel.  The Obama crowd has just ok’d something the Tehran tyrants have desperately wanted since the eighties: spare parts for their long-grounded American passenger aircraft.  Boeing and General Electric were given export licenses by the Treasury Department and everyone involved has been chanting “we take aircraft security very seriously,” in order to cloak this latest gift to the Khamenei-Rouhani regime in humanitarian hues.

Frankly I’d rather they took national security very seriously.  Iran uses its commercial aircraft for military purposes (one of the reasons that eery flight between Tehran and Caracas is so worrisome), and the mullahs have been limited by the degradation of the national fleet.  The Boeing planes and GE engines date to the 1970s, and very few of them are in service.  Back in the mid-eighties, when I spent quite a bit of time with Iranian officials, they repeatedly asked for spare parts, both for the passenger planes and for the aging military craft, the F4s and F5s.  Secretary of Defense Weinberger of course vetoed any such discussions, and the embargo has held until just now.

Now we’re arming Iran.

Meanwhile, as my buddy/boss/colleague Mark Dubowitz explains, the Russians and Iranians are working on ways to bust the oil sanctions on Tehran.  They’re gonna swap stuff:  Russian goodies (probably including military equipment such as submarines, torpedoes and antiaircraft missiles) for Iranian oil.  This will not be the first time.  Iran has done swaps with India and, most recently and outrageously, with the Turks (Iranian natural gas for Turkish gold, along with a plethora of other deals).

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Quite a quartet.  Quite a variety of famous men, and a woman no one ever heard of, all members of a generation rapidly headed for judgment and reward, all dead in the past few days.  I knew two of them — Admiral Jeremiah Denton and Secretary James Schlesinger — fairly well, and I spent years in the nightmare supervised by Judge Walsh when he was special prosecutor in the Iran-Contra matter.  I never knew Wendy Davis, but her obituary is a disaster, and I’m going to correct it.

But first the famous men.

It’s hard to render more honor to Admiral/Senator Denton than he has received from the great New York Sun.  He was the Platonic ideal of the hero, an almost mythic embodiment of courage and honor who informed and inspired us by repeatedly blinking out the word “torture” in Morse Code during an interview with a Japanese television reporter designed by his Vietnamese captors to deceive us into thinking Denton and his fellow POWs were being decently treated.  As befits an officer, he was among the last prisoners released from that Asian hell, and he served one term in the Senate before retiring.  He was a fine senator who was shabbily treated by most of the leading journalists.  He’d attended the Naval Academy, after all, not the anti-war bastions of ignorance and narcissism that were hard at work to indoctrinate our intellectual elites in the ways of anti-Americanism and multiculturalism.

Jim Schlesinger was a brilliant man, one of few capable of running CIA, Energy, and Defense, under Democrat and Republican presidents.  An evening with him was always delightful, as well as a learning experience.  I’m sure he was tough to work for;  he wasn’t very patient with people less talented than he, which means most of mankind.  He had a fabulous wife, which says a lot.  He was very academicky, from his manner of speaking to the ever present pipe throughout his public career.  He did several surprising things, converting from Judaism to Lutheranism, and going public with some of CIA’s most cherished secrets, the so-called “crown jewels,” including stories about James Jesus Angleton that effectively ended the career of CIA’s long-time counterintelligence chief.  He served as SecDef at the same time Henry Kissinger was at State, and one can only hope there are some tape recordings of their debates, both for their literary and intellectual content.  Surely one of the major figures of recent American history.

Lawrence Walsh’s public career goes back to the Eisenhower years, when Walsh was secretary at the National Security Council.  He never doubted his own importance, and when he served as attorney to some of our biggest corporations, he was celebrated for taking three suites at the Watergate Hotel:  his own and the one above and below.  He didn’t want to be disturbed, you see.  He wanted the job of special prosecutor and avidly pursued every scalp he thought he might carve from Reagan’s people.  In the course of his investigations he once dropped off a briefcase of highly classified documents at curbside at Los Angeles airport, a violation of security regulations.  It was never found, nor was Walsh ever charged with anything.  Despite the very high profile of the investigation — and the miles of nonsensical ink written about presumed malfeasance by the Reagan people — he managed to destroy only a few small fry who couldn’t bear the costs of legal defense, a retired Air Force general for evading taxes on arms sales to Iran, and Oliver North for accepting a security fence.  For the rest of us, he issued a report that essentially said “if he did anything wrong, I can’t find it.”  Of the three famous men, he did the least for the country and got the best press coverage.

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Who says the Iranian regime is run by dour old men with no sense of humor?  Wrong!  Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has just written a screamingly funny letter (dated March 26th) to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, and asked that it be widely distributed.  I’m happy to oblige.  Laugh along with me and Javad as we parse our way through the highlights.

The letter portrays Iran as the innocent victim of state-sponsored terrorism, beginning with “the shocking news about the possible murder of one of the five Iranian border guards abducted on February 7, 2014 by an extremist terrorist group, in the border area between Iran and Pakistan.”  Note that he neatly classifies a “possibility” into a “fact,” a leitmotif that runs throughout the letter.  He then lists several other attacks, including “repeated explosions and terrorist attacks in our Eastern border in recent months….Two car-bomb attacks on the Iranian diplomatic and cultural premises in Beirut on 19 November 2013 and 19 February 2014….Abduction and murder of Iranian diplomatic personnel in Sana’a, including kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat, Mr. Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, on July 21, 2013, and brutal assassination of another, Mr. Abolghassem Assadi, on January 18, 2014; and-Suicide attack on the Iranian Consulate-General in Peshawar, on February 25, 2014.”

As if the “diplomats” and military forces of Zarif’s regime were just minding their own peaceful business!  Iran is up to its neck in the civil war in Yemen, actively waging war against the Syrian opposition, actively supporting anti-American terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, repressing any and all signs of independence from the Balouchi tribes in Iran and across its eastern borders, and calling the shots for the Hezbollah killers in Lebanon.  Maybe Ban Ki-moon will remind Zarif that he who kills first is not entitled to whine and beg for help when his intended victims fight back.

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The “news” is resolutely out of context.  A subject about which virtually nothing is known–the mystery of the missing airplane–gets saturation “coverage,” while events of potentially earth-shaking importance are largely unreported. Twitter is full of tweets, photos and videos from the streets of Venezuela, but the Maduro tyranny expelled CNN, and Wolf Blitzer crams his airtime with heads talking about the Malaysian passenger jet.  Any self-respecting “news network” would relentlessly run stories about the ongoing demonstrations from Caracas to Maracaibo–demonstrations surely the equal of those from Maidan Square in Kiev–but no.

The Venezuelan uprising may turn out to be the biggest story of all, because it is part of a world-wide battle that pits anti-Western tyrannies against their own people, and against their neighbors.  It is of a piece with Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Russia itself, where, just a few days ago, fifty thousand Muscovites demonstrated against Putin’s imperialist moves in Ukraine.

I’ve been saying for years that we’re the target of a global war, that the Pyongyang-Beijing-Moscow-Tehran-Damascus-Havana-Caracas etc Axis of Evil is hell-bent to dominate and destroy us.  Now the evidence is so clear that only a willfully blind man could fail to see it.  When the pundits were saying that Assad’s doom was imminent, I warned that he had the full support of Russia and Iran, and they would not go quietly.  He didn’t, but the pundits are still trying to unscrew the inscrutable jihadi networks and alliances, invoking the tired chant of Sunni vs Shi’ite, and refusing to see the battle of Syria in the context of the real war.

Today, the repression of the Venezuelan people is under the command of Cubans and aided by Hezbollahis, which is part of the same picture that has Russian troops-in-mufti operating in Ukraine, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah killers operating in Syria, Iranian-guided terrorists fighting in Yemen, Iranian-trained Taliban killing Afghans and Americans, and on and on.  That picture has been clarified by the announcement that Russia is opening naval bases in Latin America.

It’s the War, You Dolt

March 2nd, 2014 - 6:45 pm

No surprise that the intel guys, like their political bosses, reassured themselves that Russia wouldn’t invade.  Even though they made the same mistake just a few years ago when the morsel was Georgia.  Indeed, that kind of error, revolving around the phrase “rational actor,” is the trademark of Western confusion about the world.  They refuse to see that our enemies are waging war against us, thus refuse to think about winning that war, thus lose many battles, and happily retreat. After all, if our enemies are rational actors, what could go wrong? We could even slash and burn our own military.  Not to worry.

It’s not as if we’re at war, after all.

And we’re not.  Only our enemies are.  It’s like target practice for them.  Fortunately, they’re not very good at it, and so they miss a lot. When they win, they find ways to screw it up.  They took over Egypt, remember?  Then lost it in the “biggest demonstration in human history” (thus sayeth the BBC).  They were on the verge of taking over Tunisia, but no more.  They made a hash out of Ukraine and Venezuela, then lost the first and are facing the people’s wrath in the second.  They keep trying to organize lethal rocket and missile attacks on Israel, only to get destroyed.

They are hard at work over here, too, trying to blow us up, but they’re dismissed, their plain meaning written off, just as the global war against us is written off.  Did you notice that remarkable story out of Georgia Tech?  An Iranian grad student was carted off to the hospital with severe burns over most of his body, apparently because he blew himself up with a Molotov cocktail.  The usual keen-eyed anti-jihadi bloggers were all over it, and both local Fox and CBS reported the event (misidentifying the victim’s home country, but no matter), but as usual one would like to know more, and as usual one doesn’t.  Perhaps this will be added to the list of mythological “home-grown terrorist events,” even though the guy got his undergraduate degree at Tehran University.

For those who actually want to see the world plain, the global network is luminously clear, from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran and Syria, to Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.  Those are the nations aligned against us.  They support a variety of terror groups, from al-Qaeda to Islamic Jihad to the various Latin American guerrillas, and they work in cahoots with the narcotics mafiosi.

There are two keystones in this global network:  Iran and Venezuela, with Russia manipulating them both as best Putin can.  If we see the world plain, the current revolutionary turmoil in Venezuela is enormously important, arguably the most important hot spot on earth today.  For if the Castroite tyranny in Caracas were to fall, it would be a devastating blow to the Axis of Evil.  The bad guys know it;  that’s why, in addition to Cuban intel officers and special forces, Hezbollahis are moving from Damascus to Caracas.  Khamenei knows there’s an intimate connection between what happens in Venezuela and what happens in Syria.

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So We Should Only Criticize the Dems?

February 26th, 2014 - 11:53 am

All this whining about Ted Cruz is getting on my nerves.  They’re upset that he’s criticizing Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, instead of rallying to the Republican establishment banner in all the primaries, the better, they seem to think, to take over the Senate after the November elections.  “Fight Obama, not the Republican leadership.”

So their argument is that hard-fought primaries might produce more conservative candidates in November, and this would be a bad thing.  It’s going to be hard to convince Cruz, since he’s only in the Senate because he challenged the establishment candidate in the Republican primary in Texas a couple of years ago.  And won the primary.  And then won the general election bigtime.

Mind you, I’m not in favor of supporting deranged candidates.  I shudder at the thought of repeats of some of the latest conservative nominees.  But I’m not at all convinced that tough primaries are bad for the Republican Party, or indeed for the country.  Quite the contrary.  I’m all for it.  The country’s in a terrible jam and we need outstanding leaders, men of strong will and conviction, who won’t catch Potomac fever, who won’t go along to win the next election.  I don’t think the Republican Party is well led.  Who does?  I think McConnell and Boehner have run away from too many important fights.  If they had been up to their challenges, we’d know a lot more about the use of the IRS as a Democrat political weapon, we’d have a clear timeline for Obama’s actions on Benghazi day and night, we’d know exactly what this administration agreed to with the Iranians, and we’d stop raising the debt limit, cutting state profligacy instead.  I’d love to see them replaced, and I don’t see any chance of that happening unless they have to pay a price for their lousy leadership.  Like losing.

Don’t we believe in accountability?  If you want to tell me that Cruz’s targets are better than their challengers, I’m all ears.  But to say he’s wrong to go after them for their actions and lack of action, I’m not impressed.  He’s right.

We need a very vigorous debate, and no one should be given a free pass.  If a sitting senator or representative has failed to fight the expansion of state power and the policy of global appeasement, I want to hear why.  Tough Republican primaries will help define the issues in the November election.  That sort of debate will produce criticism of Obama, and perhaps lead to the election of those who may provide the will and the vision to start undoing at least some of the damage his presidency has done to us.

So it’s misleading to accuse Cruz of ignoring Obama and only going after Republicans.  He’s going after Republicans who have failed to fight Obama.

When I read some of the attacks on Cruz, I wonder if at least some of the anger is the result of his tenacity.  I remember being told, when he was in the midst of his filibuster against Obamacare, that it was going to be damaging to the country and deadly to himself.  He would lose, and that would pretty much end his role as a potential party or national leader.

He’s still standing, and he was proven right to go all out to try to stop Obamacare.

I quite agree with Jeffrey Lord when he says:

Simply put, Ted Cruz — like Ronald Reagan before him — understands what it takes to make a majority. And he’s doing it. Over the vociferous objections of the same kind of people who kept warning Republicans that if they listened to Ronald Reagan they would get clobbered. Which is exactly why Ted Cruz is being greeted as a hero.

I think he’s right to call attention to the shortcomings of his party’s leaders.  Would you rather shut him up and then hear the criticism from Bill and Hillary?


What If We Were Winning But Nobody Noticed?

February 21st, 2014 - 7:17 am

It’s all about winning and losing, but the best man doesn’t always win, and outcomes frequently have more to do with luck than with merit.  Brilliant strategies fail, and fools stumble into glorious victories.  Napoleon preferred a lucky general to a brilliant one.

Which brings us to today.  The headlines are grim, the pictures from Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine are blood-chilling, executions and demonstrations are mounting in Iran, and Obama doesn’t know what to do about anything.  So he doesn’t do anything; he and his strategists just dither.  And yet…

And yet, our enemies may be on the verge of losing.  Big time.

Maybe the elimination of the Russian Olympic hockey team was an augury, foreshadowing a shift in Putin’s destiny.  Up until quite recently, he waved his mailed fist and barked out commands that were obeyed from Georgia to Syria.  He, along with the Syrian, Iranian, Nicaraguan, Honduran, Venezuelan, Cuban, and Bolivian dictators and would-be dictators, was forging a global alliance aimed against the West, and nobody in the West seemed to notice, let alone take steps to combat it.  The global alliance consists primarily of jihadis and radical leftists, the two principal forces committed to the destruction of what is sometimes known as the Western world.

That alliance is cracking, because many millions of people are fighting the anti-Western tyrants.  They aren’t pundits, and they haven’t calculated the odds on success.  They just fight.  Almost none of the major events of the past few years was foreseen by the deep thinkers, most all of whom thought that Egypt was lost to the jihadists, Assad was firmly in control of Syria, and Chavismo was destined to rule in Venezuela for years to come.

But in Egypt, where the Muslim Brothers took over the most important country in the Muslim Middle East, they lost it within a year.  They were brought down by what the BBC called “the largest demonstration in human history.”  In Tunisia, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring,” the radical jihadists were briefly in control, and then lost to more moderate forces, including secular leaders.  The fighting in Syria began when members of the nation’s armed forces–neither religiously nor ideologically radical–rebelled against the Assad tyranny.  I don’t know more than a couple of people who thought the opposition would endure…until they did an about-face and told us the opposition was unbeatable and Assad was about to fall.  In Ukraine, the people have risen against a government that was clearly a marionette of Moscow.  And in Venezuela, the streets of the major cities are filled with people fighting against a failed Cuban-style dictatorship.

The Ukrainian government is now technically a minority in Parliament (some of its members having defected), and there are reports that the rats are scampering away, loading expensive automobiles and containers full of cash onto airplanes at the Kiev airport (like you, I want to know where those planes are going to land.  We’ll know shortly, I have no doubt).

The Venezuelan demonstrations don’t seem to be getting any smaller, and when the Maduro regime arrested the opposition leader, it backfired, as even more people took to the streets.

For those keeping score: the enemy alliance has lost in Egypt and Tunisia, is losing Ukraine, is in great peril in Venezuela, is losing men and money in significant quantities in Syria, and faces determined opposition inside Iran.

To be sure, there’s bad news too, as you’ll see on the next page.

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The Lights Are Going Out. Or Is It On?

February 18th, 2014 - 1:40 pm

Are the anti-neocons ready to reconsider?  For years now, they’ve been lambasting us (presumed marionettes of Bushitlercheney) for unleashing war and misery on the world’s unfortunates, and death and mayhem on our own young fighters.  They yelled, “Hands off!  Let peace prevail!  Or if it doesn’t, so be it;  it’s not our problem.”

They yelled other things, too, mostly along the lines of “you can’t get a democracy in a place that’s never had it.”  They vigorously deny that there is anything remotely resembling a universal impulse toward freedom.

Some of them, now in the Peace and Love room, or in the White House residence, where policy is committed, remain convinced that most of the world’s problems are our fault, and they are unwilling to take action against foreign nations whose regimes rest on the same conviction.  Better to talk.  That way, our (soon-to-be-former) enemies will see that we have learned our lesson, and so we can All Get Along.

They called it “leading from behind.”  In normal English, it’s “retreat.”

Are they pleased with the results?  As America withdrew from the world, we got new wars.  Terrible wars, complete with weapons of mass destruction (Syria), ethnic and tribal slaughter (Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran), a revived al-Qaeda (whether “core” or “peripheral”), and growing involvement of the likes of Moscow and Tehran in areas where we used to have something to say.

The main thing is the slaughter.  Have you looked at Venezuela or Ukraine today?  The Iranians–officially–hung more than a dozen citizens today. Don’t those big crowds of demonstrators remind you of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations in Egypt?  Or of the anti-Khamenei demonstrations in Iran?

All these monster demonstrations have taken place during the Obama years, the years of retreat.  We didn’t organize them, any more than we organized the Syrian resistance to Assad, or the Iranian resistance to Khamenei.  In my view, we should have, but we didn’t.  So who are the anti-neocons going to blame them on?

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Appeasers believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian.
Heywood Campbell Broun.

I don’t think it’s hard to understand Obama’s foreign policy.  Although there’s a lot we don’t know about him, his basic impulses are clear enough.  He’s told us what they are (although, to be sure, he often misleads and obfuscates), and his actions are in keeping with his announced impulses.  Furthermore, there’s nothing unique or surprising about them — you can hear them in our classrooms and our college dorms, and read them in the establishment press every day.  He’s an establishment member in high standing.


He believes that most of the serious problems in the world are the result of past American actions.  Call it imperialism.  Call it meddling.  Call it arrogance (as the Iranians do).  Whatever you call it, it means that pre-Obama policies were bad.  Ergo, it’s mostly Bush’s fault. (Shorthand for “before me, they didn’t understand.  Anything.”)

It follows that the single most important action to ensure good policies is to rein in the United States.  Get it out of the messes it has created.  Weaken its abilities to meddle elsewhere.  Ergo the retreats from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Ergo the often spectacular dissing of past allies and the embarrassing embrace of previous and actual enemies.  Diss Mubarak, embrace the Muslim Brotherhood.  Ergo the incredible shrinking military budget, ergo the back-of-the-hand slap to many of our greatest warriors.

It also follows that our foreign policy requires a new language, beginning with making amends for the bad policies of the past, and continuing with a dramatic realignment, aiming at creating a new alliance structure with countries we maltreated in the past.  Ergo the global apology tour.  Ergo the refusal to respond to insults from the likes of Hugo Chavez.  Ergo the Russian “reset” stratagem.  And ergo the Iran deal, pursued eagerly and relentlessly even before the 2008 election results were in, wrapped in terms of respect (the careful pronunciation of “The Islamic Republic of Iran,” for example).  And ergo the rejection of “American exceptionalism,” putting the United States on the same moral and political platform as contemporary Greece.

Those are his core principles.  It’s a highly ideological policy matrix, beginning with his conviction that WE are the root cause of most bad things.  It’s not subtle, doesn’t require mastery of nuance or even history, as his error-ridden Cairo speech demonstrated to anyone who cared to actually read it (my favorite is the claim that Muslims invented printing, when the Chinese did that, and Portuguese Jews brought it to the Middle East).  Indeed, he and his minions are so uninterested in the facts of the world that they regularly invent the world, as Secretary of State Kerry did when he falsely announced that “last year, not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank.”  Actually there were several.

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