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You’ve Got a Friend

March 2nd, 2015 - 4:46 pm

One of the reasons why president Obama can’t let Benjamin Netanyahu stand in the way of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is because he needs Tehran’s troops to fight ISIS.  Today the long awaited offensive against ISIS in Tikrit reeled off with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the lead, if not in actual command.  Julian Barnes of the Wall Street Journal explains that Iran will be supplying the men and leadership.  The US will be waiting by the phone to supply air support if requested.  The phone has not rung.

At the Pentagon on Monday, Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said the U.S. wasn’t providing assistance in the fight to retake Tikrit. The U.S. hasn’t conducted airstrikes in support of Iraqi forces and didn’t provide advice in planning the attack, officials said.

“We are fully aware of the operation, but the Iraqis did not request our support for it,” Col. Warren said. “Our presence in Iraq is at the request of the Iraqi government. We are there to advise them, to assist them, to support them, when they ask for it.”

Though he  claims he has top billing, the president appears to be an extra in this operation.  But Obama will accept whatever bit-roles are thrown his way because he needs Iran to get him out of the jam caused by his feckless withdrawal from the region. ISIS  flourished in the resulting vacuum and daily humiliates the president with publicized outrages. With Obama powerless to prevent it, he needs someone who can pull him out of the quicksand.

But as the Daily Beast notes the price will be steep. “The bargain for making a deal with Iran, these critics say, has allowed Iran a free hand to assert dominance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.” Having spent years campaigning against American military action Obama has essentially left himself no other choice but to rely on  someone else.  ”Such an approach is also politically unfeasible due to American war weariness and scepticism of any mission with shifting goalposts.

And Iran is charging him an arm and a leg for yanking him out of the hole.  Yemen, next-door-neighbor to Saudi Arabia has now been partitioned between an Iranian client state which has as its capital Sana’a — from which the GCC embassies have evacuated — and Aden, to which they will be moving as the new capital of Sunni recognized Yemen.

Obama’s own efforts to establish “moderate rebel” forces in the region have ended in ignominious defeat, having accomplished nothing but showcase his pitiful incompetence. One of the main Obama-backed groups has just folded up and joined the enemy.

BEIRUT (Reuters) – One of the main western-backed rebel groups announced on Sunday that it had dissolved itself and joined a larger Islamist alliance, weeks into a battle which saw it lose ground and men to more powerful al Qaeda insurgents. Hazzm is one of the last remnants of non-jihadist opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria, much of which has been seized by the Nusra Front and Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda that controls roughly a third of Syria.

All hope of independent action is fading fast. Micah Zenko at Foreign Policy is calling the debacle Obama’s Bay of Pigs in the Desert. The Obama administration has effectively destroyed its own credibility, by the ample display of stupidity, possibly past the point of recovery. As a Brookings Institution article puts it “If America leads, will anyone follow?”

even if the United States is still willing and able to lead, and even if other major powers accept that it does so, Washington will likely confront the growing problem of followership. President Obama made clear in his 2014 West Point speech that future interventions by the United States in overseas conflicts will be a function of the willingness of “partners” to lend a hand. In fact, Washington has always depended to some extent on other nations to supplement its efforts, but the question for the future is whether this operating principle remains feasible.

Who wants to join the club where Obama’s the leader of the band? Not unless you want a knife in the back. The late Russian oppositionist Boris Nemetsov speaking from beyond the grave in a September, 2013 Foreign Policy article said: “Obama is a Hollywood actor, a weak man with no balls. Nobody should ever expect him to help Russians seeking civil freedom.” Whether this is true or not, there seems little doubt that some perceive him in this way and in consequence are reluctant to follow him. All that may be left to Obama is meddlesome intervention in Third World countries like Colombia and the arbitrary exercises of presidential power at home, where he remains powerful.  There he can indulge his sense of importance.  But in Tikrit the Iranians aren’t even asking for his help.

The president who is publicly nursing his wounded honor in anticipation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech is also the same president pathetically hanging on Tehran’s rulers every word, like a waiter expecting a tip. The Iranians themselves have characterized Obama as ‘desperate to reach a nuclear deal’, as if he were some loathesome toady. All the same he is counting on them to beat ISIS, having made a hash of his own efforts. What a crazy situation it is when an American president’s fortunes depend on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

But no one — even the president’s political opponents — should think they can afford the luxury of schadenfreude. By outsourcing operations to Iran Obama is giving up the last shreds of American freedom of action in the region.  He is thereby opening the door to a great danger. The battle for Tikrit and Mosul beyond holds tremendous potential for unleashing a wave of atrocities against Sunnis. Simon Tisdall of the Guardian writes:

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Mein Kampf in the Piety Stall

February 28th, 2015 - 11:51 pm

While at church today I happened to glance at the rack of religious pamphlets near the entrance that usually contains little devotional pamphlets like the “Life of St Maria Goretii” or “envelopes for the missions” and noticed someone had left a copy of Mein Kampf among the readings to ‘take home for free’.  Parishioners, most of whom were Fijians, Filipinos, Koreans or Chinese, browsed through the pamphlets without noticing Hitler’s magnum opus.  One lady who might have been Korean showed a particular interest in the stack of Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but neither knew nor cared — probably the former — what the publication beside it was. At the end of the mass I told the deacon, a 20-something Australian with a face and build like a boxer — to get it out of there, something which he did with celerity.

The devil can preach on his own premises but nothing obliges us to give him space in church for free.  Yet “Mein Kampf in the piety stall” was the phrase that came to mind on reading how a human rights organization called Cage defended Mohammed Emwazi, AKA “Jihadi John” on British TV as an “‘extremely kind, gentle, beautiful young man’”. The media is our society’s secular equivalent of the piety stall and yet nobody seems to care how many Mein Kampfs are touted on it each day even if the sales are often funded by the taxpayer.

The research director of a human rights group … appeared to choke up as he told a press conference: “He was such a beautiful young man […] He was the most humble young person that I knew. This is the kind of person that we are talking about.” ….

“When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders they are going to feel like outsiders and they will look for belonging elsewhere?” he asked.

It won’t be long now before apologies are wrung from the families of those he decapitated. The Western elite is compulsively self-hating.  If you thought there were any limits, there are none.  Were Jihadi John to charge for the service of bleeding out infidels, the question taken up by the great and the good will be over whether we were paying him enough.  After all, he stoops to stain his knife to cut our throat. Yet in justice, Jihadi John and his apologists are at least fighting their own side and are free to toot their own horn.

You can see why the Cage organization would be so fulsome in its praise. After all, Dr. Josef Mengele  would be a young, handsome, cultured and brilliant physician and Reinhard Heydrich even more admirable to the Nazis .  Six foot three, expert swimmer and fencer, Heydrich was a classically trained and accomplished violinist. Goebbels would have an easier time portraying Heydrich as beautiful and talented than Cage would have defending Mohammed Emwazi.  It’s all in the point of view.

Evil intentionally leaves its artifacts in the most sacred places of its victims in order to gauge  whether there is any resistance left about.  If there is no reaction they’ll enlarge the abomination.  Today Jihadi John will be lionized as beautiful.  Tomorrow he will be a victim.  By next week the taxpayer will be paying him money.

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The Trouble With Entropy

February 27th, 2015 - 3:56 am

In the video below you can watch ISIS destroy one of Niniveh’s original gates and the collection of antiquities at the Mosul museum. The Guardian describes what was wrecked:

A professor at the Archaeology College in Mosul confirmed to the Associated Press that the two sites depicted in the video are the city museum and Nirgal Gate, one of several gates to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire.

“I’m totally shocked,” Amir al-Jumaili told the AP “It’s a catastrophe. With the destruction of these artefacts, we can no longer be proud of Mosul’s civilisation.”

Isis took control of Mosul last summer in a lightning advance that led to the eviction of thousands of Christians and other minorities from their ancestral homelands in the Nineveh plains, amid reports of forced conversions.

It’s something to bear in mind the next time you come across a breathless article describing how militant Islam preserved classical knowledge and saved the world from the Dark Ages. Meanwhile a Bangladeshi-American blogger, noted for advocating atheism on his blog site, was hacked to death with machetes and his wife seriously injured in Dhaka.  He was almost certainly killed by Islamists, who as you know do not exist.

The couple were on a bicycle rickshaw, returning from a book fair, when two assailants stopped and dragged them onto a sidewalk before striking them with machetes, local media reported citing witnesses.

Roy, said to be around 40, is the second Bangladeshi blogger to have been murdered in two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.

Hardline Islamist groups have long demanded the public execution of atheist bloggers and sought new laws to combat writing critical of Islam.

These events may mystify those who believe the anger of those who president Obama described as ‘having nothing to do with Islam’ is solely directed at Crusaders; who think that the events of the last decade are simply payback for Andalusia or the destruction of the mosques which Columbus found on arriving in the New World.

For contrary to the narrative, events in Paris, Denmark, Mosul, Bangladesh and elsewhere suggest that “they” — whoever “they” may be — aren’t coming for Bible-clinging, gun-toting Christians at all.  In fact they may rather avoid them.  On the contrary they are coming for newsmen, writers, artists, atheists, “free thinkers”, etc.

Well they might ask themselves why this turnabout has taken place. Why didn’t ticking the right boxes, supporting the multicultural agenda and voting for all the most progressive candidates on the ballot not give them some measure of immunity from attacks?  The standard theory, as exemplified in a Washington Post article, is that some undiscovered White Man’s sin, lying unnoticed in the bosom of the sincere progressive, has not yet been expiated.   Speaking of the recent identification of Jihadi John as a Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi, the Washington Post article quotes a source characterizing “the ‘gentle, kind’ Jihadi John [as] a ‘beautiful young man’”

VIDEO: An activist explains how Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John, descended into alienation: “What role have our security services played in completely alienating people in this society?”

When the world saw a masked man behead Islamic State prisoners multiple times over the course of a year, most people thought: That’s a bad guy.

But when one British human rights group considered the case of Jihadi John — the man now revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi — it saw something else: a victim of circumstance. Sure, Jihadi John was a monster, but how did he get that way?

It’s your fault. That’s the standard theory:  the real reason for murderous events in Europe and Mosul and Bangladesh — even Nigeria – lie in a centuries old grievance detected by Jihadi John. But there’s another explanation you may wish to consider. You are watching entropy at work, witnessing the destruction of information and seeing disorder take over the world.

To understand this more clearly, open the case of your computer and consider the arrangement of the jumper wires (assuming you still have jumper wires). There are only a few ways the jumper wires can be correctly connected but millions of ways they can be wrongly attached. Order (in the sense of a functioning arrangement) is that small percentage of outcomes that work. Entropy is all the ways it won’t work.  Order is statistically hard to achieve. Disorder is relatively easy to create.

It took an ancient craftsman years to produce those statues preserved in the Mosul Museum, but it took a thug only a few minutes to pound it into rubble and dust.

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Among All the Best People

February 25th, 2015 - 5:31 pm

The flip side of fame is often fear. Take the fate of Jonathan Gruber. In 2006 president Obama told an audience that he had “stolen ideas liberally” from Gruber, “one of the brightest minds from academia and policy circles”.  Gruber once had multiple contracts worth millions to supply economic modeling to the president’s signature healthcare program.  He was riding high.

Then Rich Weinstein an investment adviser from Philadelphia found a series of videos taken at small forums in which Gruber confided to audiences the less than flattering inside dope on Obamacare.  It portrayed an administration laughing at ignorant voters for believing in the promises of the program.  After the videos were publicized Gruber’s world began to fall apart.

First Gruber’s $400,000 a year contract was terminated by Vermont. “Embattled former ObamaCare adviser Jonathan Gruber has been booted from his healthcare consulting gig in Vermont, according to reports on Wednesday. Gruber had a $400,000 contract with the state, where he was charged with helping to create a single-payer system. ”  Then Vermont put an auditor on all his old paperwork and alleged that he had padded his billing.

The Vermont audit, which cites Gruber’s “inconsistencies and questionable billing practices,” also faults state officials for failing to exercise sufficient oversight over the MIT economist’s invoices. The audit has been referred to Vermont’s Democratic attorney general, William Sorrell, who reportedly said it raises “serious questions.”…

“The evidence suggests that Dr. Gruber overstated the hours worked by the RA and that the Agency of the Administration ignored the obvious signs that something was amiss,” Hoffer wrote.

Now comes news Massachusetts has fired Gruber from the Bay State’s Obamacare exchange. The word is out on Gruber.  ”You’ll never work in this town again.”  It’s the oldest of punishments. A fall from grace can be as brief as a rise to the top was long.  Eartha Kitt was blacklisted from working in America by Lyndon Johnson after she was asked her opinion about the war in Vietnam at a White House luncheon and Kitt said she was against it.  The doors to high society were flung open to Truman Capote and in consequence he was a regular guest on talk shows until he made the mistake of writing about the unflattering side of cultural elite.  And then the doors were shut in his face.

Mother Jones describes the implicit quid pro quo of being a high roller.  Never forget who you are working for.  Mother Jones asks: “Why Is Big Pharma Financing a Conservative Group Trying to Destroy Obamacare” when they’ve been paid off?

During the contentious battle to pass the Affordable Care Act, the pharmaceutical industry was a crucial partner of President Barack Obama. Big Pharma sank $150 million into an ad blitz promoting the Obamacare bill and spent millions lobbying for its passage. Backing health care reform was a no-brainer for the drug manufacturers; they stood to reap billions in revenues as a result of expanded health care coverage. Yet all of this makes one of Big Pharma’s alliances highly curious: It has bankrolled the libertarian think tank trying to demolish Obamacare.

The Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute has been the driving force behind two high-profile anti-Obamacare lawsuits, including King v. Burwell, which will be heard by the Supreme Court in early March. …

This was the deal Big Pharma cut during the legislative battle over Obamacare: The pharmaceutical companies agreed to support the law and accept about $80 billion in cost-cutting measures over the next decade, and the White House granted the industry lucrative concessions to protect its profit margins. These industry-favoring measures include provisions preventing the government from negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid and blocking Americans from importing cheaper prescription drugs from abroad. Those concessions were costly to taxpayers and consumers, but they were part of the grand bargain hammered out between the White House and Big Pharma. This accord ensured the industry would use its formidable lobbying clout to pass Obamacare—not destroy it.

And you thought Obamacare was about curing the sick?

If you really want to understand what holds the liberal establishment together the one-word answer is fear. Fear among the rich has a different flavor from fear among the poor. The poor are often so used to deprivation and insecurity that it holds no special terrors for them. When you’re already a bum and a good day is when you can eat the whole box of macaroni and cheese; when you’ve been unemployed for longer than you can remember, then “you’ll never work in this town again” can be answered by “so what?”

High flyers on the other hand, have an awful long way to fall. Nobody wants to finish up like the fictional Stanton Carlisle, who descends from the heights of the entertainment industry, fleeing police trouble and winds up working in a carnival freak show, eating live chickens for a living. And therefore media will be paying very close attention to the fate of Jonathan Gruber, formerly “one of the brightest minds from academia and policy circles”.  If there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s to wind up like Gruber.

The chains of patronage are hard to avoid in exalted circles. According to Elias Groll writing in Foreign Policy, Rudy Giuliani is a consultant for Qatar. That’s nothing. The Clintons have collected over two billion dollars from foreign governments and lobby groups through their foundation.

she, her husband and their daughter, Chelsea, built a global foundation that has attracted $2 billion in contributions, including many from foreign governments and business entities.

Once Hillary Clinton left office, the newly renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation resumed fundraising from foreign governments that had been off-limits during her government service.

Donations in the past two years have come from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia and Germany. The foreign gifts — disclosed voluntarily on the Clinton Foundation website — have led to calls from activists and ethics watchdogs for the foundation to cease such fundraising as Clinton ramps up her expected campaign drive.

You haven’t arrived until everyone is offering you job; and once hired you don’t make waves with money like that at stake. The great and the good are bound together by chains of gold.  Some will argue this is a good thing. The Clintons were perhaps the first prominent American politicians to understand that Globalization made it possible for an international elite to settle all disputes by means of cash payments or penalties.  Once the top men had reached an understanding, the elites could jointly rule over the international taxpayer, thus abolishing conflict forever.  In today’s world no longer are patronage relationships limited to national borders, as was formerly the case.  Today, political deal-making is global.

What the international elite is really afraid of are people determined to settle disputes in the traditional way.  The basic problem with Vladimir Putin  is that he still believes in outdated concepts like national boundaries, Slavic culture, Great Russian glory, etc.  He hasn’t yet grasped that in polite circles, nationality is now an illusion.  If only he would fall in line and take his share.

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Losing the Internet

February 23rd, 2015 - 7:36 pm

The administration’s plan to create a “free and open Internet” means, as usual, the opposite of what it says.  As Gordon Crovitz explains in the Wall Street Journal, it is really a monumental, bare-faced power grab.

The permissionless Internet, which allows anyone to introduce a website, app or device without government review, ends this week. On Thursday the three Democrats among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission will vote to regulate the Internet under rules written for monopoly utilities.

No one, including the bullied FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, thought the agency would go this far. The big politicization came when President Obama in November demanded that the supposedly independent FCC apply the agency’s most extreme regulation to the Internet. A recent page-one Wall Street Journal story headlined “Net Neutrality: How White House Thwarted FCC Chief” documented “an unusual, secretive effort inside the White House . . . acting as a parallel version of the FCC itself.”…

The more than 300 pages of new regulations are secret, but Mr. Wheeler says they will subject the Internet to the key provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, under which the FCC oversaw Ma Bell.

The specifics of the grab don’t matter as much as the direction in which things must inevitably move. Regulation is an absorbing state  like the Hotel California.  You can try to check out any time you like, but once inside you can never really leave.  Three hundred pages of regulation will become 301 … 302 … A new administration might slow down the rate of growth, but it can never reverse it.

The very success of the Internet doomed its independence.  Like any rich, glittering center of wealth that springs up in the desert sands, it would inevitably be coveted by nearby chieftains.  And if there’s anything this administration — and to a lesser extent any administration — hankers after it is power.  So a-raiding they will go.  So here is prince Barack, at the tech city gates, demanding the keys. Not that he will know what to do with it after obtaining them.  But possession of the bauble is in the first instance enough.

There is the notion, often reticiently expressed but frequently glimpsed in news stories, that the key to the future World Order is information.  Lawfare, the use of sanctions — in fact every application of  ”smart” policy — implicitly depends on information dominance.  Information is the key to the Western elite’s power. It is probably the administration’s idea that possession of tech will open the gates to this new World Order.

The “other side” — whatever you want to call them since they cannot be referred to as the ‘enemy’ know this too. They understand or guess that the world is dividing into wired and unwired spaces. Their basic strategy is to base themselves and expand in the ungoverned – and coincidentally the unwired — spaces of the world where they operate in conventional ways; with armies, trucks and outlandishly uniformed men.  But in the wired West, their strategy is totally different to suit the conditions.

There Lawfare is waiting to defend the West with surveillance.  Homeland Defense doesn’t really rely on screeners at airports or border crossings who are there only to impress the rubes. The real defense of the realm depends on ever increasing amounts of domestic monitoring.  The cracked encryption on your SIM; the data retained on your ISP, the real-time machine monitoring of conversations, the proposed sharing of data collected by Silicon Valley these are all bricks in the wall that keep the Jihadis out. They are also bricks in the invisible prison that surrounds you. But a brick is a brick and the information sharing the president proposes will naturally enough be put under Homeland Security rather than the NSA.

The “other side” understands this and therefore employs “lone wolf” tactics against the West for two reasons.  First, singletons are difficult even for the wired world to detect; and second, they encourage the metastatic growth of more wires to prevent the next attack.  The  joint product of political correctness, lawfare, surveillance and lone wolves is to essentially create fascism and discontent in the West.  The president’s response to the lone wolf problem will essentially be to watch everybody. In that way nobody is profiled.  Everyone is suspected equally. This suits the every players’ book.  The El-Shabab threatens to attack the malls and Jeh Johnson gets a billion dollars more.  What’s not to like?

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A Question of Personality

February 22nd, 2015 - 4:17 am

One of the minor casualties of the Obama administration has been the reputation of genuine “community organizers”.  Before going any further, might the reader please try this test.  Please name one other “community organizer”  besides Barack Obama.

Most people will not be able to name a single one and for  good reason.  The overarching ethos of a “community organizer”, especially one trained in the Alinsky method, is to plant ideas in people’s minds, let them run with it and  fade away.  But as the New York Times recalled, the young Obama did not want to toil in obscurity and finish up like all those community organizers whose names you can’t remember — the kind who live out their old age with a cupful of money and barrel full of war stories.  He wanted fame; position, to be on center stage.

Mr. Obama had risen to executive director of the Developing Communities group, but the demanding hours, small victories and low pay took a toll on him, and he decided to leave.

“‘We are not making large-scale change, and I want to be involved in doing that,’ ” Mr. Kellman said Mr. Obama had told him. …
Mr. Obama had mused to friends in Chicago about one day working for unions or becoming a preacher, a journalist or even a fiction writer. While there, he wrote short stories based on people he had encountered. “The stories were beautifully crafted and evocative,” said Mr. Kruglik.

But Mr. Obama decided on law school instead. Shortly before Mr. Obama left for Harvard, about 60 people attended a farewell reception for him at Altgeld Gardens. He told associates that he intended to return to Chicago once he earned his law degree to pursue a career “in public life.”

This was the moment of clear departure from the community organizing road.  But let us pause for a moment and fix in our mind the existence of these beautiful, evocative short stories  which Kellman describes for we will return to it later. The purpose of this digression into Obama’s “community organizing” past is to identify the leadership model he chose which was  the complete the opposite of the anonymous behind the scenes community organizer.  Obama’s chosen model for greatness was to become a charismatic leader.

A charismatic leader derives authority from himself;  from an astounding life story, from attributes possessed by no other man. The approach has become common and we know the sort; the Native American who became a law professor and then Senator; the single mother who wanted to be a governor.  The life-story is now standard, but Obama was clearly special. From the very beginning of his career Obama argued that his unique biography — his bi-racial parentage, foreign upbringing, his literary skills etc — made him a special person.  By virtue of these gifts he could heal racial divisions; reach out to the Muslim world; bridge the gap between rich and poor and serve as a link between the generations.

By contrast most American presidents derived their greatness from the position, many simply political hacks who we remember today simply because they occupied the Oval Office. Obama marks the first time in recent memory when the office is deemed uplifted by the man and not the other way round.  Charismatic leadership has its advantages, which is why it occurs repeatedly in history. It permits the charismatic person to “be bigger than the job” and do great things.  Men with this attribute, like Alexander, Caesar or Napoleon seem to rise above the rules and constraints that bind mere human beings.  It’s natural that Obama would prefer to be a ‘special’ president rather than an ordinary one.

Yet as someone said to a student who aspired to drop out of college “like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs”, you have to first be sure you can walk that walk before casting your academic career to the winds. Because charismatic leadership has some drawbacks.  The most obvious being that since power flows from the person himself then when Rudy Giuliani publicly questioned Obama’s patriotism he was attacking the wellsprings of the administration.

When Giuliani told an audience ”I do not believe – and I know this is a horrible thing to say – but I do not believe that the President loves America,” he was inadvertently doing more than criticizing a president; he was in a manner of speaking, committing treason. The unprecedented firestorm of opprobrium that greeted Giuliani suggested that he had somehow hit a switch.  It was like pushing an ordinary button in the wall and watching the skyscrapers out the window suddenly crumble in dust down into the ground.

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The Faithless Men

February 21st, 2015 - 4:19 am

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, the man who attacked a cafe and a synagogue in Copenhagen. Estimates put the crowd attending his funeral at from 600-700 — this, in Denmark. Many wore masks and flashed the ISIS salute.  The article says, “up to half of the attendees, who were all men, had masked their faces with jackets or scarves. More directed their index fingers toward the sky, while others beat their chests with a clenched fist.”

It is hard to square the sight of that funeral, with its open defiance, symbolism and militancy, with the media narrative — a line which the president has sought to advance – that people like the Denmark shooter are crazy: “Lone Wolves”, disturbed individuals and  marginalized persons who belong to no larger community of belief.

They cannot bring themselves to admit that Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein was in his own way a sincere adherent of a cause because they would have to admit the cause. Instead the public is encouraged to denigrate him and those like him as lunatics. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Denmark shooter fought against overwhelming odds and tied up a European capital city for hours.

Men like him are patriots of a sort, the key distinction being that they are patriots for the other side. The shooter loved “his country” as much or more than persons who haughtily hold their own as above reproach, even though they’ve spent their entire careers reviling the land they profess to love.  But make no mistake: the Cophenhagen shooter’s country was not Denmark.  His heart lay somewhere else. Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein was not crazy, he was just the enemy.

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Sleepwalking to Disaster

February 20th, 2015 - 2:46 am

A British inquiry into how Her Majesty’s Government had stumbled into the Ukraine morass found they had reached the point by slowly getting rid of anyone who knew anything about Russia.  Over the years the system ousted anyone with a grasp of the facts and replaced them with people who would utter fatuous nonsense. The result was that the British government “sleepwalked” into the Ukraine crisis.  Nobody had anticipated that Moscow would fight — though they should have.

The EU Committee of the House of Lords found there had been a “catastrophic misreading” of mood by European diplomats in the run-up to the stand-off between Russia and the West. …

In a damning indictment of EU diplomacy, the committee said a decline in expertise on Russia in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and other EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an “authoritative response”.

It said for too long the EU’s relationship with Moscow had been based on the “optimistic premise” that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country.

The result was a failure to appreciate the depth of Russian hostility when the EU opened talks which aimed at establishing an “association agreement” with Ukraine in 2013.

In a word, the Europeans drank their own Kool-Aid. The dangers of replacing reality with an artificial Narrative should be obvious by now, but they appear not to have occurred to the Obama administration.  It has recently concluded a “three-day White House conference on violent extremism” by declaring their enemies to be religious schismatics or perverts, who aren’t really even religious. “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

And they have perverted Islam because they lack jobs.  And with this incisive conclusion, the summit paves the way for Obama to seek “authorization from Congress to use military force against Isis fighters in Iraq and Syria … Some have condemned him for refusing to describe Isis as Islamic extremists.”  This leaves Congress with the problem of declaring war against a nebulous somebody, though just who is not clear.

The president’s call to understand the grievances of extremists may have led former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani to blurt out to an audience, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

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A Lying in Winter

February 18th, 2015 - 8:06 pm

There’s really only one political game president Obama knows how to play.  That is to buy off both enemies and friends with the taxpayer’s money.   He’s a man with a hammer who only sees nails. When State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf suggested to Chris Matthews that “jobs” were the answer to ISIS, she was not mis-speaking but anticipating a policy whose outlines will emerge over the coming days.  A kind of Marshall Plan for the Islamic world seems in the offing.  Harf told Matthews how the administration was going to handle ISIS.

“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. … But we cannot win this war by killing them,” department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “We need … to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether –”

At that point, Harf was interrupted by host Chris Matthews, who pointed out, “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims.”

Harf continued to argue that the U.S. should work with other countries to “help improve their governance” and “help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

Once is happenstance. Twice might be coincidence, because president Obama himself has said the same thing as Harf. He thinks the present trouble in the Middle East is the result of people being driven by lack of opportunity, bigotry and racism, to the desperate sorts of behavior exhibited by ISIS.  ”Speaking Wednesday at his White House summit on ‘combating violent extremism’,” the president said:

“We do have to address the grievances that terrorists exploit,” he said. While poverty alone doesn’t turn people into terrorists, “resentments fester” when young people in corrupt countries have no education or opportunity.

The U.S. is at war with “people who have perverted Islam,” not the religion itself, he said. Dismissing the critics who have blasted him in recent weeks for his reluctance to explicitly link the terror threat to Muslim extremists — “Say it, Obama: ‘Islamic,’ ” read one New York Post headline— he said he refuses to “grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek.”

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or Hinduism,” Obama said.

He called for an end to the stigmatization and profiling of Muslims. Before he mentioned the Islamic State, he expressed support for Muslim-Americans “worried and afraid” in the aftermath of the slaying last week of three young people in Chapel Hill, N.C.

It’s another teaching moment where we’re told it’s really our fault we have enemies and he’s getting ready to buy them off. That’s not how he’ll put it, but that’s what it will amount to.  He will reason that since Harry Truman got such excellent results by handing out money to white and sort of white people at the end of World War 2, it only makes sense to repeat the winning move in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia? Did I say Saudi Arabia, a country awash with trillions of dollars? Well maybe they’re a few billion dollars and a little self-esteem short of making into the the “rule based” world.

And there’s no time to lose. CNN reports that Libya, once a pipeline so useful in moving weapons from the outside world to the armies of the Arab Spring is threatening to backflow into Europe. “Libya could become a terror pipeline to Europe,” is how CNN puts it. To be perfectly fair there was a time when president Obama tried kinetic military action, under the rubric of “responsibility to protect”.  But he only succeeded in having Libya wrested from his grasp and the barrels curved back on him so that it blew back on his face.

So he’s learned his lesson and resorted to dollar diplomacy. One of the agencies at the center of this new and enlightened approach is State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. “The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was established at the direction of the President and the Secretary of State to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism, particularly al-Qaida and its affiliates and adherents. Executive Order 13584, signed by President Obama on September 9, 2011, provides policy background and assigns interagency responsibilities to CSCC.” Just to show he means business, State was:

pleased to announce the appointment of Rashad Hussain as United States Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. Special Envoy Hussain will lead a staff drawn from a number of U.S. departments and agencies to expand international engagement and partnerships to counter violent extremism and to develop strategic counterterrorism communications around the world. As part of this role, Special Envoy Hussain will also serve as Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which was established at the direction of the President and former Secretary of State Clinton in 2010 and codified by President Obama’s Executive Order 13584 to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide strategic communications focused on violent extremists and terrorist organizations.

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The Trail of Lies

February 17th, 2015 - 1:02 am

Imagine a ceasefire in First Indochinese War where the battle of Dien Bien Phu was allowed to continue.  Could it still be called a ceasefire? Could you call the suspension of hostilities between Ukraine and Russian a truce except for the continued reduction of the Debaltseve pocket? The New York Times’ Andrew Kramer reports that a force of 8,000 Ukrainian troops, three fourths as large as the doomed French garrison, is surrounded and being ground down.  He speaks of the last road into the garrison.

The status of this stretch of potholed asphalt has become a sticking point in the cease-fire and threatens to unravel the deal. The separatists say their control of the road means they have the Ukrainians surrounded. President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine has denied their claim, because conceding the point would force him either to negotiate for the release of the trapped soldiers or resume fighting to extricate them.

A dozen or so soldiers escaped on Sunday, and on Friday a small group reportedly managed to walk out through the fields. Otherwise, nobody has left the town since Thursday. …

Ilkka Kanerva, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, issued a statement welcoming the general success of the cease-fire but deploring “the illegal separatists’ false and counterproductive insistence that the deal does not apply to Debaltseve, a government-held town.”

Still it’s a “ceasefire”. Words don’t change facts, except in politics. The facts are that Putin is winning the round and not about to stop punching simply because the Europeans have rung the bell. The physical reality is that he’s going for a knockout, stomping on his foe lying on the canvas.  The political problem for the West is how to keep calling it a truce.

Having apparently lost on the battlefield, Ukraine now will appeal for diplomatic pressure on Russia to prevail upon the separatists to open the road. But European leaders and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia were unable to solve the Debaltseve riddle during intense negotiations in Minsk last week, and it remains an open question whether they can now.

The Europeans have protested the military operations but the Russian forces have been unyielding. According to Reuters the “rebels” have turned back European monitors trying to reach the pocket. Why are the Europeans desperately clinging to an empty phrase? Because words are important and nowhere more than in politics. Charles Krauthammer observed that the Obama administration was similarly performing rhetorical somersaults in an effort to avoid describing ISIS as an ideologically — or if you prefer, religiously — motivated group.  Call them just folks; call them random guys.  Call them anything but who they are.

“The ideology of ISIS is clearly supremacist,” said Krauthammer on Monday’s Special Report, “in the sense that anybody who is not Islamic in their understanding is to be either enslaved or eradicated. This is a genocidal movement. You kill Christians, you kill Jews, you kill Yazidis (but you may in certain circumstances enslave them). That’s what we’re up against, and we have an administration that will not even admit that there’s a religious basis underlying what’s going on.”

That refusal is alarming, said Krauthammer: “Churchill saved England and civilization because in 1940 he was able to enlist the English language, and he put it to work on behalf of civilization. What this administration is doing is precisely the opposite. It’s sort of deconstructing any resistance with its refusal to acknowledge the obvious.”

But in fairness to both the Obama administration and the Franco-Germans, their spokesmen are torturing the language for a reason.  They are doing it to maintain a facade as long as they are able; to avoid the use of certain terms, which once uttered, would imply the need for action. Words like “war” or “invasion” for instance, must be eschewed at all costs.  For these dread phrases, once officially spoken, would make even the dumbest voter sit up and realize that something was wrong. Using the right words would force the politicians to admit to the actual situation and compel them to act — which is precisely what they don’t to do.

Both Obama and Merkel are in the position of a cuckolded husband who pauses at a bedroom door, knowing what he will find on the other side and yet reluctant to cross the threshold for fear of having to do something once the situation becomes undeniable. To avoid conflict he pauses at the doorway to give himself the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately the sounds emanating from within grow ever more unmistakable and the only question is not if, but when the truth must be faced.

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