Belmont Club

The World As We Find It

The initial reports from the Los Angeles Times described the massacre of almost 30 women in the Zayouna neighborhood of Baghdad as an an unsolved mystery: “gunmen in Iraq reportedly kill at least 30 in upscale Baghdad area”.

A group of armed men raided a building in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Zayouna, breaking into “a number of apartments and opening fire on the residents,” reported Sumariya television, a private pro-government channel. Twenty-eight of the victims were women. Police cordoned off the area. Initial investigations yielded no evidence about the identity of the killers, or the motive for the attack, Iraqi news reports said.

It was not long before a more sinister motive made itself plain. The murder site was a brothel. The gunmen came in order to kill every one in it and teach the world an Islamic lesson. “Police believe men using silenced weapons carried out the executions, before scrawling ‘this is the fate of any prostitution’ on one of the doors.

A police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said: ‘When we walked up the stairs, we saw a couple of women’s bodies and blood streaming down the stairs. ‘We entered a flat and found bodies everywhere, some lying on the sofa, some on the ground, and one woman who apparently had tried to hide in a cupboard in the kitchen shot to death there.’ … Police believe men using silenced weapons carried out the executions, before scrawling ‘this is the fate of any prostitution’ on one of the doors.

One is tempted to label this a ‘war on women’, but that term is already taken by the opponents of the Hobby Lobby decision, where the Supreme Court held that one couldn’t force an employer to pay for the birth control or abortifacients of an employee.  Over time, the West has cheapened the language of discourse. The West, having retired the word for ‘war’ except as metaphor  hasn’t found a replacement term for it. They have no vocabulary to describe the Boko Haram, “an Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization based in northeast Nigeria”.

Since 2010, Boko Haram has targeted schools, killing hundreds of students. A spokesperson for the group said such attacks would continue as long as the Nigerian government continued to interfere with traditional Islamic education. 10,000 children have been unable to attend school as a result of the activities by Boko Haram. Boko Haram has also been known to kidnap girls, who it believes should not be educated, and use them as cooks or sex slaves.

True, it’s a group engaged in doing terrible things against women and children for some time.  But on the other hand the Boko are poor, black and Muslim, so they cannot really be the ‘enemy’ —  another word for which the West has no employment, excepting its application to Israel.   The West and the World lives in disjoint mental spaces. Recently the Boko Haram mocked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign by which Western activists hoped to shame the Boko Haram into returning the girls.  The human rights crowd hasn’t realized yet that the Boko Haram has no shame whatsoever. One might track down the Boko and shoot them dead, but that would be too brutal. Nigeria, it turns out, would do just that, as CRS expert Lauren Blanchard explained.

The human rights abuse record and uncooperative attitude of the Federal Government and its military authorities have been identified as factors hindering United States of America offering Nigeria effective security assistance. Speaking on Thursday before the US House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa’s hearing entitled, ‘Human Rights Vetting: Nigeria and Beyond’, the Specialist at African Affairs Congressional Research Service, Lauren Blanchard, said the Nigerian government and its military had not been yielding to America’s suggestions.

The same reservations blocked heavy weapons to the Maliki government in Baghdad back in January, 2014, when the Obama administration faced objections from “senators in both parties [who lamented] Maliki’s increasingly sectarian style of governing and his alleged cooperation with Iran to aid the Syrian regime.”  And now of course it’s possible that ‘militants’ might use some of that aid to didactically kill prostitutes for Islam. What to do? We now know that Obama was in a secret panic; having been told by intelligence agencies the situation was desperate caught in the dilemma of having stop ISIS while keeping his hands — or at least the optics — clean.  The hope of being able to keep distant was nowhere more clearly expressed than his May of 2014 speech at West Point where he promised the cadets they could hereafter Lead From Behind.  The president said:

You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.   … For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy — drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan — to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold. … Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines. And these resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali. A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria. …

The idea was to give ‘partners’ money, guns and training and stand back. But the obvious problem was that most of America’s partners would only be only slightly better — or even worse — than the foes.  A case in point is one of the Obama administration’s “partners for peace”,  Hamas. The United States government, is along with Iran, the Gulf Monarchies, Syria and Jordan one of the largest funders of that organization.  In this case Hamas is a whole lot worse than its foe, Israel. Hamas is now rocketing Israel, for as Lee Smith points out, Leading From Behind is not without its perils:

The Obama administration’s map of the Middle East might as well be of the Hobbits’ Middle Earth because it bears no relationship to reality. Every corner of the region is yet another realm of wondrous fantasy governed by magical thinking. A Fatah-Hamas unity deal? How productive! Coordination with Qassem Suleimani and the Quds Force in Iraq? That’s refreshing! An agreement with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear weapons program allowing them to keep 10,000 centrifuges? This will bring the clerical regime back into the community of nations!

ISIS probably indirectly benefited from the campaign to overthrow Assad. Now one partner for peace is fighting the other partner for peace across the border in Iraq.  But that is alright because America will partner with the Quds, with whom they are otherwise at war. The world does not resemble the Shire, in fact William Tecumseh Sherman would have described it as being more like Mordor. “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all Hell.” To Sherman, war was the business of doing unsavory things, often with moral defectives, to effect ghastly outcomes. The only way out that Hell was Victory — another word whose use we have lost. He would have considered Leading From Behind a form of self-deception. So would Franklin Roosevelt who supposedly said of Somoza.

Although Somoza was reckoned as a ruthless dictator, the United States continued to support his regime as a non-communist stronghold in Nicaragua. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) supposedly remarked in 1939 that “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

Today the world still consists of SOBs, the difference being that fewer of them are our SOBs.  Winston Churchill once sadly said of Britain’s alliance with Stalin: “if Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” The world is a sad and fallen place. Karl Marx once said, “philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” But the Epistles were there before him.  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” We hope and work for a better world. But until then we live in this one.

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