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Posts Tagged ‘AFGHANISTAN’

TWO TALIBANS: THEIRS AND OURS

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2015 at 12:03 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban had a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

According to unnamed sources, the Taliban dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  And it is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of women’s rights.

On February 4, 2013, two North Carolina state representatives introduced a bill to “clarify” state law to specifically prohibit the baring of women’s breasts.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 34, would make it a Class H felony to expose “external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.”

North Carolina law already forbids “indecent exposure,” but doesn’t specifically define breasts as “private parts.”

Accused violators could face one to six months in prison.

Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said, to some people, the issue might seem frivolous.  But “there are communities across this state, there’s local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.”

Rep. Rayne Brown

Brown said that she was prompted, in part, by the second annual topless protest and women’s rally in Asheville in August, 2012.  Asheville is about 130 miles from Brown’s own district.

Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Ahoskie, voiced concerns that the bill could affect people wearing “questionable fashions.”

“All we are doing is codifying the Supreme Court definition of ‘private parts,’” said House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. “That’s it. “

Stevens said using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect women against prosecution. “They’d be good to go.”

For Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleaveland, the issue was a laughing matter: “You know what they say–duct tape fixes everything.”

So far, the bill seems to be stalled in the legislature.

And, not to be outdone, the Wisconsin state legislature enacted a budget for 2011-2013 that eliminated funding to family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer women to a clinic that performs the procedure.

In a press conference, Nicole Safar, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said that some 2,000 low-income women who rely on the clinics for cancer screening, breast exams, pregnancy testing, and other services would now be left out in the cold.

“They are small centers in small communities and they needed the state funding to make them financially viable,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Teri Huyck.

“It’s terribly unfortunate for the women who live in these areas. Without the state support, we didn’t have a choice.

“None of these centers provided abortion services.  There is nowhere else for low-income women to get these services. These centers focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortions,” said Safar.

Due to the loss of $1.1 million in state funding, Planned Parenthood closed facilities in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano between April and July.

For those who believe women should control their own lives, the message should be clear: This will never be possible in some parts of the world.

And these include Islamic countries and those states controlled by Rightist Republicans.

It is pointless to expect those who believe they are God’s anointed to renounce their absolutist beliefs.  Or to cease trying to gain absolute power over others–especially women.

In Afghanistan, the United States is waging a losing battle to eliminate the freedom-hating Islamic Taliban.

It would do better to start waging war against the freedom-hating Rightist Taliban within its own borders.

JAMES BOND GONE WRONG

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 12, 2015 at 12:23 am

James Bond, the legendary creation of novelist Ian Fleming, routinely bedded femme fatales–and sometimes killed them. But he never faced indictment for romancing them.

That’s the difference between Bond and David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Movie poster for Thunderball (1965)

The Justice Department is deciding whether to bring criminal charges against Petraeus.  The FBI  alleges that, as CIA director, he shared classified information with his then-mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.

FBI agents found classified information on a personal computer Broadwell used–and determined that Petraeus had supplied it.

As an Army General, Petraeus had successfully led U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and was thought to be a potential candidate for president.

In 2011, he won appointment to CIA director–which ended abruptly in 2012 with the revelation of his extramarital affair with Broadwell.

Petraeus is one of the most highly educated men in the United States:

  • Alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–graduating among the top 5% of his 1974 class.
  • General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983.
  • Earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
  • Served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy

David Petraeus

And Paula Broadwell is one of the most highly educated women in the United States:

  • Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1995, majoring in political geography.
  • Earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies in 2006.
  • Earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.
  • A Research Associate in the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership Fellows.

Paula Broadwell

In addition, Petraeus, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, knew the importance of secrecy in keeping clandestine affairs (military and personal) out of sight.

So did Broadwell, having earned a reputation as an expert on counterterrorism.

Yet they both violated the most basic rules of security.

They exchanged emails using a cyber trick known to both terrorists and teenagers: Sharing a private email account, or “dropbox.”

In this they composed drafts to each other in order not to directly transmit messages to one another.  Each could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there.

By doing so, they flagrantly left a cyber-trail of their infidelities. (Broadwell was also married.)

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, who warned: If you don’t want it known, don’t write it down.

More than 500 years ago, in his masterwork, The Discourses, he warned:

Niccolo Machiavelli

I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting….

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.

Nor were Petraeus and Broadwell the only ones guilty of thumbing their noses at this most basic of precautions.

General John Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, exchanged thousands of emails  with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite.

Although charged with directing American military efforts against the Taliban, Allen found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 pages’ worth of emails with Kelley between 2010 and 2012.

The scandal began when Kelley began receiving harassing emails from an unidentified woman.  So she complained to the FBI.

The emails allegedly came from Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was trying to move in on “her man”–Petraeus.  Apparently, Broadwell didn’t feel similarly threatened by Holly, Petraeus’ wife.)

The FBI investigation ultimately led to the discovery of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair.

There are several lessons to be learned from this behavior by Petraeus, Broadwell, Allen and Kelley:

  • They believed they were so privileged–by education, status and/or wealth–that conventional rules of morality didn’t apply to them.
  • They believed they were so clever they could violate the most basic rule of security and common sense–and get away with  it.
  • They were so caught up in their illicit passions that they threw caution to the winds.
  • David Petraeus, a highly disciplined man, clearly expected Paula Broadwell to behave in a similarly disciplined manner–and do nothing to compromise their lives.
  • Petraeus felt so confident about the secrecy of his affair he had his wife and mistress present when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011 to become CIA director.

General David Petraeus’ CIA confirmation hearings. His wife, Holly (in white) and mistress, Paula Broadwell (in black).

  • Petraeus didn’t imagine that Broadwell suspected another of his admirers–Jill Kelley–of having romantic designs on him.
  • And he was utterly surprised when her harassing emails to Kelley led the FBI to uncover his illicit relationship.

Thus does hubris meet its punishment in Nemesis.

BOMBING YOUR WAY INTO HEAVEN

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2015 at 12:54 am

On June 6, 2012, at least two dozen Afghan civilians died in a suicide-bomb attack in Kandahar City, making this the deadliest day for Afghan civilians so far that year.

The target of that day’s attack was a small market and a hotel where Afghan security escorts for NATO supply trucks stopped between escort runs to rest and have tea.

Eyewitnesses described the death-weapon as a motorcycle with a wagon attached to it. The wagon was packed with explosives and detonated–either by remote control or the motorcycle rider.

Then, as people gathered to assist the victims, another suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into the crowd and detonated more explosives.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Originally the preferred weapon of Palestinian terrorists against Israeli civilians, suicide bombings have become the weapon of choice for Islamic “holy warriors” in Afghanistan.

But the tactic has also proven a public relations disaster for Islamic extremists.

More than 60 people died in Al-Qaeda-directed suicide bombings at American hotels in Amman, Jordan. But almost all of the victims were Jordanian civilians attending a wedding.

Other indiscriminate bombings in Iraq targeted Shia mosques and Sunnis who didn’t practice the Al Qaeda brand of Islam.

Islamics who didn’t object to the murder of “infidels” cursed Al-Qaeda for its slaughter of “the faithful.”

As a result, Osama bin Laden, in the last years of his life, despaired for the future of his organization. In October, 2007, he publicly apologized for his followers’ behavior in Iraq, attacking their “fanaticism.”

Ironically, the use of suicide bombings has declined in Israel for two major reasons.

First, the Israelis have literally walled off the West Bank population from Israel by a series of huge, concrete slabs. The way the Israelis see it: Fewer Arabs = fewer suicide bombers.

Israel: Walling off the Arabs

Second, they have adopted the widespread use of bomb-sniffing dogs. But it is more than the keen noses of the dogs that act as a deterrant.

Within Islamic culture, dogs are seen as defiled–and defiling–creatures. Many would-be suicide bombers fear that if they set off their bomb too close to a dog, its “unclean” blood may be mingled with their own.

And thus “polluted,” they could not hope to enter Paradise and receive those promised 72 willing virgins.

Click here: Pups For Peace: Detecting Terror Before It Strikes.

If that sounds unbelievable, the following may put it into perspective.

In the classic 1956 Western, The Searchers, John Wayne plays Indian-hating scout Ethan Edwards. Early on, he and a party of Texas Rangers discover the corpse of a Comanche killed during a raid on a nearby farmhouse.

One of the Rangers–a teenager enraged by the carnage has seen–picks up a rock and bashes in the head of the dead Indian.

Wayne, sitting astride his horse, asks: “Why don’t you finish the job?”

John Wayne in The Searchers

He draws his revolver and fires two shots, taking out the eyes of the dead Comanche–although the mutilation is not depicted onscreen.

”What good did that do?” the leader of the Rangers, a part-time minister, asks.

“By what you preach, none,” says Wayne/Edwards. “But what that Comanche believes–ain’t got no eyes, he can’t enter the Spirit land. Has to wander forever between the winds. You get it, Reverend.”

It’s a time-honored military truth: Know the mind of your enemy–and victory stands within your reach.

With suicide-bombing now a recognized–and widely despised–facet of Islamic culture, it’s past time to give these human time bombs their due.

And a song all their very own.

MULLAH IN THE SKY

(To be sung to the tune of “Spirit in the Sky”)

Hear the original song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZQxH_8raCI

When I die in my suicide vest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best.
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the Mullah in the Sky.

Goin’ up to the Mullah in the Sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die.
When I die in my suicide vest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.

Prepare your bomb
You know it’s jihad.
Gotta have a friend in Allah.
So you know that when I die
Gonna blow the lousy infidels goodbye.

Gonna blow the lousy infidels goodbye
That’s what I’m gonna do when I die.
When I die in my suicide vest
I’m gonna go to my grave as a mess.

Never been a Christian
Or worse a Jew.
I’ve got a friend in Allah.
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set up up
With those virgins in the sky.

Gonna set me up
With those virgins in the sky.
That’s what I’m gonna screw when I die.
When I die in my suicide vest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.
Go to my grave as a mess.
Go to my grave as a mess.

WHEN PATRIOTS BECOME PREDATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 21, 2014 at 12:03 am

Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel program The O’Reilly Factor, has offered his own solution to fighting terrorism: A multinational mercenary army, based on a NATO coalition and trained by the United States.

Bill O’Reilly

“We would select them, special forces would train them–25,000-man force to be deployed to fight on the ground against worldwide terrorism. Not just ISIS,” O’Reilly said on “CBS This Morning” on September 24.

Actually, O’Reilly’s idea is the subject of The Profession, a 2011 novel by bestselling author Steven Pressfield.

The Profession

Pressfield made his literary reputation with four classic novels about classical Greece.

In Gates of Fire (1998) he explored the rigors and heroism of Spartan society–and the famous last stand of its 300 picked warriors at Thermopylae.

In Tides of War (2000) Pressfield depicted the rise and fall of Alcibiades, Athens’ greatest general, as he shifted his loyalties from that city to its arch-enemy, Sparta, and then to Persia, the enemy of both.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he took on the identity of Alexander the Great, explaining to his readers what it was like to command armies that swept across the known world, destroying all who dared oppose them.

Finally, in The Afghan Campaign (2006) Pressfield–this time from the viewpoint of a lowly Greek soldier–refought Alexander’s brutal, three-year anti-guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

But in The Profession, Pressfield created a seemingly plausible world set into the future of 2032.  The book’s own dust jacket offers the best summary of its plot-line:

“The year is 2032. The third Iran-Iraq war is over.  The 11/11 dirty bomb attack on the port of Long Beach, California is receding into memory.  Saudi Arabia has recently quelled a coup. Russians and Turks are clashing in the Caspian Basin.

“Iranian armored units, supported by the satellite and drone power of their Chinese allies, have emerged from their enclaves in Tehran and are sweeping south attempting to recapture the resource rich territory that had been stolen from them, in their view, by Lukoil, BP, and ExxonMobil and their privately-funded armies.

“Everywhere military force is for hire.  Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.

“Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order.

“Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East.’

Salter appears as a hybrid of World War II General Douglas MacArthur and Iraqi War General Stanley McCrystal.

Like MacArthur, Salter has butted heads with his President–and paid dearly for it.  Now his ambition is no less than to become President himself–by popular acclaim.  And like McCrystal, he is a pure warrior who leads from the front and is revered by his men.

Salter seizes Saudi oil fields, then offers them as a gift to America.  By doing so, he makes himself the most popular man in the country–and a guaranteed occupant of the White House.

And in 2032 the United States is a far different nation from the one its Founding Fathers created  in 1776.

“Any time that you have the rise of mercenaries…society has entered a twilight era, a time past the zenith of its arc,” says Salter.

“The United States is an empire…but the American people lack the imperial temperament.  We’re not legionaries, we’re mechanics.  In the end the American Dream boils down to what? ‘I’m getting mine and the hell with you.'”

Americans, asserts Salter, have come to like mercenaries: “They’ve had enough of sacrificing their sons and daughters in the name of some illusory world order.  They want someone else’s sons and daughters to bear the burden….

“They want their problems to go away.  They want me to to make them go away.”

And so Salter will “accept whatever crown, of paper or gold, that my country wants to press upon me.”

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

 Niccolo Machiavelli

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli issued a warning against relying on men whose first love is their own enrichment.  Steven Pressfield, in a work of fiction, has given us a nightmarish vision of a not-so-distant America where “Name your price” has become the byward for an age.

Both warnings are well worth heeding.

 

 

TEN REASONS WHY THE U.S. SHOULDN’T ATTACK SYRIA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on September 19, 2014 at 12:40 am

Here are ten excellent reasons for not sending American soldiers to bomb and/or invade Syria.

1. The United States just disengaged from Iraq.

On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226.

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan.

By early 2012, the United States had about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them due home by the fall.

No schedule has been set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2016.

The initial goal of this war was to destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden.

But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.  That meant trying to turn primitive, xenophobic Afghans into a modern-day, right-supporting people.

American soldiers in Afghanistan

So the American military wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.  This increasingly brought them into conflict with the local population.

A series of murderous attacks on American soldiers by their supposed Afghan comrades-in-arms led to the inevitable result:  American forces no longer trust their Afghan “allies” to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the Taliban.

3. The war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences.

The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

This demanded the quick pacification of Iraq. But the Iraqi insurgency totally undermined that goal, forcing U.S. troops to focus all their efforts inward.

Another unintended result of the war: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran.  The destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn.

Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

4. Intervening in Syria could produce similar unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

American bombs or missiles could land on one or more sites containing stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Imagine the international outrage that will result if the release of those weapons kills hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Within the Islamic world, the United States will be seen as waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

Almost certainly, an American military strike on Syria would lead its dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.

Assad could do this simply because he hates Jews–or to lure Israel into attacking Syria.

If that happened, the Islamic world–which lusts to destroy Israel more than anything else–would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.

5.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant and now wish to become the next tyrant.

6.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”  But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what he intends gain by attacking Syria.

Obama has said he’s “not after regime-change.”  If true, that would leave Assad in power–and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

So it appears that Obama’s “message” is: “You can continue killing your own people–so long as you don’t use weapons that upset American TV viewers.”

7. The Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hizbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

8.  China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.

This reflects badly on them–not the United States.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia and/or China.

The Russians have sent two warships to Syria, in direct response to President Obama’s threat to “punish” Assad for using chemical weapons against unsurgents.

What happens if American and Russian warships start trading salvos?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

10.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

GOOD INTENSIONS, DISASTROUS RESULTS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2014 at 9:38 am

In December, 1992, 25,000 American soldiers entered Somalia to distribute food to its starving people.

At first, all seemed to be going well.

In the beginning, it was U.S. policy to avoid taking sides in the civil war or picking fights with Somali warlords. The Somalis believed the American troops were neutral and welcomed them everywhere.

But then what began as a humanitarian mission turned into a nation-building one.

Mohammed Farrah Aidid, the most powerful of Somalia’s warlords, had ruled Mogadishu, its capital, before the Marines arrived.

Mohammed Farrah Aidid

Aidid waited until the Marines withdrew–in April, 1993–and then declared war on the small remaining force of United Nations (U.N.) peacekeepers.

In June, his militia ambushed and butchered 24 U.N. peacekeepers.  Soon afterward, they began targeting American personnel.

On June 12, U.S. troops started attacking targets in Mogadishu in hopes of finding Aidid.

On August 26th, a U.S. Army task force flew into Mogadishu.  It consisted of 440 elite troops from Army Rangers and the super-secret anti-terrorist Delta Force.

On October 3rd, 17 helicopters took off from their base at the Mogadishu airport–into the heart of Aidid’s territory. An intelligence tip claimed that Aidid would meet with 20 of his top lieutenants at the nearby Olympic Hotel.

Their mission: Capture Aidid.

The force of 115 men expected the operation to last 90 minutes.  They would not return for 17 hours.

After roping down from their helicopters, the Rangers sealed off the streets around the Olympic Hotel.

A 12-truck convoy arrived to drive them and their prisoners back to base.  Delta Force soldiers led 20 of Aidid’s lieutenants out of the target building.

But Aidid was not among them.

Suddenly, one of the Black Hawk helicopters circling overheard was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, spun out of control and crashed.

Not long after, a second Black Hawk was shot down. More men were sent in to secure the crash sites and get the soldiers out. But the rescue team itself got pinned down.

For about 18 hours, outnumbered elite U.S. soldiers were pinned down in a hail of gunfire by thousands of Somali militia and civilians.

Helicopters flew in fresh ammunition and strafed Somali gunmen.  Meanwhile, 70 vehicles–including tanks and armored personnel carriers–raced to the trapped men.

The vehicles arrived and the Rangers and Delta Force soldiers climbed aboard.

The Red Cross later estimated that 1,000 Somalis had been killed.

As for American casualties: 18 were dead; more than 80 were wounded; one was temporarily taken prisoner.

In 2001, the film, Black Hawk Down, would vividly depict this nightmarish catastrophe..

For most Americans watching TV from the safety of their homes, the worst loss was this: Seeing the body of an American soldier dragged by cheering Somalis through the streets of Mogadishu.

It was the worst land battle for American troops since the Vietnam War.  And it had immediate consequences.

Within days, President Bill Clinton decided to withdraw troops from Somalia and abandon the hunt for Aidid.  Most humiliating of all, American representatives were sent to resume negotiations with the warlord.

Today, almost 21 years after the disaster in Somalia, a conflict exists between gung-ho interventionist American policymakers and their war-weary–and wary–populace.

Republicans have been especially hawkish.  They have demanded that President Barack Obama send “boots on the ground” to

  • Iraq (as if America’s 10-year debacle there wasn’t long enough)
  • Afghanistan (where its nominal president, Hamid Karzai, insists on the right to try American soldiers in Islamic courts of law)
  • Syria (where a civil war now pits two of America’s greatest enemies–Al Qaeda and Hizbollah–against each other); and
  • Ukraine (where a confrontation between American and Russian military forces could easily trigger a third world war between nuclear-armed superpowers)

A May 2 exchange between Judy Woodruff and Mark Shields on the PBS Newshour captures this division in philosophies:

 JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one of the other things the Democrats are worried about… is the administration, the president’s standing on foreign policy….

And the president himself, Mark, held a news conference overseas in the last few days and talked about the criticism and said, what do they want me to do?

You know, we have been in these wars and are they saying, we should do more? And they say no. Well, what should we do?

MARK SHIELDS: The fact is that we’re operating in a reality of the last decade of this country, in the sense that the majority of Americans believing that we were deceived and misled into war in Iraq, that whatever one calls our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, they will not be seen as successes.

And they are not viewed that way, and, at the same time, an American people who were essentially spared any involvement in that war, any of those wars, who have just really sort of soured on American involvement in the world.

* * * * *

Right now, many Americans feel good that “we’re doing something” about the abduction of Nigerian teenagers.

But elation will quickly turn to outrage if American soldiers once again become needless casualties in yet another avoidable conflict with yet another ruthless African warlord.

GOOD INTENTIONS, DISASTROUS RESULTS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

“Bring back our girls!”

It’s become a rallying cry among Nigerians–and among do-gooder Americans.

On April 15, nearly 300 teenage girls were kidnapped from a Nigerian school by Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group that has ties to Al Qaeda.

Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for the abudctions and threatened to sell the girls.

He also warned that Boko Haram would attack other schools and kidnap more girls.

Boko Haram means: “Western education is sinful.”

Abubakar Shekau

Fifty-three of the girls managed to escape; 276 remain in captivity.

It didn’t take long for Americans to thrust themselves into yet another role as World Policeman:

  • The United States Senate passed a bipartisan resolution demanding the girls’ safe and immediate return.
  • Several lawmakers observed a moment of silence on the Capitol steps.
  • Dozens of people protested outside the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
  • All 20 female United States Senators urged President Barack Obama to pursue severe international sanctions against Boko Haram.
  • Another group of Senators urged Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to tackle the causes of unrest in his country.

Protest at Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

  • The United States repeatedly offered assistance.  But Nigeria refused to respond until Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Jonathan as international outrage grew over the fate of the missing girls.
  • Inerviewed by NBC’s Today, President Obama said: “In the short term our goal is obviously to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies.”
  • Obama further noted: “But we’re also going to have to deal with the broader problem of organizations   like [Boko Haram] that can cause such havoc in people’s day-to-day lives.”
  • White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that the United States would send military and law enforcement personnel skilled in investigations, hostage negotiation, Intelligence and victim assistance to Nigeria.
  • Carney said that the United States would not send fighting units to Nigeria.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, didn’t waste time reacting.

On May 5, in a clip released online, he declared war on the West.

Echoing President George W. Bush’s famous statement–“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”–Shekau warned:

“Either you are with us … or you are with Obama! [French President] Francois Hollande! George Bush. Bush! Clinton!”

Pausing briefly, he added: “Abraham Lincoln!”

Most Americans have little interest in foreign affairs–and thus short memories for international events.  So few now remember another well-intentioned effort that failed miserably in Africa almost 21 years ago.

Like the “Save our girls!” affair, it, too, started as a humanitarian gesture.

In 1992, civil war and famine gripped Somalia, resulting in over 300,000 civilian deaths.

Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, was the most dangerous city in the world.

Fourteen armed militas, each led by its own warlord, were fighting to dominate Somalia.  Teenage gunmen, high on a narcotic called quat, spread terror in their “technicals”–pick-up trucks equipped with heavy machine guns.

“I was overwhelmed. I’d never seen anything like it,” recalled Khalil Dale, a Red Cross worker. “There were bodies of people who had died of starvation.

“There were people with gunshot wounds. There were young children, women, just lying, waiting to die, really emaciated. and there would be mounds of dead bodies waiting to be buried. We were doing 300 or 400 a day.”

In late 1992, President George H.W. Bush launched a massive humanitarian mission to help feed the starving people of Somalia.

He ordered 25,000 troops into Somalia to carry out Operation Restore Hope.

Bush had been defeated for a second term by former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.  Sending Americans into Somalia was the last major effort of his Presidency.

Addressing the American people from the Oval Office, Bush declared:

“Every American has seen the shocking images from Somalia. The scope of suffering there is hard to imagine.

“Only the United States has the global reach to place a large security force on the ground in such a distant place quickly and efficiently and thus save thousands of innocents from death.”

President George H.W. Bush addressing the nation

Americans–who like to think of themselves as international saviors instead of aggressors–applauded Bush’s action.

Then they turned their attention to more immediate concerns–such as the failing economy.

At first, all seemed to be going well

But then what began as a humanitarian mission turned into a nation-building one.

On January 20, 1993, Bill Clinton took office as President.

Mohammed Farrah Aidid, the most powerful of Somalia’s warlords, ruled Mogadishu.  At Somali ports, his militias seized international food shipments intended to relieve starvation.

Food became his weapon–to be doled out to his supporters, and denied to everyone else.

A force of 20,000 United States Marines backed up the United Nations relief effort.  Somalis started receiving food and a sense of order was restored.

Aidid waited until the Marines withdrew–in April, 1993–and then declared war on the small remaining force of U.N. peacekeepers.

GOOD NEWS IN THE TERROR WARS

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2014 at 12:25 am

On February 15, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released some encouraging newws for those fighting Islamic terrorism.

More than 140,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war.

Conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Observatory, which is based in Britain:

  • The death toll is now at 140,041.
  • More than 30,000 rebels have been killed and over 50,000 from pro-Assad forces.
  • The true toll on both sides was likely much higher–by perhaps more than 60,000.

And the Observatory’s director, Rami Abdelrahman, had a solution to offer to this constantly escalating violence:

“It is shameful that the international community has done nothing to show that it will defend human rights.  They are just looking on at this tragedy. The Syrian people dying are just statistics to them.”

If those dying in Syria are “just statistics,” then they are statistics of terrorists and potential terrorists who will never pose a threat to the United States.

Think of it:

  • In three years, 140,041 actual or potential enemies of Western Civilization have chosen to kill each other off.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • And the United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.

Here are seven excellent reasons why America should not send soldiers to bomb and/or invade Syria.

1. Intervening in Syria could produce unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

American bombs or missiles could land on one or more sites containing stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Imagine the international outrage that will result if the release of those weapons kills hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

Within the Islamic world, the United States will be seen as waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

Almost certainly, an American military strike on Syria would lead its dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.

Assad could do this simply because he hates Jews–or to lure Israel into attacking Syria.

If that happened, the Islamic world–which lusts to destroy Israel more than anything else–would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.

2.  Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant and other murderers who now wish to become the next tyrant.

3.  The United States doesn’t know what it wants to do in Syria, other than “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.”  But President Barack Obama hasn’t stated what he intends gain by attacking Syria.

Obama has said he’s “not after regime-change.”  If true, that would leave Assad in power–and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

4. The Assad regime is backed by–among others–the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.  A sworn enemy of Israel, it has  kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.  It considers Shiite Muslims to be “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.   Examples of sthese ectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

When your enemies are intent on killing each other, it’s best to stand aside and let them do it.

5.  China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens. This reflects badly on them–not the United States.

6.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia and/or China.

The Russians have sent two warships to Syria, in direct response to President Obama’s threat to “punish” Assad for using chemical weapons against unsurgents.

What happens if American and Russian warships start trading salvos?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

7.  While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

THE DOOM OF MEN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2014 at 12:35 am

In  ”Excalibur,” director John Boorman’s brilliant 1981 telling of the King Arthur legends, Merlin warns Arthur’s knights–and us: “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

Not so Steven Pressfield, who repeatedly holds up the past as a mirror to our present.  Case in point: His 2006 novel, The Afghan Campaign.

By 2006, Americans had been fighting in Afghanistan for five years.  And today, almost ten years into the same war, there remains no clear end in sight–to our victory or withdrawal.

Pressfield’s novel, although set 2,000 years into the past, has much to teach us about what are soldiers are facing today in that same alien, unforgiving land.

Matthias, a young Greek seeking glory and opportunity, joins the army of Alexander the Great.  But the Persian Empire has fallen, and the days of conventional, set-piece battles–where you can easily tell friend from foe–are over.

Alexander next plans to conquer India, but first he must pacify its gateway–Afghanistan. Here that the Macedonians meet a new–and deadly–kind of enemy.

“Here the foe does not meet us in pitched battle,” warns Alexander. “Even when we defeat him, he will no accept our dominion.

“He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering.”

Matthias learns this early.  In his first raid on an Afghan village, he’s ordered to execute a helpless prisoner.  When he hesitates, he’s brutalized until he strikes out with his sword–and botches the job.

But, soon, exposed to an unending series of atrocities–committed by himself and his comrades,  as  well as the enemy–he finds himself transformed.

And he hates it.  He agonizes over the gap between the ideals he embraced when he became a soldier–and the brutalities that have drained him of everything but a grim determination to survive at any cost.

Pressfield, a former Marine himself, repeatedly contrasts how civilians see war as a kind of “glorious” child’s-play with how soldiers actually experience it.

He creates an extraordinary exchange between Costas, an ancient-world version of a CNN war correspondent, and Lucas, a soldier whose morality is outraged at how Costas and his ilk routinely prettify  the indescribable.

And we know the truth of this exchange immediately. For we know there are doubtless brutalities inflicted by our troops on the enemy–and atrocities inflicted by the enemy upon them–that never make the headlines, let alone the TV cameras.

We also know that, decades  from now, thousands of our former soldiers will carry horrific memories to their graves.

These memories will remain sealed from public view, allowing their fellow but unblooded Americans to sleep peacefully, unaware of  the terrible price that others have paid on their behalf.

Like the Macedonians (who call themselves  ”Macks”), our own soldiers find themselves serving in an all-but-forgotten land among a populace whose values could not be more alien from our own if they came from Mars.

Instincitvely, they turn to one another–not only for physical security but to preserve their last vestiges of humanity. As the war-weary veteran, Lucas, advises:

“Never tell anyone except your mates. Only you don’t need to tell them. They know. They know you.  Better than a man knows his wife, better than he knows himself.

“They’re bound to you and you to them, like wolves  in  a  pack. It’s  not you and them. You are them. The unit is indivisible. One dies, we all die.”

Put conversely: One lives, we all live.

Pressfield has reached into the past to reveal fundamental truths about the present that most of us could probably not accept if contained in a modern-day memoir.

These truths take on an immediate poignancy owing to our own current war in Afghanistan.  But they will remain just as relevant decades from now, when our now-young soldiers are old and retired.

This book has been described as a sequel to Pressfield’s The Virtues of War: A  Novel  of Alexander the Great, which appeared in 2004. But it isn’t.

Virtues showcased the brilliant and luminous (if increasingly dark and explosive) personality of Alexander the Great, whose Bush-like, good-vs.-evil rhetoric inspired men to hurl themselves into countless battles on his behalf.

But Afghan thrusts us directly into the flesh-and-blood realities created by that rhetoric: The horrors of men traumatized by an often unseen but always menacing enemy, and the horrors they must inflict in return if they are to survive in a hostile and alien world.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics on January 7, 2014 at 12:15 am

Here’s another reason to welcome the coming of the New Year:

Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have gone to war–with each other.

Al-Qaeda terrorists–now taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

This is an event the United States could not have predicted or instigated.  But it is definitely one in which Americans can take hope.

In Part One, two of those reasons were outlined.  Here are the remaining eight:

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. By early 2012, the United States had about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them due home by the fall.

There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.

The initial goal of this war was to quickly destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden–and its Taliban protectors.

But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.  And U.S. forces wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.

This increasingly brought them into conflict with primitive, xenophobic Afghans, whose mindset remains that of the sixth century.

On February 21, 2013, protests erupted throughout Afghanistan as reports emerged that NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base had burned copies of the Koran.

The books had been confiscated from suspected insurgents and inadvertently marked for incineration.

The incident sparked rabid anti-American demonstrations. At least 30 people, including four American troops, were killed, and many were wounded.

Two American military officers were murdered by a trusted member of the Afghan military.

As a result, American forces no longer trust their “brothers” in the Afghan army to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the Taliban.

One American officer stated that he would no longer meet with his Afghan counterparts unless there were five armed U.S. troops in the same room.

Fourth, intervening in Syria could produce similar unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

Fifth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas.

For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Sixth, according to U.S. defense reports, Syria has weapons of mass destruction–and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin.

The recent destruction of much of Syria’s WMD stockpile–at the demand of President Barack Obama–doesn’t erase its ability to create more.  And this is likely to re-occur as soon as the United States becomes preoccupied with other concerns.

Seventh, the United States had no part in creating the Assad regime. Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it.

Eighth, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens. This reflects badly on them–not the United States.  America should focus world outrage against these longtime Communist dictatorships for propping up another one.

Ninth, the United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia and/or China.

The Russians sent two warships to Syria in 2013 in response to President Obama’s threat to “punish” Assad for using chemical weapons against insurgents.

What happens if American and Russian warships start trading salvos?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

Tenth, while Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.  Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them.  In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, it’s certain that their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge.  And it’s equally certain that Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah–or vice versa.  This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other.  Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

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