bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘ISRAEL’

GRIZZLIES AND AMERICANS

In Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2014 at 12:00 am

There is a poignant scene in the middle of John Milius’ classic 1975 adventure film, “The Wind and the Lion,” that Americans would do well to remember.

The movie is set in 1904 America and Morocco.  An American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children have been kidnapped while vacationing in Tangier.

The kidnapper is a Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed Raisuli (Sean Connery, trying–successfully–to shed his James Bond image).

To Raisuli, the Sultan and his uncle, the Pasha of Tangier, are corrupt and beholden to the European powers struggling to ontrol Morocco.

Raisuli then issues an outrageous ransom demand to provoke an international incident, embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election.  He sees the crisis as a way to score campaign points and demonstrate America’s military strength as a new power.

So he issues a demand of his own: “Pedicarus alive–or Raisuli dead!”

While events rapidly spiral out of control in the Middle East, Roosevelt decides to vacation in Yellowstone National Park.

One night, a grizzly bear attacks the camp and is shot by Roosevelt and several other campers.  The next morning, Roosevelt holds an imprumptu press conference for the reporters who have accompanied him.

Brian Keith as Theodore Roosevelt

REPORTER:  Did you take part in killing the grizzly, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

REPORTER:  Why do you say, ‘unfortunately,’ Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  The American grizzly is a symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity. Maybe a little blind and reckless at times, but courageous beyond all doubt. 

And one other trait that goes with all previous.

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Loneliness. The American grizzly lives out his life alone. Indomitable, unconquered–but always alone. He has no real allies, only enemies, but none of them as great as he.

REPORTER:  And you feel this might be an American trait?

ROOSEVELT:  Certainly. The world will never love us. They respect us–they might even grow to fear us.  But they will never love us, for we have too much audacity! 

And, we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.

REPORTER:  Are you perhaps referring to the situation in Morocco and the Panama Canal.

ROOSEVELT:  If you say so. The American grizzly embodies the spirit of America. He should be our symbol! Not that ridiculous eagle–he’s nothing more than a dandified vulture.

When the Pasha of Tangier refuses to negotiate with Raisuli to secure the return of Pedecaris, the American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, decides on action.

He confers with Admiral Chadwick, commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, and a Marine captain named Jerome.

Gummere then orders a company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, to seize the Pasha.  But privately he admits to the riskiness of the decision:

GUMMERE:  You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we’ll all be killed.

CHADWICK:  Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.

JEROME: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war. 

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

GUMMERE:  A world war.  Now that would be something to go out on.

In just ten years, they will get their hearts’ desire when World War 1 erupts.

The Marines quickly overwhelm the Pasha’s palace guard, take the Pasha hostage and force him to negotiate.

The film ends with a confident Theodore Roosevelt expecting (accurately) to be re-elected–and telling reporters  that “the fate of Morocco will be decided tomorrow by me.”

“The Wind and the Lion” is set in an era when

  • nuclear weapons did not exist;
  • Russia and China were militarily insignificant nations;
  • England was the world’s superpower;
  • America, Germany and Japan were on the rise;
  • Israel was still a distant dream in the eyes of European Jews;
  • the “Great Powers”–Germany, France and Great Britain–were struggling to carve up the Middle East to exploit its massive oli reserves; and
  • Americans did not feel threatened by Islamic radicals.

That era–for all its faults–is long vanished.  As complex and dangerous as it often seemed to those living in it, that era has been succeeded by one even more complex and dangerous.

In this new and even more lethal era, it is well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that “we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.”

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.

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.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics on January 6, 2014 at 12:37 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe.

For Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, it was a major setback.

He was forced to concede that he lacked the strength to destroy the British air force–thus making it possible for his navy to land German troop on English soil.

But Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up.  He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would demand that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England–and especially London–to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

St Paul's Cathedral surrounded by smoke after an air raid

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  During 267 days (almost 37 weeks):

  • London was attacked 71 times;
  • Birmingham, Plymouth and Liverpool were attacked eight times;
  • Bristol was attacked six times; Glasgow, five; Southampton four; and
  • There was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.

Between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed.  About 139,000 others were wounded.

“London can take it” went the British slogan.  But, in the United States, Americans–including President Franklin D. Roosevelt–wondered: For how much longer?

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

German tank commander

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned.  The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Hitler had turned on his partner-in-crime.  The two dictators had greedily split Poland between them when Hitler launched his invasion on September 1, 1939.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were also surprised–but also suddenly hopeful.   Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.

In the United States, then-Senator Harry S. Truman spoke for many Americans when he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

Today the United States faces just such an opportunity.

In Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are now waging war–with each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).

United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

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 is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “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 sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

On one side is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters some of whom have affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

And now that civil war has spread into neighborhing Lebanon.

On January 2, at least four people were killed and 77 injured when a car bomb exploded in a residential  neighborhood in southern Beirut.

The Shiite-dominated district, Haret Hreik, is known as a Hezbollah stronghold.

Two days later, an Al-Qaeda linked group claimed responsibility for the attack.

At a press conference for President Barack Obama on March 20, 2013, a reporter asked:

“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”

That is entirely the wrong way to view this conflict.

There are solidly practical reasons why the United States should avoid this bloodfest–while cheering on each of its mortal enemies to do its worst.

First, the United States recently disengaged from Iraq.  On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.

Second, 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.

But while 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.

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on September 3, 2013 at 1:00 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. 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 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.

So the American military didn’t wrap up its campaign as quickly as possible and then leave the country to its own devices. Instead, 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.

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.

But this demanded that the United States quickly pacify Iraq. 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, but 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.

GRIZZLIES AND AMERICANS

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2013 at 12:01 am

There is a poignant scene in the middle of John Milius’ classic 1975 adventure film, “The Wind and the Lion,” that Americans would do well to remember.

The movie is set in 1904 America and Morocco.  An American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children have been kidnapped while vacationing in Tangier.

The kidnapper is a Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery, trying–successfully–to shed his James Bond image).  To Raisuli, the Sultan and his uncle, the Pasha of Tangier, are corrupt and beholden to the European powers struggling to ontrol Morocco.

Raisuli then issues an outrageous ransom demand to provoke an international incident, embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election.  He sees the crisis as a way to score campaign points and demonstrate America’s military strength as a new power.

So he issues a demand of his own: “Pedicarus alive–or Raisuli dead!”

While events rapidly spiral out of control in the Middle East, Roosevelt decides to vacation in Yellowstone National Park.

One night, a grizzly bear attacks the camp and is shot by Roosevelt and several other campers.  The next morning, Roosevelt holds an imprumptu press conference for the reporters who have accompanied him.

Brian Keith as Theodore Roosevelt

REPORTER:  Did you take part in killing the grizzly, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

REPORTER:  Why do you say, ‘unfortunately,’ Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  The American grizzly is a symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity. Maybe a little blind and reckless at times, but courageous beyond all doubt.  And one other trait that goes with all previous.

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Loneliness. The American grizzly lives out his life alone. Indomitable, unconquered–but always alone. He has no real allies, only enemies, but none of them as great as he.

REPORTER:  And you feel this might be an American trait?

ROOSEVELT:  Certainly. The world will never love us. They respect us–they might even grow to fear us. But they will never love us, for we have too much audacity! And, we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.

REPORTER:  Are you perhaps referring to the situation in Morocco and the Panama Canal.

ROOSEVELT:  If you say so. The American grizzly embodies the spirit of America. He should be our symbol! Not that ridiculous eagle–he’s nothing more than a dandified vulture.

When the Pasha of Tangier refuses to negotiate with Raisuli to secure the return of Pedecaris, the American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, decides on action.  He confers with Admiral Chadwick, commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, and a Marine captain named Jerome.

Gummere then orders a company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, to seize the Pasha.  But then he admits to the riskiness of the decision:

GUMMERE:  You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we’ll all be killed.

CHADWICK:  Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.

JEROME: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war. 

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

GUMMERE:  A world war.  Now that would be something to go out on.

In just ten years, they will get their hearts’ desire when World War 1 erupts.

The Marines quickly overwhelm the Pasha’s palace guard, take the Pasha hostage and force him to negotiate.

During the hostage exchange, Raisuli is betrayed and captured by German and Moroccan troops.   His friend, the Sherif of Wazan, organizes the Berber tribe for an attack on the Europeans and their Moroccan lackeys.

Eden Pedecaris, who has grown to admire Raisuli, convinces a Marine captain and his men to rescue the Berber chieftain.  She argues that President Roosevelt had promised that Raisuli would be unharmed if the Pedecarises were returned safely.

The Berbers and Marines team up to defeat the Germans and their Moroccan allies, rescuing Raisuli in the process.

Thirteen years later–in 1917–the United States will officially take on the Germans in World War 1.  And in another 37 years–in 1941–America will again declare war on Germany.

The film ends with a confident Theodore Roosevelt expecting (accurately) to be re-elected–and telling reporters  that “the fate of Morocco will be decided tomorrow by me.”

“The Wind and the Lion” is set in an era when

  • nuclear weapons did not exist;
  • Russia and China were militarily insignificant nations;
  • England was the world’s superpower;
  • America, Germany and Japan were on the rise;
  • Israel was still a distant dream in the eyes of European Jews;
  • the “Great Powers”–Germany, France and Great Britain–were struggling to carve up the Middle East to exploit its massive oli reserves; and
  • Americans did not feel threatened by Islamic radicals.

That era–for all its faults–is long vanished.  As complex and dangerous as it often seemed to those living in it, that era has been succeeded by one even more complex and dangerous.

In this new and even more lethal era, it is well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that “we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.”

MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

At a joint press conference for President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20, a reporter asked Obama:

“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at press conference

United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

But Israelis aren’t the only ones demanding that America “do something” to end the carnage in Syria.  So are members of Congress and the national news media.

TV reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and other networks are eagerly training their cameras on the carnage.  As they say in television journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

And this, in turn, causes members of Congress and the Obama administration to fear for their jobs. They dread that voters will blame them for not “doing something” to end the fighting.

Like sending in American armed forces to somehow stop it.

True, most of these officials never spent a day in military service. But it’s always easier to send someone else into combat than to take that risk yourself.

And this is a risk that–emphatically–the United States has absolutely no business taking.

First, 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 cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.

Second, 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.

But this demanded that the United States quickly pacify Iraq. The Iraqi insurgency totally undermined that goal, forcing U.S. troops to focus all their efforts inward.

Another unintended result of the war: Whereas 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.

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, 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.

Seventh, the United States had no part in instigating revolt against 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, 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.

When Senator Harry S. Truman learned that Nazi Germany had turned on its ally, the Soviet Union, in June, 1941, he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”  We should welcome these self-slaughters, not become involved in them.

* * * * *

All of this adds up to one, overwhelming conclusion: America should mind its own business–and let the Syrians attend to their own.

OBJECTIVE NEWS AND RELIGION DON’T MIX

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2012 at 1:15 am

You expect this to happen every year, starting in early November.

Even the most hard-nosed reporters–including those for major TV networks–get misty-eyed as they speak wondrously about the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to a new-born infant in Bethlehem.

And how that child would grow up to be crucified and rise from the grave three days later.  And how, having taken upon himself the sins of humanity, he would become the long-awaited Savior of mankind.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with crediting this story to its ancient source, the Bible.  As in the phrase: “According to the Book of Matthew….”

But when you report as objective fact a fantastical story that cannot be objectively verified, you leave behind the world of journalism and enter that of theology.

Such as happened during the August 20 segment of ABC World News With Diane Sawyer.

Early in the broadcast, Jonathan Karl reported that a group of House Republicans had visited Israel in summer, 2011.  The trip was supposedly a “fact-finding” tour, including visits to Jewish holy sites and meetings with top Israeli officials.

But then, one night, several members of the delegation decided to mix alcohol with swimming at the Sea of Galilee.  Some jumped in fully-clothed.  One member peeled off all his clothes before plunging in.

Sea of Galilee

That member was Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had accompanied the Congressmen to Israel but wasn’t present at the late-night frolicking.  When he was told about it, he was furious.

“The Sea of Galilee is a popular tourist vacation spot in Israel,” continued Karl, “but also a place of great religious significance for Christians.”

So far, so good–that is, for reporting objectivity.  But then came this:

“It’s where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s where he fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  It’s where he walked on water.”

Click here: GOP Reacts After Skinny Dipping Incident in Israel | Video – ABC News

That would certainly have been appropriate for a Christian Sunday school class.  But it was totally inappropriate for a reporter who is supposed to stick to what can be objectively proved.

Where, for example, is the evidence that Jesus–or anyone–was able to feed “5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish”?

How can we be factually certain that Jesus actually “walked on water”?

Karl would have been journalistically correct had he said: “According to the Bible,” Jesus performed such miracles.  Or if he had said: “Devout Christians believe” that Jesus fed 5,000 people or walked on water.

Of course, for devout Christians, such statements are those of fact.  For journalists striving for objectivity, such statements must be treated as subjective claims.

Because one man’s religious certainty can be another’s superstition.

Consider the following Q&A found at Catholic Answers Forums, which bills itself as “the largest Catholic Community on the Web.  Here you can join over 300,000 members from around the world discussing all things Catholic.

“Membership is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who seek the Truth with Charity.”

On April 18, 2008, a member posted the following:

“A few days ago I came across some very interesting news.

“Everyone knows that after Jesus arose from the dead He Ascended into Heaven shortly afterwards, marking the fulfillment of His work on earth. I was always under the impression Mohammed ascended into Heaven when he was done preaching, in a way similar to Jesus.

“The place where Mohammed ascended was in central Jerusalem at a shrine called the Dome of the Rock (the gold dome you see in pictures).

Dome of the Rock

“It TURNS OUT that I was wrong this whole time, Mohammed did ascend to Heaven at the Dome, but it was not at the end of his life.

“According to Islamic history there was a time when he was in Saudi Arabia (Mecca) and a flying horse came and they flew off to Jerusalem, and from there the horse took him to Heaven to talk with the Prophets of the past. Afterwards they flew back to Mecca. This is the ‘ascension’….

“I think the Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension is much more inspiring.”

Of course he did!  He was, after all, a Catholic–or at least a Christian–and he had probably heard the story of Jesus’ Resurrection as a child.  It was familiar to him.  And few people question what they feel comfortable with.

But if he had grown up a Muslim, he would have heard the story of Mohammed’s Ascension, and he would have felt comfortable with that from long familiarity.

Americans often complain about the lack of objectivity in the national news media.  It’s doubtful, however, that many complained about the utter lack of it in ABC’s report about the skinny-dipping Congressman.

In an age which pundits claim is witnessing a “clash of civilizations” between Christianity and Islam, members of both faiths would do well to remember that religious truth truly lies within the heart of the believer.

THE ALLURE OF CENSORSHIP

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2012 at 1:15 am

Apparently the executives at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MUNI) feel that some ideas are so controversial they must be censored.

To do otherwise would violate their commitment to Political Correctness.

Recently, a new ad began appearing on a number of MUNI buses: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

The ads were purchased by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a conservative, pro-Israel group.

Predictably, the ads have sparked controversy–not everyone agrees with their message.  Which is entirely the right of those who support Arab causes or simply do not support Israel.

But MUNI isn’t content to accept that there can be two sides to every argument.

What’s important to this agency’s executives is that no one’s feelings be offended in any way.

“[San Francisco] has a long history of tolerance for all, and while we honor a person’s right to self-expression, there are times when we must say ‘enough,’” said Tom Nolan, chairman of MUNI’s Board of Directors.

“The recent ad has no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice.

“While this ad is protected under the First Amendment, our ad policy and our contractual obligations, we condemn the use of any language that belittles, demeans or disparages others. Going forward, we will review our policies with regards to ads on the Muni system.”

And to show how truly repentant they are, MUNI’s executives have offered to donate all the proceeds from the ad campaign to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

MUNI hadn’t wanted to run the ads.  But its executives felt they had no thoice.

On July 20, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority violated the First Amendment rights of a pro-Israel group by rejecting an ad the group wanted to place on city buses.

If MUNI had rejected the ads, there was the very real chance that the American Freedom Defense Initiative would file a similar–and likely successful–lawsuit against the cash-strapped transportation agency.

What’s lost in all this is the whole idea of the free exchange of ideas, even those that are controversial.

The answer to the pro-Israel ads should not be a blanket of censorship.  On the contrary: Those who disagree with their message should be free to run their own counter-ads.

The truth is that nearly everyone has the desire to play censor in some instance.

  • Feminist groups want to censor ads, books, movies, TV shows and comedy skits they feel “demean women.”
  • Blacks want to censor materials they believe are racist–including such classics of American literature as Huckleberry Finn.
  • In the early 1970s, Italians objected to the use of “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” in Justice Department press releases.  The producers of “The Godfather” agreed to delete such terms from the movie–after protests by no less than members of the Joseph Columbo Mafia family.
  • Criticism of Israel–no matter how valid it might be–is viewed by many Jews as evidence of anti-Semitism.
  • Meanwhile, members of Islamic organizations–including terrorist ones–complain about “anti-Muslim” statements carried in the media.
  • Hispanics–especially Cubans–bristled at the making of “Scarface,” for its portrayal of rampant drug-dealing in Miami and Central America.
  • Fascists believe that any criticism of their leaders–such as Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Rush Limbaugh–should be censored.
  • Those who believe in Communism utterly reject any criticism of its various leaders–such as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.

The First Amendment wasn’t created to defend the publication of popular ideas.  It was enshrined in the Bill of Rights–the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution–to showcase the importance. of giving unpopular views a chance to be heard.

Those who embrace censorship should closely examine its effects on societies that practice it.

  • During the centuries of the “Holy Inquisition,” anyone who openly declared that the Earth revolved around the sun risked death at the stake.  (The Catholic Church claimed that Earth–and thus Man–stood at the center of the universe.)
  • Throughout the 74 years of the Soviet Union, crime statistics weren’t published–because, officially, there couldn’t be crime in the “workers’ paradise.”
  • In Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, people have been condemned to death for “blasphemy,” which can mean virtually whatever the accuser wants it to mean.

For a democratic society, the only acceptable response to attempted censorship is that offered by President John F. Kennedy:

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

NIXON IN 2012

In History, Politics on July 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

The ghost of Richard Nixon wants to be President again.

And it is about to be nominated–again–by the Republican party.

For those who didn’t live through 1968, or those who’ve forgotten what it was like, here’s a brief summary:

  • America was mired in Vietnam, with more than 500,000 troops fighting or dying to prop up a corrupt regime.
  • Antiwar demonstrations shut down college campuses throughout the nation.
  • Civil rights activist Martin Luther King and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • Nationwide racial riots broke out in the wake of King’s murder–including in Washington, D.C.
  • The Democratic Convention was marred by a brutal crackdown by Chicago police on antiwar protesters.

And offering himself as the country’s savior: Richard M. Nixon, the Republican nominee for President.

But he was careful to limit his appearances to carefully-screened “test audiences”–making it look, in his TV ads, as though he was facing up to tough questions.

And continuing his longstanding feud against the press, Nixon shut out reporters from the inner workings of his campaign.

Above all, Nixon promised a solution to Vietnam.  He repeatedly claimed that he had “a plan” to end the war “with peace and honor.”  At times he would touch his suit pocket–as though he had a copy of The Plan right there.

But, he added, he couldn’t share that plan until after he became President.  After all, the North Vietnamese would be listening in with the American people.

So the nation–by the narrowest of margins–elected Nixon.  And four more years of bitter, senseless war followed.

So here it is 2012, and Nixon’s spirit is once again running for President.

Like Nixon, Mitt Romney:

  • Has given interviews only in controlled settings–in his case, almost entirely to right-wing Fox News Network.
  • Has promised to “restore American greatness”–but has refused to say publicly which government programs he would cut.
  • Has refused to say which tax laws he would change–despite the fact that, as a multimillionaire with offshore tax havens, he stands to gain by such changes.
  • Has refused to fully answer reporters’ questions about his financial background–such as refusing to release more than two years’ tax returns.

Romney’s penchant for secrecy was most recently demonstrated during his visit to Israel.  He barred reporters from a fundraiser at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel and refused to say why.

Romney’s traveling press secretary Rick Gorka, asked to comment, simply said, “Closed press, closed press, closed press,” as he walked down the aisle of the candidate’s campaign plane during the flight from London to Tel Aviv.

It’s hard to imagine a more blatant example of arrogant disrespect for freedom of the press–and the right of Americans to learn the truth about their would-be leaders.  Unless you cite Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

And it offers a dramatic–and useful–insight into the arrogance and secrecy Americans can expect from Romney should he become President.

Planning to raise campaign money while in Israel, Romney was willing to tell his wealthy American supporters abroad what he would not tell voters at home.

Among these is Sheldon Adelson, an international casino magnate, who’s donated millions to a group–Restore Our Future–backing Romney.

By preying on the gambling habits of millions, he has amassed a fortune estimated by Forbes at $24.9 billion.  This makes Adelson the eighth richest person in the United States.

Donors at the fundraising event–which was expected to raise more than $1 million–were asked to contribute $50,000 or to raise $100,000.

In fact, Romney has been far more candid with his private donors about what he intends to do as President than he has in his public appearances.

At a fundraiser this spring in Florida, he outlined how he might cut government and which deductions he might eliminate as part of his tax plan.  The event was overheard by reporters standing on a public sidewalk.

This harkens back to the administration of George W. Bush–when Vice President Dick Cheney invited oil company lobbyists to rewrite “environmental protection” regulations.

Naturally, the workings of Cheney’s “energy task force” were classified as secret from both the press and public.

In April, 2010, an explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico sent millions of gallons of oil pouring into the Pacific ocean.  It was only then that Americans began to learn the true costs of allowing greed-fueled corporations to “protect” the fragile environment.

Similarly, Romney expects Americans to wholeheartedly trust him to create jobs for millions–while his own experience has been in creating only millions of dollars for himself and other wealthy investors.

Meanwhile, he clearly refuses to trust Americans generally with his plans for “restoring American greatness.”

There is a time-tested recipe for determining when a public figure has forfeited trust: It’s when he refuses to answer hard, specific questions.

There can be times–such as in war–when a public official is justified in telling less than the whole truth.

But, short of such an extreme occasion, the rule stands: Don’t trust anyone who won’t give candid answers to candid questions.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 823 other followers

%d bloggers like this: