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Posts Tagged ‘RUSSIA’

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.

LOOKING INTO THE SOUL OF PUTIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on July 23, 2014 at 10:12 am

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 MH 17/MAS17, an international flight, took off from Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

It was scheduled to reach its destination in 11 hours and 45 minutes.  But the flight–and its 283 passengers and 15 crew–never made it.

Instead, as the plane cruised above Hrabove in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, it came under fire by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists.  A single Buk surface-to-air missile slammed into the aircraft, almost instantly killing everyone on board.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Since March, 2014, pro-Russian groups have aggressively–and often violently–tried to destabilize the Ukrainian government.

The reason: Ukraine has been showing an increasing desire to align itself with the West, especially the European Union.  And Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear his intention of preventing that.

A former KGB agent, Putin has called the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union as “a major geopolitical disaster of the [20th] century.”

According to John Bolton, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations: “It’s clear he wants to re-establish Russian hegemony within the space of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine is the biggest prize, that’s what he’s after. The occupation of the Crimea is a step in that direction.”

The most damning evidence for Russian separatists’ culpability in the airliner’s destruction came from United States military officials who cited:

  • Sensors that traced the path of the missile;
  • Shrapnel patterns in the wreckage; and
  • Voice print analysis of separatists’ conversations where they claimed credit for the strike.

Furthermore, data and photos from various social media sites all indicated that the missile had been fired by the separatists.

But the Republican Party quickly found another culprit to blame for the tragedy: President Barack Obama.

Just hours after the shootdown, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain appeared on the Sean Hannity show, which is carried on the Right-wing Fox News.

“It’s just been cowardly,” McCain said. “It’s a cowardly administration that we failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves.”

McCain then told Hannity what he would do in response to the deadly crash:

“First, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory. Second of all, move some of our troops in to areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, in other countries like the Baltics and others.

“Move missile defense into the places where we got out of, like the Czech Republic and Poland and other places. And impose the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia. And that’s just for openers.”

Yet America’s frustrations with Russia generally–and Vladimir Putin in particular–long predate those of Barack Obama.

And relations between the United States and post-Soviet Russia were definitely not helped by the naivety of President George W. Bush.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia.  During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush.  When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush.  “Very good briefing.”

But more was to come.

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.  He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed.  “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution, Updated Edition: Peter Baker, Susan Glasser: 97

Of course, no one from the Right is now willing to recall such embarrassing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions will vanish once another Rightist President enters the White House.

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.

“DR. STRANGELOVE” LIVES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2014 at 12:21 am

He’s the man who sends a nuclear bomber wing off to attack the Soviet Union–thus triggering all-out thermonuclear war between the U.S.S.R and America.

Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper

While others feel he has clearly gone insane, Ripper is certain he’s done the right thing–and for the right reason: To stop “the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot” of all: Fluoridation.

And Ripper has assigned himself the task of saving “our precious bodily fluids”–although the result can only be universal destruction.

Fortunately, Ripper is only a fictitious character–played by Sterling Hayden in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 dark comedy, “Dr. Strangelove.”

But America has had its share of irrational behavior among its Presidents.

RICHARD NIXON: In 1970, while deciding whether to widen the Vietnam war by invading Cambodia, he repeatedly watched the movie “Patton.”

Richard Nixon

In 1974, as journalistic and Justice Department investigations of Watergate increasingly threatened his Presidency, his behavior grew increasingly erratic.

He drank heavily, took pills by the handful, and, on at least one occasion, was seen talking to pictures of Presidents that adorned the walls of the White House.

In the final weeks of his administration, as impeachment for Watergate abuses seemed inevitable, Nixon inspired fears of a military coup in his Secretary of Defense.

James Schlesinger warned all military commands to ignore any direct orders from the White House–or any other source–without the counter-signature of the SecDef himself.

* * * * *

GEORGE W. BUSH:  In June, 2001, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia.  Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

And Putin was quick to take advantage of it.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.  He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

BUSH:  Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned.  Things are meant to be.

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

In early 2003, Bush telephoned French President Jaques Chirac, hoping to enlist his support–and troops–for his long-planned invasion of Iraq.

Failing to convince Chirac that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was politically advantageous, Bush took a different tack.

BUSH: Jaques, you and I share a common faith.  You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we’re both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible.  We share one common Lord.

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.  Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.

When the call ended, Chirac asked his advisors: “Gog and Magog–do any of you know what he’s talking about?”

When no one did, Chirac ordered: Find out.

The answer came from Thomas Roemer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne.

Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel.

Jehovah vows to slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament book of Revelation (20:8) Gog and Magog are depicted as gathering nations for battle: “And fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them.”

Chirac decided to oppose joining the upcoming invasion of Iraq.  France, he said, would not fight a war based on an American Presient’s interpretation of the Bible.

The incident is chronicled in 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, by investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald

Bush’s war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans–and an estimated 655,000 Iraqis.

Bush, however, was not the first President to invoke Gog and Magog.

Ronald Reagan predicted that this Biblical confrontation would pit the United States against the Soviet Union–which had abandoned God at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Evangelical Christians twice elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the Presidency.

In light of this, voters should think carefully before choosing candidates who accept superstitious beliefs over rational inquiry.

“DR. STRANGELOVE” LIVES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

In December, 1916, a group of outraged aristocrats, led by Prince Felix Yusspov, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, decided to take action.

They would murder Grigori Rasputin and–they believed–save the Czar from his corrupting influence.

On the night of December 29, 1916, Yusspov lured Rasputin to his estate on the pretext of meeting his lovely wife, Irina.

While Rasputin waited eagerly to meet the princess, Yusspov plied him with cakes and glasses of wine–all poisoned with potassium cyanide.  When these had no effect, Yusspov drew a revolver and shot him in the back.

Shortly afterward, Rasputin, with superhuman strength, tried to escape from the palace.  The rest of the assassins shot him several more times, wrapped his body in chains, and dumped it into an icy river.

The conspirators were hailed as heroes by the outraged aristocracy.  They believed that Rasputin’s death would ensure the salvation of the monarchy.

But it didn’t.  The notoriety of Rasputin’s life had by now fully attached itself to Nicholas and Alexandra.

In February, 1917, food riots broke out in St. Petersburg, and the Czar was forced to abdicate.   On July 17, 1916, he and his family–including Alexandra, their four daughters and Alexei–were executed by the Bolsheviks.

Click here: Nicholas and Alexandra: Robert K. Massie: 9780345438317: Amazon.com: Books

But Nicholas II was not the only world leader who placed his faith in the supernatural.

A modern-day example of this was Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Ronald Reagan

Nancy Reagan met an astrologer named Joan Quigley on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1973.

Quigley supposedly gave Nancy–and through her, Reagan himself–astrological advice during the latter’s campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976.

That effort failed to unseat President Gerald Ford–who was defeated that November by Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, in 1980, Reagan defeated Carter to become the 40th President of the United States.

On March 30, 1981, a mentally-disturbed loner named John W. Hinckley shot and critically wounded Reagan.  Hinckley’s motive: Fixiated on actress Jodie Foster, he believed that by shooting the President he could gain her affection.

For Nancy, the assassination attempt proved a watershed.

Shortly after the shooting, Merv Griffin told her that Quigley had told him: If Nancy had called her on that fateful day, she–Quigley–could have warned that the President’s astrological charts had foretold a bad day.

From that moment on, Nancy made sure to regularly consult Quigley on virtually everything that she and the President intended to do.

Click here: The President’s Astrologers – Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan, Politicians and Their Families, Ronald Reagan : People.c

Many–if not most–of these calls from the White House to Quigley’s office in San Francisco were made on non-secure phone lines.

Joan Quigley

This meant that foreign powers–most notably the Soviet Union and Communist China–could have been privy to Reagan’s intentions.

Nancy passed on Quigley’s suggestions in the form of commands to Donald Regan, chief of the White House staff.

As a result, Regan kept a color-coded calendar on his desk to remember when the astrological signs were good for the President to speak, travel, or negotiate with foreign leaders.

Green ink was used to highlight “good” days, red for “bad” days, and yellow for “iffy” days.

A list provided by Quigley to Nancy made the following recommendations–which Nancy, in turn, made into commands:

Late Dec thru March    bad
Jan 16 – 23    very bad
Jan 20    nothing outside WH–possible attempt
Feb 20 – 26    be careful
March 7 – 14    bad period
March 10 – 14    no outside activity!
March 16    very bad
March 21    no
March 27    no
March 12 – 19    no trips exposure
March 19 – 25    no public exposure
April 3    careful
April 11    careful
April 17    careful
April 21 – 28    stay home

Donald Regan, no fan of Nancy’s, chafed under such restrictions: “Obviously, this list of dangerous or forbidden dates left very little lattitude for scheduling,” he later wrote.

Forced out of the White House in 1987 by Nancy, Regan struck back in a 1988 tell-all memoir: For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington.

The book revealed, for the first time, how Ronald Reagan actually made his Presidential decisions.

All–including decisions to risk nuclear war with the Soviet Union–were based on a court astrologer’s horoscopes.  Rationality and the best military intelligence available played a lesser, secondary role.

In 1990, Quigley confirmed the allegations an autobiography, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

Click here: What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan: Joan Quigley

The title came from the question that Ronald Reagan asked Nancy before making important decisions–including those that could risk the destruction of the United States.

Among the success Quigley took credit for:

  • Strategies for winning the Presidential elections of 1980 and 1984;
  • Visiting a graveyard for SS soldiers in Bitburg, Germany;
  • Pursuing “Star Wars” as a major part of his strategy against the Soviet Union;
  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; and
  • Moving from seeing the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” to accepting Mikhail Gorbachev as a peace-seeking leader.

Thirty-three years after he became President, Ronald Reagan remains the most popular figure among Republicans.

His name is constantly invoked by Right-wing candidates, while his deliberately-crafted myth is held up as the example of Presidential greatness.

“DR. STRANGELOVE” LIVES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 17, 2014 at 12:58 am

Most people–especially Americans–like to believe they choose rational men and women for their political leaders.

This is especially true when it comes to deciding who will govern the country for the next four years as President of the United States.

And those voters like to believe that, once elected, the new President will base his or her decisions on a firm foundation of rationality and careful consideration.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

And in an age when a Presidential decision can, in a matter of minutes, hurl nuclear bombers and missiles to lay waste entire nations, it’s essential for Americans to realize this.

Of course, Americans have no monopoly on leaders who rule by irrationality.

The classic foreign-affairs version of this is that of Nicholas 11, Czar of All the Russias, his wife, the Czarina Alexandra, and the “mad monk” from Siberia, Grigori Rasputin.

Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905.  Founded by Czar Peter the Great in 1703, it was then the capitol of Russia–and the center of Russian cultural life.

(When Russia entered World War 1 against Germany in 1914, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd, meaning “Peter’s City”, to remove the German words “saint” and “burg.”

(After the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they renamed it Leningrad in honor of Vladimir Lenin, the first Communist dictator.  After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the city reclaimed its original name: St. Petersburg.)

Rasputin carried with him the auroa of a holy man and a healer.  A woman friend of the Empress made his fateful introduction to the royal family in late 1095. 

It was Rasputin’s claim to be a healer that cemented his relationship with the Czar and Czarina–and especially the latter.

For Nicholas and Alexandra lived with a frightening secret–one known to only a handful of trusted doctors: Their only son, Alexei–next in line to the throne when his father died–was a hemophiliac.

Nicholas 11 and Alexandra

A disease inherited on the mother’s side, hemophilia prevents the blood from clotting normally.  A slight cut can result in massive–and fatal–bleeding.  Even a slight bruise cause internal bleeding.

Doctors had told the Czar there was nothing they could do to cure his young son.  If an accident happened, all that could be done was to await the outcome.

Alexei

So when Nicholas and Alexandra learned of Rasputin’s supposed reputation as a healer, they dared to hope that a miracle might be possible for their son.

And on several occasions, Rasputin seemed to deliver on his reputation–and claims–of being able to work miracles in God’s name.

One such instance occurred in October, 1912.  Alexei, riding in a train carriage, received an unexpected jolt, and began bleeding internally.

His condition became steadily worse.  He was given the last rites, and Russians were informed that the Czarevich was ill and needed their prayers to recover.  No mention of hemophilia was made.

Finally, Alexandra sent word–via telegram–of the situation to Rasputin, who was then in Siberia.  He promptly sent back a telegram: “The Little One will not die.  Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.”

From that moment, Alexei underwent a steady recovery.

For Rasputin–and the royal family–it was a fateful moment.

Rasputin had been exiled to Siberia because the Czar was outraged by his notorious womanizing.  Drunk on his newfound celebrity at court, Rasputin had found himself sought out by scores of women.

Grigori Rasputin

They came in all ages and comprised both rich and poor.  For jaded aristocratic women, going to bed with a semi-literate peasant was a novel and deliciously carnal experience.

And Rasputin, who claimed to be a holy man, had a ready formula for relieving the guilt so many women felt after such encounters.

Rasputin preached a gospel that one could not truly repent until one had committed sin.  So first came the sinning, and then the repenting–and this, in turn, brought the sinner closer to God.

But Rasputin’s outrageous reputation made the Czar a target for scandal.  Gossips even whispered that Rasputin and the Czarina were lovers.

So, in 1912, Nicholas had sent Rasputin packing back to Siberia.

But with his apparent healing of Alexei, Czarina Alexandra demanded that he be returned to the nation’s capitol.

For her, Rasputin offered the only promise of hope for her constantly endangered son.

With Rasputin’s return, the rumors–increasingly uttered in public–started up again.

In 1914, Russia was drawn into World War 1 against Imperial Germany.  The Russian army–poorly equipped and trained–suffered a series of disastrous reverses early on.

The Czar decided to take personal command of the war effort–which meant spending most of his time at the front.

This, in turn, left the Czarina, Alexandra, behind in St. Petersburg, to essentially run the country.  And at her side, “guiding” her decisions, was the semi-literate peasant, Grigori Rasputin.

Rasputin, in turn, was the subject of countless and scandalous affairs–with wives, daughters, aristocrats and chambermaids.

Enemies of Nicholas II–including the Communistic Bolsheviks–relished the scandals as a way to attack the Czar through one of his intimates.

Finally, a group of outraged aristocrats, led by Prince Felix Yusspov, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, decided to “save” the Czar–by murdering Rasputin.

LOOKING INTO THE SOUL OF PUTIN–AND RUSSIA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2014 at 12:43 am

Arizona Senator John McCain sharply attacked the Obama administration’s foreign policy as partially responsible for the advance of Russian forces into Ukraine.

“Why do we still care?” McCain asked rhetorically.  “Because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in American strength anymore.”

And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Obama was playing marbles, while Russian President Vladimir Putin played chess

It’s clear that the American Right–long aching for a chance to lob nuclear missiles at the former Soviet Union–is itching for the chance to do so now.

Yet America’s frustrations with Russia generally–and Vladimir Putin in particular–long predate those of Barack Obama.

A major reason for this: America’s dealings with Russia have not always been as wise as they should have been.

In his memoir, Duty, Robert M. Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, candidly writes:

“I shared with [President Bush] my belief that from 1999 onward, the West, and particularly the United States, had badly underestimated the magnitude of Russian humiliation in losing the Cold War and then the dissolution of the Soviet Union….

“The arrogance, after the collapse, of American government officials, academicians, businessmen, and politicians in telling the Russians how to conduct their domestic or international affairs…had led to deep and long-term resentment and bitterness.”

Convincing Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to allow a united Germany to enter NATO proved a major success, asserts Gates.

But moving quickly–after the collapse of the Soviet Union–to incorporate many of its former members into NATO was a serious mistake.

“U.S. agreements with Romanian and Bulgarian governments to rotate [American] troops through bases in those countries was a needless provocation (especially since we never deployed the 5,000 troops in either country.”

Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, further notes that the United States later made an even worse mistake:

“Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching.  The roots of the Russian Empire trace back to Kiev in the ninth century, so that was an especially monumental provocation.

“Were the Europeans, much less the Americans, willing to send their sons and daughters to defend Ukraine or Georgia?   Hardly.

“So NATO expansion was a political act, not a carefully considered military commitment.”

This “undermined the purpose of the alliance” and recklessly ignored “what the Russians considered their own vital national interests.”

During the Cold War, says Gates, the United States carefully took Soviet interests into account.  This was necessary to avoid military conflict between the world’s biggest nuclear superpowers.

But after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, “we did not take Russian interests seriously.  We did a poor job of seeing the world from their point of view, and of managing the relationship for the long term.”

Of course, relations between the United States and post-Soviet Russia were not helped by the naievity of President George W. Bush.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia.  During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush.  When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush.  “Very good briefing.”

But more was to come.

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.  He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed.  “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Of course, no one from the Right is now recalling such embarrasing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions will vanish once another Rightist President enters the White House.

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.

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.

OBAMA LOSES, MACHIAVELLI RULES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on September 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

I was thoroughly glad to see the era of George W. Bush come to an end.  He had, I believed, become a terrible liability for America–in both foreign and domestic policy.

In foreign affairs, America had become entrapped in a totally needless war in Iraq.  And by authorizing the use of torture, he had turned the United States into a pariah nation in the eyes of much of the civilized world.

Domestically, he had allowed the sheer greed and arrogance of America’s most powerful corporations to push the nation to the brink of bankruptcy.

So during the early weeks of President Barack Obama’s first term, I sent him a gift: My favorite selections from the two major works of Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince and The Discourses.

Niccolo Machiavelli

I hoped that, on at least some occasions, the new President would find useful advice in the wisdom of the father of political science.

Unfortunately, such has not been the case.

For example:

United Nations officials estimate that more than 6,000 people have died in Syria since fighting erupted in 2011 against the regime of dictator Bashir al-Assad.

During that time, the world made no move to intervene–for a series of excellent reasons.  Among these:

  • Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.
  • There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support.  There is a civil war between rival terrorist groups.
  • Among these: Hezbollah and Hamas (pro-Assad); and Al Qaeda (anti-Assad).

This was the position of the United States as well.

Meanwhile, President Obama said on several occasions that if Assad used chemical weapons against his enemies, that would be “a red line in the sand.”

Then, on August 21, the Assad regime was accused of using chemical weapons in Damascus suburbs to kill more than 1,400 civilians.

On August 30, the Obama administration said it had “high confidence” that Syria’s government carried out the chemical weapons attack.

Having boxed himself in, Obama felt he had to make good on his threat–even if it risked the lives of those flying combat missions over Syria’s formidable air defenses.

He sent Secretary of State John Kerry before TV cameras to express America’s moral outrage at Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

And he positioned six American warships close to the Syrian coast.

On August 31, Obama announced that he would seek Congressional authorization before attacking Syria.  Obama said he was “prepared to give that order” to strike Syria because:

  • Syria’s use of chemical weapons “risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemicals weapons,” and
  • It put U.S. regional allies that share a border with Syria in danger.

It looked as though the United States was about to plunge into its third Middle East war in 12 years.

Then Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his own suggestion for averting war: Syria would agree to put its stocks of chemical weapons under United Nations control.

On September 14, the United States and Russia announced in Geneva that they reached a deal that provided a path for Obama to avoid the air strikes he had promised to launch against Syria.

Suddenly, Obama asked congressional leaders to delay votes on authorizing military action in Syria while the diplomatic process worked itself out.

As “Tonight” show host Jay Leno put it: Obama gave a speech calling for war–and then the rebuttal.

So what does Niccolo Machiavelli have to do with any of this?

In Chapter 19 of The Prince, his guide to successful rulership, he outlines “That We Must Avoid Being Despised and Hated.”

“The prince must…avoid those things which will make him hated or despised.  And whenever he succeeds in this, he will have done his part, and will find no danger in other vices….

“He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger….

“[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude.  As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.”

By making a vigorous case for going to war with Syria, and then suddenly reversing himself, Obama has managed to offend everyone:

  • Right-wingers–who hoped to see America plunge into another Middle East war.
  • Liberals–who didn’t want to repeat the 2003 Iraqi war disaster.
  • Syrian rebels–who expected a full-scale American intervention to bring them to power.
  • The Assad regime–which no doubt believes Obama was bluffing.

Unfortunately, history is not a VHS tape that can be rewound.  No one–including Obama–gets a second chance to make a first impression.

By repeatedly showing timidity toward Republicans, Obama had forfeited credibility as a leader to be feared by his domestic Right-wing enemies.

President Theodore Roosevelt famously said: “I have always lived by a South African proverb: Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”

By speaking loudly and then putting his big stick aside, Obama forfeited credibility among his foreign enemies.

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