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Posts Tagged ‘SUNNI MUSLIMS’

NEVER FIRED, ONLY DROPPED ONCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 26, 2015 at 12:11 am

The relationship between the United States and Iraq has become dangerously similar to the one that existed between America and South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.

From 1955 to 1963, the United States backed Ngo Dinh Diem as the “president” of South Vietnam.  During those eight years:

  • Diem was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • The Shiite-dominated government of Iraq refuses to grant political concessions to alienated Sunnis.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • The Iraqi government controls little outside of Baghdad.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Neither does the government in Baghdad.

Ngo Dinh Diem

  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for the leaders of the Iraqi government.
  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers have were sent to Iraq because America fears Islamic terrorism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the South Vietnamese army to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the Iraqi army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans–such as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter–have determined that the Iraqi army is worthless. Yet many Americans on the Right believe the United States should commit American ground troops to fight ISIS in its  place.

American soldiers in Vietnam 

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) fought to unify their country–and posed no threat to the United States.
  • ISIS is warring on Shiite Muslims–and poses no direct threat to the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraces the Iraqi war to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Iraq without an exit strategy.

American soldiers in Iraq

The United States’ relationship with Diem ended on November 1, 1963.  A coup led by generals of the South Vietnamese army ousted–and murdered–Diem.

But America continued to support successive and incompetent South Vietnamese dictatorships up to the end of the war in 1973.

Americans have been at war with Islamic expansionists since 2001.  But Republicans and their Rightist supporters want more of the same.

Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, has stated: “We face a global struggle against radical Islamic terrorists, and we are in the early stages of this struggle.”

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared: “No wonder we’re not intimidating our adversaries and they’re running around wild in the world, because they know we’re not investing in our defense anymore.”

As political commentator Mark Shields said on the May 22 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“Rick Perry has said–wants boots on the ground. Other Republicans have said they want boots on the ground, but they don’t necessarily have to be American boots. They should be Arab boots.

“Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way….

“[Republicans are saying] Get tough, get tough, swagger; 10,000 troops….

“George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.”

* * * * *

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their South Vietnamese “allies” as American troops now feel about their Iraqi “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed it up as follows:

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person.

“The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.

“The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

President Obama should recognize this–and start shipping those troops home.  And he should explain to Americans that a war among Islamics is actually in America’s best interests:

  • While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.
  • Every dead Hezbollah, ISIS and Al-Qaeda member 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.
  • 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.

NEVER FIRED, ONLY DROPPED ONCE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 25, 2015 at 12:54 am

From 1965 until 1973, the United States lent its full military power to aiding the dictatorship of South Vietnam against the dictatorship of North Vietnam.

Despite this, veterans of combat with the North Vietnamese Army showed far more respect for their hard-core enemies than their supposedly staunch South Vietnamese allies.

Consider the following examples, taken from the screenplay of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket.

The movie is largely based on Dispatches, the Vietnam memoirs of Michael Herr, a war correspondent for Esquire magazine (1967-1969).

Example 1:

A group of Marines are resting on the plaza of a pagoda.  One of them calls to a photographer for the Marine newspaper, The Sea Tiger: “Hey photographer! You want to take a good picture? Here, man, take this. This is my bro….”

He lifts a hat, which is covering the face of a dead man–and reveals the face, not of an American, but of a North Vietnamese soldier.

“This is my bro…” 

“This is his party. He’s the guest of honor. Today is his birthday.  I will never forget this day. The day I came to Hue City and fought one million N.V.A. [North Vietnamese Army] gooks.

“I love the little Commie bastards, man, I really do. These enemy grunts are as hard as slant-eyed drill instructors. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know.

“After we rotate back to the world [the United States] we’re gonna miss not having anyone around that’s worth shooting.”

Example 2:

A reporter for a TV news crew is interviewing Marines during a lull in the fighting for the city of Hue.

EIGHTBALL: “Personally, I think they don’t really want to be involved in this war. I mean, they sort of took away our freedom and gave it to the gookers, you know. But they don’t want it. They’d rather be alive than free, I guess. Poor dumb bastards.”

COWBOY: “Well, the ones I’m fighting at are some pretty bad boys. I’m not real keen on some of these fellows that are supposed to be on our side. I keep meeting ’em coming the other way.”

DONLON: “I mean, we’re getting killed for these people and they don’t even appreciate it. They think it’s a big joke.”

ANIMAL MOTHER: “Well, if you ask me, uh, we’re shooting the wrong gooks.”

Example 3:

Haggling with a South Vietnamese pimp over the cost of a prostitute’s wares, a Marine recites a joke popular among American forces: “Be glad to trade you some ARVN rifles. Never been fired and only dropped once” [by retreating South Vietnamese forces].

* * * * *

Now, fast-forward from Vietnam in 1968 to Iraq in 2015.

Once again, the United States seems poised to embrace another worthless “ally.”

On May 25, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter bluntly accused the army of Iraq of lacking the will to stand up to its enemies in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

On May 17, the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to ISIS after the Iraqi army deserted the citizens counting on its protection.

Appearing on CNN’s Sunday news show, State of the Union, Carter said:

“What apparently happened is that the Iraqi forces showed no will to fight.  They were not outnumbered.  In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force.

“That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves.”

On the May 22, edition of the PBS Newshour, political commentator Mark Shields–a former Marine–sized up the situation:

“And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said they were not driven, the Iraqi army was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi.

“They aren’t a paper tiger. They’re a paper tabby cat….

“But I will say that there are 250,000 Iraqi troops.  There are, by CIA estimates, up to 31,000 ISIS troops.

“And you have full flight.  I mean, they won’t be engaged. They haven’t been engaged.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq.

Since then, Obama’s strategy for turning Iraq into a bulwark against islamic extemism has rested on two goals:

  1. Rebuilding and retraining the Iraqi army; and
  2. Prodding the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to reconcile with the nation’s Sunnis.

The second goal is especially important. The Sunnis, a religious minority in Iraq, ruled the country for centuries until the United States drove Saddam Hussein from power in 2003.

Now the Shiites are in control of Iraq, and they have been unwilling to grant political concessions to the alienated Sunnis. Baghdad has continued to work closely with Shiite militias backed by Iran.

In turn, the Sunnis have become a source of manpower and money for ISIS.

America’s relationship with Iraq has become eerily similar to the one it had with South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.

And that relationship led the United States into the most divisive war in its history since the Civil War (1861-1865).

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 18, 2015 at 2:58 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.

But Adolf 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.

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.

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.

Fast-forward to 2015.

On February 18, news reports surfaced that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.

Al-Baghdadi lies just five miles from an air base stafffed by several hundred U.S. Marines.  The victims might have included members of the security forces that clashed with ISIS for control of the town.

This latest atrocity comes only days after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

And still earlier this month–on February 3–ISIS released a a video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

Al Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him.  The pilot stood upright throughout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.

In response to the beheadings of the 21 Egyptians, Egypt carried out a series of airstrikes against ISIS militants in Libya.

And two days after the murder of its pilot, Jordanian fighter jets launched airstrikes against ISIS training centers, arms and ammunition depots.

“This is just the beginning and you shall know who the Jordanians are,” the armed forces said in a statement on state TV.

Today–just as England was saved by the misjudgment of Nazi Germany in attacking the Soviet Union–  the United States faces just such an opportunity.

The Islamic world–which has been at war with the United States for 36 years–is now at war with itself.

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

United Nations officials estimate that more than 191,000 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

While Islamic nations 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.

Every dead ISIS member makes the United States that much safer.  

And every ISIS victim stirs up greater hate against ISIS.

No American could instill such hatred against Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah or ISIS.  This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.  A war where each fighter is convinced that “Allah is on my side.”

These conflicts 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.”

As Congress and President Obama move ever closer to committing American forces to yet another Middle East conflict, it’s well to remember Truman’s words.

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.

A WARNING FROM HISTORY–AND FILM

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2015 at 12:37 am

January 26, 2015, marks the 130th anniversary of the fall of Khartoum, the Sudanese city that sits on the banks of the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

The siege and fall of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

By comparison:The defenders of the Alamo–a far better-known battle, in 1836–numbered no more than 250.  And the siege of the San Antonio mission lasted only 13 days against an army of about 2,000 Mexicans.

The Alamo

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves waging a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia Muslims.

And now, with Syria, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

Consider the combatants:

On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government. Hizbollah 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 Hizbollah

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.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

In short, it’s a Muslim-vs.-Muslim “holy war.”

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.

It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

SEVERED HEADS IN SYRIA: LET ALLAH SORT IT OUT

In History, Military, Politics on August 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has some advice on Syria.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition on June 15, 2013, Palin said the United States should not intervene in Syria while Barack Obama holds the Presidency:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing… let Allah sort it out!”

Actually, she got it half-right: “Let Allah sort it out”–regardless of who is President.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of this should look at a photo now making the rounds on the Internet.

Taken in Syria, it shows a seven-year-old boy, wearing a baseball cap and, with both hands, holding aloft a severed head.  “That’s my boy,” reads a caption underneath.

It may been written by Khaled Sharrouf, a wanted terrorist who fled Australia to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It is ISIS that now threatens to overwhelm Iraq and re-establish an Islamic Caliphate.

Click here: Seven-Year-Old Jihadi Poses with Severed Head

That photo is the real face of Syria.  It’s worth remembering as Democratic and Republican politicians seek to prove their toughness to voters.

One of the Democrats is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who blames President Obama for not sending military forces to Syria.

“I know that the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton recently said.

There’s an old saying: When your enemy is digging himself into a hole, let him keep digging.  And that is exactly the case with those groups now waging all-out war against each other in Syria.

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

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 241 Marines.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of Islamics.  Intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims, it 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

In a June 1, 2013 column entitled, “Stop the Madness,” Dr. James J. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, warned:

“What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody battlefield pitting sects and their regional allies against each other in a ‘dance unto death.’

“On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

“Arrayed against them are a host of Syrians (some of whom have defected from the armed forces and others who have formed militias receiving arms and support from a number of Arab states and Turkey) and a cast of thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (some of whom have affiliated with al Qaeda) who have entered Syria to wage war on behalf of their brethren.”  [Emphasis added.]

But Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one urging Obama to waste American lives in a cause that only Islamic terror groups and right-wing Americans find compelling.

Republican U.S. Senator from Arizona John McCain has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to wage war on Syria.

He has demanded that the United States create a “no-fly” zone over Syria to deny Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad the use of his air force against his rebellious subjects.

McCain, unlike Clinton, served in Vietnam as a U.S. Navy pilot.  In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.  He remained a prisoner of war until his release in 1973.

Now McCain wants today’s young servicemen to have the same opportunities he did–to be blown out of the sky and taken prisoner for another worthless cause.

President Obama is reportedly weighing his options for intervention in Syria.  But it’s not too late for him to draw back from the brink.

He can establish an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he can especially offer the same opportunity to tough-talking politicians eager to put others’ lives in harm’s way.

Finally, Obama can offer to fly them to the border of Syria so they can carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

If these armchair strategists refuse to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in, Obama should have the courage to brutally–and repeatedly–point this out.

HISTORY LESSONS FROM HOLLYWOOD

In History, Military, Politics on January 29, 2014 at 12:30 am

January 26, 2014 marked the 129th anniversary of the fall of the Sudanese city of Khartoum to the dervish hordes of a fanatical Muslim leader.

Mohammed Achmed had proclaimed himself “The Madhi”–the “Expected One.”  He had raised an army and sworn to sweep the Islamic world clean of “unbelievers.”

Standing in his path: The 30,000 citizens of Khartoum, led by the famous British general, Charles George Gordon.

In 1966, this clash of historical personalities was vividly depicted in the movie, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as Gordon and Laurence Oliver as The Madhi.

It’s a film still loaded with drama and meaning–and lessons for the possible intervention of the United States in the lethal mess that is Syria.

What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody civil war.

On the one side, is the Shiite Ba’ath regime, headed by “President” Bashar al Assad and supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

Opposing them Syrians–including defectors from the armed forces and others who have formed private militias–and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (including elements of al Qaeda).

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

They didn’t count on Iraq’s descending into massive inter-religious strife, with Shia Muslims (who comprise 65% of the population) squaring off against Sunni ones (who make up 35%).

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves fighting a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia.

Today, American politicians such as U.S. Senator John McCain are urging President Obama to militarily intervene in the Syrian civil war.

Once again, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

Which brings us back to the lessons to be found in “Khartoum.”

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.  Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version os Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.  Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film: “For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.  It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

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.

LET ALLAH SORT IT OUT

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on August 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Even confirmed imbeciles can sometimes get it right.

Or, in the case of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, partially right.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition on June 15, Palin said the United States should not intervene in Syria while Barack Obama holds the Presidency:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing… let Allah sort it out!”

Actually, she got it half-right: “Let Allah sort it out”–regardless of who is President.

Recently, noted draft-dodger and former President Bill Clinton had different advice for President Obama.

Clinton urged Obama to intervene in Syria:

“Suppose I had let a million people, two million people be refugees out of Kosovo, a couple hundred thousand people die, and they say, ‘You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs. Why didn’t you do it?’ And I say, ‘Because the House of Representatives voted 75% against it'”?

“You look like a total wuss, and you would be.”

This is truly heady stuff, coming from a man who has proudly boasted how he outwitted his draft board and thus escaped military service in Vietnam.

Apparently, it’s OK for other Americans to put on a military uniform and risk their lives in pointless missions on behalf of foreigners who hate us.

It’s just not OK for bullet-shy chicken-hawks like Bill Clinton to do it.

Clinton doesn’t seem aware, or concerned, that, 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).

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

In a June 1 column entitled, “Stop the Madness,” Dr. James J. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, warns:

“What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody battlefield pitting sects and their regional allies against each other in a ‘dance unto death.’

“On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

“Arrayed against them are a host of Syrians (some of whom have defected from the armed forces and others who have formed militias receiving arms and support from a number of Arab states and Turkey) and a cast of thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (some of whom have affiliated with al Qaeda) who have entered Syria to wage war on behalf of their brethren.”  [Emphasis added.]

But Clinton isn’t the only one urging Obama to waste American lives in a cause that only Islamic terror groups and right-wing Americans find compelling.

Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to militarily intervene in Syria.

He has demanded that the United States create a “no-fly” zone over Syria to deny Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad the use of his air force against his rebellious subjects.

McCain, unlike Clinton, did serve in Vietnam–as a U.S. Navy pilot.  In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.  He remained a prisoner of war until his release in 1973.

Now McCain wants today’s young servicemen to have the same opportunities he did–to be blown out of the sky and taken prisoner for another worthless cause.

Just as Sarah Palin was partially correct in urging “let Allah sort it out,” so, too, was Clinton partially correct in his “total wuss” remarks.

President Obama can rightly be called a “total wuss”–but not for keeping Americans out of harm’s way in a war they have no stake in.

He can legitimately be called a “total wuss”–for surrendering to the demands of the same neocons who lied America into a needless 10-year war in Iraq. 

But it’s not too late for Obama to recover from his mistake.

He can establish an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he can offer to fly them to the border of Syria so they can carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

If these armchair strategists refuse to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in, Obama should have the courage to brutally–and repeatedly–point this out.

LET ALLAH SORT IT OUT

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 18, 2013 at 12:05 am

Even confirmed imbeciles can sometimes get it right.

Or, in the case of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, partially right.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition on June 15, Palin said the United States should not intervene in Syria while Barack Obama holds the Presidency:

“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing… let Allah sort it out!”

Actually, she got it half-right: “Let Allah sort it out”–regardless of who is President.

Recently, noted draft-dodger and former President Bill Clinton had different advice for President Obama.

Clinton urged Obama to intervene in Syria:

“Suppose I had let a million people, two million people be refugees out of Kosovo, a couple hundred thousand people die, and they say, ‘You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs. Why didn’t you do it?’ And I say, ‘because the House of Representatives voted 75% against it?’

“You look like a total wuss, and you would be.”

This is truly heady stuff, coming from a man who has proudly boasted how he outwitted his draft board and thus escaped military service in Vietnam.

Apparently, it’s OK for other Americans to put on a military uniform and risk their lives in pointless missions on behalf of foreigners who hate us.  It’s just not OK for bullet-shy types like Bill Clinton to do it.

Clinton doesn’t seem aware, or concerned, that, 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).

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, which killed 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 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al Qaeda

In a June 1 column entitled, “Stop the Madness,” Dr. James J. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, warns:

“What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody battlefield pitting sects and their regional allies against each other in a ‘dance unto death.’

“On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

“Arrayed against them are a host of Syrians (some of whom have defected from the armed forces and others who have formed militias receiving arms and support from a number of Arab states and Turkey) and a cast of thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (some of whom have affiliated with al Qaeda) who have entered Syria to wage war on behalf of their brethren.”

Clinton, of course, isn’t the only one urging Obama to put American lives on the line for a cause that only Islamic terror groups and right-wing Americans find compelling.

Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to militarily intervene in Syria.  He has demanded that the United States create a “no-fly” zone over Syria to deny Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad the use of his air force against his rebellious subjects.

McCain, unlike Clinton, did serve in Vietnam–as a U.S. Navy pilot.  In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.  He remained a prisoner of war until his release in 1973.

Now McCain apparently wants today’s young servicemen to have the same opportunities he did–to be blown out of the sky and taken prisoner for another worthless cause.

Just as Sarah Palin was partially correct in urging “let Allah sort it out,” so, too, was Clinton partially correct in his “total wuss” remarks.

President Obama can rightly be called a “total wuss”–but not for keeping Americans out of harm’s way in a war they have no stake in.

He can legitimately be called a “total wuss”–for surrendering to the demands of the same neocons who lied America into a needless 10-year war in Iraq. 

But it’s not too late for Obama to recover from his mistake.

He can establish an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he can offer to fly them to the border of Syria so they can carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

If these armchair strategists refuse to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in, Obama should have the courage to brutally–and repeatedly–point this out.

SYRIA: A WARNING FROM HISTORY

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm

On May 27, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain secretly entered Syria and met with commanders of the Free Syrian Army, who are fighting forces loyal to “President” Bashar al Assad for control of the country.

He was the first U.S. senator to travel to Syria since civil war erupted there in 2011.  And after he left, he told CNN that he was more convinced that the United States must become more involved in the country’s conflict.

Earlier this year, on March 21, House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) introduced the “Free Syria Act of 2013,” calling on the Obama administration to arm the Syrian rebels.

Not so fast, says Dr. James J. Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute.  A Washington, D.C.-based organization, it serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community.

In a June 1 column entitled, “Stop the Madness,” Zogby lays out the essential truths about this increasingly confusing self-slaughter:

“What began as a popular revolt against a brutal and ossified dictatorship, Syria has now degenerated into a bloody battlefield pitting sects and their regional allies against each other in a ‘dance unto death.’

“On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

“Arrayed against them are a host of Syrians (some of whom have defected from the armed forces and others who have formed militias receiving arms and support from a number of Arab states and Turkey) and a cast of thousands of foreign Sunni fighters (some of whom have affiliated with al Qaeda) who have entered Syria to wage war on behalf of their brethren.”

And then Zogby warns:

“This deadly zero-sum game is both dangerous and fatally flawed, because in reality this is a war that no one can win, and the consequences of continuing it will only make the situation worse.”

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

They didn’t count on Iraq’s descending into massive inter-religious strife, with Shia Muslims (who comprise 65% of the population) squaring off against Sunni ones (who make up 35%).

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves fighting a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia.

Once again, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.  Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version os Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.  Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film: “For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.  It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

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