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Posts Tagged ‘SYRIA’

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.

SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: OURS AND THEIRS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on August 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

It didn’t take much for American Right-wingers to start salivating–and celebrating.

All it took was for Russia to move troops into its neighboring territories of Ukraine and Crimea.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the American Right has felt dejected.  Accusing Democrats of being “terrorist-lovers” just hasn’t been as profitable as accusing them of being “Communists.”

The torch had barely gone out at the much-ballyhooed Sochi Olympics when Russian President Vladimir Putin began menacing the Ukraine.

Even while the Olympics played out on television, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted their corrupt, luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

And this, of course, didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”–Putin.

Yanukovych had rejected a pending European Union association agreement.  He had chosen instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia.

And that had sat well with Putin.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin had yearned for a reestablishment of the same.  He had called that breakup “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

So it was almost a certainty that, when his chosen puppet, Yanukovych, was sent packing, Putin would find some way to retaliate.

And since late February, he has done so, gradually moving Russian troops into Ukraine and its autonomous republic, Crimea.

By late March, it was clear that Russia had sufficient forces in both Ukraine and Crimea to wreak any amount of destruction Putin may wish to inflict.

And where there is activity by Russians, there are American Rightists eager–in Shakespeare’s words–to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

Or at least to use such events to their own political advantage.

Right-wingers such as Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachussetts who lost the 2012 Presidential election by a wide margin to Barack Obama.

“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia,” said Romney on March 23.

“And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.”

All of which overlooks a number of brutal political truths.

First, all great powers have spheres of interest–and jealously guard them.

For the United States, it’s Latin and Central America, as established by the Monroe Doctrine.

And just what is the Monroe Doctrine?

It’s a statement made by President James Monroe in his 1823 annual message to Congress, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

It has no other legitimacy than the willingness of the United States to use armed force to back it up.  When the United States no longer has the will or resources to enforce the Doctrine, it will cease to have meaning.

For the Soviet Union, its spheres of influence include the Ukraine.  Long known as “the breadbasket of Russia,”  in 2011, it was the world’s third-largest grain exporter.

Russia will no more give up access to that breadbasket than the United States would part with the rich farming states of the Midwest.

Second, spheres of influence often prove disastrous to those smaller countries affected.

Throughout Latin and Central America, the United States remains highly unpopular for its brutal use of “gunboat diplomacy” during the 20th century.

Among those countries invaded or controlled by America: Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Columbia, Panama, the Dominican Republic.

The resulting anger has led many Latin and Central Americans to support Communist Cuba, even though its political oppression and economic failure are universally apparent.

Similarly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) forced many nations–such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslavakia–to submit to the will of Moscow.

The alternative?  The threat of Soviet invasion–as occurred in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslavakia in 1968.

Third, even “great powers” are not all-powerful.

In 1949, after a long civil war, the forces of Mao Tse-tung defeated the Nationalist armies of Chaing Kai-Shek, who withdrew to Taiwan.

China had never been a territory of the United States.  Nor could the United States have prevented Mao from defeating the corrupt, ineptly-led Nationalist forces.

Even so, Republican Senators and Representatives such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy eagerly blamed President Harry S. Truman and the Democrats for “losing China.”

The fear of being accused of “losing” another country led Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to tragically commit the United States to “roll back” Communism in Cuba and Vietnam.

Now Republicans–who claim the United States can’t afford to provide healthcare for its poorest citizens–want to turn the national budget over to the Pentagon.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Syria–even though this civil war pits Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of America’s greatest enemies, against each other.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Ukraine–even though this would mean going to war with the only nuclear power capable of turning America into an atomic graveyard.

Before plunging into conflicts that don’t concern us and where there is absolutely nothing to “win,” Americans would do well to remember the above-stated lessons of history.  And to learn from them.

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.

THE “ZANTI MISFITS” SOLUTION TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2014 at 9:33 am

Republican Congressional candidates like Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell have long demanded an end to illegal immigration.

In 2012, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum made illegal immigration a major issue of his failed campaign for the Presidency.

The Republicans’ chief proposed weapon: Wholesale deportation of millions of illegal aliens from the United States.

But even if a future Republican President dared to take such a politically controversial step, could it actually succeed?

Let’s assume that the Federal Government could identify and arrest all or most of the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens now living in the United States.  Then what?

Sending them back to their native countries would prove a colossal failure.

Most of America’s illegals come from neighboring Hispanic countries.  As soon as they are deported, most of them cross the Mexican border again.

Click here: Report: Most Illegal Immigrants Come From Mexico – US News

More importantly: The governments of those Central and South American countries use the United States as a dumping ground–of those citizens who might demand reforms in their political and economic institutions.

There is only one approach that could strike a meaningful blow against illegal immigration.  And it might well be called “The Zanti Option.”

Viewers of the 1960s sci-fi series, The Outer Limits, will vividly recall its 1963 episode, “The Zanti Misfits.”

In this, soldiers at an American Army base in a California ghost town nervously await first-contact with an alien race that has landed a space ship nearby.

The soldiers are warned to steer clear of the ship, and they do.  But then an escaped convict (Bruce Dern, in an early role) happens upon the scene–and the ship.

The Zantis, enraged, emerge–and soon the soldiers at the military base find themselves under attack.

The soldiers desperately fight back–with flamethrowers, machineguns or just rifle butts.  Finally the soldiers  win, wiping out the Zantis.

But now the base–and probably America–faces a wholesale invasion from the planet Zanti to avenge the deaths of their comrades.

So the soldiers wait anxiously for their next transmission from Zanti–which soon arrives.

To their surprise–and relief–it’s a message of thanks: “We will not retaliate.  We never intended to.  We knew that you could not live with such aliens in your midst.

“It was always our intention that you destroy them…We are incapable of executing our own species, but you are not.  You are practiced executioners.  We thank you.”

A future Republican President could deal with the tsunami of illegal aliens by launching what might be called “Operation Zanti.”

Rather than deport them to nearby countries–from which they would easily sneak back into the United States–the Federal Government could ship them off to more distant lands.

Like Afghanistan.  Or Iraq.

Such a policy change would:

  1. Close the Mexican revolving door, which keeps illegal immigration flowing; and
  2. Send an unmistakably blunt message to other would-be illegals: “The same fate awaits you.”

Although this might seem a far-fetched proposal, it could be easily carried out by the United States Air Force.

According to this agency’s website: “The C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest airlifter in the Air Force inventory.

“The C-5 has a greater capacity than any other airlifter. It [can] carry 36 standard pallets and 81 troops simultaneously.

“[It can also carry] any of the Army’s air-transportable combat equipment, including such bulky items as the 74-ton mobile scissors bridge.

“It can also carry outsize and oversize cargo over intercontinental ranges and can take off or land in relatively short distances.”

Click here: C-5 A/B/C Galaxy and C-5M Super Galaxy > U.S. Air Force > Fact Sheet Display

Instead of stuffing these planes with cargo, they could be stuffed wall-to-wall with illegal aliens.

The United States Air Force has a proud history of successfully providing America’s soldiers–and allies–with the supplies they need.

From June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949, only the Berlin Airlift stood between German citizens and starvation.

The Soviet Union had blocked the railway, road, and canal access to the Berlin sectors under allied control. Their goal: Force the western powers to allow the Soviet zone to supply Berlin with food, fuel, and aid.

This would have given the Soviets control over the entire city.

Air forces from the United States, England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa flew over 200,000 flights in one year, dropping more than 4,700 tons of necessities daily to the besiged Berliners.

The success of the Berlin Airlift raised American prestige and embarrassed the Soviets, who lifted the blockade.

The Berlin Airlift

A similar triumph came during the Yom Kippur War after Egypt and Syria attacked Israel without warning on October 6, 1973.

President Richard Nixon ordered “Operation Nickel Grass” to deliver urgently-needed weapons and supplies to Israel.

For 32 days, the Air Force shipped 22,325 tons of ammunition, artillery, tanks and other supplies.  These proved invaluable in saving Israel from destruction.

So the mass deportation of millions of illegal aliens lies within America’s technological capability.  Whether any American President would be willing to give that order is another matter.

THE “ZANTI MISFITS” SOLUTION TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Except in times of war, no nation has ever been invaded by so many alien residents as the United States.

In recent months, tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors–all of them uninvited–have illegally entered the United States through the Mexican border.

They are backed up by an estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens now living more or less openly throughout the country.

Just as sheer numbers of Mexicans overwhelmed the defenders of the Alamo, this similar Hispanic tidal wave has overwhelmed immigration officials.

Arrested illegal aliens in Long Island, New York

It’s also forced the Obama administration to declare a humanitarian crisis and open three emergency shelters on military bases in California, Oklahoma and Texas.

The invasion is taking its greatest toll in cities that already have large numbers of immigrants–such as New York and Los Angeles.

Newly-arrived alien children and their relatives are flooding into schools and hospitals that are supposedly intended for American citizens.  No sooner do they cross the border than they aggressively seek legal aid in converting their illegal arrival into a lifelong legal stay.

For years, Republicans and Democrats have clashed over the subject of illegal immigration.  Each side has taken what seems to be an opposing position.

Democrats favor wholesale grants of unearned citizenship to the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal alilens who brazenly violated the law when they sneaked across American borders.

And Republicams favor beefing up security against future waves of such invaders.

But the brutal truth is that neither Democrats nor Republicans truly want to end these invasions.  Nor do they want to deport the millions of illegals who have already taken up residence here.

Each party has its own reasons for this.

Democrats, primarily governed by liberal ideology, believe it’s racist for whites to demand control of their own national borders.

They ignore the blunt reality that Mexico–America’s largest source of illegal aliens–strictly enforces control of its own borders.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under false pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned or deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

But there’s another reason why Democrats are keen to grant automatic citizenship to millions of illegal aliens: They see them as a huge constituency.

They don’t care that these illegals’ defiance of American immigration laws:

  • Floods the United States with millions of poor non-citizens who don’t speak English.
  • Overwlems the public school system with children–who also don’t speak English–who require bilingual education.
  • Overwhelms the public healthcare system–especially emergency rooms–with poor illegal aliens.  As a result, urgently-needed medical care is often denied to American citizens.

Click here: Cost of Unlawful Immigrants to the U.S. Taxpayers

But Republicans are equally guilty of refusing to take a hard stand against deporting those whose presence is a blatant affront to America’s immigration laws.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Like Democrats, Republicans want to recruit them as knee-jerk voters.
  2. Republicans want them as low-skilled, low-wage fodder for their major campaign contributors–such as corporate-farms and retail outlets like Wal-Mart.

Unlike Democrats, however, Republicans like to feign outrage at the presence of so many illegal aliens within their midst.

It’s the Republican base that’s demanding an end to illegal immigration.

Those masses of alienated and angry whites who find themselves living in a nation that’s increasingly alien from themselves.

A nation where “Press One for English” is now the norm when contacting government agencies.  A nation where illegal aliens can obtain free medical care that’s denied to native-born citizens.

It was enraged citizens like this who, on June 10, cost Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor his bid for re-election.  Cantor’s 14-year political career crashed on the fury of Tea Party opposition to illegal immigration.

Still, the question remains: What should be done about the tens of thousands of illegals now swarming into the United States?

Democrats hasten to defend President Barack Obama’s refusal to deport en masse these violators.  They claim he is the victim of unpredictable circumstances.

But they don’t offer any solution that involves wholesale deportations of such invaders.  It’s as if they believe this onrushing tidal wave will somehow recede on its own momentum.

Meanwhile, Republicans essentially take the position of Mitt Romney, their failed 2012 Presidential candidate:  Self-deportation.

This way, the party doesn’t have to actually come out in favor of forcibly returning unwanted foreigners to their respective countries.

But there is a way the United States could deal with this unceasing tsunami of foreign invasions.  It might be called “The Zanti Misfits” solution.

GOOD INTENSIONS, DISASTROUS RESULTS: PART TWO (END)

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

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

At first, all seemed to be going well.

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

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

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

Mohammed Farrah Aidid

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

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

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

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

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

Their mission: Capture Aidid.

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

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

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

But Aidid was not among them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

“Bring back our girls!”

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

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

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

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

Boko Haram means: “Western education is sinful.”

Abubakar Shekau

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

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

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

Protest at Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

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

Pausing briefly, he added: “Abraham Lincoln!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President George H.W. Bush addressing the nation

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

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

At first, all seemed to be going well

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOOD NEWS IN THE TERROR WARS

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

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

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

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

According to the Observatory, which is based in Britain:

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

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

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

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

Think of it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flag of Hezbollah

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

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

Flag of Al Qaeda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: OURS AND THEIRS

In History, Military, Politics on March 25, 2014 at 1:04 am

It didn’t take much for American Right-wingers to start salivating–and celebrating.

All it took was for Russia to move troops into its neighboring territories of Ukraine and Crimea.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the American Right has felt dejected.  Accusing Democrats of being “terrorist-lovers” just hasn’t been as profitable as accusing them of being “Communists.”

The torch had barely gone out at the much-ballyhooed Sochi Olympics when Russian President Vladimir Putin began menacing the Ukraine.

Even while the Olympics played out on television, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted their corrupt, luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

And this, of course, didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”–Putin.

Yanukovych had rejected a pending European Union association agreement.  He had chosen instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia.

And that had sat well with Putin.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin had yearned for a reestablishment of the same.  He had called that breakup “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

So it was almost a certainty that, when his chosen puppet, Yanukovych, was sent packing, Putin would find some way to retaliate.

And since late February, he has done so, gradually moving Russian troops into Ukraine and its autonomous republic, Crimea.

By late March, it was clear that Russia had sufficient forces in both Ukraine and Crimea to wreak any amount of destruction Putin may wish to inflict.

And where there is activity by Russians, there are American Rightists eager–in Shakespeare’s words–to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

Or at least to use such events to their own political advantage.

Right-wingers such as Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachussetts who lost the 2012 Presidential election by a wide margin to Barack Obama.

“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia,” said Romney on March 23.

“And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.”

All of which overlooks a number of brutal political truths.

First, all great powers have spheres of interest–and jealously guard them.

For the United States, it’s Latin and Central America, as established by the Monroe Doctrine.

And just what is the Monroe Doctrine?

It’s a statement made by President James Monroe in his 1823 annual message to Congress, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

It has no other legitimacy than the willingness of the United States to use armed force to back it up.  When the United States no longer has the will or resources to enforce the Doctrine, it will cease to have meaning.

For the Soviet Union, its spheres of influence include the Ukraine.  Long known as “the breadbasket of Russia,”  in 2011, it was the world’s third-largest grain exporter.

Russia will no more give up access to that breadbasket than the United States would part with the rich farming states of the Midwest.

Second, spheres of influence often prove disastrous to those smaller countries affected.

Throughout Latin and Central America, the United States remains highly unpopular for its brutal use of “gunboat diplomacy” during the 20th century.

Among those countries invaded or controlled by America: Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Columbia, Panama, the Dominican Republic.

The resulting anger has led many Latin and Central Americans to support Communist Cuba, even though its political oppression and economic failure are universally apparent.

Similarly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) forced many nations–such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslavakia–to submit to the will of Moscow.

The alternative?  The threat of Soviet invasion–as occurred in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslavakia in 1968.

Third, even “great powers” are not all-powerful.

In 1949, after a long civil war, the forces of Mao Tse-tung defeated the Nationalist armies of Chaing Kai-Shek, who withdrew to Taiwan.

China had never been a territory of the United States.  Nor could the United States have prevented Mao from defeating the corrupt, ineptly-led Nationalist forces.

Even so, Republican Senators and Representatives such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy eagerly blamed President Harry S. Truman and the Democrats for “losing China.”

The fear of being accused of “losing” another country led Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to tragically commit the United States to “roll back” Communism in Cuba and Vietnam.

Now Republicans–who claim the United States can’t afford to provide healthcare for its poorest citizens–want to turn the national budget over to the Pentagon.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Syria–even though this civil war pits Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of America’s greatest enemies, against each other.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Ukraine–even though this would mean going to war with the only nuclear power capable of turning America into an atomic graveyard.

Before plunging into conflicts that don’t concern us and where there is absolutely nothing to “win,” Americans would do well to remember the above-stated lessons of history.  And to learn from them.

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.

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