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Posts Tagged ‘TALIBAN’

HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION: KGB STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

Retrieving hostages is always a difficult task.

Even when you get your hostages back, there can be serious reprecussions–as President Barack Obama is fast learning.

Several Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate believe that Obama broke the law by exchanging five Taliban leaders for captured U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

And they are urging Congress to investigate whether this is grounds for impeachment.

A Federal law requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any detainees from prison.  He must also explain why they are not expected to again pose a threat to the United States.

“I think in the eyes of many, he broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days before that,” California Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC Monday.

“[National Security Advisor Susan] Rice said Congress has been informed of this along the way. I don’t know who they were talking to. I have not been a part of this, and I’m the chairman of the committee.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is highly concerned that the five released Taliban prisoners could will return to wage war against Americans.

Senator Lindsey Graham

In a letter he recently sent to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Graham stated:

“The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core. They have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight.

“In effect, we released the ‘Taliban Dream Team.’ The United States is less safe because of these actions.”

Graham predicted that the release will “inevitably lead to more Americans being kidnapped and held hostage throughout the world.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, tensions are high over the kidnapping, on June 12, of three teenagers in the West Bank.  They were hitchhiking home near the Palestinian city of Hebron.  Two of the teens are Israelis; the third is an American.

Their kidnappers are presumed to be Palestinian militants.

Israeli soldiers scoured the West Bank but, so far, no signs of the missing teens have turned up.  And, so far, no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, warned his countrymen in a televised statement: “We are in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it will take time.”

Usually, political kidnappings trigger ransom demands and agonizing decisions by high-ranking government officials as to whether they should be met.

But there is another way governments can respond to such terroristic blackmail.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.

Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

The KGB then informed the Hizbollah leader: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

These could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist grouops: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned more than 500 years ago: “Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. 

“For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

In the United States, the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2014 at 12:11 am

In peace, sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
–Herodotus

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”  In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Yet the President has meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains.  Since becoming Chief Executive, he has made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona,  grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded.  Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections.  This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA has long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents.  And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2014 at 12:02 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken–and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than ten years, the United States–through its global military and espionage networks–has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Every day on average, 51 people kill themselves with a firearm.
  • Another 45 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • More than 100,000 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.
  • 31,537 people die from gun violence.
  • 18,783 people kill themselves.
  • 584 people are killed accidentally.
  • 334 are killed by police intervention.
  • 252 die but intent is not known.
  • 71,386 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies.  On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 69 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into thermonuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has have come a long way since 9/11. The FBI’s top priority is to prevent another such terrorist attack, not simply investigate it afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies–such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration–can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

FETUS FANATICS FACE 41

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm

January 22, 2014 marks the 41st anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which effectively legalized abortion throughout the United States.

Every year since on this anniversary, Washington has been Ground Zero for anti-abortion protests.

And, for the last 41 years, Republicans and their Right-wing allies have savagely attacked the decision and the right of women to control their own bodies.

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism?

Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag.  Almost every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc.  And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women.  They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control–or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do.  They see this as a personal rejection.

Perhaps it reminds many of them of their own failures in romance/marriage.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males.  And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban.  They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

The trouble for these men is they don’t speak Arabic.

Third, many fetus fanatics are “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses, but hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.

Fourth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites.  For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.  He also agreed that his wife should have two abortions.

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do.  And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fifth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions–especially if these resulted in pregnancy. And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others–regardless of what those people may need or want.

Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals.  On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.”  That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman.  That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion–even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy.  This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor–here or abroad–to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”  They totally oppose abortion under most–if not all–circumstances.   But they also fully support:

  • making military-style assault weapons available to nutcases;
  • capital punishment;
  • going to war for almost any reason;
  • wholesale massacres of wildlife;
  • despoiling of the environment; and
  • even nuclear war.

And many of those who fanatically defend the right of a fetus to emerge from the womb just as fanatically oppose welfare for those mothers who can’t support that newborn.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity.  It’s people I can’t stand.”  With fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses.  Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians.  These are the same people who condemn Muslims–such as those in Saudi Arabia–for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors–loose, usually black robes.

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches.  Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

Al-Qaeda terrorists–now taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

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

German tank commander

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

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

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

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

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

Today the United States faces just such an opportunity.

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

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

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

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

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.  It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

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

Flag of Al-Qaeda

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

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

And now that civil war has spread into neighborhing Lebanon.

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

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

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

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

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

That is entirely the wrong way to view this conflict.

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

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

Second, the war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

But while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn.  Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

POLITICS BY ORWELL: “WAR IS PEACE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

A two-year civil war is raging in Syria.

United Nations officials estimate that 6,000 people have died there trying to overthrow the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashar al-Assad.

And that’s sending jitters through the Washington elite.

Not the casualties.  The fact that they’re being shown in vivid color on YouTube and CNN.

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

Like sending in American armed forces to somehow stop it.

Another reason driving America’s headlong rush into war: Sheer stupidity.

Start with the neocons, who lustily supported the 2003 Iraq war have been spoiling for yet another war in the Middle East.

On March 21, 2013, 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.

And 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.

President Barack Obama could have easily confronted these “give war a chance” enthusiests and put them on the defensive–had he wished to do so.

President Obama at press conference

He could have bluntly and repreatedly used the bully pulpit of his office to warn Americans:

  • Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.
  • There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support.  There is a civil war between rival terrorist groups.
  • Among the terrorist groups supporting Syrian dictator al-Assad are Hezbollah and Hamas.
  • Assad’s enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.
  • Syria has never been an ally of the United States.
  • It is, after Iran, the foremost enemy of America’s ally, Israel.
  • 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.

And, most importantly, Obama could have directly challenged the macho ethic of the American Right.

Especially those members of it who, while avoiding military service themselves, are always eager to send others into harm’s way at the slightest excuse.

The President could have officially established an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he could have offered to fly them to the border of Syria so they could carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

Of course, many–if not most–of these armchair strategists would have refused to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in.

But then Obama could have brutally–and repeatedly–pointed this out.  Hypocrisy is something Americans understand all too well–and despise.

Instead, for a man celebrated for his oratorical gifts, Obama has managed to talk himself into a no-win situation.

Theodore Roosevelt claimed to operate by a South African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”

Obama spoke loudly about the “big stick” of American military power and said that if Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its enemies, that would be “a red line in the sand.”

By doing so, he needlessly put his credibility as President on the line.

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

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

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

Yet, even at this late stage, Obama could find a face-saving reason for not intervening.  He could state that while there is apparent evidence of a chemical attack, there is no conclusive evidence that this was carried out by the Assad regime.

In short: He could shift the blame to one of the many terror groups operating in Syria–such as Hizbollah or Hammas or Al Qaeda.

This would take the United States off the hook–thus saving the lives of countless American soldiers and avoiding a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia.

But having needlessly put his own credibility–and ego–on the line, this is unlikely.

What’s more likely is Obama will continue to hurtle down the road to disaster.

POLITICS BY ORWELL: “WAR IS PEACE”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

For the third time in 12 years, America is going to war in the Middle East.

The first war erupted in October, 2001.  The United States invaded Afghanistan to avenge its 3,000 citizens killed by Al Qaeda in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

The September 11 attacks destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and would have demolished the White House or Capitol Building if the passengers on Flight 93 hadn’t heroically sacrificed their lives in trying to recapture the plane.

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was being given sanctuary by the fundamentalist Taliban.  When its leaders refused to hand him over, America struck.

That war definitely made sense.  If a nation isn’t allowed to defend itself from brazen terroristic assaults, then there’s no point in having an armed service.

Even America’s bitterest enemies in the Islamic world realized that Bin Laden had gone too far and had brought upon himself–and Afghanistan–the justified wrath of a powerful enemy.

And the results: This October 7 will mark 12 years since the outbreak of that war.  That’s as long as Franklin D. Roosevelt served as President–and he won World War II in less than four years.

Children who were born on September 11, 2001, have never known a time when their country wasn’t at war with islamic enemies.

American soldiers–somewhere in the Middle East

By early 2012, the United States had about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them due home by the fall. There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.

The initial goal of this war was to destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden–and its Taliban protectors. But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.

So the American military didn’t wrap up its campaign as quickly as possible and then leave the country to its own devices. Instead, U.S. forces wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.

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

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

The second war broke out in March, 2003.   President George W. Bush had been looking for an excuse to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from the moment he entered the White House.

Bush blamed Hussein for the 1992 electoral defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush, to Bill Clinton.  As the younger Bush saw it: If only his father had “gone all the way” into Baghdad during the 1991 Iraq war and removed Hussein, he would have won a second term as President.

Bush found his excuse with the 9/11 attacks–by repeatedly and falsely charging that Hussein had massed “weapons of mass destruction” throughout Iraq.

Even more falsely, he claimed that Hussein had conspired with bin Laden in plotting 9/11.

Nor was Bush the only culprit.  So were his Vice President, Dick Cheney; his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld; and his National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice.

To hear them tell it, America would go up in a nuclear mushroom cloud unless the country moved–fast–to overthrow Hussein.

So the country went to war again–on March 19, 2003.

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

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

Another unintended result of the war: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, but the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn. Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

The third war will likely start in September or October, under President Barack Obama.

A major reason: The American political elite is upset at all the depressing news they’re seeing on TV.

You know, all those images they’re seeing–of dead Syrians killed while trying to overthrow their brutal dictator, President-for-Life Bashir al-Assad.

It’s ruining their breakfast–and maybe their dinnertime as well.

Syrians have been fighting a brutal civil war for two years.  Much of the country is trying to overthrow its longtime brutal dictator, Bashir al-Assad, and the rest of it is trying to maintain him in office.

CNN has been covering the war to a larger extent than the formerly “big three” TV networks: CBS, ABC and NBC.

As they say in television journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

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

Like sending in American armed forces to somehow stop it.

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART THREE – END)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2013 at 12:10 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun violence do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre.  And both have steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control–let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes.

On July 22, 2012–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter in Aurora, Colorado–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

“You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm.  And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”

That presumably includes the freedom of would-be mass murderers to carry out their fantasies.

Second, those who survived the massacre–and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t–should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs.  In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices.  They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program–thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals–such as those in Aurora–with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence–and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it.  Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA–like the tobacco industry–will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART TWO OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • In July, 2005, George Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges were dropped after he completed an alcohol education program. That same summer, his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her.
  • Yet he was allowed to carry a loaded, hidden handgun as a Florida resident–under the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • Under that law: A Concealed Carry Permit is revoked only if a gun owner is convicted of a felony.  It is not suspended if he’s being investigated for a felony.  It is suspended only if he is actually charged.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”
  • In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • On July 13, 2013, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin–largely through the “Stand-Your-Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the Florida legislature.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • In 2012, the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said the NRA was “all in” to defeat Barack Obama.  Yet the President has meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto trains.  Since becoming Chief Executive, he has made no effort to curb gun violence.
  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a,Tucson, Arizona, grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” says Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections.  This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA has long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

So what should the surviving victims of gun violence do to seek redress?  And how can the relatives and friends of those who don’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

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