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Posts Tagged ‘IRAN’

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2019 at 12:04 am

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”—not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

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Liars Club:  Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on AlQaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that

  • There was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
  • There was scant evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.
  • Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service—because he saw it and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as potential threats to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • The precise locations where these weapons were stored,
  • The identities of those involved in their production.
  • The military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa.
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium.
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions.
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin.
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq—on March 20, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush—who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard—even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004—one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were simply the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope—no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women—-the elite of America’s media and political classes—laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

It was a scene from the court of the ancient Caesars, complete with royal flunkies: “Hey! The country we just destroyed wasn’t a threat to us after all!  Isn’t that a gas?” 

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

History—in the form of a war-hungry President and a compliant Congress—seems about to repeat itself.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2019 at 12:28 am

September 11, 2019, will mark the 18th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.  Inevitably, this is a time to remember all those whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it is also a time to remember those Americans who made this atrocity—and the Iraq war that followed—inevitable.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled their arrogance and indifference in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that Richard Clarke, the national security adviser on terrorism, was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the [USS.] Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States—either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she “insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting” in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” And he insisted that bin Laden couldn’t conduct his terrorist acts without a state sponsor—namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues. He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

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Osama bin Laden

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisors treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Richard Clarke

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors—and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices the Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al-Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

Hussein had not plotted the attack–and there was no evidence proving that he did. But the attack gave “W” the excuse he wanted to remove the man he blamed for the 1992 defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush.

Bush believed that his father would have been re-elected if he had “gone all the way” into Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War.

He would finish the job that his father had started but failed to compete.

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2019 at 12:07 am

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

So threatened President Donald Trump in a tweet on May 19.

Meanwhile, a debate raged among American military and Intelligence officials about the latest intentions of the Iranian government.

Some officials believed that Iran or its militias might be planning to attack American military bases in the Middle East. Others believed that Iran might be acting defensively to counter possible American aggression.

“I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons, and they can’t be threatening us,” Trump said that same evening in an interview with Fox News.

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Donald Trump

“And with all of everything that’s going on, and I’m not one that believes—you know, I’m not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly—by far most importantly.” 

That same day, Major-General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, responded: “Iran is not looking for any type of war, but it is fully prepared to defend itself.”

The Trump administration has aggressively tried to effect “regime change” in Iran. Its methods have included diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, hawkish rhetoric and increasing the number of American soldiers and weaponry deployed in the Middle East.

If this seems familiar to those Americans with a sense of historical perspective, there is good reason for it.

These are precisely the methods used by the George W. Bush administration in its build-up to invading Iraq in March, 2003.  

Even as the rubble was being cleared at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was preparing to use the attack as an excuse to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Hussein had not plotted 9/11, and there was no evidence that he did. But that didn’t matter to Bush and those planning the invasion and conquest of Iraq.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this disgrace. Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

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Nigel Hamilton

By Nigel Hamilton (Nigel Hamilton picture)

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy–who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued–right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued in the same role under  President Bush—but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”  [Italics added]

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time. 

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States–either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

BILLIONS FOR BUILDINGS AND WARS, NONE FOR THE POOR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2019 at 9:41 am

On April 15, millions across France gasped in horror at the sight of Notre Dame Cathedral going up in flames.  

The Cathedral, perhaps the most iconic building in Paris, is visited by more than 14 million people every year. Built between 1160 and 1345, it has long been one of the most important sites in Christendom. 

A law passed in 1905 classified the cathedral as a Historical Monument and thus the property of the state. But its use is dedicated exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics are estimated to comprise between 41% and 88% of France’s population.

But by April 19, for untold numbers of French citizens, horror and sadness had been replaced by anger.  

So what had happened to arouse this? 

First, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to speak about the fire. In doing so, he totally ignored the violent protests against inequality that have erupted throughout the country since last November.

Low-paid workers and pensioners have accused Macron’s government of favoring the rich. The activists are named Yellow Vests—after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

Second, in just a few hours, billionaires pledged hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) to help restore the damaged cathedral.

“You’re there, looking at all these millions accumulating, after spending five months in the streets fighting social and fiscal injustice. It’s breaking my heart,” Ingrid Levavasseur, a founding leader of the movement, told The Associated Press.

“What happened at Notre Dame is obviously a deplorable tragedy. But nobody died,” Levavasseur said. “I’ve heard someone speaking of national mourning. Are they out of their minds?”

“The yellow vests will show their anger against the billion found in four days for stones, and nothing for the needy,” wrote Pierre Derrien on Facebook.

More than $1 billion has been pledged for the cathedral’s restoration, and many French citizens believe the money could be better spent elsewhere. And the billionaires’ donations entitle them to huge tax deductions.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” CGT trade union leader Philippe Martinez said.

But this is generally how the rich and powerful react to the needs of the neediest.

In 2016, returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This included ending waivers that allowed some adults to get temporary assistance while they were in school or training for a job.  

The cuts were to include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

Meanwhile, Republicans were eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers was Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard—and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war were Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.”

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon was spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials said it cost about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people—whether generals, politicians or the wealthy—will always find abundant money and resources available for pet projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

TIME TO END OUR DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2018 at 1:09 am

This is an ideal time for the United States to pull the plug on its devil’s bargain relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Reason #1: The political assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a key critic of Saudi King Mohammed bin Salman.

On October 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document allowing him to marry a Turkish woman. Video footage shows Khashoggi walking into the consulate; there is none of him leaving it.

He has not been seen since.

According to Turkish government officials:

  • Fifteen Saudi agents flew into Istanbul.
  • They waited for Khashoggi inside the consulate and murdered him within two hours of his arrival.
  • The assassins used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s corpse. 

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 Jamal Khashoggi

[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Reason #2: Saudi Arabia is a weak ally.

Trump claims America needs Saudi Arabia as a counter-weight to the growing regional influence of Iran. But Saudi Arabia was unable to defend itself against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, after the invasion and takeover of Kuwait.

This was, in fact, why Saudi-born Osama bin Laden decided to declare war on the United States.

He petitioned Saudi King Fahd bin Abdulazis al-Saud to let Saudis oppose any invasion by Iraq. He argued that “infidel” American soldiers stationed in the Kingdom would “pollute” Islam’s two great holy sites: Mecca and Medina.  

Having fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s, bin Laden offered to help defend Saudi Arabia with his Arab legion. 

The king refused—because he knew that, despite all the sophisticated military hardware he had bought from the United States, the Saudis were too militarily weak to resist an invasion.

Bin Laden left the country to wage fulltime war against the United States.

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Osama bin Laden

Reason #3: Saudi Arabia is filled with Islamics who hate the United States as “the Great Satan.”  

Fifteen of the 19 September 11, 2001 highjackers came from Saudi Arabia. 

And Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Wahhabism, a radical brand of Islam dedicated to “purifying” the world of “unbelievers.”

Reason #4: The only reason the United States cares about Saudi Arabia is that it’s the second-largest oil-producing country (after Venezuela) n the world. 

Yet oil consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to a regime that is fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Reason #5: The United States can end its dependence on Saudi oil by embarking on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

Had this happened during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the United States would now be energy-independent. America has the technology to do so; it lacks only the will.  

Reason #6: Once the United States no longer needs fossil fuels, it can quit financing Middle East dictatorships.

This will end spending billions of dollars every year to prop up dictatorial regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt. America will no longer supply big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to potentially hostile Islamic regimes.

Reason #7: By withdrawing from the Middle East, the United States can free itself of the burden of acting as Israel’s permanent bodyguard. 

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

Yet, for decades, the United States has been repeatedly dragged into the never-ending religious conflicts between Israelis and Islamics. Since both sides believe they are doing “God’s will,” there can be no substantial compromise by either.

Reason #8: The United States and its European allies can defend themselves against Islamic terrorism by erecting a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East. 

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”—because that would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

America could withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It could then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“We realize you will destroy as many of your own citizens as you can—because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate each other.

“Just don’t threaten citizens living outside your territories. In short: Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

THE MYTH OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 17, 2018 at 12:21 am

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

No one should be surprised that Putin came out strongly against an American air strike on Syria.

Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is, after all, a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and  dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

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Putin, of course, is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

He grew up under a Communist dictatorship and clearly wishes to return to that era, saying publicly: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

So it would be unrealistic to expect him to view the current “Syria crisis” the same way that President Barack Obama did.

(A “crisis” for politicians is any event that can be exploited to increase their own status—and thus power. Few politicians really care about the “human rights” of other nations—unless promoting this issue can empower themselves and/or their own nation. 

(President Ronald Reagan, for example, often wailed about the Soviets’ oppression of the Polish union, Solidarity—while firing hundreds of unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike.)

(A “crisis” for the media is any event that can be exploited for higher ratings.)

In his September 11, 2013 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • It was used by “opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

But it was the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Vladimir Putin

This is the belief that the United States is unlike other nations. That it is unlike other nations in its innocence and steadfast dedication to human rights above all else.

Citizens of nations whose governments have been overthrown by the United States—such as Chile, Iran and Nicaragua—and replaced with brutal dictatorships would strongly disagree.

Referring to then-President Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

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President Barack Obama

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”  As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”?  Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa once made an observation that clearly applies to this situation.

Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of meaning, focusing on the relation between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that when a person hears a message, he has four ways of responding to it:

  1. Accept the speaker and his message.
  2. Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  3. Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  4. Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 in the recent case of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

DICTATORSHIP BY CONSENT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 31, 2018 at 12:05 am

In the 1993 movie, Stalingrad, a platoon of young German Army soldiers leaves behind the beaches and beauties of Italy and find themselves fighting desperately to stay alive in Russia.

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Early in the film, there is an exchange that has its real-life counterpart almost 75 years later.

A young, idealistic German lieutenant, newly transferred to the Russian front, is horrified when he sees a fellow soldier from another unit sadistically beat a Russian prisoner to death.

He seeks out the man’s superior, a captain, and says: “Captain, I must protest about the behavior of your men.”

“You want to protest?” asks the captain, grinning sardonically. “Tell the Fuhrer.”

Fast forward to January 28, 2017, the day after President Donald J. Trump signed into law an executive order which:

  • Suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days;
  • Barred Syrian refugees indefinitely;, and
  • Blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The new rules—and the efforts of security personnel at major international airports to enforce them—triggered a tsunami of chaos and fear among travelers.

“We’ve gotten reports of people being detained all over the country,” said Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project. “They’re literally pouring in by the minute.”

Refugees on flights when the order was signed on January 27 were detained upon arrival.

Many students attending American universities were blocked from returning to the United States from visits abroad.

Image result for Images of "Trump is poised to sign an Executive Order...."

According to Homeland Security officials:

  • 109 people who were already in transit to the United States when the order was signed were denied access;
  • 173 were stopped before boarding planes heading to America;
  • 81 who were stopped were eventually given waivers to enter the United States.

Internationally, travelers were seized by panic when they were not allowed  to board flights to the United States. In Dubai and Istanbul, airport and immigration officials turned passengers away at boarding gates. At least one family was removed from a flight it had boarded.

Earlier on January 28, Trump, isolated in the White House from all the chaos he had unleashed in airports across the nation and throughout the world, said:

“It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

Then the American Civil Liberties Union intervened.

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Two Iraqi immigrants, defended by the ACLU, accused Trump of legal and constitutional overreach.

The Iraqis had been detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.  One had served as an interpreter for American forces in Iraq for a decade. The other was en route to reunite with his wife and son in Texas.

The interpreter, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was released after nearly 19 hours of detention. So was the other traveler, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi.

Before the two men were released, one of their lawyers, Mark Doss, a supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, asked an official, “Who is the person we need to talk to?”

“Call Mr. Trump,” said the official, who refused to identify himself.

He might just as well have said: “You want to protest? Tell the Fuhrer.”

The ACLU action secured at least a temporary blocking of part of Trump’s order. A Brooklyn judge barred the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves ensnared by the Presidential order.

Judge Ann M. Donnelly, of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, ruled that sending the travelers home could cause them “irreparable harm.” She said the government was “enjoined and restrained from, in any manner and by any means, removing individuals” who had arrived in the United States with valid visas or refugee status.

But she didn’t force the administration to let in people otherwise blocked by the executive order who have not yet traveled to the United States. Nor did she issue a broader ruling on the constitutionality of the order.

* * * * *

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance—to the Presidency.

Summing up Trump’s character in a March 25, 2016 broadcast of The PBS Newshour, conservative political columnist David Brooks warned: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it.  You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love…. 

And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality.”

There were countless warning signs available for Trump’s supporters to see—if they had wanted to see them:  

  • His threats against his political opponents;
  • His five-year “birtherism” slander against President Obama—which even he was forced to disavow;
  • His rampant egomania;
  • His attacks on everyone who dared to disagree with him;
  • His refusal to release his tax returns;
  • His history of bankruptcies and lawsuits filed against him;
  • His bragging about sexually abusing women (“Grab them by the pussy”).

Those who voted against Trump are now learning the meaning of the Nazi slogan: “The Fuhrer proposes and disposes for all.”

DICTATORSHIP BY CONSENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2018 at 12:26 am

When historians—and ordinary citizens—think about the Third Reich, the name of Werner Willikens doesn’t immediately spring to mind. 

Among those who do:

  • Adolf Hitler
  • Herman Goring
  • Joseph Goebbels
  • Heinrich Himmler.

But why Werner Willikens? 

Ian Kershaw has unearthed the reason.

Ian Kershaw  is a British historian and author who has written extensively about the Third Reich. He’s best-known for his monumental, two-volume biography, Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris (1998) and Hitler 1936–1945: Nemesis (2000). 

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Ian Kershaw

Willikens, State Secretary in the Ministry of Food, gave a speech on February 21, 1934 that casts new light on how Hitler came to exercise vast authority over Nazi Germany:

“Everyone who has the opportunity to observe it knows that the Fuhrer can hardly dictate from above everything he intends to realize sooner or later.

“On the contrary, up till now everyone with a post in the new Germany has worked best when he has, so to speak, worked towards the Fuhrer….

“In fact, it is the duty of everybody to try to work towards the Fuhrer along the lines he would wish.  Anyone who makes mistakes will notice it soon enough.

“But anyone who really works towards the Fuhrer along his lines and towards his goal will certainly both now and in the future one day have the finest reward in the form of the sudden legal confirmation of his work.”

Volker Ullrich, bestselling author of Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939, summed up the results of this interplay between Hitler and his subjects:

“Kershaw tried to show that in many instances Hitler didn’t need to do very much at all since German society—everyone from the underlings surrounding him to ordinary people on the street—were increasingly inclined to anticipate and fulfill the Fuhrer’s every wish, ‘working towards him.’

“…Without the readiness of many people to work for the man in charge, there would have been no way he could have achieved his murderous aims.

“Kershaw’s main thesis was that the dynamics of the Nazi regime arose from the interplay of Hitler’s intentions with activism emanating from subordinate individuals and institutions. The results were ever more radical ‘solutions.'” 

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With the Third Reich dying in the flames of Berlin, at about 3:30 p.m. on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler simultaneously bit on a cyanide capsule and fired a pistol shot into his right temple.

The concept of “working towards the Fuhrer” seemed to have come to a literally fiery end.

Fast forward almost 72 years later–to 4:42 p.m. on January 27, 2017.

Newly inaugurated President Donald J. Trump signed into law an executive order that:

  • Suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days;
  • Barred Syrian refugees indefinitely; and
  • Blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump’s executive order read as follows: “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.

“The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.”

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President Donald Trump

But that statement ignored three extremely troubling facts.

First: Over the past four decades, there have been no fatal attacks within the United States by immigrants from any of those seven banned countries.

Second, approximately 3,000 Americans have been killed by immigrants from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey. Most of those victims died during the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In fact, 15 of the 19 highjackers who took part in those attacks came from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Ladin, the mastermind of the attacks, was himself a Saudi from a wealthy family with strong ties to the Saudi Royal Family.

Third, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey are all countries where President Trump has close business ties. His properties include two luxury towers in Turkey and golf courses in the United Arab Emirates.

Trump’s listed companies on his FEC filing include:

  • A development project in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest city, located outside Mecca;
  • DT Jeddah Technical Services Manager LLC;
  • DT Jeddah Technical Services Manager Member Corp.;
  • THC Jeddah Hotel Manager LLC; and
  • THC Jeddah Hotel Manager Member Corp.

Trump lists two companies on his FEC filing possibly related to business in Egypt:

  • Trump Marks Egypt and
  • Trump Marks Egypt LLC.

The full dimensions of Trump’s holdings throughout the Middle East aren’t known because he has refused to release his tax returns.

On January 11, 2017, Trump said that:

  • He would resign from his positions at the Trump Organization but that he would not divest his ownership.
  • The organization would be managed by his sons Eric and Don Jr. and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
  • The organization would terminate pending deals and not seek new international business.

Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that these measures did not resolve the President’s conflict-of-interest problems and called them  “meaningless.”

It was after Trump signed his executive order that the true consequences of “working towards the Fuhrer”—or President—were fully revealed.

FOR REPUBLICANS: A WARNING ABOUT CLASS WARFARE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2018 at 12:07 am

A 2012 book offers timely advice for Republicans who believe that serving the interests of the wealthiest 1% will maintain their party in power.

It’s Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising use of American Power, by David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

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Divided into five sections, it dramatically covers the following subjects:

Afghanistan and Pakistan – How Obama sought to disengage from the former while readying plans to occupy the latter should its growing nuclear arsenal pose a threat to America.

Iran – To prevent the Iranians from building nuclear weapons, Obama authorized a malevolent virus to be inserted into that nation’s computer system.

Drones and Cyber – American drone attacks have wiped out much of Al Qaeda’s leadership—but increasingly strained U.S. relations with Pakistan.  And while America has launched cyber attacks on Iran, it remains vulnerable to similar attacks—especially by China.

Arab Spring – America was totally surprised by the popular revolts sweeping the Arab world.  And Obama had to balance  showing support for the revolutionaries against jeopardizing America’s longtime Arab—and dictatorial—allies.

China and North Korea – The United States found itself financially strained to meet its worldwide military commitments.  This forced Obama to use a both persuasion and containment against both these potential adversaries.

And in its section on the Arab Spring, there is an unintended warning to Republicans and their Right-wing followers.

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David Sanger (Copyright, Creative Commons)

Sanger analyzes why the vast majority of Egyptians felt no solidarity with Hosni Mubarak, the general/dictator who ruled Egypt from 1981 ti 2911. 

Mubarak came to power after Islamic fundamentalists assassinated President Anwar Sadat during a military review. They believed that Sadat had committed the unpardonable crime of signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Mubarack often warned Washington that only he could prevent Egypt from being dominated by fundamentalist, anti-American groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

But, writes Sanger, he achieved the very opposite:

“By leaving his citizens without a social safety net, by failing to invest in the country’s crumbling infastructure…he paved the way for the Brotherhood’s success….

“In a land where the state delivers so little, even the smallest [medical] clinic” as provided by the Brotherhood “will win respect and loyalty.

“So when it came time to vote, most Egyptians decided to cast their ballots for candidates they knew could provide something—Islamist or not, it almost didn’t matter….”

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Hosni Mubarak (Copyright, Presidenza della Repubblica)

One such Brotherhood supporter, who grew up in the poor, agricultural region of Beni Suef, was quoted as saying:

“The Muslim Brotherhood came into my village, and brought lorries of fruits and vegetables,” selling them at discounted prices.  “They supported medical clinics”–and thus won the hearts of the people they served.

Fast forward to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, and his vision for America.

As Romney saw it, questions about Wall Street scandals and income inequality were driven only by “envy.”

On January 11, 2012, after winning the New Hampshire primary, Romney appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show.”  Host Matt Lauer noted that many Americans were concerned “about the distribution of wealth and power in this country.”

“I think it’s about envy,” replied Romney, whose own fortune has been conservatively estimated at $250 million. “I think it’s about class warfare.

“I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent… you’ve opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of ‘one nation under God.’”

Romney added that it wasn’t necessary to have a public debate about the inequality of wealth distribution in this country.

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,” Romney said. “But the President has made this part of his campaign rally.

“Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.”

Romney did not mention that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American populace—of which he is a member—owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

Romney claimed that Obama’s focus on this issue was just “part of his campaign rally.”

Clearly, now-ousted rulers like Mubarak and Muammar Quaddaffi believed “it’s fine to talk about these things” like vast differences in wealth “in quiet rooms.”  That is, so long as they and their 1% rich supporters were doing the talking.

But over time their remoteness from the vast majority of their impoverished fellow citizens sealed their doom.  When enough people broke into open revolt, even the military decided to change sides.

Mubarack was forced to resign, and Quaddaffi—after waging war against his own people—was captured and murdered.

If Romney’s—and now Donald Trump’s—vision of “everything for the 1%” is allowed to prevail, they and their ultra-privileged supporters may truly learn the lessons of class warfare.  

AMERICA: TIME TO AVOID WORLD WAR III IN SYRIA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2018 at 12:03 am

On April 8, President Donald Trump attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. 

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.

“Big price…….to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

In fact, there are ten excellent reasons for withdrawing American soldiers from their current war on ISIS forces in Syria.  

1.  It’s been less than seven years since the United States disengaged from its disastrous war in Iraq.  On December 18, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–killed 4,487 service members and wounded another 32,226. 

2. The United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. Although the American military role formally ended in December, 2014, airstrikes against Taliban positions continue and U.S. troops remain in combat positions.

3.  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 detonate stockpiles of Syrian chemical weapons—and kill hundreds or thousands of Syrians.

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

Islamics will see the United States waging a war against Islam, and not simply another Islamic dictator.

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

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

5.  There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support—only murderers who have long served a tyrant or now wish to support the next tyrant. With no history of democratic government, Syrians aren’t thirsting for one now.

6. The United States didn’t create the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashir al-Assad.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it since 2011.

7.  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 Trump hasn’t stated what his “state policy” is toward Syria. 

8. 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. 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 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. Besides plotting 9/11, It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.

Examples of these sectarian 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.

9.  The United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia.

The Russians have shipped bombers, tanks and artillery units to Syria, in addition to hundreds of Russian troops. This is an all-out effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime—and show that Russia is once again a “major player.”

What happens if American and Russian tanks and/or artillery units start trading salvos? Or if 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.

But unlike the Great Powers of 1914, today’s Great Powers have nuclear arsenals.

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

Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda—or ISIS—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 Damascus, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah destroys a mosque, 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 themselves off. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

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