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THE NEWS MEDIA: CHOOSING GLITZ OVER SUBSTANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2022 at 12:10 am

For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

So wrote Niccolo Machiavelli in his famous book, The Prince, on how to attain political power.

And his advice applies directly to the reception given the July 24, 2019 appearance of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee. 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

There he testified that Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States:

  • Sought Russian interference during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Benefited from that intervention.
  • Concealed his close personal economic ties to Vladimir Putin by lying to the public about his hidden attempts to secure a construction project in Moscow.
  • Lied to the special prosecutor.
  • Directed subordinates to falsify records.
  • Tried to exert “undue influence” on law enforcement in order to protect himself and his allies.

A July 26, 2019 article in The Atlantic—entitled “The Press Has Adopted Trump’s Reality-Show Standards”—sums up the general reaction of the nation’s press to these bombshell revelations:

“In any other administration, in any other time, a special prosecutor, former FBI director, and decorated Marine testifying that the president of the United States was an unprosecuted felon who encouraged and then benefited from an attack on American democracy in pursuit of personal and political gain would bring the country to a grinding halt.

“But the American political press found Mueller insufficiently dazzling.” 

Among those media:

  • The New York Times: “Mueller’s Performance Was a Departure From His Much-Fabled Stamina.”
  • The Washington Post: “On Mueller’s Final Day on the National Stage, a Halting, Faltering Performance.” And another reporter dubbed him a “weary old man.”
  • The Hill: “Muller’s ‘Blockbuster’ Appearance Turned into ‘Bomb’ of Performance.”
  • Politico: “Bob Mueller Is Struggling.”
  • Right-wing media openly questioned Mueller’s health. These same media never mention that Trump is grotesquely overweight, never walks when he can ride, and eats a diet high in fats and calories.

In short: The nation’s most influential news media—on which citizens depend for their understanding of national and international personalities and events—has adopted the standards of teenagers.

News Media

Summer is when American teenagers lose themselves in movies featuring superheroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man.

Americans like their heroes young and powerful—preferably invincible. They want their heroes to be handsome and their villains to be ugly. They want to see lots of explosions and collapsing buildings.

And if a superhero can deliver a zinger of a line while throwing a KO punch, so much the better.

Lacking a sense of history—or concern for it—most Americans remain ignorant of the men, women and events that have shaped the era in which they live. 

Most of those who watched Robert Mueller testify before Congress knew nothing of the sacrifices he had made for his country: 

  • As a Marine Vietnam veteran decorated for heroism (1968-1971);
  • As a United States Attorney (1986-1987 and 1998-2001);
  • As a United States Assistant Attorney General (1990-1993 and 2001); and
  • As director of the FBI (2001-2013).

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over.

Then President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for daring to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign.

And, once again, on May 17, 2017, Mueller accepted his country’s call to serve as Special Counsel to investigate those links.

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Robert Mueller

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News had relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

Never knowing when he might be fired by Trump, Mueller quietly and methodically pursued his investigation.

As a result, Mueller:

  • Indicted three companies and 34 individuals.
  • Obtained eight guilty pleas to felonies or convictions—including five Trump associates and campaign officials.
  • Unveiled the Russians’ determination to elect Trump over Hillary Clinton.
  • Discovered that Trump associates knew about Russian outreach efforts during the campaign. 

Since the onset of Mueller’s investigation, Trump and his Republican lackeys in the House and Senate ruthlessly tried to smear his name and undermine his findings.

So on July 24, 2019,, a Democratic Congress summoned Mueller to testify publicly about the conclusions he had reached. He was forced to:

  • Testify for seven hours before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Endure powerful, hot klieg lights needed by television cameras.
  • Patiently take questions that were often self-serving 
  • Respectfully answer questions meant to attack his personal and professional integrity.
  • Simplify complex legal scenarios for men and women who have the attention span of a gnat. 

Although Mueller was joined by former deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley, Zebley was forbidden to give testimony. He could only serve as Mueller’s counsel, giving quiet advice.

So the entire seven hours of public testimony fell on the shoulders of a 74-year-old man. No wonder he appeared tired by the end of the day.

A news media that prizes glitz over substance has abdicated the role intended for it by the Founding Fathers: To act as a watchdog over the nation’s leaders. 

YESTERDAY, GERMANY, TODAY, AMERICA!

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 7, 2022 at 12:20 am

Those who have seen the classic 1960 movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” will remember its pivotal moment. 

That’s when Burt Lancaster, as Ernst Janning, the once distinguished German judge, confesses his guilt and that of Nazi Germany in a controlled, yet emotional, outburst. 

Addressing the court—presided over by Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy)—Janning explains the forces that led to the triumph of evil.

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in the Reichstag? When our neighbors were dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau?

“Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried off to their extermination? Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse we were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds. Does that make us any the less guilty?

“Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961 film poster).jpg

It’s not hard to imagine, in the future, an equally conscience-stricken member of the Donald Trump administration, standing before the bar of justice, making a similar statement: 

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the ICE concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Trump began shrieking his hate across the country? When Trump called our free press ‘the enemy of the people’?

“Where were we when Trump openly praised Vladimir Putin and attacked those in the FBI, CIA and other Intelligence agencies sworn to protect us?

“Where were we when the victims of Trump’s hatred cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Vladimir Putin—and his intention to betray American freedoms in exchange for the Presidency. He would give you the excuse we were misled by the lying rhetoric coming out of the White House.

“Does that make us any the less guilty? Maybe we didn’t know the details—but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

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Donald Trump

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man, charged conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, ran for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Brutally attacking American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly attacking Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Intending to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017, but talked out of it by aides fearful that it would result in his impeachment.
  • Lying so often—30,573 times in four years—he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.
  • Shutting down the Federal government on December 22, 2018—because Democrats refused to fund his useless “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 
  • Furloughing an estimated 380,000 government employees  and ordering another 420,000 to work without pay. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

So why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  

Fear that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by being voted out of Congress by:

  • Trump’s fanatical base if they don’t slavishly obey him; or
  • Anti-Trump voters wanting to protect the nation from a Trump dictatorship.

Future historians—if there are any—will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to:

  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania;
  • Using the White House to further enrich Trump;
  • Siding with Russia and North Korea against America’s oldest allies, such as those in NATO;
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare; and
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy.

HITLER/TRUMP: “I AM GERMANY/AMERICA”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2021 at 12:10 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch. 

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason. 

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

THE WHITE HOUSE:

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to September 5, 2018.

On September 5, 2018, The New York Times publishes an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”  This spotlights massive dysfunction within the White House—and put the blame squarely on the President. 

Among the revelations:

  • “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
  • “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
  • “On Russia…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain….But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”
  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.” 

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes. 

THE WHITE HOUSE:

On September 11, 2018, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward publishes a devastating take on the Trump administration: Fear: Trump in the White House. The text features explosive revelations about the disdain Trump’s staffers have for him: 

  • Trump was about to sign a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea. To prevent this, Eric Cohn, his national economic council director, swiped it from Trump’s desk. Trump didn’t notice it missing.
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.”
  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” and “unhinged.” 

General Walther von Brauchitsch fails to convince Hitler to postpone “Case Yellow”—the invasion of France. Hitler insists that it commence in seven days—on November 12.

And he issues a warning to the entire German General staff: “I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me. I am Germany.”

Due to foul weather, Hitler is forced to postpone the invasion of France until June, 1940. But the German General staff can’t ultimately put off the war that will destroy them—and Germany.

President Donald Trump:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
  • Tried to extort Ukraine into smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his 2020 rival for the White House.
  • Tried to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election, which elected Biden.

Like Hitler, he could equally say: I am the destiny of America.  

Hitler’s dictatorship ultimately destroyed Germany and reshaped the map of Europe. Trump’s attempted dictatorship almost destroyed democracy in America. History has yet to see if Trump will succeed where Hitler failed.

“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM”: A DANGEROUS MYTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2021 at 12:10 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 have been unrealistic to expect him to view the “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 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 had 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.

REPUBLICANS: COUP LIVES MATTER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 5, 2021 at 12:10 am

As Republican Senators in Washington, D.C., prepared to block the creation of a bipartisan investigation into the January 6 insurrection, another event was taking place. 

In Dalton, Georgia, Representative Matt Gaetz (R – FL) gave an impassioned speech to a crowd. His topic: The Second Amendment.

“It’s not about hunting. It’s not about recreation. It’s not about sports. The Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government, if that becomes necessary. I hope it never does.”

In short: It’s about treason.

On the May 28 edition of The PBS Newshour, correspondent Lisa Desjardins explained: 

“There, you heard—it’s about maintaining an armed insurrection. He said he doesn’t hope that it comes to pass. But this is different than traditional conservative thought about protecting liberty, individuals’ homes.

“This is an obvious statement about making government itself the enemy. I should note, of course, that Representative Gaetz is under federal investigation, over accusations involving prostitution and corruption that he denies.

“But we wanted to highlight this clip, because we—the crowd’s reaction, and Representative Gaetz pointedly talking about government as the potential enemy.”

Matt Gaetz, official portrait, 116th Congress (1).jpg

Matt Gaetz

Anyone who still doubts that the Right generally and the followers of Donald Trump in particular aren’t bent on establishing a dictatorship need only consider this.

On May 31, QAnon hosted a conference called the For God and Country Patriot Roundup in Dallas. The event was attended by conspiracy theorists and peddlers of Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 Presidential election was “stolen” from him by massive vote fraud. 

One of Its keynote speakers was retired Army General Michael T. Flynn. Flynn had been Trump’s first national security advisor—until he was forced to resign for lying about his past meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

In December, 2016, Flynn had talked with Kislyak about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration. The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

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 Michael Flynn

“I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?” a member of the audience, who identified himself as a Marine, asked Flynn.

“No reason, I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That’s right,” Flynn responded.

From his remarks, it was clear that Flynn supported a similar overthrow of the government of the United States.

Later, when this was made clear to him, Flynn denied it.

In a message posted to a Parler account,  Flynn claimed that his words had been twisted: “Let me be VERY CLEAR – There is NO reason whatsoever for any coup in America, and I do not and have not at any time called for any action of that sort.”

But Flynn’s behavior in the closing weeks of the Trump administration confirm that he has advocated the use of military force to install—or maintain—a dictatorship.

After losing the 2020 Presidential election to former Vice President Joseph Biden, Trump was desperate to remain in office. Flynn was present at an Oval Office meeting where he suggested that Trump could invoke martial law to overturn the results.

It wasn’t clear whether Trump endorsed the idea, but others in the room forcefully shot it down.

“Flynn’s remarks border on sedition,” said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a retired Navy commander who vice-chairs the House Armed Services Committee, about Flynn’s comments at the QAnon conference.

“There’s certainly conduct unbecoming an officer. Those are both things that can be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and I think that as a retiree of the military, it should certainly be a path that we consider to have consequences for these types of words.”

Elaine Luria, Official Portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Elaine Luria

At the same event in Dallas, Flynn also claimed—falsely: “Trump won. He won the popular vote, and he won the Electoral College vote.”

As a matter of fact, Trump won neither.

Biden won 81,268,924 popular votes to Trump’s 74,216,154. And in the Electoral College, Biden won 306 votes to Trump’s 232. 

* * * * *

History teaches us that republics that tolerate treason soon become former republics.

For Republicans, gaining—and retaining—absolute power has become their foremost reason for existence.

It isn’t enough for them to create voter suppression laws to prevent their opponents from voting. They now insist on the right to violently overthrow any Democrat who somehow manages to win the Presidency against them.

Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” episode, “Death’s Head Revisited,”  reveals how Republicans react when confronted with overwhelming evidence of their evil. 

In that episode, a former Nazi concentration camp captain returns to Dachau, to savor the torments he once inflicted on helpless men and women. To his horror, he’s greeted by the ghosts of those victims.

To one of them—Becker—he says: “That was such a long time ago. Let’s forget about all that—unpleasantness—and move on.” 

Thus have Republicans reacted when confronted with overwhelming evidence that President Donald J. Trump, having lost the 2020 Presidential election, incited violence against the Government of the United States. 

And just as most of the Original Nazis were forced to confront their past “unpleasantness”—and were punished for it—today’s Republicans must face punishment for their own.

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 29, 2021 at 12:05 am

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

And the vast majority of the white votes Trump got were in the South.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

And for macho, largely uneducated, anti-black Southern males, the idea of a woman dictating to men was simply too much to bear.

Thus, the third map of infamy: Southerners’ election of Donald Trump.

When Trump declared his candidacy:

  • The country was essentially at peace.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • Unlike the administration of Ronald Reagan, there had been no corruption scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—like 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Above all, the news was filled with reputable reports—later confirmed—that Trump’s campaign was backed by Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB and now President of Russia.

In short: Southerners—who had long portrayed themselves as America’s most dedicated patriots—flocked to the banner of a man who publicly called on “Russia” to interfere in an American Presidential election. 

Red States voted for Donald Trump – 2016

BobWyatt07, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Now for the South’s fourth map of infamy.

Donald Trump’s four-year Presidency produced a legacy of unprecedented racism, criminality, abuse of power and treason. 

But the crime for which he will be longest-remembered—and which finally brought him down—was his unwillingness to protect Americans from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 catastrophe slammed into the United States in January, 2020. It was the inevitable result of a natural disaster colliding with an evil and incompetent administration.

Trump’s “cures” for COVID-19 included denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, demands to “re-open the country,” Ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Early on, Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

“I think, once Donald Trump and other Republicans made it a manhood issue, or a freedom issue, or whatever kind of issue they made it, it’s hard to walk back that culture war signal,” said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the PBS Newshour on July 23.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

George Karabassis, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

What had happened?

“The people I know personally who are not getting the vaccine, for them, it was like, ‘They rushed this thing,'” theorized David Brooks. “‘Who knows what’s going to happen to all these people who get the shots in 10 years or 20 years?’ So, why should I take the risk?’

“And that’s not completely crazy, but it’s not—it’s based on some sense of general distrust for the establishment, including the medical establishment. And that establishment—that distrust is the core of this thing.”

Shields and Brooks on Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the debate | PBS NewsHour

David Brooks

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot.

By late July, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.

And colliding head-on with the refusals of millions to get vaccinated is the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19.

Just as the South unleashed the Civil War on America, it has now ignited a new wave of COVID-19 on America.

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 28, 2021 at 12:14 am

Throughout its history the South has been a hotbed of treason, racism and ignorance.

Today, it proudly continues holding fast to these traditions—even as it places the entire country in danger of contagion and dictatorship.

From 1860 to 1865, the South—Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia—produced the greatest case of mass treason in America’s history.

It was called the Confederate States of America—and produced the South’s first map of infamy.

Map of U.S. showing two kinds of Union states, two phases of secession and territories

Union (blue) and Confederate (red) states: 1860 – 1865

Júlio Reis, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1860-61. It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do. 

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country. 

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

Lincoln—during his First Inaugural Address—bluntly said that he did not intend to “directly or indirectly…interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

But that was not enough for Southerners. 

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves. The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

On April 12, 1861—just over a month since Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4—Southern batteries opened fire on Union Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

This ignited the American Civil War, costing the lives of 750,000.Americans—at a time when the population of the United States stood at 31,443,321.

Four years later, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

And slavery, the mainstay of Southern plantation life, had been ended forever.

The South had paid a high price for its investment in treason.

Infamy’s second map dates from 1964 to 2016.

In 1964, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress, ending more than a century of blatant discrimination against blacks.

The South—which before the Civil War had been solidly Democratic—suddenly went solidly Republican.

To understand this mammoth shift, it’s vital to realize: In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform. Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.” And until the 1960s, the South was solidly Democratic

Democrats were the ones defending the status quo—slavery—and opposing the rights of freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

When, in the early 1960s, Democrats championed the rights of blacks, Southerners bolted for the Republican party—which held to the same values that slavery/discrimination-supporting Democrats once did.  

After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson told an aide: “We have just lost the South for a generation.”   

Johnson was wrong: A generation lasts 20 to 30 years. It’s been 56 years since the signing of the Act, and the South is still solidly within the Republican camp.

1968 United States presidential election - Wikipedia

 1968 election (Southern states in red)

TheSouth’s third map of infamy culminates with the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016. 

Repeatedly, when asked why they supported Trump, his followers said: “He says what I’ve been thinking!” 

And what Trump appealed to, above all else, was hatred.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

Among his targets:

  • Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

And the vast majority of the white votes Trump got were in the South.

REPUBLICANS: LOOKING FOR “THE REAL TRAITORS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 26, 2021 at 12:05 am

On July 21, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republicans tapped by House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attempted coup.

The two Congressional members Pelosi rejected were Jim Banks (R-Indiana) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Both are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump.

On January 6, Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol. Their mission: Stop the certification of Joe Biden’s winning of the 2020 Presidential election—to maintain Trump in office.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

In the hours after the attack, Banks and Jordan voted to overturn the election results.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.

McCarthy’s response: “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”    

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

Republicans had already signaled their unwillingness to investigate the unprecedented attack on democracy by their most fanatical followers.

On May 28, Senate Republicans blocked creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate the attack on the Capitol. For them, two goals were paramount:

  • Displaying continuing party loyalty to former President Donald Trump; and
  • Shifting the political focus away from the violent—and treasonous—action by his GOP supporters.

The Senate vote came a day after emotional appeals for the commission from police who fought the mob, the family of an officer who died and Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

The vote was 54-35—six short of the 60 needed—to take up a House-passed bill that would have formed an independent 10-member commission evenly split between the two parties. 

Pelosi accepted McCarthy’s three other picks:

  • Rodney Davis (R-Illinois),
  • Kelly Armstrong (R-North Dakota) and
  • Troy Nehls (R-Texas).

But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate. 

Even after the attempted coup, Nehls voted to overturn Biden’s victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.

In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, Banks had attacked Pelosi: “Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Banks’ statement enraged Democrats—as did his two recent visits with Trump. One of these occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border and the other at Trump’s New Jersey golf course. 

Jordan has long defended Trump’s litany of demonstrated lies and documented criminality.

Appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” on April 16, 2018, Jordan accused Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI, of being a liar. He accused the Washington Post of lying. He asked Cooper if he had ever lied.

But, pressed by Cooper on whether he had ever heard Trump lie, Jordan replied: “I have not. I don’t know of it. Nothing comes to mind.”

Jim Jordan official photo, 114th Congress.jpg

Rep. Jim Jordan

According to the Washington Post, Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims during his four years as President.

Jordan pushed to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Jordan, a member of the House’s Right-wing Freedom Caucus, fanatically supported Trump, whose 2016 campaign received documented support from Russian Intelligence agents. 

Jordan opposed any investigation into this unholy alliance. 

Meanwhile, Jordan is being haunted by a scandal of his own. 

Jordan served as an assistant coach at Ohio State University (OSU) from 1987 to 1995. Several former OSU wrestlers claim Jordan ignored sexual abuse of students by the team’s doctor. 

In April, 2018, OSU announced it was investigating charges that Richard Strauss had abused team wrestlers while he served as the team doctor from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s. Strauss died in 2005.

Jordan claims he didn’t know about the abuse.

Yet several former wrestlers assert that they told Jordan about the abuse or remember Jordan being a part of conversations about the abuse.

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler, told NBC. It was DiSabato’s allegations against Strauss that led OSU to open the investigation. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”

In an email to Ohio State’s legal counsel, DiSabato wrote: “Strauss sexually assaulted male athletes in at least fifteen varsity sports during his employment at OSU from 1978 through 1998.”

“There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” former Ultimate Fighting Championship world champion Mark Coleman told the Wall Street Journal.  “I have nothing but respect for this man, I love this man, but he knew as far as I’m concerned.” 

Which immediately raises the question: How can you respect and love a man who knew that students were being sexually abused—and did nothing to stop it?

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2021 at 12:11 am

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Perhaps the most important reason for doing so: America’s past efforts in that region have usually gone horribly awry.

Two examples should suffice:

Iran: Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953. His decision to nationalize the Iranian oil industry led to his overthrow in a CIA coup.

He was replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979 when a national upheaval forced him to flee. Iranians have never forgiven the United States for subjecting them to the 25-year reign of a brutal despot.

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Shah of Iran

Afghanistan: In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. America began supplying shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen fighters. These shifted the balance of the war to the Afghans, who brought down countless Soviet airplanes and helicopters.  

Deprived of air supremacy, the Soviet Army lost 14,453 killed and 53,753 wounded, and withdrew by 1989.

Americans congratulated themselves on their Realpolitic. But many of the Stingers remained in the hands of jihadists—who decided that America was now “The Great Satan.”  

One of those jihadists: Osama bin Laden.

According to Michael Scheuer, a primary step for disengaging from the Middle East is for America to its role as Israel’s permanent bodyguard.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

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Michael Scheuer

For decades, the United States has pursued two policies in the Middle East—one based on relations with the Arab world and the other based on relations with Israel.

Policy 1: Maintaining access to vast amounts of Arab oil at low prices.

Policy 2: Maintaining the security of Israel.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel—diplomatically or militarily—ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step—diplomatically or militarily—the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

In short: The United States is like a giant with one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in the Islamic world—leaving his private parts fully exposed to both.

This is not to deny that Israel has a right to exist. Every nation—including Israel—has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  

But no nation—including Israel—has the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

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

Another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is also the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. 

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

During his October 9, 2013 appearance before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael Scheuer absolutely rejected the conservatives’ assertion that jihadists wage war on America because they “hate us for our freedoms.”  

SCHEUER: These people are fighting for something substantive, for something religious….They are not going to fight us because we have women in the workplace.

That is an insanity. What they are fighting us about is what we do.Invariably, they attribute their motivation to U.S. and Western military intervention and support for Israel and Muslim tyrannies.

Scheuer’s take on Israel brought him into direct conflict with Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York).

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Congressman Peter T. King

KING: I would just say we would have more dead Americans if we didn’t stand by our allies in the Middle East. We would just encourage al-Qaeda to take advantage of us.

SCHEUER: You know, you are presiding over a bankruptcy. What can be worse? What has been the goal of al-Qaeda since it was formed? To bankrupt the United States.  Who is winning today, sir? We are done like dinner.

KING: We are winning and we will continue to win unless we take the advice of people like you.

SCHEUER:  Sir, you are exactly wrong. We are losing. Two U.S. field armies were defeated by men in the field with weapons from the Korean War.

KING: The fact is we have not been successfully attacked since September 11.

SCHEUER: The fact is, sir, we have had two military defeats overseas, which is far more important.

And, warns Scheuer, more defeats—domestic and international—lie ahead unless the United States radically changes its policies toward the Middle East.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

According to Michael Scheuer, the United States faces a danger that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran who, from 1996 to 1999, headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq (2008).

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts the “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.Within that group are:

  • Politicians
  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Preachers
  • Civil servants
  • Military officers
  • Philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common: “An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

On September 28, 2014, President Barack Obama provided an example of this “unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

In an appearance on 60 Minutes, Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world.

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

President Barack Obama

Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90%.

Obama: Steve…when there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

Scheuer believed that America shouldn’t be the world’s 9-1-1 number. And that the place to start was by not deploying troops to Syria.

By the time Obama gave his 60 Minutes interview, more than 470,000 people had been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

And cheering on America’s intervention was the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which was safely based in Great Britain. 

According to its website:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.” 

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

In fact, there were powerful reasons why the United States should steer clear of that conflict.

First, since 1979, the U.S. State Department had listed Syria as a sponsor of terrorism.

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

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Second, there were no “good Syrians” for the United States to support––only murderers who had long served a tyrant and other murderers who wished to become the next tyrant.

Third, the United States didn’t know what it wanted to do in Syria, except “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But President Barack Obama didn’t state his “state policy” toward Syria—or what he intended to gain by attacking it.

Obama had said he wasn’t “after regime-change.” That would leave Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Among Michael Scheuer’s warnings: The United States cannot defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) through air power alone.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIL in September, 2014.  Since then, the United States Air Force has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL convoys.

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