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Israel on Edge

The Dilemma for Jewish Leftists

September 8th 2014

During his yearlong captivity at the hands of the barbarians from Islamic State, Steven Sotloff’s colleagues in Israeli media organs purged all of his articles from their websites to erase his connections to Israel and hide the fact that he was an Israeli citizen.

So, too, every effort was made to hide the fact that he was Jewish.

The reason was clear. Given the genocidal Jew-hatred endemic in jihadist doctrine, it was obvious that if Sotloff’s Judaism was exposed, he would have been singled out for torture and execution.

Much has been written since Islamic State released the video of its British executioner chopping off James Foley’s head last month. We have been told by leaders and commentators alike that with this singular crime, Islamic State awakened the sleeping lion of the West. That act of barbarism, we have been assured, will now force the US to lead a global coalition against this Islamic army of butchers. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Homeland Secretary Johnson Ready for Political Fight

September 8th 2014

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The big news of the moment is President Obama’s decision, revealed Saturday, to delay executive action on immigration reform until after November’s midterm elections. But, make no mistake, such action is coming sooner or later. And, when it does, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will be the administration’s point man. Johnson insists the Obama administration has already made the borders more secure.

That puts him at odds with House Republicans who cite lax border security as their number one reason for refusing to pass the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. House Republicans have pointed to concern over border security before. The most notable recent example came when they refused to go along with the administration’s request for funds to handle a surge of young people from Central America seeking refugee status. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Don't Abandon our Dogs of War

September 7th 2014

The Dogs of War

We’ve all heard the expression: “A man’s best friend is his equipment.”

You haven’t? Well you must not work for the Pentagon. There, military dogs are considered mere “equipment” and as such can be left behind when the troops come home.

It’s a bit more complicated than that. Military dogs are enlisted (drafted actually) to identify enemy locations, to seek out bombs, and protect bases. It is dangerous, often traumatic work. The dogs are credited with saving countless U.S. and allied lives, which is why the Taliban actively targets our dogs of war. While on active service, each dog is given a higher rank than its handler.

That is, right up until the moment these dogs are “retired.” Once they are too old, too shell-shocked or simply not needed, the dogs are automatically declared equipment that can be left behind like a latrine tent. The military sometimes says they are “retired” and become “civilians,” but the result is the same because these civilians don’t have a right to military transport home. Need convincing?

“While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them,” Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base (which trains military dogs), told CNN. “A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never.”

If you ever talked to a military dog handler, or even if you simply had a dog, odds are you know the obvious truth of this. If you still need convincing, watch the 2013 Animal Planet documentary about U.S. war dogs in Afghanistan, Glory Hounds, to see not merely how vital these animals are, but also how powerful the bond between the handler and his canine comrades is. “The relationship between you and your dog is the most important part of your partnership,” Lance Corporal. Kent Ferrell, whose German shepherd, Zora, is trained to both attack the enemy and find explosives, explains in the film. “Your dog has to be able to trust you.” But that trust often goes unrewarded. Read more ..

The Way We Were

While Germans Remember Eugenic Euthanasia, America Tends to Forget

September 6th 2014

A memorial to the 300,000 victims of Nazi euthanasia programs was opened in Berlin this week. It is striking piece of modern architecture: a 30-metre-long wall of blue glass in the open air.

“The Nazi murders of disabled people are among the most inhumane acts of history,” says Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit. “It is high time that these victims of Nazi inhumanity finally receive their own memorial.”

The regime had several methods of killing the mentally and physically disabled: starvation, lethal injections or chambers filled with carbon monoxide gas. The so-called T4 program became a trial run for the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Is Marriage Merely a Form of Prostitution?

September 6th 2014

When I heard that an Australian social commentator called Jane Caro had compared “traditional” marriage to prostitution on the popular TV program Q&A, I thought, “Oh, here we go again!” That trope of feminist literature is almost as raddled as the raddled old feminists themselves. After pushing the marriage-as-slavery ideology for the last 40 years, can’t people like Caro come up with something more original?

Instead, when asked about prostitution, Caro gave us her weird dissertation on marriage as a form of prostitution, in which “room and board” are bartered for “sexual and reproductive services”. Jane, darling! Whether it was 500 years ago, 50 years ago or now, it’s called having a family.

But “children” was the one word Caro didn’t mention. Read more ..

Broken Government

Rick Perry’s Indictment Should Scare All Americans

September 5th 2014

Supreme Court Lady Justice

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
— Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry should send a shudder down the spine of every American. The vindictive special prosecutor used Humpty Dumpty’s logic to say statutes say the opposite of their plain meaning in order to charge the governor with a crime for exercising his lawful veto. If a popular sitting governor can be indicted on such a flimsy basis, then every one of us is vulnerable.

The facts are straightforward: the police arrested Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County DA, after finding her in her car with a drained bottle of vodka. Her blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit. During her arrest and booking, she screamed, beat on the jail cell door, and had to be forcibly strapped into a restraint chair with a spit guard placed over her mouth to protect the deputies. She pleaded guilty.


The Battle for Ukraine

How to Make Putin Back Down

September 2nd 2014


Unable either to win the war in Ukraine by proxy or to retreat from the conflict because of the enormous blow a defeat would deliver to his regime's legitimacy, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be sending in regular troops to attack Ukraine. The action is south of rebel-held Donetsk, which, until Russia's heightened involvement this week, was on the verge of being retaken by the Ukrainian army.

It is likely that in response to Russia's escalation, the United States and European Union will contemplate more sanctions. The problem is that all the relatively "painless" economic measures have already been taken. So both the U.S. and Europe are now left looking at actions that will hurt their own industries and financial institutions.

Take the previous round of sanctions, which targeted only select Russian banks. This time, it may well have to be the entire Russian financial system: That is, U.S. and EU banks will have to sever relations with any bank that does business with their Russian counterparts. Another example: Previously, only future investments in technology and transfers to the Russian energy sector were banned. Now, the West may have to block the hundreds of billions of dollars in investment and equipment already in the "pipeline" to Russia as a result of the pre-existing contracts between the Russian oil giant Rosneft and its Western counterparts. Read more ..

The Caliphate

The World's Enormous Silence about the Slaughter of Christians

September 1st 2014

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The Pope, patriarchs and prelates are crying out for intervention. Where are the presidents and prime ministers?

I've known Maronite leader Monsignor Sharbel Maroun for many years, talked with him on radio in 2006 after Telelumiere was nearly destroyed in the Lebanon War that summer, and many times before and after then about the ongoing work of unity and mutual respect of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. He just returned from Lebanon recently, we talked again this week, and he is despondent. What he said is captured well here.

Catholics in the Middle East are being persecuted and slaughtered while the world watches and remains silent, said the leader of an Eastern rite Catholic community. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Saving NATO

September 1st 2014

NATO meeting

It was one great historical irony that when NATO's famous Article 5 - an attack on any member is an attack on all and demands their assistance - was invoked, it would be not in the aid of the European states for which the Treaty was designed but for the U.S. Nor did the 9/11 attack come from NATO's anticipated enemy, the Soviet Union, but the new international jihadist terror network.

Thus history's most successful alliance - it protected Western Europe at the highwater mark of Communism both without and within for a half-century until the Soviet Union imploded --- met a new challenge in far-off Afghanistan. Yes, the German contingent spent too much time drinking beer and refusing night warfare, most of the Europeans sent token forces, and "the Anglo-Saxons" [certainly not excluding the Australians!] as usual carried the weight to a quick military victory despite outrageous rules of engagement. And, with the current kind of political impasse in "nation building" in Kabul, the longest war in U.S. history might still come to less. But the Treaty obligations worked. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Should Solve Problems Instead of Creating Them

August 31st 2014

We are facing what the Defense secretary has characterized as an unprecedented threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al-Nusra is threatening Israeli Defense forces on the border of the Golan Heights, and the Russians are pushing further and more enthusiastically into Ukraine — it must be time to pick a huge political fight over immigration policy.

Administration officials confirm President Obama and his team are preparing an expansive new policy through executive action that bypasses Congress and defers deportations while increasing visas and green cards just two months before the midterm elections. Such a controversial move raises questions not only about the president’s political judgment and motivations but his accountability as commander in chief, as it would create a political firestorm for both Democrats and Republicans alike and reveal a willingness of the Obama administration to take its eye off of the numerous and far more urgent crises overseas. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Doing the Right Thing in Ferguson MO

August 30th 2014

Michael Brown RIP

The recent violence in Ferguson, Missouri triggered various associations, some historical, others social, for me. The name of the city and state held significant historical meaning regarding racism in America. First, the state.

In 1807, a Missouri statute held that a person kept in wrongful servitude could sue for their freedom. These freedom-suits became state law in 1824. That year, the Missouri Supreme Court created the legal precedent of, "once free-always free." Thus, if a slave had been taken from a slave state through a free state or territory, upon return to the slave state, they could use this legal strategy to attain their freedom.

Within a few years, this attitude toward attaining freedom hardened. The Dred Scott case decided in 1857, easily could have been judged by this doctrine. Scott, a slave purchased in Missouri, was taken by an Army doctor to a free territory and state and then returned to Missouri as a slave. He initiated a suit for his family's freedom. His case ultimately ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the guidance of Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court raised and answered a number of fundamental questions. The first was whether any person of color, free or slave was a citizen. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Telephones and Internet

August 30th 2014

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One year after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani assumed the office of President, the regime in Tehran is apparently stepping up surveillance of its citizens’ online and telephone activities, threatening some with punishment for “seditious” activities.

Recently, a viewer of VOA’s Persian service living in Shiraz sent several images of SMS text messages that were sent to his phone after he had called in to VOA’s interactive Straight Talk TV program.

“You have been influenced by foreign media’s anti-security propaganda,” reads one text message. “If you contact the media outlets outside Iran you will be subject to punishment by Islamic Laws.”

One message dates back to 2013, while the dates of others have been obscured. There is also incomplete information as to where the text was sent from. Read more ..

Election 2016

Romney? Again? Please Stop

August 29th 2014


This week, Mitt Romney said there was a "one of a million" chance he'd run again for president in 2016. Political journalism being what it is, his comments were taken to mean that he was "opening the door" to another campaign.

Never mind that Romney was quoting a part of the movie "Dumb and Dumber" that is specifically about why treating a one in a million chance as real is, well, dumb.

People around Romney, on the other hand, are actually very serious about 2016. They've been pushing the idea of another run for months. They have various motives. Some of them want to avenge the wrong allegedly done Romney in 2012; some of them want more fees. Plenty of other Republicans are nervous because they're used to having clear frontrunners, and don't see any in the current field. Read more ..

The Media on Edge

What Zakaria's New Plagiarism Problems Reveal About Public Discourse

August 28th 2014

Paper Stack

In August, 2011, about a year before Fareed Zakaria's misappropriation of some paragraphs written by New Yorker writer Jill Lepore prompted his brief suspension by Time, The Washington Post, and CNN and his resignation from the Yale Corporation, I reported an earlier instance his duplicitous "editing" as he scrambled to tidy up an uncharacteristically id-like public eruption on the Charlie Rose Show.
Few noticed the little clean-up effort at the time, but I cited it again here a year later when the Lepore scandal broke. And I want return to it briefly now amid new, increasingly substantial accusations that Zakaria is a plagiarist. Whenever he has passed off someone else's work and authorial voice as his own, he has crossed a line that Time, the Post, and CNN shouldn't be blurring as shamelessly as they've been doing. Now we're learning that passages in his book The Post American World have been lifted from others' published work without proper (if any) attribution or credit. Read more ..

Election 2014

Why Hagan Wins North Carolina

August 27th 2014


Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is the target of what could be the most aggressive, dishonest, vindictive and lavishly financed negative campaign against any statewide candidate I’ve ever seen, yet according to the summary of polling from Real Clear Politics, she is still running neck and neck with her opponent, Thom Tillis, the Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

The fact that Hagan is still standing after millions of dollars’ worth of personal attacks against her, financed by out-of-state ultra-conservative and hyperpartisan GOP money from the Koch brothers and others, is a testament to her political resilience and the good sense of many Tar Heel voters who are offended by the politics of personal destruction practiced by her opponents in the epic battle for North Carolina.

While President Obama did not help Hagan by addressing the American Legion convention in North Carolina this week, in her speech Hagan showed that she is one of the strongest supporters of veterans in the Senate and comes from one of the most respected military families in the state. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Will Obama Meet ISIS Threat?

August 26th 2014

Iraqi prisoners of ISIL

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, formerly some ragtag terrorist group President Obama wrote off as “JV,” has suddenly hijacked Obama’s presidency and his legacy — forcing Obama back in to war in Iraq, a fight he took pride in ending — and likely a new one in Syria as well.

What Obama has described as a humanitarian mission intended to help the Iraqis fight ISIS (or its other name, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is likely now morphing into an unprecedented confrontation against, in the words of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, an enemy “beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Hagel was joined at a press conference Wednesday by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in issuing stark warnings about the power and danger of ISIS/ISIL and telegraphing a significant escalation in the now limited battle against it. Both men described the group, which controls formerly sovereign territory in Iraq and numbers roughly 17,000 strong, as well-funded, highly sophisticated and successful in attracting and radicalizing Westerners. Dempsey warned ISIS can only be contained temporarily. And “can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a non-existent border,” Dempsey said. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Was Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, Not a 'Regular Guy'

August 20th 2014

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Michael Brown of Ferguson MO

The awful recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have prompted endless commentary, evidence of how deeply they have tapped into something basic and foundational in American society. No one could do justice to it all, and I wouldn't even presume to try.

One aspect, however, has been nagging at me: the practically gleeful response in some quarters to the video showing the shooting victim, Michael Brown, allegedly stealing some cigars from a store shortly before he was killed by a police officer.

One blog called it “A Likely Slam-Dunk In Favor Of Police” that proves Brown was a “gangsta thug.” Another saw it as reason for an indictment—not of the officer who fired the shots, but of Attorney General Eric Holder, simply because the “Justice Department asked the Ferguson Police Department not to release the video because of concerns that ‘it would roil the community further.’” Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Europe's Malaise: The New Normal?

August 19th 2014

euro flags

Russia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they're not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world's fourth-largest economy (and Europe's largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Europe has been mired in an economic crisis for half a decade now. Germany is the economic engine of Europe, and it is expected that it will at some point pull Europe out of its crisis. There have been constant predictions that Europe may finally be turning an economic corner, but if Germany's economy is contracting (Berlin claims it will rebound this year), it is difficult to believe that any corner is being turned. It is becoming increasingly reasonable to believe that rather than an interlude in European prosperity, what we now see is actually the new normal. The key point is not that Germany's economy has contracted by a trivial amount. Read more ..

American Jewry on Edge

The Deafening Silence Of American Jewish Leaders

August 17th 2014

Isi Libler

Over the past few months, Israel has been increasingly castigated and blamed by President Obama and his spokesmen concerning their botched initiative to bring about a settlement with the PA. The downward spiral in relations escalated in recent weeks with the President’s ritual endorsements of Israel’s right to self-defense being linked with criticisms of its behavior.

The U.S. is unquestionably Israel’s principal ally. The American public and a bipartisan Congress remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel and, until this week, the US has maintained the military partnership and exercised its veto powers to defend Israel from biased resolutions at the UN Security Council.

Israel is therefore reluctant to confront the offensive statements emanating from the White House and repeatedly undergoes motions of minimizing differences.

Nevertheless, one would have expected a robust American Jewish leadership to publicly express its concern. Yet, other than the hawkish Zionist Organization of America, the Jewish establishment appears to have burrowed behind a curtain of deafening silence.

Ironically, committed American Jews are today more united in support of Israel than at any time since the Yom Kippur War. Even groups like Peace Now publicly expressed their support and partook in solidarity meetings. This, despite the fact that the left-wing media continued providing excessive exposure to anti-Israeli Jewish individuals and groups comprising a marginal fraction of the engaged Jewish community.

American Jews today relate with shame to the events in 1944, when in order to appease then President Franklin Roosevelt, their leaders, headed by Rabbi Stephen Wise, failed to protest the failure to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. But over the past four decades Jewish leaders have earned a proud reputation of speaking up without fear or favor in relation to Jewish rights, aggressively combatting the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. Read more ..

The Media on Edge

Who Watches the Watchers?

August 17th 2014


As is the historical pattern concerning Israel,  last week began the growing tsunami of groups - representing the United Nations, The Hague, the European Union, human rights groups, and other non-governmental organizations - announcing their intention to “investigate and review” the military actions under taken by Israel and Hamas during the past five weeks to determine if “war crimes” were committed.

We know from past history the demonstrable manifestation of the vitriolic anti Israeli (and some might add anti-Semitic) bias by nearly all of these organizations clamoring to declare Israel guilty of war crimes, as they have repeatedly accused Israel in the past of everything from massive human rights violations to war crimes to genocide. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Clinton Hurt 2014 Dems

August 16th 2014

Hillary Clinton in blue

Democrats face potentially catastrophic midterm elections that could leave Republicans and conservatives in control of the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. Yet while Democrats face a political state of emergency, Hillary Clinton this week launched an aggressive preemptive attack — not against Republicans but against Barack Obama, the Democratic president she served as secretary of State, employing lines of attack eerily reminiscent of attacks against Democrats from former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Clinton has been running for president for almost a decade. What is striking today is how little she appears to have thought through WHY she would run and HOW she would campaign. Throughout 2014 she has been dogged by self-created controversies about her paid speeches to banks and universities, whether she needed the money because she was “dirt poor,” whether she is out of touch with working people, and now her ill-timed and disastrously executed criticisms of Obama in her Atlantic interview. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Starve the Beast

August 15th 2014

Paramilitary police Ferguson Missouri

In an excellent July 19, 2013, Wall Street Journal essay entitled "Rise of the Warrior Cop,"author-journalist Radley Balko described the alarming militarization of police forces across America. He cited myriad cases of innocent citizens being killed by over-zealous police officers, particularly Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams serving warrants for alleged, often petty, offenses.

The WSJ essay, which is based on Balko's newly released book, "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces," details several egregious cases, where gunned-up, overzealous SWAT forces executed citizens in the name of enforcing gambling laws and mere regulations. "In 2006," the author writes, "38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, VA, SWAT officer," after an undercover detective overheard Culosi betting on college football games. "The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident." Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Aid to Hamas Condones Terrorism Against Israel

August 14th 2014

Masked Hamas terrorists patrolling street

Estimates of the cost to rebuild Gaza, range from $455 million to $2 billion to $6 billion, depending on who's estimating.  The highest figure comes, not surprisingly, from the Gaza-Hamas government. The lowest, surprisingly, from the UN. The United Arab Emirates has pledged $41 million for reconstruction of homes through an arrangement the Emirates Red Crescent organization. 

However, The Emirates and the Red Crescent have for decades supported the PLO, Palestinian terror groups and Hamas in particular. On July 27, 2005, the Palestinian Information Center carried a public Hamas statement thanking the UAE for it's "unstinting support." The statement said: "We highly appreciate his highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan (UAE president) in particular and the UAE people and government in general for their limitless support...that contributed more to consolidating our people's resoluteness in the face of the Israeli occupation". The Hamas statement continued: "the sisterly UAE had... never hesitated in providing aid for our Mujahid people pertaining to rebuilding their houses demolished by the IOF... The UAE also spared no effort to offer financial and material aids to the Palestinian charitable societies." Read more ..

Vote 2014

Let the Midterm Battles Commence

August 13th 2014

Juan Williams 02

In modern politics, Congress’ August recess is the starting line for a 90-day drive to midterm elections. The coming contests will feature one key race and three intriguing trends to watch.

The key race is the Senate election in Louisiana between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R).

A third candidate — Rob Maness, favored by some Tea Party supporters — is a relatively minor figure who could have a major impact.  The electoral system in Louisiana requires a candidate to get over 50 percent of the vote before being declared the winner. Polls have the Landrieu-Cassidy contest so close that a runoff is likely. We may not know whether the GOP netted the seats it needs for a Senate majority until December.

The New York Times’ “Upshot” blog currently gives Republicans “about a 54 percent chance of gaining a majority” in the Senate. Nate Silver, chief prognosticator of FiveThirtyEight.com, said last week the GOP is “slightly favored” to win back the Senate. That makes the Louisiana race the number one political race to watch.

But every Senate race this year is operating under the power of a never-before-seen, mystery factor.

For the first time, a Washington Post poll has found that a majority of Americans disapprove of their own representative in the House. Congress is at an historic high for disapproval, nearly 80 percent of Americans say they are “dissatisfied” with the political system, according to the Wall Street Journal, and all polls put the Republican brand in Congress at an unprecedented low. This is the first intriguing trend to watch this election cycle. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Hamas' Phony Statistics on Civilian Deaths

August 12th 2014

Gaza Militants

It's a mystery why so many in the media accept as gospel Hamas-supplied figures on the number of civilians killed in the recent war. Hamas claims that of the more than 1800 Palestinians killed close to 90% were civilians. Israel, on the other hand, says that close to half of them were combatants. The objective facts support a number much closer to Israel's than to Hamas'.

Even human rights group antagonistic to Israel acknowledge, according to a New York Times report, that Hamas probably counts among the "civilians killed by Israel" the following groups: Palestinians killed by Hamas as collaborators; Palestinians killed through domestic violence; Palestinians killed by errant Hamas rockets or mortars; and Palestinians who died naturally during the conflict. I wonder if Hamas also included the reported 162 children who died while performing child slave labor in building their terror tunnels. Hamas also defines combatants to include only armed fighters who were killed while fighting Israelis. They exclude Hamas supporters who build tunnels, who allow their homes to be used to store and fire rockets, Hamas policemen, members of the Hamas political wing and others who work hand in hand with the armed terrorists. Read more ..

Iraq on Edge

Maliki Must Go, and Other Obsrvations About Iraq

August 11th 2014

Nouri al-Maliki

As the sun set on yet another peaceful summer weekend, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki appeared to be contemplating a political coup.  Military forces loyal to the embattled Iraqi leader surrounded key sites in Baghdad, and in an impromptu television address, he suggested that the new Iraqi President Fuad Mahsoum had violated the constitution by failing to ask him to form a government. 

To suggest this is the last thing Iraq needs is something of an understatement: terrorist forces of the Islamic State/ISIS have made enormous territorial gains in Iraq, defeating what were assumed to be competent Kurdish Peshmerga forces in addition to less coherent Iraqi national forces.  Even the terribly reticent Barack Obama seemed to recognize the gravity of the situation, and the United States has begun to provide air interdiction to Kurdish forces, and is reportedly also now directly arming Kurdish fighters.

I’ve not been a fan of the efforts to oust Maliki, in large part because I believed them to be a pretext to distance the United States from any involvement in Iraq.  After all, until very recently, Maliki was the darling of the Obama administration who could do no wrong.  His consolidation of power excited no condemnations from Washington until Sunni groups began siding with terrorists against the central Iraqi government.  Simply put, the trouble with the battle for leadership inside Iraq  is that it has always pitted wannabe Saddams against other wannabe Saddams.  These are no Jeffersonian political squabbles, nor do they pit latter day Lincolns against tyrants.  And in that regard, there seemed little point to overturn the legitimate results of this year’s Iraqi elections in order to find a new sweetheart who would start doing the wrong thing as soon as Barack and co stopped paying attention.    Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Stand By for Slaughter

August 10th 2014

ISIL execution victims

In the summer of 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama was asked if he was worried that his proposed withdrawal from Iraq would result in ethnic cleansing or even genocide. He scoffed at the premise.

“By that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” he told The Associated Press. “We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea.”

Obama glossed over a crucial distinction. The slaughter in Congo wasn’t caused by our actions. The assumption behind the AP’s question — backed by countless experts — was that a withdrawal from Iraq at the time would almost certainly lead to slaughter. Obama’s remarkable answer was that even if you accepted the premise that leaving would ignite mass slaughter, it would still be right to bug out of Iraq. Read more ..

The US and Israel

A Linkage for Leadership in Cybersecurity

August 9th 2014

Obama Bibi Informal Tarmac

As an embattled Israel struggles to protect itself against Hamas rocket attacks and terrorist tunnels from the Gaza Strip, political ties between Washington and Jerusalem have reached an all-time low. President Obama has put Israel under unrelenting pressure to accept a nuclear Iran, to make dangerous concessions to Palestinian negotiators, and now to stop Operation Protective Edge before it can cripple the Hamas terrorist threat.

Moreover, many among America’s media, university and even religious elites increasingly condemn Israel’s effort to protect its growing population, calling for sanctions, boycotts and divestitures against U.S. firms doing business with Israel. This “BDS movement” does not merely criticize specific Israeli policies, such as Protective Edge, but instead attacks the very legitimacy of Israel itself. It often masks an ill-concealed anti-Semitism, a stain we had hoped was long ago erased from American political discourse. It is reminiscent of former President Jimmy Carter’s view of Israel as an “apartheid state.”

Fortunately, however, while the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship sputters and even deteriorates further at the national level, our states, local institutions and businesses are actually forging ever-closer relations with key Israeli institutions. These rapidly expanding linkages, despite political disagreements between capitals, are mutually beneficial and represent strong testaments to the common sense of both the American and Israeli people. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Obama Has a Plan for Hamas

August 9th 2014

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President Barack Obama has a plan.

He wants to use the cease-fire talks in Cairo to strengthen Fatah.

In remarks Wednesday, Obama said, “I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for some of the work that has been done in cooperation with Israel and the international community by the Palestinian Authority. And they’ve shown themselves to be responsible. They have recognized Israel. They are prepared to move forward to arrive at a two-state solution. I think [PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a.] Abu Mazen is sincere in his desire for peace.”

Obama’s plans for the cease-fire were spelled out in detail the day before in a column by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. There Ignatius claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry has abandoned his previous position on the cease-fire. That position was harshly criticized by Israeli leaders and US media heavyweights, including Ignatius himself, for its clear bias in favor of Hamas. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Obama: Netanyahu is Too Strong, Abbas is Too Weak

August 9th 2014

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An editorial in I24 asserts: Israel must find a way to live side by side in peace with the Palestinians if it wants to maintain its democratic and civic traditions, US President Barack Obama said in an interview with Thomas Friedman published in the New York Times on Friday.

"[B]ecause Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival. ... I think the question really is how does Israel survive," Obama said in the video interview, the full version of which will be published this weekend.

"You have to recognize that [the Palestinians] have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well," he added.

When asked whether he intended on taking a more assertive role in pressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to a land-for-peace deal, Obama said the way forward rested solely in the leaders' hands. Read more ..

Venezuela after Chavez

Venezuelan Sanctions Bill Awaits Senate Action

August 8th 2014

Venezuela protests

It has been two months since the House of Representatives version of the Venezuela sanctions bill was passed.  Avery similar bill titled  the ‘‘Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014” now awaits passage in the Senate, after having been voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The bill itself is limited in scope but would have a significant impact in Venezuela, especially on those individuals responsible for the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors that took place last February. It imposes “targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela, to strengthen civil society in Venezuela and for other purposes”.’, calls  “to support the people of Venezuela in their aspiration to live under conditions of peace”; “to work in concert with the other member states within the Organization of American States, as well as the countries of the European Union, to ensure the peaceful resolution of the current situation in Venezuela”; and “to hold accountable government and security officials in Venezuela responsible for or complicit in the use of force in relation to the antigovernment protests that began on February 12, 2014, and similar future acts of violence”; and” to continue to support the development of democratic political processes and independent civil society in Venezuela”. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama's Timid Steps on Iraq

August 8th 2014

PBObama contemplative

Yesterday’s announcement by the president regarding air strikes in Iraq had a feeling of inevitability about it. After all, the situation has become so dangerous, the threat so grave, that the Islamic State (IS) terrorists must have awoken even as somnolent and detached a president as Barack Obama. Now, that’s not to say that reality intrudes often for the man; nearly 200,000 dead in Syria have failed to move him beyond pale rhetoric. Still, the air strikes the administration authorized — only in northern Iraq, mind you — will not be enough to turn the tide against IS. Recall where this began, in Syria. There was no IS back in 2011. It is wholly an outgrowth of the conflict in Syria, and the failure of Western powers to intervene in the face of growing Qatari (and other) support for al Qaeda. Now, three years later, IS dominates an increasingly large and strategically important area of both Syria and Iraq.

What could Barack Obama have done, his few apologists and their libertarian cohort ask. This is not our problem, they insist. We know these isolationists and know-nothings — they’re the ones who said it didn’t matter that Afghanistan was taken over by Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. But, they retort, none of this would be a problem if Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak and Bashar al Assad were still firmly seated on their thrones. But of course, those thrones were teetering thanks to the oppressed people of the Middle East, who have noticed that the only parties now talking liberation are the Islamist Shiites and Sunnis from Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda et al. Read more ..

The Islamic State

History Repeats Itself in Iraq as Christians Commemorate Martyrs of 1933, and 2014

August 7th 2014

Click to select Image

Between August 7 and 11, 1933, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish and Arab irregulars conducted a massacre of 3,000 Assyrian men, women and children in the town of Simmele and its surroundings. A detailed account of the massacre was given by Colonel R.S. Stafford of the British Army in his 1935 book, The Tragedy of the Assyrians.

Because of the Simmele Massacre, August 7 was later chosen by Assyrian Christians as the official Assyrian Martyrs Day, a day to remember Assyrians killed not only in that massacre, but all massacres and genocides against the Assyrian nation, including the Turkish Genocide of Assyrians in World War 1, which claimed 75% of the Assyrian population, including 750,000 Assyrians, as well as 1.5 million Armenians and 500,000 Pontic Greeks.

In much the same way, Iraq's millenial Jewish community was scoured from the country and ejected by Nazi sympathizers during World War 2 in what became known as the 'farhud.' Later, in 1948, any remaining Jews were deported after having been violently dispossessed of their property. Many were killed.
The term 'genocide' was coined by Raphael Lemkin, who was directly influenced by the story of the Assyrian Massacre and the Armenian Genocide. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Facing the Challenge of Hamas' Asymmetric Warfare

August 7th 2014

Hamas headquarters Gaza

As the recent hostilities in Gaza demonstrate, Israel stands at the forefront of a new kind of warfare. Israel is not alone in the need to confront radical forces that include terrorist organizations and oppressive regimes who deliberately seek civilian casualties on all sides as the core element of their military strategy; this is a long-term battle that other liberal societies will ultimately have to fight. Sooner or later most free democracies will face the same challenge that Israel is struggling with today: how to defend themselves from ruthless, barbaric enemies who deliberately place civilians in harms way, without undermining the basic values upon which open societies are based.

Hamas' strategy is to force Israel into a lose/lose situation by rejecting the basic norms of warfare, which seeks to protect civilian populations. By indiscriminately firing rockets from heavily populated areas in Gaza into Israel's major cities, Hamas confronts Israel with a terrible choice: either allow rocket fire to continue and putting its civilians at risk, or attack Hamas' weapon depots which are deliberately placed in and around civilians. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Democrats Face the Prospect of a GOP Congressional Take-Over

August 7th 2014

Democrats, myself included, tend to respect and value expertise, and find that people who have established a record of accuracy and developed a model that’s proven to be beneficial over time should be people accorded great deference when they opine on a topic that they have demonstrated past mastery over.

You don’t hear complaints about skewered polls, global cooling, tax cuts paying for themselves, people riding dinosaurs and other silly crap like that from Democrats. So that is why it’s disturbing news that David Wasserman, from The Cook Political Report, who is a smart person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, recently changed his House rating’s model toward favoring Republicans. Read more ..

The Bear is Back

Tsar Vladimir the First

August 6th 2014


World War I was not only one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in history, but arguably the most seminal. The war was a catalyst for the Great Depression, the rise of the brutal ideologies of Nazism, Communism, and Fascism, numerous regional wars over scraps of bygone empires, and, of course, World War II. How Europe's leaders stumbled into the disastrous war remains one of the great unresolved puzzles in modern history. Mountains of books and articles have tried to explain how an assassin's bullet fired in Sarajevo ignited the great catastrophe of the 20th century.

The answers never seem satisfactory. Crude explanations designed to establish German guilt, popular until the 1990s, have gradually been replaced with a more nuanced picture, where the other belligerents, including Britain and France, share the burden of responsibility more equally for launching a war that killed more than 10 million people. But the focus on what happened in London, Paris, and Berlin has masked the importance of the events in the East. Russia, too, shares responsibility for the catastrophe in Europe. As the world remembers the start of the war 100 years ago this week, understanding Russia's strategic calculus at the time can help decode Moscow's recent behavior in Ukraine.

Russia's role in the prewar period is commonly believed to have been in providing imperial backbone to her little Slavic sister, Serbia, in the wake of a diplomatic onslaught by Vienna and Berlin following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But as Russia's archives gradually open to scholars after a century of censorship, it has become clear that protecting Serbia was not Russia's main objective. There was much more at stake for Russia than a small ally in the Balkans. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

The Empty Spaces in Gaza

August 5th 2014

Beach on Gaza's Mediterranean shore

How many times have you heard on television or read in the media that the Gaza Strip is "the most densely populated area in the world"? Repeating this statement, however, does not make it true. There are dense parts of Gaza, especially Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis, but there are far less dense areas in Gaza between these cities. Just look at Google Earth, or this population density map.

The fact that these sparsely populated areas exist in the Gaza Strip raise several important moral questions: First, why don't the media show the relatively open areas of the Gaza Strip? Why do they only show the densely populated cities?

There are several possible reasons. There is no fighting going on in the sparsely populated areas, so showing them would be boring.

But that's precisely the point—to show areas from which Hamas could be firing rockets and building tunnels but has chosen not to. Or perhaps the reason the media doesn't show these areas is that Hamas won't let them. That too would be a story worth reporting. Read more ..

Broken Government

Big Government Worked Better in the Industrial Age; Not So Much in Digital Era

August 4th 2014


Earlier this week, I was thinking of writing a column about the lying and duplicity of Obamacare backers who argued that the difference between provisions providing subsidies in states with state-run health exchanges and providing no subsidies in states with federal exchanges resulted from inadvertence or a typographical error.

Typical among them was MIT health care expert Jonathan Gruber. The folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute found video of him in 2012 arguing that all or most states would create their own exchanges because they wouldn’t get subsidies if they let the federal government run their exchanges. That was just a “speako” (the oral equivalent of a typo), Gruber replied.

And Phil Kerpen of American Commitment published New Republic health care maven Jonathan Cohn writing in 2010 that “a state could opt out of the exchanges” but added that it’s “not something I’ve looked into that closely.” Read more ..

France on Edge

How to Stop the Sale of France's Mistrals to Russia: NATO Should Buy Them

August 3rd 2014

The first U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom

Fast forward to November 1st of this year, just four days before US mid-term elections.  The top news story begins, “Just weeks after crash investigators determined that the Malaysian Airliner was shot down in Ukraine by a missile supplied by Russia, France has today delivered an advanced warship that will markedly increase Russia’s ability to threaten Ukraine, Georgia and other vulnerable countries.” 

Unfortunately, such an incredible scenario looks increasingly likely to materialize.  Cash-strapped France appears determined to go forward with its contracted sale of two Mistral class amphibious war ships to Russia.  If France delivers the first vessel, scheduled for just four months from now, this could mark a colossal foreign policy failure for the West.  Even if the other economic sanctions bite, the simple  act of a key NATO country conducting military business as usual with Russia will likely make a mockery of the attempt to fundamentally change Putin's decision calculus. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Welcome to an Amoral World Without Just Wars

August 2nd 2014

Hamas rocket in Gaza

Two wars – one in Gaza the other in eastern Ukraine – are unfolding simultaneously. They have nothing in common except this: both should be being seen as unambiguous in terms of which side is right and which wrong. And second, both are likely to end in a strategic (i.e. long-term) defeat for the right side because of the attitudes that shape the approach of Western leaders to both wars.

The facts are not in dispute. In Ukraine, the legitimate government in Kiev is trying to restore Ukrainian sovereignty over its territory, in practical terms seized by Russia in a proxy war using professional special troops, intelligence officers and mercenaries (kontraktniki) to train assorted thugs known collectively as "rebels" or "separatists" who are being armed and supplied by Russia.

In Gaza, Israel is battling a fundamentalist terrorist organization dedicated to killing Jews, Christians and gays and oppressing women. As in Ukraine, they attacked first, by firing hundreds missiles at Israeli cities and towns. Read more ..

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