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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Who Is "Mukhabarat, Baby!", And Should It Matter?

Surprisingly, I've had a few inquiries through email that include polite and non-intrusive questions about my upbringing and my opinions on both politics and social issues.  I'm flattered beyond measure that people would care enough to send an email, so I will try and craft an adequate response.

My father was in the U.S. Army and he met my mother in France while stationed in Europe.  I was born in North Carolina, but spent most of my infant years in France, with my mother, brother and sister, while my father completed a tour in Vietnam.  Fortunately, my parents chose to spend the majority of their children's formative years in Europe, so my father continued to request assignments in Germany (The French government France and the United States agreed to end the policy of a U.S. military presence in France, so Germany was as close to France as we could get).  Attending military schools in Europe was a unique and truly educational experience.  I even learned to speak a bit of German while still in Elementary School.  We lived on a small military post, which obliged the American families to form close bonds with each other.  In the winter, the small American Elementary School sponsored a ski trip in the Bavarian Alps for its students.  The parents had to pay, but the cost wasn't prohibitive, and for the few larger families that had tighter budgets, the money was always found.  I recall at the ages of seven, eight and nine, living in a truly supportive community that consisted of a variety of ethnicities.  I paid as much attention to the color of someone's skin as I did the color of their eyes.  We needed each other, and didn't have the luxury of getting distracted by such nonsense as racial conflict.  I was a white kid with an African-American kid as my best friend, and a French mother.  My mother's best friends were the Korean wife of another soldier and the German wife of a soldier whose family lives downstairs from us, and my father's best buddy was African-American.  If someone wanted to be so self-destructive as to engage in race baiting of any sort, they would have had no friends during the duration of their tour.  Until the day that I moved out of my parent's house and into my college apartment, my mother tolerated NO racial comments (or even jokes) in her house.  She hasn't changed.

During our years in Europe, we would inevitably head to France for the summer.  My parents had purchased the perfect little egg-like camper (actually, it was larger than most of the other egg-campers I saw), and we would hook it up to our Gremlin and drive to my grandparents house in Angouleme, France.  We would spend a few days getting everyone organized, and we were off again, for the four-hour trip to Ile De Re, a stunning, Mediterranean-like island just off the historic port city of La Rochelle.  It took no time at all to get the camper situated and for all the various family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, everybody) to put up their tents and get into their bathing suits.  For is kids, we would be spending almost all of the next month in those same bathing suits (my mother made us bring other suits, but lazy is lazy, and we were in the ocean everyday, anyhow).  During the week we practically lived in the beach, but on the weekends we would get cleaned up, put on proper clothes, and drive into the lovely little towns that dotted the island.  We would get a delicious Ice Cream Cone and watch the boats come into the fourteenth-century harbor.  The buildings were ancient, and most of the streets in the town were cobble-stone.  My memories of those summers are filled with the golden rays of the sun and the infectious laughter of my grandmother, as we tried to get her to wade into the ocean a little deeper each time.

Because my father had a medical issue that needed immediate care, we left Germany and Europe a bit sooner that planned.  Everyday I thank God that we landed in Texas, which has become home.  My father retired, my mother and sister became High School teachers, and my brother is a musician.  After college, I worked in Africa in the private sector for a while, then, a stint in Federal Law Enforcement.  I eventually ended up with a career in the Intelligence Community.  After retiring at a relatively early age (read the book), I started the blog in order to share excerpts from my memoir; but  the exercise exploded on me, and now I'm addicted to this blogging-thing.  I am especially fascinated by the symbiotic relationship that has developed between twitter and the blogosphere.

As for topics for the blog, I rarely write directly political posts because my politics don't fit into any traditional mold.  I'm a practicing Roman Catholic and I'm pro-life.  Its vitally important for me to be consistent; therefore, I'm opposed to the death penalty.  I can't support any legal killings by the U.S. Government of its own citizens, regardless of the fetus' in-vitro medical condition or the adult's rap sheet.  I have a visceral dislike for true racists and misogynists.  In many parts of our nation we continue to raise young men to value women by the size of their waists and boobs; taken your 11-year old son to Hooters lately, have you?  (Forgive my frankness.)  I do not consider the Constitution to be a living document; it can't be interpreted generationally.  If you need to adjust something, then follow the procedure and create an Amendment.  I believe that the founding fathers intended for the Second Amendment to be a guarantor of a lawful citizen's right to bear arms.  At the time, "arms" were basically muskets and pistols.  Only the Continental Army had anything heavier (cannons).  Therefore, as I continue my effort at consistency, I do not think that the right to own assault weapons, bazookas, flame throwers, or machine guns is covered by the Second Amendment (unless someone can find me an old painting of George Washington target-practicing with an Uzi).  Rifles and pistols were sufficient for a well-armed militia in 1781 and the same goes for 2015.  I do not hunt, nor am I supporter of "hunting".  When I see men taking their 8-yr. old sons hunting, I can't help but think that the kid should be watching Bambi on TV, not shooting him.  Its a difficult issue for me, and I usually chose to keep my opinion to myself.  I have too many relatives and dear friends who strongly disagree with my opinion.

I support efforts to make the United States self-supporting when it comes to energy.  I think when it comes to drilling approvals, we have lost all sense of balance in the last few years.  Fragging (another tremendous U.S. discovery) has made it clear that we can achieve self-sufficiency as long as we don't cripple ourselves with legislation and denials.  We can't live on fossil fuels forever, but until the market demands a full-on Sea Change in the industry, we must stick to research in alternative energies (wind, solar, electric) but make use of the gifts under our own soil.  I believe in a strong military, an unburdened, discreet and independent CIA, and a regular, aggressive international posture with regards to terrorism.  I recognize as Israel as our greatest ally in the Middle East, if not the world.  Vladimir Putin is a very dangerous demagogue, who doesn't have the balls (oops!) to face the U.S. Army directly.  Because he will avoid that type of confrontation, we must ramp-up our covert intelligence collection.

I realize I have given way more than was requested, but we all enjoying talking about ourselves, don't we?   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rudy Giuliani's comments...too abrasive and disrespectful for a public leader?

Links: A. Giuliani's Comments About President Obama
           B. Opposition to Giuliani

Well, we should've seen this one coming.  From 2000 until 2008, politics in the United States suffered through an infusion of hatred and personal vitriol that was bound to set a precedent.
Its the same point I make to defender's of President Obama's use of Executive Authority:  if you let a poisonous snake loose in a small room with you and your enemy, chances are, if you handled the release properly, that your opponent is going to get bit.  But after he's finished with your enemy, then that same snake is coming for you.  The accusations hurled at president Bush before, during, and after Operation Enduring Freedom, sit clearly in my memory.  What is the worst accusation to toss at someone?  I think "babykiller, murderer" etc. rise to the top of the list, but some of the more traditional names, like "misongynist, homophobe, and racist" still pack a punch.  President George W. Bush was called these names on a regular basis, not to mention "despot, and election thief".  The comments that bothered me the most were the accusations of "murderer".  If President Bush was a murderer, then by proxy, so were our troops in the field.  Some of the comments made, in particular by members of the Black Congressional Caucus, crippled the tone of civility in Washington DC.  Four days ago, Rudy Giuliani, in a speech at a private fund-raiser, opined that President Barrack Obama did not love the United States.  When he was approached later and asked about his comments, he didn't hide or back away; he didn't use semantic games about the true meaning of certain words.  He frankly and honestly repeated his original opinion.  And since then, he has been castigated in a worthy example of typical liberal hypocrisy. 

When Howard Dean, or Bill Maher, or Debbie Schultz-Wasserman decide to spew personal insults, we must have thicker skin, and appreciate their candor.  Rudy Giuliani didn't insult anyone, unless you believe that saying someone doesn't love their country is an insult.  And that, my friends, is a matter of opinion.  I know Americans who are proud of their lack of love for the United States and its history and traditions.  During the Iraq War, we watched a decent-sized group of protesters set up shop outside of President Bush's Ranch, and chant all day long about the evilness of "imperialist Amerika".  And what about that nasty, filthy, lazy, stoned mobbed of freaks that called themselves the "Occupy Wall Street" movement; did you listen to their diatribe?  The United States was barely, just barely less offensive than Nazi Germany on their list of bad guys.  Lets not forget that many on the Left, including some members of Congress who are feigning "shock", supported this gathering of human filth.  Since we do live in a free society, and our young men and women continue to this very moment to put their lives at risk to defend our freedom to have differing opinions, its legal to hate the United States.  And that particular protection of the law extends to the protesters in New York City.  It extends to me, and to the office of the President as well.

Personally, I would not have made such a comment at an event with so much media coverage.  I understand that he's entitled to express his opinion, but why piss off people in that particular time?  I don't believe that the venue was an ideal place for someone of Giuliani's stature to make that controversial of a comment.  But I'm probably about to make the same mistake.  I agree with Giuliani; I don't believe that President Barrack Obama loves the United States of America, at least not the USA of which I am familiar.  I don't make that comment to piss off people, and I'm happy to explain myself (another problem of Giuliani's: for a former successful Prosecutor, his seems to have completely lost the ability to make a convincing argument).  I believe that when President Obama creates a mental image of the United States, it is dominated by visions of dead American-Indians and Reservations, unlimited and ecologically crippling industrial complexes, Japanese-Americans in camps during World War II, Africans being chained and inhumanely transported to North America to be slave labor, marches of the Civil Rights Era, and efforts by Segregationists to deny racial equality.  He would be correct to include these images, as long as he was also including the advances and discoveries in transportation and farming, the abolition of slavery, the Equal Rights Amendment, the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers in two costly World Wars, the inventions of the automobile, airplane, television, radio and incubator, Satellite technology, the creation of president Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations and the sponsorship of the United Nations, landing on the Moon, microchip research, the rebuilding of Europe and Asia following the World Wars, and the creation of a Constitution that still to this day, is the most important representative legislation that the world has yet seen.  No doubt, I've excluded many unpleasant and shameful events that were caused or defended by one U.S. government or another (the USS Maine comes to mind, as do the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments), just as I've skipped over the greater part of contributions to society that were delivered by the United States and U.S. citizens.  But its not my job to record either list; there are plenty of academics who never tire of just such work.

I believe that President Obama strongly supports monumental changes to our government, our social structure, and our foreign affairs.  In my opinion, President Obama sees the current status quo, the existing government structure, organizations, agencies, and our military history of intervention in support of Democracy, to be the reason why equality and racism still exist in the United States.  He believes that a wholesale change is needed, not just in attitude but in the way we go about our business.  Obama sees the United States as an international bully, determined to stamp our brand of political and social advancement onto the Third World.  This was the argument of the hippy, anti-war, counter-culture movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and also happens to be the environment in which Obama was raised.  His parents were both quite intelligent and dedicated; they were also proud Socialists.  As a teenager, when Obama wasn't getting stoned, he was exposed to a regular conveyor belt of academic, anti-American elitist types, including Assata Shakur and Bill Ayers.  No doubt he became familiar with his father's political manifesto, which reads like a guide to violent revolution like nobody's business.  I am mystified as to how this country twice elected to the Presidency someone with so many unanswered questions and affiliations.  To be frank, we also voted for someone whose only job experience was as a "community organizer", a lecturer, and a politicians.  The nation was suffering from serious Bush-fatigue.  Even the most hardened Red Stater was tired of looking at Bush's shit-eating grin. 

I use the words "shocked", and "mystified", and "surprised", but at the end of the day, it takes something special to really leave me scratching my head.  Reverend Jeremiah Wright was more than special.  Private citizen Obama was a member of Reverend Wright's Chicago congregation.  Illinois State Senator Obama was a member of Wright's congregation, as was Barrack Obama, father of two beautiful little girls, a member of Wright's church.  The Obama's had their children baptized by Reverend Wright.  We've all heard the sermons, including the "God Damn the United States" comment, which was repeated on a number of occasions.  During his tenure as Reverend, Wright regularly politicized the pulpit to a degree seldom seen in a basically secularized nation.  Every sermon was connected in some way to the idea that white people continued to enslave and brutalize the African American community.  The Police Department is racist, and the local, state and federal governments are all designed to keep the Black man without hope or opportunity.  I'm repeating some of the less-profane comments made by Reverend Wright.  And all the while, barrack Obama continued to attend service with his wife and two children.  I find it hard to believe that anyone would expose their children to such garbage, but they Obamas came back, almost regularly but often enough to be considered members of the congregation.  When the story broke in the media, all Obama had to say was that he didn't pay attention when Wright started preaching about race issues, and that either he respectfully disagreed with Wright, or that he didn't notice any of the offensive rhetoric.  All I wanted was for Obama to admit that he was present, but that he renounced Wright's inflammatory and racist comments.  I waited in vain.

Rudy Giuliani is being labeled a racist in many circles because of his comments.  In Europe in particular, one does not speak ill of Barrack Obama.  Any criticism is a clear indication of latent racist tendencies.  Rudy Giuliani's career is a clear indicator that the man does not differentiate by race.  But legitimate criticisms of the Obama Administration usually end up in this corner of the boxing ring; its the usual location for KOs.  If a criticism or an unfavorable portrayal of Obama survives the first few attempts by the sycophants and the main stream media to render them inert, then racist card is played.  Obama has encouraged this type of labeling, and the result is that race relations in the United States are at their worst point since the 1960s. 

In this post, I've dropped the gauntlet on the Obama Administration.  I really don't like to inject partisan politics into the blog.  No doubt, that is exactly what I have done with this post.  I avoid getting political because I've learned that my chance of changing someone's opinions regarding politics are basically zero-to-none.  This generation of Americans does not like to admit being wrong; a change in political perspective is exactly that.  An admission that you made a mistake, but that now you see things more clearly.  In my lifetime, people were more comfortable with accepting a mistake in the voting booth.  I remember once watching Reverend Pat Robertson on a news broadcast at McDonald's, waiting for my number to be called, when the stranger standing next to me said, "and to think I voted for that religious bigot.  I'm so glad he didn't win (the nomination)".  I know a number of folks who admit that their vote for Ross Perot, who never had a legitimate hope of winning, was a mistake.  And how many Jimmy Carter voters regret their decision? But in 2015, admitting that you made a bad political decision is considered an indication of ignorance. So people will stick to their choices until the bitter end, looking for any wild, hair-brained conspiracy theory to explain why their candidate was busted "in flagrante delicto" with a transsexual prostitute in the bushes of Central Park.  People don't want to admit that maybe Obama was not the best choice (in either instance).  Another huge issue is the concern regarding the legacy of the Office of the Presidency.  Almost every American, especially yours truly, wanted the first African-American President to be a success.  The reality is quite different, unfortunately.  Our economy is wheezing in fits and starts, our employment numbers are way past the point of alarm, we've doubled the national debt in six years and have nothing to show for it, who knows what will become of Obamacare, our veterans are treated disgracefully by their own government, and our foreign policy, on a good day, is rudderless.  The last six years have not been a success, but it has about as much to do with President Obama's skin color as it does with Rudy Giuliani's shiny bald head: not a damn thing.  Barrack Obama is an extremely intelligent, hard-working man who obviously adores his family.  I just believe, like Rudy Giuliani, that he doesn't love the United States as it is today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chris, Chris, why won't you follow me on Twitter?

Most of my regular readers know that the original motivation for creating this blog was to have a platform from which to share excerpts from my soon-to-be released memoir, "Mukhabarat, Baby!".  Since that time I've become hooked on blogging, especially with the regular comments I get from folks like Stephen and Ann.  Another mechanism for promoting both my blog and the book is to take full advantage of any exposure opportunities that Twitter provides.  So I learned my way around Twitter, and once every few days tweeted about my most recent blog post.  I also enjoyed connecting with like-minded folks who shared links of interest.  One of the most prolific Tweeters that caught my attention was "Chris" or @Chris_1791.  I noticed Chris because without exception, I agreed with the points of view that he shared through his Twitter links.  After following Chris, I realized that his modest self-description reminded me of  Conservative, pro-military, Laus deo Roman Catholic, Prolife, Pro-Israel, etc.  So I followed Chris, looked forward to reading his daily observations (and visiting his blog,, and waited for Chris to return the follow.  Was I wrong in expecting Chris to return the follow?  I'm not presumptuous by nature, and I don't believe that following someone's Twitter account should oblige the other party to reciprocate.  But in this instance, Chris and I shared absolutely every point of view.  I wanted Chris to read my blog and to give consideration to my perspective.  Why?  Because I admired Chris so much.  True, I knew nothing about Chris, except what he chose to share on his short Twitter bio.  But we agreed on so many things.  Actually, everything except the "ethno-geography".  Chris is Irish and lives in Philly, and Eric is French and lives in Texas.

But Chris never returned my Twitter follow.

Being very new to Twitter and a difficult student at the Academy of Social Media, I had no idea what to do next. Ironically, Chris' was the first Twitter account that I chose to follow that did not return the favor, so I had absolutely no experience in this area.  More importantly, my feelings were hurt.  Forgive me, but I see myself as a bit of a masculine, no-drama kinda guy.  When I consider the lexicon of my emotions, "hurt" doesn't usually make an appearance.  Preferring simplicity where emotions are concerned, I usually go from baseline to angry or baseline to happy, with an occasional baseline to sad when a relative has died.  My Twitter friends were quick to point out that Chris has 64.5K followers, which means he must be busy.  But I can't help but notice the 55.6K accounts he follows, and how one more wouldn't tip the cart, I don't think.  Of course, this post was written "tongue in cheek", as a salute to my ability to get wrapped up in another experiment in Social Media.  My Space, Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and a flock of other creations are waiting to take their place in line.  Who knows how many more I'm good for.  Some folks disagree, but from my optic, Social Media does serve a good purpose.  Earlier today I visited Chris' blog, and read every link that I hadn't already stumbled across.  People like Chris keep me educated, and guarantee that nothing slips through the cracks.  And that is much more important than getting another Twitter follower. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Has ISIS/ISIL Been So Successful? (Part II)

(Part II)

Another reason that the IS has been successful is that it Islamic Extremism does not consist of a handful of disparate, arguing, selfish groups that can't ever get on the same page.  I believe that once we get past all the bullshit, we will discover that one command structure exists for Khorasan, Al-Nusra and the IS.  The little identity game they play has already caused problems for the "air campaign" coalition, as certain Gulf States have refused to participate in targeted bombing raids because they weren't comfortable with the target.  The reality is, the IS has grown stronger because the Extremist cause has learned the importance of supporting one another.  AQIM will support Boko Haram, just as the Taliban support Al-Qaeda.  Unfortunately, the bad guys are finally grasping the ancient cliché that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" (from a Muslim prince, by the way).   Recently, the world was focused on Yemen (for about seven minutes).  Al-Qaeda, who control a good part of the southern coast east of Aden and up to the border with Oman, have been utilizing Yemen as a training environment for new recruits.  Once we are in a position to interview (we don't use the word interrogate anymore)some of the IS soldiers who surrender in Syria after a battle, it will be fascinating to determine just how many of them had previous training assignments in Yemen.  Any Islamic Extremist who has trained in Yemen is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, so the discovery of a Syrian battlefield of veterans of the AQ training module in Arabia Felix, will destroy the myth that Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are distinctly separate terrorist groups.

I believe that the willingness and ability of Islamic Extremist groups to modernize and take full advantage of the advances made in telecommunications has been the most important part of their success.  That, and their use of Social Media has positively affected just about everything else they try to accomplish.  I am saving another important factor for last.  The Islamic Extremist cause was forced to adapt in a constantly evolving, modern world.  George Bush recognized this fact, and following September 11, 2001, Bush (and the Pentagon, I assume) realized that to force Al-Qaeda into a conventional war would require all of its resources and would eventually cripple the organization.  And the only way to force Al-Qaeda into a conventional war, was to take the conflict to a Muslim country.  Iraq was the perfect patsy, and even provided justification (let's face it, Saddam had been breaking U.N. prohibitions for years).  The United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and although things did not always go smoothly, (Abu Ghraib, the Sunni Insurgency) The U.S. military left Al-Qaeda crippled and down for the count.  Unfortunately, the American people voted for an Administration with an entirely different perspective regarding U.S. obligation and debt to the Muslim world.  The message that we would be basically inactive for some time (with the exception of finding Bin Laden, which was nothing more than a political tool) was telegraphed to the Gulf States, North Africa and beyond.  Al-Qaeda was allowed to lick its wounds and rebuild.  Bin Laden structured his organization so that his death would not impact the long-term plans of the group.  At this point, something pivotal occurred: Ayman al-Zawahiri became the go-to man.   Why is this so pivotal?  Because Zawahiri is arguably brilliant, and he spent his cave-time as number two, analyzing the history and strategy of the conflict, and creating a map to victory.  First and foremost, the Islamic Extremist cause had to create a conventional military element; and army, for lack of a better term.  AQIM had risen from the dust or far west Iraq and had inserted itself into the Syrian conflict, as "the Islamic State for Iraq and al-Sham", and later to "the Islamic State for the Levant"; but make no mistake - Baghdadi or no Baghdadi, this group looks west to the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, to a shrunken, tiny old Egyptian Doctor, for their guidance and leadership.

The decision to adopt a more formal approach to the struggle was not accomplished overnight.  In fact, it would be wise to assume that the Islamic Extremist cause continues to keep a smaller, discreet more typical capability on hand.  But after embracing the move to a more conventional model, the call went out for recruits.  A legitimate army must have soldiers, and Yemen was the location chosen to train the new recruits.  Why else would Al-Qaeda be devoting so many resources to that rocky, barren, stinky, qat-obsessed little dump?  The Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq have provided training-under fire at one time or another.  The options have become a bit more limited as of late, with Yemen and Iraq getting special attention.  Surprisingly (at least to me), the bad guys have taken to the idea of conventional warfare quite quickly.  IS units in the field appear to be well-fed, supplied and rested.  Just last week, the IS launched a mini-offensive in Anbar Province that took the Iraqi military by complete surprise.  This offensive was coordinated with attacks south of Tikrit and Samarah.  The IS is attempting to cut off Iraqi military units and Shi'a militia in place around Baiji, and the manner in which the offensive was conducted (the IS waited until the weather was overcast, to limit the impact of coalition air attacks.  As you read this, the IS is causing some serious headaches in Tehran, which is really such a shame.  Just when the Iranians were preparing to storm our embassy a second time (on this occasion, in the guise of a treaty with the United States regarding Iranian nuclear ambitions), the IS has to start making noise in a province that borders the Islamic Republic Of Iran.  What is truly interesting is that all of the Islamic Extremist groups are beginning to show signs of military discipline and planning.  Certainly Boko Haram and AQIM function in this manner.  After the death of Bin Laden, I believe Zawahiri made the decision to start infusing techniques of modern warfare and the benefits of the twenty-first century into the Islamic Extremist gameplan.  Does the current environment support my theory?  Isolated attacks in Paris, London, Boston, Sydney and Copenhagen, Boko Haram acting with impunity in Central and West Africa, the IS running a bit wild in Iraq and pushing the envelope in Syria, and real concerns about a well-funded, organized (surprised?) IS beginning to stretch its legs in Libya.  I guess they were just waiting for the dust to clear.  Certainly the almost complete disappearance of the United States in the battle against Islamic Extremism has contributed to this high-water mark, but the changing of the guard must have had an impact as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why Has ISIS/ISIL Been So Successful? (Part I)

Links A. Stratfor Assessment Of The Islamic State
          B. IS Tweets Itself To Success
          C. Obama Haunted By Yemen Comments

Please take the time to visit the links I have chosen.  Today in particular, they are very useful in support of our discussion. Is this really a discussion?  Well,.....I hope the post will stimulate conversation between you and your colleagues/family/friends, during which you present my perspective, which inserts me into your discussion.  Ideally, that's the way it works.  To be honest, I wouldn't want to be present during everyone's conversations, because people might yell at me and call me a fascist, which would hurt my feelings.

Next to the debate about Bruce/Belinda Jenner, I think the most pondered question has been, how did the Islamic State become so powerful?  Its a truly fascinating issue, one that involves many factors.  I will approach the subject with the confidence of a blogger with six months of my own attitude and opinion to back me up.  Our society has seen Terrorist Groups come and go.  Some have died away, others have ended up in jail.  A few have re-made themselves into peaceful political participants (the Sandinistas, Hamas, Hezbollah), but the peaceful part seems to be a flexible description, especially in the case of Hamas and Hezbollah.  Our friends with Hezbollah have managed to involve themselves in the conflict against the Islamic State (IS).  You see, Hezbollah has been snuggling with de facto Syrian President Bashir al-Assad for some time, and his father before him (gross!).  When Lebanon became a proxy state for Syria, Hezbollah flourished at the discretion of Assad in Damascus.  To their credit, Hezbollah has been on the front lines in Syria, bleeding by the bucketful for Assad.  The IS has given heartburn to just about everyone at one time or another, including the Peshmerga, Syrian Kurds, SAF, IAF, Shi'ite militias, and even the Iranians.  As we've pointed out previously (and was repeated word for word by numerous sites with no attribution......assholes), the Islamic State used to be Al-Qaeda in Iraq, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was still breathing.  So even the United States military has had its run-ins with the IS.  Another point that I continue to make repeatedly but has yet to catch on, is that all of these Sunni-based Islamic Terrorist Groups are connected.  Assigning different names and creating the impression that one group is actually ten or fifteen, increases fear and knee-jerk reactions from the west, which usually leads to mistakes of one kind or another.  The leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the top dog as far as I'm concerned.  Since these groups operate with such apparent independence, I don't expect Zawahiri to act as the CEO or CIC of Islamic Extremism.  But they do work together.  Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) is aware what is happening is Syria, and Boko Haram is in regular communication with bad guys in Libya.  Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya follows the company line, and has been doing yeoman's work as of late recruiting in the townships of Nairobi.  I see the military wing of Islamic Extremism to be one entity fighting on many fronts, and the sooner our leaders accept this reality, the better off we will be.

When International Terrorism fist made itself known to the west, it was through the hijacking of airplanes, the kidnapping of bankers and industrialists, and attacks in airports.  Even though I was still in short pants, I remember the 1972 Munich Terrorist Attacks.  But even the horror of Munich did not truly bring the reality home (unless, of course, you were Israeli).  September 11, 2001 made everyone feel vulnerable; this was a group of twenty determined young men, who must have been supported by a much wider network.  Terrorism could no longer be thought of as four men with Uzis and one woman with a floppy hat, sun glasses, and a pistol.  Terrorism has arrived into the twenty-first century with a resounding thud.  They network, the plan, they recon, and they practice.  Advances made in telecommunications have made everything easier.  If an operation planned for Lagos is short one explosives expert, relief is a phone call (or text, or email, or Skype) away.  The bad guys have turned Twitter into a huge propaganda loudspeaker, and the ability of just about every cell phone to take and share videotapes has been invaluable as well. The IS can announce that a hostage was just beheaded, and to expect a video within twenty minutes.  The press gets prepared, and the video shows up, right on schedule.  Islamic Extremists use social media to incite fear; they are thrilled with the idea that their disgusted videos are causing people to no longer feel safe in their homes.  Social Media has also been a boon with regards to recruitment.  Today I learned that supporters of the IS (or bored, sick people) have been tweeting the wives of soldiers, and you can imagine what is being said.  Social Media has made planning, organizing, supply, communication, recruitment, and the spread of propaganda so much easier than before.  This is a big part of their success.

Click here to continue on to Part II of this post 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques....And Another Nail In The Coffin.

Link: List Provided By CIA Of Approved Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

I chose to include only one link on today's post, because I'm assuming anyone who has an interest in this subject has the necessary background details to understand my comments.  This is a subject that can cause me to become very animated.  As I grow older, I see myself becoming generally more mellow and relaxed, but this subject can fire me up like no other.  I have a few friends who disagree with my opinion on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT), which normally would have no impact on our conversation what so ever.  But this topic is off limits.  I watched another program this evening that was dedicated to EITs (while American soldiers deal with missing limbs at home and Islamic Terrorists are lighting human candles in the Levant).  The program's left tilt was anticipated, given the owners of the production company.  I wish I could put all of the folks who feel strongly about this issue in the same room at the same time, and ask, "how many detainees can you prove were physically injured, let alone killed, during a session of EITs?"  As the world knows (because certain parts of our society are obsessed with airing our own laundry for the rest of the world to judge), there have been episodes of rogue soldiers abusing prisoners and involving themselves in all sorts of illegal activity.  As far as I know, these soldiers have been disciplined, and their actions never resulted in any lasting physical injuries to the detainees involved.  Be that as it may, there can be no tolerance or excuse for this type of behavior.  EITs should be practiced by properly trained and adequately supervised personnel, with no exceptions.  Anyone caught operating outside of the set procedures should be punished to the fullest extent, because they bring discredit  upon their country.  Regarding my claim that no persons have been physically injured or killed during Enhanced Interrogation, I can only speak for myself.  Anyone who disagrees should address their concerns (along with their evidence) to the nearest military post.  The point is, obviously no one can claim that Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, as practiced by trained U.S. personnel, have resulted in a pattern of physical injuries and also deaths.

Have a look at the link, and think about the actions described.  No one wants to be on the receiving end of such intimidating, frightening behavior.  As far as my knowledge stretches, these are the techniques approved by Congress before the second Iraq War.  At no time did the military or certain federal agencies intend for the techniques to become routine practice, and they never did.  These techniques were designed for use with a detainee who refused to disclose life-sensitive information.  For example, if a detainee had planted four roadside Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) the previous day, and said detainee refused to provide U.S. authorities with the location of the IEDs, then policy allowed for more stressful techniques to be introduced.  The point is, EITs exist to save the lives of young Americans (and locals...IEDs killed just as many Iraqis as they did Americans).  I ask the person who is reading this blog at this very moment, what on that list would you NOT approve to get that IED off of the street?  What if the commanding officer at that particular detention facility did not approve of EITs?  Can you imagine the horror, if it were a van full of children that triggered the explosive, or a teen-age soccer team, or an ambulance?  Contrary to the greatest fallacy that has been born from this debate, these techniques have been directly responsible for saving many soldiers, not to mention non-combatants.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Army does not provide those statistics to the media.  If you want to gauge the effectiveness of these techniques, then speak to the soldiers at the heart of the firestorm, and ask them if they are making a difference.  Would they lie, just to continue having the opportunity to harass people in a certain way?  Sorry, I just don't buy it.  And the techniques detailed in the link have been around for centuries.  The U.S. Army has been effectively utilizing these methods (and much worse) since before the Civil War.  I strongly support humane treatment of detainees, including the ones who are obviously guilty (Saddam Hussein and his henchmen).  I do not support any action that physically injures a detainee, nor do I support water or food depravation.  But I am in complete support of a certain amount of physical and mental intimidation, if the case meets a set criteria and involves the lives of soldiers and/or non-combatants.

The case that I just described fits the EIT techniques approved by Congress prior to the second Iraq War.  I am more than a bit aggravated that we are still discussing this issue, when I have yet to see any evidence of habitual abuse or detainee injuries.  But this issue isn't about yelling at a detainee, a light slap, or a night full of listening to Tammy Faye Bakker's Greatest Hits on a loop.  Actually, you can throw out the list detailed in the link, except for the last one.  This is THE burr that gets under everyone's saddle......Waterboarding.  Why has it become such a magnet for controversy?  It really wasn't used that much, and it's not something we invented.  This nasty procedure of making the brain believe that the lungs are filling up with water, therefore the individual is drowning, has been around probably since the Crusades (uh the Crusaders will get blamed for inventing it!).  For some reason, Liberals (no, I don't think it's a bad word) have a visceral reaction to Waterboarding.  I am convinced that when EITs are mentioned, persons of the left political persuasion automatically think of Waterboarding.  Well, no one has ever tried to argue that Waterboarding is fun.  But it has resulted in persuading some bad guys to share certain pieces of valuable intelligence.  Most important, though, is the fact that Waterboarding has never physically injured anyone, nor has it resulted in anyone drowning on dry land (or anywhere).  A number of proponents of EITs and Waterboarding in particular, are quick to argue that the detainees are not altar boys, and surely they deserve at least a bit of discomfort for their lives of murder and mayhem.  I disagree.  I do not support vigilante justice.  Extreme physical discomfort as punishment for committing acts of terrorism, in my mind, is torture.  I do not agree with the use of EITs unless two things have been determined: first, all other means of persuasion have been exhausted; and second, lives hang in the balance.

The reality that we have elements inside our own nation who truly believe that extreme measures in pursuit of security are not justified, reminds me of the current state of affairs in the United States.  For them, it was fun to play Patriot in the days and months following September 11, 2001, but the pretense could only last so long.  There are well-meaning, educated, hard-working U.S. citizens who do not believe in the Constitution and do not believe that our history is something to encourage pride.  We enslaved Africans, stole land from the Indians, put Japanese-Americans in camps, enforced Jim Crow laws, committed isolated and rare crimes against Vietnamese civilians, and falsely claimed that the U.S.S. Maine was blown up by Spain, just so we could steal Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.  I'm sure I've left out a bunch of shit; please forgive my trouble with recollection.  I think some people are born with a genetic need to find fault with the United States, our culture, our legacy, and the ideas for which we exist.  Of course, the re-visitation of history does not include the positive impact the United States has had in the world as we know it.  Americans (from a colorful and all-inclusive ethnic background) have invented just about everything important in the twentieth century, and our young men and women have never failed to answer the call to die to protect freedom from tyranny.  The United States is the most innovative, democratic, successful political experiment of our species, and all in less than two-hundred-fifty years.  We have seldom existed in a world free of enemies, usually persons jealous of our freedoms and opportunity.  One reason we have been able to defeat our enemy is because we have always been quick to self-examine and admit our mistakes, and to try and do better.  But within our midst exists a group of Americans, who criticize not to correct, but to feed their own sense of moral elitism.  They believe that the bad elements in our country are to be found in the ignorant, religious, Constitution and Bible-thumping white community that lives mostly in the south and midwest.  They are usually affluent, atheist, and full of snide, nasty humor about the morons who permeate the Red States.  Sadly, I worry that they have become so insidious that they are winning the day.  We dig until our fingers bleed, looking for evidence that a handful of soldiers mistreated prisoners, while the enemy swallows up more territory and becomes emboldened with its displays of inhuman carnage.  Why, when ISLAMIC terrorism threatens to engulf the world, are we still talking about EITs?  Our armies have been brought home (for the most part), the defense budget sliced up (the money to pay for ten million new Democratic voters has to come from somewhere, now that the grandkid's credit card has started getting declined), Gay Marriage is the most important issue of our age, evidence of our Christian heritage has been removed from every public display, and we are still talking about Extreme Interrogation Techniques.  Even after a landslide election for the opposition, the left continues to dominate and win every argument, and demagogue every issue; the lost EIT debate is just another nail.......

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Conversation with my mother........

Links: A. Quick Review Of Obama's Foreign Policy
           B. College Graduates Living At Home
           C. The Accurate Employment Rate, Explained By Forbes

My mother doesn't care much for the spotlight.  Certainly she appreciates a nice thought on her birthday and Christmas, and she loves to have her children visit, but she has no interest in being on TV, or discussing her personal opinions with total strangers.  My mother was born and raised in southwestern France, fell in love and married a U.S. soldier (my father) at a young age, and has managed to create her own unique bridge between France and the United States.  She has an advanced Degree and has taught in the Texas Public School System; she is both book-smart and naturally intelligent.  Like the rest of us, her perspectives are derived from her life experiences and her education.  Both she and my step-father are what I would consider to be "brilliant", but I'm admittedly biased.  My mother is also very forgiving and patient, characteristics that I try to emulate on a daily basis.  I always enjoy discussing current events with my mother because she has a way of "settling me down".  I can be ranting and raving about some issue or other, and after a thirty minute conversation with my mother, I have adopted a less mercenary approach to the opposite perspective.  There was a time in my life when my mother was the only person who could affect me in this manner.  As I grow older, though, I seem to be more patient and forgiving.  I like to believe that I learned these traits.  I would hate to think that it has taken me almost fifty years on this planet to mature.

Yesterday I learned for the first time that Bradley Manning, the slight, former Army Corporal who downloaded thousands of classified documents and gave them to WikiLeaks personality Julian Assange, was scheduled for sexual reassignment surgery (I know, I'm a bit behind the news on this one), which was to be paid by the U.S. government.  Since Bradley (or Brenda, or whomever) will be spending thirty years in the stockade, most taxpayers won't be able to appreciate the expensive transformation that they are funding.  At the same time, in VA hospitals across the country, U.S. military veterans are having difficulty getting therapy and treatment for PTSD; others are on unending waiting lists for surgery to mitigate the combat-related loss of a limb.  I was angered by this fact, and I spoke with my mother to get her thoughts on the subject.  I can't explain why, but I have always had a certain sympathy for Bradley Manning; no doubt he was sick, and manipulated by that snake and sexual predator Julian Assange.  When I expressed this sympathy, I was a bit surprised that I didn't sense an agreement from my mother.  Instead, she seemed to believe that his thirty-year sentence was just punishment (I can't be sure because she never actually commented one way or the other).  At that point in the conversation, my mother made some astute and sobering comments about U.S. policy vis-a-vis Syria.  My mother has never been in combat, but she has no trouble comprehending basic military strategy.  The situation in Syria has her upset, because she believes it could have been avoided.  I won't get into the details, because she has not given me permission to do so on my blog.  She is a very private person, and her opinions are just as personal and valuable as the jewelry sitting on her nightstand.

I wrote this post because the conversation I had with my mother today has brought a bit of simplicity into my perspective on current events and the state of our nation.  You see, if she makes a definitive statement about one particular thing or another, you can rest assured that it has been seriously considered and researched (in her own style).  At times she has made me frustrated by not jumping on my "angry bandwagon".  It has always been her nature to avoid quick conclusions and easy fixes, and instead wait for the smoke to dissipate and emotions to settle.  Today I realized that she is very concerned about world events, about the bold and violent terrorist attacks in Europe, Russian aggression in Ukraine, the confused policy in Syria and Iraq, and the never-ending search to find more ways for the U.S. government to spend money.  If you read my blog regularly, you are aware that I am horrified by the endemic growth of terror around the world, and our inability to develop a policy to counter the bad guys.  This blog isn't designed or intended to focus on domestic issues, but occasionally I bend the rules, hence, the following: the Obama Immigration Reform Bill seems to be part of a larger effort to create a one-party state in our country.  That upsets me, as does the soul-numbing ease with which Obama utilizes Executive Authority.  Our national debt has doubled during his administration, and what do we have to show for it?  A downsized, underfunded, underappreciated (by Obama) military, an unemployment rate that in reality sits near twelve percent, race relations worse than they have been in fifty years, and rampant use of our grandchildren's credit.  Obama didn't create all the troubles we face today, but he certainly has exacerbated the situation.  And today I noticed that my mother, who is eternally optimistic and has a smile for everyone, seems to share my concerns about the future.  Fortunately we had other subjects to discuss, and my mother always finds a way to make me laugh.

My mother shared with me the latest family news from France, and we reminisced about my wonderful great-uncle Tonton Abel, who passed away last year, and his lovely wife, my great-aunt Tata Nina, who may have slowed a bit physically, but continues to stay as sharp as a tack.  So really, my mother accomplishes two things when we have an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation: she infuses patience and understanding into my perspective, and then puts a smile on my face by reminding me how lucky I am to be half-French.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Update On The Release of Mukhabarat, Baby!

Link: New Website For The Release Of Mukhabarat, Baby!

I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to ask about the release of my memoir, "Mukhabarat, Baby!"  When I finished writing the book, I believed that I had accomplished something positive, and the rest of the process was cut-and-dry.  I knew that I needed a Publisher, and that was about it.  It became apparent to me early on that the fact that I had been poisoned by a Russian during my career and survived, would be of interest to a great many folks.  But I also learned quickly that finding the Publisher was last on a list of things that I needed to do, if I ever wanted my book to be on sale.  I needed some guidance regarding a story that consists of thirty or so separate reflections from my life.  A close friend of mine recommended, "Scottsdale Publishing" of Arizona, as just the right people to talk to.  She was correct, as for a very reasonable price, they helped me develop the connecting vein of my book, which draws every refection together into one story. Then I needed a really sharp Editor (thanks, Jennifer).  The book had to be submitted to my former employer, who reviewed my writing in order to eliminate anything that they considered to be confidential U.S. Government information.  This process, which included getting any potential photos approved as well, took nearly eight months.  After the USG review, I spent a month trying to repair the manuscript and bring it back to life.  With the constant and selfless support of my friends and family, I was able to sew the memoir back together, and it actually reads better than it did previously (thanks, Publishing Review Board?).

Once I reached the stage of having a finished/edited written product, I started to focus more on the marketing of my book. Thank goodness for Joe Golderg, who had finished his wonderful book, "Secret Wars", as I was still editing mine. Forgive me for repeating myself, but if you haven't purchased a copy of Joe's book (and you enjoy an exciting,  reality-based race around Europe and North Africa), do yourself a favor and pop on over to Amazon and buy it!  That is, of you want to know what it is really like being on the inside, looking out.  I've given the book as a gift a number of times, and I've written a review.  Its not in my nature to make such an effort unless I truly believe in something.  Aside from his great book, Joe was able to give me a basic idea regarding what I needed to do before my book could go on sale.  I needed a Media/Press Pack.  Let me tell you about the Media Pack.  If you write a book, and you want members of the media to conduct an interview/review of your book, its more or less expected that you provide them with a little assistance beforehand.  The Media Pack (I borrowed Joe's example and included my Media Pack in a new website for "Mukhabarat, Baby!").  Included in the pack is a personal biography, a basic synopsis of the story, whatever reviews you can pull together, and a list of "sample questions and answers", to provide the press with a few suggestions regarding Q&A.  Jennifer to the rescue!  My friend Jennifer put together my website and I could not be happier.  Its safe to say that I get by with a little help from my friends!

The publishing issue is still up in the air, so to speak.  A number of well-known media outlets have expressed an interest in conducting an interview, but we have yet to make any firm decisions.  I have provided a few carefully selected individuals with a copy of the book, and I must say, the overall result has been better than I could have ever expected.  I'm so relieved and humbled to say, that people really like my book.  I wish the process weren't so lengthy, but we do see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I expect to have the book available for purchase within the next two months.  Please stay with me.  I'm not thrilled that it is taking so long, but my book is better because of the process, and in the end, I want to provide the best product possible.

"Mukhabarat, Baby!"(MB)  is not one story supported by thirty separate chapters.  It is thirty separate and distinct stories that share one important commonality: they are pieces of my life, that I chose to share because of the personal interaction and the particular environment.  The people you will meet, and the experiences you will share, have made me strong enough to survive a number of monumentally difficult circumstances.  I have made it through to the other side because of the various, unique personalities functioning in less-than-normal situations that color every chapter and every page of my book.  Its true that most of my career was spent in war zones, and that background is unavoidable throughout the majority of MB.  Espionage is also a large part of the foundation to my stories.  But in the end, the book works because of the personalities within.  God bless them all, no doubt they saved my life more than a few times.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why Won't Someone Help The Poor Palestinians? (Part II)

(Part II)

Funding from the west (the EU, UN and the United States...please see links) also poured into the Israeli-occupied West Bank.  The eternal optimists with all the loose cash continued to believe that they were paying for the rebuilding of homes, infrastructure, possibly an airport, harbor facilities in Gaza, a medical system for both the West Bank and Gaza, a unified education system for both primary and secondary education, etc.   None of it happened.  The Arabs and those that espouse the cause of the Palestinians try to find reason to blame the Israelis, but the reality is, the money was stolen, plain and simple.  It continues to be stolen and it will always be stolen until someone creates some system of accountability. A few Palestinians who have managed to reach the top of the political structure, not to mention the bosses in Hamas and the PA, have done very well.  But the five million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank still live in absolute destitution.  Hamas and the PA (and the anti-Zionists) have tried repeatedly to blame the plight of the Palestinians on the lack of a political resolution to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (and the continued Jewish settlements, and the Israeli control of the economy of Gaza, etc.)  But the reality is, if Israel were to pull out of the West Bank tomorrow and dismantle all of the Jewish settlements, it would not result in the building of one Palestinian home, supermarket, crèche, or hospital.  The Palestinian communities would continue to exist as the have for the last four decades.  One fact would change: Israel would be handing over territory that would OVERNIGHT become a base for terror operations into Israel proper.  If you don't see that coming then you are too blind to have a balanced conversation on the subject.  The groups and individuals that represent the Palestinians (in many instances chosen by the Palestinians) do not call for sharing the land and living peacefully together.  They are still dedicated to destruction of Israel, and make no effort to disguise their intentions.

As complicated as it seems in this short commentary, believe me, this issue is one hundred times more convoluted.  No one can be satisfied with the reality that five million Palestinians, whose parents and grandparents actually called Israel home sixty years ago (they called it Palestine, not Israel), are obliged to live under a military occupation and without any real hope for the future.  The PA, who should have used the financial aid from the west to build some sort of functioning economic system that creates jobs and grows wealth, builds new homes and sanitation systems, and improves the lives of the people.  It never happens.  The PA owns one plane, I think its an old 737, and they have no real airport from which to fly it (the operative word being "real").  Can you imagine the fishing industry that would take root in Gaza with a legitimate port facility, not to mention revenue and jobs from imports and exports that could be charged to Israel and Egypt?  The only way a port facility will ever be built in Gaza is if someone arrives TO BUILD IT.  Any funds donated for that kind of a project will be stolen.

I used to have this idea in my head that one day Israel would be able to foster the development of a separate Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.  it won't be easy getting the Israelis to agree to leave the West Bank and to leave Gaza in peace, but I have a feeling that if a year passed without any terrorist attacks on Israeli targets originating from the West Bank or tunnels dug from Gaza, that the Israeli people would be amenable.  The next step would be to find some mechanism to ensure that development aid gets spent on infrastructure and education, instead of ending up in Swiss Bank Accounts.  I made an effort to calculate the total amount of money that had been given to the Palestinian people through their political representatives over the years.  I quit when I reached the thirty billion dollar mark.  That equals six thousand dollars for every Palestinian man, woman and child.  And there is nothing to show for it.  The development that has occurred in the West Bank and Gaza includes a few "showy" projects for the Europeans, and that's all.  The rest has been accomplished by the sacrifice and hard work of the Palestinian people, who are taxed, by the way.  I can't help but wonder exactly what they are paying for with their taxes.  In some cases, running water and electricity.  And the right to live under the authority of the PA or Hamas, within the occupation of the Israeli military.  Can you imagine a more discouraging environment in which to raise a family?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why Won't Someone Help the Poor Palestinians? (Part I)

Links: A. Wikipedia Entry For Palestine
           B.  PLO Corruption
           C. Endemic Corruption in Palestine
           D. EU Audit Of PA Finds Billions Unaccounted For
           E. Obama Releases 500 Million In Aid To PA

Now THIS is a tough subject to tackle in four paragraphs or less.  Politically speaking, I do not apologize for the fact that I am a great admirer and supporter of the Israeli people.  This shouldn't come as a surprise to you unless this is the first time you have visited the blog.  Simply put, I tend to look at the history of the region with as little complication as possible.  In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the British-occupied land known as Palestine, and divide it between Jews and Arabs/Palestinians.  The international Jewish community was still reeling from the damages of the Holocaust, and there was a great deal of sentiment in favor of the idea of a Jewish nation or homeland.  Obviously consideration was given to the European survivors of the genocide, and the real possibility that they had no interest in returning to Germany, or Austria, or Hungary, or any other country that had either assisted the Nazis or turned a blind eye to the relocation of European Jews to concentration camps.  Before the World Wars, and international Zionist organization existed for the sole purpose of finding a suitable location for a Jewish homeland (the Russian pogroms, miniature versions of the death camps, had sounded the alarm that trouble was on its way).  If they had been successful, it would be interesting to know if Israel as we know it would have come into existence.
Following the end of the Second World War, the United Nations was determined to provide the Jewish diaspora some place to claim as their own.  Palestine seemed like as good a place as any.  the population was very rural, much of it nomadic.  It was home to two large urban areas, Jerusalem and Haifa, but otherwise, the UN probably assumed no one would complain about their choice.  Certainly the Jews were happy, because Palestine was the land of David and the home of the Jewish Holy City of Jerusalem.  In truth, the Arab community was not happy, because for as long as anyone could recall, the land was Arab land (occupied by Ottoman Turks from the 14th century until the end of the First World War).  The UN and the British expected them to share with the Jews but why should they have to share anything that belongs to them?  The Arab countries in the region rose in revolt and invaded the nascent state of Israel.  the Israelis, against all odds, prevailed, just as they did in the Six-Day war (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).  In each instance Israel was heavily outnumbered in tanks, planes and troops (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, sometimes Lebanon against Israel), but managed to win and occupy formerly Egyptian and Jordanian territory.  This is the crux of the problem: Israel's continued occupation of land that the Palestinians claim is their homeland.

Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel militarily occupied the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, the Golan Heights of Syria, and the West Bank of the Jordan River (Jordan).  Each location was strategic and was used as the invasion route chosen by the Arab armies, so Israel felt justified it keeping this land.  The Sinai, which is sparsely populated, was eventually returned to Egypt, but the West Bank, heavily populated, and the Golan Heights, were not returned.  When Israel won its war of Independence in 1947, the Arabs that were living in Israel or in territory that was now occupied by Israeli forces, picked up and moved, mostly to Jordan.  After the next two wars, Israel assumed possession of the part of Jordan known as the West Bank, which was home to almost three million Arabs, who rightly identified themselves as Palestinians. Initially Israel considered annexing the West Bank permanently, and construction began on Jewish settlements.  its possible that the leaders of Israel at the time thought it might encourage the Palestinians to leave the West Bank, but they didn't.  Then the Jewish settlements became a hot-button issue in internal Israeli politics.  The moderates and the left in the Knesset demanded at least an end to construction, and at best, an evacuation of Israeli Jews.  On the other hand, the right-wing coalition not only refused to stop existing construction, they announced intentions to start new developments.  The occupying Palestinians were left to consider that three decades previously, the entire land was Arab; they were forced to move in 1947, then again in 1967.  There would not be another move.  The Golan heights of Syria did not develop into an issue of settlements; instead, it would flare-up every few years when the Syrians would demand Israeli withdrawal, and in response Israel would gas up the tanks for a nice Golan parade.

One very small section of the Egyptian Sinai was heavily populated.  The Gaza Strip borders the Mediterranean on the west, Israel on the north and east, and Egypt on the south.  The small piece of land (139 square miles) is home to almost two million Palestinians, another example of people being moved from one place to the next because of war.  At least Gaza isn't occupied by Israel.  It is administered by Hamas, a political party that is recognized as a terrorist organization in the west.  In total, roughly five million Palestinians live in Gaza and the West Bank.  They have been demanding independence for as long as I can remember.  Gaza is independent, but its economy is controlled by Israel and Egypt, who can shut its borders on a whim.  Interestingly enough, the majority of Palestinians (and descendants of the original occupants of Palestine) have probably settled and put down roots in other countries, including the United States, various European nations, Lebanon, and the Gulf States.  In a sad aside note, in some of the wealthier Arab countries, Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens and find it difficult to qualify for anything but manual labor jobs and cleaning up after people.  While screaming about how Israel mistreats the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, wealthy Arab families in Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE do just the same in their own homes to their Palestinian maids and garden workers.  Back to the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.  Since we are talking about almost five million souls, the resolution of this issue needs to be a priority.  When it became clear that Gaza was going to achieve some level of self-governance, the call went out to the west for financial support.  The hope was that Gaza would become a peaceful, economically successful (albeit crowded) nation, able to decide it own affairs.  Once the money started flowing in, everything changed.  The original political representative of the Palestinian people, the Palestine Liberation Organization of Yasser Arafat, eventually renounced terrorism when they realized how much money would be donated from the west to help build schools, infrastructure, etc.  Arafat and his PLO collected billions of dollars from the west, and managed to steal just about every penny.  When Arafat died, the number of bank accounts in his name (many in Paris), and the amount of money that would be inherited by his widow, was nothing short of staggering.  After the PLO, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was born to represent the interests of the Palestinian People.  Following the renouncing of terror by the PLO, two groups in the region picked up the mantle of terror, Hamas and Hezbollah.  Hamas seated itself right in the middle of the Palestinian "occupied territories", while Hezbollah, addicted to financial support from Iran and Syria, chose Lebanon as a safe place from which to lob the odd missile into northern Israeli settlements.  Once financial aid started to flow into Gaza, The PA and Hamas decided to fight for the title of "official political representative of the Palestinian community of Gaza".  Hamas won the most recent election, so they are currently the legitimate government in Gaza.  And they are also still on just about everyone's short list of nasty terrorist organizations.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review Of The Fight Against Islamic Extremism since 2009

Link: A. What Is Our Strategy To Defeat Terrorism?
          B. After Paris, Will Obama Administration Move Against Terrorism?

Barrack Obama has been in office since January 2009.  In 2008, his campaign for the White House targeted the Bush Administration's Foreign Policy, as opposed to the ideas and platform of his opponent, Senator John McCain.  Obama had a field day going after Bush, who was an easy target.  What is it about the Bushes, that they seem so incompetent when it comes to self-defense?  I remember when Bush Senior, while expressing indignation at the Clinton Campaign in 1992, could find nothing harsher than "Bozos" to call his detractors.  Ouch?  Obama criticized the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and openly hypothesized that Bush's "personal" obsession with Saddam Hussein was the reason we had yet to catch Osama Bin-Laden.  The Democrats were energized, and were absolutely focused and driven in recruiting new voters and getting them to the polls.  I can recall Obama's criticism of Bush quite clearly; what I can't remember is an Obama anti-terrorism plan.  Was he planning on pulling the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and using the resources to exclusively search for Bin Laden?  Can anyone help me out here?  In 2008, during the election, what were Obama's intentions regarding Al-Qaeda?  It must have been in the Party Platform that was agreed upon at the convention.  I am anxious to determine just how closely Obama followed his own plan.

The truth is, there wasn't a plan.  What was important was getting the troops out of Iraq.  I can't fault the Administration there; the American people were more than ready to turn the page on that chapter as well.  But if my memory serves me correctly, the Democrats and the left never really separated Afghanistan and Iraq.  The plan was to disengage from both countries at the earliest opportunity.  Once Obama was in office, he realized that Afghanistan was going to be a bit trickier than Iraq, which explains why we are still there.  Another issue that was important to Obama (and something he openly intended to do all along) was the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.  You can bet your last Cuban peso that Guantanamo will be closed before he leaves office.  But aside from the departure from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the closing of Guantanamo, what policy or
Barak Obama at Cairo Univ. 6/4/2009
Source: The Official White
House Photostream-Flickr

plan did Obama have for dealing with Al-Qaeda and the like? The apology-tour must have been part of someone's plan, because something like that doesn't get decided over night.  Strange that during the campaign, he didn't announce his intention to travel to the Middle East, apologizing about the brutish behavior and U.S. history of bullying, to anyone who would listen.  And no doubt, behind closed doors, he also announced that Israel would no longer be getting a "free ride", and that the Arabs and Palestinians finally had a friend in the White House.  I'm positive this message was shared, if not by Obama directly, then by Hillary and her team of State Department apologists.  The coup de grace was Obama's speech in Cairo.  Obama certainly has some strong feelings about the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, but did he mention any of this during the campaign?  I don't think the American people would have taken well to our president groveling in front of this particular group of people.  Did I say grovel?  Remember, this is only my opinion.  I saw his attitude as an effort to make the United States appear as a racist, guilty, internally-broken country.

Instead of over-analyzing President Obama, let's get back to the review of terrorism in the world since he took office.  Let's do this by continent, shall we?

  • North America: The attack at the Boston Marathon was handled brilliantly by local authorities and because of this, the casualty rate was low.  The FBI has disrupted a number of planned domestic attacks; remember, the news media doesn't always know what's happening behind the scenes.
  • South America: The Islamic Extremist community has been involved in criminal activity in South America for sometime.  Both Hamas and Hezbollah have a history of operating in the Tri-Border Region (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina), and recently Al-Qaeda has arrived.  Since the 1994 terrorist attack at the Jewish community office in Buenos Aires, the majority of the Jewish population has emigrated from Argentina.  And let's not ignore the fact that a number of South American governments are openly Socialist, and hostile to the United States (Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina).
  • Africa:  Al-Qaeda is having a field day in Africa.  The organization is growing in size and influence in West Africa, and its surrogate Boko Haram has repeatedly embarrassed the Nigerian Army. In the East, Al-Shabaab has become more active in Kenya, taking advantage of the endemic poverty and lack of jobs, to recruit in the townships.  In the last few years, Al-Shabaab has successfully conducted a number of high-casualty terrorist operations.  They have no fear of operating in Mombasa, and enjoy shooting up the wealthier suburbs of Nairobi.  The South African anti-terrorism unit of the SAP had better be keeping a close eye on its townships, especially the ones with high-immigrant populations.  Al-Qaeda and ISIS are there as we speak, recruiting jobless, disaffected young men — especially those with military experience.
  • Europe:  Besides the highly-publicized recent episodes in Paris, the UK has also suffered through a number of terrorist-related attacks.  No doubt the governments and police of Italy, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, etc., are keeping tight-lipped about the number of operations they have disrupted.
  • Australia:  Late last year, Australia suffered is own horrific pro-ISIS attack in a cafe in Sydney.
  • Asia, which includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and is just too much for me to tackle in this post.  Thank goodness the terrorists haven't reached Greenland…yet.
It's safe to say that Islamic Extremism has advanced on all continents with barely a whisper from the world's most powerful nations.  No doubt, the Europeans were waiting for leadership from the United States.  Since 2009, the message has been one of confusion at best.  We went after, and got, Bin-Laden— but his organization has been allowed to aggressively influence policy in two nations (Pakistan and Yemen), and to expand its operations internationally.  Our policy in Syria seems to be a bit confused as well.  Where is the Free Syrian Army?  We are pursuing an important treaty with Iran, but are we at all interested in their military activity in Iraq?  I'm hoping that one day we will look back at February 2015 as the high-water mark for Islamic Extremism.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is This A Glimpse Of Obama's True Sympathies?

Link: A. Islamic State Executes Jordanian Pilot
          B. Obama Compares Islamic State Terrorists To Crusaders

As I gave my internet news sources a quick scan before sitting down to write this post, a few articles caught my attention.  It seems that the video clip of the unfortunate Jordanian pilot being burned to death may be a fake, or a hoax.  I studied a couple of the claims, which both seemed legitimate.  I have to say, though, that at the end of the video, the young man is dead.  Whether he was burned, or executed first and then burned doesn't matter to me anymore.  The actions of the Islamic State for a Caliphate in the Levant (ISIL) have reached a level a barbarism not seen since the Gestapo and Einsatzgruppen in the Second World War.  The treatment of women, children and the elderly in the hills of northern Iraq was as beastly and inhumane as anything I can recall.  Not to mention the routine-like execution of rows and rows of Iraqi young men, whose only crime was to join the army in order to bring home a little money to help feed the family.  The group ISIL is as bad as it gets.  I am convinced that both ISIL and Al-Qaeda are working towards the same goals as part of the strategy of Islamic Extremism.  We keep coming up with different names: Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Khorasan, and ISIL, just to name a few.  Boko Haram used to kidnap girls and force them to adopt their extreme conservative Islamic beliefs.  Now they have started kidnapping all children that they come across, and the real fear is that Boko Haram is building an army of child soldiers, similar to what has been seen in Africa in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Rwanda, and with the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.  Since President Obama took office and Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, Islamic Extremism and Islamic Terrorism have flourished.  Its a dangerous word to use, but unfortunately its appropriate.  During the Bush Administration, security officials frequently spoke of the fear that Al-Qaeda would spread into Africa.  Al-Qaeda is not only present in Africa, it is expanding.  Operatives in Mali are conducting raids in Niger and Boko Haram has carried out attacks from Nigeria into Cameroon.  The West has not been spared, as we have witnessed attacks in Boston, London, Paris and Australia.  And we have the Middle East; I can't remember a time that the Levant, the Holy Land and Mesopotamia were in such trouble.

The point is, Islamic Extremism is on the move, and it is a real danger to the United States.  I'm relieved to note that the current administration has excepted this reality.  The murder of the Jordanian pilot was a horrific act, but no more horrific than any of the other beheadings and executions.  The reaction of the Jordanian people was very encouraging.  The population of Jordan consists of a majority of Palestinians; since the various wars with Israel, the native Hashemites have become a minority.  There has been some concern that ISIL might find sympathizers within the Palestinian-Jordanian community, and within the more conservative Islamic circles.  But I was pleased to see the entire nation of Jordan rise up in support of its brave and well-spoken King, Abdullah.  For a time, Jordanian officials were negotiating with ISIL regarding the possibility of a prisoner swap.  Once the tape was released, it became apparent that ISIL was not negotiating in good faith, and that the Jordanian pilot had probably been dead for days, if not longer. King Abdullah ordered the immediate execution of the two terrorists that had been of interest to ISIL, and unleashed twenty F16s from the Royal Jordanian Air Force to blast those ISIL assholes to bits.  In a final salute, the same F16s flew over the home of the murdered pilot, and then flew over the capital Amman, to the joy of the hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered to express their opposition to ISIL.  Abdullah has vowed to continue using the Jordanian military to harass ISIL at every opportunity.  King Abdullah, like is father King Hussein, is good man, widely respected and admired for his leadership and wisdom. He understands the mentality of groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIL.  The only language they speak is the language of strength.  You can't defeat ISIL from a position of weakness, assuming your goal is to defeat them.

On Thursday, February 5, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barrack Obama discussed the murder of the young Jordanian pilot in the context of the continuing conflict in Syria and Iraq.  As he has done previously, President Obama introduced the subject of the Christian Crusades in the Holy Land, the last of which occurred in the year 1291.  Just to make sure that no one missed the point, Obama added that,  “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."  I can't remember the last time I was so offended by something said by an elected official, let alone the President of the United States.  "And lest we get on our high horse".....have you seen anyone getting on a high horse?  Are we not allowed to express indignation and anger towards Islamic Extremists?  What did I do to deserve a scolding?  Hell, lets get right to the truth of the matter: why does the United States have to share the blame for all heinous acts, because of our history?  No doubt we have some dark periods, but we face up to our legacy, good and bad, and with all the of the strength given us by God, we try and learn from it, and become better human beings.  President Obama, I'm not ashamed of my country, and I see not connection whatsoever between the last crusade 724 years ago, and the actions of the Islamic State.  A little advice, Mr. President.  Read up a bit on the enemy.  Al-Qaeda and ISIL are not trying to punish the United States (and the West, by proxy) for our past bad behaviors; you are the only one on that kick.  Al-Qaeda and ISIL are interested in creating a world controlled by the word of the Quran.  So please stop bringing slavery, and the Crusades, and Jim Crow into the discussion.  Most importantly, Mr. President, stop apologizing for me.  Over and out.          

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Is Pakistan So Welcoming To Islamic Extremists?

Links: A. Pakistan Wikipedia
           B. Pakistan Bans Terror Groups In Word Only
           C. Al-Qaeda Active And Influential In Pakistan
           D. Pakistani Support For Extremists Persists

(Quick personal comment: I am so grateful to all of you who come to this blog to read my commentaries.  I do my very best to include as much substance and fact as I do opinion, but by the end of the post, I will express my perspective on whatever issue I am discussing.  I welcome opposing viewpoints; most of the opinions I have today are variations of what they once were.  We have to learn to evolve our opinions in the face of presented facts that were previously unknown to us.  It is a sign of maturity and goodwill.  Also, if you do enjoy my posts, please recommend the blog to other persons who you believe might also find it interesting.  An unavoidable reality is that growth is essential in this medium, especially given the number of like-minded commentaries.)

I always find myself battling the need to keep my posts at a reasonable length.  I don't like to split a commentary into "Part I" and "Part II", because the uninterrupted flow of the conversation is essential.  But occasionally I give myself no choice.  Writing about Pakistan is a huge challenge.  As a nation, Pakistan has existed less than sixty years.  But it feels like an old soul, with many grievances to be addressed.  Please forgive me for this unworthy and inadequate review of Pakistani history, but a respectable effort would require a Part I, Part II, Part III, Part get the picture.  What we know as Pakistan today was originally part of India.  When Great Britain decided to grant independence to India, it was decided that the Predominantly Muslim North Western and Eastern Provinces would be partitioned to create the nation of Pakistan.  Oddly enough, the British partition of India created two pieces of Muslim Pakistan separated by a giant India with a huge Hindu majority.  Twenty-four years following the partition, Eastern Pakistan suffered a bloody Civil War, with the opposition openly supported by India. Without the possibility of reinforcements and supplies, the Pakistani forces eventually surrendered, and the nation of Bangladesh is the result.  Given that relations between Pakistan and India were already less-than-friendly, India's interference in what Pakistan considered to be an internal rebellion, caused even more difficulties for the two nations.  Eventually, Islamabad and New Delhi might very well have healed the right, if it weren't for the Province of Punjab.  The far-north, mountainous area is almost equally divided in population between Muslims and Hindus (depending on whose census you believe), and Pakistan has always believed that it should have been included in the original partition.  India is just as adamant that it belongs to India.  This beautiful but almost inaccessible land has been a bone of contention ever since, and has come close to igniting a war between two nuclear powers.

I'm not writing this post to sink myself into the quick-sand of Pakistani-Indian history, so I will move on from the issue of relations with India.  Suffice to say that the two nations have never been friends, although a few times in the last decade, serious diplomatic efforts resulting in face-to-face meetings between the two Prime Ministers, have given rise to optimism.  Frankly speaking I find it hard to believe, and a bit disgusting that both of these nations have nuclear weapons.  In order to reach that level of technology, a huge amount of resources must have been expended, by two countries who still have trouble feeding their people.  That makes no sense to me. The huge defense expenditures allocated by both governments, compared to funds set aside for housing, education and social welfare programs, is astonishing and should be a national embarrassment.  And the real tragedy is that both countries are armed to the teeth because of the threat posed by their neighbor.  The fact the Pakistan has nuclear weapons is more disturbing because of the unstable nature of Pakistani politics.  People get assassinated in Pakistan (also in India) and governments fall.  I am forced to look at Pakistan through red, white and blue glasses.  I can't allow myself to be distracted by the sorry state of affairs with India, and the complete lack of opportunity and hope for the young people of Pakistan.  For one reason and another, this nation has become the world's largest safe house for Al-Qaeda and probably a bunch of other nasty groups as well.  The pillars that constitute the government of Pakistan have been infiltrated for decades by the bad guys, and I'm not referring to the bribes the average Pakistani has to pay to get a license to wipe his ass and water his yard.  The Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) is rotten to the core with Al-Qaeda sympathizers, as are all branches of the military.  The civilian government is not nearly as corrupted by extremists, but it certainly has its share of thieves.  In fact, the presence of the corruption is what allowed the extremists in to begin with.  The people of Pakistan are only being reasonable.  They voted for the party of capitalism and it failed them.  They elected a bunch of socialists, who also robbed them blind.  So who can blame them for looking towards the traditional, religious answer, especially when it delivers food?

If anyone has any question regarding the depth of extremist influence in the Pakistani military and security service, just remind yourself that Osama Bin-Laden's compound in Abbottabad was located across the street from the Pakistani Military Academy.  That juxtaposition was not accidental, it was meant to discourage any raids like the one that occurred.  Zawahiri is in Pakistan as well.  he is probably closing in on ninety yrs. old, and not many sick, whiny, spoiled Egyptian intellectuals will choose a cave in Afghanistan over a house.  Why do the people of Pakistan provide safe haven to terrorists?  The answer is not as complicated as some people want it to be.  Because of the economic situation in Pakistan ($3,100 per capita income) and the lack of employment opportunities (officially unemployment is 5.1 percent, but in reality its closer to 30 percent), the younger generation, which continues to grow, has little hope or opportunity for the future.  When I was in Pakistan, I was always taken aback by the number of young men walking the streets during the day, every day.  From habit, I said to myself, "shouldn't they be at college or at work?"  These young men are the perfect targets for groups like Al-Qaeda, who will blame the west, and Israel, and India, and their complacent government, for all the ills of Pakistani society.  And when Al-Qaeda hosts a blame party, they do it right.  whoever is on the receiving end isn't just the trouble maker, they are the enemy, THE DEVIL, and they will never allow you to better your condition or improve the lives of your relatives.  The crusade to blame the west and Israel (even more so than India, who is only a seasonal bad guy) has been so successful, that the terrorists and their support network can find sympathizers on every street, on every block, and in every city.  There is an entire segment of Pakistani society that is vehemently opposed to the message of Islamic extremism; they have my support and admiration but I fear that they are fighting a losing battle.

Pakistan continues to give the appearance of a politically moderate Muslim nation.  In the United Nations, it votes with the anti-Israel bloc, but on other issues, Pakistan is known to support the United States, especially regarding Russia.  On the other hand, Pakistan has developed a warm relationship with China, a development which originated with the ignorant decision on the part of the United States to accept payment from Pakistan for some F16s, and then decide not to deliver them.  Its my understanding that diplomatic efforts were made to address and rectify that particular insult, thank goodness.  The Pakistani government has given the U.S. military a surprisingly free hand to deal with the Taliban, especially on the border.  The U.S. military continues to train and equip the Pakistani Army and Air Force (what they don't get from China), and the United States can rely on some internal support, especially from the military High Command.  But the issue isn't limited to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban moving back-and-forth across the border, or with the activities of extremist groups in Waziristan.  The United States must address the alarming fact that Al-Qaeda militants likely have safe-houses in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.  If this tumor living within Pakistani society becomes a cancer, and extremists take control of the Pakistani government, then we have a real problem.  A nuclear Iran and a nuclear Pakistan, both controlled by Islamic extremists.  I don't believe we have reached that point just yet.  I would like to believe that secular Pakistan will win the day, but the battle is for the hearts and minds of the young, not the middle-aged and old.  Those who love a secular and peaceful Pakistan must find a way to end corruption and provide opportunities for this generation and the one coming up right behind.  Otherwise they won't hesitate to listen to another message.