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Thursday, March 31, 2016

You don't have to look for ISIS to find a war against Christian

Its not necessary to search for ISIS, Boko Haram, atheist North Korea or Al Qaida to find a war against Christianity.  Just turn on your television, open your local newspaper, or spend a couple days sitting through public school classes with your kids.  Disparaging, belittling and insulting Christianity and Christians has become not only acceptable in the United States, it is now considered an admirable  course of action.  What makes this development all the more pathetic is that the citizens of the United States continue to be Christian by a substantial majority.  According to a July 2015 ABC News poll, 83 percent of Americans identify as Christian.  I chose the ABC poll result, but other polls available in the media offer similar results.  Why does a nation of Christians basically sit back and watch as the younger generations show no understanding of life and teachings of Jesus Christ, except as something to mock and disrespect?  I realize that there exist many exceptions to this trend.  Many Christian Churches continue to offer young adherents the opportunity to proselytize both within the United States and overseas.  But more and more we read stories of these young people being refused entry into business estsblishments and secondsry school grounds.  The targeting of Mormons, who we all recognize as they politely make their way in ties and on bicycles, has caused the Church to reconsider its intended destinations for outreach.  Its not difficult finding episodes of Christians being descriminated against and Christianity being insulted, but is it really all that bad?

I started noticing the trend a few tears ago.  The ACLU had succeeded in forcing another municipality in some midwestern state, to remove a nativity scene from its holiday display.  Christmas was a surprisngly easy target, as Christmas trees became Holiday trees and Christmas break at school became Winter break.  When approached, the municipal leaders all repeated the same comment: because of the separation of Church and State, it is uncomstitutional to mention anything religious on government property.   And for those who didn't abide by this perspective, the ACLU was ready with deep pockets to take things to court.  Frankly, most folks just didn't want to fuss with it; we'd dealt with these latter-day hippie types before, and they usually end up just going away.

That has not been the case.  The political left in the United States, with the complicit support of the Democratic Party, have turned this issue into one which they claim has caused untold damage to religious minorities and must be addressed immediately.  Not surprisingly, no one was required to back up this argument with proof.  That is the current state of affairs in our great nation these days: those on the left no longer have the obligation to support their argument with anything other than accusations of bigotry and racism.  For those who are interested, the numbers of immigrant applications to the United States who claim to be in search of religious freedom are not declining.  People want to emigrate to the United States because we protect a person's right to practise the religion of their choice.  Atheists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists are not injured by a community expression of the majority's traditional celebration of the birth of our savior.  When I have been in traditionally Islamic or Hindu nations, I was not offended or injured in any way by public displays of religious expression.  Most people in the United States agree with my point of view; so why does the situation seem to become more absurd every day?

This last Monday, on everyone's fsvorite daytime show, "The View", panelist Michelle Collins (who?), when discussing the recent National Enquirer claim that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had cheated on his wife at least five times, described Cruz as living by a "crazy moral code".  It was obvious that Collins was referring to Cruz being a Christian.  Collins was relishing the idea that another "Christian hypocrite" (my quotations) had been caught cheating, even though Collins herself considers the Christian code of morality to be "crazy", regardless.  Normally, televised daytime talk-shows wouldn't touch the Enquirer with a ten-foot pole.  But the media, which has gladly become the sword of this anti-Christian effort, loves any message that claims to show evidence of prominent Christians being hypocritical.  The problem is, even the National Enquirer realizes their story is false, which they are quick to declare at the beginning of the piece.  They are smart enough to play the game and not have to face a lawsuit.  The Enquirer announced the accustations on page one, as if the case was aleeady closed, then reiterated that the story was simply something provided to the Enquirer by a Trump supporter.  The glee with which this Collins person commented on the accusations of infidelity by Cruz, is something we see all the time in our press and media.  Non-Christians who behave immorally are given a pass, because, of course, they don't pretend to be ethical.  Its the hypocritical Christians that must be outed!

Forgive me for getting in the weeds just a bit, but it can be occasionally necessary.  Its past time that the Christian community in this great nation stop applogizing for itself.  The pioneers who suffered untold hardships building this country, many times were obliged to survive rough times on Faith alone.  During the dark years of slavery, many suffering Americans relied on Faith in Jesus and His love, to make it from one day to the next.  The people who built this country did not shy away from their Christian Faith, as is evidenced by its inclusion in our National Anthem, our Constitution, our songs, school books  and our literature.  It is only in the last half-century that Academia in the United States has allowed itself to become the lightening rod for the anti-Christian movement.  Do not misunderstand; a healthy application of the principle of "separation of church and state" is essential in our Republic.  But we have allowed this battle-cry to move us away from the truths by which we arrived at this particular place in time.  I am a Christian, and I am a better man for it.  I make no apologies for my Faith, and I will speak up when I see history being rewritten and the will of the majority of this country ignored.  I can only hope that I'm not alone in my sentiments.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Europe suffers another terrorist attack, as the free world continues to search for a champion.

On Tuesday, terrorists conducted suicide attacks in Belgium, killing upwards of 31 people and at least  160 injured.  The terrorist operators chose to detonate their suicide gear in the crowded Maelbeek Metro Station in Brussels, and also at Zaventem International Airport.  This horrific event was no doubt some sort of retaliation for Belgium's aggressive efforts to assist the French authorities in identifying, locating and apprehending terror suspects who are using Belgium as a safe haven.  Only three days ago, Belgian police apprehended one of the individuals suspected of direct involvement in last year's Paris attacks.  I have nothing but admiration and support for the law enforcement authorities in Belgium and France.  Over the previous four months, a great deal of attention has been generated regarding the issue of national security, as everyday French (and Belgian) citizens have to consider just how safe rheir families really are.  Sadly, we aren't discussing Europeans on vacation who inadvertently got caught up in local violence.  The people of Europe are obliged to have public discourse regarding the safety of their own communities. This is a very sobering time for resiidents of Avila, Spain, or Cork Ireland, or maybe Schlitters, Austria, who have basically always been able to assume the relative security of their neighborhoods and villages, at least as far as foreign threats go.  The world has become a much smaller place, and liberal immigration laws and the lack of enforcement has provided those persons who harbor latent resentment towards anything from the west, to move in next door.  That reality is no longer worth the argument.  These people had to come from somewhere, which makes the continued debate regarding refugees from Syria even more important.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the terror attacks in Belgium, is the predictable, toothless response of the United States.  President Barsck Obama, who just happens to be visiting Cuba (enjoying Cuba Libres and good seafood while political prisoners and no doubt a number of U.S. citizens, starve in the Havana jail), tossed out the tired "our thoughts and prayers" comment to the press, and then continued his original speech, which was so ideologically leftist that Che Guevara saluted from the grave.  It is so difficult to accept (but we must, at least for the next nine months) the direction we are taking with regards to Socialist Cuba, when at the same time the Obama Administration has gone out of its way to embarrass Israeli President Netanyahu and create difficulties between our nations.  In truth, it wouldn't have mattered if Obama had been in DC or Durban when the news from Brussels first broke.  President Obama has laid down the law, policy-wise.  ISIS does not pose a threat to the United States, and any effort by the United States to take a leadership role in the fight against ISIS would be innappropriate.  This hardline "laissez faire" approach to international terror is living our European allies in a bit of a fix.  In 2008, when Barack Obama took office, the leaders of Europe were tripping over each other to be the first to be best friends with the first African-American President of the United States.  This sickening lovesick attitude (which pervades amongst the people of Europe as well), was on display in foreign relations, as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands were perfectly willing to grt in line behind whatever policy Obama thought best.  Examples include the terrible New Start Nuclear Disarmament Treaty, which was supported by Europe, the lack of spine in dealing with Russian threats against Nato expansion, and the never-ending sanctions regime put in place to force Russia to end its support of murdering thugs and guerillas in Ukraine.  Where has that policy gotten us?  Nowhere, except we have to change our maps to correctly show Crimea as again a province of Russia.

Now that the leaders of Europe have lined up their equities alongside Obama, they impatiently wait for the United States to step up and show some aggressive leadership in the fight against this evil plague that continues to expand and continues to kill.  Sadly Monsieur Hollande, Frau Merkel, and Mr. Cameron will have to wait at least until late January 2017.  Unless ISIS conducts a major terrorist operation within the United States, the European nations, as they are doing with the refugee crisis, will have to formulate policy sans the U.S.A.  The Obama Administration's wilingness to wait until the bad guys strike us domestically before we recognize them (and all Islamic Extremists) as the enemy is a terrible mistake, and very well may prove costly.  For a month or so, it appeared that possibly Russia and Vladimir Putin might be willing to take the lead in the campaign to destroy this group, but we found out, not surprisingly, that all Putin wanted was to strengthen the bargaining position of Russia's Syrian puppet, Bashar al-Assad.  So the free world continues to look for a champion, someone who will rain destruction on these thugs.  As things stand, ISIS has no opposition to its expansion into Africa (through Boko Haram and al-Shabaab), Latin America and Southest Asia.  Militarily, ISIS appears to have no problem fighting the Iraqi Armed Forces to a stand-still (even with air support and ad hoc special forces ops for Iraq).  Now that the Russians have stepped things down in Syria, ISIS feels no real threat or pressure.  I fear that this summer may bring tragedy to many people; I pray everyday to be wrong.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Putin continues to keep the West unbalanced with the announcement that Russia would be pulling out of Syria.agenda.

I have no problem admitting my suprise at Russia's announcement earlier this week that it's military goals had been met and the time had come to leave Syria.  At first blush, I took Putin literally, and gave great consideration to a full-scale military withdrawal from the Syrian theater, even while Jabhat al-Nusra and other anti-Assad elements were still in a position to strike at Russian targets.  In reality, Putin has announced the withdrawal of some units, including certain air elements that had to to actually play a part in the conflict.  Frankly, it is inconceivable that Russia would enact a full withdrawal at this stage.  A review of the current battlefield will bring the entire development into perspective.

Russia has been very aggressive in pursuing its military strategy in Syria.  I have concluded that this strategy, in typical Russian fashion, is to pursue one goal while inundating the media with reports of military successes in an entirely different direction.  Its a bit of the ol' "bait amd switch game".  When the Russians began their campaign, the was cloaked in the description of a war "to destroy ISIS".  At the time of the Russian entry into the conflict, the media were reporting disturbing daily military advances on behalf of extremist groups, in particular in northeast Syria, in the homeland of the Druze and the Assad family.  With the absolute vassilation of the Obama Administration, and Europe's unwillingness to fart without a U.S. lead, many concerned leaders welcomed Russia's entry as part of the bulwark to stem the ISIS advance. Almost immediately, though, Putin betrayed his real motivation.  Russia intervened in Syria not to destroy ISIS, but to prop-up Russia's long-time puppet in Damascus, de facto President Bashar al-Assad.  Russian jets targeted anti-Assad forces from the beginning with a nasty vengeance, showing a complete disregard to the potential for civilian casualties.  Only after the Western media began to point out the peculiar singular direction of Russia's military targeting did the Russians begin to conduct the odd strike against ISIS locations.  As for the overall results of the Russian campaign to date, efforts to restore regime authority in an around Aleppo have been tremendously successful.  Also, Russian targeting has caused important strategic reverses to both al-Nusra and ISIS.  The most important question of the hour, is whether the rejuvenated and resupplied regime forces loyal to Assad can consolidate and hold these gains, especially as the negotiating season appears to be upon us.  Can we conclude for certain that this Russian intervention in Syria was primarly intended to solidify Assad's bargaining position?  It's very possible.  But Putin is flexible when it suits his agenda.  Its also possible that Putin had another goal in mind, something more long-term, but developments and the nature of the campaign convinced him that it was best to slow things down a bit and allow Assad the opportunity to negotiate from a position of increased strength.  Keeping all of these factors in mind, do not expect the Russians to really evacuate Syria.  No doubt Putin will leave enough airpower in place to continue his reactive support of Assad's forces, especially in the Aleppo theater.

Another issue that should be of concern to the American people, is the fate of the Obama Adminstration's policy in Syria, given last year's announced effort to set-up a "free Syria" military force, to be heavily trained (in Jordan, one can surmise) and supplied by the United States, to confront ISIS on the battlefield and provide the west with a certain "Boots on the Ground" representation.  Obama's unwillingness to pay the political pricetag of involving U.S. troops on-the-ground and incuring casualties, is the. motivation for the decision hire others to do our fighting for us.  A good question is, how much money has been spent by the United States vis-a-vis its policy in Iraq and Syria.  I am curious what we accomplished, dollar versus rouble, in comparison to the Russians, in their very short time on the battlefield.  I suspect the picture would not be pretty.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Revisiting the Iraq War.

For all of 2016, I have been without a television.  It wasn't some moral choice on my part to rid my life of time wasting distractions and bad influences, it was more of a case of changing residences and not finding the time to hire a new Cable or Satellite provider.  Once Lent season rolled around, and I still hadn't connected the boob tube, I decided to guilt myself into extending this new lifestyle sans TV.  I gave up television for Lent.  Granted, when Lent commenced I was already without my 46' flat-screen Sony, but I did have the intention of rejoining the grid.  Lent gave me the opportunity to extend this experiment, which no-doubt has been good for me.  The most valued benefit of not having a television is being able to keep Donald Trump out of my life.  Friends assumed I would spend less time at home without a TV, but having my own personal, guaranteed "no Trump zone" tempts me to spend more time in my empty little apartment, catching up on my reading.  But I still function in this society, therefore I am destined to get more than my share of "The Donald".  This character manages to increase my dislike for him every single chance he has.  If I'm at my friend Sue's house, or visiting my Mother, and the TV is on in the background, the media will find a way to include Trump in the programming.  I could be mistaken, but I believe my friend Stacy and I actually saw Trump interjected into a National Geographic Channel program about asexual reproduction in the worm community.....and there's Trump.

I've already explained my hypothesis regarding Trump, the media, and our future next President, Donald Trump.  Today my annoyance is with something I've heard this ignorant bully repeat a number of times.  Donald Trump did not support President George Bush's decision to invade Iraq following 9/11.  Shockingly, Trump normally explains his lack of support for the invasion by connecting the war and its aftermath to Bush's less-than brilliant attempt to justify the invasion by protecting the free world from Iraq's research into Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).  Trump, who seems to enjoy soaking in his own ignorance like a chicken in a pot of stew, seems to believe that Iraq, in fact, did not have any WMD and was not conducting banned weapons research.  In fact, Iraq was (is?) littered with WMD; Saddam Hussein had poison gas storage facilities in a number of locations around Iraq.  Maybe you don't consider Mustard Gas a Weapon of Mass Destruction?  I'm sure the Shi'a women and children that Saddam gassed following the first Gulf War will disagree. But Trump, in all his bluster and braggadocio, can't help himself.  So he goes on television to brag to the American people that he did not support the Iraq War and that he knew that there were no WMDs.  I only wish Trump would have been obliged to spend a bit of time out in the desert as we had to do.  A good gust of wind and sand would turn his hair into a magic carpet.

I no longer discuss the subject of WMD as it relates to the Iraq War, but I welcome the opportunity to discuss the conflict in simple, factual terms.  After observing the damage that had been inflicted on our transportation grid and our sense of safety, no doubt Osama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri spent the months following the September 11 tragedy, making every effort to plan and implement a similar attack.  The longer we waited to directly respond, the more likely that al-Qaida and their supporters would find the opportunity to hit us again.  As a nation, our defense apparati had to undergo a Sea Change, and make terrorism the greatest threat to our security.  Fighting a war against s terrorist group is nothing like conventional warfare.  They don't want to be forced into prolonged military engagements because they have neither the manpower or the equipment to be successful.  Hence their Modus Operandi of utilizing well-trained, heavily-armed and religiously motivated operators with tremendous religious conviction.  Terrorists can slip into crowds and disappear like a needle in a haystack.  President Bush was faced with a difficult task: how to defeat an enemy that is so far removed from the United States, and relishes the backward, primitive society within which they live.  Bush and his advisors came to the conclusion that to destroy Al-Qaida, the conflict must be taken to bin-Laden and his group of butchers.  We knew that Al-Qaida was being given a form of Sanctuary by Afghanistan's Islamic Extremist Taliban government.  I believe that the Bush Administration chose to deliver the war to Al-Qaida in its own back yard, which ideally would force them into a conventional conflict, and there was no way that Al-Qaida (and the Taliban, for good measure, could hope to triumph over the United States military in a conventional war.  But the Bush Administration had a dilemma: a country was needed that was near enough to Afghanistan to support our military efforts against the Taliban, and also present an opportunity for a long-term military presence, in the form of military bases.  If this plan were successful, Al-Qaida would not have the resources or operatives to continue launching suicide attacks against Europe and the United States.

We all know that Iraq was chosen as the ideal location.  The United Nations had been involved in a protracted struggle with Iraq regarding its attitude towards UN resolutions.  The Bush Administration must have considered Iraq as the ideal location the create this semi-permanent military footprint in the Middle East.  I imagine that Bush expected the UN and it's member states to welcome the willingness of the United States to go into Iraq, remove a bloodthirsty dictator, and rebuild a nation with tremendous oil reserves.  Heck, he probably expected that our troops would be greeted as liberators (at least that's what a number of the Iraqi ex-pats, told Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

In the end, the plan proved successful, at least temporarily.  By 2009, much of Iraq had been rebuilt, including its transportation network and refining capacity.  But more important is the fact that following 9-11, Islamic Extremists were unable to repeat their destruction.  The U.S. military, like an avenging giant, transported itself in a matter of weeks into bin-Laden's front AND back yard.  Al-Qaida attempted to combat the U.S. presence, partly by sending Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Iraq with orders to establish an Iraqi-based military force that would conduct lightening raids and ambushes, and make deadly use of Improvised Explosive Devises.  In the end, our military dropped a 500 lb bomb in Zarqawi's lap, and his group took off for greener pastures (Syria beckoned).  Of course, our foreign policy since 2008 has been at odds with what was accomplished during the Bush Administration.  But let's not let Trump trick himself anymore.  He wants to brag that he would not have invaded Iraq in 2003, then I wonder just how long it would have been before Donald Trump was witnessing another domestic terror incident.  So lay blame as you see fit, Mr. Trump.  I'm convinced that history will give the Bush Administration credit for keeping the pressure on Al-Qaida, and disrupting any other attempts at 9-11 type attacks.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Cease Fire in Syria suspiciously resembles the Cease Fires in Ukraine.

Although U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put a great deal of effort and time into the crafting of the February 12 Syrian Cease Fire Agreement, he made every effort to downplay expectations.  As much as I was disgusted with Kerry's direct involvement in last year's nuclear "research" treaty between Iran and the West, there can be no doubting the man's energy or his desire to succeed.  But Kerry is a victim of his own personality.  He has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to trust anyone who wants to sign a treaty, regardless of prior experience or suspicious motivation.  Kerry is probably a good man at heart, and wants very much to believe that one expression of trust and compromise will be met with trust and compromise.  He has staked his reputation and the long-term security of the Persian Gulf to this hope.  I see things a bit differently.  I strongly believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, until proven wrong.  Kerry and the Obama Administration seem content to ignore the never ending violations of treaties by Iran and Russia, I can only assume with the idea that THIS TIME they will be true.  Early on in the Ukraine conflict, I was prepared to agree to Cease Fires and dialougue with the Donbas separatists and their Russian masters, but after one violation after another, followed up by the annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea, I wouldn't have trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin to fart in the right direction, let alone follow through on diplomatic obligations.  As for the Iranians, thirty-five years of direct financial and military support to terrorist organizations around the world, not to mention the Saddamesque difficulties Iran has had following through on United Nations agreements regarding their nuclear program, should not put any U.S. Administration in the mood to trust Iran.  The real tragedy is, that everyone involved, including President Barack Obama, realize that Iran will have a nuclear weapon with five-to-seven years.  Actually, I don't think this truth has reached Secretary Kerry.  His trust in the good-nature of our enemies is disturbingly consistent and a whole lot pathetic.

Back to Syria and the February 12 Cease Fire; it appears that almost all of those who signed on to the Cease Fire have followed through with their commitment.  Then why do we continue to have a daily body count in the hundreds?  The answer is simple.  Since Russia began its little adventure rescuing Bashar al-Assad from certain doom, almost all military action has been directed at Assad's internal Syrian opposition.  True, In the beginning, Putin assured the world that Russia's only interest in Syria was to destroy the evil monster ISIS.  In truth, since boots-on-the-ground, the Russian military has worked in lockstep with Assad's regime forces to obliterate Assad's internal opposition.  By the way, that opposition includes groups that are supported by the United States and Europe.  Russian jets are bombing the hell out of forces that have been acting on our behest. Where is the outrage?  Where is the quick response?  Buried in the ground next to Ronald Reagan, I guess.  Putin is masterful at diplomatic chess, but let's face it, he hasn't had to break a sweat on this one.  Russia enters the conflict to resurrect their puppet and destroy his opposition.  A few months following Russia's entry into the fight, Putin announces his support for a "Cease Fire".  And it wasn't even Vlad's birthday.  While Merkel, Hollande and Kerry congratulate each other in public, there is some serious sweating taking place behind closed doors.  Why?  Because Russia and Assad have yet to actually follow through on the Cease Fire.  In fact, with all the other combatants (save ISIS) laying down their weapons, Russian bombing raids and Syrian regime armor attacks are ratcheting up the body count.  With another ten months to go of Secretary Kerry and the Obama Administration's ambiguous foreign policy, expect to see Assad back in control in Syria.  No doubt the Russians will eventually be obliged to confront ISIS head-on and push them out of Syria in order to allow Assad to restart with a Coup de Torchon.  No problem for ISIS; Iraq isn't going anywhere.