Mid afternoon Friday round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesThe lovely thing about summer is that I get to sleep in a little. I like that.

The less than lovely thing about summer is that I am never alone. More than that, if my family is near me, they want me. Sometimes they want me for irritating reasons, such as asking me to do things they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves (e.g., making themselves lunch); sometimes they want me for necessary things that only I can do (e.g., filling out the parent permission form for an activity or dealing with contractors); and sometimes they want me for flattering reasons (“I just want you to sit with me, Mommy.”). No matter the reason, I can’t write when they want me.

Other times, as is the case now, I have little bits and pieces of time within which to write. I’m therefore going to slam stuff out and you’ll just have to excuse the inevitable typos. If I proceed methodically here, I won’t be able to publish this until Monday.

** 1 **

Mitchell Langbert wrote an open letter to his state Senator asking that New York take away tax breaks and financial subsidies for colleges and universities that support the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement:

I urge New York State to eliminate tax breaks and financial subsidies for colleges and universities that support involvement with the Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions movement. Such support is already illegal under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code, which prohibits the use of tax-exempt money for political and ideological purposes.

If Langbert is correct in the way he interprets the law, all of us should make a very big deal out of this one, not just in New York, but across America. (Hat tip: JKB.)

** 2 **

So far, Israel is doing very well. Ironically, one can say that she’s doing well because Obama hates her. With past administrations, when the president asked Israel to stop fighting Hamas, even when she was winning, Israel agreed to the request. She did so because all past administrations tacitly or explicitly promised that, if things get really bad, America will have Israel’s back.

Barack Obama, of course, doesn’t have Israel’s back. He’s mostly in Israel’s face, with a shiv aimed at her jugular. The fact that he manifestly dislikes Israel explains why Israel now refuses to listen to his pleas for her to back down. He’s got no carrot to entice her into listening to him, so Israel sneers at John Kerry when he, a Lurch without charm, insists Israel lay down her guns.

Israel is also doing well because Hamas is doing badly. The IDF put out a poster explaining just how badly Hamas is doing:

Hamas hurting

That poster doesn’t even acknowledge the 150 Hamas fighters who surrendered yesterday.

For more on just how well Israel is doing, you can read an American Thinker article that purports to report a conversation with a very highly placed Israeli specialist and Bibi advisor, or read Tom Rogan’s analysis about Israel’s success is splitting Hamas and Fatah.

** 3 **

That same Israeli specialist and advisor has no doubt about the basis for Obama’s hostility to Israel:

As for what is behind Obama’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, he attributes it to the fact that Obama is a Muslim and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps Obama also sees himself as the Caliph of any future Caliphate.

The other thing the post about the specialist mentions is Qatar’s involvement in funding radical Islam. Qatar also funds lots of soccer. My son loves soccer, and he can’t understand why I won’t let him buy gear from Qatar-funded teams.

** 4 **

Contrary to what the Left says or implies, the war between Israel and Hamas is not a case of powerful white people attacking helpless brown people. In fact, Israel is a multicultural, multiracial, multi-religious society — and all people of good will within that society, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, support stamping out the terrorism emanating from Gaza.

** 5 **

CNN’s Erin Burnett isn’t just another pretty face. She’s a really stupid pretty face, something that comes through loud and clear when Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador U.S., takes her to task for her inanely stupid “but what about the children” plea when it comes to the Gazan children that Hamas deliberate dots around weapons’ sites in Gaza.

Regarding Hamas’s tactics, I’m sure its supporters have made the point that the nature of Gaza (a small, urban area) means that Hamas can’t have nice military bases or remote areas where they can stockpile weapons. That’s true.

What’s also true, though, is that there are choices other than schools and hospitals for storing arms and mounting attacks. Moreover, when your enemy goes out of the way to give you advance warning that it plans to demolish the schools and hospitals in which they’ve determined you keep your weapons and fighters, there are choices other than ordering women and children and sick people to stay in those buildings.

There are always choices — and Hamas, when it chooses, always makes the least moral choice.

** 6 **

Meanwhile, as the world’s Muslims and Leftists castigate Israel for daring to defend herself in a more humane way than any other nation in history, most of the world is turning away from Muslim atrocities in Iraq and Syria. There, Muslims slaughter each other and Christians with fury and brutality, and in great numbers. Looking at this inconsistent behavior, one has to ask, If it’s not the oldest hatred that drives the obsessive focus on Israel, what is driving it?

** 7 **

Sultan Knish explains that terrorism is a tactic like any other. Traditional militaries think in terms of conquering land or towns. Terrorists think in terms of conquering minds through abject fear:

This emotional calculus is misleading because it is an immediate response to a set of deaths. However terrorists are not trading an end to violence for a village or a town. They are calculating how many deaths it will take to force Israel to abandon that village or town. And once they have it, they will use it to inflict more terror on another town or village, this time using rockets.

Israelis were convinced that a price in lives had been put on Gaza and that if they withdrew, the killing would end. But Gaza was just the beginning. Not the end. There is never an end.

The goal of a terrorist movement is to change the relative perceptions of strength and the freedom of movement of both sides. Terror tactics create the perception that the winning side is losing. This perception can be so compelling that both sides come to accept it as reality. Terrorists manufacture victories by trapping their enemies in no-win scenarios that wear down their morale.

Described that way, it’s hard to imagine how to defeat this profoundly cruel psychological warfare. Fortunately, though, Sultan Knish says it can be done but it will take political courage. Unfortunately, how often does one find courage in politics?

** 8 **

My back garden is dotted with solar lights. They’re cheap to buy and don’t require any electrical boxes, outlets, or cords in the garden. Buy enough of them, and they’ll illuminate deck stairs just enough so that no one falls or will keep people from wandering off a paved pathway into the dirt. It would take a whole let of them, though, plus a full moon, to allow you to read a book by their light. Solar energy just doesn’t deliver that much power, and that’s the problem with trying to turn it into a viable fossil fuel alternative.

** 9 **

You’ve heard it everywhere else, so you may as well hear it from me too: Jonathan Gruber, an important Obama-care architect, has castigated the Halbig decision for daring to read Obamacare’s language literally and, on that basis, deciding that subsidies only support state-run exchanges. Of course the government meant to include federal exchanges when it talked about subsidies, says Gruber.

A few years ago, though, Gruber was singing a different tune, when he gloated about tying subsidies to state exchanges. His theory then was that it would incentivize states to set up their own exchanges. In a sane world, Gruber would lay to rest the DemProg’s discontent with the Halbig decision, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

** 10 **

Kimberly Strassel says that the Halbig case proves that the IRS, which has become an arm of the Democrat party, cannot be entrusted with Obamacare. It will do anything, including disobeying the law as written, to support the Democrat agenda.  With that in mind, I wouldn’t just remove Obamacare from the IRS’s purview.  I would argue for eliminating it entirely, and starting anew.  (Like that’s going to happen.)

** 11 **

I don’t think Noemi Emery really explains the roots of Hillary’s sense of political and monetary entitlement, but in trying to explain it, she sure paints a picture of a women who believes that the White House and millions of dollars should be hers for the asking.

My take is that Hillary didn’t get to this point because of her Arkansas exile or victimized-wife roles. I believe she’s just your ordinary sociopath, who managed to lever herself into a power path, and now wants more just because she’s the sociopath she is.  In other words, her history didn’t make her a sociopath; the fact that she is a sociopath shaped her history.

** 12 **

Charles Krauthammer has offered a very interesting theory about Obama’s bizarre passivity as the world burns around him: he believes that the arc of history will go his way so that he can just sit back and watch it happen.

If that idea — that bad guys will wither away in any event — sounds familiar, it’s because you heard it from Jimmy Carter about our own American Revolution:

[I]n some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war.

Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial‘s really legitimate complaints and requests the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way.

I think in many ways the British were very misled in going to war against America and in trying to enforce their will on people who were quite different from them at the time.

See, if you’re just a little nicer to people on the other side of a quarrel, they’ll fall in line with you. It’s that easy. So if Obama just doesn’t throw America’s weight around, everyone will make nice in the end.  Obama is helped in this theory by the fact that he seems happy to have that arc of history bend to Islam, not the western, Judeo-Christian tradition.

** 13 **

In the 1930s, many decent-ish people in Europe and England supported Hitler’s rise. That’s because initially they saw his fascism as the European antidote to Communism. It somehow never seemed to occur to Europeans, accustomed as they were to autocratic government, that the choice wasn’t binary, between a tyrannical government that destroyed the rich and a tyrannical government that co-opted them. Individual freedom never occurred to them.  That was stupidity, or at least limited thinking, on their part.

These same Europeans stopped being decent-ish but stupid, and became evil, though, when they still supported the Nazis despite the latter’s increasingly insane antisemitism.  That’s another legacy of the European past — it wasn’t just autocratic; it was also antisemitic. European’s embrace of antisemitism into addition to totalitarianism is less forgivable than accepting totalitarianism alone, while the latter is a structural ideology, the former is pure evil.

Fascism and communism may be gone from Europe, and socialism may be dying on the vine there, but the antisemitism lingers on. That oldest hatred seems to be bred into the European DNA. Nor can one just blame the huge Muslim populations in Europe for antisemitism’s resurgence. Just as the Ukrainians and Poles and French, while resenting Nazi invasions, supported Nazi ethnic cleansing, too many of today’s Europeans, while frightened of the Muslims, cheerfully (and almost reflexively) chime in when the cry to “Kill the Jews” rings out.

** 14 **

Mr. Bookworm is convinced that I abandoned him politically when I moved from Democrat to conservative. I keep explaining to him that he abandoned me too, because he’s been moving steadily to the Left. He denies that, since he still rejoices under the name “Democrat.” Hard data, though, seems to support my perception.

** 15 **

A palette-cleanser:

** 16 **

Hamas priorities

This clever twist on a London Underground map makes a powerful point about Hamas’s tunneling under Israel’s borders and into her towns. If Hamas, instead of being impatient and firing rockets, had waited quietly, it’s possible it could have carried out a terrorist attack in Israel that would easily have rivaled 9/11. Thank goodness, I guess, for impatient terrorists.

Gaza underground

Late Saturday afternoon round-up and Open Thread (with lots of pictures and videos)

Victorian posy of pansiesMy new washer is so efficient that (a) I’ve gotten the greater part of two-and-a-half weeks’ worth of laundry done in a few hours and (b) my old dryer is performing better than ever. Yay! I was also able to spend the time in between loads finding all sorts of interesting posts, pictures, and videos to share with you.

One other thing. In order to make it easier for you to respond to a specific issue in a long round-up, I’m going to number each segment. If this new approach is annoying, tell me; if it helps, tell me too.

*1*

Something weird happened at ABC News: Someone uploaded an article with images of forlorn children living in primitive conditions at the border, and commented that this is what President Obama would see if he bothered to make the journey.

*2*

A lot of people have noticed that Obama’s approval amongst Muslims is sky-high. There’s actually an even more interesting number: Obama’s approval amongst American Jews is at an all-time low of 55%, a 22 point drop since 2008/2009.

Yes, it’s true that more than half of American Jews still support Obama, but it’s also a stunning collapse in support for him. It seems as if American Jews are finally figuring out that Obama is not their friend.

Several years ago, I told an American Jewish woman — an Obama supporter, of course — that Obama was hostile to Israel. It was a friendly conversation, so I didn’t hector her and she didn’t scoff at me. Despite the absence of scoffing, though, I could tell she thought I was a few cards shy of a full deck. I haven’t seen her since that conversation, and I sometimes wonder if her mind wanders back to that day….

*3*

If you would like to know the Hell that Obama unleashed on Iraq by withdrawing 100% of American troops and support, Gateway Pundit has a stomach-churning “ISIS on Parade” round-up.

*4*

The refugee crisis that Obama invited on our southern border is doing what all refugee crises do: it’s bringing disease into our country (one of the things border demarcations are meant to prevent). What’s different about this refugee crisis is that our government, unlike all other governments, instead of concentrating the refugees where they can be monitored and treated, both for diseases and criminal behavior, is instantly spreading the refugees throughout America.

Considering how fond Leftists are of the canard about settlers deliberately infecting Native Americans with smallpox infested blankets, one would think that they would be alive to the dangers inherent in deliberately infecting all Americans with disease-infested people.

And of course, the Diplomad always has something interesting to add, this time regarding this refugee crisis.

*5*

One of the beauties of narcissism is that there’s no past and no absolute truth. The past and the truth are always dictated by the needs of the moment. To the extent that the DemProgs are infected with institutional narcissism, you can see that “needs of the moment” psychology play out as Toure explains how unfair conservatives are being to Hillary Clinton.

*6*

If you think gorgeous, courageous, well-armed women are sexy, you’re clearly not a Muslim. You’ll also like this Facebook post.

*7*

Israelis do not target civilians. Period. To the Israeli’s great distress, civilians may sometimes die when Hamas uses them as human shields, but Israel will turn away from golden opportunities rather than knowingly strike children:

*8*

Portlandia captures the inanity and insanity of pretending gender doesn’t exist:

*9*

And the pictures that I promised:

Rockets are indiscriminate

Pay attention

Obama's priorities 3

Highly illogical

Hillary is dead broke

Rockets aimed at the Holy City

Israel and Hamas and their civilians

Hide the rocket

Hating Jane Fonda

Mid-day Sunday round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s a ridiculously beautiful day here, the kind that screams out “God’s in his Heaven, and all’s right with the world.” It’s therefore quite discordant to read headlines and realize that God may be in his Heaven, but Obama is in the White House, the DemProgs are in charge of the Senate, our Southern border is broken, and the Middle East is catapulting back to the 7th century — and trying to take us with it.

Yikes! I’m going to be grateful to go to the laundromat with the piles of clothes my ailing washing machine can’t handle.  I have to leave quite soon, so let me throw a super quick round-up your way:

***

If you read only one thing today, read Mark Steyn’s thoughts about the particular reason the IRS scandal is so appalling and why it ought to resonate among all Americans, not just those targeted in this particular scandal.

***

Kevin D. Williamson’s article about the money to be had in politics is so good, I actually posted it on my “real me” Facebook page. I don’t usually post things from conservative publications on Facebook, because DemProgs refuse to read things that don’t come from sources they trust (i.e., the drive-by media). This one, though, raises such non-partisan issues I figured that even my DemProg friends will find something with which they agree in the article.

***

Kyle Smith on the DemProg’s constant shtick about being poor. They are truly testing how far they can push Lincoln’s saying that you can fool all of the people all of the time. Oh, wait! Lincoln didn’t say that. That’s just the DemProg’s theory and they’re working it really hard.

***

It’s easy to deal with illegal aliens, and it doesn’t require new law to do so. The current law gives the federal government all the power it needs to take care of the current situation.  Matt Barber explains. I’ll add to Barber’s claim that a solid border isn’t mean by pointing out that, as long as the U.S. provides a safety valve, corrupt Latin American governments have no incentive to reform. We allow the wound to fester endlessly without ever getting better.

***

A Church of England vicar who married his long-time boyfriend contends that this marriage was the “Christian” thing to do. Interestingly, he offers no theological justification for that conclusion. Could it be because there isn’t a theological justification? There are a lot of good arguments in favor of gay marriage, but neither the Old nor the New Testament provide a basis for any such arguments:

***

You know how “the squeaky wheel gets the grease?” Not at the VA. If you’re a squeaky wheel there, you’re put on a list and given less, not more, care. When W. S. Gilbert had his Mikado sing about the “little list” he’d compiled to get rid of social irritants (“I don’t think they’ll be missed; I’m sure they won’t be missed”), I’m pretty sure he was joking. The VA isn’t.

***

If the Muslims take over the world, it won’t just be Jews wearing yellow stars or hats. One imam in England has it all planned out and it involves everyone but good Muslims living as slaves within the nations they once controlled.

***

Of course Obama knows what the’s doing in terms of throwing fuel on the Middle Easter fire. [UPDATE:  I un-linked this.  Earl caught something I missed which is that, after a very credible analysis about what's going on in the Middle East, and ISIS's role in these developments, in the second-to-last paragraph, the linked article went off into wild antisemitic "Zionist" conspiracy theories.]

***

Tom Rogan is right: ISIS has a lot of problems. Its forte is killing, not management, and it won’t be able to create a stable state. However, if ISIS gets control in Iraq and Libya, or even if it doesn’t, its killing ways will still allow it to cause immeasurable destruction and suffering.

***

I love this line from Michael Goodwin’s article about Obama’s endless whining that people are mean to him: “There you have it: the presidential mind in Year 6. Don’t cry for Argentina — cry for me!”

***

C S Lewis

The DemProg Hillbillies

Things I hate

Yes, the SEALS’ sacrifice during Operation Red Wings was a waste

Operation Red WingsBefore you start hammering away at me, let me explain what I mean about my claim that the sacrifice the SEALS and their rescuers made during Operation Red Wings was indeed a waste.  I am referring, of course, to Jake Tapper’s asking Marcus Luttrell whether  his comrades died in vain.  That was a foolish and tactless question to ask Luttrell, and Luttrell couldn’t and wouldn’t give the real answer in any event.  There is an answer, though, and Tapper was right.  Here’s why:

There are three types of wasted battle deaths, two of which are familiar to all, and one of which is a brand new one.

The most obvious wasted death is the one that occurs because of terrible command decisions.  One could argue that the entirety of WWI, with Brits throwing themselves into No Man’s Land for four years at their generals’ commands was that type of wasted death.  The British had appalling tactics and, rather than changing them to avoid a bloody stalemate, simply redoubled their failed approach.  Likewise, in the case of Operation Red Wings, the SEALS were fatally hampered by rules of engagement so restrictive that, after lengthy debate, they decided that they were safer releasing potential spies than they were killing or otherwise disabling them.

The men in Operation Red Wings might still have died in other places at other times during the war in Afghanistan, but their deaths in that time and at that place flowed directly from a foolish policy that gave (and still gives) greater respect to the enemy’s safety than to that of our own troops.

Nevertheless, when he answered Tapper’s question, Luttrell spoke a greater truth, reflecting his understanding that no war is every perfectly carried out at either a strategic or tactical level.  As long as you’re still fighting, you can still win:

I don’t know what part of the film you were watching, but hopelessness really never came into it. I mean, where did you see that? Because there was never a point where we just felt like we were hopelessly lost or anything like that. We never gave up. We never felt like we were losing until we were actually dead.

What Luttrell left unsaid at the time was that his team still believed in the fight.  More importantly, so did America’s then-Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush.  Bush never doubted the righteousness of trying to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in their Afghani stronghold.  As far as all concerned believed, Afghanistan was an important war that would benefit America.  In that regard, therefore, when troops die in a righteous (and, one hopes, victorious) war, their deaths have meaning regardless of the success or failure of any single engagement.

Which brings us to the second type of wasted death in war:  deaths that occur because the war’s supporters fail to understand that they are supporting a bad or lost cause.  In every case where a country’s military is the aggressor, only to lose dramatically to a better prepared, more ferocious fighting force, many on the losing side are going to have to ask “Why the heck did we start this?  What a waste of lives and resources.”  Even if you have the best cause in the world, if there’s no way you can possibly win, those who die have wasted their lives.

The caveat to this viewpoint, of course, is that one only realizes after the fact that a war was a waste.  During the American Revolution, many might have said that the revolutionaries’ stand against the most powerful military in the world was bound to be a waste . . . except that it wasn’t.

Obama-salutingThe above examples of wasted deaths in war are familiar to any history student.  Barack Obama has added an entirely new category to “wasted war deaths,” one that I don’t think has ever before occurred in recorded history:  deaths that are a waste because the Commander-in-Chief couldn’t care less about victory or the troops, but merely wants to give the appearance of fighting for short-term domestic political advantage.

Per Robert Gates:

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates writes. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Except that Obama didn’t get out of Afghanistan, because it would have looked bad politically, since he’d run on a platform claiming that Afghanistan was a good war. Of course, he probably didn’t believe that either. Both he and Hillary, after all, agreed in Gates’ presence that they were determinedly opposed to the Iraq War merely out of political expediency, without any regard for America’s best interests:

“Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Given this cavalier attitude, it’s no surprise that the President did nothing to secure Iraq, and sat (and has long been sitting) idly by as al Qaeda has retaken city after city in which American men fought and died. By deliberately turning victory into defeat, Obama has taken every single Iraq death and wiped it of meaning. While they were once deaths in a just cause to bring democracy to a benighted land, thereby decreasing the risk of devastating terror attacks against America, now those same deaths have become pointless, since Obama didn’t just allow the status quo to reappear, he fomented an even worse situation than before. (Saddam Hussein was bad; al Qaeda is worse.) Somehow it’s perfectly symbolic of this travesty that the military’s last act with regard to Fallujah is to persecute Marines.

Not only was Obama uninterested in our nation’s security or our military victories, he was singularly uninterested in the troops:

One quality I missed in Obama was passion, especially when it came to the two wars,’ Gates wrote.

‘In my presence, Bush — very unlike his father — was pretty unsentimental. But he was passionate about the war in Iraq; on occasion, at a Medal of Honor ceremony or the like, I would see his eyes well up.

‘I worked for Obama longer than Bush, and I never saw his eyes well up.’

No surprise there, of course.  To Obama the narcissist, the men and women in the military are merely objects serving his ego. It’s therefore also no surprise that the only subject regarding the military that excited him was getting gays into it, a passion with interesting Freudian implications:

Gates wrote that ‘the only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

Just as disturbing as Obama’s warped values is his complete disinterest in even a simulacrum of competence:

President Obama is “chronically incapable” of military strategy and falls far short of his predecessor George W. Bush, according to one of Britain’s most senior military advisors.

[snip]

[Sir Hew] Strachan, a current member of the Chief of the Defense Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel, cited the “crazy” handling of the Syrian crisis as the most egregious example of a fundamental collapse in military planning that began in the aftermath of 9/11. “If anything it’s gone backwards instead of forwards, Obama seems to be almost chronically incapable of doing this. Bush may have had totally fanciful political objectives in terms of trying to fight a global War on Terror, which was inherently astrategic, but at least he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do in the world. Obama has no sense of what he wants to do in the world,” he said.

So, yes, Operation Red Wings was a waste, not at the time, but in retrospect — and this is so because we have a president who views war solely in terms of his own self-aggrandizement and political objectives, without any regard for America’s national security or strategic interests, or for the troops who have served and are currently serving in our American military.  Obama has managed to negate any good the troops did before he became President and, since he became president, they are merely objects on his own personal chessboard.  Like some spoiled potentate, he moves them around for his pleasure and views their deaths with clinical dispassion.

(See also this article, from Foreign Policy.)

 

Understanding scandals — it’s not what’s done, it’s who’s done it that counts

His Girl FridayI haven’t been much of a Chris Christie supporter lately.  In the beginning, I admired his ability to stand up to the teacher’s unions.  Since then, I’ve decided that this was less a principled position and more a reflection of a highly aggressive personality.  Outside of the unions, he’s too much of a RINO, and I’m suspicious about his Saudi ties.  He’d be a better president than Obama, but that’s a low bar.  If he ended up on top of the Republican ticket opposite Hillary, I’d vote for him, but primarily because Hillary would finish the job Obama’s done, and anything is (I think) better than that.  So that’s my view about Chris Christie.

What I want to talk about here is the scandal.  It seems that nothing has ever happened before that’s been as thrilling as the fact that a Republican governor’s employee had a nearly unspoken agreement with another of the governor’s employees that, if a Democrat mayor ticked them off, they’d use their power to create traffic havoc in his town.  (For punsters, we finally have a “toll-gate” scandal.)  A 91-year-old lady whose ambulance got stuck the traffic jam died later, and her death could be attributed to the delay.  (Only God knows for sure.)  The whole affair is nasty, unprincipled, and petty.  The employees deserved to be fired, and Christie fired them.  The media is having what Matt Drudge describes as a feeding frenzy.  Fine.  It’s their job to sell the news.

But what about a few other scandals that probably could have sold news too?

A Secretary of State, despite repeated pleas from an ambassador in one of the world’s most dangerous areas, refuses to heighten security.  The ambassador and three others die.  The media does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

A nation’s diplomatic mission in a foreign country is attacked.  Four people die and unknown numbers of confidential documents vanish.  The besieged nation’s President Secretary of State speak once and then both refuse to explain their whereabouts.  Rumors are that the president went to bed early to prepare for a campaign event.  The media does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

A president deputizes one of his employees to go on Sunday talk shows to explain that an attack on its diplomatic mission, which left four dead, including an ambassador, occurred because of a 10-minute YouTube video that was perceived as being uncomplimentary to Islam.  To add an air of verisimilitude to this otherwise unconvincing narrative, the administration trumps up charges to arrest the video’s maker, in what many see as a blatant attack on free speech in the service of Islam.  The media does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

An Attorney General arranges to have hundreds of guns smuggled into Mexico.  There are two theories about this, neither good. The first is that the guns were supposed to be traceable, so as to track gun and drug crime coming out of Mexico, but that the AG’s incompetent employees forgot to add the necessary electronics.  The second is that the AG deliberately released weapons into Mexico to support his anti-gun campaign.  “See,” he would say.  “We told you that our nation’s guns are despoiling the world.”  In any event, the guns with the AG’s name on them killed one of his own border agent as well as hundreds of Mexican civilians.  The media does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

A nation’s troops, most notably its Marines, sweat, and bleed, and die in a terrorist-ridden town in Iraq.  Their success there helps turn a years’ long war around, paving the way for a simulacrum of democracy in a country whose people lived for decades at the mercy of a sadistic tyrant.  It’s not true democracy, but it’s close enough; people are experiencing relative freedom for the first time in their lives; and the government is relatively friendly the liberating western nation.  At the end of WWII, faced with this situation, the victorious nation stuck around for another 60+ years to hang onto that victory.  This time, though, the president walked away without a second glance and without any effort to secure hard-won gains.  Two years after the president declared, not victory, but “war over,” that same town has once again fallen to the terrorists.  The president is silent.  The media does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

A nation’s people learn that the government is spying on their every communication.  It started before the current president, but has escalated madly during his administration.  Even some media outlets learn that the government has been spying on their telephone calls.  One would think that this outrage would encourage them to reconsider their blind faith in the current administration.  It does not.  After a few huffs and puffs, the media does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

A nation’s tax-collecting agency, which is it’s most feared and powerful agency, turns out to have been engaged in a systematic effort to silence all conservative and pro-Israel speech.  The timing shows that the effort was manifestly intended to disrupt the 2012 presidential election, and it may well have done so, giving a squeaker of an election to the candidate from the Democrat-party.  All people of good will, regardless of party, should be horrified by this type of partisan overreach from a nation’s most powerful agency.  The media, however, is unperturbed.  It does minimal reporting and then ignores the story.

Beginning in 2009, a president tells his people a series of bald-faced lies.  The documentary evidence shows that he knew that they were lies when he told them.  That is, it wasn’t ignorance or wishful thinking on his part.  Instead, he was running a scam.  This giant fraud begins to unravel on October 1, 2013, and with every passing day, the public learns more about the administration’s lies, incompetence, and cronyism.  This knowledge is made manifest in the most painful of ways, as millions of people lose the security of insurance plans, doctors, and hospitals, even as they are being forced to pay more money for fewer benefits.  Although the media dutifully points out the problems in the first month, by the second month, it returns to lap dog status, crowing about thousands of sign-ups, with scant attention to the fact that it’s unknown whether those who signed up have actually paid  for new policies.  The same media downplays the certain fact that more people have lost beloved policies than gained lousy ones under the new system.

Yes, I tried to keep that nation’s identity anonymous, but you’ve figured it out.  The nation in which a president and his administration, through a combination of fraud, lies, and incompetence, have caused people’s deaths, wasted military deaths, destroyed a functioning health care system, spied on its citizens, and possibly corrupted election outcomes, routinely gets a pass from the media.  Our MSM does just enough reporting to lay claim to some credibility as a “news” outlet, and then ignores as hard as possible whatever issue could hurt a Democrat president.  The whole thing is declared “over” after Jon Stewart, through selective clips, announces that Fox News is insane.  The media heaves a sigh of relief, and goes back to guarding the administration.  That system, of course, doesn’t apply when a vaguely Republican governor is tied to a traffic jam (admittedly, a malicious, unprincipled traffic jam).  In that case, the 24-hour news cycle kicks into overtime.

Looking at today’s headlines, I’d have to say that the biggest scandal of them isn’t either Christie’s toll-gate or Obama’s just-about-everything-gate.  Instead, it is the fact that we have a Democrat lap-dog media that still has the temerity to call itself a “free press.”

Democrats — sacrificing American lives for political expediency

Robert GatesThe last seven years of the Bush presidency had as their soundtrack “Bush lied, people died” or “No wars for oil.”  Democrats loved their troops so much that they couldn’t bear to see them die because a president had ulterior motives.  Bush left the White House and, magically, Democrats stopped caring about the troops.

Obama, however, did still care about the troops:  He cared that they functioned as political props to give him cover in his half-assed efforts to “be tough on terrorism.”  We know this because former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has written a book.  Sure, Gates could be lying in Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, but one suspects he’s not — at least as to this point.  If Bob Woodward (who reviewed the book) is correct, what Gates reports is entirely consistent with Obama’s actions; his speeches about troops, terrorism, and Afghanistan; and his political record before becoming president:

In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”  (Emphasis added.)

Assuming the above statement to be true (as I do), what Obama did was unconscionable.  Bush, who stood on Ground Zero right after 9/11, believed in the fight, even though he knew troops would die protecting America’s interests.  (And that statement is true whether one believes that Bush headed into war to keep America safe or headed into war to keep Big Oil safe.  I, of course, incline to the former view.)  Obama, however, believed only in himself and was willing to let people die to advance his political standing.  Ace spells it out:

Which is what is so galling. Men are being killed at three times the rate as they died under Bush’s leadership, and Obama is not even trying to win.

Those men remain there out of political cowardice. Men are dying for Obama’s political cowardice.

If he does not wish to fight the war– then he should save those men’s lives and bring them home.

It is one thing to sacrifice men’s lives for an important objective. The only objective sought by Obama is avoiding the “Weak on Terrorism” attack that would be lodged by the Right. And the attack that Obama claimed, in knocking the Iraq War constantly, that he would be tough as the Devil on Afghanistan.

So men are dying, to save Obama some short-term minor political pain.

Obama wasn’t the only Leftist politician who viewed America’s overseas wars against Islamic terrorism, not as matters of America’s existential survival, but as mere political props.  When Hillary found herself facing Obama in the 2008 election, she declared herself against the Iraq war, not for any principled reason, but simply because that was Obama’s position.  When Hillary saw which way the wind was blowing, that’s the direction she headed:

He [Gates] writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

One wonders how long it will take the MSM to bury that inconvenient truth.  Both of these people are the execrable Francis Underwood, from House of Cards.  Their primary motivation, always, is the aggrandizement of self, and they do not care who suffers or dies during their brutal slog to the top.

The revelations in Gates’ book might cost Obama a point or two in his already sagging polls, but I doubt most people will care very much.  Those of us who had already figured out what was going on will feel vindicated, his acolytes won’t mind (they felt the same way, no doubt), and the troops will have been screwed, as usual.  This is just one more in a series of Obama insults to the men who shed blood for a war that Obama never saw as more than a campaign prop. (Here’s a satiric take on Obama’s loss of Fallujah, where so many Marines fought and died; and here’s a serious look at the sacrifices Obama threw away.)

There’s something a little more interesting going on when it comes to Hillary.  The quotation above reveals that Hillary didn’t arrive at her position on Iraq by looking at the situation on ground and making a calculation about the benefits or burdens to America in continuing to stay there, either to fight or to police that nation.  Instead, she mapped out a campaign strategy.  Pretty foul, right?  But in the paragraph immediately after the one I quoted above, Woodward makes this observation:

Earlier in the book, he [Gates] describes Hillary Clinton in the sort of glowing terms that might be used in a political endorsement. “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he wrote.

Woodward is saying that Gates praises Hillary extravagantly in the beginning of the book and then reams her in the end.  What’s with that?  My current guess is that Gates wanted to make his attack on Hillary credible.  If he’d spent the entire book lambasting her, readers might have doubted the veracity of his attack on her integrity.  By praising her to the skies, though, Gates positioned himself as a man without a bone to pick who was making a straightforward factual observation about the woman who would be president.

Any other theory about Gates’s extravagant praise and brutal revelation makes Gates’ praise for Hillary impossible to understand.  She didn’t do squat as Secretary of State except for amassing frequent flier miles.  The one time something happened (Benghazi), she failed in her responsibilities before and during the attack, and lied afterwards.  If Gates thinks she was wonderful, than he’s a fool, and everything else he’s written should be questioned.  If, however, he’s giving himself cover for his attack on Hillary, maybe he’s crazy like a fox.

The book is also garnering attention because of Gates’ sweeping Biden indictment (“wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”) and his description of Obama’s efforts to make decisions about war without bothering to speak with the Pentagon first (or at all).

Overall, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War sounds like a worthwhile read, if only to try to figure out whether Gates is a fool who thinks Hillary was wonderful, barring her amoral approach to Iraq or if he’s a wily fox who seeks to discredit her but realizes that he can’t sound too hostile when he does so.  We’ll probably see a flurry of books now, most of them painting a picture of a White House with a self-involved, narcissistic, dishonest leader listening only to his core cadre of ideologues, none of whom care about America as she is (as opposed to the Leftist utopia they hope she will be), while assiduously avoiding any contrary voices.

Progressives flog themselves into an anti-Bush frenzy to avoid dealing with Obama’s many and manifest failures

An online magazine called Jezebel bills itself as the “Home of Shiny Happy Ladies.”  Jezebel might want to rethink that tag line if a post that Madeline Davis wrote about George Bush is anything to go by.  As best as I can tell, the trigger for Davis’s fevered post is the fact that George Bush went onto the Jay Leno show and showed off some of his paintings:

Bush isn’t Rembrandt (despite his joking belief that there’s a Rembrandt hiding inside him), but he’s definitely got some painterly talent — kind of along Grandma Moses lines.  I like his stuff.  I don’t love it, but I think something like this is rather charming, and shows a nice sense of line, color, and whimsey:

Bush bathtub painting

Davis, however, sees a nefarious plot behind Bush’s reinvention as a painter: he’s trying to convince credulous Americans that he’s not evil incarnate but is, instead, “a harmless and adorable, sweet old man.”  In an obscenity-laced, embittered, wandering post, Davis brings up every charge, however silly, routinely leveled at Bush. It’s as if Bush is still in the White House, rather than having spent five years away from the job — during which time, incidentally, even as Obama routinely scapegoated him, Bush kept a dignified silence about Obama’s pin-ball karooming from one failure to another.

Having read Davis’s screed several times, two things became apparent:  (1) Davis lives in a fact-free zone, and compensates for this with discredited studies, innuendo, lies, conspiracy theories, and personal attacks.  (2) Davis is almost certainly engaging in denial on a massive scale, since it’s undoubtedly easier to repeat the rote attacks used against Bush during his presidency than to acknowledge that Obama is a dishonest man and an incompetent president.

Since I’ll be quoting Davis, please be warned that there are a lot of obscenities ahead.  Speaking of obscenities, have you ever noticed that there seems to be an inversely proportional relationship between the number of obscenities that a post-writer uses and that writer’s level of knowledge and intelligence?  The higher the first, the lower the second….

(Warning:  sarcasm ahead.)  Let’s start with the post’s elegant, eloquent title:  “Fuck George Bush and His Stupid Fucking Cat Paintings.”  You might see inarticulate profanity when you read that.  I, however, having labored through Davis’s entire post, see an exquisite parallelism, as she gracefully ends the post with a sentence that perfectly echoes its opening.  “Fuck George Bush and fuck his piece of shit cat paintings. My 10-month-old sister makes better art than that.”  When a post is book-ended by such poetic, expressive speech, you know that there’s going to be some fine stuff in between.

Sadly, Davis, showing that she lacks the true artist’s touch, unbalances her masterful parallelism when, about a quarter of a way into her post, she rather randomly describes Bush, again, as “an [sic] noted asshole who made a bunch of fucked up cat paintings.”  One wonders what Freud would make of the fact that, of all the paintings George Bush has done to date, it’s the cat paintings that drive Davis into an F-bomb frenzy.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been rather taken by “epic” things.  I loved Jean-Claude Van Damme’s epic splits and laughed at Channing Tatum’s epic spoof.  Honestly, though, you’ve never seen epic until you’ve read Davis’s ad hominem insults against Bush.  Clearly, in the five years since he left office, they’ve been building up inside her until those cat paintings caused them to explode with volcanic force.  Davis describes Bush as a “war criminal,” “one of the most terrible things to ever happen to the United States,” “a reminder that evil exists,” “incredibly  harmful,” and “a terrible, nightmare person.”  I don’t want to read too much into Davis’s writing, but I get the feeling she really doesn’t like the man.

And why doesn’t Davis like Bush?  Oh, the usual stuff, all of which she mashes up into one vitriolic, obscene sentence:  “George W. Bush is the war criminal who — in addition to his war crimes — shat on abortion and gay rights, botched hurricane relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and drove the U.S. economy into the ground.”  (Hyperlinks omitted because I really don’t feel like sending traffic to al Jazeera, among other sites.)

To begin at the beginning, Davis accuses George Bush of causing 9/11 because he didn’t take seriously briefings in and around August saying that al Qaeda was planning a terrorist attack against America.  Her source for that statement is Kurt Eichenwald, who claims that, in addition to an August 2001 briefing to the president that said al Qaeda was up to something, Eichenwald also saw “excerpts” of other documents in which the CIA said something hinky was going on.  Even Eichenwald concedes, though, that nobody had any idea what exactly was going on.  In other words, even if the Bush administration had responded with the utmost seriousness to the available data, there’s still no evidence whatsoever that the administration had facts sufficient to realize that al Qaeda had decided to hijack plans on September 11 and fly them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Congress.  Nor was the available information coherent enough for the hijackers to have been apprehended.  That inchoate information never made it to the White House.

Having wallowed in a fact-free world of what “might have been,” Davis gets to the war crimes accusation.  Summed up, she says that Bush lied and 4,489 U.S. troops died and almost 500,000 Iraqis died.  Oy, where to begin!  First of all, Bush acted on the data available to him, data that convinced most world leaders that Saddam Hussein did actually possess weapons of mass destruction.  (As it happens, I think that Hussein had such weapons, and took advantage of the ongoing UN debate about invasion to ship them to Syria.  Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if Assad subsequently use those weapons against his own citizens, prompting Obama to place an asterisk on his previous “crossed a red line” threat to Syria regarding chemical weapons.)  One can debate the wisdom of invading Iraq, but there can be no doubt that the intelligence from all credible sources, both American and British, was that Hussein was a regional threat.

And about those war dead.  Yes, American troops died in Iraq and each loss is an individual tragedy.  Nevertheless, when Bush left office, those losses had meaning and purpose:  the Surge had succeeded in turning Iraq around and enabling it to set up a functioning, reasonably democratic government.  An intelligent post-war foreign policy would have seen American troops remain in Iraq to maintain those gains, much as American troops remained in Japan and Germany for — let’s see, how many years now? — 68 years after victory on the battlefield.  What happened instead was that Barack Obama, without consolidating America’s gains, simply siphoned troops out of Iraq.  The region has since destabilized completely, undoing the work that those 4,489 troops died to achieve.

As for the almost 500,000 dead Iraqis, the Lancet study that came up with the initial high numbers was completely discredited, to the point where the numbers could reasonably be called fraudulent.  Iraqis certainly died — possibly around 70,000 of them, most of whom were either actual fighters who died in combatant or civilians who died at the hands of other Muslims — and that’s a tragedy, but Davis avoids a larger tragedy by focusing narrowly on a war that could have freed them had Obama not reversed American troops’ gains.

Citizens in a tyrannically ruled country (sadly) always die.  It’s the nature of tyranny and it was certainly the nature of Hussein’s tyrannical regime.  It’s difficult to count accurately the number who died during Hussein’s dictatorship, since you have to count all the people who died in the war with Iran, the 100,000-200,000 Kurds killed with poison gas (the same gas that was used in Syria?), and the “enemies of the state” whom Hussein and his mad sons “disappeared,” usually after some preliminary torture.  Nevertheless, the usual estimate for Iraqi deaths at Hussein’s hands comes in at around 600,000 – 700,000 people.  Keep in mind, too, that since Obama decreed that the U.S. should abandon Iraq, at least 16,000 more Iraqis have died in the intervening years.

Oh, and speaking of war dead, I don’t recall George Bush spending hours at his desk once a week personally picking those in Pakistan and Yemen (countries with which we are not at war) who will live and those who will die.  Obama does, however, diligently working over his “kill list.”  Nor did Bush ever boast about being “really good at killing people” — Obama did, though.  Actually, I think the last American before Obama who made that kind of boast might have been Charles Manson . . . or maybe it was the Hillside Strangler.

And then there’s the tired old Hurricane Katrina accusation.  Where to begin?  How about the fact that reports about murder, rape, cannibalism — all of which were said to have occurred within three days of the Hurricane and all of which were blamed on Bush — were lies?  Or the fact that it was a lie that more blacks died in Katrina than did whites?  Or the fact that the corrupt New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (a black man) did nothing to help New Orleans citizens, even though he had warning (from the feds) and the means (those infamous flooded school buses)?

Davis even brings up the tiresome canard, first raised after Katrina, that Bush didn’t care about black people.  It’s hard to prove a negative.  Certainly, there is no spoken or written evidence that Bush ever spoke slightingly of African Americans or advanced policies, especially economic policies, that harmed them.  It’s worth pointing out in that respect that, even if one assumes solely for the sake of argument that Bush was anti-black, Obama seems to care even less about them.  During his five years in the White House, blacks in America have ping-ponged back and forth between economic stagnation and collapse.  The old segregationists would have been proud of the social and economic havoc wreaked on black America during the Obama administration.  Obama’s got the lip service down just fine, but at a practical level, his presidency has been a disaster for American blacks.

Davis runs out of steam after attacking Bush for racism, so she never gets around to developing her claims that he destroyed abortion, gay rights, and the economy.  Pardon me if I’m confused, but I don’t recall George Bush signing any federal laws that made abortion illegal or that discriminated against gays.  It’s true that he did not force all Americans to pay for every woman’s abortion, nor did he announce that federal law recognizes gay marriage.  What’s also true, though, is that while he was personally pro-life and anti-gay marriage, his policies in both regards were merely continuations of Clinton-era policies.

When it comes to the economic collapse, Davis’s inchoate attack fares no better.  As you undoubtedly remember, the trigger for the collapse was the housing market, which had been turned into Swiss cheese thanks to Clinton-era Democrat-spawned policies forcing banks to give loans to people who were manifestly bad credit risks.  The banks sought to offset this risk, and money-men sought to benefit from this risk, by bundling bad loans.  Home prices and bad debt increased in tandem until the entire thing collapsed.  While it collapsed on George Bush’s watch, Davis probably is unaware that Bush and other Republicans saw the potential for collapse and tried desperately to avert it — only to be repulsed by Congressional Democrats who continued to insist that banks continue to make bad loans so as to redistribute home ownership to those who couldn’t possibly pay.

Reading her fire-breathing post, it’s clear that Davis has lost her way in a fever-swamp of Bush hatred.  Presumably, since Bush has been gone from the scene for five years now, this hatred usually lies fallow, but is periodically resurrected by exposure to cat paintings.  (Incidentally, real art critics concede that some of Bush’s paintings have a naive charm.  It’s that Grandma Moses thing I mentioned.)

Davis is quite obviously a very angry, frustrated person.  If I were playing armchair psychiatrist, I would say that she keeps stoking her rage at George Bush so that she doesn’t have to deal with her disappointment about Barack Obama.  After all, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, and it must be hard for a die-hard Leftist to be presented with laundry-list of Obama’s sins — sins that manage to offend his base, the center, and (predictably) conservatives.  Here’s a short list of the things that Davis is probably able to ignore only by keeping her wrath focused on the politics of the past:

  • Biggest debt in American history
  • Biggest deficit in American history
  • Kill lists
  • Boasts about killing people
  • NSA spying scandal
  • IRS abuse of power scandal
  • Failing on ever metric with the Arab Spring, especially in Egypt, when he threw his weight behind the now-despised Muslim Brotherhood
  • Benghazi scandal, including lies and dereliction of duty before and during the attack, and lies after the attack
  • Alienating America’s allies
  • Fast & Furious scandal
  • Immoral silence when Iranian tried to stage a revolution against the Mullahs
  • Passivity about Syria which led to a chemical massacre, which led Obama to lie about his previous statements in order to avoid having to square off against Assad
  • Incremental inflation
  • Stagflation
  • Longest “recession” in history (which I think, contrary to economists’ carefully drawn lines, qualifies as a Depression)
  • Accusations of fraud in employment numbers before an election
  • Disastrous employment and income rates for black Americans
  • Obamacare — massive fraud in the inception; massive incompetence in the execution

It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.  Suffice to say that there’s enough there to keep any good Progressive’s eyes fixed firmly on the past so as to avoid Obama’s and Progressivism’s spectacular and corrupt implosion in the present.

A few articles that I’d like to recommend about Obama and Syria — and why I’m no hypocrite when it comes to supporting Iraq and not Syria

Peggy Noonan, who can be very good, talks about how Obama got us into this mess and the contortions in which he engage to save face.

Peter Wehner talks about just how bad this mess really is, even with Putin having given Obama an out.

A Politico article about the debacle in Washington and the apathy on American streets.

Jonah Goldberg brings his wry wit to the great communicator’s disastrous communication about Syria.

All I can think of is Hitler playing Neville Chamberlain.  After that humiliating debacle, England managed to make a wonderful showing during WWII.  Since then, however, she’s been a broken country, both morally and economically.  In other words, she never recovered from Chamberlain’s naive inability to stop Hitler when it would still have made a difference.

While I’m waffling on about Syria, I’d like to excuse myself of hypocrisy when it comes to not wanting the war in Syria, while supporting the war in Iraq.

First of all, I wasn’t that interested in politics during the lead-up to the Iraq War.  I didn’t have much of a position going in.  Once we were in, though, I said what I’m saying now:  Just showing up at a war is not enough.  Instead, merely showing up without planning to win is terribly dangerous.  Once in a war, you fight to win.  If you don’t win, you’ve lost.  It’s that binary.  Kerry’s statement that any American action would be “unbelievably small” reveals what a disaster we were headed to.  There is no “unbelievably small.”  There is just win or lose.  Bush may have underestimated Iraqi resistance, but his “shock and awe” approach had the right idea — you fight to win, especially in Arab lands, where the population is always drawn to the strong horse and willing to savage the weak horse.

Second, had I been more interested in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, I guess I would have felt that the proximity to 9/11 made a difference.  From the beginning, Bush argued that Iraq was a direct threat to the United States.  Whether that argument was correct is irrelevant here.  That was the argument made, based upon the best available information about chemical weapons, Hussein’s known animosity to the United States, and his support for terrorism and terrorists.  In the case of Syria, Obama hasn’t even tried to argue that the situation in Syria puts America at risk.  Instead, he’s using the “responsibility to protect” doctrine that’s the brainchild of anti-semite Samantha Powers to say that Syria presents the only time America ever should go to war:  when it’s a purely altruistic act that sees her expending blood and money without any benefit to the United States.

Third, Iraq was a population under a dictator’s heel.  Bush bet — and correctly — that many Iraqi’s would see America as a liberator, not a conqueror.  We were the good guys, fighting on behalf of the Iraqi people against the bad guy and his administration.  In Syria, Obama is trying to drop America into one of the bloodiest civil wars in our lifetimes.  Both sides are equally barbaric, unprincipled, immoral, and steeped in hatred for America.  No good can come of sending American money and, as Obama’s mission creep illustrated, American troops into this bloodbath.

Fourth, I trusted Bush and I thought his advisers were intelligent men.  Obama is a liar on a heroic scale, so I reflexively disbelieve everything that comes out of his mouth.  Add to that the fact that he has assembled a collection of hacks, buffoons, racists, and antisemites to advise him, and that he pretty much refuses to talk to people with military expertise, and you can see that I don’t want to follow him into battle.  Nor do I want America to follow him into battle.

Please feel free to call me on this (politely, of course), or to offer further distinctions between Then and Now.

Mark Steyn on Obama’s new war

Nobody says it better:

I see the Obama “reset” is going so swimmingly that the president is now threatening to go to war against a dictator who gassed his own people. Don’t worry, this isn’t anything like the dictator who gassed his own people that the discredited warmonger Bush spent 2002 and early 2003 staggering ever more punchily around the country inveighing against. The 2003 dictator who gassed his own people was the leader of the Baath Party of Iraq. The 2013 dictator who gassed his own people is the leader of the Baath Party of Syria. Whole other ball of wax. The administration’s ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take. In the unimprovable formulation of an unnamed official speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the White House is carefully calibrating a military action “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”

That would make a great caption for a Vanity Fair photo shoot of Obama gamboling in the surf at Martha’s Vineyard, but as a military strategy it’s not exactly Alexander the Great or the Duke of Wellington.

Read more of Mark Steyn’s inimitable prose here.

In Lefty world, it matters not what’s being done; the only thing that matters is whether a Leftist does it

Back in 2004, when George Bush was president, Michael Moore compared al Qaeda terrorists to American Minutemen:

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win.

Moore’s shallow brain and inadequate education left him incapable of distinguishing between people who fight for individual liberty and people who fight for world domination and mass slavery.  He’ll root for sadistic murderers as long as they’re anti-capitalists.  He has no sympathy for people like Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, or Michael Teague.

Back then, Moore was not alone.  You’ll recall that he spoke for a vociferous, angry, and large percentage of Americans who vigorously opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — wars that Bush began with both Congressional and NATO approval — because we were a big mean bully harming innocent Iraqi women and children as part of our sadistic and delusional war against some amorphous “terror” thangy.  Buoyed up by a tide of anti-War righteousness, Britain’s left-wing Lancet, once a respectable medical publication, posited that Americans had killed 650,000 Iraqi civilians, a report that was quickly debunked.

The debunking, of course, didn’t stop the antiwar uproar that had Americans taking to the streets with great regularity denouncing Bush as a Hitler-esque war criminal, and calling American troops baby killers.  Underpinning all of this antiwar fervor was the Lefts’ contention that terrorists were not a problem, that we just needed to show them a little understanding, and that Bush was grossly overreacting by taking the battle to the terrorists themselves.

Fast forward to 2012.  Stories are starting to appear in the U.S. press saying that Obama’s drone attacks — each of which he allegedly approves personally, after carefully selecting the target he wants dead — are killing and wounding thousands of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan:

U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The study by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — about 2%.

[snip]

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

Did I mention that we’re not at war with Pakistan?  Indeed, it’s nominally still an ally of ours in the war against Islamic terrorists.  That hasn’t stopped Obama.  What’s worse is, that aside from a few Leftists who are unwilling to tolerate any sort of American actions against terrorists (which is a principled stand, even if often a foolish one), Progressives, Democrats, and other people on the Left are not only quiet about this, they think it’s a good thing.

On my Facebook page, I did I quick post drawing people’s attention to these drone strikes, and highlighting the huge number of collateral deaths occurring, not just on Obama’s watch, but under his direct orders.  The responses I received from my liberal friends surprised me.  Really surprised me.  I will not quote them verbatim, because I haven’t asked for permission to do so (and won’t ask), but I can accurately summarize them as follows, simply by rephrasing people’s actual words:

What can we do?  We can’t negotiate with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  If they’re hiding among civilians, innocent people are going to get killed, but that fact alone can’t stop us from going after the bad guys.  I hate that this killing is happening, but better that their kids die from drone strikes, than that our American children die in terrorist attacks.  I’m totally liberal, but I’m a pragmatist when it comes to the fact that Obama is doing a job that needs to be done, and everyone who criticizes him is a whiner who hates him.

So, to recap:  Al Qaeda kills 2,996 Americans, and boasts about it.  George Bush gets credible information that Saddam Hussein is seeking to build a nuclear weapon, and that he is funding, sponsoring, training, etc., Al Qaeda terrorists.  Bush also gets credible information that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is doing the same, except for the nuclear weapon part.  Only much later do we learn that Hussein’s nuclear weapons program may not have been as advanced as originally thought, with the misinformation in large part originating with Hussein himself, as he tried to portray himself as a regional strong man.  Armed with this information, Bush is able to create a coalition of many nations and to get Congressional approval to wage war against nations that host and aid Al Qaeda.

The argument from conservatives was and is that (1) al Qaeda declared war on us; (2) because it has no nation of its own, the only thing we can do is attack it in those countries that willingly and generously support it; and (3) if al Qaeda chooses to use innocents as shields that proves how depraved al Qaeda is, but cannot stop us in our righteous fights against true evil doers.  Incidentally, this is also the same argument that Israel and her supporters make:  Israel has repeatedly made concessions in order to get peace; Palestinians have made it plain that their sole goal is Israel’s destruction; and the high numbers of fatalities amongst women and children occur because Palestinians are evil enough to use innocents as their shields.

Throughout the Bush years, that argument was unpersuasive to the Left.  Now that we have a Leftist president, though, one who personally picks the day’s target in an allied country, and who supports a policy that inevitably kills innocents who are not even in a combat zone, everything is suddenly hunky-dorey.  It’s all good because Obama is doing it.

I find this sickening.  It bespeaks a moral vacuum that has no boundaries.  Leftists are incapable of clearing away the ideological brush and focusing on core moral issues.  The only core moral issue is Leftism.  You’re either for it or you’re against it.  If a conservative does things, they’re bad; if a Leftist does things that are infinitely worse, and illegal, they’re fully justified.  Just sickening.

 

The different faces of the military — two SEAL autobiographies

Within the last two weeks, I’ve read two Navy SEAL books:  Marcus Luttrell’s Service: A Navy SEAL at War and Chris Kyle’s American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

The books have a lot of similarities, separate from the fact that both are books about SEALS seeing service in Iraq during and before the Anbar awakening.  Luttrell and Kyle are both Texas boys (who, unsurprisingly, are friends); they both value the triumvirate of Country, God, and Family, although not necessarily in that order; they both have a superhuman capacity for exertion and suffering, which is a necessity for a SEAL; they both describe the devastating long-term effects on their bodies from constant training and battle, hardships they willingly endure because they love their jobs and their country; and they both are fiercely, almost fanatically devoted to the SEALS.

What’s different about the books, and what makes it worthwhile to read both, is tone.  Despite being a Texas good ol’ boy, Luttrell’s view of the SEALS is almost reverent.  His SEALS don’t come across as choir boys, but they are remarkably close to the PG-rated, family-loving, lite beer-drinking SEALS in Act of Valor. After his Afghanistan ordeal, Luttrell’s subsequent service in Iraq comes close to a martyrdom, as he struggles against debilitating physical injury in order to be out there with his Teams.

Kyle adores the SEALs, but has no reverence.  These are hard charging men who drink, brawl, and haze each other with cheerful, impartial brutality.  When they’re off duty, and have nothing else to do, they play computer games and watch porn.  These are the R-rated SEALS.  These are men who naturally have testosterone infusing their testosterone.  I have a suspicion that they’re closer to the real deal than are Luttrell’s SEALS, who seem to have come out of central casting, circa the John Wayne era.  Kyle clearly loves war.  He’s no sadist, but there is pleasure for him in defeating an enemy he describes as “savage” and “barbarian.”

I’ve been wondering about the different approach these two men take to describing their comrades.  Are Luttrell and Kyle so different in personality that they simply see their team members through a different filter?  Or are they writing for very different audiences?  Luttrell gained national prominence because of his experiences in Afghanistan, whereas Kyle may be more of a military phenomenon.  This means that Luttrell has to appeal to — and is selling the SEALS to — a broader spectrum of Americans than Kyle.

The books are a perfectly matched set (and you know how I love my matched sets), so I recommend reading both.  Combining Luttrell’s more cerebral approach with Kyle’s earthier stories gives a well-rounded view of the brave and slightly insane (in a very good way) men who willingly engage in uncomfortable, brutal, and dangerous warfare so that the majority of Americans can live out their lives in comfort and safety.  I have inordinate admiration for these men, but I do get the feeling that you have to be as tough as they are to function around them.

Also, both books offer a good insight into the chasm between actual fighting in the field, and the political fighting at home that so often handicapped them.  Frustration is the name-of-the-game for front line fighters who have the enemy in their sights and are constrained by almost arbitrary rules of engagement.  The theory behind the rules of engagement is to leave a loving population behind.  But war is not loving, and things would probably have gone better if the government had trusted the troops a little more, and allowed them to wage a quick, clean-ish war, rather than a slow, enervating war.

Book review: Marcus Luttrell’s “Service: A Navy SEAL at War”

I promise that this post will be a review of Marcus Luttrell’s Service: A Navy SEAL at War.  First, though, I have to start with the ridiculous, before I can give proper context, not to the sublime (because war isn’t sublime), but to the important and meaningful.

The ridiculous is, of course, MSNBC’s own Chris Hayes, who earned himself a great deal of much-deserved ridicule for his inability to acknowledge military heroism:

CHRIS HAYES: Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow.  Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke [sic, actually Beck], who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible].  Um, I, I, ah, back sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word “hero”?  I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

One doesn’t need a psychiatric degree to know that Mr. Hayes probably suffers from, or should suffer from, paruresis — the inability to urinate in front of others.  Regardless of the exact nature of his physical attributes, this is a guy who, deep down, is pretty damn sure that he’s under-endowed and can’t measure up.  Only a deep and abiding inferiority complex could see a young man, ostensibly in the prime of his physical life, unable to recognize and appreciate that others are willing to make sacrifices he’s incapable of even contemplating.

Perhaps because I’m a woman, it’s easy for me to acknowledge my own physical cowardice.  Maybe a man has to rationalize himself away from a fight in which he could have served.  For example, I know a man who could have served, but didn’t, in Vietnam.  He was once an anti-War protester.  Now, though, he goes around boasting about how he’s more man than anyone who served — “I could have done that, and I, with my super-duper manly-man skills would have out-gunned everyone there.  I just chose not to serve [and, sotto voce, I'm eternally grateful my draft number didn't come up].”   Hayes represents the other end of the self-justification spectrum:  “Service is stupid.  I would never have gone into a fight because I’m not stupid.”

This is the mindset that results in movies such as the Danish film In a Better World, an Oscar-winning foreign film.  Aside from some indescribably boring film-making techniques, the movie got off to a promising start, with a premise that seemed startlingly un-European:  Fight back against bullies.

In the movie, Sofus, a bully, is going after another schoolboy, Elias.  A new kid, Christian, who has traveled with his father and experienced many new schools, comes to this particular school and, when he is too friendly with Elias, Sofus turns on Christian too.  The next time the bully starts on Elias, Christian beats the crap out of Sofus.  When Christian’s father picks him up from school and asks “Why?”, Christian has a simple answer:  If had hadn’t done this, I would have been bullied again.  Now, all the kids know to leave me alone.

I was impressed.  Who knew that a European film could be so wise?  After all, we know that, unless you stand up to bullies, they’ll keep bullying.  Stand up to them, however, even if you take some knocks, and they back off.  It’s basic school yard logic.

It turns out that I was impressed too quickly.  Christian, the boy who stood up to bullies was actually a psychopath who started dragging poor victimized (but peaceful) Elias down the path to total warfare.  This scenario, the movie implies, although it never says so, was how Columbine got started.  Never defend yourself, because if you do, you will become a crazy wacko who tries to commit mass murder.  Always let wiser, peace-making heads intervene, causing you to back off, leaving more room within which the bully can operate.

And so, at long last, we get to Marcus Luttrell’s Service.  Incidentally, when I speak here of Luttrell, that’s a bit of a shorthand, since he worked with James D. Hornfischer, who wrote the excellent Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of her Survivors.  My best guess is that Luttrell provided the stories and that Hornfischer shaped them into a very readable book.

Boiled down to its essentials, Service is the un-Chris Hayes and the un-Northern European pacifism.  Instead, it’s about those men who understand that the only way to deal with bullies is to take them on and defeat them.

Does this mean that those who stand against bullies are bullies themselves?  No.  Unlike bullies who happily and viciously trample anyone in their path, a hero carefully targets his fight, taking it to the bully, and then stands down when that fight is finished.  It’s that ethos that permeates Service.

I found Service very difficult to read, not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s a good book.  Luttrell’s first book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, was painful to read, but it had what was, for me, a recognizable story arc:  our hero trains; our hero faces a terrible battle in which his comrades, after fighting with awe-inspiring bravery, die; and our hero struggles through adversity to survive.  I knew what was coming in advance because that operation was so famous, and because I recognized the narrative arc (although it was still upsetting for this armchair warrior and bona fide coward to read).

Service, however, lacks the familiar narrative of an epic tragedy.  Instead, Luttrell walks the reader through the fight in Ramadi from 2006 to 2008.  Patrol after patrol, fire fight after fire fight, frustrating bureaucratic interlude after frustrating bureaucratic interlude — as you read the book, you feel as if you’re there and for me, that’s a tough feeling. I knew about the bureaucracy (especially the increasingly restrictive rules of engagement), and I had a sort of vague, MSM-ish understanding of the reality of battle, but Luttrell’s book is much more intense.  Here’s part of his description of the end result of a battle that went south for the SEALS:

When the QRF [quick reaction force] arrived outside [the building being attacked] with a couple of Bradleys, the squad moved quickly downstairs and lined up to break out of the house.  They tossed two smoke grenades outside to cover their exfil, then burst through the door.  Two Iraqis were in the lead, followed by Elliott [Miller, who had shrapnel wounds and was bleeding heavily], hobbling along with help from Johnny Brands.  The jundis [Iraqis fighting with the Americans] had just hit the street when the world went dark.  The IED might have been dropped down on them from the roof in a backpack.  Or it might have been planted in the ground or hung on the gate while they were inside.  All we know for sure is that it was a trap set by enemies who were obviously wise to everything we were doing and how we were doing it.  They knew that straight-on firefights were losing propositions.  So they snuck around and planted their bombs where they thought we’d be.  They sure got it right that time.  An enormous explosion engulfed our guys as they exited the house.

The explosion killed the two Iraqis leading the way; the first man simply disappeared, evaporated by the blast, his scan remnants driving away in the air, a pink mist, while the second, partly sheltered by the leader, was nearly sliced in half at the waist.  The blast still had enough force to devastate Elliott.  It tore into his body wherever it wasn’t protected by body armor.  His legs were shredded from midthigh down.  He had a hole in his right shoulder and the parts of him that weren’t covered by plates were being eaten into by a terrible chemical residue.

[snip]

Johnny was better off, but that wasn’t saying much.  Both his feet were attached to his ankles only by the Achilles tendons.

[snip]

Looking down at Elliott, Dozer saw that his friend’s legs seemed loose and detached in the bloody mess of his pants.  The steel rifle magazine stored in his front vest pouches had been dished in by the blast.  Elliott’s watch was charred and black but, amazingly, still kept time.  Only his body armor saved him from being killed instantly.  Dozer ran his hands under Elliott’s plates, checking his torso for wounds.  As he removed Elliott’s gear, Dozer realized he didn’t have the first idea where to begin treating such a seriously wounded man.  That was when he heard another explosion, a smaller one, go off in the courtyard.  A grenade.  The insurgents were still out there, probing them, probably planning another attack.  (Service, pp. 145-147.)

And so it goes, as the men work desperately to extricate themselves and their wounded teammates from a rain of fire.  The SEAL team did eventually make it to safety, and Elliott and Johnny Brands survived, but it was a close thing, and their injuries were devastating.

I chose the above excerpt because of the immediacy of the story.  With Luttrell’s narrative abilities and Hornfischer’s writing chops, you, the reader, feel as if you’re there, in the middle of a battle in the streets of Ramadi.  That’s why it took me a while to read the book, despite the fact that it’s interesting, entertaining, and moving.  After going (in my head) through a battle with the guys, I need to rest and regroup.

There are a few overarching themes in the book:  Luttrell believes deeply in God, country, and America’s armed forces.  His love for his twin brother (also a SEAL) and for his SEAL teammates generally is transcendent, and keeps bringing him back to the fight. In addition to being an action-adventure story and an homage to the SEALS specifically and the fighting forces in Ramadi generally, this book is also a eulogy and a memorial to those SEALS who made the ultimate sacrifice there and in Afghanistan:  Mark Lee, Michael Monsoor, Carson Vaughn, Jon Tumilson, and so many other good men (including all those who died on August 6, 2011), each one a man who directed his formidable strength, intelligence, and energy, not to mindless X-sports, but to protecting his country and fighting for his comrades.

This middle class, female, armchair warrior walked away from Luttrell’s book pretty convinced that Navy SEALS are crazy — but I mean that in a good way.  Only crazy people (in a good way) would put themselves through the training they do and live for the fight the way they do.

Thank God for these crazy people, who can bend their energies to a focused fight against bullies, and who have the moral decency to live by America’s rules of engagement, even as nothing constrains the other side.  Even though Luttrell vividly describes the way the SEALS chafe and suffer at times when the ROEs prevent them from hitting a known and obvious target, they are proud of the fact that they reserve their fire for combatants, and that they neither target nor shield themselves behind the innocents.  This ethos, one that one can call civilized warfare,” makes the fighting much harder in the rabbit warren of Ramadi, but it is one of the things that separates the heroes from the sadistic bullies.

If you would like to immerse yourself in a book that details ferocious urban warfare against a wily and amoral enemy, Service is your book.  The stories are compelling, the writing styling is clear and gripping, and the people you meet in the book are people you’d like to meet in the real world too.