Thursday, March 26, 2015

Not one brain among them

That is the most charitable description of Obama's laughably-named "national security" team -- himself, Valerie Jarrett, John Kerry, Susan Rice, Jen Psaki, etc. That one cannot scrape enough brain matter out of their skulls to come up with one actual, normal-sized, fully-functional brain. Latest evidence: the case of Bowe Bergdahl, which just keeps getting worse and worse:
In the space of nine months, he went from being heralded at the White House to facing prison for life.
On Wednesday, the U.S. military charged Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban captive who was freed in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy.
His capture, release and now charge became a parable of how narratives about the war in Afghanistan did not pan out. The soldier whose service Susan Rice, U.S. national security adviser, once characterized as “honorable” and whose release came at the price of five prisoners could now himself end up in an American prison for life. The prison exchange that some political operatives thought would be heralded was instead widely condemned. And the war that was supposed to be ending with no soldier left behind has now been extended for five months.
Bergdahl’s case will now go before an Article 32 hearing, the equivalent of a grand jury in civilian court, to determine how the case should proceed. While many soldiers in the U.S. military’s history have served long sentences for such crimes, many are highly dubious he will serve a life sentence. There is a sense that there is no interest in handing out a long sentence to a soldier who may not have passed muster had the nation not been so desperate for troops when he joined in 2007—the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That said, there are many in the military who remain tremendously angry at Bergdahl. They believe he was a deserter and that the five-year search for him endangered other troops.
Army Colonel Daniel King announced at a nationally televised press conference out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that Bergdahl was charged with one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy—“endangering the safety of a command, unit, or place.” The former carries a maximum five-year penalty, the reduction of rank down to private, the forfeiture of all military compensation, and a dishonorable discharge. The latter could result in the same punishment—plus a life-in-prison sentence.
Bergdahl, who turns 29 years-old Saturday, disappeared in June 2009 from Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan while serving as a private from the 25th Infantry Division. The U.S. military devoted an enormous amount of resources in the search for him, particularly after videos appeared showing in in custody. In addition, his family and their hometown of Hailey, Idaho, fought to keep attention on Bergdahl’s case. In May 2014, Bergdahl was released in exchange for five Taliban members held at Guantanamo Bay who were subsequently transferred to Qatari custody for a year.
President Obama made the announcement of Bergdahl’s release in a Rose Garden ceremony flanked by Bergdahl’s parents, even as the circumstances of his disappearance were shrouded in uncertainty and charges that he abandoned his post and troops. Politically, the administration celebrated negotiating his release after years of failed bids by both the current and former administration, at least one attempted escape by Bergdahl and countless patrols searching for him. Photos released by the White House showed the president walking arm-in-arm with Bergdahl’s parents. Many called the timing key as many hoped the U.S. was winding down its war in Afghanistan.
But the political benefits and the timing of the war both proved incorrect. The president faced immediate backlash for heralding a soldier suspected of abandoning his post. That was only further fueled when, in a June 2014 interview with CNN, Rice said Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.”
But will Obama admit his mistake here? Of course not:
The incoming White House communications director defended the decision to trade Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders last year, even as newly announced desertion charges for Bergdahl renewed Republican criticism of the prisoner swap.
"Was it worth it? Absolutely," Jen Psaki told Megyn Kelly on Fox News' "The Kelly File." "We have a commitment to our men and women serving in the military, defending our national security every day, that we're going to do everything to bring them home if we can, and that's what we did in this case."
Psaki's comments were the first from a top administration official since the charges were announced earlier Wednesday. 
Meanwhile, the five Taliban commanders released in exchange for Bergdahl have been living in luxury in Qatar and even trying to make connections with the Taliban again.

Not one brain among them. Patterico is demanding an apology from the White House for smearing Bergdahl's accusers as liars and psychopaths. Right. Like that's going to happen.

Scott Johnson:
Obama secured Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five of the worst Taliban officials detained at Guantanamo. At least some of them will resume their sinister activities shortly if they have not done so already. Coming as they do in the context of the final stages of the deal in process with Iran, the charges cast a wider illumination.
Congress was cut out of the deal; Obama declined to provide Congress the legally required notification to which it was entitled in connection with the release of the detainees.
As a “deal,” the exchange was pathetic. We gave up five former Taliban commanders and officials for a deserter whose desertion aided the enemy. The trade served as a pretext for otherwise indefensible actions in furtherance of Obama’s misguided mission to close Gitmo.
The war was supposedly over, except it’s not, and we were obligated to do anything necessary to bring Bergdahl home, even if he deserted, except we weren’t. Is there any precedent vindicating the supposed principle cited for the Bergdahl deal? Neither Obama nor Rice cited one. It remains a bad deal wrapped in deceitful rhetoric and a complete humiliation of the United States
Recalling Obama’s and Rice’s praise of the deal, we see that they are willing to say anything in defense of a bad cause. We already knew that, but there is much more to come.
Tom Bevan:
Far from serving with honor and distinction, Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in military prison.
Perhaps that’s what’s really going on here: The military brass wants to correct the record, at least the one created by Obama and Susan Rice. If that’s what is going on, the Army’s legal system will sort out the excesses, if there were any. But more is at stake than political reputations.
In the ensuing 10 months since their release, we’ve learned that at least one of the five prisoners remanded to Qatar from Guantanamo Bay as part of the original swap has been caught making phone calls to the Taliban.
Qatar’s “strict monitoring” of the Taliban 5—if it ever really existed—is set to expire this spring, effectively allowing them to roam free. Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year that there is “very little” his agency can do to prevent them from returning to the battlefield and trying to kill American soldiers.
So, far from the fairy tale of a hero’s homecoming that President Obama tried to spin for the American people that Saturday morning 10 months ago, this story doesn’t have a happy ending for America. In his effort to empty the Gitmo detainee facility, the president traded five hard-core terrorists for a man who now stands officially accused of abandoning his fellow soldiers. He very may well be court-martialed and spend a good deal of his life behind bars. It’s the Taliban 5 who, beginning in just a few short weeks, get to live happily ever after. 
Leon Wolf:
Psaki refuses to answer two critical questions that Kelly repeatedly posed to her – 1) did Obama know at the time of the swap that substantial questions existed about whether Bergdahl was a deserter, and 2) what alternate methods were considered to get Bergdahl back other than trading away five high value prisoners?
These questions go to the very heart of this particular controversy in terms of evaluating whether what the Obama administration did was wise or displayed good judgment – especially important questions given that the Bergdahl swap was unquestionably illegal. The facial bluster the Obama administration resorts to is that, as an American soldier, Bergdahl was entitled to have the United States do literally anything to get him back. However, when pressed on the point, even the perpetually clueless Psaki realizes that the American public has a concrete belief that Audie Murphy would have been entitled to a more strenuous effort at recover than, well.. than Bowe Bergdahl.
And second, it isn’t true that the government would have done literally anything to get Bergdahl back. Presumably, if his captors had demanded a nuclear weapon for his release, even the Obama administration would have demurred. So it follows that at some point, a cost-benefit analysis has to be engaged in during the course of these swaps that must of course include the possibility or probability that what we are trading away might ultimately be used against us in war in the future.
These are the sorts of factors any reasonable person would want to evaluate when determining the exact level of stupidity that infested the Obama administration’s decision-making process with respect to Bowe Bergdahl. And moreover, it is the kind of information to which Congress was legally entitled before the swap took place so that they could have conferred with the Administration to ensure that they knew about the concerns that Bergdahl was a deserter and evaluated whether the price given up for Bergdahl was too high.
The fact that the Obama administration continues to stonewall on these points, in addition to their illegal refusal to consult with Congress before the swap, lends credence to the theory set forth by Kelly which the Administration pretends to pooh pooh – that the Administration actually wanted these particular detainees set free, and viewed their release as a feature, not a bug. Because they have been essentially prevented from shutting down Gitmo by Congress, they saw an opportunity to release some of its prisoners and took it, using the trade for Bergdahl as a pretext.
It sounds insane, but no more insane than the actual terms of the Bergdahl swap itself.
Not one brain among them.


Obama administration says he has "succeeded" in Yemen

Who couldn't see this one coming?
A White House spokesman said American efforts in Yemen are a "template that has succeeded," even as President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the country by boat.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday said that the U.S. still had Yemeni extremists in its crosshairs.
According to media reports, Hadi fled the presidential palace in Yemen as rebels attempted an armed takeover of the city of Aden.
Taken out of context, you say? Nope:
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: I know you’re asked this every time something terrible happens in Yemen, but now that we have essentially complete chaos in Yemen, does the White House still believe that Yemen is the model for a counter-terrorism strategy?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Jon, the White House does continue to believe that a successful counter-terrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country…
KARL: That’s astounding. You’re saying that you still see Yemen as the model, that building up the central government which has now collapsed, a president who has apparently fled the country, Saudi troops have amassed on one boarder, the Iranians supporting the rebels. You consider this as a model for counter-terrorism?
EARNEST: Again, Jon, what the United States considers to be our strategy when confronting the effort to try to mitigate the threat that is posed by extremists is to prevent them from establishing a safe haven. And certainly in a chaotic, dangerous situation like in Yemen, what the United States will do and has done is work to try to support the central government, build up the capacity of local fighters, and use our own technological and military capabilities to apply pressure on the extremists there.
OK, folks. Who called it? Who called it?


Hate to break it to Josh Earnest, but Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf was funnier. And more believable.

Sigh! The Obama administration has indeed become a caricature of itself. Noah Rothman:
As this administration has entered its waning days, it seems to have long ago gave up on appealing to the political sensibilities of average Americans. It is easy to let oneself believe that the White House has simply lost touch with reality. But there is a difference between being out of touch and simply exhibiting such childlike petulance that you refuse to accept unpleasant truths. Obama’s administration has adopted the latter approach to bad news.
[...]
On a day when what the White House calls the “legitimate government” of Yemen dissolves and its president flees the country out of fear for his personal safety, it takes a galling level of chutzpah to insist that the administration’s counterterror approach in Yemen – one centered on building up “the central government” – remains a noteworthy achievement. But they hope that you’ll believe them and not your lying eyes. And, you know what? Many of this president’s most blinkered supporters will do just that.
Of course. That's how he was elected in the first place.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Required reading

Michael Goodwin in the New York Post. A taste of the truth:
First he comes for the banks and health care, uses the IRS to go after critics, politicizes the Justice Department, spies on journalists, tries to curb religious freedom, slashes the military, throws open the borders, doubles the debt and nationalizes the Internet.
He lies to the public, ignores the Constitution, inflames race relations and urges Latinos to punish Republican “enemies.” He abandons our ­allies, appeases tyrants, coddles ­adversaries and uses the Crusades as an excuse for inaction as Islamist terrorists slaughter their way across the Mideast.
Now he’s coming for Israel.
Barack Obama’s promise to transform America was too modest. He is transforming the whole world before our eyes. Do you see it yet?
Against the backdrop of the tsunami of trouble he has unleashed, Obama’s pledge to “reassess” America’s relationship with Israel cannot be taken lightly. Already paving the way for an Iranian nuke, he is hinting he’ll also let the other anti-Semites at Turtle Bay have their way. That could mean American support for punitive Security Council resolutions or for Palestinian statehood initiatives. It could mean both, or something worse.
Whatever form the punishment takes, it will aim to teach Bibi Netanyahu never again to upstage him. And to teach Israeli voters never again to elect somebody Obama doesn’t like.
Apologists and wishful thinkers, including some Jews, insist Obama real­izes that the special relationship between Israel and the United States must prevail and that allowing too much daylight between friends will encourage enemies.
Those people are slow learners, or, more dangerously, deny-ists.
If Obama’s six years in office teach us anything, it is that he is impervious to appeals to good sense. Quite the contrary. Even respectful suggestions from supporters that he behave in the traditions of American presidents fill him with angry determination to do it his way.
For Israel, the consequences will be intended. Those who make excuses for Obama’s policy failures — naive, bad advice, bad luck — have not come to grips with his dark impulses and deep-seated rage.
Read the whole thing.

Toppling Mossadegh bad, toppling Netanyahu good.

That seems to be the position of Barack Obama. Obama has blamed the lousy relationship between the US and the Iranian mullahs not on, say, the mullahs' support for terrorist groups and stated goals of the destruction of Israel and the US, but on the 1953 coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh. The CIA -- Obama's CIA, it should be noted -- confirmed it was behind the coup, but the latest scholarship from the Council on Foreign Relations indicates the coup was mostly domestic in origin and the US had very little to do with it. But Obama is never one to miss a chance to blame America first.

Yet, if attempting to topple Mossadegh was such an evil thing to do, why is attempting to topple Benjamin Netanyahu OK? Because that is exactly what Barack Obama did:
President Obama's role during the Israeli elections was larger than reported, according to a pollster for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
"What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu," John McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, said in an interview on John Catsimatidis's "The Cats Roundtable" radio show broadcast Sunday on AM 970 in New York.
"There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu," McLaughlin said.
He noted an effort to oust Netanyahu was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and that V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. McLaughlin said the Israeli leader rebounded after delivering a speech to Congress early this month, prompting more critical ads.
V15 was viewed as part of a broader campaign to oust Netanyahu. The group was linked to Washington-based nonprofit OneVoice Movement, which reportedly received $350,000 in State Department grants. Money to OneVoice stopped flowing in November, officials said, before the Israeli elections.
After Netanyahu's win, V15 co-founder Nimrod Dweck said in an interview with Ronan Farrow aired on MSNBC's "Jose Diaz-Balart" that "not a single cent" of State Department or taxpayer money had gone to their campaign.
"These are false allegations and they have nothing to do with reality," Dweck said.
McLaughlin also cited an effort "to organize the [Israeli] Arabs into one party and teach them about voter turnout."
"The State Department people in the end of January, early February, expedited visas for [Israeli] Arab leaders to come to the United States to learn how to vote," McLaughlin said.
"There were people in the United States that were organizing them to vote in one party so they would help the left-of-center candidate, Herzog, that the Obama administration favored," he added.
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air adds:
V15 founder Nimrod Dweck denies that any State Department funds went to his organization after November of last year, but McLaughlin alleges that more than money went into supporting Netanyahu’s opposition. He accused State of “expediting visas” to opposition leaders so that they could receive GOTV training in the US. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, sent a demand to John Kerry about the involvement of V15 in the Israeli elections, and told Fox News yesterday that more than a dozen former Obama campaign advisers went to Israel to run “an ACORN, Obama Organizing for America-type campaign” against Netanyahu[.]
And the Obama administration resorted to underhanded tactics to do so:
The administration did everything it could to undermine Netanyahu and help the center-left opposition, including sending State Department funds to an organization working to defeat Netanyahu.
While trying to strengthen Israel’s left, the administration also apparently tried to undermine Netanyahu with Israel’s right. On March 6, less than two weeks before the election, a major Israeli newspaper published a document showing that Netanyahu’s envoy had agreed on his behalf to an American-proposed framework that offered substantial Israeli concessions that Netanyahu publicly opposed. Let’s put on our thinking caps. Where would this leak have come from? The most logical suspect is the American State Department.
So here’s the dynamic: Netanyahu, while talking tough publicly about terms for an Israeli-Palestinian deal, was much more accommodating privately during actual negotiations. Just before Israeli elections, the U.S. government likely leaks evidence of his flexibility to harm Netanyahu. As a result, Netanyahu starts to lose right-wing voters to smaller parties, and the left-leaning major opposition party takes a lead in the polls, putting Netanyahu’s leadership in question, just as the U.S. wanted.
Netanyahu responds by using increasingly right-wing rhetoric (including denying that he ever agreed to the framework in question), to win back the voters from smaller parties that the leak cost him. He wins, and almost immediately announces that his campaign rhetoric was misunderstood, and that he still supports a two-state solution when conditions allow. The Obama Administration then announces it nevertheless has to reassess relations with Israel, allegedly because Netanayahu is no longer committed to the two-state solution.
So you get it? The Obama Administration, or someone with similar motivations, leaks a document showing that in practice, Netanyahu was surprisingly flexible in negotiations sponsored by the U.S. Netanyahu then tries to compensate by sounding tough in the closing days of his campaign. The administration then pretends that this is much more meaningful than its actual experience with Netanyahu, as indicated by the document it likely leaked, because it was out to punish Israel for electing Netanyahu regardless.
Indeed, recent reports show that the administration was planning to retaliate against Israel diplomatically if it reelected Netanyahu months ago, not only before his controversial election remarks, but before his Iran speech to Congress was even planned. (In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Israeli intelligence had gotten wind of this, and thus Netanyahu thought he had little to lose by irritating Obama further with his speech).
In short, the current crisis in U.S.-Israel relations has little if anything to do with what Netanyahu said at the end of his campaign, and a lot to do with the president’s longstanding hostility to the Likud Party in general and Netanyahu in particular, along with the president’s discomfort with the (positive) trajectory of U.S.-Israel relations (i.e., “no daylight”) in the Clinton and Bush years. Netanyahu’s fault lies not in creating that hostility, but in failing to manage or at least mitigate it, in particular by giving the Obama Administration sufficient ammunition that its supporters, at least those who aren’t paying sufficient attention, seem to believe that the animus, and the blame for the deteriorating relations, has primarily run in the opposite direction.
The idea was to undercut Netanyahu with his supporters from the smaller right-wing parties. Like much of what Obama does in the realm of defense and foreign policy, it backfired: Netanyahu moved to the right to counter it and he surged in the polls:
John McLaughlin, a pollster who worked with the Likud party’s election campaign, told “The Cats Roundtable” on AM 970 that despite the fact that “most Israeli media polls had Netanyahu and his Likud party losing to the left right up until the Friday… through the weekend, Netanyahu rose [in internal polls]. Our last poll [on Sunday night], we had Likud at 23% of the vote, and that’s what they got.”
Netanyahu’s critics denounced the manner in which he drummed up support for his apparently flagging party on election day by calling on Likud supporters to vote because “Arab voters are flocking in huge quantities to the polling stations.”
According to McLaughlin, however, there was no indication that Likud was trailing. And he ascribed the Zionist Union’s Monday night decision to drop No. 2 Tzipi Livni from a premiership-sharing agreement with party leader Isaac Herzog to the fact that “they got the same polls we did.”
(Herzog said in an interview Saturday that his party’s own polls had shown him to be five seats ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud as late as noon on election day. Even when the TV exit polls as voting ended showed the two parties tied, he had expected that he would be able to form a coalition, and not Netanyahu, Herzog said.)
Among the critics of Netanyahu’s election day “Arabs voting” remark was US President Barack Obama, who said that “that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions.”
In a subsequent interview, Netanyahu claimed that he was not warning about Arab voters per se, but rather about the alleged efforts of foreign actors to sway the outcome to the election by rallying left-wing voters.
The pollster also echoed Netanyahu’s claim of foreign influence, but fingered Obama himself, claiming that the president “and his allies were playing in the election to defeat” Netanyahu.
The man who likes to think of himself as Dear Leader apparently ain't so dear in Israel:
“The Israelis don’t like the fact that the president’s become really partisan with them,” McLaughlin said. “They’re used to enjoying good relations with the United States, whether Republicans or Democrats.”
“[Obama is] a big negative over there… (On security) they’re very concerned about what the president might do before he leaves office… The president really overplayed his hand,” he said.
And why would Obama do this? Because he hates Netanyahu; according to Politico, a former senior Obama administration official described the feelings of the administration toward Netanyahu this way: “They hate him, they should, and they’re praying that he is out of power."

So, Obama spent more time, effort, and money trying to depose the government of an ally than he has the government of a self-described enemy responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans -- an enemy that Obama insists on allowing to have nuclear weapons. 

What a disgrace.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Another Obama foreign policy success

Say, didn't the Obama administration repeatedly cite Yemen as an example of how its policy of using air power alone to compliment local troops on the ground -- in the case of Yemen those troops are from a new government after we chased the old one from power -- was having success against Islamists like al Qaida? Why, yes, it did. Now, well ...
About 100 U.S. Special Operations Forces have been ordered to evacuate Yemen because of a dramatic increase in sectarian violence, sources told NBC News on Saturday.
The U.S. commandos, including Green Berets and Navy Seals, have been training Yemeni military forces in counterterrorism operations, but the Americans have not been involved in direct ground combat maneuvers against militants. 
The move comes as al Qaeda fighters captured the capital of a southern Yemen province late Friday, leading to the deaths of about 20 soldiers, Reuters reported. Earlier, four suicide bombers hit a pair of crowded mosques in the capital of Sanaa, killing at least 137 people and injuring more than 300 others, officials said. 
The American forces in Yemen have also been gathering intelligence to target al Qaeda-linked terrorists and other militants for U.S. airstrikes in the region.
Now we have the government making a last stand in what it has declared the provisional capital of Aden:
The deposed president backed by the Obama administration and Saudi Arabia, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has emerged in Aden. Hadi declared the port city in the west to be the temporary capital of Yemen, and told Yemenis that the Houthis were agents of Iran. With Hadi in the mix — although without any indications of military strength — that makes three separate groups vying for supremacy in a country that had been at least manageable until Obama and the Saudis decided to push out Saleh, who’s now backing the Houthis.
It’s a mess now, another failed state directly across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia, the White House’s other supposed success story for its counterterrorism efforts.
Max Boot tweets: "All US SOF evacuating Yemen. Huge win for AQAP, huge defeat for US. How many foreign policy disasters can we handle?" Well, Barack Obama and his laughably-named "national security" team are determined that we should find out.

For this story just keeps getting worse: some $500 million dollars in American supplied weapons have been captured by “Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda”. So, we are basically giving weapons to our enemies. Brilliant!

The Obama administration, of course, did not see this coming:
The Obama administration's senior counterterrorism official acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. intelligence community was surprised by the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Yemen.
Nick Rasmussen, who directs the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Yemen's American-funded army failed to oppose advancing Houthi rebels in the same way the U.S.-supported Iraqi military refused to fight Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants last year.
What happened in Iraq with the onslaught of ISIS "happened in Yemen" on "a somewhat smaller scale," he said. "As the Houthi advances toward Sanaa took place... they weren't opposed in many places.... The situation deteriorated far more rapidly than we expected."
Rasmussen made the admission under questioning by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who noted that President Barack Obama recently touted Yemen as a success. Now, it's a "total disaster," Blunt said.
Of course Obama could not see this coming. How can you expect a CIA that actually employed the likes of Marie Harf as an analyst to be good or even semi-competent at its job?

So, for the geostrategically challenged, this means Islamists can now interdict the Red Sea from Somalia and from Yemen. Brilliant!

Richard Fernandez tries to make sense of it all -- and can't:
Trying to make sense of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has become something like a branch of Kremlinology.  Opinions vary between whether the president has either cleverly set Iran against Riyadh or he has let loose all the devils in hell. [...]

There’s no score keeping system in which Obama is making points unless that scoring system is secret and we’re just too dumb to figure it out.
Losing Iraq, Libya, Yemen; being humiliated by Assad; and having the Taliban call the tune seems to matter not a whit to the president. Like the Black Knight in the Monty Python movie who can endure having his limbs lopped off, these events are apparently costless to the president, who serenely proclaims himself as “winning” every round though nobody knows what the game is; nobody that is, except him.
Did America just lose everything it gave Iraq? Everything it gave Yemen? Every effort it expended in Libya?
One gets the sense that Aden could fall to the Houthi tomorrow or Damascus be overrun the week after without shaking his confidence in the least. Whatever happens, Obama is always only one step from some final, invisible victory.  He is laboring toward some deal with Tehran, like a pilgrim stumbling toward the Throne of God yet which to unschooled eyes seems like a gewgaw in a box of Crackerjack for which he is being charged an arm and a leg by some canny ayatollahs.
There must be something there and foreign policy gurus strain their eyes and cudgel their brains trying to figure out what it is.  Yet if we cast our eyes forward, it would not be surprising if the day after his stupendous “deal” nothing whatsoever changes except that Tehran goes on cheating. The great roll of drum fanfare will have culminated a low whistle like air being let out of a balloon.
Was that it? Yup. The one thing we can be certain of is that he would take that lack of evident benefit on the day after with total equanimity, as if surprised to think anyone but rubes should want a material outcome from his diplomacy.
Undoubtedly, the Obama administration will tell us the same thing it always tells us whenever Obama's foreign policy blows up in our faces -- again:



Your Iran nuclear negotiations primer (or "Barack Obama is, at best, a complete idiot")

I  know the alternate title of this post should not be news to anyone who has been paying attention, but the post by Power Line's Scott Johnson "Our Supreme Leader is a Supreme Fool" provides even more evidence of it:
I know that Barack Obama fancies himself a grand strategist the likes of which the world has never seen. (Okay, that may be true, but not in the way he thinks.) In an important essay last month at Mosaic, Michael Doran drew a revealing portrait of “Obama’s secret Iran agenda” that cast light on dark corners.
If you want to understand Obama’s strategery, Doran’s essay is the place to go. Today Steve Hayes adds a timely update in his Weekly Standard editorial “Obama’s Iran agenda.”
Whatever the sophisticated thinking behind it, Obama’s strategy looks like appeasement. It certainly has a lot in common with it. Indeed, we seem to have entered the tertiary stage of appeasement, in which wishful thinking and self-deception are the dominant characteristics.  
Doran's piece should be required reading. A sample:
President Barack Obama wishes the Islamic Republic of Iran every success. Its leaders, he explained in a recent interview, stand at a crossroads. They can choose to press ahead with their nuclear program, thereby continuing to flout the will of the international community and further isolate their country; or they can accept limitations on their nuclear ambitions and enter an era of harmonious relations with the rest of the world. “They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it,” the president urged—because “if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication . . . inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power.”
How eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager. A year ago, Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication and a key member of the president’s inner circle, shared some good news with a friendly group of Democratic-party activists. The November 2013 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—represented, he said, not only “the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian [nuclear] issue,” but “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.” For the administration, Rhodes emphasized, “this is healthcare . . . , just to put it in context.” Unaware that he was being recorded, he then confided to his guests that Obama was planning to keep Congress in the dark and out of the picture: “We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away.”
Why the need to bypass Congress? Rhodes had little need to elaborate. As the president himself once noted balefully, “[T]here is hostility and suspicion toward Iran, not just among members of Congress but the American people”—and besides, “members of Congress are very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues.” And that “hostility and suspicion” still persist, prompting the president in his latest State of the Union address to repeat his oft-stated warning that he will veto “any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo [the] progress” made so far toward a “comprehensive agreement” with the Islamic Republic.
As far as the president is concerned, the less we know about his Iran plans, the better. Yet those plans, as Rhodes stressed, are not a minor or incidental component of his foreign policy. To the contrary, they are central to his administration’s strategic thinking about the role of the United States in the world, and especially in the Middle East.
Moreover, that has been true from the beginning. In the first year of Obama’s first term, a senior administration official would later tell David Sanger of the New York Times, “There were more [White House] meetings on Iran than there were on Iraq, Afghanistan, and China. It was the thing we spent the most time on and talked about the least in public [emphasis added].” All along, Obama has regarded his hoped-for “comprehensive agreement” with Iran as an urgent priority, and, with rare exceptions, has consistently wrapped his approach to that priority in exceptional layers of secrecy.  
Secrecy because Obama knows the American people will not want it -- and for good reason. From National Journal's Josh Kraushaar:
Throughout the contentious debate between the White House and Congress over the Iran nuclear negotiations, one important piece of the equation has been largely overlooked: American public opinion. If voters were confident that President Obama was striking a good deal with Iran that would prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, he'd have little trouble getting support from the legislative branch.
But the reason the president is facing such bipartisan backlash is that an overwhelming number of voters are deeply worried about the direction of the negotiations. Think about how rare, in these polarized times, mobilizing a veto-proof majority of congressional Republicans and Democrats is for any significant legislation. Yet despite all the distractions, Congress is close to achieving that goal: requiring the administration to go to Congress for approval of any deal.
The administration is so focused on process and protocol in attacking the opposition because it's a useful distraction from how unpopular the administration's eagerness to strike any deal with Iran has become.
Consider the polling: In this month's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 71 percent of respondents said they believed a deal would not prevent the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Earlier in March, a Fox News poll found that a 57 percent majority believed the U.S. wasn't being "aggressive enough" in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear program, while nearly two-thirds supported military action as a last resort. In a February Gallup Poll, 77 percent of Americans said they believed Iran's development of nuclear weapons posed a "critical threat" to the United States.
The one recent outlier was CNN's survey, which found a surprisingly large 68 percent majority of voters—most Republicans included—supporting negotiations "in an attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons." But the phrasing of the question skewed the results. The question assumes that the end result of the negotiation is preventing Iran from getting nukes. But the reason for the growing opposition is that many voters don't believe the agreement will come close to stopping Iran's nuclear program, a point that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored in his congressional address.
(It's a lesson in how the precise wording of questions can elicit dramatically different results. Another loaded question on the Fox News survey asked if it's a good idea to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons 10 years from now—an outcome that the critics of a deal believe is likely. A whopping 84 percent called it a bad idea. But looking at the most directly phrased questions, it's evident that there is clear public concern over the negotiations.)
All of the polling is causing a significant number of Senate Democrats to consider breaking with their president to join Republicans in overriding a presidential veto over the deal. Far from being a bunch of hard-liners or hawks, congressional skeptics of an Iran deal run the gamut from the most liberal senators (Robert Menendez, Ben Cardin, Chuck Schumer) to moderates (Gary Peters, Robert Casey, Joe Donnelly) to the GOP hawks (Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, John McCain). 
Obama knows this. He simply does not care. As the always-readable Richard Fernandez put it: "Obama’s foreign policy has nowhere to go, but he’s prepared to go there with considerable velocity." Stephen F. Hayes shows just how delusional Obama's Iran policy is:
Iran is an opportunity, not a threat; it’s a potential partner, not an enemy.
For more than six years, this view of the Islamic Republic has guided the decisions made by Barack Obama. The president has repeatedly declared his eagerness to welcome Iran into the community of civilized nations. His words sometimes suggest that Iran has a choice to make, that their acceptance into this mythical community depends in some way on their behavior. But there’s little over those six years to indicate that he means it. Instead, Obama has made clear that in his eagerness to salvage anything from his tattered foreign policy legacy he is willing to gamble the security of the United States on a blind and irrational hope that Iran will someday change for the better.
To this end, he has abandoned more than three decades of bipartisan U.S. policy towards Iran—on its nuclear weapons program, on its regional ambitions, and on its support for terrorism.
These are radical departures. The Obama administration’s goal in nuclear talks is no longer preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons at all costs, but managing the process by which Iran becomes a nuclear state. The Obama administration no longer seeks to thwart Iran’s expansionist aims in the region and in many respects is now facilitating its aggression. On terrorism, the Obama administration has cast aside inconvenient realities about Iran’s support for jihadists of all kinds and has chosen instead to pretend that to the extent there any longer exists a war on terror, Washington and Tehran are on the same side.
So Obama is allowing the Iranian mullahs to have nukes because he sees them as a "potential partner." Seriously. How delusional is he? You be the judge:
Suspected for years of plotting to dismantle the U.S. electric grid, American officials have confirmed that Iranian military brass have endorsed a nuclear electromagnetic pulse explosion that would attack the country's power system.
American defense experts made the discovery while translating a secret Iranian military handbook, raising new concerns about Tehran's recent nuclear talks with the administration.
The issue of a nuclear EMP attack was raised in the final hours of this week's elections in Israel when U.S. authority Peter Vincent Pry penned a column for Arutz Sheva warning of Iran's threat to free nations.
"Iranian military documents describe such a scenario — including a recently translated Iranian military textbook that endorses nuclear EMP attack against the United States," he wrote.
A knowledgable source said that the textbook discusses an EMP attack on America in 20 different places.
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks, who is leading an effort to protect the U.S. electric grid from an EMP attack, has recently made similar claims based on the document translated by military authorities.
Once sneered at by critics, recent moves by Iran and North Korea have given credibility to the potential EMP threat from an atmospheric nuclear explosion over the U.S.
Pry has suggested ways for Iran to deliver a nuclear attack: by ship launched off the East Coast, a missile or via satellite.
Either way the result could be destruction of all or part of the U.S. electric grid, robbing the public of power, computers, water and communications for potentially a year.
Yup. This is indeed Obama's policy on Iran:


The warnings are there. David Petraeus:
The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. While the U.S. and Iran may have convergent interests in the defeat of Daesh, our interests generally diverge. The Iranian response to the open hand offered by the U.S. has not been encouraging.
Iranian power in the Middle East is thus a double problem. It is foremost problematic because it is deeply hostile to us and our friends. But it is also dangerous because, the more it is felt, the more it sets off reactions that are also harmful to our interests — Sunni radicalism and, if we aren't careful, the prospect of nuclear proliferation as well.
One has to think back almost 100 years to Wilson chasing his Treaty of Versailles in the face of growing public skepticism and Congressional dissent to see this many omens of a car crash. The more the opposition mounts, the more grimly determined the President becomes to hold his course. The more determined the President looks, the more disquieting the doubts that circulate among Democrats—and the more Republicans smell the opportunity to land a crippling blow against a policy they despise.
For all their differences, President Barack Obama uncannily resembles his Democratic predecessor, President Jimmy Carter, in his stiff-necked, self-righteous inability to listen to others or to learn from experience or history. Against ferocious opposition at home and abroad, he is about to repeat the grievous mistake of appeasing Iran that Carter made over three decades ago and do even more geopolitical damage than the hapless peanut farmer wreaked in 1979.
[...]
So now President Obama wants to make an agreement that will ensure that Iran can produce an atom bomb essentially overnight. He has not seen fit to explain his reasoning to the American people, and it is hard to imagine what it might be. But all I can think of is Churchill’s rebuke to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when he returned from his infamous appeasement of Hitler in Munch in 1938. “You were given the choice between war and dishonor,” Churchill thundered in Parliament. “You chose dishonor, and you will have war.” Certainly President Obama is choosing dishonor. What kind of war he might unleash, the world watches with dread.
Indeed. Obama is, at best, a complete idiot, his stupidity matched only by his arrogance. His laughably-named "national security" team -- Kerry, Rice, Jarrett, Rhodes, etc. -- does not have one brain among them.

And he is supposed to protect the United States.

Lord help us.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

It's Crusade Time, baby!!!

Secondary headline: "Turn the Other Cheek Doesn't Work":
In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.
“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
Tomasi said that any anti-ISIS coalition has to include the Muslim states of the Middle East, and can’t simply be a “Western approach.” He also said it should unfold under the aegis of the United Nations.
The call for force is striking, given that the Vatican traditionally has opposed military interventions in the Middle East, including the two US-led Gulf Wars. It builds, however, on comments from Pope Francis that the use of force is “legitimate … to stop an unjust aggressor.”
Ed Morrissey agrees this is unusual for the Vatican, at least in recent times:
In other words, we seem to have moved from what Allen described as a “yellow light” last summer to a very bright, flashing green light. Needless to say, this is not just “unusually blunt,” it’s unusually hawkish for the Vatican, which almost always endorses conciliation and diplomacy over conflict. It’s a measure of just how radically dangerous this situation has become with ISIS, and how much death and destruction has resulted from its rapid expansion.
Think this is a little over-the-top? Think again. This is indeed a clash of civilizations, to the extent that anything Islamist can be considered a "civilization." In a piece titled "ISIS’s Sledgehammer Against Civilization," Charles Hill dissects the meaning and danger of Islamists' destruction of priceless history:
Scenes of Islamic State mauls smashing ancient statues—one a winged bull from ninth century, B.C. Assyria—in the museum of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and in the ancient city of Nimrud, reveal a new and profound dimension in radical Islam’s twenty-first century war on world civilization. When the slaughter, enslavement, and genocidal designs on other religious groups are joined by culturally catastrophic destruction of non-Islamic arts and artifacts, then the world faces a fully totalitarian enemy whose rationale is directly declared: “Oh, Muslims, these artifacts that are behind me were idols and gods who lived centuries ago [and were] worshipped instead of Allah,” the smasher said to the camera. “Our Prophet,” he continued, “ordered us to remove all these statues as his followers did when they conquered nations.”
Such cultural devastation has been evident all across this new twenty-first century, from the Taliban’s mortaring and dynamiting the giant sculpted Buddhas carved into the rock face at Bamiyan on the ancient Silk Road through Afghanistan to the Islamist devastation of the mausoleum, shrines, and library of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Muslim center of learning at Timbuktu, a registered world cultural heritage site. The devastation is also apparent in Saudi Arabia’s systematic destruction of the traditional surroundings of the Ka’aba and the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The government has obliterated significant Ottoman-era structures to put up high-rise glass and steel hotels of indistinguishable modern facelessness, a demonstration that such cultural ravages can be carried out by legitimate, internationally-recognized Muslim state regimes as well as by the radical jihadis who aim to overthrow those same state regimes as abominations in the eyes of Islamism.
If these depredations of Islamism are an atavistic reawakening of the seventh-century Islamic rise in order to command the future, it is necessary to review the devastations generated by the modern age itself all through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the Enlightenment, as Kant and Hegel made clear, history replaced theology and religion as the arena in which the greatest challenges of the human condition would have to be played out.
With religion relegated to the sidelines, ideology was invented as its substitute. Ideology became a totalistic, answer-all-questions compulsory atheistic faith. Like most religions, once inaugurated, the ideology begins the world anew: the French Revolution as the year zero or Mao’s Tiananmen architecturally declaring that nothing good happened before 1949. Thus history itself was destroyed or transformed with a scientific certainty, a railroad along which the ideology would inevitably ride.
The zenith of ideology’s catastrophic destruction of culture came in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, launched to totally eradicate traditional Chinese culture by burning books, outlawing the Peking Opera and all theatrical productions, suppressing academic and intellectual life, and tearing down pagodas and temples. Any structure or creative arts manifestation had to be destroyed. All this was produced in accordance with Mao’s perception that Marxism had to be turned upside down. Materialism, the economic base that, when communized, was supposed to change the culture, had not worked. Mao saw culture—and he was correct—as the determinative human factor, so China’s great cultural past had to go. Confucius was reviled; Mao reveled in being compared to China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, who burned the books and buried scholars alive.
What we are witnessing today in Islamism’s war on the world’s cultures is not unconnected to this modern revolutionary upheaval. The “history” that replaced religion in the Enlightenment and which was in turn commandeered by ideology, has with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s revolutionary seizure of state power in 1979 and the Islamic State’s taking extensive territorial power in 2014-15, amalgamated religion and ideology as a new stage in the war against history. No wonder, therefore, that the radical jihadists revel in their conviction that the ultimate apocalyptic moment has been placed in their hands.
Ah, the Iranian mullahs. Those people to whom Obama wants to surrender in what is probably his most vile foreign policy initiative to date, which is obviously saying something.
However grotesque and despicable is Islamist vandalism in the service of imagined divine instructions, there is more at stake in this phenomenon. Something of world-historical consequence is going on, because this jihadi assault threatens a global development which may stand comparison with the “Axial Age,” a transformation in human consciousness discerned by the philosopher Karl Jaspers (1885-1969): that in the middle centuries of the first millennium B.C. a trans-civilizational shift in mentalities took place across a great swath of the globe from the Eastern Mediterranean to Persia to South Asia to China. Sharply contested, the axial theory nonetheless does provide coherence to the emergence of cultural expressions that contain both individualist and universalist characteristics at the same time. A “New Axial Age,” which can at least hypothetically be tracked from the early Modern age to the present, is still in an emerging phase of development, one that centers on cultural art and artifacts.
Even if Obama is too stupid, feckless, and/or compromised to defend Western civilization, many Westerners are not and are acting in his stead. After the Taliban attacked two churches in Pakistan, a Christian mob rioted and killed two suspected Taliban supporters. Law Prof. Glenn Reynolds responds: "I think that the nonviolent side of Christianity is heading into at least partial eclipse."

Good. About time.

A murder too far?

In the new edition of The New York Review of Books, Amy Knight discusses the unraveling coverup of Vladimir Putin's role in the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. Or, perhaps, Knight is doing the unraveling herself. A fascinating read, here's a taste:
According to the usual pattern, the suspects would then be expected to confess, a motive would be concocted—in this case, that Nemtsov had made statements against Russian Islamists—and the crime would be declared solved. But hardly anyone in Russia seems to believe that this is why Nemtsov was killed, or indeed, that these suspects, if they were the killers, acted on their own. Instead, the arrests have led to new speculation about the Kremlin’s involvement in the murder. They also appear to be causing an internal struggle within the government itself—a struggle that could help explain President Vladimir Putin’s absence from public view for over a week.
Russian authorities have accused one of the five Chechens, Zaur Dadayev, of organizing the crime, but even if he did, it is unlikely that he would have decided to do so on his own. Dadayev was a deputy commander of the crack “North” battalion, which is based in the Chechen capital of Grozny and is under the patronage of the authoritarian Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a close Putin loyalist. Many commentators think that Dadayev would not have undertaken such a bold assassination—in the center of Moscow just minutes from the Kremlin—without Kadyrov’s explicit orders.
But the chain of command would have to go higher than the Chechen president. Although Kadyrov runs Chechnya like a fiefdom, and has for years cracked down on his enemies with impunity, even reportedly using death squads against them, his powers have clear limits in the Russian capital. On Friday, I spoke with Akhmed Zakaev, head of the Chechen government in exile, who is based in London, and he stressed that Kadyrov would never embark on a mission to kill such a prominent figure as Boris Nemtsov without Putin’s approval. Kadyrov, he said, “can do what he wants in Chechnya, but not in Moscow or Russia. It is most likely that Nemtsov was assassinated because it was Putin’s wish.”
[...]
In fact, Kadyrov’s reckless sponsorship of murders of Chechens abroad who are perceived to be enemies of Moscow has long troubled Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, according to several Russian sources, and the rapid arrest of Kadyrov’s associate in the Nemtsov case may have in part been an attempt to reign in his lawlessness. But Putin apparently owes a great deal to Kadyrov. Zakaev told me that Putin probably gave Kadyrov the medal of honor days after the Chechen arrests as a way to send a message to Russia’s security officials that “Kadyrov is not to be touched.”
In the meantime information has continued to emerge that undermines the official story that Dadayev was the mastermind of Nemtsov’s murder. According to the initial reports by the Investigative Committee, Dadayev confessed to the crime. But on March 11 a journalist for Moskovskii Komsomolets and several human rights activists managed to get into Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison, where Dadayev and two other suspects had been held since March 5. Dadayev told them that he had spent two days in shackles with a hood over his head, waiting for his appearance in court so he could proclaim his innocence. He claimed that he had been denied a lawyer, coerced into a false confession by investigators, and beaten and tortured, along with the two others who were in Lefortovo. The activists visiting the prison reported that there was clear evidence the men had been physically abused. Russian authorities claim the prison visit was a breach of protocol and have threatened the human rights activists with criminal prosecution.
Also, the head of the Kadyrov’s North Battalion let it be known after Dadayev’s arrest that Dadayev had been dismissed from service on February 28, the day after the shooting. This suggests that the Investigative Committee had either worked incredibly fast to solve the crime, or, more likely, that they knew in advance that Dadayev would be implicated. Then, on March 11, sources in the law enforcement agencies told the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that the mastermind of the Nemtsov murder was not Dadayev but a member of his regiment named “Ruslan.” And on Saturday, Ekho Moskvy cited an anonymous FSB source claiming that a Chechen fighter who is now in Ukraine, Adam Osmayev, was the one who ordered the crime.
Of course it is entirely possible that some of the accused did in fact carry out the murder, but the idea that these men decided to kill Nemtsov on their own is far-fetched. The circumstances of the killing—the timing, the location, and the precision of the shots, which killed Nemtsov from behind and did not hit his companion—indicates a highly professional, carefully prepared undertaking that required sophisticated surveillance of Nemtsov to determine his intended route home that evening. It seems very unlikely that this could have been accomplished without the involvement of some part of the security services, probably the Federal Protective Service (FSO), which is directly subordinate to Putin and operates surveillance cameras in the exact area where Nemtsov was shot.
[...]
Far more plausible, as I have pointed out, is the theory that Putin wanted Nemtsov out of the picture because of his increasingly harsh, unremitting campaign against the Kremlin for its military involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. As many observers have noted, Nemtsov was about to publish a damning report on Russia’s Ukraine campaign, called “Putin: The War.” This week, Nemtsov’s long-time aide Olga Shorina explained to me by telephone from Moscow that immediately after Nemtsov’s murder the security services raided his apartment and removed his computer and papers relating to the report—apparently in an effort to keep the report from getting out.
According to Shorina, however, Nemtsov had taken the precaution of placing much of the documentation for the report elsewhere. She and Ilya Yashin, co-leader of Nemtsov’s opposition party, are now putting together the information, she said, and with the help of outside experts, doing further reporting that Nemtsov had planned. Shorina and Yashina hope to finish the report and publish a million copies in April. When I asked Shorina if Russian authorities might try to obstruct publication, she replied with a laugh: “Well, they could try but I don’t see how they could do it. And in any case, the report will be based entirely on open sources.” She added that Boris was not a purveyor of secrets: “Everything he said and wrote was out in the open.”
[...]
Whatever the hostility the Kremlin seems to have felt toward Nemtsov, it appears that some in Putin’s circle, including officials in the FSB, think that this time Putin has gone too far. Zakaev, the exiled Chechen leader, told me: “Putin has to either give up Kadyrov or take full responsibility for Nemtsov’s murder. Throughout Putin’s time in power, this is the first time we see such a huge disagreement within Putin’s team.”
At the very least, the shocking murder of Boris Nemtsov and the clumsy way the investigation has been conducted have created a serious credibility problem for Putin. Democratic oppositionist Alexey Navalny has said that the only thing that could refute his theory that the murder of Nemtsov was ordered by the Russian president would be a completely transparent, thorough investigation. But the more conflicting accounts that emerge—and the longer Putin remains out of public view—the less transparent the case becomes.
A very well-written piece and, again, a fascinating read, I highly recommend you check it out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Japanese battleship Musashi found

I'm a little late to this particular party, but a party it is: an expedition led by Microsoft co-founder  (and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers) Paul Allen has found the wreck of the Japanese battleship Musashi, sister ship to the famous superbattleship Yamato:
The construction of a vessel that would come to represent the might of Japan’s navy was so secretive, according to historical accounts, that workers hid it underneath a camouflage of rope. There was good reason to try to keep construction secret. It would become a fearsome creature of war: Said to be at that time “the largest battleship in naval history,” it extended nearly 900 feet in length, weighed 73,000 tons and was equipped with a massive arsenal of guns.
“I couldn’t believe how enormous they were!” American Helldiver gunner Joe Anderlik recalled of the vessel during a massive naval battle that sank the beast. Musashi “was huge!” another gunner said, according to World War II Database. “I had never seen anything as big in my entire life. It was a magnificent sight.”
Indeed, she was.
But despite such magnificence, the end of the Musashi would be as cloaked in opacity as its origins. Allied forces pummeled its mighty frame with 20 torpedoes and 17 bombs, and on that day in October 1944, it sank somewhere in the Sibuyan Sea near the Philippines. It took with it 1,023 lives. And it was never seen again.
Uh, most ships that sink are never seen again. Not the best writing by the Washington Post here, but let's just move on.
That was until this week, when the Musashi reemerged in the most unexpected of places: Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen’s Twitter page. “WW2 Battleship Musashi sank 1944 is FOUND 1,000 meters deep. … Huge anchor,” wrote Allen, who has been looking for the ship for more than eight years. “RIP crew of Musashi.”
The announcement brought a startling end to the story of the Musashi: sank by an American naval force, discovered by an American billionaire. “Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” Allen said in a statement. “The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction.”
As do I. And he does appear to have found her. This photograph from Allen's expedition appears to be of a chrysanthemum crest, which was placed on the bow of only the Imperial Japanese Navy's largest warships:



As you can imagine, this discovery has significant emotional meaning in Japan:
A former crew member of the Musashi, a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy that was sunk by U.S. forces during World War II, said he felt "a sense of destiny" in the apparent discovery of the battleship by a U.S. billionaire almost 70 years after the war's end.
"I never thought the Musashi would be found," said Reiichi Chigira, 90, of Yokosuka, Japan, on Friday. "I want to see her with my own eyes." His eyes were glued to video footage of what appeared to be the Musashi.
The Musashi was the second Yamato-class battleship. It was sunk in the Sibuyan Sea in the Philippines in October 1944.
Chigira became a Musashi crew member at the age of 18 in August 1943. When he saw the Musashi, said to be the world's largest ship at that time along with her sister ship the Yamato, he thought it was "just like an iron castle" and would never be sunk.
After the course of the war worsened for Japan, the Musashi joined an operation off the Philippine island of Leyte in October 1944.
However, the ship came under attack by numerous U.S. warplanes when she was sailing in the Sibuyan Sea on October 24. Chigira said his comrades were tossed by a bomb blast and the deck was covered with blood.
After five hours of bomb and torpedo attacks, the Musashi tilted by nearly 90 degrees and sank that evening. Many crew members were pulled into the sea. Chigira was rescued after drifting for about four hours.
Of the 2,399 people aboard, more than 1,000 died.
"The time I spent on Musashi was my entire life," Chigira said. He said he had wondered where the battleship lay, and that he hopes the personal belongings of the dead and their remains will be recovered from the wreck on the seabed.
There are not a lot of pictures of either the Musashi or the Yamato out there (and even fewer for the Shinano, the third sister ship that was converted into a bizarre aircraft carrier and sunk under even more bizarre circumstances). Below is one of the more famous ones: The Musashi under US Navy air attack in the Sibuyan Sea. You can barely see her bow and bridge tower (a departure from the famous pagoda mast design of Japanese battleships) amidst the smoke, flames, splashes, and explosions.



Below is, as I understand it, the last known photograph of the Musashi, down by the bow after receiving some 19 torpedo and 17 bomb hits and desperately staggering to find some place to beach herself. She failed.


The good folks at the Imperial Japanese Navy Page have the Musashi's record here.

This is indeed reason to celebrate. These are the times when history comes alive.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Rising Sun, Falling Skies for $1.99 on Kindle

As of RIGHT NOW, Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II is the #1 SELLING WORLD HISTORY BOOK ON AMAZON!!! Probably because it's $1.99 this weekend. And because nothing says "I love you" to that special someone on Valentine's Day quite like a book about war. Buy it from Amazon Smiles on this link and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Indianapolis School of Ballet to support their amazing dancer/teachers like Coleen "Radar" Rhea, Betsy Boxberger, and the spectacular, magical, and totally badass Chloë Duryea.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Remember when the ROMAN Catholic Church was just about the only defender of civilization?

Good times, good times ...
Alluding to an attack on a French magazine that left 12 people dead in reprisal for satirical depictions of Muhammad, Pope Francis today condemned the violence, but also said there are limits to free speech — especially when it involves religion.
In particular, the pope said, one shouldn’t abuse freedom of expression to “provoke” or “offend” others deliberately, and also shouldn’t be surprised when they react to such taunts.
Even in the case of a dear friend, Francis said, “If he says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose. That’s normal."
It is?
"People who make fun of, who toy with other people’s religions, he said, risk running into “what would happen to [that friend] if he said something against my mother.”

On Thursday, Francis was asked a question by a French journalist about how to balance religious freedom against freedom of expression, and he immediately linked his answer to the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
“You’re French, so let’s talk about Paris, let’s speak clearly,” he said.
“One cannot make war [or] kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God,” Francis said. “To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”
That said, Francis also insisted that free speech does not imply total license to insult or offend another’s faith.
“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” the pope said, speaking in Italian.
“Every religion has its dignity … and I cannot make fun of it,” the pope said. “In freedom of expression there are limits, like in regard to my mom.”
Well, the Pope justifying a violent response to an "insult" should help put to rest all inaccurate meme that Jesus Christ was a "pacifist," if that whole Driving the Money Changers Out of the Temple with Whips Thing did not do so already. But ... wow! What a sad day for the Catholic Church!

Noah Rothman:
No, it’s not “normal.” The individual moved to violence over an insult has lost control, and that’s unacceptable. It is unequivocally wrong to hit someone in the face regardless of the circumstances that led to that outburst, which is a lesson that parents around the world teach their children every day. Good luck now, mom and dad. When even the Pope says it’s “normal” to go on a violent rampage because your feelings were hurt, those opposed to this uncivilized behavior have lost the ability to appeal to moral authority.
When broadcasters effusively praise the bravery of the Charlie Hebdo journalists but refuse to show the work they are praising for fear of retribution from either extremists or attorneys; when the head of the Catholic Church can find some sensibleness in religious violence; when those who speak their minds are imprisoned for doing so, you know that Europe is on the verge of a new dark age.
And instead of fighting it like the Church did after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Church will be leading it.

Are the stakes that high? Indeed, they are. Victor Davis Hanson:
Western civilization’s creed is free thought and expression, the lubricant of everything from democracy to human rights.
Even a simpleton in the West accepts that protecting free expression is not the easy task of ensuring the right to read Homer’s Iliad or do the New York Times crossword puzzle. It entails instead the unpleasant duty of allowing offensive expression.
Westerners fight against pornography, blasphemy, or hate speech in the arena of ideas by writing and speaking out against such foul expression. They are free to sue, picket, boycott, and pressure sponsors of unwelcome speech. But Westerners cannot return to the Middle Ages to murder those whose ideas they don’t like.
“Parody” and “satire” are, respectively, Greek and Latin words. In antiquity the non-Western tradition simply did not produce authors quite like the vicious Aristophanes, Petronius, and Juvenal, who unapologetically trashed the society around them. If the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo loses the millennia-old right to ridicule Islam from within a democracy, then there is no longer a West, at least as we know it.
Law Professor Jonathan Turley gets it:
Of course, people can insult the faith of others. It is called free speech and you are not allowed to punch someone (or in the most recent case, massacre people) out of a sense of legitimate outrage. Clearly, Pope Francis was not condoning the massacre. He remains a leading voice for Peace and tolerance. However, the discussion of limits on free speech in the West has spawned a trend toward greater criminalization and prosecution for unpopular writers and speakers, including a crackdown in France after the march in support of free speech.
Pope Francis added that people who make fun of religion “are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.” Presumably, the victims are Charlie Hebdo would be considered such “provocateurs,” precisely the image advanced by Muslim extremists insisting that they were incited to violence.
I still admire the Pope but he is less inspirational on free speech, particularly anti-religious speech, in making these comments. Ironically, free speech is the greatest protection of the free exercise of religion. It is the right that allows people of faith (as well as people who are agnostic and atheist) to speak out about their values and beliefs. That freedom comes with a certain covenant of faith in free speech: that we all can speak our mind without fear of prosecution or retaliation.
And David Harsanyi describes the slippery slope the Pope has just endorsed:
Someone should ask the Pope if provocateurs should expect an asymmetrical response? For instance, if Gasparri uttered a curse word against the Pope’s mother, should he expect to his family blown up? That would be a more pertinent analogy.
But let’s take it further. Where are the limits? Why does “mockery” hold a special distinction in our debate? And what constitutes contemptuous language or behavior towards another faith? For instance, can we intentionally criticize another person’s faith without expecting to be punched? What if that faith is in direct conflict with the beliefs of your own set beliefs—beliefs that deserve, according to the Pope, the same respect as any other? Is it ever worth getting punched in the face?
What if one of these faiths is unable to live in free and open society because the principles of their faith conflict with those of others? What if one religion feels mocked by the things that other religions put up with in society—like wearing skirts above the knees, or eating pork sausages, or failing to accept that Muhammad is the Prophet? What if those of a certain faith feel this is ridicule towards them? What if they believe it worthy of retaliation? Should the rest of us avoid these things so as not to upset anyone?
As a proud ROMAN Catholic (That's right! Not just Catholic - ROMAN Catholic! All the way back to the ROMAN EMPIRE! Julius Caesar! SPQR, baby!!!), I am deeply offended by the Pope's provocative statements on this issue.

Because he made statements that offended me, do you think he'd mind if, in response, I punched him in the nose?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You can't solve the problem if you refuse to identify the problem

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: Let’s stop using “radical Islam” to describe radical Islamic terrorists.

Sigh! Allahpundit. Again:
The fact that the French, land of the so-called cheese-eating surrender monkeys, have no qualms about using the phrase while our own leadership hems and haws makes Earnest look that much more pathetic. More than that, it’s a reminder that the strongest impulse among America’s ruling class in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre has been to self-censor. The media, with rare exceptions like Fox News, won’t show the cover of the new issue; the White House suddenly is uncomfortable mentioning Islam at all in connection with terrorism. Ironically, I think this cycle of radical Muslims murdering people followed by ever greater official sensitivity to mainstream Muslims reinforces public perceptions that there’s a link between two rather than undermines them. Never did Americans hear the phrase “Islam means peace” as much as they did after radical Muslims knocked over the World Trade Center. Same with media self-censorship: Not until jihadis started burning embassies and machine-gunning cartoonists did American media collectively decide that “sensitivity” to the beliefs of mainstream Muslims was very important indeed. It’s one long, absurd good-cop, bad-cop routine made possible by America’s political and media elites, all of whom seem to think the real threat comes from non-Muslims who are angry at Muslim communities, not vice versa.

Why Americans no longer trust journalists

In a nutshell:
In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, both America's paper of record (The New York Times) and its network of record (CNN) have declined to show Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad on the grounds that they might offend Muslims. The decision to forgo publication of these highly relevant news images has sparked a robust debate about free speech, religion and media ethics. One question that seems to have been glossed over is whether or not the media have any obligations to the preferences of a religious group, or any group of people, in the first place.
As previously noted, the Times has a history of publishing artwork and cartoons that have offended both Jews and Christians. See its coverage of "Piss Christ" in 1999, which very much offended the Catholic League; an Iranian exhibition of "anti-Jewish art" in 2006; and an Iranian cartoonist's "anti-Jewish caricatures" in 2010. So, at least up until Dean Baquet's tenure as executive editor, which began last year, the Times' policy against "gratuitous insult" did not preclude offensive religious images.
The image of the prophet Muhammad, however, seems to occupy its own category, with its own rules. Last week, Baquet told me via email that as editor of the Times he had to consider "the Muslim family in Brooklyn who read us and is offended by any depiction of what he sees as his prophet." [sic] When I replied, "I just wonder about the Jewish family in Brooklyn," Baquet responded as follows:
I would really do some reporting --- I did -- to make sure these parallels are similar for the two religions. You may find they are not. In fact they really are not.
Baquet's argument, if I'm reading him correctly, is that a cartoonish depiction of Muhammad is more offensive, categorically, than a cartoon that depicts, say, anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews trying to fabricate a Holocaust that, per the cartoonist, never took place.
In other words, Piss Christ is OK, but Muhammad is not. Denigrating a person who many people believe is the prophet of God is a no-no, but denigrating a person many believe is the Son of God is hunky-dory. Oooooooohhhhhhhhh-kaaaaaaaaayyyy ...

And it's hard to miss just how much arrogance is dripping from Baquet's attitude. As if he has a right to determine what is offensive and the Jewish family in Brooklyn does not.

Allahpundit nails it:
The double standard laid bare. If you’re a devout believer of whichever faith and eager to see less blasphemy in the media, as many Americans are, there’s no other conclusion to draw here than, “I need to be much, much angrier.”

Some of us knew this back in 2008

Leslie H. Gelb:
Here’s why America’s failure to be represented at the Paris unity march was so profoundly disturbing. It wasn’t just because President Obama’s or Vice President Biden’s absence was a horrendous gaffe. More than this, it demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national security policy in the next two years. It’s simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is—with his current team and his way of making decisions. America, its allies, and friends could be heading into one of the most dangerous periods since the height of the Cold War.
He ignores the main problem, though: that to Obama, this is not a bug, but a feature. And it won't get any better until Obama is removed from office.