Tag Archives: Iraq

Syrian Cesspool

I put up this map of Syria as the primary graphic accompaniment to this story in order to show people just where the country is located in relation to the rest of the cesspool that is the Middle East.

Syria lies just to the northeast of Israel, our lone reliable ally in the region, and the single nation that we need to be concerned with helping there. It lies up against the western border of Iraq, still a dangerous place in itself, despite our efforts of the past decade.

Now, like every nation, Syria has a long, deep, rich history that cannot be perfectly encapsulated in any short blurb of a story. But perhaps most importantly, today it is the site of major internal conflict between the Islamic Sunni and Shia factions and their allies.

For nearly five decades, from 1963-2011, Syria was under Emergency Law, ostensibly due to the ongoing tensions and at times war with Israel over the Golan Heights. This effectively suspended most constitutional protections for its citizens.

Bashar al-Assad, currently accused by the Obama administration of using chemical weapons on his own citizens, has been President since 2000, when he took over the reigns from his father who had served for 30 years.

In December of 2010, what has become known as the ‘Arab Spring’ began, a series of both violent and non-violent uprisings, demonstrations, protests, riots, and civil wars across the Arab world.

The aims were to overthrow and end the rule of authoritarian regimes that were politically corrupt and that in many cases stood accused of committing human rights violations. The movement has resulted thus far in the overthrowing of regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.

In March 2011, the Arab Spring came to Syria in the beginning of the current civil war between Assad’s loyalists and members of the opposition group known as the ‘Syrian National Coalition’. In 2012, a new constitution was adopted that made Syria a semi-presidential republic.

However, for many reasons, including the history of the Assad regime, the SNC has been recognized by a number of nations, including the US, as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian peoples.

There is always an undercurrent of Islam in the Middle East, and this conflict is no different. The majority of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the government and its supporters are mostly ‘Alawites’, a branch of Islam closely related to the Shia school.

Explaining the differences of all these groups to non-followers is another article altogether. Look it up if you’re interested. But know this – they don’t like one another, and it goes back hundreds of years.

Despite the alleged new constitutional protections, most human rights groups rate Syria as “not free”, with torture, rape, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, censorship and other human rights violations considered the norm by the government. The government now stands accused of using chemical weapons last month against those sympathetic to the rebel cause.

Some 60% of the Syrian population identifies as Sunni, while just 13% are Shia, including President al-Assad’s family, which is of the Alawite faction of Shia Islam. Despite their national minority, Alawites dominate the government.

While the civil war has largely been between the Shia and Sunni factions, there has been a ‘shadow war’ against Christianity, with a number of Christian churches destroyed, and with the formerly 10% Christian population largely fleeing the country.

The bottom line in the civil war in Syria is power. The regime led by al-Assad is trying to retain it, and is apparently willing to use whatever means is necessary to do so. The SNC is trying to take it away, possibly to bring democratic freedom to the region, possibly to become dominated by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, who have tried and failed to take over in Syria previously.

Do you hear much talk about the radical Islamists who run rampant on the rebel side, including al Qaeda? Didn’t think so, but that is a major factor that needs more discussion and consideration.

Right now, President Obama is backing the SNC. He has his publicly announced human rights reasons, and my belief is that he likely has some personal and/or religious reasons as well. But in any event, the wisdom of getting involved in any way in Middle East conflicts has to be questioned. If there is one thing that the world should have learned over the last thousand years or more is that peace is not coming to that region. We cannot pick winners and losers – they’re all losers, except for Israel.

The only position the United States should be taking, the only “red line in the sand” that we should be drawing, should be involving attacks and provocations involving the Israelis (or ourselves being attacked directly, of course.)

We are too dependent on Arab oil, that much is well-established, and we need to immediately begin addressing that dependency and drawing on alternatives, including those right here in our own region, in our own nation.

Entering the Syrian cesspool is, frankly, stupid and comes with little to no positive effect. Obama’s claim that they need to know “that we mean what we say” is nothing more than a call to allow him to flex his muscles. It comes with no lasting change, will allow al-Assad to laugh at us once it’s over and resume his activities further strengthened, and may encourage a wider conflagration of hostilities that ultimately draws in the Israelis, increasing the odds that we go in with ground forces.

Mr. Obama is naive to think that he can simply lob a few missiles at strategic sites and get the leader of a Middle East regime to cower to his wishes. There is only one way to eliminate those types of folks – go in and get them, as we did with Saddam Hussein. No one in the Obama administration has the stomach to do that here.

The United States policy should be to remain internally strong, maintain and increase our technological and military superiority over every other nation, bring home the vast majority of our war-weary troops and give them a much deserved and needed break from combat/policing situations, and remain engaged through a diplomacy that leaves no doubt of the true ‘red line in the sand’ around the Israeli borders.

There are human rights atrocities committed constantly around the world, not only in Syria and other nations of the Middle East, but in Africa, South America, Asia, and other areas. You don’t see us running in there with our military, lobbing missiles at encampments in those areas, and drawing a ‘red line in the jungle’, or a ‘red line in the snow’, or whatever that environment.

America needs to stop drawing so many ‘red lines in the sand’, and stay out of the cesspool that is the Middle East, this time in Syria.

War is Not the Answer

One thing that should be fairly clear from Soviet involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, and American involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000’s, is that waging war in the Middle East is not a winning long term strategy.

In the short-term, deposing dangerous regimes and tyrannical rulers with military force is something that may indeed be necessary.

Sadam Hussein certainly was tyrannical, torturing and killing his own countrymen. The Taliban and al Qaeda certainly were dangerous, deadly entities. All had to go.

But in the end, there is certainly one truth that has to be faced up to: the United States of America cannot be expected to place large numbers of troops in any foreign country forever.

There comes a time when we need to bring our troops home or redeploy them. I believe that President Obama is right in bringing our troops home from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Now, I don’t agree with this President on very much. He is likely a Socialist, certainly an ultra-liberal, big government, anti-capitalist. But to say that he is wrong about every single thing the man does on every issue at every turn is to simply be a partisan contrarian yourself.

The important this is the balancing of the mission against the costs. The mission was to remove Hussein, to help Iraq establish it’s own sound alternative governmental process, and to provide the security to allow that process to grow. We have done that. We have done it at the cost of more than 4,000 American lives, more than 30,000 more injuries, and more than a trillion dollars.

The sign displayed on the USS Abraham Lincoln back in 2003 when President George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier to give a speech at the end of the first phase of major combat operations, the infamous “Mission Accomplished” sign, was correct at that time. The subsequent Iraqi guerrilla insurgency led to another phase, and here we are, eight years later.

Our American troops, along with those from Great Britain and a number of other allies, have done an outstanding job throughout these Middle East conflicts. Their work has been one piece in helping to keep the U.S. homeland free from further Islamofascist terror attacks following 9/11.

But the sad, truthful fact is that the world will never be completely free from these threats, and we can never do enough policing to ensure such safety. And the economic ramifications of continuing to dump tens of billions of dollars in the Middle East? Simply irresponsible at this time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no dove. There is a time to stand up and fight. The United States intelligence services need to stay vigilant. The U.S. military needs to remain prepared to respond to any actions against our nation’s security interests. And our leaders need to remain committed to encouraging and supporting freedom and democracy around the globe.

But the Iraq War is over. We won. It’s time, past time actually, for our troops to come home, at least in this man’s opinion. In the short term, yes, mission accomplished. But in the long term, war is not the answer to the problems of the Middle East. It is likely not going to be avoided in the future, but as history has shown over thousands of years, it will likely settle nothing permanently. That ultimate peace will take an act of God.

Welcome home, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for your service from an eternally grateful nation. We hope that it is a long time before you are called into active combat service again. God bless America.

Islamism Series: What Are We Prepared to Do?

In the 1987 film ‘The Untouchables’, Kevin Costner plays famed lawman Elliot Ness, who is tasked to lead a fight against the violent empire of infamous crime boss Al Capone in Chicago during the Prohibition era.

In the beginning, Ness tries some of the usual law enforcement tactics of the day, but appears to be going nowhere in his efforts to defeat Capone.

Finally his right-hand man in the film, street cop ‘Jim Malone’ as played in an Oscar-winning performance by Sean Connery, turns to Ness and asks him a blunt question:

“What are you prepared to do?”

This is always the single most important question that needs to be asked, understood, and answered before committing to fight any war at any level.

Whether at the level of law enforcement fighting criminal groups to keep the public safe on the home front, or at the level of national armed forces fighting enemies from abroad with the same goal, this simple question cannot be avoided.

Decades ago a war was declared against the United States by the forces of radical Islam around the world. It was declared with public statements, and those statements were backed up with physical attacks against American troops, citizens, and interests abroad and eventually with attacks against the American homeland.

For years the answer to that question of “What are you prepared to do?” seemed to be a tit-for-tat response. They blew up something of ours, we lobbed a missile at something of theirs.

The international community cried if we killed civilians in our attacks, but shed no tears for American Marines and other service persons and civilians killed in attacks against our embassies or troops.

Nothing much changed until finally the radical Islamists were able to pull off a large-scale attack right here on our own shores with the physically, financially, and emotionally devastating attacks of September 11th, 2001 against Washington and New York.

Less than one year into his first term in office, President George W. Bush was faced with the question for the first time: “What are you prepared to do?”And for the first time, an American leader did not pull a knee-jerk response by lobbing a missile.

For perhaps the very first time, an American leader and his team actually sat down and took a good, long, hard look at the reality of the situation.

The United States was not the victim of some random attack by 20 guys who hijacked some planes. America was attacked by an entity which viewed us as a sworn enemy and wanted nothing less than either our destruction or our capitulation to their worldview. Join up with Islam completely or die, that was and is the message from this enemy.

This was not the usual, traditional type of enemy, and fighting them would require an entirely new mindset and commitment level. In days now long gone by we could identify an enemy as a nation-state or group thereof, and largely pinpoint this enemy and defeat them on a geographical battlefield.

The enemy that we now faced was more of a network of ideological radicals scattered in both large and small groups all over the globe, including some in our own country, that was in some cases well-funded and trained. In some cases this network was being expressly, implicitly, or tacitly supported by a nation-state.

Faced with destruction, devastation, and death on his home front on his watch, President Bush answered the question fully when on September 15th, 2001 he said the following:

 “This act will not stand. We will find who did it. We will smoke them out of their holes; we will get them running; and we will bring them to justice. We will not only deal with those who dare attack America, we will deal with those who harbor them, and feed them, and house them. Make no mistake about it. Underneath our tears is the strong determination of America to win this war. And we will win it.”

In this statement, Bush correctly recognized that the problem was not only with the people who actually pulled off the attacks of 9/11, but fully extended to those who supported and nurtured these people both physically and ideologically.

Bush also here became the first American leader to publicly acknowledge that we were at war, and further, he promised that we would win that war. But he also went further, recognizing that this war would be long:

“This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient. But I can assure the American people I am determined, I’m not going to be distracted, I will keep my focus…It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully into the 21st century.”

The problem was clear, a war was declared on us, attacks were taking place against us, and Americans were dying. The problem was recognized with an acknowledgement that we were indeed at war. The question of what we were prepared to do about it seemed to be answered appropriately: we would fight wherever necessary for as long as necessary to win decisively to ensure lasting peace.

While we dealt them blows on their home bases in Afghanistan and began to establish a democratic foothold in the Middle East both there and in Iraq, the Islamists continued the war with attacks on the trains of Madrid, Spain on March 11th, 2004 and on school children in Beslan, Russia on September 1st, 2004 and on the buses and subways in London, England on July 7th, 2005 among others.

Unfortunately a problem began to develop. As we finally took the fight to the radical Islamists, some Americans, particularly Democratic Party politicians who were out of political power and their media lackeys, all too quickly forgot the pain and destruction of 9/11 and the many other Islamic attacks on America and our allies. They began to use the continuing war and the inevitable American service person deaths as a political football.

During the final 2,682 days of his two terms stretching over more than 7 years following those 9/11 attacks, the policies and strategies of President Bush and his team kept the United States safe from any further successful attacks by a determined enemy who was demonstrating all around the rest of the world that it was still very capable of delivering death and destruction.

The current American administration wants desperately to end our involvement in this war. It was elected largely by painting President Bush as a hateful war-monger and won with a promise to take that very action, in fact. However, on actually taking office and being faced with the reality of the situation themselves, Barack Obama and his people seem surprised to find that is it not America that is the problem after all.

This past week saw a reminder from al Qaeda and the radical Islamists that this war is far from over. They again attempted to use airliners to deliver devastating attacks against the United States on American soil. In fact, they continue to seek nuclear, bio-chemical, radiological and other weapons of mass destruction in what will likely one day be a successful large-scale attack on the United States.

The radical Islamists do not care what American political party is in power. They do not care what the skin color or sex or age is of the American president at any given time. They care only about one thing, that America openly convert to Islam and accept Sharia Law as the ruling cultural influence and legal authority. Anything less will result in the continuation of the war from their end.

That is the real important thing that we need to remember, that a war is not over just because we pull many or even all of our troops out of any country. Vietnam did not end when we Americans fled with our tails between our legs. Instead, the victorious North Vietnamese slaughtered an estimated 4.5 million South Vietnamese who our brave military persons had been protecting. But hey, a bunch of hippies and newscasters felt better, so it was okay.

Unless we become even more determined to fight this war against radical Islam with stronger conventional forces and tactics backed by more determined diplomatic energy and support to the region in finances and infra-structure development over what will likely be decades of commitment, we will lose. And the ramifications of our failure now will be even greater than our failure to win in Vietnam.

It likely won’t happen suddenly or overnight, and maybe not even over one generation. But Islam and its accompanying discrimination, intimidation, and hatred will eventually win out. Either that, or some totalitarian regime of Communism led by Russia or China will become the dominant power. The failure this time of the world’s beacon of freedom, the United States of America, will be a devastating blow to freedom everywhere.

So as every bomb explodes, as every school is attacked, as every head is lopped off, as more Americans are threatened and killed, as our leadership continues to talk tough after an attack while plotting our retreat the question begins to shout out to the American public. Do you want to become Islamic, or die? If the answer is neither, then you are again faced with that one simple question: what are you prepared to do?

NOTE: This continues the ongoing ‘Islamism Series’, each entry of which can be viewed by clicking on to that tag below 

9/11: Not the first attack on America, won’t be the last

“The British are Coming!” “Remember the Alamo!” “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” “9/11”

All of these phrases are now burned by history into the collective American consciousness, automatically bringing us back to times when our nation was under attack right here on our own soil.

However, the first three are actually a bit misleading in that regard. Neither the British attacks in the Revolutionary War, the Mexican attack in Texas, or the Japanese attack in Hawaii happened in an official state of the Union.

In the first, the United States was not a fully formed, world recognized, independent nation, but instead was fighting for some type of independence from the British empire. It shouted a warning among the American colonists that British troops were approaching, and is usually specifically related to the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

It also hearkens us back to a time when British ‘red coats’ were firing on Americans, burning homes and businesses, and marching across the land that we now know as the United States of America.

The battle at the Alamo mission also was not fought on what was then technically United States soil, but was fought between the Republics of Mexico and Texas in the aftermath of the Mexican revolution. It was a decade before Texas would officially become a U.S. state.

The Texan forces fighting for their independence from the Mexican government where vastly outnumbered, yet fought off the Mexican troops valiantly before finally being overrun and massacred. The incident rallied Texans to eventual victory, and ultimately to statehood.

Again, the Japanese sneak attack in Hawaii did not technically take place on an official state in the Union. On December 7th, 1941, Hawaii was an annexed American territory and the site of an extremely strategic naval base located at Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese bombs and kamakazi pilots virtually wiped out the American Pacific Naval fleet that morning, it not only sparked our entry into World War II, but also showed the importance of Hawaii to our interests, resulting in full statehood by 1959.

Most people alive today know full well of the events of 9/11 as they relate to more attacks on American soil, attacks this time on an official state (New York) as well as on the seat of our government (Washington, D.C.), along with a thwarted attack that ended in the loss of American lives in Pennsylvania.

Here in Philadelphia and along much of the American east coast, today is a dark, gloomy day on which the rain pours from the skies. I will refrain from talk of it being tears for the lives of the nearly 3,000 victims lost that day. The only reason that I point out the bleak weather conditions today is to relate how stark the contrast it is with that absolutely gorgeous late summer morning, now eight years ago.

America awoke and began it’s commute to work on that Tuesday morning with little thought of the radical Islamic assault that was fully planned and already operational. Despite repeated threats and actual attacks leading up to that day, most Americans had their heads in the sand regarding men such as Osama bin Laden and groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda. We were virtually untouchable and absolutely indestructible as a nation. All that went away in just a couple of hours.

Despite the magnitude and suddeness of those attacks, the loss of all of those lives, the televised attacks on and collapse of the iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, a jet airplane ramming through the core of our national defense at the Pentegon, the grounding of American air traffic for almost a week, and the subsequent wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan we seem to have learned little.

The radical Islamists who attacked us that morning were not representatives of any particular nation. We were not attacked that morning and at other times by Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iran, or Libya, or Egypt, or any single Middle Eastern or Arabic nation or group of nations. We were attacked by radical groups operating within those nations who are inspired by the Koran and their faith to conquer the world on behalf of Islam.

In past wars and battles, whether fought to form the United States as with Britain, to expand the United States as with Mexico, or to defend the United States as with Japan the enemy was usually an easy to define nation-state. It had borders, populations, armies, resources, and allies that were usually easily definable.

To win, you had to defeat the other guys in head-to-head physical combat. There was a measure of ideology that needed to be defeated as well, but ultimately if you won the physical battles and suppressed the enemy troops and their leaders, you were the clear winner.

I put it to you that it is no different now. We still need to win that physical battle. But as with those past conflicts, this is also a war of ideologies, and we must also win on that front to ever have a long-lasting peace. This war must be fought and won on two fronts, both of which we must be willing to support and sustain if we want to win.

On one hand we must support and sustain the ideological war that is raging within Islam itself. There are moderate forces within that religion, the 2nd largest on the planet with an influence over approximately 1.5 billion people, or almost 1 in every 5 people on the planet.

The radical forces calling for that religion to control the world not only religiously, but also sociologically, financially, politically is growing. We must support in every way the forces within Islam that want to maintain it as a part of the whole where the world is concerned, not as a world domination ideology.

On the other hand, we must be willing to back that financial and rhetorical support up with our armed forces. The radical Islamist groups are heavily armed, well equipped, and train regularly.

And their numbers and influence are growing, as is their technology. It is just a matter of time before nuclear weapons are in the hands of radical Islamic terrorist regimes. Once that happens, these groups will use these weapons to further their agenda in Israel, Europe, and here in America. Until such elements are effectively wiped out, we are going to have physical battles to fight.

There will be a number of remembrances across the country and around the world today on the 8th anniversary of those radical Islamic attacks on September 11th, 2001. There will be a few television programs this evening that will recall the events of that day. If you have not yet seen them, I can highly recommend four different films that you need to watch.

9/11” was perhaps the best documentary on the day of the attacks made to date. This and “United 93” are probably the two best films ever made to this point. “World Trade Center” is also a well made dramatic depiction of the New York attacks. Finally, the documentary film “Obsession” tells the full story of the radical Islamic problem across the world today.

9/11 was not the beginning of this world-wide ideological struggle, and we will not likely see the end any time soon, if ever. There will be further dates to remember, catch-phrases to live in infamy.

Today we should remember those who lost their lives that day, as well as those who fought and continue to fight for victory in the continuing ideological struggle against the forces of radical Islam. Those forces are still out there, still bent on that same world domination, and the United States of America continues to stand as the best defense against their aggression.

Where Will You Be When the Missiles Drop?

During his State of the Union address back in January of 2002, President George W. Bush famously called the nations of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “Axis of Evil”, criticizing nations that sponsored terrorism and were seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Liberals everywhere, and especially their cheer leading media, called Bush a war monger and a liar, among other choice names.

Sitting here over seven years later, we understand far better that President Bush was in actuality simply a truth teller.

At the time of Bush’s speech, former Iraqi leader Sadaam Hussein was still in power. He had already shown his propensity for evil and terror by using weapons of mass destruction on his own people.

He tortured political enemies, and his sons used ‘rape rooms’ to satisfy their own lusts and to further punish political enemies. Thankfully, the United States acted to rid the world of this evil power structure.

In Iran, a crazed President came to power under with the blessing of the Islamic religious leadership. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to assail the United States with threats of destruction and domination by Islam and accelerated Iranian efforts to develop or otherwise obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon in the hands of a fundamentalist Islamic regime will mean devastating war at some point in the near future. They are simply that crazy.

For years, as the U.S. took the first steps against that ‘Axis of Evil’ by destroying and dismantling the repressive Iraqi power structure and installing the beginnings of a nascent democracy, and while we kept up pressure on Iran to change course of its own volition, we pretty much turned a blind eye towards North Korea. Oh, there were statements made, and back channel discussions held, but nothing concrete.

So what have the North Koreans done during that time under the direction of their crazed, despotic ruler Kim Jong Il? They have aggressively pursued a nuclear weapons and missile strategy, warning western nations not to interfere, and now have nuclear weapons and are developing the missile systems necessary to deliver them against their enemies.

For the past few days, the USS John McCain, a Navy destroyer, has been tailing a Korean ship named the Kang Nam, off the Chinese coast. The reason is that this ship has been found to transport illegal goods in the past. Korea stated on Wednesday that if the U.S. intercepted the ship, they would consider it an act of war: “If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will…wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all.”

Very soon, the U.S. leadership under President Barack Obama is going to be faced with the choice of confronting North Korea militarily, or facing a world where a hostile dictatorial regime has nuclear weapons capable of wiping out American cities.

Will Obama try to talk while the North Koreans build missiles and bombs? Will America become like Europe, issuing strongly worded statements, with nothing to back them up? Will he fiddle while Rome burns?

It turns out that President Bush was not lying about these aggressive regimes after all. Maybe we can just allow as many nations that wish to do so to build nuclear bombs and missiles, right? After all, who are we to tell other countries what they can and cannot do? How arrogant, right? As long as we are nice to them, they won’t bother us, right? If only the world had been nicer to Adolf Hitler, right?

Peace comes through one thing, and one thing only: strength. If you have it, but show that you are unwilling to use it, then you may as well not have it at all. Now many have voted for Obama to get us out and keep us out of military conflict.

Perhaps if you’re a liberal who voted for him, the more important question that you should be asking yourself is, where will you be when the missiles drop?