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16 March 2013

Blitz Britain: Amazing Colour Pictures Of London Under Siege From Nazi bombers During World War II (Photo Essay)

London smolders

For many, photographs from the World War II have only been seen in grainy black and white.

But now, new colour images have emerged that show the full horror of the destruction inflicted by Nazi bombings across London.

The powerful images were released to mark the 70th anniversary of the launch of Winston Churchill's 'V for Victory' campaign on July 19, 1941.

A London building ablaze during the Blitz

Life goes on: Workers clear the rubble from a building decimated in a heavy German air raid bombing during the Battle of Britain

Clearing up: Workers remove rubble from a building decimated in a heavy German air raid during the Blitz. Wallpaper inside the shattered bedrooms can even be seen in the gap left in the row of houses

Standing tall: The spire of the Central Criminal Court - better known as the Old Bailey - rises defiantly in a landscape scarred by a heavy German air raid

Standing tall: The spire of the Central Criminal Court - better known as the Old Bailey - rises defiantly while all around it buildings have become jagged shells in a landscape scarred by the relentless German bombings

On the night of October 14 1940, a bomb penetrated the road and exploded in Balham Underground station, killing 68 people. A No 88 bus travelling in black-out conditions then fell into the crater.

On the night of October 14 1940, a bomb penetrated the road and exploded in Balham Underground station, killing 68 people. A No 88 bus travelling in black-out conditions then fell into the crater. 

High-street terror: The incredible destruction of the Blitz is revealed in this image as a double decker bus is plunged into a bombed crater

In this extraordinary picture, the double-decker bus is still visible amid crumbling tarmac and bent girders left in an enormous crater caused by a bomb which landed in the middle of a Balham high street, south London

Ablaze: Fire from a direct hit destroys the inside of this building leaving only a shell

Ablaze: Firemen battle to control flames raging through a town house ravaged by a direct hit in 1940

Ghost town: A road in London lies covered in rubble

This eerie image shows a London road deserted and covered in rubble after an air raid

The genesis for the campaign began in January of that year when Belgian minister Victor de Laveleye suggested that his country uses the V as a rallying symbol. This was then adopted by the BBC and then Winston Churchill began to use the term later that year and waved the V sign with his right hand.

Other European leaders soon followed Churchill's lead.

The Prime Minister's campaign was launched after the Luftwaffe launched its sustained bombing of cities across Britain. Unsurprisingly, London bore the brunt of the raids between between September 7, 1940 and May 10, 1941.

The capital suffered 76 continuous nights of attacks which obliterated more than one million homes, while across Britain some 40,000 people were killed.

But even after eight months of bombing, British industrial production was never seriously hampered and the war effort continued to operate and expand.

Despite the terrifying raids by the Luftwaffe, they attacks failed to breaks the spirit of the British people. People pressed on with their lives and in one of these extraordinary images a man can be seen in a park calmly reading a book while a barrage balloon hovers close by.

To see more colour pictures of The Blitz click here.

Preparing for battle: As ground crewmen inspect a Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane in a deserted field outside of London in 1941 pilots discuss their strategy for fighting in the air

Preparing for battle: A noticeably young ground crewmen prepare a Spitfire in a field outside of London during the height of the Battle of Britain. In the foreground a group of pilots pause to discuss tactics

Stiff upper lip: A man reads a book while sitting on a park bench as a moored balloon floats in the background. A second one soars into the distance

Stiff upper lip: A man determined to keep a sense of normality reads a book on a park bench as a moored barrage balloon, designed to scupper air attacks, floats in the background and a second, right, soars above

The random nature of the bombing is clearly demonstrated here as a church, right, remains untouched while a vast swathe of buildings close by were reduced to rubble

The random nature of the bombing is clearly demonstrated here as a church, right, remains untouched while a vast swathe of buildings close by were reduced to rubble

Wreckage: A construction crew carries out the task of completing the demolition of a site largely destroyed in an air raid

Wreckage: Workers wielding pick-axes and shovels are tasked with clearing away the remains of bombed building that would have once stood next to this Central London church

Damage in London during The Blitz, 1940. 

A London Civil Defence Rescue crew helps remove injured and dead civilians from destroyed buildings

A man being pulled from the rubble after being trapped for 3 hours

The Blitz, Unexploded Bomb, London 1943

Civil Defence forces work to disarm and remove an unexploded bomb

Life goes on in London, despite the destruction caused by German air raids

Londoners work a "victory garden" in Kensington Gardens in the midst of World War II

 Landmarks: The view across the River Thames of the House of Parliament in scaffolding in 1941

A symbol of resilience: The Houses of Parliament with part of them covered in scaffolding are seen across the River Thames on a sunny day in 1941

File:The London Blitz, 1940 MH26395 2.jpg

The famous photograph of Eileen Dunne, aged three, by Sir Cecil Beaton as she sits in a bed with her doll at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children after being injured during an air raid in London

Photo Essay Links - Page I

Beppe Grillo: Italy's New Mussolini


Beppe Grillo has much in common with Mussolini

By Nicholas Farrell

The stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo, like the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini before him, has a craving to take over the piazza and mesmerise the crowd. Where once young Italians chanted the mantra ‘Du-ce! Du-ce!’ now they chant  ‘Bep-pe! Bep-pe!’. But it is not just a shared need to rant and rave at large numbers of complete strangers that hirsute Beppe and bald Benito have in common. Worryingly, for Italy and also for Europe (where democracy seems incapable of solving the existential crisis), there is a lot more to it than that.

Beppe Grillo founded the MoVimento 5 Stelle (M5S) in Milan on 4 October 2009. The capital ‘V’ stands for his signature slogan ‘Vaffa!’ which roughly speaking means ‘Fuck off!’ — in his case, to everything more or less, except wind farms. ‘Surrender! You’re surrounded!’ he bellowed over and over again at his rallies. The phrase was traditionally very popular with Italian fascists. He was referring to all Italy’s politicians, except his lot.

Now, less than four years after its foundation, his movement is the largest single party in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, after it secured 26 per cent of the poll at this week’s inconclusive Italian general elections. It is not, insists this fascist of the forest, a party. It is a movement. Parties, he is adamant, are the problem, not the solution.

Mussolini founded his Fasci di Combattimento in Milan on 23 March 1919 and less than four years later he was prime minister. Fascism was not, he insisted, a party but a movement. Parties, he was adamant, were the problem, not the solution. Fascism would be an ‘anti-party’ of free spirits who refused to be tied down by the straitjacket of parties with their dogmas and doctrines. This is precisely what Grillo says about his own movement.

Mussolini was the rising star in Italy’s Marxist party until his expulsion in 1914 because he — like the French and German Marxists but unlike the Italian ones — was in favour of Italian intervention in the first world war. He looked destined for the scrapheap.

Grillo, a former communist, was banned from national television in the late 1980s as a result of his defamatory performances. Things did not look rosy for him either. Forced to perform in piazzas and theatres, he took to ridiculing and demonising politicians, and then in 2005 he founded a blog that quickly became the most popular in Italy and a forum for the angry and the disaffected, mostly young, for all those whose state of mind is defined by the word ‘Vaffa!’. He duly began a national ‘Vaffa! Day’ or ‘V Day’ in 2007.

Shortly before he founded his movement, he tried to become leader of Italy’s main left-wing party — the ex-communist Partito democratico (PD) — but it would not let him stand in its leadership elections. At this week’s elections, the PD’s coalition was a winner of sorts with a majority of the seats in the lower house, thanks to the latest Italian electoral law that gives the majority of seats to the party with the most votes, however few. The PD’s coalition polled just 29.6 per cent of the vote compared with the 29.1 per cent of Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition. But despite that, the PD grouping gets 340 seats to his 121. In the senate, though, where different rules apply, no one has a majority.

If, however, the PD had allowed Grillo to stand in its leadership contest, he would no doubt have led it to overwhelming victory. Instead it chose the monumentally smug and tedious former communist Pier Luigi Bersani. But we haven’t seen the last of Beppe.

What gave Mussolini popular traction is what gives Grillo traction: a virulent hatred of parliament and the politicians who infest it. The dictator famously said he could have moved his bivouacs into ‘this deaf and grey chamber’ but had chosen not to. The comedian uses the same language. Whereas Mussolini spread the word through his own mass daily newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, and enforced it by means of his blackshirts, Grillo does so through his website, Il Blog di Beppe Grillo, and violent verbal abuse and ostracism of opponents. Whereas Mussolini travelled by train to his rallies, Grillo travels to his by camper van.

‘I did not invent fascism,’ said Mussolini, ‘I extracted it from the Italian people.’ Grillo did not invent his movement, he says, he merely provided the humus — the internet forum — in which it grew. During the election campaign, he did not give one television or newspaper interview, because journalists, like politicians, are the enemy. Both Mussolini and Grillo appeal to the spirit and soul rather than the wallet and mind of Italians. Fascism was a civic religion and the Duce its god. The MoVimento 5 Stelle is a sect, with Grillo its guru, and like all good sects it does not have an office. Its HQ is not real, but virtual: Beppe’s blog.

Italian fascism, even though no one is allowed to say so, was a left-wing revolutionary movement which Mussolini founded because the first world war had made him realise that the proletariat is more loyal to its nation than its class. At the May 1921 general election, the fascisti won their first seats in the Italian parliament (only 35). Yet just 18 months later, after the March on Rome in October 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele III had appointed Mussolini prime minister.

At this week’s elections, no coalition, let alone party, got more than 30 per cent of the vote. Any government that somehow emerges from the debacle is bound to be short-lived. History repeats itself first as tragedy, wrote Karl Marx, then as farce: the comedian Grillo’s version of Mussolini’s March on Rome could be only a matter of months away.

Fascism was able to flourish thanks to the impotence and corruption of Italian democracy, especially in the first two decades of the 20th century, which made it incapable of dealing with an existential crisis — the threat of communist revolution. In 1945, with the fall of fascism and the monarchy, Italy returned to an updated form of the same impotent and corrupt democracy. Through fear of dictators, the new constitution severely limited the powers of prime minister, cabinet and president, and complex versions of proportional representation made it impossible for any one party to obtain a majority of the seats.

This was fine, more or less, in the boom times. Not any more. Italy has the third highest sovereign debt in the world as a proportion of GDP, its economy is in permanent recession, its tax burden and red-tape suffocating businesses, and its labour market paralysed by a forest of laws that make it virtually impossible to be taken on full-time or fired.

As with fascism, Grillo and his movement have flourished thanks to the impotence and corruption of the Italian parliament in the face of the current economic crisis — the threat of meltdown caused by the euro.

The unelected economics professor Mario Monti, who replaced Berlusconi as premier in a palace coup in November 2011, merely raised taxes and invented new ones.

But austerity is not just raising taxes; it’s cutting spending. Monti did nothing to hack back the monstrous debt (it rose from 120 per cent to 129 per cent). He did nothing to stimulate growth. Youth unemployment is at 35 per cent, and unemployment in total is much higher than the official 12 per cent if you count the hundreds of thousands still technically employed but paid by the state not to work.

Like fascism, Grillo’s movement is essentially left-wing and in favour of the state sorting things out — the Italian state. But it is against the euro and Europe — and Germany in particular.

Mussolini wrote soon after founding fascism that it is ‘difficult to define’. Fascism does not have ‘statutes’ or ‘transcending programmes’. Therefore ‘it is natural’ that it should attract ‘the young’ rather than the old who are likely to refuse its ‘freshness’.

Grillo’s manifesto is called ‘Il non statuto’. On his blog he says, ‘We’re all young …  We’re a movement of many people who are uniting from the bottom up. We don’t have structures, hierarchies, bosses, secretaries … No one gives us orders.’

Welcome to the new fascist future.

Related Reading:

Green Facism: Beppe Grillo Is the Most Dangerous Man in Europe

Five Star Movement leader and comedian Beppe Grillo speaks during a rally in Rome.

By Jan Fleischhauer

Five Star Movement leader and comedian Beppe Grillo speaks during a rally in Rome.

Beppe Grillo, leader of the populist Five Star Movement in Italy, prides himself on his ridicule of the parliamentary system. Yet while his anti-establishment rhetoric sounds appealing, at heart it's actually anti-democratic. And very similar to that of an infamous Italian from the past.

The man whom German center-left leader Peer Steinbrück called a "clown" does have entertainment value, that much we can agree on. Italy and the euro? "De facto, Italy is already out of the euro zone." Rome and the parliamentary system? "I give all the parties six more months, then it's over here." And these quotes are only the highlights from a recent interview with Beppe Grillo published by the German business daily Handeslblatt. When it comes to straight talking, even Steinbrück, reknowned for his lack of a filter, is surpassed by Grillo.

Steinbrück got a fair amount of flack for his clown comparison. If he had used the term to describe only Berlusconi, everyone would have simply nodded in agreement. But Grillo? The leader of the streets and hero of the youth, whose third-placed Five Star Movement demonstrated the degree to which Merkel's austerity diktat is pushing Italy to its limits? The advocate for shorter terms of office and a cleaner way of doing politics? Even within the ranks of Steinbrück's Social Democrats (SPD), people were calling for their candidate to be put in his place.

A part of the sympathy that Grillo enjoys in Germany is undoubtedly thanks to his proximity to the political left. Much of what the Five Star Movement espouses could easily be found in the platforms of the Attac movement or Germany's Green party: the passion for alternative sources of energy, the promise of more civic engagement, the protest against the "fat cats" of international finance and the calls to put them on a diet. But that's just the surface. Such fluff doesn't propel a party to the top in just a few short years, neither in Italy nor anywhere else.

Grillo derives his energy from resentment. The real key to his success lies in the exploitation of anger -- at Germany, at Brussels bureaucrats, at the whole system. That is what makes him great, not the appeal to reason or the love of democracy.

As with all other revolutionaries, Grillo's answer to the malaise of the present age is extremely simple. You just have to do away with the politicians or, better yet, jettison everything that smells of power and privilege. "We are young," it says on his blog. "We have no structure, heirarchy, leaders or secretaries. We take orders from no one." Grillo's comparison of his movement to the French Revolution, which took its ideas of equality with bloody seriousness, is no accident. He relativizes by saying, "without the guillotine," but the stipulation means little. When people are incited into rage, those who fueled their passions never take the blame.

Good Politics Relies on Compromise 

It's the puritanism of the radical moralist that distinguishes Grillo from his competitors and attracts the masses. "Every corner will be illuminated, every committee, every conference hall, every floor," one Five Star member decreed after the elections. The movement wants to "thoroughly clean up the state apparatus," read another explanation as to why so many people voted for the comedian.

In the real world, politics is an arduous, rather unappetizing business. It depends on compromise that, by definition, not everyone is happy with. Sometimes you have to ask the people to accept things they don't understand or want. The Social Democrats in Germany are a case in point. Ten years ago, the SPD passed a controversial package of job-market and welfare reforms. They strengthened the country, but hurt the party. The idea that the votes of the street are somehow more democratic than the votes of representatives sent to parliament in a democratic election is an illusion that has found adherents in Germany as well.

In his best moments, Grillo talks like a cult leader. When he speaks of being "not a commander, but a guarantor," he sounds like a swami who could just as easily be leading the penitant to an ashram. But with a bit of historical awareness, one can see darker parallels. 

Echoes of Italian Fascism 

In the Swiss magazine Weltwoche, British journalist Nicholas Farrell draws a comparison between Grillo and another famous Italian who founded his own populist movement nearly a hundred years ago: Benito Mussolini. Farrell is an expert on the fascist dictator, having written a much cited 2003 biography of Il Duce.

Mussolini also claimed that his fascist group "Fasci di Combattimento" was not a party but a movement, because political parties were the problem, not the solution. He too saw himself and his followers as cleansers who would finally clean up the frail and corrupt system. And he likewise claimed to represent the youth and freethinkers, those who no longer believed in programs and statutes but in rejuvinating action.

Farrell even finds similarities in the two men's choice of words. Whereas Mussolini spoke of parliament as a "deaf, gray hall" that he refused to enter, Grillo describes his refusal to cooperate in a similar style: "The old parties are coming to an end. They should give back what they stole, and leave. Either they follow us, or they are doomed." The mockery of the parliamentary system under the guise of true democracy is a trick that all opponents of democracy espouse, regardless of where they come from.

It is easily overlooked nowadays, but fascism at its heart was a leftist movement. Mussolini never made a secret of his orgins: "I am and always will be a socialist. My convictions will never change. They are implanted into my bones," he told his comrades as they expelled him from the party at the outbreak of war in 1914 because of his pro-war stance. Farrell concludes that "Mussolini's fascism was black, Grillo's is green, but they both have a red heart."

One can only hope that Steinbrück was right when he said Italians had elected two clowns. Unfortunately it looks as if he was very wrong about one of them.

Related Reading:

The Secret Document That Set Obama's Middle East Policy

By Barry Rubin 

“We have to confront violent extremism in all of its forms.… America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.”  --President Barack Obama, Cairo, June 2009. 

“The United States is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise….Resistance is the only solution. [Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance.”  --Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Badi, Cairo, September 2010.

What did the president know and when did he know it? That's a question made classical by the Watergate scandal. Now it is possible to trace precisely what Obama knew and when he knew it. And it proves that the installment of the Muslim Brotherhood into power was a conscious and deliberate strategy of the Obama Administration developed before the "Arab Spring" began.

In February 2011 the New York Times ran an extremely complimentary article on President Obama  by Mark Landler, who some observers say is the biggest apologist for Obama on the newspaper. That’s quite an achievement.  Landler praised Obama for having tremendous foresight, in effect, predicting the “Arab Spring.” According to Landler, 

“President Obama ordered his advisers last August [2010] to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday."

Which advisors? The then counter-terrorism advisor and now designated CIA chief, John Brennan? National Security Council senior staffer Samantha Power?  If it was done by Obama's own staff, rather than State and Defense, it's likely that these people or at least one of them was the key author. 

So should U.S. policy help allies avoid such sweeping change by standing firm or by helping them make adjustments? No, explained the report, it should get on the side of history and wield a broom to do the sweeping. The article continued:

“Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, [emphasis added] these officials said.

“The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.”

As I noted, the article was quite explicitly complimentary (and that’s an understatement) about how Obama knew what was likely to happen and was well prepared for it.

But that’s precisely the problem. It wasn't trying to deal with change but was pushing for it; it wasn't asserting U.S. interests but balancing them off against other factors. In the process, U.S. interests were forgotten.

If Landler was right then Obama did have a sense of what was going to happen and prepared for it. It cannot be said that he was caught unawares.  This view would suggest, then, that he thought American strategic interests could be protected and broader instability avoided by overthrowing U.S. allies as fast as possible and by showing the oppositions that he was on their side. Presumably the paper pointed out the strength of Islamist forces and the Muslim Brotherhood factor and then discounted any dangers from this quarter. One could have imagined how other U.S. governments would have dealt with this situation. Here is my imagined passage from a high-level government document: 

In light of the likelihood of sweeping political changes, with countries from Bahrain to Yemen ripe for popular revolt, U.S. policy should either help friendly governments retain control or encourage them to make reforms that would increase the scope of freedom in a way that would satisfy popular desires without endangering U.S. interests and long-term stability. In the event that the fall of any given regime seemed likely, U.S. policy should work both publicly and behind the scenes to try to ensure the triumph of moderate, pro-democratic forces that would be able to prevent the formation of radical Islamist dictatorships inimical to U.S. interests, regional peace, and the well-being of the local population. [Note: that is my reconstruction and NOT a quote from the document]

Such an approach would have been easy and in line with historic U.S. policy. We have every reason to believe that the State Department and the Defense Department favored such an approach.

But let’s look at precisely how the White House described the U.S. policy it wanted: 

" the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States,"

In other words, a popular revolt was going to happen (I’ve seen the cables from the U.S. embassy in Tunisia that accurately predicted an upheaval) but would it succeed or fail? The Obama Administration concluded that the revolt should succeed and set out to help make sure that it did so. As for who won, it favored not just moderate Islamic forces--which hardly existed as such--but moderate Islamist forces, which didn't exist at all.

Anyone who says that the United States did not have a lot of influence in these crises doesn’t know what they are talking about. Of course, the U.S. government didn’t control the outcome, its leverage was limited. But there’s a big difference between telling the Egyptian army to stay in control, dump Mubarak, and make a mild transition—and we, the United States, will back you—or telling them that Washington wanted the generals to stand aside, let Mubarak be overthrown, and have a thoroughgoing regime change, a fundamental transformation, to coin a phrase.

So the Obama Administration did not stand beside friendly regimes or help to manage a limited transition with more democracy and reforms. No, it actively pushed to bring down at least four governments—Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

It did not push for the overthrow of two anti-American regimes—Iran and Syria—but on the contrary was still striving for good relations with those two dictatorships. Equally, it did not push for the fall of radical anti-American governments in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. No, it only pushed for the fall of “valuable allies.” There was no increase in support for dissidents in Iran despite, as we will see in a moment, internal administration predictions of unrest there, too. As for Syria, strong administration support for the dictatorship there continued for months until it was clear that the regime was in serious trouble. It seems reasonable to say that the paper did not predict the Syrian civil war. 

Want more evidence about the internal administration document? Here's another article from the time which explains: 

"The White House had been debating the likelihood of a domino effect since youth-driven revolts had toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, even though the American intelligence community and Israel’s intelligence services had estimated that the risk to President Mubarak was low — less than 20 percent, some officials said. 

"According to senior officials who participated in Mr. Obama’s policy debates, the president took a different view. He made the point early on, a senior official said, that `this was a trend' that could spread to other authoritarian governments in the region, including in Iran. By the end of the 18-day uprising, by a White House count, there were 38 meetings with the president about Egypt. Mr. Obama said that this was a chance to create an alternative to “the Al Qaeda narrative” of Western interference." 

Notice that while this suggests the debate began after the unrest started, full credit is given to Obama personally, not to U.S. intelligence agencies, for grasping the truth. This is like the appropriation by the White House of all the credit for getting Usama bin Ladin, sort of a cult of personality thing. We know for a fact that the State Department predicted significant problems arising in Tunisia (from the Wikileaks documents) and perhaps that is true for other countries as well. But if Obama wants to take personal credit for the new U.S. policy that means he also has to take personal blame for the damage it does. 

Now I assume what I'm about to say isn't going to be too popular but I'll also bet that history will prove it correct: The revolution in Egypt was not inevitable and Obama's position was a self-fulfilling prophecy. And judging from what happened at the time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agrees with me. The idea of an "alternative to `the al-Qaida narrative"'of Western interference is straight Brennan. What Obama was really saying was: Ha! So al-Qaida claims we interfere to put reactionary pro-Western dictators in power just because they're siding with us? We'll show them that we can put popular Islamist dictators in power even though they are against us!

If I'm writing this somewhat facetiously I mean it very seriously. 

And here's more proof from the Washington Post in March 2011 which seems to report on the implementation of the White House paper's recommendations:

"The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region." That says it all, doesn't it? The implication is that the U.S. government knew that the Brotherhood would take power and thought this was a good thing.

It continued:

"`If our policy can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won't be able to adapt to this change,'" the senior administration official said. "`We're also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear."'

Might that be then counterterrorism advisor and now CIA director John Brennan? I'd bet on it. 

What did Obama and his advisors think would happen? Why that out of gratitude for America stopping its (alleged) bullying and imperialistic ways and getting on the (alleged) side of history the new regimes would be friendly. The Muslim Brotherhood in particular would conclude that America was not its enemy. You know, one Brotherhood leader would supposedly say to another, all of these years we thought the United States was against us but now we see that they are really our friends. Remember Obama's Cairo speech? He really gets us! 

More likely he'd be saying: We don't understand precisely what the Americans are up to but they are obviously weak, cowardly, and in decline! In fact, that's what they did say. Remember that President Jimmy Carter's attempts to make friends with the new Islamist regime in Iran in 1979 fed a combination of Iranian suspicion and arrogance which led to the hostage crisis and Tehran daring to take on the United States single-handed. America, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the time, can't do a damned thing against us. 

Incidentally, everyone except the American public—which means people in the Middle East—knows that Obama cut the funding for real democratic groups. His Cairo speech was important not for the points so often discussed (Israel, for example) but because it heralded the age of political Islamism being dominant in the region. Indeed, Obama practically told those people that they should identify not as Arabs but as Muslims.

In broader terms, what does Obama’s behavior remind me of? President Jimmy Carter pushing Iran’s shah for human rights and other reforms in 1977 and then standing aloof as the revolution unrolled—and went increasingly in the direction of radical Islamists—in 1978.

As noted above, that didn’t work out too well.

Incidentally, the State Department quite visibly did not support Obama’s policy in 2011. It wanted to stand with its traditional clients in the threatened Arab governments, just as presumably there were many in the Defense Department who wanted to help the imperiled militaries with whom they had cooperated for years. And that, by the way, includes the Turkish army which was being visibly dismantled by the Islamist regime in Ankara.

While the State Department backed down on Egypt it drew the line on Bahrain. Yes, there is a very unfair system there in which a small Sunni minority dominates a large Shia majority and yes, too, some of the Shia opposition is moderate but the assessment was that a revolution would probably bring to power an Iranian satellite government. 

But the idea that they're going to be overthrown any way so let's give them a push did not apply to Iran or Syria or Hamas-government Gaza or Hizballah-governed Lebanon and not at all to Islamist-governed Turkey. 

It makes sense that this basic thinking also applied to Libya, where dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi was hardly a friend of the United States but had been on better behavior lately. As for Syria, the U.S. government indifference to who actually wins leadership of the new regime seems to carry over from the earlier crises.

Credit should be given to the U.S. government in two specific cases. Once the decision to overthrow Qadhafi was made, the result was a relatively favorable regime in Libya. That was a gain. The problem is that this same philosophy and the fragility of the regime helped produce the Benghazi incident. The other relatively positive situation was Iraq's post-Saddam government, to which most of the credit goes to Obama's predecessor but some to his administration. Still, Iraq seems to be sliding--in terms of its regional strategic stance, not domestically--closer toward Iran. 

At any rate, the evidence both public and behind the scenes seems to indicate that the Obama Administration decided on two principles in early 2011.

First, let’s help overthrow our friends before someone else does so and somehow we will benefit from being on the right side.

Second, it doesn’t really matter too much who takes power because somehow they will be better than their predecessors, somehow we will be more popular with them, and somehow U.S. interests will be preserved.

Landler definitely thought he was making Obama look good. Instead, I think, he was really showing us that the bad thinking and disastrous policy was planned and purposeful.

'Toon of the Day; We Wuuvvvss You. We Weeaally, Weeaally, Weeaally Do!