Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

07 September 2013

Drawing an Al-Qaeda Red Line

Why is Assad’s use of WMDs so much worse than Syrian rebels' allying with jihadists?

By Andrew C. McCarthy

Have you noticed who exactly the opposing camps are in Syria’s civil war — the aspect that the side chomping at the bit for American military intervention would prefer not to discuss?

In one corner, we have Bashar Assad. Unlike President Obama and his minions, who spent their first couple of years empowering Assad — Obama reopening diplomatic ties, Hillary pronouncing him a valiant “reformer,” Pelosi huddling with him, Kerry wining and dining him — many of us alleged “isolationists” on the right were never under any illusions about him. Assad is an anti-U.S. thug, the junior partner of Iran, America’s mortal enemy on the Shiite side of the Islamic-supremacist street. While the Obama administration has made an underwhelming case that the Syrian despot has used chemical weapons, let us stipulate for present purposes that the case is airtight. Let’s even concede the more dubious claim that Assad has launched more than one small-scale chemical attack.

Now on to the other corner: the Sunni Islamic supremacists, who are called “rebels” by the Beltway clerisy to avoid the inconvenience that they describe themselves as mujahideen (jihad warriors). The rebels are teeming with al-Qaeda-affiliated and al-Qaeda-inspired operatives — “extremists,” as the Obama administration and the GOP’s McCain wing call them, avoiding the inconvenience that what they are “extreme” about is Islam. Guys who ought to know better, like General Jack Keane, laughably underestimate their number at less than 4,000. But even Secretary of State Kerry conceded in congressional testimony that it is several multiples of that amount — as many as 25,000 (i.e., up to “25 percent” of a force that Kerry put at “70,000 to 100,000 oppositionists”).

Even if things were “only” as bad as Kerry suggests, that would be a frightening picture. After Benghazi, do you suppose empowering — I should say, further empowering — 25,000 jihadists might be a smidge problematic? But that’s not the half of it. Kerry was desperately trying to portray the “rebels” as predominantly “moderate”; undoubtedly, he was low-balling. Moreover, no matter what their number is, al-Qaeda affiliates punch way above their weight. They are trained, organized, disciplined, and lavishly funded by Gulf states that are delighted to have them make their mayhem outside the Gulf.

Even worse, the Obama Left and the GOP’s McCain wing are applying Washington’s lunatic definition of “moderate.” By this thinking, the Islamic ummah is divided into two camps: an al-Qaeda fringe in one, and in the other the teeming millions of “moderate,” tolerant, peace-loving “democracy” activists. In this fantasy, the Muslim Brotherhood — whose name the Beltway strains to avoid uttering in discussions of Syria — is moderate . . . and never you mind the bloody catastrophe the Brothers have wrought in nearby Egypt over the last few weeks and months.

In truth, the Brotherhood is an implacably Islamic-supremacist organization that is “moderate” only by comparison with al-Qaeda, and, even then, only if we are talking about al-Qaeda’s methodology of full-time savagery — the Brothers are part-timers who, unlike al-Qaeda, think violent jihad is just one item on the sharia-installation menu. As far as ideology goes — i.e., the imperative that sharia be installed — the two are on exactly the same page. If anything, the Brotherhood’s influence over the “oppositionists” is even greater than al-Qaeda’s. The Brothers are the antithesis of moderate. They are anti-American (though they’ll happily take our help before using it against us), anti-democratic (though they’ll happily hold popular elections in Muslim-majority countries), and rabidly anti-Semitic.

Are there secular democrats in Syria? Of course there are. Just as in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, however, they are severely undermanned. The contention that there is a strong alternative force within the opposition — rebel factions that oppose Assad, and that not only oppose the Qaeda/Brotherhood factions but are capable of winning without them and then running the country despite them — is a pipedream.

The “rebels” know this even if Washington won’t come to grips with it. Colonel Fatih Hasun is General Salim Idriss’s deputy in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — the assortment of purportedly moderate militias Senator McCain and the Obama administration claim it is in America’s interest to support. On August 22, Colonel Hasun announced that most of the senior commanders were threatening to resign from the FSA’s supreme military council because they reject two Western “red lines”: the demands that they (a) cease collaboration with al-Qaeda and (b) refrain from seizing Assad’s chemical-weapons sites. The FSA has no problem working with terrorists. Ideologically, many of its members have more in common with jihadists than they do with the West; more significantly, they know they cannot win without the jihadists.

Moreover, there’s the dirty little secret about chemical weapons: The rebels not only want them, they have them and they quite likely have used them, both in Syria and elsewhere. Al-Qaeda has been seeking to procure and use chemical weapons for over 20 years — and unlike Assad, al-Qaeda affiliates are quite likely to use them against the United States and Israel if they have the chance.

Now, I have a confession to make: I am unimpressed by the Western obsession over chemical weapons. They are ghastly, yes. But so, in the wrong hands, are bombs and jumbo jets and hollow-point bullets. To me, the shrieking over weapons of mass destruction is the international version of the Left’s domestic campaign against guns, and of a piece with its trendy revulsion against land- and sea-mines. This is the delusion that discord is caused by the song, not the singer. It is a cop-out: the pretense that there is a valid excuse for failing to grapple with the players and the ideologies that resort to violence — as if we live in a make-believe world where destructive weapons in the right hands are unnecessary to keep us safe; and where laws, conventions, and purported “norms” against various types of weapons are effective against rogues like Assad and al-Qaeda.

I’ll also confess to being even less persuaded than usual by the chemical-weapons arguments made specifically by those advocating American military intervention in Syria. They have been pushing for the administration to jump in on the side of the “rebels” all along — to arm them and abet them in the jihad against Assad. Their campaign has gotten precious little public support for a very simple reason: The American people are repulsed by the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. For that reason, in addition to there being no national-security interest in supporting those forces, few American politicians dare make a full-throated case for doing so. Supporters either try to abet the “rebels” without talking about it (as Obama did before the 2012 election), or rationalize that they are abetting “the moderates” . . . and hope you’re too uninformed to know who the “moderates” are (as Obama has done since the 2012 election).

For pro-interventionists, then, Assad’s use of chemical weapons has been manna from heaven. It has enabled them to rivet the nation’s attention to Assad’s atrocious war-fighting methods, to the exclusion of such unsavory considerations as the guarantee that attacking Assad promotes al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood — to say nothing of the jihadists’ even more alarming pursuit of chemical-weapons capability.

Personally, I believe al-Qaeda is worse, by far, than the use of chemical weapons. And someone somewhere must agree with me since Congress, by something close to 535–0, voted to authorize the use of military force against al-Qaeda. No one, by the way, needed to twist arms or promise the American people we wouldn’t put “boots on the ground” to get that authorization. It was a slam-dunk because it was so patently in the national interest — even though it has meant a dozen years of war, with ground troops, missiles, drone strikes, indefinite detentions, thousands of casualties, the whole run of gore that war entails.

So by all means, let’s assume Assad has used chemical weapons on a small scale against other Syrians during a bloody civil war that, though undeniably awful, poses no threat to American national security.

By contrast, Assad’s “rebel” opposition, spearheaded by the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood, systematically uses al-Qaeda in its military operations — not one or two times, but every single day, and in virtually every attack that causes real damage to the regime.

Why is Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons worse than the rebels’ use of al-Qaeda?

Emperor Obama’s Parlour Games

'Indiana Bones' and the Catacomb Saints (Photo Essay)

Incredible skeletal remains of Catholic saints still dripping in gems and jewellery discovered by 'Indiana Bones' explorer

While researching and writing another book on charnel houses, art historian, Paul Koudounaris, stumbled upon an amazing, if macabre, collection of 400 year-old, heavily jewel-encrusted skeletons hidden away in some of the most secretive religious establishments in Europe.  His expedition and the resulting photographs of dozens of these relics is now being revealed in his new book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs.  This is the first time that photographs of the skeletons have been published.

St Valerius in Weyarn

A catacomb saint in Schlehdorf Abbey

St Albertus

The book marks the first time that the story of these relics, which were lovingly and lavishly adorned with thousands of pounds of gold, silver, pearls, and precious stones, is being told and it is one of mystery, the Catholic Church in Europe and the Protestant Reformation.  

St Felix

According to the Daily Mail, 'thousands of skeletons were dug up from Roman catacombs in the 16th century and installed in towns around Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the orders of the Vatican and sent to Catholic churches and religious houses to replace the relics destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.  Each one was painstakingly decorated by devoted followers before being displayed in church niches.  Many took up to five years to decorate.  Some of the skeletons are said to be the remains of early Christian martyrs and were even found hidden away in lock-ups and containers.'

St Benedictus

St Deodatus in Rheinau, Switzerland

St Valentinus in Waldsassen

St Getreu in Ursberg, Germany

'Mistaken for the remains of early Christian martyrs, the morbid relics, known as the Catacomb Saints, became shrines reminding of the spiritual treasures of the afterlife.  They were also symbols of the Catholic Church's newly found strength in previously Protestant areas.'

St Friedrich at the Benedictine abbey in Melk, Austria

The hand of St Valentin in Bad Schussenreid, Germany (above) and St Munditia, in the church of St Peter in Munich (below). 

'They were renamed as saints, although none of them qualified for the title under the strict rules of the Catholic church which require saints to have been canonised, but by the 19th century they had become morbid reminders of an embarrassing past and many were stripped of their honours and discarded.'

St Vincentus in Stams, Austria


 The identity of this skull is unknown

St Luciana was sent to the convent in Heiligkreuztal, Germany, where the nuns in Ennetach painstakingly prepared her for display

In an interview, Mr Koudounaris said: 

'After they were found in the Roman catacombs the Vatican authorities would sign certificates identifying them as martyrs then they put the bones in boxes and sent them northwards.  The skeletons would then be dressed and decorated in jewels, gold and silver, mostly by nuns.  They had to be handled by those who had taken a sacred vow to the church - these were believed to be martyrs and they couldn't have just anyone handling them.  They were symbols of the faith triamphant and were made saints in the municipalities.  One of the reasons they were so important was not for their spiritual merit, which was pretty dubious, but for their social importance.  They were thought to be miraculous and really solidified people's bond with a town. This reaffirmed the prestige of the town itself. It's impossible to put a modern-day value on the skeletons.'

A War The Pentagon Doesn’t Want

By Robert H Scales, a retired Army Major General, is a former Commandant of the U.S. Army War College.

The tapes tell the tale. Go back and look at images of our nation’s most senior soldier, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and his body language during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Syria. It’s pretty obvious that Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, doesn’t want this war. As Secretary of State John Kerry’s thundering voice and arm-waving redounded in rage against Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities, Dempseywas largely (and respectfully) silent.

Dempsey’s unspoken words reflect the opinions of most serving military leaders. By no means do I profess to speak on behalf of all of our men and women in uniform. But I can justifiably share the sentiments of those inside the Pentagon and elsewhere who write the plans and develop strategies for fighting our wars. After personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days, I feel confident that what follows represents the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals who have been intimate witnesses to the unfolding events that will lead the United States into its next war.

They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.

They are repelled by the hypocrisy of a media blitz that warns against the return of Hitlerism but privately acknowledges that the motive for risking American lives is our “responsibility to protect” the world’s innocents. Prospective U.S. action in Syria is not about threats to American security. The U.S. military’s civilian masters privately are proud that they are motivated by guilt over slaughters in Rwanda, Sudan and Kosovo and not by any systemic threat to our country.

They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about “red lines.” These acts would be for retribution and to restore the reputation of a president. Our serving professionals make the point that killing more Syrians won’t deter Iranian resolve to confront us. The Iranians have already gotten the message.

Our people lament our loneliness. Our senior soldiers take pride in their past commitments to fight alongside allies and within coalitions that shared our strategic goals. This war, however, will be ours alone.

They are tired of wannabe soldiers who remain enamored of the lure of bloodless machine warfare. “Look,” one told me, “if you want to end this decisively, send in the troops and let them defeat the Syrian army. If the nation doesn’t think Syria is worth serious commitment, then leave them alone.” But they also warn that Syria is not Libya or Serbia. Perhaps the United States has become too used to fighting third-rate armies. As the Israelis learned in 1973, the Syrians are tough and mean-spirited killers with nothing to lose.

Our military members understand and take seriously their oath to defend the constitutional authority of their civilian masters. They understand that the United States is the only liberal democracy that has never been ruled by its military. But today’s soldiers know war and resent civilian policymakers who want the military to fight a war that neither they nor their loved ones will experience firsthand.

Civilian control of the armed services doesn’t mean that civilians shouldn’t listen to those who have seen war. Our most respected soldier president, Dwight Eisenhower, possessed the gravitas and courage to say no to war eight times during his presidency. He ended the Korean War and refused to aid the French in Indochina; he said no to his former wartime friends Britain and France when they demanded U.S. participation in the capture of the Suez Canal. And he resisted liberal democrats who wanted to aid the newly formed nation of South Vietnam. We all know what happened after his successor ignored Eisenhower’s advice. My generation got to go to war.

Over the past few days, the opinions of officers confiding in me have changed to some degree. Resignation seems to be creeping into their sense of outrage. One officer told me: “To hell with them. If this guy wants this war, then let him have it. Looks like no one will get hurt anyway.”

Soon the military will salute respectfully and loose the hell of hundreds of cruise missiles in an effort that will, inevitably, kill a few of those we wish to protect. They will do it with all the professionalism and skill we expect from the world’s most proficient military. I wish Kerry would take a moment to look at the images from this week’s hearings before we go to war again.

Military Revolts Against Obama Attack On Syria

IBT Editorial:

The administration's planned strike on Syria is increasingly opposed by many in a U.S. military coping with the scars of two long wars, a rapidly shrinking budget and soldiers saying we're "tired, stretched thin and broke."

That sentiment was expressed by an active-duty soldier with a rank of Sergeant First Class in an email to Rep. Justin Amash. The Michigan Republican has been receiving, compiling and tweeting emails from current and former service members now being asked to commit to an ill-defined mission with an unclear goal in support of rebels mostly linked to al-Qaida and other unfriendly interests.

"The message I consistently hear: Please vote no on military action against Syria," Amash tweeted. Most objections relate to the lack of a clear objective in striking Syria and the muddled line between anti-government rebels and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists.

The backlash against boots on the ground or even wings in the air has exploded on social media. Many in the military are posting photos of themselves holding signs stating they'd refuse to fight on the same side as al-Qaida in Syria. The photos went viral, with one post alone generating more than 16,000 shares on Facebook.

"Our involvement in Syria is so dangerous on so many levels, and the 21st century American vet is more keen to this than anybody," Business Insider's Paul Szoldra quotes former Cpl. Jack Mandaville, a Marine Corps infantry veteran with three deployments to Iraq. "It boggles my mind that we are being ignored."

A decade of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many of the rank and file seeing the fruits of their victories squandered by the Obama administration's precipitous, ideologically driven withdrawals, raises the question why we should bother about Syria.

In a blistering editorial in the Washington Post, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, touches on the growing discontent among military leaders regarding Obama's reckless combination of dithering and bravado on Syria.

"They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration's attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense," Scales opines. "None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective."

According to Scales, the military is privately "outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about 'red lines.' " The rank-and-file, in other words, are outraged that their blood may be shed just to save presidential face.

The military can't afford any sustained campaign against Syria without the kind of supplemental appropriation then-Sen. John Kerry was for before he was against in Iraq. That fact, and the potential dangers of mission creep, were highlighted in a July 19 letter by Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to Sen. Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Dempsey wrote then that using "lethal force to prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons" could cost "well over $1 billion per month." He also wrote that controlling chemical weapons would require more resources than just air and cruise-missile strikes. He said it would need to be coupled with "thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces" to secure critical sites.

Sounds like boots on the ground to us.

During a hearing on Syria in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez asked Kerry if there would be any possibility of ground troops entering Syria at some point.

Kerry said the administration had "no desire" to put boots on the ground. But he hinted it could happen in the event "Syria imploded . . . or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else."

Then Kerry added, "I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country."

Well, many in the military do, saying their boots aren't made for walking on Syrian soil in a war we can't afford, particularly if it means dying for al-Qaida. They are saying, "Hell, no, we shouldn't go."

Syria: Matt Drudge Is Right. Pro-War Republicans Risk Becoming A Big Government Party

At risk?  They are already there, but anyhoo...

By Dr Tim Stanley, The Telegraph

Well, we always knew the Democrat leadership would fall in behind the Prez on Syria – and Nancy Pelosi led the pack. Speaking yesterday she made the standard humanitarian case for intervention but then added her own cute spin. Nancy told us that she asked her 5-year old grandson if he thought America should go to war. “No!” he replied, so she gave him a lesson in the importance of deterring the use of chemical weapons. There are two things to take away from that surreal anecdote. A) Nancy discusses foreign policy with 5-year olds. B) They know more about it than her.

But it turns out that the GOP leadership is supporting Barack Obama, too. Sigh. We might have always expected John McCain (“Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”) and Lindsey Graham (Republican By Rumour Only) to come out strongly for war, but it’s disappointing to note that John Boehner and Eric Cantor were quick to follow. At least these gung-ho Americans are all being honest about the realities of intervention. While British hawks constantly assert that this is "only about chemical weapons", Obama said as he met with congressional leaders: “We have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition”. So war leading to regime change, then – and something that the Republican leadership is apparently very comfortable with. So comfortable that John McCain was caught playing an iPhone game during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing into Syria. What with Nancy asking 5-year olds their views and John playing 5-year olds’ games, American politics isn’t looking terribly mature right now.

In his frustration, conservative guru Matt Drudge posted some angry tweets. First: “It’s now Authoritarian vs. Libertarian. Since Democrats vs. Republicans has been obliterated, no real difference between parties.” And then (I don’t know if he drinks, but this feels about the fifth beer in):

'Why would anyone vote Republican? Please give reason. Raised taxes; marching us off to war again; approved more NSA snooping. WHO ARE THEY?!'

Who indeed? Drudge makes an interesting point that although the Left spent the 2012 election accusing the Republicans of being extremists, since then the GOP leadership has tied itself to a big government consensus on both civil liberties and war. Things are looking uncertain on the question of defunding Obamacare, too. So if the parties are agreed on fundamental questions about state power and constitutional rights, who does offer an alternative? 

This helpful Washington Post graphic actually shows that there’s more to play for in Congress than you’d expect, with a significant contingent of Senate Republicans staking out a position against war. And an example of the kind of thing that principled conservatives can do when they put their minds to it was shown by Rand Paul yesterday in his grilling of John Kerry – posted above. Paul asked Kerry if the President would respect Congress’ verdict if it voted intervention down. Kerry basically replied, “Maybe not”, arguing that it was still within the President’s power to act. There were also some fascinating skirmishes over the paradox of Kerry opposing war in Cambodia in the 1970s but backing it in Libya and Syria, climaxing in a spat over whether or not "limited" military action is equivalent to saying, "We're in it, but we don't want to win it". Paul beat Kerry on almost every point – and not with the force of his somewhat clinical personality. It was because he kept referring to the Constitution and the proper powers of Congress. While other politicians were falling over themselves to make emotional appeals and invoke conversations with their grandchildren, Paul was sticking to logic and the law. It's refreshing.

So Drudge is right: the GOP’s leadership is lacking both a moral core and a message at the moment. Americans basically face a choice between two strands of big government thinking – one welfare orientated (Dems) and one warfare orientated (Republicans). But there is cause to hope. Although Obama scored a short-term win by throwing the question of war open to Congress and thus exposing the divisions within the GOP, this has also given conservatives the opportunity to debate philosophy and what being a Republican actually means. Now they can sort the men of the establishment from the men of conscience (and women – see Sarah Palin’s predictably robust case for staying out of Syria) and maybe throw up a few presidential contenders in the process. The Constitution isn't beaten yet.


06 September 2013

Utter FacePalm: UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, Thought That She Could Get Iran To Abandon Assad Because... 'WMD, Please'


Sheer weapons grade stupidity on international display, my friends.  If anyone is still arguing that we should follow the #SmartPower team into the Syrian hellhole, get thee to a shrink yesterday!  We are in incredible danger with these fools WITHOUT starting to lob Tomahawks 'across Assad's bow.'  

Total. Mindblowing. What. The. Bloody. Fuck?

From The Washington Examiner's Joel Gerhke: 

Iran is enduring economic sanctions designed to slow the country's nuclear weapons program, but President Obama's team thought the regime might abandon dictator Bashar Assad over his use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war. 

Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hoped that a team of UN investigators — many of whom, presumably, have a longstanding relationship with Iranian leaders -- could write a report that would convince Iran to abandon its ally at the behest of the United States.

"We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks," Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.

"Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein's monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it's people," she said.

Rather than "cast loose" Assad after the latest chemical weapons attack, as the Obama team hoped, "Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has warned the Obama administration against any proposed military strike on Syria," as the International Business Times reports.

Holy Shit.