Category Archives: ISIS

Commentary: Targeting the Enemy and Non-combatants Causalities

One thing is clear in life:  You know your enemy.  At least, you think you are sure. But there are times when you are caught off guard and blind-sided. But that is usually the rare occasion. The next question is obvious: If you know your enemy, are you legally and morally entitled to eliminate that threat before you are attacked?  Or rather, are you legally “or” morally entitled to move forward?

What is also interesting within this sensitive topic is the world’s reaction to preemptive strikes. And that generally follows the useless saying that one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist.  To place that issue permanently aside– it is clear who is a terrorist by the simplest of definition. The moment you attack a civilian target –a bus, a school, a shopping market, a café, a housing project you are, by definition, a terrorist. Period.  But: What if civilians are within the proposed targeted area? The answer to this question was changed in part from the moment I started to write this Commentary to the time of its final edit.

When civilians are within a targeted area, the “rules of war” or “rules of engagement” fall into place. And here, it is easy to turn to the international promulgated rules and treaties. In 1859, a Swiss business man, for reasons unknown, visited wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino in the second war for Italian Independence. He was shocked by the physical and medical conditions of the soldiers and, in particular, the lack of medical help on the battle field. The battle itself was horrendous and resulted in thousands upon thousands killed and tens of thousands wounded in only a nine hour battle. In particular, there were scores of reports of dying and wounded soldiers shot or bayonetted while they lie injured on the battle field.  He went home and wrote of his experience of the horrors of war. His book propelled the acceptance of international treaties to provide relief during war and won him the first Nobel Peace prize in 1901.  During the past 70 years, the main victims of all forms of war have been civilians.

In today’s world of horrific air and drone strikes and bombings from miles high in the sky what of those who live in a battle zone and wish to merely survive the violence of war. They are not combatants; they are caught in the colloquial cross-fire of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You’ve seen their pictures. And you get angry.

These people are “non-combatants,” and that word is considered a “legal term of art” “in the law of war”. A non-combatant is generally described as a civilian who is not taking a direct part in the hostilities, not aiding the combatants in any form and who is not willing being used as a shield for one of the combatants. These civilians have been recognized as protected since the inception of the First Geneva Convention of 1864. To illustrate the extent to which protection is afforded a “non”-combatant: A pilot or any military aircrew member (a combatant!) whose plane is shot and crippled, and thus forced to parachute to safety, is no longer a combatant and cannot be attacked (shot at) while parachuting to the ground notwithstanding whether the landing area is hostile or not.

The International Humanitarian Law looks to the protection not of combatants but of those civilians caught in the midst of conflict or who are living under the rule of the enemy’s forces. They must be protected against all forms of violence and this means not only by the enemy under which they live but by those attacking the enemy. All care must be in place to protect the innocent civilian within a war zone, who is not aiding the enemy in any form or fashion.  Thus, when we or any other country attacks its enemy, one condition of the armed attack is protection of the civilian population not “engaged” with the enemy.

Hundreds of women and children were killed in west Mosul March 17th. The Americans bombed the area as part of their cooperation with the Iraqi army against the Islamic State. The tragedy did make the headlines. The question then becomes are we—the United States—war criminals?  Not to be callus—“mere” civilian death during combat does not justify that charge. What were the circumstance of the planning and execution of that bombing raid?  Was the bombing “a disproportional response” to what was transpiring on the ground? Did we know of the civilians in the area and how close they were to the targeted area?

The top US commander in Iraq said “there’s a fair chance” that a U.S. airstrike in west Mosul killed civilians on March 17. Evidence also reveals that there were multiple strikes in the area. As I began to write this commentary, an internal U.S. investigation is ongoing to determine why and how the deaths of civilians occurred. More of this in a moment to show the problem with air strikes, however pinpointed they may be with non-combatants in the vicinity. As with Mosul, the residences in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa live in a trapped ISIS environment.  Raqqa is the ISIS de facto capital.  ISIS has laid a belt of land mines circling the city. Inside the city all men have been directed to wear jihad clothing so as to make it almost impossible to determine who is and who is not an ISIS member. In effect, ISIS has created a massive human shield.   How do you target your enemy?

What we do know at this moment –March 31st  — there is an investigation into the March 17th    air attack; and that air surveillance reveals that ISIS was smuggling civilians, sight unseen into buildings within the City, then bait the coalition forces to attack. In this instance, the civilians were not used as traditional shields—equally despicable.   It has been admitted that civilian casualties are “fairly predictable” given the densely populated areas where the ISIS fighters have dug in. One thing has changed as of March 31st.  Last week, it was announced that the American rules of engagement have not been loosening when it comes to accepting the concept of civilian fatalities.  Lt. General Stephen Townsend publicized that the military has not decided to tolerate greater risk of civilian casualties in its airstrikes.  That changed on March 31st at least in the shielding of civilians in Somalia.  President Trump has sign-off the Army to “prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”   There must be, the Trump directive describes, a permitted airstrikes if there is “a reasonable certainty” that no civilians will be hurt. This is less stringent than the “near certainty” standard issued by President Barack Obama in 2013 as a Presidential Policy Guidance that is still applied elsewhere. The Obama standard requires high-level, interagency vetting of proposed airstrikes and the target has to pose a direct threat to Americans. Under the Trump guidelines, as described in the press, Somalia would be considered a less-restrictive battlefield and the target chosen would be based upon the target’s “status”  “without any reason” that this particular target would give rise to a direct threat to Americans and  that some civilian bystander deaths would occur even if the attack was proportionate.

And then the conundrum in world politics kicks in. The United States conducts a strike and the world “discusses” the appropriateness of the strike and whether it comports with the accepted norms of warfare and engagement. When Israel targets a terrorist (not a freedom fighter!), the world discusses “war criminals”.  The United States Joint Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey has sent his senior officers to Israel to study the methods to which that country has gone (quoting his words: “extraordinary lengths”) to limit civilian casualties, and yet his strong military approval did not lower the “the level of hostility toward Israel”.   This anti-Israel hostility continues, notwithstanding the openly published Hamas guidelines ordering its members to “operate from within civilian populations…to increase the number of innocent casualties.”  The reason is obvious.  The political conclusions are obvious.

It is difficult to reconcile or accept the loss of civilian lives —those very innocent people that get caught in the center of a military conflict.  It is easy to say: but that is the “cost of war”.  As I mentioned earlier, in the last 70 years the loss of innocent lives in our wars and the wars between other nations has cost unacceptable large number of civilian, non-combatant lives. Shall we, along with the Israelis, continue the strikes against those who would harm us? The “preemptive strike.”  The airstrike against an enemy.  Do we send a drone to eliminate a terrorist or ISIS leader? Do we have a legal right to do so? The answer is clearly: Yes. Is there a moral obligation that prohibits us from engaging in an activity that puts civilians at risk? The answer here is not a simple yes or no. The answer is that as long as we have in place the mechanism that can identify the non- combatant in the strike, that the strike is not over-kill or disproportionate, that we take all reasonable precautions to protect the non-combatant– then we have both a legal and moral right to protect our citizens and those that depend upon us for their lives.

Richard Allan
The Editor

Commentary–the Fate of Luca

On a day that we have been introduced to Luca—you don’t know Luca? The New York Times tells us that we have been provided with a “surprising specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things…” Its name is Luca. Luca, the living thing that started the ball rolling until we stand tall on two hind legs throwing bombs at each other. That news stopped me dead in my tracts. Not that I am in any fashion a science buff, but that fact –Luca–examined by itself –is startling when juxtaposed to the chaos surrounding us at all levels today.

We are now learning how we started out on this planet-earth at the same moment we are in the process of self-destroying our very being. It is not some massive volcano whose fumes are blocking the sun; nor is it an alien planet that will slam into us and take us back to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nineteen are killed and twenty-nine are injured by a man wielding a knife, not at some military installation, but a facility for the disabled In a Tokyo suburb. Long from the center of Paris, a terrorist attacks a village catholic church, takes hostages and kills a priest. And half-way round the world the President of Turkey is moving further and faster in destroying the democratic fiber of his country in the name of restoring order. If that Country were not vital in the multiple wars in Syria and against ISIS, I doubt if we would tolerate his moving the clock back in a part of the world that should be moving forward. This democratically elected president has begun a witch-hunt, a systematic campaign of violence against those who hold a different view from his own. Not only has he arrested thousands accused of having a connection, however tenuous, to the conspiracy to overthrow his non-democratic regime, but he has fired tens of thousands of teachers, bankers police officers, soldiers and others. Now his vile conduct is directed against journalists for possible criminal conduct allegations. That could only mean: to curtail their writing the truth.

Turkey, under his autocratic leadership has moved to crack down on the freedom of expression, and to do that one announces a state of emergency for however long one wants to reign in the usual civil rights of citizens. When one announces a state of emergency one provides an unbound hand to a handpicked government to create whatever legislation its autocratic leader demands. There is no oversight and there is no democracy. This is Turkey today. And more than likely this is Turkey for tomorrow because of its linchpin status in the Mid-East.

Less than ten days ago a young man stormed through a train outside of Wurzburg, Germany. Crying “Allahu Akbar,” (God is greatest) he brandished an axe high into the air, then slashed at the men and women seated around him. Within minutes, the car,” looked like a slaughterhouse.” Then he fled. In a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations it was noted that “security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest targets.”

And to close the circle, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a formal request asking his neighboring Arab states to help in the preparation of a lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established Britain’s support for a “national home for the Jewish people”. His goal is simple and direct: to delegitimize the State of Israel.

To discuss the possible success of such a move is wasted energy, but it does underscore the hypocrisy of Abbas and those around him who speak for “freedom” and the brutality of those he so violently opposes. His call for the callous attacks on civilians or those teens sleeping in their beds at night is beyond imagination. Beyond imagination because silently, unheard, he wishes the people and, in particular, the health workers of Israel good health and good hunting in their war against cancer. In recent years and until this past week, Omar, Abbas’ brother, traveled not to Iran, not to Syria, not to Egypt, not to the Saudis, not to any other Arab country in the Mid-East, but he traveled on a regular basis to the enemy of his people and his country—Israel. For medical treatment that was never denied to him.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Comment: Terrorism and Coups

Terrorism and Coups

On the morning of Bastille Day (July 14th) I sat in a meeting with our children and wanted to complain that instead of bottled water on the conference table there should have been champagne in celebration of the French holiday. We are not French; I am a Francophile. By the end of the day the celebration and fireworks turned horrific and deadly — not in Paris but on the idyllic coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Nice. And, days later there was an attempted coup in Turkey. Unlike early commentators, to me this was not unexpected if you had studied the last months of the present regime and its ever increasing curtailment of anything resembling democratic rights and open voices. But more of that later.

These two incidents – terrorism in one country and the violation of civil rights in another– while in some instances are not related, do form a scenario. They provide us with a picture that the world is becoming edgier, angrier and employing extreme violence as a mode of expression. Years ago I would write that I fear for my children. Now I am much more concerned with the life my grandchildren will face. I am not optimistic.

A boyhood friend of mine, and no friend of Obama, believes the President is a failure when it comes to our national security. He asks in an accusatory tone: “Why hasn’t he stopped terrorism? And usually follows that with: you’re the expert; what should we do? In a New York Times op-ed article some days ago, the author, a former F.B.I special agent, writes that when “the Islamic State and Al Qaeda are finally defeated” we can prevent the next attack.

Two thoughts come to mind: Both my friend and the former FBI agent are denying reality, and equally important, ignore history and a world that has changed drastically in the last twenty-five years.

Terrorism has been with us for more than multiple decades, well before any present day mid-East conflicts, civilian revolutions and revolts in multiple countries across the globe and before the “dreaded” creation of the State of Israel. Terrorism and its operations are not new. The only thing that is new is their message, methods of operation and their targets.

Technology and history bring new methods, new goals and objectives and different issues. From the terrorist who initiated the fight against the Russian monarch in 1917 to today, there is a long list of terrorist groups around the world each holding a different banner and ideology.

So let us stop all the finger pointing, hype and chest thumping and false promising and understand the basic fact: No country can stop either the scope or depth of terrorism. Terrorism is a fact of life. To think otherwise is foolish and dangerous. The best we can accomplish is to interdict any attempt at its inception or to blunt its impact. You cannot wish terrorism away. You cannot legislate it away. You cannot bomb it away.

Most of us are locked in a memory curve of the past — attempting to understand the present. And this is true regardless of one’s age. I used a typewriter when I was twenty years old and it took me fifteen hours to fly to Paris; my grandsons use the most advanced forms of communication and fly around the world without thought of distance or time.

Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s claims, we cannot control what occurs beyond our boarder, even as those events have a direct effect upon our lives. We cannot control the quiet, lonely, angry person who seeks any cause to elevate their psyche; we cannot control the small groups of people within the U.S. who feel the government conspires against their individual rights; we cannot regulate the fear or stupidity of those who need an AK45 to protect their home and, last, we cannot build a wall around our apartment and grow tomatoes in our window boxes to sustain ourselves.

What occurred in Nice was shocking only because it occurred in an unexpected place. But that is where the lone terrorist lived, and his anger evolved. What occurred in Paris earlier in the year was not shocking because that City, as is New York and London, is a natural “target” for any terrorist. By their very nature they invite the terrorist to demonstrate their skills.

What is playing out in Turkey is not unexpected. Not terrorism but because what might have started out as a democratic election process that elected its President he has turned that nation into a budding dictatorship that is stifling all forms of civil rights and dissent. It ceased being a democratic country after its most recent election and after its president began his dismantling of its democratic structures. When it comes to silencing the press, Turkey lands third place after Russia. In the latest move, after the mid-level military coup was brought to heel, the government has arrested 6000 people. You need a stadium to contain that many people and under what conditions?  President Erdogan’s swift roundup of judges and prosecutors (along with nearly 3,000 military plotters) after the failed coup indicated to the EU commissioner reviewing Turkey’s bid to membership that the government had a prepared a roundup list prior to the upheaval.

And the president of Turkey now publically demanded that U.S. merely “handover” a cleric who resides in the United States and, who he “believes” instigated the attempted coup. And Erdogan would like to bring back the death penalty. The failed, poorly executed coup will only lead to greater authoritarian control with the autocratic President Erdogan pushing his nation to a more Islamist position both locally and internationally.

Today, Turkey is an ally of convenience, because we need to have an airbase on its territory as close as possible to launching our air-strikes against ISIS. Our relations with that country will begin to slide toward its negative side with the failed coup. Last evening, one expert told me that he believes Erdogan orchestrated the failed coup to gain greater control of his country in the guise of attempting to protect his country in a state of a national emergency. You can be sure that greater reins will evolve and be imposed with the crushing of the coup and the massive arrest of suspects.

Obama cannot stop “Terrorism”, and Trump cannot seal us off from the rest of the world, because there are persons born within this Country who will commit acts of violence to express their anger. We, as a nation, cannot dictate the rule of law in other sovereign states. We can support the attempt at true democratic rule, we can’t impose it. But we must act honestly. As the Turkish coup initially unfolded, there were American diplomats who referred to Turkey as a democratic country. Clearly, today and the day before the failed coup it was not. And it will not be for the foreseeable future.

The inquiry then facing all sides to this conversation– from the time of the French Revolution until today: Who are we attempting to protect– the state or the individual? And my response is: wrong question! The question is how are we to protect both the state and the individual simultaneously in response to threats and acts of terrorism or infringements upon our individual civil rights. There is a method to balance the integrity of each without the usual cries of “slippery slope” legislation. [Terrorism: Pragmatic International Deterrence and Cooperation. Institute for East-West Security Studies, Occasional Paper Series #19, 1990] The ideas proposed in an important section of that paper are pragmatic and possible. They require only the will of Congress to enact them.

If there is one clear lesson today, and clearly it has not been learned, the death of one violent movement (and this is true in all countries) does not put an end to all violence but often inspires a successor that is more often much deadlier.

Richard Allan

The editor

 

Connected Unsystematic Thoughts

The U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State began more than a year ago, and then chaos set in. The confusion on the ground and in the air over Syria is only becoming more of a night- mare, caused in part by too many fingers in one pot with no recognition of each other. Two months after Putin’s physical entry to shore up Assad’s regime, there have been too many close calls in the same air space between the fighters and bombers from Russia and the United States. To add to the confusion and disarray is Turkey’s shooting down a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish air space. The crises continue with questions concerning the Turkish control of its boarders and ISIS. And now the present outcry: which country bombed a friendly Syrian army base? The first accused was the United States, but forced to reveal its evidence, the American intelligence confirms it was Moscow’s “Blackfire” bombers that killed three soldiers, wounding at least 13 and destroying vehicles and equipment. And yesterday, a Turkish fishing vessel came within 1600 feet of a Russian destroyer playing a dangerous game of “two close to call navigation” with Russian firepower used to make a military point and Turkey said its losing patience with the Russia.

As we flip to the other side of the world, China continues to pile sand and rocks on reefs to build islands to extend its territorial claims further into the South China Sea and to add its military strength to be piled higher on newly created islands. This is not only an attempt to control so much more of free sea lanes of navigation but to cut heavily into the control and power of China’s many neighbors, especially Japan and the United States’ long reach of its naval might. All this adds up to a new strategic imagery: Japan is moving rapidity away from its post WII pacifism, communist Vietnam is purchasing arms from the United States, and the Philippines is inviting the U.S. Navy back to its ports, some twenty-five years after asking them unceremoniously to leave. And even if you have never visited the tiny island nation Singapore, it is not hard to understand why the United States and Singapore have signed an agreement to provide a launching pad for the United States to monitor the South China Sea. Also, as reported, not only has Malaysia called for the United States to work out of its bases, but I am informed that the United States has added to its aircraft force in the area the P-8 Poseidon thereby putting greater spying know-how ability into play to monitor the Chinese adventures and capabilities in that part of the world.

Two items have become clear since my last comments concerning the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCOP). First, Iran is moving internally further in the direction against the “American Enemy” with greater political movement toward the ideological base of its Supreme Leader and non-adherence to the JCPOA , and, second, my mistrust of Iran’s intentions have become more evident. We have just learned that notwithstanding UN Resolution 2231, which was passed just one day after the nuclear accord was signed and which compels Iran to restrain from any work on ballistic missiles for 8 years, on November 21, in breach of that resolution, a missile known as the Ghadr-110, having a range a little over 1200 miles with the capacity of carrying a nuclear warhead, was tested by the Iranians. So much for international agreements, international resolutions, and international oversight and enforcement.

About three months ago I asked one of my grandsons: What’s the Dark Web? Without hesitation he shot back: “Why? Why do you want to know? You shouldn’t go there!” Since the shooting in San Bernadino with the death of 14 and the injury of scores of others, there is talk of encryption (normal text into code) and the Dark Web. It is on the Dark Web that terrorists communicate, utilizing encrypted messages. The Dark Web is a semi-technical term that refers to a collection of websites that, although they are publicly visible/available, the IP address of the servers that run them is hidden. You and I can utilize the Dark Web with any web browser, but it is more than problematical and ultra-challenging to determine who is behind the sites.

On December 8th the French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that France, not nearly recovered from the ISIS attack last month in Paris, may seek to ban the infamous Tor browser, used to namelessly surf the Dark Web. The French Parliament may also ban use of public Wi-Fi during periods of emergency. But, at this writing, Paris seems to be turning away from those options. The UK has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web, with a particular focus on cracking down on serious criminal rings and child pornography. This very week the FBI has admitted that they can determine who is “speaking” to whom, but cannot crack the encrypted messages, so what it hears is “noise”, without understanding. Of course, only one country has been able to successfully block Tor: China, with its great “other” wall, the firewall.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on December 6th that she supports labeling of Israeli settlement products from the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel had sought Germany’s help in convincing EU member states to reject the implementation of this type of labeling as it has done for many other countries. It refused. So much for a balance, even-handed international policy, and from a person just named TIME’s—Person of the Year in a country synonymous with holocaust.

Each of these random thoughts carries a connecting tissue. The obvious fact being that the United States sits geographically between the conflicts in the east and the west. These conflicts share potentially devastating consequences to its national security not merely abroad but at home, on our own shores. We are also in the midst of a race to the White House in a manner and style never before witnessed, filled with extreme rhetoric and personal vindictive hate. We have seen pictures of foreign parliaments whose member have been moved beyond words to extreme physical conformation. We are not like that; but what have we become?

To live in fear is not acceptable. But to live without care is imprudent and unrealistic. Today, as I write this blog, Americans’ fear of terrorism is as high as immediately after 9/11. Do we cry “ouch “only when we are personally affected? There have so many lessons available to us over the last 75 years, why are we ignoring them and to our peril? What do we teach our children, and why does a grandchild have to become fearful because his grandfather queries about the Dark Web?
Richard Allan
The Editor

Appeasement–It Never Works

Two events, not seemingly connected, suddenly brought clarity in the heated discussion that followed the horrendous attacks in Paris. I shall try to keep it simple.

The ISIS attack earlier this year in January targeted individuals associated with a political magazine and people shopping in a Jewish supermarket. The targets were symbols unmistakably identified: Those who were anti-Islam and those who were Jews. The attacks this month were far more treacherous and repugnant: at the heart of the citizens of France. Ordinary people, not symbols; people who were indiscriminately chosen to die merely because they were congregating in large numbers, in one place and so easily murdered.

When a person enlists or is drafted into an army during a war, there is the “possibility” they will be killed if they go into a conflict area. When a person enlists into the ranks of ISIS, there is the “likelihood” that they will be ordered to wrap a bomb around their bodies and die. There is an enormous difference in the mentality and focus of each of these warriors. One is a soldier, the other is a terrorist. ISIS is many times larger and stronger than al Qaida and its focus is more vast and horrific. They are barbaric.

To understand the political climate of appeasement in Europe today, and not often discussed, one need only exam EU (European Union). Founded in 1948, in the aftermath of World War II, it has as its mission the guarantee of peace, stability and economic cooperation in Europe. Today, the EU membership has risen to include 28 European countries. The EU does not recognize the annexations of territories by several world governments. And although it’s  barely been heard in the discussions in the aftershock of the Paris attacks, its members choose to demand special labeling of products produced from only one region in the world—products from the Golan Heights and the West Bank—Israeli products.

The reason is clear: it is the EU’s hope that the world would boycott products from Israel. All in the aim of forcing the State of Israel to choose between facing an economic boycott and a possible financial crises or bending to the will of the Islamic world. A somewhat round about way of saying: look what we’re doing for you so please keep your terrorist at home. Appeasement did not work to stop WWII and will not stop ISIS.

The EU’s act is so clearly overt that it reminded me of Hitler directing that we should identify the Jews to isolate them from the rest of the German community and then the world by wearing the Star of David on their clothing. The EU order is no different. Label a person, label a product–to discriminate.

In addition, if one were to look at the internal social structure–the voices of the people in England, France and Germany, one identifies the rising violent voice of anti-Semitism –anti Israel. Yet being anti-Israel has not helped the following nations from attack: Academia in England is as anti-Israel as one can get, and still they haven’t secured a safety net from the Islamic terrorist. Hate crimes against London’s Jewish minority have surged over the last 12 months with an increase of 93.4%, according to figures from the Metropolitan police. In the 12 months from July 2014, police recorded 499 anti-Semitic crimes in London compared with 258 in the same period the preceding year.

In Germany Scrawling swastikas on synagogues, Jew-baiting during demonstrations, desecration: Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, hatred against Jews is taking place openly in Germany, even in schools. The number of crimes linked to anti-Semitism in Germany increased dramatically over the past year. While 788 cases were registered in 2013, there were 864 cases registered in 2014 a 10 percent increase. The most famous department store in Germany announced its agreement to labeling products produced from Israel.

In Rome, more than 70 disturbing hate messages were scrawled with black and red paint on Jewish businesses and throughout the so-called Jewish Ghetto around the city’s main synagogue. Phrases like “Anne Frank Was A Liar,” “Dirty Jews,” “Jews your end is near,” and “Israel executioner” were written in spray paint.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister came out strongly in support of the EU’s boycott attempting to link the issues in Israel with the ISIS attack in France. And in the United States, the American Anthropological Society (an academic institution), in what can only be described as an infamous vote, resoundingly approved a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions by a vote of 1040-136. We can only wonder how we are to define the word “academic” in the future?

Given the nature of ISIS, there is no method to reach a system of negotiations nor to employ appeasement strategy. ISIS is a cancer that has metastasized, and the mere snipping at its surface does not impede its growth. Isis is an amorphous enemy state, not a terrorist cell. It has enormous capability and controls large swaths of territory.  It has supreme success in recruitment among the young, and therein lays a great deal of its strength. And yet in France, with the strictest security apparatus in place, which would make the ACLU cringe in despair, its attack was not prevented.

To be Anti-sematic/anti-Israel is not sufficient to fend off an ISIS attack and hatred. To attempt to financially cripple Israel is not sufficient to appease ISIS. There is no appeasement and, therefore, we cannot mince words in describing, without political correctness, those who support the idea that the world would be better off without those—whomever “those” might be who do not follow the ISIS dogma.

In the past few days, at a soccer stadium in Turkey, as the announcer asked for a moment of silence for those who had died in the Paris assault, there were those who booed and chanted “Allahu Akbar” –an Islamic phrase meaning “God is Great”, the very words chanted by those who attacked the innocent people of Paris with their guns and vest bombs. In addition, politeness is no longer an acceptable method in dealing with those who passively support this reign of terror.

One last thought: On the world stage, the more the United States waffles, hesitates and ignores its own “lines drawn in the sand”, the weaker we become and not only endanger our own security but lose the moral leadership in the world. We need straight talk and affirmative action. We can no longer afford to do anything less.

Appeasement, in whatever form, to whoever offered, invites greater violence not peace.

Richard Allan
The Editor

————————————

[1] The Kashmir region is defined by the international community as a disputed territory. Tibet was occupied by the Chinese army in 1958 and unilaterally annexed by Beijing.  Morocco invaded the Western Sahara region and unilaterally annexed it. The Turkish army invaded Northern Cyprus, expelled hundreds of thousands of Greek speakers, and established the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula

“Islam is the Religion of War” – Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (ISIS)

One Sunday morning, I realized that I was slowly but surely being sucked into a vast spinning ball where the speed and collision of events were beginning to scatter my brain. What I am referring to, obliquely, is the multiple wars and collisions of facts and interests in the Middle East and across a significant span of North Africa. Our Government is not only deeply divided on how to defeat or even contain the major threats of terrorism, but as one commentator said, how mired we have become in this thing called “the war on terrorism”.

Superimposed one upon the other are the volatile issues created by the proposed Iranian Nuclear Agreement before Congress and the violence in the Middle East that has metastasized, creating complex contradictions.

I have never before prefaced any of my writing by stating my avowed political position. Since I have been able to vote in a presidential election, I have voted Democrat. I voted for Obama. Having made that statement, Obama’s nuclear proposal is a disaster for today and tomorrow and for America. I speak seeking to protect nothing beyond the borders of the United States.

Prior to entering politics Obama taught constitutional law; he would be better prepared today if he had studied and taught “contracts”. The art of contract drafting has as one of its first axioms: Don’t create ambiguity in the use of language. To do so will ultimately create conflict.

Certainly, the Iranian nuclear agreement is far from being a joking matter, but at least one person (Jackie Mason) has quipped that New Yorkers” know that in the restaurants of New York, they have an inspection system. You can surprise any restaurant without notice to walk in and inspect them… So we are protected in this city from a bad tuna fish. We’re not protected from a bomb, but we’re protected from a bad quality of a tuna fish.”

My opposition to the Nuclear Agreement is the untenable consequences that flow from it, which are not readily visible, glossed over, and ignored to our peril.

A few examples are:

* There are phrases in the agreement relating to the inspection of important facilities which read: “where necessary, when necessary.” The Administration alleges this means “anytime, anywhere”. That is nonsense, and more important, totally misleading. The Iranian Government can hold off inspection for months after a demand is made. Iranians can begin the long process by asking: “Why is this demand necessary?” Someone said that if the marshal knocks on your door with a search warrant, it means you do not get an invitation to return in two weeks to search for the items in your warrant. “Assurances” between the parties to an agreement are as good as the persons who make them, and it seems that we should have learned by this time that Iran, who seeks our death as it signs the agreement, should not be trusted.  Not now and not tomorrow. Why embrace a person who has a knife in their hands.

* When sanctions are lifted (at the time of complete execution by all the parties), the Agreement will provide Iran with as much as 150 billion dollars in sanctions relief, which will permit Iranian companies (or their hidden middlemen) to have total commercial access to the world. It will become all but impossible to prevent Iran from buying whatever it wants, wherever it wants. Despite a ban on arms shipments to Iran under international sanctions, Russia is proceeding with the sale of their advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles. This weapons system has the ability to bring down, among other planes, US jet aircraft. A number of significant events signal that Russian and Iran now appear to have closer ties both diplomatically and militarily in the weeks since the announcement of the nuclear accord in Vienna. Keep in mind that Iran supports terrorist groups and proxy forces in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. And like its Russian friends, supports the regime of al-Assad’s Syria. There is talk today that the only way “out” for Iraq is partition.

* The question of Syria’s future was nowhere presented in the talks with Iran. And this connects to the previous paragraph. The results are predictable: the flow of fighters, weapons and money fueling the devastating conflict in Syria will only worsen. Iran will now have greater financial resources to protect and help their proxies to gain the advantage on the field of battle. The very groups with whom we are “at war”. It has been announced that Russia has delivered six MiG 31 fighter jets to support al-Assad.

* Since Obama withdrew our entire troop presence from Iraq in 2011, the country has moved further into sectarian fighting. The lifting of sanctions will only escalate that conflict, as arms may readily be purchased and will be freely transmitted to those groups backed by Iran.

* With the lifting of sanctions (at the date of execution of the Agreement) and then a possible “snap back” (on the breach of the terms of the Agreement), those arrangements between Iran and any group or nation executed between those two dates will not be affected.

* Although the President has readily admitted that Iran supplies both Hezbollah and Assad in Syria and Hamas in Gaza, he quite amazingly implies there is nothing the Allies can do about it. It is worth repeating in opposition to accepting the Agreement that we are not faced with only two options: the Agreement or war. Nonsense. Heavier and tighter sanctions would have a crippling effect in Iran and the Iranians are more than aware of their implication.

* Tehran has consistently violated the UN arms embargo and missile sanctions. Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi made crystal clear last month that Tehran had no intention of complying with any arms embargo, saying “Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so.” And they will have the $150 billion in sanction relief to do just that.

* Most upsetting, and the nation only learning about it after an Associated Press “bomb shell”, was the revealing of the existence of the Parchin Settlement (named after the Iranian military complex, being the home of Iran’s nuclear-weapon and ballistic program). This Settlement was worked out between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. The United States and the five other world powers that negotiated the Nuclear Agreement were not a party to this agreement, but were allegedly “briefed” by the IAEA. When confronted by this news, the Obama administration described the document as nothing more than a “routine technical arrangement”. One cannot image that this Settlement is anything but routine when it allows the Iranians (taking into account its own military concerns) to provide the location and photos of suspected sites to the IAEA”. The Iranians have not been known for their honesty, so why now. Congress, under present legislation, enacted this year, must receive all documents entered into between Iran and any third party. Which includes IAEA Settlement. Congress has been provided nothing.

In addition, we have presently enforced United States’ legislation that Iran not be granted any relief until there is “a certification by the President that Iran is no longer a financier and sponsor of terror. That presidential certification has not been satisfied.” During all of this the White House remains silent.

As I previously mentioned, entwined with the Iranian Nuclear Agreement and at the vortex of the Mideast catastrophe are two countries vying for supreme domination for decades to come: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Parenthetically, while neither of the potential winners is a friend Israel, one overtly seeks its total destruction.

Viewed from afar, one sees the principal objectives of Iran and Saudi Arabia: First, Iran seeks to replace the United States’ control and influence in the Sunni world led by Saudi Arabia, second, to bring to fruition the preaching of Ali Khamenei: destroy Israel.

One of the pieces of supporting evidence is the 2015 report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which documents that since Hassan Rouhani assumed the office of the president of Iran in mid-August 2013, the number of people from various minority communities who imprisoned has increased. In 2014, it was reported that religious minorities Baha’is, Christian converts and Sunni Muslims, along with dissenting Shi’a Muslims, are deteriorating and face increased harassment. Today’s news brings horrifying pictures of the treatment of Catholics in the region.

On the other side of this hostile equation, Saudi Arabia and Israel will never be “friends” and do not have any diplomatic relations (playing to its constituents) and probably never will. Nevertheless, both countries are allies of the United States in opposition to the expansion of regional influence by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

News reports, not yet confirmed, indicate that behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the Saudis and Israel have taken place. One public gesture was that Israel had offered Iron Dome technology to the Saudis who publically declined the offer. That does not mean the technology will not be transferred.

This layer of conflict is very much straight forward. It becomes more complex as we examine the surrogates of Iran and Saudi Arabia who seek to destroy each other with impunity.

But first simple mathematics: Sunnis outnumber Shias by nine to one. Those are the simple numbers; least we forget there are other smaller numbers of tribes whose allegiance shift with the wind and bribery. Today there are one thousand organized, armed sectarian militants in the region. Well in excess of 100,000 people who form alliances with other similar thinking groups.

The entire picture becomes more complex when one studies the generally accepted map of the region. At first blush, nothing unusual comes to the fore, there are straight lines forming different countries as one would expect to see on any map of the Mid-East. The problem is that those lines do not represent the reality of what is on the ground. The map lines were drawn and then imposed by the super nations of the world after wars and conquests and do not take into consideration the multiple tribes and diverse groups that have resided separate and apart for generations across the region. Today, there is talk of the partition of Iraq.

Over decades, the cost, in lost lives and dislocation to vast numbers of individuals is incalculable in this intractable, ongoing conflict. The cost in dollars is staggering. For example, the U.S. has spent in a very short period of time over $2 billion on the air campaign in Syria and Iraq alone.

I recall reading that the King of Jordan had warned the international community that with America’s toppling of Saddam Hussein (clearly, a bad guy) in Iraq, a void would be predictably created and with that an unappealing opportunity would arise for an Iranian-influenced Shia expansion. His words evaporated into thin air. Then as the voids through the Muslim world were being created by one failing government after another, with civil war and protests one after the another, the voids quickly were filled with transnational Shia forces backed by Iran and by violence.

First thing first: In this arena of not merely political posturing but supporting that posturing with weapons, we have been faced with a lot of double talk. Complicating matters, those groups or tribes who seemed not to play any major role in the ongoing conflict are now involved in in the regional violence as they change sides. This complicates the overall picture; weapons that we had sent to help overthrow Assad are now, because of a shift in alliance, being employed against our interests and troops.

While the West extends nuclear negotiations and agreement with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to enhance its international terrorism infrastructure through its proxies. Hezbollah has operatives in the Western European states while Hamas maintains its operatives, according to a German intelligence reports.

Turkey, a country with one foot in Europe and one in Asia, is viewed as a stable nation in the area, has recently undergone its own political upheaval. This Muslim nation until recently run by a strong man, who had turned this historically democratic, nonsectarian nation into a Muslim stronghold, had his political base damaged severely in recent elections. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan– the Turkish government forcibly opposed Kurdish independence – and at the same moment had been tacitly permissive of ISIS. Erdogan deliberately withheld support from the Kurds, whose troops have been successfully opposing ISIS in the north of Iraq. What changed the dynamic of the regional politics was the political blow to Erdogan following his most recent elections, with the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party entering the Turkish parliament for the first time, thus creating a political crisscrossing of political wires. Erdogan then entered into an agreement with the US and ordered the commencement of vigorous bombing of ISIS strongholds, but, to everybody’s astonishment, also launched bombing Kurdish centers. I guess “duplicitous” is the word for his actions. He now alleges that both the campaigns (US warplanes striking ISIS from Turkish bases and his own jets) are really one fight against the terrorism in “his” region, equating ISIS and the Kurdish centers in the north. Viewed from afar there is no moral or ethical reason for these actions. This has had sever political consequences in Turkey as I write these words: the Turkish prime minister failed to form a coalition government, plunging the country deeper into political uncertainty with the President calling for yet another election. In stepped the voice of ISIS, taking advantage of another political crisis in this region urging Muslims in Turkey to rise up against their “infidel” president and “to capture Istanbul”.

The US is not immune from this sort of ambiguity. We find the US bombing Iran’s enemies in one country and helping to bomb Iran’s allies in another. This Gilbert and Sullivan travesty, played out as Sunni-Shia loathing, can indeed give way to marriages of confusing convenience, all while the world watches as the US debates whether to enter into a Nuclear Agreement with a nation who seeks its destruction.

The Nuclear Agreement discussion in the United States has reached name-calling status, affecting not only our natural allies and those we should engage, but our presidential political election process. The violent conflicts in the Middle-East bring continued killings that are reckless and unnecessary even in wartime. In some instances they are horrific by any standards – beheadings, mustard gas and rape. And the immigrants of all descriptions, of all ages, suffer beyond imagination as they flee their homeland and seek solace by placing their lives in unworthy boats that ply across the Mediterranean only to die at sea or face empty, blank and sometimes hostile stares upon their arrival. The civilized world appears to be in a state of physical paralysis and fills their created void with empty gestures. World leaders are more obsessed with the political implications of their pronouncements than the human implications caused by their inaction.

There is a price to pay for all of this and its cost is “human lives”.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

The Face of Islam

It appears at first glance that we have lately become a nation of protests. Whenever I hit the “enter” key on my computer or turn to the news print or to television, there is, in some part of the nation a protest, and always with the hope that it will be nonviolent.

What appears to be in the forefront today in the United States is those protests “demanding justice” for a slain black person killed by a white officer. What appears to be in vogue today in Western Europe are the protests against the flooding of immigrants into France, German, and England. To those in the United States all the European immigrants are the same. We don’t have an immigration problem that can’t be fixed with rational politicians listening to the vast portion of our population. But that is another article.

One of this nation’s pressing issues is how we cope with extremists. A serious issue that has been silent long enough. Al Qaeda and ISIS and their violent, gruesome, inconceivable evil are paraded over and over again across the top of Africa and the Mideast. And their barbaric acts are shown in great detail in every home in the United States.

The evil they commit in the name of Islam is unspeakable in its raw images.

Our president does not want to talk about Islam, the “religion”, when he condemns the heightened form of terrorism; on the other hand, anti-immigrant groups want to paint an entire religion with the deeds of ISIS; the rest of us voice our concerns by yelling at Congress, writing op-ed pieces or mumbling with our elbows on the bar tops across America.

When all of this began to push my pen, I learned that we have always been a nation of protests and marches on our nation’s capital from the late 1800s until today. There have always been marches for or against something. In 1894, there was a march on Washington to protest unemployment. In 1913, there was women’s suffrage, and in 1925 the KKK marched in support of its activities. In 1948, Rabbis marched to stop the destruction of European Jewry. Think of a topic and there has been either a march or protest in some town or city or calls for mass protest in support or against “something”. Bus caravans are organized; huge numbers of people are organized for trains to carry protesters to Union Station in central Washington.

The Million Man March in 1995, caused untold complaints from the discredited person who organized the march to the petty conflict as to how many persons actually attended. But the March did take place and was seen across the nation. Notwithstanding a fusillade of criticism, it did not stop the marches to end the war in Vietnam, against the Iraq war, against guns and for gay rights. Protests are the voice of a community of like thought.

There is one mass protect or collective outcry that I am waiting for. There is one group of Americans whose voice is silent.   In January, I was in Europe when sixteen people were slain in attacks which were carried out by Islamic extremists. I was in London and felt the public blunted with the announcements of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Not a sound out of White House, not a sound in America. I still wait for that one crucial march in my own country. In a recent Atlantic article, its author said that ISIS is no mere collection of psychopaths. If not that what are they? They are not as the President initially defined them.

I still wait for that one group in America that truly counts in this fight against extremists in the name of Islam, and they have remained strangely silent. A group of persons who profess to be Americans, who profess to be loyal Americans, who profess to be patriotic Americans. Americans period.

Almost one year ago the Washington Post published an article by Yasmine Bahrani, a professor of journalism at American University in Dubai, she is a native Iraqi who calls herself an American Muslim. She notes in her article that Muslims have marched across London, Paris and other major cities protesting the treatment of Muslims by the Israelis. But there have been no large scale, significant demonstrations –anywhere in the world — by Muslims against the violence committed by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis and other Muslims, especially the beheadings of non-combatant innocents. If Muslims can organize, she wonders, with relative ease as they have demonstrated in their protests against Israel, why not against ISIS? It is not as if they are impotent as a society. Why not in the United States, the home of over six and half million Muslims, a number greater than the entire population of Arizona? A nation that provides them with the democratic process, citizenship, education, health, the ability to vote and grow and in a country that has provided a safe haven. Sure there are instances of bigotry—no group is immune to that fact of life, but as a pragmatist factor, the Muslims are the third largest religion in the United States and prospering. They have the freedom to protest, they have the freedom to march on the White Houses, they have the freedom to vote for the President of the United States, they have the freedom to send their children to school. Why not protest the atrocities of ISIS?

Here and there you do hear an isolated Muslim voice denouncing the violence of Muslim extremism. But that is not the voice of a people.

You do hear the rejoinder that ISIS is not Islam. But that is an excuse not to face reality of who and what is ISIS, what it represents, how it conducts is rhetoric. Professor Bahrani wrote: “Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets with the passion that we saw at the Gaza rallies in London and Paris….To much of the world, the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other such groups do represent the Muslim community. Today, say the word “Islam” and few think of the glories of our history and culture. Rather, they picture masked men with knives.” Sadly, a poll conducted by the BBC in England found that more than a quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the terrorists who committed the atrocities at Charlie Hebdro in Paris.

Who is the face — who becomes the poster image—of Islam? The key question: Where is the shame and anger within the Muslim population in the United States against ISIS? Where is the communal anger –the million person march –of the Muslims in the United States against the violence of ISIS? When will they standup, with one voice, and condemn ISIS? Their silence is deafening.

Could there be some primal, unrealized connection seeking vindication for some past wrongs? Unhappily, is the answer that there is no anger at these extremists?

There is prompt, vocal and united anger at the reach of Israel. Those protests are large in number, seemingly spontaneous and carry the full banner of the Muslim world and Islam. Is the failure of that Muslim voice allowing ISIS to become the face of Islam?

Richard Allan
The Editor

The Silence is Deafening

I am becoming weary, listening to the same refrain from the President of the United States, down the ladder of talking heads, whenever an act of terrorism is committed in the name of Allah against others whether they be Muslims or other religious or ethnic groups. We are greeted with the same popular disclaimer: “That’s not Islam.” The same refrain was accompanied with the beheading of an innocent western journalist.

If it is not Islam, what is it? Just another act of “ordinary” violence? Secretary of State Kerry called ISIS’ violence “a cancer” in the Muslim world. But there is, at this writing, a more troubling response to these acts of violence that is not being addressed and is very worrisome.

This summer, during the deadly conflict in GAZA, Muslims marched thru the streets of London and Paris , two cities in which there are admittedly a substantial population of blatantly anti-Semitic citizens who cannot accept Israel’s existence. Their march was to protest loudly and passionately the deaths of Gazans “at the hands of Israel”. Of course, it makes sense to protest the bombing of schools and residential buildings so long as they are not utilized as a shield by the militants. And there the truth is clear, self-evident and unbiased. Rockets buried beneath schools and other public facilities were utilized as a shield Hamas.

A further observation before we proceed. Let’s not try to muddy the waters in an attempt to obfuscate our objectivity by tortured nuances in describing who our enemy is and who is not in this present discussion. There is no “legal” difference in form” between ISIS and Hamas. Hamas does not represent the governing political arm of Gaza and ISIS is not the “representative government” of the land it is occupying. Neither Hamas nor ISIS are a state (by any traditional definition) nor are they “rogue states” (however that term happens to be defined at the moment). They are both terrorist groups with enormous physical and political ability and support for them should be condemned without distinction. The act of silence greeting the deeds of either is indistinguishable and not acceptable. Terrorism is never acceptable.

If the human atrocities, worldwide, that are paraded before us each and every day were sporadic occurrences, I would not have begun this article. The concern is that the reported inhuman attacks are anything but rare, and are increasingly more and more often and barbaric. They demand a universal outrage and a voice of disgust. Not simply by the President of the United States, not simply by the Secretary of State and not simply by an isolated leader in the Muslim world. These lonely sound-bites of outrage have led me to the sudden realization that there is a strange and ominous silence that surrounds me, especially in the United States.

The barbaric beheadings, the parading of severed heads by children and the mass murder of innocent civilians has produced a deafing silence in the Muslim community in the United States. That silence is indicative of a state of mind that is troubling in a substantial part of the country’s population. What is the reason for the silence in Muslim-America and how will it be perceived?

It means nothing to claim that violence by a Muslim is not the “voice of Islam”; a cover-up of empty words, a political salve to hide behind. Totally meaningless. ISIS has made it easy for us to understand their focus. The ISIS propaganda apparatus publishes an English-Language jihadist slick magazine Dabiq. In its latest issue, aimed at the English-Speaking world, it rejoices over Foley’s beheading, and it amazingly calls the beheading “a cooling balm for the believers’ hearts”.

Why hasn’t the Muslim community in this country jumped to their communal feet in outrage, as in Paris and London? Equally disturbing why hasn’t the national press, the media and the talking heads not confronted the silence of the American- Muslim population?

Why the fear of national confrontation? Is it the fear that one might be accused of prejudice against those in this country who count themselves as being Muslim? Accused of being racist? Not unexpected, the Muslim population found its marching feet and protested loudly in London and Paris against Israel , but they have seem to have lost that same collective voice, the same passion and dedication in denouncing the atrocities committed by ISIS and other Muslim extremists. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a self-described group similar, it alleges, to the NAACP, in promoting and protecting the positive image of Islam and Muslims n American. In 1998 a co-founder of CAIR said: “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant.” To be redundant: Where is the collective voice of outrage in the American-Muslim community?

Could the sad truth be that there is an unspoken thread to one’s own religious/secular world that prohibits them from criticizing their own? Are they fearful of retaliation by the extremists in their midst? Why is an entire Muslim- American community paralyzed in expressing what should be their outrage? I would hate to think the worst. Certainly, if the individual Muslim-American fails to join with his neighbor and other Muslim-Americans in protest, their continued shared silence will be perceived, rightfully or wrongfully, as being part of a silent supporter to the horrors of ISIS and those like them.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

It’s an ugly world

First let me apologize for not writing for the longest time. I had to deal with a health issue, but that is now history. More important is today’s history. What I am assuming you would want, if there is an international holiday on your agenda during the upcoming fall season, is a place you could travel to and feel secure. You want to find yourself ultimately in a safety zone; also, a zone that does not appear to be seething with trouble. A place that you can enjoy without thought of anything other than the sight in your line of vision. And a plane ride without anxiety.

If you are a Francophile and thought: Paris, there you should worry about those sections of Paris that are truly off limits to a Caucasians. In general, I am not worried about the common pickpocket, and there are plenty of them abound wherever you go (and I have been a victim more than once when I thought I was being careful). I am not worried that my luggage may go “intentionally” astray, and that has happened to me in Germany.

What I worry about is bombs, kidnapping and bedbugs. Without the insight of a local resident, I am worried about the simmering rages that seem to be lingering in the streets of a particular section of a city. I am worried about peaceful protests when the fuse of the initial impetus for the protest can unexpectedly, for a stranger, turn ugly and violent.

I am worried about cities with a shocking financially depressed population and the frustration that must be brewing in their homes. I am worried about visiting a country where you dare not ask a political question of a local due to the fear of putting that person in danger of arrest by the authorities. In Singapore, I was told by an art gallery owner that a question I had posed to him was “inappropriate”. Later he volunteer to answer that same question when we met by accident in a transit air terminal in Japan.

I was appalled when a friend said in passing that the world was ugly. He was not referring to its visual characteristic, but the ugliness of the behavior of its population. And I do not mean politeness or courtesy or even grace. We live in a world whose atmosphere is littered with overhanging hostility at every turn. An Egyptian cartoonist poked fun at the United States during the riots in Ferguson after the death of a young man by an overzealous local police officer. The American press had been critical of the continuing political turmoil in Egypt and, how dare we be so critical when the political and social upheaval in the United States are no panacea.

The National Geographic Channel has taught me that animals only attack other animals for the purpose of food. Many years ago a Russian diplomat told a group of us that a town in Poland, which had been removed from the Soviet orbit several hundred years ago, still “belonged” to the “mother country” and could be “retaken” legitimately . When I responded in amazement, his sharp retort was: “that’s the trouble with you Americans; you have no sense of history.”

Could “our lack of a sense of history” be the cause of our international paralysis or some knee jerk reaction to the political and sectarian genocide across so much of the globe? Where are we as a nation when scores are being slaughtered? It appears we either simply ignore that particular “ugliness” or we send in troops because of our alleged feelings for the “humanitarian claim”.

Or is the real truth that we view all foreign incidents thru a political prism. It seems that our first consideration circles around the question: Is the area engulfed in violence a place that is “necessary” to our wellbeing? Our wellbeing–not the pain of those suffering. And wellbeing is defined for us as either or both the safekeeping of the nation’s financial health or our national security.

We are being faced by those who are certifiable egomaniacs with massive persona who control all those within the sound of their voice. These individuals appear to have a control of human behavior that is by all reasonable standards beyond the pale of decent human conduct. How do you behead a person for world-wide viewing? How do you have people, seemingly rational people, line up asking for the next assignment to assassinate a stranger; and what possesses an individual to volunteer to end their own life, not because of some internal pain, but to kill as many other people as possible in the process. Who are these people? They are barbaric. Why do we tolerate this ugliness?

If you take your eye off the news from Washington for a moment, you will become confused when our supposed allies change sides. Are we really talking to the Syrian government for a “fly-over” so that we may bomb the ISIS troops at the same moment the UAE and Egypt carry out airstrikes against that very same Government? And then in the morning news you read that more than 260 migrants died in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Italy seeking what or more important escaping what? While Germany is outraged that the United States has spied upon it, we learn that Germany has spied on Turkey its ally for decades.

And last, at this writing, reports from all the major news sources –our nations and the world press—herald the news that Hamas and Israel have agreed to an extended Gaza cease-fire. That’s the “Good” news; but we also learn from an exhaustive investigative report by Forbes Magazine how that same universal press and electronic media, especially the NY Times ––the sources we all rely upon each day for all our information –has been terribly and intentionally distorting the facts in favor of the Palestinians.

Whom can we trust in this ugly, not very safe world? Some of us turn to isolation and attempt to ignore the world, and believe we will be safe. During a recent police investigation of police brutality an alleged witness said he was fearfully of the hail of bullets being fired by the police and hid behind a car. Yet in minute detail, with his head hidden, he was able to describe the shooting. How?

A friend once said, and this must have been said countless times by others: “You deal with the hand you have been dealt. “ It’s an ugly world; but let’s deal with it all. And what that entails is that this nation, with our without consultation with its allies, evolves contingency plans for future events well before the need for their implementation. That is what responsible governments do. The potential for horrific events must be anticipated and met head on. That’s what top executives do. We must stop the slaughtering of innocent individuals; the victims cannot wait for endless consultations by the responsible world governments. How can a world leader, with untold resources, publicly admit that his government has no strategic plan in this very violent world?

Richard Allan, The Editor

Global Incidents and Commentary

[column]Global Events

The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida’s connection in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger’s underwear, but of a different design. The question is whether it could have passed though airport security and the indication was that since there was no metal in its construction it could. What is not that clear is whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it. The would-be new type underwear bomber, who was based in Yemen, had not yet picked his target or purchased his plane tickets when he and his bomb were detained. (See below for further comments.)
• NEW DELHI (Reuters) – “Standing next to India’s foreign minister, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday to do more to stamp out homegrown terrorism, in comments likely to please the Indian government but annoy Pakistani leaders.” Editor’s Note: Pakistani leaders always get annoyed, and then go their own way ignoring our pleas because they know we will not react.
Editor’s Note: The Election in France will change the tone of the dialogue between and among those in both the euro zone and beyond. Although it is thought that the impact on the financial structure of the euro zone maybe minimum, national and international security issues will be view though very different prism then presently exists. Close attention to the dialogue should be looked at not as reality but the actions of all the parties as they move forward to their individual national goals.
• The Israeli Prime Minister has agreed to form a political coalition government with the leading opposition party and thus canceling his early election plans. The platform was that it would restore political and economic stability for the people of Israel. The real question is what does this do the hot public and publicity talk of bombing or not bombing Iran? Have the two parties come to an agreement concerning that very difficult issue and its implications far beyond the region?
• Yemen – One of the continuing hot spots in the world of violence with political instability and ongoing issue of terrorism (see Event below) has once again been partially sanitized by the US Defense Department with the reintroduction of a small number of military trainers. Much more than that will be necessary to stabilize that country.
• The Yemen branch of al Qaeda, on the Arabian Peninsula, was the home of the latest suicide underwear bomber. This time—surprise – it was actually a double-agent who delivered the non-metallic upgraded underwear bomb. The agent spent, what is described as weeks, inside Yemen’s al Qaeda affiliate which provided him access to information that has yet to be released and probably will not. The question remains that although the plot to blow up the bomb on an American plane was foiled well prior to its execution, was the other and equally important mission to find and kill the well-known and very well skilled bomb maker who remains at large…and untouched?
• Algerians opened their election polls for the first time since their independence from France in 1962. One would have expected a flood at the door to the voting booth, but only 35 percent of those eligible to vote will probably show up. The boycott is the result of the not unfounded belief that the real power to govern will be held by the security forces.
• Turkey—In its latest “stand alone stance”, the Turkish government has said it would not answer an international call for the arrest of one of Iraq’s senior Sunni Arab officials, hiding out in that country, on suspicion of directing and providing finance for alleged terrorist attacks. The reason given was that will not extradite someone whom they have always supported. The real reason has a tic-for-tack basis: Turkey would like Iraq to turnover alleged terrorist it wish to place under arrest who are ensconced in northern Iraq.
• And Last: Under the title of “that’s unfair”– a man who was involved in a domestic dispute was traveling with his young child. When he and the child attempted to board a domestic flight, the child’s teddy bear was placed on the conveyer belt for inspection (and why not?) and—low-and-behold, the teddy bear contained a gun toting armed hand gun.[/column]

[column]Commentary—Be Careful What You Wish For.

The truth is I have never asked myself the question: what is democracy? After some thought and an attempt for an all-inclusive answer, what I arrived at was: Democracy is a form of government wherein all the people of a nation or state vote to determine the form or type of government they wish, and to elect those people who will decide the details and carry their wishes to fruition. Encompassed in that mandate is that the newly elected officials will then enact laws and regulations that provide a format or method for the new government to govern. What would flow from that directive would be laws that would be enacted to protect the population from a harsh government, and that each person subject to the laws would be treated not merely fairly but as equals. Obviously, this approach would change from culture to culture, but the underlying principals would remain the same.
When the Arab or “Spring” Revolution began its shattering race across the Middle East in late 2010 early 2011, a popular uprising began in late January of 2011 in Cairo and then in Alexandria, Egypt. Although Egypt has seen revolutions in the past, what occurred in Cairo differed in form from what had occurred weeks earlier in Tunisia. The Egyptian revolution began as non-violent acts of civil disobedience, supported by labor strikes, to not merely protest the regime of President Hosni Mubarak but to overthrow his repressive dictatorship with its crippling economic conditions and widespread corruption. The protestors quickly grew in size, and within a matter of days it was estimated that 2 million people –from a wide variety of social, economic and religious backgrounds–were protesting in Tahrir square. But violence did erupt, and over 800 people died with 6000 injured. The scene day after day and night viewed on CNN as it unfolded was as dramatic as one could wish to see in the hope that ultimately there would be the birth of a new democracy. The West stood on the sidelines throwing roses at those in the street of Cairo seeking democracy.
Nevertheless, the Mubarak dictatorship, although an overtly repressive regime, had its special place in the world order because of its friendly and financial ties to the West and the United States in particular. It had joined and partnered with the West in its fight against terrorism.
The world quickly came to terms, viewing President Hosni Mubarak as defendant Mubarak and in the dock fighting for his life in a court of law. As that event unfolded, if you did not watch closely enough, the revolution and “democracy” took a different turn in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest and one of the largest Islamist movements, moved to the forefront of the political discussion, and contrary to its public face during the height of street protest and violence, did a double turn and announced through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), that it would move to fill the political void created by the demise of a Mubarak Government. At that moment and simply stated, its well known positions regarding sharia law, women’s rights, and Egypt’s relations with Israel should have sent a shudder though the West.
The election process began in a move toward a new government. However, of the newly elected 100 member Egyptian Assembly, there were only six women and six Christians who were elected. Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, and within all those elected, there were almost none, it is claimed, who could be defined as skillful or knowledgeable in either constitutional or human rights issues.
When, thereafter, the newly elected Assembly convened for the first time to vote for those who would draft the country’s new constitution—it’s very first and most important and substantial act, one quarter of the Assembly (the lower house) walked out in protest. Walked out because they complained that the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the FJP, along with an ultraconservative Islamist Nour Party, effectively froze out of the legislative process a group of liberal and non-Muslim legislators. The liberal bloc of the elected members consisted of three separate parties who along with the non-Muslim legislators stated their objection that the Islamist-dominated law makers had imposed their will on the minority in the process of choosing who would draft the new constitution. In other words, no voice was given to the religious and political minority in the constitutional process. The political process then began to tumble almost uncontrollably.
Under this scenario, a series of fundamental—indispensible– questions flowed from the international press: What will happen to the secularists within and without the government? What of the non-Muslim but religious minority and their individual religious rights, their freedom of speech? Gays? What of women’s rights, unveiled women in public, women traveling without a male guardian? Is blasphemy punishable by death? Five months ago, thousands of supporters of the FJP marched in Cairo chanting: “Death to the Jews” and pledged to continue the jihad against Israel. The principles, beliefs, doctrine of the Brotherhood were and remain: “Allah is our objective, the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”
Mubarak was exchanged, at great cost, for a chance at democracy. Can the uncompromising imposition of the majority, backed Brotherhood’s narrow litany of “these highest of our (religious) aspirations” be forced upon a diversified country and be deemed or acknowledged as “democracy in action”? Or is it merely that a “new government” through fortuitous and unanticipated events, has been hijacked by religious zeal?
“Is democracy foreclosed” might have been a better title for this Commentary. Upon reflection, the ultimate and disturbing question is: Can a democracy –in any form – be viable in the Middle East because of the ever present constraints on its political development? Part of the complicated answer can be discovered by recognizing that not only the regions very long and deep-seated cultural way of life has become part of its basic fabric, but that very complex ingredient has also been integrated into its zealous and fanatical religious ideals. The consequences of that permutation are that every aspect of individual and national life has become inexorably and inescapably entwined, with no room for political evolution.
Richard Allan,
The Editor[/column]