Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nigeria, A National Cesspool of Hatred

"Questioning suspects is a lengthy process. It is better to take time to screen them out than to allow a single terrorist to go free and carry out a suicide bombing."
"[The Nigerian military follows] international best practices."
Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman army spokesman

"These women can kill. They are used to killing and slaughtering people."
"You can't be absorbing people into your communities without deradicalizing them."
Ann Darman, director, Gender Center, northeastern Nigeria

"Most of the camps have become centres of hunger, malnutrition and communicable diseases."
The Daily Trust

"The camp officials have been restricting some of us who are strong from going out."
"We have been living as prisoners, and the food meant for our care is being sold in the open market."
Umar Abdulsalam, refugee spokesman, Borno state, Nigeria
Nigeria accounted for more than half the worldwide killings of Christians in 2015.
Nigeria accounted for more than half the worldwide killings of Christians in 2015. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria is Africa's largest, most populous country. And just incidentally, endowed with the most valuable natural resources. When oil revenues reflected high revenues per barrel, the-then Christian led government in a country equally divided between Christianity and Islam, tended to give short shrift to the needs of the Muslim portion. Now that a Muslim government is in place and oil revenues are down it is the Christians who are deprived and the Muslim demographic that is benefiting.

But it is from among the Muslim part of the country that Boko Haram arose and began its marauding, looting, raping, killing spree as a dedicated jihadist terrorist group claiming affinity first to al-Qaeda and more latterly connection to Islamic State. The new Nigerian president, an orthodox Muslim and former general, vowed to eradicate Boko Haram, but the underpaid, under-armed military is almost as ineffective as under the previous administration.

There have been some successful battles against Boko Haram, though it is far from being eliminated. But the incidence of arresting civilians looking for protection with the military from the terrorist group has increased; detention centers and barracks where civilians are supposed to be interrogated to ensure they are not Boko Haram sympathizers have become death traps for those placed in them. And those in the camps include women who have escaped their captivity by Boko Haram.

Officials are suspicious of all such people given the success of Boko Haram in transforming captives into bombers. Children as young as eight, mothers, boys, girls, have become suicide bombers, killing hundreds of people, trained to strike at crowded markets, schools and refugee camps alike. President Muhammadu Buhari instructed the military that corruption would no longer be the order of the day, spurring the military to routing the terrorists from remote villages.

The Chibok schoolgirls, though a more recent video highlighting their presence still with Boko Haram, have never been retrieved after two years of bondage. Screening by the military of men and boys can take on miserably violent dimensions. If the interrogators feel that those they question are withholding information the legs and hands0shackled people are beaten unmercifully; some never seen again. Hostility between Christians and Muslims results in violent clashes and deaths.

The refugee camps holding thousands close to Maiduguri in the north-east are short of food. Children are starving; there is no potable water, and temperatures soar into the 40s. Camp inhabitants are forbidden from leaving the camp precincts and there is nowhere they can access food. Humanitarian aid meant to be delivered to the malnourished disappears, looted and sold freely on the black market. An estimated 1.2 million to 2 million refugees are being held in the camps.

The state government of Borno is supposed to provide cooked meals to the refugees, but it fails to materialize. International aid workers trying to feed the malnourished children speak of starvation deaths. The bleak failure of the country to protect its own and provide safe haven for the vulnerable speaks of an enormous lack of will and dedication to the barest provision of human needs for survival.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Distinguishing Jihad from a Mass Exodus Disaster

"Chaotic scenes have erupted on the coastal Mediterranean frontier between Italy and France. On August 4, for instance, hundreds of migrants, chiefly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Sudan sought to storm the crossing in their attempts to make it to Northern Europe."
"Both the Italian and French forces at the border were taken by surprise," remarked Giorgio Marenco, a police commander in Ventimiglia, where tear gas was used to disperse the migrants. Others merely braved the choppy waters of the sea to breach the crossing by swimming towards their goal."
"The Italian town contains the last train station in Italy near the border. The besieged terminus lies three miles from the French Riviera. It has been a gathering point for the predominantly Muslim migrants since June 2015. A fractious tent city for migrants has sprung up, mirroring others spread across Italy. The capital of the French holiday district is Nice, which experienced a jihadist massacre on July 14."
George Igler, political analyst, London, (director of the Discourse Institute) Gatestone Institute

African migrants camp out on the beach in the northern Italian town of Ventimiglia, along the French border, as they wait for the opportunity to cross into France, in 2015. (Image source: AFP video screenshot)
"If a group of Jewish or Christian terrorists in Algeria, Egypt or Saudi Arabia had committed the same kind of stabbings, car-rammings, throat-slittings and shootings that France and Germany are suffering now, they would have provoked an immediate reaction. Tens of thousands -- maybe hundreds of thousands -- of enraged Muslims would have rushed into the streets to kill, stab or eviscerate the first group of Jews or Christians they met. Within 24 hours, no church or synagogue would be able to open its doors: all of them would have been burned to cinders."
"These words are not to stigmatize anyone; they are meant to explain what terrorists want. According to Gilles Kepel, professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and a specialist of Islam, "ISIS calls for stabbing dirty and evil French people... because they want to trigger a civil war." Muslim terrorists behind the wave of terrorist attacks apparently assume that thousands of French, Germans or Belgians will rush out into the streets, as they would do themselves, to kill, stab or eviscerate Muslims. Muslim sponsors of terrorism may not even be able to imagine that Europeans may not wish to participate in the pleasure of bloodthirsty riots."
Yves Mamou, French journalist, Gatestone Institute
The Western democracies of the world are tremendously understanding of the plight of the oppressed, feeling it their duty as humane and civilized governments to extend not only sympathy but open arms of welcome to hapless people who are suffering under the conditions that tribal, under-developed, sectarian-divided nations impose upon their own. From Sharia law-ridden nations who exploit the opportunities that Islam affords them to identify political opponents as enemies whose punishment is torture and death, to the same release from life extended to those practising forbidden religions, or refusing to accept the sex that birth gave them, life is a misery

Add to that the inequality between the enterprising wealthy and the plight of the countless indigent poor struggling to provide for themselves and to survive often violent societal norms and the brutality of police forces whose only function is to suppress dissent however it presents itself, along with unequal access to education, health care, employment and hope for the future, and the formula for large portions of the depressed populations to wish to escape their fate is explicable. Migrating elsewhere when at all possible does offer hope when haven is found outside the constrictions of their experiences.

But it also burdens other societies with their own cultures, their own heritage, their own ethnic groups with the assimilation of people of entirely different backgrounds. And all too often it is discovered that those different backgrounds have imprinted in those who have become refugees an inability to adapt to the social mores of the accepting country. Disagreeable situations arise when the refugees attempt to create for themselves an environment reflective of the one they left, installing their culture and their religion and expressing an entitlement of recognition from the indigenous population.

Invariably, among those who arrive at their new destination to begin their new lives there will be those who yearn for what has been left behind, augmented by a sense of obligation by the faithful to the tenets of the religion that is a vital, functional and indispensable part of their daily lives; all aspects of their lives. Their resentment toward non-Muslims and their response to the calls for violent jihad lead to terrorist attacks that leave the host country stunned. But what has occurred is that the host country has been fated by some strange psychological alchemy, to forgive, to overlook, to 'understand' the motivations that bring terror to their populations.

The terrorists take on the guise of troubled, depressed young people who have been steered toward barbarous action by some inexplicable process that leads them to commit murderous acts. None of which have anything to do with religion, and certainly not Islam which its explainers repeat endlessly is a religion of peace. To believe otherwise on the basis of observation of the spread of violent extremism reflecting Islam, reflecting the original and authentic expressions and actions of its founder, the Prophet Mohammad, is to betray oneself as "Islamophobic", and non-Muslims will do anything to avoid that charge.

The very coupling of the words Islam and terror, or Islam and jihad is silently forbidden. To speak of them represents a social breach of civility. It's quite all right to speak of terrorism, but never to link it with Islam. As far as politicians are concerned, it is becoming a career-ending move to accuse Islam of fomenting divisions between people and it is becoming increasingly fraught to speak of Islam as the driving force across the globe of mayhem and slaughter of the Muslim faithful themselves. All the more so as those listening have gained the influence of numbers with the populations of Muslims having reached immense proportions throughout the non-Muslim world.

In France a wave of attacks against Jews by Muslims in support of the "Palestinian cause" has taken an impressive number of Jewish lives. Supporters of that same cause in countries where that level of violence has not yet taken hold, express their hostility and anti-Semitic rage through propaganda painting Jews in the colours of slander reminiscent of the Nazi preparation through propaganda of promoting Jews as sub-human and dispensable, a generally accepted premise that led inevitably to the state machinery geared to exterminate Europe's Jews. Europe's Jews are being exterminated in another sense now by the influx of Muslims where Jews have lived for centuries, leading Jews to return to the Middle East and Israel, while Muslim and Arab populations are doing the very reverse.

The conviction of radical Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary (centre) -- the most prominent extremist in Britain -- has been widely welcomed in the UK. Telegraph

Britain's single most abhorrent Islamist agitating for the United Kingdom to be transformed into a Muslim state, acting until now in a state of utter impunity for outrageous Islamist entitlements has been found guilty of shilling for the Islamic State and has been imprisoned as reward for his prodigious efforts. But Britain is relaxed and easy on the subject of Islam and its viral malice as expressed by visiting clerics who are given grand welcomes and assured of no interference by government. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury graciously welcomed two Pakistani clerical extremists on a month-long visit to various British mosques.

When the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province was assassinated by one of his own guards for defending the human rights of Pakistani Christians, the assassin was feted both in Pakistan and abroad, who shared the assassin's view of Salman Taseer, the governor as an apostate for stating that the country's blasphemy laws should be more humane. So when his assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was given the death penalty for the murder, religious leaders in the UK condemned his punishment.

This is merely jihad by other means, the promulgation and acceptance of views integral to Islam that are completely foreign to Western values. The two-pronged assault through immigration and the declaration of refugee status that has seen the Muslim faith infiltrate everywhere in Western society is the slow, steady drip of population increase and social, political jihad. This is the jihad that is ignored because to make note of it is uncivil and to be taken notice of for such incivility identifies one as a bigot.

The other form of jihad is the type that everyone pays notice to, since it's difficult to overlook. But the proud displays of traditional Islamic punishment meted out to those who offend the Islamic sense of justness and propriety through beheadings, crucifixtions, amputations, are all part of the tradition of Islam, a tradition that plays out institutionally in official Saudi and Iranian, Pakistani and Afghan justice. Since it is institutionalized, it is not taken note of.

Instead, the march of Islamism through the auspices of Islamic jihad expressing itself in terrorist acts is what draws attention for its frighteningly repulsive visibility. Not, however, to be mentioned in polite company, as an element of Islam. So there it is; simply not possible for a humane, civil society to turn its back on the spectacle of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of human beings fleeing poverty and war and oppression to find a better future for themselves elsewhere. They are human beings in need of haven.

But they are also representatives of stealth jihad. They do not necessarily mean to be that, of course, they are simply doing what people have always done; looking for a better life for themselves which cannot be found in their countries of birth where Islam dominates and opportunities do not. The far-reaching end result will eventually see the kind of oppression and commanding faith being imposed worldwide through the globe's fastest-growing religion. Conquest is its game.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Capital Punishment, Putin-Style

"It all went so fast. In the space of about twenty minutes, I went from feeling completely normal to having a rapid heart rate, really high blood pressure, to sweating and vomiting all over the place, and then I lost consciousness."
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian opposition leader
Vladimir Kara-Murza is back on his feet and in Russia
Vladimir Kara-Murza is back on his feet and in Russia Photo: Dmitri Beliakov/The Telegraph
"The government is using the special services to liquidate its enemies. It was not just Litvinenko, but many others we don't know about, classified as accidents or maybe semi-accidents."
Gennadi V. Gudkov, former member of Parliament, former lieutenant colonel, K.G.B.

"All of this sounds like paranoid conspiracy theories. But there are too many of these happening to important people. Captains of industry and lawyers are not dying left, right and centre like this in the West."
William F. Browder, American financier, anti-Russian government campaigner
Russians tend to be extremely courageous in continuing to offend their president, Vladimir V. Putin, by challenging his authority. Mr. Putin is not someone who takes such instances of obvious disrespect lightly, and it seems he is not a forgiving man. Too many journalists and political opponents have paid the supreme price of death for their belief that they could reasonably survive criticizing Mr. Putin. The amazing thing is, they continue to express their opinions, in defiance of his reputation and his penchant for instructing death squads to pursue his brand of justice.

Mr. Putin is, if nothing else, a man of supreme confidence in himself and contempt for those incapable of envisioning him as a man who has dedicated his life to Greater Russia, greater and greater Russia, through oppression and purloining of other neighbours' borders if need be, but a task to which he has dedicated himself with tremendous zeal. Mr. Kara-Murza had visited Washington  to take part in public meetings to persuade American lawmakers to make full use of the Magnitsky Act, to hasten political change in Moscow.

The Magnitsky Act was adopted in the United States through the lobbying of American financier William Browder, target of tax fraud when he worked in Russia and who employed Mr. Magnitsky as his lawyer, recognizing his role as an anti-corruption crusader in Russia, hated by the authorities. Mr. Magnitsky had been arrested on trumped-up charges, imprisoned and died there when medical care was refused and his health deteriorated morbidly.

Once back in Russia, Mr. Kara-Murza, during a meeting with associates was the subject to a poisoning attempt, and lived to tell the tale. After emerging from a week-long coma, it was clear a security service had extended its use of capital punishment which, in this instance, failed. Political murder is a commonplace in this Russia; it worked during the Stalin era, and it works now. Journalists who think they can write about massive state corruption, rights advocates, opposition politicians, whistle-blowers and others who seek to change government are all targets of this very special backlash.

The whistle-blower that brought the attention of the world to Russia's sports doping scandal, Grigory Rodchenkov, well understands that to return to Russia is to agree to his own penalty meted out by government secret security, so he has decided to save his life and live elsewhere, though there are no guarantees, since that same secret security detail is quite capable of, and has proceeded to murder Russians abroad, with impunity.
Alexander Litvinenko in hospital ward prior to his death
Alexander Litvinenko fell ill after a meeting with former KGB contacts in London in 2006

The most infamous of its foreign ventures was the polonium poisoning of Alexander V. Litvinenko, an opponent of Putin who didn't live to tell the story. The world saw photos and news stories of Mr. Litvinenko's suffering in a hospital bed in London as he agonizingly suffered the deadly effects of polonium destroying his body internally until death finally gave him release from his agony. His death too serves as a warning to other critics of Russian government.

Yulia Stepanova, a Russian runner, is now in hiding in the United States with her husband, both of whom were forced to flee Russia in fear. "If something happens to us, then you should know that it is not an accident", she recently stated, of her involvement in revealing to the world the extent of the Russian government doping scheme at the Olympics. A coroner recently ruled that Kremlin insider Mikhail Y. Lesin died of blunt-force trauma in a Washington hotel room, not a heart attack as was originally stressed.

An intelligence officer who was accused of defecting and in the process betraying a ring of Russian spies working undetected undercover in American suburbs died in the United States. Aleksandr Poteyev, 65, was a former Russian intelligence officer whom the Russian Interfax news agency reported dead, due payback for revealing damaging information for Moscow and certainly for the undercover agents who had little option but to return to Russia, their identities revealed.

Russian banker Alexander Perepilichny in 2009 passed on records to Swiss investigators and in 2012, aged 44 in excellent health, suffered a heat attack, while jogging. In 2014, a botanist identified the cause of his death; not a heart attack. His stomach revealed traces of geisemium, a poisonous plant from the Himalayas, known to have been used in China for assassinations.

"How can  you protect yourself? What can you do? Not eat? Bring your own lunch everywhere? How can you predict a poisoning?", asks Mr. Kara-Murza's wife Yevgenia, rhetorically, beside herself with concern and frustration over her husband's prospects for reasonable longevity.

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Burkini Storm on Sandy Beaches

"I own a burkini and I love it. I am a practising Muslim, and I believe there should be a choice. I honestly don't like exposing my body in public, and I like to work fashion into my preferences on how I wish to clothe myself."
"A big part of being in a modern society, part of living in freedom, is allowing people to live their life how they want to live it. By putting forward this ban [the mayor of Cannes] is infringing upon a human's basic right to live how they wish to."
"It's not the responsibility of a public servant to dictate how I choose to cover my body."
Sabrina Akram, Pakistani-born U.S. citizen
People sunbathing on the beach in Cannes
Getty Images     The mayor of Cannes issued the ordinance in late July forbidding beachwear that doesn't respect "good morals and secularism"
"I don't have a burkini, but I do swim wearing a headscarf, tracksuit bottoms and long T-shirt. I think [the ban is] slightly ridiculous. In Victorian times swimmers would wear long baggy trousers, full tops and swimming caps and no-one blinked an eye!"
"I fail to see how a woman wishing to cover her body with a particular style of costume whilst swimming can possibly be a symbol of Islamic extremism."
"I accept that there are some horrendously psychotic people out there proclaiming to be fighting on behalf of one group or another. However, what a woman chooses to wear on a public beach is not going to make the slightest bit of difference, and just hands ammunition to those who want to... recruit to their twisted ideology."
Kerry Amr, Muslim convert, Telford, England

"This decision [France's administrative court overturning burkini ban], far from pacifying, will serve only to heighten tensions, which will carry risks of  trouble which we wanted to avoid."
"Rampant Islamism has been gaining ground. With this ruling it has gained some more."
Lionnel Luca, mayor, Villeneuve-Loubet, France
Antwerpen Belgien Burkini Party Protest (Foto: picture-alliance/dpa/F.Sadones)
Muslim women in Belgium organized a different kind of protest. They gathered in Antwerp to celebrate at a beach party, dressed in burkinis, bikinis or bathing suits. Their motto was: "We are women and we are free."
Fashion is usually a matter of intense interest for young women and their admirers. Particularly fashion statements that come out of French cutourier houses, which lead the world in design and impracticality of wear. France is certainly once again the fixated object of attention globally with its most recent focus on garb considered appropriate for Muslim women, but this time the controversy has stirred both support and rejection.

Something about the totalitarianism of Islam's ideology that insists its faithful must subscribe to a total package of lifestyle, law, faith, politics unquestioningly, particularly with the resurgence of extreme Islam now dominating the religious culture which sees young Muslim women whose mothers and grandmothers wore western-style clothing sans hijab, let alone niqab and burka only decades earlier, now choosing to appear more fashionably discreet, spurning the opportunity to be relaxed about their clothing in favour of chaste cover-ups.

And so the burkini was born, an ostensible cover-up, permitting only hands, feet and face to glow in the sun. Leggings, hair covering, long-sleeved shirt and shift seem to these women more appropriate to their status as Muslim women in an ever-increasing move toward separating themselves from the loose ways and tight garments of their non-Muslim counterparts. Strange this is, since it appears to be non-Muslim men who are affronted at the spectacle of Muslim cover-ups.

Police on beach in Cannes and a woman in a burkini on a French beach
 Security on French beaches has been tight this summer and the burkini row should be seen in that light EPA/AP
There's a point here that seems to be eluding the notice of most spectators in this sport of aggrieved reaction to the dress of Muslim women. While the niqab and the burqa do assault sensibilities with their total, bleak, black cover-ups reducing women to formless shifting tents, the burkini is nothing of the same sort. Can't anyone in this hullabaloo think back to the popularity of buxom women taking part in sweatshirt-dunking contests?

Where women are completely water-drenched wearing full cover tops with the result being a totally revealing body shape. So what happens when a burkini is completely soaked? It melds to the form of the wearer in the most faithful way, showing off all her curves and bulges. How is this in any way modest? The only difference between that and the bikini is that skin shows in one, and the clinging outlines in the other and the rest is left to the fertile imagination of the onlooker.

It has been proven time and time again that it is more seductive and enticing when a woman covers herself suggestively, than when she uncovers herself and allows all to be revealed. This latest insistence of Muslim women that a burkini defines their sense of security and modesty as a vulnerable woman is simply a game of show-and-tease and everyone should just get over it.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

American Imperialism, Persuasive Putin

There is a solution, it appears, to the overbearing universality of American exceptionalism. The mindset of Americans, steered by their successive presidential plans and expectations that they will lead and the world will follow. That the power of the United States of America is sufficient to have all other nations bend to the fears of American displeasure, and seeking not to bring attention to their own incompetent leadership, accede to all demands that U.S. administrations extend as invitations.
Leaders rising up against Western order
"Peter the Great, czar from 1682 till his death in 1725, has been admired ever since for the successful wars he fought to expand Russia. Stalin still retains some Russian admirers [and a relatively gentle treatment in Russian schoolbooks] because at his death in 1953 Moscow's power encompassed most of eastern Europe and a vast collection of multi-ethnic and multilanguage provinces in the U.S.S.R."
"In difficult times, such as the present [when oil prices have fallen disastrously], Russians admire proud, ambitious leaders, those willing to establish Russian power and influence in distant places. No one knows that better than Putin."
Robert Fulford, journalist, National Post
Mr. Fulford, if he has read Russia Insider or, isn't too impressed with their arguments that the 'free world' leadership itself is raising questions about American imperialism. Their claim is that:
"Pope Francis, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn have raised fundamental questions concerning: 
  • (1) war and peace in the Middle East and the Caucuses; 
  • (2) climate change and the destruction of the environment; 
  • (3) economic sanctions, military threats and confrontation; and 
  • (4) growing inequalities of class, gender and race
Placing Pope Francis in the company of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Hassan Rouhani and Jeremy Corbyn might not be hugely pleasing to the pope, but there you are, and there he is in the illustrious company of four world figures of questionable repute, three of whom have certainly put their neighbours on edge, all three of whom have been responsible for extreme human rights violations, verging on crimes against humanity.

Jeremy Corbyn has not yet been given the opportunity through socialist serendipity to prove that he too is fundamentally capable of unleashing violence and immunity to justice on a world scale, but he's working on it. Each of the three others, excluding the good pope, are capable in their vision of a new world order, of unleashing their own brand of Armageddon on the world, and they seem to be attempting just that.

And while the United States did, before Imperial Japan finally surrendered at the base of the Second World War, sic the hounds of hell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a horrible lesson of humanity's propensity to vicious excess and the plight of civilians forever perishing in the throes of warfare, Messrs. Putin, Xi and Rouhani appear to be waiting in the wings to try out their individual and quite deadly iterations given the right conditions.

Perhaps the only nation in the world that stands in the way of permitting those right conditions to arise is the maligned and still-powerful United States of America, which is, at the present time, undergoing its own, internal flirtation with purgatorial politics. As for Putin The Persuasive, he appears to relish the successes he has engineered in leading a Nobel Laureate around by the nose and perhaps he chafes at the understanding that he will soon be facing an adversary whose inflexibility echoes his own.

More to his taste is  alliances with some of the ilk of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who knows how to react to challenges to his authority; citizens of Syria who protest against inequality can expect greater measures to be barrel-bombed upon them, their cities destroyed, their futures placed in abeyance, as the death toll mounts and the refugee counts multiply, leaving Europe to flounder; killing two birds with one stone, as it were.

Still mired in Ukraine, support of the Russian-speaking Ukrainian rebels ongoing, protestations of no Russian involvement in weapons-transfer, troop deployment, planned assaults based on accusations of espionage, treason and violence-in-the-making against a neighbouring country whom Putin/Moscow has deprived of critical territory and resources, Mr. Putin is adamant that neither he nor the Kremlin have done anything untoward, and it's their neck of the woods anyway, NATO be damned and double that for the U.S.

Next on Putin's agenda of persuasion? Tossing the die to permanently ingratiate himself with the world order by succeeding where others, many others, have spectacularly failed. Revival of 'peace talks' between Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu, prepared to meet with them in Moscow and set down a roster of rules and expectations. Under Putin, Russia is veering once again to its destiny as Great Power.

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Education Consonant with Jihadi Terrorists

"We were trapped. Girls were screaming in the next classroom. I could feel the fear."
"They [Taliban jihadis] were trying to kick down our classroom door, so we pushed all the tables and chairs against it. Then students started jumping out the windows, and I did, too."
"This was a political attack. They are trying to stop education in Afghanistan, and our university is the only one with international standards. It is a horrible pattern."
Mohammed Nasser, Kabul

"I saw one guy wearing a commando uniform, and I shot him."
"I lost two of my friends [killed by the terrorists], but the president came here and said he appreciated what we had done."
"Education is so important for our country. If people are educated, there would be no more war."
Faraidoon Nizam, 25, police special forces officer

"[The attack was] a cowardly attempt to hinder progress and development in Afghanistan."
"[Terrorist groups set out to obstruct the development of] values that Afghans believe in [to enable growth and prosperity. Attacks will serve to support the nation's dedication to] fight and eradicate terror."
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
Twitter, Mustafa Kazemi, Afghan War Correspondent

The Taliban, of course, name themselves the 'scholars'. Steeped in the knowledge of the Koran and of Islamic law and principles. So they are educated, and there is much war. One can be idealistic and believe that education is a knowledge tool that will equip people to turn away from hatred, divisions and conflict, but it simply is not true. Some of the senior figures of al-Qaeda hold medical degrees. How educated do you have to be to spurn violence and terrorism?

Two foreign professors, one of whom was American were kidnapped close by the American University in Afghanistan three weeks ago and their presence is now unknown. So when militants launched an attack at the university by storming the campus Wednesday evening, it was the second time in weeks that the university was targeted. The squad of gunmen, battling police and security forces fought until the pre-dawn hours.

Hundreds of students found themselves trapped for hours, until the assailants were dead, and the campus was evacuated. Before the jihadis were put out of business they succeeded in killing 13 people, and injuring 36. As police officer Nizami and his team ran up the stairs of the university building, a second of the Taliban fighters threw a grenade down the stairs, injuring one of the police. Nizami recounted having thrown a grenade back at the attackers, seeing the one who threw the grenade collapse.

He was himself wounded in the exchange, however, and ended up in hospital. Receiving treatment for a leg wound and mourning the death of one of his fellow officers who died, as did their commander, in a gun battle with the terrorists. The student Mohammed Naser had leaped out of a window, landing on a patio breaking his right arm and shattering his left hip in the process. He too ended up in an ambulance on its way to hospital.

It is widely assumed that this was a Taliban attack, though they haven't been quick to take credit for it as yet. That identification was made on the basis that the attack followed the usual Taliban type of attack scenario: use of a powerful bomb, followed by a command-type ground assault commonly targeting foreign and government facilities in Kabul.

As far as Afghan President Ghani is concerned, it is Pakistan's encouragement and support of the Afghan Taliban, giving them sanctuary, that convinced him neighbouring Pakistan had "organized" the attack. Entirely credible, since from day one, well over twenty years ago, it was the Pakistani secret service and military that initiated the presence of the Taliban, giving them haven, weapons, training, and sending them out to disrupt security and peace in Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces rush to respond to a complex Taliban attack on the campus of the American University in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. “We are trying to assess the situation,” President Mark English told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan security forces rushing to respond to the attack. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Obama, Leading The Way To Peace

Looking for help.  Photographer: Getty Images/Getty Images

"The Agency [CIA] has contingency plans for supporting democratic uprisings anywhere in the world. This includes providing dissidents with communications, money, and in extreme cases even arms. But in this case [Syria], the White House ordered it to stand down."
"[At the beginning of the (nuclear) talks in 2013, the U.S. position was for Iran to dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure but by the end of the talks in 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry and his team] agreed that Iran would then be allowed to build an industrial-scale nuclear program, with hundreds of thousands of machines, after a ten year period of restraint."
"The Revolutionary Guard continues to develop increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, including ballistic missiles inscribed with threats against Israel on their nose cones. Khamenei and other revolutionary leaders, meanwhile, fine-tune their rhetorical attacks against the United States, seeming to need the American threat to justify their existence."
Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars
Barack Obama began his presidency with the clearly stated intention of altering the state of American relations with the Middle East, the Arab and Muslim world, to present the United States as a friend, not an opportunistic oppressor, and to gain or regain trust that was ostensibly lost when his predecessor invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, gaining the hostility of countries other than Israel by the process. His intention was made known publicly; the world was invited to witness diplomacy at the highest level in action.

Of course, when the senior Bush's administration entered Iraq to restore sovereignty to Kuwait, the coalition that challenged Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait included Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. There was no resentment then at American intervention in Arab/Muslim affairs. American support for the Shah of Iran earned the United States the undying enmity of the Ayatollahs who deposed the Shah and transformed Iran into the Islamist state -- with malevolent intentions toward its neighbours and the West -- that it has since become.

One of the first international overtures expressed by the newly-elected Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States was to state his intention to extend an open hand in greeting as a friend, to the Islamic Republic of Iran. This, before the new president even travelled to Egypt to extend his friendship to the Muslim world. Ayatollah Khomeini was pleased to respond to that gesture with a clenched fist which has never since, by his successor opened to resemble an open hand, following through on Khomeini's grand plan to dominate the Middle East and remain at crossed scimitars with the West.

When Iran's Greens comprised of the regime's opponents, Western-oriented liberal-minded Iranians staged a massive protest against the confining strictures of the Ayatollahs they fully expected that the United States would render encouragement and even practical assistance of some kind, but none of that ever materialized. The Obama administration preferred to look the other way. And it has continued that manner of disengagement in the Middle East; it betrayed its long-time regional ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and supported his successor the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammad Morsi.

And when Syrian Sunnis held their protests against the Baathist Shiite regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the preference of the Obama administration was to continue to look the other way. No encouragement was forthcoming from the United States which had, under the second (G.W.) Bush administration continually expressed its wish to help the Arab/Muslim Middle East on its road to democracy. The all-out war that Assad launched on the protesters guaranteed a civil war would result, and as the country disintegrated into factions, foreign Islamist fighters infiltrated.

Bashar al-Assad has enjoyed five years of punishing push-back against Sunni Syrians, depriving almost a half-million of them, men, women, children and the elderly, of their lives. The country's infrastructure lies in ruins. Of the 22-million Syrians that comprised the population, half have become displaced, four and a half million of them refugees, over one-quarter of whom have invaded Europe looking for an exit from hell.

In Gouta three years ago, Assad launched a sarin gas attack killing 1,300 Sunni Syrians by asphyxiation. This event caught President Obama's attention since he had warned Assad to avoid the criminal excesses of chemical warfare. But the threat he had issued was never acted upon and even though in concert with Moscow, Washington went through the theatrical charade of having Assad declare all his chemical weapons assets to be destroyed, not all were revealed.

So that napalm is now being packed into the barrel bombs previously just packed with shrapnel, to make a more effective killing machine; the shrapnel, if it doesn't kill often results in massive wounds' with the napalm added, Assad's 'terrorist enemies' can be shredded and their flesh burned, all in one fell swoop and that's efficiency in killing for you. Those deadly barrel bombs have been falling on the civilians living in Syrian neighbourhoods in Aleppo and elsewhere at the rate of 220 weekly.

If verification was needed beyond the claims of the victims and the medical personnel examining them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' investigators have detected the precursors of nerve agents at Syrian regime facilities that Assad's gatekeepers had somehow overlooked, failing to declare them when his chemical weapons stockpile was ostensibly being surrendered for removal and eventual destruction.

The Syrian-American Medical Society has found that three out of every four of the previously verified 161 chemical attacks in Syria took place after Mr. Obama's warning of dire consequences to ensue should President Assad use chemical weapons on his population. A study was released by the SAMS, titled A New Normal: Ongoing Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria, revealing the strategy of the Assad regime, which chose to substitute chlorine gas for the previously utilized sarin gas in bombarding Syrians.

Mr. Obama was more interested in, and fixated on U.S. relations with the Syrian regime's most reliable backer, however; detente with Iran's ayatollahs was top of the list of priorities for the American president, and if there were sacrifices to be made to accomplish that, then so be it. According to Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Jay Solomon, in his new book, The Iran Wars, Iranian negotiators in the G-5 nuclear deal threatened to retreat from any bargaining with the White House if the U.S. intervened to remove Assad from power.

The tide has completely turned in Assad's favour, where a year ago the dimension of the rebel advance seemed to spell the end of the Baathist regime. This, despite the Shabiha death squads, the Iran-backed Shiite militias from Iraq, the Lebanese-based Hezbollah prepared to do the bidding of Iran, and Iran's own al Quds brigade of the Republican Guard, all working to destroy the Syrian rebels' advances in aid of supporting Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Image result for russian naval bombardments, syria
Thanks to the nuclear deal, Iran once again has discretionary spending potential, and while some Quds Force commanders have died in the Syrian conflict, others are prepared to continue directing strategic battles and Iran-sponsored mercenaries from abroad, including Central Asia are gaining ground on the rebels with their Islamist supporters against Assad, thanks to the entry of Russian warplanes and members of its military on the ground in Syria as well as naval ships pounding off long-range missiles into Syria from the Caspian Sea.

And now the Russian air force has also added cluster munitions, to the napalm, shrapnel and chlorine raining down from Assad's barrel bomb rampage in Aleppo and Homs, Idlib and Daraya. And the Obama administration is content to co-ordinate its military and intelligence agencies in the Middle East for coordinated air attacks, joint command and control headquarters, accelerating a bombing campaign to target the foreign terrorist groups in Syria, when the absolute foremost terrorist group -- Assad's murderous regime -- gets its free pass.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Ethical Impediments to the Presidency?

"It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton's basis for meeting with these individual."
"[Reports present] a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation."
Brian Fallon, Clinton campaign spokesman

"There's a lot of potential conflicts and a lot of potential problems."
"The point is, she can't just walk away from these 6,000 donors."
Douglas White, nonprofits expert, past director, Columbia University's graduate fundraising management program
In this Aug. 16, 2016 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in Philadelphia. More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money, either personally or through companies or groups, to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Over fifty percent of those outside American government who happened to meet with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to feel it was incumbent on them to donate either personally or via the corporations or groups they represented to handsomely benefit the Clinton Foundation operated by Bill Clinton. The appearance of an ethical dilemma appears never to have concerned this runner-up for the U.S. presidency up until the time it was brought to public attention by data leaks.

Of 154 individuals representing private interests who had met or engaged in telephone conversations with Hillary Clinton during her time at the State Department, 85 chose to give generously to the Clinton family charity. Commitments alternately were pledged to its international programs, affirmed by a review of State Department calendars and reported on by The Associated Press.

The 85 donors contributed a combined sum of $156 million, with an estimated 40 donors making good with over $100,000 each, while twenty of the donors released over $1-million each to the Clinton Foundation. A diverse group of people, granted meeting time with Secretary of State Clinton went on to express their appreciation for her time devoted to their requests or problems, by loosening purse strings.

Despite the aura of privilege, concession and obligation and the odour emanating from all of this, evidently there were no legal breaches committed. Access, however, linked to donations are that prevalent that a pattern emerges that cannot be overlooked for a singular lack of ethical consideration. At this date in proceedings former President Bill Clinton promises to step away from active collaboration with his charity should his wife be elected president.

And nor will the foundation in future, or at least during that time when and if she is elected, accept any donations out of country by independent philanthropic sources. "Gifts" from foreign groups, currently the norm, will no longer be accepted. Over six thousand donors have given the Clinton charity in excess of a grand $2-billion since 2000. Quite the legacy trading on resourceful privileged contact.

In this June 10, 2015 file photo, former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at annual gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative America, which is a part of The Clinton Foundation, in Denver. More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money, either personally or through companies or groups, to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Alarming Oblivion

"The struggle for the soul of Islam between Islamists and humanists goes on in Canada and the U.S.A., not just in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia."
"[Nothing but extremist literature was found present in several mosque libraries.]Further research is required to determine the depth ... of this problem."
Study: “Lovers of the Death”? — Islamist Extremism in Mosques and Schools
Thomas Quiggin, former intelligence analyst, Saied Shoaaib, journalist

"[The study is an] exercise in shoddy research [generalizing about Canadian mosques and Islamic institutions]."
"If the writers have any evidence of criminal activity such as the promotion of terrorism and violent extremism, then they should report it immediately to the authorities. Otherwise, this is nothing more than an attempt to sow fear and distrust towards Canadian Muslim communities without any evidence of wrongdoing or proper context. Such writing only fans the flames of ignorance at a time when vandalism of mosques and hate incidents against Canadian Muslims are increasing."
The National Council of Canadian Muslims

"This is not a Muslim-bashing exercise. This is an attempt to deliberately provoke the government and the media into addressing the actual issues of what's going on. Here's the material that's actually being taught, here's where it comes from, here's how it's getting there. Is this acceptable in Canada, yes or no?"
Thomas Quiggin, former intelligence analyst with the Privy Council Office and the RCMP
A Muslim prays over a Quran.
A Muslim prays over a Quran.
Both Mr. Quiggin and his colleague and study co-author, Mr. Shoaaib, originally from Egypt and well versed in Islam and extremism within the religion, conducted research in mosque libraries and Islamic schools to reach the conclusions that their study reveals. Their concern was hugely elevated by the fact that in some of these places it was only extremist literature that could be found as resource material, relating to Islam. Including the texts written by two fathers of modern extremist Islam,
— "In the Shade of the Qur’an" and "Milestones" by Sayyid Qutb, an author seen by some as an inspiration for groups including al-Qaida;
— the complete works of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam.
The material that they were able to access and analyze, including social media postings, confirmed for them their apprehension that most Canadians, and certainly including leading politicians prefer to turn away from the obvious dangers inherent in the situation of institutionalized Islamist radicalization. It is their contention that this presents a vital issue too grave to ignore, the danger supported by the number of young Canadians that have accepted the role of violent jihad in Islam.

The warning voices of those Canadian Muslims whose outlook is humanist and moderate are not being heard, and if they are, they are ignored. The Canadian Council of Imams is clearly displeased with the airing of this study's conclusions. A year earlier the Senate defence and security committee had issued a report warning that some foreign-trained imams have spread extremist religious ideology unreflective of Canadian values, contributing to radicalization. Has anyone else in government read that report and looked into its findings?

Before the previous Conservative-led government invited the Islamic Republic of Iran to shutter its embassy and missions in Canada, it had provided its brand of fanatical Islamist school curricula to some Canadian Muslim schools practising Shiite Islam; inflammatory, racist, bigoted and alarming material that became the cause of an investigation.

Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah have written often and cogently of their alarm at the presence of extremists in the Muslim community in Canada spreading their messages of hatred, division, uncompromising Islamist exceptionality and violent jihad. The study's co-authors personally attended four mosques and three Islamic schools in the Ottawa area to gather the information that has concerned them and which should be of great concern to our intelligence and security agencies.

They have found reason to be alarmed about what they have identified as troubling activities — including homophobic statements and promotion of Holy War — at certain mosques in Montreal and Toronto. The promotion of holy war is simply jihad, the obligation of all faithful Muslims to accept their responsibility in pursuit of Islamic domination. There are several options, the slow and inevitable cultural war achieved through immigration and the more overt option of violent jihad.

In denouncing the study's findings, Muslim groups and organizations in Canada typically resort to defaming the authors with claims amounting to viral Islamophobia, claiming innocence and embracing the status of victimhood. Claims that the majority of kind-natured and good-mannered Canadians, anxious not to appear discriminatory, are prepared to accept and apologize profusely over.

What practical use is there in governments and the policing agencies in Canada undertaking exercises in de-radicalization given the reality that the Islamic establishment itself in Canada is implicated in and guilty of promoting Islamist extremism among its faithful? The custodians of Islamic values will extend themselves to infiltrate their ideas into the Canadian way of life and the government attempts to reverse their teachings? Pure lunacy.

“I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship but Allah. He is one and has no partner, and I also bear witness that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Servant and Messenger of Allah, whom Allah sent with the ‘Religion of Truth’ [Islam] and with Guidance so that this Truth and this Guidance [Islam] will become established in the land over all other religions, although the ‘Disbelievers’ (Jews, Christians, Hindus and Atheists) hate that.” Friday night mosque prayers
Sermon Arabic + EnglishTarek Fatah, September 25, 2015

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Where Does Responsibility Rest? Kurds Think Turkey

(Photo: Sedat Suna, EPA)
"The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing."
"There was blood and body parts everywhere."
Veli Can, 25, Gaziantep, Turkey

"We know very well to what extent wedding attacks can sow disorder in [the] nation's social fabric from the Afghanistan experience."
"Putting these three organizations [PKK, Gulenists, Islamic State] with different political objectives, tactics and techniques into the same basket ... causes the failure of tailoring specific counter strategies."
Metin Gurcan, security expert, former Turkish military officer

"This attack targets those determined and persistent in peace, resolution, and those struggling for democracy, equality, freedom and justice."
"The attack was planned to disable the spread of peace and success of possible negotiations [for an end to the conflict between Kurdish militants and government of Turkey]."
Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party statement

"This was a barbaric attack. It appears to be a suicide attack. All terror groups, the PKK, Daesh, the [Gulen movement] are targeting Turkey. But God willing, we will overcome."
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek
The explosion in the Sahinbey district of Gaziantep was so loud it could be heard in many areas of the city. The death toll now stands at 54 in this deadly attack on a wedding party with mostly Kurds in attendance. Some of whom, like the bride who was unhurt, had moved from Siirt where they felt more exposed to violence, to find peace and protection in Gaziantep.

The horrible news from government investigators that a boy between the age of 12 and 14 blew himself up with a suicide vest has now been retracted with the admission that authorities don't quite know who was involved in the explosion, Given the victims' identities how likely is it that the Kurdistan Workers Party was responsible, as posited by Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

If the antagonist prepared to slaughter dozens of innocent people is a source that ordinarily attacks Kurds that would be the Turkish military itself. Not the Gulenist sympathizers. And if ISIL wanted to attack Turkey why would it target Kurdish civilians living in Turkey rather than Kurds (along with the PKK) in Iraq and Syria whose militias have been successfully challenging Islamic State?

As far as Turkish President Erdogan is concerned he sees no difference between ISIL, Gulen followers or the PKK; the attackers, he said, were attempting to "provoke people by abusing ethnic and sectarian sensitiveness". In so pronouncing he is actually enunciating his own manipulative plans; his words echo what he has led Turkey into.

Turkey is a country divided, on a knife-edge of collapse, with competing interests roiling the nation that Erdogan brought back to Islamism and is even so in the process of moving ever closer to what the legendary Ataturk spurned, guiding his country closer to Europe and its ideals and values to haul Turkey into the 20th Century where he meant it to remain and to thrive.

What Erdogan has succeeded in doing is dedicating himself to purging the military, the judiciary, the police, academia, the civil service and journalism of any and all opponents to his vision of a Turkey reborn to resemble the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. The coup conveniently played into his hands, enabling the emergency state, prolonged so he and his cabinet can bypass Parliament and continue suspending rights and freedoms, passing new laws with the impunity of non-interference.
"By rejecting Turkey's European Union prospects [the issue of capital punishment returned] persecuting large sections of society and challenging the United States (Turkey's major ally), Mr. Erdogan is not only alienating disparate forces that would undermine any military intervention -- he also risks uniting them against him. As his A.K.P won half the votes in the last elections, a united anti-A.K.P. front would lead to even more dangerous division. This could, in turn, encourage further Islamization, with Mr. Erdogan relying on more extremist forces to crack down on his opponents, which include Kurdish separatists."
Nikos Konstandaras, Intelligence, Opinion & Commentary, The New York Times

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Syria: Regime Barbarity, Rebel Humanity

"Honouring a group of brave and for the most part, anonymous humanitarians represents the true values of the Nobel Peace Prize."
Wendy Chamberlain, president, Middle East Institute, Washington

"We called out: 'We are the Civil Defence. Is anyone able to hear us?'. They were on the first floor, with four floors above them, but they were protected by the ceiling, which had collapsed at a slant"
"People are dying, and we run toward death."
Mahmoud Fadlallah, Syrian Civil Defence
As areas were bombed individuals emerged, who, when a bomb fell down on a street would run and try to help their neighbours [The White Helmets]
"They are made up of former bakers, builders, taxi drivers, students, teachers, pretty much anything apart from rescue workers."
"They are all a very diverse and disparate group of individuals, all of whom made individual choices about what their contribution to the revolution is going to be. They all had the choice whether or not they want to pick up gun, to become a refugee - but they've all made a choice to instead pick up a stretcher."
"It started with the regime bombardment of areas that were being described as liberated so by the end of 2012, areas in northern and southern Syria the regime had pulled out of areas and that gave the regime the space [...] to start bombing civilian communities."
"From within those communities emerged... individuals, who, when a bomb fell down on the street, would run out and try to help their neighbours, and they did so without training and without equipment."
"In the early part of 2013, a group of leaders from northern Syria came out and painted this very clear picture that communities on the ground were being very heavily bombed, and they needed support."
James Le Mesurier, founder, Syrian White Helmets program
The Syrian Civil Defence group, now called the White Helmets resulting from the headgear they have effected; helmets to protect them from falling rubble when they enter bombed-out buildings, white signifying that they come in peace with only rescue on their minds, now number three thousand volunteers. Their work is the mounting of searchp-and-rescue operations in wartime conditions reflective of a broken country mired in a civil war that their president has imposed upon its civilian population.

Since it is regime forces bombing areas held by the rebels who have been able to hold onto part of Aleppo only with the aid of foreign Islamist groups like Nusra whom the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have, by contrast, made look only moderately like terrorists, the Syrian Civil Defence operates only in the opposition areas. Where homes, schools, and hospitals are just as likely to be barrel-bombed as any areas that the Syrian military may believe the rebels have their headquarters.

Wendy Chamberlain of the Middle East Institute saw fit to nominate the White Helmets to the Nobel committee for the Nobel Peace Prize. They have chosen not to fight, but to save the lives of the vulnerable who have been targeted by a regime whose carnage has become legendary, rivalling the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, a regime which has in fact, slaughtered infinitely greater numbers of Sunni Syrians than ISIL has condemned to a barbaric death its assumed enemies.

Theirs truly has become the self-assigned "most dangerous job in the world", as their admirers assert. And nor are government forces ignorant of the work they do. That very work, abandoning personal safety to the more pressing imperative of making a heroic effort to find the wounded under the rubble left by explosions and to bring them to safety and medical care, has made them a target of the Syrian government forces.

That targeting is distinguished by a routine whose technique has been dubbed "double tap" attacks. In the wake of an attack, government warplanes have taken to circling about awaiting the arrival of the White Helmet forces to strike the same target a second time with the intention of victimizing the rescuers on their arrival at the scene of the first impact.

"Frequently, in between those first two bombs, there is a very narrow window - 15 minutes or half an hour - where they often find people, aren't able to get them out, and then a second bomb comes. Many… have been injured because they haven't gotten away quickly enough, or they have chosen to stay with the people they are trying to rescue", explained Mr. Le Mesurier.

One White Helmet volunteer, Khaled Omran Harrah, involved in the 2014 rescue of a ten-day-old infant trapped for ten hours in an after-blast rubble, out more recently with Mr. Fadlallah and five others at a blast scene were working on the difficult extraction of a survivor from the remains of a building when they were attacked by a "double tap". Taking shelter where they could, Harrah was killed, while the others received shrapnel wounds. The man they hoped to rescue died.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

ReMaking America's Great Image

"Paul Manafort offered and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign."
"I am very appreciative for his work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process."
Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate

"If you had had one of these things happen, it would have been survivable. But you had two of these things in concert. One thing I don't think Trump will tolerate is the focus being on someone else rather than himself."
Republican strategist

"He knows he's been doing this stuff. It was going to become an issue. He wasn't prepared to tamp it down When he decided to re-enter high-profile American politics, and he ratcheted it up with lots of Sunday shows and TV appearances, he had to know he was putting himself out there as a target."
Manafort associate

Donald Trump isn't so much averse to his trusted agent being involved in past deals with Russian interests as he is offended that a scandal has erupted focusing the limelight on Paul Manafort, rather than on Donald Trump. Trump's own awkward manifestations of doltish intelligence vis-a-vis relations and impressions with and of Vladimir Putin engendered his share of notoriety, but as far as Trump is concerned that old truism that publicity, negative as well as positive is all to the good is good only when it features himself.

He simply leers and babbles his way around any scandal that would undo anyone other than chutzpa-laden Trump, a man whose celebrity founded on bluster and lunatic assertions appears to have secured him a place in American voters' hearts and minds. The fact that one business failure after another has been unearthed, with ample proof of the huckster's deliberate fleecing of those who believe his tall tales appears irrelevant.

The New York Times has just revealed other lies underlying Trump's success as a peerless business manager and entrepreneur; that his real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have amassed some $650 million in debt — double what appears on public filings he has submitted related to his bid for the White House

The Associated Press reported confidential emails from the Manafort firm put the lie to his claims he had never lobbied in the United States on behalf of Ukrainian political figures aligned with the former Russia-linked political executives, and was paid handsomely for his efforts, scuppering his claims of non-involvement and trustworthiness. But why should a Trump lieutenant be any more trustworthy than the man whose political fortunes he has fronted?

Manafort was listed as the recipient of payments coming in at $12.7 million. Notes describing "Payment for Manafort's services",  or "Contract payment to Manafort", dated 2011 and 2012 implicate him without excuse. He's Trump's man in every sense. But in a sense, how different is that from Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton's questionable donations to their charity?

While she was American Secretary of State with all the prestige, power and influence inherent in that exalted position internationally, within the bureaucracy and the White House, she was also linked with the Clinton charitable enterprise; emails have surfaced with direct links between the State Department and the Clinton charity. A charity that was accepting walloping donations from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russian interests. Is there a difference there?

Where one would-be office holder has been irremediably tainted by association, while another in the same situation but with a background that includes some of the same powers also includes the same issues. Unwholesome, unethical and un-American. Or is it?

America: Is this really the best you can do?!

Bill and Hillary Clinton's charitable foundation reportedly hired a security firm to examine its data systems after seeing indications they might have been hacked.  (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Preparing for Another Inevitable Neighbourly Overture

"The probability of escalation and conflict remains very significant. We don't rule out full-scale Russian invasion."
"In case the situation in the east and in Crimea flares up, we will have to introduce martial law and declare a mobilization."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Ukrainian tanks in Kherson, 12 August
AP -- Ukrainian tanks could be seen in the Kherson region, moving towards Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin views Moscow's annexation of Crimea and the build-up of the Russian fleet in its newly-acquired Black Sea peninsula as Russia's just due. It was obviously wasted in Ukraine's possession and begged to be restored to Russia in view of the fact that as far as Putin is concerned Ukraine isn't much of a country in any event, but one that owes its existence to Russia but just isn't willing to concede that inconvenient point of view.

Mr. Putin's extravagant and stunning imagination conjures up answers to everything, presenting scenarios making sense to him, but to no one else, other than his docile supporters. Ukraine is plotting subversive action in Crimea, sending in stealth agents to undermine Russia's position in Crimea as its rightful owners. And Russia will not stand for this. After robbing Ukraine of a significant piece of geographic territory, Putin now claims Ukraine is underhandedly attempting to reclaim it, courting all-out war with poor little Russia.

Somewhat akin to Moscow's claims that it was two of Ukraine's jet fighters that shot down the Malaysian airliner jet as it flew over the Donbas region, not, as international authorities and Ukraine insist, the ethnic Russian Ukrainian rebels who used a Buk missile supplied to them by Moscow, who shot it down, thinking they were hitting a Ukraine warplane. So much evidence has been uncovered to implicate Russia and the rebels that it remains incontrovertible, yet here is a Russian 'investigator' clearing the rebels and 'proving' that Ukraine was responsible.
Plane wreck
Getty Images

Private investigator Sergey Sokolov claims that his agents, having investigated the site of the deadly crash and examined evidence, concluded that no shrapnel from a Buk missile was present and that a phone intercept he acquired between two CIA agents give ample proof they planted two bombs on MG-17. Incredible? Not at all; this is Moscow's retort to the international investigation concluding that it had supplied the missile and the rebels had used it to disastrous effect.

"The driving force of the operation were CIA agents and the Dutch security service also had a part to play as the bombs were put on the plane in Holland and this couldn’t have been done anywhere else. This terrorist act was a pretext for firstly intensifying sanctions on Russia, secondly to show the world that Russia is a barbarian country and thirdly to strengthen the presence of NATO in Europe, particularly Ukraine." What? Russia a barbarous country?!

And so, there! Case closed. Collusion by Ukraine with the CIA and Dutch security services ensured the world would blame faultless Russia. And since that fateful day, matters have only progressed from bad to worse. Conflict between government forces and Russian separatists has intensified while in the past 24 hours alone the rebel forces have shelled government positions ceaselessly; over 800 artillery and mortar rounds have been launched.

The government of Ukraine has announced that Russia is once again sending in troops, cash and weapons to the separatists.  Russia deployed an advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile battery to the Crimean Peninsula, capable of hitting targets over 250 kilometres from the launch site, paired with a radar array. Representing one of Russia's most advanced surface-to-air defence systems. Only it isn't a defensive, but rather an offensive operation Mr. Putin has in mind.

Russia's navy has brought in marine units from its Southern military district to the Crimean peninsula with contingents of artillery, airborne infantry, aircraft and surface-to-air batteries stationed in Sevastopol. Ukraine has ample reason for nervous anticipation of the near future. Once the missile system alone is operational it will be capable of targeting aircraft well within Ukrainian airspace.

An S-400 Triumph missile system
Russian defence ministry

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