“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Christopher Hitchens, eh? It is a shame he’s gone.

Christopher Hitchens Predicted Islamic Caliphate in 2005

August catch-up: The Hitch on Americans, literature, liberal intervention and language

Our political columnist on his book of the summer
Wednesday 20 August 2014

This collection of Christopher Hitchens’s journalism was my holiday reading this year. Not on a Kindle. It was published in 2011, when he knew he was dying. He died at the end of that year, although it seems more recent than that. It is a huge book, yet such a joy to read that it was all gone in a week and I was left wishing it had been longer.
It starts with essays on Americans from the Founding Fathers to Gore Vidal, taking in Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy. Kennedy is the first of the modern objects of the Hitch’s vitriol. The “boy wonder”, he says, “had a Pulitzer Prize procured for him, for a superficial book he had hardly read, let alone written”. That JFK was a bad president and a dreadful person is old hat now, but such observations are always good for prompting discussions about whether he was the second or third worst US president of the 20th century.
The section concludes with a short observation about the thinness of literature about Washington, which is still more like Canberra or Brasilia than London or Berlin, in the course of which Hitch observes that senators in fiction are customarily outfitted with a “mane”. As so often, as soon as he says it, you realise he is right.
In the essays on literature, Hitch always picks out lovely details: “Guy felt no resentment; he was a good loser – at any rate an experienced one” (Evelyn Waugh, Sword of Honour). Yet he writes as if effortlessly from them to grand themes, even reviewing JK Rowling’s seventh and final Harry Potter book, when he is surprisingly gentle about her “attempting a kind of secular dramatisation of the battle between good and evil”. He merely asks mild questions: “How can Voldemort and his wicked forces have such power and yet be unable to destroy a mild-mannered and rather disorganised schoolboy? … Is there really no Death Eater or dementor who is able to grasp the simple advantage of surprise?”
He has a similar problem with the fiction of Stieg Larsson. “The villains are evil, all right, but very stupid and and self-thwartingly prone to spend more time (this always irritates me) telling their victims what they will do to them than actually doing it.”
The book also contains the Hitch’s attention-seeking writings on blow jobs and “Why Women Aren’t Funny”, and a wonderful complaint about service in restaurants. It is either too attentive, when waiters “interrupt the feast of reason and flow of soul that was our chat” to “pick up the bottle that was in the middle of the table, and pour it into everyone’s glass”. Hitch demands to know: “How did such a barbaric custom get itself established, and why on earth do we put up with it?” Or it is not attentive enough. “‘Why are they called waiters?’ inquired my son when he was about five. ‘It’s we who are doing all the waiting.’”
He is entertainingly rude about Prince Charles, devoting an article to a textual analysis of a 2010 speech made by the heir to the throne. This bit in particular: “Nature has become completely objectified – She has become an it – and we are persuaded to concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo’s scheme.” (Galileo being at fault, apparently, for “mechanistic thinking”, which holds that “there is nothing in nature but quantity and motion”.)
Of which Hitch commented: “Nature is no more or less ‘objectified’ whether we give it a gender name or a neuter one. Merely calling it Mummy will not, alas, alter this salient fact.” But what can you expect, he asks, from someone who for six decades has been “performing the only job allowed him by the hereditary principle: that of waiting for his mother to expire”?
There are good and serious essays on foreign affairs, many of them in the form of book reviews, in which the late-flowering liberal interventionist makes and remakes the arguments that earned him such fierce admiration from those who think that military force, even that of the US, is sometimes justified in saving people from mass murder.
From the New Statesman in 2008 there is Hitch’s fine blast against pacifism, including this quotation from Mahatma Gandhi’s open letter to the British people of 3 July 1940, which ought to be better known: “I want you to fight Nazism without arms. Let them take possession of your beautiful island … If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”
As Hitchens remarks: “I must say that everything in me declines to be addressed in that tone of voice,” but that it is a “reminder of how fatuous the pacifist position can sound, or indeed can be”.
The last section collects some of his musings on language, including a late (Vanity Fair, May 2011) essay on the King James Bible. This includes the lovely juxtaposition of a passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians with the American Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version. First, King James: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Then the Contemporary English: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”
Hitch quotes TS Eliot, who said of the New English Bible that it is a “combination of the vulgar, the trivial and the pedantic”.
One of the last essays in the book, although he wrote it at the time when Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was carrying all before it in March 2008, is on the vacuity of political slogans. “Take ‘Yes We Can,’ for example. It’s the sort of thing parents might chant encouragingly to a child slow on the potty-training uptake.”

Christopher Hitchens, eh? It is a shame he’s gone. 


  1. Hitch got his Bible language right, it's hard to beat the King James.

  2. When he left his Communist phase, he became extraordinary.

  3. “Take ‘Yes We Can,’ for example. It’s the sort of thing parents might chant encouragingly to a child slow on the potty-training uptake.”

    ...simply brilliant...My G-d, how I miss that man.

    1. Portions of him. His Marxsim and Edward Said days shaped his anti-isael views which i find no reverence for.

  4. The man was truly extraordinary”

    The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

    1. :)

      " Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love."

      That much is great !

      " replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell "

      This is simply puerile.

      One of these days I will post a long quote found in Sir John George Woodroffe, High Court Judge in Calcutta during the British days, that puts a little wider perspective on things.

    2. ” replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell “

      This is simply puerile.

      It is no where near as purile as your comment is condescending, but hold your fire. I have another post on Hitchens. Save your best for that. You will need it.

  5. C’mere till I tell ya: the art of storytelling
    The New York storytelling club the Moth is coming to Dublin next month. What makes a good yarn?

    Open season: Frank McCourt storytelling at the Moth

    Sat, Aug 23, 2014, 01:00

    The Moth, the New York storytelling club that has become a cultural phenomenon, visits Ireland next month for the first time. Since its foundation, in 1997, it has toured the world, spawned a radio channel and prompted fans to download more than a million of its stories every month.

    The concept is simple. The Moth invites people to tell true stories, without a script, in front of an audience. It encourages pithiness, using a violinist to start wailing if storytellers overstay their welcome. In Dublin The Moth MainStage, emceed by Lynn Ferguson, will feature five storytellers recounting tales on the theme Don’t Look Back.

    Over the years the Moth has given a stage to pickpockets, presidential speechwriters and the pizza baker who got in a bind with a mobster called Anthony the Hat, as well as to celebrities such as Salman Rushdie, John Turturro, Annie Proulx, Gabriel Byrne and Malcolm Gladwell (who has recounted an artful story about a wedding toast that cost him a friendship).

    The Moth was founded by the novelist George Dawes Green; he cites George Plimpton, Edgar Oliver and Christopher Hitchens as some notable practitioners. “Hitchens was amazing, because whenever he told a Moth story he was drunk. You thought often he wouldn’t be able to get through the story, but he had such a powerful mind. He could take these little threads that he left loose and then suddenly pull them all taut at the end of the story, right as he was approaching the time limit. He was kind of a magician.”


  6. {...}
    Another of the Moth’s great storytellers, the New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, makes a distinction between good storytellers and good stories. “A good storyteller is somebody who’s comfortable on his or her feet and is enough of a ham to get a charge out of the response of a crowd, that surge of electricity that goes back and forth between you and an audience. If you’re not turned on by that you won’t be a good storyteller.

    “A good story has to be extremely particular and peculiar to your life. It has to have an element of singularity and yet – and this is the alchemy and paradox of storytelling – it has to be something immediately universal, part of something that we all experience,” says Gopnik. “In a story called LOL I’ve told at the Moth the particular thing about text messaging with your 13-year-old son every afternoon is very strange, eccentric and peculiar to Luke and me. But the real subject of the story is universal, that, no matter what the culture or circumstances, everybody struggles to continue to be able to converse with their kids as the kids get older and speak their own language.”
    Gopnik and Green agree that good storytellers also need to be vulnerable, to embrace embarrassment. “Almost always the great raconteurs talk about their failures,” says Green. “Frank McCourt is an example. He was one of our early Moth storytellers. He was utterly unassuming. I’d never seen someone who could be so honest and self-deprecatory, and also perfectly willing to deprecate the people around him. It was astonishing.

    “I remember when he was dying, he came to the Moth, and he was talking about some of the literary luminaries who were in the room, who were very old, and he was sort of laughing at them, saying, ‘How long are you going to hang around? You’ve been around for a long, long time. Don’t you think we’re getting tired of you?’ It was hilarious but kind of spooky. He’d been diagnosed with his fatal cancer, so he knew that he was going to die too. It was almost a celebration of weakness.

    “I have many Moth raconteurs who do the opposite. Their stories fall utterly flat. Nobody wants to hear about your triumphs. We want to hear about what a fool you are, because that’s what we are. We’ve had a man at the Moth who’s a famous French statesman-philosopher. If I said his name you’d recognise it. I talked with him for two hours, trying to find a good Moth story. He couldn’t tell one, because he couldn’t talk about failure.

    “I said, ‘You’ve got to talk about failure.’ And he said, ‘Oh, failure. All right.’ So he told about a time when he was in a propeller plane, going to visit the Farc guerillas in Colombia, and the pilot had a heart attack. He, this French philosopher, had to fly the plane. I laughed. I said, ‘It’s got to be your failure!’ But he could not do it.”

    Moth Mainstage is in Dublin on September 5th as part of the Sounds Alive festival. The evening has sold out

    1. ' It encourages pithiness, using a violinist to start wailing if storytellers overstay their welcome '

      Pithiness is usually a virtue. But not always. In the good old oral days a story might go on for a day or two, all memorized to perfection.

      It all depends on the story and the teller.

      Tolstoy and Proust come to mind......but then so does 'After the Storm' by Ernie, which, it seems to me, is monomyth upside down. I was getting around to writing this about 'After the Storm' out for my niece as she is interested in Hemingway, and knows the monomyth but complications of life have intervened. She is interested in everything. Since I told her I was little low right now she sent me back a beautiful picture of herself in the widest more wonderful Spanish hat imaginable that she found in some shop. A light shines and warms in an older heart.......

  7. “Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way."

    (Closing Remark by Christopher Hitchens in a Debate, 2010)

  8. Good talker, most likely a lively drinking companion - Wouldn't want him working on my car

  9. California was producing the equivalent of 4 Large Nukes in Electricity from Renewables, yesterday afternoon.


  10. And, about ISIS:

    It strikes me that this rhetoric is starting to sound awfully familiar.

    1. Remember when Al Queda was coming across our Southern Border?

    2. Now, ISIS is an Imminent Threat to the United States.

      I'm not sure that word, "imminent," means exactly what they think it means.

    3. I am stumped by the talk of the UK government about what to do when these bad boys return. Is there some law saying they have to? There are a bunch of folks in Syria and Iraq who would like to put them on trial. Does Her Majesty's Government think that a British passport is a "Get Out of Jail Free" card? Here's an idea for taking a problem off the president's plate: turn them over to the Kurds.

      When have you ever seen a war that did not give off the same sound effects?

      I support Kurdish independence because while everyone else in Iraq was stuffing suitcases full of Franklins bound for Qatar or Switzerland, the Kurds were building a civilized country and were willing to defend it. If we will stop playing games with their oil and let them buy what they need, ISIS will be halted imminently and the Turkish air force will sit on the tarmac.

  11. There is a line of modern thinking in the philosophy business these days that affirms it is impossible to 'think for oneself'.

    We are, it affirms, all so socialized (not speaking in the economic sense) that all our topics, thoughts, etc come to us from without.

    Hitch's 'think for yourself' has been thought so many times before by so many that by now it is trite, and atheism - well, it's hardly new.

    We are all talking about ISIS and Ferguson these days's in the news....

    What brand new sparkling thought have any of us had today?

    For my part I haven't had one.......though the picture of my niece in the funny wonderful Spanish mega-hat gave me a burst of cheer that I hadn't had all day......

    I must mention though that I have sources inside the U of Idaho Athletic Department.

    When Coach Quart applied for Head Football Coach he was, actually, really in the running there for awhile. His presence and confidence had convinced the committee that what he told them must be true.......that he had never coached a losing team, and that, honest to Christ "I swear to God I have never coached a losing game".

    The question arose "What would you do with 1.54 left on the clock, fourth down, you are on the 35 yard line, field goal range, just barely, and you have gotten a delay of game penalty? What would you do then?"

    "What's a delay of game penalty" says Coach Quart.

    That did it.

    This was a brand new fraud failure for Quart.

    1. We are all talking about ISIS and Ferguson these days’s in the news....

      No, we are talking about ISIS and Ferguson because it is the news. All who are on this blog are news junkies. It is 24/7 and there is always someone somewhere to argue with. What the fuck else is there?

    2. To your broader observation, there are over six billion of us. We are all socialized to one degree or another. The laws of physics are universal and dictate every possible observation. The number of extrapolations are limitless but the ground rules are not. What do you expect and has it ever been different? I doubt it.

      Man has always opined about , “same old, same old”, it is all over Ecclesiastes and Shakespeare and it is as trite as anything else in philosophy. I doubt that Hitchen’s observation would have much meaning to anyone that dogmatically defends the party line of the day.

    3. What the fuck else is there?

      A niece is a wide brimmed Spanish hat !


  12. The ripening corn and soybean fields stretch for miles in every direction from Dennis Wentworth’s farm in Downs, Illinois. As he marveled at his best-yielding crops ever, he wondered aloud where the heck he’ll put it all.

    “Logistics are going to be a huge problem for everyone,” the 62-year-old grower said, adding that he has invested in boosting output rather than grain bins. When harvesting starts in a few weeks, Wentworth expects his 150-year-old family farm to produce 10 percent more than last year’s record. “There are going to be some big piles of grain on the ground this fall.”

    From Ohio to Nebraska, thousands of field inspections this week during the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour show corn output in the U.S., the world’s top producer, will be . . . . . . . .

    Monster Crop - Bloomberg

    1. And I will bet that every last kernel is bio-engineered. Thank you, Luther Burbank, George Washington Carver, and Gregor Mendel -- and Monsanto.

    2. Out this way we say "God Bless Monsanto".

  13. Racism raises its ugly head yet again over there at American Thinker -

    August 23, 2014
    Is the Tea Party Dead?
    By Lloyd Marcus

    I have been engaged in a series of interviews on radio and TV, discussing the topic “Is The Tea Party Dead?” Because I am black, every interview has begun with me being asked my take on Ferguson before discussing the Tea Party.

    Talk about the excrement hitting the fan. Liberal interviewers are outraged when I say blacks are not routinely shot by police and that the MSM is promoting a deplorable, divisive, and irresponsible false narrative.

    One radio interviewer laughed at me, saying she was looking at stats on her computer screen that proved otherwise. During another radio interview, the host cited stats that say one hundred thousand people are shot by police every year in America. Bill O'Reilly stated the true FBI stats: out of 12 million arrests, only 400 fatal shootings, with many justified.

    Clearly, the left is using lies to spread its own despicable, evil lie that blacks are targeted and murdered by police. I am struck by the liberal interviewers' passion in spreading this lie. They act as if their belief is as true as the sun in the sky. The liberal media’s attitude is, of course, that the police murder black males. The media will slap around anyone who states otherwise.

    The MSM's shameful coverage of Ferguson is as criminal as yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. Remember the outbreak of black flash mob attacks on whites? No one in the MSM is talking about the “Knockout Game,” also known as “polar bear hunting.” Mostly black youths bet whether or not they can knock out an unsuspecting innocent white person with one powerful punch. Victims include women, seniors, and more.

    My God, what is wrong with these people in the MSM? Furthering the socialist/progressive agenda and bolstering Democrat voter registration and turnout have trumped all sense of decency and morality. If dividing Americans along racial lines and selling millions of black youths the lie that whitey (Republicans, conservatives, and police) are out to get them will further the left's cause, the left says so be it. This truly is spiritual wickedness in high places..........

    Read more:
    Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

  14. E85 for $2.29 / gal. in Lake Odessa, Michigan

    Prices, Michigan

  15. CO Man Shoots Wife To Death After Eating Pot-Infused Candy...

    Talks About End Of World...

    Asks 7-Year-Old Son To Kill Him..........drudge

  16. ISIS is really the result of a lack of economic opportunity. :(

    Crowdfunding Campaign for Officer Darren Wilson Has Raised Nearly $250K

  18. Okay, I've had a little sleep, and here is my thought for the day:

    Let ISIS have Syria.

    Who Cares?

    1. What, exactly, does Syria have that is worth Us going to war over?

    2. Their Oil is about all gone, and we have all the sand that we need.

      What am I missing?

    3. And, thanks to Obama, they no longer have Chemical weapons.

    4. Second Thought:

      If Obama wants to bomb'em, that's alright, too.

      I'm becoming pretty ambiguous about it.

    5. The problem lots of folks would like to prevent practically the world's first State devoted entirely to terrorism and Islamic aggression.

      Some have noticed for instance that they have proclaimed as a goal the flying of their Black Flag over our White House.

      The color scheme might be nice but that's all that comes to my mind.



      They might kill dozens at some fall football games......later, if they have a consolidated State, the troubles will inevitably grow.....

  19. The guy that was on camera, last week, declaring that they would fly the flag over the White House is dead, now. Really. He is.

    If they were to become a real "problem" to us, sometime in the future, then I guess we could "declare war" on them, then.

    In the meantime? Eh. My panties seem to be resisting all waddification, at the moment.

  20. :)

    They are not an 'imminent' threat to the life of our Republic, I agree with that.

    1. (it is getting close to voting time in USA, a little ginned up patriotism never hurts the President's party)

  21. Third Thought for the Day (I'm on a roll - or, maybe it's just gas):

    Why could we, possibly, care about the "Ukraine?"

    I mean, hell, it's hard enough trying to figure out why the Russians care about it; But Us? Gimmee a break.

    1. and, don't tell me about it being "the breadbasket of wherever," or somesuch. The Russians have a huge expanse of Black Land that they don't even bother to farm.

    2. What, you don't have Ukrainian restaurants all over MS?

      In my life, I have never purposefully eaten anything grown in the Ukraine (vodka does not count and would have been accidental anyhow). If the EU needs the Ukrainian "breadbasket", go for it.

      Somewhere in the world must sit some tiny sliver of land that is not of strategic importance to the US - not worth a single drop of American blood.

      As for Syria and Iraq, I donated at work (sarc). With few exceptions, I don't care whether one gaggle of crazies kills off another swarm of crazies. Really, why should I care what these folks do to each other? Frankly, I lose sleep only over the damage they may inflict on sites of historical and/or anthropological importance.

      Because of a deal inked between Israel and China, the Suez Canal will be a quant relic of a bygone era, within a decade. The Chinese are putting up much of the cash and the Israelis the land, port facilities, and engineering skills to bring online in another decade a combination high-speed commercial rail system tied into three massive Israeli port complexes. Suez may draw tourists but its original function of expediting the Indian Ocean/Western-SE Asian traffic with Europe is speeding toward structural and functional obsolescence.

      I do not lose sleep worrying about the Iranians and the bomb. When they go nuclear, the Saudis will lose sleep. When Muslims go after one another with nuclear weapons, their first priority, I'm going to Disney World. The Strait of Hormuz will continue to be the most important piece of real estate in the world, with or without the existence of tens of millions of Muslim fanatics. The US MUST control the Strait not because we derive economic benefit from it but because it is the valve whereby we can turn the lights off in Asia (China) and the EU. American boots and bases in Iraq (populated or empty) would ease control of the Strait, but we will get by.

      Israel has a number of tasks to see through within the coming decade.

      1) support Egypt’s annexation of Gaza
      2) support Egypt in its wars with Libya and Sudan
      3) destroy Hamas
      4) destroy Hezbollah and permanently annex the entire Golan and Lebanese territory to the Litani River
      5) incorporate Judea, Samaria, and all of Jerusalem, offering Israeli citizenship to most Arab occupants
      6) continue annual double-digit growth in trade with Japan, China, and India
      7) maintain partnership with Australia
      8) reduce to less than 10% European trade
      9) create federation with Hashemites and willing Jordanian Bedouins
      10) block neo-Ottoman Turkish aspirations
      11) become militarily self-sufficient and bring into full production 5th generation Israeli aircraft including tripling drone fleet
      12) remain neutral in Russian policy
      13) destabilize Syria

  22. If we stop arming, funding and training terrorists, then maybe we won’t have to bomb them later.

    U.S. Wants to Bomb ISIS In Syria … Maybe We Should (cough) First Stop ARMING THEM?
    Posted on August 22, 2014 by WashingtonsBlog

    If We Stop Arming, Funding and Training Terrorists, then Maybe We Won’t Have to Bomb Them Later

    U.S. foreign policy is schizophrenic.

    The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we need to attack the Sunni militants in Syria.

    The deputy national security adviser to President Obama says we should go after ISIS in Syria.

    Okay …

    But the U.S. and our closest allies have long supported Sunni militants.

    And the U.S. and our closest allies have been arming and training Islamic jihadists in Syria for years. And see this, this, this and this.

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a fortune-teller to have known this was a bad idea.

    As Michael Shank – Adjunct Faculty and Board Member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation – warned a year ago:

    The Senate and House Intelligence committees’ about-face decision last week to arm the rebels in Syria is dangerous and disconcerting. The weapons will assuredly end up in the wrong hands and will only escalate the slaughter in Syria. Regardless of the vetting procedures in place, the sheer factionalized nature of the opposition guarantees that the arms will end up in some unsavory hands. The same militant fighters who have committed gross atrocities are among the best-positioned of the rebel groups to seize the weapons that the United States sends to Syria.

    Congress can still join with the 70 percent of Americans who oppose arming Syria rebels and heed former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s caution against arming the rebels (he called the Obama administration’s decision to do so “a mess in the making“) ….

    If we stop arming, funding and training terrorists, then maybe we won’t have to bomb them later.

  23. {...}

    Arming one side of Syria’s multi-sided and bloody civil war will come back to haunt us. Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.

    There is no unified command or control in the Syrian opposition, as was the case of the Afghan mujahideen. And due to the United States’ long history of diplomatically isolating Syria, we know even less about the nature of Syria’s opposition. The excuse that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is often invoked to justify anti-Assad forces. This short-sighted excuse has gained the U.S. enemies around the world, undermining U.S. national security. The same justification was used by the Bush administration in its collaboration with the Assad regime to torture suspected militants in Syria. Arming the enemies of our enemies hasn’t made the U.S. more friends; it has made the U.S. more enemies.


    Some armed opposition factions, including powerful Islamist coalitions, reject negotiation altogether. Yet these are the same groups that will likely seize control of U.S.-supplied weapons, just as they’ve already seized control of the bulk of the rebels’ weaponry.


    When you lift the curtain on the armed groups with the most formidable military presence on the ground in Syria, you find the Al Nusra Front and Al Farough Brigades. Both groups are closely aligned with Al Qaeda and have directly perpetrated barbaric atrocities. The Al Nusra Front has been charged with beheadings of civilians, while a commander from the Al Farough Brigades reportedly ate the heart of a pro-Assad soldier.

    Shank’s warning was ignored, and his worst fears came to pass.

    And the U.S. is still financing the jihadis in Syria. For example, the government is pushing an additional $500 million in arms to the jihadis.


  24. {...}

    We are literally bombing our own weapons.

    A similar dynamic is operating in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. is now arming the “Peshmerga” (i.e. the Kurdish soldiers).

    But the Wall Street Journal notes that there are reports that Peshmerga are fighting side-by-side with the PKK … a group designated as terrorists by the U.S.:

    A U.S. defense official couldn’t confirm whether the meeting took place and stressed in response to reports that the PKK was fighting alongside the Peshmerga that “it’s hard to tell from Washington who’s on the front line in a Kurdish-Iraqi fight.”

    The U.S. has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, and the U.S. “doesn’t do business with them,” the official added.

    By arming the Peshmerga, the U.S. is also putting weapons into the hands of the PKK.

    If we stop arming, funding and training terrorists, then maybe we won’t have to bomb them later.

  25. "Zbigniew Brzezinski’s caution against arming the rebels"

    Yup, Zbig, you never know the end result of arming might be 9/11.....:(

    Without Zbig, the rooskies might still be bogged down in Afshitistan, and the Twin Towers might still be standing tall.

  26. Iraq’s parliamentary speaker has said an investigation is under way into an attack on a mosque that killed around 70 people and threatened moves to form a new government in the country struggling to contain the advance of the extremist Islamic State (Isis).

    Salim al-Jabouri said on Saturday that a committee of security officials and MPs would announce its findings in two days after an investigation into the attack on Friday at a Sunni mosque in Diyala province, in eastern Iraq.

    Doctors and police officers said 20 people were also wounded when worshippers were attacked with machine guns at the Musab bin Omair mosque, which Jabouri, a Sunni, described as "carnage".

    Initial reports suggested Shia militiamen carried out the attack in revenge for the deaths of their fellow fighters, raising the threat of a further escalation of sectarian tensions. Ibrahim Aziz Ali, whose 25-year-old nephew was among those killed, told Agence France-Presse that he and other residents heard gunfire and rushed to the mosque, where they were fired on by snipers.

    Five vehicles with images of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shia Islam, were parked at the mosque, Ali said.

    When they could finally enter, "we found a massacre," he said.

    Police officers said that angry residents exchanged fire with security forces and militiamen in the area on Friday, but reported no casualties. Iraqi premier-designate Haider al-Abadi issued a statement calling for unity and condemning the killings.

    Two major Sunni blocs, including Jabouri's, have suspended talks on forming a new Shia-led government until the investigation is concluded. But other reports have said Isis, a Sunni militant group, was responsible.


    It smells like a false flag operation to me. This part is too over-the-top:

    Five vehicles with images of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shia Islam, were parked at the mosque, Ali said.

  27. Back to the Ukraine.

    Looking at the way those Russian trucks were barely packed and loaded with crap and being Russian trucks, you can come up with only two conclusions:

    1. They planned to take something else in along the way or internally transport trapped rebels and Russian troops from the area.

    2. Whoever was paid to provide the Russian government with the emergency supplied, didn’t ship what was billed.

    or any mix of the two.

    1. Pretty weird, whatever it was.

    2. There's an old saying in poker (usually, best kept as a thought,)

      "I'm tired of thinkin', you think awhile" - as one pushes all of his chips into the middle.

  28. I think this chart tells you about all you need to know about the recession:

    DOT vehicle miles traveled

  29. How a Real Air War Could Demolish ISIS


    History has shown that air power can be a deciding factor in battles, if only the Arab states would use it against ISIS.
    With sickening snuff videos and viral postings of mass executions, ISIS has developed the projection of terror way beyond any predecessor. It has also managed to make itself seem more militarily formidable than it actually is. Even though its capacity as a training camp and assignment center for jihadists who can be sent to blow people up in Europe, the U.S. and Asia poses an extreme new danger, this should not be confused with its threat as a land-based army.

    For sure, as ISIS created its sprawling caliphate with lightning thrusts into Iraq from its base in northeast Syria, it appeared to sweep all before it. It was well funded, well armed and well led. It rapidly incorporated military equipment and skills from disaffected units of the Iraqi army.

    But as a conventional land army it has serious weaknesses. It doesn’t have an air force and it doesn’t have (yet) sophisticated air defenses of the kind used to knock down Malaysia Flight MH17 in the Ukraine.

    All ISIS logistics and dispositions in the field are observable by drone and satellite. This is not an elusive, dispersed terrorist network hiding in caves or with a nocturnal leadership moving from safe house to safe house where strikes are very time sensitive, requiring on-the-ground intelligence. To be sure, ISIS can bury their command and control centers in urban areas and use civilians as shields, but they are also a large, massed force designed to take and hold territory and once they commit to an attack they are out in the open with their lines of communication and supply exposed.

    Even though they have use of U.S. supplied equipment captured from fleeing Iraqis, their attack formations are an improvised mixture of tanks and armored vehicles and many more pickup trucks jerry-rigged as mobile artillery.They should be extremely vulnerable to a full-scale air attack.

    But what does an effective, full-scale air attack look like? The NATO air campaign that ended the Kosovo war in 1999 deployed 1,000 aircraft and took only six weeks to achieve its objectives. But in terms of technology that was another age. There were no drones for accurate target selection and execution and air-to-ground weapons were far less effective than they are now.

    The U.S. military knows what it will take. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said, “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated.” A whole cadre of retired generals has been vocal in calling for a realistic assessment of what will need to be called a war rather than a piecemeal offensive. But a full-scale air attack — inherently a declaration of war — requires the kind of commitment that goes beyond anything that the president and congress seem willing to carry out.

    However, there are hundreds of combat-ready aircraft in countries bordering Iraq and Syria. In Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the Arab regimes have been on an arms-buying spree, with most of the equipment coming from the U.S. and Europe. But they are nowhere to be seen.

    Many experts echo what Shashank Joshi, of the Royal United Services Institute in London argued in the Financial Times: “The Arab world has preferred to ride on the coat-tails of outsiders while castigating western “inaction”. It is time for the Arab world, and neighbors such as Turkey, to act. … An Arab coalition, with Turkey, should now offer direct military support to target ISIS.”


    1. {...}

      ...But it’s not that simple.

      The modern air forces built by autocratic Arab monarchies are designed primarily for self-defense, not attack. For Saudi Arabia, for example, the bogeyman is Iran. Saudi Arabia has bought scores of Eurofighter Typhoons from Britain, the front line equipment of many European powers. However, the Typhoon was designed in the 1980s for Cold War combat that envisaged Top Gun style dogfights between fighters, not close air support and ground attacks.

      The Saudi Arabian Typhoons are of a later model that has been adapted to carry air-to-ground missiles for use on a battlefield, but it is not an ideal platform for that role. (After finding the limitations of Typhoons in the Libyan conflict the Europeans are only now making them more effective for precision attacks on ground forces.) The Saudi military is still essentially locked in a defensive mindset. Nonetheless it does have the region’s most sophisticated systems for managing air power, including the ability to refuel fighters in the air. They have carried out small strikes against terrorists in the Yemen, but a sustained campaign against ISIS would call for a far more public commitment and strength of will than any Saudi regime has so far exhibited.

      Other Gulf powers have the same mindset. The UAE is buying the latest Predator drones, but is far from ready to use them. Tiny Qatar is shopping for 72 advanced fighters like the Typhoon but will not have an effective air force for years

      Turkey is the closest of all countries to the conflict but is inhibited not by a lack of resources – it has a large force of U.S.-supplied F-16s and even an intelligence satellite – but by its tricky position in the region, with military links to NATO, Europe and the U.S., a delicate internal balance of secular and Islamic allegiances, and an evolving relationship with the Kurds after years of mutual hostility.

      Jordan is in an even more delicate position, and a country that ISIS would dearly like to swallow. It also has a large force of U.S.-supplied F-16s. But Jordan’s highest priority seems to be a fear of insurgency and this year it is equipping its special forces with two highly lethal gunships, based on an Airbus supplied military airplane but armed by ATK, a U.S. supplier. Gunships are fearsome but they operate at low altitudes where they are vulnerable to the kind of shoulder-fired weaponry that ISIS most certainly has. Jordan doesn’t want to get into this air war any more than Turkey.

      But if the Arab states mustered the will, they could demolish ISIS, as history has shown. Seventy years ago, on Aug. 23 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of the D-Day landings, went to inspect a battlefield in northern France. His forces had finally broken out of Normandy and were pursuing the remnants of a once-mighty Nazi battle group who were in full retreat.

      The Germans were annihilated. They had no air cover and their exposed columns were like a fish in a barrel. The Allies had mastered a military equation that the Germans invented: the blitzkrieg, which combined air and land forces into one rapidly-moving killing machine. From that moment on it was obvious that any army without air cover would be fatally vulnerable – as long as there was air power to deal with it.

  30. So some have said, here at the Elephant Bar.

    The auto executives and graphic artists chose to demur.
    Referencing old wars, in jungle environments.

    Not even bothering to extol the tactical experiences garnered in Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.
    Selective seeing, which leads to their own 'politically correct' policy formulations.

    1. Don't get caught in 20th Century Thinking.

    2. .

      The auto executives and graphic artists chose to demur.
      Referencing old wars, in jungle environments.

      Your an idiot rat, and once more you misrepresent. Do you have actually have the ability to read a single line of prose and understand its meaning and the context? If so, you hide it well.

      The post you mention included references to Afghanistan and Iraq (hardly jungle environments) and was brought up with respect to the idea of 'winning battles and losing wars'.

      Your reference to Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya are perfect examples. Anyone who would argue we were winners in any of the three is suffering from the same 'politically correct' formulations you decry. Only a fool or one of the architects of those FUBARS would claim that we came out ahead in the cost/benefit analysis from any of them.

      To date in Iraq, we have seen US air strikes help break the siege of the Yazidis on the mountain. But in the end it was the Kurds from Syria that opened the road through the mountains that allowed the Yazidis to escape. When the US checked it out, there weren't enough of them left to mount a US rescue mission.

      Then we saw US aerial attacks around Erbil to 'protect the Americans' there. The first question that might occur to someone who wasn't actually politically correct would be 'wouldn't it be simpler just to evacuate the Americans there?' But then we need to remember that Erbil is the capital of Kurdistan and important to US interests especially those involving oil.

      Then we saw the US take out a dozen or so vehicles around the Mosul dam. A rescue mission that had to be done to protect Americans located in the Green Zone in Bagdad. The actual retaking of the dam was left to the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army.

      Now we hear another 300 US troops may be deployed to Iraq.

      Drip, drip, drip.

      Now, the auto executives and graphic artists might think the US raids within their limited context have done a good job in providing the time and space to halt the IS advance around Kurdistan and help knock out some pick-up trucks and mortar positions. On the other hand, the ex-military see the US attacks as a dawning of a new day in warfare

      But then some tend to set the bar quite low. What can you expect a military genius who believes the US taking out a single mortar position was the deciding factor in allowing the Kurds to retake a town.

      Well, we shall see.

      Drip, drip, drip.

      And everyone is likely to judge the end results through their own perspective.


    3. .

      Don't get caught in 20th Century Thinking.

      Those who would say this when speaking of the current dustup in Iraq have already been caught up 20th Century thinking. Despite the grandiose pronouncements of IS, the group isn't a caliphate, hell, it isn't even a state. It's an occupying force of terrorists. There is no denying they are a large force, 15,000, that they are well organized, well led, well financed, and temporarily more well-equipped than your average band of thugs.

      Those who have followed the news from Iraq would know that though their momentum has been stalled in certain areas they continue to push aggressively in others. Likewise, if their current blitzkrieg is blunted, their leadership one assumes is smart enough to simply fall back the time-tested weapons of all terrorists, surprise raids, urban warfare, roadside bombs, suicide bombers, etc.

      The other day, General Allen was saying it would to 10,000 to 15,000 US troops on the ground to root IS out of the Sunni provinces.

      Drip, drip, drip.

      Don't get caught up in 20th Century thinking.

      Hmmm. Bush was using drones in Iraq when he was in office. Obama used drones there for his 3 years. There is also the example of Afghanistan. Drones are not a silver bullet. The technology may have changed, the weapons improved, but war is still war and there has been no quintessential change in warfare since 'Little Boy' met Hiroshima.

      Drip, drip, drip.

      We shall see the differences, and whether I am wrong, when IS is being rooted out of Mosul.


  31. Whose Planes Keep Mysteriously Bombing Middle Eastern Countries?
    August 23, 2014 by Daniel Greenfield

    Informed speculation centers around the aliens. These fine fellows, who enjoy a fine white wine, crab legs and free thinking and living women, have concluded that President Obama, who doesn't know what he is doing, has only made matters worse all across the middle eastern region. Hence, the thinking goes, for the salvation of their admired women from the jaws of Sharia, they have decided to slowly and selectively go about the process of setting matters to right.

    It has been noted all the strikes thus far have targeted jihadis or their bases.

    A subset of creative analysts insists the raids have all the earmarks of single plane activity and suggest that the notorious and mysterious Quart Quirk (qq) has soloed back into action aboard his ultra-light, the last confirmed use of which was to penetrate Area 51 in southern Nevada.