“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, April 16, 2016

Is It US Exceptionalism Or Is It Plain Old Exceptional Stupidity?

As has happened repeatedly since 9/11, the US and countries like Britain fail to combat terrorism because they give priority to retaining their alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, even when their policies – as in Yemen – wreck a whole country and enable al Qaeda and Isis to use the chaos to establish safe havens.

Thanks to UK and US intervention, al-Qaeda now has a mini-state in Yemen. It's Iraq and Isis all over again

They have done it again. The US, Britain and regional allies led by Saudi Arabia have come together to intervene in another country with calamitous results. Instead of achieving their aims, they have produced chaos, ruining the lives of millions of people and creating ideal conditions for salafi-jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

The latest self-inflicted failure in the “war on terror” is in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Sunni states intervened on one side in a civil war in March 2015. Their aim was to defeat the Houthis - labelled somewhat inaccurately as Shia and pro-Iranian - who had seized most of the country in alliance with the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who retained the loyalty of much of the Yemeni army. Yemeni politics is exceptionally complicated and often violent, but violence has traditionally been followed by compromise between warring parties.

The Saudi intervention, supported in practice by the US and Britain, has made a bad situation far worse. A year-long campaign of air strikes was supposed to re-impose the rule of former president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose dysfunctional and unelected government had fled to Saudi Arabia. Relentless bombing had some success and the forces fighting in President Hadi’s name advanced north, but were unable to retake the capital Sanaa. Over the last week there has been a shaky truce.

The real winners in this war are al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which has taken advantage of the collapse of central government to create its own mini-state. This now stretches for 340 miles – longer than the distance from London to Edinburgh – along the south coast of Yemen. AQAP, which the CIA once described as the most dangerous protagonist of “global jihad” in the world, today has an organised administration with its own tax revenues.  

Unnoticed by the outside world, AQAP has been swiftly expanding its own statelet in Yemen in 2015/16, just as Isis did in western Iraq and eastern in Syria in 2013/14. Early last year, President Obama contemptuously described Isis as being like a junior basketball team that would never play in the big leagues. Likewise in Yemen, the American and British governments misjudged the degree to which AQAP would benefit from Operation Decisive Storm, the ill-chosen Saudi name for its military intervention that has proved predictably indecisive.

The Saudi intervention turned a crisis into a catastrophe. Some 6,427 people are known to have been killed in the fighting, but these are only the figures for casualties known to the health authorities. Since the UN says that 14.1 million Yemenis, 54 per cent of the population, have no access to health care, this is likely to be an underestimate. Even before the war, Yemen was the poorest Arab nation and its people are now starving or malnourished. OXFAM estimates that 82 per cent of Yemen’s 21 million population are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The disaster is not only humanitarian, but political, and does not only affect Yemen. As in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, foreign intervention energises and internationalises local difference as factions become the proxies of outside powers.

Yemen has always had Shia and Sunni, but it is only recently that sectarian hatred has begun to get anywhere near the level of Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia portrays the Houthis as pawns of Iran, though there is little evidence for this, so Yemen is drawn into the regional confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
A point seldom given sufficient weight is that AQAP is expanding so fast, not because of its own strength, but because its opponents are so weak. The Saudi and Gulf financed media often refer to pro-President Hadi forces as taking territory, but in reality the government-in-exile remains in Saudi Arabia. It recaptured the port city of Aden last summer, but its few officials who are there dare not leave their heavily-defended compound except by helicopter. Even where Saudi-backed fighters advance, they leave anarchy behind them, conditions in which the arrival of disciplined AQAP forces may be welcomed by local people.

I have been struck, ever since the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003, by the extent to which their whole strategy depends on wishful thinking about the strength and popularity of their local ally who usually, on the contrary, is feared and hated. I seldom spoke to Afghans who truly supported the Taliban, but I was always impressed by the number who detested the Afghan government. Yet when one UN official stated publicly that the foreign powers fighting the Taliban, supposedly in support of the government, had “no local partner”, he was promptly fired.

Inside Isis secret tunnels

There was the same lethal pretence by Western powers in Libya and Syria that the rebels they backed represented the mass of the population and were capable of taking over from existing regimes. In reality, the weakening or destruction of central government created a power vacuum promptly filled by extreme jihadi groups.

The dire consequences of the Saudi intervention and the rise of AQAP has been largely ignored by Western governments and media. Contrary to their grim-faced declarations about combating terrorism, the US and UK have opened the door to an al-Qaeda mini-state.

This will have an impact far beyond the Middle East because what makes the atrocities orchestrated by Isis in Paris and Brussels so difficult to stop is that they are organised and funded by a real administrative apparatus controlling its own territory. If one terrorist cell, local leader or bomb expert is eliminated, they can be replaced.

As has happened repeatedly since 9/11, the US and countries like Britain fail to combat terrorism because they give priority to retaining their alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, even when their policies – as in Yemen – wreck a whole country and enable al Qaeda and Isis to use the chaos to establish safe havens.

Patrick Cockburn’s 'Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East' (OR Books) is published this month


  1. The Saudi Royalty, an illiterate criminal family, a US ally. Hillary Clinton celebrated selling them $30 billion in US arms.

  2. As has happened repeatedly since 9/11, the US and countries like Britain fail to combat terrorism because they give priority to retaining their alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, even when their policies – as in Yemen – wreck a whole country and enable al Qaeda and Isis to use the chaos to establish safe havens.

    What more is there to say?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. .

      Those in charge could care less, the MSM doesn't report on it, and with the public it's out of sight out of mind. Cupidity and corruption at the top, apathy and indifference at the bottom.

      Or maybe, they are all just dumb as rocks.


  3. Strikes in Syria

    Attack and fighter aircraft conducted three strikes near Mara in Syria, striking three separate ISIL tactical units and destroying two ISIL fighting positions.

    Strikes in Iraq

    Attack, ground-attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 15 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

    -- Near Fallujah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

    -- Near Hit, two strikes destroyed an ISIL mortar system, 14 ISIL boats and an ISIL vehicle.

    -- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

    -- Near Mosul, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, 14 ISIL modular oil refineries and two ISIL crude oil stills and destroyed an ISIL assembly area and 10 ISIL boats.

    -- Near Qayyarah, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 24 ISIL boats, two ISIL rocket rails and two ISIL assembly areas.

    -- Near Sinjar, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL mortar system and an ISIL assembly area.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.

    -- Near Tal Afar, a strike suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.

  4. "What we got here is a failure to assimilate. And, it's all our own fault."

    Cool Hand Quirk

  5. I thought it was interesting that, in Dearborn, Bernie the jew beat Hillary the methodist like a rented mule.

    1. .

      Don't know if it has anything to do with it but there are quite a few Jewish congregations in the area. In Detroit, there are a number of big Jewish synagogues (if that's not too redundant) and more in the general area. Bloomfield Hills which a few miles away from Dearborn has (I believe I read) the largest Reform Jewish congregation in the US. I imagine reform Jews might be more open to Sanders than others.

      Also, Dearborn is home to UofM's Dearborn campus and Henry Ford Community College and isn't that far from Madonna University and Wayne State University.



  6. It's Michigan.

    All the Dems want more free stuff.

    Bernie offered more free stuff.

  7. Mollie Hemingway says she doesn't like The Donald's favorite Bible passage - 'an eye for an eye'.

    Says he needs more Gospel.

    I think it all depends with whom one is dealing.

    1. Religion

      ‘Eye For An Eye’ Shows Donald Trump Needs The Gospel

      Donald Trump says his favorite Bible verse is a 'mean' verse about justice. It's not mean, and he misinterpreted it, but we could all learn from it.

      Mollie Hemingway
      By Mollie Hemingway
      April 15, 2016

      Even by political standards, Donald Trump’s discussions of his religious faith are curious. He was baptized as a Christian and identifies as Presbyterian. He was confirmed at First Presbyterian in Jamaica, New York. He attended a Presbyterian worship service in Iowa a few days before the caucuses there. He says, “I’m Protestant, I’m Presbyterian, and I go to church and I love God and I love my church.” Specifics about where he attends aren’t known, but he says he always at least goes to church on Christmas and Easter.

      During a CNN forum a few months back, in response to Anderson Cooper’s question about the role of repentance in his life, he said, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes? I work hard, I’m an honorable person.” The CNN headline “Trump believes in God, but hasn’t sought forgiveness,” explains previous remarks he’s made on the same topic. He’s also said of communion, “When we go in church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and when I have my little cracker, I guess that’s a form of asking for forgiveness.”

      He talks about the Bible a bit. “Nothing beats the Bible. Nothing beats the Bible. Not even ‘The Art Of The Deal,'” he said of the Holy Scriptures and his book. He’s been asked about his favorite Bible verse before and struggled to answer. Last September he claimed it was located in Proverbs: “Proverbs, the chapter ‘never bend to envy,'” he said. “I’ve had that thing all of my life where people are bending to envy.”

      It was difficult to ascertain which chapter or verse of Proverbs he was referring to, if any.

      And now he’s come up with a new answer. In an interview yesterday with a local New York radio host Trump said his favorite Bible verse is the Old Testament passage, which says one can take “an eye for an eye.”

      “You know when we get into the Bible I think many, so many. And ‘an eye for an eye,’ you can almost say that. It’s not a particularly nice thing, but you know when you look at what’s happening to our country, I mean, you see what’s going on with our country how people are taking advantage of us and how they scoff at us and laugh at us and laugh in our face and they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking our — you know, they’re taking the health of our country. And we have to be very firm and we have to be very strong and we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.”

      The verse — which is very well known, of course — appears several times in the Bible. Here it is in Exodus 21:23-25:

      “[I]f there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

    2. The context is Moses sharing a variety of precedent-setting legislation to guide Israel’s courts. This is part of one of those sections and introduces the important concept of proportionality. These guides were revolutionary at the time they were issued because they showed the value of all people. The excerpt actually deals with harm done to children who are prematurely born as a result of violence against their mothers, for example.

      These guides were revolutionary at the time they were issued because they showed the value of all people.

      The phrase also appears in Leviticus 24:19-22, which emphasizes that these rules from God apply to all people, “the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.” And it appears in Deuteronomy 19:21, where it deals with the role witnesses who bring accusations against others play, emphasizing, as my study Bible puts it, “God calls us to deal with one another with integrity, being faithful witnesses, for the protection of ourselves or others and never hurting others by bearing false witness against them.”

      Trump said the concept was “not a particularly nice thing,” but properly understood, it has many nice aspects, including its importance in helping the courts of Israel keep people from enacting revenge that went beyond the crime itself.

      People also know the verse because of the revolutionary things Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:38. Here’s that portion:

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

    3. And then he dropped the mic and walked off the mount. But seriously, this entire Sermon on the Mount is worth reading again and again. This section is one of many that has provoked much discussion and debate over the centuries about precisely what is meant by it.

      It is not, as some have said in the aftermath of Trump’s remarks, that Jesus “repudiated” the lex talionis principle from the Old Testament. Repudiate means to deny the truth or validity of a thing. That’s not what happened in the Sermon on the Mount. The Old Testament provisions are about limiting vengefulness and providing guidance for secular courts to mete out proper punishment. Jesus is clear in various parts of his teaching that there is a distinction between Caesar’s kingdom and God’s. He’s not saying that the principle of limiting vengeance is wrong. He’s saying, as he does time and time again with other aspects of the Law, that the challenge is to extend it even more. Compare this with a passage 10 verses prior when Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He’s not repudiating the commandment against adultery. He’s extending it.

      So here he’s not saying the principle of limiting vengefulness is wrong but that it doesn’t go far enough. Limit your vengeance to the point that you suffer insults and persecution from your enemy and be generous to all those who place demands on you, whether it’s the Roman soldiers who forced civilians to carry their baggage or the person who seeks a loan. “Jesus wants us to be willing to make sacrifices, to think twice before we refuse a request for help,” as my study Bible puts it.

      Jesus practiced this different attitude in his life, up to the point of his death. When Jesus was beaten, blasphemed, and crucified by civic and religious authorities, he didn’t demand justice or scream or insult them. Instead, he prayed, “Father forgive them.”

      Trump’s exegesis of the verse was wrong, because the principle is about limiting vengeance in secular contexts.

      So all this to say, Trump’s selection of a verse isn’t a bad one, in that all Scripture is for our edification. His exegesis of the verse was wrong, because the principle is about limiting vengeance in secular contexts. Having said that, the principle of limiting our vengeance is one we would all do well to learn. And in our personal lives, inspired by Jesus, we should limit our vengeance all the more.

      Jesus provokes us to examine our own heart. Have we always been generous with our wealth? Have we shared with those in need? Do we help everyone, or just those who we deem “worthy” of help? Or do we even help them? Do we forgive insults or stew on them? When people make demands of us, do we patiently endure, or do we become indignant and defensive?

      We mocked Trump for his favorite verse, but are we sure his misinterpretation doesn’t match ours? Are we sure we’re not as vengeful and spiteful? The fact is that Trump doesn’t do what Jesus says to do. Neither do you. Neither do I. We do not follow the Law as Jesus tells us to follow it. Not even close.

      Jesus was totally generous in giving His life for us. In him, we receive forgiveness and strength. Trump needs that good news. And so do we.

      Photo a katz /

      Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway


      All of this is quite different from the 'ethics' taught in the Koran.

  8. Abengoa




  9. Mike Baker, CIA, Retired, you know Mike Baker, RedEye, says Idaho is the greatest state in our Nation.

    He didn't mention Michigan.

  10. SLATE

    Saudi Arabia is warning there will be serious economic repercussions if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The New York Times was first to report the news, noting the White House has been lobbying Congress to prevent the bill from passing and many in the administration are concerned about the “diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.”

    Saudi Arabia isn’t really hiding its feelings. The country’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, directly warned lawmakers of the legislation’s possible consequences during a visit to Washington last month. He said Saudi Arabia may have no choice but to sell as much as $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets. “A source with knowledge of the Saudis’ thinking” says any investments by Saudi Arabia in the U.S. would be put at risk so the kingdom merely needs to protect itself, reports CNN. Economists are skeptical Saudi Arabia could really go through with the threat without hurting its own economy in the process.

    The measure that Secretary of State John Kerry has warned could “create a terrible precedent” marks a rare instance of bipartisan work for Congress. The bill, which would strip away immunity for foreign governments if it involves terrorist attacks that kill U.S. citizens on American soil, is co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and John Cornyn of Texas. Former Sen. Bob Graham, who was the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, said he was “outraged but not surprised” by Saudi Arabia’s warnings. The 9/11 Commission said there was “no evidence” to tie the Saudi government to the terrorist attack but a 28-page portion of the report is still classified.

    This has to end sometime, now is as good or bad a time as any other. If the Federal Reserve has to pick up deeply discounted assets, let them.

    Have the Treasury call their debt. Send them a check and simultaneous;y cut them off from US arms sales

  11. Insist that Donald Trump negotiate a deal to take them out. Trump will give them a lesson on “Debtor’ Leverage”.

  12. April 17, 2016

    There is just so much wrong with Hillary

    By David Lawrence

    In 2008, Hillary hated Obama, bad-mouthed him, and ran against him in the primaries. She failed. Now she praises Obama and says what a wonderful president he is and has been from day one. Was she phony when she attacked him, or is she phony now, when she tries to use him as moral support?

    Hypocrisy, thy name is contradiction for the sake of votes.

    Why Hillary thinks Obama, who is not very popular, will save her, God knows. He is not considered one of our best presidents except by racially homogenous blacks, liberal Jews, and the ideological blind.

    It's interesting that the two most famous people in the race, Hillary and Trump, are harsh and obnoxious. Only Trump is honest and direct and has a record of accomplishment. Hillary is a feminist who has used her popular husband as a wedge into politics.

    All that Hillary has done has a dark underside to it, whether it is the barnacles clinging to failed Hillarycare or the revolution in Libya.

    Hillary failed to fortify Benghazi and lied to the families about the cause of their loved ones' deaths. She blamed a video rather than al-Qaeda, even though she knew the truth.

    When Hillary said, "What difference at this point does it make?," she was telling us that the administration's lie to the public about the influence of the video was irrelevant because the American people are irrelevant.

    Hillary is a crook with a degenerate legacy that she shares with her pedophilic husband. Everyone she has touched falls through her fingers like sand.

    Hillary, our potential commander-in-chief, offered us the Russian reset, yet we are in another cold war. She and that weakling Obama are no match for Putin, and they could be responsible for the end of the world. It might turn out that weakness rather than strength will be apocalyptic.

    Remember Reagan tearing down the wall. Hillary and Obama have invited the Muslims and the Russians to step on our faces.

    Back in my day, it was considered immoral for a president to get divorced. What about a woman who hangs onto the coattails of a serial harasser of females, Bill, and then asks women to vote for her on the basis of her standing up for women's rights?

    While her idiot boss, Obama, labeled ISIS the J.V. team, she said Boko Haram isn't a terrorist outfit. Her boss can't even say "radical Islam." Both of them are quasi-socialists, and both are proselytes of Saul Alinsky. They want to turn America into the Gulag Archipelago.

    We haven't even discussed Hillary's personal server for emails during her reign as secretary of state or the revocation of her law license during the Watergate hearings, the accusation against her of the Vince Foster murder, or her accepting millions of dollars for her speeches for her foundation from anti-female countries like Saudi Arabia. And what do we say about the millions Congress spent investigating Whitewater?

    Have we ever elected a president who was being investigated by the FBI? It makes me lose all faith in this country.

    Trump is clumsy, bold, and outspoken. Yet he has the integrity of the police compared to a criminal gang like the Clintons.

    1. Let's not forget, folks, that The Hag lost her law license for lying during the Watergate investigation.


      Trump is clumsy, bold, and outspoken. Yet he has the integrity of the police compared to a criminal gang like the Clintons

      Ruf's steady girlfriend, that Hillary !


      Hillary is a work of art....