I was queuing up a LinkSwarm for Monday when it occurred to me that I have more than enough links on the fallout from the Bergdahl swap to put up a separate post, so here it is:
Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’
If you want to see how quickly consensus wisdom can change as the facts come to light, take a look at the 180º turn in opinion on the five Taliban leaders for Bowe Bergdahl exchange.
First “President Obama hailed Bergdahl’s recovery as a triumph of years of high-wire diplomatic efforts” in a Rose Garden ceremony with Bergdahl’s parents.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice also hailed the exchange, saying that Bergdahl’s poor health was a factor in making the swap and that he had “served the United States with honor and distinction.”
All in all, it seemed like the perfect media event to distract public attention from the VA scandal. Republicans were criticized for complaining that swapping five high value Taliban commanders for one soldier was a mistake.
Then it came to light that Bergdahl was not universally loved among his comrades in arms, to put in mildly. “Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”
The revelation of Bergdahl’s desertion seemed to blindside the Obama Administration. It shouldn’t have. Never mind that it should have been able to find that out before the swap from its own internal military reports. (If not, then there’s a “thermocline of truth” in the chain of command even more serious than previously suspected.) For an Administration that claims it first learns of its own scandals from the media, it should have learned about Bergdahl’s desertion no later than June 7, 2012, when Rolling Stone published an extensive profile on Bergdahl and his status as a prisoner of war:
Bowe Bergdahl had a different response. He decided to walk away.
In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?
Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.
Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost.
Even those notorious right-swing shills at The New York Times report that Bergdahl “slipped away from his outpost.”
Soldiers say that after Bergdahl was captured, “over the next couple of months, all the attacks were far more directed.”
Now stories have come to light that soldier’s in Bergdahl’s unit were instructed to lie about how he came into the Taliban’s hands.
No wonder there was such an outrage among our troops over the exchange.
Team Obama and its base cannot comprehend the values still cherished by those young Americans “so dumb” they joined the Army instead of going to prep school and then to Harvard. Values such as duty, honor, country, physical courage, and loyalty to your brothers and sisters in arms have no place in Obama World. (Military people don’t necessarily all like each other, but they know they can depend on each other in battle — the sacred trust Bergdahl violated.)
As for Rice, Ralph Peters noted “At least she didn’t blame Bergdahl’s desertion on a video.”
Then footage emerged of the Taliban handing over Bergdahl, which did not seem to indicate he was in particularly frail physical health. (Mentally? Well, Blinky McDeserter obviously has some issues…)
Even Obama’s usual defenders in the media are questioning the exchange:
Now Obama’s State Department (and liberal Administration defenders) are saying that “there are a ton of conflicting reports”. This is such a general purpose cop-out I’m surprised we don’t hear it from the Obama Administration more often. “Did the IRS target conservative groups?” “There are a ton of conflicting reports…”
The fact that liberal opinion has swung from “This was a triumph for Obama and Republicans look petty for raining on his parade” to “we don’t have enough information to judge yet” tells you all you need to know about the optics…
Also: Oh, nice job Mad:
I spent a few minutes on the phone yesterday and today with Dr. Joe Agris, who recently filed as a Republican for the Texas Senate race.
As previously mentioned, Dr. Agris is a plastic surgeon who has done numerous good works, many in association with late Houston broadcasting legend Marvin Zindler (who frequently made use of Dr. Agris services). Dr. Agris waged a campaign for Texas House District 134 in 2008, losing in the general election. “That was Obama’s year. All Republicans in Harris County lost.”
I asked why he was running. He said that voters will “trust a doctor” more than politicians, who he accused of having “constipation of thought and diarrhea of words.” He said his biggest issue was the budget deficit. “The federal government needs a balanced budget amendment.”
ObamaCare was also a particular target of the doctor’s ire: “This Obama medical bill is just an atrocity. We have to get rid of it. The medical care in this country is just going downhill.”
He also had some stinging criticisms of the current state of American healthcare, noting how rules might require a patient to undergo an increasingly expensive series of tests, when only the first and last may be necessary. “If you don’t do things step by step, Medicare and insurance won’t pay for it. 50% of the doctors in my hospital don’t take Medicare. If these cuts go through in February, it will be closer to 100%.”
Dr. Agris also complained about the short-sighted nature of the federal government. “China is our biggest threat. They have plans out to 100 years, and we can’t plan out two weeks. We just have knee-jerk responses. We need 1-year, 2-year, 5- or 10-year plans.”
Given his concern over the deficit, I asked him which programs would he cut. That gave him pause. He finally named foreign aid and military deployments overseas.
He was particularly critical of our efforts in an area he’s visited many times. “I just got back from Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re not doing any good over there. They just want to take our money.”
Dr. Agris said he had the financial resources to wage a serious senate campaign. “I’ll self-fund some, and we’ll raise some.”
Dr. Agris sounds like an interesting guy, and might have more resources to campaign with than some other longshots. But he’s entered the race very late indeed, he’s virtually unknown outside of Houston, he’s facing three well-organized, well-funded candidates who have been running hard most of the year (plus a fourth, Craig James, who has much higher name recognition than Dr. Agris), and so far it does not sound like he’s thought through the intellectual and organizational demands it takes to run a serious Senate campaign in state as large as Texas. And the good doctor’s Brooklyn accent may not play well statewide.
But I do thank Dr. Agris, both for his many previous good works and for taking the time to speak with me.
Sometimes different stories you’re following twine together in weird and unexpected ways. Today it’s news from MEMRI that former mujahideen commander, Islamic radical, and all-around-asshole Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is taking credit for inspiring Occupy Wall Street.
If you don’t remember Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, he first rose to prominence as commander of the Hezb-i islami faction of the mujahideen fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Fighting the Soviets was pretty much the last decent thing Hekmatyar ever did, and he wasn’t very good at it, especially compared to his chief rival, Ahmed Shah Massoud, commander of Jamiat-i Islami, who was one of the greatest guerrilla warfare commanders of the 20th century. If “Hezb-i islami” sounds an awful lot like “Hezbollah,” that’s because they’re both different branches of the same transnational affiliation of radical Shia Islamic fundamentalism. Hekmatyar the sort of guy who thought the Ayatollah Khomeini was too much of liberal softie. Hekmatyar spent almost as much time fighting Massoud as he did fighting the Soviets, and after the Soviets left he changed sides so many times in the various Afghan civil wars that followed (in the government, out of the government, with the Taliban, against the Taliban, etc.) that it’s hard to keep track. He was also one of Osama Bin Laden’s drinking buddies in the 1990s. Pretty much anytime he showed up was bad news for Afghanistan, and now he’s one of the head jerks fighting the Afghan government.
Now he’s taking credit for “inspiring” Occupy Wall Street. Yeah, right. I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone at Occupy Wall Street that had even heard of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (or even any foreign political figure before Bush43 that isn’t featured on a t-shirt).
When I first read on Ace of Spades that Obama intended to let our soldiers go without paychecks during the shutdown, I was somewhat incredulous. After all, even Obama should be able to see how lousy the “optics” are with withholding paychecks from troops involved in no less than three
wars kinetic military actions overseas. Surely not even Obama could be that stupid?
To dramatize the issue, I’ve actually created a small film about the topic. I’ve taken the details of who all will still be getting checks in a shutdown from this piece up on Reason (which was, in turn, taken from The New York Times, saving you the 15 seconds it would have taken you to defeat the paywall…) Keep in mind that I’m putting it up in advance of the actual shutdown, so the details may vary…
I did this quick and dirty, and I didn’t see any actually U.S. soldiers as part of any character sets…
Another week of Jihad news from the usual sources:
Time for another installment of This Week in Jihad.
Please note that these weekly installments are only a sampler of Jihad-related news from around the world, and that I skim a lot more stories than I post here. One reason is that, from Africa to Indonesia, regular Jihad-related violence is depressingly frequent. So I don’t report every suicide bombing or honor killing that goes on. There’s just too much to keep up with.
However, given Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting spree in Tucson, I thought I would change that for this week’s roundup, to provide glimpses of places in which political and religious violence are the rule rather than the exception. So here’s a list of all the deadly incidents related to Islam I could find mention of from this past week:
- Suicide bomb kills 18 at a police station in Pakistan.
- Suicide bomber kills two on bus in Afghanistan.
- Two killed, six wounded in Taliban attack.
- Off-duty policeman shoots a 71-year old Christian man dead on a bus in Egypt.
- Jihadis open fire in a bar, killing seven in Nigeria.
- That follows hot on the heels of 11 people being killed in Jos, Nigeria.
- Jihadist suicide bomber kills 17 at bathhouse in Afghanistan.
- Couple axed to death in Punjab, India.
- Man killed and mutilated in honor killing in Multan, Iran. “Murtaza’s ears, lips, tongue, nose were sliced his eyes were gouged out with a knife before his head was severed.”
- Ireland suffers its first honor killing.
- Iraqi police chief killed by a roadside bomb.
- Six NATO soldiers killed Wednesday in Afghanistan.
- The figure above presumably includes U.S. Private Benjamin Moore, killed by an IED.
- The figure presumably does not include Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese, killed on Friday.
- Nor that of Private First Class Robert Near, also killed in Afghanistan on Friday.
- Finally, I count two more names on this list of the fallen, for the time period specified, not including those killed 1/12: SPC Ethan C. Hardin and PFC Ira B. Laningham IV (the latter of Zapata, Texas).
If I’m counting correctly, that brings the total, just for this week, up to 73. There could be twice that many I didn’t have time to search out yet, either from the Foreign Policy/Jihad sources listed to the right (JihadWatch was, as always, invaluable) or just doing a Google search. And there could be twice (or ten, or even a hundred) times as many Jihad-related killings that didn’t make news reports. I did not include Iran’s execution of five accused drug-smugglers in the total. Nor any of the other 46 executions the Islamic Republic of Iran has carried out in the last 20 days.
Other Jihad-related tidbits:
- Christopher Hitchens on the assassin of Salman Taseer
- Speaking of Taseer, Pakistani’s clerics have weighed in overwhelmingly. Overwhelmingly in favor of his assassination, that is.
- Want to know what soft Jihadis actually think? This piece by M. Shahid Alam, a mixture of truths (Pakistan’s elites are corrupt), half-truths (America is their pupper master), half-digested second-hand Marxism (“the Pakistani state fell into the lap of lumpen elites”), conspiracy theories (“The military dictator who preceded him had boasted in his autobiography that his government had garnered US$50 million by capturing and selling Pakistanis to secret US agencies.”), and Islamist rhetoric (“Pakistanis worried that this was only the start of a campaign to repeal the [blasphemy] law – and open the floodgates for Salman Rushdi-style smearing of the blessed Prophet.”). Oh, and this guy is an economics professor at Northeastern University in Boston.
- American Center for Law and Justice sues to halt construction of the Ground Zero Mosque.
- If you didn’t already have enough to worry about, the coalition government in Lebanon has collapsed.
- Not News: Jihadist death threats against synagogues. News: In Fargo, North Dakota.
- First they came for the beer…
- Hamas linked CAIR is singing from the same hymnal as The New York Times in blaming the Tucson shooting on “inflammatory political rhetoric”.
- In Saudi Arabia, accused in rape case sentenced to one year in prison, 100 lashes. The accused rape victim, that is.
The deal Obama struck to extended all the Bush tax cuts is good for America, and also good for the Republican Party. When it was struck, however, the liberal howls of outrage made me think of one other outcome which, while not as good for the nation, would be even better for Republicans: If Nancy Pelosi blocked the deal, the Bush tax cuts (and long-term unemployment) temporarily lapse until the new Republican House takes over in January, at which point they pass a tax cut extension at least as strong as the Obama deal, and probably stronger. So in order to make the point how opposed Democrats are to letting rich people (or “rich” people) keep their own money, they’re willing to let the long-term unemployed stop getting checks for a month (and probably longer), delay economic recovery at least that long, let Republicans pick up an even bigger victory and take all the credit for the deal, make Obama look weaker and make the Democratic Party in general, and Pelosi’s House Democrats in particular, look even more petulant, shrill, and extreme.
That appears to be exactly what’s going to happen. It’s like some perfect storm of liberal fail.
The reasons why House Democrats are undertaking such counterproductive and self-destructive behavior probably requires the insights of a psychiatrist more than a political scientist. In the 2010 elections, voters rejected the liberal agenda about as thoroughly as any domestic political agenda has been rejected in our lifetimes. After two years of trying to push the most liberal agenda since LBJ’s “Great Society” expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s, Democrats suffered massive losses, most dramatically in the House, for a switch of 63 seats. For a graphic depiction of how thoroughly liberalism has been rejected, take a look at this Real Clear Politics map of incoming House seats:
Not only are liberals unwilling to consider why their agenda was rejected by voters, they’re unwilling to even consider that their agenda was rejected. Rather than face up to that unpleasant fact, the nutroots have embraced a far more psychologically satisfying (if political suicidal) explanation for their tidal wave of defeats: Democrats lost the 2010 Election because they just weren’t liberal enough:
- Here’s Joan Walsh in Salon expanding on the theme.
- Ryan Lizza shows The New Yorker that the more Obama Agenda items (Stimulus, ObamaCare, Cap-and-Trade) House members voted for, the more likely they were to lose…and then goes on to suggest that Obama should have been even more radical! Micky Kaus calls him on it.
- Here’s Eugene Robinson joining the chorus: “One contributing factor was the Democrats’ failure to explain their program and counter Republican misinformation – is seen by the conventionally wise as delusional. But I’ve been meeting an awful lot of progressives around the country who share that delusion.” Yes, yes they do. Also this: “I’m hearing the view that the Obama administration, which has done much good, can do better – by speaking clearly, standing its ground – and, when pushed by bullies, shoving back.” One tiny problem: Those “bullies” shoving you are called “voters.” And they just shoved 63 of you off the sandlot entirely.
- Journolist-creator Ezra Klein fingers the hard left’s favorite bete noir as responsible for Democrats’ debacle: Joseph Lieberman.
- Ari Burman says that Obama just didn’t give enough power to the nutroots.
I’m sure I could come up with 10-15 other examples. It’s like that episode of The Critic where Jay Sherman remembers being rejected by a woman he was trying to pick up: “Eww, I don’t like that memory at all! Let’s look at it again through the magic of self-delusion!” All those congressmen lost because they just weren’t as awesomely liberal as I am! High five! Inside the liberal reality bubble, the Democratic Party’s biggest mistake was getting Blue Dog Democrats to run in marginal districts in the first place, and if they had just run people with positions closer to Nancy Pelosi or Alan Grayson in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, they would have done better.
Of course, outside the liberal reality bubble, this idea is a laughably naive exercise in vainglorious wish fulfillment. It’s also easily disproven. Take a look at the contrasting fates of Tom Perriello and Jason Altmire.
Perriello was the golden boy Democratic freshman Representative from Virginia who was not only the darling of liberals, but also loftily declared that he would rather vote for ObamaCare and be defeated than vote against it and be re-elected. Democrats pulled out all the stops to save his seat, sending him $1.6 million over a 10-day period and having Obama appear personally on his behalf. If the nutroots theory that liberals just needed a candidate worth fighting for to lure them to the polls to assure victory were correct, Perriello should have been a shoe-in. He lost.
Altmire, by contrast, was one of those loathsome “Blue Dog Democrats” that so many liberals feel are merely Republicans in disguise. He voted against ObamaCare. If liberal theories were correct, disheartened liberals should have assured his defeat. He won in a year that fellow Blue Dogs who voted for ObamaCare were being slaughtered.
So the current Pelosi-lead liberal temper tantrum is impossible to explain given the objective political needs of the Democratic Party. However, it’s all too easy to explain given the psychological needs of liberals.
For years liberals have believed that majority status (like The New York Times and black voters) was their unquestioned birthright. Never mind that between 1968 and 2004, a Democratic Presidential candidate had topped 50% of the popular vote exactly once (the post-Watergate Jimmy Carter, who managed to garner a whopping 50.08% of the popular vote in 1976). For them, Republican victories were aberrations from the supposed norm. They truly believed that America was a “center-left” nation, despite polls consistently showing twice as many Americans identified themselves as conservatives rather than liberals. They believed people like John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira who assured them Democrats were the natural majority party, and would take over their natural role as lords of the earth any day now.
And then the 2006 and 2008 election seemed to confirm the theory. Yes! This was it! This was their moment! Finally all of their dreams would come true! Obama was one of them, and with the House and Senate firmly in Democratic control, he would completely replace all the intolerable policies of his predecessor, “that idiot Bush.” He would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close down Guantanamo Bay, legalize gay marriage, use Keynesian economics to fix the economy, and nationalize health care. The liberal moment had arrived at last. It was so close they could taste it.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the liberal nirvana. What the rest of us call “real life,” and what liberals attributed to an ever-expanding cast of villains (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Rasmussen Reports) they lumped together as “the right-wing noise machine” inexplicably rose up to thwart their righteous will. The economy stayed broke, and if the Stimulus did anything it made it worse. The Tea Party happened. Cap-and-Trade went down in flames. Obama figured out that Bush’s anti-terror policies weren’t bad at all now that he was the one who had to deal with the problems. Democrats managed to pull the Zombie ObamaCare over the finish-line despite widespread opposition, but it was a far cry from the glorious platonic idea of a fully nationalized, single-payer system that existed in their mind’s eye (and nowhere else). Then the voters, the same voters liberals believed in their heart of hearts was naturally liberal, rejected them. They were like a football team a mere quarter away from winning the Superbowl, only to have the opposing team rack up three touchdowns on them in the last five minutes. How can this be happening? What did I do to deserve this?
When a party gets walloped in an election, usually it takes time to reflect on why voters might have rejected its message, and what parts of that message (and the party) need to be changed. If you’ve seen All That Jazz (and if you haven’t, you should; it’s a great movie), then you’re probably familiar with the Kubler-Ross grief cycle: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Obama has moved on to at least the third stage, but House Democrats and the nutroots can’t get past the first two.
Conservatives have many interests that might supersede politics: Family, jobs, religion. But for many liberals, the political is personal. As far as they’re concerned, there’s Good (represented by Big Government run by liberals and doing the things liberals want it to do), and there’s Evil (big business (unless its unionized), rich people (unless they went to the right schools), Fox News, etc.). They believe the same things all their Facebook friends and newspapers and TV shows and NPR agree with! It’s inconceivable to them that people of good will might disagree with them.
After all, they’re Good! The other side is Evil! That’s why they write books with names like What’s Wrong With Kansas? rather than Why Can’t We Convince Kansas To Embrace Higher Taxes and Bigger Government? They’ve spent the last 20-years believing that voters are liberals, so it’s impossible that voters rejected liberalism itself. That would be tantamount to voters saying they rejected them personally. That’s unpossible! After all, they’re awesome! No, this could only have been happened because the voters have been tricked. Liberalism didn’t lose, liberalism was stabbed in the back. Hence the hunt for traitors and scapegoats that snatched away their prize at the last moment.
To actually listen to what voters were telling them would mean abandoning the worldview that they’ve clung to so fervently for so long. Thus every bit of cognitive dissonance only makes them cling more fervently to the belief that voters haven’t, didn’t, couldn’t reject liberalism itself. After all, they’re awesome, aren’t they? Aren’t they? Voters sent them a message good and hard, but they have to deny it, because their denial is all they have left. Liberalism can never fail, because whenever it appears to, then ipso facto it wasn’t really liberalism that was failing, just like Communist apologists claim that all those failed Communist states weren’t really Communist, because communism never fails inside the platonic fantasyland of their Marxist imaginations.
And into this seething cauldron of anger and denial comes Obama, blithely announcing the deal to extend the Bush Tax Cuts. After all, Obama still has to govern the nation for the next two years. Clearly the economy is isn’t responding to Obamanomics, so something else needs to be done. And if the Bush Tax Cuts expire, Obama knows that Democrats are the ones that will get the blame for the biggest tax hike in history. So he cut the best deal he thought he could, knowing he would have even less leverage after the Republican House took over in January.
In essence, Obama was saying that voters had indeed rejected liberalism. He was ruining their denial! Here was their traitor at last: Obama the secret Republican.
So the House, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, decided to stand and fight on the only issue that seems to unite their base: Their hatred of the wealthy, and their love of other people’s money. The idea that money might belong to the people that actually earned it, rather than the federal government, fills them with rage. Here was their line in the sand: We have to screw the rich, even if it means screwing the poor and the middle class in the process! Even if it makes them more unpopular. Even if the Republicans will just pass a deal even less to their liking in January. So they have to oppose extending the Bush tax cuts, even though it will make the rest of the nation think they’re even more petty, vindictive, and out-of-touch than they already did. When it comes to preserving their wounded egos, rationality goes out the window. If it comes down to voters rejecting liberalism, or liberals rejecting reality, then to hell with reality. It’s no longer about policy, it’s about pride.
And pride goeth before a fall.
Technically speaking, he relieved Gen. Stanley McChyrstal of command and replaced him with Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus (or, as Moveon.org once referred to him as, “General Betray Us”) taking over is probably good news, especially given Michael Yon’s criticisms of McChyrstal. Perhaps Petraeus can beef up our counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan, and possibly convince Obama that setting a deadline for withdrawal is a bad idea.
I’m sure howls of outrage about the firing from those on the left who condemned Bush for not “listening to the generals” will happen any minute now. (Checks watch) Yep, any minute now…