Paul Bedard writes: In the latest sign that Washington operates in an alternate economy, journalism jobs around the country dove 22 percent in the last 10 years, but they spiked a whopping 38 percent in the nation’s capital, according to a new economic study. What’s more, salaries for Washington journalists rose 7 percent while diving nationally.
While 12,000 reporting jobs were eliminated in most markets in the last decade, the Washington journalism market expanded from 2,190 to 3,030. That is more than five journalists for every single House and Senate member.
In New York, by comparison, the drop was historic, from 5,330 jobs in 2005 to just 3,478 in 2015, said the study from Apartmentlist.com.
The study reviewed rents in major cities and showed how rents have spiked while the salaries of reporters hasn’t. That gap may be responsible for the shift by reporters, even award-winning journalists, to better paying public relations.
“Our analysis illustrated that reporter salaries are growing slower than rents in most metros. Nationwide, reporter salaries declined by 7 percent over the past decade while rents increased 9 percent. If this trend continues, publications will struggle to hire and retain talent,” said the report provided to Secrets. Read the rest of this entry »
This weakness should give conservatives no pleasure.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (commonly known as the Mother of All Bombs) is a large-yield conventional (non-nuclear) bomb, developed for the United State military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory. At the time of development, it was touted as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB pronounced /ˈmoʊ.æb/, commonly known as the Mother of All Bombs) is a large-yield conventional (non-nuclear) bomb, developed for the United States military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory. At the time of development, it was touted as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed. The bomb was designed to be delivered by a C-130 Hercules, primarily the MC-130E Combat Talon I or MC-130H Combat Talon II variants.
Since then, Russia has tested its “Father of All Bombs“, which is claimed to be four times as powerful as the MOAB.
The U.S. military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday just days after a Green Beret was killed fighting ISIS there, a U.S. defense official confirmed to Fox News.
The GBU-43B, a 21,000-pound conventional bomb, was dropped in Nangarhar Province.
The MAOB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast) is also known as the “Mother Of All bombs.” It was first tested in 2003, but hadn’t been used before Thursday.
Aside from two test articles, the only known production is of 15 units at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in 2003 in support of the Iraq War. As of early 2007, none of those were known to have been used, although a single MOAB was moved to the Persian Gulf area in April 2003.
On April 13, 2017, a MOAB was dropped on a target in the Nangarhar Province inside Afghanistan. It was the first non-testing use of the bomb.
The basic operational concept bears some similarity to the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, which was used to clear heavily wooded areas in the Vietnam War and in Iraq to clear mines and later as a psychological weapon against the Iraqi military. After the psychological impact of the BLU-82 on enemy soldiers was witnessed, and no BLU-82 weapons remained, the MOAB was developed partly to continue the ability to intimidate Iraqi soldiers. Pentagon officials had suggested their intention to use MOAB as an anti-personnel weapon, as part of the “shock and awe” strategy integral to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Nick Gillespie: Economic Growth, Coherent Foreign Policy, Trust in Government: What WON’T Be Settled TodayPosted: November 8, 2016
America is moving rapidly from a high-trust society to a low-trust one and that’s really bad news, especially for those of us who want a government that spends less and does less.
If you think that much of anything related to politics will be settled by Tuesday’s election, here’s some bad news for you: Nothing that matters is really over.
There are at least three major issues facing the country when either President Clinton or President Trump gets sworn in next January.
What about economic growth?
You may not realize it, but the U.S. has been out of recession for seven years, one of the longest economic expansions in American history. But the average rate of growth since 2009 has been around 2 percent, making this the weakest economic recovery since 1949. Economic growth is essential to improving wealth and standards of living—and it helps to defuse all sorts of explosive political issues, from trade to immigration to welfare. But for all of the 21st century—under George Bush and Barack Obama–economic growth has been much lower than average.
Neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has articulated a plan that will actually grow the economy. Clinton will jack up taxes and spending on everything, a sure-fire way to keep the economy puttering along. Trump will punch add five-trillion dollars to the national debt, which will also dampen growth.
And if the American economy doesn’t improve, don’t expect anything else too.
Who will we bomb next?
Hillary Clinton is a hawk’s hawk who has voted for, lobbied for, or taken credit for all of our military interventions in the 21st century. Despite such actions—of more accurately, BECAUSE of such actions—the world is a bigger mess than ever. At times Donald Trump sounds like he would be a relative dove and at others, he sounds like a crazy man; at the very least, like Hillary Clinton, he said that he would increase military spending.
Neither of them has articulated a foreign policy that will help stabilize the U.S. economy, reduce international terrorism, or bring order to hot spots in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, or Asia any time soon.
What do you believe in?
Trust in most major American institutions are at or near historic lows—the media, religious organizations, labor, business—you name it. That’s especially when it comes to the two major political parties and government in general. Even worse, millennials—Americans between about 18 and 35 years old—aren’t just the biggest generation, they are the most skeptical. Read the rest of this entry »
This morning in The Federalist:
…That brings me to the broader issue of this alleged “fact-checking” the media feels impelled to engage in during debates. Most of the pushback from moderators last night was arguable assertions or half-truths, and Trump was often debating 3-on-1, as he correctly asserted.
MOLLIE: Oh man, speaking of “fact checkers” you have got to see this.
It’s real, not a parody of fact checking. Totally real. Not photoshpped.
DAVID: Seriously, they’ve lost their minds. There are exceptions, yet so many journalists have been consumed by anti-Trump sentiment that they’ve lost any sense of professionalism — or, more precisely, Trump has given them an excuse to stop pretending. The moderators were hardly any better.
MOLLIE: They were both disasters. Cooper started poorly, visibly displaying anger, constantly interrupting Trump. He kept saying, in playground style, “Please let her talk. She let you talk.” Or something like that. This is just a strategically unwise move, as it seems petty and juvenile.
Raddatz started fine, because she was mostly silent, and got off a few good questions to each candidate, but then she just lost it. A common criticism of moderators is that they think they’re debating the candidates. But in last night’s debate, Raddatz seemed to forget that she wasn’t a candidate herself. The moment where she began debating Trump on foreign policy was epicly awful. Read the rest of this entry »
Hillary Clinton cannot seem to seal the deal with voters, and the left is lashing out at the media in frustration.
Noah Rothmans writes: For months, frustrated liberals have bemoaned the fact that Donald Trump receives any fair coverage at all. His xenophobic policies and racially toxic rhetoric, they contend, render him beyond the pale. To “normalize” him as though he were just another politician is irresponsible, and the press should not be giving him equal footing with a more responsible candidate like Clinton.
This view has recently received traction among liberal commentators and mainstream Democrats as it becomes ever clearer that Hillary Clinton’s post-convention halo is gone. Worse, Donald Trump continues to be mired in scandal, alleged misconduct, and potential fraud, and yet none of it seems to be affectinghis polling.
“He is playing you guys like a Stradivarius. Dominating news instead of Newsweek story, Trump Foundation. Pathetic.”
— the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza
Instead, superficial matters like the health of both candidates—propelled along by absurd displays like Trump’s apperance with celebrity physician Dr. Oz—are sucking up all the oxygen. These have been the prevailing conditions since Donald Trump entered the political fray, but only when Clinton became vulnerable did they become intolerable.
“He is playing you guys like a Stradivarius. Dominating news instead of Newsweek story, Trump Foundation,” perennial Republican critic Norman Ornstein barked at the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “Pathetic.”
“[Y]ou can ask any question about Trump, Trumpism or anti-Trumpism except the existential ones,” wrote newly minted GQ pundit Keith Olbermann, “because the existential ones could lead him to stop calling in to your morning show and providing you with your highest-rated hour for free.”
Even President Barack Obama has become a media critic. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality show,” Obama said, lambasting the press for covering the 2016 campaign as though both candidates were acceptable alternatives. “We can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.” Read the rest of this entry »
The stockpile of weapons was found near a mosque.
The weapons arsenal was discovered during a top secret raid by a SWAT team in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Local politician Ismail Tipi revealed details of the raid and warned of “the danger of fundamentalists”.
“The danger of fundamentalist Salafists who are ready to use violence arming themselves in Germany is very large. This secret raid finding this weapons cache makes this more than clear.”
The weapons were found in a cold room of a greengrocer near a mosque.
The state is the most populous state in Germany with nearly 18million people in the area, which includes Dusseldorf.
Mr Tipi, who is a member of the Hessian parliament, warned of the dangers of Salafi fundamentalists.
“Through the weapons arsenal, the sleeper cells and militant jihadis can be armed with weapons and prepare for their likely attack. This is exactly what I have always feared.”
Germany has seen sharp increases in the number of ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafists in recent years, with the total number of sympathisers now seen at 8,900, up from 7,000 at the end of 2014, German officials said.
“If these fears are substantiated, we can assume that secret weapons arsenals are being set up for a big terrorist attack not only in Germany, but throughout Europe. It would be a dereliction of duty if we didn’t recognise this danger and find these weapons arsenals.”
He said: “According to my information, a weapons arsenal with war grade weapons was found in this search.”
“The danger of fundamentalist Salafists who are ready to use violence arming themselves in Germany is very large. This secret raid finding this weapons cache makes this more than clear.”
Three Syrian men were earlier this month suspected of planning large-scale attacks in Dusseldorf.
Mr Tipi, who is said to have received death threats for his comments against jihadis, raised concerns sleeper cells are gearing up for a terror attack on Germany.
He said: “The information about this is increasing. The fear is large that Salafist sleeper cells, jihadis, and ISIS terrorists in Germany get support from foreign intelligence services that are not friendly to us.”
“Through the weapons arsenal, the sleeper cells and militant jihadis can be armed with weapons and prepare for their likely attack. This is exactly what I have always feared.”
He added: “Politicians must speak clearly about this. Read the rest of this entry »
REWIND: March 26, 2008, Michelle Malkin writes:
Back in 2002, Stephen Hayes reported on how Baghdad Democrats David Bonior, Jim McDermott, and Mike Thompson took a trip to Iraq in the run up to the invasion and followed up with a report on how Saddam’s cash paid for the junkets.
Now, the AP has a new report on the payments:
Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.
An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.
In exchange, Al-Hanooti allegedly received 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] REWIND, 2007: President Bush Warns What Would Happen if the U.S. Withdrew from Iraq Too EarlyPosted: November 18, 2015
[VIDEO] President Obama Ranks Third in Forbes ‘Most Powerful’ List, First Time Sitting U.S. President Drops Out of Top TwoPosted: November 4, 2015
David Rutz reports: President Obama ranked third in the Forbes “World’s Most Powerful People” list released Wednesday, the first time the sitting U.S. president has ever not ranked No. 1 or 2 in the annual survey.
For the third straight year, Russian president Vladimir Putin was listed at No. 1, but German chancellor Angela Merkel came in at No. 2. CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King expressed surprise at Obama’s standing while the show’s panel interviewed Forbes‘ Luisa Kroll about how the magazine came up with its list.
“That’s the first time since we’ve been doing the list that any U.S. president falls out of the top two spots,” Kroll said. “Again, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that this is going to be hist last year in office. He’s a little bit more hamstrung, both domestically and internationally, and it’s just a nod to his decreasing power at this time.”
On Obama, Forbes wrote:
“There’s no doubt that the United States remains the world’s greatest economic, cultural, diplomatic, technological and military power. But as Obama enters the final year of his presidency, it’s clear his influence is shrinking, and it’s a bigger struggle than ever to get things done. At home, his approval ratings are perpetually stuck under 50%; abroad, he’s outshined by Angela Merkel in Europe, and outmaneuvered by Putin in the Middle East.”
“I was stunned by that, because the U.S. economy is five times larger than the Russian economy,” co-host Norah O’Donnell said. “We spend 10 times more on the military than the Russians do, so how do you define power for this issue?”
“It’s money, it’s the use of power, it’s the spheres of influence, and it’s the number of people,” Kroll said. “Obviously, it’s also a subjective list … It’s not that we’re saying the U.S. isn’t powerful. It is definitely still the most powerful country.” Read the rest of this entry »
Ed Morrissey writes:
A perp walk? Oddly, that doesn’t come up in this clip from Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect,” where John Heilemann and Mark Halperin focus more on the short-term worst-case scenarios for Hillary Clinton. If the scrubbed server gets restored and classified material is found, plus e-mail that Hillary deleted turns out to be work-related, she could face a lot more problems than she does now, Halperin states. Heilemann replies that if the server stays scrubbed, that won’t play well either, but whose fault is that? “This story is not going away,” Halperin concludes, “and it’s of her own doing.”
It’s a pretty good look at the short-term risks for Hillary, but mostly from a political point of view. That is no longer the big risk, though. Given the referral from the IGs on just a sample of 40 e-mails, there is plenty of evidence strongly
suggesting that Hillary and her team violated two laws governing the handling of classified material, 18 USC 1924 and 18 USC 793 — both of which carry prison terms.
The Department of Justice has prosecuted people for criminal violations of both statutes, especially 1924, which was used against David Petraeus in this administration. As one former US Attorney tells the Boston Herald, a refusal to prosecute in this case would raise all sorts of red flags about favoritism, especially after Petraeus’ conviction:
“I believe there will be a concern that if they don’t in this case, that it will be perceived as preferential treatment,” said Bradley D. Simon, a former federal prosecutor, noting the Justice Department set a recent precedent by going after the high-profile general who was admired for pulling the Iraq War back from disaster….(read more here)
At a minimum, Clinton kept classified material at an unauthorized location — her house in Chappaqua, in electronic form. The referral makes that clear. The question will be whether the Department of Justice will want to look much farther past that point to see what else Clinton did. Read the rest of this entry »
Governor Abbott Signs Resolution Posthumously Awarding Chris Kyle The Texas Legislative Medal Of HonorPosted: June 18, 2015
Governor Greg Abbott today signed House Concurrent Resolution 85 (Wray, R-Waxahachie; Birdwell, R-Granbury) to posthumously award the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, a native Texan and Navy SEAL who served four tours in Iraq and is recognized as the most lethal sniper in United States military history. During the legislative session, Governor Abbott also dedicated a portion of Highway 287 in Midlothian, TX as “Chris Kyle Memorial Highway” and proclaimed February 2nd to be “Chris Kyle Day” in the State of Texas.
“Since its inception, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor has been awarded to those in the State of Texas who have demonstrated extraordinary heroism as a member of state or federal military forces, and there is no one more deserving of this year’s award than Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle,” said Governor Abbott. “Kyle is one of the legions of valiant warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and served our great nation with unrivaled honor, bravery and heroism. For his remarkable valiancy, it is my honor to posthumously award the 2015 Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle.”
To view the resolution, click here.
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The U.S. is surrendering control of verification to the United Nations, where our influence is weak
Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz write: President Obama believes that the nuclear “framework” concluded Friday in Switzerland is a historic achievement. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, says he believes the same. Those two positions are incompatible.
“The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent.”
Mr. Zarif is also a loyal servant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,who believes that the West, in particular the U.S., and Iran are locked in a “collision of evil and evil ways on one side and the path of…religious obedience and devotion on the other,” as he said in July 2014.
“The inspections regime in Iran envisioned by the Obama administration will not even come close to the intrusiveness of the failed inspections in Iraq.”
The supreme leader says the Islamic Republic has a divine calling to lead Muslims away from the West and its cultural sedition. The Obama administration has never adequately explained why Mr. Zarif’s relentlessly ideological boss would sell out a three-decade effort to develop nuclear weapons.
“Worse, once sanctions are lifted and billions of dollars of Iranian trade starts to flow again to European and Asian companies, the U.S. likely will be dealing with a U.N. even more politically divided, and more incapable of action, than in the days of Saddam and the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.”
The defensive and offensive strategies of the Islamic Republic, given the chronic weakness of its conventional military, ultimately make sense only if nuclear weapons are added to the mix. The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent. The history of this effort has involved North Korean levels of dishonesty, with clandestine plants, factories and procurement networks that successfully import highly sensitive nuclear equipment, even from the U.S.
A White House less desperate to make a deal would consider how easily nuclear agreements with bad actors are circumvented. Charles Duelfer has written a trenchant account in Politico of how Saddam Hussein tied the United Nations Security Council and its nuclear inspectors into knots in the 1990s, rendering them incapable of ascertaining the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »
Americans say move reflects failure of Iranian-backed forces to retake area from insurgents
The offensive to retake the city has been stalled for more than a week and American officials on Wednesday said they began the strikes after the Iraqi government formally requested help. The U.S. in recent days began providing video feeds and other intelligence to Iraqi forces, drawing the Americans into closer coordination with Iranian-allied Shiite militias spearheading the campaign.
The U.S. intervention is a blow to Iran, which has played a major role in commanding the Shiite militias and has also supplied weapons. Those militias account for about 20,000 of the 30,000-strong force involved in the operation.
U.S. officials said the difficulty in Tikrit exposed the weakness of Iranian support for Iraq’s government, adding that they hope to use those difficulties to drive a wedge between Iraq and Iran.
“Tikrit shows the complete failure by Iran to produce results on the ground,” said a senior U.S. official.
Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been assisting the Iraqi force, including planning help, artillery fire and other combat support. But Pentagon officials said the IRGC effort has produced little in the way of results for Iraqi forces.
The U.S. and allied warplanes struck between six and 10 targets in Tikrit, according to Pentagon officials, including the palace that Islamic State militants have been using as their headquarters. The buildings struck were all preselected targets that U.S. surveillance planes have been tracking for several days, officials said.
American officials held open the option that moving targets could be targeted in future strikes. Defense officials said they were working only with the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces, not Shiite militias or Iranian forces. Read the rest of this entry »
Once we take Hillary out of the equation, the game looks rather different. As potent as it might be on paper, the Democratic party’s present edge within the Electoral College is by no means infinite, and it does not obtain in a personality vacuum…
Charles C.W.Cooke writes: I’ll say it, happily: Democrats should be worried about Hillary Clinton, and moderately panicked about the immediate future of both their party and their cause.
This is not, of course, because Hillary’s latest scandale du jour is in any practical way going to “disqualify” her; and nor is it because leftward-leaning voters are likely to recall anything more from this rather awkward period in time than that the Clintons are as perennially sleazy as they ever were. Rather, it is because the last few days have underscored just how tenuous the Left’s grip on power and influence truly is in the waning days of the once-buoyant Obama era.
“The Democratic base that isn’t wedded to her is nervous about it. It makes her more vulnerable. What is this anointed candidate getting us?”
At present, Republicans control the House of Representatives, they lead the Senate, and they enjoy pole position within a vast majority of the states. The Democratic party, by contrast, has been all but wiped out, its great historical hope having relegated himself by his obstinacy to the role of MVP on a team of just a few. For the next couple of years, Obama will dig in where he can, blocking here, usurping there, and seeking to provide for the Left a source of energy and of authority. But then . . . what?
[preorder Charles C.W. Cooke’s new book “The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future” from Amazon]
After last year’s midterm elections, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait contended grimly that the sheer scale of the Republican wave had rendered Hillary Clinton “the only thing standing between a Republican Party even more radical than George W. Bush’s version and unfettered control of American government.” The customary rhetorical hysterics to one side, this estimation appears to be sound.
On the surface, the knowledge that Clinton is ready to consolidate the gains of the Obama project should be a matter of considerable comfort to progressivism and its champions. Indeed, as it stands today, I’d still bet that Hillary will eventually make a somewhat formidable candidate, and that, despite her many, many flaws, she retains a better than 50 percent chance of winning the presidency in 2016.
“…A much more flawed candidate than we thought. And Republicans now have material they never thought they would have.”
— Deborah Arnie Arnesen, a progressive radio host in Concord, New Hampshire
In part, this is because she is a woman, yes, and because she will play ad nauseam upon this fact between now and November of next year; in part this is because she has been distressingly effective at selling herself as a moderate, and because her husband is remembered as a solid caretaker and remains popular across partisan lines; in part this is because the Democratic party is currently benefitting from a number of structural advantages that Republicans will struggle to overcome, whomever they choose to be their standard bearer; and in part this is because the economy will almost certainly be doing well enough by next year that the “Obama saved us all” narratives will seem plausible to a good number of voters. Read the rest of this entry »
Chuck Schumer and other liberal fence-sitters will have their reputations stained forever if they let this Iran deal pass
The Democrats’ historic support for the Jewish state has always been what’s best about the party. The understanding not only that Jews are entitled to a state, but also that a liberal democracy is entitled to defend itself—robustly and sometimes pre-emptively—against illiberal enemies, is why the party of Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan commands historic respect.
“The Democrats’ historic support for the Jewish state has always been what’s best about the party. The understanding not only that Jews are entitled to a state, but also that a liberal democracy is entitled to defend itself—robustly and sometimes pre-emptively—against illiberal enemies…”
But that party is evaporating. A 2014 Pew survey found that just 39% of liberal Democrats are more sympathetic to Israel than they are to the Palestinians. That compares with 77% of conservative Republicans. During last summer’s war in Gaza, Pew found liberals about as likely to blame Israel as they were to blame Hamas for the violence.
That means the GOP is now the engine, the Democrats at best a wheel, in U.S. support for Israel. The Obama administration is the kill switch. Over the weekend, a defensive White House put out a statement noting the various ways it has supported Israel. It highlighted the 1985 U.S.-Israel free-trade agreement and a military assistance package concluded in 2007. When Barack Obama must cite the accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as evidence of his pro-Israel bona fides, you know there is a problem.
A 2014 Pew survey found that just 39% of liberal Democrats are more sympathetic to Israel than they are to the Palestinians. That compares with 77% of conservative Republicans. During last summer’s war in Gaza, Pew found liberals about as likely to blame Israel as they were to blame Hamas for the violence. That means the GOP is now the engine, the Democrats at best a wheel, in U.S. support for Israel.
True, there is also the administration’s financial support for the Iron Dome missile-defense system, along with votes at the U.N.’s General Assembly opposing the usual anti-Israel resolutions. The administration and its congressional lemmings are nothing if not heroic when it comes to easy votes.
But this week Democrats don’t have the luxury of an easy vote. Will they boycott the Israeli prime minister’s speech? Will they insist the administration put any deal it reaches with Iran to a vote in Congress? Will they support a fresh round of sanctions, vehemently opposed by the president, if no deal is reached?
The administration is now trying to dodge all this by waging an unprecedented campaign of personal vilification against Benjamin Netanyahu (of a sort they would never dream of waging against, say, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan ), accusing him of seeking political gain for himself in the U.S. at Mr. Obama’s expense. Read the rest of this entry »
How the Obama Administration Turned its Back on South Sudan – The Country George W. Bush Helped CreatePosted: February 26, 2015
Unmade in the USA
Less than three years after independence, South Sudan collapsed into bloody civil war. Could the United States, a crucial backer of the young African state, have prevented the violence?
To the outside world, the reference might have seemed cryptic. But in South Sudan, the message was crystal clear: 1991 was the year Machar broke away from the main southern guerilla movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), that was fighting against the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The move nearly brought about the SPLA’s demise. Now, Machar was again estranged from the flock and about to mount a new rebellion from the bush. By linking the two events, Kiir was invoking an old and powerful grudge. “It was not in the spirit of reconciliation,” Lam Akol, who led the breakaway SPLA faction with Machar in 1991 and later served as Sudan’s foreign minister, told me. “It was a declaration of war.”
“When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9th, 2011, someone waved a sign that read ‘Thank you George Bush’.”
During and after Kiir’s press conference, forces loyal to the president rounded up and executed hundreds of male Nuers, the ethnic group to which Machar belongs. The soldiers reportedly identified the men by asking their names in Dinka, the language of Kiir’s ethnic group; inability to answer could be a death sentence. In one neighborhood, according to Human Rights Watch, between 200 and 300 men were detained in a building used by police and then murdered by gunmen, alleged to be members of the South Sudanese armed forces, who fired on the prisoners through windows.
Machar denied the coup allegation, but as Juba descended deeper into violence, he quickly took up arms against the government. Soon, blood was flowing across the northeastern portion of the country: in Bor, the capital of restive Jonglei state, and then in Bentiu and Malakal, two major cities in the heart of South Sudan’s oil country. Reports of war crimes committed by both sides followed.
Over the next year, somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people would be killed and another 2 million forced to flee their homes. Farmers missed their planting season, and aid agencies warned of an impending famine. According to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis created by South Sudan’s civil war is now on par with those in Syria, Iraq, and the Central African Republic. “I never thought I’d see the day when people would be fleeing to Darfur,” Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, told me in August. “But that’s the situation we’re in.”
“These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me ‘could have been the desk officer’ because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another.”
A few days after my meeting with Lanzer, I boarded a U.N. plane in Juba packed with peacekeepers and other humanitarians and flew several hundred miles north over swampland and jungle to Malakal, roughly tracing the path of the violence that had exploded across the country. Control of the city had changed hands between the government and Machar’s rebels six times in nine months, and some of the worst atrocities of the civil war had been committed there. The last time rebels overran the city, they burned so much of it that satellite imagery revealed charcoal smudges where whole neighborhoods once stood. Now, the government was back in charge, and it was flooding troops and equipment in ahead of the dry season, when fighting in South Sudan has historically taken place. Rumors abounded of an impending rebel attack.
After a brief stop at the U.N. base near Malakal, where roughly 20,000 civilians were waiting out the violence in overcrowded displacement camps, I caught a ride with UNICEF employees down the rutted dirt track to what used to be South Sudan’s second-largest city. The closer we got, the fewer civilians there were. In the center of town, where abandoned market stalls sat bleakly on patches of scorched earth, the only humans in evidence were government soldiers, most of them carrying AK-47s. When we passed the sagging bungalow that used to serve as UNICEF’s living quarters, half a dozen armed men grinned out at us. Like most structures that hadn’t been destroyed, the building was occupied by the South Sudanese army.
We drove past looted warehouses, shelled government buildings, and rows of thatched huts that had been put to the torch. Not far from the obliterated central market, the ruins of a teaching hospital spilled out into the street: smashed vials, soiled bandages, and now-useless medical equipment. In February 2014, at least 14 people were murdered there when rebels swept into Malakal. The day before our arrival, I was told, staff members discovered a body rotting on the roof of one of the hospital’s annex buildings. While we toured a gutted pediatric complex across the street, I nearly stepped on a skull that was hidden in the grass.
Slogging through what was left of Malakal, it was difficult to imagine that South Sudan was once considered a major U.S. foreign-policy success. Over a span of nearly two decades, three different U.S. administrations worked to bring the new nation into being. Bill Clinton was the first to signal support for the southern separatists battling Khartoum in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted more than 20 years and left an estimated 2 million people dead; his administration unlocked military support for neighboring countries that was then funneled covertly across borders. George W. Bush later made Southern Sudan a centerpiece of his foreign policy, helping broker a landmark north-south peace deal in 2005 that ended the civil war and paved the way for southern independence. The Obama administration carried the ball across the goal line, ensuring that an independence referendum went ahead as planned in early 2011 and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid into the new country.
When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9, 2011, a delegation of Bush and Obama administration officials was in attendance. In the crowd, the New York Times reported, someone waved a sign that read, “Thank You George Bush.”
Now that South Sudan has imploded in spectacular fashion, however, it offers a case study in the limits of American power: Not only have its tremendous state-building efforts failed to bear fruit, but the U.S. government now finds itself with virtually no ability to shape events on the ground. “We’re at an all-time low in terms of influence,” said Cameron Hudson, who worked on South Sudan policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
“There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause.”
To be sure, the new nation faced long odds. At independence, it had virtually no civil institutions, about 120 doctors for a population of roughly 9 million, and a total of 35 miles of paved roads spanning a territory the size of France. It was also landlocked, ethnically diverse, and entirely dependent on oil revenue. In other words, it faced every major challenge identified by social scientists as a predictor of state failure.
Yet there are American officials who have worked closely on Sudan and South Sudan policy who still feel the situation could have played out differently, and that brutal war could have been avoided. The story of how the South Sudan project came unhinged — pieced together over six months from more than two dozen interviews with current and former U.S., U.N., and South Sudanese officials — is one of extraordinary challenges faced down and enormous errors made by leaders in Juba. It is also the story of how tensions between and within U.S. administrations alienated the South Sudanese government, reduced American leverage, and blinded U.S. officials to warning signs that the new nation’s ruling party was breaking apart.
“The cumulative effect of all these factors was that the United States began to distance itself from South Sudan at a time when the young nation, long supported by Washington, was arguably at its most vulnerable.”
These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me “could have been the desk officer” because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another. Key administration posts, including the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, ambassador to South Sudan, and assistant secretary of state for African affairs, have remained vacant for extended periods during his presidency. “Through the crucial part of the time that the relationship between [South Sudanese] factions deteriorated, the U.S. had nobody in office,” said John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official who co-founded the Washington-based Enough Project, a group that works to end genocide around the world.
There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause. (The people in the north — present-day Sudan — are generally Arab and Muslim, while the southern population is mostly African and either Christian or animist.) But if ideology and politics mattered, so did personality: Due to a fateful meeting at the United Nations in 2011, at which Kiir reportedly lied to the U.S. president about military action along his country’s northern border, Obama’s relationship with the South Sudanese president was “poisoned from the start,” according to Princeton Lyman, who served as the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from 2011 to 2012.
C. J. CHIVERS and ERIC SCHMITT report: The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.
[Also see – Laurence H. Silberman: The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’: ‘Some Journalists Still Peddle This Canard As If It Were Fact’ – punditfromanotherplanet.com]
The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
“Without speaking to any specific programs, it is fair to say that together with our coalition partners in Iraq, the U.S. military worked diligently to find and remove weapons that could be used against our troops and the Iraqi people.”
— Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, in a written statement.
The effort was run out of the C.I.A. station in Baghdad in collaboration with the Army’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion and teams of chemical-defense and explosive ordnance disposal troops, officials and veterans of the units said. Many rockets were in poor condition and some were empty or held a nonlethal liquid, the officials said. But others contained the nerve agent sarin, which analysis showed to be purer than the intelligence community had expected given the age of the stock.
A New York Times investigation published in October found that the military had recovered thousands of old chemical warheads and shells in Iraq and that Americans and Iraqis had been wounded by them, but the government kept much of this information secret, from the public and troops alike.
These munitions were remnants of an Iraqi special weapons program that was abandoned long before the 2003 invasion, and they turned up sporadically during the American occupation in buried caches, as part of improvised bombs or on black markets.
“If we were aware of these compounds, and as it became clear over the course of the war that our troops had been exposed to them, why wasn’t more done to protect the guys on the ground? It speaks to the broader failure.”
— Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute
The potency of sarin samples from the purchases, as well as tightly held assessments about risks the munitions posed, buttresses veterans’ claims that during the war the military did not share important intelligence about battlefield perils with those at risk or maintain an adequate medical system for treating victims of chemical exposure.
The purchases were made from a sole Iraqi source who was eager to sell his stock, officials said. The amount of money that the United States paid for the rockets is not publicly known, and neither are the affiliations of the seller.
Most of the officials and veterans who spoke about the program did so anonymously because, they said, the details remain classified. The C.I.A. declined to comment. The Pentagon, citing continuing secrecy about the effort, did not answer written questions and acknowledged its role only obliquely.
“This was a timely and effective initiative by our national intelligence partners that negated the use of these unique munitions.”
— Retired Army Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner
“Without speaking to any specific programs, it is fair to say that together with our coalition partners in Iraq, the U.S. military worked diligently to find and remove weapons that could be used against our troops and the Iraqi people,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a written statement.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner, the top American military intelligence officer in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, said he did not know of any other intelligence program as successful in reducing the chemical weapons that remained in Iraq after the American-led invasion. Read the rest of this entry »
Admitting that the way we were getting news was desperately flawed—at least until a few years ago—is really admitting to a larger failure in ourselves. So, of course, we will never do it.
“What gets lost is a proverbial sense of communal experience. We’re not all getting it through Walter Cronkite. We’re not all going to experience him choke back a tear. The danger is that we become isolated in our own echo chambers—that we don’t get different points of view that open us up to thinking about other people. That’s the dystopian view. That’s the fear—that everyone’s essentially in their own bubble.”
— Jordan Levin
The reality is the opposite: The protections that we now know need to be provided to TV journalists—the expectation that they could be human, that they could quickly admit to mistakes without being permanently reviled, that they could unveil their process while reporting on what they know and don’t know—are really only provided to comedians.
Comedy and news collided not because comedy needed the news, but because news needed the protections of comedy.
Here’s how we know it: The most prominent cases of clear government corruption that were brought to light—and eventually killed—by a TV show in the last year did not come from the Nightly News, a tepid-by-design, rote reconstruction of the day’s events told slowly and dispassionately, as not to ruffle the feathers of the powerful.
Those scoops—acts of journalism in the truest sense—happened, instead, on places like Last Week Tonight, hosted by Daily Show alumnus John Oliver.
His show, for example, highlighted an FCC Commissioner—one whose last job was the head of the telecom lobby—proposing rules that would have allowed that same cable lobby to rake consumers over the coals by artificially slowing down the speed of some websites while simultaneously raising prices. His show launched a protest that was so swift and immediate it crashed the FCC’s servers. That commissioner, Tom Wheeler, did a 180—and last week proposed different rules that would protect the Internet against that kind of throttling.
[Note: If Ben Collins actually thinks the Obama administration-pressured FCC’s 300+ page stack of regulations aimed at transforming the internet into a highly-regulated government-controlled public utility is as simple as consumer-advocacy “rules that would protect the Internet against that kind of throttling” one might conclude that guys like Ben are also among those Kool-Aid drinking journalists who shamelessly promoted the Affordable Care Act as a popular, successful “reform” package that made health care “more affordable”. If this sloppy comment about Tom Wheeler raises serious doubts about the credibility of everything else Ben’s article, so be it.]
— Barracuda Brigade (@BarracudaMama) February 10, 2015
Then it happened again with payday loans, which prey only on the poor. (The Consumer Protection Agency, as of three days ago, is trying to put an end to them.)
And then again with civil forfeiture—a process that allowed police to seize assets from citizens who were never arrested or charged with a crime. (Attorney General Eric Holder laid out an edict effectively putting an end to it.)
These issues were on the fringe of public consciousness. Fifteen minutes, a lot of reporting and a little bit of comedy later, three pieces of legislation that would’ve negatively affected less fortunate Americans—or, in the first case, all Americans—were about to be killed.
The Nightly News couldn’t dream of doing this that efficiently. Read the rest of this entry »
Mollie Hemingway writes: NBC News’ Brian Williams is taking a few days off from his anchor chair at the Nightly News. The Most Trusted Name In News (TM) is in a spot of trouble. He admits he lied when he claimed he was in a Chinook helicopter forced down by rocket-propelled grenade fire in Iraq in 2003.
There are also concerns about dramatic stories he told about gangs attacking his hotel in New Orleans during Katrina. Whether he saw a dead body floating by him in the French Quarter. Whether he got dysentery on that trip.
Or witnessed someone commit suicide in the Superdome. Also about whether he actually saved a puppywhile on duty as a voluntary firefighter. Whether he was really “looking up at a thug’s snub-nosed .38 while selling Christmas trees out of the back of a truck” in the 1970s. And whether a helicopter he was in during Israel’s war with the militant group Hezbollah in 2006 was nearly hit by Katyusha rockets.
I could go on. The point is that he’s beginning to resemble Jen from the IT Crowd:
[Check out Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” at Amazon]
If Brian Williams were just a dude at the bar, he’d probably be your favorite dude at the bar. He has great stories and tells them well. The loquacious Williams is just an obscenely well-paid news reader. As Neil Postman put it in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves To Death, “A news show, to put it plainly, is a format for entertainment, not for education, reflection or catharsis.” And that’s how we like it — here’s a promo for a new CNN game show featuring anchors competing against each other. (Show ‘em who’s boss, Tapper!)
A Far Worse Kind Of Exaggeration
Some journalists have responded to the Williams spectacle by running defenses they’d never imagine using on others — such as that Williams had ordinary false memory syndrome. Others are just waiting for him to be pushed out or quietly get back to work.
Williams lied. I’m not defending him. But in a world of serial exaggerators and distortion artists, he’s the least of mainstream media’s problems.
Exaggeration and distortion is de rigueur for many political journalists.
Exaggeration is kind of what our media do. Now, part of this is defensible. At one of my first newspaper jobs, I would write unbelievably spare copy that accurately described the event or situation I was reporting on. My editor used to take his big red pen and scrawl, “So what?” across my copy, double underlined. It was a great edit. I had to learn how to make a story interesting and how to pull out the parts a reader would actually care about.
This is the latest black eye for the Peacock Network, which has been in panic mode since its star anchor, Brian Williams, backtracked on his story that he had been shot at during his 2003 trip to Iraq
NBC is once again under fire from Iraq War veterans — this time for a correspondent’s claims that sniper Chris Kyle was “racist.”
“Mohyeldin’s statements were an inexcusable slap in the face to the widow of Chris Kyle and to all those in the armed forces who continue to serve our country in harm’s way.”
More than 20 retired generals and admirals penned a letter to Comcast, which owns NBC, following a Jan. 29 interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” with Middle East reporter Ayman Mohyeldin, according to a report in the Washington Examiner.
“Some of what people have described as his racist tendencies towards Iraqis and Muslims when he was going on some of these, you know, killing sprees in Iraq on assignment,” Mohyeldin said of Kyle, whose career was recently the subject of the blockbuster movie “American Sniper.”
NBC Suspends Brian Williams for 6 Months Without Pay for Misleading Disinterested Public – ‘Brian Who?’
A Slap on the Wrist: NBC Goes Through the Motions
NBC chief executive Steve Burke said Tuesday that Williams’ actions were inexcusable and jeopardized the trust he has built up with viewers during his decade as the network’s lead anchor. But he said Williams deserved a second chance.
Here is a memo distributed to NBC employees earlier Tuesday:
Williams apologized last week for saying he was in a helicopter that was hit by a grenade while covering the Iraq War in 2003. Instead, he was in a group of helicopters and another was hit, and some veterans involved in the mission called him out on it. Read the rest of this entry »
The former general manager of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, where Brian Williams has said he stayed while covering Hurricane Katrina, insists there’s no way bodies could’ve been floating past his hotel room during the storm, as the embattled anchor claimed.
“There is no physical way the water was deep enough for a body to float in,” Myra deGersdorff told The Times-Picayune on Sunday.
In a 2006 interview with Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Williams told a horrific tale of watching a dead body float past his hotel window after the levees broke.
“When you look out of your hotel room window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country,” he said.
His story has been called into question after he admitted to falsely claiming that he traveled on an Army helicopter hit by enemy fire while reporting on the Iraq war in 2003. Read the rest of this entry »
Failure to Report for Duty: Stars And Stripes Publishes Full Brian Williams Interview Because He Canceled On David LettermanPosted: February 9, 2015
Some industry navel gazers say he’s missed a great opportunity by canceling. But Williams’ loss, and Letterman’s, is Stars and Stripes’ gain
“The reason we decided to publish it now is because Williams backed out of this appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. We felt there was a lot of interest out there to hear him, in his own words, really address these questions and hear his response, unfiltered…”
Williams will not appear on the Late Show with David Letterman this Thursday, yesterday canceling a long-scheduled appearance in the wake of an investigation into his inflated claims about taking enemy fire while in a helicopter in Iraq. Some industry navel gazers say he’s missed a great opportunity by canceling. But Williams’ loss, and Letterman’s, is Stars and Stripes’ gain.
“…so everybody can listen for themselves and judge…Williams has not come forward and answered questions. He has made statements on his own but he hasn’t sat and answered questions about it.”
— Travis Tritten
“The reason we decided to publish it now is because Williams backed out of this appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman,” Travis Tritten, who did the interview, explained this afternoon to CNN. “We felt there was a lot of interest out there to hear him, in his own words, really address these questions and hear his response, unfiltered — so everybody can listen for themselves and judge,” Tritten added. Read the rest of this entry »
Laurence H. Silberman: The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’: ‘Some Journalists Still Peddle This Canard As If It Were Fact’Posted: February 8, 2015
Mr. Silberman, a senior federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Laurence H. Silberman writes: In recent weeks, I have heard former Associate Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush“lied us into war in Iraq.”
“It is astonishing to see the ‘Bush lied’ allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.”
I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.
The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.
Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.”
“The Right believes, not without some reason, that the main reason we ended up with a disastrous Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate government — the brief years of which imposed damage that will take much longer to undo — had to do with the foreign policy of George W. Bush and the fiscal incontinence of congressional Republicans during the Bush years.”
Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings.
“As I recall, no one in Washington political circles offered significant disagreement with the intelligence community before the invasion. The National Intelligence Estimate was persuasive—to the president, to Congress and to the media.”
— Laurence H. Silberman
As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. Read the rest of this entry »
Anchor Zombie Joins Viewer Zombies
John Nolte reports: Per an email from NBC News, Brian Williams just passed a note along to the NBC News staff that says he will not be hosting the Nightly News for the next several days. Lester Holt will take his place:
“In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.
As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.”
Brian Williams is currently facing an internal NBC News investigation.
The hiatus comes just four days after Williams admitted that he had lied on the NBC Nightly News about being shot down in a helicopter over Iraq in 2003.
Williams and NBC are obviously hoping that some time away will cool the scandal down enough to allow Williams to return. Time is unlikely to do either Williams or NBC News much good. The questions that have arisen in just a few days about other aspects of Williams’ reporting were low-hanging fruit. Williams has a decades-long career to investigate, and now a cloud hangs over all of it. Read the rest of this entry »
Brian Williams may have a hard time retaining his popularity with viewers considering the results of a survey commissioned by Variety regarding the news anchor’s false claims to have been on a helicopter shot down by enemy fire in Iraq.
An overwhelming 80% think that Williams should no longer continue as a news anchor for NBC, according to a survey conducted Thursday by celebrity brand expert Jeetendr Sehdev, who polled 1,000 people who either watched or read the anchor’s apology.
“It’s no surprise that super savvy audiences today didn’t believe Williams’ scripted ‘fog of memory’ explanation or his apology. Williams didn’t tell the story to thank a ‘special veteran’ but falsified the story to celebrate himself.”
— Celebrity brand expert Jeetendr Sehdev
If Williams keeps his seat in the anchor chair, he will have to face an uphill climb to regain viewers trust. Seventy percent of respondents surveyed by do not believe that Williams will overcome the mistake.
Eight out of 10 respondents reported that they will now struggle to believe what Williams says following his admission that he “made a mistake in recalling the events 12 years ago,” as he said during his Wednesday night newscast.
Seventy percent did not describe Williams’ apology as sincere, with 60% believing that the anchor attempted to minimize the significance of his fabricated story in his apology. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] ‘Insane to Watch’: Brian Williams Effortlessly Lied About Being Shot Down on Late Night With David LettermanPosted: February 4, 2015
‘After seeing images this week of Islamic State jihadists murdering a caged Jordanian pilot by burning him alive, can there be any real doubt that Kyle was right?’Posted: February 4, 2015
Vindicating Chris Kyle
Islamic State proves Kyle was right about the ‘savage’ enemy
“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq.” Those were among the words the late Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame, used to describe the enemy he and fellow veterans of the Iraq war faced. After seeing images this week of Islamic State jihadists murdering a caged Jordanian pilot by burning him alive, can there be any real doubt that Kyle was right?
“The kidnappers then tied the Egyptian’s hands behind his back and asked him to state his name. . . . After complying, he was about to apologize for his acts, but a man gave a sign to the ‘executioner’ standing behind the hostage, who grabbed the man’s tongue and cut it off, stating that the time for excuses was past.”
We say this as a corner of liberal America has fallen over itself denouncing Clint Eastwood ’s blockbuster biopic of Kyle, who was killed in 2013 by a deranged Marine veteran. HBO’s Bill Maher called him a “psychopath patriot,” and other Hollywood action heroes like Michael Moore have weighed in similarly. Their view is that Kyle must have been inhumane since he killed scores of enemy fighters without being burdened by a guilty conscience.
“After seeing images this week of Islamic State jihadists murdering a caged Jordanian pilot by burning him alive, can there be any real doubt that Kyle was right?”
Yet the kind of butchery that Islamic State likes to advertise via YouTube was the reality Iraqis routinely faced when the Islamic State’s forbear, al Qaeda in Iraq, terrorized entire cities and towns during the height of the Iraq war. Read the rest of this entry »
‘I lost track of how many soldiers and Marines told me of their frustration with an American media that so often describes them as either nuts or victims’
Michael J. Totten writes: Clint Eastwood’s new film, American Sniper, is a blisteringly accurate portrayal of the American war in Iraq. Unlike most films in the genre, it sidesteps the politics and focuses on an individual: the late, small-town Texan, Chris Kyle, who joined the Navy SEALs after 9/11 and did four tours of duty in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baghdad. He is formally recognized as the deadliest sniper in American history, and the film, based on his bestselling memoir, dramatizes the war he felt duty-bound to fight and his emotionally wrenching return home, with post-traumatic stress.
“All psychologically normal people feel at least some hatred for the enemy in a war zone. It’s not humanly possible to like or feel neutral toward people who are trying to kill you. Race hasn’t the faintest thing to do with it.”
The movie has become a flashpoint for liberal critics. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore dismissed the film out-of-hand because snipers, he says, are “cowards.” “American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds,” comic actor Seth Rogen tweeted, referring to a fake Hitler propaganda film about a Nazi sniper, though he backtracked and said he actually liked the film, that it only reminded him of Nazi propaganda. Writing for the Guardian, Lindy West is fair to Eastwood and the film but cruel to its subject. Kyle, she says, was “a hate-filled killer” and “a racist who took pleasure in dehumanizing and killing brown people.”
The Navy confirms that Kyle shot and killed 160 combatants, most of whom indeed had brown skin. While he was alive, he said that he enjoyed his job. In one scene in the movie, Kyle, played by a bulked-up Bradley Cooper, refers to “savages,” and it’s not clear if he means Iraqis in general or just the enemies he’s fighting.
“What would you think of a man who kills a kid with a power drill right in front of you? Would you moderate your language so that no one at a Manhattan dinner party would gasp? Maybe you would, but Kyle wasn’t at a Manhattan dinner party.”
But let’s take a step back and leave the politics aside. All psychologically normal people feel at least some hatred for the enemy in a war zone. This is true whether they’re on the “right” side or the “wrong” side. It’s not humanly possible to like or feel neutral toward people who are trying to kill you. Race hasn’t the faintest thing to do with it.
“Here’s a medical fact: psychopaths don’t suffer from post-traumatic stress or any other kind of anxiety disorder. And cowards don’t volunteer for four tours of duty in war-torn Iraq.”
Does anyone seriously believe Kyle would have felt differently if white Russians or Serbs, rather than “brown” Arabs, were shooting at him? How many residents of New York’s Upper West Side had a sympathetic or nuanced view of al-Qaida on September 11, 2001? Some did—inappropriately, in my view—but how many would have been able to keep it up if bombs exploded in New York City every day, year after year?
Kyle had other reasons to hate his enemies, aside from their desire to kill him. In American Sniper, we see him in Fallujah and Ramadi fighting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq, the bloody precursor to ISIS. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama’s American Sniper
Dan Henninger writes: Barack Obama was 15 minutes into his State of the Union speech when I arrived home to watch it, having just walked back from seeing “American Sniper.”
“Watching a movie about a Navy SEAL who served four tours fighting in Iraq was not the best way to enhance the experience of a Barack Obama speech. As a matter of fact, it was pretty unbearable.”
Because Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper” the movie is about more than the story of Chris Kyle, the highly skilled rifle marksman from Texas. In 2006, Mr. Eastwood presented two movies about the famous World War II battle of Iwo Jima. “Letters from Iwo Jima” told the story from the perspective of Japanese soldiers, and “Flags of Our Fathers” from the Americans’ side.
“Watching “American Sniper,” it is impossible to separate these catastrophes from seeing what the Marines did and endured to secure northern Iraq. Again, anyone is entitled to hate the Iraq war…”
So “American Sniper” is not a crude paean to “our boys” in the Iraq war. What it does is convey the extraordinary personal, psychological and physical sacrifice of the U.S. Marines who fought al Qaeda i”n Fallujah, Ramadi and the other towns of Iraq’s Anbar province beginning in 2003 and through the period of the Anbar Awakening, which ended with the Marines pacifying the province.
“…But no serious person would want a president to make a decision that would allow so much personal sacrifice to simply evaporate…”
It’s just a movie, so even “American Sniper’s” small slice only hints at the price America paid—some 3,500 combat deaths and another 32,000 wounded—to bring Iraq to a point of relative, if fragile, stability in 2011.
“…Which, in his serene self-confidence, is what Barack Obama did. That absolute drawdown was a decision of fantastic foolishness.”
Opinions will differ, often bitterly, on the war in Iraq and the reasons for it. In the movie, a painful funeral scene captures that ambivalence. But what is just not possible to choke down is President Obama’s decision in 2011 to reduce the U.S.’s residual military presence to virtually zero. It was a decision to waste what the Marines and Army had done. Read the rest of this entry »
Resonating With People in Smaller Cities, Military Film Has Huge $105.3 Million Debut Weekend
“’American Sniper’ garnered better reviews than ‘Lone Survivor’ or ‘Unbroken’ and, unlike the latter two, received multiple Academy Award nominations, including for best picture—helping to ensure it performed well across the country and wasn’t exclusively a ‘red state’ phenomenon.”
Based on the memoir of Chris Kyle, reputed to be the deadliest sniper in the American military during the Iraq war, “American Sniper” opened to a phenomenal $105.3 million in the U.S. and Canada over the four-day holiday weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner Inc.
“What these movies share is they’re utterly unironic. They treat American values honorably.”
— Michael Moses, Universal’s co-president of marketing
Its success was driven in large part by moviegoers like Mr. Smith who live in smaller cities and don’t regularly go to the multiplex.
“Chris Kyle was a fellow veteran, a fellow Texan. He’s very much a true legend,” Mr. Smith said while holding hands with his wife, Crystal. “So it was basically a foregone conclusion I’d be here as soon as it opened.”
“When the phone calls started coming in from exhibitors, I realized we had something special happening in the South and in small towns where our movies sometimes find it difficult to resonate.”
— Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.
Such a massive opening for a mid-budget drama was perhaps Hollywood’s biggest surprise since “Avengers” blew away box-office records by opening to $207 million in 2012. “Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, enjoyed the largest opening ever for a drama or R-rated film and more than doubled the prior record for Martin Luther King Day weekend.
“Its success is the strongest evidence yet that audiences including veterans and cultural conservatives who are more concentrated in the South and Midwest feel underserved by Hollywood and will turn out in droves for movies that are inspiring, patriotic and sincere.”
Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures also had surprising success last month with the historical military drama “Unbroken” and last year with the Afghan war movie “Lone Survivor.”
“Opening-night audiences gave “Sniper” an average grade of A+, according to market-research firm CinemaScore.”
Eight of the top 10 markets for “American Sniper” were in the South or Midwest, including San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, Nashville and Albuquerque. Typically, major cities like New York and Los Angeles dominate the top theater rankings for a successful film because they have larger concentrations of frequent moviegoers and higher ticket prices.
All five of the top theaters for “Lone Survivor” were in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, while “Unbroken” performed extremely well in small cities such as Mesa, Ariz., and Lehi, Utah. Meanwhile, all three movies underperformed in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, compared with the norm. Read the rest of this entry »
Box office opening weekends: Valley of Elah $133k Rendition $4mm The Green Zone $14mm Lions for Lambs $6.7mm American Sniper $94mm
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) January 18, 2015
Scott Shackford writes: This morning’s news cycle has temporarily shifted away from fretting about what might happen in Ferguson, Missouri, to the news that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is resigning after serving less than two years.
“One of the top choices to replace Hagel is Michéle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense under Hagel’s predecessors. She’s also an administration insider…Rather than proposing a different course for the administration’s foreign policy, she appears to possibly be the person to entrench it for rest of Obama’s term.”
The New York Times got the news, which will apparently be announced formally in a statement this morning:
The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.
Taken as a whole, the original New York Times story paints a pretty damning picture of the White House’s national security policy setting. Mr. Hagel, so long as he was a loyal foot soldier for the President, was okay even if he was on the outside of the White House cool kidz team.
But the moment Hagel spoke up on ISIS, contradicting the White House, it was game over.
In other words, Chuck Hagel was not fired for incompetence. He was fired for telling the truth on ISIS — calling it an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” thereby forcing Barack Obama to deal with a threat he very much would like to ignore.
It’s only made more interesting by the New York Times’s decision to complete delete that bit explaining the motivation for his firing….(read more)
A very important vine from yesterday: https://t.co/hK3W3I21Dj
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) November 25, 2014
Scott Shackford: …But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.
But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Well, that’s one way to put it, but later on in the story, reporter Helen Cooper notes Hagel’s struggles to fit in with a White House full of intense Obama campaign insiders and their need to control all messaging:
A respected former senator who struck a friendship with Mr. Obama when they were both critics of the Iraq war from positions on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Hagel has nonetheless had trouble penetrating the tight team of former campaign aides and advisers who form Mr. Obama’s closely knit set of loyalists. Senior administration officials have characterized him as quiet during Cabinet meetings; Mr. Hagel’s defenders said that he waited until he was alone with the president before sharing his views, the better to avoid leaks. Read the rest of this entry »
Steven E.F. Brown reports: News business Salon Media Group Inc.lost $3.9 million in the year ended March, and that pushed the company’s accumulated deficit to $116.4 million.
The San Francisco company (Pink Sheets: SLNM) had revenue of $3.6 million for the year, up from revenue of $3.5 million the previous year, when it lost $4.1 million.
Salon runs the online news site Salon.com and also used to operate a pioneering discussion forum called the Well. That service was exciting and innovative back in 1999, when Salon acquired it, but last summer the company laid off all the Well’s staff and sold its assets for $400,000.
The company gets most of its money — 91 percent of revenue in the most recent year — from online advertising. Most such campaigns are short, lasting fewer than 90 days. Read the rest of this entry »
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey notes the NYT’s institutional reluctance and predictable delay:
…the Mark Landler article included this curious sentence: “Unlike Mr. Bush in the Iraq war, Mr. Obama has sought to surround the United States with partners.” Two days later, the Gray Lady issued a correction on a photo credit, but it took the layers of fact-checkers and editors another ten days to issue this correction…(read more)