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The Latest Round of Terrorism and the Race

The past weekend was another bloody one in radical Islam’s ongoing war against America and the rest of the western world, with three more apparent terrorist attacks occurring in a St. Cloud, Minnesota, shopping mall, along a charity foot race route in New Jersey, and in the fashionable Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. No one was killed but dozens were seriously injured, and although one suspect has been arrested in both the New Jersey and New York incidents there’s not yet any link to the Minneapolis attacks and no definitive evidence that any of it is tied to international groups, but it’s all the scarier to contemplate that these sorts of things are just popping up spontaneously.
The Islamic State, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant or if you prefer to use the ISIS and ISIL initials that omit the word “Islamic,” has claimed credit for the guy dressed in a security guard’s garb who started attacking unsuspecting shoppers at the Minneapolis mall and stabbed nine people before being killed by an armed off-duty police officer who luckily happened to be shopping there. That guy was named Dahir Adan, a member of the greater Minneapolis area’s large Somali-American population that was relocated there from their war torn land, and while it’s not yet clear if the Islamic State or whatever initials you want to call it are merely trying to take credit it does seem clear that he was sympathetic to their Islamic supremacist views. Meanwhile the guy being accused of setting off those pressure-cooker bombs in New Jersey and New York is named Ahmad Khan Ramani, a naturalized American citizen born in Afghanistan, and although no one is currently claiming any credit for his atrocities his friends are telling the press that he’s been noticeably more religious since a trip to his ancestral homeland. Even the most polite of those press seemed to acknowledge that radical Islam and its ongoing war against America and the rest of the west might well have had something to do with it.
All of which, of course, leads us to the more pressing matter of presidential politics.
While the stereotypically Democratic governor of Minnesota went into the usual recitations about Islam being a religion of peace, and the Democratic governor of New York and the Republican governor of New Jersey were being just slightly more frank, and the administration of Democratic President Barack Barack Obama was emphasizing how there’s yet not definitive link to any broader plots, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was at least calling for “tough vetting” of immigrants from lands where the more radical sort of Islam prevails. Such cynical sorts as ourselves note traces of her former president husband’s successful “triangulation” strategy of taking a slightly less extreme version of the Republican nominee’s more popular stands, in this case Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s policy of “extreme vetting,” and of course she added the stereotypical Democratic asides about blaming Islam per se for the more radical interpretations of the faith, but we glumly suspect that some portion of the voting public will find it an acceptable balance.
Meanwhile the Republican nominee was taking a much tougher approach, telling his friends on the Fox News Network’s “Fox and Friends” that “We’re going to do something extremely tough over there, like knock the hell out of them. And we have to get everybody together and we have to lead them to a change because we’re not knocking them, we’re hitting them every once in a while, we’re hitting them in certain places, we’re being very gentle about it, we’re going to have to be very tough.” Which we suspect some portion of the voting public will find very reassuring, but such cynical sorts as ourselves wonder how knocking them over there will affect what’s happening so frequently here, and how it squares with the more placidly isolationist policies that he has advocated for elsewhere in all this mess, and whether either of them mean a word of it.
Before the wounds of the weekend’s victims were even treated, the Republican nominee was was once again congratulating himself for having “called it” and the Democratic nominee was alleging that the difference between “tough vetting” and “extreme vetting” was fueling Islamic radicalism, and both were making claims about the other that some portion of the public will likely find persuasive. Such cynical sorts as ourselves took a day to say a prayer for those victims, and offer a plea that America somehow and for some reason still enjoy God’s blessings.

— Bud Norman

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Anniversaries and Anxiety

Today is September 11, a date filled with dread. No American can help looking back in horror at the terror attacks that occurred on this day in New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001, or at an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, nor nervously looking ahead for what might happen today. That nagging worry has occurred on this date for the past 14 years, but seems especially hard to shake this year.
The Islamist bloodlust that caused the past terror attacks is as impassioned as ever, and those afflicted with this ancient hatred have lately been conquering a large portion of the Middle East with beheadings and crucifixions, waging war against Israel with rockets lobbed into random civilians, committing the usual atrocities against one another, and issuing threats of mass murder against the west generally the United States specifically. It was once easy enough to dismiss such threats as mere Islamist bluster, but not now. Among the terrorist army rampaging through Middle East are hundreds of people with western passports that will get less scrutiny than the randomly selected businessman or tourist standing behind him at the airport, our  porous border with Mexico can’t keep out an illiterate and impoverished Guatemalan teenager much less an educated and well-funded terrorist, two Americans have been beheaded and others are being held awaiting the same fate, and the president’s prime time explanation of his hastily formulated strategy for dealing with the main Islamist threat on Wednesday offered no reassurance that our government is up to the challenge.
We’re not the only ones with this sense of foreboding. The United Kingdom has elevated its level of alertness in response to what the Prime Minister calls the “greatest terrorist threat in history,” Australia is considering doing the same, and a threatened king in Saudi Arabia has warned of attacks in the United States within months. A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security has told congress of Islamist plots to infiltrate the southern border, and although the agency quickly denied anything was currently afoot the brass at the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso has been ordered to implement increased security measures. Polling data show that the public at large is lately more worried about the threat of terrorism, too, and the president’s appearing on prime television to admit that al-Qaeda is not on the run and the tide of war is not receding and our enemies are not a junior varsity team suggest that he at long last has the same necessary worry something big might happen.
He’s probably not yet so worried that he’ll reconsider his ban on detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay or using the harsh-interrogations that have successfully thwarted past terrorist plots, or his supposedly more moral preference for drone strikes that incinerate the terrorists and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, or his instruction to Israel that even existential wars must be fought with the utmost politeness. Wednesday’s speech alternated tough talk about a “core principle” of his administration that “If you threaten America you will find no safe haven” with reassurances to his dwindling base of hippie peaceniks about the many things that he won’t do to the fight the enemy.
The president has recently described the country as “pretty safe,” a rather modest boast that he was obliged to admit he could make only because of all the national security apparatus created by his hated predecessor, and we’d like to believe it. Something about September 11 makes it difficult, though, so we’ll say a prayer, keep our fingers crossed and the radio on, and hope to be less anxious on September 12.

— Bud Norman

Presidential Speeches and Other Domestic Battery

The President of the United States is scheduled to give yet another major speech today about the direr threat posed by to ur national security by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or the Islamic State in the Levant or whatever you want to call it, and all the chatter seems to be about the professional football player who cold-cocked his then-fiancee and now-wife wife on an elevator at some ritzy hotel.
We don’t mean to downplay the repugnance of a professional football player cold-cocking a women on any sort of elevator, of course. Such violence against women is never acceptable, and when the male perpetrator is sufficiently physically formidable to earn a living in the National Football League we have no problem with him being banned from that burly profession as a result of the offense. The same video evidence that led to the player’s banishment show that the woman threw the first punches and added a couple of spits for good measure, but this does little alleviate our opprobrium. Our consistent advice to men embroiled in a relationship with an abusive woman is to shield yourself as best as possible from the blows, ignore the spittle, and immediately explain the resultant break-up in a carefully-worded e-mail. This fellow wound up married to the woman, and our libertarian instincts incline us to believe that at point it’s their business rather than National Football League’s, but a traditionalist streak in our temperament makes it hard to root for his gridiron exploits. To recall a favorite old W.C. Fields joke, we’ve never hit a woman, not even our own mother.
Still, we wonder why such a quotidian domestic dispute between such an atypical couple would overshadow the even more office violence being indicted by ISIL or ISIS or whatever you want to call it on the Christians and other religious minorities in a portion of the earth where American military might once held sway. Our best guess is that the domestic depute can be more readily identified with than that the far-off threat of beheadings and crucifixions and other horrors being inflicted on far-away peoples of whom we know little, and that by now few people put much stock in yet another of the speeches of the President of the United States.
Back in the heady days of ’08 we were seeking solace from all the political mania at a local tavern, and an especially annoying acolyte of the soon-to-be president demanded that the television be changed to one of the many channels showing the presumptive president’s bit speech rather than the American League’s baseball playoffs.The combined objections of ourselves and another barfly were overwhelmed by popular consensus, and we wound up enduring yet another tedious oration about how peace was merely a matter of American capitulation to the beheading and crucifying armies of radial Islamism. By now we suspect that even such a hipster dive as that would insist on baseball or whatever other sporting alternative the season might offer, even with a a fiancee-batterer in the starting lineup, and that says more about the diminished status of presidential orations than about the public’s tolerance for spousal abuse.
Whatever the president might say about the horrific violence being perpetrated by ISIL or ISIS or whatever you might want to call it, most people will take it as yet another meaningless red line drawn in the sand against the worst of the of a theology that the president seems o regard with a certain sympathy, or yet another meaningless assurance that if you like your secular 21st Century western civilization you can keep it. The chances that someone you know has been a victim of domestic abuse, no matter how ambiguous the circumstances, is far greater than chances that someone you know has recently been beheaded by a terrorist organization that the the media haven’t yet decided what to call.

— Bud Norman

Islam in the News

Another American has been sadistically beheaded for the benefit of a worldwide internet audience, terrorists are frolicking poolside at an abandoned American embassy in Libya, the reports from northern England are every bit as shocking, and Islam is back in the news.
Some effort is usually made by the western world’s editors and producers to keep Islam out of the news, except for the occasional multi-cutural puff piece about the Religion of Peace around Ramadan or another op-ed about the impending threat of an Islamophobic backlash by those barbarians out there in the American heartlands, but it’s lately been impossible to completely excise the word from the coverage. The beheading was carried out by an organization variously described as ISIL or ISIS, and even the most polite press is obliged to explain on first reference that in either case the “IS” stands for “Islamic State.” Those shady-looking characters enjoying a cool dip in that American taxpayer-funded swimming pool are just as insistent on proclaiming their Islamic allegiance. The 1,400 English children who were sexually abused in the hitherto little-known village of Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 ordinarily wouldn’t warrant the world’s attention, but England’s more robust newspapers have at last found it noteworthy that the abuse continued so long because local authorities purposefully overlooked the overwhelming evidence against the Muslim perpetrators for fear of being accused of racism and religious prejudice.
By now everyone is familiar with the obligatory disclaimer that most of the world’s Muslims are peaceable people with no intentions to behead or blow-up or gang rape anyone you know, but only because it’s been appended to so many stories about the endless slaughter and countless atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Most Muslims truly would prefer a peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world, we’d like to think, but until they start enforcing this sensible preference on their more militant co-religionists the truism will be of no practical value to the rest of the world. Thus far the more militant are the ones imposing their preferences, with the relatively peaceable sorts of Muslims being the most numerous victims, and all the carefully worded disclaimers cannot hide the ugly consequences. Even the fear of being accused of racism and religious prejudice will not forever conceal the truth that much of the Islamic world is resolutely at war with the rest of us..
This has been true for the past 1,400 years or so, another unhappy fact that polite opinion would rather ignore, but the latest conflicts have been especially worrisome and worthy of frank consideration. The violence inflicted by the Islamic State features a brutality not seen since the glory days of Islam’s conquests, the land being conquered is broader and more resource-rich than in the past several centuries, western passports and porous borders and seized jetliners provide the terrorists with unprecedented opportunities for mass slaughter in almost any country, and there’s the problem that polite opinion in the rest of the world would rather ignore it. The President of the United States candidly admits that he has no strategy for dealing with the Islamic State, and quite conceal his disappointment that the big speech he gave in Cairo and his boyhood days in an Indonesian Madrassa haven’t placated the head-chopping and land-grabbing Islamists of the world.
Another 350 troops are heading back to Iraq, whose safe and stable democracy was once one of the administration’s greatest achievements, and drone strikes and special forces missions are ongoing elsewhere in the Muslim world, but of course it’s all accompanied by lots of talk about peaceable majority of Muslims and the need for Israel to show restraint in its efforts to deal with more pressing problems concerning the religion of peace. There still seems some faint hope that the whole matter can be settled without any mention of any religion, and in a way that won’t interfere with the planned downsizing of the military, but it’s going to take some sympathetic coverage. Islam is back in the news, and is getting harder to ignore.

— Bud Norman

The Islamist Threat Survives the Charm Offensive

As recently as the past presidential election the administration was assuring the country that the threat of Islamist terrorism had all but disappeared. Osama bin Laden was dead and General Motors was alive, the stable and democratic Iraq that America had left behind was one of the administration’s greatest achievements, that unpleasantness in Libya was a mere matter of an internet video that had unnecessarily offended Muslim sensibilities, and a deft mix of multi-cultural sensitivity and lethal drone strikes had left the Islamists on the run. There was no longer any need for an American military presence in the Middle East, such such measures as the previous administration’s harsh interrogation policy and Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp were no longer necessary, and the number of guns could now be reduced to pre-World War II levels in order to pay pay more butter.
It was an appealing point of view, and if you were willing to overlook that 13 deaths that resulted from the “workplace violence” of a man shouting Alahu Akhbar at a Texas army base or the ambassador and the three other Americans who died as a result of that unnecessarily offensive internet video or the slaughter being inflicted by Islamists in a variety of countries it was persuasive enough to win the administration re-election. Lately, however, the administration has been striking a more worrisome tone. No less an administration official than the Secretary of Defense is describing the Islamic State in Levant, the terrorist group that the president dismissed as a “jayvee” team last January and has since conquered a portion of Syria and Iraq the size of Belgium, as “beyond anything we’ve seen.” Among assets ranging from captured American military equipment to billions of dollars of stolen money to an overpowering ruthlessness, the group also claims more than 500 soldiers who hold western passports that will be waved through any airport in the United States, and a Democratic Senator loyal to the administration is among those warning that the president’s hometown Chicago seems a likely target. Even the president himself was obliged to delay his tee time at the Martha’s Vineyard golf course to deliver an impassioned remark about the beheading of an American journalist captured by ISIL, although he did assure the public that his Attorney General was working up an indictment and that the good guys always win.
The more worrisome tone has resulted in some action, including air strikes against ISIl that have apparently slowed its advance toward Baghdad, some of those always foreboding military advisors heading back to the once stable and democratic Iraq they had left behind, and a complete withdrawal from the Libya that our earlier airstrikes had liberated from a quiescent dictator and descended into the chaos that led to all the unpleasantness over that unnecessarily offensive internet video and where the Islamists now control the airport on the shores on the Tripoli. All of this is well and good, we suppose, and the administration should be commended for what must be a painful acknowledgment that the president’s Cairo speech and his boyhood days in an Indonesian madrassa and his uncanny ability to not do stupid stuff haven’t resulted in the promised world peace. We doubt that this administration is willing to deviate any further from its past campaign poses, though, and that leave us all the more worrisome.
Those western passports flying in from Syria and Iraq probably won’t get any more scrutiny than those of the wheelchair-bound old Eglish ladies behind them in the the line, lest the administration be accused of racial profiling, which it only countenances in the case of white police officers involved in a shooting. Our intelligence community might get wise to a terror plot against Chicago if it runs through your phone or internet connection, but they won’t learn about it by harshly interrogating a prisoner who has been brought to Guantanamo Bay. We’ll continue to seek diplomatic solutions, much like the ones that that have been going on with Iran during the past many years of their progress toward a nuclear weapon, but it’s hard to imagine even the most diplomatic diplomatic gaining any substantial concessions from the people who chop the heads off American journalists. Another aircraft carrier has been sent to the South China Sea to counter the aggressions that the Chinese hate lately made to take advantage of America’s suddenly many distractions in the Middle East and eastern Europe, but we don’t expect that the administration’s next budget proposal will include the money for what the Navy says it needs. Those military advisors might have some good ideas for the under-funded and under-armed allies who face our same enemies, but perhaps they’ll also tell them to fight with the same restraint that has been urged on our Israeli allies in their most recent fight against the same barbarism.
The Islamist threat to the world order has been around since it started attacking trade caravans some 1,300 years ago, and has driven as far into the western world as the Iberian Peninsula and the gates of Venice, and was seizing American sailors before our country had been around long enough to give any offense to Muslim sensibilities, and was never going to be pacified with profound oratory or even the most exquisitely sensitive treatment. The good guys have gotten the better of it for most of that that arduous time, and might yet ultimately prevail, but it’s going to take guns rather than butter and a willingness to admit that a war is ongoing.

— Bud Norman

Christians, Yazidis, and Islamism

We have nothing against Yazidis, never having even heard of the people until we heard the alarming news that they were being slaughtered in Iraq by the terrorist army calling itself the Islamic State in Levant, but it does strike us a strange that they seem to enjoy such a favored status in the west. Many different kinds of people are being slaughtered by ISIL, after all, but it seems to have taken the Yazidis’ extreme misfortune to draw the rest of the world’s attention to the situation.
Those being slaughtered, and often by such brutal methods as beheading and crucifixion, are anyone in ISIL’s path who won’t willingly embrace its ancient and insane version of Islam. This includes any Shiite Muslim or even those Sunni Muslims who prefer a more peaceable approach to Islam, but also the adherents of a variety of other little-known religions as well as a significant number of Christians. ISIL was dismissed months ago by the President of the United States as a “jayvee team” of terrorists, and his officials continued to scoff even as it spilled over from its successful campaigns in Syria deep into Iraq, and it wasn’t until they had forced the last of Iraq’s Yazidis into the tenuous refuge of Mount Sinjar that he took the politically risky step of ordering air strikes and a limited American military presence in a country from which he had once proudly pulled all American troops. The speech explaining the decision was long on heartbreaking details about the Yazidis’ suffering, but strangely short on any mention of the threat that ISIL posed to the rest of a country that America had fought long and hard to liberate from such brutality.
The chilling thought that a religious minority in any country might be so brutally extinguished is ample justification for American action, and we welcome any reason for intervening in Iraq’s tragedy, even on such a limited and likely ineffectual basis, but it’s disappointing that the non-Yazidi victims of ISIL’s rampage didn’t warrant the same attention. We take a rooting interest in Christianity, and thus were particularly disappointed that our co-religionists who are being forced by ISIL to abandon their faith, be subjected to a harsh dhimmitude, or die didn’t rate more prominent mention as a causus belli. Nothing against Yazidis, as we mentioned earlier, but we’d like to think that America still regards a Christian’s life as having equal value.
There’s a plausible argument that the eradication of Iraq’s Yazidi population would represent a religious genocide, whereas the faiths of ISIL’s other victims would survive elsewhere, but we are unconvinced. What we can find of this Yazidi on the internet is inconclusive, with some sources saying it traces back to pre-Islamic faiths such as Zoroastrianism and other describing it as one of the many idiosyncratic variations of Islam, but almost all agree that it has a few adherents who had the good sense to vacate Iraq and head to more tolerant countries, and in any case all of ISIL’s infidel targets are danger of being eradicated from whatever land it manages to occupy. There’s also an understandable reluctance to take sides in the longstanding blood feud between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, on which we are also quite neutral, but we would expect American policy to favor the non-beheading and non-crucifying sorts of Muslims over the likes of ISIL. The apparent lack of concern for the rapidly diminishing population of Christians in a country where Christianity has been faithfully practiced since the Apostle Thomas first evangelized there in the first century will likely go unexplained.
One explanation might be that the administration does not wish to inflame more moderate Muslim sensibilities with any implication that the west’s resistance to Islamism Islamism is a Christian crusade, a point that even such a confessed Christian and stalwart anti-Islamist as George W. Bush went to great pains to make, but when you reel off all the sympathetic victims of ISIL it wouldn’t do any real harm to add Christians in passing. Perhaps it’s just the paranoia that is begin to infect the American Christian community, but we suspect it has more to with the modern left’s antipathy to our faith. The same administration that has made no mention of ISIL’s genocidal efforts against Christians has been in court arguing that evangelical businessmen and Catholic nuns should be obliged to pay for their less sexually repressed employees’ contraception, and is as insistent that “America is not a Christian country” as it is that “The future should belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” Islamists might be beheading homosexuals and adulterers elsewhere, but here in the United States some Christians are still opposing gay marriage or declining to pony up for Sandra Fluke’s contraceptives, and the left has made clear its preference for the exotic “other.”
The ISIL leader who was freed from American captivity during our occupation of Iraq told his former captors that “I’ll see you in New York,” but until then the left will figure that he’s somebody else’s problem and only wish that he’d leave alone such a little-known and therefore sympathetic group as the Yazidis. They won’t notice that the only portion of the world that subscribes to anything like their values of tolerance and secular government and women’s right and gay rights and the rest of the leftist agenda is what used to be known as Christendom, or that a world rid of those stuffy Christians won’t be at all agreeable. The Caliphate that is being established in what used to be Syria and Iraq has no intention of stopping there, and must be resisted by everyone that doesn’t share its sadistic and insane beliefs. That includes the secular left, and it might as well reconcile itself to the fact that it also includes Christians.

— Bud Norman

Another Vacation From History

Why did Nero fiddle as Rome burned? Because golf had not yet been invented.
That’s about the best joke we can come up with in these glum days of the republic, and of course it was inspired by President Barack Obama’s latest vacation. We don’t mean to begrudge the poor fellow some rest and relaxation, as he has a lot of responsibilities to dodge, but now does seem an odd to be heading off to the links. Not that we think it would do any good for him to be hanging around the White House during the ongoing crises, but even such supportive press pundits as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank are thinking it makes for “bad optics,” as they say in the politics biz, and it leaves him wide open to cheap shots from less sympathetic pundits such as ourselves.
At least he was on the job right up to the very moment his helicopter whisked him away, dodging responsibility at a news conference for the current crucifixions-and-everything mess in Iraq. One of the reporters had the lese-majeste to ask if the current slaughter being inflicted on that unfortunate nation by the Islamic State in Levant gang that the president had recently dismissed as a “jayvee team” of terrorists had caused him to reconsider his decision in 2011 to remove all the American troops that had successfully been keeping a sort of peace there. “What I find it interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up,’ he replied, “as if this was my decision.”
We find it interesting that the president finds it interesting such an obvious question keeps coming up, and quite surprising that he would now claim it wasn’t his decision to bug out of the country. He ran for election on promise to do so, ran for re-election on the boast that he had kept that promise, and had cited the stable and peaceable Iraq that he had left behind as one of his administration’s greatest achievement. There was also some talk about the status of forces agreement that his predecessor had negotiated, although that always went unmentioned when he was boasting about the withdrawal, and some more talk about the impossibility of negotiating a new treaty that might have averted the present catastrophe, but it won’t make much difference except to the more dedicated people who voted for him because of the decision he now disavows.
Those die-hard fans will happily credit Obama with the decision to pull all of America’s troops from Iraq and simultaneously blame his predecessor for the catastrophic consequences, as is their wont. Back when the Solyndra company opened its shiny new factory Obama was eager to credit it to his stimulus bill, when it went belly-up he blamed it on a Bush-era program, and at both points his loyal fans nodded in agreement. The president tells the die-hard environmentalists that he’s fighting domestic coal and oil production tooth-and-nail, tells the rest of the country that he’s presided over an energy boom, and gets the same hearty applause on both occasions. He rails against the stingy Republican nay-sayers who won’t fund his transformative and expensive agenda, boasts about he’s halved the budget deficit since they took over from a rubber-stamp Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and can count on none of his fans getting suspicious. Until recently he could also count on the major media to politely ignore the contradictions. He can even rail against income inequality in between opulent vacations on fashionable Martha’s Vineyard and golfs on a famed course with well-heeled ex-jocks without the utter hypocrisy being highlighted on the late night comedy shows.
None of this does any does any good for the Christians or Yazidis ofr the less fruitcake varieties of Muslims who have lately been slaughtered in the most archaic ways by that jayvee team that the president had laughingly dismissed as nothing to worry about, and at this point we don’t think it will do any better for the Democratic candidates trying to win congressional seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. The press is starting to notice that the world is unraveling from a lack of American leadership, not just in Iraq but in Syria and Libya and Gaza and Ukraine and the South China sea, and and that 99 percent that the president stands for is starting to notice that they’re not invited.

— Bud Norman