Friday, August 28, 2015

Murder by proxy

Junaid Hussain was a British citizens, sitting in a car in Raqqa, Syria, a country with which (despite its ignoring of Mr Obama's "red line") we are not at war. But on Tuesday, the United States of America targeted him for death, using a drone presumably "piloted" by someone in this country, either Air Force or CIA.

This stuff really bothers me. Hussain was a hacker--all right. But so is the Chinese government, and so is the Russian government, and so no doubt are the British, French, Israeli, and other governments hacking into our seemingly rather porous government and military computers. Shall we send drones against them all?

Oh, and yes, Hussain was a devotee of Islamic State and perhaps the recruiter of the shooters who in Garland, Texas, tried to kill people associated with a Mohammed cartoon contest. But -- rub him out with a drive-by shooting, like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929? This is how we run the kindler, gentler America of 2009-2016?

I find it a bit creepy, not to mention the effect on the pilot safe in his trailer a thousand or five thousand miles away. After exploding Mr Hussain and his automobile, does he go home and bounce his children on his knee?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Legion of Honor for three American heroes

Surely the first time the Legion of Honor has been pinned on a jersey! (From left: the French president, Alek Skarlatos, the American ambassador, Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

76 years on

Everyone has his favorite start date for the Second World War. The Chinese like July 7, 1937, when the “incident” at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing began a struggle that would last more than eight years. American like December 7, 1941, when U.S. territory first came under fire. Most European countries go for September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, causing Britain and France to declare war on Germany. And the Russians, for reasons of their own, believe that the “Great Patriotic War” began June 22, 1941, when Germany and its allies crashed into the lands occupied by the Soviet Union.

My date of choice is August 23, 1939. That was the occasion of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact, which essentially divided Europe into a western half for Germany to rule, and an eastern half for the Soviet Union.

Left-leaning historians like to claim that it wasn’t Franklin Roosevelt, and certainly not Winston Churchill, who defeated Hitler. No: Joseph Stalin and his prodigal spilling of Russian blood did the trick. There is of course some truth to this, but it rather overlooks the fact that without Stalin, there might never have been a Second World War, but only a series of regional conflicts that didn’t amount to much beyond the borders of the countries involved, much like the wars that have afflicted us since 1945.

Over the next year, Hitler invaded and occupied France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, and half of Poland. Stalin invaded and occupied the other half of Poland, plus Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and a substantial piece of Finland (which Russia still holds today). Russia sent food, oil, and minerals to Germany, in exchange for German locomotives and advanced technology. Would Hitler have dared move west without that support, and without a guarantee that Stalin would stay out of the fight? It seems very, very unlikely.

Even more unlikely is the notion that Hitler would have dared move east, as long as the French and British armies were intact. Or that, if an uneasy peace still pertained in Europe, Japan would have dared attack British, Dutch, and American possessions in the Pacific.

No, it all comes down to that monstrous agreement, 76 years ago today. That piece of paper, with its secret annexes, caused the deaths of sixty million human beings, and thrice that number crippled, raped, widowed, orphaned, and dispossessed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Two angry men

I was struck by this photo of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, for all the world like emotional if not ideological twins.

I'm developing a new theory of history, in which Barack Obama is America’s version of Mikhail Gorbachev – a mild socialist, beloved by the Good People, who sets out to reform a troubled country, and who ends by destroying it. We applauded the collapse of the Soviet Union, but isn’t it the first duty of a country’s president to prevent his country’s dissolution?  (Mr Gorbachev and Mr Obama share another thing in common: Gorby built, and Obama is planning, a foundation in his honor, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.)

Predictably, the shambles left by the well-intentioned bungler leads to a reaction in the form of a Patriot King, the mad savior who gallops to the rescue. Russia took a few years to cast up Vladimir Putin, the immensely popular leader-for-life who is now leading his country down to a new hell, an Orwellian sort of semi-warfare that never ends, as he invades and annexes bits of the Great Russia of the Ivan the Terrible and Joseph Stalin.

In America, things happen faster. So even before the failed redeemer leaves office, we have these two foam-flecked men, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, peddling nostrums that sound so different, but at heart are identical: follow me! I will lead you to salvation!

If either man wins his party’s nomination, I will vote for the other party. If both are nominated, I will move to Canada.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Trust but verify but trust some more

The Associated Press reports:

VIENNA (AP) -- Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
If we weren't talking about a theological nutcase of a pariah nation getting the ultimate weapon, and inspiring at least three other Middle Eastern nations to do the same, this would be the occasion for a Saturday Night Live skit.

Iran, which has been developing its nuclear capabilities for years and lying about it.

Iran, which routinely shouts Death to America! and promises the extinction of Israel.

Iran, which supports terrorism throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Iran, which has effectively been at war with the United States since 1979!

Iran is going to inspect its own nuclear facilities and attest to their innocence! And the only judge of those affidavits will be an agency of the United Nations! And no American or Canadian can serve on the agency's inspections staff. And in the rather unlikely event that the Iranians would admit to a violation, the United Nations has no power to punish Iran in any way. And all this, spelled out in a secret agreement which apparently no American official has been allowed to read.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The August follies

In the years following its surrender in August 1945 — abetted by breast-beaters in the West — Japan did a brilliant job of portraying itself as one of the war's primary victims because of the atomic bombs that ended it. (And saved the lives of several hundred thousand Japanese, not to mention the American, British, Chinese, and other lives that would have been lost if the war had gone on for another six months, as everyone expected.) So now, every August, we have the twin spectacles in which Japan first parades its anti-nuke bona fides, then ties itself into knots trying to make an adequate apology for having started the war in the first place. It's particularly amusing this year, on the 70th anniversary of Little Boy and Fat Man on August 6/9, and the Showa emperor's broadcast on August 15. 

Even in 1945, the emperor carefully refrained from admitting any war guilt, or even to admit that he was surrendering. ("The war situation," he said in one of history's greatest understatements, "has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage.") Since then it has only gotten worse, to the point where historians joke that most people know only two things about the Pacific War: that the Americans dropped and atomic bomb on Hiroshima, so the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Prime Minster Abe even now is writing his apology, about which we know that it will anger Japanese nationalists while at the same time failing to satisfy any of Japan's neighbors. In South Korea, 98 percent of the population doesn't think previous apologies have gone far enough; in China, 78 percent think so. Elsewhere in Asia, the nay votes are under 50 percent, but only in Japan does a plurality (48 percent to 28 percent) think the country has apologized enough. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Men Who Became the Flying Tigers

Earlier this year I set out to expand my online roster of the American Volunteer Group to add something about each of its pilots, and not just the famous ones like Tex Hill and Pappy Boyington. Well, of course it soon got out of hand, so I decided to make an e-book out of it.  It's now available on Amazon and most other e-tailers (not yet on Barnes & Noble, alas): 100 Fair Pilots: The Men Who Became the Flying Tigers. Read more about it at DanFordBooks dot com.