Hair of the dog

Let’s reflect on the two real lessons of the Battle of Newtown.

First, the Second Amendment is not about hunting animals and punching paper, it’s about winning a war against the government, and here we have a man who didn’t whine about tyranny, or run and hide: he took up arms like a Real American, went right at the most dangerous hotbed of government freedom-killing  subversion, a public school, and put a decisive end to the daily internationalist indoctrination of twenty Connecticut children. But Lanza was not able to kill even thirty people before the jackbooted thugs of blue-state Connecticut imposed their tyrannical will on him, another martyr to liberal sabotage of our Second Amendment God-given rights to insurrection. (Those rights are in the Bible, right where Jesus teaches his wussy disciples to go armed at all times, and practice quick reloading so as to really Render unto Caesar, not just mess with the odd drunk Roman soldier.)  The government won the Battle of Newtown in the end, because Lanza was disarmed by the regulations people like Mayor Bloomberg want more of. Government has stuff like tanks and helicopters now, so insurrection (freedom) needs serious hardware.   If Lanza (and his mother) had been allowed the belt-fed machine guns,  grenades, armor-piercing rockets, and ground-to-air artillery the constitution plainly allows but our surrender-monkey disarmers do not, he could have given the UN a real warning.  Patriots need stuff to take down an invisible black helicopter, not toys from an old western movie.

Some, however, may not see Lanza’s intervention exactly as a blow for freedom but in a slightly different light, perhaps as an insane explosion of savagery.  Never mind:  just turn the page to the other lesson, the one about the importance of arming everyone all the time to prevent mayhem. Everyone, even the principal, went to work without so much as a little .25 caliber automatic, never mind the Uzi, slung dashingly over the shoulder for easy use, that should be a part of every responsible teacher’s equipment.  (I myself have nothing but chalk on my sleeve to maintain order in the classroom, and that Uzi would be a real asset to my pedagogy.)

But what about the kids, Professor Volokh?  A safe society is one where everyone packs heat all the time: wouldn’t it build character for for citizens to learn their responsibility early on? There’s no problem finding a firearm for small hands: if every one of them had had a piece in his desk, and opened up on Lanza from all directions right away, only a few more would be dead now, maybe even fewer, and the survivors would have learned about pride and self-sufficiency instead of fear and surrender. We have fire drills; don’t we care enough about our kids to give them rapid-fire drills? And come to think of it, kindergarten is not too young to learn freedom through armed revolt (see lesson one above): what more oppressive, authoritarian institution is there than a school to its students?  K-12 students with suitable weapons could be learning to fight tyranny before the school crushes their spirit and turns them into slaves of big government.

The correct ideological exegesis of this event is above my pay grade; indeed both of the foregoing may be correct.  Either way the action implication is clear, as clear as those eternal and unvarying truths “Now this”, “Here we are”, and “Cut taxes on the rich”:  we need lots more, bigger firearms everywhere, and now more than ever. If freedom fighters like Lanza, and ordinary citizens like the innocent teachers and kindergartners at risk from murderous lunatics like Lanza, all get the serious weaponry they deserve, some good may come of this sad episode.

The Old Superb

A trial balloon that Obma will end the War on Terror, and a (British) patriotic sea-shanty.

At Balkinisation, Jonathan Hafetz discusses an important speech by Jeh Charles Johnson, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, at the Oxford Union on 30 November. Key grafs:

But, now that efforts by the U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves: how will this conflict end? It is an unconventional conflict, against an unconventional enemy, and will not end in conventional terms [….]

In the current conflict with al Qaeda, I can offer no prediction about when this conflict will end, or whether we are, as Winston Churchill described it, near the “beginning of the end.”

I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point – a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.

At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an “armed conflict” against al Qaeda and its associated forces; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda, for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible, in cooperation with the international community – with our military assets available in reserve to address continuing and imminent terrorist threats.

At that point we will also need to face the question of what to do with any members of al Qaeda who still remain in U.S. military detention without a criminal conviction and sentence. […]

I suggested in February that Candidate Obama campaign on a declaration that Al Qaeda has been defeated and the War on Terror over. He didn´t. But the idea has clearly moved from liberal corners of the blogosphere to a seriously entertained policy option.

Continue reading “The Old Superb”

Abe Foxman: polemic turns to pratfall

Foxman´s absurd scenario of a worldwide plague of Hamas-type rocketry.

Abe Foxman in HuffPo on why America should rally to Israel´s side, in the latest round of its war with Hamas, as if Washington is not rallying reflexively anyway:

We should also be standing with Israel because if we don’t, the scourge of missiles targeting civilian populations will become a world-wide epidemic.

Of all the arguments one could make now on Gaza – and many good ones have been made, here and elsewhere, sympathetic to Israelis, sympathetic to Palestinians – this must be the silliest. We must protect Manhattan from a hail of cheap rockets fired from Staten Island! But do do this, the bad guys must first seize control of Staten Island, which would surely be noticed. If Dr. Evil, with a more sophisticated version of the same plan, can defeat detection by sneaking up inshore in his super-stealth submarine, he has much better weaponry than Hamas. Sorry to be flippant, but Foxman´s scenario is indeed ridiculous.

Common sense is reinforced by the actual history of violence in the last century. The world has suffered from a fair number of states and non-state actors willing to target civilians. Have any used rockets, apart from Hitler, Hezbollah, Saddam and Hamas? (Hitler and Saddam as a tiny component of inter-state wars.) Rockets are very expensive per delivered kilo of explosive, can´t be aimed with precision, and are hard to hide. Most movements and states that have resorted to terrorising civilians, like the FLN, ETA, the IRA and the Tamil Tigers, have quite logically used bombs and guns, far cheaper and more effective. In the Cold War, rockets were reserved for nuclear weapons.

The use of explosive rockets by Hezbollah and Hamas depends on highly specific features of their conflict with Israel. On their side, they have (1) a state sponsor for supply (Iran) and (2) fairly secure territorial bases. Their adversary has (3) a dense population in a small area, hence no strategic depth, (4) superior tactics and social cohesion to prevent suicide bombs, and (5) a democratic polity making the government highly sensitive to civilian fears. Take away any of these five factors, and the tactic is infeasible or pointless.

Foxman´s tirade suceeeds a contrario in highlighting the fact that Hamas is no threat to the citizens of the United States. Is it a threat to the interests of the United States? Palmerstonian IR fundies like Mearheimer & Walt would say no. I don´t myself think you can define state interests in a democracy independently of the preferences of the electorate. If the American people want, for cultural reasons, to stand guarantor to the integrity of Israel, that´s fine by me, as long as the guarantee doesn´t slide into unconditional support of Israel´s most misguided actions. But let´s not pretend that their safety is at stake in Gaza.

BTW, if the US Congress were in the least interested in checking the executive, it would spend less time on pseudo-scandals like Benghazi statements and General Petraeus´ love-life. A better topic for investigation would be to ask what threat if any is posed now to (a) American interests, (b) ordinary Americans, by the various armed groups the Administration has chosen to attack as terrorists, the Taliban, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Take it as read that these are not our first choice of rulers of these backwaters, and their local success is terrible for women´s rights, religious minorities, and anybody else they object to. Countries don´t usually go to war to protect such interests. But do any of these gangs have the desire or the capability to pursue bin Laden´s idiosyncratic (and in the eyes of most jihadis, crazy) direct assault on the Great Satan?

A quick thought for those lost due to terrorism

After almost 2,000 years, it’s still hard to beat the words of John 15:13: There is no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.

I was reading today about the murder of Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens. He was a brave and skillful diplomat who risked, and ultimately lost his life for this country. What a huge loss.

As I read the New York Times report, I also thought back to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11, particularly so many who acted heroically on that day.

After almost 2,000 years, it’s still hard to beat the simple words of John 15:13: There is no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.

American “Justice”: Far Behind the Salem Witch Trials

The Obama Administration’s decision — released the Friday afternoon before Labor Day — that no one will be held accountable for the systematic policy and use of torture would be more nauseating if it were not so predictable.  I cannot add to Lemieux, Serwer, Drum, Sullivan, and Greenwald, and you should read them.

American political culture is at a particularly childish moment.  Our leaders cannot prosecute what they did in our name, and they cannot even acknowledge it.  Oh yes, President Obama did stop the policy, and he deserves credit for that, but it was all part of sweeping things under the rug: let us look to the future, not the past.  After all, looking to the past means looking at something unpalatable, and that is not allowed.  As Richard Hofstadter noted, “American use their history as an excuse for an orgy of self-congratulation.”  If anything, the Republicans are far, far worse: to the extent that they don’t want to sweep this under the rug, it is because they are proud of their crimes.

But it was not always this way.  Edmund Morgan, the world’s greatest living historian, recently published a book of essays entitled American Heroes, a work whose title appears to be the only flawed thing about it.  One (previous unpublished) essay is entitled “The Courage of Gils Cory and Mary Easty.”  Cory and Easty were residents of Salem in the 1690’s, wrongfully accused of witchcraft, and instead of turning states’ evidence and accepting a lesser punishment, they vigorously maintained their innocence, knowing that death would result.  They particularly condemned the use of “spectral evidence,” in which a person could be convicted of witchcraft simply by another person saying that he or she “was being tormented by a specter in the shape of the accused.”  Usually, courts refused to accept this evidence, knowing how unreliable it was.  But so terrorized was Salem by the prospect of witchcraft that the rule book was thrown out.  Cory and Easty, Morgan argues, were two of the most courageous people in American history.

Here is where modern times have truly become shameful.   Morgan relates that “there was another kind of courage displayed in connection with witchcraft trials that would be hard to find a parallel today”:

Five years after the trials, in 1697, the General Court of Massachusetts decided that the trials had sent innocent people to their deaths.  January 15, 1697, was appointed as a day of public fasting in which the people of the colony should ask forgiveness of God for what they had done.  And on that day Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, stood up before the congregation of the church to which he belonged, with bowed head, while the minister read a statement that Sewall had written, begging forgiveness of God and man for the part that he had played in the witchcraft trials, asking that ‘the blame and shame of it’ be placed on him.  On the same day the jury that had sat in the trials published a wirtten expression of their “deep sense of sorrow” for their decisions, “whereby we fear we have been instrumental with others, though ignorantly and unwillingly, to bring upon ourselves the guilt of innocent blood.”

What a moving and noble reaction from a people that was imperfect and knew it.  They could not bring back the dead, but they could restore the victims’ property, they could hold themselves accountable, and they could admit that they were wrong.  And from contemporary America: nothing.  We have instituted Regress in History. 

Morgan writes: “Can any modern people point to a similar willingness to remedy injustice, even after the event?”  In today’s United States, at least, we know the answer.

How do you wipe the blood off your press release?

John Boehner (inter alia) managed to drive DHS away from tracking the sort of neo-Nazi who just shot up the Sikh temple.

When I read that the guy who shot up the Sikh Temple was an ex-military neo-Nazi skinhead, something in the back of my head whispered, “Didn’t DHS have a report about such people? And didn’t a bunch of Republican politicians and members of the wingnut commentariat complain that DHS was slandering veterans and conservatives by suggesting that there might be such a threat?”

Answer:  Yes. And they managed to cow DHS into backing off. No, I don’t know that this act of terrorism could have been stopped. But I know that John Boehner  wanted to make sure that it couldn’t be stopped.

The best that money can buy

The Mujaheddin-e Khalq has managed to get lots of important Americans on its payroll, in pretty clear violation of a couple of laws. This would be bothersome, even if the group were less creepy than in fact it is.

What does it take to get important American political and national-security figures to illegally lobby on behalf of the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq, a Marxist-Islamist cult with American blood on its hands, tied to Saddam Hussein and officially designated as a terrorist organization?

Why, money, of course. With enough “speaking fees” ($40k for eight minutes?) and “travel expenses” in your pocket, it’s not hard to convince yourself that a group which supported Iraq in its war against Iran, and which one expert describes as “a cross between Hezbollah and the Branch Davidians,” is some sort of Iranian democratic opposition. (A RAND report gives some background.) And if the money comes from a network of front groups, you have plausible deniability (or perhaps, if you’re not very bright, genuine ignorance) about taking money from a designated terrorist group, which is a no-no. (Clarence Page says he wasn’t told that the rally he was paid to address was pro-MEK.)

Or you could just figure that terrorism isn’t such a bad thing if it’s directed against Iran, which is what led the Bush Administration to provide special operations training to MEK forces.

No one seems to have any clear idea about where the money comes from or how it moves around. But there’s clearly enough of it to put lots of prominent consciences to sleep. Even if the MEK weren’t designated as a terrorist group, taking money to lobby on behalf of any foreign entity requires you to register as a foreign agent, which apparently no one has.

The list (in full at the jump) is depressingly long and diverse. Gingrich and Giuliani and Ridge and Bolton and Zelikow and Freeh and Porter Goss and Jim Woolsey and one of Romney’s foreign policy advisers aren’t much of a surprise: it’s just a meeting of the Neocon Club. And I don’t expect much of Howard Dean or Bill Richardson. But Bill Bradley? Wesley Clark? Lee Hamilton?!

Apparently the MEK has made itself enough of a thorn in the side of the Iraqi government – by refusing to have its people resettled from the group’s Iraqi base – that the State Department has offered to take them off the terrorist list if they’ll just play nice. If that happens, all the shills will presumably claim vindication. But taking money from foreigners to influence U.S. foreign policy is against the law, even when the foreigners aren’t as nasty as the MEK. This is just the Ahmad Chalabi story all over again. At least three lobbying outfits, including DeGenova & Toensing and Akin, Gump, are known to be involved.

And of course Citizens United compounds the problem: a politician who holds out against a group like MEK could find himself on the wrong side of millions of dollars of attack ads funded by anonymous donors. I wonder how much MEK front money has found itself into campaign warchests and super-PACs? Continue reading “The best that money can buy”

Jimmah, Mittens, Obama, and bin Laden

Why did Jimmy Carter stick a shiv in the Obama campaign?
Because that’s who he is: treacherous to his friends, helpful to his enemies.
And why did Romney respond by insulting Carter?
Because doing so involved lying, and Romney’s addicted to lying.

Of all my political mistakes, helping Jimmy Carter get elected in 1976 has to have been the worst (so far). In four years, he managed to blow what should have been the indestructible partisan edge the Democrats inherited from Watergate. No Carter, no Reagan. And he did it while compiling a very limited record of legislative achievement, and in particular while missing what in retrospect was the last clear shot at serious campaign-finance reform.

I shouldn’t have been under any illusions; after all, I was there when he toured Capitol Hill that winter, greeting the male staffers with “Hello, I’m Governor Carter, and I’m running for President” and the female staffers with “Hello, little lady! I’m Jimmah Carter, and I’m going to be your next President!” I’ve never been able to quite get clear on what stands out the most: Carter’s cognitive limits, his utter unawareness of those limits (characterized by his belief that an undergraduate engineering degree made him a “scientist”), his political selfishness and absence of team spirit, or his sheer oleaginous self-righteousness.

All of these were on display when Carter decided to undercut this year’s entire Democratic campaign theme by endorsing the stupid “Romney-is-a-moderate” idea. No surprise there, really. That’s our Jimmah: eliably treacherous to his friends and helpful to his enemies.

It’s perhaps slightly more surprising that Mitt Romney should have responded to this piece of generosity on Carter’s part by insulting Carter. Trying to back away from his earlier statements that it wasn’t worth spending a lot of money to get one man and that going into Pakistani territory to go after terrorists would be wrong, Romney said on the anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, “Of course, even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.”

The only reason I can think of for Romney to say what he said is that the statement, as he made it, is obviously false, and Romney is addicted to lying. We know what Jimmy Carter would have done, because we know what he actually did do, under parallel circumstances: allow himself to be talked into going in without enough resources, risking having to scrub the mission if three out of eight helicopters failed (compared to a predicted two out of eight). Obama, by contrast, personally insisted on what turned out to be the essential extra chopper going into Abbotabad.

Moreover, of course, while making the final call was indeed dramatic, the key moves that Obama took – and Bush didn’t take – involved putting in motion the machinery that got us to the place where the final call was there to be made. Obama got bin Laden because Obama wanted to get bin Laden. There’s no evidence on the record that any of the Republicans – Bush, McCain, or Romney – shared that desire.

Bin Gone So Long

There is much to stare at in the beautifully restored King’s Cross/St Pancras Train and Underground Complex. Amongst the sights are tourists walking about forlornly while holding crumpled newspapers, food-stained napkins and the like. They search in vain: One of the lesser-known legacies of the IRA bombings is the lack of bins in many British public spaces. The restaurants have bins for customers, but this morning they unaccountably forgot to unlock them, driving hundreds of locals into the halls, empty coffee cups and muffin wrappers in hand, on the same fruitless quest as the tourists.

I wanted to assist all these poor souls, so I had a friend stack 20 extra bins on my back from his garbage truck. The weight was incredible, but I staggered into the station and yelled

“Hey everyone, I’m bin laden! I saw you suffering and I said Oh, So I’ma Bin Laden!”.

Why everyone ran away screaming when I was just trying to help I really don’t know.

Make-my-day Dep’t

If Karl Rove wants to make this campaign about precisely how much credit the President gets for getting Osama in Laden, all I can say is, “Bring it on.” He’s welcome to lie as much as he likes and to misquote Bill Clinton to his heart’s content. Rove and his sock-puppet had eight years to carry out the mission, and they funked it. Barack Obama focused on it and brought it in. Deal with it.

Footnote And if you were wondering whether the editorial page of the Murdochized Wall Street Journal would be even more insanely mendacious than the editorial page of the free-standing WSJ, the answer turns out to be “Yes.”