Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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JULY 4, 2011
SYRIA BURNS – AT 11:06 A.M. ET: It is amazing how little attention is being given to the ongoing revolt in Syria, one of the most important Arab countries, and Iran's closest ally in the Mideast. But this is turning into a major tragedy, with substantial implications for the future of the region. From Reuters:
AMMAN - Syrian troops stormed houses in the city of Hama on Monday as thousands of residents took to the streets shouting "God is greater" in defiance of a government crackdown on recent large protests, residents said.
"At least 30 buses carrying soldiers and security police entered Hama this morning. They are firing randomly in residential neighborhoods," one of the residents, a workshop owner who gave his name as Ahmad, said by telephone...
...Tanks deployed in Hama on Sunday but later pulled back, residents said, two days after the city witnessed the largest protest against the 11-year rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad since an uprising demanding political freedoms and Assad's removal began nearly four months ago.
COMMENT: Assad's father also sent military forces into Hama in 1982 to crush an uprising. That action killed thousands, possibly as many as 30,000.
Usually, Arabs choose Friday as their day of protest. The fact that protests are spreading to other days of the week, and are being met by gunfire, is an ominous sign for the future. Thus far, the Syrian regime is only getting some tut-tutting and minor sanctions from the West. President Obama seems completely disengaged. His administration says that the president of Syria is losing his legitimacy, and the president of Syria simply ignores us. Change we can't believe in.
TODAY MARKS AMERICA'S INDEPENDENCE FROM GREAT BRITAIN, BUT ALSO MARKS BRITAIN'S TRIBUTE TO AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT – AT 10:20 A.M. ET: The British have graciously picked today to unveil a statue of Ronald Reagan in London. From The Telegraph:
Ronald Reagan assumes his lapidary place in Grosvenor Square today, alongside Franklin D Roosevelt and Dwight D Eisenhower...
...We in this country have particular reason to be grateful to the Gipper. When General Galtieri attacked the Falkland Islands, he did everything he could to support us short of formally entering into hostilities with Argentina. The United States offered Britain immediate logistical and intelligence support...
...What distinguishes Reagan, though, is not simply his Anglophilia. Every president from Theodore Roosevelt to George W Bush has been, in practical terms, pro-British: Barack Obama is the exception. No, what sets him apart is the magnitude of his achievement. At home, he reversed the disastrous decline of conservatism and began the work of constraining government. Abroad, as the inscription on his statue puts it, he won the Cold War without firing a shot.
COMMENT: Several commentators have pointed out that Reagan endured endless ridicule during his political career. One Washington hand called him "an amiable dunce," others dismissed him as a washed-up movie actor.
But Reagan was a well-read, informed, and thoughtful international politician who had a clear idea of where he wanted to take the United States, and took us there.
Great men and women are usually known for one great accomplishment, even if some of their efforts end in failure. Lincoln guided the nation through the Civil War. Roosevelt did the same in World War II. Washington created the American presidency. I believe Reagan will be known primarily as the man whose policies led to a peaceful end to the Cold War and the establishment of freedom in Eastern Europe. In this he had the help of Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.
And great men and women are usually known for a phrase, a line they spoke or wrote that defined who they were. When Ronald Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," we knew exactly who he was.
AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE – AT 10:05 A.M. ET: This is a very nice July 4th story – the last draftee in the American military is about to retire. From AP:
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - He didn’t join the Army willingly, but as Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger prepares to retire, he is grateful he found his calling.
Mellinger, 58, was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, and the Army believes he is the last draftee to retire, after 39 years. Most did their two years and left. But Mellinger had found home.
“I think I’m pretty good at it, but I like it,’’ he said. “That’s the bottom line. I love being a soldier and I love being around soldiers.’’
When the draft notice arrived in the mail in 1972 at his home in Eugene, Ore., tens of thousands of troops had been killed and antiwar protests were rampant. The return address on the letter was the White House. Just 19, he was impressed that President Richard Nixon would write to him. “I opened it up and it said, ‘Greetings from the president of the United States.’ I said, ‘Wow, how’s he know me?’ ’’ Mellinger said, laughing.
Once the path was set, he said, he didn’t consider trying to find a way out.
He earned a spot in the Army Rangers, and would go on to do more than 3,700 parachute jumps. He was made a command sergeant major in 1992.
COMMENT: I've always had mixed feelings about the end of the draft, which came about by presidential order in 1973. On the one hand, a volunteer military tends to be more efficient, with higher morale and motivation. On the other hand, not having a draft means fewer Americans have contact with, and an understanding of, the military. The military has become a class apart.
When I grew up, and I'm sure this applies to many readers as well, you could walk down any block in America and find a number of veterans, or active-duty members of the armed forces. Today, most Americans don't know any soldiers, and it's rare that we meet one. Too bad. Not good for the country.
IMPORTANT EDUCATION NEWS – NEW ADVANCE IN TERRORIST TRAINING – AT 10:50 A.M. ET: For those who wish to become professional terrorists, and gain prestige in certain parts of the world, there is news tonight about avoiding one serious threat to your professional plans. From London's Daily Mirror:
al-Qaeda fanatics in Britain are being taught to avoid detection – by pretending to be gay.
A new terror training manual tells Islamic extremists to lie about their sexuality if a woman approaches them in case she is a “honeytrap” spy sent by security services.
The handbook, which was uncovered by a Sunday Mirror investigation, says: “Many hotels – especially in busy UK cities – have women hanging around the lobby areas in order to attract men.
“A young beautiful woman may come and talk to you. The first thing you do to protect yourself from such a situation is to make dua (prayers) to Allah for steadfastness.
“The second thing is to find an excuse to get away from her that is realistic and sensible, such as you having a girlfriend for the past few years and you are loyal to her or you are homosexual.”
You know, I've done it many times. Whenever beautiful women mob me in a hotel lobby screaming, "There's the editor of Urgent Agenda," I merely reply, "I'm here to see Bruce," and they fade away. Works every time.
The suggestion is one of many tips in the manual, called Class Notes From The Security and Intelligence Course.
We understand that scholarships are available. An application fee and essay are required.
And we thought these people were just crazy fanatics.
WHILE WE CELEBRATE – AT 11:43 A.M. ET: We may be on holiday, but our enemies are not. Iran is off the front pages, for some reason, but is moving aggressively to fill the void left by the decline of American power in the Mideast and west Asia. Anyone in the White House interested?From The Wall Street Journal:
TEHRAN—Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries.
The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.
Show any weakness, and countries like Iran are all over you. Yet weakness is what Obama projects.
Such arms shipments would escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by U.S. preparations to draw down forces from two wars and the political rebellions that are sweeping the region.
The U.S. is wrestling with the aftermath of uprisings against longtime Arab allies from Tunisia to Bahrain, and trying to leave behind stable, friendly governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran appears to be trying to gain political ground amid the turmoil and to make the U.S. withdrawals as quick and painful as possible.
And Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran is winning. The regime may be crazed, but it has patience, and Iranian diplomats are considered among the most capable in the world.
At the same time, news out of the formerly moderate Tunisia, where the "Arab spring" began, is not good. The new "democratic" government has taken a harsh stand, refusing any peace with Israel, a stance the former government never took. We can now expect that a dose of anti-Americanism will follow. Much of the "Arab spring" is turning out to be a big disappointment, with Islamist elements rising and true liberal democracy in retreat.
And with Iran growing more powerful, look for the new Arab governments to suddenly find they have much in common with Tehran. In the Mideast, as Osama bin Laden said, it's the strong horse who wins.
PATHETIC – AT 11:01 A.M. ET: As we celebrate Independence Day, we're reminded that one of the "great" stories of independence in our time was that of African nations becoming independent as the colonial era came to an end.
Sadly, much of that independence has been squandered. Politically, a number of African countries seem more interested in appeasing and allying with dictators than with democrats. Of course, not much of this is reported or analyzed by the trendies of the media. From Fox:
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea – The body representing nations in Africa called on its members to disregard the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Muammar al-Qaddafi, an official confirmed Saturday, in a move that seriously weakens the tribunal's ability to bring the embattled Libyan leader to justice.
The decision passed by the 53-member African Union late Friday states that the warrant against Qaddafi "seriously complicates" efforts by the organization to find a solution to the Libyan crisis.
AU executive Jean Ping also told reporters that the ICC is "discriminatory" and only goes after crimes committed in Africa, while ignoring those he says were committed by Western powers in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Meaning the United States. We're the punching bag for a number of African "leaders." And Ping is wrong on the facts. In fact, the ICC has relentlessly pursued Europeans like Slobodan Miloševic.
"With this in mind, we recommend that the member states do not cooperate with the execution of this arrest warrant," said the motion, which was shown to The Associated Press and whose passage was confirmed by Daniel Adugna, a spokesman in the AU commissioner's office.
If countries in Africa abide by the recommendation, it opens the possibility that Qaddafi could avoid prosecution by seeking refuge on the soil of his neighbors.
That has been the case for President Hissene Habre, who is accused of thousands of political killings and the systematic torture of his opponents when he ruled Chad, from 1982 to 1990, before fleeing to Senegal. He has yet to face a trial even though Senegal agreed in 2006 to create a special court to try him.
COMMENT: Qaddafi is a big favorite in some African countries, especially South Africa. Hey, what's a couple thousand murders and the downing of PanAm 103? Can't let details get in the way of "anti-colonialism."
McCOTTER ANNOUNCES – AT 10:45 A.M. ET: Virtually every news story reporting the presidential candidacy announcement of Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan), told us he was unknown. Say that enough times and the guy becomes known.
McCotter informally announced his candidacy yesterday. He may be the longest of shots, but he should not be underestimated. He's one of the brightest members of Congress, unique in his ways, and an original. From Fox:
U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a five-term congressman with little name recognition but plenty of pizazz, has become the latest Republican to enter the GOP presidential sweepstakes, officially announcing his candidacy on Saturday.
McCotter, a guitar-playing lawmaker from Detroit's suburbs who is known for his eccentric sense of humor and independent streak, made his announcement at an Independence Day festival at Whitmore Lake, about 30 miles outside the Motor City, He played guitar with his band at the event.
The 45-year-old attorney joins a crowded early field of GOP candidates, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pizza magnate Herman Cain, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
"There's a lot of people out there that worry the American dream is in danger," he said Friday on WJR-AM in Detroit. "So I was listening to the other candidates. They're fine people. But I don't think I'm hearing anything coming from them that's going to help us seize this opportunity."
McCotter said he would push for a fundamental restructuring of government and for Wall Street banks that received federal bailout money to free up credit.
"We're not seeing credit flow down to entrepreneurs, innovators and workers that will grow the economy and shape it for the 21st century," he said. "To me that has to be a linchpin of any economic policy that goes forward."
COMMENT: Note his age. He's only 45. In 12 years, he'll only be 57. Watch this guy. He's already a favorite of talk-show hosts. As the story notes, he has the pizazz factor, and no one ever accused him of being anything less than fully prepared. Man with a future.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
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