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Posts Tagged ‘Sultan Knish’

Giant Rats and Tiny Men

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

On the corner of the street a giant rat squats over the sidewalk, its shadow blocking the cold winter sun, while at its feet, hired men, some with heavy accents, hand out leaflets and chant, “Who are we, What do we want” in the familiar hymn of the hired union protester, not a member of a union or an employee or a shop, but just a man hired by unions to intimidate some store or company into going along.

There’s another giant rat creeping its way up the Potomac through the evening fog. Its snout is the size of a skyscraper and its shadow is the night. And there are hordes of smaller rats inside that rat and smaller rats inside it that come spilling out. Call it the Trojan Rat or the Great Rat of the Potomac. Or just call it Washington D.C.

In the year of the rat, the election came down to a whole bunch of men and women loudly chanting, “Who do we are, What do we want.” The Democrats had clear answers to both questions. They wanted the rat. They wanted to be rats. They wanted to be the last rats on the sinking ship of state.

That was the hysterical frenzy of the Democratic National Convention in a nutshell. It was the pied piper calling forth all the rats by name and teaching them to march around when the pan pipes played. And the pipes played, the rats went to the polls, they voted, once, twice, three times and then waited around for their cheese.

And who were the Republicans? What did they want?

Watching the Republican National Convention, you got the sense that they were amiable people who like hard work, and talking about hard work, who like minorities and Clint Eastwood movies. They were as American as apple pie, in the way that commercials for frozen apple pies that you defrost in an oven are. Pop the Republican Party in your Sunbeam, punch out 60 years and you’ll get the Eisenhower Administration, toasty and fresh in your kitchen.

But the voters didn’t want apple pie. Some of them did. The older ones. The married ones. And yes those hordes of horrid white males. But a bunch of the electorate wanted burritos, they wanted hot pockets and a hundred other treats. And they wanted them free of charge.

The Republican Party was proposing a country where anyone can open up their own pie shop, while the Democrats were offering free burritos and degrees in Transgendered Mayan poetry in order to “invest in our future.” The party of apple pie came close, but the party of burritos with cheese for voters who vote early and often, came in closer.

The first question of any movement is who are we. The second question is what do we want. And until we can answer those questions and communicate those answers, then we are always going to be flailing, moving from one compromise to another, while our own rats ponder which principle to dispense with first. After all, what good are principles if they don’t get you in to ride the rat?

What the Republican Party communicated in 2012 was that it wanted to win an election. It chose the most electable candidate and put on a show that had little of substance. Three nights of apple pie commercials and then months of apple pie speeches about how wonderful this country is. Little was said, but the unspoken message was that policies didn’t matter, winning did.

As Churchill said of Chamberlain, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.” The Republican Party thought it had a choice between defeat and dishonor, it chose dishonor and got defeat anyway. Now we are offered even greater dishonors to avoid greater defeats. And when the GOP has appeared every single element of the electorate except its own base, then surely it will be allowed to win.

But winning isn’t the point. Winning is a power play. It only matters if you either expect to ride the rat or if you are fighting for something. The Republican Party fought to win and it lost. Now might be the time to fight for something, rather than to fight for the sake of winning the fight.

Tiny men don’t defeat giant rats. Not unless they are fighting for more than themselves. More than mere antipathy for the rat. And men who don’t know who they are or what they are fighting for will always be small, no matter how much fame they have or how well known their names are.

And that brings us right back to the question being shouted under the giant rat. “Who are we and what do we want?”

The Republican Party is divided, not split, between an establishment that wants to ride the rat and a base that wants the rat gone. The establishment is still trying to figure out how to win over giant rat voters with the promise of a better, slimmer, but more efficient rat. The base wants it to build a rat trap. But in elections the establishment usually gets its way and whatever the election results are, the giant rat stays around for another year, getting bigger and bigger.

The establishment, that nebulous entity, as at home on the Potomac as its rivals, has few differences with the Democratic Party. It agrees with most of its premises, it just wishes that it wouldn’t be so fanatical about them. It would like to trim back the bureaucracy, loosen some of the regulations and make life easier for business. At least it thinks that it would like to do that, but aside from occasional tax cuts, it doesn’t really do much about that, because it too likes to ride the rat.

The Republican and Democratic leaderships might be divided into the moderate and extreme wings of the same party. But their bases are very different.

The old Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats have become Republicans. The Republican Party is at the voting level, the rural party, the party of those skeptical about federalism and looking to lock in liberties with the Bill of Rights. At the same time its leadership consists of Hamiltonian Federalists who are interested in moving business forward. Throw in a moral traditionalist base and the party becomes even more impossibly conflicted.

Meanwhile the Democrats have become what the Republican Party turned into after Lincoln, corrupt, elitist and widely hated. A modernist party that postures as a party of civil rights, but views black people as walking votes and tools for extending the federal power grab of fanatical unionists. It is a party with no more vision than consolidating authority into central organizations that are run by the incompetent and it is not above pulling any and every illegal trick in the book to violate the Constitution. Its only reason for success is that its opposing party has so comprehensively disgraced itself that much of the country will not even consider voting for it.

But as rotten as the giant rat of the Democrats may be, it at least knows what it wants. The same can’t be said for a Republican Party that is stuck in a schizophrenic state. It is united, not by a vision, but by an opposition to the left.

The one thing that the Hamiltonians, Jacksonians and Jeffersonians can agree is that they don’t like the left and its vast bureaucracy that is hostile to business and bent on total control of all aspects of human life.

This opposition transcends federalist issues or moral divides. The Republican base and leadership may differ on how much big government they should be, but they can all agree that the endlessly expanding horror show of the giant rat, towering over Washington D.C. and sharpening its teeth on the Washington Monument is too much.

America is the other thing that the Hamiltonians, Jacksonians and Jeffersonians agree on. They all like it and think that it’s a special and exceptional place. And turning conventions to that theme is a point of agreement. Unfortunately the unwillingness to define what makes America special, beyond the ability to open your own apple pie shop and the ability of immigrants to open their own apple pie shops, means that there is little disagreement, but also no real message.

The Hamiltonians turn Jeffersonian when talking to the base. But then they revert back to being old Alexander. Romney is the first presidential nominee in generations to run on such an explicitly Hamiltonian platform and the results should surprise no one. Hamilton was a good deal more popular after he was killed by Aaron Burr, probably the most ruthless American progressive of all time, who makes ratlings like Ayers or Alinsky seem downright inconsequential, than when he was alive.

Ideology follows interests. The Hamiltonians are city dwellers. They believe that men need regulation but that free markets don’t. They understand the power of the economy in building a nation and how making unpopular decisions that hurt people in the short term can help them in the long term. But they don’t understand people and are terrible at getting their message across. They are sophisticated enough to think big, but not to think small, and the populists beat the stuffing out of them every time.

The Jeffersonians are rural and suspicious of cities and central organizations. They want to keep their way of life by limiting the power of the central government. They are passionate about freedom and instinctively dislike the Hamiltonians. Jeffersonians can win the majority of the country by land area, but the cities stifle them. They are instinctive revolutionaries, but like the Hamiltonians they struggle to communicate their deeply felt beliefs to the rest of the country. They always think small.

And then there are the Jacksonians, who go deeper, challenging the disenfranchisement of the public by the elites. The Jeffersonians still believe, to a degree, in the basic decency of their opponents. The Jacksonians do not. They suspect, and sometimes rightly so, that their opponents seek a one party state. They don’t just protest, they organize public outrage, marshaling the frustrations of those who feel excluded to challenge and overturn the entire system. The Jacksonians can think big and small.

The question is are we going to be Hamiltonians, Jeffersonians or Jacksonians? The question is what do we want?

Do we just want to prune back regulations and make life easier for big business, tidy up the debt and keep the train rolling for another decade? Do we want to smash the Federal system to keep our own corners of the world safe from the overreach of its power… or do we want to use the Federal system to smash the institutions of the left? Do we want to ride the rat, kill the rat or teach the rat to eat its own young?

Do we want to keep the urban federal technocracy going or pull back to local government? Does our future lie with big institutions that plan to do a lot or small ones that we control? Do our economic interests, short term and long, lie with free trade and open borders, or small business and domestic manufacturing? Do we believe in the system or in the family? Do we believe in the expert or the wisdom of the mob? Do we want to push on into the future or protect our past? These are the debates that we need to have if we are ever going to move forward.

We all know what we’re against. The question is what are we for? Once we answer that question then we’ll know not just what we’re fighting against, but what we’re fighting for. And until then we will not be able to step out of the shadow of the rat.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Carny Nation

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Come right in and step right up. See the bright lights and the oddities of nature. Inside folks, for the low price of twenty-two trillion dollars, you can see Binders of Women, Team Big Bird and entire reams of green windmills and fields full of bayonets and horses. Here lies become the truth and everything is full of sugar. And the highlight of the show with be Barack, the Exotic Prince from the Wilds of Indonesia and Kenya, with a special appearance by Oprah and a hologram of JFK. Here in the Carnival of Fools, the party never stops and no one ever has to pay the bill.

“There’s a sucker born every minute,” a famous connoisseur of them once said. And suckers are big business. Very big business indeed. But don’t feel too sorry for the sucker. The sucker is a creature composed of ignorance and greed. He believes in his own specialness. He believes that he can fool other people into giving him their money, when actually he is the one being fleeced. The mark is an aspiring scammer who is too dumb to realize that nothing in life is free and the scam is on him.

If you browse through your email’s spam folder, the chances are good that you will come upon a missive from a Nigerian prince offering you the opportunity to help him cart away his fortune in exchange for a sharp cut of the profits. These scams date back to the dinosaur years of the internet, and though there are occasional elaborations on the theme, the African scammers stick to the tried and true, even though the tried and true has become a cliche that anyone should be able to see through.

Why?

Because the Nigerian Prince scam is a self-selecting group. Anyone who still falls for it after all these years is dumber than your average sucker. The scammers know this and they don’t want to waste their valuable time hooking a difficult fish with a plausible scam. They go for easy marks for the same reason that some men fish with dynamite. Because it’s easier.

America has its own Nigerian Prince. I think you know his name by now. His campaign sent out nearly as many emails as his Nigerian colleagues do, promising fame and fortune to those suckers who would help him transfer some wealth from the 1 percent to the 99 percent. And now that his second term is here, the check is in the mail. And if the government check doesn’t clear, well that’s what happens when you put your faith in Nigerian Princes.

A scam like the Democratic Party needs suckers. It needs millions and millions of the dumbest people that can be found outside of specially supervised group homes. And then it needs to appoint people to watch over them, give them the occasional food and minor check, and drive them in vans to the polls after two or four years so that the con artists can keep their manicured paws on the local treasury.

These people have to be stupid, yes, but like all marks, they have to be greedy. They have to be the kind of people who relish taking someone else’s money without working for it. The kind who grin at the idea of putting something over someone else. The kind who think that they are smart because they decided that the world owes them a living. They think that they’re smart, but they’re only the marks in a con. And when the con is done, like the guy depositing a check from Nigeria’s Prince Uscamo, they are going to be the ones left holding the bag.

A con plays on the greed of the mark. And on his stupidity. And in a democracy, you can take over a country if you organize enough motivated suckers to vote for trillions in government money that they will never see, but that they are on the hook for. And if you don’t have enough native suckers, then you import more, taking care that your immigration policies favor the greedy sucker demographic. But unfortunately in a democracy where half the population doesn’t bother to vote and a quarter votes for the scammers, we are all on the hook for the scam.

What We Lost in This Election

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Now that we have lost the election of 2012, where our champion, a third-rate imitation of Ronald Reagan, without either his charm or his principles, who believed in absolutely nothing except being the best salesman he could be; let’s pause to reflect on all the things we lost out on through his defeat.

When we lose something, a relationship or a job, the grief comes from what we thought we had and what we imagined it was, not from what it truly was. Perspective means getting a true sense of what we had and what we never had to begin with.

So let’s look at what we might have had with President Mitt Romney.

We lost the chance to have universal health care, with the mandate, become a principle that every conservative was duty-bound to defend.

Oh I know. Mitt Romney was going to repeal ObamaCare. And he was. And by “repeal”, I mean he would have tinkered with it a bit and turned it into RomneyCare. And for the next four to eight years, it would have been heresy to ever suggest that we opposed universal health care with a mandate. Once Romney did that, it would have turned out that we only opposed universal health care with a mandate when it was badly enacted, without regard for businesses, by a Democrat.

We lost the chance to have a Republican president deliver weapons to Syrian Jihadists. Not to mention apply more sanctions to Iran in order to force it to the negotiating table. We could have been so privileged as to have a Republican president execute these two items of Obama’s agenda. Instead we’re stuck with a Democrat doing it.

Of course President Mitt Romney would not have done these things out of a deep abiding hatred for America and a sympathy for terrorists. But he would have still done them anyway. He wouldn’t have understood what he was doing, but his foreign policy would still have been sixty percent of Obama’s foreign policy, without the conscious malice. It would have been an improvement in that regard and only in that regard.

Those of you pro-Israeli types who imagine that a President Romney would have taken the boot off Israel’s neck, would have been shocked when a month after taking office, his Secretary of State would have commenced condemning Israeli “settlements” in Jerusalem. Just like it was in the days of the Bush Administration.

But, Romney would have been different, you say. He had a great rapport with Netanyahu. And Bush had a great rapport with Sharon. He had an even better one with Saudi Arabia. The same would have been true of Romney.

Still Romney would have appointed conservatives to the Supreme Court. And there you may even be right. I wouldn’t place any bets on it though. Oh we probably wouldn’t have gotten any Wise Latinas on his watch, but then again we might have, but I wouldn’t count on too many members of the Federalist Society ending up on the bench either.

Romney would at least have been pro-business. So was George W. Bush. And how well did he deal with the problems of government overreach? It’s all well and good to be pro-business, but even a former businessman who becomes a president, sees problems from the government’s end, not from the standpoint of a businessman.

And, for that matter, if you doubt any of this, do look back on the Bush years and consider that Romney would have been worse in every area than Bush. It’s human nature not to believe that, but it’s so. And if the election had gone another way, in a few months you would have seen it for yourselves.

The 2012 election was of course a disaster. A complete and thorough disaster. But it was a disaster because Obama and his cronies won. Not because Mitt Romney lost. Mitt Romney filled a void. He stepped into a spot that we needed, became a symbol and then he failed, because he was only a man, and worse still he was a blue state politician who was light on principles and heavy on being a people person.

What we lost in this election was not a chance for better leadership, but a chance to remove a bad leader. But what we gained was an end to complicity in the actions and policies of this administration. What we gained was a chance to use this defeat to launch a movement that can actually win an election by confronting the issues.

Obama’s Re-Election: Game Called on Account of Darkness

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

A week ago we sat waiting out the storm when the lights flickered and went out. One moment we were sitting in a lit room, the television flashing picture and sound, the internet feeding news, and then we were in the dark.

At first we expected the lights to come on at any minute. Any hour. Any day. And then living without water or power, day after day, it seemed as if the light would never come back.

And then, unexpectedly, after almost a week, they did.

The lights have gone out in America now. They may come back. They may not. It’s up to us. No one is going to come help us do it. Other countries have America. We have ourselves.

Readers will notice that my blog, Sultan Knish, did not predict any Romney landslides. It did not engage in empty cheers or promise that he would win half the country and restore moral leadership. That’s not what this site is about. This site is about the hard truths and now as we sit in the dark, let’s pass out some of those around the room.

We can blame Chris Christie, Sandy or Romney’s last debate performance. But let’s look at the actual election.

Romney outlasted the primaries because he was the most electable. Two blue state politicians, as bland and inoffensive as possible, ran on the economy, not on war or social issues, and managed to convince many Democrats that they could fix the economy. He got a white turnout to match that of Ronald Reagan and crowded rallies. And none of it was enough.

Romney had an excellent machine. But Obama had the bigger machine that was more than a collection of SuperPACs. It was the urban political machine, with its suburban tentacles, fed by taxpayer money and integrated into every budget. The time when it could be beaten the old way may be passing.

The people who came out to worship Obama stayed home. Romney’s rallies drew big crowds. But when all was said and done, the lines of people who feed off the political machine were there, and the handlers of the machine cast their multiple votes and carried off their manifold frauds because their own private economy depended on it.

Every time people ask me why the left has such a grip on this country, my answer is because they worked for it. It’s the answer that most people don’t want to hear, but it’s true. The left has been planning this for a while. They have been playing the long game, building the infrastructure and indoctrinating generations. And to beat them, we will have to do the same thing.

The right is 40 years behind the left and it remains a disorganized collection of potentials seeking a compass point. The “right” that got behind Mitt Romney consists of millionaires who want fewer regulations and easier imports from China, of social conservatives who are mainly ignored, except when voter turnout becomes an issue, libertarians who want more freedoms, and the non-ideological small business middle class and the struggling working class sensing their country and way of life slipping away from them.

Those groups could be welded together into a movement every bit as tribal and protective of its interests, capable of engaging in collective action on behalf of its own interests, as the urban machine vote. And that may already be happening with the Tea Party. But the counter-revolution of the bourgeoisie isn’t here yet. And there’s plenty of work to do to make it a reality.

The Republican establishment had its shot, twice. It put up moderate non-objectionable candidates. And it lost. It has no policies, beyond keeping the system going, and it has no ideas and no agenda, besides winning. It is a decadent political class fused with an even more decadent pundit class that views elections like these as a game, not as a life-and-death matter. It makes up lies and tells them to its base and hopes that the base will then forgive and forget being lied to and used one more time.

It’s not done, by any stretch of the imagination. Right now, Christie is patting himself on the back and drawing up a list of advisers for a 2016 run. And a dozen equally loathsome personalities are doing the same thing. And they may even get their way. But that doesn’t really matter. This is a long game and to win it, we have to think long term.

Voting isn’t Revenge, it’s ResistanceVoting Isn’t Revenge

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

There are plenty of ways to cast the divisions between parties and movements, but the elemental act of voting divides rhetoric from motive.

Obama called voting the best revenge, because for a sizable portion of his base that’s exactly what voting is. Their votes are a violent act, a spiteful assault on a country that they can never participate in for economic or cultural reasons. Change for them is not a positive program, but a negative assault on the national majority. Bankrupting the country by robbing it for their own benefit is their revenge.

Voting for us isn’t revenge, it’s resistance. It isn’t a choice that emerges out of reasoned debate between two sets of values, it’s an act of resistance against the revengers, the looters and the destroyers. The voting booth is a form of sabotage against their regime, their corrupt interests and their oppressive regulations.

These last four years we have endured an intensified occupation of our political, religious and personal freedoms. We have been robbed, lied to, ordered around and in some cases even killed. These crimes have been carried out by elected officials and the election will allow us to remove some of them. It will not end the reign of terror, but if successful, our act of electoral resistance will inflict a severe setback on the plans of their ideological movement and the unelected officials who rely on them for funding and political support.

The election will not end the occupation, but it will interrupt the forward momentum of the occupiers. It will force them to fall back into their think tanks and formulate new strategies for dismantling the Constitution, eliminating our civil rights and ending elections as anything but empty shows with no meaning.

Some of us act as if elections will be here forever so that we can wait for the next one to come around and the one after that when the right candidate will lead us to victory. They won’t be. The ideology that we are resisting believes in populism only when it serves its ends. Its judicial appointees have acted repeatedly to neuter referendums when the results do not go the right way.

The ultimate goal of the occupation is to shift power away from elected officials and into the infrastructure of unelected officials, so that their elected officials can draw on nearly unlimited powers by dictating to the bureaucratic oligarchy of the state, while elected officials not aligned with their movement will be narrowly constrained and have very little influence over the bureaucracy.

The occupation is not here to take power for another four years, but another forty years and another four-hundred years. It is not playing a short term game in a system where power shifts back and forth, but putting in place the infrastructure for the permanent occupation of the United States of America. But despite all its power and control, the miles of video screens that spew forth its propaganda, the billions of dollars that flow from its coffers into the pockets of its supporters and the cultural control that its proponents wield– it still has one vulnerability.

A piece of paper, a push of a button, and the occupiers have to fall back, gritting their teeth and planning a renewed offensive in the spring.

The left overreached itself in the last four years. Its occupation was poorly managed and the native population has been alienated. While its Chief was sacrificing thousands of American lives to win over the natives in Afghanistan, his occupation of the United States was crumbling. The economy is rotten and the people are tired of being lied to. The resistance is popular and the community organizers are running scared.

This is our moment and in a single day we can push the occupation out of the countryside and back into the cities. We can undermine its morale, strip it of the money with which it bribes collaborators and force it to rethink whether it really wants to spend the next few decades battling to control an unruly population. We can make men like George Soros and Ted Turner decide that their money would be better spent terrorizing Eastern Europe or Africa, instead of America by making oppressing us seem like a bad investment.

Blackout

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
In Union Square the chess players sit alone under the statue of George Washington waiting for a game. A Latino family, father, mother and son, sit on the sidewalk holding cardboard signs and singing. “I’ll be your friend, when you’re not strong.”  The big chain stores are closed but the bodegas are open and Muslim and Chinese storekeepers charge up to ten dollars for a gallon of water. New York City in blackout, in short, is much like New York City as usual.
The electronics stores are closed and the wine stores are open. A chalk sign outside one darkened store reads, “Screw electricity.”  NYU students crowd the bus stops and French tourists elbow their way through the crowd on the way to a cheaply expensive hotel. A massive ancient tree lies torn out of the earth in the old 16thStreet park and residents crowd around sticking their iPhones through the 19thCentury ironwork of the shuttered park to get a photo. A photo of devastation.
Recording disaster has become instinct. I saw dozens of people taking photos on September 11 and the number would have increased by a factor of x10 If the modern smartphone with its 8 megapixel camera had been present in 2001. A click of a touchscreen and the photo is uploaded to Facebook to be shared around the world with people who like gawking at broken things.
The departure of the internet accompanies the return of drive time news radio and the shocking reminder of what the media is really like. On WINS a cheerful male anchor runs through the list of catastrophes. “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” he says about a flooded town, almost chuckling at the joke. “The town of Little Ferry sure lived up to its name,” he says of another.  The obscenities repeat themselves every 10 minutes intersecting with audio clips of survivors who only have a few seconds to mention the water or how much they lost before the whole things cut to a commercial.
With a million Con Edison customers out of power, the commercial is naturally for Con Edison, but it isn’t one of those, “We’re working as hard as we can” ads that utilities run while their customers curse them in the dark, instead it’s an ad touting Con Edison’s Diversity Supplier Program which distributes supplier contracts based on race, instead of competence. Even liberals would not have been reassured by the timing.
Chris Christie is everywhere, flying around in the helicopter and landing just long enough to survey the destruction. A few minutes later he is launching into an anecdote about jet skiers rescuing 80 year old ladies on jet skis. “All they wanted was a photo with me and then they were off,” he says, reminding the audience that while the governor is trying to be the Rudy Guiliani of this news cycle, he isn’t Rudy.
While shopping for supplies, Senator Schumer comes on the radio and in his best oily voice, informs beleaguered shoppers that he has gotten calls from Republicans and Democrats and assures us that this issue will not be politicized. Unlike Hurricane Katrina, an unseen heckler supplies in the rugs and mops aisle.
An hour of this is enough to remind me of how unprofessional professional news is and how much better Sean Hannity was at this during the last blackout through the simple expedient of jettisoning the formula and supplying helpful information. There is no helpful information on AM news anymore, with the brief exceptions of traffic and weather, just ghoulish exploitation of tragedy in the same cheerful voice that is then used to sell Carbonite, computer backup for only 59.99 a year.
The NYPD is doing what it does best, cutting off streets and telling people where to go. A pile of ordure in the morning acts as evidence that the mounted police were deployed at some point during the night. But the amount of actual crime appears negligible. One store window is lightly broken, more likely a result of the storm than casual vandalism. But being cut off from collective news sources also acts as a reminder of how news shapes perceptions.
Without a news report, I have no idea if the blackout and storm were accompanied by a massive crime wave or hardly any crime at all. As people did a century ago and as many still do, I can only judge larger events by my perceptions. The status of crime in New York City is determined entirely by the number of unbroken store windows that I pass among the darkened stores selling handbags, artisanal cookies and neck massages on my quest to find working internet. But the moment I pass along that perception, then I am once again creating news and the entire cycle of collective perception repeats itself again.
Past 40th Street on the East Side and 26th Street on the West Side, there is power and I recognize the phenomenon first through the sight of distant red traffic lights. “Do Not Walk,” they say, and I walk on. On the radio a politician talks about revisiting the unity of September 11, but that’s a cheerful story to sandwich between commercials for motor oil and a reality show about Texas bachelorettes.
On September 11, we briefly came to the awareness of a common enemy, but now we remain in our old divisions, those who have and those who have not, those who define themselves by race and those who do not, the woman screaming loudly about how Bush did not find any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq four years past the point when that kind of thing was fashionable and the young girl in duck boots saying, “Omigod,” over and over again into a cellphone until it becomes its own mantra.
We are on an island and we are islands. The prosperous smiling natives paying 10 dollars for a quart of sink water reprocessed in Michigan bottling plants and paying double to travel downtown in a taxi and the immigrants who take their money, but hardly ever smile. There are the gangs who plot looting sprees on Twitter and the Long Island cops who leave behind their families to drive around the streets telling them to go home. There are the people in flooded homes and the news anchors cheerfully asking them how it felt to lose everything they have.
The finance expert with a Lithuanian accent tells his broker over a shaky connection in an internet café to sell the dollar and a male model named Justice chats about San Francisco. They are all New York and they aren’t New York, because New York City is an idea and it can be hard to live inside an idea. New York is immigrant neighborhoods full of people who want to live just like they did back home while making more money and having access to free social services. New York is British brokers straight out of the City putting in their time before they go somewhere glamorous, like Dubai.
New York is the remnants of its working class, hiding out deep in Brooklyn or leaving city limits for Long Island or New Jersey. New York is the place that you see in movies which shoot on every block, tangling their cables like snakes around fire hydrants while their refreshment tables full of sliced avocados stretch on forever.
New York is the idea of the Everycity, the city that never stops because it is always busy doing things and being things. It is the idea that we can leave behind our roots and our histories to create a new glamorous history out of the fragments of everyone else trying to do the same thing at the same time. And when I look back, surrounded by the floor to sky video screens of Times Square as the darkness grows, all I see are the outlines of dark towers and the lights of the endless traffic of secretaries, brokers, cops and doctors, professors, porters, drug dealers, antiques appraisers, actors and drivers, prowling through the night.
Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Benghazi’s Tough Questions

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

The story of how the Obama Administration failed to secure a U.S. consulate and then failed to send in support while it was under attack may turn out to be the biggest scandal of this administration. But that will only happen if Benghazigate is the subject of a thorough and rigorous investigation. And that means basing stories on facts or on reliable reports, rather than on speculation and internet rumors that no one would take seriously in any other context.

I have received dozens of emails in the last few days claiming that General Ham was fired for trying to go ahead with a rescue operation. The story appeared in the Washington Times. The source for the Times’ story was an anonymous comment on Tiger Droppings, a forum for LSU football fans, from someone in Louisiana working in “Self Employed/Restaurants/Catering” who claimed that the story came “from someone inside the military”.

Now for all I know this story is true, but an anonymous comment on a football fan forum is not enough to run with a major story. It’s certainly not enough to start treating it as an established fact.

That comment has gone beyond the Washington Times and is being sourced in various outlets all of whom are reporting a story based on an anonymous comment on an internet forum.

On October 20th, Clare Lopez wrote a column raising various questions about Benghazi and suggesting that Ambassador Stevens may have been involved in a weapons smuggling operation moving Libyan weapons into Syria. Lopez’s column raised some questions, a lot of them, but provided no proof and no truly credible connection between Stevens and the transfer of Libyan weapons to Syrian Jihadists. Nor did that theory come with a motive for why the consulate was attacked.

Nevertheless large numbers of people have now taken it as a fact that Stevens was involved in running Libyan guns to Syria without any actual evidence to verify that as a fact. Many repeat Lopez’s suggestion that the warehouses behind the consulate stored guns meant for Syria as a statement of fact. To many people, it seems “right” and it may be true, it may not be true. The difference between the two is actual evidence.

I am not attacking Lopez, she was doing what many of us were doing in the days and weeks after the attack. I have run plenty of speculative pieces, some that were right, some that were wrong, it’s in the nature of the business to do that. The problem only begins when a speculative piece is treated as fact and when speculations begin to be used as evidence when they are only questions, not answers.

Was Stevens being set up to be used in a prisoner exchange for the Blind Sheik? It’s an interesting theory, but if Obama had really wanted to release the Blind Sheik, he would extradited him to Egypt and after waiting two months, the Egyptian government would have released him. Furthermore if the goal was to take an American hostage, then there were easier and safer ways to take Stevens than an armed attack on a consulate.

Obama might have personally benefited from a hostage crisis involving a U.S. ambassador, but it’s more likely that he would taken a hit and his entire policy on Libya would have become subject to the same scrutiny that the entire Benghazi cover-up has sought to avoid. It would have been a desperate move at a time when he didn’t see any reason for desperation and believed that he would easily win the election.

That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for all this to have taken place. Logic only takes you so far and often events are the result of bad and stupid decisions. So nothing can really be ruled out, but its plausibility can be challenged. And should be challenged because through those questions and counter-questions we can come closer to the truth.

Was Stevens involved in running guns to Libya? It’s possible, but almost somewhat unnecessary. The Saudis, Turks and Qataris had taken the lead in running guns to the groups of Jihadists that they were linked to. They really didn’t Stevens to “help” them out in their own backyard. A similar story that claims Stevens was acting as a representative for the Saudis does not make a great deal of sense. The Saudis really didn’t need an American ambassador to act as their agent in the Arab world.

The American role in the weapons pipeline was a wink and a nod to the shipments. The diplomats would pretend to see to it that the weapons were going to “moderate” rebels and that nothing too heavy was being shipped to them. Then when it turned out that the Jihadists were getting heavy weapons, there would be some plausible deniability on the table.

To what extent was Stevens playing a role in this remains an open question. But it is unlikely that even the Obama Administration would have approved of weapons transfers to groups that had not, at least formally, repudiated Al Qaeda, the way that the LIFG had. Giving weapons to Al Qaeda would contradict the entire purpose of the Arab Spring which was to weaken Al Qaeda by empowering political Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Such weapons transfers would lead to terrorist attacks and suggesting that such attacks were calculated takes us into a whole other territory.

If weapons smuggling were taking place, then Al Qaeda linked militias were not likely in the same weapons pipeline as Islamist militias linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Or weren’t supposed to be. Which is to say that there might have been two weapons smuggling pipelines, one that was supposed to go to the Brotherhood’s militias and another going to Al Qaeda linked militias and that the mission was supposed to keep an eye on both pipelines only to discover that they were one and the same.

Then I could further speculate that reports from the Benghazi mission about the transfer of weapons to Al Qaeda linked militias were intercepted and passed along by a State Department Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer back to the militias which led to a coordinated attack on the mission to blind the American eye in Benghazi.

But all this is still speculation. It’s questions piled on questions, rather than answers. It’s a series of assumptions linked to other assumptions with too much distance between known facts and the final narrative. It might be true and it might not be.

The various Benghazi conspiracy theories may be true, in part or in whole, but we have to first look at the fact that the attack was not an isolated event, but part of a series of Islamist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities coinciding with September 11. The only reason that Benghazi is unique is because it was in a city run by Islamist militias with little police or military support available making it a soft target.

Claiming that the Benghazi attack was timed to go specifically after Stevens ignores the fact that there was a series of international attacks linked to a defining date. Stevens may have been a target, or he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again, we don’t really know and we can’t know until more actual facts come out.

There might have been both a local and a global motive, but for the moment the global motive is fact, the local motive is speculation.

Al Qaeda views American embassies as a natural target. It has been carrying out such attacks since 1998 without the need for extraordinary motives to justify them. That doesn’t mean that such motives can’t exist, but it means they aren’t strictly necessary to explain what happened.

Nor is a coverup of specific wrongdoing involving the Benghazi consulate required to explain the Obama Administration’s refusal to intervene in the attack. This is not an administration that is willing to offend Muslims to save American lives. For it to have taken action in Benghazi would have been more extraordinary than not taking action.

Let’s go back to the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009.where 5 Americans were killed because they were denied artillery support under the Rules of Engagement. That battle led to Dakota Meyer, a United States Marine, receiving a Medal of Honor. The Battle of Ganjgal in multiple reprimands for the officers who denied support, but it led to no changes in the way that things were done.

Here is a statement from the father of Lance Corporal Hunter Hogan, “The policies of this current administration and the rules of engagement are a huge factor with these casualty reports. The limited air and artillery support our men receive. The limited company level support such as motors, as well as the approval to return fire are hampering and adding to the danger they are in daily.”

Here is yet a third letter from a soldier serving in Afghanistan. “The soldiers of the U.S. never engage the enemy unless we know that we have will always have the tactical advantage in defending ourselves, that advantage is the use of close air support and air weapons team. To take those weapons away from us is to level the playing field for the enemy and thus exposing our soldiers to more danger… The very presence of aircraft over our foot patrols has also saved lives and now our chain of command is being told by our political leadership that this is now not allowed.”

If this is how our soldiers in a legitimate war zone have been treated, then what reason was there to expect any other outcome in Benghazi?

When all is said and done, we will likely find that the Battle of Benghazi had more in common with the Battle of Ganjgal than it did with any of the conspiracies. And that is one of the most important points that can be made.

The four Americans killed in Benghazi were not the first Americans to die because of a policy of appeasing Muslims. They will not be the last until the entire worldview of the decision makers is forced to change. It is important not to lose sight of that in debating just what happened in Benghazi, because this is much bigger than Benghazi.

Benghazi is one spot of blood in a stain that marks the map of the globe. Countless American soldiers and civilians have died because diplomacy was thought to be a surer way of avoiding war than an aggressive posture. And if we don’t learn the lessons of Benghazi, then we will be forced to repeat them.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/benghazis-tough-questions/2012/10/30/

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