Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ukraine: Revenge of the Stalin Organ -- How Grad rockets are being used by Kiev in eastern Ukraine

Anna Nemtsova's revealing piece about the multiple rocket launchers, evolved from the Katyusha, or "Stalin Organ," now being used against Donetsk and Luhansk:

Ukraine Denies Deadly Grad Rocket Attacks on Donetsk

Grad rockets pounded Donetsk and Luhansk this week, and human rights monitors say Kiev is behind the carnage. But Ukraine’s new defense minister tells The Daily Beast his forces are not to blame.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Red Skull of Baghdad ... and more

My latest:

Saddam's Former Deputy, the Red Skull of Baghdad, Still at Large in Iraq and Allied With ISIS
Despite a $10 million reward for his capture, the Iraqi tyrant's liaison to the world's most radical jihadists, now 72, is on the loose and in cahoots with the so-called Caliph Ibrahim.

And in case you missed it:

Iraq Is Not Our War Anymore. Let It Be Iran's Problem.
It's time the Iraqi Pottery Barn rule—'You break it, you pay a trillion dollars for it'—is applied to someone else.

Plus these stories by my colleagues --

Anna Nemtsova in Ukraine:

In the Killing Fields of Ukraine with Children Who Saw the MH17 Horror
Investigators will have a hard time explaining why the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down. But no one who saw the bodies fall will ever forget.

Snatched Outside the 'MH17 Morgue'
Reporters who stopped at the Donetsk morgue looking for clues in the downing of the Boeing 777 were arrested by rebels anxious to impress them with their anger—and their blades.

Jacob Siegel in Iraq:

Who's Murdering Baghdad's Prostitutes?
The slaughter of 29 women and two men in an alleged house of prostitution shows the danger of the Iraqi government's reliance on Shia militias for its defense.

Bikers of Baghdad: Sunnis, Shias, Skulls, 'Harleys,' and Iraqi Flags
In the Iraq Bikers club, a not-so-wild bunch of men, including Christians and Hezbollah fighters, see themselves as "family." Not a bad model for the rest of the nation.

Jesse Rosenfeld in Gaza:

A Child's Funeral in Gaza
In their defenselessness and desperation, Gaza's civilians find determination and a sense of community as they lay their dead to rest.

Palestinians Fleeing Israeli Bombardment in Gaza Have 'Nowhere Left to Run'
As the Gaza war marks its deadliest day so far, Palestinians seek safety and rely on each other.

Barbie Nadeau in Giglio, Italy:

Saying Goodbye to the Salvage Saviors of Giglio
On the Isola del Giglio, the men who salvaged the doomed cruise ship have become part of the island's family. What will the Giglese do when they're gone?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My latest modest proposal about Iran, Iraq, ISIS, the US and Pottery Barn

Iraq Is Not Our War Anymore. Let It Be Iran's Problem, 17 July 2014
It's time the Iraqi Pottery Barn rule—'You break it, you pay a trillion dollars for it'—is applied to someone else.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

How Could the CIA Be So Stupid?

The CIA's Bumbling German Spy Was More Austin Powers and Less James Bond
Washington risked its relationship with Berlin by taking files from a low-level intelligence official dumb enough to volunteer his services to Moscow over email.

The Tragedies of Nineveh: The Destruction of History Recorded in the Bible, and more, and worse by the self-appointed Caliph of the so-called Islamic State

ISIS Is About to Destroy Biblical History in Iraq, 7 July 2014
Iraqi antiquities officials are calling on the Obama administration to save Nineveh and other sites around jihadist-occupied Mosul. But are drone strikes really the answer?

Also see this background for the role the Americans played in the destruction of Iraqi culture and history: 

What the Thunder Said:
Art and Culture after Shock and Awe
(Feel free to respond to the comments on this one, which drew more than 1500 readers yesterday...)

And these posts by others:

Nervana Mahmoud on the seductive ignorance preached by ISIS

Salama Moussa on the destruction of the Assyrian Christian community in Nineveh

Iran's PressTV on the destruction of Shia mosques in and around Mosul

Salama Moussa on the Agony of Christians in Nineveh

... In 2003 ... good Christian men from a far away continent sought to bring democracy to Iraq. Their pursuit began the suffering of over 2 Million Assyrians, Iraq’s Christians. Today Nineveh, for 2000 years the home of Arab Christianity, has none. A band of psychopaths may have delivered the final blow, but the weakening started earlier. Now these Christians must contend with the pain of exile and the deracination of their people due to cultural adjustments. Nor were the Americans the sole culprits in this. British recruitment of the Assyrians in the 1920s was a foolish policy, especially when the grand men in Westminster turned their heads at the massacres of the 1930s. ...

Nervana Mahmoud on ISIS and the Tsunami of Ignorance in the Muslim World

@csdickey: ISIS and the Muslim rejectionist exaltation of ignorance. An important essay by @Nervana_1 #Iraq #Caliphate 

"Now we have reached the deep end; the piecemeal approach to the region’s chronic crises will fail this time. States such as Iraq and Syria are struggling to exist; it is time for the oppressors, exploiters, and apologists to pause and change course. If they do not, the tsunami of ignorance will not just destroy their enemies - it will destroy them, too."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tea Party vs Fire Eaters: Links About the Links

My review of Michael Korda's book about Robert E. Lee -- -- has stirred up quite a storm.

If you look at the 400-or-so comments you'll see a lot of Americans are still fighting the Civil War, and many of those same people took particular offense at my passing remark that the Tea Partiers are spiritual descendants of the Fire Eaters in the 1850s.

In case you aren't familiar with the latter group, they were the extremist advocates of secession in defense of slavery. 

Do Tea Partiers own slaves? No. But they distrust and despise the Federal government, defy its authority, defend intolerance under the slogan "states' rights," run for national office with the purpose of undermining or dismantling national government, are willing to destroy a mainstream political party on the general principle of "rule or ruin," do all this in the name of the Constitution and, yep, every so often they call for secession. 

(By the way, not all the Fire Eaters owned slaves themselves, and many professed their belief that the South's peculiar institution was hugely beneficial to black people because it civilized and Christianized them. No bigots they...)

Following are some links that may be instructive:

For starters, The site is enthusiastically secessionist, praising not only those who would break away from the Federal government -- --  but those who would secede from various states: . This reflects, in part, the urban-rural divide in the United States, which also was central to the secessionist movement in the 1850s pitting the agrarian South against the industrial North.

Secessionism is such a common theme among Tea Partiers in Texas since Gov. Rick Perry floated that breakaway balloon in 2011 that The Huffington Post has published more than 30 stories on the subject:

My Daily Beast colleague Lloyd Green touched on the broader comparisons with considerable nuance in his piece on America's "long-simmering semi-civil civil war" last year:

And I have collected several pieces touching on Tea Party / Fire Eater issues on this blog's "Echoes of the Civil War" page:

But the best single essay I have read on the Tea Party's spiritual inheritance was written by Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books in 2013 under the headline "Back Door Secession": 

It's worth highlighting a few lines from the Wills piece:

"It is not much noticed that parts of the country act as if they had already seceded from the union. They do not recognize laws and Supreme Court decisions, or constitutional guarantees of free speech. ... 

"The people behind these efforts are imitating what the Confederate States did even before they formally seceded in 1861. Already they ran a parallel government, in which the laws of the national government were blatantly disregarded. They denied the right of abolitionists to voice their arguments, killing or riding out of town over three hundred of them in the years before the Civil War. They confiscated or destroyed abolitionist tracts sent to Southern states by United States mail. In the United States Congress, they instituted 'gag rules' that automatically tabled (excluded from discussion) anti-slavery petitions, in flagrant abuse of the First Amendment’s right of petition. ...

"Just as the Old South compelled the national party to shelter its extremism, today’s Tea Party leaders make Republicans toe their line. Most Republicans do not think laws invalid because the president is a foreign-born Muslim with a socialist agenda. But they do not renounce, or even criticize, their partners who think that. The rare Republican who dares criticize a Rush Limbaugh is quickly made to repent and apologize. John Boehner holds the nation hostage because the Tea Party holds him hostage. The problem with modern Republicans is not fanaticism in the few but cowardice in the many, who let their fellows live in virtual secession from laws they disagree with.

"Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent 'fraud.' They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a 'foreign-born Muslim' when they really mean 'a black man.' ... De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover. ...

"The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule. We see this in the Senate, where a Democratic majority is resisted at every turn by automatic recourses to the filibuster. ...

"It is difficult to conjecture what will happen if the modern virtual seceders do not get their way. Their anti-government rhetoric is reaching new intensity. Some would clearly rather ruin than be ruled by a “foreign-born Muslim.” What will the Republicans who are not fanatics, only cowards, do in that case?"


The photograph is of the famous Fire Eater Edmund Ruffin, who supposedly had the honor of firing the first shot on Fort Sumter at the beginning of the American Civil War, then shot himself at the end.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Reviews: The Robert E. Lee We Learn to Loathe; and Mike Hastings' Raucous, Scoopy Satire of the News(magazine) Biz

How I Learned to Hate Robert E. Lee
Michael Korda's superb new biography of the Confederate general, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee, chisels away at the myth. You may not like what's underneath.

Newsweek Takedown From Beyond the Grave: Michael Hastings's Fiction Tells the Truth
The late journalist left behind a novel satirizing his fellow Newsweek employees. But this delightful book has much more than mockery on its mind.