When WMDs were not found in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, though they had been a compelling reason for the US invasion, the story coming through unofficial channels was that Saddam had hastily moved them to Syria, to be stored there for him until he had beaten back the President Bush-led onslaught.
Although the sources were unofficial, they had proved themselves to be generally trustworthy. So many of those who heard the story believed it. But the sources could not be cited.
When the story was largely confirmed to “defense reporters” by [then] Lt. Gen. James Clapper* in 2003, it was still not widely accepted.
Is it more likely to be accepted now? If so, it may be too late to be useful to those who have defended the invasion of Iraq, but not too late to be interesting to historians.
Today, May 2, 2016, Front Page is re-running an article by Bill Gertz that was first published in the Washington Times on October 29, 2003:
Iraqi military officers destroyed or hid chemical, biological and nuclear weapons goods in the weeks before the war, the [US’s] top satellite spy director said yesterday.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said vehicle traffic photographed by U.S. spy satellites indicated that material and documents related to the arms programs were shipped to Syria.
Other goods probably were sent throughout Iraq in small quantities and documents probably were stashed in the homes of weapons scientists, Gen. Clapper told defense reporters at a breakfast.
Gen. Clapper said he is not surprised that U.S. and allied forces have not found weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq because “it’s a big place.”
“Those below the senior leadership saw what was coming, and I think they went to extraordinary lengths to dispose of the evidence,” he said.
Congress is investigating whether U.S. intelligence agencies overstated information indicating that Iraq had hidden its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has defended the intelligence agencies on prewar reports that the weapons were there.
Iraqi government officials “below the Saddam Hussein and the sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to dispose, destroy and disperse [them]”, he said.
So maybe it wasn’t Saddam himself who gave the order to transport the WMDs to Syria, but some authority did. (Was there an authority in Saddam’s Iraq other than Saddam himself?)
Gen. Clapper said he felt strongly that the satellite imagery of Iraq’s weapons facilities before the war was “accurate and balanced”. …
He also said the Iraqi government carried out operations after the fall of Baghdad in April to cover up the hidden weapons programs. The chaos following might have included both looting and “organized dispersal made to look like looting“, he said. “So by the time that we got to a lot of these facilities, that we had previously identified as suspect facilities, there wasn’t that much there to look at,” he said.
Valuable documents on Iraq’s weapons were destroyed or lost in the chaos, which included burning of major government ministries.
Saddam began dispersing his weapons and sending elements of his chemical, biological and nuclear programs out of the country in the weeks before the war, he said.
The dispersal included moving both weapons and equipment as well as documents. …
As for shipping weapons out of Iraq, he said, there is “no question” that people and material were taken to Syria. …
Convoys of vehicles, mostly commercial trucks, were spotted going into Syria from Iraq shortly before the start of the war March 19 and during the conflict, he said.
It may be a sign of instinctive wisdom that people are inclined to believe what they overhear more than what they are told.
*James Clapper is now Director of National Intelligence.
It is more than likely now that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee in the presidential election this November.
It is therefore very likely that the Republican platform will be what he wants it to be. And many Republicans, especially the go-along-to-get-along pillars of the Grand Old Party, most prominently its leaders in Congress, do not like what he wants. They repudiate him and his ideas. They say he is unfaithful to conservative principles and will alter long-standing Republican policies. But if their choice is between changing principles and policies to those of Trump or breaking the Party asunder by thwarting the will of the millions of voters he attracts, they will accept – are slowly coming round to accepting – Trump and his vision for America. (While probably still planning to knock it into a more familiar and acceptable shape.)
What do his conservative Republican critics object to in particular?
In an article hostile to Donald Trump, but accepting that he is almost certain to be the Republican nominee, Linda Chavez writes at Townhall:
Trump represents a repudiation of the Republican Party’s commitment to smaller government, free trade and an internationalist foreign policy.
Let’s consider these commitments one by one, and assess how far Trump is likely to change them, and how bad the change would be.
Smaller government is certainly a cherished principle of conservative Republicanism. We list it among our core conservative ideals, along with individual freedom, a market economy, and strong defense. Regretfully we admit that government is not likely ever again to be actually small, but does Trump not say anything that suggests he would reduce the hugely overblown bureaucracy oppressing Americans now? He does. He says he will lower taxes. Lower taxes must mean some shrinking of government. And that’s probably the most any conservative Republican could do.
It’s on free trade that we have a difference of opinion with Trump. He has indicated that he would match tariff barriers with tariff barriers. We think that’s counter-productive. But it’s not enough to induce us to call Trump a wrecker of American prosperity. In fact, most of his economic thinking is likely to increase American prosperity very considerably. He would stop foreign aid unless America got something back for it. He would make those countries that want American military protection contribute to the cost of it. And he has plans for job creation which we’re inclined to trust because, as an extremely successful businessman, he has done it.
As for the Republican “internationalist foreign policy” – we’re coming to that.
Here are some points from Charles Krauthammer’s syndicated column on Trump’s recent foreign policy speech. Much as we respect Charles Krauthammer, on this rare occasion we disagree with him.
On the Republican side … foreign policy has been the subject of furious debate. To which Donald Trump has contributed significantly, much of it off-the-cuff, contradictory and confused. Hence his foreign policy speech on Wednesday. It was meant to make him appear consistent, serious and presidential. …
Its major theme, announced right at the top [was]: America First. Classically populist and invariably popular, it is nonetheless quite fraught. On the one hand, it can be meaningless — isn’t every president trying to advance American interests? …
On the other hand, America First does have a history. In 1940, when Britain was fighting for its life and Churchill was begging for U.S. help, it was the name of the group most virulently opposed to U.S. intervention. It disbanded — totally discredited — four days after Pearl Harbor. …
The irony is … it is the underlying theme of [Obama’s] foreign policy — which Trump constantly denounces as a series of disasters. Obama, like Trump, is animated by the view that we are overextended and overinvested abroad. …
Both the left and right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.
That’s nicely put! Our disagreements will come below.
For Obama, we are morally unworthy to act as world hegemon. Our hands are not clean. He’s gone abroad confessing our various sins — everything from the Iranian coup of 1953 to our unkind treatment of Castro’s Cuba to the ultimate blot, Hiroshima, a penitential visit to which Obama is currently considering.
Trump would be rightly appalled by such a self-indicting trip. His foreign policy stems from a proud nationalism that believes that these recalcitrant tribes and nations are unworthy of American expenditures of blood and treasure.
At least Krauthammer calls it “a proud nationalism”. Linda Chavez, in her article, likens Trump’s nationalism to disreputable [?] European nationalist groups which are better described as tribal. She seems to forget that the United States has for centuries been a melting-pot, and the American nation has been – until very recently under Obama – the least tribal in the world. And Trump’s “nationalism” is better described as patriotism. That’s what an American’s “proud nationalism” really is.
This has been the underlying view of conservative isolationism … It is not without its attractions. Trump’s version, however, is inconsistent and often contradictory. After all, he pledged to bring stability to the Middle East. How do you do that without presence, risk and expenditures (financial and military)? He attacked Obama for letting Iran become a “great power.” But doesn’t resisting that automatically imply engagement?
More incoherent still is Trump’s insistence on being unpredictable. An asset perhaps in real estate deals, but in a Hobbesian world American allies rely on American consistency, often as a matter of life or death. Yet Trump excoriated the Obama-Clinton foreign policy for losing the trust of our allies precisely because of its capriciousness. The tilt toward Iran. The red line in Syria. Canceling the Eastern European missile defense. Abandoning Hosni Mubarak.
Trump’s scripted, telepromptered speech was intended to finally clarify his foreign policy. It produced instead a jumble. The basic principle seems to be this: Continue the inexorable Obama-Clinton retreat, though for reasons of national self-interest, rather than of national self-doubt. And except when, with studied inconsistency, he decides otherwise.
Is Trump’s patriotism a “version of isolationism”? Is it “inconsistent and often contradictory”? By “unpredictable” did he mean what Krauthammer is taking his words to mean?
What did Trump actually say?
We quote his speech in part (find all of it here):
America first will be the major and overriding theme of my administration. But to chart our path forward, we must first briefly take a look back. We have a lot to be proud of.
In the 1940s we saved the world. The greatest generation beat back the Nazis and Japanese imperialists. Then we saved the world again. This time, from totalitarianism and communism. The Cold War lasted for decades but, guess what, we won and we won big. …
Does he regret those American involvements? Not at all. He is proud of them.
Unfortunately, after the Cold War our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. … We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper. Very bad. It all began with a dangerous idea that we could make western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a western democracy.
With that we could not agree more strongly. It is not possible to turn states like Iraq and Afghanistan – Arab states, Islamic states – into Western style democracies.
And as for his comment on Obama’s actions – they have been “unpredictable” in that they make no logical sense. Krauthammer chooses them as examples of unpredictability to condemn Trump’s recommendation of it, when in fact Trump means something entirely different – as we shall see.
We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans and just killed be lives, lives, lives wasted. Horribly wasted. Many trillions of dollars were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill that void much to their really unjust enrichment.
They have benefited so much, so sadly, for us. Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision. No purpose. No direction. No strategy.
Trump goes on to “identify weaknesses in our foreign policy” and to say how he would fix them. Among them (they are worth reading in full) is this:
We’ve had a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies, something that we’ve never seen before in the history of our country. He negotiated a disastrous deal with Iran, and then we watched them ignore its terms even before the ink was dry. Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, cannot be allowed. Remember that, cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. And under a Trump administration, will never, ever be allowed to have that nuclear weapon …
At the end of his analysis and outline of his intentions he promises:
This will all change when I become president.
To our friends and allies, I say America is going to be strong again. America is going to be reliable again. It’s going to be a great and reliable ally again. It’s going to be a friend again. We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy based upon American interests and the shared interests of our allies. …
Does that sound isolationist?
We need a long-term plan to halt the spread and reach of radical Islam.Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States and indeed the world. Events may require the use of military force, but it’s also a philosophical struggle, like our long struggle in the Cold War.
Absolutely right! And no other politician, as far as we can recall, has said it before.
He goes on to speak of “working very closely with our allies in the Muslim world”, which is one of the few points on which we disagree. There can be no such thing as an American ally in the Muslim world, precisely because “the philosophical struggle” prohibits it. Islam is ideologically opposed to the West.
… And then there’s ISIS. I have a simple message for them. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must as a nation be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable. We tell everything. We’re sending troops. We tell them. We’re sending something else. We have a news conference. We have to be unpredictable. And we have to be unpredictable starting now. But they’re going to be gone. ISIS will be gone if I’m elected president. And they’ll be gone quickly. They will be gone very, very quickly.
So that is what Trump means by “unpredicatble”. A commander-in-chief does not announce to his country’s enemy just when its army will stop fighting and when he will withdraw his troops – as Obama has done. It is a military absurdity!
He goes on to say “we have to rebuild our military and our economy”.
The Russians and Chinese have rapidly expanded their military capability, but look at what’s happened to us. Our nuclear weapons arsenal, our ultimate deterrent, has been allowed to atrophy and is desperately in need of modernization and renewal. And it has to happen immediately. Our active duty armed forces have shrunk from 2 million in 1991 to about 1.3 million today. The Navy has shrunk from over 500 ships to 272 ships during this same period of time. The Air Force is about one-third smaller than 1991. Pilots flying B-52s in combat missions today. These planes are older than virtually everybody in this room.
And what are we doing about this? President Obama has proposed a 2017 defense budget that in real dollars, cuts nearly 25 percent from what we were spending in 2011. Our military is depleted and we’re asking our generals and military leaders to worry about global warming.
We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest, single investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind. Our military dominance must be unquestioned, and I mean unquestioned, by anybody and everybody.
Does that sound “isolationist”?
But we will look for savings and spend our money wisely. In this time of mounting debt, right now we have so much debt that nobody even knows how to address the problem. But I do. No one dollar can be wasted. Not one single dollar can we waste. We’re also going to have to change our trade, immigration and economic policies to make our economy strong again. And to put Americans first again. …
But, he says …
I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries.
Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.
Fixing our relations with China is another important step — and really toward creating an even more prosperous period of time. China respects strength and by letting them take advantage of us economically, which they are doing like never before, we have lost all of their respect.
We have a massive trade deficit with China, a deficit that we have to find a way quickly, and I mean quickly, to balance. A strong and smart America is an America that will find a better friend in China, better than we have right now. Look at what China is doing in the South China Sea. They’re not supposed to be doing it. …
To be militarily strong again, and at the same time try to negotiate better relations with an aggressive Russia and China – is that “contradictory” or is it speaking softly while carrying a big stick?
I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must only fight to win. …
Our power will be used if others do not play by the rules. In other words, if they do not treat us fairly. Our friends and enemies must know that if I draw a line in the sand, I will enforce that line in the sand. Believe me. …
My goal is to establish a foreign policy that will endure for several generations. That’s why I also look and have to look for talented experts with approaches and practical ideas … We have to look to new people because many of the old people frankly don’t know what they’re doing …
No country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first. Both our friends and our enemies put their countries above ours and we, while being fair to them, must start doing the same. We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions … And under my administration, we will never enter America into any agreement that reduces our ability to control our own affairs. …
I will view as president the world through the clear lens of American interests. I will be America’s greatest defender and most loyal champion. …
The world is most peaceful and most prosperous when America is strongest. America will continue and continue forever to play the role of peacemaker. We will always help save lives and indeed humanity itself, but to play the role, we must make America strong again. … We have to and we will make America great again.
Where are the alleged “inconsistencies”? Where is the “jumble”. (We urge doubters to read the whole speech and tell us if they find any inconsistencies or contradictions that we have overlooked.)
The speech as a whole could be taken as a manifesto of the new Republicanism – what the Republican Party will stand for under the leadership of Donald Trump. He will take the Party forward, but not in the direction it has long wanted to go. It wanted to go, but did not move. He will make both good and bad decisions, as leaders generally do. But he will make them in the interests of a strong and prosperous America, and that is an America that is good for the world.
The media – Left and Right – declare Donald Trump to be hugely unpopular. Pollsters, asking some unknown question, announce that overwhelming majorities of the American public don’t like Trump and would not vote for him.
Isn’t it then passing strange that tens of thousands of voters fill vast stadiums to overflowing to hear this unpopular man speak – and cheer him to the rafters?
The New York Post reports:
Donald Trump will likely wind up winning the most primary votes of any GOP presidential candidate in modern history …
After convincing victories in Tuesday’s primaries in five East Coast states, Trump has roughly 10.1 million votes, about 200,000 more than Mitt Romney got during the entire 2012 primary campaign.
He won every congressional district in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, all but six in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island.
And with the primaries ahead — including in populous states such as California, New Jersey and Indiana — [he] should easily break the modern record of 10.8 million held by George W. Bush in 2000 …
But hardly anyone likes him? Very few voters will vote for him in the general election? Most people would rather have, as president of the United States, a physically weak, infamously crooked, deeply dishonest old woman who lived in the White House in the 1990s and took its furnishings and valuables away with her when she had to leave it? And who inspires close to zero enthusiasm? (See here, here, here, here and here.) And whose Party is shrinking? Even as the GOP is growing according to Trump (though the Washington Post denies it).
The Democrats are putting out that the only Republican candidate they fear could beat their corrupt, old, sick candidate is a sentimental bore “awaiting a signal from God” (name of Kasich) who’s won only the state he is governor of. Seriously? How many do they think they’re fooling?
How long will old guard Republicans, the Democratic Party and the media be able to carry on with the fiction that the nasty, corrupt, sick old woman is likely to win the presidency in a race against the powerful, successful, energetic Donald Trump for whom a very large part of the nation is loudly cheering?
We quote the whole article:
If Mitt Romney had given the speech that Donald Trump did today, and if he had followed its strategy during the third presidential debate with Obama on foreign policy, he would have won the 2012 election.
Trump’s themes were straightforward: Make America strong again, put America’s interests first. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy has strengthened our enemies, disparaged our allies, and earned us global disrespect. It has led to disasters that include the rise of ISIS and the destabilization of the Middle East. The theme of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry years has been the weakening of America – point Trump made with maximum bite: “If President Obama’s goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.” And of course the Jeremiah Wright-Billy-Ayers-radical-Barack Obama did set out deliberately to do just that.
Obama’s agenda is American weakness, which leads to losing. Trump’s agenda: we must start winning. There were specifics.
First a rejection of the neo-conservative dream of democratizing the world, and in its place old-fashioned conservatism: limited foreign policy goals and stability, as the framework of peace: “We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.”
And second, a rejection of liberal internationalism, and a defense of the nation state, in particular this nation state with its unique political culture: “Under a Trump Administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of foreign countries. I will view the world through the clear lens of American interests. I will be America’s greatest defender and most loyal champion. We will not apologize for becoming successful again, but will instead embrace the unique heritage that makes us who we are.”
And the (accurate) justification for this nationalism: “The world is most peaceful, and most prosperous, when America is strongest.”
These were reassuring clarifications by Trump about his foreign policy views and should be a step towards satisfying his conservative critics although obviously a speech can also be only that – words to pacify critics. We’ll have to wait and see how he elaborates it further in response to specific events. But this was a very good beginning.
Our only point of criticism: Mitt Romney could not possibly have given such a speech, because Mitt Romney – as far as the American public knows – did not have these ideas.
Trump is saying now what has needed to be said for sixteen years. May he be given the opportunity to put the ideas into practice!
The much respected magazine, National Geographic, carries in its latest issue an article on atheism. It is titled: The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion.
The author is Gabe Bullard. He writes:
There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.
But nones [those who are affiliated with none of the religions] aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world — sub-Saharan Africa in particular — religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)
Yes. And devout Muslims are pouring into Europe by the million: an extraordinary event that will entirely change the character of Europe, but which Gabe Bullard does not seem to have noticed.
And even in the secularizing West, the rash of “religious freedom bills” — which essentially decriminalize discrimination — are the latest front in a faith-tinged culture war in the United States that shows no signs of abetting anytime soon.
Within the ranks of the unaffiliated, divisions run deep. Some are avowed atheists. Others are agnostic. And many more simply don’t care to state a preference. Organized around skepticism toward organizations and united by a common belief that they do not believe, nones as a group are just as internally complex as many religions. And as with religions, these internal contradictions could keep new followers away.
These are not “divisions”. There never was a solid phalanx of non-believers that could split apart. These are different opinions. That is all.
“Keep followers away”? “Followers” who want a cut-and-dried non-believing ideology that they can accept holus-bolus as the religious accept the doctrines of their faiths? Absurd!
If the world is at a religious precipice, then we’ve been moving slowly toward it for decades. Fifty years ago, Time [magazine] asked in a famous headline, “Is God Dead?” The magazine wondered whether religion was relevant to modern life in the post-atomic age when communism was spreading and science was explaining more about our natural world than ever before.
We’re still asking the same question. But the response isn’t limited to yes or no. A chunk of the population born after the article was printed may respond to the provocative question with, “God who?” In Europe and North America, the unaffiliated tend to be several years younger than the population average. And 11 percent of Americans born after 1970 were raised in secular homes.
Scientific advancement isn’t just making people question God, it’s also connecting those who question. It’s easy to find atheist and agnostic discussion groups online, even if you come from a religious family or community. And anyone who wants the companionship that might otherwise come from church can attend a secular Sunday Assembly or one of a plethora of Meetups for humanists, atheists, agnostics, or skeptics.
The groups behind the web forums and meetings do more than give skeptics witty rejoinders for religious relatives who pressure them to go to church — they let budding agnostics know they aren’t alone.
But it’s not easy to unite people around not believing in something.
It’s also totally unnecessary.
“Organizing atheists is like herding cats,” says Stephanie Guttormson, the operations director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, which is merging with the Center for Inquiry. “But lots of cats have found their way into the ‘meowry’.”
Guttormson says the goal of her group is to organize itself out of existence. They want to normalize atheism to a point where it’s so common that atheists no longer need a group to tell them it’s okay not to believe, or to defend their morals in the face of religious lawmakers.
But it’s not there yet.
Why does anyone need a group to tell them that it’s okay not to believe in something they don’t believe in? But we accept that there are such people, and so agree that the group should “organize itself out of existence”.
The article then goes on to discuss who the atheists are in terms of race (fewer blacks than whites, it says), the sexes (fewer women than men, and the predominance of white men a manifestation of “privilege”).
Of course no one can possibly count the atheists of the world. We get Third World commenters on our Facebook page who tell us that they have to keep their atheism secret for fear of persecution and even death.
Gabe Bullard calls the distribution he alleges a “problem” of “diversity”. His article is right up to date with its fashionable lingo.
To do him justice, he does quote one atheist – Mandisa Thomas, a black woman – saying that “the demographics of nones don’t accurately reflect the number and diversity of nonbelievers; it just shows who is comfortable enough to say they don’t believe out loud.” And: “There are many more people of color, there are many more women who identify as atheist.” And: “There are many people who attend church who are still atheists.”
The cheeriest part of his article is this:
Compared to past campaign seasons, religion is taking a backseat in this year’s U.S. presidential election. Donald Trump is not outwardly religious (and his attraction of evangelical voters has raised questions about the longevity and the motives of the religious right).
But then he goes on:
Hillary Clinton has said “advertising about faith doesn’t come naturally to me”. And Bernie Sanders is “not actively involved” in a religion. … Aside from Ted Cruz, the leading candidates just aren’t up for talking about religion.
Apparently he does not recognize that Leftism is a religion. It is THE secular religion. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both devotees of it. Bernie Sanders could be fairly called a high priest of it. They are as piously Leftist as Ted Cruz is Dominionist.
Bullard ends on a jocular note:
For all the work secular groups do to promote acceptance of nonbelievers, perhaps nothing will be as effective as apathy plus time. As the secular millennials grow up and have children of their own, the only Sunday morning tradition they may pass down is one everyone in the world can agree on: brunch.
We hope so.
What have atheists said about the article?
Atheist Jerry Coyne writes at his website:
National Geographic publishes article on atheism and secularism, but descends into Authoritarian Leftism and slanders against Harris and Dawkins
Well, it’s time to cancel your subscription to National Geographic — if you still have one. For a while it’s been turning into a religiously-infused tabloid rather than the educational nature/anthropology magazine that I loved of yore. In several posts I’ve documented its increasing tendency to coddle religion … and it’s only going to get worse since the magazine was taken over by Rupert Murdoch.
Now the magazine has hit its lowest point yet, polevaulting the shark in a new piece by journalist Gabe Bullard, The World’s Newest Religion: No Religion. While starting off as a decent bit of reportage about the rise of nonbelief and secularism, it suddenly descends into slander and clickbait, highlighting the “privilege” of nonbelief, the dominance of atheism by white males, and accusations that the “leaders” of atheism (whom they name) are misogynists.
And there is a comment made at Patheos which we like, although we very seldom agree with its Leftist atheists on anything except atheism itself.
The comment is made by Terry Firma. (He goes on, however, to say what he likes about the National Geographic article.)
I wonder if any serious major publication would refer to people who don’t play sports as athletes, but that is essentially what NatGeo is doing here. Atheism is no more a religion than off is a TV channel, than being bald is a hairstyle, and than not-collecting-stamps is a hobby. People who assert that atheism is a religion either haven’t given it much thought or are trying to get a rise out of atheists.
It is patently absurd to apologize for doing something you did not do. Obama likes to go round the world apologizing for what past American governments did. Is he about to apologize to the present Japanese government for the bombs President Truman decided to drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? And ought they to be apologized for?
Victor Davis Hanson writes at Townhall:
The dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 remains the only wartime use of nuclear weapons in history.
No one knows exactly how many Japanese citizens were killed by the two American bombs. A macabre guess is around 140,000. The atomic attacks finally shocked Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese militarists into surrendering.
John Kerry recently visited Hiroshima. He became the first Secretary of State to do so – purportedly as a precursor to a planned visit next month by President Obama, who is rumored to be considering an apology to Japan for America’s dropping of the bombs 71 years ago.
The horrific bombings are inexplicable without examining the context in which they occurred.
In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill insisted on the unconditional surrender of Axis aggressors. The bomb was originally envisioned as a way to force the Axis leader, Nazi Germany, to cease fighting. But the Third Reich had already collapsed by July 1945 when the bomb was ready for use, leaving Imperial Japan as the sole surviving Axis target. Japan had just demonstrated with its nihilistic defense of Okinawa – where more than 12,000 Americans died and more than 50,000 were wounded, along with perhaps 200,000 Japanese military and civilian casualties – that it could make the Americans pay so high a price for victory that they might negotiate an armistice rather than demand surrender. Tens of thousands of Americans had already died in taking the Pacific islands as a way to get close enough to bomb Japan. On March 9-10, 1945, B-29 bombers dropped an estimated 1,665 tons of napalm on Tokyo, causing at least as many deaths as later at Hiroshima.
Over the next three months, American attacks leveled huge swaths of urban Japan. U.S. planes dropped about 60 million leaflets on Japanese cities, telling citizens to evacuate and to call upon their leaders to cease the war.
Japan still refused to surrender and upped its resistance with thousands of Kamikaze airstrikes. By the time of the atomic bombings, the U.S. Air Force was planning to transfer from Europe much of the idle British and American bombing fleet to join the B-29s in the Pacific.
Perhaps 5,000 Allied bombers would have saturated Japan with napalm. The atomic bombings prevented such a nightmarish incendiary storm.
The bombs also cut short plans for an invasion of Japan — an operation that might well have cost 1 million Allied lives, and at least three to four times that number of well-prepared, well-supplied Japanese defenders.
There were also some 2 million Japanese soldiers fighting throughout the Pacific, China and Burma — and hundreds of thousands of Allied prisoners and Asian civilians being held in Japanese prisoner of war and slave labor camps. Thousands of civilians were dying every day at the hands of Japanese barbarism. The bombs stopped that carnage as well.
The Soviet Union, which signed a non-aggression pact with Japan in 1941, had opportunistically attacked Japan on the very day of the Nagasaki bombing.
By cutting short the Soviet invasion, the bombings saved not only millions more lives, but kept the Soviets out of postwar Japan, which otherwise might have experienced a catastrophe similar to the subsequent Korean War.
World War II was the most deadly event in human history. Some 60 million people perished in the six years between Germany’s surprise invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and the official Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. No natural disaster – neither the flu pandemic of 1918 nor even the 14th-century bubonic plague that killed nearly two-thirds of Europe’s population – came close to the death toll of World War II. Perhaps 80 percent of the dead were civilians, mostly Russians and Chinese who died at the hands of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Both aggressors deliberately executed and starved to death millions of innocents.
World War II was also one of the few wars in history in which the losers, Japan and Germany, lost far fewer lives than did the winners. There were roughly five times as many deaths on the Allied side, both military and civilian, as on the Axis side.
It is fine for Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama to honor the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. But in a historical and moral sense, any such commemoration must be offered in the context of Japanese and German aggression.
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan started the respective European and Pacific theaters of World War II with surprise attacks on neutral nations. Their uniquely barbaric war-making led to the deaths of some 50 million Allied soldiers, civilians and neutrals – a toll more than 500 times as high as that of Hiroshima.
This spring we should also remember those 50 million – and who was responsible for their deaths.
The world owes America gratitude for winning two world wars – and the Cold War. And for so much more that a book as long as the Obamacare act or the IRS’s tax rules could not contain all the reasons.
No controversies on our Facebook page are as long and passionate as those concerning health care. The most passionate commenters are those who want a nation-wide central government-run health service. They say that all other “civilized countries” have it and the US is “behind” them in not having it.
But the US does have such a thing – for military veterans.
Two years ago the service was revealed to be scandalously badly managed. Reforms were promised. Is it now a model of what a government-run health service should be?
This is from Investor’s Business Daily:
In the summer of 2014, President Obama promised swift changes to resolve chronic delays and cover-ups at the Veterans Health Administration. Today, veterans are still waiting months to see doctors and the VHA is still doctoring wait times, an audit finds.
The Government Accountability Office tracked 180 newly enrolled veterans to see how quickly they could get in to see a doctor. The results are disturbing.
It found that 120 of these vets waited from 22 to 71 days to see a primary care doctor. Worse, 60 of these vets still hadn’t gotten in to see anyone, and in almost half these cases it was because the VHA didn’t bother to schedule them. Mind you, these are primary care doctors, the first step in getting whatever care these vets need.
The GAO also found that the VHA systematically tries to mask the length of these delays by starting the delay clock from the date vets say they’d like to be seen, instead of when they call to schedule an appointment.
What’s more, “ongoing scheduling errors, such as incorrectly revising preferred dates when rescheduling appointments” — which is to say, VHA incompetence — also served to understate the amount of time veterans waited to see a doctor, the GAO says.
This is the same VHA that was supposed to have been fixed two years ago, in the wake of revelations about chronic delays that in some cases led to veteran deaths, as well as findings that VHA officials had tried to cover up these problems.
In August 2014, Congress overwhelmingly passed a reform bill providing the VHA with $16 billion in extra money. When he signed the bill, Obama called the scandal “outrageous” and promised that his administration was “moving ahead with urgent reforms, including stronger management and leadership and oversight, and we’re instituting a critical culture of accountability.” Obama said the new funds would be used to “hire more doctors and more nurses and staff more clinics”. He also promised that vets would gain access to private providers outside the VHA through a new “Veterans choice card”.
Since then, Obama has kept none of those promises.
The VHA remains largely unreformed, and almost no one involved in the scandal was fired. The Justice Department couldn’t even bring itself to file charges against two VHA officials who allegedly defrauded the agency of $400,000. The VHA only demoted them.
Last year, an Associated Press investigation found that “the number of patients facing long waits at VHA facilities has not dropped at all” and the number of vets waiting more than 90 days to get an appointment “has nearly doubled”.
Whistleblowers who alerted the public to the original VHA scandal say that wait times are still being manipulated.
“I can promise you that it is still going on at facilities across this country,” one source told USA Today. “I mean, it’s sad because veterans are still getting poor care.”
The “choice card” Obama touted has turned out to be a cruel joke, as the VHA made it difficult for vets to use it in a timely manner, and because the VHA didn’t pay some private doctors and hospitals who took the card. One survey found the VA owed Florida hospitals more than $100 million in unpaid claims, for example.
Obama should be held accountable for his abject failure to fix the VHA as promised. But of course he won’t be, since no one ever holds Obama accountable for anything.
And because everything government runs, it runs badly.
In the meantime, however, the ongoing scandal at the VA should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks socialized medicine is a good idea. The VHA is a showcase of what it’s like when the government runs health care.
Almost all the advocates of “free” – ie. tax funded – medical treatment for everybody, insist that it is a “right”, equal to the “unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” proclaimed in The Declaration of Independence.
But Walter Williams points out that no one can have a right that puts an obligation on someone else:
Here is what presidential aspirant Sen. Bernie Sanders said: “I believe that health care is a right of all people.” President Barack Obama declared that health care “should be a right for every American”. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Every person has a right to adequate health care.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his January 1944 message to Congress, called for “the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health”. And it is not just a health care right that people claim. There are rights to decent housing, good food and a decent job, and for senior citizens, there’s a right to prescription drugs. In a free and moral society, do people have these rights? Let’s look at it.
In the standard historical usage of the term, a “right” is something that exists simultaneously among people. As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference.
Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. Again, that right imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference. Contrast those rights to free speech and travel with the supposed rights to medical care and decent housing. Those supposed rights do impose obligations upon others. … If one does not have money to pay for a medical service or decent housing and the government provides it, where do you think the government gets the money? …
Congress does not have any resources of its very own, [so] the only way for Congress to give one American something is to first take it from some other American. In other words, if one person has a right to something he did not earn, it requires another person’s not having a right to something he did earn.
Let’s apply this bogus concept of rights to my right to speak and travel freely. Doing so, in the case of my right to free speech, it might impose obligations on others to supply me with an auditorium, microphone and audience. My right to travel freely might require that others provide me with resources to purchase airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. If I were to demand that others make sacrifices so that I can exercise my free speech and travel rights, I suspect that most Americans would say, “Williams, yes, you have rights to free speech and traveling freely, but I’m not obligated to pay for them!”
As human beings, we all have certain natural rights. Of the rights we possess, we have a right to delegate them to government. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Because we possess that right, we can delegate it to government. By contrast, I do not have a right to take one person’s earnings to give to another. Because I have no such right, I cannot delegate it to government.
If I did take your earnings to provide medical services for another, it would rightfully be described and condemned as an act of theft. When government does the same, it’s still theft, albeit legalized theft. …
The bottom line is medical care, housing and decent jobs are not rights at all … they are wishes.
If government is to be a father-like Provider, and everyone who lives in the country it governs is to be its child-like Dependent, that government will need to be totally trustworthy. It will care unstintingly – and equally – for every single one of those whom it feeds, houses, educates and cures. It will never abuse its power by withholding food, shelter, schooling, medical care from any of its charges, or by giving better food, housing, schooling, doctoring to some of them. Nothing less than perfect uniformity will do.
How will it be done? How will all Americans be brought to live in docile uniformity and sweet harmony under the authority of a loving government?
None can say. But they can wish, can’t they? They can dream.
Call it Bernie’s Dream.
Today, Monday, April 18, 2016, the Boston marathon is being run.
Recalling the bombings at the April 19, 2013 marathon in the way the atrocity needs to be recalled, here’s Sam Westrop writing at Breitbart:
As Boston prepares for the 2016 marathon, memorials have been organized across the city. Three years later, however, have the authorities really learned anything from the horrors of the bombings?
Judging by the support for Muslim Brotherhood institutions in Massachusetts offered by politicians, law enforcement, and journalists, it would seem not.
Three years ago, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lay wounded, hiding from police in the city of Watertown, a leafy suburb of Boston. On April 15, he and his brother, Tamerlan, had bombed the Boston marathon, murdering three and injuring hundreds. Over the next few days, Dzhokhar would kill MIT police officer Sean Collier, take a hostage, wound police officers in a firefight, and run over his dying brother.
By April 19, the injured Dzhokhar awaited his inevitable capture, bleeding in a Watertown backyard. As law enforcement closed in, Dzhokhar scribbled text on the walls of the boat where he hid.
For a terrorist who had just murdered in the name of Islam, some might expect his parting message to be a litany of Quranic verse. But the writings on the wall of the Watertown boat mostly comprised quotes from Islamist political tracts, written by the Islamist luminaries of the 20th century – Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami ideologues such as Sayid Qutb, Hassan Al Banna, Fathi Yakan, and Abul A’la Maududi.
Dzhokhar’s justification for his killings came from the writings of Islamist movements who today control American Islam – Islamist groups who have, on the last few decades, found favor with America’s political and media elite.
Radical mosques such as the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) remain a magnet for politicians, city officials, and journalists who want to express their love of American Muslims. Most recently, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans spoke at the mosque,declaring: “We’re all Muslims deep down. We all yearn for peace.”
This same mosque was founded by a prominent Al Qaeda operative; its trustees have included the included the Hitler-supporting spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; and, just in October, the mosque hosted an event with two preachers who advocate that Muslim men can acquire sex slaves and should be allowed to beat their wives.
Over the past few decades, in fact, twelve congregants, supporters, staff and donors of the ISB have been imprisoned, deported, killed or are on the run – all in relation to terrorist activity. This list includes the Boston bombers, Al Qaeda operatives Tarek Mehanna and Aafia Siddqui; Lashkar-i-Taiba fundraiser Hafiz Masood; and the prominent Islamic State official, Ahmad Abousamra.
Most importantly, the ISB teaches the very texts that Dzhokhar scribbled across the Watertown boat. These teachings are of a Muslim Brotherhood educational program known as “Tarbiya”. The ideological link could not be clearer. Dzhokhar left written confirmation — blood and ink that explained his actions.
The authorities, however, refuse to consider what terrorists themselves proclaim. Because to accept that Islamist ideology lead to Islamist violence would be to acknowledge that the self-proclaimed guardians of American Islam pose a serious threat to the security of the United States. It would be to acknowledge that America has fundamentally misunderstood Islam itself.
Rather than tackle radical Islamism, however, law enforcement and politicians instead attend peace rallies, interfaith dialogue dinners, and other feel-good events with the Islamists themselves, who are adept at expressing peace and love by day and inciting hatred against Jews and the West at night.
In 2015, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz further illustrated this government delusion when, astoundingly, she said of the Boston bombings: “There was nothing about this crime that was Islam associated.”
When pressed on the Tsarnaev’s Islamic invocations, Ortiz went so far as to define herself what makes a real Muslim, stating that the Tsarnaev’s ideology was “a skewed view of the religion of Islam. That is not what Islam is all about”.
Government officials and Islamists currently share something in common: they both believe they have the better right to define “true Islam” than ordinary Muslims themselves.
So three years since the marathon bombings, Massachusetts officials have not just failed to understand the threat; they refuse to accept that ideology plays any part at all.
The distinct refusal to acknowledge the ideological underpinning is rarely found elsewhere. Can you imagine a government official responding to neo-Nazi violence by attending a brunch with the Ku Klux Klan? …
Such is the strength of the “Islam is Peace” mantra, that, for politicians and law enforcement, the radicalization process is not hard to understand, but it does seem difficult to accept. Unless law enforcement and government start to examine and counteract the ideological Islamist network that has imposed its rule over much of American Islam, there will only be more bombings, more shootings, and more stabbings.
When will they learn?
Questions: Why is the Middle East in flames? Why are rivers of people flooding from the Third World into Europe? Why are millions hungering in squalid refugee camps? Why are jihadis torturing, beheading, burning, burying, drowning men and women and children and making taunting videos of themselves doing it for all the world to see? Why are thousands of women enslaved? Why are young boys being sent to their deaths in suicide vests? Why has Russia annexed a part of the Ukraine? Why has the tyrannical Iranian regime been able to free itself from sanctions and develop nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them to the West? Why has China been able to extend it power with militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea?
Answer: Because Americans elected a know-nothing doctrinaire greenhorn to be its president and the leader of the free world.
Daniel Greenfield writes at Front Page:
Multiple Secretaries of Defense are complaining about micromanagement from the White House and in particular, the National Security Council. Which means [Susan] Rice.
“It was the operational micromanagement that drove me nuts, of White House and National Security Council staffers calling senior commanders out in the field and asking them questions, of second-guessing commanders,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Bret Baier in a new Fox News special called Rising Threats, Shrinking Military.
Gates’ successor, Leon Panetta, took office in July 2011 and told Baier he had similar concerns with the Obama administration, despite being a long-time Democrat who served as a California congressman for many years and as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.
Panetta complained that the president’s national security council staff had gotten so large and overbearing in recent years, creating massive inefficiency with creating foreign and defense policy.
Chuck Hagel, who replaced Panetta in February 2013, agreed that the size and role of the White House staff during the Obama presidency made it difficult to accomplish tasks and be productive.
“There were always too many meetings and always too many people in the room and too many people talking,” Hagel described. “Especially young, smart 35-year-old PhDs love to talk because that’s the way you let everybody know how smart you are. So there were a lot of reasons those meetings descended into … nonsense and the hard time we had making a decision.”
Hagel focused especially on the inexperience of the president himself and his staff, describing how Obama is “one of the youngest presidents we’ve ever had, one of the most inexperienced presidents we’ve ever had. He has a staff around him that’s very inexperienced. I don’t think there’s one veteran on his senior staff at the White House. I don’t believe there’s one business person. I don’t believe there’s one person who’s ever run anything. Other than Vice President Biden, none of them have ever been elected to anything.”
Hagel added that he is not sure if Obama or his staff ever understood “the tremendous responsibility the United States has … to lead”.
Gates said he is concerned the president is suspicious of the military. He also said Obama was told by White House personnel during the debate over the war in Afghanistan that the Pentagon was trying to “box him in”, “trap him”, and “bully him”, which Gates said was never true.
“But there were clearly a number of people at the White House who believed that,” Gates said.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice imposed a gag order on military leaders over the disputed South China Sea in the weeks running up to the last week’s high-level nuclear summit, according to two defense officials who asked for anonymity to discuss policy deliberations. China’s president, Xi Jinping, attended the summit, held in Washington, and met privately with President Obama. …
The NSC dictum has had a “chilling effect” within the Pentagon that discouraged leaders from talking publicly about the South China Sea at all, even beyond the presidential summit, according to a second defense official familiar with operational planning.
So tensions are heating up. Rice is showing overt hostility to the military. And that’s the attitude emanating from the White House.
Obama has gone through multiple SODs and had bad relations with every single one of them. Including the current one [Ashton Carter] who was targeted by hit pieces from the WH, and whose authority over Gitmo Obama tried to ask Congress to usurp so he could free more terrorists faster. The facts are just impossible to ignore.
Obama made no secret of his contempt for America’s military. For America’s might. For America.
It was so well known that Scandinavians who shared his opinions gave him a Peace Prize when he’d only just begun to warm the desk chair in the Oval Office.
Now the world desperately needs an American leader who will make America great again.
There are different Americas. The great America – the America viewed through European eyes with a mixture of snobbish patronizing indulgence and sheer envy is …
It is what Trump is. He could be said to personify it. His characteristics are those of great America: big, extroverted, ambitious, successful, rich, energetic, restless, generous, proud, adaptable, happy – all admirable qualities. Also … candid to the point of seeming naive, and – okay – boastful, not highly articulate in that he spins no fine phrases, and (many snort) “vulgar”. His candor is not naive; it would lay him open to being taken advantage of had he not been well schooled in the hard-bargaining world of American and international business. His boasting is fully justified: he is a winner. He says what needs to be said, as his tens of thousands of fans appreciate. As for vulgarity – it does no harm. Great America and its personification, Donald Trump, combine energy, high achievement, vision, and generosity that enormously benefit thousands, even millions of others. If the opulence Trump lives in proudly, his delight in showing off his achievements, his loud trumpeting of triumph with every success, is vulgar, then vulgarity is a “yuge” virtue. The fictitious characters whom he most resembles are Ayn Rand’s heroes in Atlas Shrugged. The John Galts and Dagny Taggarts who invent and build and drive and ever improve the engines of civilization.
Another America – more an anti-America – is personified by … Oh any of those sour pious busybodies who think they know best how everyone else should live their lives and want to force them to do as they say. Think current Democratic administration. Or Bernie Sanders. Intellectuals whose opinions were early in their lives pickled in Leftist theory. They are morally vain, needing to feel they are good rather than actually make good. Beings whom Trump would describe as “low energy people”. They make much of “compassion”, not noticing how much condescension there is in their compassion, and how much contempt in their condescension. Their college-age children need safe spaces, “trigger-warnings”, protection from challenging opinions. What words and phrases describe them best? Physically enervated, psychologically etiolated, smug, puritanical, introverted, dogmatic, envious, snobbish, acrimonious, precious, dishonest, hypocritical …Their model fictitious characters are Pajama Boy and Julia, for whom government needs to be an all-sustaining provider and a protecting nanny to the people.
If great America could come to power next year to guide the destiny of the country and shine a beacon light to the world, after 7+ years of stagnation under the debilitating and impoverishing ideologues of the Left, our civilization – now in decline – might be saved.
Or is that America lost and gone? Is Trump a relic of an unrecoverable past?
Margaret Thatcher interrupted the decline of Britain, the decades long rule of the Left. She tried to turn her country into a share-holding, property-owning nation. A free enterprise nation, where capitalism opened the way for everyone to become prosperous. She did what she could, but could not complete the transformation. The Left returned, though it might also call itself “Conservative”.
So even if Trump does become president, and those engines start up again, how far can he take America into a prosperous future? Generations of Americans have now been indoctrinated in schools and colleges to be socialists. Will the country have one last burst of glory, and then sink into welfare mediocracy? Is that the best that can be hoped for?
Jillian Becker April 15, 2016