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Interesting Ideas from Interesting Books

The Making of Old News

In our fast moving world, the news of today quickly transitions into old news status and that is dangerous. Lessons learned are quickly forgotten. Syria is Topic A today and the lessons learned in Iraq, now yesterday’s news, seem to be forgotten. And those lessons should be in the planning manual for the prospective action contemplated by President Obama. At last report the supervision of the removal of chemical weapons by U.S. Weapons Inspectors was mentioned as the reduced American involvement in the plan now being overseen by Vladimir Putin. And as anyone who knows anything about supervising anyone that requires people. And when you put people into war zones those people are usually soldiers or marines. And that is dangerous when they will be in the vicinity of their natural enemies.

In his recent book Breaking Iraq, retired U.S. Army Colonel Ted Spain who commanded the 18th Military Police Brigade in Iraq and was in the thick of the invasion, wrote that the failure to plan for post war occupation was the root cause of today’s incendiary setting in that unfortunate country. Yesterday, September 18, in Iraq, a civilian was killed and seven were wounded when a roadside bomb ripped through an area, some 40 km from Baghdad. This suffering in that unfortunate country is an ongoing situation and the root cause going back to Operation Iraqi Freedom when plans for the aftermath of the invasion were never drawn up.

In his book Breaking Iraq, Col Spain wrote of the ten mistakes the U.S. Government and the U.S. military made, that broke that unfortunate country and steered it towards the situation in which it is engulfed today. Principal among them was the failure to plan for the aftermath of the invasion.

It may be fortunate for President Obama that Vladimir Putin’s involvement prevented him from making a huge mistake. Sending in some Tomahawk missiles on August 31 was the supposed plan. Was there a big picture scenario to deal with the consequences? If not, what could have happened after that? The possibilities are frightening.

Coincidentally on the same day as that explosive incident in Iraq, Russia announced that it will present the UN Security Council with evidence that it was Syrian rebels who were responsible for the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian citizenry on August 21. Skeptics raised their eyebrows and smiled knowingly. The Russian move could reflect how Moscow officials will respond if the Syrian government fails to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. Some suspect an impasse into old news may be the result. Perhaps that is why the skeptics were smiling.

Col. Spain might smile too if someone in Washington making plans for Syria picks up Breaking Iraq.

Recommended Reading for those who want to Understand Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood

Thomas Jefferson writing his Notes on Virginia in 1782 inscribed “The way to silence religious disputes is to take no notice of them.” Pierce Word noticed those words in 2013 and included them in his recently published book of presidential quotations Wisdom from the Oval Office. Those words, however, would have fallen on deaf ears in 1912 when the Al Ikhwan, religious zealots of the Al- Qaeda perspective, were terrorizing other Muslims who were not comporting themselves to their liking in  what is now Saudi Arabia. Running roughshod over people whose garments did not suit them nor whose practices of Islam were not sufficiently rigid, they took the sword to those who did not comply with their insistence. A revival of the Wahabi belief of purification was the driving force of al Ikhwan and their sartorial appearance was a proclamation of belief. Robes were cut to avoid touching the ground, a white round muslin halo-like hat, such as worn by Osama Bin Laden,was the common head ware and free growing racial hair from the chin was the only adornment. For a period of time they brought terror to the Arabian countryside. And only the principle of power reversed their momentum when the ascendant King of Saudi Arabia took action against them.

Ikhwan

But ideas do not die with a man. They have a life of their own and can be carried by many men. One man of that time with ideas, who taught them to eager, trusting, young minds was Sayyid Qutb. He taught that the nation- state and secular law were obscenities in the eyes of Allah and attempts to oppose such ideas must be done even with the risk of life. One of his students was Osama Bin Ladin.

Robert Lacey in his fascinating book The Kingdom published in 1981 by Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich should be recommended reading for every member of the State Department and the White House. It brings insight into an area of vital concern to the people of the West who wish to better understand the people who live in the critical area of the middle-east.

That concern caught those in the West by surprise but some saw it coming. James Heaphey, a retired professor of International Relations and a one-time member of the U.S. Air Force’s Security Service brought insight in his memoir Legerdemain, When he was a security service officer, he met in 1960 with Anwar Sadat who was then  Egypt’s Minister of Information. Sadat forewarned Heaphey of that which was coming. In his description of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt he questioned Heaphey on his understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood. He then went on to answer the question:

Sadat’s question “Do you know what an Islamist is? Why the Muslim Brotherhood is a deadly threat to everything you believe.”

“The Brotherhood’s goal,” Heaphey said, ”is to keep Egypt and other Islamic countries from becoming Western-style nation states.”

“Yes, you are quite correct.” Sadat said. “Their credo is that God is their leader, struggle is their way, and death for the sake of God is the highest of their aspirations. That’s dangerous thinking for Egypt, for all Muslim countries and for America and the rest of the non-Muslim world.”

Sadat became President of Egypt in 1970, received the Nobel Peace Prize and was assassinated in 1981 by Muslim fundamentalists. He knew of what he spoke.

It is thought in some quarters in America that Sadat’s statement should be inscribed on every office wall in the State Department. It is also thought in those quarters that Lacey’s book The Kingdom and Heaphey’s Legerdemain should be on the nightstand of every person working in the State Department and read each night before turning out the lights.

On that Thomas Jefferson might well agree…and perhaps rethink his position of religious difference.

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Political Power – the Real Reason why the Congressional Staffers are exempted from Obamacare.

The arrogance of power was no better displayed than when Congress opted to have their staffers exempted from Obamacare, the health plan it inflicted in total ignorance and blind arrogance, on the American public. It is the plan the public majority did not want. It is proving problematic for many, ruinous to some, and a stimulant for early doctor retirement.  And it is much more expensive than anticipated, ergo congressional staff disenchantment and by presidential edict, staffer exemption.

This exemption of congressional staffers has the aura of favors granted to a royal court. Former FBI psychologist Dr. Kathy Puckett would probably agree. A founder of the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Program, she wrote of political   power in her book Homeland Insecurity:

“Why do politicians appear to believe they are above the laws that constrain the behavior of every other American? They are literally addicted to the perks and pleasures of power,” she wrote. “The political culture in Washington D.C., just like the royal courts of monarchies and the ancient Roman Senate, operates on the same principle: power enables privilege. Privilege shared creates its own excepted, favored class, exempt from legal and social rules that govern the citizens.” Dr. Puckett concluded,” It feels good to be a member of this class, so good that the pleasure centers of the brain are activated, and the process of addiction to power-and privilege-begins.”

Dr. Puckett co-authored with retired FBI Special Agent Terry Turchie, Homeland Insecurity: How Washington Politicians Have Made America Less Safe and wrote it with the assurance of one with both the formal education of the psychologist and that of a highly skilled Federal investigator. She wrote extensively of the happenings that are caused by the addiction to power to elected officials on both sides of the aisle. It is a human condition, not one of political persuasion, and the addiction has caused harm to the country as it did to great states of history,

Of recent happenings in Washington, her words ring true,“Every politician acts to satisfy the interests of the group or constituency that helped put him or her in power. Intense personal bonds are developed with a handful of people who are able to implement a politician’s visions and further his or her power. The loyalties that develop reinforce the power politicians hold…Congress takes care of its own.”

It explains a great deal.

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