The Obama administration, in its first and second terms, has committed strategic mistakes in the Middle East which will undermine U.S. national and security interests for many years, even under subsequent administrations after 2016.
If signs went up saying “Jews only,” or “Whites only,” or “Christians only” anyplace on the planet, but particularly in Israel, there would be a righteously indignant outcry around the world, as there should be.
The New York City Council will not be marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade because gays can not wave the LGBT banner on this occasion. I’m curious about Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s decision to limit her outrage to the gay issue when she also might have insisted that marchers be allowed to wave banners about their support for abortion rights and universal insurance for birth control. As a New Yorker who is neither Irish nor Catholic, I wonder how the council which supposedly represents all New Yorkers became monolithically concerned about the feelings of the gay population, one which actually has its own designated parade. Of course, as Mayor de Blasio’s toady, Ms. Mark-Viverito made the ultimate obsequious choice, raising the ante one degree higher than her boss who declined to march himself but thought it was fine for city workers to march in uniform.
The Army stood at 570,000 men and women at the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Under President Obama, it has been preparing to reduce its numbers to 490,000 men and women. Hagel’s proposal would get that level down to between 440,000 and 450,000 active-duty personnel.
Based on a true story about an Indian soldier admitted to the Meninger Clinic after World War 11 for treatment of symptoms which we now call PTSD, ”Jimmy P” is an absorbing blend of psychotherapy and cultural anthropology. Jimmy’s malady has stumped the staff and an unusual man named George Devereux has been summoned from New York to treat him. The French actor Matthieu Amalric plays the expatriated European doctor with the same panache older viewers will associate with Paul Henreid; he is charming, innovative and though well versed in Freudian precepts, equally familiar with Indian tribal lore and customs. Through a relationship that borders as much on friendship as doctor/patient status, Devereux encourages Jimmy, persuasively embodied by Benicio del Toro, to strip away the layers of time and denial in order to confront his primal fears and learn to successfully manage them. Devereux is a brilliant and insightful man, reluctant to rely on pat categories and always ready to apply his knowledge of Indian culture to understand this specific patient and his background influences.
President Barack Obama sat down with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl, and when asked about something he said repeatedly—in various ways—during the 2008 campaign, Obama claimed he believes the opposite.
So. The Democrats are in freefall. Their “landmark” legislation—Obamacare,—rammed through without a single Republican vote, is in collapse. The president has been exposed as a liar (see: “If you like your health plan, you can keep it. Period.”). His poll numbers are tanking, from job approval to competency to trustworthiness to personal likeability. The poll numbers for the Democrat party are in the gutter as well, with the Republican party now pulling ahead on the generic ballot. Democrats are fleeing the scene of their own accident, refusing to be seen with the president and distancing themselves from the wreck that is Obamacare.
So the Dalton School has decided that satire is not an acceptable form of comment in their rarified academic cloister. After getting some flak from students who watched “CSA: The Confederate State of America,” a pseudo-documentary of the U.S. had the south been victorious in the civil war - the administration immediately apologized for its insensitivity. Rather than using the opportunity to teach the unique, historic value of satire in the arts, the school chose to beg for mercy from the parents of those wounded students. How many of the parents and students have been to see “The Book of Mormon” and laughed comfortably through its skewering of Mormons? How many of the parents also went to see “The Producers,” making light of Hitler and the Nazis? Both of these plays were award-winning box-office mega-hits geared to the same demographic group that sends its children to New York’s elite private schools. Yet the doyens of our politically correct culture have deemed it ok to spoof certain topics but not others. Slavery is sacrosanct though genocide is not. Women and gays are; white men not. Palestinians and Muslims protected; Israelis and Jews - fair game.
Scientific integrity is the theme of the Greek tragedies that currently involve two of America’s most prestigious physicians. Both men worked for decades to reach the pinnacle of the medical profession; now both are brought low.
There are possibly no more discordant pairings in our national history than the numbers 9/11 with the words gift shop and cafe. Yet this is what the eminent directors of the 9/11 Memorial Museum have decided to create at the museum built below the main plaza. There will be an admission fee of $24 for everyone but relatives of the victims, with appropriate discounts for seniors and students. Assuming that the museum fulfills its stated function of offering a somber history lesson for America and other nations, why would we want to discourage attendance by charging for it? Why would we want to sully the point of this visit by hawking souvenirs and refreshments? At a museum that is partly equivalent to visiting a killing field, the proper emotions we should be summoning are sorrow, anger, reflection and mourning.
As Americans and humanity celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of justice, equality and freedom, there are millions around the world who continue to suffer discrimination and oppression of the kind the African American pastor and leader struggled against until he paid the ultimate price for his engagement. MLK, Jr. led a tireless civil rights movement to end segregation and inequality—and to help his community and all citizens attain dignity under a one flag, one law for all. America has been identified for decades as the greatest liberal democracy in history and around the globe, in part, due to this man’s journey for public good. It has taken similar struggles by Americans from all races, ethnicities and religions—who from the founding fathers to modern times have made sacrifices in blood and treasure—to produce who we are as a nation, composed of both natives and emigres.
New Yorkers who watched the inauguration ceremonies of Bill de Blasio saw something quite extraordinary take place - the conversion of the Big Apple to the Apple that is Rotten to its core. Not one speaker came to praise our city - all were there to bury it and focus only on its racism and indifference to social justice. Starting with Harry Belafonte, a singer from Trinidad whose career was internationally launched from this country but who espouses anti-Americanism at every opportunity, we heard a litany of our many sins, notably our treatment of the black man. Instead of using his time at the podium to inspire his black brothers to stay in school, stay off drugs and marry before reproducing - he seized on New York’s stop and frisk law which has already been modified and needs no further comment. Instead of chastising his black brothers to stop murdering (mostly their own brethren), he bemoaned the fact that our country has the largest population of black prisoners in the world. On to the Reverend Fred Lucas Jr. (chaplain for the Dept of Sanitation), dressed in an elegant coat, scarf and hat, who referred to New York as a plantation but failed to say which massah gave him the fancy threads.
When he died recently, Larry Lujack had not been a regular disc jockey on a major Chicago radio station for over quarter of a century. Yet tributes poured in not just from Chicago, but from all over the country. How was he able to evoke vivid, long-ago memories from so many people, most of whom never met him personally? It is a testimony to the medium - and to the man.
The movie that purports to tell the tale of how Mary Poppins’ disagreeable author, P.L. Travers, succumbed to giving Walt Disney the rights to turn her creation into a studio blockbuster is strangely mis-titled. The story presented involves a sensitive young girl growing up in the Australian boonies with an alcoholic father leading his wife and three daughter family into a tailspin of misery and financial ruin. Played by Colin Farrell, the father is handsome, dashing and adventurous - except when he’s a falling down drunk who gets fired from every job and leaves his bewildered and vulnerable wife on the verge of suicide. Strangely, the little girl who is meant to be P.L. Travers never manages to identify with the mother’s plight even as she grows into middle-agehood. Instead, she remains stuck in the muddy memories of having let down her profligate father - a guilt so intense that it carries forward a traumatic memory involving some dropped pears - much heavier in every way than Proust’s madeleines.
The FDA prides itself on taking an active role in protecting consumers from the risks associated with direct-to-consumer testing. Yet the FDA has been notably restrained on the pharmaceutical marketing saturating the media and Internet concerning “Low T”, a condition that might be a “disease” or simply just a slick advertising strategy to generate drugs sales.
South Sudan is the newest country in the world and unfortunately seems to be on the edge of the newest civil war in the region. For the past week, clashes and killings have ravaged the capital and other areas of that young African country, yet all that comes from Washington is a heavy silence. Some observers believe that the U.S. administration is silent on purpose, allowing the confrontation to spread until the country no longer able to govern itself, ultimately leading the northern Jihadi regime to recapture influence over the south and restore itself as an Islamist power in the region after the loss of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo. While there is no hard evidence to directly blame the Obama administration for this looming new disaster, we certainly can see that the protracted U.S. absence from the scene as indirect proof that pressure groups within the Beltway might want to see free South Sudan go down in flames. But is the drama only due to U.S. policies, or are there also local disastrous politics to indict? A full review is warranted to see clearer through the fog of war.
The African people of southern Sudan, trapped against their will within a wider border under violent regimes that suppressed their traditions since the late 1950s, struggled for sixty years, resulting in the massacre of a million (mostly) civilians, the enslavement of half a million, and four generations of men and women devastated by an atrocious war. From 1983, and increasingly since 1989, a northern Islamist regime unleashed ethnic cleansing and extreme horrors on the populations of the South, devastating villages and towns. Omar Bashir’s forces, indoctrinated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, committed genocide in the South before they later turned to Darfur. But the African resistance led by John Garang, commander of the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement, stood firmly, even as the movement lost most of its ground to the Jihadist army. Eventually, and thanks to support from American churches, Western lawmakers and NGOs, the Bush Administration helped the oppressed Black nation to obtain its right for self-determination in January 2011. In my book The Coming Revolution of 2010, I projected a victory to the south Sudanese who would then face the challenge of building a new republic. Indeed, after a referendum handsomely legitimized their claim to liberty, the Africans of South Sudan obtained their independence and separated from the oppressive northern regime, which was later accused by the International Criminal Court of Genocide in Darfur.
The Republic of South Sudan joined the international community and was endowed with hopes and oil resources to bridge the gap of poverty created by Khartoum over decades. International companies and foreign countries rushed to invest and help the new country rise. But the old “colonial power” in the north did not let go of the formerly enslaved people. Omar Bashir maintained his military pressure on border areas, including Abei province, to preempt similar African revolts among Nubians, Beja and Darfuris in the north. On al Jazeera, Jihadi ideologues often menaced the south with retaliation for separation “from the Umma’s land” and many programs “predicted” an internecine war inside the south. These “predictions” finally materialized when followers of the Vice President Riek Machar and the troops of the President Silva Kir clashed over a so-called “coup attempt” in December. Sources in the region said outside parties, with the blessings of Khartoum, worked on encouraging these fights as a way to trigger a civil war that would end in the economic and political collapse of the landlocked country. The sources added that the Islamist regime of Bashir made the same promise to both sides in the south – to open northern Sudan’s pipelines to the seaports, the only access for Petrol exporting, if the one camp defeats the other – hence pushing the two influential parties in Juba to clash.
While it looks like the international Islamist networks drove South Sudan over the cliff, the leaders of the young African countries are to be lamed as well. Both Silva Kir and Riek Mashar were longtime deputies to the historic leader of the southern struggle, Colonel John Garang, who was killed in an accident which many believe was an assassination by the north. President Kir and Vice President Mashar were supposed to lead South Sudan to democracy and prosperity, but post-independence experiences, particularly in Africa, present the danger of power struggle. However, Kir and Mashar and their friends in the West could have and should have avoided this bloodbath over power. Some indicate that Mashar has in the past sided with the regime against Garang before reuniting with the southern resistance. We will leave that argument to the southern Sudanese themselves to resolve, democratically, at the ballot boxes. For now, we need to do all we can to stop the violence, restore legal order, and insure human rights.
The Obama Administration has shyly stated that these are regrettable incidents and sent few dozen Marines to protect the embassy, as well as dispatched an envoy. This is not foreign policy at the level of the challenge. President Obama should say more and do more to save this African country born under his watch as a leader of the free world and first black president of the United States. President Obama should phone leaders of southern Sudan and ask them publicly and sharply to stop the violence immediately and initiate an immediate reconciliation process, with all measures needed to stabilize south Sudan. To allow the situation to decay to a point of no return is to indirectly be part of its demise. Sources in Washington are advancing that the Muslim Brotherhood lobby, backed by petrodollar interests groups, is behind the Washington “laisser-faire” policy attitude towards Juba. According to these sources, South Sudan is the most experienced resistance against the Jihadists on the continent, and since the fall of the Ikhwan regime in Cairo, the Brotherhood lobby wants to reinstall itself in Khartoum to counterattack the new Egypt with further destabilization. It seems that the price for Bashir to go after General Sisee and the Egyptian revolution is to topple South Sudan and give Khartoum a say over its lost oil. Are these sources going too far in their analysis? Facts on the ground seem to validate such an analysis, particularly the irresponsible inaction of Washington vis-à-vis South Sudan’s tragic events. The U.S. Congress must rise to hold the administration accountable for the potential fall of the newest and freest African nation, now submitted to the horror of Brotherly killings.
Dr Walid Phares advises members of the US Congress on the Middle East and is the author of The Coming Revolution (2010). He is writing a new book on the future of the Arab Spring to be published in 2014
Barack Obama’s political history is littered with lies. There are smallish lies (”I never knew my Uncle Omar”) to the mega-lies (see the very partial list above.) One of my personal favorites is his constant refrain that if “anybody” has any “good ideas” about how to do X,Y, or Z, he’s “happy” to hear them out.
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” Those words, written by 19th Century poet John Greenleaf Whittier, may turn out prophetic for two of America’s most talented 21st Century athletes beset by career-threatening injuries, Derrick Rose and Robert Griffin III.
In the annals of world literature, there are some very long books: Tolstoy’s War and Peace clocks in at 1,440 pages and Hugo’s Les Miserables beats that at 1,488. Now comes Part 1 of a biography of Barbara Stanwyck by Victoria Wilson: at 1,044 pages, it’s more than twice as long as three combined biographies of John Wayne, Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, infinitely more important screen icons than Ms. Stanwyck whose name would not be familiar to most people under 50. If Volume 2 of this devotional work is the same length as its predecessor, it might be longer than both the Old and New Testaments, a sobering and distressing thought. Fortunately, we can rely on the marketplace to correctly balance Ms. Wilson’s idee fixe with the realities of consumer interest, if not the subject’s proportionate merit.
The NYTimes of Nov 27th devoted one and a quarter pages of text and an oversized, inflammatory front page picture of an Israeli’s woman’s breast revealing a scar and the top of her nipple under a tattooed Star of David. The shorthand association reads: Israel, Jews, cancer. Is this another disease caused by the same people who brought on the black plague in the middle ages? Has Bibi spurred the spread of breast cancer? Is this a further extension of Israeli occupation? By contrast, there is no photograph of a partially exposed penis accompanying the story on page 4 of the NYT of Nov 28th concerning the rapid rise of unprotected sex among gay American men. The Times tiptoes through the statistics saying only that the rate of unprotected sex had risen 20% from 2005 - 2011 and that infection rates are highest among young black gay men. Here are some of the statistics that the Times didn’t include in this delicate treatment of a disturbing subject.
Anyone under 50 today must harbor at least some cynicism about the current obsession with 11/22/63, the day of the JFK assassination. Unlike much of what is written about that era, in this case it’s not simply another case of Baby-Boomer self-indulgence; the day is critical to understanding 20th Century American history. No other day, except possibly Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941, marked a greater transition in American society than November 22, 1963.
Leo Ryan’s intellectual curiosity and a desire to perceive the harsh realities of life first-hand led the late Congressman to Guyana 35 years ago this week. It seems like yesterday. I spent much of the last evening of the 95th session of Congress in 1978 with the Democrat from Northern California. It was his final night in Washington before he would head back home and then, several weeks later, embark on his fact-finding trip to Guyana.