Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The War on the Second Amendment: the Mental Health Gambit

Whenever we have a "mass"--a word with a highly flexible definition--shooting in the US, we have the predictable calls for more gun laws, for more gun "control." All the usuals put out their tweets, go on the talk shows, pontificate from the legislative floor, issue editorials, etc. The anti-second amendment crowd, generally the sort who can find the right to abortion in the US Constitution but can't find the right to bear arms, are getting more and more desperate. Despite years of anti-gun propaganda and false statistics, gun sales are at a record high in the US with manufacturers barely able to keep up with demand. More people now own guns in the US than at any time in our history; the courts have struck down bucket loads of anti-carry legislation so that concealed carry is now a possibility in every state; and, worst horror of all, the homicide rate continues to decline.

At times I get the feeling that the anti-gun boys and girls hope for mass shootings, which are actually quite rare, and for the shooter to be a white, good ol' boy Tea Partier who uses the n-word, hates women, gays, and liberals, and denies the "settled science" behind the theories of evolution and global climate cooling warming change disruption. The shooters in reality, of course, happen to be far from that, and give credence to Ann Coulter's long-ago stated observation that violence in the US comes from the left. The "mass" shooters, including the Santa Barbara creep, come from liberal/progressive backgrounds, and fall on the left end of the political and cultural spectrum. They are often well-off economically, and generally come from the sort of dysfunctional families that form a core component of the Democratic party electorate.

The gun issue in the US is much more than about guns. It is about culture and about the role and scope of government in our lives. The gun controllers want more government in our lives and want to suppress America's gun, aka individual freedom, culture. They want to make it seem that gun violence is rampant, and that we all face horrible deaths in a cloud of gunpowder. They want us to ignore that homicide, including with guns, is not equally spread among all sectors of our country. Homicide rates are much, much higher among Democratic constituencies--I have written about this before--than among Republican constituencies--compare Detroit with Utah, for example. Above all else, there is an enormous racial component to murder in the US. Please note, for example, that 3/4s of those arrested for murder in Chicago is black, while blacks only comprise about one-third of the city's residents; the overwhelming majority of murder victims is also black.

Nationwide, even when "white" is loosely defined, black homicide rates are some 8-10 times those of the white population. All that presents a dilemma for progressives. Instead of trying to deal with the real problem, i.e., that the most likely victim of a murderer is an unarmed black person, the progressives find distractions on which to spend their efforts. As I have written endless times, the progressives don't give a hoot about our black citizens trapped in situations where they become prime candidates for murder--those situations, after all, have been created by decades of progressive policies implemented by progressive urban political machines. The history of the Democratic party, one of the world's oldest political parties, is one of constant warfare against black people: slavery, segregation, the KKK, opposition to black suffrage, making generations of black people wards of the state, are all Democratic party contributions to race relations in the USA. The progressives want power for the state and they intend to control that state.

Progressives focus on bogus issues such as "assault" rifles and magazine capacity. The latest bogus distraction is the mental health one. The argument goes something like this, "We don't want to take guns away from law abiding citizens but want to put into place laws, regulations, and procedures that keep guns away from criminals and mentally disturbed persons." They are quite vague about what exactly those new constraints will be, and we just have to take them at their word that they are not really out to stifle gun ownership at large, and that the new constraints will work better than the old ones.

Mental health, really?

If you think the science of global climate whatever is up in the air, wait until you delve into the looney world of mental health. The mental health profession is full of quack "therapists" and quack theories; few things there are settled science; and that profession is as subject to the vagaries of the winds and tides of fashion and politics as any other. Let us not forget the uses of psychiatry in the dead and unlamented Soviet bloc. Even, however, without going back to the USSR, I would point out that my father was a psychiatrist, and in his old Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals (DSM) homosexuality was listed as a disorder, "a sociopathic personality disturbance" to be precise. It was a disorder or mental disturbance until it just wasn't--you can read the account of how that change happened here.

Would then those persons treated for homosexuality, and have that on their medical records, be denied their second amendment rights? This, in turn, leads to the raising of many other questions: What standards would be used to determine mental illness for the purpose of gun denial? Who would make those standards? How would authorities running a background check gain access to those medical records? How would we redefine the ancient notion of patient-doctor confidentiality? How would those mental health sessions be flagged in the Great Database? How would one prevent that information from leaking and from being used for political or blackmail purposes? How would this not dissuade people who need some help from getting it? I am sure you can think of dozens more questions.

We live--alas!--in a time that I never thought I would see in the USA. We see the IRS used to stifle political dissent; we see the ATF used to sell guns to Mexican cartels and to make it seem that lax US gun laws are to blame for the violence in Mexico; we see the NSA and FBI used for purposes for which they were never intended; we see local police forces with more firepower and sophisticated combat training and gear than most armies in the world.

Given the progressive track record, should we trust their "good intentions" when they seek to protect us from armed "crazy" people? I don't. I would rather rely on my old friends Messrs. Smith & Wesson.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Media and the Latest "Shooting" Spree

We all saw the initial headlines on CNN and elsewhere: "Seven Dead in University Shooting Spree," "Drive-by Shooter Kills Seven," "Anti-women Shooting Spree,"and so on. The usual editorials have been launched, Piers Morgan has sent out his obligatory tweet, and the media and opinion boards have begun pontificating on the need for gun control.

I don't want to spend a lot of time on this; it is out of my usual preoccupations, but I can't help but note how the media always seems to get these stories wrong, and always in a way to benefit the progressive narrative.

The "shooter," of course, is not a member of some right-wing militia, or of a neo-Nazi group, or even of a Tea Party group. He is not even white, not even born in the USA, and might not even be a US citizen. He is half-Asian/half-white born in the UK to British parents, one of whom is a mildly famous movie director, assistant director, and photographer, and the son of a genuinely famous photographer. This immigrant "shooter" was the child of Hollywood privilege. It seems from his YouTube "manifesto" that he wanted for nothing material; was full of self-regard and self-esteem; possessed an insufferable air of superiority; and had horrendous mommy and step-mommy issues--he posted a collection of nude photos of his step-mother taken by his father. He whined that women did not like him--perhaps they picked up the "gay vibes" he apparently gave off. He felt entitled to women's attentions and favors because, as he said, he was, "so awesome." Any honest poll of guys that age would find 97% agreeing with that sentiment, but not engaging in a killing spree because of it.

By the way, the reports of his having shot seven dead were wrong. He mortally knifed three male Asian roommates, fatally shot another man and two women, and injured several more people with his car before he either killed himself or died at the hands of the police. The headlines could just as accurately screamed, "Murderous Knifing Spree ends in Shooting." Journalists always seem to include the dead killer in the killer's total; I don't.

It seems he bought the guns legally in California, a state with some of the most draconian gun laws on the books, easily passed the background check and waiting periods, and then went on a knife and gun rampage in one of the most "gun free" towns in California, the ultra-liberal Isla Vista location of the ultra-liberal University of California, Santa Barbara campus. His "anti-woman" rampage cost the lives of four men--three of them Asian and one with an Hispanic last name--twice the number of white women, but the press focus is on the women angle and the shooting when, in fact, he killed as many people with a knife as he did with a gun. He killed fewer with a gun than were killed at the "gun free" Brussels Jewish Center by an unknown assailant the same day.

One, of course, can forgive the tearful outbreak of the bereaved father of one of the men killed for blasting the NRA and "lax" gun laws, but note that he's picked the wrong target. All indications I have read--and they might be wrong--are that the killer's family was a highly dysfunctional one in which the killer got little of the attention he craved and seemed to think he deserved. The father, of course, helped make an ultra-violent film fantasy, "The Hunger Games," which has a beautiful teenage girl slaughtering other good-looking teenagers for the entertainment of the crowd.

As we saw with the case of the Marin County jihadi, John Walker Lindh, another child of liberal privilege who wanted to engage in mass killing, ultra-liberal parenting produces weirdos. I will wager that when all is said and done, Elliot Rodger is one of those weirdos.

One almost comes to the conclusion that if we had abortion and a strict gun control ban for progressives, the rest of us would be much safer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Cagy KGB Rabbi

A little silliness in the face of so much grim news.

As noted on too many occasions, I took part in several US delegations to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Commission in the mid-eighties. Most of our effort--ultimately successful--was aimed at getting a UN reporter named to investigate human rights abuses in Cuba under the Castro brothers. It was tough work, which required seemingly endless hours of meetings, plotting, and developing strategies to get the votes needed. I have described all that before (here, here, and here, for example) and won't bore with it, again.

Aside from our efforts on Cuba, we also went after the rest of the Soviet-bloc. We, for example, hammered the Romanian regime for its persecution of the Hungarian minority, and the GDR for its persecution of everybody. We saved special ammunition, however, for the Soviets. We tried never to miss an opportunity to underline the economic, political, moral, and humanitarian disaster that was the USSR.  We went after them, in particular, on religious persecution and anti-semitism. We brought with us, on one occasion, Natan Sharansky, free after years in the Soviet Gulag, who gave a powerful speech blasting the Soviets on their persecution of dissidents and of Jews, in particular.

This drumbeat had an effect on USSR foreign policy. Gorbachov recently had assumed power, and sought to present a new face of the Soviet Union to the West. The Soviets tried to show us as fanatical Cold Warriors out of touch with the new reality. The Soviet Ambassador took to calling us children, and "Reagan's kids."

One Friday morning, with grand fanfare the Soviet delegation let us know both privately and in an announcement at a morning session, that a "very prominent Moscow Rabbi" would address the Commission later in the day as part of the USSR delegation. I went to see my contact on the Soviet side, Igor Yakolev, a good guy for a representative of the worst regime ever to exist, to find out more about this rabbi. I asked Igor, "Who is he? When and where did you find him?" Igor, who rare among the Soviet delegates had something of a sense of humor, told me, "I knew you would be suspicious, but he is a real Orthodox Jewish rabbi. He's not a KGB rabbi." The label "KGB rabbi" stuck, and became our shorthand for discussing USSR efforts to show that it was not an anti-semitic cesspool.

Well, as often happens at UN meetings, the afternoon session dragged into the evening. At about nine o'clock, we saw coming down the aisle to the USSR delegation, which was one over from us--the UK stuck between us--a stout, bearded, yarmulke-wearing man, with various other accoutrements meant to show that he was an Orthodox rabbi, a serious man not one to be messed with. I had the mike for the US, and leaned back to my colleagues, and noted softly, "Why is an Orthodox rabbi here on a Friday night? He should be praying and refusing to do any work. I am going to embarrass him when he speaks." One of our junior colleagues, however, could not resist blabbing. He leaned over to one of the junior Soviet dips, just before the Rabbi was about to take the floor, and asked, "Why is an Orthodox rabbi here on a Friday night? We're going to ask when he starts to speak."

The young Soviet diplomad reacted as though a cattle prod had been placed in some private part. He bolted from his chair, and began whispering in his Ambassador's ear, Igor listening in. The Ambassador went pale, and looked at me. I smiled back, although furious at my colleague for having spoiled what would have been a great moment. Igor sat in his chair directly behind the "rabbi" with his face in his hands.

The Ambassador grabbed the microphone before the "rabbi" could speak. He whispered to him in a harsh tone, and ripped the speech from his hands. The Ambassador then informed the Commission that the rabbi, of course, could not deliver the speech because he could not work on the Sabbath. The Soviet Ambassador proceeded to read the speech for the rabbi, stumbling over some phrases in Hebrew, and generally just barely containing his rage. While this was not the great moment I had wanted, it was still pretty good. Our delegation kept smiling, laughing, and shaking our heads. The Soviet diplomats livid, angrily talked among themselves, and stared daggers at us. The speech was a disaster; most other delegates got up and began leaving, preferring the paltry Geneva nightlife to the charade underway in this stuffy conference room. When the Soviet Ambassador finished, the UK Ambassador said to him, "What was the point of that nonsense?"

As the meeting broke up, Igor came to see me. Before he could say anything, however, one of my friends said, "Lewis, don't you dare use that stupid line!" Igor said, "This was not nice what you did. It was a dirty childish trick." My friend shook his head and kept whispering "No! No! Don't say it!" I couldn't resist, and launched the most stinging rebuke ever given the USSR during the Cold War; I attribute our victory over the Soviets to my, "Oh, silly rabbi, don't you know, tricks are for kids?"

I don't know if Igor caught the reference to an old US cereal TV commercial, but my colleagues threatened to murder me if I ever said anything that stupid and unorignal again.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekend Reminisce: Little Brushes with Treason's Salesmen

The more I read about Snowden, the more I am convinced he participated in a sophisticated Russian/Chinese intel operation. He is not, in my view, some heroic whistleblower. Whatever one might think of NSA activities at home, and the Obama misadministration's grotesque and criminal misuse of the NSA, FBI, DOJ, IRS, DEA, ATF, USPS, BLM, EPA, CIA, and so forth, running to the Russians and the Chinese, enemies of democracy and liberty, and blowing apart a zillion dollars worth of legitimate intel gathering by the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, is tantamount to treason. I won't budge from that position. I say this although my stomach churns when Obama, Holder, and Kerry talk about protecting national interests and secrets.

OK, let's talk about the lighter side of the treason business.

In my three-plus decades of assignments, I had my own little run-ins with the purveyors of treason. A few I can't discuss, but a couple are long enough in the past, and, perhaps so stupid, nobody will mind if I do.

One of my first was in New York. Working for Ambassador Walters at the US Mission to the UN, I served mostly in the Third Committee, which handled all sorts of social issues, most notably human rights. By far, the most contentious of the Committees, it was the one where the Reagan administration had decided to take a stand on Soviet abuses of human rights and to push back against the leftist agenda of increasing social and economic "rights" at the expense of traditional civil and political ones. Our stance put us at odds with the Soviet bloc, of course, but also with many of the Europeans, and nearly all of the so-called Non-Aligned.

There was one large Latin American country which recently had elected a leftoid government. That country's Ambassador to the UN and his staff were decidedly of the "progressive" variety. On paper, however, they were still a friendly country; I invited one of their new officers out for lunch. The lunch went fine, although it got a bit tense when we discussed the MidEast, Castro, Western "imperialism," and the "nonaligned. A few days later, he invited me to lunch, basically a repeat of the first meal, with one little difference. He apparently had the impression that my willingness to see him twice in two weeks meant I was for sale, or at least rent.

While we drank our coffee after the meal, he launched a sales pitch for treason. He proved not the most subtle of barkers.

"OK. We now know each other, and you know what I need from you."

"No, what do you need?"

"You know, you know." He arched his eyebrows.

"I don't know. What do you want?" I was getting the feeling that this was going in a weird direction.

"You work for Walters, right"


"I need his secret documents."

I thought he was joking and laughed, "Sure, you need his 'secret documents'. How many do you need?" I sipped my coffee, and then stared at him over my glasses.

"Yes, here is the list." He handed me a paper that had on it, no kidding, a typed tasking for me, "Provide all secret papers."

I wish I had kept that paper, but handed it back, and said, "How about another cup of coffee, instead?" He got up with one of the angriest expressions I have seen, and stormed off--without paying for the lunch to which he had invited me. We never spoke again. I reported this weird encounter and, I assume, the people who needed to do so kept an eye on this odd bungling, budding spy.

Another "brush with treason" came when I worked on the US delegation to the summer session of the UN ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) in Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva is a beautiful city, but deadly dull. There are only so many times that one can take a walk along the lakefront, look at the millionaire stores, or go for a drive in the countryside.

We worked long hours at the ECOSOC; under Reagan, we were aggressive on the social and economic front pushing resolutions praising the private sector, calling on countries to encourage private entrepreneurs, trying to bat down absurd resolutions against Israel, rooting out the Marxist/progressive slant that certain countries sought to slip into definitions, etc. It was fun.

We initially had not realized how seriously the Soviet bloc took the Third Committee, the Human Rights Commission, and the ECOSOC sessions; those were places where propaganda campaigns were tried out, slogans introduced, where the lefties tried to alter the very meaning of the language used in international law and discourse. We were pretty good; we had a solid cadre of very conservative, well-read FSOs who spoke a range of languages, had a great grasp of history, and were convinced that the USA could beat the USSR. All of us were big fans of Ronald Reagan and would have done anything for him. Everybody was an excellent public speaker, speech-writer, drafter, and joke-teller. Quite frankly, we ran circles around the Soviet-bloc types who generally did not respond well to humor--especially at their expense. The Soviets, the dour Lavrov among them, were not amused, and tried a variety of tactics at the Human Rights Commission and the ECOSOC to knock us off our game. One was the KGB "Rabbi," a funny story I will tell in a subsequent post, and another was bringing in some some intel talent from both the Soviet Union and the bloc countries.

One intel operative I remember quite well was a very "sophisticated Bulgarian," who I thought looked much like Peter Lorre. Our folks had warned me about him. He clearly was tasked with getting to me. He would lose no opportunity to get close and try out some "humor," usually some badly translated Bulgarian joke which did not make much sense in English. He wanted to talk about human rights, my latest speech, how he had once visited Israel, how the Bulgarians had saved their Jewish population from the Nazis, how much he liked American jazz and blues . . . perhaps I would be interested in going to a jazz concert, he knew a few girls, etc. I avoided him.

One Saturday, however, Peter Lorre trapped me in a nice French restaurant, Café de Paris, where I had slipped away to have a bistec ala parisienne, and read the International Herald Tribune, while my wife shopped at the H&M. He had followed me. Sitting down at my small table, with no warm-up, no chit-chat, he bluntly insisted that I go fishing with him on the lake. He had rented a boat; we would be out all day, just the two of us. Adjusting his glasses, looking at his watch, he insisted that I had to go with him "Right now!"

I put down my IHT, and asked, "Why would I do that?"

He was getting nervous, "I have an interesting proposition for you."

"I see." I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my plastified 3X5 card. "Well, let me tell you that I am not homosexual. I am not in debt. My salary is just fine. My wife has not left me. I don't have or want a mistress. I am not interested in children or prostitutes. I am not in trouble with my career. I vote for Reagan. I think Communism is the same as Nazism. You cannot blackmail me. You cannot buy me. You have no proposition that I would find interesting unless you're defecting. My steak is getting cold. My wife will be here soon. I am going to have to tell her that I have to go back to the Mission, ruining my day off, to write a report to our security people on this conversation with you." He glared at me, got up, slapping the table with his hand, spilling my water, ruining the IHT--never let it be said that I have not suffered in the battle against Communism.

Peter Lorre did not bother me again. Others on our delegation had much more colorful encounters than mine with the Soviet intel squads, but those are their stories to tell.

Ah, the good ol' days . . .

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Libya: Farce and Tragedy

It's happening. The end is nigh for the story that began with progressive delusions and arrogance about the transformative power of Obama's soaring rhetoric--a rhetoric which could and would change the world and, most notably, make the Middle East not the Middle East. Enchanted by his own spell, Obama, leading from behind, allowed the USA to become the pointy end of the spear for the absurd EU, and take on and take out Qaddafi. That action would bring an Arab Spring to benighted Libya; the murder of our Ambassador and his staff, well, those were just "bumps in the road" on the way to Nirvana.

It, however, now seems we are marshaling forces for the imminent evacuation of our embassy in Tripoli as Libya descends into civil war.

As I wrote on Halloween of 2012 re our mad Libya excursion,
We went to war where we had no major interests; against a regime that posed no danger to us; and with a policy that neither defined our objectives nor gave thought to what would happen if we "succeeded." All that Obama and Clinton could do was hark back to the 1980s, and cite Qaddafi's past misdeeds. Obama seemed channeling Ronald Reagan. It proved absurd and completely counterproductive to our interests of today. Our policy was driven by what I have called the liberal foreign policy mindset, to wit, "send America's youth off to war but only if there is no U.S. interest to be protected or furthered." 
Our policy was also motivated by another trait of the liberal mind: See what you believe. The Obama cult believed that the magical powers of the Dear Leader from Chicago would transform the world into a peaceful Eden where Julia could tend her community garden free from the threat of unwanted pregnancies, medical expenses, or having to look for a real job. The Arabs and the entire Muslim world would abandon their 1400-year-old war against the rest of the world, and come join us around the camp fire. Ah, the Arab Spring . . . if just those pesky Jews living in Occupied Palestine would get over their paranoia everything would be great.
Even before the above citation, way back in March 2011, I wrote that,
Unlike Saddam, the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, crazy old Qaddafi posed no threat to the US homeland or to our interests abroad. One of the great achievements of the Bush administration was that it defanged Qaddafi-- dismantled his nuclear weapons program and turned him into a valuable source of information on Al Qaeda. That administration basically treated Qaddafi as though he were an aged sex offender, put him under house arrest and tagged him with a ankle monitor. Qaddafi, once the darling of the left, became just a cranky old man with an odd fashion sense selling his oil to whomever wanted it. Sort of an Arab Joan Rivers selling his wares on late night TV-- he did seem to wear a lot of that Joan Rivers jewelry, by the way. We didn't buy much oil from him--only about 0.3% of our consumption comes from Libya--but the Euros did. So we had an imperfect solution in an imperfect world. 
Then, Qaddafi got himself a rebellion. OK. People in Libya are unhappy. OK. He is a crazy gangster and responded like a gangster. OK. And our interests are what? Are they so pressing as to justify Obama's incredible abuse of Presidential power? Not even an attempt to get Congress, much less the American people on board? How do we justify sending our people into harm's way, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, probably billions by the time this is "over," however, that's defined? What is the mission? No Fly Zone, or blast Qaddafi into the arms of 72 virgins? What result will make any difference to American national interests? What are our interests in this?
No thought was given to our national interests, but we got what we "wanted": Qaddafi ended up trapped in a sewer drain, beaten, and shot to death by a mob protected by NATO planes and drones.

Then an odd thing began to happen: reality began to assert itself. The American Ambassador and three other Americans were murdered in Benghazi. Our misadministration in Washington, as covered extensively here, launched a campaign of lies and excuses for why and how that happened. The MSM, with one or two honorable exceptions, went along and helped cover this criminal incompetence and prevarication in the interest of assuring The One's re-election.

Our Ambassador died at the hands of the jihadis for whom we went to war. The entire region has  become increasingly unstable as the crazies come out in North Africa and elsewhere, seeing weakness and cowardice everywhere--for some inexplicable reason they don't seem to fear #hashtags.

There are consequences for failure,
The unpleasant drag queen who used to run Libya knew how to keep these groups under control. Instead of working with the old buzzard, we listened to the Europeans, and participated in an insane war to have him removed. By the time we decided that Qaddafi was the devil, he was cooperating with us in the battle against the Islamists, had given up his involvement in international terrorism, and abandoned his WMD program. He was like an old repentant Mafia chieftain who sought to make points with the FBI. He also, it turned out, preferred dealing with American oil companies than with European ones, the real source of Europe's sudden rage against Loretta of Libya. Back when he was sponsoring terror, the Euros were terrified of him and opposed Reagan's actions against him. When he no longer posed a threat, ah, well . . . time to go to war, well, have the Americans go to war, that is.
As noted, we are putting together an armada in Italy to go into Libya and evacuate our Embassy--and avoid criticism for the Obama misadministration by putting on a show of overwhelming force just as Trey Gowdy's Committee begins the task of uncovering the Benghazi cover-up. We will see calls that now is not the time to criticize the misadministration when it is trying to save our people in Libya. The Embassy, of course, should be evacuated, and now. There is nothing useful it can do under the present conditions. Those conditions in large part were brought about by the disastrous foreign policy of Obama, Clinton, and now Kerry: a policy created by progressive delusions and by a total misreading of the role and importance of a resolute, steady, and activist United States. Weakness and cloudy thinking will get you killed. Listening to the EU will get you nowhere, and that's where we are.

We assume that the President has learned about the disintegration of his MidEast policy from the media, and is "mad as hell."

It all proceeds as foretold.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Shaking Hand: A Memory of Pakistan

After reading my story about the dead monkey, an old colleague emailed me a nasty picture of two Pakistani boys beating a small puppy to death on a roadside. He wrote under it, "Remember?" I did remember the savagery with which Pakistanis treated animals, especially dogs. They showed no sympathy or empathy for the suffering of animals, and seemed to enjoy inflicting needless pain and death on them. This, of course, was also a society in which women were treated not much better than these animals.

I am not a vegetarian; I recognize the need for some testing of medicines and other products on animals; I eat meats and seafood of all kinds; I have hunted birds and mammals; I have had no problem pulling a weapon on threatening humans. I, however, hate cruelty and despise people who abuse animals or other humans just because they have the power to do so. That was a big problem I had in my service in Muslim countries; one had to turn a blind eye to the big and little savageries of daily life there. Those were quite common in Pakistan. One saw animals, children, and women beaten. I remember a crowd in Peshawar stoning a confused dog to death while children laughed and cheered. Our maid, a Christian widow with a young daughter, had been forced to undergo sterilization by her previous Muslim employer as a condition of her employment. He assumed Christian women were of loose morals, and didn't want her to get pregnant.

When we weren't in Peshawar, or I was on the road, we lived in a big, charmless concrete house in Islamabad. It had a high wall and a large yard. Our immediate neighbors were a Spanish family. The man of the house, Eliseo, worked for the US Embassy and was a superb engineer. He was helping build the new chancery. He barely had escaped with his life when the embassy was attacked. Trapped in his second floor office with a Pakistani employee when the mob set the building on fire, he decided to jump from the window into the screaming horde; his employee did not follow. Eliseo landed on his feet, and although breaking an ankle, he managed to act as though he were part of the attacking crowd. He gradually limped to the back of the mob, and got a ride on a motorcycle to his house. The employee left behind died from the smoke. That experience gave Eliseo a healthy skepticism about life in Pakistan.

Eliseo and I became hunting buddies, and enjoyed going out for boar and birds. He was a superb shot and knew all the good hunting spots. He was also an outstanding cook who could prepare game like nobody else I have ever met.

The Diplowife and I found and adopted a small, underfed, rather ragged puppy who appeared one morning at our gate. I barely stopped the guard from stomping the pup to death. He couldn't understand why we would want such a miserable looking thing. Well, we cleaned him up, and took him to a local veterinarian accustomed to crazy foreigners. The vet vaccinated the pup, and gave us other medicines for him. Our Christian maid cheerfully would cook him some meat and rice every day; our Muslim employees stayed away from him. We named him Kutta, Urdu for dog--not too original, I admit. After three weeks or so he was coming along nicely; he was turning into an affectionate little beast, following me around the cavernous house, ears flapping and tail wagging, and with that grim look of determination that puppies adopt as though they are going on a vital mission. I also enjoyed playing with him in the yard.

One day I was standing outside our gate talking to Eliseo. Our guard cracked the gate open to say something to me and, you guessed it, Kutta slipped out. He ran into the street as a small taxi cab was speeding by. The cab deliberately swerved to hit Kutta, and did so with a sickening thud, and then sped away. I can still see the driver and passengers laughing. Eliseo and I ran out into the street; I scooped up Kutta, but it was obvious the injuries were fatal. Kutta could not move his rear legs, and was coughing blood. I had my wife call the vet, but he wasn't home.

Eliseo said the obvious, "We can't let him suffer like this." I agreed. I went home, and got an old JC Higgins Model 88 .22 LR revolver I had owned since childhood. I loaded the thing and walked over to where Eliseo was comforting the dying Kutta. He stood up and made way for me. I crouched down, with my left hand grabbed Kutta by both ears, and with my right put the barrel of the revolver against the back of his small head. My hand began to shake uncontrollably. There was no way I could pull the trigger. I began to feel a powerful sensation of nausea. I looked up at Eliseo, and said to him in Spanish, "No lo puedo hacer" ("I can't do it").  Eliseo, himself fighting back tears, said, "Move, I'll do it." In what seemed one swift movement, he grabbed Kutta by the ears, put the revolver near the back of the puppy's head, and fired. Kutta died instantly. I threw up.

Eliseo gave me the revolver, which I stuffed into my belt. He helped me wrap up Kutta in an old towel. As I was burying Kutta in our yard, the guard came up to me and said, "You should have let me kill him when he first showed up." I glared at him, but successfully fought my urge to pull out the JC Higgins and empty it into his stupid smiling face. I don't think I would have thrown up.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Killing the Monkey: A Jungle Memory

For unknown reasons this recollection of an odd "adventure" in Guyana began burbling a couple of days ago. As noted before--here, here,  and here, for example--I served in that colorful and desperately poor socialist paradise, 1978-1980. A relatively comfortable, though sleepy backwater when given independence from Britain in 1966, it quickly became a semi-authoritarian, anti-US, Third World socialist farrago with the most vile racial politics imaginable. Guyana vied then and now with Haiti and Paraguay for the title of poorest country in the Americas--having visited all three, I assure you that you're better off in Haiti or Paraguay.

This post, however, is not a political screed. It is a little tale about decisions we make re what is and is not ok to kill.

The Diplowife and I lived in a modest home. We were young, recently married, and didn't have many material possessions or needs. We had two old cars, and my almost $14,500/yr salary seemed more than adequate. Georgetown was, well, boring; there was little to see or do, and almost nothing to buy. We would go days without electricity, and often without water, too. The crime rate was very high, and we went everywhere armed.

We became good friends with the Colombian Charge, Jose, and his wife, Ines. With these delightful people, we would venture out to the old movie theater downtown on weekends or to the rather run down drive-in on the outskirts of the city. At the theater, we would pay an extra fifty Guyanese cents (about twenty US cents) to sit in the balcony, and away from the boisterous drunks and homeless who made the place their low rent hotel: for about fifty Guyanese cents, they could spend nearly the entire day in the theater. The movies were much-used American, British, and Indian films, often bootlegged and worse for the wear because of the heat and the humidity. Many would appear on the screen in two colors, pink and dirty white.

With our Colombian friends, we would sit in the first row of the balcony. Before sitting down, we would spray the area around our seats with powerful pesticide against the large cockroaches that inhabited the place, and then put towels on the chairs. Jose and I would sit with our wives between us, S&W .357 revolvers in our laps, and big walking sticks in our hands to whack the occasional rat that would cross the handrail in front of us. Once the lights went out and the show began, the bats that lived in the rafters would begin to circle above our heads, and often dive into the screen, some attaching themselves to it. I remember one night, watching a scratched pinkish print of Kubrick's "Barry Linden," Jose nailed a big rodent as it scuttled across the railing. He sent it flying out and, of course down--even socialists can't repeal the law of gravity--into the cheap seats below: a howl went up. We heard a lot of stomping. A good Saturday night.

One day, a newly arrived Embassy staffer, Dave, told me he could arrange a hunting trip up the Demerara river into the Guyanese hinterland. We would stay overnight in an Amerindian village that had a Catholic mission. The mission priest, a contact of Dave's, gave the OK, but asked that we donate some money to the mission. I don't remember the amount, but it wasn't much. We could bring a couple of other employees and our wives. We would go night hunting for a big jungle rodent called the labba, similar to the tepezcuintle one finds in Central America. While not crazy about the game, it was something to do, sounded exotic, and I had never gone hunting at night. To get to the village, we hired a boat, which looked much like a Disney version of a Mike Fink keel boat.

Very early in the morning, we began chugging slowly up the mighty river leaving behind the city and heading into the jungle. Having just reread Conrad's Heart of Darkness, I thought we would encounter Mr. Kurtz at the end of our voyage--but, no such luck. As we approached our destination after several hours, we could hardly hear each other talk because of the noise from the howler monkeys in the trees.

We pulled up to the village's rickety dock. The priest was neither around, nor, apparently, had he informed the chief of our plans. No arrangements existed. This, of course, entailed negotiations, the passing of dollars and a couple of whisky bottles--one scotch and one bourbon, if I remember correctly. In exchange, the chief, who proudly wore a John Travolta "Saturday Night Fever" t-shirt, allowed us two huts in the village. The women would stay in one hut, and the men in another. The women got the bigger and better one--or so we thought. The chief assigned a couple of guides to take us hunting in their dugouts. We four men went to unload the boat as it was starting to get dark, and we would go hunting soon. With the darkness, two unhappy guides showed up. Their unhappiness stemmed from the fact that the village would hold a festival that night, and they would miss it because of us. A few dollars proffered only slightly placated them, and they went to complain to the chief. He, however, ordered them to take us. Their hearts were not in the hunt.

After some delay occasioned by the slowness with which the guides got ready to go, two of us clambered into each canoe. We slowly cruised up and down some very narrow waterways, the morose guides, in a desultory way, shined lights into the growth and yelled at us to keep quiet. After puttering around for three or four hours, those guides decided we needed to eat before heading back. We ran the dugouts up onto the bank and headed for a thatch-roofed gazebo in a small clearing. Our guides started laughing as we four Great White Hunters went into the gazebo, sat on some rudimentary benches, put our Coleman lanterns on the table, and broke out the sandwiches. We had committed a major jungle faux pas: We had not bothered to check for snakes. Yes, snakes. A big issue in Guyana. Lots of nasty poisonous ones. I think our attendants would have died happy if one of us had died miserably from a snake bite.

After nervously eating our sandwiches, we headed back. None of us had burned off a single shotgun round. The guides, however, had no interest in more "hunting," and wanted to catch at least some of the partying. When, however, we slid back into the village, we found it cloaked in a deathly silence. By the very dim light thrown by a couple of smoldering fires and some weak light bulbs, we could see men strewn over the ground. I figured a neighboring tribe had attacked, and wiped them out. The truth proved not quite so dramatic: the whole village, at least the menfolk component, had gotten absolutely, lights-out-I-am-in-la-la-land drunk. The guides were very disappointed: the party was over.

As we walked to our hut, now compulsively checking for snakes, we neared the women's hut and decided to look in on the wives. It was about 3 am. One friend shouldered open the door with some difficulty, and almost got cracked in the head by an embassy wife wielding a club. As it turned out, while we had our adventure, the women had their own. Their hut contained the village's reserve barrels of "sleepy wine." All night, men in various stages of drunkenness, had come through the door, or, once the women blocked it, had crawled through window openings to get a cup or two of "sleepy wine." Our wives, needless to say, had not slept. My wife led the three other women over to our hut and announced that they would stay with us for the rest of the night.

Next morning, Dave could not let pass the failed hunting trip of the previous night. He had come to hunt, and hunt he would. The rest of us put away the shotguns, and went for a walk in the woods with our wives while waiting for our "Mike Fink" boat to return--it having sailed away for some reason. Everybody was in a cheerful mood, babbling about the great adventure, and "admiring" the huge spiders we saw along the way. Dave, however, had decided to engage a guide and hunt. They sped off ahead of us. About halfway through our walk, we heard two shotgun blasts in rapid succession, and Dave yell in victory. Well, I thought, he finally got himself a jungle rat.


A few minutes later, he came around the bend, walking quickly towards us dragging what at first looked like a person. It was a large and very dead howler monkey. He dumped it at the feet of his horrified wife who immediately noticed the crying baby monkey clinging to its mother's blood-soaked body. The women began to scream at Dave, berating him for killing a mother monkey. Even we rough, tough macho dudes had a problem with this tableau. One said, "Hey, Dave, man, you killed a monkey? And one with a baby on her back . . . that's not right, not right."

Furious at the reception he had gotten, Dave did not say a word to us for the rest of the trip, and, in fact, rarely spoke to any of us again. Several months later, his much younger wife left him for somebody much wealthier than he.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Politicizing Benghazi

As readers of this humble blog know, a lot of things about the Benghazi disaster deeply trouble me.

One in particular stands out: The breaking of the bond between Americans sent to do dangerous things in dangerous places and the government that sent them. Lots of us have served in dangerous posts. Yes, of course, in the Foreign Service there is a band of officers whom I call the "Pierre Cardin crowd" because of their penchant for London, Paris, Rome, and Washington. Most of my friends in the Service, however, definitely belonged to the Cockroach-Terrorist-Iguana crowd. We wanted to go to the tough and rowdy posts. We went, however, with the knowledge that if the poop smacked the fan, our folks would come get us or at least make the effort. We had a very close bond with our military colleagues; we deeply respected their skill, capability, and courage. They, in turn, often thought we were nuts, but admired us for going to live in the places we did, and to work there with what struck them as minimal security. That bond was shattered in Benghazi by the National Command Authority; remember, even the hapless Jimmy Carter approved a far-fetched and dangerous rescue operation for the hostages in Teheran.

Our people were attacked and, as far as we know, neither the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, nor, most important, the President said, "Let's go get them!" Our people were left to die lingering, horrible, and degrading deaths at the hands of the Islamic jihadis for whom we had knocked off Queen of the Desert Moammar Gaddafi. Once the disaster became apparent, then the White House and its minions, with the connivance of the media, swung into action with a relentless campaign of lies, half-truths, distractions, and savaging of anybody who suggested things had not been handled well. There was an all-out effort to save Obama's re-election campaign, and it was so successful that the Republicans hesitated from making Benghazi an issue for fear of "politicizing" it. The "politicizing," of course, already had occurred.

For two years, the White House, the Democratic party, and the media have tried to ignore and bury Benghazi with epithets such as "phony scandal"; explanations that it was all caused by a "despicable" video seen by almost nobody; and charges that anybody who raised the issue was obviously some deranged Tea Partier, a racist, a fool, somebody who wanted to waste time on the past instead of "moving forward," or all of the above and many more. Now that the House finally has named a Committee, under the very estimable Trey Gowdy, the Democrats and their friends in the media are having a conniption.

The old canard of "politicizing" has been dug up; crazy Nancy Pelosi even has said that the families of the Benghazi victims do not want an investigation. Pelsoi also claimed that the Committee is unfair because it will not have the same number of Democrats as Republicans. That didn't seem to bother the party of the KKK, Jim Crow, and Alger Hiss when Congress named Democrat-majority committees to investigate Watergate and Iran-Contra.

Time to remind one and all when the politicizing took place and by whom. It wasn't now and it wasn't by the Republicans. The White House owns this disaster; yes, Mr. President, you did build that, and you did dishonor a bond of over 200 years between our military and diplomats--and that does make a difference.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I am trying to put together a detailed and hopefully interesting account of a huge fraud investigation in which I was involved while overseas. It's a story that's hard to tell as it has many moving parts, lots of people, and all taking place in many countries over a considerable span of time. It's a story I wish I had written a few years ago when it was all fresh in  my mind. It's also a story with some legal implications so I have to be very careful about what I say.

It is a story, however, that would make a great HBO miniseries. Any producers out there?

I will be commenting on other things, but my postings might be a bit more eratic than normal while I try to write this without letting it become some Russian novel.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Boko Haram and Other Weird Things . . .

This Boko Haram business makes me sick to my stomach. This group of jihadis has been around for just over ten years and is responsible for thousands of deaths. It is a Muslim organization based mostly, but not solely, in Nigeria that advocates sharia law, and seeks to disrupt all non-Mulsim education and religious activities. It has become infamous for attacking schools, murdering--including burning alive--or kidnapping hundreds of students. Let me clarify that: murdering and kidnapping non-Muslim students. This is a group only recently put on the State Department terror list; Hillary Clinton refused to list it as terrorist for a variety of reasons (explained, sort of, here). I think the real reason was that BH is Muslim, and the list already has "too many" of those.

Our leaders rulers and media elite continue not wanting to see what BH and other groups like it are all about. Bill Clinton, psychoanalyst for the world, of course, declared that the problem with BH was poverty,
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday, Nigeria’s challenge of terrorism in the north was being fuelled by extreme poverty that increases by the day, an evaluation he once offered during a previous visit to Nigeria. It is also an evaluation Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan hates to hear. 
Mr. Clinton said Nigerian leaders must share the country’s resources equitably, and develop the country’s human resources to stem extremism that has seen bombings, shootings and abductions escalate mainly in the northern states where extremist groups, Boko Haram, and Ansaru, thrive. 
“You have to somehow bring economic opportunity to the people who don’t have it. You have all these political problems — and now violence problems — that appear to be rooted in religious differences and all the rhetoric of the Boko Harams and others. But the truth is the poverty rate in the north is three times of what it is in Lagos,” the former president said.
I have been to very poor countries, such as Paraguay, Bolivia, and Haiti, and they don't have anything akin to these BH savages running around. Ol' Bill Clinton also seems to forget that the 9/11 hijackers were all comfortably well-off, if not rich, as was Bin Ladin. In Nigeria we have Muslims attacking Christians--all of them are poor and all of them are black. The one thing that makes them different is the religion.

Our vapid First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS of the Toned Arms) gave a "Presidential address" (Huh?) today dealing with the kidnappings in Nigeria,
Delivering the weekly presidential radio and Internet address on the eve of the U.S. holiday honoring mothers, the first lady and mother of two said that, like millions of people around the world, she and President Barack Obama are "outraged and heartbroken" over the April 15 abduction of nearly 300 girls from their dormitory.
She asked the nation to pray for their safe return and stressed the importance of education. 
"In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters," Mrs. Obama said in the five-minute address, referring to Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. "We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now." 
She said what happened more than three weeks ago in Nigeria was not an isolated incident, but "a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions."
There is so much so very wrong here it is tough to pick where to start and where to end. First, who the hell is Michelle Obama to give a "Presidential address"? Second, it is all about the Obamas. They act because these girls remind them of their own daughters--that is apparently the litmus test for US action. Third, we have committed troops, many of whom look like my sons, to hunt for BH, so you would think the President as Commander-in-Chief would want to take to the airwaves and explain why we send troops to save Nigerian girls in Nigeria but couldn't send them to save American men in Benghazi. No, instead, we got some pointless, maudlin harangue about education for girls.

The kidnappings have nothing to do with that. The kidnappers are Muslims and the victims are overwhelmingly Christian. This is a grotesque act of Muslim terror, not part of some global male misogynist TEA Party plot to prevent girls from attending school. These are Muslims who consider girls and women no better than cattle, and see nothing wrong with kidnapping, killing, raping, or selling them to other Muslims as slaves. Nowhere does the FLOTUS mention the word "Islam," in fact, neither does the article to which I linked above.

It is indeed troubling when a TV comedian such as Bill Maher has a better understanding of what's at stake than does the President, the FLOTUS, and the media. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Weekend Reminisce: A Little Fraud Abroad, Episode I

This is a true story.

Well, as true as memory lets it be, and subject to three caveats:

1) The names have been changed to protect me;

2) I had to fudge some details for brevity's sake; and,

3) I, unfortunately, had to omit a few other (interesting) details as I don't want to risk any accusation of compromising means and methods.

That said, it's true.

OK, here we go.

I had arrived at post to serve as DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission), but got there just as the Ambassador was moving on, without a new one yet confirmed by the Senate. That meant I would be chargé d'affaires, which as explained before means,
 "almost Ambassador" but it does carry an extra ounce of prestige, and after taxes maybe another $400 a month. 
The departing Ambassador and I overlapped by a few days. On the last one, as we rode to the airport, he said, "Oh, on that vacant position as head of Econ, I had to take a guy known as the worst officer in the Foreign Service. I owed a favor to his boss." That was not a cheerful announcement to hear. I would have to deal with the "worst officer in the Foreign Service" (WOFS) for the next three or so years.

A couple of weeks later, WOFS landed, and began living up to his name. The day he arrived, we had a big reception at another embassy. He went, and immediately hit on a woman by asking whether she had any plans for "breakfast tomorrow." OK, admittedly he didn't know that this particular woman was my wife, but my ol' Sephardic blood temp started to rise. And no, my wife did not have breakfast with him, just in case any of the eight readers of this blog are wondering.

Not long after this auspicious start, I noticed that I rarely saw him in the building. His deputy usually came to the morning staff meetings, explaining that WOFS was making courtesy calls on this or that counterpart at another embassy, at some government ministry, or was with some other important economic actor. I bought that for a bit, but after that bit passed, began to get suspicious.

We had a crisis involving an industrial plant in which a major American corporation had a large stake; it was a reported chemical leak. Leftist groups and politicians sought to exploit the reports, and fan anti-American sentiment. I called WOFS's office to tell him to go check it out, and get us the real story, not just what the press was reporting. Nobody could find WOFS. His cellphone was off and he wasn't home. I sent his deputy to the "leak" site; he did a tremendous job of debunking the press reports, and we averted a PR disaster.

I was livid. Where was WOFS? I called the motor pool and asked if they had taken him somewhere. Yes, was the tentative reply. WOFS requested a vehicle early that morning, and was not back. Where had he gone? To a five star hotel. I sent somebody there to have him haled before the high court of a furious Chargé. He freely admitted going to the hotel, claiming service as a judge at a cooking competition. He could not explain the US interest in this event, and seemed remarkably unconcerned about his dereliction of duty.

Let me stop.

Firing somebody in the government is very, very, very, very, etc., difficult. In the Foreign Service, at least, you can declare somebody as having lost the confidence of the Ambassador/Charge and have him sent home, and let HQs deal with him. If you go that route, however, you better have it all very well documented to protect yourself from grievance procedures or even lawsuits. I opened a file on WOFS. The file got thick, quickly.

What little work WOFS did produce was pure garbage: poorly written, poorly sourced, and just generally way below the standards you expect in an experienced reporting officer. The file grew. I also began hearing rumblings of unhappiness among his section's staff, especially the female employees. Nobody, however, came forward with any solid examples of inappropriate conduct, so I had to bide my time.

One particular morning found our IT guys in a whirlwind of activity. The embassy's brand new unclassified computer system had come crashing down infested with viruses. It took a long and laborious clean up effort to get it up and running. I knew then even less about computers and the internet than now, and kept asking how this could have happened. There were no clear answers--at least none I understood. A few days later, again, our system hit the ground with a digital thud. I called in the IT guys, and told them this could not go on. I wanted a full-scale investigation into how our system was getting infected. Where did these viruses originate? Who was bringing them into that system?

You guessed it: WOFS was the source. The IT and embassy security gurus informed me that WOFS' account had a huge number of files stored, and that he had sent and received literally hundreds of emails in a very short time. They asked for permission to enter those files and retrieve the emails. I said, yes, do it. I could not understand what he would save or send, given how little work he produced. I requested the sign-in logs for entry into the chancery. WOFS regularly showed up at 0600 and apparently just burned up the internet. I called him in and asked why he came to work some two hours before we opened. He had some goofy answers about trying to catch up on his work, preparing reports, etc. The file grew some more.

Next day, the security officer came in with a mischievous glint in his eye. He had printed portions of WOFS' files and several emails. The files were packed with downloaded pornographic material, and--ahem--risqué correspondence. WOFS was exchanging email with dozens of women he had "met" via an adult dating site. In these missives, he portrayed himself as the Big Man at the embassy. Most of it was pathetic, but some was disturbing. In one set of correspondence, the "woman" at the other end kept asking about security procedures at the embassy. WOFS provided the info. That was it: this guy had to go.

I, again, called him to my office, and tore into him. I put before him the motor pool logs, and noted that he had taken more official car trips than any other employee; the drivers had admitted to the security officer that WOFS had them enter fake destinations. Rather than calling on foreign officials, or economic contacts, WOFS was visiting women in and around the capital. I informed him that he no longer would have access to the motor pool, the phones, or the computer system, nor would he have any duties in the section; that until I could get rid of him, he was to show up every day and sit in the cafeteria. If he didn't show up, the security officers had orders to bring him in. He took it all with remarkable passivity, making no effort to defend himself.

He, nevertheless, had one more little surprise.

The next day, two female employees came to see me. First one, then the other, slapped a condom (unused) on my desk along with a pornographic picture. I restrained myself from uttering any of the thousands of politically incorrect quips bubbling up in my brain. One of these employees said, "We found this stuff on our desk this morning. WOFS admitted putting it there as a joke after you yelled at him." They said they would contact the EEO division in Washington, arguing that the embassy had a hostile work environment for women. I asked them to let me call EEO first, and get advice on how to handle WOFS. It seemed that violating EEO strictures would be taken more seriously than endangering the security of the embassy . . . hey, bureaucracy in the age of progressivism.

The EEO folks proved (surprise!) worthless. They promised to send me a booklet on how to manage these situations as I wasn't doing it right. I exploded, "A booklet? You're going to pouch me a booklet? That will take three weeks to get here! I have a justifiable revolt on my hands from employees! They are not going to wait three weeks!" I slammed down the phone. I called a friend in the Director General's office. I explained the situation to her, and she immediately said, "Declare a loss of confidence, and we will back you up 100 percent. Get him out of there."

That's what we did. I drafted a loss of confidence memo, following the procedures to the letter, got the witnesses to sign, and called in WOFS. In the presence of witnesses, as required, I handed him the memo, let him read it, and told him he had the right to respond. He shrugged and declined. He, however, asked for permission to write a report on the local economy (!) before he got thrown out. Request denied. A few days later he was gone.

The Department did not know what to do with him. They put him in a language class, and tentatively assigned him a new job. I will never forget when the person who was to be his boss called. She said WOFS had me down as a reference and had said that I would vouch for him. I couldn't stop laughing. I did not vouch for him.

He bounced around in temporary assignments, and made some noises about filing a grievance against me because I had not specifically told him he could not download pornographic material on the embassy computer. I don't know what eventually happened to him, but was surprised a couple of years later when taking a mandatory "diversity for managers" class in DC. WOFS' case was one of the case studies, and listed as a success for, you guessed it, the EEO folks.

I was not amused.

Hey, you pay for this stuff?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

VE Day

When I was a child growing up in 1950s America, May 8 was marked as Victory in Europe Day, the day upon which the German High Command agreed to cease all hostilities. Most hostilities already had stopped in the three or four days leading up to May 8, 1945, but the 8th was determined to be the final day of war in Europe--because of the time difference, it was the 9th in Moscow.

The war in Asia churned on: American, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and British troops prepared for what promised to be perhaps the most horrific battle in history, the invasion of the main Japanese islands. VE Day meant little to the US Marines, sailors, and GIs in the midst of the ghastly three-month battle of Okinawa (April 1 - June 21, 1945) which saw some 240, 000 people killed, including nearly 15,000 US military personnel, split almost evenly among marines, sailors, and soldiers. The battle also included among its casualties famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle and Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., the highest ranking US officer killed by enemy fire during WWII, and the son of Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr. 

Does VE Day, in fact, does the victory in World War II, mean anything to us today? I suspect that most Americans today, I don't know if this holds true elsewhere, are not even dimly aware of VE Day, and probably rarely think of VJ Day, either. Truth be told, it was a victory with a limited expiration date. We moved very quickly into acquiescing to Soviet control of a large swathe of Europe, and then got into a Cold War of more than five decades duration with our erstwhile Soviet allies. While the victory over Nazi Germany was as complete as one could imagine, in sharp contrast to how the First World War ended, VE Day showed what a hard time democracies have with military victory. We seem almost embarrassed by winning, and not long after turn on the people who brought victory, e.g., the savaging of "Bomber" Harris and Curtis LeMay, and try to depict the losers as victims.

We seem incapable of exploiting victory. We saw it with the collapse of the USSR, where we allowed an angry and resentful Russia to emerge. We see it, again, in Iraq, where an initially dodgy military strategy got turned around, and with a lot of sacrifice and guts, AQ and friends were handed a major pasting. As before, it did not take long for the democracies to cut out on Iraq, and turn on the major architect of victory, General Petraeus; Iraq is now falling into the clutches of Iran and the crazies. It is being repeated in Afghanistan where we see a conscious effort to hand victory to the Taliban and its rag-tag AQ allies.

Well, I have drifted a bit from the original topic. Sorry.  I guess my point is that, ironically, democracies seem better at war than at peace--an inversion of the usual wisdom.

Happy VE Day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Happy 66th to Israel

It is Israel's 66th birthday.

The country has come a long, long way from its very humble and precarious origins. Many things have changed since then.

Israel is now the most militarily powerful country in its region; it has a first class and first world economy from which spring all sorts of world-class innovations and products; there is no doubt that Israel is here to stay, despite the booboisie (thank you H.L. Mencken) who on occasion take control of the West--yes, Secretary Kerry, that is meant for you . . .

Some things have not changed.

Israel's neighbors cannot resign themselves to the existence of Israel. Israel, a Western democracy which believes in and practices the rule of law, is the only country in the region that can be so described. The antisemitism that made the creation of Israel imperative, continues to exist, and to manifest itself in new and odd ways, notably but not solely in Europe. No other country has been subjected to as much criticism and as many highly negative resolutions at the UN and other international fora as Israel.

The haters around the world and here at home cannot resign themselves to the existence of a democratic, pro-American Jewish state.

Happy birthday, Israel, and we wish you many, many more.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Guerrillas in Our Midsts: Remembering the Progressives and Their Love for the Central American Insurgencies.

The eight readers of this blog might know that I served in Guatemala, 1988-1992. It was an odd time in Central America. The great armed guerrilla movements of El Salvador and Guatemala were on their last legs. At times it didn't feel like it, but the trend line was definitely downwards for them. Despite the best efforts of the Democrats in the US Congress, campus "progressives," European and American "human rights activists," leftist journalists, the Nobel Prize Committee, the Castro regime, the Soviets, the Sandinistas, and Mexico, the guerrillas were losing ground. In Guatemala, despite the many roadblocks thrown in their way by the US Congress, the Guatemalan army, then one of the toughest bunch of fighters you ever could meet, was grinding the guerrilla bands into military dust and political irrelevance. Using scarce and antiquated equipment, and relying on small units led by some excellent lieutenants, captains, and majors, the Guatemalans had developed their own anti-insurency doctrine and tactics, and were winning. It was tough, brutal fighting, and niceties were not often observed by either side; the guerrillas were on the run and barely kept alive largely thanks to the life-line from Mexico.

Those of us in the Embassy who spent a lot of time in the field knew this, and tried to tell Washington. The Great Ones back in DC, however, were not really listening, totally absorbed, as they were, by the battle with the "progressives" on the Hill, trying to appease them, and spouting the mantra that the 30-year war could not be won, and only a negotiated end was possible. They also were not interested in taking Mexico to task for its support of guerrilla movements--Mexico did eventually abandon the guerrillas as NAFTA negotiations with the US advanced and got paid back with the Chiapas conflict.

During my four years in Guatemala, we had countless visits from "human rights activists," leftist "journalists," and Congressional staff, usually of the Democrat variety. These, after all, were the days of Democratic rule of the lower house. For some reason, the Ambassador designated me as the primary on receiving  these American and European lefties who came through Guatemala and dropped in on the Embassy to hear our briefing--well, actually, they came in to yell at, spit on, and insult Satan, and I was Satan's designated flak catcher (to paraphrase Tom Wolfe). As a then relatively young officer, I was taken aback at how Americans, including members of Congressional staff, could be so anti-American and so pro-communist. It was a shock that made me understand that the Democratic Party had gotten on the bus to Loopyville and never gotten off. They wanted the communist guerrillas to win.

I had run into the opposition to America that came from the Democratic party before serving in Guatemala. I took part as a member of the US delegation to the 77th Conference of the Interparliamentary Union held at Managua, Nicaragua, April 27-May 2, 1987--you can click here and read the US delegation's report if you're sorely in need of dull reading material (I get mentioned in passing). It was an inconsequential meeting as such meetings go, although it was the first big do put on for the world community by the Sandinistas. The event was held at the newly built Olaf Palme Center, and Mrs. Lisbet Palme came and gave an opening speech in which she blamed her husband's assassination the previous year on the CIA. It all went downhill from there.

The Sandinistas had opted for what was then a technologically fancy translation system; delegates could walk around the center with wireless headsets over which the numerous speeches were simultaneously translated into the five or six official languages of the conference. Some African delegates thought the gadgets would work on the street; that they could engage Spanish-speaking Nicaraguans, and the headphones would translate--just like on Star Trek. The expensive sets began disappearing, and the Sandinista hosts had to dash about trying to wrestle them away from delegates before they walked out the door. I found quite interesting how racist Sandinista liberators of humanity could be--they, of course, didn't realize that I could understand their derogotory remarks about the Africans, even if I wasn't wearing a headset. A memorable personal encounter with the fact that racism and leftism go hand-in-hand.

If one went out into the field, and got away from the Sandinista handlers, there was no doubt that the "Contras" were winning the war. They had the support of ordinary people almost regardless of status. I saw first hand the so-called "sweaty palm" syndrome among Sandinista officials in the countryside; they would quietly sidle up to the gringos, and tell us how they, of course, did not really support the FSLN, and how they loved the USA, and that "everybody here is a Contra, and so are we." The obvious message being that when these Contras win, please use your influence to save us. Well, the problem was that the battle was being fought in the US Congress, and the Democrats managed to cut off all funding for the Contras soon after our visit to Nicaragua. The Sandinistas were saved by the Democrats, and the opposition lost all faith in the word and promises of the United States.

The pattern repeats and repeats and repeats . . .

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sorry, Had a Computer Meltdown

Tried drafting from a remote location and instead of saving the draft I published it. Still working on it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Benghazi: Not Exactly Rocket Science

Well, slowly, glacially even, but inexorably, the web of lies spun by the Obama misadministration re the Benghazi massacre is being ripped away--the process is very well summed up in this Jennifer Rubin post which includes some biting words from Brit Hume.

The emails are coming out that show what any sentient being on this planet already knew (that excludes MSNBC) that the White House was in full cover-up mode following the disaster; the White House, as the elections loomed, did not want the massacre to "stain" the Obama record on the Middle East, and had decided that the murders were going to be blamed on a justified reaction by Muslim crowds to an obscure video made in the California desert by an Egyptian Coptic Christian.

On this humble blog, I have written and written and written about Benghazi; these are some of the posts,


There are many more as you can see by perusing the archives.

From the start, I questioned the whole story, and noted that the give-away that we were in for a storm of lies was the disappearance of Hillary Clinton and the arrival on scene of Susan Rice. Of all the people to take the point on giving the misadministration's view on Benghazi, why Susan Rice? Where was Hillary? Well, it turned out that Hillary Clinton sped off to something very important in Peru from where she put a lot of physical and political distance distance between herself and the Obama misadministration.

Rice is a political hack totally devoted to Obama. She was more than willing to carry the water for Obama on the Benghazi massacre. Clinton, who never liked Obama (Duh!) and has burning political ambitions to be President, wanted to be seen as little as possible on this issue. We have yet to learn when Hillary Clinton learned about what was happening in Libya, and what she did with the information. Did she call the President? If so, what did she ask him to do? It is amazing that we still do not know what the President knew, when he knew it, and what if anything he ordered done.

I noted in various posts that the CIA does not draft talking points for State or for the UN Ambassador. What has come out, of course, is that the NSC and highly political levels of State and CIA prepped Rice and developed the subsequent public line about a video, a spontaneous demonstration, etc.

I don't want to go on.

None of this was difficult to figure out. You didn't need to have been 34 years at State to know the Obama/Rice Benghazi story was a lie. The stunning thing, however, is not that Obama and his henchmen lied--what do you expect from these people?--but the near-total abrogation of duty by the news media. Not only did four Americans die in Benghazi, but so did whatever little was left of the credibility of the major news organizations. One note: FOX as an organization covered it well, and did so despite the derision of the other organizations and the White House. That's why I do not consider it an insult when my progressive friends say, "Oh go watch Fox!"