Tag Archives: Paris attacks

Have we — or have we not — contained ISIS?


One of two key figures in the war against the Islamic State has it wrong about whether American military power has “contained” the terrorist organization.

President Barack Obama said ISIS has been “contained” on the battlefield. He said so the other day and then on the very next day, the Islamic State launched those horrifying attacks in Paris.

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that ISIS is “not contained.”

Who you gonna believe? The politician or the career military man?

I am going to stick with the Marine on this one.

Do I think we’re losing the war? I tend to believe we will be able ultimately to destroy the Islamic State. It’s going to take a lot more than just U.S. air power to do it. More nations already have joined in the fight, most notably France and Russia, two nations that have paid heavily for ISIS’s terror tactics.

Gen. Dunford told the committee — chaired by Republican Mac Thornberry of Clarendon — that “technically we are not at war” with the Islamic State. The word “technically” is critical here. To be at war requires — in the strictest sense — a declaration issued by Congress at the request of the president.

But in reality, we’re at war.

As for whether the general has contradicted the commander in chief and the secretary of defense and whether that puts Gen. Dunford’s status in some jeopardy, I’ll just add one final point.

We put the military under civilian command. Gen. Dunford answers to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and President Barack Obama, both of whom have said one thing about ISIS containment; meanwhile, Dunford has said something else. Yes, I believe Dunford’s time as Joint Chiefs chairman might be coming to a close.


Some good news on the ISIS front … maybe


There might be a glimmer of good news on which to build regarding the air campaign against the Islamic State.

It is that U.S. intelligence data suggest that the Islamic State’s ranks are thinning, that defections from the battlefield are increasing and that the air campaign launched against the terror network is having a direct impact.

Hmmm. Interesting, yes?

It’s foolish, of course, to get ahead of ourselves here. President Obama said ISIS had been “contained,” and then 24 hours later Paris was attacked by Islamic State terrorists.

But consider this from USA Today: “Top military officials estimate that the campaign has killed 23,000 Islamic State fighters, raising their death toll by 3,000 since mid-October. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East as chief of Central Command, told troops last week in Iraq that the campaign is inflicting maximum pain on the enemy, according to a military official who attended the meeting but who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.”

What does one make of that? Maximum pain ought to mean what we think it means, which is that the air strikes are inflicting the desired misery on this cabal of murderous religious extremists.

France has deployed its air power against the terrorists in the wake of the Paris attacks. Russia has joined the fight with full force after ISIS took responsibility for the downing of the Russian jet and the deaths of 224 passengers and crew.

Is the conflict heading for a quick conclusion? Hardly. However, it’s good to take note of positive trends when they present themselves. Let us hope they spur our combined military forces into delivering more pain and misery to the enemy.


Why aren’t we ‘all Kenyans’?


Evans Wadongo asks a pertinent question.

Where was the sustained international outrage over radical Islamic attacks on victims in the east African nation of Kenya?

Indeed, the response to the Paris attack that killed 130 victims and injured many more should have occurred when terrorists killed Kenyans in two attacks earlier.

Yet it didn’t happen, Wadongo — a native of Kenya — has asserted.

I’ll be candid and admit that I am one of perhaps billions of people who did not react as strongly to the Kenya carnage as I did to the Paris tragedy.

Sixty-seven people died in a 2013 attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi; in April of the year, 147 people died at Garrissa University College. The perps in both attacks were murderous jihadists.

I heard it said the other day that the response to the Paris attacks has been more visceral because millions of people  either “have been to Paris or want to go there.” They feel a certain kinship with the City of Light, it was said. Thus, their reaction to the Paris attack hits people closer to where they live, so to speak.

I don’t know what the answer really is.

Kenyans are hurting, too.

Wadongo, who runs a non-profit relief agency, stops short of suggesting race plays a major role in the world’s different reaction. He said it’s more a lack of understanding. He said: “It’s just that people are so used to negative things coming out of certain parts of the world — of Africa, of Asia, of South America. It’s the norm. People expect bad things to happen. When something bad happens in Europe or the U.S., it’s unusual. If something bad happens in some other part of the world, it’s usual.”

Whatever the case, the world needs to react as angrily to these attacks wherever they occur … and not just in these romantic locations where we don’t expect them.

Time for a strategy change against ISIL, Mr. President

Thick smoke from an airstrike by the US-led coalition rises in Kobani, Syria, as seen from a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Michael Vickers knows a lot about terrorists and how to fight them.

He’s written an essay for Politico that lays out an interesting argument directed straight at President Barack Obama.

The thrust of his message? Change your strategy in this fight against the Islamic State and the Levant, Mr. President.

It’s interesting to me what Vickers doesn’t say. He doesn’t insist that we send in thousands of ground troops to resume our war in the region. Instead he says it’s time to focus our immense air power on Syria, where he said ISIL’s strength has gone global. The Iraq-based enemy, Vickers asserts, is more of a “local” threat. The Syrian element is much more dangerous and invasive, he writes.

Vickers worked as a Special Operations and CIA officer. He helped draft strategies for fighting the Red Army when it invaded Afghanistan in 1980. He also assisted in planning the SEAL/CIA mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

The man’s got anti-terrorism chops.

Perhaps the most provocative and dramatic element of his strategy is this: “Airstrikes are not enough, however. We must leverage the moderate Syrian opposition—and they do exist in the tens of thousands—to dislodge ISIL and Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, from their territory. As we did in Afghanistan, we must support the moderate opposition with overwhelming air power, substantially increase the flow of arms to the moderate opposition, and place special operations and intelligence advisers with them. With American assistance, a much smaller insurgent force defeated the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. With our many Sunni partners, we can do the same in Syria.”

According to Vickers, we need to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the moderate Syrians who are fighting Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State.

President Obama’s strategy, according to critics in both parties at home, has become too timid. Yes, we’re scoring victories here and there. We’ve managed to wipe out known terror leaders and high-profile assassins, such as Mohammad Emwazi, aka Jihadi John.

But we’ve got some help standing by, ready to assist in this aerial campaign. Russia has gotten damn angry over the bombing of that jetliner that killed 224 people; France has unleashed its significant air power in response to the recent attack in Paris.

As Vickers has said, the time has come to ratchet up the attacks not only in Syria but also in states where ISIL is known to be operating.

Listen to this man, Mr. President.


WW II internment camps serve as justification?


This takes the cake.

Of all the things that have been said in recent days about Syrian refugees and whether the United States should ban any more of them from coming to this country, the mayor of a significant U.S. city invokes the memory of … Japanese-American internment camps.

Roanoke (Va.) Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, said this: “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

Oh, my.

The internment of Japanese-Americans after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 — over the course of history — been declared a national tragedy. Yes, FDR felt compelled to order the internment of those loyal Americans out of fear of what he thought might happen. It was in fact a xenophobic response aimed at imprisoning people of a certain racial minority. The U.S. government did not respond in nearly that fashion to German-Americans or Italian-Americans, whose own ethnic ancestors also had declared war on the United States.

Now we have the mayor of Roanoke suggesting that the internment camps justify the near-panic being expressed in many political corners of this country in response to what occurred this past week in Paris with the massacre of 129 innocent victims by European jihadists.

I should add that many decades after the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans the U.S. government issued a formal apology to the descendants of those who were held captive by their own government. The actions taken then are now considered a shameful breach of our Constitution’s guarantee of civil liberties for all its citizens.

The ACLU of Virginia issued this statement: “The government’s denial of liberty and freedom to over 100,000 individuals of Japanese descent — many of whom were citizens or legal residents and half of whom were children — is a dark stain on America’s history that Mayor Bowers should learn from rather than seek to emulate.”

Mayor Bowers has said he never intended to offend anyone with his remarks.

Well, Mr. Mayor, you damn sure did.

See story here.


Rooting out potential danger remains most challenging


Surely you remember this guy, but if not, here’s the answer.

His name was Mohammad Atta. He hailed from Egypt. But in the spring or early summer of 2001 he made his way to the United States. He then received lessons from instructors who taught him how to fly a commercial jetliner.

Atta didn’t receive any instruction on takeoff or landing; just how to control a massive airplane in mid-flight.

Then on Sept. 11, 2001, he and about 18 other men hijacked four jetliners. Atta seized control of one of them and flew it into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Another jet crashed into the second tower, the third jet crashed into a Pennsylvania field while passengers fought with hijackers. The fourth jetliner crashed into the Pentagon.

You know what happened after that.

What’s the point?

We’ve grown anxious about how we can find terrorists before they commit terrible deeds. Mohammad Atta and his gang of merciless thugs managed 14 years ago to slip undetected through U.S. security systems. Atta received and several of his fellow monsters received flying lessons of the nature I described here — without causing anyone to raise a red flag of alarm!

Making sure we detect evil among us is difficult and tedious work. Do we overreact and ban everyone who seeks to flee repression and bloodshed, which many thousands of them are doing at this moment in Syria?

Yes, we’ve long needed to secure ourselves against those committed to evil deeds. This need pre-dates by a very long time the events of just the past few days, weeks or months.

Indeed, the threat has existed all along.

Still, we have welcomed refugees who seek deliverance from misery. Check out this blog post from Texas Monthly. It speaks to a long-standing Texas tradition.

Why haven’t we panicked long ago?

Mohammad Atta gave us ample reason, didn’t he?


We’re going to be talking about the weather

pampa twister

If we were suffering from “terrorism fatigue” in the Texas Panhandle, our attention has been diverted to concerns a lot closer to home.

A large tornado touched down in the Pampa area earlier this evening. It was a big, fast-moving storm that roared across the plains. At this moment, I don’t know about any casualties, nor do I know about the extent of damage. The weather tonight went bonkers! The picture that accompanies this blog post comes courtesy of Dennis Palmitier, a friend of mine who lives in Pampa; a storm chaser took the picture. It’s a bit grainy, but you get the idea of the size of this thing.

In our neighborhood in the far southwestern corner of Amarillo, we got pelted with a violent — but thankfully very brief — hailstorm.

But what we’re hearing from weather forecasters is that an event such as what we had tonight is rare for this time of year. The middle of November isn’t considered a “normal” time of the year to produce the kind of energy that produces these storms.

Still, these things can happen any time and usually without much warning. It’s all part of living here. Indeed, we often joke in the Panhandle about how quickly the weather can change … and it does — rapidly!

The National Weather Service did warn us about 24 hours ago that the weather could get a little dicey in the Texas Panhandle.

Well, it did.

And for the time being, it’s taken our minds — more or less — off the tragedy that played out in Paris.


Muslims are Target No. 1


A little perspective might be in order as the world ponders how it should respond to the Islamic State’s most recent act of terror.

It is that the Islamic State has killed more Muslims than anyone else.

The Muslim death count far outnumbers those of Christians and Jews. Thus, it falls on Muslims to express their fear and hatred of the Islamic State … which is what we’re hearing in the wake of the Paris attacks.

It was barely a week before the Paris attacks that ISIL terrorists struck in Beirut, Lebanon; 43 people, mostly — if not entirely — Muslims, died in that carnage. Yet the world hardly took notice, at least compared to the way it has responded to the Paris massacre.

Muslims are condemning the attacks. Yet for reasons that no one can yet explain to my satisfaction, the media are giving those condemnations little attention. It’s being left, then, to many political observers — and that include those sitting way up yonder in the peanut gallery — to wonder aloud, “Why don’t Muslims speak out?”

Well, they are speaking out. They hate ISIL as much as, say, Christians and Jews do. And with good reason. ISIL is killing many more Muslims than any other religious group.

So, before some of us declare war on Islam and those who follow the Islamic faith, let’s lock arms with those who have the most to fear from the terror cabal … the Islamic State.

That would be the international Muslim community that wants to see the Islamic State eradicated as much as the rest of us.


Standing tall with France

santa fe bldg

It’s only a symbol of solidarity, but given its location and the occasional animosity that flares up around these parts toward the people of a certain country, it’s worth a notation here.

The picture is a bit blurry, but it showed up on social media overnight. The 85-year-old Santa Fe Building — which houses several Potter County offices — arguably is one of the more iconic structures in downtown Amarillo. Its top floors have been lit up in the colors of the French flag.

The statement of solidarity with our French allies in the wake of the Paris terrorist massacre is not unlike what’s been done in communities across the United States. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attacks that killed 129 people and injured hundreds more. It was the worst attack of terror in France since World War II.

We feel their pain, as they have felt ours.

President Obama noted in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks that France is America’s “oldest ally.” The French stood with us as we fought to gain liberation from Great Britain during our American Revolution.

And yet …

Some of us here have ridiculed France, particularly since 9/11, when certain political elements in that country opposed our going to war in Afghanistan in response to al-Qaeda’s brutal attack on this country.

Do you remember “freedom fries”? How about the continual references to France needing the Allies’ military muscle to defeat the Nazi occupiers during World War II? The French became the butt of jokes.

Today, though, we stand with France. Even here, in this part of the United States, where those anti-French feeling ran deeply.

I’ll assume for a moment that Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner made the decision to color the top of the Santa Fe Building to honor France’s struggle to recover from the monstrous act of terror.

Thank you, judge, for showing your true colors.

‘A test for commander in chief’?


We’re hearing some chatter about how the Paris terrorist attacks may have transformed the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary campaign.

It might be now a “test for commander in chief,” says Politico’s Shane Goldmacher.

Good. We need something to bring us back to what’s really at stake.

To this point in the GOP campaign, it’s been a battle of sound bites, insults (and the occasional name-calling) and wonderment over how Donald Trump has stayed at or near the top of a slowly shrinking Republican Party field.

The issue now may be turning toward deciding which of these individuals is best suited to handling the serious threat that the Islamic State potentially poses against the United States.

As Politico reported: “It’s one thing to have a protest vote,” New York Republican Rep. Pete King, a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, told POLITICO. “If anything good can come of this tragedy, I would hope it would steer the debate toward who can handle Al Qaeda and ISIS and away from sound bites.”

Trump has won the sound bite battle to this point.

But if ISIS is the threat that many observers now say it is — in the wake of the highly coordinated attacks in Paris — then we need to separate the experts from the entertainers.

I hope that with quite a few serious-minded individuals still seeking the GOP nomination that primary voters are going to assess the value of actual experience in the political arena against individuals who — time and again — demonstrate their inability to navigate across a complicated global landscape.

As U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — one of the serious individuals running for the GOP nomination — said this morning, the first priority for a president is to keep Americans safe from our enemies.

Show time is over.

I hope …