Category Archives: Military

One miscalculation or mistake away from war

Wars often begin with a miscalculation or mistake after prolonged periods of posturing and saber rattling. We will be told that we have to save face or appear weak, especially by people like Sen. John McCain. So we will stumble into war.

Two events in recent days — the shooting down by a US F-18 of a Syrian Su-22 and the use of ballistic missiles by Iran against ISIS targets — are evidence of a scramble in eastern Syria that’s been gathering pace since the beginning of the year.

CNN reports, Syrian conflict moves into new and dangerous territory:

It’s the first time the United States has shot down a Syrian military aircraft, and at least the fifth occasion it has targeted regime and pro-regime forces since the Trump administration took office.

On Tuesday, a US fighter jet shot down a pro-Syrian regime drone in the country’s southeast, US officials told CNN.

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A lot of forces with competing aims are at close quarters in eastern Syria. The United States is aggressively backing a Syrian rebel alliance — the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — as they fight their way into Raqqa, ISIS’ administrative capital for the past three years. Hundreds of US military advisors are close to the front-lines, supported by intense coalition airstrikes.

The Syrian army and its allies (largely Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese Shia militia), however, are also closing in on Raqqa. Last week the Syrian military reached areas controlled by the SDF. It was almost inevitable that at some point these opposing alliances would butt heads. So when the Syrian air force bombed SDF positions Sunday, the US came to the aid of its partners on the ground — and the Syrians have one fewer Su-22.

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7 Unexpected Things I Learned During My First Ramadan Dinner

Iftar Ramadan dinner TucsonBeing a product of Iowa, the corn state, I had never been to a Muslim Iftar dinner — the feast celebrated at the end of the of a month of fasting by Muslims worldwide — including Tucson.

To be sure, I’ve been to many Christmas Eves, Seders, Thanksgiving dinners, Fourth of July picnics and Easter sunrise services. But my first Iftar dinner was last Friday night, June 16 at the Sema Foundation in Tucson, where 150 faithful Turkish Muslims gathered in the community event.

The invitation said, “With love & gratitude, we request the pleasure of your company for our traditional Ramadan dinner. Let’s all celebrate friendship together.” My friends and I were honored to go.

Here are 7 unexpected things I learned during my Ramadan dinner.

1. It is a beautiful family event with mothers, fathers and little ones running around. It reminded me of my own family. The signs in the community hall said, “Welcome. Welcome.”

Unsure of where to sit, I decided not to barge into a table of women or all men talking. We saw three seats at a family table and immediately felt at home. I wore a clean white shirt out of respect and felt embarrassed that I had worn shorts.

How could Trump think to impose a travel ban on these wonderful people? Thank God for the Federal Courts that have stymied his evil plan.

I talked with Oğuz, a soft-spoken, stocky man visiting from Los Angeles. I followed his cues and did not touch the delicious spread of dates, hummus, pita bread, dolmades that were clearly tempting everyone. We all waited until the sun went down at 7:38 pm.

2. The meal begins with a sip of cold water. Oğuz said Iftar literally means “break-fast. Anyone from an Orthodox family (Russian Orthodox in my case) knows that healthy adults fast during spiritually significant times, including abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Muslims also encourage other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity.

3. Fasting for a month makes people appreciate the richness of their daily lives, by denying themselves sweets, earthly pleasures, and even water. We know how precious water is in Arizona.

What insanity possesses the White House to ban these warm, spiritual, welcoming people?

Meanwhile, plates of delicious salad, potatoes, lamb, and rice were served by young women who had covered their heads. There were two beautiful calls to prayer, sung by men with trained, expressive voices.

4. Rather than build mosques which would upset some Tucsonans, the Muslim community blends in and shares their culture at festivals like Tucson Meet Yourself in October. Who hasn’t ordered a baklava with a strong Turkish coffee?

5. They do not build multi-million-dollar garish, marble clad, Trump Tower-like edifices. Islam is a major worldwide faith, not a cult. There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 – roughly 24% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate.

Kurdish fighters from the People"s Protection Units (YPG) chat with members of US Special Forces.

Kurdish fighters confer with members of US Special Forces.

6. Oğuz explained that he is a Turkish Kurd, a people who are the fierce fighters working with American forces to wipe out ISIS terrorists. The Kurds have surrounded Raqqa, Syria, and are within two miles of the ISIS headquarters. Things would be going better but Syria’s dictator Assad is bombing them.

Oğuz’s mother is in Turkey, but he says he cannot visit her. Oğuz is part of a resistance movement against monstrous dictator Erdogan, who put his name on an arrest list. The tyrant has detained 150,000 teachers, journalists, police officers, judges, and civilians.

7. The Turkish people did not bargain for this and most informed Americans do not blame them for the takeover by a murderous dictator. This is just as the rest of the world does not blame the majority of ordinary Americans for the would-be dictator who occupies the White House. They understand.

Oğuz is supporting Democrat Steve Farley for Governor, who on June 5 kicked off his campaign to rebuild education in Arizona. As the elected Precinct Committeeman in #238, I too support Farley. Neither of us had name cards, so we wrote down our contact info on pieces of paper.

On the way out I talked with a man holding a tiny baby. I told him I was a senior citizen and looked forward to talking with my son in Chicago on Father’s Day. He said he was 35, was working hard to support his family and his 5-month old child.

I told the father that his son would carry him in his heart as he made his way through life, just as I hold my own father in my heart. My 33-year-old son is a productive citizen of Chicago, with his own apartment and a beautiful long-time girlfriend. I can’t wait to talk with him.

Trump tweets are creating foreign policy crises

Another day, another foreign policy crisis created by our always insecure egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief. Steve Benen explains, Trump makes Middle Eastern crisis worse with strange tweets:

When Donald Trump returned from his first overseas trip as president, he and his aides were quick to applaud themselves for a sojourn they described as a “historic” success. This was a trip for the ages, Trump World said. The stuff legends are made of. Ballads will someday be written to honor Trump’s nine-day journey.

If you asked the president and his aides why they were so impressed with themselves, they tended to point to Trump’s time in Saudi Arabia. Exactly two weeks ago today, a senior administration official, talking to reporters aboard Air Force One, declared with a straight face, “Donald Trump united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn’t been in many years.”

Even at the time, the comments seemed almost delusional, but today, they’re even worse.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 11.20.20 AMh/t Salon

Yesterday, in an unexpected development, five Middle Eastern countries – Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen – broke off ties with Qatar, hoping to isolate the country politically and economically. The countries said they were isolating Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism.

Wait, it is Saudi Arabia that is the sponsor of Wahabi fundamentalism, and was home to 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, who had financial support from highly placed Saudis according to the “28 pages” on Saudi involvement in the 9/11 terrorist assault. What We Know About Saudi Arabia’s Role in 9/11. Oddly enough, Trump’s immigration ban doesn’t include the country most of the 9/11 hijackers came from. Qatar, on the other hand, hosts the largest US military base in Mideast.

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Congress now wants to talk to Trump’s personal lawyer (updated)

The Hill reports that the congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election now includes Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen:

Cohen told ABC News on Tuesday that he was asked by House and Senate investigators “to provide information and testimony” regarding communication he has had with people connected to the Russian government.

“I declined the invitation to participate as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen said in an email.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has a good background post on Cohen at Talking Points Memo. Investigators Are Right To Be Looking at Michael Cohen. He’s not just “Trump’s bully lawyer who makes legal threats and mouths off on TV. He is a much, much more significant player.”

ABC News noted that after Cohen declined to cooperate, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee voted last Thursday to give the panel’s chairman and ranking Democrat the power to issue subpoenas when they think it’s necessary.

NBC News reported on Tuesday that the request letters sent to Cohen were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.

Last month, Cohen defended the president’s relationship with Russia, saying in an interview that Trump is reducing tensions between the United States and Moscow.

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Iran’s recent election

In a 75% turnout, Iran’s voters went to the polls on May 19 and reelected President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani received 57% of the vote. Ebrahim Raisi, who garnered 38% of the vote, was the hardline candidate favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rouhani won despite the fact that he failed to deliver on the bulk of his promised human rights improvements during his first term. Iran’s voters are said to have sent a message of moderation to the Supreme Leader, they want Rouhani to keep improving the economy and Iran’s relations with the rest of the world. Given the limited ballot choices, it is clear that they voted for the candidate most likely to support economic and social progress.

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The cumulative evidence for a charge of obstruction of justice keeps piling up

The cumulative evidence for a charge of obstruction of justice keeps piling up against our Dear Leader, Donald Trump. And this is only what we know from what has been revealed in the media, and by Trump himself in his public statements and his insane Tweets. Investigators have acccess to documents, communications and witness statements that have not yet been made public.

The Washington Post reports, Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

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