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Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Good Thing

"The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachment of the others." — James Madison, Federalist No. 51, 1788

On this day in 1944, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill, an unprecedented act of legislation designed to compensate returning members of the armed services — known as G.I.s for their efforts in World War II.

As the last of its sweeping New Deal reforms, Roosevelt's administration created the G.I. Bill— officially the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 — hoping to avoid a relapse into the Great Depression after the war ended. FDR particularly wanted to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932, when 20,000 unemployed veterans and their families flocked in protest to Washington. The American Legion, a veteran's organization, successfully fought for many of the provisions included in the bill, which gave returning servicemen access to unemployment compensation, low-interest home and business loans, and--most importantly--funding for education.

In his speech at the signing of the bill, Roosevelt acknowledged the sacrifices of America's men and women in uniform and emphasized the moral responsibility of the American people not to let their veterans down once they returned to civilian life. He and his economic advisors foresaw potential problems as the then-robust wartime economy transitioned to peacetime. He hoped that the GI bill would help prevent a situation in which the return of 2.2 million servicemen from war created massive unemployment, economic depression or social unrest. Also in his speech, Roosevelt appealed to Congress to enact some sort of future legislation that would reassure current civilian workers that their services would still be needed in a post-war economy.

The GI bill, named after the slang term for soldiers whose wartime goods and services were government issued, provided funding for education, home loans, unemployment insurance, job counseling and the construction of veterans' hospital facilities. It also greatly strengthened the authority of and scope of services provided by the Veterans Administration. Tuition for advanced education or technical training was covered up to $500 per school year, along with a monthly living allowance while the veteran was in school. GIs could also apply for guaranteed home and business loans.

By giving veterans money for tuition, living expenses, books, supplies and equipment, the G.I. Bill effectively transformed higher education in America. Before the war, college had been an option for only 10-15 percent of young Americans, and university campuses had become known as a haven for the most privileged classes. By 1947, in contrast, vets made up half of the nation's college enrollment; three years later, nearly 500,000 Americans graduated from college, compared with 160,000 in 1939.

The first GI Bill was proposed and drafted by the American Legion, led by former Illinois governor John Stelle, during World War II. The public remembered a post-World War I recession, when millions of veterans returned to face unemployment and homelessness. Twice as many veterans would return from World War II, and widespread economic hardship was a real concern. A healthy postwar economy, it seemed, would depend on providing soldiers with a means to support themselves once they were back home.

Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst became the bill's most ardent and vocal supporter. Hearst and his nationwide string of newspapers lobbied the public and members of Congress to support those who served their country, and his effort was a success. The bill unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944. President Franklin F. Roosevelt signed the bill into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Roosevelt urged that the goal after the war should be the maximum utilization of our human and material resources. After his death and the end of the Second World War, veterans of wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and U.N.-led coalition conflicts continued to benefit from an evolving GI bill.

As a person who is wary of most government programs such as the Departments of Education, Energy, HUD, and Homeland Security and find them unconstitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution I cannot find that fault with the G.I. Bill. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power and authority to raise and support an Army and Navy.

Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

1. To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

2. To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

3. To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

4. To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

5. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

6. To establish post offices and post roads;

7. To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

8. To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

9. To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

10. To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

11. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

12. To provide and maintain a navy;

13. To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

14. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

15. To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

16. To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings; — And

17. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”

Sections 8.11 thru 8.15 grant Congress the power and authority to raise and support a military force. This includes taking care of veterans. Therefore, in my view the granting of veterans a college or vocational education, along with medical care for their service is in line with the thinking of our Founders.

I recall having two teachers in high school who were products of the G.I. Bill. One, a biology teacher who used a cane and walked with a very pronounced limp, who must have suffered severe wounds. The other a math teacher. Both were good teachers and maintained good discipline in their classrooms conducive to learning.

The original GI Bill offered veterans up to $500 a year for college tuition and other educational costs — ample funding at the time. An unmarried veteran also received a $50-a-month allowance for each month spent in uniform; a married veteran received slightly more. Other benefits included mortgage subsidies, enabling veterans to purchase homes with relative ease.

College campuses did become grossly over-crowded in the postwar years: approximately 7.8 million World War II veterans received benefits under the original GI Bill, and 2.2 million of those used the program for higher education. By 1947 half of all college students were veterans. Prefabricated buildings and Quonset huts were used as classrooms, and military barracks were often converted into dormitories. However, having spent a large part of their youth engaged in battle, World War II veterans were highly motivated. GIs in their late twenties and early thirties returned to the United States in droves, anxious to catch up with their nonmilitary peers, marry, settle down, and support a family. The benefits provided by the GI Bill facilitated these goals.

Veterans were not the only beneficiaries of the GI Bill. Colleges, with increased enrollments, received years of financial security following its enactment. Veterans demanded more practical college course work, and this need led to a changed concept of higher education, with more emphasis on degree programs like business and engineering. The lines of race, class, and religion blurred as higher education became attainable for all veterans. No longer was a college degree — and the higher paying jobs that normally follow it — limited to members of the upper class. Federal income increased as the average income of taxpayers in the United States increased, and as the veterans graduated from colleges, women and members of minorities enrolled to fill the gaps they left. The GI Bill's mortgage subsidies led to an escalated demand for housing and the development of suburbs. One-fifth of all single-family homes built in the 20 years following World War II were financed with help from the GI Bill's loan guarantee program, symbolizing the emergence of a new middle class.

Despite initial misgivings over its success, the GI Bill proved to be enormously effective. Prior to its passage, detractors feared that paying the education expenses of veterans would lead to overcrowding at colleges, which before World War II were accessible predominantly to members of society's upper class. Critics were concerned that veterans would wreak havoc on educational standards and overburden campuses with their lack of preparation for the rigors of higher learning.

As educational institutions opened their doors to this diverse new group of students, overcrowded classrooms and residences prompted widespread improvement and expansion of university facilities and teaching staffs. An array of new vocational courses were developed across the country, including advanced training in education, agriculture, commerce, mining and fishing — skills that had previously been taught only informally.

The G.I. Bill became one of the major forces that drove an economic expansion in America that lasted 30 years after World War II. Only 20 percent of the money set aside for unemployment compensation under the bill was given out, as most veterans found jobs or pursued higher education. Low interest home loans enabled millions of American families to move out of urban centers and buy or build homes outside the city, changing the face of the suburbs. Over 50 years, the impact of the G.I. Bill was enormous, with 20 million veterans and dependents using the education benefits and 14 million home loans guaranteed, for a total federal investment of $67 billion. Among the millions of Americans who have taken advantage of the bill are former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, former Vice President Al Gore and entertainers Johnny Cash, Ed McMahon, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice John Paul Stevens, both of the U.S. Supreme Court; Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher; journalists David Brinkley and John Chancellor, and former Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not Another War in Iraq

“In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature.” — James Madison, Federalist No. 52 — 1788

Today a watched a show on Fox News called “The Five.” It’s an hour long talk and opinion show featuring five Fox personalities. Today’s show featured Dana Perino a former G.W. Bush press secretary, Kimberly Guilfoyle a former San Francisco prosecutor, Eric Bolling a former oil trader and business analyst, Bob Beckel a Democrat operative and campaign manager for Walter Mondale, Andrea Tantaros former vice president at a public affairs firm in Manhattan where she advised Fortune 500 corporations on crisis management and media strategy, and a guest, Jesse Watters a Bill O’Reilly producer.

The Five is a show where topics of current interest are covered in 5 to 7 minutes segments called “blocks.” It is also a show where people tend to talk over one another and really do not listen well to what the other person is saying.

Yesterday (June 16th) there was a very heated debate on what to do in Iraq. Each of the co-hosts and Watters had strong opinions ranging from doing nothing to military intervention to assist the Maliki government. Also each on them had at least one point that I could agree with. However, one of the things that irritated me was Beckel’s lack of accurate knowledge of the history of the region and his constant pension for blaming George W. Bush for the mess Iraq is in today.

Yes, it was during the Bush administration that we invaded Iraq to find alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Of course on the other side there were those blaming Obama for the problems in Syria and Iraq caused by the rise of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq/Levant (ISIS). The blame game is totally counterproductive in find a solution as to what U.S policy should be and the immediate actions the United States must take, if any. In other words there was plenty of heat, but a small amount of light.

To mediate a conflict being it a business deal, civil suit or a war the parties involved cannot spend their time and efforts reliving the past. If they serious they must try to find a solution that will work and leave the blame game to the historians. It is much too early to write a history of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan while he major players are still alive. Any history will be tainted by the agenda of the participants be they pro or con.

Of course to make a wise and workable plan you need to take into consideration the history and culture of the region. In essence you need to back to the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 — some 1,382 years ago and the conflict over his successor. This is when Islam broke into two warring factions — the Sunnis supported the succession of Abu Bakr, the prophet’s friend and he Shiite Muslims who felt the rightful successor was the prophet’s son-in-law and cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib. This conflict lies at the heart of the problem.

The latest Iraq war is between Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shiite government and pro-Al Qaeda Sunni rebels. It boils down to Iran vs. Al Qaeda, radical Shiites versus radical Sunnis. The first rule of foreign policy is if your enemies are killing each other, don’t step in to stop them.

What we’ve seen in Syria, and now in Iraq, is the early phase of a 30-year civil war between Shiites and Sunnis, which will go from region to region,16IRAQ1-master675 country to country, tribe to tribe. Fighters will become increasingly radical and brutal, and they will be fueled by Arab oil money. For them, it is a fight about religion, power, geography and resources. And it could well be a fight to the finish.

America has a choice: We can be caught in the middle of this generational war, propping up this side or that, sometimes switching sides. Or we can figure out what our underlying strategic interests in the region are and find a way to achieve them that doesn’t involve U.S. forces or military assistance.

Sadly, our leaders are spending their efforts blaming each other for what went wrong rather than finding a way out of the mess. It’s like listening to your kids arguing, “It’s not my fault, he started it”. “No, it wasn’t me, she’s the one who started it!”

Iraq is descending once again into a brutal civil war, and what’s Washington doing? Wringing its hands and blaming the other guy! Bush supporters say it’s all Obama’s fault for failing to leave a residual force and negotiating a Status of Forces agreement in Iraq after we won the war. Obama supporters say the original sin was Bush’s flawed decision to invade Iraq over a decade ago.

Enough already! Let’s just agree it’s everybody’s fault. Bush shouldn’t have gone into Iraq and Obama shouldn’t have gotten out. There is plenty of blame to go around for past mistakes, but we are where we are and the question now is, what do we do?

An important but often forgotten test for American foreign policy decisions is what is in our country’s national interest. It’s not about what is best for Iraq or Afghanistan or anyone else. The question is what’s best for America. We have three sustaining vital strategic interests in the Middle East: oil, terrorists and Israel. We want their oil, we don’t want their terrorists and we want Israel to survive in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood.


As the region descends into generational civil war, Shiites and Sunnis will target each other’s oil fields and refineries. Unless we’re prepared to occupy the entire region for decades, we should face the fact we, America plus the world, are not going to get our oil from a war zone. Arab oil will no longer be cheap, abundant or secure, and it is unlikely to be so ever be again.

At a minimum, America needs to be energy independent. We should work with our Canadian and Mexican allies to create a North American energy corridor. In the last several years American technology, perseverance and ingenuity have developed ways to find, extract and bring to market our own oil and natural gas. American shale energy is so plentiful it will satisfy our own needs and soon be enough to make us the energy supplier to the world. American oil and natural gas can replace Arab oil and gas, but only if we have the political will to take the shackles off the American energy industry. There is violence today in Iraq, and experts are talking about a new floor of $5-per-gallon gasoline. We can no longer hold our economy hostage to warring tribes in the Middle East.

Fracking and horizontal drilling can be done safely and environmentally responsibly if we require the best industry practices. The same goes for drilling in Alaska and off our shores. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline, immediately, would show the world that America has set out on a different course and is committed to developing an alternative to Middle East oil. Of course this will not help Europe, but their problem, not ours.


Some say we must re-engage in Iraq to prevent Al Qaeda from seizing control and using it as a launching pad for attacks against Americans. That’s the same argument the same people used to justify our decade-long, unsuccessful, nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has established a presence in dozens of countries throughout North Africa, the Middle East, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, all the way to South Asia. Al Qaeda can use countries from Libya to Syria to Pakistan to threaten Americans; an American military presence in all of them is unrealistic.

To keep terrorists from our shores, we must commit to securing our borders and focus our intelligence-gathering on possible terrorists rather than the broad American public. Our airline security system gives Granny from Grand Rapids, who is taking the grandkids to Disney World, the same level of scrutiny it gives a young man who has traveled multiple times to the tribal regions of Pakistan. We gather intelligence on hundreds of millions, rather than zeroing in on those with terrorist profiles. By focusing on everyone, we’re focusing on no one. Our current system wastes time and resources. We need to fix it.


We may not have a formal defense treaty with Israel, but we do have moral and strategic interests in helping it survive in a dangerous neighborhood that is about to get even more dangerous. We should do everything possible to give Israel the tools it needs to defend itself. Period.

Some say we’ve paid too high a price in Iraq to lose it now. Nearly 4,500 Americans lost their lives and tens of thousands were injured in the Iraq War. They and their families will bear the mental and physical scars of battle for their lifetimes. We’ve spent well over a trillion dollars in American treasure in oil-rich Iraq. All of that is true, and it’s tragic. But it is also in the past. There is nothing we can do to erase that, and very little we can do to “save” Iraq.

The brutal truth is we wanted Iraq to be a democratic and free nation more than the Iraqis did. There are 65,000 American-trained and equipped soldiers in the Iraqi Army running away from 2,000 Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents. The sight of Iraqi soldiers taking off their uniforms and throwing aside their weapons in hopes of blending into the crowd as Al Qaeda/ISIS advances says it all. The Iraqi military and government are not failing for lack of numbers, funds, training or equipment. They’re failing for lack of will. We handed them democracy on a silver platter, and they didn’t want it so they will not fight for it. Democracy needs cultural and historic ties to liberal thinkers. Our republic had its roots in England’s Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance. Once these ideas are embedded in the hearts and minds of the people they will willing fight to carry them forward and build a society based on them.

Our main concern in Iraq today is the 20,000 American civilians who are still there. They are vulnerable, and we should do everything possible to bring them home quickly and safely. No one wants to see the YouTube video of black-masked, machete-wielding Al Qaeda terrorists ready to strike at blindfolded, kneeling Americans.

What we have failed to understand throughout our wars of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan is that we see war and peace through a different lens than our enemies do. Americans see peace as the normal state of affairs, with war occurring when peace breaks down. When war does break out, we believe it is temporary and that peace will be restored when it is over. We believe in wars that have winners and losers and, perhaps most importantly, that every war eventually ends.

The people we have been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq do not see war and peace the same way. For them, war is never over. Peace is merely a pause while both sides regroup to fight again.

Some of our brave men and women who bore the brunt of battle in Iraq are now questioning whether their sacrifices were in vain. What they must remember is they weren’t fighting for Iraq, or for its various tribes. Our soldiers and sailors and marines and pilots fought for America. They fought nobly, and bravely. If there is any failure, it is not with America’s military, but with our political leaders.

America made many of the same mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan that it did in Vietnam. Americans are once again war-weary, and once again determined not to send our troops to fight for dictators who don’t like us in countries that don’t matter. Hopefully the lesson sticks this time. We must adhere to the advice of our first president — George Washington when he said:

“My ardent desire is, and my aim has been to comply strictly with all our engagements foreign and domestic; but to keep the U States free from political connections with every other Country. To see that they may be independent of all, and under the influence of none. In a word, I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others; this, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad and happy at home.”

Just because there is no U.S. military solution for Iraq isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for President Obama to do nothing. All too often he sets up the straw man argument: We don’t want to go to war, so therefore we do nothing.

The United States has vital strategic interests in the region — oil, terrorists and Israel — that will not be met if the president uses the excuse of no boots on the ground to do nothing. Lobbing a few missiles into Iraq or bombing a few areas may look like “action,” but neither will do anything to change the battle’s outcome. America’s national security does not always mean sending in the Marines, but it does mean taking concrete steps to guarantee our vital interests.

If the president fails to do so, he cannot hide behind the excuse that Iraq was Bush’s war, and losing it was Bush’s failure. If he fails to take the steps available to him to develop American energy resources, to protect Americans from terrorist attacks and to offer full support to our ally Israel, it will be on his watch, and on his head.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Enemy’s Enemy is My Friend — Maybe

“My ardent desire is, and my aim has comply strictly with all our engagements foreign and domestic; but to keep the U States free from political connections with every other Country. To see that they may be independent of all, and under the influence of none. In a word, I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others; this, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad and happy at home.” — George Washington - letter to Patrick Henry — 1795

There are reports circulating that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy gambit to solve the current rise of Sunni insurgency in Iraq by ISIS might be to cut a deal with Iran to assist the Shiite government in Iraq.

Fox News reports:

“The Obama administration, unable to move the needle in the three-year-old Syrian civil war, now finds itself on the verge of moving toward a "my enemy's enemy" foreign policy with Iran in order to keep Iraq from falling apart next door.

The possibility of partnering with Iran to deal with a common foe -- a radical Sunni militant group bent on regional domination -- has immediately divided some of the Obama administration's toughest critics.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the idea of an alliance of convenience with Iran the "height of folly."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who typically is in lockstep with McCain on national security matters, on Sunday, though, likened it to the U.S. aligning with Stalin during World War II, because he "was not as bad as Hitler."

"The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn't fall," Graham said.

The Obama administration still is weighing Iran's overtures to assist the fellow Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that he's not ruling out U.S.-Iran cooperation.”

“The prospect of entering even a tacit alliance with Iran in order to stabilize Iraq raises challenging diplomatic and security questions for the Obama administration, which has struggled to define where America fits into a rapidly changing Middle East.

The U.S., while technically negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, is presently at odds with Tehran over Iraq's other neighbor.

Two years ago, Obama declared the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a "red line," only to back off that threat a year later when evidence emerged that the Assad regime had used them. In that time, Iran reportedly has dispatched assets to help prop up Bashar Assad, further strengthening his grip on power despite Obama's declarations that Assad must go.

Iran and the U.S. also were on opposing sides of the bloody and protracted Iran-Iraq War three decades ago.

Citing the Syrian war, McCain strongly urged the Obama administration not to partner with Iran this time.

"This is the same Iranian regime that has trained and armed the most dangerous Shia militant groups, that has consistently urged Prime Minister Maliki to pursue a narrow sectarian agenda at the expense of national reconciliation, that supplies the rockets that have been fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that has sponsored acts of terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world, and that continues to use Iraq's territory and airspace to send weapons and fighters to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria," McCain said in a statement, reminding the president that U.S. and Iranian interests "do not align" and their involvement could make the situation in Iraq worse by inflaming sectarian tensions and driving more Sunni's into the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He said: "For all of these reasons, and more, the United States should be seeking to minimize greater Iranian involvement in Iraq right now, not encouraging it. That means rapid, decisive U.S. action to degrade ISIS and halt their offensive in Iraq."

When Winston Churchill was asked when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union if he would ally with Joseph Stalin against Hitler’s Nazis he replied that he would ally with the devil to defeat Hitler.

He latest reports from Iraq state that; “Sunni Islamist militants claimed on Sunday that they had massacred hundreds of captive Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces, posting grisly pictures of a mass execution in Tikrit as evidence and warning of more killing to come.”

The possible mass killing came as militants cemented control of the city of16IRAQ1-master675 Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after two days of fierce clashes with Iraqi troops, residents and senior security officials said. The city came under mortar attack, sending many residents fleeing toward Sinjar to the west and Mosul to the east. Residents said the militants freed dozens of prisoners.

Even as anecdotal reports of extrajudicial killings around the country seemed to bear out the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s intent to kill Shiites wherever it could, Iraqi officials and some human rights groups cautioned that the militants’ claim to have killed 1,700 soldiers in Tikrit could not be immediately verified

But with their claim, the Sunni militants were reveling in an atrocity that if confirmed would be the worst yet in the conflicts that roil the region, outstripping even the poison gas attack near Damascus last year.

In an atmosphere where there were already fears that the militants’ sudden advance near the capital would prompt Shiite reprisal attacks against Sunni Arab civilians, the claims by ISIS were potentially explosive. And that is exactly the group’s stated intent: to stoke a return to all-out sectarian warfare that would bolster its attempts to carve out a Sunni Islamist caliphate that crosses borders through the region.

The sectarian element of the killings may put more pressure on the Obama administration to aid Iraq militarily. In fact, the militants seemed to be counting on it. A pronouncement on Sunday by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had a clear message for the United States: “Soon we will face you, and we are waiting for this day.”

The group’s announcement was made in a series of gruesome photographs JP-IRAQ-articleLargeuploaded to an ISIS Twitter feed and on websites late on Saturday night. Some showed insurgents, many wearing black masks, lining up at the edges of what looked like shallow mass graves and apparently firing their weapons into young men who had their hands bound behind their backs and were packed closely together in large groups.

The photographs showed what appeared to be seven massacre sites, although several of them may have been different views of the same sites. In any one of the pictures, no more than about 60 victims could be seen and sometimes as few as 20 at each of the sites, although it was not clear if the photographs showed the entire graves.

The militants’ captions seemed tailor-made to ignite anger and fear among Shiites. “The filthy Shiites are killed in the hundreds,” one read. “The liquidation of the Shiites who ran away from their military bases,” read another, and, “This is the destiny of Maliki’s Shiites,” referring to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

“We’re trying to verify the pics, and I am not convinced they are authentic,” said Erin Evers, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Iraq. “As far as ISIS claiming it has killed 1,700 people and publishing horrific photos to support that claim, it is unfortunately in keeping with their pattern of commission of atrocities, and obviously intended to further fuel sectarian war.”

Col. Suhail al-Samaraie, head of the Awakening Council in Samarra, a pro-government Sunni grouping, confirmed that officials in Salahuddin Province were aware that large-scale executions had taken place, but did not know how many. “They are targeting anyone working with the government side, any place, anywhere,” he said. He said the insurgents were targeting both Sunnis and Shiites, anyone with a government affiliation, but claiming for propaganda reasons that the victims were all Shiites.

For areas under control of the ISIS insurgent’s click here.

ISIL fighters and allied Sunni tribesmen overran yet another town on Monday, Saqlawiya west of Baghdad, where they captured six Humvees and two tanks.

Eyewitnesses said Iraqi army helicopters were hovering over the town to try to provide cover for retreating troops. "It was a crazy battle and dozens were killed from both sides. It is impossible to reach the town and evacuate the bodies," said a medical source at a hospital in the nearby city of Falluja, largely held by insurgents since early this year.

Overnight, the fighters captured the city of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq, solidifying their grip on the north. "Severe fighting took place, and many people were killed. Shiite families have fled to the west and Sunni families have fled to the east," said a city official.

Tal Afar is a short drive west from Mosul, the North’s main city, which ISIL seized last week at the start of its push. Fighters then swept through towns and cities on the Tigris before halting about an hour's drive north of Baghdad.

Iraq's army is holding out in Samarra, a Tigris city that is home to a Shi'ite shrine. A convoy traveling to reinforce the troops there was ambushed late on Sunday by Sunni fighters near the town of Ishaqi. Fighting continued through Monday morning.

An Iraqi army spokesman in Baghdad reported fighting also to the south of Baghdad. He said 56 of the enemy had been killed over the previous 24 hours in various engagements.

Who is Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi?

As a master's-degree student at a university in Baghdad in 1997, Ibrahim Awwad al-Badri al-Samarrai was so poor he took cash handouts every month from a kindly professor, said a former classmate.

Now flush with cash, armed to the teeth and backed by an army known as214977-d32dcea8-f1d3-11e3-94a8-09c2117d0a9e the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, he is within striking distance of attacking the city where spent his humble youth.

The rise of the militant Islamist leader, who changed his name to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in 2010, is a rags-to-riches story that mirrors the rise of the ISIS militia he now leads.

By emphasizing practical gains over ideology and placing a premium on battlefield victories rather than lofty principals, Mr. Baghdadi's ISIS has become one of the most powerful militant Islamist groups, said experts on militant Islamism.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“For the West, ISIS's strength and identity have created a new sort of enemy that has a reputation for brutality and in many ways looks and acts like the army of a state seeking to expand its territory.

ISIS is "actualizing the idea of the Islamic state. On the jihadi side of things, there's appeal in that," said Aaron Zelin, an expert on Islamist groups at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"You have guys just talking about it and al Qaeda and Jabhat Al Nusra saying they'll get there, whereas ISIS is just doing it," he said, referring to ISIS's rivals in Syria and throughout the world.

While ISIS shares much of the same ideology and jihadist vocabulary as al Qaeda, it differs on methodology. Whereas al Qaeda, which got its start during the resistance against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s, behaves as a terrorist organization advancing a global ideology, ISIS in many ways acts like the army of a sovereign nation with defined borders and a semi-legitimate system of governance.

ISIS leaders have implemented formal governing systems with leadership councils who meet regularly. The group has published at least two annual reports online that offer detailed descriptions of financing and battlefield victories.

In Syria, the group has invested in infrastructure such as electricity works and a new market in the town of Raqqa, according to residents.

In Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city after Baghdad, ISIS pitched in to tear down inconvenient security barricades, distribute gasoline for electricity generators and manage traffic, residents said.

While al Qaeda is financed by its own moneyed members and wealthy donors, ISIS is becoming increasingly self-sufficient thanks to oil smuggling from conquered lands, kidnapping rackets and stolen cash. Iraqi authorities believe that the group may have stolen almost half a billion dollars from a government bank when it seized Mosul last week.

Unlike other jihadist groups, ISIS has sought to implant a sense of patriotism in those it governs. Residents of Raqqa, for example, were made to announce their allegiance to Mr. Baghdadi. In Mosul, all flags except those bearing the ISIS insignia were made illegal, a move some experts said goes beyond typical Islamist strategies of instilling piety and adherence.

"ISIS power is hard power. They are strong because their military capacity is excellent," said Jessica Lewis, an expert on Islamist groups at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. "This undergirds their quest for an emirate," which al Qaeda doesn't seek, she said.

Mr. Baghdadi was raised in Samarra, Iraq, and was active in militant groups following the U.S.-led invasion, which led U.S. forces to arrest him in 2005.

After his release, he joined al Qaeda in Iraq, ascending to leadership. By then, ISIS had been colored by the hands-on perspective of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who believed "that those who lead the group should be commanders of jihad, not just leaders of an organization," said Mr. Zelin.

As leader of Al Tawhid Wal Jihad, Mr. Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2004 and transformed the group into al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI.

By the time Mr. Baghdadi took the reins of AQI in 2010, the region was changing. U.S. troops were preparing to depart, and the aged dictators of the Arab world would soon be falling by force of the Arab Spring.

The changes helped Mr. Baghdadi recruit younger, more-energetic jihadists while exciting wealthy donors from Arab Gulf states, said Hisham Hashimi, an independent researcher on jihadist movements who knew Mr. Baghdadi when both were students at the Saddam University of Islamic Studies in Baghdad.

When the Syria conflict began in 2011, Mr. Baghdadi asserted his youthful fighters' strength.

The group's new identity contrasted with al Qaeda leadership who came from privileged backgrounds and executed sometimes devastating attacks that were also rich in symbolism, but did little to advance the dream of an Islamic state.

Mr. Baghdadi soon fell afoul of al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri, who said in statements that he resented ISIS's domineering attitude toward other groups. He broke with Mr. Baghdadi in 2013.

A few months later, al Qaeda said Mr. Baghdadi could rejoin its movement if he confined his operations to Iraq.

"If the mother is al Qaeda, ISIS is the bad son who forsook the family's authority," said Mr. Hashimi. "This makes them more powerful."

We can do little to support the Maliki Shia Government without sending in 30 to 50 thousand troops, something the U.S. people or Congress will not support. We will continue to receive reports of brutality employed by the ISIS insurgents and there will by cries and gnashing of teeth from around the world while the slaughter goes on.

As the ISIS consolidates its gains and controls more of Iraq the slaughter will decrease and the Shia Muslims will be marginalized as they were under Sadam Hussein. This conflict has been going on since the seventh century.

Both are branches of Islam and the adherents of both are Muslims, all bound by the same Quran, the same five pillars of Islam — belief in one God, daily prayer, fasting, charity, and hajj, or pilgrimage. Where they mainly differ is on the question of who should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam in 620.

Basically, Sunnis and Shiites differ on who should have succeeded Muhammad after his death in 632. Sunnis supported the succession of Abu Bakr, the prophet’s friend; Shiite Muslims felt the rightful successor was the prophet’s son-in-law and cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib.

The Associated Press Stylebook puts it:

“The schism between Sunni and Shiite stems from the early days of Islam and arguments over Muhammad’s successors as caliph, the spiritual and temporal leader of Muslims during that period. The Shiites wanted the caliphate to descend through Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law. Ali eventually became the fourth caliph, but he was murdered; Ali’s son al-Hussein was massacred with his fighters at Karbala, in what is now Iraq. Shiites consider the later caliphs to be usurpers. The Sunnis no longer have a caliph.”

Sunnis believe Muslim leaders can be elected, or picked, from those qualified for the job. Shiites believe leaders should be direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. So they don’t recognize the same authority in Islam — kind of like the way Catholics and Protestants are all Christians and have the same Bible, but only Catholics recognize the authority of the pope. And like Catholics and Protestants, both Sunnis and Shiites have their own religious holidays, customs and shrines. The difference is that Catholics and Protestants stopped fighting after wiping out one-third of the population of Europe during the Thirty Years Wars and the Peace of Westphalia

There exist lots of hot-bed places. Syria is a majority-Sunni country, but the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is a close ally of Shiite-dominated Iran (Assad’s Alawite sect is a whole other story). Iraq is majority Shiite, but northern Iraq has a lot of Sunnis, and Sunni rebels have made increasing inroads into the country. Neighboring Iran is majority Shiite, while next-door Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni. Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon have significant Shiite minorities. Sunnis make up about 85 percent of the world’s Muslims (including the vast majority of U.S. Muslims). See the problem?

Where once the conflict between Sunni and Shiite was religious, now the conflict is more political. In Iraq, the Shiite-dominated army has been seen as a strong-arm of Shiite president Nuri Kemal Al-Maliki and an oppressive force by majority Sunnis in the north. That’s why many have been happy to have the Sunni-dominated ISIS take over the north.

Okay, but all this is taking place on the other side of the world. Why should I care? Because Islam is a global religion, and America has significant strategic and military interests in the region. The number of Muslims is expected to rise by 35 percent in the next 20 years, according to The Pew Research Center, to reach 2.2 billion people.

It gets a lot more contemporary than that. There has been a 3 decade long “Cold War” between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia which has spilled out over Syria and Iraq.

At one point US forces were fighting proxy militias armed by both parties in Iraq. Another example of how the Middle East Cold War has played out is with Israeli/Palestinian conflicts. Hamas is a proxy force for Iran and Fatah is one for the Arab League (Saudis). This erupted into a Palestinian civil war at one point a few years back.

A major problem in Iraq is that it is actually a 3 way ethnic/sectarian conflict involving oil. Sunni/Shia/Kurd. Sadam Hussein’s Sunni led government suppressed Shia religion and politics as possible 5th columnists for Iran. Hussein also embarked on a campaign of genocide against the Kurds. Geographically the Sunnis in Iraq have issues. They are largely clustered in the region of the country without much of the oil fields (towards its center), unlike Shia and Kurdish majority regions. Partition would leave the Iraqi Sunnis in an economic sinkhole in comparison to the others.

The Middle East is not simply falling apart. It is taking a different shape, along very clear lines — far older ones than those the western powers rudely imposed on the region nearly a century ago after the First World War. Across the whole continent those borders are in the process of cracking and breaking. But while that happens the region’s two most ambitious centers of power — the house of Saud and the Ayatollahs in Iran — find themselves fighting each other not just for influence but even, perhaps, for survival.

The way in which what is going on in the Middle East has become a religious war has long been obvious. Just take this radio exchange, caught at the ground level earlier this month, between two foreign fighters in Syria, the first from al-Qaeda’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS], the second from the Free Syrian army [FSA]. ‘You apostate infidels,’ says the first. ‘We’ve declared you to be “apostates”, you heretics. You don’t know Allah or His Prophet, you creature. What kind of Islam do you follow?’ To which the FSA fighter responds, ‘Why did you come here? Go fight Israel, brother.’ Only to be told, ‘Fighting apostates like you people takes precedence over fighting the Jews and the Christians. All imams concur on that.’

The religious propulsion of many of the fighters who have flooded into Syria in the three years of its civil war — 400 or more from Britain alone — is beyond doubt. From the outset this has been a confrontation inflamed by religious sectarianism. In the first stages of the Syrian conflict the Shia_75463971_022639695-1 militia of Hezbollah were sent by their masters in Iran to fight on the side of Iran’s ally Bashar al-Assad. But those of a different political and religious orientation made their own moves against this. Across Britain and Europe, not to mention the wider Middle East, many thousands of young men listened to the call of religious leaders like the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al-Asheik and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who last year declared that Hezbollah is in fact not the ‘army of God’, as its name almost suggests, but rather the ‘army of Satan.’ Sheikh Qaradawi declared that ‘every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that must make himself available’ for jihad in Syria.

It is inevitable that with the amount of regional influence at stake, and the quantity of natural resources, there would be numerous powers involved in trying to dictate the Syrian endgame. But as the country’s civil war has ground on and the region as a whole has started to fall into a maelstrom, there is not a party or country that has not been shocked by one particular new reality. That is the fact that what has hitherto been the most important global player has decided to take a back seat. When two major Iraqi cities fell to ISIS forces last week, the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, expressed concern but stressed that for the Iraqi government this was now ‘their fight’.

One of the cities was Fallujah, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Iraq war, where 10,000 British and American troops fought to depose the Islamists. It is now back under jihadi control, with the black flag of al-Qaeda proudly flying — and the West does not know what to do. Although there are Syrian cities also now under al-Qaeda control, the US and its allies remain unmoved over acting in that country either.

At its core, the Iranian-Saudi rivalry is about power and money: two oil-rich giants, vying for control of the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow water passage that accounts for almost 20% of all oil traded worldwide (and 40% of all US crude imports pass).

Iran and Saudi Arabia would always struggle to avoid collision, but ethnic and sectarian tension certainly doesn’t help. Iran is a majority Persian country that belongs to the Shiite branch of Islam. The vast majority of Saudis are Sunni Arabs, with a Shiite Arab minority (about 10%).

The two governments are also ideological rivals:

Wahhabism: Saudi royals have spent vast amounts of money funding the spread of the (Sunni) Wahabi school, an ultra-conservative, literal interpretation of Islam, which is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. The official title of the Saudi King includes the duty of the "Guardian of the Two Holy Places", Mecca and Medina, suggesting a degree of a divine authority.

Supreme Leader: The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, has promoted its version of political Islam, a combination of elected republican institutions under the guidance of a Muslim cleric, the Supreme Leader. The founder of the Iranian regime, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, condemned the Saudi monarchy as a tyrannical, illegitimate clique that answers to Washington, rather than God.

So now, hopefully, you can see what a mess this region is. Our intelligence agencies, especially the bureaucratic CIA have not done us well. They are so political now that tend to operate on the agenda of the administration in power. In the Bush years they were focused on the WMD track relying from a discredited source named informant that the German and British intelligence agencies warned against.

The Obama Administration’s is to ignore most foreign policy issues and focus on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Anything that interferes with that agenda is either ignored or swept under the rug. This latest debacle in Iraq, the Benghazi attack, and the return of the five Taliban masterminds are proof of that agenda. If our intelligence agencies saw this ISIS insurgency coming they definitely did nothing about it. There were, however, those in the reputable international media and private intelligence organizations such as Stratfor who saw this as long as six months ago, but they were mostly ignored in the United States.

Today a large portion of the border between Syria and Iraq has been erased by the ISIS. This means that a defacto nation is being created — a nation of radical Islamic and jihadist beliefs — a caliphate. Radical Muslims the world over will flock to this nation where they will be trained in terrorist tactics and sent back to their home countries to carry out terrorist attacks such as was Afghanistan in the 90s.


Our main concern should be to seriously focus on our border and those Muslims in this country. The FBI should pay as much attention to the many Muslims, especially those with visas, as they did with suspected Soviet spies during the cold war. We also need to seriously tighten our visa policies for Muslim students along with tightening the security of our border with Mexico and close it down if need be. The recent influx of children from Central America has demonstrated how ineffective our border patrol is today. We should use the National Guard on the Texas and Arizona borders. This is a legal use of the Guard and I think both governors would approve. Our national security depends upon it. As sure as the sun will rise in the east there will be another 9/11 type attack if we do not take these measures. And I don’t rule out a nuclear attack.

We are between a rock and a hard place in Syria and Iraq and I seriously doubt we can do anything about it except evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in Saigon style. Like the scorpion it is the nature of the Sunnis and Shias to kill each other and we should stay on the sidelines and follow the advice of George Washington when he stated in his 1796 farewell address:

“Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course.”

Washington wanted stable trade and commerce with other nations and was very fearful of foreign political entanglements but he also believed, as did the rest or Founders that the number one duty of the President and Congress1024px-Casino_Militar_(Madrid)_02 was to protect our national security. For it was George Washington who also said; “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” Washington was parroting the words of Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus's tract De Re Militari : “Si vis pacem, para bellum” — in other words “Peace Through Strength”, something declining in the United States as we devote more and more of our resources to liberal progressive social engineering. And this strength includes developing our own fossil fuel resources such as building the Keystone Pipeline, drilling in Anwar and along the east, west and gulf coast. By doing this we would not need oil from the Middle East.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

This Really Makes Me Angry

“The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it.” — James Madison letter to James Monroe — 1824

Yesterday (June 14) in 1777, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution stating that "the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white" and that "the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

The national flag, which became known as the "stars and stripes," was based on the "Grand Union" flag, a banner carried by the Continental Army in 1776 that also consisted of 13 red and white stripes. According to legend, Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross designed the new canton for the flag, which consisted of a circle of 13 stars and a blue background, at the request of General George Washington. Historians have been unable to conclusively prove or disprove this legend.

With the entrance of new states into the United States after independence, new stripes and stars were added to represent new additions to the Union. In 1818, however, Congress enacted a law stipulating that the 13 original stripes be restored and that only stars be added to represent new states.

On June 14, 1877, the first Flag Day observance was held on the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the American flag. As instructed by Congress, the U.S. flag was flown from all public buildings across the country. In the years after the first Flag Day, several states continued to observe the anniversary, and in 1949 Congress officially designated June 14 as Flag Day, a national day of observance.

The American flag has gone through many changes since it was adopted 237 years ago by the Second Continental Congress. As the adoption of the Stars and Stripes is commemorated this Thursday on Flag Day, find out more about Old Glory’s mysterious origins and its rise to iconic prominence.

In June 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, created a united colonial fighting force known as the Continental Army. Some historians claim that George Washington, the army’s commander-in-chief, ordered that a flag called the Continental Colors be raised the following New Year’s Day during a siege of British-occupied Boston. But David Martucci, past president of the North American Vexillological Association, the world’s largest group dedicated to the study of flags, believes Washington likely raised a British Union Jack instead. The Continental Colors, which contained 13 alternating red and white stripes with a Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner, was only used by the navy and perhaps at forts, according to Martucci. “It was sort of a compromise between the radicals who wanted to see a separate nation and the people who were more conciliatory and wanted to see some accommodation with the crown,” he said.

Either way, Washington realized soon after that it probably wasn’t a good idea to fly a flag resembling that of the enemy. The Second Continental Congress was busy drafting a constitution known as the Articles ofbetsy-ross-flag Confederation, seeking an alliance with France and supplying the war effort. But on June 14, 1777, it took time from its schedule to pass a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white” and that “the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” To this day, no one knows who designed the flag or why that particular color combination and pattern were chosen. Although legend holds that Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776 after being asked to do so by Washington, primary sources backing up that assertion are scarce although Ross’ ancestors claim to have documentary evidence it was Betsy.

Be that as it may during the remainder of the Revolutionary War, the Stars and Stripes was mainly used for naval purposes, but afterwards it took on a national role. By 1794 two new states had been added to the Union, and Congress passed an act declaring that the flag would henceforth contain 15 stripes and 15 stars. More states kept joining, including Tennessee in 1796, Ohio in 1803, Louisiana in 1812, Indiana in 1816 and Mississippi in 1817. Nonetheless, the flag featured 15 stripes and 15 stars until 1818, when Congress passed a new act providing for 13 stripes in honor of the 13 original colonies and one star for each state.

It was almost unheard of for individuals to fly the U.S. flag until the Civil War broke out in 1861, at which time the Stars and Stripes suddenly became a popular symbol in the North. This was the beginning of what some people call the cult of the flag, the almost religious feeling that many Americans have for the red, white and blue. In 1870 the Betsy Ross legend took off when her grandson held a press conference touting her possible role in sewing the first flag, and the earliest flag protection laws appeared not long after. Meanwhile, in 1885, Wisconsin teacher Bernard Cigrand originated the idea for a national flag day.

In 1912, President William Howard Taft signed an executive order that, for the first time, clarified what the flag should look like. Up until then, some flags were oddly proportioned or even had six — or eight-pointed stars. Fouramerican-flags-waving years later, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14, the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777. And in 1949, President Harry Truman signed legislation designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day. Though Flag Day is not a federal holiday, the U.S. government encourages its citizens to display Old Glory outside of their homes and businesses. The tradition is not widely observed, however. To most folks, unfortunately, Flag Day is not on their radar screen today.

While the 1777 resolution establishing a national flag was the impetus for the national holiday known as Flag Day, that date also holds great significance for the U.S. Army. Two years earlier, just weeks after the Battles of Lexington and Concord kicked off the American Revolution, the Congress formally authorized the enlistment of soldiers to fight in what became known as the Continental Army. So Flag Day is also celebrated as the birthday of the U.S. Army.

It’s the Textile Color Card Association of the United States (TCCA) that2012-05-24-alexander-6 creates the palate of colors used for both private and public institutions, and the U.S. Army that issues a reference guide of acceptable shades to be used in local, state and national flags. So if you’re trying to produce a truly authentic American flag, you’ll need to use the exact shades of white, “Old Glory Red” and “Old Glory Blue,” specified in the guide. Although mass-market flag manufacturers have been known to fudge a bit and use the more-easily processed Pantone Matching Shades of Dark Red (193 C) and Navy Blue (281 C).

While the battle over perceived desecration of the flag remains a hot button issue today, some of the first anti-desecration measures had little to do with flag burning or other destructive measures. In fact, 19th century lawmakers were more concerned with the already rampant use of the flag as a promotional tool by advertisers, which they considered treating the banner with “contempt.” Many of the first statues passed by state and local governments aimed to restrict use of the flag’s image on commercial products. In 1907, the Supreme Court upheld these laws in the case of Halter v. Nebraska, and many of them remain on the books today.

On September 13, 1814 Francis Scott Key penned a poem which was later set to music and in 1931 it became America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The poem, originally titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry," was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the "Star-Spangled Banner": "And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."

On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.

After one of Key's friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren't allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away.

Key knew that his flag held deep symbolic meaning as he stepped aboard the British flagship of Admiral Alexander Cochrane on September 7, 1814. Cochrane invited Key and Skinner to dine with him. Though he and another British officer agreed to free Dr. Beanes, they wouldn’t let Key, Skinner, or Beanes depart until after the British attacked Baltimore. “Ah, Mr. Skinner, after discussing so freely our preparation and plans, you could hardly expect us to let you go on shore in advance of us?” Cochrane explained.

Surrounded by Union Jacks for days, Key, Skinner, and Beanes stayed with the British fleet. Key was worried about Baltimore. “To make my feelings still more acute, the admiral had intimated his fears that Baltimore must be burned, and I was sure that if taken it would have been given up to plunder. It was filled with women and children.”

Starting on September 13, for more than twenty-four hours, Key watched the British Navy bombard Fort McHenry, which guarded Baltimore’s harbor. The staccato sound of rockets and bombs suddenly stopped the morning of September 14. Gone from the fort was its small storm flag.

Through his spyglass, Key must have held his breath during the silence as he wondered what would happen next. Would the Union Jack or a white flag of surrender appear at the top of Fort McHenry? Relief swept through him as he saw the giant thirty by forty-two foot U.S. flag soar to the top of Fort McHenry. While the men at the fort played Yankee Doodle, Key’s emotions took flight. Phrases such as “O say can you see” and “by the dawn’s early light” pulsed through his heart and pen. By the time he returned to Baltimore two days later, he’d written lyrics for a poem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Key’s genius is that his words were so inspirational, they could be applied to many generations and situations, not only to Fort McHenry and Baltimore. Though he didn’t know it at the time, Key had given the land of the free its anthem for the ages.

The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven" by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as "The Star-Spangled Banner" and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Now we come to the part that really makes me angry.

Fox News reported on this Flag Day a desecration of our national flag beyond the pale. This desecration was not done by some Islamic radicals of left-wing nuts burning our flag. It was carried out by our ambassador to Israel — a representative of the U.S. Government and We The People.

“TEL AVIV – The U.S. Embassy broke new ground and raised a few eyebrows by flying the rainbow-colored gay pride flag below the Stars and Stripes in a show of support for the city’s week long Gay Pride week, not to mention a rare example of tolerance in the wider Middle East.

“Proudly flying the colors!" read a dual-language post on thegayprideflag Facebook page of U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s office. "For the first time in history, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has raised the Pride flag together with our American flag. We are proud to join with the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo and its residents in celebrating LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual] Pride Week.”

The Tel Aviv embassy gesture to the local gay community is not the first of its kind though. Last month, according to Spanish media reports, the gay pride flag flew over U.S. Ambassador James Costos’ official residence in Madrid, and last September, the flag was unfurled by Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick at the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, in Slovakia.

Reaction from outside of the gay community to the sight of the American flag being accompanied by the rainbow banner was mixed.

“I see that it is OK to put up a gay pride flag over an embassy but not ok for military members to espouse their religious beliefs in God," read a post on the Embassy's page, attributed to Grant Hix Jones. "I am ashamed to see those flags side by side.”

“How is this "gay pride flag" representative of all Americans?" wrote a poster named James Brown. "This flag needs to come down.”

While most people posting messages on the embassy Facebook page expressed various shades of disapproval, on the other side of the debate there were those in favor of hoisting the gay flag, with “Way to go!” and “Proud” being among the posted comments.

An embassy official told all the responses were appreciated.

“We are glad to see our Facebook page utilized as a forum for free speech,” the official said.

Shapiro announced late last month that the flag would fly above the building, noting "the United States’ strong support for the LGBT community at home and abroad."

I am sick and tired of the LGBT community forcing its beliefs on me. I really don’t care what they have to say or what their behavior is. It’s their business. But for the U.S. Government to sanction it is a travesty against the First Amendment. We are not allowed bibles in government buildings and1200px-Gadsden_flag.svg shows such as the Duck Dynasty are sanctioned for expressing their views on homosexuality. If you fly the symbol of the Tea Party (the Gadsden Flag) you are considered by the Department of Homeland Security to be a potential terrorist. Schools will not permit kids to wear patriotic T-shirts and the Ten Commandments are removed from public buildings. Christian Christmas displays are banned from the public square and even flying Old Glory has been banned by some homeowner’s associations. But our government — in our name can fly the LGBT flag with impunity on a government building.

Not many news associations have covered this event. This is no doubt due to their reluctance to report news that would infuriate their viewers and in some case is new they would rather not report as it might prove to be a negative to their narrative.

The LGBT community can do want they wish in their bedrooms and communities but don’t do it in my name. What’s next — flying the Planned Parenthood banner.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Here We Go Again

"Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others." — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788

As recently as 2009, then-CIA Director Michael Hayden said, “Al-Qaida is on the verge of a strategic defeat in Iraq.” Yet in just a few short years, we have watched the entire Middle East melt down in the “Arab Spring” after Barack Obama sounded the retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan, falsely claiming that al-Qaida and Islamic terrorism were “on the run” after Osama bin Laden’s termination. Indeed, Jihadis with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have now seized the key Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit — after retaking Fallujah in January. Baghdad is next. According to an American counterterrorism official, “The group looks at Syria and Iraq as one interchangeable battlefield, and its ability to shift resources and personnel across the border has measurably strengthened its position in both theaters.” If the U.S. still had a sizable troop presence in Iraq, it’s possible — if not likely — that Iraq would be stable today. Perhaps even Syria would be. Instead, the region has paid a high price for Barack Obama’s Hope ‘n’ Change, as al-Qaida didn’t die just because Obama said it had.

Retired four-star Army General Jack Keane said Thursday on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that the U.S. created a huge vacuum by leaving Iraq, as the country faces a Sunni insurgency that has already claimed two key northern cities and is threatening Baghdad.

Keane said it's clear that since the U.S. military left the country in 2011, the Iraqi army has become "hollowed out."

"It's kind of like a house where termites have been at it for years and you look at the house and it looks good but the fact of the matter is if you push on it hard it will collapse," he said.

Keane also called Iraq Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “nefarious at best," saying the U.S. "created a huge vacuum by leaving."

"Maliki believed he was on his own kind of like in a life boat without a lifeline and we left him to himself," he said.

Much to the contradiction of Vice President Joe Biden’s 2010 statement that Iraq was a crowning success for the Obama administration Iraq is a shambles. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda off-shoot that now controls nearly a third of the nation, continues to run amok.

An al-Qaeda offshoot extended its gains in Iraq after capturing both the country’s second-biggest city and the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, as the U.S. weighed an Iraqi request for air support.

After seizing Mosul in the north, fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) moved yesterday into Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Noureddin Qablan, vice chairman of the Nineveh provincial council, said by phone. In Mosul, ISIL took dozens of people hostage at the Turkish consulate, as hundreds of thousands of residents fled.

The U.S. has yet to respond to a request from Iraq made last month to mount air attacks against militant training camps in western Iraq, according to two American officials who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. One of the officials said President Barack Obama is reluctant to revisit a war that he opposed and has repeatedly declared over.

The surge in violence across northern and central Iraq, three years after U.Si3NW3wlE.tjs. troops withdrew, has raised the prospect of a return to sectarian civil war in OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government is struggling to retain control of Sunni-majority regions, and his army units in northern Iraq collapsed in the face of the Islamist advance.

It’s way past time for the White House to get its head in the game. The disaster unfolding in Iraq and Syria could very quickly spiral into a much, much bigger problem. And some problems are so big that even our president can’t spin his way out.

At the top of the list of what the administration should be worrying about—and preparing to deal with — is the potential for an endless three-way civil war in Iraq. With Sunni, Shia and Kurds fighting one another, it would look something like the civil war in Syria — on steroids.

Two massive civil wars in the middle of a strategically important part of the world is not a good situation for any U.S. president, at any time. It is doubly worse now, with the region still teetering uneasily after the Arab Spring and U.S. stock in the area pathetically low.

The White House should be facing up to the fact that it may soon be staring at a contiguous Islamist state smack dab in the middle of the Middle East.

That state would look eerily similar to Afghanistan, circa September 10, 2001. In some ways, it would be an even more worrisome state. Instead of being based among mountains at the end of the earth, these Al Qaeda look-a likes would be perched just a stone’s throw from Europe and one hop away from a quick transatlantic flight to America.

Even if ISIS doesn’t end up owning a lot of real estate, this campaign will be a huge psychological victory for the terrorist movement.

The Islamists will argue that they bested the army trained and equipped by the Americans. They are clearly on the offensive, which means “the Americans” are in retreat. The message to all extremists: Join us, the winning side.

And don’t expect the war Syria to end any time soon. With a strong base of operations in Iraq, ISIS can always throw more gasoline on that fire and keep that conflict going. It is reported that the ISIS simply walked into a bank in Mosul and left with $400 million in cash. And if that isn’t bad enough they are using captured American supplied equipment from the Iraqi army and police such as Humvees, APC, night vision goggles, and communication equipment.

It has also been reported that the ISIS fighters are killing the captured Iraqi police and army personnel and public beheading them. This is how the Islamic Jihadis work. This is causing mass defections in the Iraqi police and army.

And who is to say the terrorists will stop there? Poor little Jordan teeters on the edge of the abyss. With the Muslim Brotherhood still strong within its borders and Syrian refugees now constituting more than a tenth of its total population, Jordan looks like a target that says “Islamists come after me.”

Finally, who knows what this means for Iran? Tehran will undoubtedly use the opportunity to strengthen its own influence in Iraq, even as it looks to deflect pressure from the US with a faux nuclear deal.

None of these all-too-possible outcomes can be ignored or brushed aside.

Another round of Secretary of State John Kerry’s special shuttle diplomacy would be an exercise in feckless kabuki.

Nor will the usual response from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel—which pretty much amounts to “Whatever the White House says is OK by me”—cut it.

Serious times require serious measures, not Bart Simpson-like evasions. The administration must drop its business-as-usual (and none-too-“smart” diplomacy) approach to address what are very real and pressing dangers.

The Obama administration reportedly has rebuffed calls from the Iraqi government to carry out airstrikes against Al Qaeda-aligned militants who are on a violent march that is threatening to take over the nation's north.

The insurgents have already seized several major cities, including Mosul and most recently Tikrit.

In a Fox News report entitled: White House mum on pleas from Iraq for airstrikes, as militants gain ground:

“The Obama administration is considering additional aid, but has not specified what assistance it is prepared to send. And, a little more than two years after U.S. troops withdrew from the country, Washington is not committing to helping the Iraqi government with airstrikes.

A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press that the U.S. is considering whether to conduct drone missions for Iraq but that no decision had been made.

The New York Times reported that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has requested airstrikes, but so far has been turned down.

A statement from the National Security Council made no commitment, as insurgents with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria threaten to advance.

"We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions but the Government of Iraq has made clear that they welcome our support in their effort to confront [ISIS]," spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. "We have expedited shipments of military equipment since the beginning of the year, ramped up training of Iraqi Security Forces, and worked intensively to help Iraq implement a holistic approach to counter this terrorist threat. Our assistance has been comprehensive, is continuing, and will increase."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, in a statement overnight, offered "condolences" to the families of those killed, but did not specify what actions the administration would take.

"The United States will stand with Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum as they forge the national unity necessary to succeed in the fight against ISIL," he said, adding "we will also continue to provide, and as required increase, assistance to the Government of Iraq to help build Iraq's capacity to effectively and sustainably stop [ISIS's] efforts to wreak havoc in Iraq and the region."

U.S. lawmakers, though, openly questioned whether al-Maliki should remain in power, as his Shiite-led government has targeted Sunni political opponents and, in turn, inflamed sectarian tensions across Iraq.

"He's obviously not been a good prime minister," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "He has not done a good job of reaching out to the Sunni population, which has caused them to be more receptive to al-Qaida efforts."

The panel's chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., noted only lukewarm support for al-Maliki, both in Iraq and among U.S. officials. "I don't know whether or not he will actually be the prime minister again," Menendez said. "I guess by many accounts, he may very well ultimately put (together) the coalition necessary to do that."

The rampage has raised new doubts about al-Maliki's ability to protect Iraq in areas that were mostly calm when U.S. troops withdrew from the country less than three years ago. Since then, violence has roared back to Iraq, returning to levels comparable to the darkest days of sectarian fighting nearly a decade ago when the country teetered on the brink of civil war.

Al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders have pleaded with the Obama administration for more than a year for additional help to combat the growing insurgency, which has been fueled by the unrelenting civil war in neighboring Syria. Northern Iraq has become a way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are seeding the Syrian war's violence in Baghdad and beyond.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it's expected that the U.S. will give Iraq new assistance to combat insurgents but declined to describe it. Beyond the missiles, tanks, fighter jets and ammunition that the U.S. has already either given or plans to send to Iraq, Baghdad has sought American surveillance drones to root out insurgents.

"The situation is certainly very grave on the ground," Psaki said Wednesday. She said the U.S. is encouraged by Baghdad's recent promise for a national unity effort but "there's more that Prime Minister Maliki can do."

"We agree that all Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, can do more to address unresolved issues there, to better meet the needs of the Iraqi people," Psaki said.”

Iraq-Afghanistan war, with Afghanistan being the longest war in our nation’s history has given us 6,717 killed (Iraq 4,488, Afghanistan 2,229) and 50,897 wounded (Iraq 32,222, Afghanistan 18,675) with many more suffering the effects of PTSD, a mental disabling disease that will affect them the rest of their lives.

The media have long since checked out of Iraq. Even in the final years of U.S. involvement, the images of war all but faded from television and the newspaper stories moved to inside pages. The American public was sick of the conflict. Journalists were sick of the conflict, which was bad for ratings and circulation, not to mention expensive and dangerous to cover. The news seemed relentlessly depressing.

It’s hard to argue with war fatigue, given that the original justification for the war—Saddam’s WMDs—never materialized, and that we still have tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan.

But now the Shiite government is in disarray, the country seems in danger of collapse and what was always a civil war is escalating by the hour. Iraq is back.

But with no more U.S. boots on the ground, how will the media cover the story? As a war in a place that claimed so many American lives, or as a finger-pointing political battle?

Now some cable pundits are demanding to know what the United States is going to do, and others are blaming the situation on President Obama. ABC's Jon Karl asked Jay Carney how this squares with the president's claim of decimating Al Qaeda, since the militants are linked to the terror group.

Of course, Obama ran in 2008 on a platform of ending the war, with public opinion having turned sharply against U.S. involvement. Obama tried to extend a remaining U.S. military presence in 2011 before the expiration of a withdrawal agreement negotiated three years earlier by George W. Bush. But Nouri al-Maliki wanted the Americans out, which was a popular domestic position.

The media seem poised to embark on a debate about what the U.S. should do now to shore up the fragile Baghdad regime. Obama said yesterday the administration is examining “all options.” But given the public weariness with Iraq, those options seem limited.

John Boehner said yesterday that the situation has been brewing for over a year “and what’s the president doing? Taking a nap.” But have I missed a major groundswell in Congress for renewed action in Iraq? Of course John McCain will remain a stalwart advocate for U.S. intervention along with a few other hawks in Congress.

The media were largely over Iraq until the last few days. But that battered country has a way of forcing itself back in the news.

State Department and Pentagon officials have long warned about ISIS's desire to create an Islamic state based in the Sunni-dominated parts of Iraq and Syria.

Now, current and former officials say Washington's options for helping the Iraqi army fight back are limited—both because the threat in Iraq is so entrenched and because the U.S. hasn't invested in building up moderate allies on the Syrian side of the border.

U.S. military leaders said they had thought that Iraqi security forces' efforts would be enough to slow ISIS's advance. But those assumptions were proven wrong when Iraqi troops largely abandoned their posts.

The loss of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, was a strategic blow and the U.S. doubts the Iraqi military will be able to take it back soon, the officials said.

Top State Department officials long argued that the civil war in Syria was the root cause of ISIS's rise because it gave them a haven in which to operate and recruit. They said the U.S. won't make headway unless ISIS is contained on both sides of the porous Iraqi-Syrian border.

Pentagon officials believe that Baghdad is unlikely to fall under the current onslaught because it is a heavily-guarded stronghold of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. But they noted that other Sunni extremist groups, like the remnants of the vanquished Sunni Baathist movement, have allied themselves with ISIS, adding to their power and building on its momentum. I think this is faulty thinking. As more defections by the Iraqi police and army take place the ISIS will grow stronger and the government’s defense forces will grow weaker. Besides these defenses forces do not have history of moral strength to withstand such an onslaught from the insurgent forces. This morality stems from a firm belief in constitutional government and civil rights — neither are a part of Islam.

Recent events in Iraq show the potential risks of the administration's foreign policy approach. In a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last month, Mr. Obama outlined a policy that favors a lighter U.S. military footprint and, where possible, calls for regional allies to take the lead in fighting terrorist threats in their backyards, so American troops don't have to.

Now, current and former officials say Washington's options for helping the Iraqi army fight back are limited—both because the threat in Iraq is so entrenched and because the U.S. hasn't invested in building up moderate allies on the Syrian side of the border.

But allies have grown to expect the U.S. to take the lead in counterterrorism efforts around the world, officials say, particularly in the Gulf. "Are they willing to step up?" a senior U.S. official said. "It is possible we are victims of our own leadership."

Critics say Obama is relying too heavily on partners of varying capabilities and often conflicting agendas. The Iraqi army and an outgunned moderate opposition in Syria are too weak to make a difference, in part because of the administration's reluctance to do more to support them, current and former officials said.

Obama's supporters say the administration's reluctance to assume responsibility for growing swaths of ungoverned space, from Libya to Syria and Iraq, reflects the U.S. public's and military's exhaustion after more than a decade of conflict.

"The U.S. can no longer be the sheriff for the whole world," Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D., Md.), the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in an interview. "We can't be everywhere, and we can't always use military boots on the ground. We have to plan with people who have boots on the ground."

The ISIS seizure of Iraqi territory illustrates how the counterterrorism picture has shifted over the last three years.

In 2011, the U.S. withdrew its forces after failing to agree with Baghdad on a long-term troop presence, leaving only a military presence in the U.S. Embassy.

In July 2011, after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and before the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Iraq, Mr. Hagel's predecessor, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, visited the region and declared that the U.S. was within reach of "strategically defeating" al Qaeda. According to Wikipedia:

“The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS, is an active Jihadist militant group and unrecognized state in Iraq and Syria influenced with the Wahhabi movement. In its unrecognizedFlag_of_Islamic_State_of_Iraq.svg (1) self-proclaimed status as an independent state it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant (e.g. Lebanon). It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organization, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah, Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, etc., and other clans whose population profess Sunni Islam. It aimed to establish a caliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq, later expanding this to include Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties to ISIL.

At the height of the Iraq War, it claimed a significant presence in the Iraqi provinces of Al Anbar, Ninawa, Kirkuk, and most of Salah ad Din, and parts of Babil, Diyala, and Baghdad. It claimed Baqubah as its capital. In the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the group has a large presence in the Syrian governorates of Ar-Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo

In addition to attacks on government and military targets, the group has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. Despite significant setbacks to the group during the latter stages of the Coalition's presence in Iraq, by late 2012 the group was thought to have renewed its strength and more than doubled its number of members to about 2,500.

A letter and later an audio recording by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the214977-d32dcea8-f1d3-11e3-94a8-09c2117d0a9e leader of al-Qaeda, was leaked to Al Jazeera in 2013, disbanding the Syrian faction of the Islamic State. However, the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made it clear that he contested this ruling on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence, and the group has since continued to operate in Syria. Starting in April 2013, the group made rapid military gains to control large parts of Northern Syria, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described them as "the strongest group"

Leader of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has $10m bounty on his head and is said to wear mask when with commanders.

According to the Guardian:

“Described by some as "the new Osama bin Laden", he has a $10m US bounty on his head, only two pictures of him are known to exist and, contrary to his nom de guerre, he was born not in Baghdad but 78 miles north, in the city of Samarra.

Ambitious and violent, his reputation as a militant leader and tactician is as much a reflection of the disarray of other rebel groups in Syria and the poor showing of the Iraqi army this week.

Baghdadi is said to keep a low profile even among his own armed supporters, who amount to an estimated 7,000 fighters. He is not one for video-taped pronouncements; some reports claim – perhaps fancifully – that he wears a mask when addressing his commanders, earning him the nickname "the invisible sheikh".

According to Gateway Pundit and the Daily Mail Online al-Baghdadi was released by Obama from Camp Bucca in 2009

Today, ISIS's network of fighters in Syria and Iraq are better trained, equipped and manned than its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, which U.S. forces fought for years and eventually decimated at the height of the Iraq war, according to the latest U.S. military assessments.

ISIS operates in formations, more like an army than a loose network of fighters, said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official. The group's sophisticated global recruitment network could allow it to redirect suicide bombers from targets in Syria and Iraq to neighboring countries, the official said.

The Obama administration, unable to operate openly in Iraq since the U.S. withdrawal and unwilling to intervene in Syria for fear of getting pulled into another conflict, has left itself few options to directly confront the growing threat, according to senior U.S. defense and intelligence officials.

Following ISIS's successes in Iraq this week, many officials are questioning whether the threat can still be contained. "Time is the real enemy here," a senior Obama administration official said.

When Mr. Panetta made his pronouncement about al Qaeda's strategic defeat, the revolution in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad was only a few months old and U.S. intelligence agencies had no idea that the civil war there would become such a magnet for the world's Jihadi fighters, current and former U.S. officials say.

At the time of the U.S. pullout, American officials were predicting a "low boil" insurgency in Iraq that could last a decade but they thought al Qaeda's network there could be kept under control by Iraq's army, which the U.S. built up during the war.

Syria's civil war changed that, creating the biggest humanitarian crisis in a generation and a counterterrorism challenge which Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), the chairman of the House intelligence committee, called "worse than pre-9/11 Afghanistan."

Rogers said the threat was worse now because of the sheer quantity of territory under direct ISIS control and because of the large number of foreigners, including Europeans and Americans, who are joining the fight.

Arab officials say the U.S. contributed to ISIS's rise by failing to support more moderate forces in the Syrian opposition.

U.S. officials, in turn, say the Saudis, Qataris, Kuwaitis and other regional players—rivals for influence and divided over Syria strategy—funneled their own arms and money through competing patronage networks, splintering the opposition, while foreign fighters poured across the border from Turkey to join ISIS.

Qatari leaders, in particular, have long played down the threat posed by the hardline Islamists, telling their American counterparts that Jihadis entering Syria would be dealt with later, after Mr. Assad is defeated, according to U.S. officials. Qatari officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Keep in mind this is the country harboring the five recently released Taliban commanders.

Iraqi officials said they hoped recent events in Mosul and Tikrit would galvanize the U.S. to step up support against ISIS. "What we are saying is that there needs to be a sense of urgency," Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., Lukman Faily, told The Wall Street Journal.

But a senior U.S. military official said the White House's willingness to intervene will depend on how directly it perceives ISIS as a growing threat to the U.S. "You would need a major commitment of military forces to make a difference," the official said. "There is not a lot of appetite for that."

According to a Fox News report of this morning Al Qaeda-inspired militants pushed into a province northeast of Baghdad Friday, capturing two towns there after having already toppled cities in the country’s north, as the Obama administration considered possible responses to the crisis:

“Police officials said militants driving in machinegun-mounted pickups entered two towns in Diyala province late Thursday -- Jalula, 80 miles northeast of Baghdad, and Sadiyah, 60 miles north of the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi soldiers abandoned their posts there without any resistance, the officials told The Associated Press.

The fresh gains by the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) come as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led_75463971_022639695-1 government struggles to form a coherent response after the Sunni militants blitzed and captured the country's second-largest city of Mosul as well as other, smaller communities and military and police bases.

The new offensive by the militant group is the biggest threat to Iraq's stability since the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2011, and it has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that would partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.

Trumpeting their victory, the militants declared they would impose Shariah law in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city they captured on Tuesday, and other areas they seized, and promised to march on Baghdad, joined by Saddam Hussein-era loyalists and other disaffected Sunnis.

In northern Iraq, Kurdish security forces have moved to fill the power vacuum caused by the retreating Iraqi forces -- taking over an air base and other posts abandoned by the military in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

The Obama administration is still trying to determine how to assist the Nouri al-Maliki government, while making clear it does not want U.S. troops in the middle of the fight.

"We are not contemplating ground troops," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.

President Obama promised Thursday to send more military aid, without saying what kind of new assistance would be given to Baghdad. Two U.S. officials who are familiar with ongoing negotiations told The Associated Press the White House is considering air strikes and increased surveillance, requested this week by the Iraqi defense minister, as the insurgency nears Baghdad.”

“The development signals the worsening security environment in the northern part of the country. One senior official told Fox News that the focus for evacuation at this point is on people outside of Baghdad.

Two senior intelligence sources, though, told Fox News there is serious concern about how to evacuate other Americans out of Iraq if the situation further deteriorates.

"We need places to land, we need safe and secure airfields," one source said, noting that the militants are "seizing airfields and they have surface-to-air missiles, which very clearly threatens our pilots and planes if we do go into evacuation mode."

Sources said "all western diplomats in Iraq are in trouble," and American allies are scrambling to put together an evacuation plan. Military officials said there are "not a lot of good options."

Baghdad authorities tightened security and residents stocked up on essentials. Hundreds of young men crowded in front of the main army recruiting center in Baghdad after authorities urged Iraqis to help battle the insurgents.

Security officials said the Islamic State fighters managed to take control of two weapons depots holding 400,000 items, including AK-47 rifles, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells and mortars.

Several thousand Americans remain in Iraq, mostly contractors who work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on programs to train Iraqi forces on American military equipment like fighter jets and tanks. Those being evacuated from Balad included 12 U.S. government officials and military personnel who have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.

Other U.S. contractors are at a tank training ground in the city of Taji, just north of the capital, that is still in operation for now.

To me this is reminiscent of the panic and evacuation from Warsaw in 1939 as the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled through Poland.

Given the incredible American sacrifices over nearly a decade, including nearly 4,400 deaths, it seems an absolute shame that all that hard-won progress might be lost. But given the deep ethnic and religious schisms there, I never had much confidence that the place would remain stable once the last U.S. soldiers left. No matter the count of purple fingers Iraq, like the rest of the countries ion the region, are not ready for democratically-elected self-government. There will never be peace or tranquility between the Sunnis and Shiites. They have been each other’s throats since the ninth century. The only time they take a break is to attack westerners.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has called for U.S. air support to help defeat the ISIS insurgents. Where would this air support come from? Carriers in the Persian Gulf and planes based in Saudi Arabia and Turkey are all we can muster. And we could use drone strikes. Of course we could fly a few B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but what effect would they have on these insurgent forces. Any of these air strikes to be effective must be coordinated with ground forces — and these we do not have.

The only real target is the main highway from Tikrit to Baghdad. Yes we could cut off this main artery to the Iraqi capital, but for how long. The tons on bombs dropped in Afghanistan did not do much to blunt the Taliban fighters.

Even if Obama wanted to put U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq we do not have the resources or time to do so. It would take 30 to 50 thousand troops to make a difference. This is something I hope we will not do.

Biden’s great success has turned into the great nightmare. What can the U.S. really do to blunt the advance of the ISIS? Not much. Will this turn of events affect the west and the United States? You bet it will. It is already affecting oil prices around the world. Iraq and Syria will become the recruiting and training ground for the next wave of terrorist. Now it is reported that more than a few of these ISIS terrorist carry European and U.S. Passports. With our southern border being the sieve that it is it will not be difficult for theses ISIS trained and motivated terrorists to enter the United States and there is not much we can do about it.