Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE ISIS PROBLEM



In January of 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco. The meeting lasted ten days, and produced what was later called the Casablanca Declaration.

It is remembered best for being the genesis of the Allied decision to prosecute World War II to an unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about that policy. It was primarily Roosevelt’s idea, Churchill claiming to be a “lieutenant” at the meeting. Stalin wasn’t there. Stalingrad was under siege and he stayed home.

One of Roosevelt’s reasons for announcing the policy was to keep Stalin from making a separate peace with Germany.

Still, there were voices both in and out of government which expressed fear that the policy would stiffen the resistance of the enemy, and eliminate any possibility of a negotiated peace.

V-E Day came when Hitler committed suicide in a bunker in Berlin. V-J Day celebrated a radio address on August 15, 1945 in which Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of the Japanese to the Allies.

Now, more that half a century later, the Japanese and German people are viewed as our friends and trading partners.

I have been musing about those things of late because of the current warfare in the Middle East. A movement known as ISIS – the Iraq and Syria Islamic State – so called, has surfaced as a powerful force in those two countries, and is viewed as determined to create an Islamic Caliphate over the entire region, usually described at the Levant, which includes Lebanon and Israel.

Technically, a caliphate, is a nation ruled by a religious authority. As a practical matter, the powers of the religious leaders and secular leaders may overlap. Iran, viewed by many as an Islamic caliphate, has a President, Hassan Rouhani, who was elected. He answers, however, to the ‘Supreme Leader’ of the country, Ali Khamenei. The Supreme leader is chosen by the Council of Experts, a group of 88 elected Islamic theologians.

The supreme leader of the ISIS or ISIL, as it is called, is a man called Baghdadi. Here is what Wikipedia says about him:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, known to his supporters as Amir al-Mu'minin, Caliph Ibrahim is emir, proclaimed as caliph, of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL is an Islamic extremist group in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, self-described as the "Islamic State".
He was formerly known as Abu Du'a. Claiming descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, he is called, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi.
On 4 October 2011, the US State Department listed al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and announced a reward of up to US$10 million for information leading to his capture or death.[12] Only the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, merits a larger reward (US$25 million).

Baghdadi has a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D from the Islamic University of Baghdad. He is apparently considered to be a theologian by his followers.

So here is my quandary: The ISIS or ISIL fighters are followers of the Islamic faith. Admittedly they are extremists. We are assured that the broad generality of Muslims do not subscribe to the blood thirsty, terrorist strategy of ISIS fighters.

Still, they are believers. They have a common understanding of the origins and destiny of the human race. They all have the same view of life and death. They pray together, they fight together, they kill together.

Our President has announced that his policy is to “degrade and destroy” ISISL. I suggest that “degrade and destroy” is an objective substantially beyond “unconditional surrender.”

Short of an Islamic pogrom of massive proportions, there is simply no way to ‘destroy’ a movement which is based upon religious fervor, no matter how theologically misguided.

The Middle East has been a bloody battleground for more than 4,000 years. The Jewish scholar, Maimonides, asserted that in every war, the Jewish soldier fights for God. Muslims, Christians and Jews have slaughtered each other as far back as history is recorded in defense of their respective belief systems.
And we are going to ‘degrade and destroy’ those people?
Not likely. In the first place, we have no stomach for it. Nobody I know wants to send a son or daughter back to Iraq. We have all seen enough heart-wrenching commercials for Wounded Warriors to dull the national enthusiasm for making the world safe for democracy.
Currently, we are committing expensive airplanes, piloted by expensively trained pilots, to drop expense bombs on places where we believe the ISIL fighters are to be found.
But the Internet is replete with videos of those men shooting up neighborhoods, ducking behind and between buildings, wheeling around in cars and trucks. The idea that enough of them will gather in one place and stand still long enough to get killed is patently absurd..
Do we really want to slaughter them on their on their prayer rugs or in their Mosques? Should we respond to their atrocities by beheading Muslims on Internet videos?
In the 11th century Pope Urban II called on Christian men to mount a crusade to occupy the holy places of the Middle East. Pope Francis has issued no such call. But he and other Christian leaders are torn by the horrors and sufferings of their followers in Iraq and Syria.
Surely Francis prays every morning and night. What would Jesus do? What is the Christian response to evil, to hatred, to terrorism? Are we to turn the other cheek?
In 1634 the Iroquois, while fighting the Hurons, captured French Jesuit Jean de Brebeuf. Br├ębeuf endured stoning, slashing with knives, a collar of red-hot tomahawks, a “baptism” of scalding water, and burning at the stake. Because he showed no signs of pain, his heart was eaten by the Iroquois, who admired his courage.
How many years, how many wars how many murders had to occur before the descendants of those Iroquois would live in harmony with the Jesuits and enjoy the dividends of multi million dollar casinos?
It has been de rigueur to suggest that our military commitment to the Middle East is founded on the humanitarian desire to assure that Arab women are educated and freed from the virtual slavery endorsed by fundamentalist Islamists.
It used to be said that our military expeditions were actually in pursuit of winning the minds and the hearts of the people over there. If so, it was a fool’s mission. You don’t win minds and hearts with AK 47s and napalm.
And what exactly does the United States of America offer to the minds and hearts of the people in the Middle East? Hollywood? Twitter? Wall Street? Gay Marriage, The NFL?
Or can we expect them to embrace our notion of constitutional democracy when our Congress has the support of only 9% of our people?
France didn’t set out to degrade and destroy the Iroquois in 1634. Perhaps we should honor James Foley as a martyr and let the unhappy people of the Middle East fight their own battles and choose their leaders in the same bloody way their fathers, grandfathers and ancestors have been doing for so many centuries.
Winning the minds and hearts of people takes wisdom, patience and compassion. And lots of time. If our civilization is better; if our ideas of right and wrong are more enlightened than theirs, our best course is to stick to our principles. The notion of killing people because we are afraid they may want to do us harm is not only unjust, un-Christian and un-American, it is cowardly.



  


Thursday, August 14, 2014

A GOLFER'S LAMENT

August 13, 2014

Mr. Bryant Gumbel
c/o HBO
1100 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Gumbel:
Your very sad video about the future of golf prompts this letter. I am a former Chief Justice of Michigan and Founder of Cooley Law School. You and I met in an airport in Orlando, and I recall you telling me that your father was a Judge. After my retirement about twelve years ago, I made a serious effort to organize a professional golf league. I called it the American Golf League.

I recruited club PGA professionals and created four teams: the Detroit Drivers, the Cleveland Wedges, the Chicago Shooters and the Minnesota Maulers. We conducted two games: the Shooters beat the Wedges and the Drivers were defeated by the Maulers.

Players were decked out in traditional golf wear, ala Payne Stewart. They looked great and very much enjoyed the games.

Unfortunately, I am just one man, and not a very wealthy one at that. After investing about $30,000 in the project, I heeded my wife’s counsel and folded the tent.

Still.

Still, I cannot get rid of the thought that I was right and the rest of the world was wrong. Arnold Palmer would never see me, nor would Tim Finchem and the rest of the establishment. Greg Norman wrote in reply to my overture that “golf is an individual sport” and would not work as a team game. Apparently he discounts the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup, etc.


The only golf icon to listen was Jack Nicklaus; a real gentleman and a champion in every sense of the word. I enclose a copy of his letter to me.

Of course, team golf requires some thinking outside the box, a place unknown to the powers that be in the ancient and honorable game. Fifteen inch holes? Using a soccer ball? Indeed!  What are they thinking?
I invented and patented a game. I called it Golfball. Made sense to me. Just like foot…, basket… and base…, the other major team sports.

Briefly, Golfball is a nine man team, match play format, which starts with a shot gun with one match on each of nine holes. The score of the game is the total number of holes won by each team. Every match goes the full eighteen holes, and extra holes are played in case of a tie.

Bud Selig’s successor will be chosen today. Can you imagine the ruckus if the new Commissioner were to announce that he is cancelling the 2015 baseball schedule in favor of conducting an All Star game every week in a different city?

And yet, that is exactly what major league golf does.

Do the math. How many professional golfers are there? How many professional baseball players? In which sport are the players better paid? In which sport do the players get more television exposure?  In which do the players get to sleep at home more nights? In which sport are there local heroes, local fans, local news coverage?

And the kids. The USGA, the PGA and the Tour all support the First Tee. It’s a noble cause, but let’s face it, you are not going to create a generation of enthusiastic golfers by taking kids to the driving range for hours of practice. From Tee ball, to kid’s hockey and soccer, the thing that gets them, and their parents involved is team competition.

Bryant, can you imagine the public interest in a player draft to establish a thirty-two team golf league? Even if the top 100 or 200 golfers declined to participate, even if only the Champions Tour and the Buy.com players were being divvied up?

You don’t have to start with multi-million dollar player contracts. There are scads of scratch golfers eager to play professionally.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story about the league. It began with this line: How would you like a professional team that will never ask for a new stadium? Makes sense. Maybe before we close all of those fine municipal golf courses, we ought to put up some grandstands and invite all the kids to come for free and cheer for the home team.

You have a voice. I don’t. I’m 85 and only shoot my age on rare occasions.

Sincerely,


Thomas E. Brennan




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

READING OUT LOUD

On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, the members of the House of Representatives took turns reading the Constitution of the United States and its 27 amendments. Out loud.

The folks who ought to know tell us that it was the first time in the history of the nation that the Constitution was read aloud in either chamber of the Congress.

The Constitution as ratified consists of about 4,500 words. Together with the 27 amendments, the document runs a little less than 8,000 words. It took the members of Congress about ninety minutes to read the whole thing out loud.

The members were generally pleased with the experience, and it apparently set a precedent. The 113th Congress which convened in 2013 repeated the exercise.

Interestingly, the version of the Constitution which was read in Congress was not the actual text. It was a sanitized rendering with all direct and indirect references to slavery and Prohibition removed, as well as superseded procedures for selecting the President and Vice President. That brought a complaint from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who opined that the Republican majority in the House had redacted parts of the founding documents, leaving out all parts that memorialize the blood, sweat and tears expended to make the blessing of liberty universal in America.

Good point. The fact that slaves were described as “other persons” and counted at only three-fifths of their number in the original document explains why the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were necessary. And the adoption and later repeal of Prohibition delivers a lesson in democracy which needs remembering.  

Certainly, the staff of the House of Representatives ought not to be given carte blanche to cut up the Supreme Law of the Land, or to decide which words in the charter don’t matter any more.

One important benefit of the reading ceremony ought to be that members of Congress are reminded of little known and rarely discussed constitutional provisions.

How about Article 1, Section 8, which says, among other things, that no appropriation of money to raise and support an army shall be for more than two years? Does anyone mention that restriction when the House debates the authorization of long term contracts for military equipment?

And how often does anyone wonder out loud why, if the Constitution requires representation in the House to be proportional to the population of the States, there has been no increase in the number of Representatives in over a hundred years?

Reading the Constitution aloud is a nice custom, but if it is done merely as a ceremony, “full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing” it shall then be truly as Shakespeare said, “a tale told by idiots.”

Constitutionalism is spreading like a virus across the land. Hillsdale College has set out to gather a million signatures to a petition demanding return to constitutional government in Washington. The College proposes to supply free copies of the founding documents to every pubic official in America.

The Internet is abuzz with talk of resuscitating the Constitution, of proposing amendments, of reining in unconstitutional government.

Unfortunately, the government is like the weather, everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.

I have been trying to change all of that. My efforts appear on the World Wide Web at www.conventionusa.org. My reasons are explained in a forthcoming book entitled THE ARTICLE V AMENDATORY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: Keeping the Republic in the Twenty-First Century.

Publication is scheduled for September 16th. Anyone interested in ordering the book may do so on Amazon.com. Just click here: BUY THE BOOK.

The book is expensive. I didn’t set the price, the publisher did. Whatever I make on it will be spent on organizing the convention.


When you finish reading it, send it to your Congressman, and ask him to read it. Out loud.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THE DEATH PENALTY

I am not a big fan of the death penalty. In general, I feel that where society has the wherewithal to incarcerate someone for the balance of his natural life, it is more humane to let nature deliver the just desserts for the commission of a capital crime.

My opposition is not founded on moral grounds, however. I do not believe that the death penalty for a capital offense is at odds with the Natural Law or merits condemnation by the Creator.

The felonious taking of a human life is the ultimate usurpation of organized society. Governments are created among humans to protect and enhance the existence of our species on this planet.

Whoever takes it upon himself to kill his fellow man sets himself above and against the entire human race. No civilization can tolerate such conduct and survive.

But if the death penalty is justified as society’s response to heinous crime, then it ought to be carried out in an orderly, predictable fashion.

Nothing more denigrates societal response to murder than a criminal justice system which renders a nominal death sentence and then simply neglects to do what the law requires.

On November 5, 2009, Nidal Hassan murdered 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas.

It took three and a half years for the United States Army to bring him to trial. At his trial, Hassan admitted the crimes. He was sentenced to death. The United States Military has not executed anyone since 1964. The Code of Military Justice requires that a sentence of death be automatically appealed.

It is predicted that Hassan’s appeals will take a decade.

There’s more. Apparently some arcane military regulation requires that military personnel, upon separation, to return all gear issued to them. Apparently until Hassan is cleared by CIF (the Central Issue Facility) he cannot be executed.

There’s little hope that all of his gear will be recovered. At least one item has been donated to a mosque for use as a prayer rug. Rules, of course, must be obeyed. All rules. No matter how absurd. Especially in the army.

Hassan could, of course fill out a form certifying that his gear has been lost or destroyed. But the form is in English, and Hassan claims that his Islaamic faith forbids him to write in English.

You can see what an impasse that has created. I’m sure that the odds on Hassan living another twenty years are better that California Chrome at the Belmont.

The debacle of the the Army’s handling of the Hassan murders is not the only example of U.S. military paralysis when it comes to the discipline of Muslim servicemen.

A Marine by the name of Wassef Ali Hassoun disappeared from Camp Fallujah in Iraq ten years ago. He was found and charged with desertion and theft after a five month investigation.

Brought to the United States for trial, he went AWOL from Camp Lejune, and now nobody knows where he is. Least of all the United States Marine Corps.

In the wake of the Jihadist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, President George Bush took great pains to prevent a popular backlash against Muslims in America. A mere thirty days after the 9-11 attacks, the President hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House, the first such event ever held there. He continued the practice for the next six years.

Barak Obama, schooled in Islaam as a child, has continued the practice.

Bush was determined to show that Muslims are welcomed as members of the U.S. armed forces. It is clear that the military, oath bound to obey their Commander in Chief, have concluded that Muslims in uniform are not just welcomed; they are conclusively presumed to be loyal American citizens, no matter what they do. It’s pathetic.

  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

BERGDAHL MESS

Trying to answer the question of whether the Bergdahl prisoner swap was or was not legal, I waded into the murky waters of federal legislation.

Typically of the way Washington works, the controlling law is contained in a massive omnibus bill that runs something like 211,214 words and includes literally thousands sections dealing with all kinds of matters.

Apparently the legal dispute here involves section 1035 of the  NDAA – the National Defense Authorization Act, which  authorizes various expenditures of public funds in 2014.

Here is what the section provides:

(Sec. 1035) Authorizes the Secretary to transfer or release any individual detained at Guantanamo to such individual's country of origin or another country if: (1) the Secretary determines that the individual is no longer a threat to national security, or (2) such transfer or release is to effectuate an order by an appropriate U.S. court or tribunal. Requires, as further determinations prior to such transfer, that: (1) actions have been planned or taken that will substantially mitigate the risk of such individual engaging or reengaging in any terrorist or hostile activity that threatens the United States, and (2) the transfer is in the U.S. national security interest. Outlines factors to be considered in making such determinations, including any confirmed cases of recidivism of individuals previously transferred to such country. Requires the Secretary, at least 30 days prior to such a transfer, to notify the defense, appropriations, and intelligence committees. Defines a detained individual as one located at Guantanamo as of October 1, 2009, who is not a U.S. citizen and is in the custody or control of DOD or otherwise under detention there. Repeals superseded authorities..

Section 1035 allows the Secretary of the Navy, who in is charge of Gitmo, to release detainees to their country of origin or some other foreign country, if he decides the person is no longer a threat to national security, and if the transfer is in the national interest, after taking into consideration whether others released to that country resumed their terrorist activities. It further requires the Secretary to notify defense, appropriations and Intelligence committees of the Congress at least 30 days before making the transfer.

The Secretary of the Navy is a man named Ray Mabus. A graduate of the Harvard Law School, Mabus was the Governor of Mississippi and served as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Bill Clinton. He was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Obama in 2009.

Now here’s the way I read the Bergdahl case: if the President of the United States instructed the Secretary of the Navy to release five Gitmo detainees forthwith, the Secretary should have refused to do so without giving Congress thirty days notice as required by the law.

If the President insisted, the Secretary should have resigned. If the President simply by passed the Secretary and issued a direct order to the Gitmo Commandant, there are other questions. The best I can figure, that would involve Rear Admiral David B. Woods, Commander of JTF_GTMO the joint task force in charge of the Guantanamo facility.
  
Of course, Woods ought to have respectfully declined the President’s order, insisting that he be instructed through the proper chain of command.

Now, I suppose there is a question of whether the President, by instructing the Secretary of the Navy to violate the law, is guilty of an impeachable offense.

That would depend on the nature of the directive from the President to the Secretary. Did Obama tell Mabus to release the prisoners without giving Congress the thirty day notice? When was prisoner exchange deal made? Was Mabus aware of it soon enough to give the required notice?

I have the feeling that the whole matter is a juicy subject for Congressional investigation, with the full array of hearings and charges of partisan nit picking.

Who said what to whom? And when? Who decided not to tell the committees? The answers will come from both sides of the aisle, and we will have another partisan circus in the nation’s capital.

The thirty day rule is a procedure. A nit to pick. It avoids and complicates the real issue.

The sad fact is that the American people are left to debate whether Bergdahl should have been brought home by releasing five detainees, which brings up the whole question of “detainees.”  Are they prisoners of war? If so, what war? Who declared a war? Who are we at war against? Are these detainees soldiers or criminals? If they are soldiers, what nation do they fight for? If they are prisoners of war, and the war is over, they should all be sent home. If they are criminals, what crimes have they committed and have they been convicted and sentenced? If they are criminals, they should be brought to justice, in a civilized, constitutional manner.

The Bergdahl case is just another side show.