September 11, 2016

(There will be no cartoons today. Instead, Sunday cartoon blogging will be tomorrow, Monday 9/12.)


After 15 years, some of the sharp pain of the events of 9/11 have faded, and an idealized view of the towers like this one, is all we need to take us back to that point in time when American invincibility ended. We remember the tragedy, but perhaps we now have enough distance from it to begin to put 9/11/2001 in a context for today.

Tom Englehardt makes the point that on 9/11, al-Qaeda launched a four-plane air force against the US, and now, 15 years later, the air war still has not ended. Englehardt states that the costs have been staggering. Pentagon figures show that just since 2014, the cost of the air war to the taxpayers has been $8.4 billion.

The point behind these numbers is that America’s air war in the Greater Middle East and Africa has become institutionalized, and is now a part of our politics. No future president will end our drone programs. In fact, both The Pant Suit and The Pant Load are essentially committed to continuing the US air war for at least their first term in office.

Mohammad Atta, the kingpin hijacker, pursued a master’s degree in city planning at the Hamburg University of Technology, where he wrote his thesis on urban planning in Aleppo, Syria. Slate’s Daniel Brooks traveled to Hamburg in 2009 to read the thesis and try to get a sense for how Atta saw the world:

The subject of the thesis is a section of Aleppo…Atta describes decades of meddling by Western urban planners, who rammed highways through the neighborhood’s historic urban fabric and replaced many of its once ubiquitous courtyard houses with modernist high-rises. Atta calls for rebuilding the area along traditional lines, all tiny shops and odd-angled cul-de-sacs. The highways and high-rises are to be removed —in [Atta’s] meticulous color-coded maps, they are all slated for demolition. Traditional courtyard homes and market stalls are to be rebuilt.

We see Atta’s commitment to the culture of Islam:

For Atta, the rebuilding of Aleppo’s traditional cityscape was part of a larger project to restore the Islamic culture of the neighborhood, a culture he sees as threatened by the West…In Atta’s Aleppo, women wouldn’t leave the house, and policies would be carefully crafted so as not to “engender emancipatory thoughts of any kind,” which he sees as “out of place in Islamic society.”

As a student, Atta called for demolishing the western-style high rise buildings in Aleppo. He then got the assignment to crash a plane into America’s tallest and most famous high-rise.

The circularity is striking. The decision to attack America led to the US decision to invade Iraq. That led to the Shia takeover of Iraq, which led to a Sunni exodus into Syria. The Sunni exodus, along with the Arab Spring, led to the on-going anti-Assad revolution in Syria, which led in time to the destruction of the rebel-held parts of today’s Aleppo.

Atta’s demolition plans have been wildly successful.

Finally, we have spent $1 trillion since 9/11 to protect the homeland from terrorists. Are we safer? On the positive side of the ledger, the 9/11 attack killed almost 3,000 people, while the total deaths by jihadists on US soil since 9/11 is 94 people. On the negative side, it remains questionable if we are safe from future terrorist attacks.

We are safer from the 9/11-style orchestrated attack. It’s harder for terrorists to get into the country, and harder for them to pull off something spectacular. But, as the Orlando massacre reminds us, the world is populated by lone wolves, and those living among us can easily obtain military-grade weapons. This makes their attacks much more lethal, and harder to detect in advance.

Our defenses are stronger, but we are trying to defend against more and different threats.

Again, focus on the political: We live in an America where one terrorist slipping through the armor is deemed to be total failure politically. Sooner or later, we must accept that we can’t continue a “zero terrorist events” policy, and Congress can’t use “zero events” as an excuse to make everything a top priority.

Politicians won’t prioritize among the programs for anti-terrorist funding, because they fear looking weak on terror. They also want to keep getting PAC funds from defense contractors. That means our political leaders will declare everything a top priority. In fact, 119 Congressional committees or subcommittees assert some kind of jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Everybody has a finger in the pie.

We need to start making better decisions and fewer enemies. Let’s start by asking the presidential candidates:

  • What have you learned from our 15 years of unsuccessful wars in the Middle East, and how would you apply those lessons in your administration?
  • Do you agree with the Obama administration’s plan to spend a trillion dollars modernizing our nuclear weapons?
  • What is your strategy to protect against cyber warfare?
  • How will you address the on-the-ground complexities of the Syrian civil war and of the Greater Middle East?
  • Is China, Russia, or ISIS our greatest threat?

At 15 years post-9/11, these questions should be answerable by ANY prospective US Commander-in-Chief. (Sorry, Gary Johnson)

Insist on better answers.


Focus on the Doughnut

(There will be limited blogging until 7/26, as Wrongo and Ms. Right spend an extended weekend in Philadelphia)

From Vox:

The first night of the Republican National Convention ended dominated by one bizarre question: Was Melania Trump’s convention speech plagiarized from a Michelle Obama convention speech from 2008?

OK, she probably would have gotten an “A” from Trump University, but pulleez, people! This isn’t a big deal.

Melania Trump is not a major figure in the GOP, and plagiarism of parts of a speech doesn’t have the same connotation in political speeches that it does in academia. So she stole a few lines from a Michelle Obama speech. So what? She isn’t running for anything, and the statements were largely clichés. If you are hoping to show the incompetence and dishonesty of the Trump campaign, there are bigger more important examples.

Why should anyone care about this? If Melania Trump has one interview with the press, and says she liked the ideas in Michelle Obama’s speech, this is over. Why is the media so focused on this? Why are they not focusing on the things of substance that were said in Cleveland yesterday, things that are legitimately terrifying because they could actually become policy?

They could have focused on Rep. Steve King (R-IA) going full white supremacist.

Or, Rudy Giuliani going off about the imminent (?) terrorist threat facing America, saying:

You know who you are, and we are coming to get you.

Or, the extended poutrage about “The Battle of Benghazi”.

Or, convention speaker actor Antonio Sabato Jr. who questioned Obama’s religion, saying the president is “absolutely” a Muslim.

Or, if they were truly interested, they could analyze the GOP 2016 Platform, its most socially conservative platform ever.

But our media wants to keep it simple: Everything else spoken from the stage last night requires explaining something complex, like matters of policy. That’s hard work for the reporters, and maybe for the people to understand. But when a candidate for first lady steals parts of the opposing party’s speech, that’s easy to report and to understand.

It appears that the media is incapable of making the sort of deep, factual critique of policy that we need from them. Wrongo can be annoyed about it, but that’s how it is.

The press should focus on the doughnut, and not the hole, particularly when the hole isn’t a policy speech.

OTOH, when a goofy low-stakes gaffe like this one gets the media saying negative things about Trump, we’ll just have to go with it.


Welcome to the TerrorDome

Last Thursday night it was in Nice, France. Next, will be another city. Maybe on another continent. In the last month, dozens of terror attacks have killed hundreds of people across the world. Every public event is a potential target for these killers, who not only welcome death, but confuse our leaders who have tried to stop them.

From Rami G. Khouri at Agence Global:

Every terror attack generates anger, shock, and powerful emotional and political commitments of our indomitable will not to be terrorized, to stand firm and strong, to affirm liberty, free speech, and pluralism. We are all, sincerely, Boston, Paris, London, Nice, Orlando, Dacca, New York, Baghdad, and a hundred other cities around the world, and a hundred more that will be attacked in due course. We will stand with them all in a steel chain of humanity against barbarism.

But, then what? What happens if after a dozen more attacks, the power of their barbarism outpaces the power of our solidarity? Do we willingly give up all of our rights to be kept safe by an authoritarian leader?

We need to debate what we can really do to fight terror, and win.

The policy responses of Western governments and the emotional responses of entire societies suggest we have no idea how to respond to defeat this monster. More from Khouri: (editing by the Wrongologist)

We see no serious questioning of whether… [our] primary focus on militarism reduces or increases the terror threat. We see no credible willingness among most governments, and most of their associated media and intellectual spheres, to transcend Islam as the main analytical…[frame in which to view] the world of terror.

Was the truck driver behind the attack in Nice an Islamic terrorist? Was he a lone wolf with psychological issues? We assume he is a terrorist because of his Arab name. Many terrorists conform to the Islamic narrative – think about the Orlando shooter, or the Muslim couple in San Bernardino. This assumption also shapes attitudes and policy responses of governments when they respond to mass killings. Our first thought is always Islamic terrorism, as in the initial response to the Dallas shooter when we heard his middle initial was “X”.

Our two flawed presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are evenly matched on protecting us: Clinton wants to push out the Assad government, in part by using ISIS mercenaries as proxies, plus US drones and bombing. Meanwhile, The Donald wants to fight an all-out war on ISIS and Islamic ‘terrorism’ in whatever shape. GW Bush anyone?

The US is now facing the consequences of our simplistic knowledge of the Middle East. We are stuck in the 1950s, a time when we could impose regime change in disobedient countries. Today, we drone them, and they kill a few of our citizens every few months. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

When will we ask the presidential candidates how long we have to put up with this steady stream of death and pain? What do they propose to do to tackle the terror problem at its roots? Anger, square-jawed determination, serial incompetence, and heavy-handed, counter-productive militarized policies are signs of cumulative failure.

Can we ask for a more serious response after Nice? Or, do we wait for a few more attacks, and ask then?

  • The Rio Olympics are starting in less than three weeks; the long list of concerns surrounding the games continues to grow.
  • The US military is eyeing a potential increase in troop engagement in Yemen to confront threats by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Why?

Our domestic terror victims are collateral damage of the decisions by the Powers That Be to support using extremists as a weapon. What we see today is not unforeseen blowback, it was knowable.

The entire world needs a wake-up. How should we answer the threat of the TerrorDome?

Here is Steel Pulse to get us going with “Find it Quick” from their 1982 album, “True Democracy”. You weren’t paying attention, but Mr. Obama said something in Dallas to the effect of “those in authority reject the cries of want” which comes from “Find it Quick“:

Sample Lyrics:

We got to find this love oh
Oh help us Jah above yeh come on
We got to find this love
Those in authority reject the cries of want
Those in power corrupt and weak in heart
This world don’t you know that
Hatred has grown
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it we got to find it
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 17, 2016

We said last Sunday that “Events were in the saddle”, that life ran a risk of spinning out of control. Well, the past week proved that events are driving everything. We had the horrible attack in Nice, France as their Bastille Day celebration was ending, and there was an attempted military coup in Turkey on Friday night.

Hard to believe two events in one week could drive Trump off page one, but it happened. And this week, the new Pokémon is more popular than either presidential candidate.

It may seem ironic that, while France refused to participate in the Iraq War, they are a preferred target for terror. But France DID led the way in the dismantling of Libya (while we “led from behind”). They intervened in Mali, and their history in Algeria was horrific. And France’s failure to integrate immigrants is a major causal element as well.

One of the big problems with terrorism is that it always strikes innocent people rather than the bosses who led their countries into war.

Welcome to the TerrorDome:

COW Nice

France now lives under the TerrorDome:

COW Terrordome 2

On the home front, Trump selected Mike Pence:

COW Pence VP

Regrets, they had a few:

COW So Sorry

The Hill and the Bern get on the same page:

COW HernieAmerica has decided:

COW Pokemon

The GOP convention starts this week. Let’s hope it is peaceful:

COW Convention