Caption, Please

By Piper Bayard

One of the fun parts of my job is all of the traveling I get to do. Needless to say, Holmes and I are careful where we meet up, and it can make for some interesting sites along the way.

How about a caption for this one? Please keep it clean, and don’t insult anyone’s religion. I know that will be a challenge with this one, but you are clever people, so I’m sure you’re up to it. Have fun!

image by Piper Bayard

image by Piper Bayard

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Deported for Being “Too Handsome”

Three men from the United Arab Emirates were deported from Saudi Arabia for being “too handsome.” The Saudis were afraid women would see them and throw off their clothes.

I know. This sounds like a joke that Holmes and I would make up. My thanks to Omar Borkan Al Gala and his friends for making my job easy today. No kudos to the Saudis, who seem to think women are nothing but mindless, ill-behaved house pets who would roll over for any hand that pets them.

Omar Borkan Al Gala Facebook Pic

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Autism Awareness Month: No, I Didn’t Forget by Heather Konik, an Aspie herself, who makes several astute observations including, “Autism isn’t necessarily a thing to be cured.”

An astute, intelligent article by liberal democrat “lefty” and gun owner, Anne Marie Wonder. Dear Gun Control Democrats: 6 Ways to Make a Better Argument

You know him as Sulu and as Facebook Superstar George Takei. Did you know he grew up in the Japanese Internment Camps of Arkansas and California? George Takei: Why We Must Remember Rohwer

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Konrath on Patterson. An excellent analysis by Joe Konrath on the place of traditional publishing.

Who Inherits Your Copyrights? Another outstanding article from publishing attorney and historical fiction author Susan Spann for Writers In the Storm.

“Those religions most anxious to convert others are also the ones with the longest track records of violence.” Level-headed, scholarly observations from Dr. Steve Wiggins at Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. Fear of Religion

My thanks today to the 1491s who steered me to this video. With so many ugly deeds thrown in our faces every day, it’s good to remember there are genuinely decent people in the world.

Campaign Style Poll Daddy of the Week

All the best to all of you for a week of being where you belong.

Piper Bayard

Top Ten Ways to Keep a Retired Pontiff Busy

By Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb

As a general rule, popes don’t change jobs except by dying. On the rare occasion that they do retire, they tend to be trouble makers, either wanting their old jobs back or exercising their Back Seat Pope’s License. Benedict XVI is the first pontiff to retire in around 600 years, and with this move, the Vatican now has an unusual conundrum on its hands. What to do with a retired pope?

Pope Benedict XVIimage by Tadeusz Gomy, public domain

Pope Benedict XVI
image by Tadeusz Gomy, public domain

When I ran for US president (see Okay. I’ll Do It. I’ll Run for President), my space saving vice president, Kristen Lamb, and I set out to make our world a more efficient and humorous place. So when we heard that our fellow world leader was about to have too much time on his hands, we brainstormed a few things he can do to keep himself busy and out of the cardinals’ zuccehettos.

Top Ten Ways to Keep a Retired Pontiff Busy

  1. Co-star in a movie as Steve Carell’s best friend, The 90 Year Old Virgin.
  2. Translate Latin into Twitter-speak for remote exorcisms.
  3. Be a Walmart Greeter who can save souls and provide carts that don’t squeak.
  4. Team up with George Foreman to make a new line of sandwich grills.
  5. Be a Spokesperson for Clorox on how to keep your whites the whitest.
  6. Cast devils out of the Jersey Shore crew and the Real Housewives.
  7. Babysit Bill Clinton.
  8. Judge contestants on Dancing with the Saints.
  9. Host the new game shows, Your Soul’s In Jeopardy and Are You Smarter than a Pontiff?
  10. Test drive the new bulletproof Hoverround.

Hoveround

Hoveround

We make these suggestions with the purest of hearts. If anyone finds them offensive, at least be glad we had the good taste to stop at President and not run for Pope.

What are your clean and respectful suggestions for how the Pope can stay busy in retirement?

Egypt’s President Morsi–Between the Crocodiles and the Leopards

By Jay Holmes

Today, from the Western point of view, we see continuing strife in Egypt centered on the basic issue of theocracy vs. democracy. The simple interpretation of that strife indicates that Egyptian President Morsi, his Muslim Brotherhood backers, and their sympathizers constitute approximately half of Egypt’s population, and that their secular opposition constitutes the other half. Each side in the theocracy vs. democracy struggle claims to represent more than 50% of the Egyptian people. Given the lack of democratic institutions in Egypt, it may be impossible to know if one side or the other actually has a 50%+ majority. While the question of any majority in Egypt is unanswerable for the present, one thing that remains certain is that Egypt remains divided, and that whichever side is in the minority, it is a very large minority.

Mohamed Morsi Trinitresque wikimedia

Mohamed Morsi, image by Trinitresque, wikimedia commons

Another important factor in the ongoing Egyptian revolution is the identity and personality of Egypt’s President Morsi. While Morsi was marketed as a “reformer” and a “moderate,” he has demonstrated that he is neither.  Thus far, Morsi’s only attempts at reforms have focused on reforming Egypt into his own personal dictatorship while trying to consolidate his own personal power. From outside of Egypt, it may appear that Morsi is in charge and running the show in that country. From inside of Morsi’s office, the view might be more complicated.

Morsi needed backing from the Islamic Brotherhood and the religious leaders of Egypt to obtain power. Now that he has succeeded in that goal, he is unable to exercise that power without the direct influence of the Egyptian clergy. If Egypt’s Sunni religious leaders were to turn on Morsi, he would be left with approximately zero percent backing. I assume his family and closest friends would still be in his corner, but it would be a very lonely and dangerous corner. Without the backing of that Sunni leadership, Morsi’s power would evaporate like a droplet of water in the Egyptian Desert. Morsi has no choice but to keep the Egyptian clergy happy.

What Morsi now has to come to terms with is the fact that he is dealing with a group of people who specialize in being unhappy and hard to please. In fact, being unhappy is the second most popular hobby amongst Sunni religious leaders. Their first most popular hobby is being demanding. Have fun with that Mr. President.

The recent, well-publicized torture and murder of Egyptian anti-Morsi activist Mohammed El-Gendy while in police custody has become a clear symbol of the lack of reform in Egyptian government and the lack of human rights that prevail in Egypt. While police brutality in Egypt seemed to be on the decline after Morsi’s election, El-Gendy’s torture and death are by no means an isolated case. Morsi is claiming to be investigating El-Gendy’s death, but the half of Egypt that does not support him is unconvinced that any meaningful investigation will take place.

The Egyptian military and police apparatus are not traditionally Islamic institutions. They have a history of clearly secular leanings. And why wouldn’t they? Who needs a cleric to obey when you have fighter jets and well-made tanks on your side?

The clearly secular history of Egypt’s military and police forces lead us to an obvious question. Why have Egypt’s secular military and police protected Morsi and their old enemies in the Islamic Brotherhood?

We could ask Morsi, the military, or the police, but it’s unlikely that they would answer the question sincerely. My best guess is that Morsi and his religious bosses made a deal with those powerful institutions. That deal would have to center on the police and military maintaining positions of privilege in exchange for protecting Morsi and the Sunni leadership. For that deal to remain in place, Morsi must not attempt to reform the military or police by reducing their power and privilege.

Anyone care to guess on what will happen in the investigation of El-Gendy’s death? At best, a scapegoat will be found and barbecued. We should not expect more than that as long as Morsi remains in power. If he turns against the military or police, no amount of prayers and support from the Sunni leadership will keep him from suffering an untimely accident.

The recent state visit to Egypt by Iran’s least skilled actor, President Ahmadinejad, has provided us with great theater. Unlike the audiences in London’s Cockpit Theater, the audiences in Egypt and Iran are not at all in agreement as to precisely which drama they have enjoyed.

If we ask Ahmadinejad and his masters, or even if we don’t ask, they will quickly tell us that audiences were enthralled by his brilliant and triumphant visit to Egypt, and that it heralds a new day of Sunni cooperation and understanding with the great and wise Shia leaders in Iran. They will tell us that Egypt and Iran are quickly becoming great allies in the struggle against the evils of the non-Islamic world. About all this proves is that the Iranian theocracy is not incapable of comedy, albeit accidental comedy.

If we ask the Egyptian Sunni leadership what drama they watched, they would explain that they didn’t watch, but rather took center stage in the play. That they scolded Ahmadinejad for Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Gulf states and for their continuing persecution of the Iranian Sunni minority. And that is what they did.

If we ask Morsi what occurred, he will tell us that Iran has promised economic assistance to Egypt, and that the two countries have laid the groundwork for a strong friendship. He would blush as he said those words.

If we ask Morsi’s opponents what occurred, they would tell us that we have seen yet more proof that Morsi is anti-Western, and that the USA is idiotic for sending Morsi F-16 fighters. Many members of Congress are agreeing with that view this week.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

F-16 Fighting Falcon. President Obama has sold four of these to Morsi and the

Muslim Brotherhood. He has promised them sixteen more.

image by US Air Force

Morsi might be the dictator of Egypt for the moment, but he is a dictator who stands on a thin-edged wall with crocodiles on one side and angry leopards on the other. One slip, and all his problems in this world will be over.

The Islamic Brotherhood, with the acquiescence of Egypt’s military and state police apparatus, holds a strong position in Egypt. It will not be easy for those Egyptians who seek human rights and democracy to wrestle that power away from Morsi and his theocratic masters. One strategic disadvantage that plagues the reformers is the simple fact that police and judicial reform are an essential part of their agenda. Yet, without those basic goals, as Morsi has proven, any reform would be meaningless.

The cards are stacked against Egypt’s reform movement, but Egyptians have proven to be resilient. As events in Tunisia and Libya have demonstrated, the dictator does not always win.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

You may contact them in blog comments, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or by email at bayardandholmes@bayardandholmes.com.

© 2013 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

A Time to Receipt

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

An engaged couple in Anderson County, South Carolina made a purchase at Walmart. Three days later, they saw the face of Jesus in their receipt.

After consulting with internationally renowned apparition experts (us) and experiencing years of low-quality receipts which retain everything except the original ink with which they are printed, we here at Bayard and Holmes recognize this Walmart apparition as the same one that appeared on the famous Cheesus grilled cheese sandwich.

Grilled Cheesus yahoo shopping

image of Grilled Cheesus from Yahoo! Shopping

It is our conclusion that Walmart used a Grilled Cheesus to imprint this receipt with the face of a thirty-something, Middle Eastern Jewish man named Shlomo to lure more customers through the door in the hope that they, too, will receive a Made in China miracle.

Don’t fall for this cheap imitation!

We here at Bayard & Holmes have the highest quality genuine apparitions on the market today. In fact, with our receipts, you aren’t limited to just Jesus, and you aren’t limited to just one.

While it’s true that we currently have no products on the market, we would never let a little thing like that keep us from serving you, our beloved readers. Send us your money in any amount large enough to cover our inconsequential substantial overhead, and we will send you a genuine Bayard & Holmes receipt fit for any home shrine or church reliquary.

Upon your first purchase, you will receive a receipt divinely imprinted with the face of the Virgin Mary. No heavyweight boxer grills here!

Your second purchase will come with a receipt bearing the apparition of the face of Jesus in the race of your choice. (Western European Jesus apparition available for Protestants and Mormons.)

With your third purchase . . . Hold on . . . We send you a receipt with both Mary and Jesus in either the Madonna or the Pieta pose, along with a genuine Bayard & Holmes Certificate of Authentication signed by the priests of our order, the New York Yankees–assuming they don’t notice what they are signing.)

But that’s not all!

With every donation purchase over $5k, you will also receive a complimentary receipt that includes the possibility of a miracle, and a holographic apparition of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci of The Da Vinci Code fame.

The Last Supper Leonardo Da Vinci

The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

Just think. Who else but Bayard & Holmes could get you this close to all 12 apostles and Jesus simultaneously for a mere $5k? Why, Walmart and most churches would charge you at least $50k and a lifetime of troublesome rules for this prize.

Lest Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists,* or any other religious denominations feel left out, you are welcome to substitute your prophet or your favorite sports player for the image of Jesus. We do, however, offer our apologies to Muslims. We will not be able to produce receipts with the image of your prophet, as we do not fancy living out our lives in a federal protective service. You may, however, request the image of your favorite soccer player or political protestor.

So remember, dear readers, when you’re in need of a miracle, think Bayard & Holmes for all of your apparition needs. Bayard & Holmes–because there’s a time to give (to us), and a time to receipt (to you).

*First 500 Atheist donors receive a complimentary genuine faux dinosaur bone relic.

Tactical Holiday Products

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

In anticipation of the holiday season, our tremendous staff in our Bayard & Holmes Tactical Products Division (us) at the Bayard and Holmes Secret Underground Research Complex (Holmes’ basement) spent this fall ignoring political commercials and instead developed the tactical products you need to make your holiday season a safer and happier time.

Tactical Green Slime Ciphers wikimedia

Image by Ciphers, wikimedia commons.

Tactical Green Slime

Our first new product is to help those many individuals and families who are concerned that some of their holiday house guests might snoop about in their medicine cabinets and other private spaces. Ever ready to turn your problems into our opportunities, we are proud to introduce our Tactical Green Slime (“TGS”).

Unlike Sarin Gas and other, cheaper chemical warfare products used by less fashionable chemical warriors, TGS is reasonably priced, easy to deploy, harmless to innocents, and not yet getting any attention from the UN, the DHS, or Donald Rumsfeld that would result in taxpayer-sponsored “shock and awe” at your happy home.

Simply fill an interesting medicine bottle with vitamin tablets. Put on some gloves and spread a little of our colorless, odorless TGS on the outside of the bottle. Leave it front and center in the cabinet.

When a snooper touches the bottle, their hands will pick up a harmless, but hilarious, phosphorescent green glow. The glow is not permanent and should wear off in a few short years.

As you boot the radiant fool out of your house, casually mention that the glow is caused by strontium 90 isotopes (it’s not) and suggest a trip to the nearest ER. Imagine the fun they’ll have waiting in line for two days for a nurse to check them out, and then trying to get themselves released from the psychiatric ward. By the time they get home all of their family, ex-friends and acquaintances should have by then enjoyed a great holiday without them.

Use Tactical Green Slime in your medicine cabinet. Use it on your jewelry case. Use it on your favorite bag of potato chips in your pantry. TGS is the perfect tool for keeping your property safe from your friends and loved ones.

Tactical Green Slime is not sold in any retail store. Medicine bottles and latex gloves sold separately.

Snowman pitcher schneemann wikimedia public domain

Throwman in action. Image by Schneemann, wikimedia commons.

Tactical Frosty the Throwman

And what about those friends and relatives you don’t even want making it to your door? Frosty the Throwman to the rescue! Our new Tactical Frosty is guaranteed to keep the peace in your front yard during this great season of happiness and joy. Our cheerful-looking snowman comes equipped with a recycled Major League Baseball pitching machine that can toss a snowball at up to one hundred miles an hour. A video transmitter in Frosty’s head allows you to aim and fire while sipping hot cider in the comfort of your kitchen. Whatever ideas any local thugs might have had about tossing snowballs near your home will be quickly banished from their dangerous minds as they pick themselves up, bewildered by the lightening-like snowball strike that knocked them on their butts.

With Frosty on the job, your neighborhood should be safer than ever. Snow covered baseballs sold separately.

Tactical Vin Sommeil Profond

Socially graceless guests can be a serious stress at the holidays.

No matter how hard we try, we sometimes end up having to tolerate “those ones in every family” at the Christmas gathering. Have no fear. We have the solution. Literally. Instead of shoving a turkey leg in their pie-holes when they gear up with their diatribes, instead offer them a glass of our 1962 Vin Sommeil Profond, Premiere Cru.

Just one sip of this impressively bottled and labeled concoction that we whipped up in a bathtub last night, and your obnoxious guests will be off in Sommeil Profond Land for a twelve-hour nap. If they begin pontificating again when they awake with a slight headache and severe memory loss, offer them a bit of Hair of the Dog. After two servings, even the most dogmatic ideologue will forget whatever it was they once believed so adamantly and will instead focus on figuring out who they are and why they are in your home. Feel free to have a little fun with this phase.

Creche Demimis wikimedia

Image by Dimimis, wikimedia commons.

Tactical Baby Jesus

It has become a sad new trend for thieves to steal those lovely, plastic baby Jesuses from the nativity scenes that Christmas revelers put on display. With our new Tactical Baby Jesus (“TBJ”), we can put a stop to this ugly trend.

No, this is not baby Superman with superpowers of flying and knocking the crap out of the bad guys. Jesus never hurt anyone, nor did he ever ask anyone to hurt anyone in his name. Therefore, TBJ is completely in character, being equipped with a locator transponder that allows you (and the Department of Homeland Security) to track the Jesus-napper to his or her hideout. Once there, a Federal SWAT team can make a safe recovery after a twelve-hour hostage standoff and return TBJ to your front lawn unharmed.

We hope these fantastic new, reasonably priced Tactical Holiday Products improve the quality of your family celebrations, and we hope selling them to you will improve the quality of ours. Wishing all of our readers a joyous holiday season filled with peace and happiness to all of good will. For those of less good will, you now have some great new tools.

Cheers!

Egypt: The Corner of Theocracy and Democracy

By Jay Holmes

When the people of Egypt ousted President Hosni Mubarak on February 12, 2011, most Western media outlets assumed that the anti-Mubarak protestors were de facto pro-democracy. However, Egyptians are not so cohesive, and they have a complex variety of political factions and goals.

Egyptian Protestors Tahrir Square Nov 2011 Lilian Wagdy wikimedia

Image of Egyptian protestors by Lilian Wagdy, wikimedia commons

The protestors ranged from sophisticated, well-educated individuals seeking representative government to foreign agents acting on behalf of Iran, wanting to establish an Islamic theocracy. The single largest group of these Egyptian activists was, and still is, the Muslim Brotherhood.

After Mubarak departed, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led by Commander-in-Chief Mohamed Tantawi, took control of the Egyptian government. This was a temporary measure until a new government could be formed.

Once in control, the SCAF assured Egypt and the world that it would suspend the emergency laws that had been in effect for four decades. It also said it would conduct fair and open elections, honor all of Egypt’s international agreements, and maintain peace and security. All of these promises were difficult to believe since the Military was involved in violence against the protestors; however, the SCAF appears to have done its best to accomplish these goals.

The SCAF greatly reduced military tribunals against civilians, and on some fronts, it made positive developments in human rights in Egypt. For example, journalists and foreigners are less frequently beaten, arrested, and kidnapped in that country. But members of non-Islamic religions continue to suffer heavy discrimination and live in fear–particularly Coptic Christians, who are frequently murdered by Islamic radicals while the Egyptian government looks the other way.

The SCAF conducted tainted but believable elections for the national parliament and for the presidency. To the dismay of the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the presidential election. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations have grown in political power since that time.

On the international front, Egypt’s relationship with Israel is much worse than it was two years ago, and Egypt has grown closer to Iran. Meanwhile, Egypt’s relationship with the US can be best described as Egypt politely accepting US aid while smiling and ignoring US concerns.

Western media corporations present Morsi as a “reformer” and a moderate. However, based on Morsi’s actions and his selective inactions, it appears he is simply paying lip service to moderation to continue to receive US aid and Western acquiescence to his rule.

Morsi is quick to tell the US and other Western diplomats that he intends to bring more security and human rights to all Egyptians, but he has been slow to take simple actions to back those words up. In fact, last month, on November 22, Morsi abandoned his democratic pretenses and decreed absolute powers for himself.

Since then, Morsi proposed a constitution that is Islamist in its composition and does not ensure equal rights for non-Islamists who would prefer a secular government. If Morsi supports an agenda of national unification for Egypt as he claims, he certainly hides it well. Loopholes in this proposed constitution grant near-dictatorial powers to the Office of the President and appear to make the document close to useless for the practice of government.

Egypt’s previously less organized non-Islamists were inspired to action this week. They took to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest Morsi’s dictatorial decrees and the proposed constitution. Unfortunately for them, though Morsi responded by rescinding his power grabbing decrees, he is going forward with a national referendum to implement the constitution.

The decrees gave power to Morsi, personally. The constitution would give him the same powers through his office as President of Egypt, making the rescinding of the decrees rather hollow.

Many Western media corporations are largely ignoring the referendum and the basic outline of the proposed Egyptian constitution. Still others are representing this as a “do or die” moment for democracy and human rights in Egypt.

I view it a bit differently. My best guess is that, since Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies will conduct the election and count the votes, they are not likely to lose at the polls. The referendum to implement the constitution with its excessive powers to the Office of the President will pass by a narrow margin.

While the referendum and the constitution are certainly important, they will not settle the question of whether Morsi will succeed in consolidating an Iranian-style Islamic theocracy in Egypt. For one thing, not all Muslim Brotherhood members are radical. Though the moderate members are now marginalized from power, they do remain alive and present in Egyptian politics.

Since the non-Islamists don’t feel represented by the government and the proposed constitution, they may not acquiesce to the constitution and the new Egyptian government as Morsi and his power brokers assume. Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in consolidating power for themselves will depend on whether they can force their opponents to obey whatever state they create.

Underneath the referendum for the acceptance of the constitution, there is a deeper, long term game playing out in Egypt. The radical factions of the Muslim Brotherhood likely feel that if they bide their time, their opponents, lacking in any outside help or international interest, will simply exhaust themselves and give up without being able to force any real concessions.

If Morsi really does have the 51% majority that he claims to have, that still leaves over forty-two million angry Egyptians opposed to his rule. For the moment, they still have voices.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

Why ARE We In Afghanistan?

By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes*

As we approach 2013, several Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries seem to be undergoing changes, but there is no consensus on what those changes will mean. While a few are hopeful, many give cause for concern.

Obama and Karzai Pete Souza for Executive Office of the President of the US wikimedia

Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai

Image by Pete Souza for Executive Office of the President of the United States

Let’s first look to the north. In Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai and his Obama Echo continue to assure the world that “things are improving” in Afghanistan. If by “things” he is referring to his and his brothers’ foreign bank accounts, then he’s telling the truth. If he is talking about “things” in reference to those unfortunate 35.3 million Afghans who don’t share in the Karzai family profits, then “things” are not so good.

For starters, 1.6 million Afghans remain in refugee camps in Pakistan. Another 430,000 continue to live in makeshift huts and UN-supplied tents in refugee camps inside of Afghanistan. Apparently, those two million folks have not heard Karzai’s glowing reports about the improved security in the areas that the Taliban forced them to abandon, or they simply enjoy living in tents and not receiving the millions of dollars of aid that the US taxpayers are sending them.

The Afghan Peace Commission this week announced that Pakistan has agreed to cooperate in a peace plan. To put that in Western terms, that would be like the US Congress agreeing to term limits. Don’t hold your breath. Pakistan doesn’t even cooperate with Pakistan on peace initiatives so how would they cooperate with Afghanistan? If that peace commission gets something more than the usual comical Pakistani lip service out of Islamabad, they will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the White House, US Forces will all be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 . . . Oh, wait a sec. This just in from Pennsylvania Avenue . . . We might have to keep “about ten thousand troops” in Afghanistan after 2014 in a support role.

Let me translate that to reality. “About ten thousand troops” generally means around 16,000 troops. The White House is admitting that without around 16,000 crack US troops in Afghanistan to prop up the bogus Karzai government, a few thousand Taliban will ride their donkeys and mopeds into Kabul and take over the place. Let’s hope that 16,000 troops will be enough.

But why have any troops there at all? What’s in it for us? Regional stability perhaps? We don’t live in that region, and our oil fix doesn’t come from Afghanistan.

There are, in fact, some rare metals there that we could use but we’re not taking those. Karzai sold those to China. China is already increasing copper production at an Afghan copper mine and exploring for oil in the Amu Darya basin. And if there’s no oil there? No problem. There are enough natural gas reserves in Afghanistan to keep China happy for a decade or more. So again, why are we there? Why not let China bring “stability” to their neighbor?

Some would argue that the US wants to deny al-Qaeda a base of operations by forcing them out of Afghanistan. Let’s put that in perspective. Al-Qaeda being kicked out of Afghanistan and having to move to Africa, Pakistan, and the Gulf is like inmates being kicked out of Sing-Sing and having to move to Malibu. Al-Qaeda is hardly complaining. In any event, if al-Qaeda sets up a serious infrastructure in Afghanistan again, we can bomb them more easily there than we can bomb them in Pakistan. Pakistan is our “friend,” after all.

Others would argue that if the US “abandons” our “friends” in Afghanistan, that country might return to heroin production. (Insert gasps of shocked disbelief.) Forget it. Heroin production is so high right now in Afghanistan that Afghanis are currently stockpiling surpluses.

So let me see if I have the Obama Plan right. “About ten thousand” (around 16,000) US troops will remain indefinitely in Afghanistan to ensure that Afghanistan remains stable enough to export energy and metals to Communist China.

Yes, Virginia, there is indeed a Santa Claus, and he evidently loves China.

US Marines patrolling poppy fields in Helmand Province DOD

US Marines patrolling poppy fields in Helmand Province, image from Department of Defense

Now for the situations in the rest of the Middle East and Central Asia . . .

To the east, we still see the Pakistani government exhibiting the same lack of loyalty to the Pakistani people and nation that has plagued Pakistan since their independence. Every day, Pakistani leaders must wonder who their secret police and intelligence services might be serving, and whether they, themselves, will be the next targets of “unfortunate Pakistani accidents.” In the meantime, the education system and economy remain in a shambles that would almost make General Motors look like a viable economic enterprise. Okay, I exaggerate. GM isn’t that good, but you get my point.

Pakistan’s neighbor, Iran enjoys the regional upheaval and is using the distraction to press on with their atomic bomb program. Even the UN, try though it stridently might, isn’t fooled by Iran’s intentions, but the international buck passing continues.

Everyone outside of Iran urgently wants the US to step in and stop Iran’s bomb program. Just as urgently, those countries can’t wait for the US to step in so they can all rise up and sing a chorus of righteous indignation against “American war mongering.” If nothing else, it would be amusing to hear the predictable staff at NPR criticize their favorite president.

In the Gulf Region, recent Kuwaiti elections had dismally low participation levels, and a rebellion is slowly fomenting there.

Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar all appear to be fragile. All are employing increased police violence and rigged courts to keep their rulers in power.

The United Arab Emirates is looking less united than ever.

Although Yemen remains in a state of social and political upheaval, the Yemeni people have thus far successfully resisted attempted al-Qaeda takeovers.

To the west, Syria has grown tired of the Assad family gang, but it is unable to present an attractive alternative to the Westerners who might facilitate their revolutionary efforts.

Lebanon remains in the state of chaos that it has endured for forty years.

In Israel, we saw the Israeli Defense Force bomb Gaza, mobilize reserves, and move tanks to the Gaza border. Then, they suddenly halted their operations in exchange for a cease-fire agreement with Hamas. It took less than a day for Hamas to violate that agreement, and to no sane person’s surprise, Iran continues to ship missiles to Hamas.

While Egyptians managed to scare their old despot Mubarak off of his throne, they have yet to form a representative government. Educated Egyptians are watching the turmoil in Cairo and wondering if their country might be tumbling backwards into a Dark Age where civil rights and freedom are suppressed by a handful of self-proclaimed Islamic clerics.

We do have positive news out of Libya. Although Libyans have not yet formed strong, functioning governmental institutions, they have thus far avoided having their nation hijacked by Iran or any of the various al-Qaeda start up gangs that currently plague Islamic nations. Our respect and continued hope that the Libyans will succeed in making their nation a peaceful, viable, and productive home for their people.

In our next foreign policy article, we will look at more of the less absurd and/or depressing prospects in the Middle East and Central Asia. Any questions?

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

When Giants Dance–Perspective on the Current Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes* and Azad

Image by Edi Israel, wikimedia commons

Today, news watchers in the West are seeing reports about the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Some are wondering if this week’s events in Israel and Gaza are the start World War Three.

My best guess is that this conflict will not escalate to that point, but if you happen to live in Gaza, it might feel like World War Three this week. If you happen to live in southern Israel, where the rockets fall every week, it might feel like that all the time.

Before throwing one more opinion into what will certainly not be the bloodiest war, but likely the most mediated war, let’s take a moment to consider the children on both sides of the border. These children have no control over the relations between Gaza and Israel, but the one constant tragedy in Gaza and southern Israel is that the children always suffer.

Of course, when I use the term “mediated” I am referring to the fact that the world’s “media” will deliver fantastic volumes of information about the current phase of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It is sad how little of that information will be accurate or fairly presented. However, all of that information will likely generate revenue for the media industry.

To attempt to understand the current events in Gaza, we can help ourselves by considering a few of the less obvious facts. We in the West think of Hamas as being in control of Gaza. Hamas likes to think that, as well, but it is not altogether accurate. Hamas appears to be one more run-of-the-mill Islamic terror group marching happily in step with all the other Islamic terror groups. But terrorists wreak havoc. This leaves them unskilled at performing anything like government. As a result, Hamas cannot control what goes on in Gaza.

Hamas is not even able to march happily in step with itself, which seriously impairs its ability to influence other Islamic terrorists in the area. The chaotic conditions in Gaza allowed competing terror groups to vacation there, and some of those vacationers decided to stay. Those groups do not obey Hamas. They obey whoever provides them with cash, weapons, hash, hookers, etc. Usually Syria and Iran would be that somebody, but Saudi Arabia and Gulf states are sometimes soft touches for cute young terror groups.

We in the West are not supposed to believe such dastardly things about our Saudi “friends.” However, the New American Reality Dictionary defines “friends” as, “Anyone who ships oil to the US.”

Many Americans find that disgusting. Many of those same Americans drive gasoline-consuming cars every day while they are finding that disgusting. Yes. Even my own car runs on gasoline, not on peaceful thoughts or good will.

Regardless of where the cash and weapons come from, we know where many of them end up—on Israeli roof tops. The current Israeli leader is Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis call him something else. I call him Beny Buddy. He calls me nothing at all. He never even calls me. I am not his friend. I’m not sure Beny does the friendship thing much. Living in that region might do that to a man.

In any event, his name hardly matters since this conflict predates him. Netanyahu and Likud, his political party, cannot remain in power if hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza continue to land in Israel every month. From the Israeli perspective, the motives for the looming Israeli operations in Gaza are simple. The Israeli people don’t like rockets and bombs falling on their heads, and the current Israeli leadership does not like losing elections. Also, with Iran increasing the potency and quality of its missiles, the Israeli intelligence services might be feeling less patient than usual about the Gaza launch base.

The Hamas motives are a little trickier to define. It takes a bit of guesswork, and that is because they are still guessing about it themselves. As long as Gaza remains in a state of chaos without any worthwhile government, and as long as start up terror groups are cutting their teeth in “Palestine,” anything can happen. And now it has.

While the Israelis love driving American tanks, they don’t always love American methods. Israel is not living on a giant Chinese credit card like the Pentagon is. If Israel calls up reservists, which it has, and it moves armor toward Gaza, it is NOT because Israelis think it is fun to waste fuel they cannot produce and can barely afford. Those tanks will end up in Gaza.

Hamas fully realizes this, and they are currently doing their best impersonation of innocent victims. They are not great actors, but they play for an easy audience—the Western media and Islamic-financed propaganda outlets. Hamas wants to generate “international outrage” as quickly as it can in order to give Israel as little time as possible to drive around Gaza blowing up rocket supplies with those cool tanks.

The Israeli lobbyists and propaganda outlets will seek the opposite. But Israelis are currently out of fad with a majority of Western voters so they will be looking rather frustrated if you see them prowling the halls of the capitol or sitting in for some attack journalism by CNN interviewers.

I can just imagine a call from Iran to Hamas . . . “Okay. We’re sending more rockets. Rockets are supposed to blow up on those Jews, NOT in Gaza. Rockets don’t grow on trees, you know. If you can’t learn to take care of the rockets we give you, maybe we need to give them to someone else.”

One can find absurd humor in all of this as long as one does not live in or have relatives living in the region. Then the humor begins to pale. The children of Israel and Gaza have little to laugh at this week. They won’t have much next week, either.

I am happy that today that I can include the opinions of a civilian working in Egypt this week. He is neither Palestinian nor Jewish; he is Lebanese. He is a respected and highly educated member of the business community. English is not his first language, nor his second or third. Piper and I prefer to leave his work unedited to avoid accidentally changing the meaning. I hope that he can shed some light on the current violence in the Gaza area.

Between his prayers for his family’s safety, our friend, Azad, sent the following statement.

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The never-ending conflict

Earlier this week, Israeli defense forces (IDF) launched operation Amud Anan (operation pillar of cloud) with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas. The Israeli government stated that the purpose behind this operation is to cut short the flow of missile attacks launched from the Gaza strip and to deteriorate the capabilities of militant organizations.

The escalation of the clashes is within the frame of the long-term Israeli Palestinian conflict, but different interpretations are emerging as the conflict parallels with the Middle Eastern turmoil. Until further reasons come into view, three different readings are on the table:

The Israeli election is around the corner and to ensure his win for another term Benjamin Netanyahu wants to settle Hamas’ issue once and for all. After the start of the Israeli operation, Palestinian militants further intensified their rocket attacks on Israel. Mortars hit Tel Aviv for the first time since 1991 and Jerusalem since 1970 subsequently. Halting these mortars will definitely guarantee the centre right Likud party for another term.

On the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas is trying to harness Hamas in an effort to unite the Palestinian front once again after the split of Hamas from the Palestinian authority and bestowing an Islamic government in 2006, and the consequent ousting of Fatah. After the unification the Palestinian authority intended to petition for a UN vote to become a full member state in the worldwide organization, which the US and Israeli government condemned and stated that it will not serve the peaceful progress between the counterparts; hence, a conflict to defer the voting until further notice.

On another hand, the European Union, United States of America, and several western countries back Israel and express an explicit support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens; while Russia, Iran, and several Arabic countries being behind Hamas condemn the Israeli attack. This dichotomy instigates a nostalgic of the cold war between the East and the West. The post-soviet state coming into picture again should never be underestimated, especially since a Chinese and Russian coalition could change the equation on many levels.

Whether the conflict is for political gains, UN recognition, or a new divergence of power in the region the death toll rises from both sides while the United Nations Security Council remains at a dead end after holding an emergency session on the situation.

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Our profound thanks to Azad for his keen observations. Many prayers for his family, and for all of the families and children who are left scrambling for cover when the Giants dance.

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

Fallujah and Benghazi: A Tale of Two Cities

By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes*

In our previous article, Intelligence Perspective on Benghazi, we looked at events in Benghazi that resulted from a minimalist approach to military security and response. However, Benghazi was not the first time in recent history when political fantasies held dear in the White House led to misjudging the character of our enemies and the nature of the military conflict.

Fallujah on November 10, 2004, image by US Marine Corps

In March of 2003, the US invaded Iraq. At least that’s how the mainstream media recorded it. In truth, the invasion started eight months earlier when the CIA and the US Joint Special Operations Command began operating in Iraq with several important goals. These goals included identifying Iraqi leaders who might be willing to turn against Saddam Hussein, organizing the Kurds against the growing Islamic radical groups in Kurdish areas, and locating Iraqi chemical warfare assets.

These goals were met economically and with low cost in American and Kurdish lives. Before the main invasion, the Kurdish rebels, with the help of a few dozen Americans, were able to locate and destroy an Ansar al-Islam terrorist base where Saddam was manufacturing Ricin chemical weapons near Sargat in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq.

On the morning of March 20, 2003, a coalition led by the US and the UK launched the main invasion known as the Iraq War. The stated purpose was to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government. This invasion proceeded remarkably well in spite of Turkey’s last minute reversal on its agreement to allow the US 4th Infantry Division to enter Iraq via Turkey.

On April 9, Baghdad fell to advancing Coalition forces. The Coalition’s speedy advance against a vastly numerically superior army was partly due to its superior leadership, troops, and air support, and partly due to the rapidly deteriorated morale of the Iraqi troops.

After defeating the Iraqi military and deposing Saddam Hussein, the Coalition faced the question of how best to manage the post-Saddam Iraq. It remains unclear what, if anything, political leaders in the US and the UK envisioned for that task. What transpired was an attempt at minimal political forcefulness while waiting for something like “government” to occur in Iraq. It didn’t occur.

While the Coalition was happy to turn over the governing of Iraq to the Iraqis as quickly as possible, the Iraqis, mired in their age-old tribal and religious conflicts, were largely unwilling or unable to perform a reasonable imitation of a functioning government. Nine years later, they are still struggling with that same basic challenge.

On April 23, 2003, in response to intelligence indicating an increasing presence of armed Islamic militant insurgents in the area, the US coalition sent 700 troops from the US 82nd Airborne Division to take up positions in the city of Fallujah. The Coalition’s chief concern in this operation was avoiding Iraqi casualties and property damage, and the paratroopers operated under heavy limitations. As events unfolded in Fallujah in the following months, the concern for avoiding Iraqi casualties and property damage remained paramount in the minds of the Coalition’s civilian leadership.

The 82nd Airborne has proven its remarkable skills in warfare over the decades. Those skills do not include avoiding enemy bloodshed and property damage. In fact, not surprisingly, bloodshed and property damage are the primary skill sets of most of the world’s military units, including the 82nd Airborne.

I can’t help but wonder why the coalition didn’t send something other than combat units to Fallujah since they were apparently hoping for something other than combat to occur. Note to US politicians: If you want war, send the US military. If you want something else, don’t send the US Military.

It quickly became apparent to anyone observing the unfolding drama in Fallujah that many in the Coalition’s civilian leadership were reverting to the Viet Nam era concept, or rather gross misconception, of “non-violent warfare.” Apparently, some folks in London and D.C. thought they could magically will away a growing insurgent and terrorist presence in Fallujah. No one in our government has yet explained to me precisely what sort of magic was expected to occur, but whatever spells were cast, they did not have the desired effect.

Predictably, on June 28, 2003, while sitting in Fallujah and doing their best to “look friendly,” US troops attracted gunfire during a protest and returned fire. That’s what paratroopers do when they are fired on. They fire back. Seventeen Iraqis were killed, and 70 more were wounded. The paratroopers exercised restraint and didn’t kill the other 200 protestors. The 82nd Airborne was replaced by troops from the 101st Airborne and 3rd armored cavalry. In the aftermath, Fallujah became a rallying point for the anti-Coalition insurgents and their terrorist pals.

On June 30, an explosion occurred in Fallujah in a mosque occupied by a radical religious leader, Sheik Laith Kalil, and some of his bomb makers. The locals claimed the US had attacked an innocent mosque, but the explosion was self-inflicted by the bomb makers.

While the US forces in Fallujah continued to pursue their policy of “friendliness” as they waited for the new Iraqi “government” to take control of Fallujah, Islamic terrorists reinforced the city. On February 12, 2004, some of these Islamic terrorists, in conjunction with “friendly” Iraqi forces, attacked a US military convoy in Fallujah that included the US Theater Commander General John Abizaid. General Abizaid survived unscathed.

On February 23, the insurgents escalated their activity by attacking three Iraqi police stations and the mayor’s office.

In March, 2004, US politicians decided the best way to improve the situation in Fallujah was to withdraw troops. On March 31, insurgents attacked a US civilian convoy. They murdered four contractors from the Blackwater security firm. News agencies treated the US public to images of their burned bodies hanging from a bridge.

The public response to the news footage caused politicians to reassess their “love and peace” military tactics in Fallujah. Against the advice of the Marine commanders on the ground, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was ordered to take Fallujah.

On April 5, 2004, the outnumbered Marines entered the city in an attempt to ferret out approximately two dozen terrorists groups. Unfortunately, the US civilian leadership in Iraq and in Washington still stubbornly clung to its theory that warfare could best be waged by not hurting anyone. US leaders denied Marines most of the air support and artillery they requested on the grounds that too many civilians would be killed, and too much property damage would occur.

As the April operations in Fallujah commenced, an insurgent army led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadar felt confident enough to start his own uprising. Al-Sadar ordered his followers to ambush Coalition forces in various locations around Anbar province.

The US military had had many opportunities to kill or capture the insurgent Muqtada al-Sadar, but was ordered to leave him alone in keeping with the US strategy of avoiding the use of force as much as possible in Iraq. While the Marines chased terrorists around Fallujah, our “friends” in the “new” Iraqi security forces swapped sides and helped the insurgents.

As Iraqi casualties in Fallujah mounted, the Iraqi coalition government demanded that the US operation there be stopped. The US government bowed to the Iraqi Governing Council and ordered the Marines to withdraw to the perimeter of the city. The insurgents took that opportunity to resupply and reinforce while conducting hit-and-run raids against the now static Marines.

On May 1, 2004, the US optimistically decided to turn over the security of Fallujah to a newly formed and US equipped Iraqi Fallujah Brigade. The Brigade’s only accomplishment was to surrender its weapons to the insurgents when it deserted in September of 2004. At that point, the US had suffered 27 dead, and the Iraqis had lost approximately 400 insurgents and terrorists, and approximately 250 non-terrorist civilians.

By October of 2004, the interim government in Baghdad that had bemoaned the “illegal and immoral” US operations in Fallujah the previous spring was begging Coalition forces to “clean up Fallujah.”

In November, the Coalition sent a much larger force to Fallujah than they had in April. It included 10,000 American troops, 800 British troops, and 200 Iraqi troops of dubious quality and reliability.By that time, the insurgents numbered approximately 4,000 fighters, most of whom were from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, the Philippines, Kuwait, and Palestine. They had used the six month absence of Coalition forces to reinforce their positions and to plant thousands of booby traps around the city.

As the US Marines took positions outside of Fallujah on November 7, about 90% of the civilians in Fallujah evacuated the city. Many of the terrorist leaders, including Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, escaped with them.

On November 8, while British forces patrolled the surrounding area, the US Marines began attacking the city. Bloody fighting took place until December 23, costing the lives of 95 Americans and wounding 540 more. Four soldiers from the UK died, and ten were wounded. Iraqi soldiers counted eight dead and 43 wounded, along with approximately 800 Iraqi civilian deaths. The terrorists lost from 1500-2000 fighters, and around 1500 more were captured.

Then, the war took an amazing turn. The Bush Administration ordered the US military to release almost all of the captured insurgents and allow them to leave with their weapons.

To me, this was a watershed moment in the Iraqi war. It seemed insane to lose so many US and Coalition troops to simply let the cornered terrorists walk away. And with their weapons. At the time, the Iraqi Governing Council was pressuring the US and the UK to let the terrorists leave with their weapons in exchange for a promise of good behavior. This dovetailed well with the US and UK mindset of a “nice war,” and the US and the UK yielded.

We’ll never know how many more Americans, allies, and Iraqi civilians later died because 1,500 captured terrorists were allowed to go home armed to fight another day. To terrorists in Iraq and around the world who were following the events in Fallujah, it had to be a humorous and inspiring sight. To me and to other Americans, it was heart breaking and infuriating.

In my estimation, Fallujah unfolded as it did and Iraq became an enormously expensive problem because the US and the UK, though willing to pay the price in blood and treasure to defeat Saddam Hussein, declined to run the country we conquered long enough for it to actually become a nation. In my opinion, the US Bush Administration and the UK government led by Tony Blair allowed themselves to pursue a fantasy of Nice War. Because of our leadership’s pathological insistence on pretending the Iraqis were actually cooperating with us, we continued to pay a high price in blood and treasure until our final withdrawal from Iraq in December of 2011.

US Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, image by Voice of America

When we compare the events in Fallujah in 2004 with the September 2012 events in Benghazi, we see many similarities born from the Nice War concept. In both cases, the US administrations allowed their political and sociological philosophies to cloud their judgment. In both cases, our presidents thought that force used could be minimized. But in both cases, to the detriment of the US forces on the ground, they underestimated what level of force was needed. We now know that in Benghazi, as in Fallujah, both presidents had sufficient information with which to make better decisions.

The dissimilarities are equally apparent. In Fallujah, the journalists were present in large numbers and were willing to report what they saw, though at times they were unable to understand what they were seeing. In Benghazi, the events occurred out of sight of the US media. In Fallujah, the Bush administration dealt frankly with the press. In Benghazi, the Obama administration lied to the press and to the American people and was caught, but for the most part, the press has been willing to ignore that.

It would be of great benefit to our national security if our current and future administrations learn from the mistakes in Fallujah and Benghazi. When politicians are unable or unwilling to look beyond their own political fantasies when making foreign policy and military decisions, more American lives and resources are tragically squandered. How willing and how well the Obama administration will learn the lessons from these two cities and embrace the realities of foreign relations remains to be seen.

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.