The Junior Varsity Team

A rehash, number 4

Recapitulating from before:

To be sure, the President caught much flak over that remark, and to additional surprise I defended the remark. I considered ISIS, also known as Daesh, to be a JV team. I since explained my logic:

If ISIS is not JV, then who is? Here are the facts about ISIS:

  • No firm control over defined geography
  • No significant industrial base
  • Dependent on external clients for financial support
  • Fluid or weak bureaucracy
  • Ill-defined legal structure
  • Weak technological and intellectual resources

That was President Obama catching flak for calling Daesh a JV team, and that was me explaining why they did not make the varsity. Also, that was years ago, back when Daesh was taking weapons and vehicles away from the Iraqi army and occupying territory like ants on a wedding cake. In the meantime the Iraqis have begun to take civil defense seriously, and American forces have agreed to move into Syria seriously. The civilized world has been running up the score against the JV team for months now, and it’s beginning to look like Europe in April 1945. That would include a flood of rats deserting a decaying corpse:

US citizen fighting for ISIS captured in Syria

(CNN) — The US military has detained a US citizen who had been fighting with ISIS in Syria, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed to CNN Thursday.

“Syrian Democratic Forces turned over to US forces an American citizen who surrendered to the SDF on or around September 12,” US Marine Corps Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway told CNN, referring to the US-backed Kurdish led group fighting ISIS in Syria.

The news item from CNN further relates there has been an increase in Daesh fighters giving up, essentially saying that joining a JV team to take on the civilized world turned out not to be such a good idea. Apparently one of those calling it quits was a local commander, who surrendered to SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) within the past week. Apparently losing is a real turn-off and does not come close to the adrenaline rush of cutting off people’s heads, selling young girls into slavery, and demolishing thousands of years of human history.

CNN further notes that Daesh has proven to be less a draw in the United States than in various Western European countries. Piling on, a relentless string of defeats has emphasized its JV status, making Daesh a less appealing outlet for people dissatisfied with modern civilization.

The Washington Post has reported on the conviction in an American court of a man who went to Syria to fight for the second stringers:

A Virginia man, Mohamad Khweis, was convicted in federal court in June of supporting terrorism after he surrendered in early 2016 to Kurdish forces in Iraq who turned him over to the American military there.

Khweis, due to be sentenced next month, said he had traveled undetected from Fairfax County to join the Islamic State in Syria but at the time of his capture had deserted the militants and was trying to make his way home.

Yes, realizing that you made a big mistake and then attempting to unwind past misdeeds does not bring you back into the good graces of society. Once you have shown your true colors and stepped across the line into barbarism, you have—or you should have—lost the confidence of the the mentally stable world.

This story is going to have life for years to come. The disintegration of Daesh as a force on the battlefield is not going to end religious numb-skullery as an appeal to our darker nature. People are going to continue to invoke illusionary thinking to justify obnoxious behavior. Daesh presents one such outlet, and the meme will continue to draw disaffected souls long after all Daesh territory has been expunged of their presence. We are about to see what outlets JV team aspirants turn to over the coming years. The view of a cop standing watch with an automatic weapon is going to be with us for a while.

The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series


My apologies to readers. This stuff is coming in faster than I can retell it. For, retelling it is all I can do, not being on the front lines of this or any significant conflict. Here is a bit of history:

“[A]nother scalp.” Now, that’s a cheeky way of putting it. We’re back to counting coup, are we? All right, if Mr. Saleh and his “two associates” are willing to participate, and it appears they were, then that’s the name of the game. Here is a photo of Mr. Saleh in one of his better moments, that is, alive. Considering the nature of his departure, the most recent photos are likely undecipherable.

Given all of that, who’s next up for (and off of) the ever diminishing list of those who cannot obtain life insurance at any price? Today’s face on the milk carton formerly belonged to Charaffe al Mouadan. The news is from CNN:

(CNN)The U.S.-led coalition killed multiple figures within ISIS senior leadership over the last few weeks, including an operative closely linked to the ringleader of the November attacks in Paris, the spokesman for the coalition said Tuesday.

Col. Steve Warren said 10 senior ISIS leaders operating in both Iraq and Syria, “including several external attack planners,” with designs on attacking western targets, had been killed in airstrikes.

Charaffe al Mouadan, a Syrian-based member of ISIS with a “direct link” to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian-born ringleader of the terror attacks in Paris, was killed in a December 24 airstrike, and was “actively planning additional attacks against the West,” Warren said.

See the screen shot above. The person on the left is Michael Weiss. Along with co-author Hassan Hassan, Weiss earlier this year released his book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, which was recently reviewed here.

The unfortunate on the right is the late Mr. al-Mouadan, whose responsibilities within the organization, now known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, are not immediately clear. We do know that, while Daesh-inspired gunmen were creating mayhem and killing people at the Paris Bataclan nightclub last month, Mr. al-Mouadan’s name was batted about. That may not seem like much to most folks, but in these edgy times it’s enough to get your name stenciled on the warhead of a Hellfire missile.


Along the lines of counting coup, the Obama administration, feeling some heat recently from the loyal opposition, has decided it’s not enough to just walk the walk, they need to talk the talk. To that end, along with the announcement of Mr. al-Mouadan’s vaporization, they also put on display the scalps of nine others brought to heavenly reward this month:

Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said a militant commander named Charaffe al Mouadan was killed in the Dec. 24 strike.

Warren said a total of 10 ISIS leaders have been killed in airstrikes over the past month.

They were killed mainly by drone strikes in Iraq and Syria. He offered few details, but said at least two of those killed were linked to the Paris attacks. He said one was directly tied to those who planned the violence in Paris and was actively planning other assaults against the West. Most appeared to be mid-level leaders.

Warren said that one of the others killed was from Bangladesh but spent time in Britain and was a hacker for ISIS and coordinated anti-surveillance technology.

A Daesh (ISIS) hacker. “[C]oordinated anti-surveillance technology.” That’s what it takes for the government to spend $110,000 of your tax money on a Hellfire launch. This may raise concerns among Mr. al-Mouadan’s former assciates. What is the United States military going to find a budget for once all the Daesh hackers and coordinators of anti-surveillance technology are gone? I’m thinking the jihadist in charge of rounding up women sex slaves it going to be thinking twice about his life decisions. And he’s going to be shopping for life insurance. Were it only available.

Politicians Say The Darndest Things

One of a continuing series


Who is the most recent politician saying the darndest things? How about Congressman Steve King representing the Iowa 4th District? Here is what he had to say recently:

While chatting today with Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, Rep. Steve King took issue with the claim that the mounting hostility to refugees is undermining American values. The Iowa Republican said that “the argument that ‘that’s not who we are’ is just one of the mantras that they put out, it’s not supported by logic or rationale.”

“Who we are? We should not be a suicidal nation,” King said. “My wife said this morning, ‘If you had 100 grapes and you knew that two of them were fatally poisonous, would you sit there and eat the grapes until one of them killed you? Or would you decide, I’m not going to take that bunch of grapes at all?’ That’s what we’re dealing with here with the Syrian refugees.”

This is, of course, interesting logic. Pause for a moment to review a bit of irony:

WASHINGTON, March 14 [1989]
Food stores around the country pulled tons of grapes and other fresh fruit from their shelves today as the Food and Drug Administration broadened its investigation of a possible attempt to poison Chilean produce with cyanide.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had joined the inquiry, which has so far turned up traces of the poison in a small batch of grapes shipped last month from Chile to Philadelphia.

There have been no reports of death or illness from Chilean fruit.

To be sure, Congressman King did not have this particular incident in mind when he made his remarks. It is possible he had in mind the image at the top of this post. That image is from the Facebook site titled Political Correctness Gone Wild.


Supposedly all of this is about political correctness, popularized as “PC.” PC is supposed to be a poke at overly ingratiating politeness—specifically, politeness where politeness is not due. What often happens is that opponents of something wholly pragmatic stick on the PC label to knock off some of the shine. It’s apparent in this instance that is what is happening.

A cold look at the matter of the Syrian refugees reveals some inconvenient facts. See additional details from The Christian Post:

  • The vetting process for refugees, including those from Syria, appears to be comprehensive and as exhaustive as can be made.
  • “The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001.” “[T]hree resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities — and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.”
  • “About 70 percent of refugees who participate in employment-training no longer need public assistance six months after resettling.

But, back to the poisoned grapes. Can I promise Congressman King that no Syrian refugee accepted under the current plan will commit crimes in this country or even plot terrorism. I cannot, and I do not need to. Further, I will guarantee that based on reliable population statistics, some will eventually run afoul of the law, and some will even be convicted of homicide while living in this country.

Does Congressman King want to keep people out of this country on the off chance, credible or not, they will pose a threat? He needs to think again. Such a restriction would have trapped any number of conservative Americans:


This undated photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff’s Office shows Eddie Ray Routh, who was charged with killing former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Erath County Sheriff's Office, File)

This undated photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff’s Office shows Eddie Ray Routh, who was charged with killing former Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Erath County Sheriff’s Office, File)

Knock Knock. These were your neighbors.

We are not finished with politicians saying the darndest things. Keep reading.

The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series

I apologize. These come in faster than I can keep up with them. Here’s the latest. There will be more.


Yes, that was the exalted loser formerly known as “Jihadi John.” His claim to fame was cutting off the heads of civilians who had been scooped up by his Daesh organization in Syria. His victims included journalist James Foley, journalist Steven Sotloff, aid worker David Haines, aid worker Alan Henning, and American Petter Kassig.

Mohammad Emwazi was born in Kuwait and raised in England. He was part of a group some Daesh hostages called “The Beatles,” due to their English accents. John Lennon would not have been amused.

All that came to an end a week ago today:

On 12 November 2015, two United States drone aircraft[76] along with a British drone reportedly conducted an airstrike in Al-Raqqah that targeted Emwazi as he left a building and entered a vehicle.[77] US officials stated he had been killed, but his death has not been confirmed and data was still being analysed.[15][78][79] A senior US military official was quoted as saying, “we are 99% sure we got him.”[76] A US official called it a “flawless” and “clean hit” with no collateral damage and that Emwazi was “evaporated.”[78]

“Evaporated” was not the finish I had hoped for Mr. Emwazi, but being the easy going person I am, I will take what the world offers. To my knowledge he carried no life insurance policy. Nor was one offered.

The Ride of the Valkyries


Actual air force in action

Cue the dramatic flight music. Blood and Sand is about to become blood and blue sky.

ISIS is coming. And this time they mean business:

Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to a group monitoring the conflict in Syria.

Isis is using lots of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and Jeeps taken from the Syrian and Iraqi armies but this is the first report that it has planes in the air.

Isis, which took the US by surprise this year with its rapid territorial expansion in Syria and Iraq, has three Russian-built MiG jets, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which appears to have a good network of observers on the ground and has often proved reliable in the past.

This is alarming. ISIS, the company known for beheading Christians and other unsavory people, is getting twentieth century armament. Unfortunately, this is the 21st century.

What I also hear is these fighters, generally pictured as nomadic desert tribesmen with Kalashnikovs, are being trained by former Iraqi fighter pilots to fly these things. That I find most interesting. I had the occasion 23 years ago to witness the Iraqi Air Force in action, if only through DoD memoranda, and it was not a pleasant picture for the Iraqis. During the opening minutes of the First Gulf War Iraqi pilots came up to meet the coalition attackers. In the remaining minutes the Iraqi Air Force, what remained of it, took every opportunity to get its aircraft into neutral Iran.

Do I consider having fighter aircraft to be a plus for ISIS? Truly not. Lest anybody thinks otherwise, pause to reflect on some reality.

  • The United States spends multiple millions of dollars training a fighter pilot.
  • A modern jet fighter, once acquired through purchase or theft, becomes a financial liability. I’ve seen a quote “Around 1990 an F-16 was about $6000/flight hour;”I think that is much too light. About 1982 I was on a program that figured to use a government helicopter. The feds were going to charge us $4000 an hour. I don’t believe the price has gone down any since then.
  • You don’t need just pilots. You need ground support. You need somebody who can keep these systems airworthy.
  • You need fuel, you need weapons, you need other expendables.
  • You need cover.

What may appear to some to be a mighty arm of the air for ISIS is more like a deadly anchor. ISIS may want to think of itself as an Islamic state, but what they really are and what they are likely to remain is a roving band of malcontents with purloined hardware. To date their best plan for seeing the next sunrise has been to be somewhere else when and if the sun ever does come up. While it’s parked on the ground a modern fighter jet most gives an organization like ISIS is something it does not want, and that thing is a set of map coordinates. Should ISIS be so unwise as to get one of their fighters into the air, they will then possess what the United States military calls target practice.

Whether we have admitted it or not, the United States has been in a cold war with Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government for some time. There have been a number of reasons this war has remained cold instead of becoming hot, but some of those reasons are evaporating. Weeks ago it would have given us great pleasure to take down some of al-Assad’s military assets, but the cold war-hot war thing was getting in the way. That partly went by the wayside a few weeks ago when ISIS captured a Syrian military airfield, along with some modern aircraft. Since these assets no longer belong to Mr. al-Assad, it has become more digestible for us to deduct them from inventory. Possibly for good strategic reasons, we have not done that.

All this will change if ISIS applies power to its newfound toys. Likely the reason these aircraft still have their paint is we and the coalition against ISIS have more interesting targets. All that will possibly change if an ISIS, or any, pilot fires these babies up and heads for the runway.

The ISIS Crisis

You say ISIL, I say ISIS. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Posted on Facebook

Posted on Facebook

So what’s the deal with ISIL (formerly known as ISIS)? I know a few days back I spent a little electronic ink making light of this group most famous for shooting prisoners in the back and cutting off heads:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lightly put it “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything.” He is speaking of ISIS, Islamic State in Syria, which can most generously described as a bunch of frat boys with Kalashnikov rifles.

Since then things have gotten serious. They have cut off another American head, and even President Obama is paying attention:

Our objective is clear: we will degrade and ultimately destroy Isil [ISIL] through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

He came on live TV and announced that we are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore. We have to take these comments seriously. This is the man who runs the 82nd Airborne and the Fifth Fleet. And this time he wasn’t wearing his tan suit.

He had, apparently, been reading my blog. What the president said Wednesday night is essentially what I said in my previous post:

  • You really have to get control of the surrounding territory. ISIS cannot be allowed to make new conquests. This goal is feasible in principle. To advance toward anywhere in Iraq they are going to have to take to the roads. This has not been a good idea for an advancing army for the past 70 years. We can do this in Iraq, but Syria remains a problem.
  • ISIS is fighting battles, and fighting consumes resources. You need to keep ISIS engaged and continue to drain it. Again, Syria is a problem. In Syria ISIS is up close to its supply of captured weapons (Syrian army plus other insurgent groups) and also to its supply of purchased and donated weapons.
  • You are going have to keep ISIS from obtaining additional funding. ISIS gets money from donations and also from countries willing to pay ransom for hostages. When this money heads toward an arms purchase it should be tracked and confiscated.
  • You are going to have to put pressure on nations and individuals that provide aid to ISIS. ISIS may be immune to military attack, but their outside friends are not. Arms that are seen heading for ISIS can be confiscated. You are going to lose some friends with such high-handed tactics, but these are not the friends you want to keep.
  • Make sure ISIS has nothing to sell. If they produce some oil, do not buy it. If somebody buys it, confiscate it. Lose some friends, defeat ISIS.
  • Bottle them up. We are talking, at least for the coming five or more years, of an army of occupation. Nobody in, nobody out. ISIS does not yet have an airline. If it does, then make sure it has no airfields.

Mr. Obama is particularly taking on the Syria issue squarely. He has, for all practical purposes, authorized air attacks within Syrian territory, and as I write this American reconnaissance aircraft are flying Syrian airspace, identifying fat targets. Call that dicey.

Here is what flying reconnaissance and staging strikes into Syrian territory is. It’s an act of war.

An act of war? No! Can’t be. Just ask Secretary of State John Kerry, no stranger to acts of war, himself. He says this is not going to be a war. Call it what you want, Mr. Secretary, Syrians are going to die.

It’s not as though we have not done this before in the past few years, omitting Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Panama
  • Libya
  • Lebanon
  • Grenada
  • Serbia
  • Pakistan
  • Sudan
  • Somalia
  • Yemen

And Syria:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including journalist James Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but they did not find them, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

Officials said the rescue mission was authorized after intelligence agencies believed they had identified the location inside Syria where the hostages were being held. But the several dozen special operations forces dropped by aircraft into Syria did not find them at that location and engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before departing, killing several militants. No Americans died but one sustained a minor injury when an aircraft was hit.

[Emphasis added]

For the time being, the president has sent in an additional 475 ground troops to Iraq, bringing the total in country to 1600. Does anybody out there still know how to spell Gulf of Tonkin?

Anybody reading this who gets the idea I’m saying we should stay out will need to think again. Refer again to my previous post. I think what these ISIL (formerly ISIS) yokels are doing is absolutely abhorrent, and they have lost their right to live on this planet. Being safely past 70 and no longer subject to military service I can safely take that position and allow troops now alive to possibly forfeit their futures in order to fulfill my preferences. I do expect my tax bill to see a slight bump.

There is somebody out there who is and has long been way out in front of both me and the President of the United States on this matter:

[Senator John] McCain argued “we need more” troops on the ground in Iraq “to help the Iraqi army rebuild its capabilities.”

Overall, McCain said, he “would favor” most of the plans outlined by the president in his speech. However, he also argued it was incorrect for Obama to suggest his strategy to fight ISIS would be similar to military operations in Yemen and Somalia. McCain said ISIS was a far more dangerous opponent than the groups the U.S. has battled in those countries.

“The president doesn’t really have a grasp for how serious the threat of ISIS is,” McCain said.

Full disclosure: I did not vote for John McCain when he ran for president in 2008. I voted for the other guy and have never regretted it. That said, I have long been an admirer of McCain. Anybody who has put himself in harm’s way and has suffered the hospitality of the North Vietnamese for six years deserves our country’s and my thanks. In addition to that, among the supposedly loyal opposition McCain often comes across as the least crazy.

Still crazy, however. I tend to lend small credence to many of McCain’s remarks:

“Now we know what happens when we left Iraq. Now we know the consequences,” McCain said. “I hope that all those people that called me all of the names that I am not going to repeat here would render an apology because I was right! Because I said if we leave Iraq completely then, we risk the great danger of it deteriorating.”


When the senator from Arizona keeps insisting he is always right I have just two words in response: Sarah Palin.