Good news! ISIS now has an air force!

October 18, 2014
Early Islamic Air Force

Early Islamic Air Force

It’s not much of one: three planes and they only flew for a short time, but that it exists at all is evidence that Obama’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” the so-called Islamic State is going swimmingly, right?

Right??

Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time the militant group had taken to the air.

The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and U.S. Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.

U.S-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but, if the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes.

“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein,” Abdulrahman said.

“People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back,” he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 70 km (45 miles) south of the Turkish border.

Witnesses reported the flights were at a low altitude and only lasted five to 10 minutes before landing, the Observatory said. It was not possible to reach the Syrian government for comment and state media did not mention the report.

It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.

For what it’s worth, it’s not at all clear how long they can keep these operational, given the need for maintenance, fuel, and spare parts, but it shouldn’t exist at all. Were Obama running a serious campaign to destroy ISIS, and not just a desultory, diffident, really wishes he were golfing instead “war,” these refugees from a 7th century insane asylum would be already dead or fleeing for the hills.

But that would require having a president who understood American interests and was willing to defend them. Hopefully we’ll find one in 2016.

And hopefully ISIS won’t have a Space Corps by then.


John Brown: freedom fighter or rebel?

October 16, 2014

506px-John_brown_abo

Today is the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, seized the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in the hope of fomenting a slave insurrection. The Marines – lead, ironically, by Army Colonel Robert E. Lee – suppressed the rebellion after three days. Brown and several of his surviving comrades were swiftly tried and hanged. Interestingly, the crime for which Brown was executed was not treason against the United States, but treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. I wonder how many states still have treason statutes?

I’ve always had mixed feelings about John Brown. On the one hand, he was a fanatic, a rebel against the United States, and an insurrectionist who hoped to spark a slave revolt that surely would have cost thousands of innocent lives. On the other hand, the evil that lead him to his rebellion, the abomination against which he held a fanatical hatred, was slavery. While I can’t approve the means, I can surely sympathize with the motives. Those mixed feelings were felt much more intensely in the 1850s, and John Brown’s raid was the first flaring of the fire that would break out in civil war just two years later.

(Note: this is a republication of a post from 2009 that I thought worth sharing again.)


The Ebola Crisis and Medical Intelligence

October 4, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Here’s an article on an intelligence agency I’ve never heard of: the National Center for Medical Intelligence. Yes, a US Government intel agency devoted to medical threats to the US military — and, in the latest crisis, to the US itself, I’m sure. And I’ve no doubt there are at least a half-dozen development teams in Hollywood writing pitches for the “NCMI TV series” even now.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

There’s now no denying that West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has become a global crisis. After months of downplaying the threat, Western governments are facing the painful fact that the situation is deteriorating fast. It’s now plain to see that the world is at the precipice of something genuinely awful, with official predictions of more than a million new infections by the new year. Given that the death rate among those infected with Ebola is roughly fifty percent — and a good deal higher in underdeveloped regions like West Africa — serious concern is warranted.

Now that a Liberian visitor has brought Ebola to American shores, the assurances of officials that the situation is “under control” are being viewed skeptically by many. Our self-reporting system for preventing diseases entering the United States has failed, and investigators are reaching out to a hundred or more travelers who might have been exposed to…

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Obama’s Big Fat Intel Scandal

September 30, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Obama at last threw the wrong people under the bus: people who know things and who know how to leak effectively. The president evidently takes a very cavalier attitude toward national security, and now those “chickens are coming home to roost.”

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

The rise of the Islamic State* has engendered a full-blown foreign policy crisis in Washington, DC. After more than three years of an extended “Mission Accomplished” victory lap following the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011, the Obama White House has hit the wall with the sudden appearance of the decapitating jihadists of the Islamic State, who now control substantial chunks of both Syria and Iraq and a lot of oil to boot.

The September 2012 disaster at Benghazi ought to have been a wake-up call that Salafi jihadism was down but not out, and still bent on killing Americans, but wasn’t. Now the administration is confronted with a major problem that it’s not exactly been quick to deal with; I’ve explained how the Islamic State can be defeated, but the White House doesn’t seem to be in any big…

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9-11: George W. Bush and his bullhorn

September 11, 2014

Lots of people have written today about that terrible morning: where they were, what they remember, maybe honoring the victims or the many valiant heroes of the battle and its aftermath. I wondered what I would write. I decided that, rather than focus on the day itself, something others have done much more eloquently than I ever could, I wanted to share video of what has become one of my strongest memories from that time: the moment, when, three days later, George W. Bush stood amidst the smoldering ruins from which the dead were still being recovered and rallied a stunned and bloodied nation:

That was the day a man who won a disputed, contentious election truly became President of the United States of America, and I’ll forever be grateful for him.

Note: This is a re-posting, slightly updated, of something I wrote for the tenth anniversary; I think it’s a moment that needs recalling.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Provocation and the Islamic State: Why Assad Strengthened the Jihadists

September 3, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

A very interesting article arguing the existence of a crucial role for Bashar Assad and his Russian-trained intelligence services in the birth and growth of ISIS, in pursuit of an “arsonist and fireman” strategy. That is, create a problem, then put yourself forward as essential to its solution, thus convincing America to act in service of a Syrian and Iranian goal — the survival of the Assad regime. h/t John Schindler.

Originally posted on The Syrian Intifada:

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 3, 2014

An opposition poster showing Assad and the Islamic State as two sides of the same coin

An opposition poster showing Assad and the Islamic State as two sides of the same coin

On August 25, Bashar al-Assad’s Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, said: “Syria is ready for co-operation … to fight terrorism.” The week before Assad’s PR guru, Bouthaina Shaaban, told CNN that an “international coalition,” including Russia, China, America, and Europe, should intervene to defeat I.S. in Syria.

Back in March I wrote a long post laying out the evidence that the Assad regime was deliberately empowering then-ISIS, now the Islamic State (I.S.), helping it destroy moderate rebels and even Salafist and Salafi-jihadist forces, with the intention of making-good on its propaganda line that the only opposition to the regime came from takfiris,

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The Russo-Ukrainian War

August 31, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Our “We don’t have a strategy yet” leadership in DC has left the initiative to Vladimir Putin, who has exploited it to the hilt and is now settled on a revanchist war in Ukraine. Mr. Schindler is right: if NATO means anything anymore, it must respond to this with something more than sanctions.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

This week Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine became overt for all the world to see. Since February, Moscow waged a semi-covert campaign that I term Special War, with the initial aim of taking Crimea. This succeeded almost bloodlessly thanks to confusion in Kyiv. Over the past six months, inspired by Crimean success, Russian strategy has focused on creating and preserving Kremlin-controlled pseudo-states, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics,” which are in fact subsidiaries of Russian intelligence.

This, however, is a far more ambitious goal than the Crimean operation, and resistance has mounted. In recent weeks, Ukrainian efforts to retake territory around Donetsk and Luhansk in what Kyiv calls the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) have gained momentum, and this week Moscow sent troops across the border more or less openly since the alternative is the defeat and collapse of its proxies in southeast Ukraine. That Putin will not allow, and…

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