The Circus Acts Alter

So the polls change and Trump slides and Carson advances: in short the audience in the big tent is getting bored with the circus acts. So predictable: but then my media colleagues will continue to pump up unprofessionally the quirky non-electables like some demented ringmasters fearful the audience will slip away and the bait-and-click won’t keep the numbers up. Anyone who has covered presidential races knows perfectly well that “likely voter” is a fiction at this stage in the race and that polls so far out from the primaries and the general election are meaningless. How about doing some real stories like actually exploring issues and substance as opposed to the Entertainment Tonight-style of journalism?

Half-a-Million American Jews Served in WWII

So, Ann Coulter has unloaded on the “f…Jews”. And there is a viral campaign of bigots “standing with Ann” on Twitter. Presumably she and her supporters would also consider the half-a-million American-Jewish GIs who served in WWII as beyond the pale — and so too, the following Medal of Honor winners: Isadore Jachman, Ben Salomon and Raymond Zussman.

The Berlin-born Jachman emigrated with his family to the US when he was a two-years-old. He graduated from a high school in Baltimore and joined the army in 1942. His Medal of Honor was awarded for action defending the town of Flamierge in Belgium. His company in the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment was pinned down by fierce tank fire and took heavy casualties.

Sergeant Jachman “left his place of cover, dashed across open ground, through a hail of fire and grabbed a bazooka from a fallen comrade. He then advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing his weapon, he damaged one and forced both of them to retire.”

Jachman was killed.

Benjamin L. Salomon was an army dentist, who when the Japanese overran his hospital, mounted a rear-guard action in which he had no chance of personal survival. His bravery allowed the safe evacuation of many wounded, and he killed at least 98 enemy troops before being killed himself during the Battle of Saipan.

Islamic State Poised to Benefit from Refugee Crisis

From my latest VOA report — you can find it here: “The refugee crisis roiling Europe presents a win-win opportunity for Islamic State (IS) extremists, says international terrorism research consultancy TRAC.

By hiding among thousands of asylum-seekers, the Islamist militants can expand their operational presence in Europe, the consortium of analysts warned in a briefing released Thursday.

And if any of their infiltrated members are caught, the backlash could help radicalize disaffected European Muslims.

Despite fears that IS is exploiting the refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe by disguising members as asylum-seekers, only six cases have so far been reported. Analysts, however, say the apparently meager numbers shouldn’t be a cause for relief or a source of complacency — a point echoed by European intelligence officials who VOA spoke to on condition of anonymity.

Europe’s Far Right Seek to Inflame Nativist Sentiments

Mustafa is not unusual among the refugee fathers, husbands and sons placing their lives in the hands of people smugglers and making the short, but dangerous, sea crossing alone from Turkey to Greece, and then enduring a long and uncertain slog on land up through the Balkans or Hungary via Austria to Germany.

He has been watching the television news showing Hungarian and Macedonian border guards beating refugees, and has heard stories from relatives who have made it to Europe of running the gauntlet of brutal traffickers and getting robbed on the road.
The images and stories have confirmed his view that the trip is not one his daughter should share.

According to the U.N. refugee agency, the majority of those from the Mideast streaming into Europe are men, prompting some anti-immigrant and anti-Islam campaigners to argue that the continent is not facing a simple refugee crisis, but a migration designed to Islamize Europe.

At far right rallies in Germany, that imbalance is highlighted by anti-immigrant speakers and protesters alike as clear evidence that the migration crisis in Europe is a jihadist plot that will end up changing the face of European culture.

For my full report on how Europe’s far right is inflaming nativist sentiments click here.


No End In Sight for Syria

In the immediate wake of the Iran nuclear deal there was a flurry of diplomacy involving Washington, Moscow and Tehran with talk that the time might be right to hammer out an agreement to end Syria’s four-year-long civil war. But with renewed commitments from Iran and Russia to shore up President Bashar al-Assad there seems no end in sight for the ruinous war of attrition that has left an estimated 240,000 people dead.

No one is budging their hard-held positions inside or outside Syria, despite the recognition by most parties involved that defeating the extremists of the Islamic State should be among the highest priorities — and that is unlikely to happen while the civil war rages.

For the West the mounting refugee crisis roiling Europe has added urgency to the search for some kind of resolution to the barbaric conflict.

Read my full VOA dispatch here.

The New Lords of Kobani

“For the 192,000 Kurds who fled either the town or the province lies with the military defenders themselves there are bureaucratic obstacles as well. Refugees require permission from Turkish authorities to cross back into Kobani and they also need the go-ahead from the Kurdish town administrators, all members of the autocratic Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian wing of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The administrators are sparing with permissions, arguing with some justification that the town is unsafe for civilians, but locals say there is favoritism in who gains permission and who is told they can’t return.

Many returnees chafe at the high-handedness of PYD bosses and the fighters of the self-defense force, the YPG, essentially the PYD’s armed wing, which they complain is on open display on the streets of the ruined town. “The fighters do what they like and no one can say anything to them, if they order you to do something or not to do something, you can’t say no or argue that it isn’t right,” says Ali, a mustached retiree.”

Read my full Daily Beast report here on what is happening now in Kobani.

ISIS Threatens Syrian Rebel Supply Lines From Turkey

Islamic extremists overran three towns in northern Syria this weekend, capturing them from Western-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and Islamist brigades as Syrian warplanes struck widely across the north of the country, dropping barrel bombs on towns controlled by both competing insurgent groups.

Despite FSA claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, were coordinating their attacks, two of the biggest barrel bombs were dropped on the town of Al Bab, controlled by Islamic State.

Read my full VOA dispatch here

A Jihadist Hug Before Being Stoned to Death

“First there were embraces and then the barbaric execution by stoning. Photographs of hugs that jihadists gave a condemned gay couple before killing them in north Syria have gone viral, prompting outrage in the West. For Islamic State sympathizers and members tweeting their responses, the hugs of death are a meant as an expression of compassion, a gesture of forgiveness—before the gruesome reality of their murder.”

From my latest piece for the Daily Beast chronicling the twisted minds of Islamic State enforcers. Read it here.

Hello Washington Post

So nice to see the Washington Post catching up.

This was my dispatch for the Daily Beast posted February 6 on signs of internal fraying within ISIS.

“The propagandists of the putative Islamic State would have you believe it is just one big happy family, righteously slaughtering apostates, enslaving women (literally), beheading and burning alive its prisoners, all in the name of God. But quarrels over a range of issues—from divvying up of the spoils of war to competition over women and, yes, the handling of foreign hostages—point to a lot of trouble beneath the surface of this terror army…

Punitive killings, the flight of some senior ISIS commanders, and the execution of more than 60 foreign fighters who wanted to leave in recent days risk provoking more flare-ups, say residents who recently escaped Raqqa.”

Today — a month later — the Post today reports:

“The Islamic State ­appears to be starting to fray from within, as dissent, defections and setbacks on the battlefield sap the group’s strength and erode its aura of invincibility among those living under its despotic rule.

Reports of rising tensions between foreign and local fighters, aggressive and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to recruit local citizens for the front lines, and a growing incidence of guerrilla attacks against Islamic State targets suggest the militants are struggling to sustain their carefully cultivated image as a fearsome fighting force drawing Muslims together under the umbrella of a utopian Islamic state.”

Qatar: Running with the Hare and Hunting with the Hounds

Qatar’s authorities were quick to condemn earlier this month the burning alive of captured Jordanian pilot Muadh al Kasasbeh. One would expect that from a country that is a member of the international coalition arrayed against the Jordanian’s murderers — militants from the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

What one wouldn’t expect is that on the Friday before ISIS posted the horrific footage of the burning pilot a preacher sermonizing in Doha’s state-controlled Grand Mosque called for the destruction of the faithful of other religions. “Allah, strengthen Islam and the Muslims, and destroy your enemies, the enemies of the religion,” intoned invited preacher Saudi cleric Sa’ad Ateeq al Ateeq. “Allah destroy the Jews and whoever made them Jews, and destroy the Christians and Alawites and the Shiites.”

His comments wouldn’t have been out of place in ISIS-controlled Mosul or Raqqa.

Read here in my latest Daily Beast article about how there is no persuading Qatar to stop running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.