America Should Stand Up for Kurdish Independence

While America spent the weekend hotly debating the NFL & the National Anthem — and as the world inched closer to possible war in North Korea and as millions of Puerto Ricans suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria — a small speck of land in the Middle East was about to send shockwaves through the international system. Today — September 25, 2017 — the Kurds of Iraq will likely overwhelmingly vote for their independence in the referendum being held in Iraqi Kurdistan. This independence is well deserved. The Kurdish homeland in the Middle East dates back centuries — but the Kurds themselves find themselves split asunder & without a nation. As the world’s largest ethnic group without a nation to call its own, the Kurds have faced decades of severe persecution in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, & Syria. Aided by a No-Fly Zone instituted by the United States following the First Gulf War, the Kurds in Iraq were able to establish a semi-autonomous territory in Northern Iraq and to create the current Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The Kurds were strong allies in the Second Gulf War as they helped topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, leading to even greater autonomy for themselves. And Iraqi Kurdistan was the only area of relative peace during the terror-fueled raging Iraqi insurgency & sectarian civil war that followed. Following the invasion of Iraq by ISIS in 2014, the Kurds demonstrated themselves to be the most dependable fighting force in-country, halting the sweeping gains of ISIS and giving the Iraqi government – and indeed the world – the breathing room to regroup and fight back. Independence has long been the desired goal of Kurds in the region, and the Kurds positioned themselves well as they battled ISIS, took back large swaths of territory from the terrorist organization, and consolidated these gains. But the Iraqi government – based in Baghdad and dominated by Shiite parties – is still the ultimate arbiter of power in Iraq, stifling Kurdistan’s economy, fighting with it over oil, limiting its armaments, and generally squeezing Kurdish autonomy. After decades of being ruled by Baghdad, the Kurds of Iraq have had enough.

The Kurds represent the largest ethnic group in the world without its own state. There are roughly 35 million Kurds worldwide, with nearly 30 million of them living within the bounds of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, & Iran. Within the Middle East, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group, following the well-known ethnic groups of Arabs, Persians, & Turks – all of whom have their own states. The Kurdish people have a cohesive identity spanning centuries — and their overarching goal is the establishment of an official homeland. This begins with today’s historic vote in Iraqi Kurdistan calling for independence – a vote that America should support.

The history of the Kurdish people in the 20th & 21st centuries is a story of oppression. Promises of a homeland in the wake of the World Wars proved to be false, and the Kurds found themselves separated by borders. The Kurds of Iraq were brutally oppressed by the Saddam Hussein regime, most notoriously through the Al-Anflal Campaign (the commission of genocide by Hussein against the tens of thousands of Kurds in the wake of the Iran-Iraq War). When the Kurds tried to rise up against Saddam Hussein in 1991 in the wake of the First Gulf War (at the tacit encouragement of the United States, mind you) this rebellion was put down in brutal fashion as the United States & the world stood by and let it happen. Following this, the U.S. instituted a No-Fly Zone in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from further oppression in the wake of that war. This allowed the Kurds to establish a semi-autonomous self-governed region, representing the first real semblance of independence the Kurds have had. It took the Second Gulf War in 2003 to liberate the Kurds from Hussein’s regime entirely.

It must be emphasized that the Kurds have been absolutely critical in the fight against ISIS. When ISIS invaded Iraq in 2014, US-trained & US-equipped Iraqi forces fled by the thousands, abandoning bases, humvees, supplies, heavy artillery, & weaponry – all of which went on to be used by ISIS to devastating effect. But where the Iraqi military fled, a vastly under-supplied & in many instances out-gunned Kurdish Peshmerga force stood firm, stopping the spread of ISIS into Kurdish territory, in many cases turning back the terrorist group’s march, and in time liberating large swaths of territory within the Kurdish sphere of influence. The only reason that strategic cities like Kirkuk and strategic oil fields like of Baji didn’t fall to ISIS — and the only reason why attempted genocides against the Christians & Yazidis of Iraq were not fully successful — was thanks to the Kurds. The battlefield successes against ISIS in 2016 & 2017 would not have been remotely possible without the massive sacrifices of the Kurds in 2014 & 2015 & all the way through today. And an independent Kurdistan would be an even more effective ally in the fight against ISIS & related terror groups.

The Kurds have accepted over 1.4 million refugees during the war with ISIS – including Muslims of all sects, Christians, Yazidis, & Jews. Religious tolerance (especially by Middle Eastern standards) is widespread inside Kurdish-controlled areas: Kurdistan’s small Jewish community has been allowed to practice their faith and Christians & Yazidis that saw their cities invaded by ISIS were able to flee to Kurdish regions that have protected them and that have taken back lots of their territory from the terrorist organization. Beyond embracing different religions in ways almost unheard of in the region, the Kurds also embrace impressive levels of gender equality as well – Kurdish women enjoy incomparably greater freedom, autonomy, & equality in Iraqi Kurdistan than in the rest of Iraq.

The Kurds would be a bulwark in the heart of the Middle East against all kinds of radicalism. The Kurds generally place their unique ethnic identity (along with their unique language & society) above any religious extremism – secularism is the heart of the Middle East is a lofty goal, but it is one that the Kurds have made great strides toward. Militant Islam – of either the Sunni or Shiite persuasion – has limited support among the Kurds. Where much of the current struggle on the battlefield against ISIS seemed like a battle between varying strains of religiously-motivated groups (radical Sunni Muslims like Jahbat al-Nusrah & the Islamic State on one side versus Iranian-backed Shia Muslim militias on the other), the Kurds are motivated by a unique heritage and a desire for democratic rule & independence. A stable & democratic Kurdish nation would be a great improvement over the civil wars & religious extremism that currently dominate Kurdistan’s surrounding neighborhood.

The Kurds would be able to use their independence to become more effective militarily and stronger economically. Currently, much of Kurdistan’s economic & military capabilities rely on decisions made by a Shiite-led (and Iranian-influenced) central government in Baghdad. Its shares of Iraqi oil revenue must come through Baghdad first. Its opportunities to sell oil to the E.U. and elsewhere are made vastly more difficult. Its ability to buy necessary weaponry is complicated & delayed. And so Kurdish independence would liberate their economy and allow for their self-defense – which is why the surrounding hostile nations oppose this independence.

It must be emphasized that Kurdish aspirations for independence are opposed by the United States, by the United Nations, and by nearly every other nation. It is very nearly Kurdistan Against The World. In fact, only the state of Israel supports the Kurdish bid – something that Saladin would approve — perhaps because Israel understands better than any other nation what it means to be a historically oppressed group surrounded by enemies. And surrounded by enemies the Kurds indeed are – the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan is most strongly opposed by the governments in Baghdad, Ankara, Tehran, & Damascus (Iraq, Turkey, Iran, & Syria) due to the potential regional fallout stemming from the large Kurdish populations residing in those countries. Indeed, recriminations against the Kurds have already begun – the government of Iraq has made it clear that it will punish Kurdistan’s economy if (when!) it goes through with the referendum. And the governments of Turkey & Iran are threatening the Kurds with severe retaliation – including possible military intervention. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the wannabe dictator of Turkey — sees the Kurds as a threat to his hold on power, and has been openly threatening them with economic devastation & invasion. That’s right – our friends in Kurdistan might see their independence referendum celebrations almost immediately consumed by war with neighbors looking to bring a swift end to this bid for freedom. The Kurds are obviously feeling the pressure from the verbal onslaughts & the military exercises being conducted on their periphery, but the vote is happening anyway. Will the United States really cede our foreign policy to the mullahs in Iran and the strongman in Turkey and the corrupt government of Iraq? Will the United States really stand by and let this happen to the Kurds – to a nation that has fought alongside us against jihadists for years & years?

The Gospel of Matthew states that “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Over the decades, the world has gotten to know the Kurdish people – and their fruits. They indeed have their flaws – political dysfunction, an imperfect record on the administration of territory that has come into their possession, big questions about the future status of religious & ethnic minorities within the state, incomplete political equality amongst the population, corruption that needs to be dealt with, and so on. But there is an incredible amount to be admired in the Kurds. They’ve been stalwart in defense of their homeland. Brave in the face of threats & violence from Great Powers. Sacrificial in their struggle against Saddam, against al-Qaeda, and against ISIS. Charitable in their taking in of hundreds of thousands of refugees of every creed — charity all the more impressive given Kurdistan’s relative poverty. And trustworthy, as their Peshmerga have served honorably side-by-side next to American & coalition forces against the Islamic State.

For all these reasons, the Kurdish independence movement is absolutely worthy of our support: it would grant a persecuted ethnic minority its own nation-state and would would result in a reliable pro-Western ally in the heart of the Middle East. Kurdistan is a bit of a miracle – landlocked, isolated, resource-scarce, & persecuted – but it has been able to establish a semi-autonomous region in Iraq where fleeing refugees & religious minorities have been kept safe and where warriors have proven their mettle. The vote for Kurdish independence will be good for the Kurds – and indeed good for the world, too.

For the closing argument, I will leave you with an excerpt from a Washington Post op-ed by Qubad Talabani, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (please read the entire piece):

“Yes, we have a choice. We can either go ahead with our symbolic vote, which has the potential to generate serious backlash from the countries that oppose it, or we can accept a proposed set of commitments from our allies, the most powerful nations in the world, in return for postponing the referendum. As it happens, though, we Kurds have a long and vivid memory of the many betrayals our people have suffered throughout history. For this reason, it is not at all clear to us that postponement is in our nation’s best interest… And we have seriously weighed the risks of holding a referendum. Who, indeed, could be more aware of them than us?… Rather than trying to convince us not to leave Iraq, the world should have tried harder to ask Iraq to convince us to stay… Yes, Kurdistan’s democracy is imperfect; our governance, institutions and political leadership have their flaws. But we are committed to economic prosperity, to transparency and accountability, and, above all, to the safety and protection of our citizens. We have far more of the building blocks for new institutions in place than many other new nations… While our people have a range of views about the referendum and the best path forward, in the heart of every Kurd we are already independent. We are already a nation. We did not hesitate to join the international coalition and the Iraqi forces that set out to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State. Nor did we hesitate before that to fight al-Qaeda, or before that, Saddam Hussein. But we are not mercenaries, paid to fight wars. Our lives are on the line, and we, too, have our strategic and national interests. We didn’t think twice about opening our doors to those displaced by conflict, despite our own economic problems… Despite all this, rather than recognizing or rewarding us, other nations have joined forces to oppose our right to self-determination. Where were you when we were being slaughtered, attacked with chemical weapons and buried in mass graves in 1988? How long did it take you to respond to our pleas when we fled to the mountains after Hussein crushed our uprising in 1991? Every Kurd around the world shook with fear and indignation at the predicament of our brothers and sisters on the top of Mount Sinjar in 2014. The wounds of past persecution and genocide are fresh in our hearts and minds… It is time for our international partners to seriously chart out a path that resolves the Kurdish question in Iraq and gives our people what you already enjoy, and what we deserve: a country of our own.”

They say that timing is everything – but there will never be a “good time” for the emergence of a new country in the heart of the Middle East. The Kurds could’ve broken away during the civil war that raged in Iraq from 2004—2007, but they didn’t. The Kurds could’ve broken away in the chaos that ensued when ISIS swept across Iraq in 2014 & 2015, but they didn’t. They waited until order had been largely restored and until ISIS had been mostly beaten back. They waited until they’d already taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees. And frankly — as the tens of millions of Kurds around the world would surely agree — they’ve waited long enough. If not now, then when?

What will follow this independence referendum will not be easy – the Kurds will face untold challenges in the coming weeks, months, & years — and they will need our help. So it is time for the United States to stop using the Kurds when we need them and then ignoring them when they need us. In foreign affairs, a country should defend its interests but should also reward its allies, not abandon them in their time of need. We left the Kurds to flee into the mountains after the First Gulf War and to suffer under Saddam Hussein’s cruelty for a decade more. They find themselves now surrounded by enemies that would like nothing more than to quickly snuff out even the faintest flicker of freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan. We should not – cannot – must not let that happen.

As they say in Kurdish, “Bale” Kurdistan! “Yes!” to a free & independent Kurdish nation.

Build The Memorial: Why The Global War on Terror Deserves a Memorial

The fallen veterans of the Global War on Terrorism deserve a national memorial. Sixteen years have passed since the vicious jihadist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sixteen years of constant war – the longest war in our nation’s history. Sixteen years of deployments in some of the most hostile parts of the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And sixteen years of untold bravery and selfless courage by our men and women in uniform. Enough time has passed since this generational conflict began: it’s time to honor the fallen heroes of the Global War on Terrorism with their own memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. This is an effort being led by the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation in conjunction with sponsors in Congress, but ultimately it’s up to us – We the People – Democrat, Republican, & everything in between – Left, Right, & Center – to help make it happen. Memorial Day might be behind us now, but honoring our fallen must not be relegated to just one single 24-hour period each year. It’s time to #BuildTheMemorial.

 

When you live in Washington D.C., it’s easy to become slightly jaded: the scandals, the intrigue, the partisanship, the here’s-my-business-card transactional relationships, the House-of-Cards fantasy mentality that some seem to have. But for me, those negative feelings melt away every time that I go for a run on the National Mall – a public green space stretching from the U.S. Capitol Building all the way to the great seated visage of our nation’s 16th President, lined on all sides by museums and galleries and Smithsonians that contain some of our greatest national treasures within their walls. So living in D.C. does have some benefits. Being able to gaze up at the Capitol Dome, a moving and enduring symbol of our Republic and being able to run up and touch the white stone of the Washington Monument. And there’s no better way to start a day than by finishing a work out on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at dawn as the sun slowly rises over the horizon and scatters its first light across the Reflecting Pool. But the National Mall contains something more powerful than any of that – it is home to some of our most searing and consequential war memorials.

 

The World War Two Memorial – with its stone pillars and archways, its bronze sculptures, and its jets of water – is an homage to the 16 million men and women who served in & the 417,000 who died during our victory over the twin threats of Nazi Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. The less-imposing but still-moving Korean War Memorial with its nineteen larger-than-life-sized soldier statutes representing each service branch and forming a squad out on a mission – built in honor of the 5.7 million service members who fought and the 54,000 who fell (36,000 of them in-theater) – seems to come alive especially at night. (My grandfather on my mom’s side fought in World War Two and my grandfather on my dad’s side fought in that war too as well as almost losing his life in Korea, so you can imagine why those memorials hold a special place in my heart.) And then of course there is the Vietnam Memorial Wall (sometimes just called “The Wall”) – two jet black walls that begin low & sunken into the ground only to rise and rise until they meet at a ten foot high apex that looms above you – where you can read the names of the 58,315 service members who died or are still unaccounted for etched into the stone as your own reflection peers dimly back at you through the dark polished wall. The memorials are monuments to the bravery, the honor, and the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who did their duty and who lost their lives in service to the nation. They are places of reflection for visitors to the nation’s capital and they are places of healing and remembrance for the friends and families of those who have served. But the men & women who have served and fought and died during the Global War on Terrorism – during what is our nation’s longest war – and who are currently still serving and fighting and even dying in this war – have no such memorial. It’s time for that to change.

 

Everyone remembers exactly where they were on September 11th, as planes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorist operatives slammed into both buildings at the World Trade Center, with another ripping a gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon and yet another burying itself in a quiet field in Shanksville Pennsylvania after a brave passenger revolt. These attacks – which came in the wake of al-Qaeda bombings of the WTC and of African embassies in the 1990’s as well as the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 – were the clearest indication that were in a new kind of war, whether we liked it or not. I was only 14 years old at the time (I skipped one of my morning freshman classes that day and watched the second plane strike one of the towers on live TV) and I clearly remember that, when the Twin Towers came crashing down, the general expectation for days was that tens of thousands had likely died. The official figure ended up being a still-devastating 2,996 innocents killed, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in history – an attack even worse than the surprise strike against Pearl Harbor by Japan that awakened America from its slumber and led her into the Second World War. It was, in fact, the worst encounter by a foreign enemy on American soil since the War of 1812. In the wake of 9/11, there was a brief but important moment of national unity – members of both parties of Congress gathering on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God Bless America” being the most poignant. And even as that sense of unity, of bipartisanship, of we’re-all-in-this-togetherness all descended fairly quickly into the usual political rancor and into a national division that lasts to this very day, one group remained steadfast and firm – the United States military. The men & women of the 9/11 Generation – those who would step up and answer the call in the wake of these horrific attacks – would unfailing carry out their duty around the globe.

 

In front of a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush would declare: “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack … Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”

 

America’s response to these attacks would take our military all around the globe as we combated the various pernicious manifestations of terrorism and jihad. To the mountains of Tora Bora, where we routed al-Qaeda and the Taliban alongside our allies in the Northern Alliance. To the Korengal Valley, where our soldiers would push back against a renewed Taliban insurgency. To Fallujah, where our troops would carry out some of the most intense urban combat in decades as they went door-to-door against the brutal members of al-Qaeda in Iraq. To Mosul, where our special operations forces have helped deal blow after blow against the would-be Islamic caliphate. There are countless heroic battles that many people have likely already forgotten: the toppling of the Taliban; the removal of Saddam Hussein from power; the twin battle against an al-Qaeda insurgency and against Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq; and of course the ongoing struggle against the Islamic State and its various manifestations around the world. There are the villains that we’ve vanquished: Osama bin Laden, Saddam, Uday, & Qusay Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Anwar al-Awlaki, and countless terrorists worldwide. But there are still villains that remain at-large: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. No matter what we asked our military to do – regime change, COIN, “Surges” of both the Iraqi and Afghani varieties – they’ve proved that they really are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Whether fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Yemen or Somalia; whether battling Al-Qaeda or ISIS or Boko Haram; whether patrolling the dusty blazing hot streets of Baghdad or driving convoys across IED-strewn roads on the Afghan-Pakistan border or conducting perilous helicopter raids deep inside Taliban-infested territory; and whether being honored in death with posthumous accolades or falling in battles so secret that we still don’t know about them and maybe never will, the men & women who have fought in this global struggle against terrorism have proven their worth and their mettle.

 

As mentioned earlier, the organization leading the effort to establish this national memorial is called the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation. Founded by Andrew Brennan – an Army Aviation Officer and Afghan War veteran – the organization states that it is “a non-profit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, US services members, their families, and all those who supported our nation’s longest war.” The group aims to change existing federal law – specifically the 1986 Commemorative Works Act – to allow for the establishment of a GWOT Memorial. Under current law, a war must be over for a full ten years before a memorial can even be authorized. It is a well-intentioned law that unfortunately did not account for the sort of generational (or even multi-generational) conflict that we find ourselves in during the struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. This war has already been waged for nearly two decades and, given its nature, it could potentially last another couple decades or longer. Thus, in order to build a memorial, the law needs to be changed. This project has broad military support – its advisory board includes General David Petraeus. General George Casey, and General James Conway. Jan Scruggs, the Founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, is also on the board. And numerous fantastic veterans service organizations like Got Your Six, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Gold Star Mothers, and the Wounded Warrior Project are all big supporters & partners in the endeavor as well. What is lacking at this moment, however, is what might prove to be the most important ingredient – broad public support, likely due to a simple lack of public awareness about the effort. If this memorial is to be successful, it will need the public to support the effort both legislatively and monetarily. That is why the word needs to be spread far & wide.

 

Importantly, the proposal for the memorial states that the memorial itself will emphasize & highlight the qualities and values of those fighting in the Global War on Terrorism itself: “Endurance. Sacrifice. All-Volunteer. Global. Multi-Cultural. Unfinished.” To me, the most guideline for the proposed memorial that stands out most is that it will be unfinished. Like the war itself, the proposed memorial will be unfinished – ongoing – a work in progress – an effort not yet completed – an endeavor not yet fully resolved. It will stand as a stark reminder that, even as we remember those who have fought and fallen, the war continues until our last soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman is safely home.

 

The Global War on Terror continues to rage both in the West and around the globe, with the recent events in Britain throwing this truth into sharp relief. This is actually the third major terrorist attack in the United Kingdom in just three months – the Westminster Attack, the Manchester Bombing, and now the London Bridge Attack. And of course we cannot forget the Malawi attack in the Philippines which occurred at almost the exact same time as the Manchester Bombing. Elsewhere, there was also the Pulse nightclub shooting, the San Bernardino massacre, the attacks in Nice, the Paris attacks, the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, the Brussels bombings, the Berlin attack, the Istanbul attack, the Stockholm truck attack, the bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Madrid train bombings, the London tube bombings, the Bali nightclub bombings, the attacks of September 11th, the USS Cole bombing, the Khobar Towers bombing, the African embassy bombings, the first World Trade Center attack, and on and on.

 

And of course our soldiers continue to fight jihadists all across the globe, with some our soldiers recently falling in battles against ISIS in Afghanistan, against al-Shabaab in Somalia, against al-Qaeda in Yemen, and in battles we may not have even heard of yet. All told to-date, many thousands of Americans have fallen in the GWOT — some 4,411 Americans have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom, some 2,346 Americans have died during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and around 150 more (that we know of) have been killed in other operations around the globe. Each of these fallen men & women deserve to be memorialized and honored for their sacrifice.

 

“No greater love is there than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So says the Gospel of John. That is the truth – and when soldiers lay down their lives, it usually is for the friend next to them. Don’t get me wrong: they serve for honorable & high-minded principles – for God, for flag, for country, for peace, for freedom, and so on – but in the heat of battle, when the enemy is closing, when split-second life-and-death decisions are being made, and when a soldier decides to jump on a grenade or step into the line of fire or stand their ground against a bomb-laden car barrelling down the road at them, they are almost invariably thinking about the friend, the fellow soldier, the brother-in-arms next to them. And when a soldier is killed, it is that brother-in-arms who is left behind. That is who this memorial is for – the families, the friends, & the brothers-in-arms who remain. General Patton once said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” So, let us thank them – and let us thank them in a way that at attempts to be worthy of their actions, however meager our efforts might be in comparison to their sacrifice. It is on us to get this memorial built, because if not us, then who? And if not now, then when? It’s time to unite around this as a nation – blue, red, Left, Right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican — as this is something we can all get behind. It’s time to honor our fallen and our veterans the way that they deserve – the way that previous generations occasionally failed to do. It’s time to remember both the battles already fought and those yet to come. It’s time to recognize the fallen of the GWOT alongside those who fought in World War Two and in Korea and in Vietnam. And it’s time to #BuildTheMemorial.

77 Years Ago Today, Churchill Gave Defiant “We Shall Fight” Speech

Great Britain finds itself the victim of the third major terrorist attack in three months. Westminster. Manchester. And now London Bridge. Exactly 77 years ago today, the United Kingdom – through a series of miracles – had just escaped total defeat at the hands of the Nazis at Dunkirk. Winston Churchill’s speech in front of Parliament on June 4, 1940, (called the “Finest Hour” speech or, colloquially, the “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” speech) is widely considered among the best examples of stirring defiant prose in the history of the English language — and indeed is among the best & most consequential speeches in the history of the world. And his words still hold true today, as his great country finds itself under assault from a new jihadist enemy.

 

In 1940, the Nazi Army seemed unstoppable. It had rolled through much of Europe – including France – at an alarming rate, delivering blow after blow to the French Army and forcing a reeling British Expeditionary Force numbering around four hundred thousand into a retreat to the edge of the European continent. Pinned down. Surrounded. On the brink of utter annihilation. If the British Expeditionary Force were defeated, it would take a massive portion of the British Army off the battlefield permanently – and very well could’ve resulted in the beginning of Hitler’s victory in World War Two right then & there. Instead, a series of miracles unfolded at the beachhead – which was named Dunkirk (a battle subject to a highly-anticipated upcoming film by Christopher Nolan of “Interstellar”, “The Dark Knight”, and “Inception” fame).

 

 

Operation Dynamo – the name given to the evacuation from Dunkirk – began in earnest on May 26, 1940. It was up to Britain’s outnumbered Royal Air Force (which was, at the time, widely disdained by the British Army due to each branch blaming the other for the current horrific predicament) to keep Nazi planes at bay while the Army made its escape by ship across the channel. Meanwhile, the British naval fleet was woefully small for the task at hand, and so hundreds of British civilian boats were called into service. Through a series of what can only be considered actual miracles – a sea that was unbelievably calm, tides that decided to be unbelievably favorable, a number of heroic air battles, and a string of (thankfully) mind-numbingly terrible decisions by Hitler & the Nazis – the British Army was able to make its escape back to Great Britain largely intact. Where it had been expected that perhaps as many as 300,000 soldiers or more were to be left stranded in Europe (to be captured or killed), even greater than that number actually made their escape to England, along with over 25,000 French soldiers as well. This retreat saved the British Army to fight another day and gave England the courage to withstand the Nazi barrage until the Americans arrived.

 

Winston Churchill would give his defiant “Finest Hour” speech in front of the House of Commons in Parliament exactly 77 years ago today. He had initially expected the speech to be about the biggest disaster in the history of the nation (as a week prior total defeat for the British Army seemed all but assured) – instead, it was a speech about the most awe-inspiring & successful retreat in the history of the nation. But, Churchill would point out, it was still a retreat. And all of the hardest fighting – the Battle of Britain, the Invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge – still remained ahead. Churchill promised that Britain would fight on the seas, in the streets, in the air, in the hills, and on the beaches. And Winston Churchill’s speech is as relevant today as it has ever been – as he made clear, defiant survival is important, but it is only a start. Just as unity after a terrorist attack is an important thing, that cannot be the end in and of itself – but it is a very important start. The British didn’t win the war simply because they survived Dunkirk – rather they won because surviving Dunkirk gave them the time, the breathing space, the manpower, and eventually the military alliance with the United States that was needed to eventually achieve total Allied victory over the Nazi regime. I’ve excerpted portions of the speech by Churchill, and you can read the speech in its entirety here and listen to it in its entirety below. It remains to be seen whether in this day & age — in the face of an enemy not attacking them from across an ocean channel like the Nazis but rather from within like radical Islamic terrorism — Great Britain will find a way to, as Churchill would say, “defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.” On this day and in the days to come, Winston Churchill’s words echo through time.

 

 

When, a week ago today, I asked the House to fix this afternoon as the occasion for a statement, I feared it would be my hard lot to announce the greatest military disaster in our long history. I thought-and some good judges agreed with me-that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 men might be re-embarked. But it certainly seemed that the whole of the French First Army and the whole of the British Expeditionary Force north of the Amiens-Abbeville gap would be broken up in the open field or else would have to capitulate for lack of food and ammunition. These were the hard and heavy tidings for which I called upon the House and the nation to prepare themselves a week ago. The whole root and core and brain of the British Army, on which and around which we were to build, and are to build, the great British Armies in the later years of the war, seemed about to perish upon the field or to be led into an ignominious and starving captivity.

 

 

The enemy attacked on all sides with great strength and fierceness, and their main power, the power of their far more numerous Air Force, was thrown into the battle or else concentrated upon Dunkirk and the beaches. Pressing in upon the narrow exit, both from the east and from the west, the enemy began to fire with cannon upon the beaches by which alone the shipping could approach or depart. They sowed magnetic mines in the channels and seas; they sent repeated waves of hostile aircraft, sometimes more than a hundred strong in one formation, to cast their bombs upon the single pier that remained, and upon the sand dunes upon which the troops had their eyes for shelter. Their U-boats, one of which was sunk, and their motor launches took their toll of the vast traffic which now began. For four or five days an intense struggle reigned. All their armored divisions-or what Was left of them-together with great masses of infantry and artillery, hurled themselves in vain upon the ever-narrowing, ever-contracting appendix within which the British and French Armies fought.

 

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, with the willing help of countless merchant seamen, strained every nerve to embark the British and Allied troops; 220 light warships and 650 other vessels were engaged. They had to operate upon the difficult coast, often in adverse weather, under an almost ceaseless hail of bombs and an increasing concentration of artillery fire. Nor were the seas, as I have said, themselves free from mines and torpedoes. It was in conditions such as these that our men carried on, with little or no rest, for days and nights on end, making trip after trip across the dangerous waters, bringing with them always men whom they had rescued. The numbers they have brought back are the measure of their devotion and their courage. The hospital ships, which brought off many thousands of British and French wounded, being so plainly marked were a special target for Nazi bombs; but the men and women on board them never faltered in their duty.

 

Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force, which had already been intervening in the battle, so far as its range would allow, from home bases, now used part of its main metropolitan fighter strength, and struck at the German bombers and at the fighters which in large numbers protected them. This struggle was protracted and fierce. Suddenly the scene has cleared, the crash and thunder has for the moment-but only for the moment-died away. A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valor, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all. The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not hurry their departure seriously. The Royal Air Force engaged the main strength of the German Air Force, and inflicted upon them losses of at least four to one; and the Navy, using nearly 1,000 ships of all kinds, carried over 335,000 men, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead. We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained by the Air Force. Many of our soldiers coming back have not seen the Air Force at work; they saw only the bombers which escaped its protective attack. They underrate its achievements. I have heard much talk of this; that is why I go out of my way to say this.

 

 

There never has been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into the past-not only distant but prosaic; these young men, going forth every morn to guard their native land and all that we stand for, holding in their hands these instruments of colossal and shattering power, of whom it may be said that:

 

Every morn brought forth a noble chance
And every chance brought forth a noble knight,
deserve our gratitude,
as do all the brave men who,
in so many ways and on so many occasions, are ready,
and continue ready to give life and all for their native land.

 

 

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government – every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Trump is Right: Terrorists Are Evil Losers Who Worship Death

Another day. Another vicious terrorist attack. On the evening of Monday May 22nd, what is now presumed to be a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Britain, killing over twenty people and wounding many dozens more. BBC reported how the horror unfolded:

 

“The explosion happened in the foyer of Manchester Arena on Monday night, as crowds began leaving the concert. Witnesses – many of them teenage girls – said they heard a huge bang coming from outside the auditorium. Some mistook the bang of the bomb for exploding balloons, which had been released at the end of the concert. Parents waiting to pick up their families in the foyer said the noise of the explosion was followed by a flash of fire. Metal nuts and bolts were strewn around the floor among bodies and the smell of explosives was in the air, witnesses said. They also spoke about the fear and confusion that gripped the concert-goers, as they rushed for the exits. Police were called at 22:33 BST and streets surrounding the arena and Victoria station were sealed off. Twenty-two people were killed in the explosion, including an eight-year-old girl. A further 59 people, including 12 under the age of 16, were injured and taken to hospital.”

 

Prime Minister Theresa May would respond forcefully: “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.” A fun concert full of dancing and music ripped apart in an instant by a man bent on destruction. The victims mostly young kids. Terrified children fleeing. Parents desperately trying to find their kids while fervently praying that they might be safe – with some of those prayers sadly going unanswered. An evening of joy turned in an instant into a night of terror. Among the victims were eight-year-old Saffie Roussos and eighteen-year-old Georgina Callander (with many many more victims to be identified). And ISIS gleefully claimed credit. Can anyone doubt that evil is real?

President Trump’s remarks in the wake of this horrific attack would state, in part, that: “I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims. We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom … So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are.”

Trump is right about this. What else could you call someone who deliberately targets young innocent concertgoers? These acts are brazen, cowardly, and pathetic. “Evil losers” might seem simple or direct, but it is also exactly what they are.

Remember also what the President said in his speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday May 21st, where he attempted to draw a clear line between right and wrong, between good and evil, and between the civilized world and barbarism: “The true toll of ISIS, AL-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams … But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it. Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.”

Again, Trump is right about this. The terrorist group Hamas has itself admitted that they love death, saying: “We are truly a people who love death as much as our enemies love life.” This love for death is the unifying core of the jihadist organizations operating both near and in the far-flung corners of the world. As I have written previously: “ISIS has carried out spectacular terrorist attacks around the world, including the Pulse nightclub shooting, the San Bernardino massacre, the attacks in Nice, the Paris attacks, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Brussels bombings, the Istanbul attack, the Westminster attack, the Stockholm truck attack, and the recent bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday.” This is the worship of death. And let’s not forget about al-Qaeda’s brazen killing of innocent people over the years as well: the attack on Khobar Towers, the African Embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing, the Madrid train bombings, the London train bombings, the Bali nightclub attack, its attacks on our service members in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria and Somalia and Yemen and elsewhere, and of course the attacks of 9/11 that took 3,000 innocent lives. And the list goes on. Indeed, what else can you conclude when any territory controlled by these terrorist groups is marked by nothing but oppression, subjugation, slavery, crucifixion, torture, beheadings, and genocide? This, again, is the worship of death.

 

This murderous terrorism in Manchester was not nearly the first such attack and, sadly, it will not be the last. There are lots of these evil losers who worship death scattered amongst us and throughout the world, and, because of them, more innocent people will die. But here’s the good news: There is no sign that the United Kingdom, the United States, or our allies will somehow back down in the face of evil – indeed, our resolve grows only stronger. We have goodness, we have truth, we have righteousness, and we have the finest fighting force in the history of the world all on our side. Here’s the thing about worshiping death – life is more powerful and, if you’re Christian, you know that life has actually already conquered death. And the thing about evil is this – good is simply more powerful (always has been and always will be). And, finally, the thing about losers is this – in the end, well, they lose.

Ted Cruz: Not All Heroes Wear Capes. But None Wear RompHims.

Just yesterday, the Internet briefly united behind a fantastic new meme.  The Washington Free Beacon shared the picture of a straight-laced & suited Tom Cotton, a coffee-holding & peace-sign-giving Chuck Schumer, and a gym-clothes-clad Ben Sasse hanging out on the Hill along with the caption “Caption Contest”, and the responses were truly a glorious sight to behold, uniting the Twitterverse in some much-needed glee near the end of one of the most tumultuous political weeks in recent memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All truly hilarious responses.

But then came Ted Cruz, with the best response yet:

Slow. Clap.

Excellent.

For those somehow unaware (oh how I envy you), the RompHim is the KickStarter creation of ACED Design and is likely the most atrocious – but most easily mockable – fashion invention ever. That’s just a scientific fact. Worse than the fedora-worn-with-a-t-shirt look. Worse, even, than the man bun. And when a hero needed to arise to oppose the RompHim, Ted Cruz proudly answered that call.

Senator Cruz’s response set the Internet ablaze with laughter, but not everyone was happy. GQ – which apparently has decided to moonlight as the Fun Police when it isn’t hosting the truly absurd video rantings of the fired-from-ESPN-and-fired-from-MSNBC Keith Olbermann – was none too amused by Cruz’s tweet, putting out an angry article entitled “Ted Cruz Somehow Already Ruined RompHims” (as if that were somehow a bad thing). The article said, in part: “Few people look at Ted Cruz and think, Boy, now that’s a guy with a sense of humor. He has the comedic timing of a bag of rocks and yet, somehow manages to have the confidence of the actual Rock.” Wow. Someone’s mad – almost as mad as DeadSpin (I believe now legally renamed TedSpin) was when Ted Cruz mercilessly dunked on them earlier this year.

As Texas Monthly would put it in their Quote of the Day section today:

“Cruz was weighing in on a caption contest for a photo of Senators Ben Basse and Chuck Schumer, implying the New York Senator just bought a few RompHims, a fashion item geared toward men that blew up on the internet earlier this week for some odd reason. Shortly after Cruz’s tweet, the men’s style gatekeepers over at GQ promptly asserted that Cruz had just “ruined rompers for men.” The RompHim is dead, and Ted Cruz killed it. RIP, RompHim.

Ted Cruz: Slayer of Big Government, Crusader for Liberty, Killer of the RompHim. Let’s be very clear here – if Ted Cruz did just kill off RompHims, then he did the nation and indeed the entire world a great service. “Vote Ted Cruz: He Somehow Already Ruined RompHims” might just be the greatest campaign slogan of all time. Here’s hoping he has the same level of success in getting rid of Obamacare. So thank you, Senator. Not all heroes wear capes – but no heroes wear RompHims.

BREAKING: Special Counsel Named in Russia Investigation

The investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to and alleged collusion with Russia just heated up. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will act as special counsel in the ongoing Russia investigation. The New York Times provided further details:

 

“The appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians. It follows a swiftly moving series of developments that have roiled Washington, including Mr. Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the disclosure that the president urged Mr. Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.”

 

It is the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein making this announcement, and not the Attorney General Jeff Session himself making it, likely because AG Sessions had previously recused himself from the Russia investigation due to misstatements related to his meetings with the Russian ambassador Kislyak. In his carefully-crafted statement quoted by the Washington Post, Deputy AG Rosenstein made it clear that this was a very big deal, but also emphasized that this move should not be considered proof of any sort of guilt:

 

“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter … My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.’’

 

Robert Mueller is a highly-respected former director of the Bureau, serving as its head from 2001 to 2013. He guided the agency through the attacks of September 11, 2001 (becoming Director of the FBI just one week before 9/11) and he shaped its critical role during the Global War on Terrorism for over a decade. He is just about as serious and credible a person for this role as can be imagined.

Taste of Turkey: Erdogan’s Thugs Attack Americans in the Streets of D.C.

 

2ND UPDATE: New footage has emerged (see the two videos above). As a brief refresher, on Tuesday evening (the same day as the Turkish President Erdogan met with Donald Trump) bodyguards of Erdogan attacked a small group of peaceful protesters that had gathered outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in the District of Columbia. And now new video has emerged, provided by Voice of America and edited for clarity by The Reagan Battalion, that clearly shows that President Erdogan was himself not only present for the attack but also witnessed it with his own eyes — with circumstantial evidence even seeming to indicate that the bodyguards who carried out the assault were ordered to do so by Erdogan directly. Even before this new video emerged, some on Capitol Hill had begun to call for serious consequences for Turkey (including ejected their ambassador from the country) but so far the White House has been pretty quiet about what, if anything, it might do in response to this travesty. If “America First” is to mean anything, it must mean defending Americans from brutal assaults by foreign powers in the streets of our nation’s capital.

 

UPDATE: The Turkish government responded to the controversy with an official statement that stretched all credulity by actually blaming the peaceful protesters for the violence, linking these protesters to terrorists, and saying that Erdogan’s bodyguards were acting in self-defense as they mobbed the small group, beat them down, and kicked them in their faces. The statement is as follows:

“Groups affiliated with the PKK which the U.S. and Turkey have designated as a terrorist organization, gathered yesterday without permit in Sheridan Circle in the immediate vicinity of the Ambassador’s Residence, while the President of Turkey was visiting the Residence. The demonstrators began aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President. The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured. The violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration. We hope that, in the future, appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that similar provocative actions causing harm and violence do not occur.”

Oh good, the classic Her-Dress-Was-Too-Short-So-She-Had-It-Coming Defense. Because “self defense” means chasing people down and hitting them until they bleed. Because Erdogan’s bodyguards were “provoked” into kicking men and women in the face. Absurd. Patently, ridiculously, utterly absurd.

 

 

ORIGINAL: A violent video (see above) generating hundreds of thousands of views was posted by Voice of America Turkish (and then re-posted by Voice of America in English as well) yesterday evening, showing a shocking scene taking place outside an embassy – a large group of Turkish supporters facing off against a much smaller group of pro-Kurdish / pro-Armenian / anti-Erdogan protesters. It really must be seen to believed. In the video, the Erdogan supporters suddenly surged forward and begin attacking the protesters, chasing them, surrounding them, beating them, knocking them down, and continuing to kick them in the face even as they lay motionless on the ground, all while police desperately tried to push the attackers back. Body guards for Turkish President Erdogan himself feature prominently in the fray and, in a very brief moment of terrible funhouse mirror “gender equality”, they don’t limit their attacks just to the male pro-Kurdish protesters — strollers are overturned and women are shamelessly attacked and kicked and bloodied by the pro-Turkish group as well.

 

This display of iron-fisted thuggery – the government of Turkey brutally suppressing a protest by a group of Kurds and anti-Erdogan protesters – didn’t take place in some far-flung province within the confines of the Republic of Turkey, but instead took place on the streets of our nation’s capital just outside the Turkish Embassy right here in Washington D.C. against American citizens. And the men dishing out the beatdowns weren’t just some random thugs – NBC confirmed that these thugs were the personal security detail for Turkish President Erdogan himself, with Andrea Mitchell tweeting out: “US officials confirm to NBC News men who beat protesters outside Turkish Embassy in DC are Pres. Erdogan’s bodyguards.” And, as Voice of America reports, even the Turkish Ambassador to the United States himself got personally involved too, screaming at one of the police officers attempting to keep the peace. It must be said that Washington D.C.’s police department put forward a valiant effort and should be lauded for their efforts, but the clear Turkish disregard for the authority of our capital’s police as well as our nation’s laws was appalling and galling – despite clear orders from officers to stop, dark-suited Erdogan supporters relentlessly surround protesters and put boots right into their faces. This all took place on the same day that U.S. President Trump met with Turkey’s President Erdogan — a meeting in which Erdogan had the audacity to critique U.S. foreign policy as well as its support for Syria’s Kurds in their battle against ISIS. The chaotic scene outside of the embassy would go little-reported most of yesterday, but, once it started to take off on Twitter, mainstream news outlets began providing coverage.

 

As the New York Times reported:

 

“A group of demonstrators started to chant anti-Erdogan slogans and held up placards that read “Free Demirtas,” a reference to Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed leader of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P. A separate group waving Turkish flags arrived and started chanting slogans in support of Mr. Erdogan, the VOA reported. The verbal stand off then turned physical … Demonstrators and the police and members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team clashed last year outside the Brookings Institute in Washington where he was giving a speech about the Middle East. The institute wrote on its website then that his bodyguards had “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or Chinese.”

 

And as CNN’s reporting made clear:

 

“About two dozen demonstrators showed up outside of the embassy just hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House. ‘We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria and in Iraq,’ said Flint Arthur of Baltimore, Maryland. Arthur accused Erdogan supporters of breaching police lines and attacking protesters on at least three separate occasions. A Facebook video captured at the scene shows several protesters covered in blood. ‘They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey,’ Arthur said. ‘They stopped us for a few minutes … but we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.’”

 

Also, The Guardian provided critical context as well:

 

“‘All of the sudden they just ran towards us,’ Yazidi Kurd demonstrator Lucy Usoyan told ABC, adding that she was attacked by a pro-Erdoğan supporter. ‘Someone was beating me in the head nonstop, and I thought, Okay, I’m on the ground already, what is the purpose to beat me?’ The altercation came the same day that Erdoğan met Donald Trump at the White House. The State Department declined to comment. Earlier Trump and Erdoğan had stood side by side at the White House and promised to strengthen strained ties despite the Turkish leader’s stern warning about Washington’s arming of a Kurdish militia. Fresh from securing his grip on Turkey with a referendum to enhance his powers, Erdoğan came to the Oval Office with complaints about US support for Kurdish fighters and what Ankara says is Washington’s harbouring of the mastermind of a failed coup.”

 

A number of U.S. Senators began to weigh in and condemn Erdogan over this as well. Senator John McCain tweeted out that, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior.” And Senator Ben Sasse would issue a very direct message too: “President Erdogan, you would do well to remember that this country is built on free speech, free religion, free press, & freedom to protest.”

 

The DC Police Department held a press conference earlier today where they made clear statements about their investigation of the violent event (which I transcribed below): “Yesterday afternoon, we witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protesters at the Turkish Ambassador’s residence at the 1600 Block of 23rd Street Northwest. As a result of the incident, eleven people and one police officer were injured. Nine of those who were injured were taken to local hospitals where they were treated and released. This incident required additional police resources and involvement from our partners at DC Fire & EMS and extended road closures … We were able to make two arrests on the scene … We intend to ensure that there is accountability for anyone that was involved in this assault. I’m very encouraged by earlier conversations that I had with my federal partners at the State Department and at the U.S. Secret Service who have pledged to be fully cooperative in assisting and in holding the folks that were responsible accountable … This is not the sort of thing that we tolerate. This is a city where people should be allowed to come and peacefully protest.” Questions about whether the Secret Service had arrested some of Erdogan’s body guards only to release them at the behest of the State Department remained unanswered.

 

And, per Katie Pavlich of Townhall, instead of strongly condemning the inexcusable actions of Erdogan’s bodyguards, the White House itself is stonewalling and refusing to answer any questions about the incident: “According to pool report, Spicer refused to issue White House comment on Erdogan’s body guards beating up Americans, deferred to State Dept.”

 

A follow-up report from CNN would provide updates directly from the State Department, with State condemning the attack, claiming that they’ll hold the perpetrators accountable, and confirming that Turkish government officials were directly involved in the assault:

 

“The US State Department said it is ‘concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel’ in a statement on Wednesday. ‘Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,’ the statement said. ‘We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.’ A State Department official said the Turkish security that was involved appears to be a mix of Turkish embassy and Erdogan security staff.”

 

None of this should surprise anyone, of course. Erdogan rules his nation as an authoritarian under a self-declared state of emergency, and he recently pulled off a constitutional referendum fraught with voter suppression and voter fraud – a referendum that consolidated his hold on power and swept aside many of the democratic structures that made modern Turkey a secular republic. Erdogan has shut down the independent press and has hammered away at Turkey’s secular constitutional framework. And of course Erdogan’s terrible treatment and oppression of the Kurds living within Turkey’s borders and of tens of thousands of other political opponents is well documented too. Erdogan continues to do great harm to the great & proud nation that he rules — his revanchist Islamism & authoritarianism is a serious problem and must be recognized as such. Excellent primers on Erdogan’s dictatorial aspirations can be found via National Review (“Erdogan’s Win Pushes Turkey Toward Dictatorship”), The Daily Beast (“Here’s How Turkey Lurched From Democracy Toward Dictatorship”), and Foreign Policy (Turkey is a Dictatorship Masquerading as a NATO Democracy”).  And as I’ve written previously: “It’s high time that America stood up for the good people of Turkey and stood up against this second-rate sultan.”

 

Let’s be very clear: Turkey’s Erdogan thought that he could bring his version of thuggery and authoritarianism along with him into the United States without consequences. It is incumbent upon our nation’s leaders to make sure he doesn’t get away with it here — every single thug involved in assaulting peaceful protesters must be held accountable regardless of the ballyhooing over at the State Department — and this should be an event that spurs our nation into making sure that Erdogan reverses course at home as well. Speaking out against Erdogan helps. Condemning him for oppressing his people helps. Bringing these assailants to justice helps. And arming the Kurds in their fight against the Islamic State isn’t a bad start either.

BREAKING: Congress Asks FBI for Comey Memos and Calls on Comey to Testify

In a day rocked by revelation after revelation – from President Trump’s tweets defending his discussions with the Russians in the Oval Office to General McMaster’s press conference, and from the controversy over the Trump administration’s equivocation on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel (hint: it is) to the disclosure that the intelligence discussed by Trump with Lavrov & Kysliak originated with Israel – yet another potential bombshell dropped this evening. The New York Times reported that James Comey – fired from the FBI by President Trump exactly one week ago today (and apparently known for being an extremely meticulous note-taker) – had written a memo alleging that, back in February of this year, President Trump seemingly pressured him to drop the FBI investigation into Mike Flynn (which he declined to do):

 

“President Trump asked the FBI director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting. ‘I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. The evidence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia … The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation … ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. ‘He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ … Mr. Comey created similar memos – including some that are classified – about every phone call and meeting he had with the president.”

 

The White House swiftly issued a flat denial of the allegations, stating in part:

 

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn … The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies and all investigations. This [report] is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

 

So, with the New York Times report on Comey’s memo alleging interference on the part of President Trump and with the White House claiming it never happened, it became clear that both sides couldn’t be right — and so some members of Congress began to assert their powers to get to the bottom of this. Notably, Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, said that Congress deserved to see the memo in question immediately, and that he was already in the process of making sure the truth came to light. In an interview with NBC, Chaffetz was very direct:

 

Q: Reax to Comey memo?

Chaffetz: “If the memo exists, I need to see it and I need to see it right away. We are drafting the ncessary paperwork to get the memo so we will find out in a hurry if it’s out there.”

Q: appropriate for president to ask FBI Director to shut down investigation?

Chaffetz: “I want to read the memo first but on the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI. I don’t know if it’s true yet but I want to find out if that’s actually out there.”

Q: you could subpoena these memos or Comey?

Chaffetz: “Yes, if it’s out there, I’m gunna need to see it and I’ll use every tool we have to get it.”

 

Chaffetz even took to Twitter to directly state: “@GOPOversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.” And, just a few minutes ago, the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform sent a letter directly to acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, stating that “If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen. Flynn. So the Committee can consider that question, and others, provide, no later than May 24, 2017, all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President.” Essentially, he asked for all of the Comey memos that the FBI might have in its possession. You can see Chaffetz’s full letter here.

 

After previously declining to testify in closed session in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, many of Comey’s associates predicted that he was absolutely willing to testify – as long as his testimony could be publicly broadcast out to the nation. Well, whether public testimony had been his initial plan or not, it seems like Congress is now likely to force his hand and to compel his public appearance. Senator Lindsey Graham has now repeated his request for Comey to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee, and, after seeing the comments from Congressman Jason Chaffetz demanding to see the Comey memo, Congressman Justin Amash made it clear that he wanted to hear from Comey immediately and publicly:

 

“The allegations reportedly contained in the memo are incredibly serious. Mr. Comey also needs to testify in open session ASAP.”

 

The James Comey saga had been briefly pushed out of the news only when the Trump-Russia Oval Office intelligence discussion controversy consumed the last 24-hour news cycle, but there’s no doubt that he is back at the forefront again. Make no mistake: the allegations supposedly contained in the Comey memo couldn’t be more serious. In his heartfelt farewell letter to the FBI last week, Comey had said “It is done.” In hindsight, it’s safe to say that was a bit premature.