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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Broken Trust


          Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Most of us have. How did it affect the relationship. How did the betrayal affect your opinion of that person? Did you ever trust them again?

Have you ever had a leader you didn’t trust? Again, most of us have. It may have been at work, in a social club, or a bowling league. Think about what that was like. How effective was that leader? How was the group’s morale? How efficient was the team?

            A wise friend of mine once said, “Trust is like porcelain. It can be mended, but the crack will always remain.”

            For the last six years, we have consistently betrayed and disrespected friends while broadcasting weakness to enemies. Our enemies now act with aggression unseen since 1945, emboldened by our empty words. Our allies withhold support, fearful of being left holding the bag.

            We insulted Great Britain by returning their gift of a bust of Winston Churchill and reciprocating the British gift of a desk made from timbers of the HMS Victory with an Ipod preloaded with the President’s speeches…Classy. We then forced Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to enter the Whitehouse through the back door on his first visit with our current commander in chief, who left in the middle of important talks to have dinner with his family while the leader of our strongest ally in the Middle East ‘worked things out’ with staffers. Our government also insists on calling ISIS ISIL, as slap in the face to every Israeli. Then, in an unbelievable act of betrayal and insensitivity, we announced the cancelation of the planned missile shield intended to defend Poland on September 17th, 2009, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of that very country. Lastly, we cannot forget the American promise of protection to the Ukraine in exchange for dismantling their nuclear arsenal.

            Conversely, we have been very cozy with Hugo Chavez, promised ‘more flexibility’ to Putin regarding further degradations in European missile defense, and are now reaching out to Iran for help with ISIS (the non-Islamic Islamic state).

            So why can’t the President build a meaningful coalition to face ISIS or Russia?

Nobody trusts us.

I say “us” because the people committing these acts are elected by us. They represent us. And, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, they are us.

            The same holds true domestically. Campaign promises of prosperity for all have given way to the reality of massive increases in regulation, entitlements, and unemployment. Let’s not forget the skyrocketing national debt and the devaluation of the dollar.

            Businesses, like our global allies, must have faith in the future before they invest in it.

They don’t.

Excessive regulation by agencies from the IRS to the EPA continue to tighten the noose around both large and small businesses. When companies comply with the regulations, they change again. This uncertainty is poison to an economy. It discourages businesses from investment and growth.

Business is about numbers and number don’t lie. The media can spin the truth, but they can’t change it. Companies are sitting on top of huge reserves of cash, afraid to risk it on the unpredictable whims of autocrats.

            So why can’t the President revive this sluggish economy?

            Nobody trusts the government.

Nor do they trust a fickle public more concerned what happened in a casino elevator than the events at the American consulate in Benghazi, at least not when it comes to choosing leaders to set us back on course.

So there it is.

American impotence, foreign and domestic, can be pinned on a lack of trust. Our friends don’t trusts us to honor our commitments. Our enemies know we can’t be trusted to stop them. And our financial sector can’t trust its own government to play be the rules.

In the end it is us, the American people, who bear the burden of this predicament as well as the blame.

We elected these unscrupulous incompetents as a nation.

We ignored the results of their bungling as a culture.

We can, however, repair the damage they have done, but only if we act as a free and vigilant people.

We can take the first step in rebuilding America’s reputation in 2016.

By simply voting, speaking out, and demanding integrity from those we elect, we can restore America to her rightful place as the global beacon of freedom…love by her people, trusted by her friends, and feared by her enemies.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Will Bin Laden Have the Last Laugh?

           


            Yesterday, on the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I found myself once again reflecting upon that day and the differences in the world before and after.

            Thankfully, we haven’t experienced another attack on that scale since that day. Our intelligence and military services have done an outstanding job in combating Islamic threats. Many have sacrificed much to keep us safe and I am proud to have played a small part in that.

But that isn’t the whole story…

            Remember when metal detectors were the only security needed at the airport? I do. I also remember when the people who feared their communications being monitored by the government were kooks and the police didn’t drive MRAPs.

            I even remember a time thirty years ago, during the Cold War, when the ‘commies’ were the bad guys and we weren’t afraid to call them that.  I remember a President with the courage to refer to the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. I can still hear his command, “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear. Down. This. Wall.” His words struck like hammer blows.

            We knew who the bad guys were and weren’t afraid to admit it. It was a cold war, but war nonetheless. We knew what it took to beat them and we did it with neither excuse nor concession. Those were the days before political correctness.

            Those days are gone.

            Today, America’s second longest war turns 13. In spite of continued attacks, aggression, threats, and foiled terror plots, the media and Whitehouse policy are in chronic denial about the threat we face from the ‘religion of peace.’

            Terrorist acts are now called ‘workplace violence’ or ‘man-caused disasters.’ 80 year-old grannies are stopped at TSA checkpoints just as often as Middle Eastern males between the ages of 16 and 45.

            This narrative of the religion of peace is propagated in the media as well. When was the last TV show or movie you saw in which the Muslim was a bad guy? When the movie version of Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears was made, the Muslim terrorists were replaced by neo-Nazis. News outlets do all they can to deny Islamic radicals too, warning instead of the threat of right-wing extremists. Last night, the President led his ISIS remarks by declaring the group is not Islamic.

Really?

(Dr. Bill Warner has a presentation which shows how ISIS fits perfectly into Islamic philosophy and are no different than the prophet himself. See it here.)

For years, we have bent over backwards to deny the savagery committed in the name of Allah. We have bowed to the mandates of political correctness and we have paid the price. It must be said that this President not the only one to do so, but he does seem to be the most adamant about it.

Here are just a very few examples of the damage done while we buried our heads in the sand:

2009

·       The administration abandoned the T-word for the more benign term “man-caused disasters.”

·       13 unarmed soldiers were killed and over 30 wounded by a Muslim soldier shouting, “Allah uh Akbar!” on Fort Hood, Texas. This was called “workplace violence” by the administration. The victims were denied the purple, which meant that the survivors and families of the fallen would not receive the benefits they deserved. (Berkowitz/World News, 2013)

·       Citizens of Iran rise up against their government in the wake of elections they believe to be corrupt. America offers them no support. Many are arrested and killed.

2010

·       Arab Spring begins in December in Tunisia and soon spread to Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. The administration choses to back the Muslim Brotherhood in spite of their radical, anti-western, anti-Semitic, philosophies.

2011

·       We pulled out of a ‘stable’ Iraq, leaving a void of power without having any idea who would fill it.

·       Syrian uprising against President al-Assad. America backs the rebels, many of whom are linked to Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

·       Libya revolts. America backs the Muslim Brotherhood with supplies and air strikes. The rebels take over the country, murder Khadafy, and install an ant-American Islamic government.

·       Egypt falls. Thousands of Christians are murdered and hundreds of churches are destroyed. America does nothing.

·       Iranian citizens rise again, attempting to shed the yolk of radical Islam and are put down once again with an iron fist. Once again, America does nothing.

2012

·       Iraq’s vice president is charged with murder and flees the county. Iraq begins its spiral into civil war. America does nothing.

·       The same year – The American ambassador to Libya is murdered along with three other Americans in a well-planned and coordinated assault. The attack is painted as a spontaneous response to a YouTube video. The maker of that video is imprisoned. The attackers remain free.

2013

·       Syrian government is accused of using chemical weapons against rebel forces. The administration urges American to aid the rebels, including U.S. troops on the ground. The initial claims are refuted by many in the international community who say evidence points to the rebels being the initiators of the chemical attack.

·       ISIS grows out of the Syrian resistance and sets its sights westward toward Iraq. Intelligence services inform the administration of this development. Nothing happens.

·       The Boston Marathon is hit with two homemade explosive devises killing 3 and injuring 263 others. The two suspects are Muslim immigrants. This aspect is downplayed by the media and administration.

2014

·       Well, you get the point. Just turn on the TV.

 

The administration may deny the enemy, but they cannot deny the threat.

As such, they must cast an ever wider net to catch ‘bad guys’ instead of focusing on the one group that has conducted every attack since Oklahoma City 19 years ago. Our reluctance to identify the bad guys has muddied the water, causing every American to become a terror suspect.(At least I hope that's the reason, anything else is too terrible to go into here.)

Recent revelations of governmental agencies spying on, targeting, harassing, or otherwise molesting innocent Americans in the name of security have a lot of people wondering if it’s gone too far.

When two dudes with explosive pressure cookers can shut down one of the city of Boston and cause its residents to effectively be placed under martial law, we got problems.

When the IRS and other agencies are weaponized and used to target citizens and groups based purely on political beliefs, we got problems.

When Americans must censor their own speech out of fear that someone is listening, we got BIG problems.

When veterans,Christians, libertarians, Constitutionalists, soccer moms, and Tea Partiers are considered as big a threat as jihadists, we got HUGE problems.

Are we moving from a philosophy of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to one of ‘if you havenothing to hide, you have nothing to fear?’

If we treated radical Islam today as we treated communism all those years ago, we could effectively manage this threat both globally and domestically without turning every American into a suspect.

Between 1917 and 1991, we defeated imperialism, fascism, and communism in rapid succession. Those adversaries had the military and economic might of nation states with millions of troops and the latest military hardware. We faced annihilation at their hands, but we still respected freedom at home and abroad (except for the Japanese internment camps which were a disgrace). We didn’t militarize our police. We didn’t restrict travel. We didn’t eavesdrop on every citizen and we didn’t shred the Constitution. We faced the enemy head-on. We called it what it was.

And we were victorious.

Today, a few scruffy savages are able to terrorize us into surrendering our rights for the sake of a little imaginary security.

Al-Qaeda's goal 13 years ago was to weaken America, to make us prisoners of our own fear. It didn't work then, but, if we continue down our current path, the result will be that same. We will succeed where they failed in bringing our own country to its knees, so afraid of these boogeymen that we gladly give away what's left of our rights, becoming prisoners in our own homeland. And in doing so, we will invite tyranny the likes of which this country has never seen.
Then Bin Laden's victory will be complete.
 
 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Why We Write


This blog has always been a head scratcher for me. I wrote a book because I had something to say. I started a blog because that’s what authors are supposed to do. The problem was that the stuff I wanted to blog about wasn’t the kind of stuff writers are supposed to talk about, so I tried to blog like writer. I posted book reviews and other ‘writer stuff’ that seemed to fit the mold, but it was about as appetizing as plain oatmeal and as inspiring as the ingredient label.

It wasn’t me.

I still couldn’t resist writing about the mess going on in Iraq. Heck, in September of 2012 (two year ago!), I ask the question, “Is Iraq headed for civil war?” There were a few more posts like that as well. They felt right, but that isn’t what writers are supposed to talk about. So I held my peace and soon lost interest as this page gathered dust month after month. I had plenty to say about politics, foreign policy, society, etc, but no place to say it. After all, writers can’t be political. They have to be neutral as not to alienate readers…don’t they?

Then I asked, “What would the great authors blog about?” Would Orwell post pictures of cuddly kittens and host guest blogs by Faulkner about the differences between metaphors and similes?

I doubt it.

I can imaging Mark Twain’s thoughts on the subject. Maybe something like, “A neutral writer is a neutered writer.”

 

That brings me to last Friday morning.

I stood in the courthouse, my eldest son by my side, in front of friends, family, and the citizens of our county to renew my oath of office. As I recited those words, another oath taken in May of 1997 came to mind.

 

“I, Robert Mathis, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of second lieutenant do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

 

It was the oath I swore when commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army.

That morning stirred something inside me that has been simmering for a long time, something that’s been tugging from a place I couldn’t see.

For years, I have been blessed to speak on behalf of our men and women in uniform on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day in schools, churches, and other venues. On these occasions, I have done my best to extol the virtues of honor, duty, and patriotism. When these opportunities arose, I spoke with passion and purpose because I believed in what I said.

In thinking about this, I came to realize what’s been nagging me all this time.

In a word: Duty.

To my knowledge, the oath I swore over seventeen years ago has no expiration date. It still binds me. It always will.

I have an obligation to promote America and the ideals that made her great, to defend them from all enemies, foreign and domestic…And two times a year just ain’t gonna cut it.

I now understand that I am not a writer who is patriotic. I am a patriot who writes.

That’s why I’m relaunching this blog under the name Steel on Target—to conduct a vigorous defense of liberty, justice, honor, and the other virtues that have kept America strong and free for 240 years.

This is not a place for rants, hatred, or demagoguery. It is, instead, a place to discuss the ideas and issues that face our country and society in an honest and concise way that is sorely needed.

I invite you to join me in this endeavor.

Our nation faces threats politically, militarily, and culturally from sources both foreign and domestic. We will apply logic, reason, and historical precedent to find and promote solutions to these issues.

So let’s identify the problems, arm ourselves with Truth, and put steel on target.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's the Rush to Attack Syria?

     As U.N. inspectors continue to investigate exactly what happened in Syria, the U.N. leadership finds itself begging the U.S. not to act until the investigation is complete.

http://news.msn.com/world/un-inspectors-still-checking-stricken-syria-areas

http://news.msn.com/world/ban-ki-moon-pleads-for-time-on-syria-investigation

     In the meanwhile, President Obama has already told PBS Newshour, "We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out."
    
http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&date=20130828&id=16826165&ocid=msnnws

     How can anybody 'conclude' anything before the investigation is complete? And if he can, why even conduct it? If what the President says is correct, the entire investigation is unnecessary. It reminds me an old cowboy movies where the posse catches a guy and tell him, "We're gonna give ya a fair trial and then we're gonna hang ya."

     But what if there is evidence that it was the rebels conducted the attack? Some say here is.

http://news.antiwar.com/2013/08/28/syria-three-other-chemical-attacks-by-rebels-in-same-area/

     How do we know who is responsible? Why should we act without even consulting our own congress? What about the inevitable collateral damage that will kill even more innocent Syrians? And above all, why are we in such a dang hurry? And why is Russia Today the only news outlet (besides Fox News) asking these questions?


    The whole thing just doesn't smell right.

   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria...Why?


It seems our government is hell bent on attacking Syria in response to the recent alleged chemical weapon attack against the rebels fighting to overthrow the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

            There is no question that the use of chemical weapons is inhuman and inexcusable, but what, if anything, should the U.S. do about it? This case is unclear at best. The administration is beating the war drum so loudly, no other voice can be heard. Everyone from the Commander in Chief to the Veep, Press Secretary, and the Secretary of Defense are speaking as if restraint is not even an option.





 

After reading several pieces about the ‘Syria situation,’ and focusing on the words from our own officials, I have some serious concerns and a whole lot of questions. Here are just a few:

1. Are we sure there was a chemical attack? Sure, we’ve seen footage of victims on TV, but has there been any evidence presented to confirm a chemical attack? If so, what was chemical was it? Was it a persistent agent or one that disperses rapidly? We should know that by now, especially before going forward with military plans. And if those plans are carried out and we put boots on the ground, we MUST know what these weapons are because our troops will be prime targets for them.

2. Are we sure Assad did it? If the chemical attack really did happen, who conducted it? Which side would benefit most from images of dead children spread around the world in viral videos? Again, we better be sure who is responsible before we are tricked into a conflict that could pull in Russia, China, Iran, and who knows who else.

3. What are our objectives? If we can prove definitively that there was a chemical attack and that Assad is responsible, what do we do? What do we hope to accomplish? Yes, what happened in Syria is terrible, but what about the civil war that has raged in Darfur for ten years? Current estimates put the death toll at 300,000.


        Are we moved to action by murder using mustard gas, but not machetes? The administration has stated that Syrian regime change is not the goal of any military strikes. They just want to punish Assad. Really? Is that why we’ve been supplying weapons, food, medical supplies, and money to the rebels for months?
This leads to the next question.

4. Who are the good guys? There are none. This is Egypt and Libya all over again. Yes, the dictators in those countries sucked, but at they were better than the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a big player in the Syrian resistance. How many times does it take to learn our lesson? Assad is a thug, but at least he keeps to himself.

5. What about Russia, China, Iran, etc.? This is the most troubling part of the debate. It also seems to be the part least addressed by our government. What are the consequences of drawing these countries in to the conflict? Everyone has drawn lines in the sand. No one wants to look weak. It isn’t difficult to imagine this situation snowballing as the assignation of Archduke Ferdinand did in 1914.
        
6. Where have all the doves gone? Where are all the politicians who advocated caution and restraint when George Bush was making his case for attacking Iraq? Two of the most vocal at that time, John Kerry and Joe Biden, are now cheering the loudest for action. Their rhetoric is akin to shouting, “Attack! Attack! Attack!” Why was it bad to strike then, but good now? After all, Saddam Hussein killed THOUSANDS of people in multiple chemical attacks. Could it be that this is a convenient distraction from the recent scandals? Is this a chance to reclaim some ‘street cred’ for the administration? I hope not, but it sure does look that way.

7. What are our national interests? How does this situation threaten our security, sovereignty, or economy? This is the most important question because it illustrates the only instances that military force is justified. In other words, the only occasion in which killing others and putting our own sons and daughters in harms way is acceptable is when it is done in self defense. Is this self defense?  It's a question few are asking. As I stated above, the world is a dangerous place with lots of evil people. Always has been. Always will be. We can't change that. We don't run the world. We shouldn't try to either.

 
I found this video a few months ago. It's been on my mind a lot recently.
This is what it will be like on the ground if this situation gets out of hand.
 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Has the Iraqi Civil War Begun?

According to NBC, the U.S. government is reporting that Iraq is now in a state of civil war.

Here is the NBC report:


 
 
 
 

     I wrote a detailed blog post about the situation last September outlining the powder keg of simmering hatreds and political conflicts just waiting to explode.

     Much like the Balkans after the exit of the Soviet Union, Iraq is set to become a nexus of brutality and genocide. But the danger doesn't stop there.

     The ethnic/religious nature of this war which pits Arab against Kurd and Sunni against Shia will almost certainly pull neighboring countries Iran and Syria into the fray. This conflict could potentially spread to Jordan, Turkey, and even Saudi Arabia. If it does, I can't begin to guess how high gas prices will jump...and it will happen very quickly, just as it has every other time the region becomes more unstable than usual. One can only imagine what effect this would have on fragile Western economies.

  
    














Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review: King of Thorns


 
 
 
It isn’t often that you come across a book that changes the way you see an entire genre, a book that becomes the measuring stick for others that come after it. Mark Lawrence has managed to write two such works. Even more amazingly, they are his first published novels.

In the fantasy genre, George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire is the current heavyweight champ. I enjoy ASoIaF and it truly is an epic achievement. I'm also enjoying the HBO's adaptation.

That being said, Lawrence’s style is very different from Martin's, but I found it just as enjoyable. Compared to the glacial pace of Martin’s books, Lawrence’s sail along at a nice clip. Lawrence’s writing is also much more focused and visceral than Martin’s.

King of Thorns is the second book in The Broken Empire series. Both KoT and its predecessor, Prince of Thorns follow the protagonist (if you could call him that, but more on this later), Honorous Jorg Ancrath.

Jorg is the son of one of the many kings to arise on the former European continent centuries after some long ago apocalypse. His goal is to reunite (and rule, of course) the Empire. That’s all I’ll say about the plot. I hate spoilers.

Lawrence’s prose is clean, flowing, witty, and deep. His storytelling is fast-paced, gritty, and contemplative. He not only tells one heck of a story, but also explores the ‘why’ of it. Why is Jorg such an evil, self-centered little snot? Why do his followers remain loyal to him? And why can’t I keep myself from liking him?

This is the brilliance of Lawrence’s writing. He gives us a protagonist that, in any other book, would be reviled. He mixes three parts narcissism, two parts genius, one part charisma, and a pinch of humanity and comes out with a character that we know we should hate, but end up cheering for. This is no small accomplishment. Not since Mike Myers’ Doctor Evil has a villain been so appealing…and he was a boy scout compared to Jorg.

But Lawrence doesn’t stop there. His examinations of the inner workings and motives of his characters reveal insights into human nature that could teach a psychology major a thing or two.

Again, I now find myself comparing much of what I read to Lawrence’s work. Sadly, most books are found wanting in its shadow. It’s hard to go back to ground round once you’ve had filet mignon. I guess this is the only criticism I have for this series so far. It spoils you.

If King of Thorns does ruin other books for you, take heart. Emperor of Thorns is scheduled for release this August. The anticipation will make it taste all the sweeter.