Thursday, June 30, 2016

South Carolina man stops a mass shooting at a nightclub with a concealed firearm.

The suspect, Jody Ray Thompson. SCSO handout. 

A shooting at a nightclub was stopped when a concealed carry permit holder pulled out his firearm and shot the suspect. WISTV. The shooting occurred at the Playoffz nightclub at 3:30 am. Jody Ray Thompson has been accused of pulling out his firearm during an argument and shooting at the people gathered outside the club. He hit three people but when he almost hit a fourth, the man pulled out his own firearm and shot back. Thompson was hit in the leg and ceased firing. The man had a valid CCW permit and will not be charged with anything. None of the victims in this case sustained life threatening injuries and the suspect was charged with four counts of attempted murder and two weapons charges. 

My Comment:
Quite a contrast between this and the Pulse nightclub shooting. While the coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting was massive and pervasive, this story fell through the cracks. Indeed, the only reason I heard about it is because people on Reddit made it trend. I'm no fan of Reddit but I occasionally visit their pro-Trump subreddit, The Donald. The dedicated people at that subreddit were able to get the story to trend both on Reddit and outside of it. It just goes to show how popular that particular subreddit is. 

It's not surprising that the story didn't trend before that. The media doesn't like it when their narrative is challenged and this is a direct challenge to their claim that concealed carry permit holders could not stop a mass shooting. Though this shooting doesn't quite count because the suspect was put down before he hit four people, it's still an example of a shooting at a nightclub being stopped. I believe President Obama said something to the effect of it being "lunacy" for people to bring guns to a nightclub. This case is direct evidence that he was wrong. 

Ever since I have started this blog I have been posting about mass shootings and concealed carry. In some cases it only helps to delay the attackers, like the case in Pakistan where a hero professor bought time for his students during a Taliban terrorist attack. That also seems to be the case during the Chattanooga shooting as well, where concealed carry owners fired back at an Islamic terrorist. In another case, a man with a gun stopped another Islamic terrorist attack at a food processing plant

Part of the reason I started this blog is that these stories rarely make it to the news. And the headlines when they do cover it often buries the lead. In the attack at the food processing plant, the headlines covered the fact that he beheaded someone, and not that a man stopped him with a gun. And nobody really heard of the case in Pakistan. The media just doesn't like covering stories where civilians use their guns to save lives. Most of these stories stay local unless there are extraordinary circumstances or someone tries to make it go viral. 

And before people point it out, yes I am aware that there were cops at the Pulse nightclub. They tried and failed to stop Omar Mateen, and that was tragic. But that doesn't change the facts of this case. A mass shooting happened at a nightclub and was stopped by a CCW holder. Nobody is arguing that concealed carry is a panacea for all mass shootings. But we are saying that at least it gives people a chance. And I would argue that the cops actions in the Pulse case bought time for people to escape as well. Having good guys with guns on the scene at least gives people a chance and can stop the attack before it spirals out of control. 

That's what happened in this case. This man opened fire on a large crowd of people and then was stopped when a CCW holder shot him. What would have happened if he wasn't there? Would more people have been shot? Would someone have died? And would the suspect have avoided arrest? Without knowing more about the case, it's hard to tell, but I honestly can't believe that the outcome wouldn't have been worse then it was now. 

You know what didn't happen? The old gun control lie that CCW holders would result in an orgy of shooting as nobody would know who the bad guy and who the good guy was. That didn't happen. Why? Because people aren't idiots, and people that CCW are even less likely to be morons. As far as I know the doomsday scenario that gun control adovcates talk about hasn't ever happened. But this is just one in a long line of events where a good guy with a gun either stopped a mass shooting or bought time for people to escape. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

US airstrikes annihilate ISIS convoy, killing 250 fighters near Fallujah.

The ISIS flag seen in Fallujah after the fall of the city. Reuters. 

US officials claim that the latest round of airstrikes in Iraq utterly destroyed a convoy of 40 ISIS vehicles and killed as many as 250 fighters. Reuters. The strike is the most deadly one conducted against ISIS if the casualty figures are correct, though the current numbers are just the preliminary estimates. The strikes took place south of the recently liberated city of Fallujah. Though ISIS has been pushed back in both Iraq and Syria, their capability to conduct terrorist attacks has not been reduced. ISIS is thought to be responsible for the massive terrorist attack in Istanbul, Turkey. Though ISIS has lost the battle of Fallujah and is being pushed hard in Manbij in Syria, they have also made advances against rebels in Syria. 

My Comment:
Interesting report out of Iraq. I wonder how true it is. It is very possible that the numbers are incorrect. My guess is that they have been inflated a bit because to my knowledge there weren't that many ISIS fighters left in the Fallujah area. If this report is true then they have been almost completely wiped out in the region. 

If it is true then it is a huge blow to ISIS. Losing 250 fighters is a decent percentage of their total number of troops and to lose them in one set of airstrikes is devastating. Losing those troops in an airstrike is worse then losing them in a traditional battle because in a traditional battle they probably would have taken a few of their enemies with them. In short, losing fighters this way is a complete waste for ISIS and a major victory for anti-ISIS forces.

Another factor is that ISIS didn't just lose fighters. They also lost a decent number of vehicles. The report says they lost 40 vehicles but did not say if those were civilian trucks and cars or if they were military vehicles like Humvees, APC's or perhaps even tanks. The loss of those vehicles is huge. Even the civilian vehicles can be used for car bombs and can be converted into machine gun armed technicals. The military vehicles can also be used for tougher car bombs and for their more traditional role as assault vehicles. 

Either way, all of those vehicles are irreplaceable, especially the military ones. ISIS has no way to replace vehicle losses because they have no vehicle production of their own. Everything they have they either recovered from the enemy or stole. Though they do have skill in making their own makeshift APC's but those are of much worse quality than the purpose built ones. And they require the same kind of civilian vehicles that ISIS lost in this raid.  

I am kind of confused what those ISIS fighters were doing south of Fallujah anyways. Were they they last survivors from Fallujah trying to evacuate? If so, then how were they able to escape the troops besieging the city? If not, what were they doing there? Was this a counterattack that was completely destroyed? If so, where on earth were they attacking from? The Iraqis have control of most of the territory between Fallujah and ISIS's main strongholds, so it would be a major embarrassment if they were able to attack all the way from Mosul. 

Either way, I don't think we are getting the whole story here. Either the Iraqis screwed up and let an entire convoy of ISIS fighters get away or Iraq's security in central Iraq is so poor that they couldn't stop a major ISIS attack from getting close to Fallujah. Though the convoy was utterly destroyed, why didn't the Iraqi's destroy before this point? 

Still, a victory against ISIS is a victory. This is going to hurt ISIS and hurt them bad, even if the circumstances around the strike seem a bit suspicious to me. Either they signaled a retreat and are now denied the troops and vehicles that made up this convoy or they launched an unwise and ill-fated counter attack that was completely blunted. 

Finally, it seems like the gloves are finally coming off against ISIS. It is ludicrous to me that this is the most damage that we have done against ISIS in a single series of airstrikes. There have to be more targets that we could target and destroy in ISIS held territory. Indeed, the twin capitals of ISIS, Mosul and Raqqa, could be largely leveled. 

But we are always fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. The US government has always been deeply concerned with civilian casualties. If there is a chance of bad headlines when destroying critical ISIS targets, the United States will leave those targets unmolested. It has greatly prolonged this war and my hope is that this strike is a sign of changing policies at the Pentagon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Suicide bombing and mass shooting in Istanbul, Turkey. ISIS primary suspects.

Security stands near an entrance of Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Reuters. 

 Three attackers used rifles and suicide bombs to kill at least 31 people and wounded 150 more at Turkey's Istanbul Ataturk airport. Reuters. Ataturk airport is Europe's third most busy airport and a major global transport hub. No one has claimed credit for the attack yet but the Turkish government expects the involvement of Islamic State. If it does end up being ISIS, the attack continues ISIS's tradition of attacking in Ramadan. The attack mirrors the ISIS attack in Brussels earlier this year with armed men blowing themselves up at an airport terminal. 

My Comment:
I've heard via social media that the actual death count was closer to 50, but I haven't seen that be confirmed yet. Reuters itself said the death count was 36, but that number will probably go up. When one of these attacks happens the number of deaths is often either exaggerated or underestimated. In this case I think they are probably too low. Either way this was a devastating attack and another example of how dangerous ISIS is. 

Unlike the ISIS attack in Orlando this month, it's clear that this wasn't a lone wolf attack merely inspired by ISIS. With three attackers and suicide bombs, it would be unprecedented if this was pulled off by ISIS supporters without a direct connection to ISIS. No, this is a core ISIS attack, and may be the one I had been expecting for quite some time now.

I have been a broken record saying that I was expecting more attacks in Ramadan from ISIS and it looks like I was right. I also said that I was expecting a core ISIS attack in Europe before Ramadan is over. Though Turkey isn't traditionally considered a European country, Istanbul technically counts. I personally was expecting another attack in France or Belgium, but Turkey should have been high on my list as well.  

ISIS's tactics in this attack seems to be part of the new pattern. ISIS has largely given up on al-Qaeda's old tactics of targeting landmarks and airplanes, the attack in Egypt. notwithstanding. The new tactic is mass shootings with fully automatic weapons. ISIS has also combined these shooting attacks with bombings, to add to the death count. This new shift in tactics has been a boon for ISIS and has allowed them to pull off major attacks in Paris, Tunisia and Brussels. And other then the use of explosives, the attack in Orlando is similar in style. 

If you didn't watch the video, and I don't blame you if you didn't, you will see how dedicated ISIS fighters are to their cause. It appears that the ISIS fighter gets shot and drops his weapon. He was too wounded to continue his attack so he blew himself up. Though he didn't appear to wound or kill anyone besides himself it just goes to show that we probably won't be taking many ISIS fighters alive. 

ISIS has been very active in Turkey since last year. Before that they were essentially allies. The Turks would look the other way while ISIS was smuggling in fighters and weapons across the border in exchange for oil and fighting Syria's Assad led government. But then Turkey cracked down on ISIS in part so they could justify their attacks on the Kurds. This attack is what happens when you decide to work with terrorists. Eventually they turn on you. 

So what can be done to prevent these kinds of attacks? Good question. Clearly the ISIS fighters didn't have a hard time getting rifles and explosives. Controlling weapons is impossible in a country where there is a major war going on. ISIS probably didn't have any problem getting the rifles used in this attack and if they did they could have just smuggled them in from Syria. 

Increasing security won't do all that much either. From what I have heard, the security actually worked in this case. The guards at the airport spotted the gunmen and opened fire. They were just outgunned. And even if you shoot a suicide bomber it doesn't stop them from blowing themselves up. Security responded the way they should and it still resulted in multiple deaths and dozens of injuries. Having more guys with guns to stop these attackers is a good thing, but you won't always get lucky with these kinds of attacks like they did in Garland Texas. 

I am guessing the best way to stop these kinds of terror attacks is to disrupt and destroy the terror groups responsible. That worked for the core al-Qaeda group. They haven't pulled of a major terrorist attack in years, only their affiliates have. The problem is that destroying ISIS is a huge problem that doesn't have an easy solution. Even as they are being pushed out of Iraq and Syria, they still have bases in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and also have their Boko Haram allies in Africa. 

Essentially we are going to have to live with the threat of ISIS terror attacks for the time being. We are just going to have to accept that there are going to be these kinds of mass casualty terror attacks. Increasing security can help but there is always a chance of having a bad day like the Turks did today... 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Donald Trump softens tone on Islam and immigration.

Trump speaking. CNN

Donald Trump appears to be pivoting to the center on the issues of Islam and immigration. CNN. Trump has slowly began talking about his Muslim ban. Instead of a blanket ban on all Muslims, he now is calling for bans only from nations that have active terrorist groups or are "terror states". He also said that he might be willing to accept immigrants from those countries if they are strongly vetted. Trump also said that he did not like the term "mass deportations" and would simply enforce immigration laws. 

My Comment:
This was not unexpected at all. I always argued that Trump would pivot to the center eventually. In his book, Art of the Deal Trump laid out his typical plan for deal negotiation. He would often make a "crazy" demand that would exceed what he wanted so when he actually proposed what he wanted in the first place he would seem "reasonable". Anyone who is surprised by this was not paying any attention to Trump at all.

Indeed, back when Trump announced his blanket Muslim ban I immediately figured that what he really meant that he would limit Muslim immigration from countries like Syria and Iraq. Though Trump probably could have pulled off a complete Muslim ban, the ban from countries with active terror groups will probably be more popular and defensible. 

As for immigration, I am also not all that surprised that Trump softened there as well. There were signs of this happening a long time ago as well. I remember him at one point saying that he did not want to "break up families", which would be an impossibility if he really was going to deport everyone. He also rarely seems to talk about getting rid of birthright citizenship anymore, which is something he was very vocal about during the primary. 

I do have to say that Trump is always battling against the strawman image that the media has built for him. If you would listen to the media they would have you believe that Trump was going to round up and deport legal US citizens and send all the Muslims to the camps. They also say that Trump hates all Mexicans and considers them to be all rapists. None of that is true so to here the media say that Trump is pivoting to the center is pretty shocking to me. 

So should Trump supporters abandon Trump for softening his views? I would say no. Even if Trump is softening his views on these issues it's still a massive contrast between him and Hillary Clinton. On both issues Trump is clearly a better option for people that are angry with immigration or terrorism. Clinton is calling for ending US borders and bringing in tens of thousands of refugees from Syria. Even if you are unhappy with Trump softening his stances, he's still the only candidate that wants to do anything about immigration at all. 

Does it help Trumps image at all? Possibly. I think general election voters are less likely then primary voters to be super angry about immigration and terrorism. I think there are probably a few voters out there that would love to support Trump but are turned off by his stance on these issues. Disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters come to mind and he could pick up a few independent voters as well. 

On the other hand I don't think the media will ever give him a fair shake. Even though he is moderating his tone, I think the media will take one of two routes. Either they will continue to paint him as some kind of dangerous radical that hates everyone that isn't white or they will call him a hypocrite for softening his tone. Perhaps they will do both at once. You can not win with the media unless your name is Hillary Clinton. 

Do I agree with this shift? Somewhat. I do think it is important for Trump to beat Clinton so if shifting to the center is what gets him elected then I am all for it. Hillary Clinton can not be allowed to be president. Period. I am, of course, biased against her and if Satan himself was running against her I would at least hear him out. She's evil and she can't be trusted with the future of the world. 

But I also think that there was something to say for Trumps original plan on Muslim migrants. The vetting process is broken and I think there is a strong argument to be made that Muslim migrants are potentially dangerous even if they are vetted. And even if they aren't we also have to worry about 2nd generation Muslims that get radicalized here. A blanket ban was probably too far but I am worried that Trump's new stance doesn't go far enough. A temporary one, which is what Trump was calling for, was probably justified. 

That's mostly because we don't yet know exactly what countries will be banned. I would say at the very least it would be Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. But does it count countries like Egypt or Pakistan? They are both ostensibly US allies and the both have very active terrorist groups. How about Turkey, with their connections to ISIS? They are in NATO, but I consider them a bigger terror threat then Iraq or Syria. 

Still, even if Trump doesn't ban every country that has Muslims, he will at least try to do something. Which is more then I could say about any of the other candidates. Hillary Clinton, along with the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein, would actively make the situation worse. Much worse... 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

More political violence. Leftists attack protest and several people get stabbed.

Protesters at the Sacramento rally. Reuters.

Violence erupted in Sacramento between white nationalists and anti-fascist protesters, with several stabbings and injuries. Reuters. The Traditional Workers Party, described by their leader as a white nationalist group, had a legal permit for the rally. The anti-fascist groups, led by a group called Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento showed up to the rally armed with sticks and other weapons and attacked the TWP. The protest was against violence directed at Trump rally, and the leaders of the rally expected to be attacked. A statement by one of the anti-fascist leaders said they had a moral duty to shut down the protest and called it an act of "self defense"

My Comment:
Normally I wouldn't care if the far right and the far left got into a brawl with each other. I find them both odious. But it seems clear to me that this is part of a pattern of far left violence targeted against their political opponents. Though I completely disagree with the Traditional Worker's Party's white nationalism, I do think they are right to protest against leftist violence. And the leftists obliged and proved that they actually do have a point. 

And I have to point out that just because I think the TWP has a point in this specific case, I also want to make it very clear that I don't like white nationalism. Very few people actually support these losers when it comes to their beliefs about race, and I don't want to be painted as a Nazi just because I think that they shouldn't be targets of violence.

Oh wait, that totally happened already. Twitter is stupid.

Anyways, this level of political violence is greatly disturbing. There has been a recent trend of leftist protesters trying to shut down right wing events and protests with actual physical violence. It happened at several Donald Trump rallies. His supporters have been attacked and the man himself was targeted for assassination.  

And it's important to note that these attacks are going after Donald Trump and his supporters, who are mostly center-right Republicans. Trump isn't some kind of white nationalist, he just supports immigration law enforcement and is critical of Islamic immigration. Other then that he's fairly liberal for a Republican, especially when it comes to gay rights. He's certainly divisive but compared to actual far right groups he's harmless.

All that being said, even if Trump is rather mainstream, these people at the Sacramento rally were anything but. They are legitimate white nationalists, and believe some pretty disgusting things. Does that make it right to attack them? Absolutely not. In America everyone has a right to express their views, even if most people find them repulsive. 

For example, the Westboro Baptist Church is an odious group of protesters that push their views at such inappropriate places as soldiers funerals. Everyone agrees that they are evil people and their views are disgusting. When I heard a rumor that they were going to show up at my old high school I showed up to counter protest. They didn't show up anyways, but you know what I didn't do? I didn't make any plans to hurt them for what they say. 

That doesn't seem to happen when the left is attacking the right. A guy that I was talking to on twitter had an excellent point about this. He stated that Marxists tend to conflate views they disagree with as "violence" so they can respond to that "violence" with actual physical violence. That's how you can get something like the leader of this attack calling it "self defense". 

I honestly can't believe that these people actually think that there is no difference is someone saying "you suck" and actually punching them in the face. It has to be a cover right? They just want to justify their violence. They want to terrify people into submission so views opposed to them are shut down. Some of those views are legitimately scary but most of them are inside the Overton Window of acceptable beliefs. I don't think advocating enforcing immigration law or being concerned about terrorism are in any way unacceptable and they certainly aren't uncommon beliefs. 

In short, I think this is terrorism in the traditional sense of the word. People are using violence to intimidate others into not expressing themselves. It's just like the attack on the free speech event in Garland Texas. In that case people were protesting Islam and a couple of terrorists attacked. They failed completely but what is the difference between those terrorists and the ones that attacked people at various right wing events this year? The only difference I see is that the ISIS ones were trying to kill instead of wound. 

The worst part is that this is only the beginning. There are going to be massive protests at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Given the rhetoric of these protesters, saying that it is ok to attack people with "wrong" beliefs is justified, I would not surprised if people are hurt in large numbers at both events and I am even expecting deaths...

Finally, I have to say that this violence is counter productive. Attacking people for their beliefs is a great way to get attention for those beliefs. How many recruits are the TWP going to get from this attack? How many people are now sympathetic to their beliefs? After all, a main point of their groups is that white people are going to attacked by minorities. People think that the best way to counter their views is to validate them? What a joke. 

It's much better to counter arguments and views you don't like through peaceful means. That doesn't mean you have to just let these views out their unchallenged. But there are ways to do so without resorting to violence. Even protest is fine if you don't try to hurt people. There is a line that should not be crossed and that line is violence. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pentagon set to lift the ban on Transgender troops.

The Pentagon. AP. 

The Pentagon is set to lift the ban on transgender soldiers as soon as next week. Washington Post. The descion comes after a year of internal debate on the merits and costs of doing so. Last year Defense Secretary Ash Carter gave the Pentagon six months to conduct an investigation, which stretched out to almost a year. Current policy is to medically discharge the transgendered. Recent policy changes have loosened the restriction and the descion is now made by higher ranked officers. Though the current descion was praised by LGBT rights groups, there is considerable disagreement within the ranks. 

My Comment:
This seems like a classic case of people playing politics with national security. Though I have no problem with homosexuals serving in the military, allowing the transgendered to serve has some obvious issues with it. Before I continue, I do wish to say that I bare no ill will towards the transgendered community and I do understand that some of them may wish to serve. 

But there are some obvious downsides to allowing trans people to serve. The transgendered often require medical attention for their condition. Hormones alone would cause major problems in a combat situation. Transgender people need these hormones as treatment and getting them in combat would be a logistical nightmare. If the choice was between hormones and critical supplies like bullets, rations or medicine, the hormones should take a back seat. But given how skewed the Pentagon's priorities seem to be, that may not be the case. 

There are other issues as well. Many transgendered people have mental health issues and substance abuse problems as well, either as a result of the disorder or independent of it. I will let you debate the cause of the issue but studies have shown that the transgendered are much more likely to suffer from these disorders. 

The issues could be exacerbated by serving in combat. With depression and substance abuse already common among transgender people and soldiers, imagine what the stress of combat could do when both issues are combined? My guess is that the transgendered in combat would be more likely to kill themselves or even attack their comrades. There is a reason why we don't let people with mental stay in the military. It's just too high risk. 

But despite these issues the ban is going to be lifted anyways. For me this is just another example of the Obama administration using the military as a place to preach leftist values. Though I was slightly supportive of gays in the military I was somewhat opposed to sending women into combat. This just seems like more of the same. 

Indeed, the situation is very similar to lifting the ban on women in combat. Though I am glad that women are finally being allowed to make the same sacrifice American men, and may indeed be forced to do so if we ever get the draft back, I think there are also some major problems with women serving in combat. Very few women are strong enough to actually meet the standards needed to be a soldier, Marine, airman or sailor, and there are fears that these standards will be reduced.

Though transwomen would be better able to meet the standards, since many of them grew up as men and have the muscle mass as a result, there are similar fears for them. My fear is that like the physical standards for soldiers are getting reduced because of women in combat, the mental standards for soldiers may be reduced as well. 

Still, this is making a mountain out of a molehill. The transgender population is so small as to be statistically insignificant. The most common estimate for the rate of transgendered people is .3 percent, with an estimated 700,000 in the military. If you grant that the transgendered population were to join the military at the same rate as the rest of the country, 0.5%, then you get only about 3500 people. Very few of those would serve in front line combat roles. That's a rounding error in a military as large as ours. 

So even though I think that allowing the transgendered to serve is a mistake due to the logistical problems and the high incidence of mental health, it is not going to have much of an impact in the long run. As always with these social issues the problem is greatly exaggerated. It's just another wedge issue to distract from more important things. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

My reaction to the Brexit. Is it the start of something bigger?

Leave supporters celebrate the Brexit. NBC/AFP. 

As you know the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union and have voted in favor of the Brexit. 52 percent of voters chose to leave the EU. Now I am no expert on the EU and the UK, but I do think that there are some pretty obvious trends to talk about here.

Do I think the Brexit was the right thing to do? I'm not completely sure. I think in the short term it will probably hurt the economy of the UK and the EU, and may have a global effect on the market. Long term though, it could go either way, but my guess is that it will be good for the UK in the end. The EU is on the way out and getting out now is probably for the best. If I had been in the UK, I probably would have voted for Brexit. How things will work out long term though is still very unclear. There is a decent chance that whatever negative consequences of the Brexit will be worsened by retaliation from the EU.

With the Brexit happening I do think we can extrapolate a bit of information from it. There are some global trends going on and I think the Brexit is a clear game changer. Right wing ideas are on the rise and left wing ones are on the decline. Here's what we learned from the Brexit:

1. The EU is a fundamentally weak union. The cracks began to show with the Greek debt crisis. It showed how one weak country could threaten the economy of the entire union. Though the crisis eventually lessened it did not change the fact that the EU is an economic basket case. Greece is hardly the only state in the Union that has economic problems. 

But the real disaster was the reaction to the migrant crisis. Germany basically decided that they wanted to take in millions of migrants, to be distributed throughout the EU. This created a huge burden for the rest of the EU, and effected poor countries disproportionately, including the the already economically unstable Greeks. This showed that one country making a baffling descion could greatly damage the entire union.

Already, right wing politicians across Europe are calling for referendums in their own countries. Though I don't know how many of those efforts will be successful, it certainly seems like the dominoes are falling. I would not be surprised if a decade from now the EU will no longer exist. 

2. Leftist propaganda is becoming less effective. From what I understand the BBC and other UK news outlets supported the stay campaign pretty much exclusively. Though the British newspapers had a lot more diversity in opinions, the news media was clearly biased against the leave campaign.

Though 48% of people were convinced, it's still shocking that 52% of people were able to ignore the propaganda. Why? Because of social media. Pro-leave campaigners were able to get their message out through facebook, twitter and various forums. Even though the stay campaign dominated the traditional news media it seems as though many people weren't listening 

3. People aren't anywhere near as afraid of being called racist anymore. Though there were many other arguments for not leaving the EU, the one I heard the most was that doing so was racist. The claim was that the only reason people wanted to leave the EU was because they hated brown people. And that argument was repeated ad nasuem. It's a poor argument anyways, but in the past it's been very effective.

In the past an accusation of racism would be enough completely shut down an argument. Now people are no longer so scared of such things. The success of the Brexit, after such claims shows that the word racist is losing power due to overuse. For a very long time the left, regardless of where the left was found, would call anyone who disagrees with them racist. Slowly the word stopped meaning people that hate other people based on race. With the meaning shifting it's almost as people are reclaiming the word. At the very least people aren't as afraid of being called racist.

4. Polling was wrong. Though Leave and Stay had been fairly close in terms of polling, most showed people supporting Stay. Especially after the murder of Jo Cox by a Leave supporter. Obviously the polls were wrong, but why? 

My guess is related to the above point about "racism". Even though many people no longer care about the "racist" label some clearly still do. And when those people got called by pollsters they lie because even though they supported the Brexit they did not anyone to know about it. Right wing ideas appealed to them personally, but they didn't want to pay the price if their views became public knowledge. 

Incidentally, I think the same thing is going on in the United States with Donald Trump. Though Trump is down in the polls, how many people are just lying to the pollsters about him because they don't want to be labeled? From what I understand Trump consistently does better with online polls then phone polls where they actually have to talk to someone. Are people really hiding their support of Trump? If the Brexit is any indication it may be about a 5% difference, which means that Clinton and Trump are probably tied. 

5. Immigration is the major issue of the day. I already talked about how the EU made a huge mistake with the migrant crisis, but I think that immigration needs to be talked about further. The massive wave of mostly Islamic migrants is causing great fear throughout the world. With the massive terrorist attacks in France and Belgium and the rape crisis that exploded with Rotherham scandal and the Cologne attacks, there is good reason to be concerned. With camps of migrants across the channel at Calais demanding to be let into the UK, you can't tell me that Islamic immigration wasn't a major factor.

But it wasn't the only factor. I would be a mistake to present the Brexit as a referendum on Islamic immigration. There was also a lot of anger at non-Muslim migrants from the EU as well. Workers form Poland and Romania often travel to the UK for work. This depresses wages and creates more competition for native born UK workers and even for their other migrant communities. Is it any wonder why people were angry? 

So what did we learn? I think that right wing ideas are becoming more popular throughout Europe and the world. People aren't as vulnerable to left wing propaganda as they once were and are less afraid of being attacked by the left wing. And even those that still are afraid, are more willing to show up at the ballot box. And, of course, immigration is a huge issue that will greatly effect elections in the future.

My opinion is that the Brexit proves that the Overton Window of acceptable ideas has shifted to the right. The real question is if this is a trend or if the Brexit is a one off thing. I think the next tests will be the election of Donald Trump and the success or failure of other exit campaigns. We will see in due time... 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Democrats sit in for gun control was largely a waste of time.

House Democrats speak about gun control. ABC/AP.

I'm going to skip the normal format for this one. As you probably know the House Democrats staged a "sit in" on the floor of congress. Why? The did it in favor of two gun control laws. The first would have banned anyone on the no-fly list from purchasing a gun, without any due process protections. The second would ban the so called "gun show loophole" that allows people to sell their weapons in state without a background check. 

All in all, the sit in didn't accomplish much. Republicans wouldn't allow a vote on the bills, largely because there was no point. No GOP congressperson that didn't want to be kicked out of office would support these bills. Plus there is the fact that similar bills were proposed in the senate and were shot down already. And of course the Democrats wouldn't vote in favor of the GOP's bills, that would have expanded funding for background checks and would also ban people on terrorism watchlists from buying guns but critically would allow for due process, requiring probable cause for denying gun rights. Since this was a compromise with the GOP, the Democrats rejected those bills completely even though they could have pointed to it as a bipartisan accomplishment that may have had some small effect on the problem. 

But that didn't happen. Which goes to show that the Democrats have no interest in compromise or due process. My conspiracy theory is that they wanted their bills to pass because they would be able to abuse the no-fly list to harass their opponents. Due process would prevent that. 

So did this help or hurt Democrats? I think it is a mixed bag. Most of these congresspeople are in districts that are safe from Republicans so they are unlikely to pay any political price for this. Indeed, the hardcore liberals that make up those districts may even appreciate this assault on their rights. But I do think that over all this hurt the Democrats quite badly. Here's why:

1. Support for gun control usually spikes after an attack like this, but in the long term the support tends to go down. The recent small boost in support for gun control will likely dissipate quickly. And I am guessing some of the people that say they want gun control would rather have the GOP bill that would support due process and not effect the gun rights of people that aren't suspected of being terrorists.

2. The whole thing looked childish. A bunch of people sitting on the floor with pillows looks like a bunch of teenagers having a sleepover. It wasn't dignified at all and made the Democrats look like children. 

3. None of the laws proposed by either the Democrats or the Republicans would have stopped the attack in Orlando. Omar Mateen was no longer under investigation by the FBI. He probably should have been but they just thought that he was angry at being an American and ended the investigation. With the FBI clearing him he passed a background check easily. And he even had to pass a more extensive background check to become an armed security guard, multiple times. With no active investigation Mateen would have passed any background check. Indeed, he would have a better chance of passing then most because nobody would want to be seen as Islamophobic by denying him his right to a firearm.

4. Almost everyone has at least heard the idea that this was an ISIS attack that has little to do with traditional gun violence. Though the president and the media is trying very hard to push the theory that this was a hate crime done because Mateen was gay, almost everyone has heard about his pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. The media may have argued that Mateen was just a run of the mill spree killer, everyone except the most dedicated of Liberal people trapped in a bubble know that this is an Islamic terrorist attack. To try and push through gun control instead of addressing ISIS attacks shows a dangerous lack of understanding of the threat. But as I said above, I doubt this has anything to do with trying to fix violence and everything with trying to destroy the 2nd Amendment.

5. I think people will understand that the timing for this little stunt is more then a little suspicious. The very same day Donald Trump gave a major speech criticizing Hillary Clinton. That attack was damning and if the story was able to dominate the news, it could have hurt the Democrats chances this November. This was quite clearly a stunt to distract the media from covering the speech. 

6. That being said, the timing is terrible. The news cycle has already moved on from the sit in. Right now the Brexit is dominating the news and social media. Though that election hasn't been called, the world is waiting with baited breath for the results and the discussion has completely drowned out this story. Also, there were several major Supreme Court rulings on immigration and affirmative action. I am guessing in a week or two, very few people will even remember this happening. 

I don't think the Democrats accomplished anything with this sit in stunt and I doubt if they will ever get what they want on gun control. People just don't like it and supporters of gun rights are extremely dedicated and always show up at the polls if they think their rights are at risk. Making gun rights an election issue, when you already have a weak candidate, was a huge strategic error for the Democrats. If there is any justice at all it will cost them the White House this November... 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My take on Donald Trump's speech against Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump. Gage Skidmore

Trump's full speech

I watched Donald Trump's speech today on Hillary Clinton, even though I work nights and should have been sleeping. It was a great speech and Trump really took it to Clinton. If you want to watch the whole thing, it is posted in it's entirety above. Even if you don't like Trump, if you dislike Clinton you will enjoy Trump shining the spotlight on Clinton's various misdeeds. 

I'm not going to go through every point that Trump said. I don't have the time for that and plenty of other people have done so already. But I do want to go through the various strengthens and weaknesses of the speech were. 

The Good:

-This was a very presidential speech by Trump. He was serious and on point. There weren't any nicknames or asides to the audience. There was a lot less snark all around. This made his claims seem a lot more serious and made him look like he belonged as a serious presidential candidate. 

-The speech wasn't just an attack on Hillary Clinton. Trump spent quite a bit of time touting his own programs as well. I have long said that only focusing on your opponents weaknesses is a huge mistake. You also need to convince people that you are worth voting for. Trump might not have convinced everyone that he is the best choice but he at least didn't stop making the case while he was bashing Clinton

-Trump destroyed Hillary's "I'm with her" slogan. He made Clinton's slogan seem like it was all about her and he skillfully flipped it back right at her by saying that "I'm with you". Regardless if you agree with Trump, you have to admit that Clinton is going to have a tough time using that slogan anymore.

-Trump made a very clear attempt to get Bernie Sanders voters on his side. I don't know how many he convinced but he did directly call on them to join his campaign. He also used Sanders attacks on Clinton by highlighting the various speeches to Wall Street and made a strong case that she's owned by them. 

-Trump also turned around many of the attacks that Hillary Clinton used against him. He said that she is too temperamental to run and is completely unqualified to run for office. And unlike Clinton, he was able to point to her disastrous run as Secretary of State as proof

-This whole speech was red meat for the GOP. I won't speak for all Republicans but this is the speech someone should have made about Hillary Clinton years ago. The right in this country has always felt that Clinton has gotten kid glove treatment from the GOP and the media, so to finally see someone go all out against her is refreshing.

-Trump is also making a strong case that he's better on LGBT rights then Clinton is. Like he said, Clinton has taken quite a bit of money from countries that have the death penalty for gay people. This should broaden his coalition in November if the attacks stick. I doubt that Trump will get a majority in the LGBT community but he could shave off a few voters from Clinton if he keeps this up.

The Bad:

-Other then the "I'm with you" slogan and the moment where Trump called Hillary Clinton the most corrupt person to ever run for president, there weren't a whole lot of moments that will go viral from this speech.

-Trump left out quite a few attacks on Hillary Clinton. Most glaringly, he failed to mention how she has enabled her husband to abuse women. He has done this before and I can't understand why he would leave it out. Maybe he didn't think it was presidential enough? He also didn't mention Hati, which my Bernie Sanders supporting friends seem to care about more then any of the other accusations against Clinton. 

-He relied to much on the Clinton Cash book. I haven't read it so I don't know if it is true or not, but by using it he gave the media a chance to dispute what he said. I have no doubt that at least some accusations in that book are correct, but the media is going to focus on the fringe cases to try and discredit Trump. 

The Ugly:

-Trump basically called for Hillary Clinton to be arrested. Sure he has done so before and he technically was just repeating what a supporter said, but I am not sure how that plays for undecided voters. I personally agree with it, and I know most Republicans will be salivating at the though, but it could turn some people off. 

-This wasn't a killing blow against Clinton. The people that support her will probably still do so. They will likely dismiss his accusations

-Trump also essentially called Clinton a traitor when it comes to foreign policy. For the same reasons as the "arrest Hillary Clinton" comment, this could hurt him among undecided voters, even as it helps him with the GOP. 

All that being said it was a good speech. I think it will help unite the GOP against Clinton and for Trump. It also might help Trump in the polls. He had slipped a bit after putting Ted Cruz away, and this speech should help his numbers and hurt Clinton. I don't think this is the thing that will win Trump the election but it does seem like he got the initiative back. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Video: ISIS car bombing in Syria.

The video above is reportedly a battle between ISIS and the Syrian military near Palmyra. I haven't been able to verify if it is authentic but it certainly seems real. In case the video is removed it shows what looks like a decent size unit of Syrian soldiers or militia units engaged with ISIS. I counted two main battle tanks a couple of "technicals" with heavy machine guns mounted and at least a dozen soldiers firing rifles. They all are firing at a car bomb that is quickly rushing towards their position. The bomb blew up and the video ends.

It just goes to show how hard it is to defend against these kinds of attacks. It's not like the Syrians were under equipped here. You could see the tanks firing on the car bomb but they missed. It's probably hard to hit a moving target like that with a tank but you would think that the riflemen and technicals would have been able to do something.

Still, it's very hard to stop a car bomber. You pretty much either have to destroy the engine, kill the driver(s) or detonate the explosives. That's fairly hard to do, especially for the poor riflemen in this video. It's not really that hard to hit a moving target like this, but when you are shooting a relatively small round, like the one the AK family of rifles has, it would be very difficult to stop the engine, kill the driver or detonate the bomb. Especially when you consider that ISIS often up-armors these vehicles to make them even more resistant to rifle fire. The heavy machine guns seen in the video would have a better chance but was really needed was either the tank rounds or the use of RPG's or other missiles.

Either way, it's a scary video. All I know is that I don't want to be one of those fighters going up against one of these bombs. It must be horrifying to have to fight against something like this when you know your weapons aren't powerful enough to stop it and you know how powerful the weapon is.

I am not sure if there were many casualties in this video. I think the tank was probably strong enough to have its crew survive this blast, but I bet the tank was essentially killed. Any of the infantry left out in the open or the people in the trucks would have had to been lucky to avoid death in this case...

Iran reportedly disrupts a major Sunni Muslim terrorist plot.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Valdimir Putin. Kremlin photo.

Iran reports that they have broken up a massive Ramadan plot by Sunni Muslims. AP. In what is being described as the biggest terrorist plot in Iran's history, Sunni militants, possibly linked to ISIS had plans to bomb targets across the country, including the capital of Tehran. Iran has made many enemies in the region after their interventions in Iraq and Syria which has killed many ISIS fighters and Sunni Muslims alike. Though Iran did not confirm that the plot was from ISIS, they did use the term "Takfiris" to describe the attackers, a term that is often used to describe ISIS militants in Iran. 

My Comment:
Interesting. You rarely hear about terror plots in Iran. I am sure most of that is due to how secretive the country is. They have several active insurgencies, including some Sunni Arabs in the southwest of the country. Iran rarely talks about these kinds of things, so I am surprised that they talked about this plot. 

It makes me wonder if they are not trying to prepare people for inevitable attacks. This attack may have been broken up but I would not be surprised if there are not more cells active in Iran. There may be more attacks soon so the government of Iran would be wise to inform their people so it isn't a total shock when it happens. They are under threat and at this point an attack is probably inevitable. 

ISIS certainly has good reason to attack the country. Iran has been a thorn in the side of ISIS for the last couple of years. Indeed, there is an argument to be made that ISIS would have taken both Iraq and Syria without the efforts of Iran's military and groups that Iran had supported. The Iranian militias helped stop and reverse ISIS's advances in Iraq and in Syria, the government there was propped up on the battlefield by Iran's military.

And let's not pretend that Iranian forces and allies in Iraq and Syria have clean hands. Though they have committed attacks against ISIS itself, they have also targeted Sunni Muslims, especially in Iraq. There have been several reports of Shiite militias, backed by Iran, committing terrible attacks against Sunni Muslims. The worst of these was the attack on civilians during the liberation of Tikrit. Sunni Muslims there saw their homes destroyed and looted, and they were often beaten or even lynched by Shiite militias. Though ISIS needs little reason to attack Shiite Muslims and Iran, these attacks certainly didn't help things. 

Of course Iran wasn't the only country that attacked ISIS in Iraq and Syria. America, Russia, the Gulf States and many European countries also contributed to that fight. The big difference is that all of those countries has had retaliation attacks from ISIS. So far Iran has lucked out but I doubt that will last long. 

The details of this attack are vague, and given the secrecy of Iran that is not surprising. From what I was able to gather it sounded like this was a bomb plot. I am not sure what kind of bomb plot though. Was it a more traditional suicide bombing? Or was it a hybrid attack involving gunmen as well such as the Paris attacks? I guess either could have been possible but we probably won't know for sure unless Iran decides to share more information. 

Though Iran is hardly Europe or America, this plot also follows the pattern of ISIS attacks in Ramadan. Though ISIS has only pulled off two attacks outside of the Middle East, the Orlando massacre and the double homicide in France, they have had many other plans disrupted. This is just the latest one, and perhaps the largest, depending on how bad the one in Belgium was. Though this plot was disrupted I would not be surprised if ISIS still pulls off a major attack somewhere in the world before Ramadan ends...  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Foreign national arresed during an attempt to assassinate Donald Trump.

The suspect, Michael Steven Sandford. Reuters.

A British man was arrested for attempting to steal a gun from a police officer during a Donald Trump rally with the intent to shoot the presidential candidate. NBC News. The attack occurred in Los Vegas during a Trump rally. The suspect, Michael Steven Sandford approached a Las Vegas police officer claiming to want an autograph. He then noticed that the police officer's firearm was not locked into it's holster, and then attempted to steal both the gun and the holster. He failed and was arrested. He reportedly said that stealing a gun from a police officer was the "easiest way to acquire a gun to shoot Trump". Sandford practiced at a Las Vegas gun range, firing 20 shots from a Glock for practice. 

The Washington Post has additional information. According to them, Sandford was in the country illegally. Sandford is also autistic and was living out of his car. He has also been denied bail.

My Comment:
You would think that this would be a bigger story, but I haven't seen this story on social media. There are a few news agencies covering this, but I would hope that an assassination attempt on a major presidential candidate would be bigger news. I am guessing if this has been an attempt on Hillary Clinton there would be 24/7/365 coverage, a dozen hashtags and new gun control legislation already proposed. But since it is Donald Trump...

I think part of it is that the suspect is an illegal alien. He isn't a stereotypical one though. He's from the UK and was living out of his car. He also has some mental health issues. But he is a good example of a person living in the country illegally committing a crime. The fact that he is white has nothing to do with it, the man shouldn't be in the country period.  After he serves his presumably long sentence he should be deported back to the UK. But if we actually enforced out immigration laws, he probably wouldn't even be in the country right now.

Covering an assassination attempt on Donald Trump would give him sympathy. Above all else, the media does not want people to empathize with Donald Trump. They want to downplay the idea that people would be willing to kill Trump for his ideas. After all, if people find out that someone wanted to kill Trump for his ideas, then they may actually decide to listen to him. I came around to openly supporting Trump after his rally was attacked in Chicago. Perhaps more will support him after this attack. 

I've been saying for awhile not that the media and the Democrats have all but encouraged this attack. How long now have we been hearing from then that Trump is literally Hitler? He's been called sexist, racist, bigoted and evil, despite being none of those things. If you keep calling him that then eventually some people are going to believe it. Impressionable young people like Sandford, who may have been mentally ill, hears all this and thinks it's true. And then does what one does when they think someone is literally Hitler. 

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, had a post about this recently. Though firmly tongue in cheek, Adams endorsed Hillary Clinton. Not because he likes her or dislikes Trump but because he was afraid that he was going to be murdered. Though the whole thing was a joke, I think his basic idea was right. People are demonizing Trump and his supporters to the point where it's only a short leap to go from disliking Trump to supporting violence against him and his supporters. I wouldn't be surprised if someone does attack Adams or any other prominent Trump supporter. After all, they are going after Trump himself. 

And there has been violence against Trump and his supporters. This isn't the first time someone tried to attack Trump. I've posted this video before but I will again:

And his supporters have come under attack as well:

This tells me that some people are taking the over the top criticism of Trump and his supporters seriously. They really think that Trump is some kind of mini-Hitler instead of a center-right politician who occasionally says controversial things. And they really think that his supporters are a crowed of bigots who deserve whatever they have coming to them. They think these actions are justified. But nothing justifies violence. Especially when they are wrong on their justifications. 

The good news is that this assassination attempt was incredibly stupid. If your plan depends on stealing a gun from a cop to kill a politician, then it's almost certainly going to fail. The attacker did not seem like he was smart enough to pull off any kind of attack, so we lucked out in that regard.

Of course the media is also going to downplay the fact that the would be assassin failed to purchase a firearm. Turns out non-residents can't purchase firearms in the United States. Since he was in the country illegally, he couldn't buy a gun without possibly being deported. And he wasn't able to get a gun from a gun show or any other source either. Seems like a terrorist was prevented from committing a murder by our current gun laws. That's something the media will never cover either... 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why defeating ISIS won't be the end of the problems for Iraq.

Shiite militiamen stand by a defaced portrait of Saddam Hussein near Fallujah. Reuters. 

Though ISIS has suffered major setbacks on the battlefield, their defeat won't be the end of problems for Iraq. Business Insider. With ISIS losing the city of Fallujah and with Iraqi forces threatening Mosul. Because of these battlefield losses, ISIS has changed focus from trying to take and hold territory. Instead they have begun to focus on terrorist attacks in areas they formerly controlled. These attacks on civilians, most of them Shiites, have enraged the Shiite militias. These militias have been accused of committing atrocities which have contributed to Sunni-Shiite tensions that allowed ISIS to rise in the first place. The Iraqi government is still crippled by corruption and incompetence. 

My Comment:
A good report about the problems that Iraq will face after ISIS is defeated. And it certainly looks like ISIS will lose most or all of the territory they have in Iraq. Though the battle for Mosul will be hard fought and will take months, if not years, it will fall in the end. And with Mosul gone ISIS's power base in Iraq will be gone. 

But even if ISIS is defeated in Mosul, they won't just give up. They will probably go underground again, like they did after their progenitor organization al-Qaeda in Iraq, was defeated during the Iraqi insurgency. Instead of taking territory, they will continue their terrorist attacks, biding their time until instability in Iraq allows them to attack again.

And even if we push ISIS out of Iraq, they will still have outposts throughout the world. I am guessing that Iraq will be liberated before Syria will be. Though ISIS in Syria is under pressure as well, they will still be able to use the country as a base, as they did during their original offensive into the country. And let's not forget that ISIS still has a presence in Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. 

There is a major chance of ISIS rising from the ashes of defeat to once again threaten Iraq. The conditions are perfect for it. ISIS has indoctrinated a generation of youth in Iraq that have been raised to believe that Jihad is an acceptable thing and that Shiite Muslims are apostates deserving death. It will be very hard to deprogram these children, assuming Iraq is even in a position to try.

And even if ISIS is destroyed in Iraq, what they accomplished will be talked about for years. The were able to take over almost half the country and defied the most powerful country in the world. They pulled off major terrorist attacks and all but eliminated some of the last groups of non-Muslims in the country. In the future people will look back at what ISIS has done and use it as an inspiration. 

It's not like Iraq is doing much to ease sectarian conflicts. Though Iraq was able to keep the Shiite militias from attacking Fallujah proper, they have killed plenty of Sunni Muslims in the city. And this is not the first time that these militias have committed atrocities. When Tikrit was liberated due to these militias it soon devolved into an orgy of lynchings, arson, looting and murder. People have a long memory and I think that the Sunni Muslims will long remember what the Shiite militias have done.

The Iraqi government has an obvious pro-Shiite bias. Thanks to Nuri al-Maliki, reforms put into place during the American occupation that would have ensured Sunni representation were removed. Shiites dominate Iraq politically, and thanks to the influence of Iran, Sunni's are second class citizens in Iraq. 

I don't think that these problems will go away with the defeat of ISIS. Indeed, ISIS isn't the disease, they are a symptom of the rot in Iraqi government. They are paralyzed by incompetence, corruption and sectarian divisions. All of these things allowed ISIS to arise in the first place and if they are defeated on the battlefield, these problems will still remain,. There is a very good chance that ISIS will arise yet again after they are defeated. Or something even worse will replace them... 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Belgian police arrest 12 suspected terrorists to break up an immediate attack.

A police officer patrolling the streets of Brussels. EPA

Belgium has broken up a terror ring and has arrested 12 suspected terrorists. Washington Post. Dozens of houses and 152 garages were hit during the raid and another 40 people were questioned. Belgian authorities did not specify what the target was, just that the cell required "immediate" attention. Police also raised security around government officials, including Prime Minster Charles Michel. The European football (soccer) championships are also being held right now and some suspect that the match between Belgium and Ireland could have been a target across the border in France. It is not clear if the raids were due to reports that multiple groups of ISIS terrorists had crossed into Europe recently. No connection between this group and the cell that attacked Brussels earlier in the year have been found. 

My Comment:
Is this the way that Ramadan is going to be from now on? Not only has ISIS pulled off a major attack in America, they have also conducted some suicide bombings in Syria and pulled off a double homicide in France. We have no idea how bad this attack would have been but this isn't the only ISIS/terrorism attack that has been disrupted recently. France also just made some arrests, though that seemed to be more of a lone wolf situation. 

I guess it isn't fair to call this ISIS. It's pretty clear that it is Islamic extremism though. That leaves ISIS and only a few other groups capable of pulling off this kind of an attack. The only other reasonable candidate is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) but they haven't done anything in Europe since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. My money would be on this being an ISIS terror cell.I just can't prove it.  

What was the target? Well, the European soccer championships are a good bet. Soccer is incredibly important to Europeans and attacking them would gain a lot of attention and prestige for ISIS. Indeed, they have attacked football stadiums before. During the Paris attacks, their primary target was a soccer match that French President Francois Hollande was attention. That's right, the massacre at the Bataclan theater and the other various assaults weren't supposed to be the main thrust of the attack. The attack on the stadium failed because the bombers could not get into the building but if it had worked the plan was to both bomb and then shoot at the people fleeing. It failed because of dumb luck and the actions of a single security guard, so I wouldn't be surprised if ISIS tried the same plot again. Still, the championship games will have high security and if Omar Mateen proved anything at all its that there are softer targets that you can hit and still create a massive death toll.

Of course the fact that Hollande was at the soccer match was no coincidence. I have long argued that ISIS will probably attempt to assassinate a world leader. Doing so would have a massive impact, and would be a game changer, both for ISIS and the world. Every leader in Europe has a target on their head, none bigger then the one on Belgium's Prime Minster Charles Michel. ISIS has long used Belgium as a base and killing or otherwise incapacitating Michel would serve as revenge for them. He's not the only target as Hollande has already had one attempt on his life. I also think that the leader of the Cathloic Faith, Pope Francis, is also a huge target that ISIS would very much like to attack. Even an unsuccessful attack on a European leader would have a massive impact... 

Indeed, I predicted earlier in the year that ISIS would at the very least attempt to do so this year and had a decent chance of succeeding. European world leaders don't quite have the security that American Presidents have. Though it would be extremely difficult for ISIS to pull off such an attack, dumb luck and careful planning could allow them to do so. I am sure that security is running through the minds of every leader in Europe right now. 

The worry now is that there are more cells active in Europe besides this one, assuming that this was has been broken up completely. It is unclear if this cell has any connection to the teams of ISIS fighters that have been reported to have recently entered the country. If they were then this was fast work by the Belgian police. It's a real possibility because no weapons were found during these raids. If it was the new people, they might not have had a chance to secure weapons before the raids. Though I had also heard that these infiltrators were traveling with weapons, so it could go either way.

The threat of terrorist attacks globally are still sky high. It seems that these kinds of arrests are happening every week during Ramadan and the terror attacks are occurring rapidly as well. So far it seems that all of the successful attacks on western targets have been lone wolf attackers inspired by ISIS propaganda. Omar Mateen in Orlando was not a part of core ISIS and neither was the attacker in the French double homicide in Magnanville. Core ISIS still hasn't struck anywhere and I am worried that a larger scale attacks, like the Paris or Brussels ones, will still occur. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Iraqi city of Fallujah liberated from ISIS.

Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah. Reuters. 

Iraqi troops have liberated the ISIS controlled city of Fallujah. Reuters. The city was ISIS's longest held city and their last major stronghold in central Iraq. The city center and municipal building have been cleared of ISIS fighters but many fighters still remain in the city and many buildings have been mined or booby trapped. Iraqi state police forces and the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) were involved in most of the fighting. Iraq has yet to take back the Fallujah hospital which is still under control of ISIS. There were worries that the Iranian backed Shiite militias would commit more atrocities after the city was liberated but so far they have been kept out of the city. The liberation of Fallujah has lead to a mass exodus of civilians, who were finally allowed to leave by ISIS for unknown reasons. These civilians are causing a massive strain on Iraqi refugee camps. 

My Comment:
Though it is probably premature to declare victory when much of the city is still under control of ISIS, this is welcome news. ISIS had control over Fallujah since before most people even knew who they were. They took it early in the war, back in 2014 even before the fall of Mosul. They used it as a base to attack the capital of Baghdad, which is only a few miles away, and as the main base for ISIS activities in central Iraq. 

With ISIS all but defeated in Fallujah, their operational capabilities in central Iraq should be greatly reduced. They will have a much more difficult time in continuing their bombing campaign on the Shiite districts in Iraq. Though the threat is still there, I think they will have a much harder time launching attacks. 

That isn't to say that the security situation in Iraq is now magically good. ISIS still controls Mosul and much of Western Iraq. Though the amount of territory they control has been greatly reduced, especially in central Iraq, they still have control of some areas. They also have operational capabilities in much of the area they have lost. They can still launch terror attacks throughout the region. 

It seems like the worst case scenario did not take place. I was worried that the Shiite militias would be deployed to Fallujah. Though they were involved in the fighting and committed some atrocities in the outskirts of the city, they were never allowed into the city proper. Had they been allowed to do so I have no doubt that they would have taken revenge on the civilians still left in the city. That would have increased sectarian tensions and generally been bad for everyone, except ISIS, who would use the attacks as a propaganda victory.

It bodes well for Iraq that they were able to keep the Shiite militias under control. They were coming under intense pressure from those groups to allow them to enter the city. But Iraq held strong and was able to retake the city regardless. This shows that the Iraqi government is stronger then I gave them credit for. I didn't think there were going to be able to risk angering these Shiite groups and their Iranian masters. And I also didn't think they were going to be able to lean on their special forces this hard. In both cases I was wrong, and for once I am happy to have been incorrect. 

Of course, the battle for Fallujah is still a humanitarian disaster. The thousands of people that were trapped in the city are now heading to refugee camps. Those camps are already filled with people from other cities that were liberated, like Hit, Ramadi and Tikrit. All of those cities were liberated as well, but none of them are still safe for civilians to return to.

Though Fallujah has finally been liberated it's going to be a long time for anyone is able to return. If the battle followed the pattern of the most recent battles in Iraq, there won't be much to return to. Airstrikes and artillery destroyed buildings and what was left standing was probably booby trapped and mined by ISIS fighters. Critical utilities such as electricity and water will need to be restored. And before anything else, the remaining ISIS fighters need to be eliminated. 

All this makes me wonder if ISIS releasing the civilians left in the city wasn't a deliberate move. You would think that they would keep them as human shields. That would make the Iraqi's more reluctant to attack. For some reason they let them leave and I think it might have been a roundabout attack on Iraqi resources. The massive amount of refugees will take a heavy toll on Iraq, to say nothing of the effort required to rebuild Fallujah. Added into the problems Iraq will face from the other cities they have recently liberated it makes me wonder if this wasn't a semi-deliberate ploy by ISIS.

With Fallujah now mostly liberated the only main city left under ISIS control in Iraq is Mosul, the de-facto capital. The offensive to liberate that city has not gone well. Iraqi forces folded almost before the operation began. The Kurds, the best fighters in the region, have been reluctant to push outside of their lands, and doing so would have political questions.  

Iraq will probably redeploy their special forces and elite police units away from Fallujah to the Mosul area after the city has been completely cleansed of ISIS. But I wonder if they will be able to attack right away. These troops have been heavily involved in the fighting and may need time to rest and recover. Plus, it's the middle of summer in Iraq, which is always a bad time to launch an offensive. My guess is that Mosul won't be seriously attacked for a couple of months at least.

And the battle of Mosul will be unlike anything seen so far in this war. ISIS has spent years now fortifying and preparing for attack. Their defenses are formidable and attacking it will be difficult. The humanitarian considerations are much greater as well, with the population of Mosul being much greater then cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. My guess is even if the battle for Mosul begins this year, it won't be liberated in 2016...