The ISIS War: Does Anyone Know What The Hell Is Going On?

By Sal Bommarito

Generally, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but the ISIS conflict really has me wondering about what is going on in the Middle East. Unlike every other war in modern history, the media has reported very little about the events taking place in Iraq and Syria. And so, the public has been kept in the dark and is becoming more concerned every day.

The reasons for the dearth of information, to an extent, are that the U.S. has very few soldiers on the ground, and the media has very few reporters on the scene. And so, the world has not been informed about the enemy’s strength, new recruits, casualties, battles fought, and frankly, who is winning. In fact, no one unaffiliated with the military knows what winning entails and how long it will take to defeat the enemy.

What puzzles me is that ISIS, I think, is nothing more than a vicious and brutal amalgamation of religious discontents marauding in Iraq and Syria. Its ability to effectively defeat and repel indigenous fighters, be they Iraqi government troops or local militias, is uncanny. ISIS has no heavy weapons, for the most part; its soldiers carry rifles and rocket launchers. How has this group survived against a coalition that includes the most powerful military force in the world?

Based upon recent history, Arab-fighting forces, in particular Iraqi soldiers, have not fared well. Saddam Hussein and his infamous Republican Guard were supposed to be a formidable fighting force. When the U.S. engaged them, they fell in a matter of days. When Iraqis faced ISIS for the first time, they dropped their weapons and deserted. The U.S. was training the Iraqis to defend themselves for a decade, and they were totally ineffective and unprepared.

The Obama administration has not been cooperative about revealing the events in the killing zone. Everything is secret, yet the president telegraphed to the enemy that he would not authorize ground forces against ISIS. I’m still scratching my head about this indiscretion.

I’ve attempted to uncover information about enemy casualties on the Internet, but no solid data is available. No one, including our own generals, seems to know how many ISIS fighters are in the field, how many have been killed and how many have been recruited. This is a marked difference from the Vietnam War during which the military provided a daily body count of U.S. and enemy casualties.

Another mind-blowing fact relates to the relative non-engagement of Arab countries in the hostilities. Arabs are depending upon the U.S. to protect them from ISIS. Why aren’t Arabs more involved? Why aren’t they enthusiastically fighting to secure their ways of life? Is it because their armies are just as incompetent as the Iraqi force? ISIS is on the doorsteps of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Supposedly, these countries have significant military assets. What are they waiting for? An invasion of their countries?

While the ISIS threat has evolved, Iran has pumped up its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal. Does either the U.S. or Iran need to be diverted by this controversy while ISIS is running amok? Why would the president be so anxious to give Iran an opportunity to develop a nuclear weapon? Will an Iranian nuke ease concerns in the Middle East? Hardly.

It’s time that the U.S. military learned more about ISIS and what the prospects are for ending its murderous adventure. What will it take to kill ISIS and end the genocide? The U.S. needs to consider employing greater force. There have been reports that bombing missions during the ISIS war have only been a small fraction of those during the former Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Why is this so? Is the U.S. unable to find ISIS targets? If so, why hasn’t the U.S. at least put bomb controllers on the ground to direct bombing sorties?

Something is fishy about the ISIS conflict. The U.S. government either doesn’t know what it’s doing or is withholding information. Congress should demand more data from the military. Americans need to be better informed if they are going to be asked to support this growing confrontation with ISIS.

Iran Cannot Be Trusted With A Nuclear Weapon

By Sal Bommarito

A New York Times story about Secretary of State John Kerry’s testimony to a Senate committee is anything but comforting. Kerry is essentially the chief negotiator in talks with Iran about restricting its ability to build a nuclear weapon. Additionally, Kerry is the chief responder to the objections of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relating to said nuclear discussions.

The implication of the Iran nuclear negotiations is the most important issue facing the U.S. and the Middle East, far outdistancing ISIS. It appears that the administration is intent on striking a deal and suddenly foisting it on Congress for approval without giving our lawmakers a chance to study the terms or debate them.

One particular comment in the Times article is particularly striking: “A major American goal in negotiating an accord is to slow the Iranian nuclear program to the point that it would take Iran at least a year to produce enough fuel for a nuclear weapon if it decided to ‘break out’ of the accord.”

I thought the original objective was to never allow Iran to develop a nuclear device, not to just delay its development by one year. The implication is that the U.S. might take military action during this period of time. This is not a good idea. Iran cannot be trusted to live up to any agreement, and they cannot be trusted to be a responsible nuclear power.

Iran has been a mortal enemy of the U.S. ever since the Shah was deposed in the 1970s. Radical Islamic fundamentalists orchestrated a take over of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held Americans hostage for 444 days, just as Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. Since then, Iran has sponsored many terrorist organizations that have destabilized the region.

Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon in the near future is without a doubt one of the most dangerous contingencies for the Middle East, far greater than ISIS. Will Iran use this new power to bully its neighbors and antagonize Israel and Saudi Arabia, its worst enemies? No doubt.

The President is trying to deal with a nation that hates America and wishes to exterminate the State of Israel. Is this something Obama wants to do to solidify his already crumbling legacy? Is putting the Middle East in mortal danger a sensible foreign policy move?

The optimum strategy in Iran would be to continue economic sanctions and effectively bankrupt the country. Lower oil prices together with crushing trading restrictions will create great internal strife in Iran and either lead to a more conciliatory Iranian government or a civil war. If Iran needs to contend with domestic problems perhaps it will be less intrusive into the affairs of other Arab nations.

The Obama administration is secretly trying to sign an accord with the vilest country in the Middle East. These overtures are going to backfire, or Congress will oppose inane treaties. Radical Muslims will not honestly negotiate with America. Promises, accords, pacts and treaties mean nothing to them.

How Much Does Obama Love America?

By Sal Bommarito

The controversy about Rudy Giuliani’s suggestion that President Obama does not love America was nothing more than a publicity stunt. After reading an article in the New York Times about Giuliani’s comment, it’s clear that at least one of Obama’s chief apologists, The Times, has missed this point. Rudy wants to be relevant on a national level, and he sought the attention of the Republican base. His tactic was to question the president’s love of country. A very awkward confrontation has ensued. My take on the debate is, “A president can’t love America, if he or she doesn’t love all Americans.”

Saying someone does not love his or her country is a very serious indictment in this age of political correctness. No one has the ability to look into someone else’s heart to make an assessment of true feelings. Most people listen to words spoken and observe actions taken to form opinions.

Some of Obama’s words and actions during his tenure have been very critical of America and many Americans. The Times article points out that the president has in fact made these types of comments, but suggests that he often follows up by saying that America is the greatest country in the world, or something in that vein.

It’s important to define what “love America” really means. If it means love of this country and all of its inhabitants, it’s not a stretch to conclude that Obama does not love America to the fullest extent.

Consider the president’s attacks on the wealthiest among us, the so-called 1%ers. If the affluent committed crimes as they accumulated wealth there would be no controversy. But, the president has often indicated that affluent people do not pay their fair share. If your fair share is your tax bill, what is Obama’s point? Is it unfair, unreasonable, illegal, immoral or insensitive to work hard and accumulate money, or even to inherit wealth? Obama suggests that the affluent should further subsidize the poor. This would be acceptable if our leaders first tried to put this group of people to work, and simultaneously eliminated the waste and inefficiencies in our “big” government.

Obama’s handling of recent tragedies such as Ferguson has made certain American feel uneasy. Why didn’t the president demand that protesters act within the law? Why did he turn the other way when demonstrators destroyed their own city by looting local businesses?

Obama has been vicious towards his opposition in America. From the outset of his administration, he has not reached across the aisle in Congress. His vitriol increases when others disagree with his policies and decisions. On a number of occasions, Obama acted like he despised the members of Congress. In fact, he  wantonly circumvented the responsibilities of Congress with dubious executive orders.

In spite of very favorable treatment by the press, President Obama has repeatedly shunned efforts by reporters to obtain more information about scandals that have plagued his administration (including the IRS, Benghazi, Veterans Administration to name a few). And, pertinent information about the Middle East/ISIS crisis is considered top secret. Ironically, the president has deprived Americans of important data (like how is the ISIS war coming along?) while at the same time, he telegraphs his battle strategy to the enemy (the U.S. will not employ ground troops).

Obama’s “unloving” attitude extends far beyond the borders of the U.S. A short list of countries and leaders on his hate list includes: Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, N. Korea, Arab countries, et al. In fact, diplomatic policies have led many nations to doubt that the U.S. is a reliable ally. But, the greatest hypocrisy is that the president is hell-bent on signing a treaty with Iran that will likely enable it to develop a nuclear weapon. Is this smart diplomacy, or is it a deal that he thinks will solidify his legacy? When did Iran redeem itself of being a destabilizing force in the Middle East? And, when did it prove that it would be responsible with nuclear weapons?

Regularly, on grand international stages, President Obama has degraded the U.S. He attempts to ingratiate himself to others by exposing America’s problems. His vision of history is closely correlated to our enemies. Whenever something negative transpires, it is because of U.S. actions. America is responsible for the emergence of Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah because we have been loyal to our most important ally, Israel, at least up to this time.

The president empathizes with other countries that have racial, religious and social issues. The only problem with doing so is that the law protects every minority in the America, and other countries commit crimes, including genocide, against competing cultures, religions and sexes. America is not anything like the rest of the world. America is not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than most other places on Earth.

As Obama has attempted to change the culture of America, he has completely abandoned two of his greatest supporting groups. In spite of his tilted comments relating to police brutality towards African Americans and the like, very little has been done to create jobs. Yet, food stamps and other services have increased dramatically. Moreover, the plight of Millennials has worsened over the past six years. Jobs are scarce and school indebtedness is crippling.

So, where is the love? Who and what does President Obama love? I think Rudy initiated a very relevant debate.

Natanyahu Ready To Present His Perspectives To Congress

By Sal Bommarito

The latest polls indicate that the majority of Americans are not satisfied with the way that President Obama is dealing with terror. The administration has been taking an empathetic approach towards radical Islamists as they conduct jihad in the Middle East and around the world. The murderous ways of the insurgents including public executions of innocent people should inspire outrage and aggressive action from the president, not proposals to correct whatever societal problems are inspiring terrorism among Muslims.

Unhappy, disenfranchised young people represent most of the ISIS fighting force. And, by the way, almost all of them are Muslims or Muslim converts. Disregarding these facts is not ingratiating the president with his fellow Americans or their allies for that matter. Admitting that Muslims represent the vast majority of troublemakers in the Middle East does not mean or imply that Islam is responsible for ISIS.

It should be noted that a minimal amount of outrage relating to ISIS’ murderous methods and public executions has emanated from the Arab community. This could mean that many Muslims are sympathetic to ISIS (which would be unfortunate and disappointing), or that Muslims are frightened to express outrage because of possible reprisals by terrorists. Recently, Jordan and Egypt have responded to atrocities affecting their countries. Hopefully, other Arab countries will follow suit before their people are assaulted.

For some reason, Obama has decided to lump together all terrorists into one pot. This methodology is faulty from a number of perspectives. The primary one is that terrorist groups have different agendas. Some are localized. Some are regional. And, some are global in reach. Each of these problematic groups needs to be dealt with differently.

So what is ISIS trying to accomplish? Over time, the goals of the insurgents have expanded. Initially, the rebels represented a localized band of thugs trying to establish a caliphate, a religious state, in Iraq and Syria.

The early ISIS threat has become more ominous over time corresponding to their evolving objectives. It’s entirely possible that the insurgents will move into surrounding countries. This has become a new possibility because the U.S. and Arab nations underestimated ISIS, its perseverance, its fund raising capabilities and its recruitment acumen. If definitive and substantive action had been taken against ISIS during its earlier days, the problem might have been mitigated to a large extent.

Sadly, our president and his Arab allies did not act with enough force against ISIS and the problem has grown exponentially. ISIS has affiliated with rebel groups that are now fighting under the auspices of ISIS in other countries. And, lone wolf organizations in western countries are planning nefarious acts. The uprising has become a global phenomenon that is very attractive to the downtrodden.

The murderous ways of ISIS should not be ignored or swept under the table. They deserve tough justice and a vicious response. Massive public executions and wanton violence need to be addressed immediately before they spread further.

Now is not the time to propose finding jobs for ISIS fighters or enrolling them into schools. They need to be exterminated before they kill other innocent people. All nations and religions must condemn ISIS and use all their facilities to stem the tide of violence. If not the cancer of ISIS will continue to spread.

The U.S. Has A Moral Obligation To Employ More Force Against ISIS

By Sal Bommarito

Why would anyone suggest that ISIS is not a serious threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world? Arab nations and the U.S. were hopeful that the insurgents’ momentum would peter out after the U.S. began bombing and/or when ISIS resources and recruitment abated. Unfortunately, America’s bombing strategy has not been very effective, ISIS has not run out of cash and recruitment is strong. In fact, the courage, cruelty and perseverance of the rogue Islamic terrorists have become an inspiration to rebel groups in the region and around the world.

The most recent events, in which ISIS incinerated a brave Jordanian pilot and an ISIS affiliate in Libya executed a group of Egyptian Christians, have enraged the governments of these victims. Both have responded with airstrikes against the offenders.

As ISIS and its newfound friends continue to perpetrate crimes against humanity, more Arab countries will likely see the light and act accordingly. It’s sad that Jordan and Egypt and all the other countries in the region did not act sooner. Perhaps, with more aggressive military action by these states at the outset of the ISIS crisis (in conjunction with U.S. support), ISIS’ celebrity would not be on the rise.

ISIS leaders must be astounded that their ideology, whatever it is, is spreading to other places. Former Al Qaeda troublemakers and sundry rebel organizations that heretofore have either declined in relevance or never made an impact have allied with ISIS. It is questionable whether these groups are truly jihadists or just trying join the mainstream of terrorist activity.

The most disappointing performance in this entire affair is that of the U.S. President Obama has been indecisive and is still resisting attempts to label ISIS an Islamic terrorist group. In most cases, labeling is not critical. But, ISIS claims to be murdering in the name of their God. The organization consists mostly of Islamic believers. It is very sectarian, in that it is particularly cruel when it encounters Shiites and non-Islamic Arabs.

Yet, the Obama administration has given us irrelevant historical perspectives as if this conflict is a college course. And, most importantly, Obama, his minions and his apologists have not engaged ISIS to prevent its celebrity from spreading.

One expert on the topic of the Middle East said to me privately that ISIS has killed only a minimal number of opponents. The conflict is a small uprising that should be dealt with on a regional basis. I’m unsure how many crimes against humanity constitute a situation that warrants the outrage of America. But, when you consider the number of wanton executions including many on the battlefield that have not received wide spread attention, the displacement of many Iraqis and Syrians and the millions of refugees who are at risk, I would say it is appropriate for America to be infuriated into greater engagement.

Let’s be clear, no one, Americans nor Arabs, wants the U.S. to occupy another country in the region. The mission of the U.S., from a moral perspective, should be the defeat of ISIS. America should act promptly and use the necessary force to complete the mission and exit. So no one is disillusioned, civil wars will ensue after ISIS is crushed; Iraq and Syria are at the top of the list. These conflicts and the government reform that follows will be exacerbated by sectarian hatred and violence. But, they are not the business of the U.S.

I hate the idea of using ground forces and sending our soldiers into harm’s way. But, more ground troops are necessary to accomplish the mission laid out earlier. If we want to end the ISIS threat, and it now qualifies as a worldwide threat, more force and more soldiers need to be employed. It is the moral obligation of America to deal with this problem.

In Defense Of Obama’s ISIS Policies

By Sal Bommarito

For months, Softball Politics has been critical of the manner in which President Obama has prosecuted the war with ISIS. I found an opportunity to consider an alternative viewpoint in the interest of presenting a balanced mosaic of the Middle East problems.

I had a short, but substantive, conversation with an individual who is very well informed about Middle East politics. My foil is a renowned political commentator who has unfettered access to many sources of information on global issues.

To summarize our encounter, let’s just say that his views were completely the opposite of mine relating to the America’s response to the ISIS threat. Frankly, the conversation was one-sided because Jack (an assumed name) is a killer debater.

My latest theses is that the U.S. has responded ineffectively to ISIS- President Obama has “blundered” along with Arab countries by not stopping ISIS in its tracks with a combination of bombs and ground force, the latter being necessary to root out insurgents and provide bombing control. As an aside, the press has reported that many American bombing sorties are unsuccessful and return with most of their munitions having been unable to identify ISIS targets.

By not addressing the ISIS situation more forcefully, the U.S. has enabled the insurgents to become a worldwide phenom that is being admired and emulated in both Arab and western countries. Additionally, ISIS’s celebrity and success in “repelling” America, the most powerful military force in the world, has been used in propaganda and to recruit new fighters. In a nutshell, ISIS has been given time to become a very dangerous threat to the global community.

Jack totally disagreed with my perspectives. He is supportive of the president’s efforts and restraint relating to ISIS. Not taking the bait and becoming engaged in a new nation-building project is, in Jack’s opinion, noteworthy.

He said the U.S. has failed miserably in every occupation dating back to the Vietnam War. I should point out that I agree with many of Jack’s observations, but I never suggested that the U.S. occupy Iraq and Syria, as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade. Rather, I believe annihilation of the ISIS interlopers should be a top priority. What happens after ISIS is defeated is another important topic.

Jack proceeded to lambaste my perspectives that ISIS is fortifying its positions among the population, and this is why bombing missions have been so ineffective- the U.S. is unsurprisingly concerned with collateral damage. He said that Arabs should deal directly with ISIS, and that the ISIS conflict was a political situation inspired by the U.S. invasion of Iraq ten or so years ago. [The last item is a ubiquitous ploy by many liberals to foist Obama’s incompetence on the policies of George Bush.]

Jack’s principal contention, and I am putting words in his mouth, is that the U.S. will be responsible for defending any and all land recaptured from ISIS. In other words, a ground assault is the precursor to occupation and nation building.

I tried unsuccessfully to argue that Iraq and Syria represented a two-stage problem. The first is the elimination of ISIS. It needs to be defeated and exposed as an unproductive rebel uprising that will never have any political traction. After its defeat, the second stage would kick in. In Iraq, it is the negotiation of a power sharing arrangement between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. In Syria, it is the determination of the fate of the brutal tyrant Bashar al-Assad. These situations will, for sure, evolve into brutal civil wars in both countries. Most importantly, the U.S. must depart before these internal struggles begin.

Many other nuances of Middle East politics came up in my brief repartee with Jack, in which we would have likely found agreement. I suspect that the major issue for both of us is the performance of Obama and the U.S. military. Jack is definitely an Obama apologist, and you know where I stand.

I would relish an opportunity to continue my debate with Jack, but he is probably too busy to contend with my “neocon” leanings. Another meeting would surely result in another flogging , but I believe I am correct that ISIS is a growing threat that needs to be dealt with immediately by increasing U.S. military actions.

Serious Blunders Have Led To The Growth Of ISIS And ISIS Copy-Cats

By Sal Bommarito

The New York Times published a disturbing article titled “Islamic State Sprouting Limbs Beyond Mid-East.” It chronicles the plethora of new ISIS affiliates that are planning terrorist activities in North Africa and in Afghanistan. ISIS’ influence is rapidly becoming a global malignancy that includes fledgling operations in western countries.

The U.S. and Arab states opposing ISIS committed a huge blunder at the inception of ISIS. The blunder was giving ISIS time and an opportunity to commandeer land and assets. It should be noted that ISIS is to a great extent a reconfiguration of Al Qaeda and other rebel organizations that have been active in the region for years. Affiliating with ISIS’ great success against American military power and Arab money has reenergized these terrorist groups.

Terrorist organizations are always desperate for new enlistees and money to conduct their nefarious deeds. ISIS used social media to recruit thousands [the Times article indicates there are between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria. This number excludes thousands of discontented Sunnis that could side with ISIS]. ISIS has stolen oil and antiquities, which it sold on the black market to raise funds to operate.

President Obama’s reticence and ambivalence together with Iranian, Saudi and Turkish fear of internal backlash should they enthusiastically support America, have resulted in a benign military response. This reaction enabled ISIS to grow, recruit and fortify its positions.

The ultimate result is that a renegade band of malcontents have grown into a phenom that is being admired and emulated globally. Obama, many western nations and Arab nations have stood by while a gigantic, although unorganized, terrorist organization flourished. It is reminiscent of the Arab Spring, except terror, not democracy, is the objective. If the U.S. had committed to substantive military action that included ground forces, the situation would not be so dire today.

Understandably, Obama wanted to avoid yet another multi-year nation building project. But, he did not need to commit long-term. All he had to do was to use enough firepower and manpower to kill the cancer of Isis before it metastasized. Now, it is too late for any quick fixes. The world will be battling unhappy young people who have found a home in ISIS or one of its wanna-bes for many years.

Obama’s Middle East Legacy

By Sal Bommarito

In defense of President Obama, it’s obvious he really wants peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, his non-confrontational approach has made it clear that he does not wish to engage any evil forces with the full military and diplomatic might of the U.S.

The problem with this strategy is that our adversaries are playing by different rules. This is a function of several issues. The Shiite/Sunni feud is responsible for the intransigent attitudes of many Arabs. Neither sect will rest until the other is annihilated. Iran and Saudi Arabia lead the two groups of combatants.

The U.S. cannot negotiate with one of the sects without offending the other. Each group relishes the thought of the U.S. engaging militarily and/or diplomatically against the other. This is the reason why the Iran nuclear negotiations are so profound. If the U.S. spurns the Iranians, plays hardball regarding the production of nuclear material and increases economic sanctions, the Saudis will be overjoyed. Conversely, if the U.S. deals with Iran, the Saudis will be dismayed.

The ISIS war has surfaced many of the contradictions prevalent in the Middle East. The U.S., Iran, Russia, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia oppose ISIS. Yet, Iran and Russia support the Assad regime in Syria. It has been difficult to coordinate military operations with such dramatically different perspectives pertaining to Syria.

The U.S. has chosen a seemingly benign approach to ISIS. It is prepared to kill ISIS fighters with bombs, but unwilling to engage them on the ground. Most observers and participants in the war believe that effective ground support is critical to defeating ISIS. Without it, ISIS will recruit, fortify, terrorize and survive.

It’s likely that most opponents of ISIS would prefer that the U.S. go all-in with a massive invasion and finish off the relatively impotent ISIS force, even though Arab countries would publicly criticize such an action. Obama has a dream that U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers will be capable of providing ground support necessary to kill ISIS some number of years into the future, a questionable strategy to say the least.

The issue of leadership has been swept under the rug from the start of the ISIS crisis. Most observers expected the U.S. to lead the fight. This has not been the case; Obama is influenced by some combination of reticence and ambivalence about leading the charge against the insurgents; he probably fears another multi-year occupation. Bombing alone is more of a support function in this type of war. ISIS needs to be rooted out with foot soldiers.

Ironically, the brave King of Jordan has exhibited real courage in the face of the gruesome execution of his hero pilot. Many of us are wondering why the U.S. is not stepping up even as the threat of ISIS is proving to be greater every day.

The legacy of the American president will not be favorable. The U.S. is no longer considered a reliable ally by Arab countries and by Israel. The president has chosen to lead from behind, an absurd and ineffective way to prosecute a war. Negotiating with a charter member of George W. Bush’s axis of evil (Iran) could prove to be destabilizing. There are millions of refugees and those displaced by ISIS that are in dire need. This could result in a catastrophic humanitarian disaster that will be assigned to Obama and the U.S.

The principal problem with President Obama’s current plan is that he does not seem to appreciate the ramifications of not dealing with deadly forces now. By punting, he has allowed them to have successes, which will make them stronger and more difficult to defeat in the future.

Too Many Americans Lie And Cheat

By Sal Bommarito

Brian Williams, the embattled anchorman at NBC, is one in a long line of journalists, actors, sports figures, politicians, academics and business people who have lied and cheated in an attempt to game the system. The list is much greater if you include individuals who cheat on their personal taxes, doctors who submit false medical documents and businesses that cut corners to save money and imperil their employees and customers.

I had a suspicion that the list of liars and cheaters would be a long one. I confirmed my expectations by researching famous “liars.” Many successful people have ruined their careers by doing inane things, lying about errors, exaggerating accomplishments and covering up deceptions. The most outrageous aspect of this topic is that cheaters, adulterers and sinners of every ilk feel the urge to communicate their transgressions on the Internet making their adjudication easy.

The ramifications of lying and cheating fall on an extensive continuum of damage inflicted on society. For instance, Brian Williams was thought to be one of the “most trusted” journalists in the world. He broke that trust, and now some will be skeptical when he speaks, should he ever make it back to broadcast television. The damage done to society is nil; the reputation of his employer is another problem. Calling him an influential journalist is a stretch when all he does is read stories on a teleprompter that were written by other people.

Big issues include ones that involve government officials who lie or embellish the truth about critical events. For instance, many people believe the Internal Revenue Service did irreparable damage to itself when officials lied about targeting conservative political organizations. Further, the IRS is not a political operation authorized to pass along confidential information about taxpayers to any group. What inspired the IRS to become an activist clique? Now the organization is under fire and spending too much time defending itself rather than chasing after tax cheaters.

In the 1960s, our government was playing it fast and loose regarding the Vietnam War and secretly bombing neighboring countries. Efforts by the press to find the truth were stymied. Today, many Americans feel their government is not being totally forthright about the status of the ISIS conflict and its potential as an existential threat to the United States and/or other countries.

In business, the list of wrongdoers is extensive. Some frauds perpetrated are conspiratorial and very secretive, such as insider trading, while some are gigantic and certain to be discovered. Massive defalcations, in which generally accepted accounting standards are ignored, are reminiscent of the Enron scandal. The games executives played with revenues and profits were likely to be exposed at some point. Several people went to jail and millions lost money or were seriously impacted by the demise of such a large corporation.

Business frauds occur every day. Customers are lied to and suppliers pad their costs. The federal government is the largest victim in this regard. Oversight of costs and expenses on large projects is insufficient. We have all heard about $10.00 screws.

Frauds involving corporations are usually much more serious than other types of cheating. In many cases, innocent bystanders are hurt. A renegade trader at a bank, who works in the securities area could exceed his trading limits and create havoc by loosing hundreds of millions of dollars. Several similar incidents have greatly impacted major institutions and their employees.

Individual Americans perpetrate frauds every day. It is staggering how many dollars are lost to tax evaders. These misdirected revenues directly impact all Americans. Some might not receive aid that they are entitled to, while others will need to pay higher taxes to offset losses.

Some individuals cheat when applying for health care reimbursement. A few dollars here and a few dollars there add up. Soon, billions of dollars are being absconded from insurance companies that, in turn, increase premiums to offset their losses.

Our electoral process has been damaged severely over the years. As politicians have become more dependent upon media advertising, the lies and distortions have increased exponentially. Good, capable and honest candidates lose elections because there are no restrictions when it comes slinging mud in election campaigns. Once a negative and untrue stigma is attached to a candidate, it is next to impossible to repudiate.

Celebrities and actors and those in sports are notorious for unduly bolstering their reputations. An entire cottage industry that revels in scandal has developed based upon innuendo, rumors and denials. Of note, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has attempted to deceive major league baseball, his employer and baseball fans about his use of steroids. Once reporters latch onto a story like A-Rod’s, it is too late. It would be better to admit one’s blunder, accept punishment and move on. It is entirely possible that Rodriguez will never be voted into the Hall of Fame, even though he is arguably one of the best players to step on to a baseball diamond.

A universal subterfuge is lying on one’s resume. Individuals in many lines of work have lost their jobs and reputations for saying that they have a degree they don’t have, or did something that they didn’t do. Included in this group are university professors, sports coaches, TV chefs, security analysts, marathon racers and Lotharios.

One of the two greatest deceptions that ultimately worked out for the perpetrator was Bill Clinton’s denial that he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Nobody really cared about Clinton’s dalliances, but when he lied under oath and on TV, he stepped over the line.

The other event was Watergate and the Richard Nixon cover-up. Nixon was not so fortunate and lost his presidency when he tried to hide his involvement with aides who broke the law.

America is the greatest country in the world. Unfortunately, too many of its citizens lie and cheat. Their nefarious deeds hurt others and our society in general. They should all be exposed for their misbehavior.

 

 

What Conditions Enabled ISIS To Flourish In The Middle East?

By Sal Bommarito

ISIS is a band of quasi-organized murderers and thugs that has taken the Middle East by storm. The success of ISIS to date is best exhibited by its annexation and retention of vast areas of land in Iraq and Syria.

There are other noteworthy achievements that should be mentioned. No army of fighters can be successful without recruits, arms, ammunition and cash. Most believe ISIS is funding these requirements by stealing and selling oil and antiquities. Additionally, some wealthy Arab interests and/or insurgent groups may be providing funds to help conduct ISIS’ military pursuits.

Regarding recruitment, the insurgents have masterfully used social media to broadcast their propaganda and to encourage disenfranchised and unhappy young people to affiliate with their cause. Thousands have joined the fight in the Middle East. Exacerbating the situation are ISIS enlistees who may try to take the fight to enemies outside the region. ISIS developed a “lone wolf” concept of training and funding people to attack nations around the world who are not sympathetic to its cause.

How was ISIS able to achieve such success in a short period of time? A perfect storm made it possible, beginning with the destitution of many Muslims and a desire for self-rule. Regimes were toppled as many young people demanded more say in the selection of their leaders.

This dream was never a real possibility and led to a vacuum as long-time leaders across the Middle East abdicated. The ideal of democracy in places like Egypt, Libya and Yemen faded away quickly. However, it served as a catalyst for the ensuing anarchy led by fanatical clerics.

In lesser-developed countries, destitution leads many people to embrace orthodox religion. Clerics have a great impact on many nations, especially in the Middle East. Adding to this is the age-old feud between the two largest Muslim sects. Frankly, democracy is not plausible in places where religion is as strong as government, the logistics of fair elections are too complicated and the populous is conflicted by two competing religious groups that are continuously fighting for dominance.

Anarchy resulted from all these forces, a condition that breeds ultra religious fanaticism. The most powerful leaders in rural areas are the ones who ultimately take control when the central government is in chaos. This scenario enabled ISIS to gain traction.

From its outset, ISIS’ belligerent and threatening attitude should have been a warning to observers on the outside, in places like the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. These countries stood aside for months and allowed ISIS to gain a foothold and great momentum. Success soon followed becoming enticing to disenfranchise people in surrounding countries.

Even after Middle East countries and the west recognized the potential of ISIS globally, they did not react with the aggression necessary to squash this determined rebel group motivated by a dangerous ideology. Muslim countries were tentative about going to war with other Muslims. The U.S.’s tepid response to ISIS gave the insurgents time to flourish.

So now ISIS has dug in for the long-term. The fighters have fortified their positions in populated areas. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of lone wolves are cooking up plans to kill in scores of locations around the world to instill terror.

The U.S. has been unable to convince Middle East countries to become more engaged, probably because the U.S. has not engaged to the fullest extent. Dropping bombs without ground controllers and not employing ground troops to mop up after bombing are not a plan for victory.

Current news: President Obama is attempting to get congressional approval for the continuing conflict with ISIS, but the approval would specifically forbid the use of ground forces. It appears that members on both sides of the aisle are not amenable to the proposal. Also, the new proposed law would be in force for three years extending into the next presidency.