Friday, March 27, 2015

Bishop's Gate Available in Print

For those of you who like the feel of an actual book in your hands, the weight is over. Bishop's Gate is now available in print.

The price is $16.99, which is slightly higher than the previous book, but remember, there is almost 100 pages more.

You can get it direct through Createspace (which is an Amazon Company) via the following link: Createspace: Bishop's Gate

Or you may purchase it direct through Amazon at the following link: Amazon: Bishop's Gate

Once again, I thank you for your continued support.

Monday, March 9, 2015

So you think you understand the Middle East?

Good for you, because I can tell you that many people don’t. What is funny to me is that a lot of people, who don’t understand the dynamics that are involved, are very happy to tell you what is going on.

Most of the time I just shake my head and walk away, there’s simply no point in arguing with folks who get there news delivered in talking point format. If you think that the current state of affairs in the Middle East can be summed up in 140 characters or less, you need to spend more time in a book!

One of the central themes of my last two books, Queen’s Gambit and Bishop’s Gate, is the very real threat of terrorism that we face. If you watch the news, you might not truly understand the complexities of what is going on. So I thought a bit of a refresher course would be in order. Please, understand that this is an introductory look at the subject and is in no means meant to be construed as comprehensive.

The Middle East, like Ireland, is complex and should be studied at length.

For the purposes of this we are going to look at things beginning in the early 1900’s. At the time, the Ottoman Empire controlled the Middle East, this would soon come to an end thanks to WW I. By 1917, the British Empire had made three different agreements with three different groups promising three different political futures for the Arab world. The Arabs insisted they still get their Arab kingdom that was promised to them through Sharif Hussein (McMahon-Hussein Correspondence). The French and British expected to divide up that same land among themselves (Sykes-Picot Agreement). And the Zionists expected to be given Palestine as promised by the Foreign Secretary for Britain (Balfour Declaration). 

As you can see, things were not off to a good start from the beginning.

After the war, the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) was created and one of its roles was to divide up the conquered Ottoman land. It was the League who ‘created’ the Arab world we know today. The borders were drawn arbitrarily, without any regard for the people living there. No consideration was given to ethnic, geographic, or religious issues. These lands were supposed to be ruled by the British or French until such time as they were able to stand alone. The differences between Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. were entirely created, as a method of dividing the Arabs against each other. 

The situation in Palestine was even worse. The British government created the British Mandate of Palestine and allowed the Zionists to settle there. However, they set limitations on the number, because they did not want to anger the Arabs already living there. This condition continued to fester until 1947 when the United Nations dissolved the British Mandate of Palestine and created a partition plan for Palestine. Under this resolution it required the withdrawal of the British Empire and created independent Arab and Jewish States. It also established the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.

Of course the plan was accepted by the Jewish people and rejected by the Arabs. Immediately after the resolution passed, civil war broke out.

Recently I heard a college educated woman say that the Jews came in and stole the land from the Palestinians. Here is a news flash; the Jewish people have lived in this area since 2500 BC. The ‘nation’ of Palestine is a modern creation.

While the U.N. resolution passed, it was not without issues. Every Arab nation voted against it. Here are some examples of the sentiment that existed:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, said: "We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in". He also called for ‘severe measures’ to be taken against all Jews in Arab countries.

General Secretary of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, said: “Personally I hope the Jews do not force us into this war because it will be a war of elimination and it will be a dangerous massacre which history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades."

Egyptian King Farouk said that in the long run the Arabs would soundly defeat the Jews and “drive them out of Palestine.”

So, despite the creation of five Arab states (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), the Arab world still demand the creation of an Arab Palestine state. Clearly, they had drawn the famous ‘line in the sand.’

After the resolution passed, the surrounding Arab states, Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria invaded what had just ceased to be Mandatory Palestine. They immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements. During the civil war, the Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine clashed (the latter supported by the Arab Liberation Army) while the British, who had the obligation to maintain order, organized their withdrawal and intervened only on an occasional basis. The conflict then turned into what is known as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

The one year conflict triggered significant demographic changes throughout the Middle East. Around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel and they became Palestinian refugees. In the three years following the war, about 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel with one third of them having fled, or having been expelled, from their previous countries of residence in the Middle East.

Despite what many believed would be a one-sided battle, the Jewish people did not get the memo. They fought as if their very lives depended on it, and it did. In the end, not only had the Jewish people retained the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution (#181) had recommended for the proposed Jewish state, but they also took control of almost 60% of the area allocated for the proposed Arab state.

So there you have the ‘basic’ primer for the problems between the Arabs and the nation of Israel.

Now, you would think that would be enough, but you would be wrong. You see, when they turn their attention away from Israel, they seem to be inclined to have issues with one another as well.

Iran – The current make-up of Iran is much different than it was. Following WWII the country was led by the Shah of Iran. However, the oil crisis of the 70’s created an economic recession which led to the Islamic revolution in 1979. The new regime proceeded to storm and occupy the US Embassy in Tehran in what is known as the Iran Hostage Crisis from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981. The current regime is a theocracy, under the rule of the country’s supreme religious leader, the Ayatollah. Iran is a predominantly Shia Islam country. This toppling of the Shah led to concerns in Iraq, that its new Shia neighbor might be a problem.

Iraq – This country has known nothing but turmoil since it was a British mandate. From WWI to the 60’s, the country was in a constant state of flux, with one coup d’état after another. Then, in 1979, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, ascended to the top slot. Hussein initially welcomed the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and sought to establish good relations with the Ayatollah Khomeini's new government. Khomeini had other ideas. He openly called for the spread of the Islamic Revolution to Iraq and took to arming Shiite and Kurdish rebels against Saddam's regime and sponsoring assassination attempts on senior Iraqi officials. This led to a series of military conflicts between the two countries, including the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, throughout the 80’s.

When Saddam Hussein was ousted from power Iran began to make its in-roads. They actively engaged against US military forces, providing some of the most lethal IED’s encountered.  The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, is a Shia Muslim, and is enjoying a new relationship with Iran, including military assistance in fighting ISIS.

Lebanon – Has also experienced upheaval since its inception. When they went to war against Israel, 100,000 Palestinian refugees fled to the country because of the war. Israel did not permit their return after the cease-fire. With the defeat of the PLO in Jordan, many Palestinian militants relocated to Lebanon, increasing their armed campaign against Israel. The relocation of Palestinian bases also led to increasing sectarian tensions between Palestinians and the Christian Maronite’s as well as other Lebanese factions. In 1975, following increasing sectarian violence, civil war broke out in Lebanon. It pitted a coalition of Christian groups against the joint forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), left-wing Druze and Muslim militias. In June 1976 Syria sent in its own troops, ostensibly to restore peace.

In 1982, the continued PLO attacks from Lebanon on Israel led to an Israeli invasion. A multinational peacekeeping force of American, French and Italian military units, joined in 1983 by a British contingent, were deployed in Beirut, after the Israeli siege of the city, to supervise the evacuation of the PLO. In 1983, following the Beirut bombing, the peacekeeping forces withdrew. Lebanon continues to be used a launching spot for rocket attacks by Hezbollah on Israel. Hezbollah is a Lebanon based terrorist organization that has become a major political payer in Lebanon. It was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran. Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government.

Syria – Is another country that has known nothing but upheaval since it was a French mandate. From WWI to the 60’s, the country was in a constant state of political turmoil. After the Suez Canal Crisis, Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union. This gave the Soviets a foothold for Communist influence within the government, in exchange for military equipment. This caused considerable unease in their neighbor to the north, Turkey. While the current president, Bashar al-Assad, is an Alawite Muslim, he has close ties to the Iranian regime. Iran sees the survival of the Syrian government as being crucial to its regional interests. Syria provides a crucial thoroughfare to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran see’s al-Assad's Alawite minority led government being a crucial buffer against the influence of Saudi Arabia and the United States. In the on-going conflict in Syria, Iran has provided enormous military resources, including strategic assistance, from its vaunted Qods force in the fight against the rebels, of whom ISIS is a large part. ISIS (or ISIL, or IS) is a Salafi Islamic group fighting to impose a global Islamic caliphate. Many believe that the group’s roots are founded in the Muslim Brotherhood. It adheres to global jihadist principles and follows the hardline ideology of al-Qaeda, whom they separated from in 2014. 

Have you noticed the one compelling and underlying issue among all of this? Yes, Religion.

The other issue is Iran. Since 1979 they have been at the forefront of sowing the seeds of discontent. They have been slow and methodical, playing a game of chess and moving their pieces with a keen tactical mind. The threat posed by a potential nuclear Iran is almost unimaginable. I don’t get the warm and fuzzies thinking about a nuclear powered Iran and I am sure that Israel feels the same way. Iran has been adamant that they want Israel gone. This is not an ‘old’ Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threat. The new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, said in an interview that: "Israel is a wound on the body of the world of Islam that must be destroyed."

Also, if I hear one more person say that Iran needs it for ‘energy’, I think I’ll scream. Iran holds the world's fourth-largest crude oil reserves and the world's second-largest natural gas reserves. Instead of pursuing nuclear energy, made they should abandon that route and have the sanctions lifted, which would allow them to better pursue these energy ventures.

Like I said, this is only a basic primer, to show you that the issues are much more complex than some will say. Religion drives the majority of conflicts, whether it is directed at Israel or whether it is direct at internal sectarian issues. The folks in D.C. may be loathed to say it, but it is a religious war we are dealing with. It always has been and we won’t do ourselves any favors by pretending it isn’t. The conflict between Arab and Jew dates back four thousand years

So the next time you’re watching the news, and you hear some talking head say that in order to fix the problems we must look at the socio-economic issues, turn it off and go pick up a book.

Monday, March 2, 2015

No Guns Allowed - What are you thinking ?

I think I woke up on the silly side of stupid and entered the Utopian world of No Guns Allowed.

Have you seen these little signs that have popped up all over? They are quite adorable, if you believe in that sort of nonsense. I guess that I am just a cynic.

Over the course of a day I encountered these little gremlins in a series of different places: a hospital, DMV, the bank, and a pizza shop. You see them popping up at malls, schools, movie theaters, hotels. Heck, even private citizens are putting them up outside their homes. Not the brightest of ideas, but hey, to each his own. I did get a pretty good chuckle out of the fact that the Mall of America in Minnesota has ‘no gun’ signs up.

I wonder, in light of the recent threat to the mall, made by the terrorist group Al Shabaab, if the State Department should notify them that they will have to select a different target? Maybe Jen Psaki can send them a tweet. #PickAnotherMall

In the end, I finally threw my hands up in disgust and made a beeline straight to my sanctuary, far away from the lunacy that seems to grip society today. In fact, the grip seems to be more like a full-on death throttle, threatening to kill off any sort of resistance to their peace, love and harmony position.

It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? 

Reminds me of those warm and cuddly folks over in the Middle East and their mantra: Convert, or Die.

Now before you start screaming about how you are just trying to protect innocent people, let me stop you. First, if that’s the best you can do, you need to go back to whatever school of higher learning you attended and demand a refund of your parent’s money. That’s just stupid, right out of the gate. Unlike you I have real world experience, earned during a twenty-two year career in law enforcement.

You’re not protecting people; you’re promoting your agenda. Let’s be honest, you don’t like guns, plain and simple. You think they are barbaric instruments that have no place in a civil society. The problem is that you place responsibility on the wrong thing. You believe that the tool is the problem, instead of looking at the person wielding it. You don’t have an answer for that, so you shift the focus away to something you can vilify.

During the course of my career, I encountered a number of people that were truly evil, and many more, who I would describe as ambitiously evil, those who had no qualms about using violence to further their criminal activities. These people were not encumbered by such niceties as obeying the law, respect for individual rights and properties. No, they believed that their particular needs, real or imagined, provided them the right to take from others. They did it with whatever tool was available at the time, whether it was a gun, knife, hammer, or physical force.

This is not a new trend, in fact it dates back to the earliest days of man, when Cain set upon his brother, Abel, and killed him out of jealousy and anger. I don’t recall any firearms being around at that time, and I don’t believe there was a big outcry of ‘No Stones.’

In the end, the actual culprit was not the weapon, but the person wielding it. The same is true today.

However, just like in the biblical days, man doesn’t seem to have an answer for man’s inhumanity to man. Not that we haven’t tried, ad nauseum, in terms of correctional rehabilitation, psychiatric care, and at-risk outreach programs. Yet the fundamental issue is that some people just don’t get along well with others. I’ve seen this many times over, and yet civil society has no answer. We believe that a term of imprisonment is sufficient to ‘correct’ a person’s behavior, but what about the person who likes his behavior and doesn’t want to change? To them, jail or a psychiatric facility is simply an imposed time-out, a place to wait until they can be unleashed on society again.

Do you think these folks worry about your silly little signs?

Do you think someone intent on robbing a bank; is going to simply walk away, his crime spree ground to a halt, because of a ‘no gun’ sign?

Do I need to answer that? Seriously?

The simple fact, based on my real world experience, and not some hippie-happy utopian fairytale is that criminals are not hampered by such niceties as the law. The politicians know this, the courts know this, and, honestly, so do you.

But you are not really interested in that, are you?

No, the truth is that you don’t like guns. You want them banished because they offend your sensibilities. They force you to recognize that there is evil in the world. An evil you pretend does not exist and one that I dealt with on a daily basis for twenty-two years. You believe that, because some professor taught you that guns were bad, grotesque, things that had no place in civil society. The same professors who taught you that prisons are inhumane and that those who are incarcerated are good people who were made into criminals, because of the socio-economic pressures that were imposed on them by a privileged society.

Yes, there are some that become criminals by virtue of necessity, but it has been my experience that those folks rarely use a weapon to further their crime. No mom is pulling out an MP-5 to heist a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. No, it is the ones who have embraced the violent criminal lifestyle that use a weapon and they are not impeded by laws. If they were, we’d have no crime.

No, the sad truth is that these signs are hung up by idiots, who believe that this small placard will protect them from the wolves of society. That somehow this little plastic shield will keep them from harm. Jeez, why didn’t we think of this hundreds of years ago? Think of all the wars we could have prevented, just by hanging one of these signs at the border crossing. I’m sure Hitler would have turned away at the Polish border if there was a ‘No Invasion’ sign. In fact, why didn’t Wyatt Earp think about that? He could have just hung a sign saying no guns in Tombstone and could have avoided the whole O.K. Corral fiasco…… oh wait, he did. Guns were outlawed in Tombstone in 1878, three years before the gunfight. Yeah, I guess that worked out well.

Here’s the thing, I won’t sacrifice my freedom and safety, because you’re not comfy with my gun. The fact that you will never know that I have one, unless I have to defend myself or you, means nothing. Your signs indicate to me that you do not value me as a customer, just my money. So I will not give you either. I think of it as doing you a favor. The less money you have, the less you have to lose when the armed criminal comes in and rips you off.

I pray that nothing befalls you. Unlike the criminal, I believe in and respect laws. I wish that we lived in a peaceful world where there was no need for guns, the police or laws. I wish we were more civil with one another, but we aren’t.

And therein lies the rub: Society has no answer for the criminal element.

Politicians make more laws, that criminals will not follow, and businesses put up signs, that criminals will not follow.

When the folly of these things becomes known, then the next step is to ban firearms from legal owners.

In 2008, during a campaign event in Lebanon, Virginia, then Sen. Barrack Obama said:  "I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won't take your handgun away.”

On February 13th, during another infamous late Friday information dump, the ATF revealed that it is proposing to put the ban on 5.56 mm ammo on a fast track. The reason for this, the ATF contends, is that the ammo can be used in semi-automatic handguns and that they pose a threat to police. So the agency now proposes to reclassify it as armor-piercing and not exempt, meaning that they will be banned from production, sale and use. This would then be signed into effect through a presidential executive order. I guess he was right; he doesn't want to take away your rifle, just the ammunition for it.

You would think that I, a veteran member of law enforcement, would be behind such a well-intentioned rule. But I see past the line of drivel they are spewing.  This is simply a ruse. One of those ‘surely you’re not opposed to common sense laws, designed to protect our law enforcement officers, are you?’ charades.

The ATF has not even alleged, much less offered evidence,  that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer, despite the fact that there are millions upon millions of rounds that have been sold and used in the U.S.

So why are they doing this?

It’s like the ‘no gun’ placard. They don’t have an answer for the real problem, so they go off chasing unicorns. It makes them feel better.

This isn’t about doing anyone any good; it is about pursuing their agenda of outlawing firearms. They don’t like them, and if you don’t agree you’re one of those knuckle-dragging, violence mongers who can’t be trusted to know what is best for you. I guess the fact that I served in law enforcement for over two decades means nothing.

Here’s a novel idea, you hold onto your beliefs. If you don’t like me and my guns, I will respect that and not patronize your establishment. At the same time, I demand that you respect my rights, protected under law. If you don’t like guns, I won’t force you to own one, but do not be so misguided to believe that you can tell me that I cannot own one.

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