As the Syrian civil war slouches toward its brutal end, it’s time to take stock of one of the most significant diplomatic and military failures in my lifetime.

More than 200,000 civilians have died, including more than 25,000 children, and many more have been critically injured.

Six million refugees have created havoc in Europe and the Middle East.

For the first time in more than two decades, Russia has a significant stronghold in the Middle East.

Shias have cut a swath of religious intolerance through Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Much of the blame can be placed at the foot of the Obama administration, which ignored the potential impact of the war that began during the Arab uprising of 2011.

In 2014, President Obama invited over a dozen  leaders from both parties to the White House to talk about foreign policy. Obama became visibly agitated when confronted by bipartisan criticism of the White House’s policy of delaying Syrian rebels’ repeated requests for arms to fight the Assad regime.

The president defended his administration’s actions on Syria, saying that the notion that many have put forth regarding arming the rebels earlier would have led to better outcomes in Syria was “horse shit.”

During the civil war, the self-proclaimed Islamic State gained a significant foothold in Syria. Obama once referred to ISIS as the “junior varsity.” It’s a comment he probably would prefer to take back, but he did little to root out ISIS, too.

Note: ISIS, which is Sunni, also fought the Assad regime, which is related to the Shia sect, for its own vicious reasons, including the importance of a piece of real estate to train terrorists.

It took President Trump to defeat ISIS in Syria because Obama couldn’t figure out what to do about Assad and/or ISIS.

As a reporter for ABC News and Newsweek, I spent a lot of time in Syria. Although a brutal dictatorship ruled the country, I traveled to many historic spots, such as Palmyra, which ISIS tried to destroy. The market in Damascus, Al-Hamidiyah Suq, was one of my favorite haunts as were the road where St. Paul found God and the Umayyad Mosque, which then-Pope John Paul II visited during a Middle Eastern trip.

I remember a visit to Lebanon in 2011, where I spoke on a panel with prominent reporters from The Washington Post and NPR.

I argued that the United States faced an important decision in Syria. I said that the U.S. needed to provide significant aid, including American boots on the ground. The other reporters, voicing the conventional wisdom of the swamp, said my position was over the top, although the mainly Lebanese audience agreed with me.

At a time when the media seem preoccupied with myriad issues, Syria, unfortunately, has dropped off their radar when we should look critically at what went wrong and what lies ahead.

A.G. Sulzberger
Publisher
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, New York 10018

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

I have been a subscriber to your newspaper for much of the past 30 years.

During that time, I have stood by you when Jason Blair made stuff up.

I stood by you when Judith Miller made stuff up.

I must stand by you when Sarah Jeong made stuff up.

As an old, white guy, I understand that I deserve to be treated with cruelty.

For years I have been a groveling goblin and been miserable to others.

I have marked up the internet like a dog pissing on a fire hydrant.

I didn’t realize that I burn more easily in the sun than people of color.

I thought living underground was what everyone did.

I find comfort that my fellow academics and my former colleagues in the mainstream media stand by Jeong’s side.

As Nolan L. Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, put it so clearly:

“The term ‘racism’ is not the equivalence of prejudice or bigotry. It’s an analysis of social inequality along the color lines and an analysis of power dynamics and social oppression. None of which has ever been in the hands of people of color or communities of color: There’s never been the social structure to be able to oppress white people.”

I do realize the error of my ways, failing to see that I have subjugated all races to second-class citizenship and understanding that a social structure must be put in place to oppress white people.

As a Trump supporter, I understand why Jeong feels that “nothing but an unending cascade of vomit” comes out of her mouth when she tries to “politely greet a Republican.”

I do realize that I am a “garbage” person with bad teeth as your and Jeong’s colleague at POLITICO so rightly put it.

I also endorse the harassment of many administration officials for their looks and the ban on some of them eating in restaurants because of their beliefs.

My re-education is almost complete. I will continue to read your excellent columnists like Charles Blow and Jeong to make certain that my wayward ways are corrected.

I praise you and your media colleagues for raising the bar so high on journalistic standards.

Oh, I am sorry for being, as Joeng puts it, “satirical.”

Cordially,

Christopher Harper

 

The teaching of history in high school has become so appalling that few students arrive at a university with any coherent understanding of the past.

As an example, I’ve been asked to be on a panel for my college’s students who are too young to know much about 9/11.

Think about that. Somehow college students don’t know enough about 9/11, an event that occurred less than 20 years ago that has shaped the United States so distinctly.

With a lack of understanding about recent historical events, it is not surprising that students don’t know much older history. And what the students know is mostly tripe. Somehow 9/11 was OUR fault. Saddam Hussein wasn’t such a bad guy. We stole America from its true owners and should pay reparations for slavery.

But there’s more. The College Board, a nonprofit organization that runs the SAT and Advanced Placement program, announced that it was revising the world history course it has offered since 2002.

After many complaints, the organization added 250 years to the front end of the course, making the new class cover the 13th century through to the present day.

Here’s what students will learn in the additional material:

–The founding of the Mali Empire in 1235
–The death of Sundiata Keita in 1260
–The life of Mansa Musa (1280-1337)
–Swahili cities of the 14th century
–Zimbabwe in the 15th century

And wait for it: The beginning of the European slave trade in 1441.

All of these areas of history may be worthwhile to examine, but I don’t think they belong in an introductory world history course.

But there’s even more. One of the suggested areas of study is to imagine if Christopher Columbus were a woman named Christine.

The study guideline suggests an area of discussion includes the societal interpreations of menstruation in European and Native American culture. I’m not kidding.

Here it is: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-world-history/classroom-resources/voyages-christine-columbus

In a companion syllabus, the rest of the course, which is supposed to be at the college level, provides information on the following:

–Global Interactions (c. 1450 to c. 1750)

That would be creating imperial empires that subjugate humans throughout the world. Now I’m kidding, but it’s probably close to the truth.

–Industrialization and Global Integration (c. 1750 to c. 1900)

That would be dehumanizing workers and expanding empires to subjugate the poor.

–Accelerating Global Change and Realignments (c. 1900 to the Present)

I think this probably means a lot of bad things happened unless you were part of the one-percenters.

You really can’t make this stuff up! But I guess a lot of high school history teachers do.

Here’s Sam Cooke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4GLAKEjU4w

 

A journalist, a CIA operative, and an FBI agent walk into a bar.

Journalist: Why are we having drinks? I hate you guys!

CIA operative and FBI agent: Yep.

Journalist: You made illegal recordings of Martin Luther King Jr. and threatened to make them public?

FBI agent: Yep

Journalist: You launched coups in South America, Central America, Iran, and other places.

CIA operative: Yep.

Journalist: You tried to get the Mafia to kill Castro.

CIA operative: Yep.

Journalist: You gave weapons to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?

CIA operative: Yep.

Journalist: You killed dozens of people, including kids, at Waco.

FBI agent: Yep.

Journalist: You both f***** up before and after 9/11.

CIA operative: Yep.

FBI agent: Check.

Journalist: You provided bad intel on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

CIA operative: Yep.

Journalist: You gave the election to Trump by investigating Hillary.

FBI agent: Yep.

Journalist: People at the FBI and and the CIA spied for Russia, and it took you years to catch them. They created far more damage than anything the Mueller investigation might find.

CIA operative: You mean Aldrich Ames? But we got him after 10 years!

FBI agent: You mean Robert Hanssen? He was only doing it for a little more than 10 years! Shucks.

CIA operative: But who do you hate more?

FBI agent: Trump or us?

Journalist: You’re right! Trump is worse than the CIA and the FBI combined! Can you guys pick up the check?

Since nearly all of my family hails from Wyoming, I’m proud to claim cowboy blood.

My grandfather herded cattle along the Chisholm Trail. He later served as the sheriff in Rawlins, Wyoming.

I even herded cattle in Torrington, Wyoming, just after a graduated from high school.

At Newsweek, I was a junior member of the cowboys—those known for covering wars.

The University of Wyoming recently announced a new slogan to attract students: The world needs more cowboys. That seems right on target to me.

But the social justice warriors have latched onto another ridiculous cause.

“I am not the only person for whom the word ‘cowboy’ invokes a white, macho, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, U.S.-born person,” said associate professor Christine Porter. She added that the slogan is “unacceptable” because the word “boy” excludes anyone who identifies as a woman.

Seriously?

Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that Porter got her degree from Cornell University, a bastion of leftist claptrap in New York.

Author C. J. Box, a Wyoming native and mystery writer, does some wonderful takedowns of the elites, like Porter, who occasionally frequent his home state—the hedge fund bigwigs who buy ranches so they can parade around in jeans, boots, and cowboy hats for a few weeks a year; the Easterners who frequent dude ranches; the jet set who make Jackson Hole their retreat; and the animal rights activists who care more about elk and antelope than human beings.

Joe Pickett, a University of Wyoming graduate and the main character who solves more murders than Jessica Fletcher did in Cabot Cove, Maine, may have to turn his attention to the know-nothings at his alma mater.

Fortunately, Wyoming residents have turned up the heat on the university’s faculty after the complaints about the new campaign. To the lifers, being called cowboys fits just fine.

But, as Willie Nelson put it:

Cowboys ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold
They’d rather give you a song then diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levis and each night begins a new day
If you don’t understand him and he don’t die young
He’ll probably just ride away

Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such

Sing it, Willie!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_wmASF3jYA

The embattled reporter at The New York Times who had an intimate relationship with a top Senate staffer was one of my students.

After a quick rise through the ranks of journalism, Ali Watkins was demoted last week for having the affair.

I didn’t know her well, but she struck me as energetic and intelligent, with perhaps a bit too much snarkiness. She appeared to be a reporter with a promising career ahead of her.

What she did was wrong. You don’t have sex with a potential source. Ever. [Note: She denies that the Senate staffer was a source.]

But hypocrisy oozed from the coverage of the affair, particularly when you take a look at other prominent journalists who may have slept their way to the top.

Judith Miller, a prominent member of DaTimes until she got fired for making stuff up, often quoted her live-in lover, the late Les Aspin, who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense. Miller’s affaris were so widely known that one colleague referred to her bedsheets as her notebook.

But there’s a lot more.

Matt Cooper, who worked in high-level positions at several news organizations, married Mandy Grunwald, a longtime media adviser to the Clintons.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international reporter, began dating James Rubin, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, in 1997. They got married the next year.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ foreign affairs reporter, dated Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for 12 years before they got married.

Here in Philadelphia, news anchor Renee Chenault is married to Chaka Fattah, a longtime congressman who was convicted of corruption in 2016.

Each reporter should have been at least reprimanded or perhaps faced more serious consequences for these relationships. Also, the audience should have been told repeatedly about these conflicts of interest. Neither happened.

I doubt that any of these people have a note in their personnel files about these inappropriate relationships.

What’s also disturbing about the Watkins’ case is that several employers knew about her ethical breech, but no one told her to stop it.

That doesn’t in any way mitigate what she did. In my view, she should have been fired long before she got to DaTimes.

Nevertheless, after numerous problems from Brian Williams to Rolling Stone, this recent ethical breech underlines how morally challenged journalism is.

Upon my return to the United States after an extended stay aboard, I noticed one continuing problem in my Philadelphia neighborhood: the extensive virtue signaling against “hate” and guns.

Virtue signaling includes empty, public gestures intended to promote social issues without any risk or sacrifice. Think yard signs as actually doing something.

It is rather ironic that citizens of Philadelphia, where the U.S. Constitution was sealed, signed, and delivered, should be hellbent on eliminating the First and Second Amendments.

Instead of engaging in a healthy debate on the issues, liberals and leftists simply pat one another on the back for the “truth” they shout.

It’s also ironic that these signs resemble similar messages—both in Chinese and English–along main streets in China that tout the Communist Party’s pledges of justice, peace, and coexistence.

IMG_5822

What happened to that mark of unity in the United States, the American flag, as a symbol?

In our neighborhood, our home is one of a tiny few with an American flag proudly displayed over our porch unless you count the little, heart-shaped thingies on the signs that virtue signal “hate has no home here.”

It’s hard to locate a flag hovering over the local schools. It’s difficult to find one in the local stores and restaurants. It’s almost impossible to find one at the local churches and synagogues.

Nevertheless, I am happy to return to a country where the U.S. Supreme Court has offered some sanity in the past week, putting in their place abortion proponents, union bosses, and illegal immigration forces.

I am happy to see that the U.S. Supreme Court has our backs.

Happy Fourth of July!

You’re a Grand Old Flag: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=E7mEC-vAewg

 

 

After four, lengthy visits to China, I have some suggestions for people who want to travel there.

I would recommend that you skip Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong unless you want to do a quick tour upon arrival into the country before heading to the exciting part of the Middle Kingdom.

Keep in mind that China has created an English-sensitive touring experience with guides, transportation, and other aspects to make it easier for Americans to travel there. Make sure that you take advantage of the high-speed trains, which are fast and comfortable. Also, it’s fairly easy to find someone who speaks English except in small villages.

I think the best tour should focus on The Silk Road, the ancient trading route made famous by Marco Polo.

Xi’an was the beginning and the end of the route and offers a place to start. Everyone should see the Terracotta Warriors, the massive fighting force from the Third Century B.C. You should go directly there without any shopping stops or side trips.

I find the mausoleum of Empress Wu Zetian a fascinating place, mainly because I find China’s only female ruler an interesting subtext of the country. One of the country’s most effective leaders, she was an emperor’s mistress and ruled after his death in 690 A.D. For more information, see https://www.ancient.eu/Wu_Zetian/

A trip to nearby Luoyang gives you even more insight into her empire, primarily because the city has embraced her rule after she got made at Xi’an and moved her capital. In Luoyang, you can see a museum dedicated to her. Also, the magnificent Longmen Grottoes, which are filled with Buddhist caves, showcases a Buddha that is said to have her facial figures. Many people go to the famous Shaolin Temple of Kung Fu fame. As a longtime martial artist, I found the performances more like gymnastics and was disappointed.

Other wonderful stops along The Silk Road include Chengdu and Dunhuang. Chengdu is the home of the pandas and Sichuan hotpot. The Chengdu Panda Base is my choice over the Breeding Center, where the babies are kept.

IMG_2685

Chengdu is considered the most laidback city in China, with an excellent subway system that makes it easy to get around. The Dazu Carvings exist about two hours from Chengdu almost halfway to Chongqing. These superb carvings come from the ninth to 13th centuries of Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian beliefs. For more, see https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/912

IMG_2918 (1)
Dazu

I had resisted going on a cruise of the Yangzte River because I thought it would be too touristy. I had a great time, taking the three-day trip from Chongqing to Yichang.

Note: It’s fairly easy to fly from Chengdu or Chongqing to Tibet. I have taken the eight-day trip to the Mount Everest Base Camp. It is possible to go on to the other side of the mountain to Nepal. The Tibet trip includes some wonderful views of nature, but it is really almost the journey to Mount Everest. The tents are comfortable. Altitude sickness tends to affect the old less than the young. Moreover, the cost is relatively cheap. I spent $500 for the tour in moderately priced but well-kept hotels. Don’t go the full way via car or bus, which takes 20 hours each way from Lhasa to the base camp. Instead, make half of the journey by train.

The prize of The Silk Road journey is Dunhuang, the final, major stop inside China along the route. The city boasts some beautiful Buddhist caves—the Mogao Caves—from the fifth to the 14th centuries. Moreover, two deserts sweep around the city, the Gobi and Taklamakan. Two other sets of caves exist, which can be expensive to get to, but they are well worth the trip. For more, see https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/content/dunhuang

IMG_3532
Dunhuang

If you’re willing to splurge for a hotel at $100 a night, The Silk Road Hotel is simply magnificent. See http://www.the-silk-road.com/index.php?route=culturehoteldet/culturehoteldet&culturehoteldet_id=3

This itinerary is far from complete, but most people don’t have two months to explore China—as I have during my trips. Other interesting cities include Kunming, which is the home to the Stone Forest; Lijiang, which is the home of Snow Mountain; Hangzhou, which is a wonderful summer stay on a tourist lake; and many others.

I’ve had the opportunity to explore more than 60 countries, and I would rate China among the top five. Happy touring!

Almost everyone loves a good crime story or murder mystery, and the Chinese are no exception.

Zhou Haohui, a 41-year-old school teacher, has written a series of potboilers called “Death Notice.” In fact, American readers can get a taste of the books when Doubleday publishes the first of three of the novels later this year.

Set in Chengdu, which is known as the home of the Chinese pandas, “Death Notice” follows Capt. Pei Tao as he and other detectives attempt to track down a shadowy vigilante who sends letters, or death notices, to people he believes have gotten away with crimes.

One of those is a wealthy woman who ran over a roadside vendor with her BMW, killing him. But she escapes punishment because of her husband’s political connections.

The vigilante sends her a death notice and kills her.
The novel has some Chinese twists. For example, Pei seems to be a lone wolf in the early chapters of the book but falls into line when his maverick behavior is criticized by his commanding officer. Also, the investigative task force lives together in the same dormitory, a common practice for Chinese police on an important case.

But there are some real-life crime mysteries that have confounded police in China.

In 1995, a 19-year-old chemistry major at one of China’s top universities in Beijing was poisoned, leaving her blind and mentally impaired. Investigators determined that he was poisoned with thallium, a heavy metal used in Chinese rat poison. A culprit was never charged, although the chief suspect was her roommate, a student from a well-connected family. A few years later, Chinese suspected the roommate had secretly moved to the United States. An online petition demanded that President Obama have her arrested and sent back to China to face prosecution.

www.supchina.com, a favorite website among China watchers, have pieced together some of the most famous cases.

Among the most notorious was The Black Dahlia of Nanjing, a former capital of China.

Nanjing University student Diao Aiqing, 19, was cut up into more than 2,000 pieces, which were deposited in plastic bags around the campus. Diao had been just three months into her freshman year at the Adult Education College of Nanjing University when she’d gone missing.

As supchina put it: “Police were at a loss about what had happened after Diao had angrily left her dorm, saying she was going for a walk. She’d argued with her roommates over a petty infraction that university administrators had chosen to collectively punish the dorm for, but Diao’s fellow students had no serious motive nor explanation for how or why she would meet such a gruesome demise. And the remains, such were their piecemeal state, offered few clues.”

If you’re looking for some summer reading, see more at https://supchina.com/2018/05/30/china-unsolved-the-black-dahlia-of-nanjing/
https://supchina.com/2018/05/30/china-unsolved-the-black-dahlia-of-nanjing/

Claire Chennault, someone whom few people in the United States know but should,  may be the most beloved American in China.

During World War II, Chennault headed a secret operation in Kunming called the First American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers.

By December 1941, Kunming, a vital capital of a southwest China province that borders what is now Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, had suffered attacks by Japanese bombers for almost three years. The punishing raids were part of an assault on China that the Roosevelt administration interpreted as a threat to American interests in the region.

The president, bound by the 1939 Neutrality Act, responded with a covert operation. Months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the United States into war, a group of almost 100 pilots recruited from the U.S. Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marines resigned from their services and volunteered to defend China against Japan.

Chennault, a retired U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who had become an adviser to the Chinese air force, dispatched two squadrons to Kunming, which became the group’s permanent base. When the American Volunteer Group landed, the city was still smoldering. Japanese bombers had hit Kunming that morning, and about 400 Chinese had been killed.

For the next seven months, the Flying Tigers destroyed almost 300 Japanese attacking airplanes in what was considered a miracle in China and still remembered today.

Time hailed the American pilots as “Flying Tigers.” The nickname stemmed from the flying tiger emblem that Walt Disney Studios had created for the volunteer airmen two months earlier, and it is how they have been known ever since.

In his memoir Way of a Fighter, Chennault wrote: “Japanese airmen never again tried to bomb Kunming while the AVG defended it. For many months afterwards, they sniffed about the edges of the warning net, but never ventured near Kunming.”

During a recent trip to the city, my friend Jay and I journeyed to the Flying Tigers Museum, which took a taxi ride, a bus ride, and an adventure with a gypsy cab.

There we met the curator of the museum, a 70-something woman, Mrs. Jungbo, who expressed her gratitude to us as Americans for what Chennault and his airmen accomplished so many years ago.

She opened the doors of the various rooms that housed historical documents and photographs. She insisted that we take two books about the air group and wouldn’t take a contribution.

Then she escorted us back to our hotel, which was more than an hour away and paid the gypsy taxi for the trip.

All of this because she and her family remembered the heroic deeds of Americans so long ago.

At a time when many countries don’t recall how much the United States did for them, it was a good feeling to know that some people in Kunming still remember.