In the Muddle of the Middle East
The White House's credibility isn't the only thing suffering from the President's Middle East failures -- so are tens of thousands of innocent people. They are the real casualties of the administration's indifference toward the religious persecution that's raging in the region. Even now, after a week of U.S. airstrikes, our own military is unconvinced that the President's eleventh-hour strategy is an effective replacement for the American intervention that should have taken place all along.
In a brutal assessment of the situation, Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville warned that even with the U.S.'s involvement, "I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the IS (Islamic State). The strikes are unlikely to affect (IS's) overall capabilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria," he explained, describing the effect as "very temporary." If anything, IS is showing its ability to adapt, military leaders say, and are moving to hide among village people, where they know they're less vulnerable to U.S. attacks.
Meanwhile, the situation on Mount Sinjar is dire. The religious minorities still alive are trapped -- not just by jihadists -- but in suffocating heat with whatever food and water didn't explode on impact from other nations' humanitarian drops. While the U.S. and other troops have been able to airlift some families to safety, the reality, as the United Nations puts it bluntly, is that "mass atrocity or genocide" is possible not just within days but "hours." And with IS still on the move, the nightmare for other cities is only multiplying.
Late yesterday, I spoke to someone connected with Hardwire Global who is doing relief work on the ground in Kurdistan. He explained that Erbil, its largest city, has a population of about 1.5 million people. That town has now been flooded by about two million refugees, desperately seeking shelter. And there is absolutely no place for them to go -- no camps, no housing. Most of them are sleeping in the streets or in parks, wherever they can find space. He said that he's encountered people from Mosul who had been helping refugees from other parts of the country who are now refugees themselves.
And considering how this has all unraveled, it's obvious that this is a crisis for which the U.S. is largely responsible. President Obama can dodge a lot of things, but history isn't one of them. As the former U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said frankly, the "blame Bush" defense will not work. "History will be pretty clear," Bremer pointed out, "that the decision not to have any troops there after January 1, 2012 was a very serious, strategic mistake that the President made." At the very least, he explained, "We would've saved tens of thousands of lives... Certainly, if we had acted earlier in Syria, we would've faced a much less threatening problem today in Iraq."
The President's rhetoric has gotten him out of plenty of scrapes in the past, but Bremer predicts, "A lot of words from him aren't going to change history's judgment." For more on the chaos in Iraq, don't miss my interview from last night's "Kelly File" on Fox News with Martha MacCallum in the video below.
LGBT Pushback Gets Top Billings
It was well after 3:00 a.m., but to people in Billings, Montana, it was never too late to stand up to the forces of political correctness. Thanks to Mayor Tom Hanel, that's exactly what the largest city in the state did -- beating back a dangerous bathroom bill that would have literally opened the doors of Billings's public showers, locker rooms, and restrooms to both genders in a misguided show of "tolerance."
After a 15-year fight, the council killed the proposal 6-5, with Mayor Hanel casting the deciding vote. "I needed to ask myself, is this fair to everyone, beneficial to everyone? Will it build goodwill and friendships? I can't say for sure," he told the crowded room in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The Montana Family Foundation, which has pushed back against these campaigns for a decade and a half, said the Left is only lobbying for these ordinances in places like Billings to "(target) Christians and other religious groups who find the homosexual/LGBT lifestyle morally objectionable. These are people," our friends pointed out, "now facing fines, possible jail time, and in the case of a Colorado bakery owner, a sentence of mandatory sensitivity training."
Unfortunately, "those people" now include Victoria and Tom Miller, owners of a Pennsylvania bridal shop, who have been stunned at the amount of death threats they've received since turning down a double-gown order for a lesbian wedding. Liberals were so incensed by the couple's decision that they convened a special meeting of the Bloomsburg city council for the sole purpose of drafting a local ordinance the homosexuals could sue under.
At a packed meeting Monday night, the two sides squared off on a possible "nondiscrimination" proposal. Friends of the couple accused the W.W. Bridal Boutique of prejudice and hate -- two labels that were difficult to believe when Tom Miller himself spoke up. "We do give service to those people," he explained. "But we draw the line at bridal." The owners' attorney, Al Luschas, pointed out that something would have to give under a measure like San Antonio's. "The town should protect the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, but it shouldn't do it at the expense of religion." Fortunately, locals were so divided that nothing concrete was proposed. "We're going to go very slowly and cautiously," Committee Chair Diane Levan concluded. "We want to keep both parties involved."
In my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, another piece of so-called "nondiscrimination" legislation was threatening at the city's gates. Similar to what voters have battled in San Antonio, Houston, Fayetteville, and Billings, this measure would have compelled local businesses and families to celebrate homosexuality -- regardless of their personal or religious beliefs.
Gene Mills, head of the Louisiana Family Forum, put it this way: "The so-called fairness ordinance actually should be called the homosexual affirmation ordinance." It has nothing to do with equality or discrimination. It's about tearing down the constitutional rights to conscience and demanding conformity. "Intolerance in the pursuit of tolerance is simply hypocrisy," Gene explained. Fortunately, the Baton Rouge City Council agreed and sank the measure 8-4.
Open Season on Sommers
While the Navy removes Bibles from branch lodges, the Army appears to be trying just as hard to push out the service members who read them. Master Sergeant Nathan Sommers (U.S. Army-Ret.) found this out the hard way when he dared to serve Chick-fil-A at a promotion ceremony to promote the company's biblical view on marriage. "I had no idea a Chick-fil-A sandwich would get me in trouble," he told Fox News's Todd Starnes.
Ever since then, Sommers, a distinguished member of the Army chorus, has been facing a different kind of music for his conservative beliefs. At one point, Sommers was even chastised for reading conservative books in uniform. Finally, the distractions over his Christianity -- which culminated in an investigation and subpar performance review -- became too much, and the 25-year veteran was forced to retire.
Despite serving his country for two and a half decades, the Army declined to give him a proper ceremony -- so FRC stepped in and our own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin retired him on Capitol Hill. The very next day, Sgt. Sommers filed suit. In it, he asks the Army to return him to active duty with full pay and benefits. "Those who protect our rights must be allowed to exercise them," said his attorney John Wells, a veteran himself. "Master Sergeant Sommers did nothing to interfere with good order and discipline. He was the perfect soldier. The actions taken against him were pure reprisal."
** For more on the Middle East crisis, check out my interview from last night's "Kelly File."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.