On the day that twelve US Marines and some 150 civilians were blown apart by suicide bombers, it was heartening to learn what real heroism is.
Until January 6th, the highlight of Michael Byrd's "law-enforcement" career was leaving his loaded Glock in a congressional men's room and paying no price. He "serves" with the grotesquely misnamed "Capitol Police", which is not a police department but a praetorian guard - a personal security team for the praetors of Congress. Lieutenant Byrd shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, a 5'2" unarmed woman, because "she was posing a threat to the US House of Representatives".
All that has been known for months by anyone who wanted to know. The only real news in NBC's Byrd exclusive was the level of his self-congratulation:
I believe I showed the utmost courage on January 6.
His interviewer, Lester Holt, did not respond: "Er, hang on, isn't that the kind of thing you're meant to leave for someone else to say about you?"
And did he have to say "utmost"? Even in as unutterably vulgar an age as ours, is even Michael Byrd incapable of imagining any "courage" greater than his own?
Ah, well, don't over-think it; it's just one of those phrases, half-remembered by Byrd from some Rose Garden medal ceremony he caught on TV: "utmost" goes with "courage" like "white" goes with "supremacist" and "domestic" goes with "terrorist".
America is a land that tends to the utmost in all things. At the end of the nineteenth century, Bernard Shaw popularized the term "chocolate soldier" - the dashing hussar who is useless in battle but looks good in a uniform. We have the tutti-frutti generals: Thoroughly Modern Milley and his chums, whose diversity ribbons from shoulder to scrotum advertise their own utmostness even as they explain why everything going wrong merely demonstrates how everything is going right.
The tutti-frutti generals report to the ice-cream commander-in-chief melting all over the lectern every afternoon. His predecessor was on telly all day every day; Mr Biden was sold to head-in-the-sand Americans as the quiet-life guy who wouldn't be in your face. Unfortunately, when your countrymen get blown up by government blunders, the citizenry expects him to be in their faces at least every now and then. Across the Atlantic, Boris and the EU chaps were on the screen responding to an all too predictable atrocity. But in the White House Joe Biden's meds hadn't yet kicked in - or, conversely, they'd shot him the juice too early and it had worn off. So, as has become familiar, the melting waffle cone was hours late in tottering across the room, squinting into the camera and reading with woozy and wooden defiance. This time he gave it the full Corn Pop:
To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget.
But Joe, a man who cannot reliably name his own Defense Secretary, has already forgotten.
Powerline's Scott Johnson reminds us of what happens next:
Have we ever had a more ridiculous vice president than Kamala Harris standing next in line? Next in line after Kamala Harris is Nancy Pelosi. Next in line after Nancy Pelosi is Patrick Leahy.
Yesterday I said Biden was the American Brezhnev. So it's good to know we have Nancy Andropov and Pat Chernenko standing by. The Kremlin waxworks propped up on the reviewing stand every May Day had mostly non-speaking parts, so as long as they didn't lean too precariously to one side or the other it was almost semi-convincing. The waxworks of American decrepitude are still expected to handle dialogue, like Thoroughly Modern Milley glinting flintily into the cameras of congressional hearings and announcing gruffly that he's proud to have shown the utmost courage in awarding himself a Gold Star for improving Viagra distribution to upcountry headmen anxious to avoid non-alcoholic brewer's droop with their catamites. It's all performance.
Anticipating some serious Corn Poppery from Biden's puppeteers, I found myself recalling a little more Bernard Shaw:
He did it like an operatic tenor—a regular handsome fellow, with flashing eyes and lovely moustache, shouting a war-cry and charging like Don Quixote at the windmills. We nearly burst with laughter at him; but when the sergeant ran up as white as a sheet, and told us they'd sent us the wrong cartridges, and that we couldn't fire a shot for the next ten minutes, we laughed at the other side of our mouths.
But Joe couldn't even give us the operatic tenor with lovely moustache, could he? Just an exhausted late-Soviet husk who's already got the precarious leaning down pat. Politics as performance art, but without the performers.
Until the "fortified" US election of 2020, it was one of the most reliable political axioms that something beats nothing. But, doing Soviet decay on an American budget, whoever's running the Democrats spent two years and a bazillion dollars installing their particular nothing. At the end of Biden's presser, when he slumped over the microphone during Peter Doocy's question, I almost felt for poor ol' Joe: Is there no DC shyster willing to take him on as a wizened Britney and sue Dr Jill for being an abusive conservatrix? Or are we to endure "Oops! I Did It Again" for another three-and-a-half years?
Meanwhile, back at the fiasco, the old axiom still applies. The three nations keeping their Afghan embassies are China, Russia and Pakistan. Unlovely as they are, these guys, unlike the Big Nothing, each represent something real. So do the Taliban, who are playing this beautifully. A week-and-a-half back I quoted their spokesmullah Zabiullah Mujahid, whose pressers are way more convincing than the ice-cream commander's:
We have defeated a great power.
That was always the goal, way back in 2001: Lure the Great Satan into the Hindu Kush, and finish him off. Their leaders were released from gaol supposedly to negotiate a "coalition" government with Ghani, Karzai et al. But the A-list Talibs weren't interested in "power-sharing", so, sprung from the big house, they used their newfound liberty to plan the total takeover of Afghanistan on a timeline that ensured American humiliation. They have never lost sight of the endgame: Defeat of the so-called "great power", enfeebled as it is.
So in Washington Biden and his Pentagon spokesmen explain how awfully cooperative the big beards are being about airport security, to the point where Joe partially concedes Politico's report that the US military is now giving names of approved Americans and Afghans to the Taliban, to expedite their admission to "Hamid Karzai International".
Meanwhile, back in Kabul, the Taliban guards also admit past those checkpoints a couple of "Isis-K" suicide bombers to give the Yanks a send-off to remember.
Incidentally, had you heard any of these networks mention "Isis-K" until this week? Now it's the Delta Variant of jihad, and every correspondent is an instant expert on the implacable hostility between the K variant and the Talibs.
Personally, I incline more to the assessment of Amrullah Saleh, latterly the vice-president of Afghanistan and now holed up in the Panjshir Valley trying to figure out how to take back his country: Interviewed by the BBC's Yalda Hakim six weeks ago, he pooh-poohed these subtle distinctions advanced by western correspondents and observed that, whenever his men interrogated new captives, the lads were currently al-Qa'eda but a couple of years ago had been Taliban, and before that Isis, and before that some other grouping, according to expediency and shifting fashions in jihad. In Kabul, the Taliban and the suddenly famous "Isis-K" are a bog-standard good cop/bad cop routine. As I wrote over a decade ago:
The second thought that strikes you is that the ever-longer lines to get into the 'secure' area are now the least secure area in America. Why not blow up the security line? You could kill as many people as on an airplane, and inflict more long-term economic damage. But don't worry. The TSA has plans to expand the 'secure' area, so the insecure perimeter will be somewhere else, with even more vulnerable people standing around waiting to get into it.
Welcome to Hamid Karzai International.
It would be asking an awful lot of the Taliban, cooperative as they have been, to forego the pleasure of one parting shot - given their focus on the strategic goal: advancing the perception of a pitiful flailing Gulliver tormented by Liliputians. Their only concern was the risk of a brutal and punitive American response and, after they'd all fallen around laughing for ten minutes, they went ahead with impunity.
Christmas has come early for Washington's enemies. Literally. Kackling Kamala Harris was dispatched to Singapore to assure our allies that the hyperpower was not a complete laughingstock. Instead, she told her hosts that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas is as kaput as the Karzai International gift shop:
'If you want to have Christmas toys for your children, it might now be might be the time to start buying them, because the delay may be many, many months,' she said.
Oh, my. Why would that be?
'The climate crisis is fueling a lot of this. When we look at the stronger typhoons that have disrupted shipping lanes and sea level rise, which threatens port infrastructure as an example. So these are the many issues that are causing these disruptions.'
Uh-huh. So rising sea levels have washed away the massive container port at Long Beach, California, and the huge Toys R Us flotilla attempted to divert to Los Angeles but got swept away and down to Davy Jones' locker by Typhoon Elmo. Did all 347 agencies of the "intelligence community" sign off on that?
Back in the real world, all America's toys are made in China, in a huge Crap R Us warehouse behind the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And, as with everything else made under the supervision of Chairman Xi, there are suddenly strange, arbitrary disruptions to the supply chain, "supply chain" being a euphemism for the fact that global trade is a giant version of Kabul airport security, entirely reliant on our enemies. Like Blanche DuBois, Christmas depends on the kindness of strangers - and it would be asking too much to expect the Politburo, like the lads at the Taliban checkpoints, not to have some sport at our expense.
That's another reason going to war with Chairman Xi over Taiwan would not end well: As the brass assured the Tommies in August 1914, it'll all be over by Christmas - because the whinging brats on the home front aren't going to put up with a stocking of tin soldiers, a satsuma and a rusting abacus.
I was thinking the other day of my appearance at the US Senate with the valiant Judith Curry, when we pushed back against a Massachusetts senator called Ed Markey for exceeding even the bounds of congressional codswallop:
After the above, I shall never be invited back to the Senate - because I "disrespected" Markey, a boob completely reliant on his staffers. (Is he fourth in line after Leahy? or is it Feinstein?) Don't worry, I have no desire to go back - because it's a crap dump of over-entouraged Emirs of Incumbistan entirely irrelevant to the world's affairs.
But the whole ramshackle edifice rests on being taken seriously, and that is what I failed to do. I'm sure the Singaporeans listening to Khristmassy Kamala likewise knew it was bollocks on stilts, but somehow felt obliged to keep a straight face. So it goes with the court eunuchs of the press corps watching Biden slump over the lectern.
The excitable Mohammedans jumping up and down in the streets have never really needed to yell "Death to the Great Satan!" because the Grand Satan is doing a grand job of committing suicide. Not so long ago I mentioned Shirley Bassey's reaction to Madonna's title song at the premiere of the Bond film Die Another Day:
The opening titles and the song ended, and Dame Shirl yelled from the stalls, 'Rubbish!'
Good for Shirley, and I wish there were more like her. That is a healthy reaction, and someone needs to say it to Kamala and Joe and Nancy and Thoroughly Modern Milley, Tailspin Taylor, Darth Plexi-Visor and all the rest. America has ceded global dominance to dark forces that nevertheless have an existential advantage: they are real, and animated by reality; we are utterly, contemptibly fake, warning of rising sea levels at Santa's Grotto as halfwit goatherds blow us to kingdom come.