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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your irrepressibly genial host John Derbyshire with a survey of the past week's follies, malfeasances, and calamities.
Our Afghanistan adventure encompasses all three, so let's start there.
02 — Afghanistan: U.S. soldier goes berserk. Big news story of the week concerned a U.S. army sergeant who went berserk in Afghanistan.
We don't have any name for the guy yet, nor much background on him. We are only told that he was 38 years old, is married with two kids but has had marital troubles, was in his fourth combat tour, the previous three having been to Iraq, and that he was a sniper providing protection for Special Operations teams in a remote district.
Saturday evening he put on night-vision goggles, walked a mile to some villages, and broke into some homes, shooting at random. Four men, three women, and nine children died.
This is one of those stories where you can't say much about the incident itself. It's too random; the causes, if there are any, too unknown. People will occasionally go berserk, especially under the kinds of stresses experienced by soldiers in a hostile country, engaged in a war with no discernible purpose. And if you don't think Afghanistan is a hostile country, you haven't been taking in much news this past few weeks.
It's pointless to speculate about causes and motives. Recall Charles Whitman, a student at the University of Texas, Austin, back in 1966, who climbed up the Univerity tower and just started shooting at people on the campus below. He killed 13 before the cops killed him.
Plenty of speculation followed: marital stress, study stress, parental issues, amphetamine abuse. Then the autopsy showed he had a brain tumor, and 46 years later neurologists are still arguing about whether this was a causative factor or not.
We are in fact being told that the berserker in Afghanistan last weekend actually had had some kind of head injury; but he'd been treated, psychologically screened, and cleared for action. Whether that injury was a factor in his rampage, we'll have to wait and see.
Or perhaps, as with Charles Whitman, we'll never know dispositively. The workings of the human mind are deeper than anyone has yet been able to fathom.
Having thus eschewed all possibility of fast conclusions as to cause and motive, the main thing one is left with is the thought that as insane as this incident was, it is hardly any more insane than the Afghanistan War itself. What on earth are we doing there?
03 — Afghanistan, four years on. I've actually been asking that question for years. I don't know how many years, as my Radio Derb archives only go back to 2008 [Added 2019: earlier podcasts had not yet been transcribed …]; but I can tell you for sure that my broadcast of July 25th that year, 2008, included the following segment:
Off on a tangent, now, let me ask you this, gentle listeners: Can anyone please tell me what the heck we are doing in Afghanistan? Or what we hope to do? Anyone? We went in there seven years ago — seven years! — to punish the Taliban government for hosting Osama bin Laden and his gang of crazies. OK, the Taliban was overthrown. And then the next seven years — what? What? What have we done? What have we tried to do?
That was me, nearly four years ago. And if you've forgotten who Edwin Ramos is, that's the next segment but one.
Since I broadcast that, U.S. armed forces have sustained 1,337 fatalities in Afghanistan operations, forty of them already this year.
All this, driven by the infantile fantasy that if we go out there with our smiley faces on and show them how terrifically nice we are, they'll respond with hugs and smiles, their hearts won over by our invincible goodness, and we'll all be BFFs drinking tea together and playing pinochle with the village elders in no time.
What a heap of dog poop! You don't win wars with niceness: you win them by killing great masses of the enemy and demoralizing the remainder. Grant and Sherman knew that; Jack Pershing knew it; George Patton knew it; when did we forget it? When did our nation become so soft and stupid?
There are three kinds of people in Afghanistan. First, there's a huge group who like their way of life and loathe ours, regard us as filthy infidels, want us to leave them alone and hate us because we won't.
Then there's a much smaller group who hate the first group, who get the point of the modern West (or think they do), and who hope to wheedle U.S. residence visas so they can get out of the stinking place.
Then there's an even smaller group huddled around Hamid [ker-ching!] Karzai who are determined to pile up as much of our money as they can in Swiss banks before riding out of there in private jets to friendly Arab countries before the Taliban take the airport in the fall of 2014, when we have helpfully announced we'll be leaving.
04 — Af-graft-istan. We got a glimpse into the actions of that last group in the New York Times this Monday. Headline: "Intractable Graft by Elite Afghans is Hampering U.S. Strategy." Sample quotes.
Despite years of urging and oversight by American advisers, Mr. Karzai's government has yet to prosecute a high-level corruption case.
Efforts by the American-led coalition to better monitor the billions it spends each year in Afghanistan continue and are having an effect, although it remains slight largely because billions of dollars keep pouring in and are likely to do so for years to come.
Still, the Obama administration has concluded that pressing the fight against corruption, as many American officials tried to do in recent years, could further alienate Mr. Karzai and others around him whom Washington is relying on as it tries to manage a graceful drawdown.
And so depressingly on. The Times tells the story of General Ahmad Zia Yaftali, the surgeon general of the Afghan army. Gen. Yaftali was put in charge of the main military hospital, which is of course entirely financed and supplied by us. The General, following time-honored Central Asian precedent, proceeded to steal tens of millions of dollars worth of drugs from the hospital, leaving sick and wounded Afghan soldiers to die.
We investigated and suspended him, and sent a report to Karzai. Karzai ignored it. After months of nagging from us, he claimed he'd never seen it. We sent him another report. He's ignoring that one, too. General Yaftali is living large. The dead soldiers are still dead.
Another couple of charmers are the guys who ran the Bank of Afghanistan. That's "ran" as in "ran it into the ground." One of them owes the bank, which basically means the U.S. taxpayer, $467 million, the other around $78 million. Both are walking around free in Kabul.
Mr Farnood [that's the one who owes the bank half a billion] lunches regularly at the Kabul Serena Hotel, where the buffet costs about $25 a head. Mr Frozi has his own spot, Boccaccio, an upscale Italian eatery popular with well-heeled Afghans and foreigners, including American and European diplomats.
Did I mention that Mr Farnood owns $150 million worth of luxury villas in Dubai?
Will anything wake us from our silly childish dreams of being loved and admired for our goodness and generosity? How far would these laughing looters have to go before we saw ourselves as we truly are, as they see us — the suckers of the world and the dupes of the age?
What on earth must it be like to be a serving American soldier in Afghanistan, knowing that you're putting your life on the line for these thieving hyenas, knowing that your working-class Mom and Dad back home are paying portions of their hard-earned wages in to our federal government to be sluiced through to Karzai's Swiss bank account or Mr Farnood's Dubai villas?
What must it be like? Perhaps that berserker last weekend, in a twisted way, was trying to tell us.
05 — The trial of Edwin Ramos. I mentioned Edwin Ramos up there in my 2008 broadcast, and promised you a follow-up. OK, Edwin Ramos.
Edwin Ramos is a native and citizen of El Salvador in Central America, which is not quite as much of a basket case country as Afghanistan, considerably thanks to remittances from Salvadorans in the U.S.A. — seventeen percent of El Salvador's GDP. The country didn't suit Ramos, though, so in 2000, at age 13, he came here to join his mother, a refugee from El Salvador's civil war that ended in 1992.
Ramos came here under "Temporary Protected Status" on a ten-year visa. I didn't know that at the time of my 2008 broadcast. Nobody knew it; it only came out a couple of years later. Along with everyone else, I assumed he was illegal.
Once here, Ramos promptly joined the MS-13 street gang and embarked on a criminal career.
In 2003 he was convicted of assault and gang membership. He was deportable, that visa notwithstanding. A non-citizen who commits crimes is always deportable, whether present here legally or illegally.
However, Ramos was not deported. After being released on probation, he mugged a pregnant woman, got off the hook again with probation, and went back to the streets. Again, no deportation, though he was now doubly liable.
In March 2008 Edwin Ramos was arrested as a suspect in the gang murder of two young citizens, but was released for lack of evidence. This time, probation officials did contact ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as Ramos was by now an adult offender. ICE did nothing.
Three months later, in June of 2008, looking for revenge after a gang buddy had been shot, Ramos found himself cut off in a narrow street by another vehicle. Either mistaking the occupants for gang enemies, or just from road rage, Ramos shot dead the other driver, American citizen Tony Bologna. For good measure he also shot dead Mr Bologna's two sons, Michael, age 20, and Matthew, 16. Mr Bologna's third son, Christopher (though "Andrew" in some of the news stories, I don't know why), age 18, was unhurt.
Mr Bologna's wife Danielle had to hear the news that she had gone from having a husband and three fine sons to having just one son. (She also has a much younger daughter, Lucia.)
In the brouhaha that followed, it came out that San Francisco's juvenile justice system had been bending over backwards to prevent non-citizen juvenile offenders from coming to the attention of federal authorities.
Mrs Bologna tried to sue the city on the grounds that their sanctuary policy had let Ramos loose to kill her menfolk; but the city, which might at least have offered the poor widow a settlement, fought tooth and nail, and won in superior court, without even offering her an apology.
What does the grief of a bereaved citizen matter, against the importance of coddling immigrant gang-bangers?
Well, Edwin Ramos is now on trial for the murder of Tony Bologna and his two sons, after a three and a half years' delay. What took so long?
That's an interesting question. Part of the answer is politics: Both the D.A. and the lead prosecutor were up for election to higher positions in the 2010 cycle. They didn't want the Ramos case, and the associated "sanctuary city" issues, casting any negative light on their careers.
There was also the matter of a big federal racketeering case against 29 members of Edwin Ramos's MS-13 affiliate, tried last year. Ramos himself was not one of the accused, leading to suspicions that the feds had been "running" him to get leads. That, the suspicious minds said, was why he'd been let go by ICE after that shooting incident three months before the Bologna murders. (ICE itself says there was a documentation foul-up.)
Whatever the truth of that, the fact remains that three decades of sloppy unconcern with who's getting into our country and being allowed to stay, has given us a hideous alien gang problem that cost the lives of Danielle's husband and sons.
As the Ramos trial came up, in fact, Danielle and her surviving kids had to leave San Francisco and go into witness protection because of rumors that MS-13 was going to silence them. Law-abiding citizens bereaved by alien criminals are driven into witness protection, parted from their friends and neighbors, while those criminals run free.
This is the U.S.A. in the year a.d. 2012. We are the suckers of the world and the dupes of the age, the great fools of all time; handing over our lovely country to alien psychopaths while sending our sons to fight and die on behalf of high-living embezzlers who regard us with scorn and contempt. This is us, this is the U.S.A.: laughing-stock of all the world's crooks and hustlers.
06 — Africa: the White Tweeter's Burden. The latest YouTube phenomenon is Kony 2012, a 30-minute clip about a citizens' campaign. It's had 76 million hits.
Campaign for what? Well, the moving spirit here is film-maker Jason Russell, a pretty typical young white bleeding-heart liberal of our benighted age. He told an interviewer for PMc magazine that, quote, "My middle name is Radical."
Mr Russell has fixed his attention on a certain Joseph Kony, who is a warlord in Uganda, East Africa.
The first thing you notice about these leftist yuppie world-savers — well, perhaps the second thing, after the glow of smug self-righteousness radiating from every exposed part of their Whole Food-fed, mountain-bike-trimmed, natural-fiber-clad bodies — what you notice is, they they are the greatest trend-hounds known to anthropology. To call them a herd of sheep would be an insult to sheep, who are rugged individualists by comparison.
The trend du jour for the granola and Birkenstocks crowd is East Africa. I don't know why this should be so, but you see it all over. There's an ad they show on TV for something called GoToMeeting.com, featuring a bunch of these Bobos working together to bring clean water to villagers in Kenya. There's just something about East Africa that excites them — possibly connected to President Obama's Kenyan origins, I don't know.
Anyway, from what I can gather, this Joseph Kony is no worse than half a dozen other "big man" types in sub-Saharan Africa. These warlords infest the region, all running to the same techniques: Recruiting child soldiers, committing mass rapes, firing up the troops with cannibalism, drugs, and weird religious heresies. You can open any newspaper any day of the week and read about one you didn't know of before.
Take for example this Tuesday's New York Times, page A4, column 2 at the bottom, headline: "Hague Court to Decide Where Former Dictator of Chad Will Be Tried." The Big Man here is Hissène Habré, former dictator of Chad in Central Africa, one of the poorest countries in the world. Mr Habré is charged with looting the place, which must have been quite a trick, and with, quote, "political killings, torture, and a host of other brutalities."
Go on, admit it: you never heard of him. To quote the Times again, quote:
His fearsome rule has been largely forgotten in a region where other strongmen and conflicts have since monopolized the news.
Nor has Uganda been spared the Big Man plague. One of the biggest of all the Big Men, Idi Amin, was in charge of the country all through the 1970s. You remember Idi Amin.
[Clip: "Most Amazin' Man …"]
That's the one. The general descent into barbarism that's characterized much of modern Africa was more depressing than usual in Uganda, which in the first half of the 20th century was considered the jewel of East Africa. Winston Churchill visited it when he was Britain's Colonial Secretary in 1908. He called it "a paradise on earth" and "a tropical garden." Now it's a filthy corrupt slum, ranked 204 out of 225 by GDP per capita in the CIA World Factbook — down in the bottom decile.
Well, this Kony 2012 video on YouTube, the one with 76 million hits, is the latest in a series going back to Band Aid, Live Aid, and the Darfur campaign in which young middle-class white Westerners get together to do something or other for the poor of Africa.
Indeed, it goes all the way back to Mrs Jellyby in Charles Dickens' novel Bleak House, whose attentions to the natives of Borrioboola-Gha ("on the left bank of the Niger") left her no time to spare for her own kin. Says Dickens, speaking as the narrator of that novel, quote:
It struck me that if Mrs. Jellyby had discharged her own natural duties and obligations before she swept the horizon with a telescope in search of others, she would have taken the best precautions against becoming absurd …
You will sometimes see the phrase "telescopic charity" in this connection, inspired by Dickens — who, let it be remembered, was a great humanitarian, but an even greater observer of human folly. "Telescopic charity" — a phrase worth remembering.
Blogger Brendan O'Neill of Spiked.com is even more caustic than Dickens. He refers to these Kony 2012-type phenomena as "The White Tweeter's Burden" — another phrase to take note of.
These Kony 2012 folk are, as Dickens said, absurd in their conceit. At one point in the video, Russell says, quote:
If we succeed, we change the course of human history.
I can think of several things that might change the course of human history, but none of them is located in Central Africa. In fact, I can't think of any aspect in which Central Africa has made any contribution to civilized human history at all.
At another point in the video we hear, quote:
Arresting Joseph Kony will prove that the world we live in has new rules.
I don't see that. Hissène Habré got arrested, didn't he? I don't hear people saying: "Wow! The world has a whole new set of rules now!"
General Butt Naked of Liberia — remember him? — got arrested, and is now a charismatic preacher doing TV interviews. His specialty, you may recall, was the preparations he made before leading his troops into battle. He would kill an innocent child, cut out its heart, slice it up and feed the slices to his troops. Then he'd strip naked and lead them towards the guns.
Other African psychos went into politics with great success, and now strut on the world stage, receiving standing ovations at the U.N. and no doubt also at Al Sharpton fundraisers. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, and Joseph Kabila of the Congo, who had a children's army of his own in his guerilla days, are all happily ensconced in their presidential palaces, along with half a dozen other African Big Men I can't be bothered to look up.
That's Africa. That's the way things go in Africa.
In cases like this, however, those of us not on board with the project need to temper our cynicism. Certainly the Kony 2012 campaigners are absurd; but they mean well, and as free citizens are free to organize and raise funds to end up in the President of Uganda's Swiss bank account. (You might want to look him up. Name is Yoweri Museveni. Jefferson Democrat — not.)
Where it gets obnoxious is where they start roping in politicians to their cause. They've been doing that with some success, and last fall the Obama administration actually sent a hundred U.S. soldiers to Uganda as "advisers" on the urgings of these Kony 2012 moral narcissists.
That's our money, our national prestige, and the lives of our troopers, now on the line in a conflict of zero importance to our national interests.
Let the Kony 2012 campaigners campaign all they want, and spend their money any way they like. Good luck to them. This is exactly the kind of group that wise politicians should shun, though. Yes, I'm looking at you, Senator Inhofe.
There is no public interest here, so give them no public resources. Smile politely at them when they show up, listen without interrupting to their presentation, then give 'em a slice of fruit cake and send 'em home.
Let Uganda deal with its own warlords. It's none of our national business.
07 — Africa: heart of anti-gayness. One more on Uganda — gotta be a Radio Derb record.
One thing Uganda is distinguised for, other than national suicide via heroic levels of corruption and chronic civil war, is hostility to homosexuals. There was actually a bill presented in Uganda's parliament last year calling for the death penalty for repeated conviction of homosexual acts. This bill was withdrawn, but a slightly modified version is proposed again for this year.
Sub-Saharan Africa is in fact the heart of darkness for tolerance of homosexuality. There's an article about this on the website of Atlantic magazine, dated March 7th, by Robbie Corey-Boulet, a Liberian-based white journalist.
He's liberal of course, and blames all that homophobia on the evil white man. Apparently Africans were buggering each other in merry abandon until the evil repressed white colonialists showed up and put a stop to it. Mr Corey-Boulet does not pause to explain why homophobia took root even in Ethiopia, where colonialism was never established.
Well, the Obama administration wants to cure black Africans of their homophobia. Last December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council [laughter] announcing that the U.S. will push for the decriminalization of homosexuality overseas, and hinting heavily that future foreign aid will depend on, quote, "the protection of LGBT rights."
This has caused much anger and many anti-American demonstrations in African countries. As the Atlantic writer points out, if we do cut aid because Africans refuse to become gay-friendly, Africa's homosexuals will be treated as scapegoats for the loss of aid.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions; though with Mrs Clinton, as with the Kony 2012 preeners, the good intentions are the entire point, the hellish consequences someone else's problem.
Foreign aid is foolish enough: we should stop it all. When you use foreign aid to promote moralistic crusades, that is double folly, and the results can only be bad.
08 — Barack ♥ Dave. While the homosexuals of Uganda are scurrying about in fear of their lives, in the country of the Great White Queen they're debating same-sex marriage.
The leader of Britain's so-called Conservative Party, David Cameron, is all for it, just as he's all for multiculturalism, open borders, globalization, pandering to Islam, hostility to Israel, carbon taxes, truckling to the European Union bureaucrats and U.N. busybodies, massive levels of public spending, educational romanticism, coddling of criminals, and all those other fine traditional conservative causes.
This, let me remind you, is the leader of Britain's Conservative party. The other major parties are worse. In fact Cameron is in a coalition government with one of them, the Liberal Democrats, who make Cameron look like Robert Taft.
Well, Cameron paid a visit to the White House this week, and Barack Obama gave him a warm reception. For the duration of Cameron's visit, our President put away his bitter memories of how the British colonialists had made his Kenyan grandfather serve them tiffin, and planted the vile seeds of homophobia in his innocent African heart.
In fact the reception was over-warm in the opinion of many observers, leading us to wonder if there was some subtext about same-sex marriage being acted out there by Barack and Dave.
What was actually going on was more like this: Obama has only one thing on his mind. Everything he's doing till next November is oriented towards his re-election. A big state dinner — or pseudo-state dinner, since Cameron is not technically a head of state — for a foreign leader is a prime opportunity to give his big-money supporters some payback in access to political glamor, one of the most treasured perks of being a big-money donor. Wednesday night's state dinner was the biggest of Obama's Presidency.
Cameron wants to pose as a significant world leader, forgetting for a few hours that he is only the temporary salaried co-administrator of a burned-out European power fast transforming itself into a fractious Third World slum. Cameron also hoped to get some street cred with Britain's minority voters, though that hope is probably as vain as the Republican Party's in reaching ever leftward to capture another percent or two of the Latino vote.
The leaders' wives wanted to show the world how rich they've gotten from marrying politicians, which is the surest road to riches nowadays. They did so by flaunting expensive designer frocks.
Mission accomplished all round, I guess.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our miscellany of brief items. Just three this week; we're way over time.
Item: The GOP primaries rumble on. This week's news was technical wins for Rick Santorum in Mississippi and Alabama, but Romney coming away with most delegates.
Mississippi and Alabama allocate delegates proportionally, and Mitt won in Hawaii and Samoa, so he came out with 43 delegates to Santorum's 36. The overall tallies vary slightly because of wrinkles in the options delegates have, but the main picture right now is that Romney has close to half the delegates he needs for nomination, Santorum has half Romney's number, and Gingrich has half Santorum's.
What will happen now will be that GOP voters, with various degrees of resignation, will fall in line behind Willard.
Hey, look, at least he's not John McCain.
Item: Best geopolitical suggestion of the week came from Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia, the great-great grandson of the last Kaiser of Germany, known to First World War Tommies as Kaiser Bill.
The Prince, who sounds to me like a sensible fellow, thinks Germany should restore its monarchy. He believes this would boost Germany's dismal birth rate, though I confess I don't quite follow his logic there.
Restoring the monarchy is anyway a good idea, in Germany or anywhere. Monarchy is always the best choice. You have a head of state above politics, who can go around the world showing off your national dignity, leaving citizens free to hate the country's political leaders without twinges of patriotic guilt.
Who's had better countries to live in since WW2: the Japanese, who kept their monarch, or the Chinese, who'd dumped theirs? The Scandinavians, who kept, or the Slavs and Italians, who dumped? The Thais, who kept, or the Burmese, who dumped?
The case is plain. If Prince Philip Kiril can't get the Germans to see reason, their are other republics he might try his powers of persuasion on, though I shall refrain from suggesting any names.
Item: Finally, a shout-out to 25-year-old Dallas Seavey from Willow, Alaska, winner of this year's Iditarod race. That's where a person drives a team of sled dogs for typically 9, 10, 11 days over a thousand miles of wild Arctic territory.
Dallas Seavey is the youngest ever winner. According to the news report I'm reading, quote:
Seavey, a light, powerful former championship wrestler … ran alongside the sled when going up hills.
That's a heck of a race, and a heck of an achievement. Congratulations to Dallas Seavey and his beautiful dogs, from this owner of a Jack Russell who thinks he's done his duty to the world when he's been dragged off the couch for a forty-minute walk down the street.
10 — Signoff. And that's it, folks.
Executive summary of this week's broadcast:
To see us out, let's have a little more of the Idi Amin song. There's some backstory here: Idi has some of his wives in the backing group, and being one of Idi's wives was famously hazardous to your health.
[Music clip: John Bird, "Most Amazin' Man."]