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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

In the hours after the horrendous attack on French revelers and tourists in Nice — celebrating Bastille Day in homage to liberty, equality, and fraternity — supporters of the so-called Islamic State declared revenge for the reported killing of an ISIS commander known as “Omar the Chechen.” Indeed, several of their top commanders have been eliminated in recent months, even as they continue to see their forces driven from cities and towns across Iraq and Syria. As this episode indicates, however, the terror group continues to possess the capacity to inflict mayhem in the West even as its “caliphate” begins to disintegrate.

President Obama warned about this paradox last month, when he reviewed the state of the war against ISIS following the shootings in Orlando, Florida. The “lone wolf” terrorists who perpetrate such atrocities are very difficult to detect, and impossible to deter in every case. And it is not yet clear what connection or support the terror group provided to the perpetrator of this latest atrocity in France, who reportedly was heavily armed. But cowardly terror against Western and Mideast civilians is increasingly the only way that ISIS can demonstrate power to its followers and its funders.

What media coverage of the terror strikes tends to obscure is that the strategy pursued by Obama is gradually destroying ISIS, as its thugs surrender one city after another. Starting with the battle for Kobani early last year, when the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, bolstered by American air power evicted the genocidal gangs, the tide of battle seems to have turned decisively against ISIS on the ground, in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and in due course Mosul, where “Omar” is believed to have met his end. To date, ISIS has lost at least 50 percent of the territory occupied since its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of their “caliphate” in 2013.

Naturally, Obama receives no credit for the successful prosecution of this struggle from the Republicans, including their presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, who constantly blather about how we are “losing” and complain that the president doesn’t show sufficient hostility to Muslims and Islam. These brilliant strategists have very little to offer regarding policy or planning, but emit plenty of loud advice about the proper rhetoric.

For months, they insisted that Obama had to denounce “radical Islam,” as if that would magically disable the enemy; now Trump has announced that we must “declare war” against ISIS, presumably because he doesn’t understand that our forces are deployed and conducting thousands of airstrikes. (It is all too easy to imagine the Trump campaign coming up with this pointless sound following the tragic news from Nice.)

Still clowning for a position in Trump’s cabinet, Newt Gingrich came up with a fresh stroke of GOP genius, urging that we subject every Muslim American to “testing” on the subject of Islamic law; those who endorse shariah, he said, would be summarily “deported.” So the former Speaker casually suggests that we trash the First Amendment and our tradition of religious freedom, a legal and moral impossibility.

What Gingrich proposed is also a very stupid way to combat terrorism, which it would undoubtedly exacerbate. It would please the kind of bigots that he has always courted, but it would only isolate and alienate the Muslim community, whose assistance in uprooting jihadi networks and identifying suspects is essential. Like his new idol Trump, Newt is just another “useful idiot” of ISIS, helping them to stage a holy war between Islam and the West even as their prospects decline.

And ISIS is declining, by its own admission, although its propaganda apparatus and militant cells maintain the capacity to strike on at least three continents by managing or merely inspiring attacks. Destroying its bases and choking off its revenue sources in the cities it once held will eventually degrade its capacity to murder the innocent, whether in Paris, Nice, or Baghdad. But that will take time.

Meanwhile, if the Republicans actually want to hinder terrorists, they might consider confirming Adam Szubin, the president’s highly qualified nominee for Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, whose nomination they have stalled since his appointment in April 2015. They might even consider legislation to tighten access to military assault weapons and explosives, which terrorists can so easily obtain in this country.

But of course, they will do none of those things. They’re all about talk, mostly inane and destructive, not action. It is the vilified but resolute Obama who has acted and — no thanks to his blustering political opponents — may yet see the “caliphate” extirpated before he leaves office. For the enemies of civilization, that will represent at least the beginning of the end.

 

Photo: Iraqi counterterrorism forces gesture in Falluja, Iraq, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.