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Danziger: War On Christmas

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

#EndorseThis: How The Trump Saved Christmas!

Just in time for Christmas, Jimmy Kimmel has a new children’s book that chronicles Trump and his quest to preserve the savior’s birthday from marauding, politically correct liberals.

Fully illustrated and told in funny rhymes, How The Trump Saved Christmas is sure to become a new seasonal classic. In this sample couplet, Jimmy captures the spirit behind Trump’s holiday crusade:

“It’s not that he cared one way or another;

It’s a hot-button issue that upsets your grandmother.”

Just click and chortle.

The War On Christmas: Right-Wingers, The Red Pope, and Jesus

Aah, ’tis the season for family, friends, eggnog, chipmunks singing Christmas carols — and all-out, no-mercy, blow-’em-all-to-hell war.

Not war like in Afghanistan. No, no — this is the far right’s God-awful “War on Christmas.” In this season of Peace on Earth, a delusional faction of rightists has cooked up a hokey “cultural crisis” to rally their own followers by fomenting hatred of … well, of whom? “Blasphemous-liberal-Democrat-atheist-humanists,” they shout!

The infidels are not accused of lobbing actual bombs in this “war,” but Words of Mass Destruction. Specifically, wail the purists, unholy left-wingers go around saying “happy holidays,” rather than “merry Christmas,” as Jesus taught us to say. Or was it Constantine the Great in the fourth century who came up with that?

Never mind, the rightists’ point is that diabolical lefties (i.e., Marxists) are out to ban Christmas entirely. Heroic defender of the faith Sarah Palin has even written a thin book about this devious plot, revealing that “happy holidays” is merely “the tip of the spear in a larger battle to … make true religious freedom a thing of America’s past.”

Luckily, note the Merry Christmas crusaders, there are such bright lights as Indiana State Sen. Jim Smith. Smith hopes to join Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee in the “Merry Christmas Club” — in pushing state laws to allow Christian icons and ceremonies into our schools. Then there’s U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from Colorado. He and 35 of his fellow Republican congress critters have proposed a House resolution to protect Christmas. “A creche in every public space,” is their cry, “a cross on every city hall.” To hell with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, etc.: This is war!

Actually, no, this is hokum, flimflammery, hoodoo, camel dung. It’s also insulting that they would attempt to try to generate a major social conflict over the fiction that the phrase “happy holidays” constitutes religious discrimination, whine that they are a repressed minority and equate it with war. First: Jews, Muslims and others don’t get to brand public spaces as their religious property. Second: Nearly three-fourths of Americans are Christian, so drop the put-upon martyr pose. And third: War really is hell, with blood, lifelong trauma and death, so stop pretending you’re in one.

But rationality doesn’t seem to be included in the liturgy of their political church. Indeed, some of its acolytes have added a twist on Christmas that would make Jesus weep. Indeed, they have launched a war against Jesus! How twisted is that? They say no one should mess with the word “Christmas,” yet they’re messing with the guy Christmas is supposed to be about.

OK, technically they’re not going directly at Jesus but rather at a key part of his message and, in particular, a key messenger of Christianity: Pope Francis! They’ve decided that the Pope is a “Marxist,” pointing out that Francis speaks often about “the structural causes of poverty,” the “idolatry of money,” and the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism. Obviously, say the Pontiff’s pious critics, that’s commie talk.

The clincher for them was when Francis wrote an exhortation in which he asked in outrage: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” See, cried the carpers, that’s proof that Francis is the Red Pope!

But wait, that was a very good question he asked, one ripe with the moral wrath that Jesus himself frequently showed toward the callous rich and their “love of money.” In fact, the Pope’s words ring with the deep ethics you find in Jesus’ sermon on the mount and in his admonitions to serve the poor. Was he a commie, too?

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Pope Francis greets school children upon departure from the Vatican Embassy in Washington on day three of his first visit to the United States September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron   

Déjà Vu For American Troops Observing Christmas In Iraq Again

EAST OF MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – This is the third Christmas that Staff Sergeant Magdiel Asencio is spending in Iraq. For Sergeant First Class Noel Alvarado, it is number four. And so it is with many U.S. troops stationed less than a hour’s drive from the front line with Islamic State.

Few thought they would be back nearly 14 years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, sparking an al Qaeda-backed insurgency and throwing the country into a sectarian civil war.

Yet here they are, albeit with a fraction of the numbers and a much narrower mission. The roughly 5,200 U.S. troops presently stationed in Iraq are part of an international coalition helping local forces retake the third of their country seized by Islamic State more than two and a half years ago.

Their current target is Mosul, the jihadists’ last major stronghold in the country. Iraqi forces control around a quarter of the city, but fierce counter-attacks have rendered progress slow and punishing.

Asencio served in Mosul during the initial invasion, first to provide artillery support and then as infantry.

“It was more of a wild wild west then. We didn’t know if something was going to go down and when they needed you to call for fires,” he said, standing beside a field artillery unit that hits Islamic State targets inside Mosul nearly every day.

“It’s a little more calm this time around. We still shoot, we know we’re here in support of the Iraqi army. There’s still enemy out there but we’re not as into actual direct combat as we were back then.”

Many battalion commanders previously served multiple tours in Iraq, often punctuated by combat in Afghanistan. There are even some soldiers in their first tour here whose fathers missed Christmases with them a decade ago to be in Iraq.

“I thought back in 2011 when we closed it all out, it was going to be finalized then,” said Alvarado, referring to the withdrawal of U.S. troops that year.

“But being back here is totally different. I’ve seen [the Iraqi army] pick themselves up a lot. They have a better standard now.”

The Iraqi military and police dropped their weapons and fled in 2014 in the face of Islamic State’s assault, despite far superior numbers and billions of dollars in U.S. training and equipment.

The coalition has retrained tens of thousands of local troops in the past two years and provides advice on military strategy and planning, as well as artillery support and air strikes that are indispensable to the war against Islamic State.

“Anything we can do to assist them in their operation forward with us not actually squeezing the trigger,” said Lieutenant Colonel Stuart James. “So we’ll move forward with them, but we’re not the ones that make contact.”

A top commander told Reuters that U.S. forces were embedding more extensively with Iraqi troops in order to accelerate the Mosul campaign, which started on October. 17.

Coalition advisors were initially concentrated at a high-level headquarters in Baghdad but have fanned out over the past two years to spartan outposts like this one about 15 kilometers east of Mosul to stay near advancing troops.

“Merry Christmas from the most forward TAA at the tip of the spear,” James said, using a military acronym for the compound.

The austere outpost nestled in an ancient Christian region has few permanent structures, since the troops plan to move on when the Iraqi forces they are advising advance.

Heavy rain turned much of the grounds into thick mud on Sunday as soldiers huddled inside two dining tents for a special holiday meal where a plastic Christmas tree and a Santa Claus figurine flanked one entrance.

Outside, a soldier in a Santa hat did pull-ups at a makeshift gym.

This is a far cry from the luxurious facilities at the sprawling compound the U.S. military once maintained inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone and other big bases that have since been handed over to the Iraqis.

Yet Alvarado is not too torn up about spending another Christmas away from home.

“As long as my troops are OK and my family back home they’re OK and we’re supporting that, then I’m fine with it,” he said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)