Enforcing a Red Line

On January 3, 2020 Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general and the architech and mastermind to projecting Iranian power throughout the Middle East, was exterminated by an American Raptor drone. It was pleasant seeing his car smoldering and melting on the world news. I couldn’t help but notice that the strike left no crater. We obviously reserved our best precision munitions for him; how kind we are to allow him to die so quickly. A kindness he himself denied many of his victims.

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“So it was, so it is, and so it will be.”

A personal interest of mine is politics. Yeah, I know, I can hear some of you groaning out there. You can thank being locked up for 24 years for this. I’ve long since counted all the bricks in the building, I’ve watched every bird on the compound and I can tell you when each one starts the day, and I’ve fed the one wild cat we have a thousand times from my window. It was inevitable I’d make my way to politics.

My interest is part hobby and part serious observation. I follow world events closely, and I like to ponder the actions of world leaders. Part of my interest stems from family, but a great portion from the fact that I am incarcerated and I’m forced to pay attention to my surroundings. This means paying attention to those around you, and by virtue of doing so you learn about people and what makes them tick. I didn’t always have an interest in what makes people say and do the things that they do. Time has a way of focusing things.

Early on I discovered I had a natural ability to read people. It should come as no surprise then that I love to watch events like political campaigning. Politicians are consummate liars. Most everyone understands this truth on some level. Even if they don’t believe that their candidate lies, they believe that the opposing candidate does. So I rarely take what people say at face value. I’m more interested in what is not said and what body language is saying, because therein often lay the truth.

Over time, multiple observations paint a true picture of the inner thoughts of people. This is as true for the old lady who walks her dog every afternoon in the park, as it is for someone like President Trump. It’s as true for offenders who are incarcerated regardless of their crime or socioeconomic background as it is for someone like Vladimir Putin.

A past time of mine is to apply game theory to the actions and reactions of world leaders. When I get it right, it further reinforces my understanding of the individual and the government he or she leads. When I’m wrong, I ask myself what I missed, learn and adjust, and then form new analysis. Maybe in another life I could have made a career with one of our government agencies.

Anyhow, a past time of mine is Vladimir Putin. Several years ago I wrote a short paper titled: “Vladimir Putin as the Prison Yard Thug,” about how Vladimir Putin is no different than the typical prison yard thug. It was during a time shortly after “little green men” annexed the Crimea from Ukraine and well-trained, well-armed “separatists” sporting the latest Russian military hardware suddenly appeared out of the air *poof!* taking control of swaths of eastern Ukraine.

I’ve decided to post that paper here for you. After all, what good is it if no one reads it but me? As for the quote at the beginning of this entry? It was spoken by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

I find it very revealing as to how he views the world.

You can read my paper here.

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If you are a reader in China, I’d love to hear about how ordinary Chinese view the Hong Kong protests. Is it as big of a deal as the U.S. media makes it sound? I’d also love to hear from someone if they know of a good English language Chinese political blog there in China. Post in comments or email me–thanks!

*If you enjoyed this post, please like and share with your friends. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing for you! Also, if you know of other blogs written by inmates, please let me know because I enjoy reading what other guys write. Frankly, it helps keep me sane.

—Christopher

Hotel California

I follow world affairs closely because it all fascinates me. Today was no exception. Earlier as I was watching the world news, Brexit was mentioned, which in a way was a surprise. American news networks seem more concerned with things like the weather or the latest Hollywood buzz than true substantive news. It’s a sad state of affairs here. Thank God for the BBC. So when they mention the news from overseas, I perk up. Brexit was worthy enough to make mention some 13 minutes into tonight’s broadcast. Sorry England, you guys didn’t even beat out the story of a puppy rescued from a storm drain. That bit of breaking news came within the first 10 minutes.

I feel bad for my readers across the pond. Brexit continues to paralyze the country, and there seems to be no end in sight. Ask every day Britons how they feel about Brexit, and the general answer is everyone wants it to be over with one way or another, and you know what? We Americans can relate. While we don’t have the same issues, we have our own political mess. You guys do know this, right?

European history isn’t one of my strongpoints, but I understand why the EU came into existence. Europe is unique, and such a union, it was reasoned, was in everyone’s best interest there. Uh-huh. When I think of how Brussels treated your leader Theresa May, and by extension the people of England, I can’t help but think of The Eagle’s song “Hotel California.” There’s a line in it that goes something like, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” To us outside the fish bowl looking in, EU membership looks suspiciously like being in a gang. It’s easy to get in, but go ahead and try to leave and see what happens.

Of course, I’m not serious here, just poking fun at a difficult situation. I’m all for free trade (or not), and I mean no harm to my British and European friends. When life becomes so serious that you can’t laugh at your situation, what’s the point? If we Americans didn’t do this when it came to politics here, we’d’ve all been set to pasture long ago. You do know who our president is, yes?

Which brings me to my next random thought. Sometimes I wonder what people around the world think of us Americans. When I was young I lived in Japan, and the Japanese were very kind to me. I say to them with the warmest heart: Arigato, gozaimasu. Nihon ni yonen imashita. Watakushi wa Tokyo ga daisuki desu. While I was there, I went to an international school, and all my foreign friends were kind to me, too. But it feels like things have changed since those times, and it saddens me.

I once heard a BBC broadcaster say that there’s a saying over there, and it is that Americans should never be the ones to pick the next President of the United States. Ouch. That one stings, but okay, I think we’ve earned it. In our defense, most Americans are so absorbed in their mindless day-to-day chase of the American dream that they are only vaguely aware that there is a world beyond Mexico and Canada (to my Mexican and Canadian friends, no matter what happens politically, you guys are tops in our book).

Which brings me to my readers in Central and South America. Contrary to what our president says, we Americans welcome you with warm and open arms. ¡Y los amo a todos! Whether you are from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, it does not matter. We are a nation of immigrants; it is what makes the United States the United States. We’re not a perfect nation, but we are a proud people.

Before I close, I have one last random thought. In all fairness to our president, it should be noted that he’s an outsider fighting The Swamp. He has been willing to push back whenever he has felt it necessary, regardless if you’re a friend or ally. To our enemies he has shown respect and warmth, and built relationships. I’d imagine that by the time he leaves office, some of our current allies will be enemies, who will then by default be our friends; it’s an amazing act of chess-like statecraft.

Oh, and to my Russian readers (when I have some), you guys have played your hand masterfully. Pat yourselves on the back. To everyone else I offer these final parting words: It’s not that serious guys, let’s not forget to smile!