The Weapon Called Nerve Gas

The Weapon Called Nerve Gas
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

On March 4, former Russian military intelligence specialist Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve gas while in the midst of normal activity in the English city of Salisbury. Both were rushed to a hospital where they were found to be gravely ill. The incident led to widespread condemnations of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Both victims of the attack eventually recovered after weeks of care in a British hospital.

US Navy gas mask exercise. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Two weeks after the attack, England’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson concluded that Putin himself had ordered the attempted murder. He relied on knowledge of past acts of retribution delivered to former Russian officials who had become critics of Russian policies and leaders. In rather blunt terms, Johnson stated: “Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin and with his decision – and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision – to direct the use of nerve gas on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov immediately countered Johnson’s condemnation of Russia and its president as “a shocking, unforgivable breach of diplomatic proprieties.”

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley joined in the condemnations of Russia with a statement delivered to the Security Council: “If we don’t take concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.”

Britain expelled numerous Russian diplomats and so did the United States. Russia responded by expelling American and British officials. The incident clearly interrupted a recent trend marked by peaceful, even friendly, exchanges between Russia and the West. But it also brought back memories of the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in Britain. A former Russian intelligence expert, he had defected to the West and was living in Great Britain when he became ill and died soon after ingesting tea laden with radioactive polonium. Other defectors from Russia have suffered and died as a result of similarly suspicious events.

Skripal had served Russia for years as a military intelligence colonel. Convicted in 2006 of selling secret information to British authorities, he spent several years in a Russian prison but was then sent to Britain in 2010 as part of an exchange of spies. He chose to live in Salisbury where he seemed to have steered clear of any further government intrigue.

In Russia, commentator Kirill Kleimenov issued a blunt warning over government-controlled Channel One television. He calmly stated: “Being a traitor is one of the dangerous professions in the world. Alcoholism, drugs, stress, nervous breakdowns, and depression are inevitable illnesses of a traitor. As a consequence, heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents, or suicide ultimately follow.” Statements such as his issued by Russia’s prominent media figures have the undeniable aura of government policy.

While no hard proof of Russia’s attack on the Skripals has emerged, the likelihood that President Putin or his close underlings are responsible is widely believed. Putin, it should be recalled, was the head of the dreaded KGB before succeeding in becoming his nation’s leader. He would know how to respond to critics who are deemed traitors.

Western leaders, certainly including U.S. President Donald Trump, should keep the Russian leader’s past, as well as his present, in mind when dealing with him. Leopards don’t change their spots and expecting former KGB bosses to become honorable is likely expecting what can’t be reality.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Threat of ISIS Still Real

Threat of ISIS Still Real
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

During his 2018 State of the Union speech, President Trump delighted in reporting that Islamic State forces had been defeated in virtually all of the territory they had seized over recent years. But even he admitted, “There is much more work to be done.”

American artillery soldiers respond to a fire mission in Iraq. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. F. Cordoba, public domain.

It is certainly true that ISIS forces no longer dominate portions of Iraq and Syria. But what became of the thousands of fighters who waged bloody warfare remains a concern of realists who comment about developments regarding ISIS. One assessment of what happens next was provided by Otso Iho, a senior analyst at London-based Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center. As noted by the New York Times, this expert reported: “The group is transitioning into an underground organization that places more weight on asymmetric tactics like suicide bombings against soft targets in government-secured areas like Baghdad.”

Iho pointed to a recent suicide attack in Baghdad that killed several dozen and wounded close to 100. The incident occurred at a busy location in the Iraqi capital where laborers gather daily in hopes of being hired by someone.

How many of the thousands of ISIS warriors have discarded their uniforms and are melting into the populations of Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere isn’t known. But anyone who has studied ISIS and its efforts over the past four years knows that the number of dedicated Islamic warriors reaches into the tens of thousands. Some of these who have fled the formerly held caliphate and can be found in Libya, Yemen, Turkey, even the Philippines. Of these, many have joined never-defeated branches of Al Qaeda in those nations.

The number of Americans who traveled to ISIS-held territory in order to become an Islamist warrior number less than one thousand. But, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s senior counter terrorism official, more than  5,000 Europeans left their homes and became ISIS fighters. Some perished and a few are still fighting. But 1,500 have returned to their European countries and each can be legitimately by labeled a potential terrorist. America’s vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Paul Selva summarized the situation in grim detail:

The thought that these foreign fighters who have participated in this fight now for over two years will quietly leave Syria and return to their jobs as shopkeepers in Paris, in Brussels, in Copenhagen, and elsewhere is ludicrous. That’s a very compelling problem.

The motivation keeping these men tied to ISIS and its determination to establish a dominant Islamic caliphate surely includes the promise of heavenly bliss for those who perish for Allah. It additionally promises the same glorious afterlife for suicide bombers. In other words, the problem presented when ISIS emerged several years ago hasn’t been solved by routing its military arm.

The West, certainly including the United States, has to expect more terror-inspired attacks.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Terrorism Still a Threat

Terrorism Still a Threat
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

New York City subway riders will hardly forget what happened on the morning of December 11, 2017. A bomb carried by an immigrant from Bangladesh prematurely exploded in a busy underground corridor linking two portions of the city’s subway system. It was a stroke of luck that only a small portion of the man’s bomb detonated, wounding him, and hurting three unlucky subway patrons walking alongside.

Inside a NYC subway car. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Devin Smith, CC BY 2.0.

Akayed Ullah intended to join the ranks of suicide bombers who have created havoc across the globe. He strapped his makeshift bomb to himself under his clothing and evidently didn’t follow all the instructions about how to build such a weapon. Where he obtained the bomb-making information could have come from a computerized messaging system known as Telegram that routinely disseminates propaganda for would-be jihadists. A few years ago, two brothers used pressure cooker bombs triggered by cell phones to create deadly mayhem at the Boston Marathon. The two learned how to construct their death-dealing devices from a magazine article detailing how to use a pressure cooker, electronic detonators, etc. If it’s that easy to become a terrorist bomber, we should expect more, not less terrorism.

Ullah entered the U.S. from Bangladesh in 2011 using an F-4 visa, the kind available only to those who have family members who are U.S. citizens. His status under existing immigration policy places him as a permanent U.S. resident. Questioned at his hospital bed soon after his terrorist attack failed to kill innocent subway patrons, Ullah admitted being inspired by ISIS. He sought to protest the U.S. attacks on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere with his grisly attack on innocent civilians. He regularly attended prayer sessions at a mosque near his residence in Brooklyn. The imam at that mosque credibly claimed to be opposed to any sort of jihadist activity.

Many reminders of Christmas throughout New York seemed also to have irritated the Muslim Bangladeshi immigrant. His determination to harm New Yorkers reminded city officials that, since the horror of 2001 when thousands died at the World Trade Center, more than two dozen similar plots had been identified and stopped before death-dealing jihadists had carried out their plans. Only weeks previously, a jihadist used a truck as his weapon to kill eight on a bicycle path in lower Manhattan.

The incident in the subway tunnel was not without its heroes. After Ullah’s bomb exploded, he was lying in pain on the floor with wires sticking out from his clothing. As he reached for his cell phone, three city policemen who had just rushed to the scene, saw what he was doing, and dove at him to successfully grab the phone. Heroism like that may be comforting, but it won’t stop similar attacks as potential jihadists respond to the defeated ISIS leaders who are urging such attacks on the West.

President Trump has widely been criticized for banning immigration from several Middle East and African countries. Included are Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as well as recent additions Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. (The Supreme Court approved this move as recently as December 4, 2017.) As sensible as such bans may be, they would never have stopped Akayed Ullah from traveling in and out of the U.S. There are surely many more who possess F-4 visas, and other permissive documents, and could become the next terrorist bombers. Both federal and local authorities know that real potential exists for previously docile immigrants to create their own homemade bombs, especially after being urged to do so by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other militantly determined foes of Western civilization.

More needs to be done to slow down and eventually terminate these terrorist attacks. Nibbling at the edges of a growing problem isn’t enough.

Want to learn more? Watch our video Exposing Terrorism.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Will the Afghan War Ever End?

Will the Afghan War Ever End?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

From the mid-14th century until the middle of the 15th century, British and French forces fought what has always been termed the “Hundred Years War.” That struggle actually lasted 116 years. Which means that the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan must continue fighting for one hundred more years to exceed the duration of the famous British-French encounter. It almost seems like the two sides are trying.

U.S. 10th Mountain Division soldiers in Afghanistan. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Already the scene of over 2,400 American dead, the on-going war in Afghanistan began shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks carried out by four hijacked airplanes. Initially, the goal sought to take on Al Qaeda for its role in the enormous 9/11 murder and destruction. This meant breaking up the Taliban, the militant Islamic forces that had seized control of portions of the country and were suspected of sheltering Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden. But the Taliban proved to be a tougher foe than expected and defeating it has been unachievable to date. Instead, this supposedly weaker brand of Islamic militancy has grown stronger. And finding bin Laden turned out to be impossible. (He was later discovered in Pakistan where daring American raiders killed him.)

Taliban forces have been using weapons given to them to oppose Russian invaders who stormed into their country in 1979. After ten years, the Russians gave up and went home. The guns and ammunition still in Taliban hands have then been employed to fight Americans.

Military leaders soon adopted a new and completely different strategy involving an effort to rebuild the war-torn country. Other nearby nations – Russia, Pakistan, India, even Iran – had their own designs which were not always similar to what the U.S. forces were told was their mission. When those conflicting goals were added to ethnic domestic combativeness, the turf-protecting warlords, and the ineffectiveness of the nation’s political leaders, the effort began to appear unsolvable. And that was only a few years after the first U.S. forces arrived in the land-locked nation.

U.S. forces then found themselves assigned to destroy the country’s lucrative opium production along with training local forces, all the while combating crooks and incompetents posing as Afghan leaders. Many of the trainees turned out to be enemies within their ranks. An American soldier would spend days, maybe weeks, teaching an Afghani how to be a good soldier only to have the newly trained individual turn his gun on the man who taught him how to use it.

Along the way, NATO assumed supreme command of the operation. Without doubt, many of the coalition forces have no idea that NATO, a UN subsidiary led by a European politician, is calling the shots. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has recently aired a new strategy that will take aim at Taliban sanctuaries. Doesn’t this mean that Taliban bases were previously untouchable? Is that any way to wage a war? A retired Marine Corps general, Mattis also seems to be violating a cardinal principle of warfare: Don’t let an enemy know your plans. Doing so destroys the element of surprise, always a key feature of warfare. But no more will the U.S. forces fight Taliban only after being attacked. And more forces will be added to those already in Afghanistan.

Will this new strategy lead to victory? Or will more years be added to the agonizingly victoryless campaign of the past 16 years? A hundred year war isn’t likely, but with the UN ultimately in charge and knowing that limited war serves the overall drive to create a world government, we should hardly be surprised if – new strategy or not – this war will continue for many more years.

Be a part of the driving force to Get US Out! of the United Nations! Learn more at The John Birch Society’s Get US Out! of the UN action project page.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Erdogan A Dictator?

Erdogan A Dictator?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the election as Turkey’s president in 2014. His time in office has amounted to travelling down a rocky road. The relaxation of strict Islamic rules accomplished by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk after World War I won plenty of applause. But Erdogan, a stricter Muslim, has set out to reverse the nation’s course, and he has done so with what resembles severe dictatorial power.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has brought Turkey down a rocky road (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by http://www.kremlin.ru CC BY 4.0).

Turning back the cultural clock back to Ataturk days seemed to be the goal of an attempted coup only a year ago. In a matter of days after it was quashed, 9,000 police officers and 21,000 teachers were fired. Thousands more soldiers, judges, lawyers, university deans, and government officials lost their posts. Many were jailed. In addition, the Erdogan government closed several dozen television, radio, and print outlets. And more than 60 newspapers, a score of magazines, two dozen publishing houses, and several news agencies have been shut down. Censorship became the new rule.

Erdogan has blamed the continuing unrest on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in the United States for the past 16 years. But he denies having any role in the opposition to Erdogan. Still, the ferment among the people hasn’t faded. Erdogan more recently arranged for a nationwide referendum so the people could either choose his style of rule or revert back to the pre-2014 modern style of governing attributed to Ataturk. The result of the mid-April plebiscite had Erdogan winning by the slimmest of margins (51.4 percent) amid widespread belief that the vote count wasn’t accurate.

Nevertheless, with new powers available to him as a result of the referendum, Erdogan initiated a new round of arrests, firings, and suspensions. Close to 4,000 additional civil servants have been fired and 45 civil society groups and health clinics have been shut down. The government even shut down Wikipedia.

In just the past year, therefore, approximately 140,000 individuals have lost their jobs, free press has been scuttled, and more than 200 journalists remain imprisoned. Erdogan insists that his reforms don’t merit calling him a dictator. But international election monitors released a negative report on the conduct of the recent referendum. Many in Turkey believe the election was rigged.

Turkey is one of the 50 original members of the United Nations (there are now 193 members). The nation won acceptance in NATO in 1952, three years after the alliance’s launching. Long seeking approval for membership in the European Union, Turkey’s hopes to be part of the Brussels-based super government have never been realized. Perhaps the fact that 97 percent of Turkey’s land area is in Asia with the remaining three percent at its western tip considered part of Europe keeps the EU from conferring membership. Turkey has long been considered a “bridge to Europe” for many nations in Asia Minor.

But Turkey needs to understand that entangling alliances come with a price detrimental to independence, just as Brexit has demonstrated. From an American standpoint, let’s work to untangle ourselves from our UN and NATO alliances to preserve American liberty and independence. Inform yourself and others on the dangers of foreign entanglements.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


The Immigration Mess

The Immigration Mess
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

President Trump is receiving plenty of flak for closing down immigration possibilities for refugees from several Muslim-dominated nations. One federal judge has ordered a hold on the president’s executive order, but little has yet to be done about our country’s relatively wide open borders and loose immigration policies.

The United States has had an immigration problem for decades (Image from Wikipedia Commons).

The United States has had an immigration problem for decades (photo by Makaristos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons).

The immigration problem didn’t start last year, or five or ten years ago. It’s been a virtual national suicide pact for decades. Very few Americans today know anything about the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. Authored by two Democrats, Nevada’s Senator Pat McCarran and Pennsylvania’s Congressman Francis Walter, their measure established quotas based on ethnicity of those seeking to enter the U.S.

The Act stipulated that if ten percent of the U.S. population were of Italian ancestry, then ten percent of legal immigrants could be from Italy. Similar quotas were set for Irish, German, British, and Polish immigrants, as well as other nationalities. The goal was to maintain the culture of our nation, a foundation built by the Europeans who started coming here, even before the 1776 breakaway from England. And McCarran-Walter set the number to be accepted per year at 270,000.

After the Act won easy passage in Congress, President Truman vetoed it. A mere two days later, Congress overrode his veto – with plenty of support from Democratic congressmen – and the Act became law and was immediately targeted by domestic Communists and Leftists. But in 1965, liberals led by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) succeeded in overturning America’s immigration policy. No one seems willing to talk about the underlying motive of Kennedy and his Democrat cronies: Flood the nation with immigrants who will vote Democrats into office.

It didn’t take long for massive numbers to begin flooding into the U.S. By 1986, President Reagan signed a bill granting amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants. He said the problem was now solved, an utterly ridiculous claim. It grew worse. And soon, the arrivals weren’t just poor Mexicans looking for a job. The outmanned Border Patrol created a category of entrants known as OTMs – Other Than Mexicans. And the cost of feeding, housing, educating, and providing medical care for millions became an enormous burden.

With today’s flood of refugees fleeing the war-torn nations of the Middle East and parts of Africa, the U.S. is being asked (told?) by the UN to accept more immigrants. Will any be terrorists? Answers to that have never been satisfactorily answered. So Mr. Trump moved: No immigration from countries where terrorists might be among the refugees. And, for that, he has been severely castigated.

Looking back, we recall that the 9/11/01 hijackers came from the Middle East, almost all from Saudi Arabia, a country not on Trump’s list. The brothers who set off their bombs at the Boston Marathon came from the Middle East. It’s true that the killers in San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando were legal residents of the U.S. But others who have tried to create mayhem came from countries noted by Mr. Trump – the Muslim who tried to set off a shoe bomb on a commercial airliner being a good example.

The Trump order called for a 90-day ban on immigration from Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen plus an indefinite ban on entrants from Syria. Bleeding heart liberals and hardcore leftists have protested vigorously. But there exists a mounting number of Americans whose relatives, friends, co-workers, and others have been killed by radical Islamists in what might be termed “normal” (not terrorist) ways. This number is sure to grow.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright now insists that President Trump’s edict is “a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values.” She likely has never heard of the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act. She would be horrified to know that its authors were members of her Democrat Party. Her response to the Trump plan would open America’s borders to anyone. Thank goodness she’s a “former” Secretary of State.

Maintaining the flawed immigration policies that Mr. Trump tried to address in a relatively small way is dead wrong. Some new policy has to be created. We hope Mr. Trump succeeds in protecting our nation and its culture before both are no longer recognizable.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Afghan War Now 15 Years Old

Afghan War Now 15 Years Old 

by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

In a recent posting by the Ron Paul Institute, Dr. Paul pointed out that 15 years have now passed since American forces were first sent to Afghanistan. The operation has become “the longest war in U.S. history,” the former Texas congressman noted. He concluded that there were no victory parades because there is no victory.

American troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the devastating 9/11 attacks. Why has this mission become so lengthy? (image from Flickr)

American troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the devastating 9/11 attacks. Why has this mission become so lengthy? (Photo by Program Executive Office Soldier Flickr, some rights reserved).

Troops were first sent to Afghanistan a few weeks after the devastating 9/11 attacks on our nation. Their original mission called for apprehending Osama bin Laden. Thought to be hiding in Afghanistan, bin Laden was discovered years later in Pakistan where he was killed during a Navy Seal team raid. The main target of the U.S. forces from the beginning, however, was the Taliban, the militant Islamic group that had actually been supplied by the U.S. during the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of the war-torn nation.

Once in Afghanistan, U.S. troops found themselves battling against an enemy using left over U.S.-supplied weaponry. The casualty totals show that our nation has suffered the loss of more than 2,300 killed and almost 23,000 wounded in the 15-year struggle. And the Taliban now controls more of the country than it did when the U.S. forces arrived in 2001 under the label “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

The U.S. media never discusses the little-publicized influence of the United Nations in this ongoing debacle. That is key to understanding the disappointing results of this lengthy mission. In December 2001, the UN Security Council created the International Security Assistance Force to aid the Afghan government. The U.S. supplied most of the troops to carry out this mission. So, from the very beginning of the operation, the UN has had a major role in the effort. Fewer than two years later (September 2003), the task of aiding the Afghan government was formally turned over to NATO. But NATO is a UN “Regional Alliance” formed under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. America’s participation in this skirmish has been directed by the UN throughout the entire 15 years.

The Taliban now controls more of Afghanistan than it did when U.S. forces entered the country 15 years ago. The various tasks given to U.S. troops have included destroying the country’s opium production, engaging in reconstruction of war-torn infrastructure, and training local forces. Some of those local forces have turned their guns on their U.S. trainers with deadly consequences.

If the UN’s NATO weren’t managing this curious war, America’s forces would likely have cleared the country of Taliban dominance years ago. Obviously that’s not what the UN wants. Governments, even the UN, always grow and become more influential during a war. America’s leaders, both political and military, who put up with this are betraying their oaths and putting good men (and some good women) in impossible circumstances.

There are many solid reasons why the U.S. should withdraw completely from the United Nations. The experience already suffered in Afghanistan certainly provides one. Members of Congress should be proclaiming loudly and clearly the slogan, “Get US out! of the United Nations.” Members of the House should be persuaded to co-sponsor H.R. 1205, the bill calling for U.S. withdrawal from the world body. U.S. forces should never be sent into a battle without victory being the goal. Anything less is a betrayal of the troops and even of the nation.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.