Cutting Edge / Help the Kurds, war in verse, Ryan on welfare and ...

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Help the Kurds

Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker urges the United States to aid and arm the Kurds in Iraq, who are fighting the brutal Islamic State more effectively than the hapless Iraqi government. In its sweep across northwestern Iraq, the Islamic State just took over a town and strategic dam that had been controlled by the Kurds, which likely will result in a massacre of residents the Islamists consider apostates.

Mr. Filkins points out that “the Kurds are among America’s best friends in the Middle East; they are pro-Western, largely secular and largely democratic. Since 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s latest attempt to launch a genocidal campaign against them was thwarted by the United States, the Kurds have more or less governed themselves. During the American war, from 2003 to 2011, not a single American soldier was killed in the Kurdish region.”

If U.S. aid helps the Kurds break away from Iraq, so be it, Mr. Filkins writes. The Shiite-controlled government of Nouri al-Maliki has treated the Kurds “harshly and arbitrarily,” just as he has the Sunnis, which “precipitated the events that led to the ISIS takeover” of the northwest in the first place.

Ryan’s right on welfare

Scott Winship at criticizes liberal criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to fold 11 federal safety net programs into block grants sent to the states with few strings attached (including work requirements and time limits for beneficiaries).

Mr. Winship says the program would be similar to welfare reforms enacted during the Clinton administration, after which poverty “declined significantly.” Mr. Ryan, he says, “has proposed to build on welfare reform and extend its approach. …

“Despite the evidence from welfare reform, when cash assistance was block-granted after decades of being an open-ended entitlement, [the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] believes that block-granting safety net programs will harm the poor. It is the same argument critics of welfare reform made in 1996. But we now have 18 years of evidence that block grants are perfectly compatible with poverty reduction.”

War in verse

On the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, John Cassidy in The New Yorker recalls some of the poems the war inspired. Among them was “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon, a writer/​poet and British war hero:

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark.


In winter trenches, cowed and glum,

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.


You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.

Greedy, sleazy cad

Via Atlantic Wire — Dana Milbank explains in The Washington Post why former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell should have taken a plea bargain to avoid a corruption trial on charges that he and his family accepted gifts from a wealthy donor in exchange for favors.

Mr. Milbank scorches Mr. McDonnell for letting his family, especially his wife, take the fall: “Had he taken the [plea] deal, McDonnell would have looked like a sleazy pol. Now, he looks like a sleazy pol and a cad. Even if the former GOP governor beats the 13 counts, the trial is showing him to be not just greedy but also ungallant, allowing his wife and children to suffer to minimize his own shame. …

“McDonnell’s decision not to make a plea bargain meant that one of his daughters had to testify tearfully … about improper gifts from Williams and others that financed her wedding.”

Compiled by Greg Victor (

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